Monday, April 27, 2009

Outplacement, Day 1


I hate buzzwords.


It comes from being a technical writer and getting to see the worst examples of buzzword-ish usage ever that come from people who don't understand them.

I will say, some marketing peeps know how to use them well and sparingly.

Those people are few and far between.

Today in Outplacement 101 was working on the resume. Now, I feel pretty solid about my resume. It's sadly been out there enough and luckily has proven itself enough that I know it ain't crap.

Ok.... number one... the Big Book of Resumes Ala Outplacement Company that they handed out... the guy told us to not open it and start reading or flipping through it until he told us.


Writer here.

You can't hand me a freakin' pamphlet for a service I don't even WANT before I start to thumb through it and pick it apart. It's what I do.

A somewhat large part of being a tech writer is being a critic/editor to the stuff people want you to say. Well-meaning people hand stuff to you, wanting you to put stuff like "CAUTION!!!!!! This procedure is perfectly safe to perform" into documents that are going out there into the real world (and yes... that is literal... recently got that one handed to me). One of the many services you offer is going "Umm...... NO" sometimes.

However.... if it's a company-approve term, if it comes from above from marketing... you let it slide. Let them answer for it in grammar heaven. You were just following Orders, sir.

To quote That Word Guy.... "I usually have an opinion, but I don't always care."

From the approved resume format of the placement company, I just needed to do some reformatting. Turn large blocks of bullet points into paragraphs and have the only bullet points be specific accomplishments. I can do that.

Add those marketing-y type stupid phrases that are raping the English language?

"I buzzedy-buzzed-buzzed the buzziest-buzzish-buzz-buzzly buzz....."

Um. No.

Ain't happening.

And I have to wonder how out of touch this place is.

They still seem to think a resume as a piece of paper you actually hand to someone for the first time they see it, and it somehow magically gets you an interview.

/enter real world

From the past ten years of my experience, a resume is something where people look for the words of specific skills that the hiring person is told to look for, and if you hit some majority of them, they call you to make sure you can put together a sentence and they ask you some basic questions. They call you in for an interview, or they don't. You can't understand the way it all happens, because every company is different.

And I'm not sure that they get how people hire tech writers is a little different. We're an industry fairly equally divided between full-timers and contactors, and most of the good ones are pretty good at picking up whatever industry/field/whatever they are in and running with it. The one thing you can really count on is that a good tech writer knows their tools, and won't need a lot of ramping up on a specific piece of software or general knowledge on how to beat content or reviews from people.

Buzzwords are not going to help me.

I'm hopeful tomorrow may be better, but right now I fear the follow ups with the outplacement company. I know I'll likey have to lie (although I can do that well, if I prepare for it) that I'm using their resume format. People miss things in the context of a paragraph.

  • They
  • Don't
  • In
  • A
  • Bulleted
  • List


It also doesn't help that I quickly lost ALL respect for the Big Book of Resumes Ala Outplacement Company when it was just SO badly organized.

The reason we couldn't open to page 1?

We started on something like page 34.

And then skipped around without rhyme or reason between the front and the back to do what we we told.



If my two current leads don't pan out, I may need to try and offer them some services to get that damned manual into some sort of thing resembling order.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers......

... unless the rain washes everything away....

It's been a rainy weekend around here. A little more like August - heat we're not used to, humidity, rain - than April.

But for me, it was Plantin' Time!

New herbs, and the herbs I managed to keep alive over the winter...

Let's see... two tarragon plants, curly rosemary and my thyme were the lucky survivors from last year. Actually, the curly rosemary is even a year older than that (Happy Birthday!).

New stuff include chocolate mint, sage (the sage plant I tried to bring indoors this year didn't do so good. Come to think of it, it never did so good while it was outdoor in the summer), oregano, regular rosemary, and some lavender. Also planted some chives, and I had some chives from last year that came back up (yay!).

And that's some flat-leaf parsley, two basil plants in the square pot, and a patio tomato in the back. I bought all my tomato plants at the same place I got my patio plant last year... that was one tough little sucker that just kept producing tomatoes like crazy.

The rest of the tomatoes....

A cherry tomato plant (I think... don't recall the two "end" pots, guess I'll see when they start producing....)...

A Ball's Beefsteak tomato plant....

I was thinking of trying some kinda heirloom tomato, but they really didn't have any that seemed too interesting where I was looking.

A nice yellow tomato plant....

A (hopefully) a happy garden......

And... what is this? The things I planted last weekend out front are actually - GASP - growing???

Ok... well, even I have a hard time killing a pansy.

And, um... I remembered what each of these was last week when I planted them. But I'm just highly amazed that they've actually grown since then. The front bed has been death to most things I have planted. I tried various ornamental grasses last year and they all either died, or just didn't grow. Didn't die, but never grew beyond what they were when they were planted. It was odd. And frustraiting.

Hello, happy little plants and retaining wall that the landscaping guys always nudge out of place!

Hello, my sad little Sensation Lilac bush and daylillies!

Lamium in the front. One of the few successes I've had in the front bed.

On to Saturday night's dinner... I wanted something quick and easy, which usually means Shrimp pasta.

I had a couple leeks in the fridge, so I cut up a leek and started with that.

Add some canned diced tomatoes and crushed garlic and simmer away...

Add shrimp and pasta, and dinner is served!

Today was also a busy one. More rain this morning, which means that most of the Greater Chicago Area was out trying to get errands done when it finally passed. And I had a few stops to make. Wanted to get some CD case insert things so I could print them up for my portfolio, needed some stuff at Target, hit Trader Joe's for some stuff, then the produce mart and regular store.

After that was done, it was some final work getting the new portfolio together, making copies of it, making the labels and inserts, getting four loads of laundry in, some light cleaning. I was looking for a no-brainer dinner. Roast chicken to the rescue! Or not.

Potatoes and carrots in the bottom, add salt and pepper....

Same treatment to the chicken...

Threw that in the oven. I was slightly distracted by the time and I got it in later than I wanted. And it was a big bird. And it was not done after an hour. And the hubby was in a cranky mood - sometimes he loves a roast chicken, other times he looks at it like it's some horrible thing that should not count as food. Tonight was one of the bad nights. I was already tired from the weekend and threw back and equal amount of sass his way - dude, you don't know how lucky you are to not have to think about getting things on the table, you just need to not bitch about the things that go there. Shouldn't be too hard.

The chicken leftovers will be placed in the crockpot tonight with some other veg, and at least I'll have some no-fuss chicken stock in the morning. Yay!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The best part of job searching.....

... the awful, awful, and comical job ads that you see.

Today, a friend sent me a gem that contained the following......

"We want you to take charge of writing and editing our technical documentation. As our Technical Writer you will work side by side with the development & product management departments. It is imperative that your knowledge of our software be unquestionable! Our online knowledge base, printed reference manuals, tutorials, and training documentation is under your editing power; all must well written, presented, and communicate efficiently to the end-user. If you love accuracy, consistency and quality Apply Today!"

Not only does it seem like something that was badly translated into English, oh, the errors that even primitive versions of Microsoft Word would catch!

"all must well written" is my favorite.

"If you love accuracy, consistency and quality Apply Today!" is a close second.

Seriously.... if any hiring managers or peeps out there read this - if you're ever putting out an ad for a technical writer, know that no tech writer worth their salt would respond to a badly worded ad. We really wouldn't want to work at a place that allows that kind of stuff to go very, very public.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I've lost my mojo!!

I don't know why I always forget that this happens the week after a layoff.

I have totally lost my cooking mojo. Seriously... I could pull a Homer Simpson and set fire to cereal by pouring milk on it right now.

The week started off with burned rice (while it was on the lowest setting on my simmer burner), a funky avocado, tonight I managed to burn sausage and mangle sausage gravy.

Seriously?? I can usually make sausage gravy in my sleep.

Hopefully, next week will be better. This week is already looking up... I had two phone interviews today that resulted in one face-to-face interview on Tuesday (other place has a slower process... I'll know next week if they want me to come in). Both sound great in their own way.... one is very, very much like my last job - which I loved, and the other is the elusive "only and first tech writer we have ever had" position where I'd actually be able to get everything set up. Ya'll don't know how wonderful that is to me. I've spent the better part of the last 11 years of my professional career going into a place and taking AT LEAST a year to clean up the documents and the process and the use of tools to make sure that everything runs as is should (meaning - EASIER). It sure would be nice to go into a place and be able to start up with setting things up the right way - six months of struggle, easily, down right there. Sigh.

In any case... gotta get through tomorrow. This weekend I plan on planting some tomatoes... it feels like spring, but it's never REALLY spring until tomato plants are in the ground. I also need to do some serious work on my portfolio before my interview... I kept the resume current, but I have neglected my portfolio.

The kitchen also needs SERIOUS cleaning... but I've already been putting that off, so I suppose that can wait.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Easter Recap

So.... tonight I managed to burn rice and had to deal with an avocado that oddly tasted more like a kiwi.

It's a night in the kitchen I'd kinda prefer to forget about.

So... Easter recap!

(this also means I can get rid of all the tabs I've had open for FAR too long with the recipe links. Bonus!)

First up.... breakfast for cooking day, which was Saturday....

Hey.... sometimes, whack-a-dough rolls are good for what they are... a quick, baked breakfast that doesn't demolish the kitchen. I had more that enough destruction ahead of me.

I started off with a cupcake version of Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Icing.

I swear, once upon a lifetime, I used to ROCK at making these. Really.

But my oven/baking karma has not been aligned lately, and I have had some massive cupcake fails. I was determined to do all right by these.

Aaaaaand then I started. And I did EVERYTHING wrong while making them. Ingredients in the wrong order, had to overmix to get everything working.... I figured they'd some how turn out magically perfectly just to spite me.

And no surprise..... CUPCAKE FAIL - AHEAD....

Totally deflated.... but thank heavens for icing. Icing can cover many sins. And we'll see that later.

Next up.... Grand Mariner Crepe Cake.

I saw this recipe last year when we were on our way to Vegas before Easter, in a magazine I bought for "on plane" reading. I knew I wanted to make it for Easter. I did, and it rocked.

And then, this past Thanksgiving, the hubby's cousin showed some very obvious disappointment that I thought this was NOT a Thanksgiving-worthy recipe, and requested I make it for Easter.

Can do.

It really is an easy recipe. Crepe batter... go!

One of the very nice things about this recipe.... the first crepe always turns out kinda bad. And it takes some time to really get the pan right and your crepe-making-groove going, but it doesn't matter.

You just stack the sub-par crepes on one plate, and the "wow - that's pretty!" ones on another plate.....

Hmmm.... we may have another contender for "prettiest crepe".....

It also couldn't be easier to put together.


Whipped creme.....

Crowd awe-ing spectacle now....

It doesn't matter if it's lopsided. People hear "crepe" and go "wooooooo" and you awe everyone in the room.

Time to deal with those cupcakes again, I guess.

Have the words "that has too much cream cheese frosting on it" ever been uttered by a sane person??

I don't think so.

I usually make a double batch of frosting. And especially, in this case, because I had some cupcake sins to cover with that frosting.

And it worked out rather well...

Hey... those don't look so bad!!

On Sunday morning, I just needed to bake off the Gougères dough I made on Friday.....

And cook my Asiago-Stuffed Dates with Bacon and Smoked Paprika...

And the final verdict on everything.....

Cupcakes.... yeah. Enough frosting to cover any sin. And the fresh ginger in that will make a carrot cake lover carrot cake obsessed.

Crepe cake.... I think the hubby's cousin ate a quarter of it, and I took none home.

Cheese puffs.... I have learned you can make the dough a couple days ahead of time and bake them "the day of". Works wonderfully.

Bacon wrapped dates... are bacon wrapped dates ever a bad thing???

Overall... a successful Easter.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

/end brooding

So... I think I have had enough brooding time. It is what it is, we've gone through this before, and thankfully we've been working to get ourselves in a position to handle the Big Things that life throws you, and for the immediate future, we should be able to keep things all balanced. Thankfully we're both smart enough people that we did a regular loan when we bought our house, and we've never let investments seem like real money.

But I have noticed the trend in my life that layoffs ALWAYS happen right around the time of some family gathering. ALWAYS. This time around, it was my nephew's birthday.

And of course... I had to bring some food.

Reuben roll ups... basically the same filling as my Reuben dip - cream cheese, a little mayo, Thousand Island dressing and some rinsed/drained sauerkraut, smeared on lavash and rolled up, then cut into little pinwheels.

... and Asian Cucumber Salad, which takes about ten minutes to make if you have a slicing blade for a food processor. I did use more sugar than the recipe suggested (I was also making a much larger batch than the recipe suggests, so I don't know if that is why it was less sweet than I'd have liked to start off with) but it was good. I have another Asian-style cuke salad I've made before that is not far off from this one, but I think this one is a winner since I don't need to simmer any vinegar, which makes the whole house smell pickled for a day.

Party was fun... kids parties usually are... my nephew is *very* into all things Star Wars right now. How things change, and how they stay the same.

The funniest bit... while opening presents, my nephew was trying his best to be a good boy like mom teaches him, but at one point he opened a gift that was clothes, he pulled out a plain, gray t-shirt and said "A plain tee shirt. I've always wanted one."

Yes, the room broke out into hysterics. You can't help it. And I was a bit jealous because I don't think I could crack jokes that good at 6.

If you ever see a 7-foot tall comedian who is Ukrainian but was raised in America in on the comedy circuit, or the *really* funny pro basketball player, in 20 years, that'll be my nephew.

Party was around lunchtime, so I had to throw something together for dinner. I totally forgot about the brats I had, and it was raining cats and dogs, so I didn't really want to grill.

Frozen pizza, to the rescue!!

My pizza.... I always like to add something veggie to mine. In this case, some chopped spinach and a little extra cheese.

I actually found out tonight, after seventymillionzillion years of cooking for my husband, that he doesn't like veggies added to frozen pizza because "they don't get cooked enough." To me, the beauty of putting your own veggies on a pizza is that they remain kinda crisp... so I think he's a bit of a nutbag and I'm right.

In any case.... his plain pizza..... with a little extra cheese since the automatical pizza making machines always seem to miss some spots...

One key to super-thin crust frozen pizzas, I have learned, is to start them in a cold or not fully heated oven, and check at about ten minutes after they go in or just wait for the smoke alarm to tell you they are done (old family joke... every time the smoke alarms started going you tried to be the first person to yell "Pizza's done!" because 7 times out of 10, it meant the pizza was indeed done. Those other 3 times, it just meant some other dinner was done).

So... tomorrow starts my first week as a doomed woman at work. I do have to say... the layoff is atypical of the way Big Parent Company has done them in the past... some people we let go as of Wednesday, some as of Friday, and some of us there for another month. This lead to a LOT of confusion with people who were still glad to see others around on Thursday, thinking it was done. I spent half of my Friday going "Well... nope... I'm just here for another month...."

In any case, I have work to get done before then. What makes me saddest is the actual documentation itself... we'd just started to get things into shape where I was cleaning up Horrible Documentation Sins of Times Past and were getting actual software changes documented into the software release that the docs went out with.... that's all out the window. And it hurts to see that. There are always going to be things like errors that slip past... but intentionally doing sub-par docs is just a bad way to do things.

But, also on the horizon... they're doing a two-day workshop for outplacement, and for the first time, I tend to take advantage. I'm more than happy for any pointers on my resume or portfolio, and at the very least, it is two days, paid, away from the misery that is the office at this point, with a free lunch. Sign me up for the dried-out chicken sandwich, please.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Do I look like I'm soon to be unemployed???

I'm used to the weekend runs to the grocery store forcing me to interact with some of the worst of humanity.

As the economy has tanked, my once peaceful produce/meat market become more crowded, making me more surly.

But today, I noticed, people were actually nice.

Like, saying "oh, excuse me" and moving when they were blocking your way. Generally pleasant. Happy to help.

And then I knew I was in some odd, alternate universe when one lady I'd been passing along the way, who was pretty friendly, said "Hey, do you want a coupon for ten dollars off? It looks like you have a hundred dollars worth of stuff in your cart, and I never buy that much."

Unprecedented niceness?? What... do I have something on my forehead that says "Hello, I am becoming unemployed on May 15th"??? Or are people just acting a little less surly with the warm weekend and spring in the air?

I always forget that the market has coupons that run in some of the local papers & ad magazine. And dude... not only did this lady spread some niceness in my day, she taught me a lesson. My bill was $130 before the coupon, and after the coupon was applied and the taxes for that were deducted (thanks again, Todd H. "I'm a Tool" Stroger for making sure Cook County has some of the highest sales taxes in the nation) the final bill was actually $113.

That's a big difference. At least now, to my "soon to be unemployed" behind.

So, thank you, anonymous lady, for being nice. And making sure that before next weekend, I dig for some of my own coupons to use for the next grocery trip.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Now I'm just another statistic....

I survived the fourth quarter layoffs and then the first quarter layoffs, but my luck has apparently run out and I'm a victim of the third quarter layoffs.

Ick pooey.

I'm not surprised... it's been gloom and doom in our industry and they finally had to cut deep enough to really hurt. I may have lucked out last time that they didn't want to slow down development, but they're going to be doing that after we're all out the door.

Thankfully this isn't a "don't let the front door hit you on the backside" layoff where people are gone before you know it... they gave a lot of us a month to work on getting things tied up and transitioned off. That's a huge help to the people who are left... and I've been in their shoes too, before, so I'm more than glad to help out. It's gonna truly suck around there in a month.

I'm grateful that I've had steady employment basically since November of 2005. I hope I can find something new quickly.

I'm glad this news came after the trip to Vegas, so we were able to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.

So, it's time to brush off the resume and spend some time on the many job sites on the interwebs.... time to throw my resume at everything I can find and see what sticks.

Luckily, the hubby has been cautiously planning for disaster since the start of the year and we have some money saved away. Today is a rainy day, I guess.

It's not the best severance package I've ever run into (a sad thing to have experience with) but it is something, so I figure I have two months before the brown stuff starts to hit the fan.

But it still stings a little... it always does. I happily listened to their calls of "take some time off today if you need to" and booked out of there at lunchtime. I couldn't think straight, anyway.

But, tomorrow morning, I'll shake it off and head into work just as if I was a contractor who was coming to the end of a gig... I've got a month to make sure I don't leave a storm in my path, and I do like to tie things up nicely. I've had to deal with those surprise storms and it ain't fun.

So... again.... no real blogging about food today, and likely for the rest of the week while I give myself some well-deserved brooding time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back to reality.....

After all the fun of the Vegas trip I let myself get lost in the fun of cooking for Easter.

I had several posts I wanted to do, but utter laziness took over (combined with picking up the Twilight book series after I was done with friends going "You haven't read those yet????" finally sucked me in after HATING the first book but enjoying the next two a couple more. And I swear, I will stop forsaking my blog for the third book. Hopefully.

But, that means that over vacation and furlough, I was able to knock out some pretty tasty food along with reading 5 books, so although ya'll don't get the benefits of it, it was good for me.

And dinner tonight was nothing noteworthy... egg & tuna salad sandwiches. I was just utterly oblivious to what was going on last week, and totally forgot that I needed to figure out dinner stuff for tonight through Thursday. Thankfully, my overstuffed freezers can save the day as I've already pulled out some shrimp for tomorrow, and leftover Sunday Gravy for Wednesday.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be better adjusted to an actual full day of thought at work, and able to at least update on some of the highlights of the past week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dough Day! Pierogies and No-Knead Bread

Before I get down and dirty with dough.... some lunch is needed...

I snipped some dried mango into some pico de gallo and let that come together....

Then I chopped up some mahi mahi that I got (marinated in some lime juice and Mexican-appropriate spices).....

Slap the fish and some of the salsa into warmed tortillas, top with some guac and a little queso fresco....

Very good.

While I was doing that, I had potatoes baking in the oven, and for pierogie filling numero uno, I started by running those though the ricer...

Add some farmer's cheese, cooked onions, and paprika....

The paprika is actually a pretty good way for judging when you get an "even" mixture.

On to the dough!!

Dry stuff... flour and salt... ready to roll...

I added two egg yolks and one whole egg to that, and a couple tablespoons of butter, and let it whril before I started with the water. My dough ended up kinda sticky.

Rolled it out as thin as I could get it, brought out my largest biscuit cutter and made some rounds...

Filling on those rounds....

Sealed up (ok, out of the first batch, three were horribly sealed and totally fell apart in the water. I improved my stats on the next two batches).

Those went into boiling water for 10 minutes. I have to say... I was mildly impressed with my mad skillz by the time the last batch went into the water. The purpose of making these was kinda of a "test run" to make sure I had a recipe that worked, and they didn't end up being like lead bombs.

Once I was done, I rinsed them in cold water and stashed them in the fridge so I could fry them up for dinner.

On to filling number two.... a mushroom filling.... started with onions, though...

I actually paid the big bucks for some real Polish dried mushrooms, which required a 3 HOUR soaking time, so these were not going to happen as real, finished pierogies with my others. After soaking the mushrooms, I gave them a whril in my mini food processor. All my cutting boards and knives were still in the dishwasher.

Now... the directions I was using said to add the non-gunky part of the soaking liquid back to the pan and let it all boil down. Methinks I soaked them in too much liquid, because this took awhile to boil down....

Also, according to directions.... I'm supposed to run that mixture though a grinder (not a problem, I actually have the Kitchen Aid attachment) with a stale kieser roll. I do not have a stale role on hand. I might remember to buy one while I am out tomorrow, or I might just use a coupla slices of white bread. After that, an egg gets mixed in, and that is Filling Number Two.

How about some No-Knead Bread to go with dinner???

The dough... I started it last night....

Plopped that into my new Corningware stonewear. Yes, I was at Kolh's yesterday, and I bought a piece of equipment that I intend to devote mostly to No-Knead bread. My Le Creuset is a little too wide for what I'd like out of a loaf of bread (a little height). I was a little worried since the original recipe calls for a 5+ quart container capacity, but this 3.5 quart model did just fine.

Hey... it looks less like a dough turd this time!!

And yet again, I am amazed.... I have finally learned how to make good bread....

Rest of dinner??

The pierogies, fried up a little bit....

And an Herb-Rubed Sirloin Steak....

I did also make the pepper relish, but I used green peppers (had them on hand) and totally forgot to take pictures of the process.

The bread... fantastic, again. I am truely awed by this process.

The steak.... meh. I could take it or leave it.

The pierogie... the hubby had a bite and I did the usual cautionary "wave hand in front of his eyes to make sure he hasn't gone blind from eating something I have tried to make" and he just said "Yeah... that tastes like a pierogie!"

I thought the dough might be too thick... he said it was fine. WHEW. So, it looks like Friday is going to spent in a flour-covered frenzy while I make several batches of dough and fill and boil them, and I can fry them up on Sunday. Saturday will be spent on appetizers (was thinking of bacon-wrapped dates and cheese puffs, but I might be not doing the cheese puffs, we'll see) and desert stuff (carrot cupcakes and a crepe cake).