Archive for travel

Another Saturday morning

Posted in Blaze, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, MadCap software, Personal, technical writing with tags , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Mike

And I’m still jet-lagging. I pass out at 8pm and then wake up at 4:30am. I really tried to stay awake last night – I fell asleep sitting on the couch. Next thing I knew, Current Husband woke me up and sent me to bed. At 8:15p. I felt like it had to be really late.

So here it is, 6:30a and I’ve been up for 2 hours. I’m a relentless 2 to 3 hours off my current time zone and it’s annoying, to say the least.

Driving along in my automobile

Yesterday, I went to Sylmar (yup, 100 miles away) and showed Blaze and the X-Edit family of products to a customer. They’re interested in using the workflow in these products to do a better job of writing, managing, and producing proposals.

The VP of Engineering wants to save money and do a better job of more accurately producing proposals for their projects. In the current recession, this is a very reasonable thing for the company to want. They need to still get new projects but keep costs down on the bidding for projects part.

Workflow improvements

I showed how breaking the proposal into bits (topics) and then essentially assembling them on the fly (using Outlines) would let them leverage the content they already have, reducing the cost of new proposals. They can send the bits out for review from Blaze, using X-Edit Review to review those bits and then get the comments back into Blaze.

We talked about Snippets and how these let you make even smaller bits, like company information, reusable and would reduce errors in this content, while letting you reuse in many proposals.

They liked that they could still let people author content in Word and it would import into Blaze. They also liked X-Edit Contribute, letting them author in an easy to use Blaze template.

Content is different than format

They also liked the part where Blaze separates the content from the formatting. They sometimes need to build a proposal with their company branding but sometimes they need the proposal to have the parent company branding, for example. They liked how easy this would be to swap out in 2 easy steps.

All in all, it was a great look at Blaze and X-Edit and I had a great time showing our products. It made the 3 hour drive home worth it.

Funny story from Germany

I had one day to really see Munich, my last day in country. It was a lovely late Fall day, the temps were in the low 50s and the sun was shining. I walked to the Residence and spent about 3 hours looking at this amazing museum and walking the garden. Great time.

As I was walking around the central part of Old Munich, I saw a banner on the Glokenspiel that said: “german word, german word, Nazi, german word, german word.

Well, I thought, that combined with all the police and police vans and the barricades must mean something. But who knows? And it’s all in German so I’m sure it doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll just go into this wonderful book store I wanted to visit and see if I can find a book.

When I was done at the bookstore, I started back to my hotel. I was about 2 blocks from the hotel when I saw a whole bunch more police and barricades being set up and police vans. And another banner that said: german word, german word, german word, Nazi, german word. I looked behind me and there were a lot of people marching towards me.

So I asked a man standing at the corner with me. He said: “There is a pro-Nazi protest coming from over there (pointing to from whence I came). There are anti-Nazi protestors marching from there (pointing to where I was going). They will meet here (pointing to our corner).”

Ah, I thought. So I’m Belgium right now. Perhaps I should just go back to my hotel room and hang out for a while. Maybe pack and read my new book.

So I did.

Later, I found pictures on the Internet from this protest. Yes, much shoving and police force and such. My absense went unnoticed.

The plan

It’s supposed to start raining this week so I need to get the yard set up for winter, get new tires on the car, and do other household sorts of things this weekend. I’d also like to stay awake after 8pm.

They’re modest goals but they’re my goals. We have to start somewhere.


Jet lag

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by Mike

Germany is 9 hours off the US West coast. And I’ve always found it harder to go from Europe to the US. As a result, I’m seriously jet lagged. My brain woke me up at 2am this morning, convinced that it was 8am and I’d overslept.

Oddly, I’m 6 hours off, not the 9 I would expect.

I looked at the clock yesterday, thinking that it had to be mid to late afternoon. It was 10am. This was so disturbing, I found Current Husband and verified. It was the correct time, he said. But it was wrong, according to my normally accurate internal clock.


Lord, I was born a rambling woman

After being on the road for 3 weeks, I’m taking 3 personal days to recover, do laundry, pet the dogs, and see Current Husband. I was hoping to get adjusted to the new time zone, but it isn’t going so well. I did do 6 loads of laundry, tho, with another 4 to go today, so that’s not so bad.

However, I teach tonight and have to stay awake until we’re done so this may help. I have no idea if I will be even slightly coherent. Thank the gods that Bonni co-teaches with me so if I become incoherent, she can step in and say things like: “What Sharon is trying to say is…” while I nod off for a few minutes.

You would think these very bright Engineering students could get right on that Teleporter technology. Talk about an interesting problem to solve. What a group of under-achievers… 🙂


This trip is the longest Current Husband and I have been apart and neither of us liked it much. We recognize that these trips need to happen, that once I’m in Europe, the best thing I can do is maximize that time for the company.

But it was really hard to be apart that long. Thank the technology gods for Skype and Yahoo IM (sharonvburton). It saved us several times. We’re just glad that these very long trips will only happen once or twice a year.

The dogs had given me up for dead, I think. When I came thru the door, Gus looked at me like I was a dream and then leaped, grinning. We spent about 10 minutes on the floor while he sat on me, wiggled, and licked me. At 65lbs, you notice that.

Sara came in the room, stopped, looked (she doesn’t see well anymore), smelled, and then moved as fast as I’ve seen her move in a while. She wagged as tho her butt was going to fall off and licked my face.

Lady wandered in and sat behind me, out of the way of all the excitement so I could reach back and pet her. She gets nervous with all the motion because she can hardly see anything.

All the way, very fun. And no one has gotten too far from me since.

Oh, that’s enough about me. Tell me, what you think about me?

(That’s a Groucho Marx quote from, I believe, Coconuts, if you’re curious. I’m a huge Marx Brothers fan. Hey, I’m jet lagging here…)

If you are at all interested in our DITA solution, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go to our website and sign up for the beta. We want to build tools that do what you need but we can’t do that without your help.

One of the many things I learned from my Second Husband was that I just completely suck at reading minds. It’s just not something I’m good at. So I don’t know what you want or need, after some basic guesses, which, as it turns out, isn’t enough to keep a marriage together.

We need you to help us develop the tools that do what you need them to do. That requires you participate in the process.

Stay tuned for the beta. I think you’re going to like what we’ve done:

Cheeseburgers in Paradise

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by Mike

I feel compelled to tell you that’s it’s in the upper 80s and is expected to stay there for the next 10 days. The sky is that heart break blue that we get this time of year. You want to send a Thank You card to someone or just applaud.

May and October are my 2 favorite months in So Cal. If I have time to do errands, be sure I’ll put the top down and pop Jimmy Buffett in the CD player. Because nothing says Cool like blasting “I’m looking for a smart woman in a real short skirt” in my convertible on a glorious day.

You may have noticed I sometimes play off song titles in some of my blog headings. Today is more obvious, as it’s a Parrot-head sort of day.

School boy heart, novelist eye

I’m going to Boston and then on to Germany in the next 3 weeks. Both places will be almost freezing at night and the 50s during the day. A crashing disappointment, weather-wise.

But I bet both places will be interesting and I’ll meet some great people. I may have time to walk a bit and perhaps take photos.

Son of a son of a sailor

I was hired in large part to bring Blaze to market. And a year after I arrived, it’s released. I’m delighted to announce we’ve had our first review and it’s really good. I’m so proud. To learn more, go to

It’s been…interesting bringing a product to market and trying to get attention drawn to it. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met a bunch of people. But most important to me personally is I think we delivered a product that you can actually use. It has features that make your life easier and actually helps.

He went to Paris looking for answers

I’ve spent my professional career trying to do the best tech comm work I was capable of. It’s mattered to me that the users of my documentation felt they were getting useful information. If I didn’t help my users, I failed.

Moving to product management, I bring the same passion for helping. I want to develop products that make a difference to your daily work life. Being a tech comm professional is hard enough – you shouldn’t have to fight your tools, too.

That’s what makes me happy about Blaze. I think we made a useful product and the review confirms that. It makes me really happy.

A pirate looks at forty

We finished this round of public webinars this week. That was very exciting. The attendance was out of sight for all of them. The survey questions sent the next day said that people found them really useful.

If you wanted to participate and couldn’t, we’ll be doing more again this winter. Keep watching here for details. We’re hoping that GoToWebinar will have VoIP when the next round starts.

If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like an hour on:

If you have other ideas, suggest them. I want to be helpful.

One particular harbor

I’ll try to blog while I’m on the road but don’t panic if I can’t. I will when I come home, after I sleep, see Current Husband, and pet the dogs. I have my priorities.

It’s traveling time again

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2008 by Mike

The last trade shows of the year are coming. They seem all bunched in the last week of Oct and the first 2 weeks of November. We can’t cover them all, but here’s an overview:

October 9-11, PCOC in Chattanooga TN
I’ll be there and I think I’m doing a presentation of some sort.

October 13-15 Localization World, Madison WI
Mike will be there, showing tools and stuff.

October 15, NorthEast Ohio STC, Cleveland OH
This is a virtual meeting for me and you don’t have to be onsite to see it.

October 16, North Bay STC, CA
I’m presenting Blaze to the STC chapter.

October 29-Nov 1, DocTrain East, Burlington, MA
Mike and I will both be there, showing Flare, Blaze, and more.

Nov 3-6 DITA/TechComm, Raleigh NC,
We won’t be there because of conflicts (see next) but Paul Pehrson is doing 2 presentations about our tools.

Nov 5-7 Tekom, Weissbaden Germany
Mike and I will be there with bells on, showing off products and having a good time.

Nov 6-8, Lavacon, Honolulu, Hawaii
We won’t be there because of the obvious conflicts (see previous) but Bonni Graham will be doing a “Lessons learned moving from Robohelp to Flare” presentation.

So, that’s lots of chances to see us at a trade show or learn about our products, even if we’re not there.

STC in Philly

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , on June 2, 2008 by Mike

Well, the first full day of the STC International conference is over and I’m back in my hotel room. I’ve ordered room service and a glass of wine. My feet and legs hurt and my brain is going to explode.

It was a very fun day.

The MadCap booth is amazing – 20 feet by 20 feet and visible from anywhere in the large vendor area. Mike took pictures and we’ll have them posted soon. But it’s large and looks great.

We’re doing demos all day on various products and they’re really well attended. The buzz is strong.

As usual when I go to a conference, I have seen lots of people I’ve not seen for a while, so much of my day is spent smiling and hugging people. I really like that part of my job.

Room service is about to appear and I have an entire day of email to catch up on. More later in the week. I need to eat and drink a glass of wine. The day starts at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

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…

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!