Tools of the trade: Microsoft 365 and Photoshop Elements 13

I’ve used Office 365 (external link) for about two years and I’ve been pleased with it. I like the idea of always having the latest version of a program, even though many people think the annual subscription is too expensive. My “Home” subscription to Microsoft Office costs $100 annually or $9.95 a month. I can install the Office suite on five machines.

When Office 2016 for the Mac came out a few months ago I hesitated to install it, even though I was entitled to a free upgrade because of my subscription. But I’ve now downloaded the new Office and I am glad I did. The 2015 version of Word is prettier and considerably faster than the 2011 program, which truly surprised me since Microsoft generally produces bloatware, programs that slow down as they bulk up. Still, so far so good.

I’m less enthralled with my recent purchase of Photoshop Elements 13 (external link). Although I consider this the easiest, most economical way to produce web and document images, I have found little difference from Elements 12. This time I downloaded the program from Amazon instead of from Adobe. (Not sure, though, on how I will download another copy when I need to reinstall.) I’ve had more problems registering with Adobe than any other company and it was time I moved on to a different provider.



Some positive news — more writing ahead

The News-Ledger of West Sacramento (external link to Facebook) has just given me two writing assignments. I should be able to complete these newspaper articles in September. While I tremendously enjoy the writing I do for Infocus (internal link), the work there is collaborative and without byline. It is always nice to have recent writing credits in my own name and I hope my writing will please the paper. For a look at one of the articles I previously wrote for them, click here. (internal link).

Update: I went on to write 15 or so articles for the News-Ledger. Here is a list. (internal link)



Play Time at 3Play Media

Through Craigslist I saw that 3Play Media was looking for contractors, people who could transcribe audio into text. I’m always looking for freelance work so I applied at this page (external link). After a nerve-wracking forty minutes or so I completed their test, only to be greeted by this language:

“We have received far more interest in this remote contractor position than expected. We plan to review preliminary applications as necessary to meet our workflow demands. . . . We understand that in the interim your availability and interest may change.”

Please. Tell me that you have enough people before I take a test, rather than after it. And if you do have enough people, why don’t you pull your ads off of Craigslist (external link), rather than running them across the country?

Still, it is 2015 and we are all living in The New Economy. Take the test if you are desperate. You may be the Unicorn they are holding the job position open for. Good luck.



Passing on the editing course

I’ve decided against taking the Berkeley editing course I wrote about earlier (internal link); I am asking for a refund.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been furiously studying English grammar, trying to get ready for the Berkeley study program. I’ve learned that I don’t need a copyediting course, I need to take basic grammar lessons first. I’ve been stuck for a week on subject-verb agreement with little progress. And something as simple as routinely identifying verbs in complex sentences eludes me. But back to subject-verb agreement. Take a look at this problem:

Basic Principle: Singular subjects need singular verbs; plural subjects need plural verbs.


Did you know the word ‘hopes’ is singular? Nor did I. (Or is it, “Neither did I?”) Before I can reach the matter of subject-verb agreement I’ll need to figure out a simple and instant solution to determining tenses. Only after I can confidently say what verbs are singular and which ones are plural will I be able to move on.

I did enroll in an on-line grammar course which I am taking right now (internal link). Unfortunately, the lessons take four or five days to be graded so my progress through the course is very slow.

The good news is that I have six or seven current grammar books and that I am thinking about grammar, studying it on my own, and looking up troublesome word constructions more than I ever did before. I am much more aware. And that has to be good.


SEO and Disclaimers As Image Files

Google’s search engine likes fresh content but dislikes repetition. A website should have regularly updated pages or a blog that’s frequently contributed to, to rank higher in search. But what if you have pages that require disclaimers, similar text that will occur over and over throughout your pages or blog?

One solution is to have a single disclaimer page and hope that everyone on your site reads it before they try practicing surgery on themselves. The other solution is to put up the repetitive text as an image file, like what you see below.

There! Google will not read an image and therefore not penalize you for using the same content on many pages. It’s a somewhat clumsy solution in that an image file will not adjust to screen sizes as easily as text on a web page. (The text will be tiny on tiny screens.) This disclaimer approach, however, will inform your readers without pulling your ranking down.



Treating all requestors equally

August 5, 2015 Update: The particular problem I was dealing with has been resolved. I wish I could credit the people and agencies responsible, but I think it is better that I be discreet. The good news is that there are good people willing to help. I will try to be less cynical in the future.


August 4, 2015

I’m trying to get press releases from a public agency without success.

I help write an accident blog for an East coast attorney. My company takes information to write the blog, with credit, from various news outlets around the state he works in. But where does the media get their information? It’s true that the larger media groups do some independent investigating, but all outfits routinely take vital facts and figures from Highway Patrol press releases.

In his state, the Highway Patrol issues accident press releases only to media companies they recognize. The public must trust, therefore, that these news outlets are reporting accurately  since groups like mine do not have access to the original documents. We must also hope that the media company is reporting in a timely fashion, and, most importantly, that they are reporting about an accident to begin with. Why is this so?

Why can’t everyone get the same information at the same time? This is 2015. We don’t need the media to filter the facts. I am not requesting any information from a normally closed police report, instead, I am trying to get material produced by a public agency acting of their own volition. Just to make clear, the attorney’s company does not use any information received to contact anybody named in any release. The law, good ethics, and a respect for privacy prohibit such soliciting.

Why should the government share information only with those they deem fit? It’s time to treat all requestors equally. Or don’t release the information at all.

(Please note. I write responsibly. Like this newspaper article I did about the California Highway Patrol (internal link))