Sunday, August 24, 2014

Teenagers! Have they mush for brains?

I do remember being a teenager. And one of the things that stands out in my memory is that, yes, I really thought I knew it all, and I really did believe that adults had no understanding of the world and didn't know what they were talking about. On top of that, I thought that anyone over 50 was most likely senile and had pretty much lost touch with reality.

Of course, when I was a teenager we didn't have smart phones, in fact we didn't have mobile phones, we had rotary dial phones which could only move a few feet while in use, being restricted to the length of the cable connecting it to the wall.

We called our radio a 'wireless' and I have no clue why because it was also connected to the mains in order to work. But my research tells me it is because radios used to be in fact, wireless, because they ran from gigantic batteries, due to the fact that not everyone had electricity. The highlight of our week was to listen to Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, on the 'wireless' when I was a child, we didn't get television until I was into my teens, and then there was not much to watch.

But I am wandering from my point.

We didn't have personal computers, much less tablets. Our entertainment was not at all virtual, books with paper pages, pen or pencil and paper, jigsaw puzzels and board games, where pieces were frequently missing. No video games, YouTube or Facebook.

It was a different world with different holes to fall into if we took a wrong turning. Smoking and drinking underage was what the bad kids did, and into my later teens, that included weeds other than tobacco. I am sure other drugs were readily available. What I am not sure of is why I never indulged in anything more than tobacco (and how I wish I had avoided that too!). Alcohol held no mystery for me as my mother was French and so wine with dinner was perfectly normal, though the kids did get their wine watered down. As there was no mystery involved in drinking there was no reason to consider it wild and free. I was never one to go along with the herd, peer pressure had no effect on me and drugs frightened me, so I avoided them, even to the extent of leaving a party or gathering if I became aware that there were drugs involved.

I am not saying that I was a goodie two shoes, on the contrary, I was a rebel but apparently I had my own personal drummer and didn't need to be in step with the rest of the world.

I guess that teenagers are not nearly as grown up as they look, nor as grown up as they think. So, some of the things they do, frequently illegal and often resulting in considerable suffering and expense to the adults responsible for their actions are incredibly stupid. Rather than being young adults, they really are big children.

Today's teenagers still have smoking, drinking and drugs beckoning them to come ruin their lives and those of their parents. But they also have all the electronic crimes ready to trip them, such as illegally downloading pirated software and music. And those still mushy brains fondly believe they are smarter than the adults who developed those computers, tablets, smart phones and created the software. I suppose if they are also exposed to the criminal adults who indulge in the same infantile behaviour, it can be explained if not forgiven.

And sadly, those mushy brains have still not learned to value trust, and have no clue how hard it is to regain a trust that has been broken.

I wonder how many parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents have displayed extreme self control by not actually shaking their teenagers at least once a month. Perhaps it is all a necessary part of learning and growing.

My wish for the teenagers in my life, and those children who have yet to head through that awkward and frequently dangerous stage, is 'May your mistakes be small, may you learn from them quickly, and may you be smart enough to never repeat them, and may you march to your own drum and not that of someone else'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


The last few days in a job after 13 years gave me pause to think.

I have always held that when someone leaves their job to take up another position, there is far too much fuss made of them. When I worked in Dublin the tradition was to have a 'whip around' that is, pass the hat, then buy a gift or a gift card, or even have the company cut a check. Then, on their last day they would have an official presentation of the gift, a card signed by the entire company, or maybe just the entire department if it is a huge company. Then off to the local pub where there was usually an open bar for a couple of hours, subsidised by the company.

Here in Texas, and also in my experience in California, there is less fuss, but still farewell lunches and happy hours are the norm.

Why? why make a fuss about the person who is jumping ship and moving, one would assume, to bigger and better things? Why not make a fuss of those people who remain and continue to work to further the company's bottom line? I never could understand it.

I am used to people, and not just new employees, asking me questions and because I have been here for so long, I frequently have the answers, but if I don't, I will know who does or where to look. I hardly noticed. This week I noticed. Every time someone asked me something and I was able to give them the answer, they said "what will we do when you are gone!". And I noticed how often in a day it happened.

This caused me to stop and notice just how much folklore information I did have stored in my head. Yes, I have been documenting all the projects I have been responsible for. Yes, the code for all the utilities I developed to assist me in my testing and automating of my tests is checked in to source control. But, how do you document answers to questions. I guess if I had thought about it 10 years ago, I could have started a FAQ page. Every time someone asked me a question, however simple, I could have added it to my FAQ page. Perhaps it would have helped, but only if everyone was aware that it existed, and where it could be located. Of course once I left, it would slowly become obsolete as systems changed, but at least I would be leaving that information behind where it could be useful.

And so, when I walk out of the office for the last time, I will carry a wealth of knowledge in my head. Knowledge that, for the most part, will be of no value to me whatsoever, but will be a huge loss to the colleagues I leave behind. Perhaps in my next job I will keep a FAQ page, it will of course start with all of the questions that I will find myself asking in the first few weeks or months. But hopefully, it will eventually be where I store the knowledge that I will accumulate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Job search

I have 10 days left to complete thirteen years, one month and one day working the same company. If I have learnt anything from the past thirteen years, and more specifically from my search to find another position it is this:

Never take your eyes off the job market.

It is important to know what jobs are available and you never know when an even more perfect opportunity will arise, and if nothing else, you will keep up to date on what skill sets are being required. In this way you can keep honing your own skills to meet the trending marketplace.

Apply for at least three jobs per year, even if you have no plan to change employment. 

If all you get is a phone screen, this is good practice, and hopefully you will get at least one interview. The interview process varies so vastly from company to company, and there is a distinct fashion in interview questions and styles. Thus, if and when you decide to move on, you, and your resume, will require very little extra work.

One of the hidden disadvantages of staying in one company as long as I have is that you get stuck in a rut, you are almost completely blind to the changes going on in the working world outside your currently employment and this will work against you in interviews. Regular interview practice will help to keep you in tune with the world.

Serious about changing your job?

I am a thinker and a writer, an introvert. I have always felt that I am not very good at presenting myself at interviews and, as a result, I have had very many interviews where I came out knowing that I messed up. You know that feeling? 'Why did I say that?! I know what I should have said'. But after the interview is way too late.

Below are a number of things I have picked up, either from my research prior to interviews or from personal experience both as an interviewer and an interviewee.

  • Prepare for your interview as you would for an exam.
  • The single most important thing is be honest - never lie about your skills or experience
  • Turn off your mobile phone
  • Arrive early - most definitely do not be late
  • Don't be afraid to ask for water if it is not offered, believe me you will need it.
  • Dress appropriately - it is OK to ask what the expected dress code is at the time the interview is being scheduled
  • Research the company
  • Know the specific position you are applying for
  • If possible, speak to people who have interviewed at that company
  • If you don't know anyone who has, there is a lot of information on the Internet ( on this
  • Don't let all of the reports on a company phase you, remember that a lot of these will be from disgruntled people. Ever noticed how only those people who are dissatisfied write reviews?
  • In the first few minutes an interviewer's opinion of you is formed on how you look, act and sound, not what you actually say
  • Watch your body language
  • Listen 
  • Relax - remember they are not trying to prove you are wrong for the job, they want you be right 
  • Don't talk too much and don't interrupt 
  • Prepare answers for the main questions: why do you want the job, what are your strengths and weaknesses, where do you want to be in 5 years
  • In particular, be prepared to answer what your weaknesses are with a weakness that is not going to adversely affect the position you are applying for, and follow up with what you are doing to try to correct that - don't labor the point.
  • Be prepared with a list of examples of things you have done in previous positions that illustrate your abilities
  • Make sure you understand each question and take your time if you need to think
  • Be positive about yourself and your experiences
  • Prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview 
  • Finally, if you are asked how you would solve a specific problem, at least try. Don't say you don't know, don't try to figure it out silently, try to work through it verbally. Almost always it is not the solution they are looking for, but how you approach the problem and more important, that you are prepared to try to solve it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Not so much storage as..

..keeping my work space organized.

Every time I get ready to do some embroidery, I start with an idea, find a good image, create the design in my PE Design Plus software, and I get a page with this information on:

What I have to do next is gather these threads ready to use in order.  I started out by just lining them up on the table beside my sewing machine, but that wasn't ideal.

Next I tried using an egg carton, and while that kept things relatively tidy, the spools of thread were bigger than the cups in the carton, and so it didn't satisfy my sense of order.

I had a couple of dowels and tried to balance one in the very large spool of black bobbin thread in my storage basket, as you can see from the photo, that almost worked, but it was balanced very precariously and if I wasn't very careful removing the thread as I needed it, it all toppled over.

So it occurred to me that if I could drill a hole in the side of my work table, just the right size to hold one of the dowels, that would keep it upright and steady. I am perfectly capable of drilling a hole, after all I built an entire deck, OK it was a small one, but I had a very nice collection of power tools and I did build a deck, however, no reason on earth to go to all that trouble now that I have a very handy and willing husband, so at my request, he drilled a neat hole in the side of my table and the dowel fit perfectly.

Problem solved! Now every time I start a new project, I place the threads on my dowel in the order I will need them and I am ready to go. The dowel will hold nine spools and I almost never use more than nine colors so it is just perfect. I am sure I will eventually have to come up with some way to indicate a repeat of the same color, but so far that has not happened so I will worry about it when it does.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The history of a bruise..

actually, lots of bruises. I was going to title this 'what some people do to meet firemen' but I felt that was a bit unkind considering what poor Mildred has been through.

10 days ago she was leaving HEB and stepped off a curb she didn't realize was there, poor thing landed on her face and the unforgiving concrete jammed her glasses into her eye sockets. Fortunately the glasses didn't break - and I say that not because we care about the glasses, but because broken glass would surely have added to her injuries. Even more fortunate, none of her bones broke.

Within seconds she was surrounded by four firefighters from the local Cedar Park station. They just happened to be on their lunch hour and calling into the supermarket. They made sure that she was in one piece and fully compos mentis before they allowed her to leave. They did ask her if she wanted medical attention but she declined.

Considering that she has been on blood thinners for well over 6 months, we were very concerned but she assured us that she was fine. The first day, the only pain she felt was from her nose. The second day she felt her knee (this lady has two artificial knees to complicate matters), and the third day she realized that she must have twisted her ankle as that was also bothering her.

Day 1
Here is a pictorial record. This is one tough lady, day ten after the fall, she claims it is so much better and she is doing fine.

Day 2

Day 3
Day 5
Day 6

Day 10

Day 2

Day 5
Day 6
Day 3
Day 10

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Some storage tips

I get frustrated with myself because I can't seem to keep my sewing stuff organized.

I have wonderful racks mounted on the wall for all my threads, I have a set of plastic drawers for storing prewound bobbins, manuals and other items not frequently used, tools for my sewing machine etc;

I have a basket for large spools of thread, scissors and stabilizer, but there are many other items, such as fabric paint, paint brushes, labels, empty bobbins ( one day I will take the time to rewind them ) and extra threads.

I had been saving plastic containers with screw tops for some time for my husband, he uses them to organize his workshop and it occurred to me I could use some for my sewing area.

So, following his lead, I used Goo Gone to help me to remove the labels from the containers, apply liberally and let sit to soak in, then carefully scrape the labels off with a paint scraper. They will come right off. Wash the outside well with warm water and soap, then dry thoroughly. I used a container for mixed nuts, a container that once held jalapeƱos, and a laundry detergent container, those little cushions of laundry detergent that are so convenient.

Next use either clip art of your choice, or take photos of your sewing items, or even the items you plan to store in the container, print these out on sticky labels and stick them to the containers.

Not only is it a fun project, but it really does tidy up the area and give plenty of extra storage.