Friday, February 24, 2017

Lost All My Stuff (but got it all back... mostly).

It's not very often I feel vindicated in my preparedness. You know how it is: You create at method of doing things that you're pretty sure will work, then the one day you need to use it, everything goes haywire and you lose... Well, everything.

I never use the hard drive (typically the "C:" drive) on my computer for anything more than running programs. I keep an external hard drive for all of my files. I find this method to be useful because it allows me to tweak and even replace my primary hard drive without having to deal with backing up and recovering data. It's also a great way to move data between computers without having to keep duplicate hard drives. I have all of my essential data on one of these drives.

Anyone with any longtime experience with computers can probably see where this post is going.

So, yesterday I plugged in that external drive into my Surface Pro to upload some data on-the-go, but rather than the normal file system the drive was showing up as "RAW," and subsequently I was informed by Windows that the file system was corrupted and that the drive partition was unreadable. 

"No problem," I thought, "Checkdisk will fix this issue." So I opened an administrator-level command prompt and keyed in the much-practiced "chkdsk /f e:" to run one of the most useful Windows programs that for some reason still doesn't have a windowed version. It was a 2 terabyte hard drive, so the program took a while to do its thing.

chkdsk: My bitter friend for the last 20 years

After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, the drive was repaired, and I opened it to find... The default Seagate applications and absolutely nothing else. 1.7 terabytes of data. Virtually everything I had ever made, edited, or created, just... Gone.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking: "You stupid newbie! Why would you put all of your info on a single, volatile drive?"

Well, first of all, that's rude! Secondly, this story has a happy ending. You see, some months ago, I devised a method of preserving my data. In the old days I would muck about with multiple hard drives just trying to fit everything in different spaces, trying to think about what data was important and what data to back up. As these smaller drives inevitably failed I would lose old data.

Now, I can't afford (nor do I have the DSL bandwidth to support) a fancy cloud backup service, which would be ideal in this situation. I also don't really have the room for a full-sized file server (or the money to power such a thing, or the time to secure it on my rather pathetic home network). Instead, what I do have are two external 4 terabyte Western Digital drives that are slow, big, require an external power source, and not very portable. They are also identical in every way that matters, and by default Windows won't even recognize them as different drives (if I have them plugged in at the same time there is a conflict in the drive manager). At first, I thought that I might set up a RAID array using these drives as clones to backup essential data, but I actually came up with a better solution.

Rather than change the drive configurations, I left them as they were. I set my system up to back up and encrypt the 2TB drive to the 4TB drive every week during off-hours. This means that as long as I leave the computer on overnight one one of those days, all the data from the 2TB (my data drive) gets copied to the 4TB backup drive.

After this backup occurs, I turn off the computer (I don't want to risk hot-swapping this if I don't have to), and then switch the 4TB drive with its twin, then I put the drive with the most recent back-up in a case and store it in a remote location. I turn the computer on, and it doesn't realize the drives were even swapped, meaning that it will go through its backup procedure again when the week is up. Wash, repeat.

How well does this work? Well, overnight I was able to recover more than 99% of my data, and even though I lost the work I did this week, it was nothing essential. I'm extremely happy with the results, and feel even more secure knowing that as long as at least one of these three drives exists and works, my data will be preserved until I can back it up again.

Score one for anal-retentiveness!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Have an Online Portfolio (finally)

My portfolio site is up and running. It's not really much right now, but it does feature (a fair few) designs from my time with CJ's Home Decor & Fireplaces. I'm adding more as I go, so if you have the time, check it out:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Maybe it's (very well formatted) spam?

Negativity 101

So today I received the following email:

Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 10:07 AM
Subject: Benefits Consultant Position

Hello Michael,

My name is (Name Withheld), and I am the Marketing Director for (Company Name Withheld) in Western PA. I came across your resume online, and I'd like to talk with you about some job openings within our company. I would also like to learn more about your professional experience and future goals. Whether you are actively employed or still looking, I'm confident there is a position within our organization for someone with your skill set.

The current changes in the healthcare marketplace in America have created tremendous opportunities for (Company Name Withheld). We are seeking individuals who are self-motivated, goal-oriented, and who have a desire to be part of a successful team with a great culture.

Although a career with (Company Name Withheld) may not be something you've considered before, we have had great success with candidates like yourself. We would welcome the opportunity to educate you on a career with (Company Name Withheld). Do not be deterred from applying if you do not have substantial marketing experience. Our associates hold a wide variety of degrees and experience, from Education and Finance to the Military and the Restaurant industry. Regardless of your particular field or expertise, a strong work ethic and desire to succeed are most important to (Company Name Withheld).

We will be conducting interviews in the next week. If you would like to discuss this opportunity further simply (Link) OR copy and paste this (Other Link) to apply today by submitting your updated resume.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Best regards,
(Name Withheld)
Marketing Director

Now, at first it seems like spam, but it was so well written and designed to prey on my ego that I felt it deserved a response.

Hello Mr. (Name Withheld):

It was great to hear from you!

I don't want to seem too forward, but there seems to be some sort of mistake in your e-mail. The link for the job you're posting is to a "Benefits Consultant," which I take to mean is a liaison between management and businesses interested in purchasing group insurance (or perhaps individuals, I'm not sure). I don't know what led you to think that I am qualified for this position, as I have never worked in sales and my (few) customer service jobs have been dismal failures because of my aloof disposition and my shy personality. I mean, I could be wrong about the job, but that's what my Google search turned up.

I'm curious why you would think that someone with professional experience almost exclusive to graphic design, technical manuals, and video production is a good fit for such a position, because as near as I can tell there is virtually no correlation between the two. Don't get me wrong: I like what I do, and I have little interest in switching gears to focus on work that I have no affinity for or interest in, so I would love to hear how this job that you want me to interview for is connected!

Please, let me know how my video editing skills and knowledge of various graphic design software suites can help your company. Is "Benefits Consultant" a code-word for Graphic Designer or Technical Writer? Because that seems exciting. I am including a copy of my resume so that you can peruse it and let me know how my skill set somehow translates to this job so that I can prepare for the actual application process.

Thank you for thinking of me,
Michael R. Adams

Yes, it is exactly this kind of poor attitude and smart-assery that gets me in trouble at the jobs I do work (and probably a reason I have so few friends), but I've been making an honest effort to be straightforward with employers about what I'm looking for, and instead of genuine interest I am treated to a near constant barrage of temp agencies and corporate headhunters desperate to fill some sort of random quota because all of their dejected and miserable customer service reps keep quitting out of (I assume) frustration.

You have to have certain disposition in order to do these sort of jobs, and while I have done these jobs in the past, I simply don't have the disposition for it, and as I get older I find that I have far less interest in selling myself out for these positions. I know what I'm good at, I know the kinds of things I want to do, all I want is a chance to do it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Updated At Last!

Two years?!

Wow, it really has been almost two years since I posted anything to this site. I wish that I could say that I'm starting it up again under better circumstances, but the reality is that I was recently laid off of my job after nearly five years of steady employment, and I need to begin posting things that are beneficial to my job search.
And to that end, I am going to try to keep this blog focused on portfolio building and showcasing past projects. I can't guarantee that it will be updated as much as it should, but I will try to update it as much as I can.
Let me start off by posting a rough copy of my creative resume, formatted in HTML:



Multi-skilled digital artist who is used to working on a tight budget in a constrained time frame to produce works across several media formats. Possesses a working knowledge of vector art and photo editing software suites and animation techniques. Applies editing and photo-manipulation skills to instructional materials, advertisements, and infographics.
Core competencies include: Digital image manipulation, vector images, 3D model creation and rendering, 2D technical drawings, motion graphics, graphics for the web, and informational diagrams.


CJ's Home Decor & Fireplaces, LLC

Warren, PA
One of the largest online retailers of fireplace doors, home heating appliances, and outdoor fire pits and fire features for both private, public, and commercial applications.
Web Maintenance, Technical Writer, and Media Designer
Builds content for product web pages including marketing text and images. Researches and creates instruction manuals for products sold under the store brand. Films and edits video content for commercials, product features, and instructional (“how to”) videos. Helps to maintain social media accounts. Adds new product content and changes pricing as requested by management.
  • Wrote and drew a series of web guides that helped to reduce customer mistakes (and as a result, returns)
  • Scripted, filmed, and edited a series of instructional and commercial videos to improve customer interaction
  • Designed a series of daily product features for social media accounts that improved website traffic by about 25%

Bossa Nova Robotics

Pittsburgh, PA
A company that licenses cutting-edge robotics technology and implements it into products for the everyday consumer.
Technical Writer via Contract
Researches and analyzes core market demographics. Writes and edits proposals for business partnerships. Develops instruction manuals for consumers and technical manuals for engineers. Creates flow charts and diagrams for robot artificial intelligence. Works with the marketing department to develop commercial content and trade show scripts.
  • Wrote working scripts and developed animations for trade show demonstrations
  • Helped to cement a business partnership between Bossa Nova and Schell Games for online content
  • Overhauled the manuals of several existing lines of toys
  • Conducted market research and maintained an informational library on competing products


Studied Game Art & Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, PA from 2003-2006
Graduated with a certificate in Electronics from Warren Vocational-Technical schools from 1991-1993


Advanced knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite CC (Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Premiere, After Effects, Animate, and Audition), Corel Suite (Corel Draw, Photopaint, VideoStudio), 3D modeling and procedural texturing using 3D Studio Max and Blender 3D, Office software (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe InDesign, OpenOffice and LibreOffice).
Some experience with database management (Sage ACT!, MySQL) and online scripting (HTML, XML, CSS, and Javascript).