Thursday, September 06, 2007

Phrase o' the Day

A family can exist without a nation, but a nation cannot exist without families.

The Intervention of God in Everyday Lives

As a Christian, I take the Bible literally...composed by people, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing down the literal thoughts of God. It has not always been easy for me to believe this. Some of the things the Bible says are difficult to accept; some are difficult to understand.

One of the things I've been pondering lately is: how much does God intervene in the everyday affairs of people? Is God primarily an interested observer? Does He take a more active minute-by-minute role? Or is it that God engages with me to the level I'm willing to engage with Him?

I think the Bible gives evidence that God intervenes in daily life. For example, when the Jewish nation was wandering in the desert for 40 years, God provided them with food and water every single day. And yet, even in this I wonder if God got up early and lovingly baked the manna every day, or if He simply automated it, scheduling the manna delivery start and stop date, or perhaps delegating the bread baking to angels.

Psalm 139:13 tells me that God "created my inmost being" and "knit me together in my mother's womb." Does this mean that God still creates every single human being? Because I've often thought that God created Adam and Eve, gave them the ability to procreate, and that was that. But the idea of being personally hand-knit by God is infinitely more wonderful. (I suspect He dropped a couple of stitches when He knit me.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Movie Review: War

Rating: R
Starring: Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone
Release date: 8/24/2007 (U.S.)
Official site:

If you want to see Jet Li doing sensational martial arts moves, this isn’t the movie for you. Li stated that he was retiring from martial arts films. War proves that he wasn’t joking. With the exception of a samurai sword duel, this film is characterized by John Woo-like “gun fu,” not kung fu.

Although I love action films, War had more brutal violence and nudity than I care to see—especially degrading violence towards women and violence towards children. While I know his reaction toward this type of violence was the hero’s motivation, it’s gross to see Yakuza bosses virtually raping women, women being sent as sex gifts for a job well done, and the image of the blood of a murdered mother and child pooling and mingling together. Also disappointing is that John Lone was not used to the best of his abilities.

Both Li and Statham give wonderful performances. I don’t think Li has played such a stone cold killer since Lethal Weapon 4. It’s truly disturbing to watch Rogue (Li) betray and double-cross and double-double-cross everyone around him. Statham also does well as the single-minded detective willing to sacrifice everything to catch Rogue.

A small thing I liked about this film is that, although Rogue is a badass assassin, he makes it clear that he does not drink or smoke. I wonder if this is a bit of Li’s Buddhist beliefs at work. Another small thing I liked is that the supporting characters are developed fully enough that I actually felt sad when they got blown away.

The BEST thing about War is its surprise ending. In truth, the twist is a bit far-fetched, yet I still like the idea of it. It elevates Rogue from cold-blooded killer to a man seeking justice.

Movie Review: Rush Hour 3

Starring: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker
Rated PG-13
Release date: 8/20/2007 (U.S.)
Official site:

I’m a great fan of Jackie Chan and the Rush Hour franchise. Unfortunately, Rush Hour 3 is pathetically bad. It’s in the same league as “Howard the Duck” and “Ishtar.” It’s not even worth renting as a video.

The adventure doesn’t continue in New York
Rush Hour 2 set my expectation that we’d see our heroes continue their adventures in New York City. I wanted to see them living it up at the Plaza and catching a game at Madison Square Garden. Inexplicably, RH3 is set in Paris. Lee and Carter’s adventure in New York and the failed romance between Lee and Isabella is just a bit of exposition. And it’s not satisfying.

I know the idea was to put both Lee and Carter into “fish out of water” environments, but that could have been accomplished in New York.

The buddies aren’t buddies
Lee and Carter aren’t buddies any more. It’s eventually explained that Carter played a role in the failed romance between Lee and Isabella; however, it’s more interesting to watch a relationship form or dissolve than hear about it in exposition. It’s not interesting to watch two disinterested people go through the motions of adventure.

This left our heroes without the arcs that made RH1 and 2 so appealing. In RH1, Carter learns to work with a partner and care about something outside of himself. In RH2, Lee and Carter become true friends and Lee finds romance. In RH3, it would have been nice to see Carter find true romance and to risk his life for it. It just seemed that not enough was at stake in RH3 for the buddies to re-establish their endearing friendship.

The motivation for the heroes and villains is weak and unclear—even who some of the villain ARE is unclear

In RH1, Juntao kidnaps Han’s daughter for revenge and big bucks. Lee is motivated to get the crime boss, rescue Han’s daughter, and avenge his former partner’s death.

In RH2, Tan and Hu Li are protecting their casino used for money laundering. Lee is motivated to stop the crime boss and avenge his father’s murder.
In RH3, Han discovers the location of a list of triad warlords. Instead of getting the list, he decides to announce its existence to the U.N. and gets shot. The rest of the movie is Lee and Carter trying to locate the list. There’s gratuitous T&A, but no money, threat, or romance driving the story forward.

Lee’s “brother” appears twice as a bad guy, but it’s unclear as to whether he’s a warlord or working for a warlord or what. Also, there’s a female Asian assassin who shows up twice to kick Lee’s butt—I don’t know who she is or why she wanted a piece of Lee either. (She and Chan did an excellent scene with a Chinese fighting fan though.)

The stunts are boring
The opening stunt of RH3 is one where Jackie Chan jumps through a one-story window, slides down a pole and runs across the freeway. This is WAY less interesting than the opening boxcar stunt of RH1 and scaffolding stunt of RH2.

The fights on the Eiffel Tower are too much like the ones we saw at the end of RH1 and would have been more amazing in the days before CGI. Jackie Chan is still a stud cake, but he’s not 25 any more.

There are too many scenes that don’t move the story forward
When Lee and Carter get to Paris, they’re beaten and strip-searched by the police—for no apparent reason. It doesn’t move the story forward. The only thing that makes it funny is that the infamous Roman Polanski does the strip-search.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Testing the Publish by Email Feature

One of the coolest things about contemporary blogging is that I can blog by email, by text message, or even by phone. I can blurt ideas onto the page at any time from anywhere.

Emerging Skills Sets for Technical Writers

After having been a technical writer for nearly 15 years, I took a couple of years off to teach martial arts. I kept my writing chops sharp by doing the occasional user guide or online help system, but I didn't keep my finger on the pulse of trends in the technical writing field.

In 2003, when I began my sabbatical, a tech writer would have been considered competent if s/he was skilled in using Word, Framemaker, RoboHelp/HTML, and Acrobat. If you wanted to be more marketable, you would've added Illustrator, Photoshop and HTML to your bag o' tricks.

This month, as I persued job listings on
Dice, Monster, Careerbuilder, and Indeed, I found some companies are now looking for writers who, in addition to the core skills outlined above, are also versed in web design and content management.

Web Design

Like most tech writers, I'm a bit of a nerd, so I've created my own simple website and blog. The Dreamweaver and XHTML requirements are no big deal. But I'm definitely having to play catch-up in deepening my understanding of CSS and Javascript.

Even more interesting to me, were companies who were looking for people who were familiar with writing Wikis and blogs. I love using
Wikipedia and have long kept a personal blog, but the idea of companies using Wikis and blogs to communicate with their employees, customers, and potential customers is new and intriguing to me.

Question: Will user guides one day become blogs that users can subscribe to and receive daily updates on their personalizing Google or My Yahoo page?

Content Management

Content management (AKA single sourcing, resusability) has been a buzzword in technical writing for more than a decade. Many companies use Framemaker's conditional text feature for single sourcing. However with the advent of databases and XML, single sourcing seems to becoming more of a possibility.

Questions: What are some of the new technical writing tools you use? How do you stay current in learning and assessing new and upcoming tools in technical writing?