If you want to work with me, there are some rules

I’m looking for a new job.  Technical Writer or Business Analyst are the closest fit to what I did at my last job.  I posted on Monster, and the avalanche began.  Most of the initial contacts were from local companies, but now I’m getting hits from organizations that I’ve never heard of, wanting to represent me on jobs that I’ve already seen through other sources.

My real problem is the quality of these contacts.  I feel like I’m being spammed.  You know, the messages with bad grammar that sound like they were written by ESL students.  Here’s one example:

Hello ,
Hope you are doing good,
I got a job opening for you as a “Technical Writer”. If you are available and interested, please send your updated resume asap.

As you can see, this was probably semi-automated, as there’s an odd space after “Hello.” There’s bad grammar and several examples of bad punctuation.   Not too awful, but check out the next one.  It’s from the same company, but a different sender.

Hello {my first name},
Hope you are doing good.
I have an Immediate requirement for Technical Writer, Please respond with your  updated resume in a word format with  a best number to reach you if your interested in this position.
If you read this, it sounds more literate than the first one, mostly because it uses bigger words.  However, there are more errors, and they are more egregious.  There are capitalizations that do not belong, there’s bad punctuation, extra spaces everywhere, and the use of your instead of you’re or you are.  Plus the obnoxious use of “doing good” when asking about my health and well-being.
After thinking about this, I could do one of two things.  I could ignore these messages, or I could reply to each one of them, pointing out the errors.  However, that would be helpful.  I don’t think in this case being helpful to these folks would be a good idea in the greater scheme of things.  It goes against my nature to do this, but I choose to ignore them.  If you want to help me get a job as a technical writer, at least do the courtesy of running a spelling and grammar check on your communications.

Reading skills?

I read an article on the internet about an anthropomorphic cookie printed on a shirt.  I was curious what reading level would allow someone to understand that word.  I assumed it was at least a 12th grade word, but maybe higher.  Perhaps only a college student would be able to grasp the word, and the dichotomy between animals acting like people and inanimate objects such as a cookie that has characteristics of living beings, which is one of the definitions of anthropomorphism.  I do not want to reference only people here, because animals have eyes, mouths, and teeth as well. The two definitions of anthropomorphic is giving animals the characteristics of a human, such as speech and the ability to walk upright, such as Hello Kitty, or giving similar features to inanimate objects, like Thomas the Tank Engine.  This paragraph has a reading ease score of 12.9, so I was correct about needing to have college-level reading skills.

Have I mentioned that I believe in karma?

Remember this name: Dr. Kenneth Yaw. Recently, he and his family have been in the news in Pittsburgh and also probably in New Mexico, the scene of the worst parts of the crime.  I’m not sure if this was national news or not, but because he practiced medicine at UPMC and lived in the upscale suburb of Fox Chapel, it was news here.

Here’s a link to the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08230/904934-455.stm. Here’s another one; http://www.pittsburghpost-gazette.com/pg/08226/903798-85.stm

If you read the article you will see that Kenneth Yaw’s first wife, Maureen, was a wonderful woman who raised 10 well-adjusted children who had many friends and were involved in many activities in the community. When she died of breast cancer, that was the end of her happy family. Without Maureen, the real Kenneth came to the surface.

Let me tell you how I know about the real Kenneth.  When we became involved with him, he was a surgeon at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.) Our son had a painful lump on his hand, and Dr. Yaw performed the biopsy that discovered a rare bone cancer. The options were, removal of the bone and associated finger plus chemotherapy, or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.  Our son, being 17 years old, determined that he wanted to try to keep the finger, so he opted for radiation and chemo. 

That did not sit well with Dr. Yaw, and he called us repeatedly to insist that our son should have the surgery. We told him that he was under the care of an oncologist that we trusted, and that he had opted for the non-surgical treatment. At one point, I indicated that our son had made his own decision on this, and we stood by his choice. His reaction was, in hindsight, exactly what you would expect. He could not believe that we were allowing a teenager to be involved in his own care.

Eventually we changed oncologists (to the doctor who would later treat Mario Lemieux for his Hodgkins lymphoma) but this new doctor agreed with our son’s choice of treatment, too.  Since our son is cancer-free for over 15 years now, we feel that it was the best option.

But that was not the end of Dr. Yaw. What he did next will inform you as to his basic character.  He sent us a letter that said if we did not make our son have the surgery, we were negligent as parents.  Then he proceeded to say that our son would probably DIE, and that it would be our fault. I believe he also implied that he would turn us in to the authorities (probably child welfare services) if we didn’t respond to him. Imagine receiving such a letter, when you are in the midst of a terrible crisis, where your child is facing a life-threatening illness. Imagine using the word “die” in such a letter. I rarely cry, but this letter made me so angry that I think I may have had what they now call a panic attack. I wept and shook uncontrollably.

Yaw is one of the few people that I believe can be called evil – he lacks empathy, thinks he is always right, and doesn’t care about the effects of his actions.  I’m pretty sure he’s what the mental health professionals call a sociopath; no conscience.  Karma in this lifetime has caught up with him. It will not change who or what he is, but at least the remaining children are free of him.

I guess I’ll have to give up concerts

We went to a great concert this weekend. The main event was Styx, and they put on a great show.  It’s not all the originals, but they sound great, so I don’t care. The Eagles are not all the originals, but I believe the five that came out of retirement sound better than the group they had in the very early days, so there!

The opening acts were The Chris Higbee Project, fronted by the fiddle player from the now defunct Povertyneck Hillbillies, and the Outlaws, a southern rock group that sounds like a combination of Tom Petty and Lynrd Skynrd. The only thing against them is that a good proportion of their songs sound pretty much the same.

What was not good was the crowd. They were smoking during the sets, which was against the rules, and if you needed to get away from it to breathe, you’d miss the show. People moved into other people’s seats between sets, and when they were asked to move, there was some pushing and shoving around us. Someone almost fell on me. Afterwards, out in the parking lot, people were falling-down drunk. And then they got into cars to drive home.

The crowd stood up through the whole concert. I am very short, so as soon as a twelve-year-old stands up in front of me, I’m done. I’m used to that happening with certain bands, and my husband tries to get aisle seats for us, but in this case we were mid-row.

What I’m not used to is having to use my inhaler multiple times before I can breathe again after getting a face-full of smoke. You can’t turn them in, because they know it was you and then you can’t go back to your seat. I always thought that Pittsburghers were nicer than the average, but maybe I need to revisit that assumption.

I’m kind of glad the NFL has instituted text messaging during the games to turn people in.  That should be the case for all of these venues.  Who knows who you are texting; after all, everyone does it all the time.  I already added the text address to my contacts; first game is coming up soon for us.

Educating the masses

I read an article by David Gewirtz about cyberterrorism. He says it’s not if, but when there will be a cyberwar. Our own computers could be taken over and become bots to be used against us. Here’s a link to his article:  http://www.computingunplugged.com/issues/issue200808/00002221001.html

The reason this resonated with me, so much so that I feel I should write about it here, is because the comics page has gotten into the act.  Normally I don’t read the weekday comics in my local paper (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) but since I’m not working yet, I have time to indulge a number of interests and vices.  The Mary Worth strip has been doing a story line on phishingschemes.  What a fantastic way to educate a ton of people, especially the demographic who reads Mary Worth – basically my parents.  People over 70.  These folks need help.  Many of them, like my dad, will get the “there’s something wrong here” vibe, and call a more knowledgeable person (me) but what if you don’t know someone who can advise you or you don’t have a natural skepticism?

So now I’m thinking about what I can do as an IT expert to reduce our exposure to the kinds of attacks David describes.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I should try to educate people about what you should do to protect your computer, and what you should never do.  I’m going to post things like that on this blog, and also pull together an article that I’ll try to post on writing sites.

David’s article mentions some things we can do on our own computers to protect them from becoming part of an attack.  Here they are:

  1. Installing anti-virus software and keeping it updated with new virus definitions
  2. Installing operating system updates
  3. Never opening e-mail attachments
  4. Educating yourself about threats

At the risk of repeating myself, the bottom line may just be having a healthy skepticism, and realizing that even if a message appears to be from someone you know, it could be faked quite easily.  So if something doesn’t feel right, send a new message to the person you think sent it, find out where they got the message and if you should open the attachment. You could save yourself a lot of grief, and prevent passing a damaging file to others.

I seem to have lost the entire month of July

But I think things are going to lighten up now.  I am back from my trip to California, I’ve completed most of my financial planning tasks related to being outsourced, I did adopt a puppy who takes massive amounts of time, and I’m fighting off the guilt of not having looked for a job yet. 

First, the trip.  I posted some of my pictures to Snapfish, and is the link: http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=67041217895716020/l=411006151/g=86393974/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

Here’s the puppy:  She’s a miniature dachshund, about 6 months old now.  I can almost see her growing daily.  I had to loosen her harness a few weeks ago, so I know she is bigger than when I first got her.  She is a rescue, given up by her breeder because she was sick and the breeder couldn’t handle the vet bills.

I say that I’m feeling guilt, but actually I’m feeling guilty that I’m not feeling very guilty at all.  If that makes sense.  A wise woman told me that I’m in a normal stage of the grieving process you go through with job loss, and it does sound like I’m close to getting on with my life.  The trouble is, my perfect life might not involve much IT work.  Running a coffee shop, baking biscotti, making trail mix from scratch, and creating healthy quick breakfast and lunch items to sell – that sounds much better than working in IT.  My husband is certified by the health department to run a food operation, so if he retires next August, that would be the time to take such a plunge. 

In the meanwhile, I’m going to actually try to apply for a job.  After I read two books.  And after I finish the dog training class.  And get all my documents organized and filed.  I am a procrastinator, yes, but if I did get a job quickly, it would mess me up because the dog is not ready to be left alone for 8 hours a day. 

I just feel, with some justification, that my next job is going to be just like the last job, I’ll be miserable and bored and not challenged within 6 months, and I will also be stuck.  Subsequent moves will be made with much deliberation and care, I can assure you.

The experience of a lifetime

As a young woman, I never had any interest in backpacking through Europe. If you had offered me the chance, I would have declined on two counts: my excessive need for cleanliness and my lack of a third or fourth language. Knowing college level Spanish would have been useless on such a trip.


Lest you have the wrong impression of me, I am an outdoorswoman of some skill, an experienced camper until age and a bad back stopped me. I strap on a hydration system and hike up mountains in the Smokies and New Hampshire, battling outdoor allergies and weak ankles, but soldiering on. My favorite places are Yosemite and the Shenandoah Valley. I have an extensive collection of waterfall photographs, and I will kill myself to find the best vantage point for the shot.


So you will not be surprised to hear that I am going on an adventure, one that I’ve been wanting to do for most of my adult life. I am going to drive across the country at my own pace, alone.


Before you assume I’m crazy, keep in mind that my parents have done it three times in the past four years. Nothing bad happened to them, they never felt as if they were not safe and they are in their 70s. A middle-aged woman, not particularly attractive, wearing old, inexpensive clothes, should not draw negative attention. Being alert to my surroundings should keep me safe, not to mention that I can kick the shit out of you if I have to.


I read that travel writing requires traveling alone. That seems right to me; when writing about your experiences, it is counterproductive to filter them through the perceptions of another. Clarity is the victim. It’s hard enough to translate feelings and ideas into prose, without worrying about what someone else is thinking.


I’m going to blog about this trip, itself a solitary experience if nobody posts comments.  Since my computer has a webcam, with any luck I can figure out how to post video of myself talking about the day’s experiences.  Pictures are a given.  Wish me some technological luck, and of course, safe journey.