Creativity and problem-solving

As usual, I’ve failed at keeping up with my blog (and my promise to upload the rest of my Athens journal), and as usual the excuse is being too busy with thesis stuff.  I’m kind of buried under an avalanche of data at the moment, and it’s taking much longer than I anticipated to dig my way through it, with the result that every time I have a spare moment I feel like I should be doing a bit more work on it.

However, I did manage to take some time for a little creative project last week.  One of my colleagues (who I hope doesn’t read this blog – if you do, Rosalee, look away now so the surprise isn’t spoilt!) just got engaged, and the rest of us were discussing what we could get her as a present, and I’d just recently spotted a quilt pattern I wanted to try and that looked like it could be easily adapted to a small project, so I volunteered to make a set of placemats in return for the others paying for the materials (yeah, because I have so much free time at the moment…) .  But it’s good something to just do something creative and non-work-related, and I managed to get it done in a weekend plus a few evenings, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome:

I think we’re planning on having a celebratory morning tea for her sometime this week, so we’ll be giving them to her then.  Hope she likes them!

But now I’m paying for wasting last weekend playing with crafty stuff by having to spend as much as possible of this weekend working.  Except when I turned on my computer this morning I discovered one of the hard drives (I have two, a solid-state drive to hold the operating system, and a normal drive for the data and non-essential programmes) wasn’t working.  Luckily (or sensibly) my thesis data is backed up online, so that’s safe, but all my Athens trip photos are on that drive, so I had a moment of panic thinking they were lost (or, at least, only retrievable with expensive intervention from an expert).  But I decided to try and figure out the problem myself first, and opened up the case to have a poke around.  And discovered that the clips holding the pretty case lights I’d installed when we built the computer (because the case has a window in the side, so of course it needed lights to make it all glowy and sci-fi looking!) had lost their stick, so the light cable had come loose, and must have knocked the bus cable as they fell, because it wasn’t plugged in properly.  So all I had to do was push the plug in a bit more firmly, and the drive started working again.  I had to remove the case lights entirely (at least until I buy some more clips that will be a bit more secure), so my computer is now all boring looking, but at least I haven’t lost everything!  And, even better, I didn’t have to pay someone to fix it for me – sometimes even just knowing a little bit about what goes on inside a computer is a very useful thing!

Right, time to make some dinner, then back to work. Hope you’re all having a restful weekend…

Family portraits

Going home today, but in the meantime I managed to fit a lot into the last few days of my holiday. (Note to vegetarians, vegans, and those of a delicate constitution, you probably want to skip this first paragraph).  First was a hunting expedition on Saturday night. During dinner I’d mentioned to Brother that it was a pity he was so busy (being in retail doesn’t give you a lot of free time over the Christmas period), because otherwise we could have gone out hunting together.  So he suggested we go out for a night shoot (spotlighting for rabbits), and invite Mum’s visitor along too.  It doesn’t get dark until well after 9 here, so it was a very late night (we didn’t get home until about quarter past 1), but we got about a dozen rabbits (and a stoat – they’re a pest that kills native birds, so we always shoot them if we see them, though obviously we don’t keep the meat), and I was relieved to discover I’m still a decent shot even though I haven’t been shooting for years, so I didn’t embarrass myself too badly compared to the guys 🙂 (Actually, according to Brother, I got the shot of the night – a head shot at extreme range.  Total fluke, but I’ll accept the praise anyway :-)) We did see some deer, and thought about shooting one too, but then brother pointed out we’d have to spend another hour gutting and butchering it if we did, and anyway he’s already got a freezer full of venison, so we let them live for another day.

It’s Dad’s 70th birthday later this week, so seeing as I’m heading home, he decided to have a birthday barbecue on Sunday.  I suggested to the kids that we make him a birthday cake, and then SIL suggested we make it a golf cake, so we spent the afternoon making and decorating it. The kids each contributed to the decorations, and although we’ll never be professional decorators, we had a lot of fun, and I think it turned out looking pretty good:


(The weird squiggles on the cake board are a heart and a smiley face – Niece put herself in charge of the writing…)

And once the candles were lit, it looked even more impressive (Brother declared it to be “golfing in the fires of Hell”):

And Dad was greatly amused by it, which is the important thing 🙂

Of course, as we were having a barbecue, it turned out to be the first cold and miserable day after days of intense heat, but that just meant we ate inside, and those in charge of the barbecue had to wear warm coats to cook in.


Venison burgers!

Dad wanted a photo with all the grandchildren and grand-nephews and nieces (well, at least the small selection that were there – as he comes from a family of 11, his total number of grand-nephews and nieces is probably edging close to 100 by now). He may have had a fancy family portrait in mind, but it quickly descended into chaotic laughter, as first Brother decided he qualified as one of the kids and wanted to sit on Dad’s knee, then I handed over my camera to SIL so I could get in on the action too, then one of the smallest members of the family started crying, which set off his sister, and then Brother said something along the lines of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, so he and Nephew #1 started wailing loudly, and the final portrait ended up with everyone either crying dramatically or laughing uncontrollably. Which is as a family portrait should be 🙂

Proof that Brother really is one of the kids: all completely engrossed in a Walking With Dinosaurs movie

So what with cake, photo silliness, tickle battles, and other general chaos, it was a really fun night.

Then last night we finally got to see the new Star Wars movie. In preparation, the kids and I spent the afternoon watching episodes IV-VI, while Niece and I painted (there was no way she would be able to sit through three movies without something else to distract her!). Mum and I had bought some pre-printed canvases from the Warehouse, so it was more of a colouring-in exercise than serious artistic endeavour, but they turned out looking pretty cool (I didn’t manage to get a photo of the ones Niece painted, but they were… colourful 🙂 )

After dinner we headed to the picture theatre. Alexandra didn’t have a theatre for many years, because the town was too small to sustain it, but in the last few years a group of volunteers have been running a theatre out of the back of the museum.  It’s very small, only a few rows of seats, but they still get in most of the big movies, so it’s been doing very well.  But being run by volunteers means not everything goes according to plan – like last night, when we turned up to find the doors locked and everyone waiting outside.  It turned out the projectionist for the previous showing had locked the keys in the office, so the evening volunteers couldn’t get in, and the only spare key was held by the museum’s director, who lives in Bannockburn, half an hour’s drive away.  So we all had to wait while he drove down to Alexandra with the key.

But being small town, nobody was particularly fazed, and we all just stood around outside chatting, and the general feeling was that it wasn’t as bad as the night the projectionist forgot to turn on the projector, so the movie had sound but no pictures…  Eventually the key arrived, and (after a bit more confusion about the tickets, because Mum had bought us vouchers, but whoever sold them to her hadn’t written it down on the right page of the notebook, so the ticket seller couldn’t tick them off on her list…) the 7.30 screening became an 8.30 screening instead.

We all enjoyed the movie tremendously, and talked excitedly all the way back to Mum’s place, where we continued our analysis over hot chocolates.  I’ve already written a first impressions review, but I can say I enjoyed it even more the second time, especially hearing the surprised gasps from either side of me at the crucial moments (I’ve managed to not let slip to any of Brother’s family that I’d already seen it :-)), and doubly especially getting to talk about it with them afterwards.  Totally transported back to being a kid again 🙂

Being social

It’s been a very social weekend. Actually, more than just the weekend, because on Friday the CEISMIC team spent the day at the NDF Bar Camp, an “unconference” to discuss digital issues in the cultural heritage sector.  Lots of exciting conversations and ideas, and seriously inspiring.  Tiring though, in that way of an event where you’ve got your brain switched on all day. There were drinks afterwards, of course, during which the fascinating conversations continued, but I only stayed for an hour, because I was meeting a few of the Toastmasters women for dinner.

The dinner was fun – lots of laughs (and interesting food – we were at a Vietnamese restaurant, and ordered a banquet, so we got to try lots of dishes we hadn’t tried before).  Quite a late night though.  When we left the restaurant, we discovered the intersection blocked off with a fire engine and two police cars, and police tape everywhere.  Earlier we’d noticed flashing lights outside, and had seen an ambulance come and go, but this was an hour or two later, and the police were still there.  It was dark, so hard to tell what was going on, but just as we were driving away (everyone was most concerned about me walking home on my own, even though we were only a few blocks from my place, so Ade insisted on giving me a lift) I realised what looked different about the dairy* on the corner – there was a car inside it.  According to The Press this morning, the driver had a “medical event” (I’m guessing that means heart attack?) while driving, and had gone straight over the roundabout and into the dairy.

*translation for foreigners: small convenience store/corner shop, mainly selling milk, bread and lollies**.

**another translation for foreigners: sweets/candy/confectionery

I’d planned to have a quiet day yesterday, seeing as Friday had been so busy, but Mrs Gwilk rang to say they had a new board game they wanted to try out, but it needed a fourth person to play, so did I feel like coming round.  So that’s where I spent the evening.  The game was really fun – it was a strategy game based on the Firefly TV series (which I’ve never actually seen, but knew vaguely what it was about which was enough to understand the game), where you had to run trade and/or smuggling missions across an interstellar society, while managing things like crew and fuel, and avoiding raiders and customs officials (if you were smuggling).  The end of the game was very dramatic, with Gwilk and I racing to get to a particular planet, with whoever got there first winning the game.  Unfortunately an unlucky roll when raiders attacked meant I got there just behind him, but I think second place is still a pretty respectable result 🙂

It was another late night though, because the game took nearly three hours, and then, after mini-Gwilk went off to bed, Mrs Gwilk suggested we try another, shorter game (“shorter” being a relative term when it comes to board games), so it was nearly 11 by the time I got home.

Then this afternoon was the bookcrossing meetup.  A lot smaller turn out this time – Rarsberry was at a birthday party, and a couple of the others who normally turn up didn’t show, but we did have a new person, so all was not lost.  It was incredibly busy at the cafe, because the Botanic Gardens were having a special event for Matariki (the Maori New Year celebration), so we were lucky to get a table (well, luck combined with the fact that I spotted some people leaving, so I raced over and bagsed their table – which completely confused the poor person who came to clear away their plates!).  The incredibly long queue to order food wasn’t a problem for a bunch of bookcrossers though – we just took our books so we could read while the queue inched forward 🙂

So yeah, fun weekend, but I am now officially all socialled out.  Pity I’ve got to go to work tomorrow and interact with people…

Stick some gears on it (warning, many many photos)

Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival.  We didn’t dress up ourselves, but we did go to a few of the events. I think what was most fun though was just seeing all the costumed people wandering around the streets.

I wasn’t brave enough to actually ask people to pose for a photo very often – most of the photos I just took without asking (not that anyone seemed to mind when the did notice I was taking a photo – I think walking around in costume pretty much comes with the assumption that people will take your photo).  I should have asked more often, though, because those photos are definitely the ones that came out best.  Although some of the unposed ones did make for fun juxtapositions.

There was a Steampunk Market on the Saturday, with some amazing costumes on both customers and stall-holders:

Also on Saturday we went to a talk about the science of Scott’s Antarctic expedition (the speaker arguing that the expedition was far from the incompetent “boy’s own adventure” it has been portrayed as in the popular media, but rather was a serious scientific expedition, with many of the “bad” decisions Scott made being explained by the fact that he was more concerned with collecting good data than with his own or his team’s safety.

Then later in the afternoon was a dramatised reading of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, performed by a group from Wellington, accompanied by much audience participation in the form of flag-waving and shouts of “Huzzah!” at appropriate moments.  The performers led us on a walk around Oamaru, stopping at various points to perform another Fit of the poem.

The cast:

Most of the audience were just as decorative as the performers:


“Huzzah!”


Lytteltonwitch was trusted with the holding of the Jubjub bird staff.  So of course she immediately started trying to peck people with it…

On Sunday we saw even more elaborate costumes at the fashion show.  The contestants were judged not only on their costumes, but also on the backstories they’d come up with for their characters.  Some of them were very clever (and a couple were just incomprehensible…).  There was an audience choice section, and it was very difficult to choose who to vote for, because there were so many amazing costumes and stories.

I didn’t get many photos at the show, because we were sitting a few rows back, so I had the choice of either getting lots of audience heads in my photos, or standing up and annoying the people behind me.  So I didn’t take any photos during the competition itself, but did manage to grab a few during the photo shoot session they had while waiting for the judges to return.

This woman’s costume was amazing (she was Absinthe, The Green Fairy), but obviously it was also amazingly heavy, because she had so much trouble walking in it that she needed the help of her kilted companion (who I gathered was her partner, who didn’t normally participate in steampunk events, but had dressed up so he could accompany her on stage) to stop from falling over as she walked the catwalk, and her smile had more than a hint of grimace of pain to it.

[Edit: I’ve been informed that I was mistaken in my assumption that the Green Fairy was suffering under the weight of her wings.  In fact, her wings are very lightweight, but due to an accident she has difficulty walking and climbing stairs, and having spent most of the day on her feet while rehearsing for the show, was in a lot of pain, hence the need for her companion to assist her.  Makes her achievement in participating in the show all the more impressive!]

Another view of those massive wings.

Although the MC tried to coordinate the photoshoot, asking the contestants to all face to one side of the runway or the other, he had limited success, because they all kept turning the wrong way to wave to friends in the audience. Because of where I was sitting, I couldn’t get everyone in frame anyway (and never did manage to get a photo of the people at the far end of the runway), so this is the closest I got to a group shot of all the costumes.

The woman with the multi-coloured parasol and her green-suited partner (who featured earlier in the Hunting of the Snark cast) were who I ended up voting for, mainly because their story was very clever (it involved a safari to hunt tea-krakkens).

Oamaru is definitely embracing its new steampunk identity, with a lot of businesses cashing in on the trend (with varying degrees of successs – probably because it’s pretty obvious which ones are only doing it to try and attract tourist dollars).  This sculpture outside a car dealership was pretty cool, though:

And of course, in the midst of the Victorian quarter is Steampunk HQ itself, a very strange place that’s a cross between a junkyard and an art installation, and definitely an entertaining place to explore.

There’s a steampunk-themed playground, too, with elaborately-carved old trees decorating its boundary:

It wasn’t all steampunk though.  We did take an early-morning walk around the waterfront (and later, rode the old train back round the same route – I think the train’s supposed to be for kids, but we still had fun 🙂 )

We also visited an art gallery, which (among other things) had a WW1 commemoration that was very well done.  If you’ve been to Oamaru, you might have noticed the avenue of trees going up the hill, each of which was planted in memory of a local man killed in the war, and each of which bears a brass plaque with his name.  Over the years, many of the trees have had to be cut down for various reasons (mostly because they were dying), so the plaques were preserved.  The exhibition displayed all of the removed plaques, turning them into temporary artworks.  (Only one sneaky photo, because I wasn’t sure if photography was allowed inside the gallery).

And on Sunday morning we took an early-morning walk through the botanic gardens, which were shivering under a very heavy frost (there was even a decent layer of ice on one of the ponds):

News but no news

The latest on the job front is that they’ve extended our contracts for another six weeks while management consider the business case.  So yay I’ve got a job for another six weeks, but not so yay I’ve still got no idea what’s going to happen long term.  I’m trying not to stress too much about it, but yeah, not the most relaxing situation to be in.

On a more positive note, two of our DCAs and I gave a presentation about CEISMIC to a group visiting from Greypower (an advocacy group for retired people) on Wednesday.  About 80 elderly people, and only one of them fell asleep during our presentation, so I think we did pretty well 🙂  My part of the presentation was an extended version of a speech I’d given to Toastmasters last month (my Toastmasters speech was 7 minutes long, and this one was about 20), which definitely helped, because I knew most of it really well already.   One of the DCAs had never given a presentation before, so I coached her through preparing for it, and she did really well, so I got to feel pretty successful in my managerial abilities as well as my public speaking 🙂

Went to another quiz night last night with Mrs Gwilk and Gabby from ChickFlicks.  It was a fundraiser being run by Gabby’s daughter’s church youth group, and like anything run by a bunch of teenagers was completely disorganised, but we had a lot of fun anyway.  The other problem with a quiz run by teenagers is that a lot of the questions involved recent music and celebrities, so we were struggling to answer those, but we did well enough on the less age-biased questions that we still managed to finish 3rd-equal, so felt we’d kept up to our high standards.  It was a very late night though, especially because when I got home I had to finish packing (Lytteltonwitch and I are off to Oamaru after work tonight).  So ever so slightly tired today, and it’ll be a late night again tonight by the time we get down there.  Good thing it’s a long weekend!

Sick computers, work worries, and invisibility – it’s been a complicated week

You want to hear my latest excuse for not having posted here for ages?  This time it’s not me that’s been sick (or the DearDiary site), but my computer.  I discovered a nasty malware infection on it, and as removing it looked like it was going to be a long and involved process (it was – I ended up having to muck around in the Registry, which is always scary!), I decided to just leave the computer turned off until the weekend when I could look at it properly.  Anyway, I *think* I’ve managed to remove everything now – and more importantly, I think I’ve identified which software download it snuck in on, so I’ve removed that as well for good measure.

I couldn’t even sneak a post or two in from work, because we’ve been flat out this week, mostly with preparing the case to have our programme put on a more permanent footing (because otherwise, our contracts all run out at the end of next week, and the archive effectively shuts down).  It’s one of those annoying situations where upper management all agrees that the archive is incredibly valuable and needs to keep going, but the university is so short of money that suddenly turning five fixed-term contracts into permanent jobs is a very big commitment, so we need to prove that we’re giving the university a good return on its investment.

So all of us on the management team have been running around like mad for weeks (and especially so this week) trying to gather evidence and write the business case.  Which culminated yesterday with me spending the entire afternoon holed up with the Director helping him do a final proofread the document (I told him I was going to take much pleasure in telling everyone how many times I had to correct the grammar of a Professor of English 😉 ) and get the 20-odd appendices in order (and in triplicate).  I had to leave sometime after 5, when Harvestbird texted me to say she was downstairs waiting for me, by which time every surface in the Director’s office was completely covered in piles of paper from our efforts to check and sort everything, and we were both approaching panic mode.  I did feel bad for leaving him in that state, but we had almost finished (and I didn’t want to miss the talk Harvestbird and I were going to, or leave her waiting down in the carpark for too long), so hopefully he got the last few bits sorted ok.

Anyway, despite the looming deadline, things aren’t quite as dire as they seem, because the most likely outcome is that our contracts will be temporarily extended (again…) so that senior management have sufficient time to make their decision, and even if the absolute worst happens and they shut us down, I at least still have my old job to go back to (sort of – it’s very complicated, but on paper at least I’m only seconded into this role, and my old job still exists.  I’d be taking quite a big pay cut going back to it though, and the job has changed so much over the past few years that I don’t think I’d enjoy it much now.  There’s some other complicating factors too, but this is a bit too public a space to discuss them).  So yeah, at least I won’t be out on the streets, but I’d still much prefer to be permanently transferred into my current job.  And of course, the rest of the team don’t have the luxury of another job to go back to, so we’ve all been feeling pretty anxious – there’s a lot riding on this business case!

The talk Harvestbird and I went to was a Royal Society lecture on invisibility.  The speaker took a really interesting approach, combining an account of the scientific quest for invisibility (and the current state of the research) with a cultural and literary history of the idea, and the moral values that have been attached to it.  It was a fascinating talk, covering so many areas, and the perfect intersection of Harvestbird’s literary geekery and my sciencey geekery, so we had much discussion of it afterwards as we searched for somewhere to have dinner (always a challenge in the central city on a Friday night – though some great new places have opened, and a few old favourites returned, there’s still few enough that they’re all packed from 6-ish onwards, making getting a table anywhere tricky.  We walked the length of Victoria Street and back without finding anything, and ended up settling for the Coffee House (which actually was pretty good, but it wasn’t what we’d had in mind when we set out)).  Radio NZ were recording the talk, so if you’re local, keep an ear out for it – I assume it’ll be on National Radio.

I went to another talk earlier in the week too – the Linguistics department are hosting a visiting scholar who’s been doing research on a dialect spoken in an obscure corner of the Solomon Islands.  She gave a really interesting lecture on the challenges of doing fieldwork in such a remote place, and some of the interesting syntactical features she’s discovering.  Cool stuff, and totally inspiring me to get back into study (at the same time as reminding me of how much work is involved – I’m both looking forward to and dreading the start of semester in July).

Right, Parsnips has just appeared and is trying to force her way onto my lap, so it must be time to get the fire going and warm up the house a bit.  Had the first really decent frost of the year this morning – winter is definitely on its way!

Hello?

DD’s been down again, so of course I’ve spent the last day and a half composing all sorts of interesting and amusing blog posts in my head, and now that it’s back up I can’t remember any of them.  So instead, a few highlights of the past few days:

On Friday I discovered that there are actually some really nice people in the world.  I was waiting at the bus stop in the rain, and as usual the bus was running late, and every time I checked the real-time arrivals thing it would tell me that it was going to be even later.  So I’d resigned myself to being very cold and wet by the time I got home.  Except that a complete stranger stopped her car and asked if I wanted a lift somewhere, which I most gratefully accepted.  (Sorry Mum, I know you spent my entire childhood telling me not to get in a car with a stranger, but not having to wait in the rain for another 20 minutes totally beats stranger danger any day 😉 )

On Saturday night I went to a games night with the Gwilks.  There were enough people that we split into two rooms, so I joined the group playing Shadows Over Camelot, a game I’d actually played before (it’s becoming a joke that every time I go to one of the games nights I end up playing a game I haven’t seen before, and just when I’m getting the hang of it the game is over and I’ll never get another chance to play it, because the next games night there’ll be a new game).  However, this time we were playing a variation on it (so it was kind of a new game, but at least I already understood most of the game mechanics).  It’s a cooperative game, so basically you either all win or all lose, but the variant we were playing had a traitor, so it was them against the rest of us.  Except we didn’t know until the end who the traitor was.  It’s quite a difficult game, and we ended up losing, but it was still a lot of fun.

On Sunday we had a bookcrossing meetup.  Our brunch meetups didn’t suit everyone, so we shifted to lunch instead, and met at the new cafe in the Botanic Gardens.  It was incredibly busy (the line stretched right around the cafe at one point), but we managed to snag a table, and by borrowing chairs from other tables somehow managed to fit all of us around it.  Lots of books being exchanged, of course – the tower of books in the centre of the table was getting quite dangerously high for a while there.

I’d hoped to get some more work done on my experimental quilt, but between all that socialness and having spent a good chunk of Saturday curled up in front of the fire with a good book, I only quilted one square:

The pattern is called Windswept, and I really struggled to get the hang of it.  I just couldn’t get my speed right or the fabric flowing smoothly, and then just when it was starting to go right I discovered that somehow my backing fabric had got folded over, so I had to unpick a big section and resew it (which is why there’s some really messy bits down the right hand side).  I think it’s one of those patterns which could look really good with a bit more practice, though.

The back looks a wee bit better (mainly because the cotton doesn’t contrast so much, so the wobbles in my sewing aren’t as obvious), but it still doesn’t look much like the tutorial:

Oh well, the whole point of the experimental quilt is to allow myself to make a mess of it and learn via my mistakes, not worry about it being perfect…

Wizardry

Thursday afternoons are geek-out time for the CEISMIC team.  That’s when we have what we call our “Wizard Club” (because programming seems very much like magic when you’re learning it) – a combination of staff training and R&D time, which we use for things like building handy apps and tools to improve our workflow, sharing helpful websites and software we’ve stumbled across, or improving our skills by working through tutorials from Code Academy and the like (or just by playing around with code to try putting the stuff from the tutorials into practice) – things that aren’t really core business, but in the long term contribute to the overall team efficiency.  Plus it’s just lots of fun 🙂

For the last few weeks, Lucy-Jane and I have been using the time to work on a tool that will make it easier for our Friends of CEISMIC volunteers to write photo descriptions.  Normally when we’re preparing material to go into the archive, we use what’s called a manifest – basically a huge spreadsheet which has a row for each item (such as a photograph), then up to about 30 columns which hold all the metadata for that item (things like its filename, title, description, what collection it belongs in, copyright and license details, file size, who the photographer is, the location where the photo was taken, the date it was taken, etc etc etc).  We’re used to reading manifests, but for someone coming in as a volunteer, they’re very confusing documents (as I’m sure Lytteltonwitch can attest), and figuring out which photograph you’re up to and where you write the description isn’t easy.

So we had the idea of creating a tool that would read the manifest and show you just one photograph at a time and a box where you could write the description.  Then you’d click a button to go to the next photo, and the description you’d written would be saved back into right place in the manifest.  That way our volunteers wouldn’t have to deal with all the confusion and distractions of a manifest, they’d just have a nice clean user interface to work with.

(Warning, technical stuff follows.  TLDR; version is we’ve almost got it working). Lucy-Jane could easily have built such a tool in Python, but the trouble with Python is that you need to run it in a virtual environment, and the computers we have available for our volunteers are all locked into managed software, which means you can’t do useful things like access the command line or run virtual environments.  So I suggested we try and write something in Javascript instead, which has the advantage that it runs entirely in your browser, so you don’t need to access anything that makes the IT department nervous.  But Javascript isn’t as good as Python at moving information between the browser and other files, so it took a lot of work (mostly by Lucy-Jane) to find a tool that would let us do so.  But she found something that would read from a csv file into a Javascript array, and I’ve written some Javascript that searches through the array for the information we actually need and uses it to display the photo on a webpage (and today I added things like “next” and “previous” buttons to cycle through the photographs, and a few little bells and whistles like a handy link which takes you to a Google map of the location of the photograph if it was taken on a camera with built-in GPS), so all we’ve got to do now is figure out how to write from the array back to the csv once the description is written (which Lucy-Jane thinks she’s found a tool for, but hasn’t properly tested it out yet), and we’ll have done it.

I’m feeling very proud of my little Javascript programme, because it’s my first foray into building something that’s actually going to be of use to the team (as opposed to the playing around with pictures of kittens and graphing Mandelbrot sets which I was doing while I was still trying to learn the basics of Javascript).  Can’t wait until next Thursday when we can add in the csv writer bit and test it out properly!

Parties and Peregrines

The latest bird in flight, a peregrine falcon.  Which puts me way ahead of where I should be in the quilt-along, but the more I can get done now while life is relatively quiet, the less pressure I’ll have towards the end to get it finished.

I’m not entirely happy with my work on this one – I couldn’t get the wings to line up properly, and the whole thing just looks a bit rough.  Hopefully the faults won’t be so noticeable once it’s quilted, though…


Went to Harvestbird’s surprise(-ish*) birthday party yesterday.  Lots of interesting people (sample conversational topics: how to raise chickens without annoying your neighbours; the cultural assumptions of video games; the medical issues of elderly Norwich terriers; Amy Pond’s pregnancy as a manifestation of the objectification of women; and whether it would be possible to write an app to help find your favourite songs on You Tube), good music (the soundtrack consisted of two songs from every year of Harvestbird’s life, which prompted much guessing from everyone as to which year each song was released), and good food (well, mostly – I don’t think I’ll ever warm to the concept of vegetarian sausages, but the curries were fantastic).  And there was cake and icecream, so the birthdayness was complete (much to the relief of the elder mini-Harvestbird, who’d spent the entire afternoon announcing at regular intervals that it was birthday cake time now, and being told by the adults that, no, she had to wait a bit longer).  A most enjoyable afternoon and evening.

*Mr Harvestbird had decided to throw a surprise party after Harvestbird had said she wasn’t going to bother celebrating her birthday (but, because he’s a nice person, not a jumping out and shouting type of surprise party, which would not at all be Harvestbird’s sort of thing – his plan was to tell her about it the morning of the party so she’d be able to get ready), but a few days ago she told him she was regretting her decision and maybe she should have a party after all, so he let her know he’d already planned something.

Swiftness

I decided to stick with the totally random scrappiness for the next bird, the swift, and I think it looks ok:

It’s funny, as I was choosing which bundle of fabric to use for it, I found myself reasoning that I should use the bundles with the smallest number of fabrics in them for these simpler birds, and save the ones with lots of different fabrics for the more complicated ones, because I’d need more for them so they didn’t end up with the same fabrics next to each other too often.  And then of course my mathematical brain woke up and reminded me that I was being ridiculous, because the four colour theorem says that any two dimensional pattern can always be coloured in using at most four colours without having two adjacent areas the same colour.  So as long as I’ve got four different fabrics in each bundle (which I do for all but the one I used to make the swan block, which only had three fabrics) then I’ve definitely got enough for even the most complicated pattern.

Of course, it does still make some sense to reserve the big bundles for the really complex birds, because having more pieces will make using lots of different fabrics look better (because I won’t have to resort to just using a single piece of a particular fabric), but in theory at least it doesn’t matter.

I’m sorry, I can’t help being a geek.  This kind of stuff just leaps into my brain unasked.