Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's a Birthday!

I took Thursday and Friday off work so I would have a 4-day weekend. Friday was my birthday!! Yay, happy birthday me! It was a semi-big one, too (35), but it's just a number.

So, Thursday they were calling for snow and wind. Yes, again. Not much snow, but winds up to 45mph. Sound familiar? However, they screwed up again and we didn't get any snow, just blue skies.

Friday, however, we got snow and the heavy winds. The house was creaking, and I kind of wished for the non-creaky heavy brick buildings that I went through the last wind storm in at work.

I did some laundry yesterday, and then I made orange marmalade since there are some fantastic oranges in the stores right now. I got 4 1-cup jars, 3 half-cup jars, and almost a full pint. The pint is in the fridge, everything else is waiting to be dated and moved to the basement.

Matt was on call yesterday, so we didn't have any plans. Today, though, we are headed to Harrisburg for a green living faire and then to a restaurant. I'm not sure yet where we're going, but I'll let you know.

I've been lax on posting to my blogs. I'm on the computer all day, the last thing I want to do when I come home from work is get on the computer again. I will try to be better about this. Look for some seed ordering posts on my garden blog, and I have a Max post coming up here sometime this week. He has a new lady in his life. He hates her. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Applying For Fed Jobs (is) For Dummies

I think a few of you are privy to the information that I have been applying for fed jobs. It is a screwed-up system, seriously very screwed up, and I wanted to vent a bit while educating the mass population on exactly how screwed up it is.

Fed Job Basics: Federal jobs are ranked with a GS level, or grade. I think they run from GS-1 through GS-15(?). I’ve never seen a GS-1, and I have no idea what kind of position that would be. A GS-5 is considered an after-college grade. You are qualified with a 4-year college degree and no other work history. A Ph.D. qualifies you for a GS-11.

You can also gain experience to rank as these levels, too, so you don’t HAVE to have the degrees to get them. Education really isn’t counted for much. And it depends on the job. For example, a normal librarian job requires an MLS, but if the Library of Congress needed someone in a librarian position that was fluent in Farsi, and I happened to have the necessary experience, I would be qualified for the job regardless of the degree.

Jobs are usually listed as multi-grades, for example GS-5/6/7. So, you can apply for the 5 OR the 6 OR the 7. OR, and this is the kicker…..YOU CAN APPLY FOR ALL THREE. Seriously, so you have three shots for the same job.

Even better, if you are already a federal employee, you can apply for all three as a federal employee AND you can apply for all three as a ‘civilian,’ so you would have SIX shots for one position.

How messed up is that??

Resumes: For a regular job, you send in a cover letter, a 1-page resume, and possibly a list of references. Then you hold your breath and wait. Usually they call only if they are interested.

Federal jobs are almost entirely online fill-in-forms application now, so no cover letters (thank god, I hate them so much). Also, a ‘federal resume’ is a different animal than a regular resume. You have to put the last 10 years (at least) of your work history so the resume is several pages long.

KSAs: The absolute worst part of applying for federal jobs is writing out the KSAs. KSAs stand for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (examples here). The job posting will have a list of KSAs that are required for the job, and you have to write an essay about how your experience fits the KSA in question. It is such a pain in the ass, but it is SO important. They grade the KSAs out of 100pts, and you must score at least a 70pts to move on to the next level. Each KSA is weighted differently, so if you have 4 KSAs to write you can’t assume they are each worth 25pts. One might be worth 50pts and if you screw it up then you’re done. And if for some reason you just decide not to do the KSA section you might as well throw the rest of your application in the trash because that is where it will wind up when they receive it unfinished.

So, for example, in the job I just applied for they wanted the following:

  • Ability to use Microsoft Office software systems.
  • Knowledge of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and standard office formats.
  • Ability to independently gather and maintain information for briefings, presentations, and reports.
  • Ability to apply judgment in coordinating competing and short deadline requirements.

(Sometimes they don’t make sense. One I came across said: "Ability to manage workload in order to provide completed staff work." What the hell does that mean?)

So, I had to write a cheerleader-like 1-page description of how my experience fits each of those. That is one page EACH.

KSAs make or break an application. They are incredibly important. There are firms you can hire to write your KSAs for you. They charge a LOT of money.

Application Process: All fed jobs are advertised on That’s great and everything, but each agency apparently has a different application management site that only they use, and they’re not all user-friendly to, so that nice, tight resume you slaved over will not transfer to the individual agency's system and for some reason you cannot copy and paste it to the new site.

So. That’s it in a nutshell. Fortunately, I have a friend on campus that used to work in Personnel, so he’s been coaching me a bit on the ins and outs of the system. Hopefully it pays off.

There was a really interesting article in Federal Times recently about the new DHS hiring system. One of the things they say in the article is that with the way the system is now you’re not getting people who are the best choice for the job. You’re instead getting people who REALLY want a fed job and are willing to go through the crap to get it. The people who were the best choice bailed on the process a loooong time ago. I can see that, it is an incredibly stupid system. But I’d like to think I’m a bit of both: a good choice and someone who really wants a fed job. In reality, I’d like to think I’m a good choice, and I’m also someone who really wants out of her present situation. Time to move on…way WAY past time to move on.

The benefits: These speak for themselves. We’d have something like 20 choices for health insurance, some better than others. Matt and I could start an inexpensive long-term care insurance plan in case one of us might need it in the future, and it is also available for my parents if they want it. Life insurance, too.

My minimum retirement age under the federal system is 57 (based on the year I was born). If I got a fed job by the time I’m 37, I’d get 20 years of service by the time I’m 57, which would give me some sort of monthly benefit for the rest of my life.

PS: one of the funniest things I’ve seen on a local fed job is the ‘Work Environment’ section for a job at an underground bunker: “Work is completed in an underground facility that may or may not be a target for enemies of the United States.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


It is a running joke around here that Washington, DC, shuts down at the first snowflake. Well, that isn't exactly true.

Now, Atlanta does. First snowflake, they cave.

DC really got hit this past weekend and they're getting hit again, which has lead to the following humorous terms being thrown around:




And, my personal favorite, Snowpocalypse. As in, Snowpocalypse DC.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

NOT Stuck On You

Didn't stay on campus. The roads weren't too bad when I left, the snow wasn't sticking on anything for the first 2 hours that it fell. Snow was fairly light last night.

However, we woke up this morning to this:

That's our bedroom window. The roof for our front porch is out the window, so we're looking at about 2-3 feet there. That picture was taken an hour ago, and now the snow is up to the center of the window. It is snowing heavily now.

More pictures to come, after we eat and plow a bit. I'm not anticipating anything to be actually cleared until tomorrow. I also haven't measured yet, but I don't think we got the mere 16-24" that they called for yesterday.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Stuck On You

Looks like we're going to get whumped on again. Last I heard yesterday was anywhere from a foot to two feet or more of snow, plus gusts of 30mph which would lead to blizzard-like conditions.

Now, we are expected to work out our shift today and we are open until 5pm. Snow is supposed to start anywhere from 10am through 2pm. Which means there is a good chance I'm not going home tonight.

Fortunately they have dorm space for us. I'm packing a 2-day bag.

Hooband isn't happy about this. I warned him Wednesday night that I might stay over.

(unhappy look from Hooband).

"Dear, if it comes down to me not getting home safe, I'm going to stay. I *want* to come home, you know!"

(less unhappy look from Hooband).

"Of course, there are worse things than getting snowed in with 300 firefighter on Super Bowl weekend."

(VERY unhappy look from Hooband).

"Oh, dear, I'm just kidding. I'll take my crocheting, and a good book, and probably go to sleep early."

(Hooband looks a little happier about the whole thing).

"Unless I grab the three bottles of wine I have stashed in the trunk. Then, who knows??"

He knows I'm kidding on this one. I actually have a sled stashed in the trunk. THAT would be a blast, sledding on campus with firefighter?

I'll let you know. I'll bring the camera.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I Re-did My Website!!!

Last week I finally (FINALLY) got finished completely redoing my business website, and I'm really happy with the results.

Take a look please and tell me what you think.

I used a Flash web editor called The editing It was a PITA. But the results are lovely.

It is interesting to note that they have a free option and several very VERY inexpensive options/month for web hosting. The plan I chose costs a mere $5/month. That is much better than the $38/quarter I was paying with Yahoo.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

3 More Etsy Sales!!!

I made three more Etsy sales. The first was something I had only listed a few days before:
It is fairly simple. Lightweight and cute with two colors of Swarovski crystal. Would be perfect with a prom gown, actually. It is living in Ventura, CA, now.

The other is one of my favorites:
Yup, one of the ice pictures. I love love love this stone. It is Red Rainbow Jasper. The person who bought this asked me if I had earrings to match, so I made a pair and she bought those, too:
These are living in Prince Edward Island now.