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Saturday [ profile] scotica began leading me through the adventures of converting my web site to Drupal. The theory is that it will greatly improve the organization and usability of the site. At the least it may kick-start me back into putting new content up on it. So, of course, I started out by trying something tricky and complicated with the format of my great-great-grandfather's civil war diary. None of this will be visible for a while -- I'm building the new site on my laptop at the moment. The front-end changeover should be nearly invisible but there will undoubtedly be a great fracturing of links to specific internal pages.

Today, on the next best thing to a whim, I dropped in on FogCon at the Walnut Creek Marriott. It looks like a lovely small lit-con and I hope it keeps going. I've been looking to get back into con going, having largely going on hiatus during grad school. I've gone to a couple of Bay Cons since then (and may go again this year) but they didn't really click for me. (And of course there's Darkovercon, but that's a different matter entirely -- more in the line of a family reunion.) It's going to be a bit hard to get back in the swing, I think. I spent a bit of time hanging out with [ profile] klwilliams and [ profile] desperance and stopped to say hi to a few people I've known from the Before Times, but to a certain extent I feel like I'm breaking into an entirely new social scene from scratch ... and you know how well that works for me. When the programming was finished I thought about hanging out for a while more, but the con had condensed into small tight clusters and I could feel myself tipping over into death-spiral mode. It's funny how sometimes I feel like I've made such progress and other times I fill like I've made none at all. (At least now I recognize when I hit death-spiral mode.)

Well, I have three major things on my free-time to-do list and I should get at least one of them done.
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I don't seem to have posting any official New Year's Irresolutions last year, but a perennial one has been "put more new content on the web site". I seem to be succeeding at that with a vengeance during this vacation, although it's all material that appeared first in LJ: the babyname blogging, the "How Tall was St. Louis and Who was Wearing his Shirt?" analysis, and the SCA cross-dressing essay. Still, new content is new content.

I keep thinking that my next task there should be an easily accessible comprehensive index to the content (rather than the "please come and wander around through the rooms" set-up that it currently has). On the other hand, [ profile] scotica has been pushing me to bring my content management into the 21st century and join the Drupal bandwagon, which might make more sense as a next step.
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In the context of showing off the tea set, it occurs to me to mention that I'm working on putting great-great-grandpa Abiel's diaries on-line. So far I've only got 1861-1863 up -- it's a bit tedious since I have to clean up the word processing files a bit as well as coding the links and doing a little indexing.

EDITED: Whoops, I forgot that this material isn't actually on-line yet. The html links in my original post pointed to internal files on my computer, which wasn't going to help anyone else in the slightest! I really do need to get back to this project.

EDITED AGAIN: Ack. No, the files are up, I just got confused while poking around in some of the related material on my computer. Sorry about that. So to reinstate my previous teaser: the foodies may enjoy this passage. Now I need to just leave this entry well enough alone!
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Today was "work on the web site" day at [ profile] scotica's place. First off, I successfully reinstalled Dreamweaver on the laptop in such a way that it doesn't crash every time I open it. Then I successfully identified how to fix the bracketing error in the php code for the surviving garments search page. Yay me. (The fix is a bit clumsy, but it's invisible to the user so that doesn't matter.) It doesn't seem like a big accomplishment, but it's the momentum that counts. Now I need to get back to some fluency with php and start working on the Welsh names pages and database search.

I decided that the "books on this list that I've read" meme needs a few additional nuances, so in addition to "bold books you've read, italicize ones you started" I'm adding "put a + after books in your queue". So italics and a + means I've started it and intend to finish reading it (whereas plain italics means I gave up) and plain text with a + means the book is sitting on my "to be read" shelf. Moreover, an underline means I've seen it in dramatic form (movie, tv, etc.) whether or not I've read it. And strikethrough means I'd never heard of the book before I saw it on this list. Behind the cut to save your screen-space. )
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So I finally got my website-based-email passwords reset so I could go in and figure out what was going on. The answer seems to be that at some point the default behavior of the account changed so that messages got kept in the server's in-box even after being redirected to my default account. So I had a couple year's worth of messages clogging up the works (including, in the case of my catchall account, vast amounts of spammage). But there also seem to have been at least a few messages that never seem to have gotten redirected in the first place (particularly a bunch from March 2006). Either that or I've simply forgotten them and didn't keep a file copy. Sigh. Well, pretty much all of them were the sorts of random research questions that I wouldn't have gotten around to anyway. But I guess I need to schedule at least a once a month visit to the server's web-mail site for housekeeping.

On the to-do side, I finished the lacing eyelets on the new doublet and drafted and cut out all the fabric for the over-gown for the feast.

Closing in

Apr. 30th, 2006 09:00 pm
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A few more tweaks on the Surviving Garments site -- the more powerful/elegant search function is installed. It turns out that I can't run the demo off my laptop as a server unless I have OS X Server installed. It's not quite important enough to drop the money on it. Chances are I can access the WMU wireless network for the presentation, but I'm setting up a version of the presentation with screen shots on the assumption that something will go wrong. I'm definitely on the belt-and-suspenders side. I have my presentation all written out and am in the process of putting together the Power Point slides. Tomorrow evening I test-run it, complete with projector for timing and flow purposes. That leaves Tuesday evening for packing. Whew. Tonight the plan is to go to sleep early. It'll be interesting to see what the database does for my website stats. (Godaddy does a nice statistics presentation. I was poking around today and was somewhat surprised to find that my dissertation has had over 5000 hits. Not just views of the "about" page with the abstract -- 5000 people have downloaded the pdf of the dissertation itself! Weird.)

SK came over to help massage the site and try to get the server function to work. (We ended up going to the local Apple Store genius bar for the answer.) We've been experimenting with trying to recreate the hot chocolate she had recently in Paris -- something very thick and fudgy. I found a product called "drinking chocolate" that sounded like it might be close and, with some experimentation, it seems to be an approximation. You basically take a quarter cup of the functional equivalent of dark chocolate chips, mix in an equal amount of milk (or, in one experiment, half-and-half) and heat until the chocolate is melted and blended. Mmmm. It went well with the french bread, goat cheese, and quince paste. I believe in bribing my programming consultants with good stuff.
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Yes, it's finally ready for people to try to use it. This isn't quite even a "beta" version -- more like an alpha-and-a-half version. What's online at this moment is the ugly simplified fall-back version that I knew I could get to work. Tomorrow morning I hope to upgrade this to the slightly more elegant and more flexible version that SK worked up for me (while I was finalizing the fall-back version). The main difference is that the more elegant version allows for multiple selections in some fields that the fall-back version only allows single selections in.

And, of course, there are all sorts of upgrades and improvements that I have on the to-do list. But at least I have something functional to debut for Kalamazoo.

Oh, right, the link. Here it is: The Surviving Garments Database.
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At some point in the next few hours SK will show up to help me try to make the Surviving Garments interface behave the way it's supposed to. In the mean time I've started putting together a work-around that isn't as powerful (or nearly as elegant under the skin) as the envisioned goal, but that will work for the immediate purposes. And, after all, this is going to be an evolving project, so it doesn't matter if it "isn't right yet" ... right?

And at some point today, possibly before SK shows up (if the bathroom becomes available in time) I'm going to shampoo the cat. Yes. Shampoo the cat. The flea collar isn't working well enough and she's being driven crazy. On top of which she's getting patchy fur, possibly as a reaction to the fleas, but I think more likely that she's just grooming neurotically and wearing her skin raw. (It doesn't help that, with the warm weather, she's decided to shed massively all in a lump. I've bumped the hairball medicine up to daily.) In any case, I have to do something for the poor dear, and for all the trauma, I've found that flea shampoo is quite efficient at the task.

The cat has lately taken to living on top of the scanner/printer which, with all the shedding, is not doing my hardware any favors. It's funny how she gets fixated on hanging out in one particular spot for a week, and then the next week it's a different particular spot. I shall have to post my theories of cat-ionic reactions that explain this sort of behavior.
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Just succeeded in getting the nastiest, trickiest part of the nested looping to work properly. So out of the three major report formats I have to build, I've completed two of them, and the third is simply a rearrangement of existing components. The only other tricky bit is the part that processes the garment search parameters, but I think it's roughly parallel to stuff I already have working. What bothers me is that I don't really understand some of the code I'm writing -- I just keep tweaking it until it does what I want it to do. I'm coming to the conclusion that I'd make a lousy professional computer programmer ... but I make a halfway decent Renaissance Woman.
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Much progress on the surviving garments database web interface. (No, it's not ready for play-testing. I'll tell you 'when'.) Last night, after much step-by-step debugging, I finished up one entire sequence of pages/programs from the selection interface to the report phase. Having a sucessful model to work from, the rest should go swimmingly. I'm really going for the stripped down training-wheels version of the interface to begin with, but I have a whole list of bells and whistles planned.

My usual approach to learning new skills is being well represented in this project. Do lots of background reading ("MySQL and PHP for Dummies" and similar works). Do lots of schematic planning. Discover there's some conceptual step that I just can't get my brain around and squeal for expert help. Then plunge in and start flailing around and tweak things until they work. I try to learn in a logical and systematic fashion, but when it comes down to it, things don't stick in my brain until I'm working hands-on. So I had a number of little function-bits written out in advance, but mostly I just wrote a basic-basic "do this, do that" program, nudged it until it worked, then started elaborating step by step.

I still haven't figure out how to run it locally off my laptop, but that can wait while I use the on-line version to work it up. After all, I still have a week and a half before I leave for Kalamazoo!

No garden notes: Nose to keyboard. (But I did get the lawn mowed back on Thursday.)
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The weather is finally turning around. I'm back on my bicycle. If it weren't that I'm spending my lunch hours programming, I'd be at the park.

The surviving garments database programming Read more... )

Garden progress: I've forked through about a third of the squeeze-space for grass roots. The "squeeze-space" is the strip between the north side of the house and the chain-link fence on the property line. It's about a foot and a half wide. This makes it difficult to do anything other than ignore it. There's some really good dirt in there but there's no point planting anything pretty since it's invisible from most of my yard, and there's not much point planting anything edible since it would be nearly impossible to get at once it's growing. And, for that matter, unless I negotiated with the neighbor to do an edged bed on her side of the fence, the grass will be back the moment my back is turned. (On the other side of the property, one of my motivations for starting an edged bed was helping the other neighbor keep his squeeze-space relatively grass free.) I sometimes think it would be simpler if we just removed the fences where they parallel the house walls, but in the long run that would tend to confuse property lines.

Here are the results from the Second Beef Jerky Taste Test (All Hot All The Time):

Read more... )

I'm already getting requests for the next jerky taste test. The "summers in Rangoon" taster suggested doing some curry jerky, which should be interesting. I'd also like to put together some more medievally inspired spice blends for experimentation. I've learned the lesson about "dust, don't marinate" for most spice blends. It would be interesting to try something with a significant fruit base -- a sort of cross between a chutney flavor and a jerky-fruit leather hybrid.
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Why is it that the more relaxed a weekend I have, the less likely I am to get caught up on my sleep properly? Three-day weekend. Mostly unscheduled. Went to bed at a perfectly reasonable hour. No need to get up at any particular time. Lay awake until well past midnight, tossed and turned all night, and bolt-awake at 6 am with no hope of getting back to sleep. Well, ok, so maybe residual dental pain, having cramps, and eating an overly rich dinner may have contributed. And maybe the fact that I woke up at 6 am dreaming in PHP code suggests one teensy tiny contributing mental pre-occupation. But I'm still grumpy.

I'm actually having a lot of fun with MySQL and PHP -- it's been a few years since I learned a new computer language. And I've been mentally planning the database interface for long enough that it's just a matter of figuring out what bits of code I need to make it jump through which hoops. My current problem is that the coding examples in the tutorial are all very simple, so it's hard to know which bits need to get repeated for each additional complexity and which parts only need to get done once per program. I'm drafting it up in individual building blocks and figure that I'll start debugging with a couple of blocks and then start adding more until the tower is either built or it falls down.

It helps that the only interactive aspect of the database is the search function -- no on-line updating or editing of the database, so I can skip that part of the complexity (as well as skipping most of the security functions, since the worst case scenario is that I re-upload everything).

Garden: No garden update. Rain showers all day. But the weather people promise this is the last storm for a while.

This week I completed the fourth iteration of the 8-week housecleaning cycle (if I've calculated correctly) and as with previous iterations I'm doing a review and adjustment. A few new tasks added and some rearranged. The major modification, I think, is to change from the original 5-day-a-week schedule to a more compact 3-day-a-week one. I'd started testing it and found that certain clumpings of rooms worked very naturally. This means that I have a bit more freedom to schedule time-consuming evening plans without disturbing the Overall Plan. It's also time to attach some more of the stubborn Clumps that I've been working around (as is allowed by The Plan).

Time to swing by IKEA and shop for a bedside lamp. I'm tired of the really rather broken thing I'm currently putting up with.

Busy busy

Apr. 5th, 2006 08:36 pm
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I actually started writing the code for the surviving garments database interface over lunch today -- haven't gotten anywhere near to anything I could test yet, but it feels good to have started. Garden update: finished weeding the east fence. Lots of good black dirt waiting to have new stuff planted. Of course, a lot of that good black dirt is sitting on top of the brick paths and needs to be shifted slightly. To tell the tooth: I seem to have lost a small piece of filling, which means I get to start renewing my relationship with my dentist tomorrow. Let's hope that her current set of assistants don't consider it crucial to belittle and demean patients for the state of their teeth. Back to basics: I told my chiropracter goodbye today. In my opinion, she's completed the job quite successfully. She doesn't necessarily agree, but she seems to be one of those practitioners who recommend regular adjustment for the rest of your life, so I figured I couldn't wait for her to identify a finish date.
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You can say what you like against Daylight Savings Time, but yesterday evening, even after gym time and housecleaning time, I still had daylight left to do some gardening. So Monday the berry canes got tied up to the fence and a little weeding got done. Tuesday, more weeding. Mostly I took a survey of what needs to be worked on. The plum tree has finished blooming but it'll be a while before I can tell how well the fruit has set. The cherry tree -- despite still being an adolescent -- is blooming heartily on all three grafts. The blueberries are all mad at me for last year's neglect and half have given up the ghost entirely. The currants are greening out but no sign of flowers yet. The strawberries have been very unhappy and need replenishment. I've already done the Spring weeding on the north and south fences, but half of the east fence still needs to be done. Most of the herbs in the knot garden need to be replaced -- they were getting old and woody anyway. One of the Bourbon roses gave up finally and one is hidden under a carpet of heliotrope. The third has yet to be assessed. The gallica rose keeps coming up from the roots but there isn't much above ground at the moment. There are a couple other slots for roses that can be refilled, which is always cheering. The laurel tree needs some serious pruning at the top to keep the shape nice, but most of the lower level thinning is taken care of.

I got an e-mail yesterday from someone working on a book project involving my great-great-grandmother Margaret Getchell LaForge. I checked him, his previous book, and his publisher out on the web and he seems to be legit, so I forwarded the query on to my mother for her help with research materials and whatnot. Margaret deserves to have books written about her.
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It's been entirely too long since I added anything new to my web site. Thanks the the hard work of aryanhwy who did most of the coding, I've added an article on personal names in Mawddwy in 1415. It's nothing of great fascination to the general public -- just another step in getting some of my existing research out there.
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Alongside of pulling the documents that the tax man needs, I've checked off one small subset of one of my To Do items: triaging the filing cabinets. I've reviewed the contents of one and a half filing cabinet drawers (house accounts and taxes), removed duplicated paperwork, tossed completely unnecessary items, and consolidated the remainder into well-labeled and compact folders. I don't know that I've actually removed that many filing-cabinet-inches worth of space -- maybe no more than a foot total. But I found all the paperwork I was looking for (the first couple years of tax returns for the partnership and an accounting of cash movements in and out of the partnership) and moved various things into their correct places. Once the partnership closure dust has settled, I could probably archive the first 20 years or so of receipts and statements up into the attic.

I was planning to work on the web interface for the surviving garments database yesterday but got sidetracked into entering data from a couple of recent book acquisitions. Data entry is so seductive! (And there's so much of it.) Well, there's still much of today to work on it. It's been ages since I put anything new up on the web site. I really ought to add that to my personal KPIs. (This is work-speak. KPI = key performance indicator; a numerically measurable aspect of one's job description for which goals are officially established and which is used for performance evaluation. At the Big B a KPI can be anything from how many investigations per month I've completed to what percentage of annual training I've finished to whether the entire division has produced a set amount of product. I don't actually have personal KPIs listed anywhere for my private life goals, but it's frighteningly easy to fall into the vocabulary.) Speaking of work, the automatic web content filter has figured out that Live Journal is intrinsically non-work-related and now blocks the url. No more catching up on my lunch hour. It really was only on my lunch hour. I swear. I guess I'll have to be productive instead. Or -- hey! -- it could decide to stop raining and I could go out bicycling along the waterfront on my lunch hour. Yeah, that's the ticket.


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