Cory Doctorow speaking in Toronto

October 6th, 2015

Cory Doctorow, SF author and Internet activist will be speaking in Toronto later this month. He’ll be at Seneca College, Newnham Campus on Finch Ave. East at 3:00 on Thursday October 15th. It’s free but you have to register in advance. It just so happens that I’m on vacation that week so I’ll be able to go. I’ve seen Cory speak a couple of times before and he’s an entertaining and stimulating speaker.

The Mysterious Origins of Punctuation

October 5th, 2015

The BBC has a fascinating article about the origins of punctuation. I was aware of some of the history cited in the article, but not the earliest parts about the ancient Greeks.

In the 3rd Century BCE, in the Hellenic Egyptian city of Alexandria, a librarian named Aristophanes had had enough. He was chief of staff at the city’s famous library, home to hundreds of thousands of scrolls, which were all frustratingly time-consuming to read. For as long as anyone could remember, the Greeks had written their texts so that their letters ran together withnospacesorpunctuation and without any distinction between lowercase and capitals. It was up to the reader to pick their way through this unforgiving mass of letters to discover where each word or sentence ended and the next began.

The article ends with a look ahead at the future of punctuation – is it he emoji?

Adobe FrameMaker presentation at STC Toronto

October 4th, 2015

Update: Unfortunately the presentation has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Too bad – I was looking forward to it.

On October 21, the Toronto chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) will be hosting a presentation by Arnis Gubins on the past, present, and future of Adobe FrameMaker. Arnis has been a host/moderator for Adobe’s FrameMaker forums, so the presentation should be quite informative. I’ll be going and will post a summary here after the meeting. Adobe has donated a copy of the Technical Communication Suite so one lucky attendee will be walking away with some free software.

Many a time FrameMaker has been declared dead or dying, yet it continues to thrive and grow. This presentation will be a quick overview of how it has evolved since the news of its untimely death [back around version 7] culminating in the new features in the 2015 release.

If you’re still using an older version of FM, you might find what you want or need.

New features include: right-to-left language (Arabic, Hebrew) support, enhanced publishing to mobile devices including mobile apps and personalized dynamic content, SVG output to HTML5, reusable publishing elements and HTML page template support, enhanced Word import, mini-TOCs, conditional table columns and book-level conditionals, project packager, smart filters in pods, and a bevy of XML features (including DITA 1.3 support, simplified XML authoring for SMEs and casual authors).

Arnis will be providing a demo of some of the new features in Unstructured FrameMaker.

To further enhance a working FM environment, there will also be a brief presentation of how to automate document/content assembly and/or publishing using Datazone’s Miramo Plus Personal Edition and DZbatcher (both freebies).

Questions on FM issues will be entertained in the last part of the session.

Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale

October 4th, 2015

Margaret Atwood”s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most successful and influential SF novels of the past 30 years. It’s been adapted into stage and film versions and remains in print – a major achievement in today’s cutthroat publishing environment. And it is just as relevant as the day it was published – a rather sobering thought.

In the Guardian, Atwood reflects on the novel, its genesis, and how it has remained relevant today.

Some books haunt the reader. Others haunt the writer. The Handmaid’s Tale has done both.

The Handmaid’s Tale has not been out of print since it was first published, back in 1985. It has sold millions of copies worldwide and has appeared in a bewildering number of translations and editions. It has become a sort of tag for those writing about shifts towards policies aimed at controlling women, and especially women’s bodies and reproductive functions: “Like something out of The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Here comes The Handmaid’s Tale” have become familiar phrases. It has been expelled from high schools, and has inspired odd website blogs discussing its descriptions of the repression of women as if they were recipes. People – not only women – have sent me photographs of their bodies with phrases from The Handmaid’s Tale tattooed on them, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” and “Are there any questions?” being the most frequent. The book has had several dramatic incarnations, a film (with screenplay by Harold Pinter and direction by Volker Schlöndorff) and an opera (by Poul Ruders) among them. Revellers dress up as Handmaids on Hallowe’en and also for protest marches – these two uses of its costumes mirroring its doubleness. Is it entertainment or dire political prophecy? Can it be both? I did not anticipate any of this when I was writing the book.

Good and Cheap on $4 a Day

October 3rd, 2015

I heard an interesting interview on the CBC this morning with Leanne Brown, the author of the Good and Cheap on $4 a Day cookbook. You wouldn’t think you could make healthy, tasty meals on that little money, but it turns out you can. You can download a PDF of the cookbook for free from her website, or if you want the printed version, order it from Amazon.

I’m going to try a couple of the recipes this weekend: chana masala and pasta with eggplant and tomato. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

World Press Photo 2015

September 30th, 2015

The excellent World Press Photo 2015 exhibition is now showing at the Brookfield Place until October 20th. I’ve been going to see this every year it appears for the last few years and can recommend it highly. If you’re near downtown Toronto in the next three weeks, I’d definitely recommend making a trip to see this.

For more than 55 years, the World Press Photo contest has encouraged the highest standards in photojournalism.

The contest creates a bridge linking the professionals with the general public. As the announcement of the winners makes headlines around the world, so the inspirational role of photojournalism is highlighted to an audience of hundreds of millions.

All the prize-winning photographs are assembled into an exhibition that travels to 45 countries over the course of a year, and published in our yearbook. Over two million people go to a hundred different venues to see the images, and our yearbook is published in seven languages and distributed worldwide.

The contest is judged by leading experts in visual journalism who represent various aspects of the profession. The composition of the jury is changed from year to year, they operate independently, and a secretary who has no vote safeguards our fair and balanced judging procedure.

The resulting archive of winning images is not only a record of more than half a century of human history, but a showcase of successive styles in photojournalism.