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?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is it still volunteering if you didn't have any say in the matter?

My husband "volunteered" me to do some design work for a friend of his.

Not only did he not ask if a) I would like to do the project or b) if I had time to do the project, he told the guy that I would come up with four different concepts. For free. And there's no real chance that this might result in paid work at any point in the future. Really makes me want to put my heart and soul into the project . . .

Oh, who am I kidding? Even under duress and for no pay, I will still bust my buns to come up with something good. I'm too much of a control freak perfectionist not to.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Long shot

I spent last night and this morning putting together a few writing samples for a bid on a project for the Department of Labor. One of my contacts told me about the project on Sunday, and the bids are due today. The RFP asked for three sample articles, each 600-1200 words in length, on the following subjects:
  • on-the-job safety
  • off-the-job safety
  • general mining topics
What I don't know about mining could fill several large bodies of water, and given the short turn-around time I opted to write one article that blended all three subjects, and supplement that with two well-researched articles from my portfolio. For the freshly-written article, I decided to write about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, since it is fairly common among miners (a.k.a. general mining topics). I gave an overview of COPD, then discussed how it is diagnosed and treated, and what to do to reduce exacerbations (a.k.a. off-the-job safety), as well as ways to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace (a.k.a. on-the-job safety).

It's probably a long shot considering it's government work and they're sticklers for following the rules (in theory, anyway)--but I figured it was worth a try. If I get the project, it will be fairly steady work through the end of September.

How often do you go for the long shot project? Has it ever paid off?

Monday, February 16, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Friday, I drove some of the employees of my agency client to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts on the Ohio State University campus. This fact in itself is not important, other than to explain to you why I was driving around in my car with some of my clients, and where the following scenario took place.

As we were driving away from the Wex, we passed a group of college-age women shouting and brandishing signs reading "Honk if you respect vagina." I quipped, "Oh, is it Vagina Awareness Week again already?" which started us joking back and forth for a few minutes before my front-seat passenger turned to me and said, "Speaking of vagina awareness, I was bragging about you this morning." In her head, that was a perfect segue to what she had planned to say next--but to the rest of us, it was pure hilarity. We laughed for a few miles, literally, before we calmed down enough for her to finish her thought.

One of the projects I am working on for them is a series of email blasts designed to drive traffic to a website for pharmacists. I decided to tie the emails to various health awareness months. She thought that was a brilliant idea, and that is what she had been bragging about. My "Vagina Awareness Week" quip just reminded her about my email project.

Now, I often find myself talking before I've had a chance to process the impact of what's coming out of my mouth, but never to such an amusing end. How about you guys? Ever say something without thinking? What was the outcome--foot in mouth or pure comic gold?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Break

Happy Friday the 13th!

I guess my whining from Wednesday paid off--the freelance gods saw fit to free up yesterday morning for me. I took full advantage, too.

I ate breakfast--and lunch! I exercised. I didn't shower until 11:00 a.m. I caught up on some personal correspondence. I even made plans to meet up with a friend of my mother's for drinks and dinner later that night.

It was a lovely little break, and just what I needed to re-energize myself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Busy bee

I've been so busy for the last few days, I feel like I haven't even had time to breathe.

Monday, I had a meeting with a prospective client and then went directly to work on-site for my agency client. Yesterday, I worked on-site at my RFP client's office from 8:30 to noon. I came home for a quick bite and to do some administrative stuff (tracking down some 1099s and catching up on email), and then it was back out the door to work at my agency client's office until 5:30. Then, when I got home, my inbox greeted me with a little more work for my RFP client. Today I'll be spending the majority of my day on-site with my agency client, as I'm juggling at least four projects for them. The rest of the week promises to be just as packed.

Please don't misunderstand--I'm not complaining. I'd much rather be busy than struggling to find work! However, all this traveling around has me a little frazzled. I long for the days when I could work in my jammies and forget to brush my teeth!

Well, even though the scenery changes frequently, the song remains the same: tappity tappity tappity!

video

Anybody else experiencing an unusually high work load? Anybody else feeling that the weekend can't come fast enough?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The password is . . .

Last week, Robert Graham analyzed the top 20 passwords culled from a recent password hacking incident. It's an interesting read, and it got me thinking about my own password history.

When I was very young, I went to the grocery store with my grandmother. Next to the store was a bank, so Grandma sent me over to the ATM to get some cash while she started her shopping. She handed me her debit card and explained how to use it, saying "You'll have to enter a secret code in order to get the money." Here she paused, and looked carefully around to make sure nobody could overhear her. "It's 1-2-3-4." Even at my tender young age, I thought that was kind of a stupid password.

I like to think that my passwords--of which I have many--provide me with a modicum of security, but I don't know. While I would never use something as simple to guess as my grandmother's PIN, I'm sure a person who was determined to get my data would be able to crack my various codes. The fact of the matter is, if I made my passwords complicated enough that nobody would ever be able to guess them, I would never be able to guess them.

When I worked in the cubefarm, our security was such that we were prompted to change our passwords rather frequently. They were required to be six or more letters and/or numbers in length, and we could not repeat any of our last six passwords. All of this annoyed me, so my passwords were often expressions of my distaste for having to come up with a new password: biteme, yousuck, howstupid, foreign swear words, and the like (similar "emo" and "don't care" words are mentioned in Graham's article--I guess my password ire wasn't unique).

Take a look at Graham's analysis, and ask yourself--do your passwords pass muster?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Abbie-something

February is American Heart Month, and this past Friday was Go Red for Women Day--a day to promote awareness of heard disease among women. In a strange bit of irony, Friday was also the day I had a stress echocardiogram. Why would a generally healthy 34-year-old woman need a stress echo test? Read on . . .

At the end of January, I got a physical. One entry on the laundry list of "symptoms" (I'm a bit of a hypochondriac--but I'm generally right, too) I shared with my doctor was a strange sensation in my chest that is best described as "the adrenaline rush you get when somebody startles you" or "kind of like my heart beat is out of sync with my pulse rate--but neither is going any faster than it should". When he listened to my heart after that, he heard an irregularity. He told me that some people's hearts just skip a beat from time to time, and it probably wasn't anything to worry about. The then ordered an EKG, which came back--in his words--as "not normal." He still wasn't worried, and told me that for some people, "abnormal" is normal. Nevertheless, he ordered the stress echo test to rule out heart disease (which runs in my family).

I'm happy to say that while the cardiologist who conducted my stress test agreed that my EKG was abnormal (and gets even more abnormal when I'm exercising, apparently), the echocardiogram (which was REALLY cool--I got to see ultrasound pictures of my heart beating, from several different angles) didn't show anything out of the ordinary.

So maybe I'm one of those lucky individuals for whom "abnormal" is normal. That still doesn't address the mystery of the odd chest sensation, but perhaps the answer to that will come back with my blood work. In the meantime, it's just nice to know that I'm probably not going to keel over from a heart attack any time in the near future.

This has been a public service announcement from Written Expressions, LLC. ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sleepless nights

The other night, my husband had trouble sleeping. Which means that I too had trouble sleeping.

It all started at 12:45 a.m. when he rolled over and sighed loudly. I woke up and asked what was the matter (which probably came out more like "wuzzamahr" because I was still half-asleep). He proceeded to tell me about a dream he'd just had where he was being chased by a ghost. "Good thing I don't believe in ghosts," he chuckled before rolling over and--I thought--going back to sleep. I followed suit.

About three hours later, I was jarred awake by a loud thump coming from the basement. I rolled over in bed to see if the noise had also awakened my hubby--but he was not in bed. The noise turned out to be him, slamming the lid on the washing machine. He then proceeded to come back to the bedroom, and when I asked if he was okay he explained that he hadn't been able to go back to sleep after his dream, so he'd decided to do a load of laundry. Then he said he was going to sit up and watch some TV in the living room. Thinking this was a better choice than his normal solution to insomnia (which amounts to tossing and turning and making loud, pitiful sighing noises until I yell at him), I shrugged and went back to sleep.

Not long after that, my hubby struck up a conversation with one of our cats. Notice I didn't say "started talking to one of the cats" because this was not a one-sided discourse. He asked a question, the cat would meow in response. He replied to the meow, and the cat reciprocated with another meow. This went on for a good five minutes before I threw my pillow over my head to drown it out.

I woke up again when he came back to bed at 5:00. He managed to fall asleep fairly quickly after that, but I was not so lucky--his snores kept me awake for quite some time. I think perhaps I will teach him the fine art of progressive--and silent--relaxation for the next time this happens.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Potty rules part deux

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the notice posted in the ladies' room of one of my clients.

I had occasion to visit the client again this week, and when nature called I took my camera along. I intended to document the original notice, but that stall was occupied. In the next stall, however, I found this:



So not only does the custodial staff think the woman who work in that office are slobs who don't know how to flush (according to the first notice), they also call into question the female employees' understanding of good hygiene.

I wonder what's in the men's room?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Old versus new

So what do you think of my new blog banner? In case you didn't pay attention to the old one, or are a new reader who didn't know I had a different one before last week, here's what it used to look like:



I'm going to be redoing my website too, as time permits . . . if you have time, please have a peek at it in its current iteration. I'd love some feedback on what I can do to improve it. It's a free site, so I'm a little limited in terms of functionality, but I welcome your input on the content, and if you have comments on the look/feel I will do my best to get those worked in as well.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A heck of a day

Friday was a very eventful day in the life of this freelancer . . .

I was supposed to spend the day working onsite with one of my clients. When I walked in to their office a little past 9:00, I smelled natural gas. I jokingly asked if anybody had passed out from the fumes, and they all looked at me like I was crazy. Nobody else had noticed it--but once I'd brought it to their attention, they started to smell it too. The administrative assistant called the building super, who came to investigate. He confessed to having no sense of smell, so I agreed to accompany him to the boiler room to try to determine the source of the fumes. The fumes were definitely stronger down in the basement, so (even though he still could not smell it) he said he would "call it in."

By the time I got back upstairs, the smell seemed to have abated somewhat, so we all got to work. About half an hour later, somebody from the suite next door--which happens to be a bank--came in and said they had called the gas company to report the smell, and the gas company instructed them to evacuate the building. Obediently, we packed up our things and headed for a nearby coffee shop--as we were driving away, the building was descended upon by at least 6 fire engines and a squad. We were cleared to return after about an hour.

I headed home around 12:30 to eat lunch and take a call with a prospective client. Lunch was yummy, and the call went well--I hope to be hearing something back from her this week!

I headed back to my client's office at 2:30, where I did some work and participated in a meeting with one of their clients. Then around 4:30, the CEO announced that something was afoot at the bank. Police had surrounded the building, and were in the process of searching a man and his car. Another man was being held inside the bank office. I assume it was an attempted robbery, but there was nothing about it on the news Friday night and I've been unable to find anything online--I guess it will remain a mystery for the time being!