Monday, November 9, 2009

Oh the irony

Last Wednesday, my boss sent around an email asking if anybody was interested in attending a two-day project management workshop over at our local community college. Since my title is Project Manager, it seemed ideal for me--unfortunately, it was scheduled for last Thursday and a Friday, the two days of the week when I actually had to manage the projects I'm working on.

I guess on-the-job training is better than a seminar, but hopefully they'll have another session soon that doesn't conflict with my responsibilities.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jet setter

The new job has been keeping me pretty busy. For the most part that's a good thing, as it makes the days fly by . . . but the bad thing about the days flying by is that I blink and the week has also flown by, and I still have a lot of stuff to do.

In a nice change of pace, I flew to Philadelphia Monday morning to attend a symposium on the Retail Clinic industry at the College of Physicians. I love that place because it's the home to my favorite Philly museum, The Mutter Museum. I arrived a few hours early, so I used the time to explore the two floors of medical oddities on display. Cheng and Eng's liver. Babies in jars. Human horns (fans of the show Futurama may get this reference: "wooooooooh!") I looooves me some good medical oddities. Had I been in the city for more than eight hours, or trapped in the symposium for fewer than three hours, I would also have tried to check out the Bodyworlds exhibit (not to be confused with Body Works, which is a similar but in a shadier, bodies-swiped-possibly-illegally-from-Asian-prisons kind of way) at the Franklin Institute . . . I saw it in Cleveland a few years ago and it rocked my world.

In the taxi heading back to the airport, I was treated to a lovely sunset. The sky was awash in pink and gold, and it was a fine way to end a day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Come for the rugs, stay for the Pilates

My hubby and I took a last-minute trip to the Tampa Bay area last weekend. We spent a lot of our time driving around and seeing what there was to see. One of the highlights for me was a business whose sign read "Oriental Rugs and Pilates." It's nice to see entrepreneurial diversification in these trying economic times. I wish them success!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taking the plunge

After much thought, I have decided to take the job.

I can't believe how tough a decision this was to make, and how bittersweet the whole scenario has been for me. I have loved freelancing for the past two and a half years. Even when I didn't have much work to do and was worried about paying my bills, it was so liberating to know I was in business for myself.

I'm proud that I was brave enough to quit the cubefarm and start my own business. I'm proud that I can say I have been moderately successful in my freelancing endeavors. And I'm proud to say I am good enough at what I do that one of my clients actually wants me to work for them full-time.

If it were any other client, or any other job offer, I don't think my answer would have been the same. I was so jaded by the time I ended my tenure with the cubefarm that I swore I would never go back into a corporate environment. That should tell you something about how special these people are. It's a small business, which is enough to differentiate it from the cubefarm--but the most impressive thing about them is the employees really seem to care--about each other, about their work, and about their clients. It's sad to say, but that is a rare find in a business these days.

I'm going to continue to do some freelance work on the side, but obviously I won't have a whole lot of time to devote to it (I have no intention of giving up all of my free time!). I will continue to blog, though perhaps not as frequently as I have in the past (although that's been pretty infrequently of late, I know).

Thanks for caring enough to read about the goings-on here in my little corner of the freelance world (I started this blog in July 2008!). I hope you'll wish me luck as I plunge back into the 9-to-5 world!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's a girl to do?

My agency client asked me to be project manager for an upcoming project related to the report I wrote recently. It's a pretty big deal, and I'm excited to tackle it. But . . . they also asked me if I wanted to keep going on a freelance basis or make things more permanent.

I'm torn. On one hand, I love working with them and have been basically working on-site with them full-time for the last few months, so becoming an actual employee isn't really going to change my day-to-day existence. On the other hand, I'd be giving up that sense of "freedom" that comes with being a full-time freelancer.

Of course, there are other considerations as well: Is it a smart move financially? Will I be able to manage my other clients in the evenings? Would I even WANT to keep freelancing on a part-time basis?

Guess I've got some thinkin' to do . . .

While I'm giving my noggin a workout, How about telling me what you would do if you were in my shoes?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Who's the boss?

From a conversation I had with my husband last Friday:

Me: "I was talking to Joe* today, and he mentioned . . ."
Hubby: "You mean your boss Joe?"
Me: "No, I mean my client Joe."

How is it that after two and a half years, he still doesn't get that I am my boss?



* names have been changed to protect the innocent

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Opinions, please . . .

If you were attending a conference and had to choose between multiple sessions that were of equal interest to you, would you choose one that promised to be in 3D?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The plumber theory

Before a meeting the other day, I was discussing with my client's intern the amount of changes he'd had to make to a piece he was asked to copy edit. We were joking that the person who wrote the piece (notice I didn't say "writer") must live by the credo "why say in one word what you can say in 20" when another colleague wandered over.

He was smirking as he sat down at the conference table. "Your conversation reminded me of something I call 'the plumber theory'," he said. When we asked him what that meant, he explained it like this:
"The first thing any plumber does upon entering your house is badmouth the work of the previous plumber. This same thing can be applied to all professions--you'll probably never hear somebody say, 'Wow, the guy who did this before me really knew what he was doing!'"
I know I'm guilty of this . . . how 'bout you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More from my bookshelf

I inherited a copy of The Gregg Reference Manual, Tenth Edition from my friend Carina last year. I don't use it too often, but it has served its purpose a few times. Most recently, my hubby was reading one of our local entertainment rags and thought he found a typo in one of the ads. Knowing how I live for that kind of thing, he pointed it out to me, asking, "Should this be 'capitol' or 'capital'?" (to put it in context for you, the ad mentioned something about "the capitol city")

I was fairly sure I knew the answer ("capital"), but just to be sure I hauled out good ol' Gregg. Within seconds, thanks to the easily-navigable index, I found the entry I was looking for: capital-capitol-Capitol, and the answer was at my fingertips in a jiffy. The ad should have read "capital city," as "capitol" refers to a building, not a city.

I have used several other style manuals, some of which have been quite difficult to use. Others simply have not had enough detail to answer my questions. But so far, Gregg hasn't disappointed.

So . . . anybody want to share their favorite style manual or reference book?

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Welcome to Thesaurus Phone!"

I worked onsite with my agency client yesterday (truth be told, I'm there most days--they are keeping me nice and busy!!). At one point during the day, the account services director came up to me and said she was looking for a synonym for "substitution," but wasn't satisfied with the choices offered by Word's thesaurus. I pondered her request for a moment before offering up "in lieu of."

"That's exactly what I was looking for!" she exclaimed, and practically skipped back to her desk.

This got me thinking: even in a world of readily-available Internet service and billions of free/cheap iPhone apps, I bet there are still people out there who would call a pay-per-use service if they could ask a live person for advice about synonyms, antonyms and the like.

This could be one of those million-dollar ideas . . . so if anybody can think of a way to implement it, let me know. I expect a cut of the action for coming up with the idea, but I don't want to be the one on the receiving end of those calls . . . I hate talking on the phone.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hot for what?

I'm not sure how I feel about this . . .


Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site


I'm a fan of books about words, but this seems a little . . . uh . . . smutty. Maybe I'm being a bit of a prude. What do you think? Wordplay or wordporn?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

From Amie's bookshelf

Several years ago at a seminar, I heard about a book titled Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas. I mentioned it to one of my more creative friends, and at the next gift-giving holiday received a copy from her.

As you might expect, the book is full of "mini workshop" exercises designed to help the reader enhance his or her creativity. I completed exactly two of them before I shelved the book. I didn't even make it to the 10 strategies, which aren't presented until Part 2 of the volume.

It's not a bad book--I suspect I just don't have the patience to work on enhancing my creativity. Or perhaps I just don't want to get all introspective about what might be holding me back from being as creative as I can be. Or possibly it's some combination of the two.

Whatever the reason, it has collected dust on the bookshelf in my office until today, when I was casting about the room for inspiration for this post. And now that it has served its purpose, it will go back to the shelf until the day I find myself in need of a creative booster shot. Hopefully when that day comes I'll be mentally in the right place to learn the lessons I know are contained within its pages.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wordplay

The other night, quite out of the blue, one of my friends said, "if you can regurgitate something, why can't you gurgitate it?" This led us to discuss a few other "words" that lose their meaning when you remove the "re-" prefix, the funniest of which (after "gurgitate") was "peat" (as in, "I already peated it once, don't make me repeat it.").

I have since thought up a few more:
  • lease/release
  • quire/require
  • main/remain
  • duce/reduce
  • tard/retard (not in the really un-PC way, but the "to impede" way)
  • linquish/relinquish
  • buke/rebuke

I think I'm going to try a few of these out in normal conversation, just to see the reactions I get. Now if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to gurgitate my breakfast . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

With friends like this . . .

I recently met up with some former coworkers (from two jobs ago)--and some of their current coworkers, whom I'd never met--for happy hour. One of the people I didn't know asked me what I do for a living. After I explained that I am a freelance writer and editor, one of my friends quipped, "You wouldn't know it to read her emails . . ."

I know he was joking, but his comment bothered me. Even in the most informal emails, I try to be careful with my spelling, grammar and punctuation. Of course, I sometimes make mistakes or neglect to proofread--especially when typing a hurried message to my mom or husband--but for the most part, I treat my email correspondence the same way I treat any of my writing, and try to keep it as error-free as possible.

Why? Because it bugs me to think that people may be reacting to my emails the way I react to others'. Call me judgmental (you wouldn't be the first!), but when I receive an email that is riddled with misspellings, grammatical errors and the like I can't help but wonder why the sender couldn't be bothered to run a quick spell check (and then give the email a quick read-through--spell check isn't perfect!*) before hitting "send."

How careful are you in your electronic correspondence? And how tolerant are you of people who aren't so careful?

*A woman I used to work with at my last job is a terrible speller. To her credit, she admitted her shortcoming and set her Outlook email to auto-correct spelling errors. Unfortunately, her spelling was so bad that sometimes Microsoft couldn't even figure out what she really meant to type. As a result, she ruffled many a client's and colleague's feathers when she sent out messages stating she was "defiantly" doing one thing or another when what she meant to say was "definitely."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where's the fire?

Somebody accidentally set off the fire alarm at my agency clients' office building today . . . we dutifully evacuated, and re-entered the building after having been given the all-clear. About 20 mintes later, it started going off again, this time intermittently. Because the few of us who were still there (they have "summer hours" and try to leave early on Fridays) were in a groove, we decided it wasn't worth the hassle of going back outside. However, around 3:45, I'd had all I could take of the ruckus and called it a day.

I've never been so appreciative of the relative quiet of my home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spaghettification

"No one's ever died of spaghettification," exclaimed my husband during last night's episode of Nova Science Now.

Spaghettification, according to the program, is the name for the death one would suffer upon being sucked into the event horizon of a black hole. So now, I don't want to be the person who invents collective nouns, I want to be the person who invents the words for death caused by interaction with galactic entities.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stumbling into the 21st century

I bought a laptop yesterday. In fact, I bought the first one the salesman showed me. It may appear that I made a rash decision by not shopping around and comparing various models, but I have been thinking off and on about getting a laptop since Christmas. Over the past few months, I've talked to various tech-savvy friends and "built" a few computers on the Dell web site. I knew what I wanted and needed in terms of processors and memory, and I did some comparison shopping online before I set foot in the store. I would have bought it online, but I am one of those people who likes to see what they're getting--hold it in my hands, try it on, take a spritz from the tester bottle--before I fork over the money for it.

My decision to finally break down and buy a laptop was made in part by the fact that my current computer--a Dell desktop that is at least seven years old--has been showing signs of old age recently. It's slow at startup, makes churning noises while running, and sometimes just flat out refuses to do what I tell it to do. It's served me well during its tenure, and I will continue to use it for non-business related things (music, photos, etc.)--but when my time is billable, I need to be able to work efficiently.

So now, I am the proud owner of a refurbished Toshiba Satellite. In addition to the boost in performance over my desktop, I am excited at the prospect of being able to work someplace other than the desk in my home office. My house has been a wireless "hot spot" for about two years, thanks to AT&T Uverse, so I was able to hit the ground running in terms of Internet connectivity. Within 15 minutes of removing the laptop from the box, I was checking email and surfing the Web. If it wasn't 1,200 degrees outside, I'd be sitting on my patio typing right now. But, since I don't want to get my spiffy new computer all sweaty, I am content to blog from the comfort of my 75 degree living room.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A booger of collective nouns

I am reading a book in which a character mentions that a group of ravens is called an "unkindness." This got me thinking of the preponderance of wacky collective nouns out there . . . how were they chosen, and why not just keep it simple and call a group, a group? I don't have an answer for the former (do you?), but my guess in the latter is that "group" is simply not as fun.

Many of the more interesting collective nouns are reserved for birds. To name a few:
  • storytelling of rooks
  • murmuration of starlings
  • wedge of swans
  • descent of woodpeckers
  • skein of goslings (which grow into a gaggle of geese)
  • piteousness of doves
  • ostentation of peacocks
There was a segment on the CBS Sunday Morning Show about collective nouns, but I can't find a link for it. A Google search did point me to the Fun With Words site, which includes a lengthy list of collective nouns specific to animals. Here are a few of my favorites from that site (although I must say I don't know if I believe all of them):
  • prickle of hedgehogs (how descriptive!)
  • sneak of weasels (invented, I am guessing, by an angry chicken farmer)
  • hurtle of sheep (invented, I am guessing by a BORED sheep farmer)
  • smack of jellyfish (I would have chosen "sting," but okay)
  • cartload of monkeys (I'm not buying it--but I like it!)
  • shrewdness of apes (Jane Goodall would approve)
  • movement of moles (the sheer alliteration gives me joy)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Huh?

The following came up in my Google Alerts email:

Algebraic Verbal And Written Expressions
Scare Him Off Ladies » Amish Made Log Beds » Kind Of Gland Above The Kidneys » Algebraic Verbal And Written Expressions. Last night the local San Francisco ...

I couldn't dream up a more random string of phrases--could you? I was intrigued enough to click on it to see what those words could possibly have in common, but it appears to be a dead link.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Busy as a meeeeee

I have at least three fun ideas for blog posts brewing in my head, but I've had no time to sit down and write them.

I have several simultaneous projects with one client, and a few others that I am waiting to get started on. Hopefully I will be able to come up for air long enough to get at least one of my ideas down on paper (or should I say "up on screen?").

Friday, July 31, 2009

A plague of SPAM

My business email has been a relatively safe haven from SPAM since I opened the account in June 2007. Whether this is indicative of poor marketing on my part, or because of the fact that I use that address almost solely for business correspondence, I have been happy to stay off the SPAMmers' collective radar. Up until recently, the only unsolicited emails I received were for Indian marriage web sites (weird, eh?).

But July has seen an uptick in the amount of email squirreliness perpetrated upon my business account. On a daily basis, I receive one or more emails from obviously spamtastic addresses, with one-word subject lines like "rambunctious" or "supercilious." Fortunately my email provider sees them for what they are and forwards them to my spam folder, but because it also occasionally forwards legitimate emails to that folder I always check it before permanently deleting the contents. This week, the SPAM even transformed into SPIM (SPAM+Instant Messaging). I got a handful of IM requests from the same address before I reported it (declining the request the first time I got it apparently only validated my email address, which apparently gave the green light to keep on a-sending the SPIM).

I have been SPIM-free for two days now, and I'm hoping that trend holds. I'm not sure there's anything else I can do to slow the SPAM, as it's already being treated as garbage by my provider. Any suggestions? Anybody else being unusually deluged with SPAM? Do you think having SPAM in the title, body (repeatedly) and tags of this post is going to get it blocked from any search engines?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I hear what you're writing

I've noticed a disturbing trend on TV of late . . . text on the screen (often in annoying graphic layouts, but that's another rant for another day) accompanied by a voice-over or talking head who is speaking the words as they appear on the screen. Not summarizing. Not paraphrasing. Saying EXACTLY what is on the screen.

Attention producers of my local news promos and national prime time TV teasers: if I can read it, I don't need to hear it . . . and if I can hear it, I don't need to read it. This applies to presentations, and it should apply to television as well. If I wanna read my TV, I'll turn on the closed captioning.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back to the grind

I'm back from a nice, albeit not a relaxing, vacation. After a week of driving my mom to visit relatives, actually visiting the relatives, and a midweek trip to the Hocking Hills region of Ohio for a zipline tour (SO FUN!), I was completely exhausted by last night. It was great getting to spend time with my mom, though.

And now here I am on Monday morning, preparing to meet with a brand new client. Not a bad way to start a new week!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Analyze this

This is my last post until the 27th . . . it's vacation time!! Woohoo!

I thought I would leave you with this gem of an article from Smashing Magazine about Google Analytics. It's a fascinating read if you are considering using the free service, and even if you already use it. I had no idea GA had some of these capabilities!

One of my clients directed me to the article, and I thought I would do you, dear reader, the same favor. Happy reading, and I'll type to ya again next week!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

10 books

One of my friends tagged me on a Facebook quiz/meme/note thingy that instructed me to list "ten books you've read that always stick with you." However, one of the rules said to list the "first ten books that come to mind."

These are vastly different lists. The first books that come to mind are mostly what I'm reading now, or are connected by stream of conscious to something I'm reading now--none of which necessarily "stick" with me . . . so I think I need to make two lists, which is in direct opposition to another rule, "do not think about this." But since I am typing this here and not on Facebook, I don't feel compelled to follow the rules to the letter. So here are my two lists. Let's see if there's any overlap.

The first ten books that come to mind:
  1. Where the Red Fern Grows
  2. The Misadventures of Jusin Hearnfeld
  3. The Observations
  4. The Tenth Circle
  5. My Sister's Keeper
  6. Never Sniff a Gift Fish
  7. Fluke
  8. Interview With the Vampire
  9. Living Dead in Dallas
  10. California Demon
And the ten that stick with me:
  1. Where the Red Fern Grows
  2. Fluke
  3. Tales of Mr. Pengachoosa
  4. Green Eggs and Ham
  5. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
  6. Romeo and Juliet
  7. Great Expectations
  8. The World According to Garp
  9. The Talisman
  10. Bag of Bones
What are your "top tens?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tick tock

I spent my weekend cleaning my house (and doing a spot o' drywall repair--turned out pretty good) in preparation for my mother's arrival this Friday. As I was pondering how it can take so many hours to clean such a small house, I realized it was because I was too easily sidetracked by minutiae:
  • I wasn't just putting my CDs in the rack, I was alphabetizing them
  • I wasn't just dusting, I was rearranging the contents of my shelves
  • I wasn't just cleaning my desk, I was separating my writing utensils by type
I do this in my work sometimes too--and it's never a good thing. One of my clients has a quote taped to the wall above her computer that says "Don't let perfection get in the way of good." It's something I should keep in mind.

My mother doesn't care if The Pixies precede Poi Dog Pondering, or if Grandma and Grandpa are facing the same direction on the bookshelf, or if my highlighters are mingling with my ballpoints. Of course, it's not quite the same story with my clients--they expect, deserve and pay for a certain level of quality from me--but it's still in my best interest (and theirs, if I'm working against a deadline or a tight budget!) if I take a minute to stop, look at my work, and ask myself if I'm letting perfection get in the way of good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Testing . . . testing

As I noted a few posts ago, I've been having issues with the scheduling feature of Blogger (my secret is out: I'm usually not even awake when my entries post at 7 a.m.).

The problem seems to have started when I decided to disable word verification for comments. In order to troubleshoot the issue I have temporarily (or permanently, depending on the outcome of the aforementioned troubleshooting) re-enabled the word verification. My apologies to those of you who don't like typing random strings of letters (I personally think it's fun to see the combinations they come up with--I am more annoyed by being forced to sign in before commenting), but I see no way around it at the moment.

I'm writing this at 12:03 p.m. on Thursday, July 9th.


Best case scenario: You'll see this post Friday morning at 7:00, and word verification will stay enabled.

Worst case scenario: You'll see it when I remember to check to be sure it published or when I go to write a new entry and realize this one never posted, and it's back to the drawing board.

Let's see what happens . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A banner month

July is shaping up to be a really good month:
  • One new client with two new projects (again, thanks for the referral Patty!)
  • One existing client with continued project work
  • Two old clients resurfaced with small projects
And to top it all off, my mom is coming for a visit mid-month, and I get to take a week off to hang out with her. Yay!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy 4th (almost)

On the eve of the 233rd anniversary of our country's independence, I took a day off--sort of.

My agency client's office is closed today, and I have no other active projects. I did, however, have a telephone interview with a prospective client--it went well, and hopefully laid the foundations for a long and beautiful business relationship. My thanks go out to my friend and fellow entrepreneur Patty for the hook-up!

I also took my car in for service, which ate up a sizable chunk of my afternoon (who knew an oil change, tire rotation and complimentary car wash could take over two hours?). I'm now spending some time catching up on my Facebooking and blog reading and trying to decide what's for dinner. Suggestions?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Every day I write the book

On Nova the other night, there was a segment about a man named Luis von Ahn. He originated the reCAPTCHA program, which--at least until I watched this segment--I thought was just a way of stopping spam by making sure I'm not a robot when I create an online account.

Little did I know that every time I have to verify my humanity on a site that uses reCAPTCHA, I am also helping to digitize old books and newspapers. Fascinating!

In unrelated news, what's going on with Blogger? I have had to manually publish this and yesterday's post (which was supposed to post on Tuesday) because they didn't publish at their scheduled time. Anybody else who uses Blogger experiencing this?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An overabundance of typos

I've been seeing them everywhere. In one of the books I'm reading (Clive Barker's Books of Blood), in my neighborhood's weekly paper, and in restaurant menus. In TV commercials and on business web sites. They taunt me with their wrongness. I can overlook a typo or three in a blog or an email--heck, I've been known to commit those venial sins myself from time to time. But blatant spelling and grammar errors in a book that's in its third printing? Even spell check, imperfect as it may be, would catch some of the worst errors. What happened to the editorial process? Do people just not care anymore?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Um . . .

Where did this week go? I blinked my eyes, and it went from Tuesday morning to Friday afternoon. Hmm. Did anybody else's week fly by?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Save my library!

Ohio's Governor, Ted Strickland, wants to eliminate more than $200 million from the Public Library Fund over the next two years. These funding cuts would drastically reduce services and access at a time when Ohio's public libraries are experiencing unprecedented increases in usage of services like Internet access, children's summer reading programs and more. The Governor's proposal cuts library funding by 50% beginning July 1st, meaning the time for action is NOW!

If you want to help save Ohio's libraries, please contact our legislators. The Columbus Metropolitan Library has made it easy to do so at http://columbuslibrary.org/. If you want to take a more direct route, call Governor Strickland's office at 614-466-3555.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vowel anarchy

I ran across this tidbit in this weekend's Yahoo news . . . hopefully next on the chopping block is adding "u" to words like "favor" and "color."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fruition

After several months of starts and stops, edits, revisions and redirections, one of my clients just re-launched their updated Web site today. I think it's a great site--not only because I wrote a lot of the copy, but also because it truly reflects the kind of organization they are. If you get a spare moment, swing by and take a look!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sirens and steaks

My onsite work load has dwindled a bit this month, so I took an afternoon off last week. The hubby and I (have I mentioned he quit his job a month ago? Well, he did. But that's another story.) went to the gym, happy to beat the after-work crowd.

We came home to find two fire trucks in front of our house--after a brief freak-out, we realized the firefighters were at our neighbor's house, so we crossed the street to make sure everybody was okay (they were--no fire, just a blown-out pilot light that was misinterpreted as a gas leak).

Walking back to our house, we intercepted the UPS delivery guy, who was also on his way to our place. In his hands was a Styrofoam container addressed to little ol' me. The shipping label indicated it was from Pfaelzer Brothers (an online gourmet food store), and that it had been sent by my agency client. Inside the box were four filet mignons, accompanied by a note that read "Here's to a great summer."

Here's to a great summer indeed--for all of us!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nucular

Last week, my client and I had a recent discussion about usage of "hone" versus "home" when referring to zeroing in on something. He thought "home" was correct, whereas I was strongly in the "hone" camp. We looked up both words, and as of Friday, he seemed willing to concede that "hone" was correct for our context. Apparently, though, the issue still nagged at him, because I received an email from him this morning chock full of alternate definitions, usage guidelines and commentary from various sources--all arguing for the use of "home" instead of "hone."

Yet it was not the definitions, guidelines and commentary that swayed me--it was the sentence with which he began the email: "'Hone in' has evolved as a common mispronunciation of 'home in'--akin to saying ‘nucular’ instead of 'nuclear.'"

Consider me converted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hi ho, hi ho

It's a gray and rainy day here in central Ohio, and all I really wanted to do was stay in bed this morning. But, I don't get paid if I sleep the day away, so I hauled myself out of my cocoon, put on my game face, and got to work.

I am still plagued by the Land of the Lost theme. Six days and counting. Oy vey.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Land of the Lost (lost lost lost lost)

Thanks to a Land of the Lost marathon on Chiller this weekend, I've had the theme song playing a nearly constant loop in my head.



As annoying as it has been, it got me thinking of how TV themes have changed over the decades . . . through the 70s, shows like LotL (and Gilligan's Island, The Patty Duke Show, The Brady Bunch . . .) told you just what you could expect from the show. The 80s were rife with instrumental introductions (Dynasty, Dallas, Doogie Howser, MD., Magnum PI . . .). The 90s introduced pop-inspired openers (Friends, Boy Meets World . . .). Then came the "anything goes" 00s. You never know what you're going to get, and you generally can't guess from the theme song what the heck you are in for.

If there are any theme writers out there, I would like to suggest a return to simpler times. For example, I'd love to hear a theme song for the CSI franchise that tells you what the series are about. If I had more time on my hands, I'd write them myself.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Um, thanks?

Finally, an organization has realized that I'm one of the country's most accomplished professional women . . . I was tempted to send back the reply card because they claim there's no fee and I'd like to see what "membership" actually entails. Then I remembered a post of Lori's from April and thought better of it. It may or may not be the same group, but I have a feeling it's equally shady. So, National Association of Professional Women, thanks . . . but no thanks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June ramblings

It's a beautiful day in central Ohio. The birds are singy, the flowers are plucky . . . and my hubby is making me breakfast!

The only thing casting a pall over the day is the fact that I need to call a few auto body places and get some estimates. My neighbor backed into my car the other morning, leaving a dent and a scratch on the rear passenger-side wheel well. Guess he hadn't had his morning coffee before he got behind the wheel! Fortunately for me he said he would pay to have it repaired--but I still have to make the arrangements.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The 200

This is my 200th post. That may not seem monumental to any of you who have had blogs for more than a year or for those of you who post daily (or multiple times throughout the day!) . . . and frankly it's not really that big of a deal to me either, but it's a nice round number so I'm gonna celebrate it.

Huzzah! 200 posts! Okay, I feel much better now.

Things seem to be slowing down with my agency client (no looming deadlines = no need for me to be there eight hours a day), which leaves me free to explore some other opportunities. The creative staffing firm emailed me last week with a possible project, so I plan to follow up with them. I think I'll also try to hit some networking events and maybe do some marketing around the neighborhood. I also plan to enjoy the downtime while I can get it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Breath of not-so-fresh air

I hope everybody got a chance to enjoy the holiday weekend. I know I did! From seeing an old friend on Friday to a(nother) charity 5K followed by a cookout on Monday, my long weekend was packed with fun and frolic.

On Saturday, my hubby and I went to the Columbus Museum of Art to see To Live Forever, a collection of Egyptian art and antiquities on loan from the Brooklyn Museum. It was interesting, and I even spotted a typo in one of the descriptive plaques (unfortunately, the "no photography" rule prevented me from snapping a quick pic to accompany this post).

Monday, as I was clearing off the patio in preparation for our cookout, I noticed a barnyardesque smell on the breeze. I assumed it was just decomposing vegetation in the woodier part of our yard . . . until my husband pointed out that the folks whose backyard butts up against ours had created a compost heap right against their fenceline. So now any time the wind blows from the north, we will get that lovely smell. Joy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reminiscing

The absolutely glorious weather we've been experiencing in central Ohio for the past two days has me thinking about the good ol' days when I didn't have any work and could sit outside in my backyard and enjoy the sun as I watched the butterflies drift about on a warm breeze.

Of course, back then I couldn't afford to enjoy the weather anywhere but in my backyard . . .

And there's the rub. Would I rather be working steadily and not see the sun until 5:30, or wile away the hours on my patio wishing I had a more lucrative way to spend the day? Definitely the former. The sun stays up for a good fifteen hours this time of year!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's a mystery to me

I has a major problems reading this . . . do you thinks AT&T has decides to outsource their synopsis writing to a non-English speaking countries?


Monday, May 18, 2009

Snippets

And now for another episode of Short Attention Span Theater:

  • The Columbus leg of the Race for the Cure happened on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful turnout--around 45,000 people registered, and judging from the crowd most of them actually made it downtown.
  • Something is going on with my web site. I will need to investigate that soon.
  • I get to work on another round of edits to my report today--they are much less intimidating this time around, which is a good thing!
  • For the past few nights, I've had nothing but unpleasant dreams. It's getting annoying.
  • My hubby and I went to see the Spinal Tap: Unwigged and Unplugged tour last night. Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer performed acoustic versions of songs from the various Spinal Tap albums, as well as from the movies A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman. The witty banter and film clips between songs were nearly as entertaining as the songs themselves.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dress rehearsal

As part of the editing process for the report I'm writing, the draft was forwarded to a pharmacist who has not been privy to the study, presentation or report to date. When his edits came back, I was tempted to dismiss many of them for this very reason--and then I realized that if he had these questions, comments and concerns as he was reading, so would the report's intended audience.

That realization caused me to look back at some sections of the report with a fresh eye. I, and the people who read and commented on earlier drafts, were so close to the information that we made some assumptions we shouldn't have. For example, because we've been knee-deep in the process for months now, we took it for granted that the reader would know what factor analysis is. In this specific case, it was an easy fix. I reworded the first mention of factor analysis to include a simple definition, giving the reader just enough information to understand the concept without bogging them down with unnecessary, overly-technical statistical jargon. I had to work harder to address some of his other questions and comments, but the end result is a stronger draft that will be an easier read.

His edits served as a friendly reminder of who I was writing for.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No rest for the wicked

I spent all of last week working with my agency client to complete the first draft of the medication adherence report. It was mentally exhausting, so I forced myself to take a break and come home for lunch every day (their office is about a mile away from my house). On Wednesday, I was looking forward to a nice brainless lunch . . .

. . . but I had barely gotten through the front door when I heard my husband calling from the computer room, asking me to edit an article he was supposed to submit to our neighborhood paper. So I ate my lunch while perusing his copy, and then dashed back to my client's to complete my day's work.

Do you think I should charge my hubby for my editorial services?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Interior decoration FAIL

My agency client shares space in a three-story office building with a bank, a restaurant and several other businesses. The lobby of this building recently underwent some remodeling.

Now, I understand the concept of "eclectic decorating"--but I'm not so sure whoever is responsible for this space does. Behold:


Distressed, antique-looking console tables (there are two--they flank the front doors). Modern light fixtures. Futuristic occasional table with yellow, hard plastic armchairs. This vestibule just screams for one of those "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" interventions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tag team

I am usually capable of translating fairly technical concepts into language a non-technical audience can understand. I've written training manuals for sophisticated software programs, and guides for navigating tedious web sites. But I'm not so great at technical writing when you throw math of any sort into the mix. This shortcoming has recently resulted in my first experience with co-writing.

The results of the medication adherence study for which I created a PowerPoint presentation are now being expanded into a full report. I am writing the bulk of the report, but there is a section dealing with statistical analysis that is completely beyond me. I understand the concepts of it well enough, but when I try to write about it, it just sounds wrong. In fact, that section sounds so different from the rest of the report that one editor commented on the change in tone.

So my client got me some help. The technical writer really knows her stuff, but we are struggling to find a way to work together. She isn't familiar with the topic, so there is a learning curve to overcome. We're both used to working alone, and there's a little bit of discomfort as we learn about each other's methods. It just feels . . . clunky. I know we'll figure it out, but right now we just seem to keep getting in each other's way.

Has anybody else had this experience when sharing some sort of project with another person? How did you overcome the bumps?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A nighttime visitor

The other night, a strangled cry from my husband caused me to look up from the book I was reading. He was standing on our front porch, with a surprised look on his face. "Come here," he said, "and bring the camera."

Assuming he had been surprised by a large spider, and fearing that said spider might try to perpetrate a sneak attack if I went through the front door, I approached the front porch by way of the back door.

As you can see from the picture below, it was not an arachnid that had startled my hubby. Drying its newly-hatched wings on our front porch was a luna moth. You can't tell from the picture, but the wingspan is around four inches.


Isn't he beautiful? I say "he" because a bit of internet research informed me that the male luna moth has bushier antennae.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Browse this

My new web site is up and running, but there seem to be inconsistencies in how it appears from browser to browser. On Firefox, for example, there's a black line on the bottom of the Contact page, but the rest of the site looks fine. On Internet Explorer, the issues are a little more noticeable. I've heard it looks fine on IE version 7.0, but it is pretty messed up on 6.0.

So that I can best troubleshoot these issues, can you swing by www.writtenexpressionsllc.com and tell me what you see? You can either comment here, or use the form on the Contact page of the web site to send me an email. Either way, if you can tell me what browser you're using and what version you're running, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance for your help!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mythbusters, freelance edition

One of the most common misconceptions of freelancing shared by people who have "regular" 9-to-5 jobs is that freelancers make their own hours. "It must be great to work when you want," they say in envious tones.

The reality is I don't really have that much flexibility, and I don't always get a choice in the hours I work. I work when my clients work, and sometimes I work long after they've gone home. And even when I'm not doing billable work, I'm often working. Bookkeeping at 10:30 at night, when I finally remember where I put that receipt from Office Max. Updating my brochure on a Saturday afternoon, because I was struck by inspiration while taking a walk. Sometimes, I feel guilty scheduling a vacation or taking a lunch break.

Those last two are my own issue, as I'm sure my clients don't begrudge me a few days off or some afternoon sustenance. But my point is, a freelancer's life isn't something to be envious of--freelancing is a job, just like any other (except that I love this job, and I can't say the same thing about my previous positions). It has its positives and negatives, its risks and rewards. As long as the positives outweigh the negatives and the rewards outweigh the risks, I'll keep freelancing. If the tide should ever turn, you may find me talking dreamily about a 9-to-5 corporate position.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Amie joins another cause

Remember when I said I am not much of a joiner? That does not apply to charity races. I loves me some charity races.

May 16th is the annual Columbus Race for the Cure, supporting breast cancer awareness and research. I'm not sure when I started doing this one, but I think it was around ten years ago. This year, in addition to walking the 5k (I don't run, unless something is chasing me--and even then, it had better be pretty darn scary) I am attempting a bit o' fundraising. If you'd like to donate, or learn more about the cause, please follow the link below. Thanks!!

http://www.active.com/donate/columbusrftc09/goamiego

Friday, April 24, 2009

Amie joins a cause

I'm not much of a joiner, but this is a cause I think is worth fighting for.

Writer abuse has reached epidemic proportions in our country. One in five writers will suffer eye strain from the lack of an anti-glare coating on their computer monitor. One in three will have to wear one of those silly carpal tunnel gloves because of an ergonomically incorrect workspace. And this very second, a writer is crying because she was unable to decipher her client's cryptic notes.

Okay, so I made those statistics up. But there is a real plight affecting those of us who make our living by the pen (or keyboard): unrealistic beliefs about the value of our skills. The spores of this disease are germinated by "clients" who think it's okay to post projects offering pennies for what amounts to hours of work. The disease is spread by the writers who are willing to work for such paltry sums. Okay, so the economy is in the toilet and businesses have to tighten their belts. It's one thing to hunt for a good deal (hooray for capitalism), but to expect us to give it away is unfair. Not only is it unfair to the writer who is foolish enough to take on the work, but also to the rest of us writers out there who have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Lori Widmer--blogger, professional writer, and advocate of writers everywhere--has declared the third Friday in May to be Writer's Worth Day. The First Annual Writer's Worth Day was held last May 16th as a way of (in Ms. Widmer's own words) "saying yes to competitive wages and no to accepting what isn't worthy of our talents."

Prospective clients: writing is a skill. If you could do it yourself, you wouldn't be asking us. You expect a professional outcome, so you should be willing to pay a professional's fees.

My fellow writers: take a stand for your skills. Charge what you're worth! And mark your calendars for the 2nd annual Writer's Worth Day, May 15th, 2009.

Writers Worth Day

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Opportunity accidently sends an email

Tuesday evening, I was cc'd on a series of strange emails from the general manager of a night club in California regarding a flyer to promote an upcoming event. Sounds like the kind of little design project I take on occasionally--only I had never heard of this guy, the guy he was emailing, or anybody else he'd cc'd. I'd never heard of the club, and I'd never been approached about the project (though I have worked with clients in California before).

Weird, eh? I asked my California client if he knew anything about it, and he informed me that he did not. So I emailed the general manager and told him that I'd received his emails but was unsure who he was. He replied that his assistant had given him the wrong email address and I should just disregard the emails. I sent him back a quick note saying I would, but that if he thought he might ever need any writing or editing work done and didn't mind working with a freelancer in Ohio, to tell his assistant to hang on to my contact information.

Will I ever hear from him again? Probably not, but stranger things have happened. After all, he found me once (albeit by accident), right?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nothing to say

Once upon a time, when I didn't have regular projects and had lots of time on my hands, I posted every business day. Some days I had more to say than others, but I posted without fail.

But now that I am working pretty regularly (and not working from home), it's difficult for me to find the time to post--and when I do have the time, I find myself at a loss for anything to say. I started this blog with the crazy notion that I would be chronicling my adventures in freelancing . . .

Sigh.

I love what I'm doing, I love my clients, I can't think of anything else I would rather be doing for a living. But there's nothing terribly blogworthy about getting up and going to work.

So I'm faced with a decision: keep the blog going and just post when I have something to say, or give up the blog. If I choose the former, I risk becoming the kind of blogger I hate (well, perhaps hate is too strong a word)--the kind that doesn't provide regular updates. And if I choose the latter, I'll miss all the fun of blogging (and it is fun--when it doesn't seem like just another chore in my day).

I really don't know how bloggers like Lori and Angie do it--lead busy lives and still find the time to post thought-provoking, entertaining entries every day (sometimes even more than once a day!).

To all of you regular posters out there: what's the secret?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It worked for Twain . . .

A cute little segment from this past weekend's "CBS News Sunday Morning":


Watch CBS Videos Online

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beat it

After four visits to my primary care physician, a stress echocardiogram and a month spent wired to a cardiac event monitor, I finally have an answer to the issue of my "weird chest sensation."

Sort of.

Basically, my heart just has an extra beat every so often, and unlike the majority of people this happens to, I can feel it. And then I freak out about it, which exacerbates the issue.

My doctor suggested two courses of action:
  1. learn to live with it, knowing it's not going to kill me
  2. take a very low dose of beta blockers to alleviate the symptoms
I have decided, at least temporarily, to try the beta blocker. I don't like the idea of being on long-term medication, but I've forgotten what it's like to feel "normal." If the meds can make me feel normal again, it will be worth it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In brief

Just a quickie post:
  • My cousin finished the design of my website over the weekend. It looks so great, I'm really excited about it. I have to get him some keywords and a description, and he's working on some issues with Internet Explorer, but it should be live before too long. Stay tuned!

  • I finally got the Photoshop and InDesign demos installed on my computer around 4 on Friday. Fortunately, things went pretty quickly in terms of work after that. I finished one project and got a great start on another.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Adobe me, ASAP

My agency client is closed for Good Friday, so I am working at home today on a design project for a local business. To make life--and specifically this project--easier for myself I plan to download a 30-day trial of Adobe Creative Suite. Given the sheer file size of Adobe products, I know that I am in for a long wait. But it's so worth it . . .

When I get my new laptop, I am also going to get at least Photoshop and InDesign. I don't do a lot of design work, but it is so much simpler to use tools that were meant to go together than to piecemeal them together as I've been doing, which is manipulating images in GIMP (the acronym for an open source program called GNU Image Manipulation Program--it's pretty cool for a free program, but a bit tough to figure out sometimes) and then doing the layout in Publisher, Word or PowerPoint.

If there were a GNU equivalent to InDesign, I'd suffer through any difficulties with the GIMP learning curve, but since there isn't, let the downloading commence!

12:00 PM UPDATE: The entire Creative Suite trial is only available on CD (for which one must pay $10.99), so I decided to download the trials for Photoshop and InDesign only, which are available for free on the Adobe site. As of this update, the Photoshop download is 91% complete. Then I have to install it. Then I get to start the download for InDesign. Perhaps by this time tomorrow I will actually get to do some work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm glad I said no

When my agency client invited me to tag along this past weekend to see the fruits of my presentation labor (in other words, to watch the actual presentation in San Antonio), I was sorely tempted to accept. But I knew that if I went, I would not be able to relinquish control of it.

Now that I know how it all went down, I know that I made the right decision. Even though the presentation was a success, it was a qualified success. As my client himself said, "We won the game 45-7, but we played horribly." From a technical perspective, there were a couple of glitches with the projector resolution and the view the presentation opened in. There were also some issues with the presenters not being quite prepared (they were paid presenters, not my clients) and also having a mild case of nerves. Had I been there, someone probably would have had to restrain me to keep me from rushing the stage in an attempt to help.

Plus, I completely forgot that I had made an appointment to donate blood on Sunday afternoon. Had I gone, I would have missed it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Suggestions welcome

I'm in the market for a laptop. I want one that can run Microsoft Office Professional Edition and not be too slow. I don't care what brand or color it is, though I would prefer a 15 inch screen or larger and I don't want it to weigh a ton. An IT friend suggested the following specs for a Dell laptop, but I suspect some of it is overkill (I imagine I could get away with 2GB memory):
  • Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T5800 (2.0GHz/800Mhz FSB/2MB cache)
  • Windows Vista® Home Basic Edition SP1
  • 3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 (2 Dimms)
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
  • Integrated 10/100 Network Card
  • Integrated Modem
  • CD/DVD Writer (DVD+/-RW Drive)
  • High Definition Audio 2.0
  • Intel Next -Gen Wireless -N Mini-card
  • 6 cell battery
What laptop do you use, and how do you use it? Do you like it? Would you recommend it to others?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Empty Nest

The presentation on which I spent the majority of my billable hours over the past three weeks was given yesterday to a group of pharmacists at the American Pharmacists Association annual meeting and exposition. I received a text from my agency client yesterday afternoon that it went well, and will learn more later today.

As excited as I am to have it finished and delivered, I feel a little empty inside. While I can now laugh about the day I lost two hours' worth of work because PowerPoint tanked and autosave wasn't turned on, it was comforting to spend so many hours and days creating slides, monkeying with the copy, animating the graphics and getting the whole thing perfectly aligned and timed. I find myself asking, "What next?"

I suspect this must be similar to how it feels when a mother sends her child off to college. Only I don't have to worry about paying anyone's tuition!

And honestly, I know the answer to my question. Next, I get to work on writing the report based on the findings that were just presented. And I catch up on all the other work that I put on a back burner.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Walkabout

The skies over Columbus were blue yesterday, the weather was temperate, and it was still daylight when I left my client's office for the day. I decided to take double advantage of the lovely evening by bringing my camera with me on a walk through my neighborhood. After spending 8+ hours indoors staring at PowerPoint slides, it was nice to be able to breathe fresh air and focus on things further away from me than a computer screen.

My neighborhood is in bloom, and it's lovely. I snapped these pictures as I meandered up and down the side streets near my house . . .




. . . and this one in my own yard!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Goals

Lori's blog post yesterday reminded me that I needed to check my progress toward goals for the month and year to date.

So far, it's been a good year for Written Expressions, LLC:

I'm happy to say that, in spite of myself, I exceeded my monetary goals for March.

I say "in spite of myself" because the reason I met my goal had nothing to do with marketing, networking or anything else I may have done to keep myself in business. My success this month is due entirely to my agency client's increased need for my services.

Would I have met my goal if they hadn't been so busy? I hope so--but I would've had to work a lot harder. So thank you, agency client, for keeping me busy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fortune smiles upon me

I don't put much stock in fortune cookies, probably because I usually get the "anti-fortune" (usually just a declarative statement) or the fortune that makes no sense (like the one I got two years ago that read "Coming afternoon there will be an important meeting in the south").

My most recent fortune falls into the former category, but I think it's a keeper:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tempus is fugiting

Holy cow, I blinked and last week was gone. I must endeavor to remember to post when I am busy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rewind

Yesterday, I spent almost three hours working on a presentation at my agency client's office. As I was moving to do a "Save As," I got the dreaded pop-up window: "Microsoft PowerPoint has encountered a problem and needs to close. Do you want to send an error report?"

Well no, what I wanted was for PowerPoint not to close. But apparently that was not an option. I chose no, and then closed my eyes and pleaded with any entity within earshot to pleasepleaseplease not let me lose all my work.

Apparently, that also was not an option. When I opened my eyes again, PowerPoint had opened back up to the last saved version of my presentation--which included about 10 minutes of the work I'd done.

After I panicked quietly for a moment or two on my own while trying everything I could think of to recover the presentation, I called in reinforcements. The art director said he thought the server was set to back up everything twice a day. If that turned out to be true, I could recover all but an hour of my work. My client called their IT guy because nobody had any idea how to retrieve whatever had been backed up from the server.

Because he is a contractor, the IT guy had to travel from wherever he was to my client's office--it took him about an hour and a half, during which I worked from the back of the presentation toward the middle (my rationale was that if we were able to retrieve my first two hours, the last hour was the best place to start). The good news is it took a lot less time to recreate my work than it did the first time I did it. The bad news is, none of the presentation was recoverable from the server, so I ended up having to redo the whole thing.

And why was it unrecoverable? Because, despite the fact that Microsoft Word, Excel and Publisher all seem to have the Auto Save feature selected as a default, PowerPoint does not. And without the Auto Save feature selected, there was nothing saved for the server to back up.

The moral of this story is MAKE SURE YOUR AUTO SAVE FEATURE IS TURNED ON, or at least make sure you save manually every so often.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For hire

I recently helped the friend of a friend with his resume. This gentleman has a degree in wildlife biology, but has never used it because he's worked for his family's marble business since graduation (20some years ago). They recently sold the business, so now he's trying to figure out what he wants to do next.

Because I'm not a professional resume writer, this was a challenging project for me. Not only has he only had one job (albeit a long-time one), but it was with the family business, and what he was doing has nothing to do with his degree.

The research I did online said in the case of a family business, you should downplay it as much as possible. Fortunately, his family name is not part of the business name, so that was pretty easy. Then we just did a basic reverse-chronological resume, heavy on the skills, that showed a progression from humble stockboy to manager of one of the teams.

Do you think that was the right approach? Should we have tried something else?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 4 of statistical analysis . . . dreamed of data tables all night . . . brain oozing out ears . . .

But on the bright side . . .
  • The data promises to yield some pretty interesting things that can be parlayed into a presentation and report, both of which I will get to work on.
  • Only a week left of wearing my cardiac event monitor--I will be ever so happy to ship it back from whence it came, and to once and for all get the electrode adhesive off my skin (my chest and abdomen are starting to look like I've been attacked by a rabid pack of linty suckerfish).
  • AND, I met with my cousin last night, who is studying to be a web designer, about creating a new look for my blog and web site in exchange for some copy editing on his web site and a burrito from Chipotle (he's a poor, starving college student). Good deal, I think.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunny side up

Yesterday, I spent the first eight hours of my work day paging through the contents of a 3-inch binder of medication adherence statistics, and the last hour and a half before bed writing a resume for someone who has worked for his family's business for the last 24 years. And I get to do it all over again today.

My. Brain. Is. Fried.

cat
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writer, editor, IT help desk

Happy St. Patty's Day!

I spent an hour on the telephone with my mother last night, trying to teach her how to use Facebook.

The most challenging part of the telephonic tutorial was trying to explain the concept of microblogging and why she should not put personal messages to individuals in the "What's on your mind?" area (formerly known as the "status" area).

I think I probably confused her more than I helped her. Facebook is one of those things you just have to experiment with for a while. Of course, to me, that's true of any kind of software or application. That's how I've acquired most of my computer skills, and one reason people often come to me with IT-oriented questions. If I don't know the answer, I'm going to search around until I find it or until I find somebody else who knows the answer.

If you're reading this blog, you're at least semi-computer literate. How do you learn to do the "techie" stuff? Experimentation? Training classes? Calling your daughter who lives 800 miles away (hi mom!)?

Monday, March 16, 2009

We're history

Yesterday, the business section of my local newspaper featured an article about buzzwords that have been created as a result of our current economic situation. Words and phrases that regularly pepper the CNN broadcasts ("toxic loan" and "bailout", for example) were defined, along with a few I'd never heard of ("underwater house"?).

I was struck by a question posed by the writer: how will this time in our country's history be referred to? The Great Depression was so named because it was the first time anything like that had been experienced. The writer suggested "Great Depression 2.0," but that doesn't really strike a chord with me. I thought about it for awhile, but the best I was able to come up with was "The Big Oops."

So what do you think? When future generations are reading about this time in their history books, how should it be remembered?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's in a name

Upon seeing that my name is spelled A-M-I-E, people often comment on how unique it is. This has been both a blessing and a curse for me over the years.
  • There was an "Amy" and an "Aimee" in my third grade class--our different spellings made it easier to tell us apart.
  • People frequently misspell my name (even members of my family) or get it completely wrong. In addition to "Amy" I've been called "Anne," "Annie," and even "Arnie." My freshman year of college, my yearbook listed me as "Amy L. Cunningham," which is not only a misspelling of my first name, but also my middle initial (M, for Michele--yes, with just one L) and my last name (it did begin with a C, but that's as close as it got to the real thing).
There is a story behind how I ended up as Amie Michele. My parents were going to name me "Michaeline" after my dad (Michael). When I was born, Mom thought I didn't "look" like a Michaeline, so they decided on "Amy Michelle." However, they thought "Amy" was too short and "Michelle" was too long, so they decided on alternative spellings for both.

Being "Amie" versus "Amy" probably hasn't had much of an impact on my life, but I often wonder what would have happened if my parents had stuck with "Michaeline." I think I would have gone by "Mikey" as a child, and transitioned back to "Michaeline" after college. Would I still have become a writer? If so, what kind? "Michaeline" sounds a bit like a romance novelist's name . . . not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Analyze this

Sitemeter has been my analytics tool of choice since I created my blog (though I will confess to a brief dalliance with feedburner), and it's met my needs well enough, but after reading a recent post and the ensuing comments on Angie Ledbetter's Gumbo Writer blog, I was curious about what Google Analytics had to offer.

So I signed up yesterday, which was a simple enough process. Slightly more challenging was trying to figure out where in Blogger the tracking code was supposed to go (Layout tab, under "Edit HTML"). Then there was the small matter of excluding my IP address from the tracking (Sitemeter told me what my IP address was, though I'm sure there are other ways of obtaining this info). Then I just sat back and waited for the information to pour in.

I can't say I'm truly wowed by the tool, but I'm certainly not underwhelmed by it. There's a good amount of info out there, some of which is not available to me via Sitemeter. Does that make it better than Sitemeter? That remains to be seen. I think I'll let them both run awhile and see what happens.

For my readers with a web presence (which is most of you, I think): what analytics tool do you use and why? Is there a (free) tool out there that's better than either of these?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time keeps on slippin'

The recent time change has really messed up my internal clock. I went to bed later than usual Saturday night, and didn't wake up until 11 (post-time change) on Sunday. Then I napped Sunday afternoon, and couldn't get to sleep Sunday night. I had to get up earlier than usual yesterday morning, and walked around in a sleep-deprived stupor around all day. Last night, I fell asleep around 8:00 and woke up at 9:30, but then didn't get back to sleep until after 1:00 a.m. I had to drag myself out of bed again this morning.

I don't remember ever being this affected by the beginning of daylight savings time . . . anybody else out there hit particularly hard this time around?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Workin' it

Last night I attended a networking event hosted by the LinkedIn group I belong to, LinkedColumbus. It is a known fact that I hate to network, but I decided to be brave and go.

To make the evening more tolerable, I had planned to meet a former coworker there, but either she didn't show up or I could not find her in the crowd (we're both vertically challenged, which is an additional hindrance). Over 400 people RSVP'd to attend last night's event, and I would say at least half that number were there during the hour and 15 minutes that I lasted before I ran screaming for the door (I'm being hyperbolic--I walked screaming for the door). It was loud. It was warm. It was crowded. It was a cash bar.

I was definitely outside my comfort zone. I'm not a terribly outgoing person, so approaching strangers is not my favorite thing to do. I tried, though . . . I struck up a few conversations, and spent the rest of my time trying to look approachable. I managed to hand out a few cards, and got a few as well. One gentleman even complimented my handwriting on my name tag.

What I did right:
  • I went!
  • I extended myself
  • I made eye contact, smiled, and tried to be approachable
  • I put not only my name but my company name on my name tag
What I could have done better:
  • I could have approached more people
  • I could have written my title (writer) on my name tag too--might have gotten more nibbles that way
So . . . am I glad I went? Yes, because it forced me to be more outgoing. And no, because I don't think I made enough connections--too many people! I think maybe a smaller event would have been better for me. Lesson learned.

For those of you who are more experienced and/or more comfortable networking, what's the best piece of advice you can give me for making my next networking event better?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Motivation

When I reported for work at my client's office the other afternoon, they were deep in a conversation about what motivates and satisfies them about their work (individually and as a company). It was interesting how different the answers were for the creative services team versus the client services team.

While they were collectively motivated to satisfy the client, the creatives were individually more satisfied by doing "good work," while the client services folks were more satisfied by satisfying the client. I consider the former to be an intrinsic motivation; even if the work is awesome, it doesn't mean that the client is going to like it. The latter, on the other hand, is an extrinsic motivation. Regardless of how they feel about the work itself, the client is happy and that to them is a job well done.

For me, good work usually is work that satisfies my client--on occasion, I guess, a client will want something that isn't my idea of good copy, and that is less than satisfying . . . but for the most part, bad copy is bad copy, and nobody is satisfied with that.

So tell me--is what motivates you the same thing that satisfies you? If not, how do they differ?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What a world

This weekend, I saw a commercial for a product called Bumpits. At first I thought I was having a NyQuil-induced hallucination, but no--Bumpits are gadgets that one can clamp in one's hair to add volume and style. And, I'm sad to report, Bumpits are not edible:



In what kind of world are we living where that warning needs to be stated? They don't look particularly appetizing. I can't imagine they smell like food. And why that particular warning over any other? How did "not edible" win out over "not for use in the anus" or "not recommended for baldies"?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goals and randomness

GOALS
As I begin the last month of the first quarter of 2009, my thoughts turn to taxes, which reminds me of the goal I set for myself back in January.

As a means of measuring my progress toward goal (and providing visual evidence of my success or failure), I created a little chart for myself. Happily, I exceeded my monthly monetary goal for both January and February. Filling in the spaces between those tick marks is nearly as satisfying as crossing something off a list!

RANDOMNESS
  • Heart monitor booty call: The newness wore off at precisely 3:35 Sunday morning, when someone called my heart monitor (which, lest ye forget, nothing more than a glorified Sprint cell phone) asking for Tanya . Also, my sensitive skin does not respond well to the adhesive on the electrodes (I will be switching to hypoallergenic ones today).
  • The crud: My flu turned the corner on Saturday afternoon. I am much improved, and can breathe through at least one of my nostrils at all times. So far, the hubby is uninfected, which is a blessing. He's quite a whiner when he's sick.
  • Prospects: I got an email from a gentleman I met with a few weeks ago, and it looks like I will be working with him on some web copy and possibly another project. I should also be getting details on other projects from two other clients within the month.
  • Weather: I noticed the other day that my daffodils and crocuses (croci?) are starting to pop up, albeit not in the same places they popped up last year and certainly not where I planted them several years ago . . . stupid squirrels. Sadly, it snowed last night so Spring has not quite sprung--but it's lurking nearby!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Once again, the BBC underestimates me

There's a "note" going around on Facebook that says "The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?"

The rules state that you are to place an "X" next to books you've read, a "+" next to books you loved and a "*" next to books you plan to read. I've read 36 of them, which I have to confess disappointed me a little.

I think this list is very random, and rather silly (for example, #14 is the complete works of Shakespeare, and #98 is Hamlet)--but it gives me a nice list to work from the next time I'm at a loss for what to pick up at the library.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (saw the movie)

2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (saw the movie)

3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X+

4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (these should count as more than one) X+

5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X+

6. The Bible (I've read enough to know I don't want to read the whole thing)

7. Wuthering Heights X

8. 1984 - George Orwell X

9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens X+

11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (I can't remember if I read this or not) *

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read a lot, but not all--this should count as more than one)

15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (saw the scary 1970's cartoon)

17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger X

19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X+

20. Middlemarch - George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X

23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (I've started this at least 5 times) *

26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck X

29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X

30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X

31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy *

32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (this should count as more than one too) X

34. Emma - Jane Austen (saw the movie)

35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, though) *

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden X

40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X

41. Animal Farm - George Orwell X

42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving X+

45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery X

47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X+

49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding X+

50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52. Dune - Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen *

55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X

58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez *

61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck X

62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (saw the movie)

63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold X

65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding X

69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville X

71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (saw the movie)

72. Dracula - Bram Stoker (saw the movie)

73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X

74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses - James Joyce (my English teachers think I read this, but they're mistaken)

76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath X

77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal - Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray (saw the movie)

80. Possession - AS Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens X

82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker (saw the movie)

84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White X+

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arth Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (HATED IT) X

92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery X

93. The Wasp Factory - Iain B

94. Watership Down - Richard Adams X

95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare X (and why isn't this considered part of the Complete Works of Shakespeare?!)

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X

100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (saw the play)

Friday, February 27, 2009

We are Borg

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor this week regarding the weird sensation in my chest. Neither my blood work nor my stress echo test showed anything abnormal (other than an abnormal EKG), so in hopes of figuring out what I am feeling my doc ordered me a cardiac event monitor.

I must say, I am perversely excited by it. My particular monitor is called the LifeStar ACT. Basically, it's a contraption about the size of a stopwatch that I wear around my neck, attached to my body by three electrodes. It records and transmits my EKG all the time, and when I have an "event" (aka when I feel that weird chest sensation), I push some buttons and it sends the data to a Sprint cell phone (a way fancier one than is pictured on the ACT website, I might add) that I have to keep within 10 feet of my body. I feel very science fiction-y.

I thought I would only have to wear it for the weekend, but apparently I get to keep it for 30 days. Hopefully I won't actually have to wear it for that long--I imagine the newness will wear off fairly quickly (I have to sleep with the thing on) and I will want to be rid of it. But for now, it's a pretty cool new toy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bleh

I've got the flu. I spent half of Tuesday practically comatose, and the other half only slightly more aware. Yesterday, I felt a bit better but was plagued by a racking cough. Today, I feel like someone filled my head with cement while I was sleeping. No fun at all.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to disinfect my keyboard and mouse. The only thing worse than me being sick is my husband being sick.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

There are a great many things that I disliked about my cubefarm job, but these three are at the top of the list:
  1. being taken for granted
  2. feeling under-appreciated
  3. constantly needing to justify my existence
After six and a half years of living with those feelings I was nearly brainwashed into believing that's the way work is supposed to make you feel. I know now that it doesn't have to be that way, but occasionally I have an interaction with a client that hammers home the difference between what my concept of "work" was then and what it is now:
  • I got an email from my RFP client yesterday asking for advice on how to draft a Best and Final Offer for a prospect (pause for a "pat on the back" moment--they got to this stage based on the proposal I put together with them). Back at the ol' cubefarm, it is unlikely that I would have gotten any praise for getting them to the next stage of bidding, and I certainly wouldn't have been asked for advice on how to proceed. And if we didn't get to the next stage, it was assumed that the failure was the result of some shortfall in my proposal, rather than bad pricing, bad stats or some deficiency in our offering. And I sure as heck never got a commission when they actually won a piece of business from an RFP . . .
  • I was talking to a friend of mine about my agency client this weekend--explaining what a joy they are to work with because they are supportive, honest, and really seem to respect each member of the team's contribution (including mine). She asked me if I would consider going to work for them full-time if I was asked. I said "yes," with no hesitation, surprising myself a little.
It's nice to know I'm not the same jaded person I was when I left the cubefarm. And now that I know how rewarding work can be, I don't plan to settle for anything less in the future--no matter where the future takes me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I vs. me: primetime news edition

From last night's 60 Minutes:



I do hope Mr. Hunnicutt is not a Language Arts teacher . . .

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GOOBER

So, here are the four concepts I came up with for yesterday's "volunteer" project . . .


Hopefully, my hubby's friend will like one of them. Any one of them is a step up from what he used last year. The chosen design will appear on the back of the race t-shirts--the fronts will feature a "pocket" graphic that says "I'm a Goober" in a style that matches the back. I also did four versions of fliers featuring the same concepts.

I think my favorite is the second one, and my least favorite (but also the one I had the greatest hopes for) is the first one. The double-ohs were supposed to look like peanuts in the shell, but they turned out more like fried eggs.

Care to cast a vote for your favorite? Or make a prediction about which one he'll pick?