Books Bring Me Joy … and Legal Know-How

Growing up, I spent many of my days at the local library finding the latest books by a favorite author (for many years it was Stephen King), discovering new authors, and listening rapt to the featured storyteller.

In more recent years, when I made the choice to start a part-time business, I used a local university law school library to navigate legal information and ensure that I had everything in place to succeed.

Although I was familiar from my earlier MBA studies, it was daunting to see the rows and rows of beautifully bound books with gold inlays and not know where to begin my search. So from the start, I inquired with the law librarian and assistant on duty.

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Technology for Getting the (real) News

I am not a media junkie, but since the Covid-19 pandemic started, I have kept my phone and tablet on the news sites. I want to know what is happening across the globe, in this U.S. and in my state. Now that there seems to me a renewed level of criminal activity by police and by vigilantes murdering Black citizens, I am checking more often for current events and especially for any judicial actions taken against the perpetrators.

There are a few media outlets that can be relied upon for staying aware of current events —real news and not opinion. And let’s be real: all the information that I post to my blog is opinion. What we Twitterers (?) tweet, and retweet, may contain some facts but usually we write an opinion on an existing, trending topic, or create a message starting a new one. Opinion is not news as is evidenced by Twitter’s measures to label tweets.

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One cannot live on Camtasia alone (well…maybe)

Most of us have a favorite application for a particular task. Whether for the ease of use, price, vendor customer service or some other reason, the preferred product will be in place until it becomes obsolete (in my head I hear the actor from The Twilight Zone, original series, B&W).

TechSmith Camtasia, Screencast and Snagit have been my go-to eLearning applications since…well, it has been a while. I am not prepared to change by any means but given the highly competitive market, I am adding new applications to my knowledge base, and reacquainting myself with those that are familiar, like the Articulate products.

My first experience with Articulate was with the Presenter product. With Articulate 360, the vendor, like many software companies, has gone the route of offering monthly or annual subscriptions for a hybrid of desktop and cloud products. For instructional design professionals Storyline is an alternative to Camtasia for developing and enhancing the eLearning experience.

My initial impression of this version, known as Articulate 360, is that the product offering is complete: it includes all the tools necessary to create an effective project. My second impression is that Storyline is the new Presenter (which always mimicked the PowerPoint GUI) so I felt right at home when I opened it.

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A picture is worth 1000 words (but maybe a few more dollars that I would like to spend)

I often refer to myself as a “Mack of all trades” (a play on the phrase “a Jack of all trades” if you’re not familiar). I have intermediate to advanced level skills in programming and developing, data analysis and reporting. And like many engineers, I have an artistic soul that cries out…

The Creative Suite is a graphic (wannabe) artist’s dream. Adobe an has always lured me to purchase and subscribe to the latest and greatest and over time, I have become proficient in InDesign, Acrobat, Photoshop and Illustrator and building skills in Animate.

I have a high level of respect for graphic designers who can mentally construct images and design the pieces to put them together. Given my budget as a freelance IT, translation and training professional, I often have to find free stock images online, or take the creative route of designing my own.

Though creating new images takes time and effort—including the time to research how-to videos— Today I needed to create a custom magnifying glass. With that idea in mind, and an hour of focused time, I searched “how to create a magnifying glass in Adobe Illustrator.”

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Another type of Virus: Covid-19 Scammers

Today I received an email message that, from all appearances, was from the state department of business services. Except, there is no state department of business services.

Stop and evaluate before you click.

I read the email message, hovered my mouse over the links and checked the email address–nothing was familiar. I recognized the email for what it was: phishing. I reported the email to the real department in my state that this scammer was pretending to represent.

I have seen a disturbing increase in the number of fraudulent emails since the crisis began to take hold in our country—to the point that I have mistakenly blocked senders that are potential business partners.

Unfortunately, there are individuals (in-country and outside) who are attempting to make a bad situation worse by preying on people who really need assistance, employment or business contracts. They are impersonating business representatives and misrepresenting company details in an effort to commit theft.

In addition to email phishing, social engineering by phone, scammers are active on the web, too.

Scammer Attack: A well-known job site has numerous fake job postings listed.

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Do I need a CRM application?

I was introduced to an HVAC design engineer a few weeks ago who told me, as I passed him my business card with the QR code on it, “I still have a Rolodex.” Yikes! Well, the funny thing is that I am experienced enough know exactly what a Rolodex looks like without having to Google it.

CRM tool of antiquity

As a contractor, I try to keep up with clients, students I teach, and colleagues. I note their business needs and interests, and even their favorite activities. After all, I am trying to form long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships and it’s helpful to know something about the person behind the business card.

So the question is: do I need a CRM application? Well yes, I do and I started by using Microsoft Outlook to store name, address, phone, email and notes about my contacts.

As my electronic Rolodex (MS Outlook Contacts) grew, I decided that I needed to capture more detailed data and categories on my contacts. For example, I wanted to collect the date that I was first introduced to a person, and the mutual contact’s name if applicable. Then I could create email groups by mutual contact or month of introduction, and I could then send update email messages from time to time (you know, to refresh their memories about my existence = relationship building).

Since MS Outlook was limited, I looked to another MS Office applications for a solution. I chose to construct a contacts database using an MS Access template.

MS Access Contacts database
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Stop–Don’t throw that envelope away!

No, that envelope is not a piece of junk mail! The Census notices are being mailed out twice. Have you filled out the questionnaire yet? Thanks to the US Department of Commerce for the online option.

A 5-Minute 3-Step Process With a Reward

1. Open the envelope. You can use scissors, letter opener (do you even know what that is?), or an index finger.

2. Find the Census ID in the box. It’s in the box labeled “Your Census ID is:” (Pretty easy so far, right?)

This is an ID unique to your residential address.

3. With the Census ID letter in one hand (not the hand you type with), and your other hand on your phone, tablet or PC keyboard, open your favorite browser and go to and complete the questionnaire. (Checkpoint: don’t forget to power the device on!)

For detailed guidance, click the INSTRUCTIONS link at the top of the page.
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Zoom…ing in on another meeting app!

I signed up for Zoom a few years ago to do some online teaching (worked out better than using Skype). I recently had to resurrect the app for an online systems class. The course began in February with our 100+ participants gathering in a huge meeting space. However, as of last week we are meeting virtually via Zoom.

Although I would normally complain about the switch, adapting to an online class is minor compared to all the other important changes that we have had to make in our lives. Again, I am grateful for developers and their technology that keep us communicating and working, at least to some extent.

So back to Zoom! Getting Zoom is easy and best of all, there is a free version. Get your download at or install the app on your mobile device. I originally downloaded the Windows .exe file and when I opened the dusty version of the app, it automatically did an update.

Downloading the App

Congratulations! You are ready to start working in Zoom. If you prefer to link passwords, sign in with your Google account or Facebook. You can also create an account using your email address, or using single sign-on if your organization supports it. Let’s dive in!

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Getting Slack…Again

I used Slack briefly during a period when my client’s Unified Communications group was searching for virtual team collaboration tools. They eventually selected Microsoft Teams but I for one, was impressed Slack.

Now that I am 100% virtual like half of the workforce, I thought I should get reacquainted with Slack.

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Finding Time to Meet

Now that I am in isolation at home, I have renewed my search for online tools. After being away for quite some time, I have missed out on some really neat apps. Let’s get (re)started!

Walking over to a colleagues desk for a quick chat often eliminates the need for a scheduled meeting, an efficiency that does not exist in a virtual office place.

So when can you meet? can become a discussion that involves a lot of back and forth calling, emailing or texting, particularly when attendees are from different companies, or if a common calendar tool is not in use.

This week, I discovered Microsoft FindTime, an Outlook add-in available to Office 365 customers.

Microsoft FindTime

This can help to coordinate a meeting faster, especially for >2 attendees! The key requirement is that the organizer has a Microsoft 365 account.

I tried it out and found it rather simple to use. I started in Outlook by creating a meeting.

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