Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

All-ice asteroid plans

The heat situation here is at a level where I spend large amounts of time wondering how global climates work and if there’s some way we could tow an all-ice asteroid into orbit and use it to cool cities and generate water without pumping more heat into the air. That’s the real rub there; you can put air conditioners on everything, but it’s like an air conditioner releases cold but also releases even more hot and uses up so much energy, that you reach a point of diminishing returns, and the best example of this is Manhattan. There are constant brownouts because all of the offices are mass-ACed to be 40 degrees cooler than the outdoors. Meanwhile, the majority of apartments in the city don’t have central air, and people are in misery. The moral of the story is I played way too much SimCity a ways back, and now I look at all of life as some derivitive of the same thing.

I went to Wendy’s today, even though I vowed to never go there again, mostly to try their new cheddar hamburger. It’s a mess, way too much to eat and the sort of burger that is taller than it is wide and the whole thing goes in your lap the first bite you take. It’s okay, but not great. All of the cheddar cheese makes it taste more like something from Arby’s. As a strange aside, I’ve dated two people who were managers at Arby’s restaurants in Fort Wayne, although these were separated by ten years, and neither of them knew each other, and one was in New York and the other in Bloomington. Still, weird.

Since I’ve been back, my TV has been messed up. It no longer displays the major network channels correctly; they ghost and have a sort of double-image to them. I know this is a bad ground or faulty cable somewhere, but since I don’t pay cable, I have no recourse but to live with it or not watch TV. I thought I’d do the latter, but I find that when I’m eating dinner, I always watch TV. I still get a few other channels, like TNN and UPN, but there’s not a lot on. I should just watch movies, but I can never make up my mind on what to watch.

I just subscribed to the techwr-l list, and it’s interesting to hear from other tech writers. I’m the only writer at my job, so there’s nobody else to talk to about the craft or business of techwriting. I’m not saying that like it’s heart surgery or something, but it is more involved than, say, being an administrative assistant. I never really pay attention to the career side of being a techwriter, because in most jobs there is no career to it – you are either a tech writer, or sometimes you are a senior tech writer, and that’s it. You don’t become the CTO or CEO by working up the ranks as being a writer, but then I’m not sure I would want to be an executive.

When I worked at Juno, all of the project managers were trying to work the ladder, kiss the right ass, make everything look good, so they could get closer to the top. It bothered me a lot, because tech writers should be immune to that kind of political stuff. We deal more with telling people the truth than doing the smoke and mirrors bit. And a lot of tech writers have actual work to do, while project managers just go to meetings, write memos about going to meetings, and draw project plans that say when there will be more meetings. They do report what work is being done, and most of the time they make it seem as if they were responsible. But most of the time, it’s tech writers, trainers, programmers, or other grunts that actually do the work. So basically, being a tech writer is a bad situation, because you’re doing a lot of work you won’t get recognition for, and even if you did, there’s nowhere for you to move in the company.

So why do I do it? It pays a lot more than anything else I could do. And sometimes, it isn’t bad. Even though Juno got fucked up in the end, I had a manager that upped my salary by a third because I worked hard. I had another let me hire someone with virtually no conditionality, as long as I thought they would well with me. And I had a boss give me a $10,000 bonus after I took pretty much no vacation in 2000. And my current job has almost no political situation. I get to hide out and write docs without any distraction.

Speaking of techwriting, I have a brand new copy of FrameMaker 7.0 sitting on my desk. So I need to break the seal, cut off the shrinkwrap, and see how this thing will make my life more complete.