Archive for the Personal Category

A FYI to you all

Posted in Personal, Tech Comm, technical writing on June 11, 2010 by Mike

In a few days, this blog content will go away when it’s handed over to the new Marketing fellow at MadCap Software. If there is value to you in a current post, make sure you get that content now before it goes away.

Thanks and looking forward to seeing you all elsewhere!

Posted by: Sharon

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Long over due update

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writing, webinars on August 17, 2009 by Mike

It’s been 5 months since I posted and that makes me the worst blogger ever. Now that I’ve accepted fault, let’s move on. Don’t hold onto the past.

So where have I been?

You may have noticed the economy took a nose dive from October to at least March. In March, MadCap and I agreed that we should cut my hours. I still work part time for MadCap, doing demos, running the webinar series, and helping where I’m needed. But that’s a small part of my time now.

So that’s where I’ve been.

What does this mean to you?

I can help you even more now.

If you bought Flare or Blaze (or other products) and are looking at getting the products integrated into your workplace, I can help. I can provide

  • Training
  • Advise the best way to start importing/converting/using legacy content
  • Advise the best workflow for you
  • Creating branded stylesheets/master pages/etc
  • Set up your import rules
  • Do the conversions
  • Create relationship tables for your content
  • And a lot more

I can help with small and large projects, at your site or off-site.

For example, I’ve been helping a company convert a lot of legacy RoboHelp content into Flare. This lets their writers focus efforts on generating new content to meet their deadlines. With the staffing cuts from this recession, this makes financial sense for them.

Contact me to start talking about how I can help you get productive.

In other MadCap news

The webinar series is back on after a short summer break. We have coming up:

Sept 9th Cascading Stylesheets (Part 3) Images

Sept 29th Indexing Boot Camp

Oct 20th Task Analysis for Developing Policies & Procedures Content

Stay tuned for an API docs webinar about October 7th and part 4 of the CSS webinar series on October 14th or so.

In personal news

We lost our other old dog in April. Lady went to sleep and didn’t wake up. She was 15 years old, blind and deaf. After a good long life, Lady was gone.

The Aussie was lonely and he wasn’t getting happier, so in May, we went to the local rescue shelter and found a new friend. Olivia (because an Augustus needs an Olivia) the Leonberger is about 10 months old now and a delight. She is a very large dog with a lot of puppy left in her. 70lbs of excited puppy. She’s the red dog in the photos to the right.

She hadn’t been worked with much, so we’ve spent the last few months doing basic training. Olivia is smarter than Gus and has picked up the training faster than he did.

She also loves swimming. And when I say loves, I don’t mean likes it a lot. I mean adores the water. Any water.

Gus and Olivia play chase attack kill and collapse in a pile together. They are both very happy.

We’re so glad we went to a rescue shelter to find our next dog.

Posted by: Sharon

Generally, a sad day

Posted in Personal with tags , , , on March 5, 2009 by Mike

Today we put my old Cattle Dog, Sara, to sleep. She was almost 15 and had been sick for a while.

Sara at 9 years old

Sara at 9 years old

I got Sara as a gift from a friend when I started looking for a house to buy. She was the first dog I ever had and quickly became my buddy. When I worked from home (which was most of the time for years), she slept on the office floor, between me and the door, in case I left the room.

Cattle Dogs are called Velcro dogs because they bond to one person and then follow that person everywhere. I was her person.

My son taught her to swim the summer we got her. Matthew spent a month making sure she could get in and out of the pool safely. He created a monster.

She usually started swimming by April every year. When she was younger, by mid-July, her red coat was green. She would let you spend hours throwing the ball in the pool so she could get it. Hours. She never tired of the game.

Sara was a party dog; she liked playing with children in the pool on long summer days. She would swim for 8 or 10 hours straight, only stopping when the children stopped. And then collapsing under my chair.

When she was 5, she blew one of her knees out. The options were put her down or repair the knee. We chose repairing the knee, knowing that she would be arthritic when she got old. Six months later, she blew the other one out. We had that one repaired, too. It only slowed her down a little.

When we got the orange cat, Marley, she adopted him as her best friend. She taught him how to be a good dog and was always mad when he got on the roof. Dogs don’t belong on the roof, she seemed to say, pacing and barking at him.

Being a good herding dog, she also herded children. Toddlers were great herding targets. I found her guarding a group of small children, all neatly herded up in a corner of my living room more than once. She looked very proud of herself but the children were crying.

She had a wicked dog sense of humor. I called her Laughing Dog for a reason – she would get the giggles and fall over.

In the last few years, her swimming almost completely stopped because it was too hard for her to step into the pool. Her entire back end was just not working that well. When we got the Aussie 18 months ago, she paced the side of the pool, huffing and barking, looking for the world like she was coaching as we taught him to swim.

She was diagnosed with a slow growing cancer about 4 years ago. The vet said her 5 year prognosis was not good but since her breed usually lives 12 years… We decided to do nothing and just watch. The place it would show up next was her stomach, he said. And it did.

All her life, Sara slept next to my side of the bed, in case I got up during the night. That spot will be empty now, unless the Aussie takes it.

Not the best day in my house. But I wouldn’t have missed having her for the world.

Releases everywhere

Posted in DITA, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , on February 25, 2009 by Mike

By now you’ve heard MadCap Software released the new versions of Lingo, Mimic, and Capture. Good products, great updates. Our guys worked hard to do great products.

Big picture stuff

I’m not going to tell you all the new stuff here; you can click the links and go to our website and see what’s new. But here’s a fast overview of the stuff I think is cool:

  • Lingo: Imports Word, DITA, RTF, and more source files. So if you’re writing in these formats, you can use Lingo to translate your files.
  • Mimic: MovieSync is a huge deal in Mimic. Here’s how that works.

Let’s say you have a screen movie of a tutorial for creating reports in your product. You have call outs, mouse movements, all that stuff. And then they changed the application – perhaps a new version. With MovieSync, you start the application, open Mimic, and re-record the movie. Open both the old version and the new version in MovieSync. Now you can specify to move some callouts, all the callouts, what frames get what, and so on.

Think of the time you can save by not having to manually re-do each thing you did on each screen. Wow.

  • Capture: Conditions from the Flare or Blaze project are now available in your Capture files. Variable have been available for a while, but now you can conditionalize stuff in your Capture files with the same conditions from your Flare or Blaze projects.

We did a lot more in these products, this list is just the 1 thing I think is a big deal for each product.

No, seriously, they’re tools-neutral

It took 5 webinars but the word is getting out: the MadCap Webinar Series is in fact tools-neutral. Unless we state the webinar is specifically about our products, the webinar may not even mention our products.

So, if you thought you’d like some Technical Communication related training but thought we were doing some clever bait and switch, we’re not. Go sign up at http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/webinars.aspx for the ones coming up or to see the ones you’ve missed.

The next one is Neil Perlin talking about Using your HAT as a Content Management System, March 12 at 9am Pacific.

We’re getting 150 to 300 people signed up for these, so go see what you’ve missed!

Personally

Yesterday was my grand daughter’s 4th birthday. She had a tummy thing and spent the day throwing up, so no cupcakes for her. She managed to open the knit sweater and the crochet hat her Nana made and sent.

To see a picture of her looking a little green around the gills but wearing the stuff Nana made, go to here.

Happy Birthday, Tally! May you have a century more, my baby.

I’m cold and tired of rain

Posted in Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by Mike

Remember that wonderful warm weather I talked about a few weeks ago? I barely do. It’s been cold and wet for the last 10 days.

OK, So Cal cold but my bones are still cold and I’m tired of wet. I know we need the rain, but I’m still tired of it.

And we have about another week of cold and wet to go, at least.

Free webinars!

The free tech Comm webinars are going well. We did the one about making the Business Case for Moving to Topic-based Authoring today. It went very well and the response has been very good.

We’re consistently getting 150 to 250 people signed up per webinar and I’m so happy. That tells me there is a need for these and people are really interested. I like that. It’s my project and I’m just really delighted with how it’s going.

One person wrote to me today:

…I was delighted at all the extra tips you gave to help persuade Management if one were presenting a use case. I’m just delighted at the spreadsheet and information that you shared with us all…

All good stuff. To find out more about these webinars, sign up, or view the recorded ones, click here.

In the future

We’re going to run a series of 3-5 webinars on CSS. The first few will be product independent, in that they will be about CSS, regardless of the tools you re using. The last one will be an Advanced CSS in Flare or Blaze but you should be able to do this stuff in any CSS-based tool.

We’re thinking of these as a 3-5 hour crash course in CSS. Even if you don’t use our products, I think even the last one or two will be valuable to you because you should be able to hack your current tool in the ways we show you in Flare.

Watch our site for more details. I’m writing the description for the first one in the next day or so.

Happy Valentines Day!

I hope you are doing something fun on Saturday. Current Husband and I are splurging and going to our favorite romantic resturant for dinner.

It’s where our friends took us for dinner after our wedding. We save this place for special evenings, where we hold hands and remember why we like each other so much. I’m really looking forward to it, even if it’s cold and wet, like it’s supposed to be.

Catching up

Posted in MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2009 by Mike

It’s 6:45a on a Sunday morning for me. Current Husband is sleeping, the animals are all asleep, and I’m awake. I’ve been up for an hour and a half, because the old dogs wake me up at 5am to go out. And once I’m awake, I’m up.

In a way, I don’t mind being up so early. I’m home and it’s quiet. I have so little time at home to myself, it’s rather nice.

Other stuff I do

Saturday morning, I taught my first Crochet class at my favorite local yarn store. What does this have to do with Tech Comm you might be asking? Oh, lots.

Friday night, I realized that if I were teaching crochet to people, they needed a thing. So I had to come up with a thing that could be made easily with simple stitches. I could teach the stitches in class and then send them home with the pattern. So I wrote a very simple hat pattern and quickly made a sample to show in class.

In class, I had them start with the simplest stitches and then do those over and over until they were confident. Then we did the next one. And so on, until they had practiced all the stitches they needed to have to make the hat. After 2 hours, I sent them on their way with the pattern.

Coat of many Tech Comm colors

Teaching this crochet class was Tech Comm in action. I identified the:  

  • Audience: Knitters
  • User goal: Learn the basics of crochet
  • Learning attention span: About 2 hours
  • Skills needed for the goal (that fit with the above): 4 stitches
  • Order to teach the stitches: from simplest to more complex, building and reinforcing skills from one stitch to the next
  • Opportunity for reinforcing with self learning: The simple hat pattern

My Tech Comm background was very useful in putting this class together! I had a good time teaching it and several people are now able to crochet. I’ll do another class on Tunisian crochet in March sometime.

It’s fun to get slightly outside my usual life and teach new skills to people. I think that when we stop learning, we spiritually die. It’s why I love our field so much – I learn new stuff every day.

Work, work, work

Work this week was long and busy. We have a new promotion you may want to look at for the month of February. It’s a screaming deal and should help you get noticed if you’re looking for work or think you might be looking for work soon.

We did the second of the webinars this week as well. These are so successful, I’m working with several people and scheduling June and July now. Keep watching our website for more webinars on various Tech Comm topics.

Between the new promotion for Feb and the webinars, your skills should be so up to date, you can’t help but be successful!

The rest of my day

I have a fairly busy day ahead of me. I need to do laundry, meet a former student for lunch, work on the sweater I’m making for my grand daughter, watch Super Bowl and spend time with Current Husband.

Be very good if I could get the oil changed in my car and get it washed, too. That would be a productive day!

Off I go!

Dancing in the streets

Posted in Analyzer, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars on January 10, 2009 by Mike

I spent this week locked up in a room, talking to myself and recording demos. I started the week not sure what I was doing and finished the week quite pleased that the short demos matched the pictures in my head of what I wanted them to be.

I’m getting fairly expert at editing audio, which is completely new to me. Overall, I’m really pleased. It’s a fun thing to do.

We now have short videos showing X-Edit Contribute, X-Edit Review, and Analyzer on our website. A short recording about topic-based authoring will appear early next week. More will be added as the month goes on, so check the website often.

We also added a new area called Demos. Now you can easily go to the demos and see what you want without hunting about to find them. To find out more, go to http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/product.aspx. We also put the free webinars in the same area, to make it all easier to find.

New quarter, new ducklings, new topics

Additionally, this week started a new quarter. We were asked for this quarter and this quarter only to change the Engineering 180 course to better meet the specific needs of graduate students who are getting Masters and PhDs in Engineering.

Normally, we’re dealing with undergraduate engineering students who are going into the workforce when they graduate. We teach them about developing presentations, specifications, test plans and test cases, and so on.

Not this quarter.

This quarter we’re dealing with people who need to write technical articles on complex topics. So we’re changing the class to focus more on how to explain very technical information to other experts in article formats.

It’s going to be interesting. We have a general direction we want to take the class but we’re also making this up as we go.

After this quarter, a new class is being created called Engineering 181, especially for these graduate needs. We’ll teach it every Winter quarter. It’s quite an honor to be teaching at the graduate level.

Bonni is a little nervous because she has no advanced degrees. She’s sure my ABD (All But (PhD) Dissertation, a real academic term) status in Economic Anthropology gives me a better insight or something.

I point out that communication is communication, and my overeducated status has little to do with anything, except I know buckets of stuff no one cares much about. And I have student loans she doesn’t. That’s it.

Personal notes

Jan 10 (today) is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 75. She died of breast cancer in 1999, about a week after her birthday. (Yes, I get checked every year in June. Feel free to nag.)

My mother should have been a history scholar, lost in archives, looking for truth and nuance in Middle Age documents. Of Swedish farming stock, she came from a dirt poor family, left school at 17 to go to San Diego, worked in various banking jobs, sang professionally, and finally met my broadcaster father.

She did what women were supposed to do in the 1950s. I think, for her, these were the wrong things to do.

I grew up listening to my mother sing. And she could sing just like Patsy Cline, just an astonishing voice. Even today, I can’t listen to Patsy without hearing my mother as a second sound track in my head. Sometimes, when I miss her, I play Patsy Cline just to hear the second sound track.

Losing your mother is strange, even when you’re an adult. I’ve spent a decade thinking about it, trying to decide how to describe it, hoping to write about it one day.

After all that thought, I can’t tell you why losing your mother is so hard, I can only tell you it is. It’s different than losing your father, your boyfriend, your best friend, your brother, your aunts and uncles. All of which I’ve lost.

Your mother. It’s different.

My mother was a self-contained person, never given to emotional displays. You had to know her to know what was going on; watching her hands and body language told you what was internal. So, while your mother is your first cheerleader, mine wasn’t given to demonstrations, there were no pom poms nor acrobatics.

Her sisters told me when she was proud of me and it always surprised me that she was. I had no idea. It certainly wasn’t something you would ever ask her about.

The only time I ever saw her emotional was when my father was terminally ill. He was at home and she called, telling me she thought he wasn’t breathing and what should she do? Call 911 and sit tight, I said. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.

More upsetting than my father potentially not breathing was my mother at a total loss. I’d never seen that before, couldn’t imagine she wouldn’t know something so basic as calling 911. But of course, she wasn’t asking about my father at all.

I get my impatience with self-indulgent emotions from her. Even, and perhaps especially, my own. Some things are just what they are and moaning and whining about them helps not at all, it changes nothing and wastes energy. And since, at some level, that may be what I’m doing now, I’ll stop.

But you should call your mom.