28 May 2007

Rolling Hill?

27 May 2007

Tech Reviewer?

In Vietnamese, there's a saying that goes something like "When you are full, others invite you to dinner." Over the past few months, I have been actively involved with ATPM.com as copy editor and software reviewer. There is no money to be made, but I do it as a way to support the Mac platform, but I've learned a few things new about the Mac, too. A few days ago, through ATPM I got a lead on a job opening with a book publisher. The publisher is coming out with a Mac book and needs someone to review it for technical accuracy. The position's title is Tech Reviewer and while the money may not be that much, it's definitely something I would enjoy doing. One thing may lead to another and this gig may be a way into other technical writing/reviewing jobs.

Ever since college, I've discovered that I enjoy writing technical documents. At my various jobs since then, I was usually the technical writer for the place. Especially with the current job, my Knowledge Base in Lotus Notes is the source of tips and tricks for many colleagues. The great thing with Lotus Notes is that it's easy to send a link to the knowledge base entry, or if whole article is needed, all it takes is a Forward. When I first started my job search a few months ago, one of the first job I applied to was a Technical Writer job with Google, right here in NYC. Unfortunately, my resume didn't catch the hiring manager's attention. Perhaps with more experience with this publisher, and hopefully others, I'll have a better chance when Google has another job opening for a technical writer.

While I may not get this technical reviewer position because there are others in ATPM who may be vying for it, combined with my prospective job in the File and Print department at my current job, it's all good news.

24 May 2007

183 - Omega Up

It's pretty obvious that our jobs as Network Account Administrators will not last long. All around us group by group lost their jobs to either MomBye or Columbus. As people in our group bail out early for greener pasture elsewhere, their vacancies are not filled. Naturally, we have to put in overtime yet upper managers have to ask our manager why there has been so much overtime hours in the past few weeks. Doh!

The story inspired me to imagine the scenario in this cartoon. It sort of harks back to my school days, Engineering School to be exact. We learned lots of formulas and equations. I made this one up about work accomplished in the office. To make the formula look more authentic, engineering-like, I used some Greek letters, ß (beta) instead of B and Ω (omega) instead of O. O can be easily misread as zero anyway.

Way back when I first started drawing cartoons at work, I drew one in the style of The Far Side. It's been a while and it's time to re-visit The Far Side. The characters didn't all turn out like what I envisioned, but I think the kid with the hand raised and the woman look genuine enough.

23 May 2007

CNA Cold Feet

I had a third study session with my CNA buddies and even though it was somewhat better, I don't think I am ready for the big day. Originally, I scheduled an exam date of May 25 only because I thought I would have to take it before May 31. It turned out that there was no such deadline. The exam that we took the course for, #677, was scheduled to be retired May 31 and it's not offered any more any way. We are allowed to take exam #686 and that one expires in August. Still in the immediate future, but not as close as May 31. So, with mandatory OT and other things going on, I sure can use two extra weeks to prepare for the exam. I already re-scheduled the exam for June 8.

In other career-related news, a server admin in the File and Print group recently submitted his resignation. He is a good friend of mine and had recommended me as a possible replacement. This is the third time someone in another department quit and told me about the opening. I cannot remember what happened with the first instance, but with the second chance, even though the departing person thought I could hack it, in the end the manager just hired some consultant for the job. This time around, the manager in the other department actually asked for my resume then told me the job posting number. He even said, "We still have to go through the process." Does that mean that had there been no process, I would have gotten the job already? The idea of moving to another department and doing server work is exciting. It'll definitely look good on my resume. No doubt about it, even if I get the job, there's no guarantee MomBye will leave me alone. They can always put some guy in MomBye to remotely administer the servers in the U.S. Hopefully, there'll be a salary increase and I will get to keep my hours, which is not 9-5 or M-F.

20 May 2007

Where's Waldo?

Yesterday I got my son J interested again in the Where's Waldo? book series. For those who are not familiar with the series, each book feature several scenes with many people with Waldo and his friends somewhere in the scenes. Waldo, Wenda, Wizard, and Waldo's inverse Odlaw are usually half-hidden in the pictures. Waldo's dog, Woof, is always mostly hidden and only his red-and-white striped tail is visible. It's a fun game for the child to explore the different scenes (beach, mall, street, zoo, etc) and even different time periods, as Waldo travels through time and space. J needed to write a paragraph about a day at the beach and one of the Waldo books had just the scene.

J was originally very interested in the Waldo books and I bought him a few in the series. One day I stumbled across a Waldo puzzle on the web and thought J would like it. Big mistake. The web Waldo puzzle was a still picture in which one would have to find the usual characters. However, after a few minutes, the still picture was replaced by a picture of a monster, accompanied by a scream. J was so scared he immediately covered his faces with the palms of his hand and remained still for several minutes. He declared he would never play Waldo on the web anymore and even stayed away from the books. Some sicko's idea of fun ruined my child's budding interest in Waldo. I won't give the jerk the credit by giving out his/her link, if it's still out there. The moral of the story is that the web is no place for a child to visit alone. I am careful enough to be with him all the times when he surfs the web. I made sure his Google preferences is set to have the strongest filter on, so even a mistyped word is less likely to become an obscene word. But I was not careful enough to test out the game before letting J play with it. Doh!

Actually, J doesn't yet know how to use the built-in Google search box in Firefox. He always type in the full URL, e.g. www.cartoonnetwork.com. However,
I did see my niece got to the wrong search page by mistyping words with Google.

15 May 2007

Taking The Plunge

Today, I had my first CNA study session with my colleagues at work. We went over the first thirty questions of a practice exam. Not surprisingly, topics that I am not familiar with, simply because my job function doesn't relate to them, I failed miserably. For instance, as a lowly network account admin, I do not handle server works, like adding a new server to an existing network. One of the test question was "What's the command to type to update a network to include a NetWare 6.5 server?" Doh! I picked SYS:\SYSTEM\DEPLOY.EXE but in fact the correct answer was NWDEPLOY.EXE, located at the root of the NetWare 6.5 operating system CD. Either you know it or you don't, or if you are lucky, on a multiple-choice question you have a 25% chance of stumbling upon the correct answer. I'll just have to cram for the exam! But then there were the tricky questions that is sort of like a shaggy dog joke. FYI, a shaggy dog joke is a joke that tells you too much information, lots of details that have nothing to do with the punch line. In the case of the practice exam I just tried out, one of the question was about the minimum amount of space required on the DOS partition as required by NetWare 6.5. The answer is 500 MB, but instead of just asking straight out what the minimum space requirement is, the question informed me that the server had 1024 MB of memory. That confused me into thinking that, "Hmm, didn't I read somewhere that the optimal space a DOS partition should have is x MB plus the amount of memory?" The thing is they only want to know what's the minimum amount, not the optimal amount. Tricky, yes, but that's what studying is for. Better make them mistakes now instead of on the real exam.

Shortly after the study session, I took the plunge and called up Prometric to schedule my exam. It is all said and done - I'm scheduled for a 10 AM exam next Friday at New Horizons. The voucher number that I lost and re-obtained went into the scheduling program fine, there was some confusion about which exam I should take, but everything worked out, I just have to show up for the exam and pass it. Better get busy cramming!

12 May 2007

Wham! Bam!! Exam Cram!!!

True to my world, I went out and bought an Exam Cram 2 book for the CNA Certification. I thought among the materials I picked up from the NetWare class last November had a practice exam, but none was found. There were some DVDs featuring the course on video but I'm in no mood to learn by watching TV. The practice exam that I was sure the instructor sent to me prior to the class, in PDF no less, thought to be surely on my Mac, was nowhere to be found either. I hate it when even my digital life becomes messy like my meatspace life. Just because you collected the info in digital format doesn't necessarily mean you have it. You still have to know something about it to find it. In this case, I thought it was an Acrobat file (PDF), but alas I was wrong.

I like to study by reading books and since both my NetWare books were old (NetWare versions 5 and 4.1!), I had to get a new book. Having a 25% off coupon from Border's helped soften the blow to my wallet.

The book Novell NetWare 6.5 CNA Exam 050-686 from the Cram Exam 2 series was written by Warren E. Wyrostek. It's not one of those monstrous volume that covers the history of computing, but just the gist of the CNA exam. It includes two practice exams in the book and a CD with a drill program and the book in PDF. The practice exams are in multiple choice format so I thought I could easily print them out from the PDF on the CD. I very much don't want to write in my book and the chance of using scrap paper was too good to pass. Not so faster, buster! The PDF is password-protected. On a Windoze machine, the Print menu option is even ghosted out. On the Mac, it's available but selecting it and you are prompted for the password. I guess they don't want the PDF to float around the Internet and fall into the hands of people who didn't pay for the book. I still managed to print out one practice exam by using the Mac's window capture keyboard shortcut. The exam came out to like fifteen pages or fifteen pictures. Import the pictures into iPhoto, select them all and print them out to a new PDF file, and voila I have a PDF of the exam again. It's true that the resulting pictures are not sharp, but the words are perfectly readable. I did have to adjust Preview's view option to make its window minimalist so that only the window outline and the window's content were captured. Us geeks just love to overcome technical barriers. Actually, if I were geekier, I would have written a program to force feed password to the print dialog box until it's accepted, but I'm not trying to take a hacking certificate here, just the CNA for now.

10 May 2007

CNA Or Bust

"Gần mực thì đen, gần đèn thì sáng," so goes the Vietnamese proverb. Translated word for word into English, it means if you are near the ink, you'll be blackened, but if you are close to the light, you'll be bright. The somewhat equivalent English saying is "Tell me the company you keep, I'll tell you what you are."

In the office, some of my colleagues have been getting together to do group study for the CISSP exam. The sample questions that they discuss bore me to sleep, but such is the case with certification exams. A bunch of useless info to be memorized, perhaps never to be used in the future. However, seeing them diligently convening for their weekly meetings has inspired me to make an effort at rallying my other colleagues to study for the Certified NetWare Administrator (CNA). A bunch of us took the prep course in November 2006. The instructor had kindly walked us through the process of applying for a test voucher and our manager gladly approved us all. We had all the materials to study for the cert exam... only if we had the time and the will. Ideally, we should have taken the exam within thirty days of completing the class. The voucher is good for one year, but it turns out the exam itself will be retired on May 31. Supposedly, some newer exam will take its place, perhaps with more questions reflecting the current NetWare state-of-the-art. So, with less than a month to go, I finally made the call to the testing center and obtain a registration number. Next, I plan to study at work during lunch hour over a few days, take the few practice exams that I should have. I will even buy a book just to get a practice exam if I turn out not to have any. I was sure the instructor sent me something before the actual start of the class, I even thought I detached the PDF and kept it on my Mac, because I was aware that my work email is purged every ninety days, except for messages specifically marked as exception. No luck, I searched my Mac hard drive and few flash drives, but the practice exam was nowhere to be found. Oh well, I've written to the instructor just in case he still has the exam. I am also counting on some colleague to still have it.

For now, I've arranged the first group study for next Tuesday. The next one will be Thursday, then so on into a second week. I plan to take the exam on Friday, May 25. It's an ambitious plan, given all regular work, overtime hours to be expected, a review for ATPM.com, and other fun things I do, but I just have to do something about my status. I know that I know much about computers but without any certification, I'm all just talk.

CNA Or Bust!

05 May 2007

182 - Last One Out

I just had my first vacation for the year. My rule of thumb for vacation days is use them as vacation days and not exchange them for money. When the vacation day is taken, you can do whatever you want the whole day, it's all yours. When you get money for it, Uncle Sam will take a chunk out of it. So, in case I get axed later in the year, I want to make sure all my vacation days already used by then.

It is now time to actively search for another job. In a somewhat of a surprising move, a colleague who one time was my group's manager, but have since moved to another department, found a job elsewhere. In the same week, a handful of people finally had their 60-day notice caught up with them. There were long farewells here and there, luncheon, drinks after work, the usual thing. The sad thing is there will be more of those.

Because of the rotten egg phrase, I decided to portray the hapless office workers as eggs being pursued by a steam roller. I thought of Catbert the Evil HR Director as being behind the steering wheel of the roller. Some eggs already got caught by the Mumbai job loss, or Mumbified (just a word I made up), while other with many years with the firm just sitting tight to wait for the generous severance. The two eggs on the foregrounds are looking for jobs, one still shooting out resumes while the other one agreed to take up a janitor job.

I've contacted a few headhunters and signed up with one job site. I need to re-visit my dormant profiles in Monster.com and HotJobs.com to update them. I keep seeing ads for Dice.com so that might be worth a visit. My backup contact keeps telling me that he doesn't want to carry my load if I leave before him. Too bad, may the best man win. I would love to stay at this job longer, but with impending doom and gloom, on top of my salary freeze, there is no future for me here. Let the race begin and the last one out of here is a rotten egg!

02 May 2007

Be All You Can Be

I have finally started my search for a new job. One headhunter contact already told me that he rarely got positions for LAN Account Admins, so there is little hope with him. Another hunter I got in touch through my sister V is not in the I.T. field, but she had graciously put me in touch with three others in the area. Hope something will come to fruition.

I signed up with NYCJobZone.com through a banner ad on NY1.com. I'm not ready to leave New York City, much as I hate its crowded streets I might as well limit my scope to the city. Strangely, the first email notice I got from NYCJobZone.com is all about... the U.S. Army! The first position was titled musician, the second was Security Position, third was Officer, and the last was... SOLDIER! Perhaps because I mentioned network security in my resume, NYCJobZone got it mixed up with physical security. I don't think the Army wants someone in their late 30s standing guard of an ammo dump or other sensitive locations. I'm in no shape for boot camp or to become a killing machine. Oh well, let me just, uh, soldier on with my job search...