It’s gray, rainy, cold and the world is made of mud. No hope of flowers because it still feels like the end of winter.
Then, suddenly, the sun appears and you get a couple of warm day and the world explodes in color. Breathtaking barely describes it. It’s like a new world, a new planet. The sky is blue, the birds are singing. Of course, the squirrels are still eating all the seeds, but the lawn got mowed, the dead bushes are gone, there’s a tall fence to keep Duke in the yard where he belongs … for today, at least, the world is just perfect.
Garry went out and took pictures yesterday. Me too. I got serious about birds. He got serious about Uxbridge. There are so many pictures, I have barely had time to scrape along the edges of the more than 200 pictures from just yesterday. Call this “Breathtaking Sample 1” with more to follow!
From Garry Armstrong, the village and neighborhood:
From Marilyn Armstrong, more birds and a squirrel.
The disabused old saw that the only book Donald Trump ever kept at his bedside was Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — the German dictator’s post-World War I vision for a Utopian Aryan universe — is perhaps true.
The observation is at least a fair assumption. On Monday, Trump held a taxpayer-paid trip to a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pa., where his “Make America Great Again” campaign found nirvana among the unemployed coal miners and formerly well-paid steel workers who rejoiced listening to him rant about the unfairness of it all.
The roots of Trump’s most scurrilous rant to date are found in a tweet he penned early last Friday morning, towards the end of a week-long Twitter blitz precipitated by day after day of bad political news. In it he claimed the FBI’s investigation of his presidential campaign was an attempt at a political coup.
Last night, someone I know and who should know better, complained that Olympus, from whom he bought his camera, should fire the tech writer. Because there was no manual.
There was a booklet that listed the options but didn’t explain what they were or what to do with them. Well, duh.
I felt obliged to point out the reason there is no manual is they never hired a tech writer in the first place. If they had a living, breathing technical writer, there would be a manual.
You wouldn’t spend a couple of thousand dollars on a camera and get a generated leaflet. You’d get a real book with an index and a table of contents. Screenshots. Explanations not only of where to find a function but what the function does. So when you get there, you know what option to select and what it will do to your photographs.
Once upon a time, that was my world. I thought it was important, at least to the people who bought products about which I wrote.
The mysteries of the menus in my camera are hilarious. It might as well be written in Urdu.
Years went by during which the work I did was most of my life. I got up, got dressed, scraped the ice off the car, went to work (stopping for coffee along the way) and went through my day. Between having done the same kind of work for a long time and perpetually racing against a deadline, life was busy.
I knew, no matter what the ad said when I took a job, my work wasn’t permanent. I would work until the book was finished, then I’d move on. That was the way it really was.
The industry in which I worked ultimately decided the work I did was no longer necessary. Who needs a manual to tell them how to use equipment that costs a gazillion dollars and controls the operation of a steel mill? Or a missile tracking system? Or a satellite grabber for use out in space? They can always call the help desk — especially in space where you can easily find a signal for your phone.
I was the one who organized the chaotic information into a book with a table of contents, index, chapters, and diagrams so you would not always have to call someone. Considering the state of tech support these days, you can see where this failure to supply reasonable documentation has landed us. That’s why the phones are always busy and why the quality of support is so bad. How often do you find that you know more than the “help tech” individual knows? Basically, if you can’t fix it by rebooting, uh oh.
The help desk people don’t have the manual, either. And they badly need one.
Regardless, I was obsolete.
You need developers and a boss because someone has to say why you are all gathered here this morning. Also, the boss makes sure there’s coffee.
But a writer? They only hired me when they were at the end of a production cycle, realized the contract required they deliver documentation with the product. Sometimes, I got as little as three weeks to learn a product and produce a book that looked professional. At that point, no one cared what was in the book or whether the information would be of any use to anyone. It just had to be big, thick, nicely designed, and weigh enough to use as a doorstop.
My days were numbered. Eventually, I was gone.
To substitute for professional writers, they produce “automatic documentation.” Which is raw data generated by a program using “comments” left by developers, many of whom speak English as a second or third language and in any case, do not understand how non-engineers work or the kind of information they need to navigate a complex product.
It turns out, people were still willing to spend oodles of money for an undocumented product. So I guess they were right. No one cares until they get an expensive product that includes nothing. The good news? You can find entire books — the kind I used to write — on Amazon. Buy them and find out how the product works. It’s just like the books people like me wrote. Cool, huh? Except they don’t come with the product. You have to buy one and they are not always available.
My best bet is finding people online who own and use similar products and pick their brains.
For all of you who believe that crappy documentation is because tech writers are lazy? No, we aren’t lazy.
So let’s say you’re at the airport. Your flight is delayed for six more hours, and none of your electronic devices are working. Out of juice and all the plugs are taken … and there’s no free wi-fi. Oh no!
How can you pass the time? Those chairs are too uncomfortable for sleep and you’re too old to use the floor.
I don’t believe it. You really don’t know what to do without electronic devices? You are lost without your cell phone? Really?
If you don’t have an instant answer to this, perhaps we come from different planets. I would reach into my carry-on and pick out a copy of The New Yorker or National Geographics. I could take a walk to the nearest shop (airports are full of them) and buy something to read. A newspaper maybe?
Yes, they still print them.
And the Kindle, with books already downloaded, is like carrying a whole library with you wherever you go.
If all else fails, I might consider chatting with other passengers who are waiting with me. I have had some of the most interesting conversations of my life in terminals, waiting for planes, trains or buses. Although I know you usually text, the organ into which you insert food has a dual purpose and can be used for conversation.
Despite rumors to the contrary, direct communication between living people can prove a pleasant — even enlightening — way of passing the hours. If you’ve never tried it, this would be an opportunity to expand your world! I strongly recommend you give it a try.
You really need to think about this? Seriously?
I’d probably be taking a few dozen pictures too. Airports and the people in them make great subjects. I don’t take pictures using a phone. In fact, I don’t carry a cell phone (what? say that again? You heard me … I don’t carry a cell phone).
I use a camera, a device dedicated to taking photographs. I carry enough spare batteries to get me through two weeks without electricity, so I don’t care what anyone says.
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