Computer Twilight Zone

July 7, 2016
upsidedown
 What new hell is this??

I was happily composing a response to a client when, flicker … flip.

That’s right, FLIP!

My laptop display reappeared upside-down and backward, as if it had entered a da Vinci twilight zone.

  • Coffee … check.
  • Ground below, sky above … check

Don’t Panic!!

I hadn’t, to my knowledge, encountered a wormhole or stepped through a looking glass. And, no, the laptop shouldn’t have a rotating display. It’s a basic, 6 lb., sits on my desk, no touchscreen, laptop.

I picked up my netbook, turned it on, – breathed a huge sigh of relief when it opened in normal, landscape orientation – and Googled, ‘WTF? My laptop display is upside-down!

Alrighty then. According to the brain trusts at several fora, including HP and Microsoft, it’s a simple fix: Ctrl + Alt + up arrow.

Easier said than done! Have you ever tried to drive your mouse or use a touchpad in a carnival fun house? It was all catawampus!

I figured since I’m already left-handed and dyslexic, it would be easy(ish) to do. I failed to figure in that, although I write with my left hand, I use a mouse like a ‘normal’ right-handed person.

My poor, addled brain couldn’t quite master the inversion-conversion required to mouse upside-down and backward.

No worries; I’ve got this.

I picked up and flipped the laptop. Now the keyboard was upright and facing me and the display was on the desk.

Ctrl + Alt + up arrow. Flicker. Fixed.

NOT!

I was back in da Vinci land as soon as I clicked the mouse.

Back to the netbook. Oh, look, there’s a whole series of ‘thanks for nothing; it flipped back’ posts.

Well, isn’t that special?!?!

New fix:

  • Control Panel
  • Display Resolution
  • Landscape (not flipped)
  • Uncheck ‘Auto Rotate’
  • Apply
  • Pray

So far, so good. Still, it would be nice to know WTH happened in the first place!

And back to work I happily plod.

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Not Everything Your Read on Facebook is True

July 5, 2016

Reality check …

myth factEven if there were ANY truth to the recurring rumors (that’s right myths, BS, blatant nonsense) about Facebook  ‘going public’ or ‘charging for access’, or my all time favorite, that social media users have some right to protection under UCC-anything, do you honestly believe Facebook would be monitoring your pages for posts in which you attempt to invoke rights that you signed away as soon as you created your Facebook account???

Want to know more? Read my posts from November 2012:

Buy a clue people!!!

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#Sears Customer Disservice

July 3, 2016

In mid-June, I purchased a dishwasher and range from #SearsOutlet.com and a washer/dryer from #Sears.com.

It’s July 3rd and I’ve been in HELL for 3 days.

Apparently, there is no one stateside to handle ANY issues to do with #SearsOutlet.com, and far too few offshore call center people willing to release control of calls to US reps on the #Sears.com side.

Let’s start with #SearsOutlet.com … BEFORE committing to the purchase, I called customer disservice at 1-800-KillMeNow, TWICE about installation & haul away. In BOTH calls – placed on different days – I was ASSURED installation & haul away were included.

Yes, I verified that I was speaking with #SearsOutlet.com and asked whether delivery (and the, now confirmed, installation/haul away) charges were per item or location. I was told that if both items came from the same store, the fee would be split.

Thrilled with that bit of news – and no need to hire a contractor to uninstall/remove/haul away/install my dishwasher and range – I completed my purchase. According to the confirmation email, the delivery fee had been split (ergo, same store).

Two days later, I received the delivery scheduling call. The initial delivery date – more than a week away – conflicted with my schedule. I asked why so far out and was told the location only delivered on Fridays. Frustrated, I took a date another week out (July 1, 2016) and juggled my appointments.

I received a robocall the night before with the 2-hour window (8:00 am – 10:00 am). Well, the window closed with nary a peep. I had no recourse but to call 1-800-KillMeNow. It took over TWO hours of numerous transfers and interminable holds to connect with someone with a modicum of a clue. One reason for so many transfers was that the agents kept insisting I’d purchased only ONE item and it ‘was scheduled to be delivered’ that day. Dishwasher AND range EQUAL TWO ITEMS!!!

The customer disservice agent transferred me to the store manager. I was left on hold for 45 minutes during which I tried reaching the store directly from my cell phone. Despite the horrendous phone issues at the store, the store manager was incredibly patient and helpful. She confirmed “my” range was in the store (yes, marked sold to me) but that no delivery had ever been scheduled AND she had NO RECORD of my dishwasher!!

I pulled up the confirmation email and gave her the order/sales check numbers … nope, nothing! I emailed her my copy. Again, nothing. Oh, and HER store only delivers on Saturdays!! I admitted my confusion because I’d been told the store only delivers on Fridays!

She contacted her delivery driver and arranged for my range to be delivered Saturday. In the meantime, she checked her stock, found ‘my’ dishwasher, and offered, if my actual order could not be found, to send it along. She kept digging and I kept fuming – I’d now given almost 4 hours of my life to this crap.

While I waited to hear back, I received a call from a driver ‘with my delivery’. What delivery? ‘Your dishwasher, ma’am.’ I asked if they were coming from the Marietta store (because, I’d ordered BOTH items from the Marietta location), they said no.

Curiouser & curioser!

A few minutes later the store manager called back – she’d turned over every stone she could find and came up empty. I told her about the call and we laughed in disbelief. She asked me to call after delivery to confirm I’d received the dishwasher.

They arrived with the dishwasher and summarily dumped it, box and all, in the middle of my kitchen floor.

WHOA!  What about installation & takeaway??

Oh, no um, we just deliver. UGH!! That’s not what I signed up for!!! Frustrated, I checked the box … it was the WRONG dishwasher! They sent stainless; I ordered white! I refused delivery and sent them on their merry way.

I emailed the store manager while calling the KillMeNow number to resolve (it is to laugh) the installation & takeaway issue and make sure I didn’t get charged twice for a dishwasher.

Another TWO hours shot to hell!

Customer disservice lived up to its reputation … a lot of doublespeak punctuated by “Okay!” – to the extent that it made my teeth hurt – including a transfer (finally) to a US-based agent who told me to ‘be concise because [he] didn’t have time for long stories’ and subsequently hung up on me when I responded, out of justifiable frustration, ‘Well, aren’t you special.”

Meanwhile, the store manager called me back and I could hear her shaking her head disbelief. We decided it would be best to accept delivery from her store and ask the delivery folk if they’d complete the installation. As a courtesy, she said she’d include the parts for installation.

During the entirety of that call, I was on hold with the brain trust at KillMeNow.

I finally got to a mostly helpful agent and described the tsuris of the day, including the installation problem. She was appalled that I’d been so thoroughly misinformed, offered me a ‘for your trouble’ credit, and transferred me (again, hold-hell) to the #SearsOutlet.com delivery & installation people. They quoted me the (oh, so reasonable <sarcasm>) price of $379.99 for installation and takeaway … almost HALF the cost of my purchase!!

Thank you, no!

Seriously, why would I voluntarily put myself in this hell when I could have easily avoided the additional cost and loss of brain cells with a few calls to friends and a local contractor??

They delivered the dishwasher and range – they installed the range, but my dishwasher is still boxed up in my garage. I contend that #Sears should send someone over – at their cost, NOT mine – to install the dishwasher and remove the old one.

But wait!! There’s more!

I reviewed the confirmation emails for my #Sears.com purchases and discovered a glaring discrepancy that could very well lead to a class action against #Sears!

On the same day as the #SearsOutlet.com purchases. I purchased (in two separate transactions) a washer and dryer. Several coupons, discounts, and free shipping/installation applied to each purchase with the option for haul away at $25/item.

Problem?

The numbers on the confirmation email send by #Sears don’t add up. I did the math independently for each purchase and it would appear that I was charged for delivery. Naturally, I called #Sears credit to dispute the discrepancy and was transferred to a ‘manager’ at #Sears.com in NOT the USA!!

I have just spent another TWO hours being told that I am incapable of reading a cost breakdown and that they will happily send me a ‘corrected’ confirmation IN THEIR FAVOR.

Here is the breakdown for the washer … you do the math!

summary

By my calculations, BASED ON INFORMATION GENERATED BY #SEARS, I have been overcharged by $69.99. The same math and overcharge applies to the dryer.

Mind you, these numbers come directly from the confirmation email. The so-called supervisor at customer disservice spent TWO hours trying to convince me that the email I have in my pretty little hands is wrong …

Are you kidding me??

There are so many things wrong with the treatment I’ve received by what #Sears considers to be customer care. I’ve been misinformed at several levels, wasted valuable time, killed off needed brain cells, and been overcharged as a result of creative accounting.

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Things That Make My Work Easier

June 2, 2016

In May 2014, I posted a review of one of the best tools to ever cross my desk – WordRake. I meant to post an updated review in May 2015, but … the Texas floods happened.

You’re asking, what it this WordRake of which you speak?

It’s a software add-in for Microsoft Word and Outlook that acts as an ‘in-line editor designed for professional business writing.’

“WordRake is designed to edit documents and emails to remove useless phrases and words, making your documents and emails clear and concise.” Take the sentence below. The original was composed in perfect legalese, but the raked version is much easier to read and presents a stronger argument.2016-06-02_15-19-21

I write a lot – pleadings, memoranda, correspondence, and more for my clients; magazine articles; my blog; training materials; and homework*. After a week of ‘raking’, I discovered I use ‘that’ a lot more than necessary. WordRake clarified my thoughts without changing my voice.

It’s so easy to use – highlight and rake. Within a minute or so, WordRake scans the document and provides suggested edits. All that’s left is to review the suggestions and decide whether to accept or reject them. I am still surprised by how much unnecessary and cumbersome language it finds in my writing. Bottom line, WordRake continues to make me a better writer.

Click below to see WordRake in action:

Sign up for a free trial today (no credit card required). You’ll be hooked.

* I finally graduated!! On May 13, 2016, I earned the right to add MATD (Master of Arts in Training & Development) to my credentials.

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Makes Sense to Me

May 18, 2016

I’ve always known there was a correlation …

Idiots cause stress. Stress causes depression. Depression causes physical ailments. Conclusion: Stupid people make me sick.

www.facebook.com/ShutUpImStillTalking/

 

 

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banging.head.on.desk.

April 26, 2016

13062434_10156649506745478_706136942722605158_n

The phone rings … intelligent sounding idjit just wants to ask me a quick question. Ugh!! I give my standard response – ‘… we only work with attorneys …’.

Idjit replies, ‘ … but it’s just a question. Is there someone there that can answer a question for me? I don’t want to have to have to pay anyone for a consultation or anything …”

ARE YOU FARKING KIDDING ME??!!

‘Sir, that’s how we make our living’ <he cuts me off> “No. You make your living in court.’

I repeat,  ARE YOU FARKING KIDDING ME??!!

“I don’t make my living in court. I make my living by providing paralegal support TO ATTORNEYS, not the public. I answer questions from attorneys. I’m a PARALEGAL. I don’t answer questions from the public because they are usually questions of law and I’M NOT LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW.”

Idjit: “Well, I know laws are different for paralegals in different states …”

I visualize a thought bubble over my head:

1. You’re calling from Georgia.
2. I’m in Georgia.
3. Georgia limits the services paralegals provide to the public.
4. IDJIT!

“Sir, paralegals are NEVER licensed to practice law. Attorneys go to law school and pass the bar so they can answer legal questions and give legal advice. I didn’t go to law school or take the bar and I choose to provide my services to attorneys that PAY ME for my time and expertise.”

Idjit: ‘Oh, uh, but …’

“Now you want me to violate my principles and possibly break the law AND you want me to do it for free?!?!? Would you call a random doctor or nurse to ask a medical question and not expect pay for their services?”

Idjit: ‘Yeah, because the hospital and insurance companies pay them …’

Oy! For the love of …
<I’ve now successfully burned 1000 calories>

The rest of the conversation is a blur … I think he broke my brain.

 

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You Can’t Stop Stupid

April 19, 2016

I’m still anxiously watching weather reports from Houston … it’s really not the day to mess wif me! <Mah nishtana hayom hazeh?>  But you can’t stop stupid.

My business phone rings – ‘unknown caller’. I sense a disturbance in the Force and answer with trepidation.

“StarrParalegals; this is Pamela Starr. How may I help you?”

stoopid peopleCaller: ‘Uh, yeah, uh. Can you help me to uh …’

Me: “No sir. We only work with attorneys.”

Come on people. I don’t need to be a Jedi master to identify a caller as a member of the ‘public’.

The line goes dead. Moments later, the phone rings again – same number. Oh, really? 

The stoopid is strong in this one.

“StarrParalegals; this is Pamela Starr. How may I help you?”

Caller: ‘Uh, yeah. I just called. I need help with a, a Georgia corpor… incorporation. Is that …’

Me: “Sir.  We only work with attorneys. It states that quite clearly in Google search results and on our website.”

Caller: ‘Yeah. Uh. Uh. Right. Uh, I’m a [sic] attorney in South Georgia <yeah, that’s the ticket!>. Can you help me?’

I’m not buying it. After 30 years in the business, 9 on my own, my lawdar is pretty good.

Me: “May I have your name?”
It’s a reasonable request. Right?

Caller: ‘<grumble> unintelligible comments to someone in the background … giving me the <expletive> runaround!’ <dead air>

REALLY?!? Asking for your name is ‘giving you the runaround’? 

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Oof! A Monday of Mondays

April 19, 2016
2016Flood

That’s the edge of mom’s back patio, not a pool deck!

April 18, 2016 was challenging. Houston was hit by storms of biblical proportions – again . My hometown has been declared a disaster area. It hasn’t even been a year since the ‘2015 Memorial Day Flood’.

Mom’s home flooded last year – a first in the 50ish years my family has owned the house … a first for so many homes and businesses in southwest Houston. My hometown is still reeling from the after effects of that storm. Today, the water came this close to coming into mom’s home. Many friends haven’t been as lucky and the rains are set to come back again.

And I’m #HelplessInAtlanta following posts as the waters rise and recede. I keep scrolling through FB posts – a devastating earthquake in Ecuador and some <insert expletives in several languages> sstandwithisraelorry excuses for humanity bombed an Egged bus in Jerusalem. #IStandWithIsrael

 

 

 

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Yum! Brisket …

April 15, 2016

I’m taking a break from Passover Kitchen Tetris* to share ‘my’ brisket recipe … Why? Because folks have been asking – duh!

‘My’ recipe is a modification of Mom’s / Mema’s brisket. First, you have to understand that Mom is the ‘Queen of One Dish Prep’ and a founding member of the ‘Who Needs Recipes?’ movement.

Face it, we’re all busy little worker bees with far too much to do, and never enough time. On top of that, I have a lovely, Lilliputian kitchen that has barely enough room for one cook. My only prep area is the counter above the dishwasher. And, I keep a kosher home. Two sets of everything (cookware, serveware, dishes, glasses, flatware, small appliances) – one for meat, and  another for dairy, PLUS a set for ‘neither’. Mom’s one-dish wonders help me maximize prep space and cooking areas.

I should mention that no one in my family ever learned to cook for just one or two people at a time? All our family recipes generate enough leftovers for several rounds of Freezer Tetris.

PassoverCar

But on Pesach: mah nishtana hayom / halayla hazeh?? Why is this day/night different from all other nights?

I’ll ‘splain you … Everything in my kitchen will have to be moved or ‘sold’ and replaced with its ‘kosher for Passover’ counterpart. Think of it as spring cleaning on steroids. Not only do I have to ‘flip’ my kitchen, I literally have to pour boiling water on every surface before I can bring in all the pesadik stuff.

But I digress …

Are you ready? Remember, in my family, there are no measurements, weights, or numbers – it’s all ‘to taste’, or ‘that looks about right’.

Ingredients:

brisket (with just enough fat)
potatoes
onion(s)
carrot(s)
celery
mushrooms
kishka (yep, I found a kosher l’pesach kishka!!)
orange marmalade (no corn syrup)
horseradish
dry onion (& mushroom soup)
purple wine (Manischewitz Concord Grape)
water
extra large (foil) roasting pan
large, sturdy cookie sheet
lots of foil

  • Wrap the cookie sheet with foil
  • Place roasting pan ON cookie sheet
  • Rub brisket with horseradish & marmalade and place in roasting pan
  • Toss in everything but the liquids & soup(s)
              Nu? You thought I was kidding about Mom’s process?
              Fine … cut, chop, do whatever makes you happy with the cuttable ingredients
  • Pour dry soup(s) over the top
  • Pour several glug-glugs of wine and about ‘that much water’ over the top
    No, I can’t tell you how much water. You need ‘enough’ …
    Me? Enough for gravy/onion soup in the pan after removing all the cooked ingredients.
  • Heat oven to 250 degrees
  • Cover roasting pan with foil and make sure it’s sealed real good
  • Pick up cookie sheet/roasting pan combo and place in oven
  • Go do something else for the next several hours
    Have a nice schluff -
  • Brisket’s done when the house smells amazing
  • Take the brisket out of the oven … USE THE COOKIE SHEET to pick it up!

Presentation is on you –

brisket

Chag sameach v’kasher! B’tay avon!!

 

* My Jewish followers will understand ;) 

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Why, Oh Why Won’t They Pay?

October 29, 2015

I am a true solo – it’s just me and two cats. No husband, boyfriend, or significant other to assist with the bills (or anything else in my life). I work in my unfinished basement at a beautiful desk donated by my friend and mentor, Lyza Sandgren. My walls and ceilings are exposed studs; my floor, concrete. But for the island that is my desk and the leftover carpeting on the floor, I am surrounded by storage boxes, the water heater, and furnace. With no walls, I have no place to hang my diplomas, certificates, or other office decor.

Let me clarify, I’m not complaining. I chose this life and I love what I do as a professional virtual paralegal. There is nothing to compare to the flexibility of grabbing my laptop and being productive – anywhere. The only thing I miss about working in a brick-and-mortar law office would be the steady paycheck … okay, fine, I miss having a full benefits package.

To stay in business (and keep the bills paid), I rely on my clients to pay me timely and in full. To paraphrase Blanche DuBois (A Streetcar Named Desire), ‘I depend on the kindness of strangers.’ I’ve never actually met 95% of my clients in real life. Most of my clients find me through social media and referrals, and occasionally from a professional listserv in which I participate.

The attorneys I ‘know’ from my interactions on Facebook, LinkedIn, or the listserv are hardly strangers. These are people with whom I have had several intelligent (and sometimes silly) interactions. So when one of them contacts me for a one-time gig, I sometimes rely on email confirmations to seal our agreement.

Attorneys will kvetch, until they’re purple, about clients who fail to pay their bills on time. The same attorneys, also insist upon a retainer or prepayment before they’ll work on a file. However in the bizarro world in which I work as a virtual paralegal, they will huff and puff about providing me with the same courtesy.

This year alone, I’ve had two attorney clients – with contracts – fight me tooth and nail over my invoices. If it weren’t for my own bottom line, it would almost be comical how they try to wiggle out of their contractual obligations. Seriously people, I have better things to do with my time and energy than fight with anyone about payment.

It is basic business practice – you hire me to work, we agree on a fee, I complete the assignment, send you a bill, and you freaking pay me. It’s all paint by numbers. Isn’t it?

I’m currently chasing after a 3rd attorney for payment of my duly earned fees – a non-contracted attorney client that hired me in May for a one time gig. As a courtesy, I offered him the “friends and family” discount because I know him from the listserv. We agreed on a fee; I completed the work promptly; and at the end of the month I sent him an invoice.

His response to thyosemite same invoice was, “I will forward payment once the client pays me.” AND he addressed me as Pam in his responsive email… the horror!

Since we didn’t have a formal contract in place, I didn’t hold him to my net 30-day payment clause. I did, however, admonish him for calling me Pam.

On July 1st, I sent him a ’friendly’ reminder email with another copy of the invoice. Four days later he responded, “The issue is still open.” In my head I went full-on Yosemite Sam – after all, the original invoice was only for about $200.

For those of you who follow this blog, you know my summer did not begin well. My mom’s home, in Houston, flooded on May 26, 2015. I’ve spent the greater part of the last several months at her side. The folks on the listserv are more than well aware of some of the more significant issues with which I had to deal because of the impact of the flooding. The least of which has been the impact on my finances and business.

I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to avoid using the flood as a crutch. It seems unprofessional for me to invoke my circumstances to impart guilt on those who refuse to pay me timely.

When it came time to send out the July bills at the beginning of August, I reversed the discount and made demand for payment within 15 days, reminding him I too expect timely payment for services rendered. His response, “And I have yet to be paid by the client, as they hit some snags. We anticipate closing 9/1.” AND he called me Pam again!

I immediately responded with a gentle reminder that I prefer Pamela to Pam, and, much to my embarrassment, I invoked the flood.

Yosemite Sam was having an old-fashioned cussin’ party in my head. It’s not nearly as funny as it may sound.

I rationalized it. I’d give him until September 1 to make good on the invoice. The reminder went out on September 2nd.

<crickets>

He couldn’t be bothered to send a response.

On October 1st, I reiterated my demand for payment in full. I even used bold, red 18-point font followed by a lot of exclamation points.

<more crickets>

October is almost over and I’m still waiting for payment of, what most might consider, a measly $225.

Remember, I’m a true solo. That $225 represents round-trip airfare back home to Houston to help my mom. Ethics, and my personal moral compass, prohibit me from outing him by name, location, or area of practice either here or on the listserv. It would cost me more than what I’m owed to sue him. I have few options, but venting to you, my loyal followers, helps.

In the meantime, I’ll go back into the invoice and assess interest charges and on November 1st, I’ll send him the updated invoice and demand for payment.

And on that happy note, I’ll get back to working for the clients who appreciate and pay me.

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