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Derek K. Miller, Writer and Editor, Vancouver, Canada - penmachine.com
E-mail: dkmiller@penmachine.com
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Journal: News & Comment

To avoid hopeless clutter, only the last ten or twelve posts appear on the penmachine.com home page. The rest are in the archive -- which looks almost the same, but has more stuff in it.

[top] Monday, June 25, 2001 - newest items first
7:56:40 PM

New writing samples online

Just as I begin a new contract, a three-month period of on-site technical writing for Sierra Wireless Inc. in Richmond, B.C., I have posted the results of my most recent set of work for the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS).

On my samples page you can view or download Adobe Acrobat (PDF) versions of the three daily newsletters I put together for the CPS during their annual meeting here in Vancouver on June 14, 15, and 16. I did everything but run the photocopier that produced the final copies: reporting, writing, editing, proofreading, photography, digital photo editing, design, layout, file preparation, and driving to Kinko's. Each one took about 13 hours of work, and, as I wrote yesterday, seems to have given me tendinitis.

But they turned out well, and I'm glad I did them.


[top] Sunday, June 24, 2001 - newest items first
12:24:18 PM

Paying the price

My intense work on newsletters for the Canadian Paediatric Society last week seems to have cost me something. I'm now showing signs of a repetitive strain injury (probably tendinitis) in my right pinky and elbow.

It is likely a consequence of using a notebook computer perched on a table that was too high for the chair I was sitting on, even though I did use a mouse instead of a trackpad to try to avoid such a problem. I've since been investigating some resources on RSIs, and, if things don't improve swiftly with some of the measures I'm taking, I'll have to see a doctor to find out what I can do.

My wife had an RSI last year, not from typing, but from constantly carrying our then-infant daughter. After some physiotherapy and other treatments, plus plenty of rest of her arm, she's better now. Unfortunately, I can't really avoid typing and drumming, two possible RSI aggravators, since they are my jobs.

I'll simply have to be very aware of what I'm doing and see how things progress as I start my summer-long three-day-a-week technical writing contract for Sierra Wireless Inc. tomorrow. Or try using only my left hand!

[top] Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - newest items first
8:53:46 AM

What's difficult?

Last week, I spent several 12- and 13-hour days in a row putting every skill I have (except playing the drums, anyway) to work on a contract. It was difficult but satisfying.

However, the most difficult thing I've done in the past few weeks came yesterday afternoon: getting my two sleeping daughters, plus some bags, blankets, and jackets, from the car to the house, by myself.


[top] Thursday, June 14, 2001 - newest items first
11:25:22 PM

Windowless in luxury

I'm in the midst of a three-day contract for the 78th annual meeting of the Canadian Paediatric Society -- Canada's nationwide organization for children's doctors -- which is taking place at the Bayshore Hotel, Resort, and Conference Centre on the waterfront in downtown Vancouver. I am compiling, writing, editing, taking photographs for, designing, and laying out a daily four-page newsletter covering ongoing and upcoming events at the conference for the 500 pediatricians and others who are attending it.

The Bayshore was built in the '60s, but in the past two years was completely gutted and renovated. It has a spectacular location on Coal Harbour and an astounding view.

Of course, I am doing most of my work in a windowless meeting room deep in the bowels of the structure. I rarely see daylight. But when I do venture outside to take a break, it's breathtaking, especially since the weather is warm and sunny.


[top] Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - newest items first
11:32:16 AM

Fame!

The TV crew (Cathy, Roger, and Stuart) was here this morning, and had everything finished within an hour. Though I've done TV shoots before, it still surprises me how much work it takes to make video footage seem spontaneous and natural when it is, by nature, anything but.

Also, my daughter Marina sure is a ham.


1:58:29 AM

CDPD Primer now available

A few months ago, I compiled, wrote, and edited an introduction to cellular digital packet data (CDPD) for Sierra Wireless Inc., the world's leading maker of wireless modems. The final version of that document, the CDPD Primer, is now available online.


[top] Monday, June 11, 2001 - newest items first
10:30:24 PM

Fame?

Tomorrow, a TV crew from the Knowledge Network will come to my house to profile me for Planet Education, a series that apparently "highlights the outstanding work of researchers, scholars, innovators, and other extraordinary people in British Columbia."

With that mandate, I have no idea why they want to talk to me.

Perhaps because I was available on short notice -- they called today.

The segment will air in the fall.


[top] Saturday, June 09, 2001 - newest items first
5:26:22 PM

Welcome the cuties

I've added a photo of me with my two daughters, Marina (three and a half) and Lauren (one and a half), to my personal introduction page.

We took it at the mall yesterday.


[top] Thursday, June 07, 2001 - newest items first
11:57:48 PM

"We live in a society that imagines what is normal is not normal."

So says magazine editor Lisa Benenson in one of two articles at Salon.com that highlight our delusions. Both focus on the United States, but many western countries (such as my home, Canada) share similar mistaken views.

I live in a "traditional" nuclear family. I am married; my wife and I have two children. We live in a house. My parents have been married for over thirty-five years, as have my wife's.

In those things we are very, very unusual.

Let me reinforce the point. Recent U.S. census data (and likely Canadian, Swedish, French, and other statistics too) demonstrates that:

  1. Being married with kids is not normal.
  2. Not being married with kids is normal.

I mean "normal" in a statistical sense, of course. In the U.S.A., fewer than 25 percent of the population lives in a "traditional" family like mine -- two married parents with kids at home. And those numbers include step-families and adoptions too. Indeed, more people live alone than live in any sort of "nuclear" family. Yet that seems to remain the supposed norm to which everyone should strive.

Also in the U.S., 60 percent of women who work outside the home have children under three years old. In other words, being a working mom is normal too -- yet these moms often feel guilty about what they do because it doesn't fit the stereotyped ideal.

Readers responding to the working-mother story personalize the issue, and make some good points on their own. One writes:

Simply change the rules of the game. You want to be a working mom? Find a dad who wants to stay at home.

That's what my wife did. And you know what? Staying home is hard. I'm glad I work part time too. And I'm glad my wife is a full-time math teacher. She's good at it, it's good for her, and that's good for the rest of us.

Maybe we're normal after all.


[top] Tuesday, June 05, 2001 - newest items first
11:54:01 PM

As bright as blue can be

A few months ago, I purchased some lovely blue sequined jackets for my band, The Neurotics. If you want to see what they look like, check out the photo gallery at TheNeurotics.com.

They were particularly glittery in the afternoon sunshine on Sunday, June 3, when the photos were taken.


[top] Friday, June 01, 2001 - newest items first
9:24:38 PM

The name of this tune is "The Funky Drummer"

If you're in Vancouver, if you're at all interested in track and field, and if you have a strange desire to see me perform in the more visible of my two jobs, I will be drumming as part of The Neurotics at the Harry Jerome Track Classic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C., this Sunday evening (June 3).

More info at TheNeurotics.com.


[top] Monday, May 28, 2001 - newest items first
9:44:37 AM

A brief 150-year experiment ends

According to the New York Times (free registration required), "there are now more Indians and bison on the Plains than at any time since the late 1870's."



This Web Site:

- Lets you subscribe to the handheld edition of my site using the AvantGo online service (sign up for free) for your Palm or Pocket PC/Windows CE device.

- Introduces you to my skills and experience.

- Refers you to some of my current and past clients.

- Includes two exclusive feature articles (on my top ten tips and spelling for the Web), which will help you write better, no charge.

- Maintains regularly updated news and commentary in the journal on the left side of this page.

- Has a bunch of badges and links at the bottom. None of them pays me. I just think they're good.

- Lets you see some of my writing samples.

- Includes a snapshot of what the site used to look like before I redesigned it last year.

Oh, and you can take a look at the penmachine itself up close too. Be warned, though, it's a big graphic (163K).



Since words are what count, I don't care which Web browser you use at this site. Here are some of the most popular (and a few very obscure) options, plus a mess of other links and little badgie things. Have fun.

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