Patsy Porco

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Remembered Wisdom

In Fathers, Parents on January 12, 2012 at 11:46 pm

My father died 22 years ago but a day doesn’t pass that I don’t think of him. Especially in December, the month he was born and the month he died.

Like everyone, my father was a complex person. As his eldest daughter, I loved him unconditionally. Even when I was old enough to realize he wasn’t perfect, my admiration for his integrity, intelligence, faith in God, and sense of humor never wavered. He used to say he was “a student of human nature.” As a teenager, I would roll my eyes and wonder what exactly that meant. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood that he was able to predict, fairly accurately, how a person would react in a given situation, because he not only watched people but he mentally catalogued their behaviors. He also read biographies and history constantly. I can still see him sitting at the end of our long dining room table, reading glasses halfway down his nose, poring over the pages of a book that was resting on a darkly stained book stand that he had built. Presentation was important to him. Whether it was a book, a gift, a meal, or a drink, it had to be presented in its best light.

One evening, he asked me to mix him a drink. I picked up the Bacardi bottle and tipped it toward his glass.  The look of horror that crossed his face stopped me cold. What was I thinking? I hurriedly put the bottle down and scrambled to find the jigger. He removed his glasses, closed his book, and shook his head. I knew a lecture was coming. I was beginning to regret agreeing to make his drink. His generation took drink-making seriously. They had recipe books, all kinds of bar tools, flasks, a zillion different-sized glasses, and full bars. Bartending was an art. And the mixing of drinks was a science. As I said, what was I thinking?

He took a deep breath as I first washed out his glass, filled it with ice from the ice crusher, measured out an ounce and a half of rum, poured it and Coke over the ice,  and squeezed an eighth of a lime into the glass. I stirred the liquids with a swizzle stick, dropped a fresh lime slice into the drink , and placed the glass on the coaster in front of him. “Sorry about pouring free-hand,” I said, hoping to nip any commentary in the bud. No such luck.

“Patrish,” he said solemly, yet with a gleam of humor in his eyes, “Always remember that a society cannot be civilized without these three things: a police department, an educational system, and the shot glass.” I nodded in agreement; I had learned from experience that lectures end faster if you agree with whatever you’re being told. Privately, I thought his statement was hilarious. Now, years later, I see the wisdom in it. People must be educated, rules must be made, and somebody has to enforce them. And anything worth doing–even making a drink–is worth doing well.

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Résumés Now Need Keywords? I’ll Give You a Keyword.

In Computers, Humor, Résumeé, Technology, Website on January 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I started the New Year doing what is becoming a New Year’s ritual: I looked for a job. Freelancing positions often are terminated at the end of the year, at least in my experience. So, I booted up my GPS and headed off to Purchase, NY, to meet with a headhunter. As an aside, wouldn’t you think that “headhunter” would be considered un-PC in this era? Yet the term remains, just like “Indian Summer.” People probably don’t realize that Indian Summer means a fake summer and refers to tricks pulled by Native Americans on the uninvited settlers of their land. Yet some terms, like “Indian Giver,” “Redskin,” “Casino Owner” and, especially “Indian,” are shunned because of their insensitivity. Well, maybe not the second-to-last one. But I digress, which is what adult sufferers of ADD tend to do, but not Native American ones. I’d hate to be accused of insensitivity.

But back to Purchase, NY: in the course of my interview, it was brought to my attention that my résumé was lacking in some areas. That came as a surprise to me. I thought the new addition of boxes around “Professional Experience” and “Education” added a snazzy aspect to my CV. In fact, I was told that removing the distracting boxes would be an improvement. I was also advised to list my skills above my experience. And, because my résumé would be uploaded to cyberspace, I had to use terms, or keywords, that hiring companies would be seeking out. For instance, I needed to use the word “website” instead of “site,” and list “Adobe Acrobat,” “Chicago Manual of Style,” “AP Stylebook,” “Proofreader Marks,” etc.

Keywords are quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I recently started a website for self-published authors (keyword: indie authors): (forgive the plug, please). I thought I was doing these overlooked authors a favor by providing them with a place to promote their works. I also thought I’d eventually attract advertisers who would want to pay me to appear on my website. I have spent hundreds of hours editing authors’ book descriptions and photos of their jacket covers—and just as much time tracking the traffic to my website and figuring out the perfect keywords to use so that would rank high on Google searches.

Now I have to do the same thing for my résumé? You have got to be kidding me. Wasn’t the computer supposed to make life easier? Yes, I don’t have to print out letters and résumés, address envelopes and lick stamps, but I’m spending just as much time doing keyword searches and formatting my résumé.

I have a perfect keyword for this new requirement. And I’m pretty sure it would rank as number one in the search engines.


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New Year’s Dissolution

In Computer Software, Computers, Humor, Technology on January 2, 2012 at 12:54 am

While everyone else, on this first day of the new year, is thinking about self-improvement, I’ve been contemplating theft. I wouldn’t think twice about going through with it, if it weren’t for my pesky conscience. If I can persuade my conscience that what I’m planning isn’t really stealing, despite indications to the contrary, then I’ll be good to go.

Back around the time the birth control pill was invented, many Catholics started saying that using the pill was not a sin; bringing children into the world that they couldn’t support was the real sin. They claimed that if their consciences were clear, they didn’t sin. I have a friend who calls this kind of Catholic a “cafeteria Catholic,” meaning he or she picks and chooses from the menu of rules. She freely admits that she has an assigned seat in the cafeteria. Many of us see her regularly.

The concept of sinning against your conscience has gained popularity and acceptance in many circles. If you have no conscience, life is a free-for-all, but most of us do, so we have to periodically check in with it before we act. That’s where I am right now.

It all started with my Christmas gift from my husband: a laptop computer. I already have a desktop computer but it’s so riddled with viruses that I have to wear a mask when I use it. A few months ago, I thought it had crashed for good, but I turned it on anyway. I managed to coax it to life long enough to buy and install software that cleaned it up and promised to protect it from attack forever, or until my next payment was due. So, I was back in business, but it was a slow business. It worked, but it took forever to do anything. Then I got a laptop and my internal debate began.

You see, over the years, I had purchased software for my desktop computer and I didn’t want to have to re-purchase it for my laptop. I wanted to transfer everything from my aged desktop onto my laptop and dispose of the desktop. But, I had clicked “I Agree,” when I downloaded or uploaded the various softwares, and one of the things I had agreed to was that I would not transfer it to another device. By clicking “I Agree,” I had agreed, even though what they were asking me to agree to wasn’t fair. But if I didn’t, they wouldn’t have let me buy the software, and where would I be then? I would be without Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, Norton Security, and more. They kind of had me over a barrel.

Now I have to buy it again and I’m not happy about it. If I were going to keep the desktop, then I suppose it would be fair for them to charge me for additional software for my second computer. But I’m not. If I bought a couch when I lived at one house, the furniture company wouldn’t charge me for the couch again if I moved it to another house. I owned it outright. But software doesn’t work that way. I could start a petition, I suppose, but I think I’ll wait for someone more energetic to do it. All I want is my old software transferred to my new computer.

That’s another problem. I bought most of the software online, meaning it was downloaded onto my computer from the mist once I bought it. I should have gone to a store and purchased a disk so I could upload it willy nilly. But I don’t even know if disks are sold anymore. Due to my indolence, I prefer to click and buy. Now I’m paying the price.

So, back to my dilemma: do I download the software onto disks and then upload it onto my laptop (as if I could figure out how to do this!) or do I buy it again?  And while I’m at it, should I print out all of my Kindle books and have them bound at Staples? It annoys me that you can only lend your Kindle book to another Kindle owner if the author has granted permission for lending it. If you own an author’s hardcover or paperback book, you can lend it out to your heart’s content, as long as the lendee returns it (a shout-out to my sister-in-law).

Life was much simpler when you could see and touch things. If I walked into a store and walked out with a disk or a book I didn’t pay for, I wouldn’t have to confer with my conscience; it would be screaming at me (along with the store’s alarm). But when you’re dealing with merchandise that is invisible, sometimes it’s also hard to see the line between right and wrong.


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