Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why I Signed the Petition on the Murder of Trayvon Martin

I was happy to sign this petition to attempt to have the case of Trayvon Martin's killer brought before a Florida court.

The comment I left with the petition, below, sums up my thoughts on why I signed it pretty succinctly:

As I understand the facts, Zimmerman was told not to pursue, and something was said along the lines of "they always get away." Whoever Zimmerman meant by "they" (whether it be criminals, suspicious people, or black people), it is clear that some preconception caused him to ignore police, follow, and confront Trayvon. If Trayvon became aggressive or confrontational, it is understandable considering he was being followed by a strange man who he did not know. What is NOT understandable is how Zimmerman found just cause to use a weapon against this young man. Whether the case amounts to murder or not is for a jury and courtroom to decide, but a refusal to prosecute is a failure of justice on the part of the state.

If you agree, please consider signing as well.

Some news articles with information about the case are below (I've attempted to include a balanced mix of news sources):

Update: It appears the case has been turned over to the Florida State Attorney's office, but the petition could likely use support all the same. Updated stories below:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Templated User Communication With Microsoft Word and Outlook [Field Notes]

As part of my job, I have to send a lot of e-mail communications to users. I like them to be as standard and repeatable as possible.

I hadn't set up a system to do this at my new place, so I thought I'd post here now that I'm up and running.

The Problem
We need a standard, repeatable, and easy way to respond to users' requests.

My Solution
[Yes, I know this is not the most high-tech solution.]

Setting Up the System

  1. For each type of request, create an excel spreadsheet (or a sheet within an Excel Spreadsheet) with the information you need to complete that request and respond to the user. One of the fields should always be "E-Mail" since you'll use this later.
  2. Create a MS Word document for the response to the user. Write it like you would an e-mail.
  3. Use MS Word Mail Merge functionality to connect to the spreadsheet and insert placeholders for data.
  4. Save the Word Document and Spreadsheet in an accessible place. Preferably, keep them in the same directory (multiple docs and one Excel workbook with multiple sheets works nicely for me).
Using the System
  1. User submits request(s) -- you make sure you have all the proper information to complete the request(s). You put it in your spreadsheet.
  2. Complete the tasks at hand.
  3. Preview the Mail Merge and make sure it looks okay.
  4. Under "Finish and Merge" in MS Word, select "Send E-Mail Messages.." Select the field that contains the e-mail address to send it to, enter your subject, and then send it to all records.
  5. Important: Delete the entries in the spreadsheet, or it will send to them each time. (I may rig up a field in the spreadsheet for "archived" so that it won't send if that field is filled, but it's too advanced for what I need at the moment.)