Sunday, May 18, 2014

Worst-Case Scenario

I received a gift in the mail yesterday from a friend who lives in another state. She said she was cleaning out one of her bookcases and found a book she knew I could use. I’m not sure if she is familiar with the area I moved to but I’m going to assume she thinks its particularly troublesome.

I started thumbing through the chapters of this book titled, The COMPLETE Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. Yes, the word complete is in capitals and bolded to emphasize the thoroughness of the edition and I realize there’s more here than I anticipated.

How to escape from a mountain lion might come in handy here in Frazier Park and the advice is exemplary. Make yourself look bigger than you are is first and foremost. Quite a challenge since I have spent most of my life trying to look thinner than I am.  Open your coat as wide as you can, it suggests, but what if it’s summer and you’re not wearing a coat? How do you make yourself bigger? I was in complete suspense. I turned the page.

The next step is to try to talk him down. Hmmm. Either the suggestion is to calm him or criticize him. I’m no mountain lion expert, but I would probably be best with criticism.  I think I would mention that his fur looks ridiculous sticking up like that, his teeth are yellow and his breath smells of bushy-tailed wood rat.

Keep your voice even and low. Remind him it’s only a game and it might help to take a few deep breaths. If he threatens to strike, quickly move into the center of his potential swing. Now the only way you could get me to be that close to a mountain lion is to drug me beyond reason or offer me a very large sum of money.  Neither is a distinct possibility.

Grab his club. Really? I wonder what country allows mountain lions to carry clubs? He would scare me enough just as he is but I should know what to do in case I am faced with a club-carrying mountain lion, so I shall read on.

This sounds a little scary but you must grab the club in mid-swing, near the grip. Pull down until you can wrap your arm around it and secure it with your armpit. Using your elbow, give him several sharp jabs in the chest until he lets go. So, armed with an elbow and an armpit (no pun intended) I will be able to survive a mountain lion attack? I’m ready.

After inspecting the pages further, I found them to be stuck together by a peanut butter thumbprint (peanut butter is my friend’s weakness). It seems the directions involving the club was how to disarm an irate golfer. 

Wow, this book truly does have nearly every worst-case in it ranging from how to make an emergency Menorah to how to survive sand in your swimsuit. I can’t wait to check out the CD that is pasted on the inside of the back cover. For the life of me I can’t figure out why my friend wouldn’t have already opened it.

In addition to solutions to hundreds of dire situations, with illustrations no less, the book itself can stop a bullet. I’m certainly not going to test the validity of that claim but I am impressed.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Technically Speaking

technical writer is a professional writer who engages in technical writing and produces technical documentation for technical, business, and consumer audiences. According to Wikipedia, this defines the profession as preparing information that helps users who use a product.

When, however, does the technical writer stop informing the user and begin to confuse them? Is there a limit to just how technical the writer needs to get? Are they really trying to inform or simply impress the reader? Sometimes the simplest of directions can turn into a highly advanced intelligent quotient exam.

Last week I was reading an overview of forecasting in the manual for the software that the company I work for uses. I shall not name it but it rhymes with Snoracle. I was looking for helpful tips for master scheduling by way of user-defined rules for combining a system algorithm and sequencing criteria by establishing pre-defined sets, entry options, consumptions, demand class and time buckets. I felt like I was panning for gold. Occasionally I found a nugget but for the most part the only thing that turned up was a minimal amount of dust.

My neurons began to wonder. What if software manual writers were hired to write directions for every day chores? Say for example, doing the laundry. It might go something like this;

Estimating demand for specific articles can be determined by using any combination of historical, statistical, and intuitive techniques. Configurations for individual components should be based on nomenclature found on individual article’s inner seam. It is advised that when assembling a single configuration, or assemblage, that components be of allied chromaticity and texture.

Depending on location of access, apical or anterior, place components into vessel. Optimum performance and results depend on several factors. Care should be taken to avoid force when satisfying vessel dimensions. It is essential that the abstergent selected be compatible with the frangibility of the individual components.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions located rearward on the carafe or carton for correct thermal selection. The measure of the thermal readings will be located on the machine control panel board showing options to measure igneous, arctic or thermal equilibrium before selecting appropriate welter.

Are you still awake? We’re just getting started and the instructions are written assuming you already have a washer installed and hooked up.

Silly. It’s so simple. Just read the instructions. Of course, there is always that irritating individual who will shake their head and say, “You don’t understand this? All you have to do is separate the darks, lights, choose the speed, don’t overload the machine, set the water temperature and turn the cock-a-doody thing on!”

Don’t let them fool you. Someone showed them how to do it because we all know technical writers are paid to baffle your intelligence.