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


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.

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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


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

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!

  • 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)