First of the new year

I see I haven’t been keeping up with the blog part of this site. I’ve been keeping busy with clients, most of whom have been repeat clients, but I have to admit that work has for the most part not been as intense as I had been hoping it would be. The lack of work has not really been a problem, since I have had other things to keep me busy, but I do wonder a little what the Spring will be like. Here’s hoping for a little more work – I need to save up some money!

Still surprisingly busy and school’s about to start

The past couple of days have been quiet, but the previous three or four weeks have been surprisingly busy.  The work has varied – on Monday, I helped my favorite client review the slides for his dissertation defense.  As always, he had done a good job, and it only really needed some re-organization and some relatively minor revising.  He is going to defend soon, then move west to be with his significant other.  I will miss working with him but he will do well in whatever he chooses…

Another client project requiring edits in Adobe Acrobat came up.  I grew weary of doing the same edit repetitively and did a google search to see whether any of the tasks could be worked up into a macro of some sort.  Unfortunately, I found that although Acrobat does have macro capabilities they are focused on file processing not internal file edits.  I know that the way that I am using Acrobat to edit clients’ files is a little unorthodox, so this does not bother me as much as it might otherwise.  But I do wish that Acrobat offered more options !

For that project, I also tried Acrobat’s find and replace function – but unfortunately, due to the way that the client had created the file, it was composed of text boxes that were not continuous (picture a 106-page document composed of boxes surrounding the individual paragraphs), so Acrobat could not be very helpful there, either.  I tried searching online for options or ways to do a find and replace between text boxes, but did not find anything useful.

Fortunately, the work was easy enough that persistence was the only real requirement to get the work done.

Now that I am in-between clients, I think I am going to rest and relax and recreate so that I’m ready for the next surge of clients….

Putting up advertising flyers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As I mentioned in my last post, this week has been busy.

Today I also went to UNC’s School of Public Health, School of Medicine, and the Dental School to post flyers advertising my services.  I had planned to go to two other locations on the UNC campus as well, but I ran out of flyers at the Dental School, so I returned home.  Very clearly I underestimated the number of usable bulletin boards at the Schools – I had printed 16 copies of the flyer, and I had thought that that would be enough for 3 schools and 2 libraries.  I would blame the Medical School for the lack of flyers – they have at least two bulletin boards on each of their four main floors – but the School of Public Health has nearly as many places to post flyers and no-one forced me to post a flyer on any particular bulletin board.

I shall print more flyers and return soon to post flyers at the School of Nursing and the two libraries I missed today.

After that, I will wait to see if anyone contacts me because they saw a flyer – I suspect that the flyers will not be as effective as my posting on the UNC Writing Center’s Help-for-Hire webpage has been, but the old adage of “leave no stone unturned” is still a good one.

Editing PowerPoint slides

This week has been busy.

Yesterday, I met with a client to review a paper on community water systems – we ended the meeting in good spirits, he was off to do some final polishing then he was going to send the paper to his advisor.

I headed home to await the arrival of some PowerPoint slides from another client.   Since PowerPoint does not allow Track Changes, this was another fun challenge – how to mark up the slides?  The client I had met with suggested using fonts of different colors and/or different sizes and/or highlighting using italics and bolding.  I decided to try another approach this time, and use his suggested approach at a future time.  The method I used was to create a PDF of the slides, one slide to a page, then to use Acrobat to mark up the PDF copy.  Doing it this way worked like a charm – not only did I not have to worry about text positioning on the original slides, but this method allowed me to use skills that I had already developed earlier for use with PDF files.  I was very happy that the work went quickly and smoothly, since the client had sent me the slides yesterday evening and needed the edited version back ASAP (she had a deadline today of 3pm).

Amazing what one can do to make one’s work easier and more efficient…

Summer is not a quiet time

I had been thinking back in the early part of May that, with most university students gone home for the summer break, it would be a quiet time in which I could catch up on projects of my own as well as relax and focus on exercising more.  I was completely and (possibly)  fortuitously wrong – no fewer than 13 individuals have contacted me since the start of May, and, of those, 10 (77%) have actually sent me work to do. One of these days I will stop trying to predict the future without at least some data as a basis for the foretelling…

Editing dissertation chapters in Acrobat

I’m really glad I spent the money I did on Adobe Acrobat, because occasionally I get a project that must be edited in PDF format.  Case in point – currently, I’m editing two chapters of a client’s dissertation.   The dissertation’s focus is on the optimization of approaches to risk factor selection in multivariable logistic regression or survival analysis (Cox proportional hazards models).  The chapters can’t be edited in Word because there are equations embedded in the text and Word has problems with the characters that make up the equations.  (The client I mentioned whose work is on water quality also faces this challenge – every so often, Word mis-represents the equations in his dissertation as collections of really weird characters.)  It’s a bit challenging to edit in Acrobat because it’s not exactly designed to do this – but it has the tools to add comments, insert text, mark text with strikeout font, etc.  So I can mark up the chapters with the necessary corrections without having to print the document and subsequently scan it back into PDF – and this also gives me the bonus feature of not having to hand-write corrections (my handwriting is not always legible).  The document is 52 pages long and there have been some very challenging pages (ones where the white background of the document is now very red-tinged), but I think I’ll be able to finish the work today or tomorrow.

Working with a client in person

On Tuesday of last week, I met with a client to work on a paper that is part of his dissertation.  I really like working with this client – he’s smart, knowledgeable, practical and is more than willing to defend his ideas.  He is also facing a very large challenge in writing his dissertation – he is severely dyslexic.  But, as many people with physical or mental challenges do, he has adapted several tools to help him deal with his dyslexia.  For example, he very actively uses Word’s spell check function whenever Word suggests that a word is not spelled correctly – and he picks the correct spelling for the word and replaces the word he typed, usually faster than I can suggest the correct spelling.  (I’ve learned while working with him to wait to make sure he is not going to correct the word himself before suggesting the correct spelling.)  Consequently, I suspect his writing is not slowed very much, which is very impressive…  And his dissertation is about water quality in a neighboring state, with impressively-difficult mathematical models requiring a careful and methodical focus on every detail.  When he successfully defends his dissertation, he will more than have earned it !