Project Brick

Sometimes, a writing project is kinda like…Different-types-of-Bricks

We need you to build a wall.

We don’t really know what the wall should look like. We’ll just know it when we see it.

Here are some piles of bricks of random size, shape, and color.

There is no mortar. You’ll have to make your own.

We need it completed tomorrow.

I foresee a need for this book in my future…

Predictive-Content-front-cvrLike most technical communicators, I sometimes find it hard to keep my content up-to-date within the ever-shifting landscape of agile development cycles and ever-present scope creep. That’s where Predictive Content: Proactive, Synchronous Coordination of Heuristic Information Content from XML Press swoops in to save my bacon.

By using the valuable methods exposed in this book, I can now stop relying on engineers to explain new and/or upcoming functionality and can, instead, provide them with application updates and release notes before they even know they need them!

Best job in the house.

"I have to get back to work."

When I have my son home with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he likes to move his Cars desk to my office area so he can “work” alongside me. This arrangement has greatly helped to alleviate the Daddy, look at me syndrome we experienced earlier this month.

Foster’s “work” mainly consists of doing his superhero sticker books. This week, he has been working on completing his Spider-Man Ultimate Sticker Collection book. I am able to help him as needed because I have been a Spider-Man fan since I was his age.

However, sometimes I just don’t have the time to continue giving him ongoing assistance, and I let him know that I have to get back to work.

Well, I guess that phrase stuck. At the end of the day, Foster was very nearly finished with the entire sticker book. (This has been an ongoing on-and-off project for several months.) I shut down my computers and told him we were done for the day and that it was time to take a quick trip to the grocery store before Library Story Time.

Without even looking up, as he was positioning the final stickers on the final page (pictured above), Foster told me, “I have to get back to work.” And then he finished his sticker book.

working remotely with a 3-year-old in the house

Over this summer, I am keeping my 3-year-old son home with me two days a week while I continue working remotely on a couple of contracts. It’s actually kinda nice to have the built-in breaks that come with doing things for a preschooler: preparing meals and snacks and drinks, wrestling on the couch, helping pick out toys or games or books, wrestling on the floor, helping with potty time, wrestling in my desk chair, and so forth.

These little breaks help the time fly by, along with giving me the much-needed mental downtime to keep my content fresh. Things have been going smoothly, with nothing annoying or bothering me yet. Well…almost nothing.

The only downside to having a 3-year-old at home full-time while working can be summed up in three tiny words: Daddy, watch this!

Once youngsters get into Demonstration Mode, it is very difficult to get them out of it. You just have to play along and let it run its course, looking over your shoulder here and there and offering words of praise.

Daddy, watch this!

Oh, boy, that was a great somersault on the couch you just did!

Daddy, watch this!

Wow! I didn’t realize you had put on your Hulk smashing hands. But that’s some good ground smashing. Just stay away from the kitties, please…

Daddy, watch this!

Oh, cool, that was neat, too. But daddy really needs to concentrate on work right n–

Daddy, watch this!

(sigh) Okay, just once more. Oooh, that was something different. But now, I’m going to–

Daddy, watch this!

Okay, okay. (Finally just gives up and takes a break.)

a little Avengers-based listening comprehension lesson, courtesy my 3-year-old son, Foster

Avengers Assemble

Recently, I realized (or, rather, I was taught) that if you drop the initial A from most words that begin with A, your listeners will still totally understand you.

You see, my 3-year-old son, Foster, is a HUGE fan of superheroes. All superheroes. He doesn’t care about Marvel vs DC. I mean, he will even wear an Avengers shirt with some Justice League shoes! I know, right?

As you may know, or you may have gleaned from the image above, the battle-cry of the superhero team, The Avengers, is: Avengers, Assemble! This is usually shouted by one of the team members when it is apparent that the combined might of the entire team is needed to defeat the foe at hand.

Foster is generally easy to understand, but he is only three years old. Sometimes, it takes a bit of repeating, combined with some quick mental analysis, to fully comprehend what he is saying. This is especially true when he is using his toddler logic to explain something that a toddler can’t logically understand. One thing he says very clearly, albeit not entirely correctly, is The Avengers battle-cry: ‘Vengers, ‘Semble!

‘Parently, it is ‘mazingly easy to understand many multi-syllable A-words when you drop that initial A. I am immediately reminded of any number of colorful Midwestern characters from my youth in Ohio, all of whom had their own unique speech pattern. Even my dad had some affectations of his own, such as calling a couch a damport (instead of a davenport) and combining ain’t with the subject of the sentence to form a double-contraction; for example: he ain’t become hain’t, she ain’t becomes shain’t, and (my personal favorite) it ain’t becomes tain’t.

I try to keep this kind of unique speechifying in mind when I’m writing any kind of dialogue. Just one more way to add a good dollop of characterization without adding a bunch of description.

I kinda hope Foster never ‘bandons this particular speech pattern, ‘though it might not ‘ways be ‘ceptable in modern society.

However, it is totally ‘dorable!

Nobody expects a Monty Python TechComm lesson.

Kai’s Tech Writing Blog features a wonderfully amusing and highly accurate post detailing a simple problem and providing a comical resolution.

Kai basically lays out five four occurrences that are common to technical communicators. Sometimes you 1) make a list, and then 2) number that list, and then 3) add or remove elements from that list, leaving you to 4) forget to update body copy references to the total number of list items. Kai’s inspiration for solving this potential issue?

Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch!

Monty Python Spanish Inquisition

Click through to read Kai's article.