Sunday, July 02, 2006

Dream job?

A long time ago, I thought writing as a job or even a career would be cool. You know, journalist, columnist, freelance writer, copywriter… that sort. But then I can’t string words together as well as some of those natural talents out there, so trying to write for money will probably result in a grossly insufficient net income.

What about going multidisciplinary? You know, an engineer who specialises in written communication. Maybe a media spin-doctor for Judd or Cosworth (racing engine manufacturers)… But media people are precisely that- media people. Mass communications or PR specialists; not some auto-dynamist or combustion expert.

There was one more option- technical writing. But breaking into the technical writing field is like going into any of the other branches of writing – one needs a portfolio of past work and a bit of experience (probably gained from internships or volunteer work), none of which I happen to have.

At any rate, working as an engineer looks like a safer bet. The money is generally better and the opportunities appear lusher. Let’s play a game to illustrate. I’ll start by saying 'Adrian Newey- race engineer, aerodynamist and technical director'. Your turn- name a famous technical writer.

Yesterday night, I saw an interesting advertisement on a careers website. They were looking for a mechanical engineer who can write. Engineer, to figure out and understand the complicated products; write, to communicate the details to the end user.

And it’s in the automotive industry!

I really hope to get that one. Not a dream job, but it’s close enough. That company has some aftermarket tuning and motor sports connections too.


On a completely separate note, I’m in the market for a flash unit for my camera. A brand new, branded unit like the Canon Speedlite 580EX will set me back by $800, which is quite a lot. For my purposes, a second hand one will suffice, but it needs to have a trigger voltage less than 24 V, guide number of at least 20 (ASA 100, m), and a tilting flash head. And it needs to be within my budget of about $30.

External flash units are triggered when the terminals are short circuited. Mechanical cameras use a simple metal switch to perform the short circuit, and no one worries about the voltage that the flash unit uses.

However, digital cameras (and even some modern film SLRs) use semiconductors to perform this short circuiting, and potential differences greater than 24 V will damage the transistors. The potential difference of many old flashes run up to the mid-200s.

Of course, the salesmen will try to convince you (with fantastic phrases like "will blow your sensor." Hello, but isn’t that the transistor?) to buy the units specifically designed for digital cameras. Do not listen to them, for they have a vested interest in making you part with your money.

Instead, consult this extensive list of flash units and their trigger voltages.

In fact, I'm currently bidding for a flash with tilt AND pan, guide number of 32, dual strobe tubes, 4 V trigger voltage, zoom head and automatic metering (although the control freak in me will probably flick the switch to the 'M' position...).

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