Archive for March, 2008

This week in review

Posted in Blaze, MadCap, Personal with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2008 by Mike

I made it home, after missing my connection in Atlanta. It’s not possible to get 2 concourses, one end to the other, in 4 minutes in Atlanta. So my delayed flight out of Rochester missed my connecting flight in Atlanta. I spent 6.5 hours sucking all the fun out of the Atlanta airport. Actually, it only took about an hour to do all the fun stuff one can actually do in the Atlanta airport. The rest was just tedious.

There was a bright spot in all this, tho. Anything bad I ever wanted to say about Delta I take back. They quickly got me assigned to the next flight directly home and, without me asking, upgraded me to First Class. So even though my eventual flight was delayed for an hour by a thunderstorm, I was on the plane in a comfy First Class seat with a glass of wine while we waited for the storm to clear.

A very long day  

I finally came home last night about 10pm, after 16 hours of travel. But I slept in my own bed, with Marley the cat and the wonderful husband so life is very good on that front.

The dogs and cats missed me almost as much as my husband. It’s nice to come home to wagging tails!

Now if only my body knew what time it was… Normally, I have a very accurate internal clock. For the last week, every time I check the bio-clock, it just puts it’s head down on the desk and starts crying. When I look at my watch, the bio-clock wails. It’s as surprised as I am to discover that’s the time. I can’t seem to track how much time has passed, either. So we go through this process about 15 times an hour. I’m home for about 2 weeks, though, so it should calm down.

Blaze and Betas

In other news, Blaze is in beta, so go to and download the beta and beat it up. We want to ship a solid product and really need your help to do that. We simply won’t think of the stuff you all will think of. We’re going to be offering prizes for the people who submit the most bug reports that get verified by our QA team and they’re good prizes.

If you want to see stuff in Blaze, I also urge you to sign up for an online demo. The next 3 weeks or so are full but I added several more to the first of May. Same website, go to the Blaze page for more details.

A new crop of ducklings  

This week starts a new quarter at the University of California, Riverside, where Bonni Graham and I teach baby engineers to communicate in Eng 180. We’re trying something new this time – we’re doing the entire class on a Tuesday night, 2 hours of lecture and 3 hours of lab. It’s always fun to see the new room of young faces the first day of class.

The first class is introducing them to the idea that this is a writing class but it’s also a lot more. They will learn to communicate in written forms but they are also going to learn that their products communicate as well. And all this communication stuff has rules, just like math or programming or formal logic. If you ignore the rules, you get invalid results; the communication won’t compile, if you will.

It’s going to be fun getting to know these guys (and it’s typically all men) for the next 10 weeks. And sad to send them on their way when we’re done.


We’re probably going beta with another product this week. Watch your email and this blog for more information.

Now I’m going to drink coffee and talk my bio-clock out of the tree. Maybe brush it’s hair and feed it some ice cream to try to make it happier…


Baby, it’s cold outside

Posted in Personal with tags , on March 29, 2008 by Mike

Well, upstate New York is just insanely cold but the people have been very friendly. As I was whining about the snow, several people said it’s all in your mind set.  “Think about the movies,” they said. “White Christmas, for example.”

As I recall in that movie, they got snowed in and started talking about eating each other. In catchy song.

Maybe that was the Donner party. I could be confusing things. Regardless, I’m not taking any chances. I’m going home.

To quote Jimmy Buffett: I wanna go where it’s warm!

This is what is in front of the hotel

Posted in Personal with tags on March 28, 2008 by Mike

Snow tree in Rochester New York

Just a quick picture of the tree outside the hotel door. It didn’t have snow last night.

I’m starting to take snow personally

Posted in MadCap, Personal, Tech Comm with tags on March 27, 2008 by Mike

I’ve never really liked snow. It’s cold and wet and, well, cold and wet.

I’m really a desert rose. I flourish in heat and warmth. I did my dissertation work in the tropics for a reason; because I like warm. I like heat and sun and thunderstorms that you feel in your teeth. I like sweating and cold drinks and putting your feet in the cool ocean.

So tonight I’m in upstate New York and, you guessed it, it’s snowing. Snowing like they have to get all the snow used up or something bad is going to happen. I’m starting to take this all personally. Every place I’ve been since the beginning of the year has had snow.

Why can’t I go to warm places with cool breezes? Where I don’t lug a coat and scarves with me? Where I can rent a car because I know how to drive?

I feel like snow is following me around, trying to get to know me, like that guy in the bar that won’t stop talking to you no matter what. Snow seems to be saying: Do you like me here? How about here? OK, how about if I snow here?  How’s that? Better or worse?

I need to go to bed. I’m tired and it’s snowing.


Wow. WritersUA is a fun crowd.

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, MadCap, Personal with tags , , , , , , , on March 20, 2008 by Mike

WritersUA is about the most fun I’ve had in a while. I got to:

  • see people I’ve not seen in a while, sometimes years
  • meet new people
  • do presentations and demos
  • listen to people talk about what they like and don’t like about our products
  • see some of my former staff
  • crawl back to the hotel room at the end of the day (Tip here: Don’t wear heels if you do booth duty)
  • nearly blow out my voice
  • watch Portland’s SWAT team show up at the hotel

Could you ask for more? Not without being greedy, I think.

So, what did we announce?

Lots of stuff. Here’s a list:

  • Blaze went to public beta Monday morning. I strongly suggest you download it and then attend one of my demos to get started with it.
  • Team Server – a Documentation workflow management tool that goes from content to review to CMS to localization to source control. It’s going to be great.
  • Press – a glossy print product. This one lets you have multiple article flows, automatic jump pages and more.
  • X-Edit – a small document product for people who need to contribute content but shouldn’t have a full version of Flare or Blaze. The documents that X-Edit creates can be brought seamlessly into a Flare or Blaze project.
  • X-Edit Express – a free reviewers tool that either edits or annotates Flare or Blaze topics. It fits into the review workflow for Blaze or Flare.
  • New product manager – Pat Dear is our new e-learning product manager who started Sunday at the show. We figure if she floats, she’s a witch [historical reference here, no Wicca bashing intended or implied]. She’s going to add a lot to our product line with her expertise in the e-learning field. We’re happy to have her!

The product I’m super excited about is Team Server. We’re working on it right now, so if you have ideas about how we can make your workflow easier, send them to me and I’ll pass them along.

People who need people…

One of the first people I saw at the show was Eddie Van Arlesdale whose name I’m sure I’m misspelling but I can’t find the card he gave me. I met Eddie a long time ago, the first time I was in Washington DC. He’s a sweetie pie and I told him I need to come back to DC and see people there. It’s perhaps my 3rd favorite city, right after Rome and Mexico City, in that order.

I also saw, in no particular order, Geoff Hart, Char James-Tanny, Sarah O’Keefe, John Hedtke, Sue Heim, Bonni Graham, Elaine Randolph, the fun Docs group for the client I saw a few weeks ago in Dallas, and way too many other people for my tired brain to remember. For a while it seemed as tho I was spending all my time hugging people. I really enjoyed it. Just so fun to see all of us in one place.

I also met many new people. When the sessions were out, we were swamped with people – sometimes 15 people deep. It seemed that everyone at the conference came around to see our products and talk to us. I tried to talk to everyone but it was hard because there were just so many.

Working clean is harder than not

Mike and I (Mike more than I) presented several products. We also drafted our Tech Writer Paul to do several demos about what Tech writers would like in Flare. He was amazing. He did stand-up comedy in the past, too, but was more successful than I was. He also works clean, which is much harder than it looks. It’s actually easier to work dirty, which is how my material goes. But Paul did a great job and I was pleased to have him helping with these.

The in-booth demos were a zoo. We had people standing all over the place watching. I did 2, I think, and I enjoyed both of them. Very good stuff.

We also did several presentations that showed more detail about our tools. I did Analyzer with RJ the product evangelist for FrameMaker in the back of the room. I was delighted to have him. The room was pretty full and people asked great questions, some of which I could answer! Some of those questions were really technical and I’m going to have to get back to people. The stuff you guys think of…

Past lives, present voyages

I ran into some of my former staff and had a chance to talk to them and catch up. It’s good seeing them. At my former employer, I had the rare fortune of leading a very talented group of people and I miss them still. I want only the best for them and it was fun to see them and catch up.

It was particularly good to run into Don, who I spent 3 months trying to fire. In the end, he was one of the most valuable employees I had and I’m glad I didn’t fire him. I was completely wrong about him and his abilities. I’ve rarely been this happy to be so wrong. He’s a very talented writer and I miss working with him.

No, honey, this time the SWAT team has nothing to do with me …

So I was outside the hotel yesterday afternoon, talking to several people, and said “I’m going to get coffee at the Starbucks on the corner.” I turned around and there was a large group of well armed Portland SWAT team men, all hanging on a SWAT truck, parked in front of the Hilton. Behind them was another truck, another load of well armed men. I looked up the street and saw more. “Hmm…”, I thought. “I better get that coffee right now.”

In the Starbucks, I asked and it turned out that there was an anti-war protest planned to march down our street. Portland police appeared in large numbers to make sure it was a peaceful protest, I was told. Nevertheless, I scurried back to the hotel.

Then I realized that if my husband turned the TV on and saw large numbers of heavily armed SWAT teams in front of a Hilton in Portland, he might flip right out. Husbands can be so tense sometimes. I called to tell him about it. I got to the part about heavily armed SWAT teams outside and he actually asked “What did you do this time?” I think he was joking.

But after they hung out for about an hour and nothing happened, they all piled on their trucks, adjusted their helmets, and left the area. Apparently, the crisis was averted.

And I left for the airport 2 hours later for an uneventful flight home.

I have 3 minutes

Posted in MadCap with tags , on March 18, 2008 by Mike

Before the current session ends and I have to answer questions in the booth – we’ve been swamped! – but I want to let you know that Blaze has gone beta!!!

Go to our website at and participate. It’s a public beta, so have a great time! I can’t wait for your feedback.

More from the show later. This is a great show and the demand and interest in our products could not be more.

Countdown to WritersUA – Busy day!

Posted in Personal with tags , , on March 15, 2008 by Mike

Well, this is my second day off in as many weeks. Today I:

  • Return the loaner car and pick up my Miata from the dealer after her check-up yesterday
  • Do laundry so I have clean clothes
  • Take my best suits to the tailor to be refitted. I’ve lost 10 lbs since I got them and the pants are bagging in strange places
  • Renew my PO box that expired 2 weeks ago. sigh.
  • Sort thru the mail from the last 2 weeks
  • Pay some bills
  • Unpack from earlier in the week
  • Pack for next week
  • Buy some books to read myself to sleep at the conference
  • Spend time with my very patient husband who’s not seen me awake for almost 2 weeks
  • Pet my animals and perhaps take the puppy for some sort of walk
  • Talk to my brother about my personal email server that seems to be generally down. He manages the server and it’s not really given me any email for 2.5 days. Worriesome.
    (Updated: My brother’s servers are being hit with an attack that’s sending 1.5 million emails a day from some servers in Japan to one of the domains he manages for a client. My domain is being hit as well, but not nearly as hard. Mine is less than a million a day. He’s taken measures to fix the issue, including blocking a whole range of IP addresses at the router level and moving the attacked domain to another IP address but it’s going to take 24 hours for the IP list in the sky to update itself. Wow. He’s been awake a lot at night the last few days.)
  • Grade student papers.
  • Find time to sit quietly and perhaps figure out what little baby hats I want to crochet for the little children in my life, if I ever get the time to do that again.

Just listing out what needs to be done makes me want to go to sleep! I need to get moving if I want to get all this done today. My reward for doing all that stuff will be sitting quietly. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

Traveling continues to be hard…

And for those of you keeping score at home, Mike Hamilton was in the Atlanta area this week. He flies from Atlanta to Portland today. Let’s all keep boring, uncancelled flight thoughts in our heads for him.

See you at the show!