New Domain, Gumption, and Gumption Traps

This Wednesday, I found both the time and gumption to migrate my website to the new domain (marcusbaker.org). I had been procrastinating because migrating all the WordPress content and databases seemed like a massive headache. Additionally, it was easy enough to mirror the old domain (ens0.info). When I received a notice that the domain registration was expiring, the time to hesitate was through. Continue reading

My Name in Lights (or print)

Over the fall of 2017 I did my first editing job. My professor, Barb Horvath, had passed along an email from former student and current member of the University of Minnesota’s Technical Communication Advisory Board (TCAB), Jim Hall. Jim was looking for a student to provide copy, proof, and substantive editing for a book he was writing on Information Technology Leadership.

I thought editing a book seemed like a good project. I had skills to offer, and liked the idea of expanding my editing experience. I messaged Jim, we came up with a process for editing and revisions, and then we started in on the book. Over the next few months, we collaborated. Jim would compile his documents, and I would look for errors and areas that could flow better. It worked out really well, and I got a lot out of it.

And now, a few short months after we started, the book Coaching Buttons is available for purchase!

I have to admit it’s kind of weird (and thrilling) to see my name in print. Hopefully this is just the first of many interesting books I am involved with!

Project: Fretless bass guitar

In the late summer of 2016, after a very long layoff from music, I decided to purchase an inexpensive bass guitar. I found someone selling an Ibanez GIO on Craigslist for around $50. I thought that was a reasonable point of entry, so I bought the guitar and also picked up a small Fender amp from Guitar Center.

The Problem

I got the bass-bug, and ended up purchasing two more cheap bass guitars off eBay, with the intention of modifying them at some point. What I initially envisioned was a setup like Mark Sandman‘s bass: Two strings, custom tuned, and played with a slide. I may still end up doing that at some point, however, what I ended up doing first was converting one bass to fretless.

As an aside: If you’re unfamiliar with the band Morphine, I highly recommend looking into them. They are one of my favorite bands of the 1990s due to their unique noir sound. Continue reading

Project: Table riser

The Problem

My good friend Nick is an avid board gamer and enjoys hosting game nights at his house. He had helped fund a Kickstarter for the Duchess gaming table. The setup he envisioned for his house was a bar-height table with stools. Essentially, he needed a way to raise his top of his table about 10 inches, and came to me for advice on how to do that. Continue reading

Project: Pegboard organizers

The Problem

My workspaces are typically messy. I often say if there’s a horizontal surface, I will fill it with things.

I will clean this up when it’s not 20 below zero in my garage… I promise.

To remedy some of this cluttering habit, I try to get things “up”. I’ll use hooks, pegboards, and what-have-you to get items up and off the horizontal surfaces. Getting items up solves two problems:

  1. Everything is now in front of my field of vision. Nice!
  2. It’s harder to bury things on a vertical plane. It can be done, but not as easily.

So, those are great virtues, but pegboards can still get ugly. Especially considering store-bought solutions rarely fit your needs (or tools). Case in point, I had recently purchased several new tools: screwdrivers, spade drill bits, and chisels. They didn’t fit nicely on the old wire pegboard hooks, so I decided to make my own. Continue reading

Project: Mast rack

The Problem

The biggest issue encountered while transporting the Puddle Duck is the mast. It’s just shy of 16 feet long, and while in transit, generally has the sail wrapped around it. In the past, I’d used several ratcheting straps to lash it to the roof rack of the Subaru. However, it never really felt stable up there. If lashed improperly, the mast could come loose and swing free. (Yikes!) On top of that obvious safety concern, there was the less important issue of chafe wear on the sail from strapping it down.

What I needed was a way to keep the mast in a straight line with the car, while minimizing the compression on the sail. What I needed was a specialized rack. I drew my inspiration from various work vehicles, and decided to make something like a pipe or conduit carrier for the Subaru. Continue reading

Big changes, little updates

Since my last post, I’ve finished my degree at the University of Minnesota. I may not have taken the shortest path, but I learned so much about what I wanted in life along the way. As has been my pattern, I’ve been completely wrapped up in school projects and neglected blog updates. In an attempt to atone for that, I’ll be making several small posts over the next couple weeks, most of which will focus on projects I’ve worked on since last summer and didn’t have time to document.

In professional news, I recently completed editing Jim Hall’s book on IT leadership called Coaching Buttons. This was my first editing job, and I think it went well. Certainly the feedback I received from the author gave me confidence in my editing prowess going forward. Coaching Buttons should be available by Q2 2018. I’ll update with a link once it’s live.

Speaking of going forward, I have two projects coming up:

First, I accepted a short-term technical writing position at Daikin Applied, where I’ll be creating “cut sheets” for their sales and marketing teams. I’m very excited about this project, as it entails a different style of writing from other work I’ve done so far. And I highly value anything that expands my experience in the field.

The other project is a usability / document review for Skykit. One thing I learned while working on Coaching Buttons, is that I rather enjoy editing and document review. Especially when it comes to substantive and copy editing. I find smoothing the awkward phrasing and flow in writing a fun and interesting challenge. What I find odd is how difficult it is to do this to one’s own work.

That’s all for this post. Belated project posts to follow!

Summer break = Senior project

Last night I began my senior capstone project: a style sheet for ens0.info. For those not in the know, a style sheet is an editing tool used to create consistency in style, punctuation, abbreviations, units of measurement, and formatting.

I already have a rough plan in my head which would be better if I placed it in digital form, and this seems a good place to do so.

  1. Make an alphabet grid for unique words
  2. Add sections for capitalization, dates, numbers, etc.
  3. Determine which style Style Guide I’m using
  4. Determine which dictionary I’m using
  5. Define text layout
  6. Define font styles (this should be in the CSS already)
  7. Define visual layout principles

Once all those items are sorted out, I can begin reviewing the blog and filling in the style sheet. To complete the project, I’ll write up a short paper in which I explain my editing choices for organization, format (both text and overall), and the chosen terms in my grid.

Piece of cake, right?

The Visual Rhetoric of Frozen Pizza

Introduction

In a business as competitive as the packaged food industry, a fair amount of money must be put into attracting, or persuading customers to purchase your brand. While there are several means of doing this, there is none so persistent as having well designed labels. So while there is certainly a genre style to frozen pizza boxes, I aim to compare and analyze how various companies differently use color, images, and typography to attract customers. Continue reading