31 January 2008

Today did not go as planned...

... but for a change, that was OK.

Stuff happened that, instead of making me want to pull my hair out or run through a wall Warner Bros. style, actually made me feel good about my job:

  • I got to meet with my managers and the outgoing grad student/intern over lunch at the University Club (f.k.a the Faculty Club) where we discussed the future of the work that I do -- what projects may or may not be coming down the line, what equipment may be purchased, staffing levels, training, and so on.
  • I got to be "promoted" to an admin of the UVic Libraries Facebook Page and encouraged to add content (such as photos) whenever possible.
  • I got to pose for a photo-shoot for The Ring to accompany a story about our current project in an upcoming issue (though they also took some shots without me, so there is a chance I won't end up in the final cut).
At the end of the day, while it might be fleeting, I at least felt like I was making a recognized contribution to the University.

Homemade is soooo much better

Originally uploaded by triviaqueen
Some time ago, we slipped up and let Kiddo start using ketchup liberally. It got to the point where most of what she ate during any given meal was manufactured by the Heinz company. This time, when the bottle ran empty we said, "Enough! We will make our own ketchup." We have made it before, and it's easy enough.

It's also healthier (far less sugar) and pretty inexpensive; 2 litres of very fresh ketchup cost us about $9 (and could have cost less if we had bought the canned tomatoes and tomato paste on sale). Now that's a little more costly than Heinz (on sale, you can get 1L for $2.99) -- store brands are cheaper, still -- but we had complete control over what went into the end product.

28 January 2008

Sewing Day.

Originally uploaded by triviaqueen
Sunday turned out to be sewing day. I made two more robots (these all have Mac parts integrated into their design so each one is one-of-a-kind) plus I made a bunch of little tea cozies -- made to fit my stainless steel restaurant style one-cup teapot. I'll be keeping one and selling the others.

Turns out that Sunday was a good day to stay indoors anyway, as parts of the region got pounded with micro-storms and many, many people were involved in multi-car pileups.... no fun at all. Of course at our place we just saw some big flakes for a while but none of them stuck so Kiddo couldn't go out and play. They are predicting 5 cm of snow tonight though, so maybe tomorrow she will get to frolic just a little.

25 January 2008

ZZZZAP!!! -- doh!

For some reason, I tend to generate a lot of static electricity. At work, I touch one corner of one of the privacy panels to "discharge" any built-up static. Sometimes this is enough to trigger the barcode readers.... which is a little weird.

This afternoon, I reached out to open and turn on my laptop and ---- ZZZAP! It fired up OK, but when I tried to move the mouse (it sits on my graphics tablet), nada. After using the touchpad for a while, I realized I missed the mouse and went looking for an alternate... which is when I found that it wasn't my tablet that had died but all my USB ports. They are now zombies... they appear to be alive -- they both give power to connected items and also are seen to be active by Windows -- but they no longer function.

While I could adjust to not having the mouse and I would accept not having the graphics tablet, it also means I can't transfer any music or images... and that just.won't.do.

After a web search for "acer usb not responding" I found that this is not an uncommon occurrence among laptops... the USB ports sometimes just randomly die (and likely my static zap was only a coincidence and not a trigger).

The most frequent suggested fix is to buy a PCMCIA USB expansion card (about $65) which would return two of my three ports. Of course it would also mean I would lose my wireless card... though that is not too critical right now (since the battery only holds a charge for about 8 minutes, I leave it on the desk, plugged in; adding an ethernet cable wouldn't matter).

Since my laptop will be 3 years old in March, we had slated it for replacement soon anyway... we may just have to go shopping a little earlier than planned.


24 January 2008

Jedi and Wookies and Droids, OH MY!

Star Wars has somehow (re)gained a very prominent place in the front of my brain these days. Kiddo (and Hubby) have been playing LEGO Star Wars almost nightly which would probably do it on its own.... but I have also had MC Chris' Fett's Vette on a constant loop in my head (YouTube has many versions of videos to accompany the song; my favourite version mixes live performance footage with some fun video game captures).

I'm not too far gone, though; I scoffed at the Church of the Jedi opening in Wales.

There was one bright Star Wars moment this week, at least. While browsing through one of my fave Flickr groups, The Secret Life of Toys, I saw this shot by SnarkHunter (above) which I recognized immediately as the graveyard scene from Hamlet.

Of course, that made me think about Shakespeare. Which made me think about my favourite movie adaptation of a Shakespeare play, 10 Things I Hate About You, which made me think about Heath Ledger. Which bummed me out a little. So... thanks a lot, Lucas.

21 January 2008

Meet MK7-111

Originally uploaded by triviaqueen
Fresh off the assembly line, MK7-111 may look a bit angry, but he's a softie -- literally! This plush robot has been in the back of my mind ever since we deconstructed that computer a couple of weeks ago.

I had left the little bucket of parts in view so I wouldn't forget them and last night, after finishing another plush creature, I thought it was time to make a robot.

I actually did some rough sketches before I started sewing (very unlike me) which meant that the finished product was just that much closer to the idea in my head. I have another one already sketched out and the parts set aside... hopefully that one will be done this week, too. Not sure whether or not I will put them on etsy right away... I might wait to see whether I make the cut for PlushYou. Either way, MK7-111 will be up for grabs sometime this year.

19 January 2008

Deadlines all around me.

The week started with a deadline -- our current project was looking even more daunting than I had pessimistically anticipated. The full project requires the digitization of 5 maps, 8 photographs, and approximately 1375 pages of text which includes a handwritten diary and several handwritten manuscripts.

In the midst of this I was handed another deadline (basically "We need this yesterday!!") and as I gathered the data, I found that one of the archival scans had been corrupted -- and the backup had been scrubbed from my desktop some time ago -- so I had to re-do the work, putting back my ability to deliver by another day.

Outside of work there were two more deadlines looming: the need to write a review this week for the Brother printer we've had on loan to test for the last two months and the need to submit an application for PlushYou 2008, the deadline for which had been extended to January 20th.

Everything started to come together late Thursday -- by 4:00 I had shipped off the critical data and that evening I wrote my printer review (Hubby wrote his review today).

By Friday afternoon I was feeling pretty good about it all -- I assessed what we had accomplished at work and I think we are at least half done the basic scanning! We have completed one map, two books (over 300 pages together), the diary (600 pages) and one manuscript. In the midst of it all, I have markedly improved my scanning and photography skills and probably tripled my Photoshop™ knowledge.

Today, though, that was the icing on the cake. Before I applied for PlushYou, I had wanted to have a dedicated Creative Miscellany site in place. Luckily, a few weeks ago we picked up some 99 cent .info domain names, including two to be dedicated to my crafting. Last night, Hubby suggested a quick way to do a splash page using Fireworks image slicing, and I was off. I whipped up the front page last night and a bio page today: http://www.creativemiscellany.info.

With the website in place, I selected my favourite photos for the application and sent it along. I hope to hear back in the next month or so!

If I can keep up the level of productivity I've averaged this month all year without losing my mind, 2008 is going to be a Very Good Year.

16 January 2008

My thousand words starts with this photo...

Originally uploaded by VIJ...
.. this is about as exhausted as I feel today.

Tag These Photos

This news just fills me with smiles; the Library of Congress in collaboration with Flickr has posted thousands of copyright-free photos and asked Flickr users for their input. If you've ever hesitated getting a Flickr account, now is the time.

Flickr hopes that the LOC will be the first of many institutions and in anticipation, has created the Commons to house these images in need of metadata.

If you need me in the next few hours... I'll be browsing and tagging what I can.

15 January 2008

She of addled brain...

I am so busy these days, I can't keep things straight. Yesterday I frantically gathered all the files for my committee meeting, went running across campus (late) and opened the meeting room door to find --
-- the wrong group of people.

Oops. Still convinced I had the meeting right, I thought maybe the others had gone to a different room. Some of the people there but not the rest; it was a different committee.

Turns out I was supposed to be there, anyway... I just had the committee and room wrong. Sigh.


Last night I dreamt of lions chasing a bear and of an albino moose.
What the heck is that all about?


Watched a late-night movie on ChannelM the other night: Demi-Haunted (Wan bok lut chaai), a comedy/ghost story about a long-dead Chinese opera diva who just wants to finish her final performance. It was entertaining enough that chunks of it are still stuck in my head, days later.... which is not making it any easier to keep things straight.

12 January 2008

What to do with that gingerbread house....

If you're anything like us, you'll give it a feature role in a youtube video...

Hey look, a meme!

It's been a long while since I've done one of these random this and that memes but, like Darren, I couldn't resist this one to make an album cover. The instructions:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

My results:

1. Article about Live under the sky, a jazz festival in Japan.
2. Quotation by Moliere, "To find yourself jilted is a blow to your pride. Do your best to forget it and if you don't succeed, at least pretend to."
3. Photo called "rosary sunset" by the half-blood prince. [Like Darren, I reloaded until I found a Creative Commons image; it only took one reload.]

My album cover:


I think the title reads better with live as in "live free or die" rather than "live, from New York..." but I'm pretty pleased that all those random things converged to create a believable album.

09 January 2008

Therapy has a volume level

... and mine seems to be around 11.

My ears are still ringing from the succession of loud, obnoxious music I cranked during the bus ride home, probably loud enough to disturb fellow commuters. I had a busy, frustrating day at work (interesting, at least, but I broke my brain in three places) and I required some very loud tunes to drown out the rest of the world and refocus. Luckily, my mp3 player dished out in rapid succession, Metallica's Enter Sandman; Bloodhound Gang's Bad Touch, Outkast's Hey Ya, LCD Soundsystem's North American Scum and Boney M's Rasputin. Awesome.

(**I can't believe I found YouTube links for all of those songs!)

Today, we began the real work on our latest digitization project which involves a number of resources dealing with Victoria's early history (ca. 1855 - ca. 1910). Included in the project are 5 hand-coloured maps of parts of Vancouver Island. Below is a shot of one of our attempts to photograph one of the maps:


We spent almost the whole day trying to get a usable image of that one map from the equipment we have into the computers we have on hand. Not as simple as I had anticipated. Most of the other documents should be straightforward aside from one diary/scrapbook (1874-1907) which is too large to fit on the book scanner (which puts less pressure on the spine), too delicate for our flatbed scanner, and may not lend itself to being easily photographed.

I came home to find that Canada Post, after under-charging me and my asking if the under-charging was correct, decided after the fact that in fact I had paid insufficient postage, thus returning the package I had sent to an etsy buyer on Saturday. I have emailed the buyer with my apologies and I will re-send the package tomorrow.

Happily, it's not all stress and grumpiness in my world. Last night I finished binding the 4oth and final Coffee Haiku book, so now I have to find some buyers! I also made some pendants from some of the "gemstones" (i.e. polished rocks) I bought at the Scratch Patch on Sunday. Today, along with the returned mail there was also a package from Sally Ride Science containing a complimentary copy of the curriculum guide in which my photo appears: Living Green (my photo is on page 29).


Last, but definitely not least, the grad student with whom I will be working for the next month on the above project is easy to work with. When he used the word "grok" in context and without calling attention to it, I knew we'd get along just fine.

08 January 2008

Deconstructing a Computer

Kiddo has been inspired by the list that is in heavy web circulation right now: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do. In particular, she was very keen to deconstruct an appliance and we said we could take apart her old Mac -- we got it for free and it died with the ubiquitous Sad Mac face about 18 months ago. It had just been taking up space ever since.

She had so much fun it was hard to get her to go to sleep....


Meanwhile, I got to play with my camera (the photo above was created using some Fireworks magic) and eventually grabbed a screwdriver and joined in. I have a little stack of leftover innards and bits which I hope to use in some future craft creations....

06 January 2008

Social time, family time, and some accomplishments.

I have no idea how I coaxed what seemed like an extra day out of the weekend, but I managed to crowd in a lot of stuff.

I knocked another item off the Big List o' Unfinished projects by installing (with hubby's help) and configuring e-commerce on one of our Drupal sites (the store is live but not quite ready for promotion yet... ) plus I bound another dozen Coffee Haiku minibooks (and prepped the remaining 15). Plus I tidied up a few things, including, with help again, putting away the remaining Christmas decorations.


We also took time to go to the RBC Museum yesterday (they are having an "admission by donation" promotion that runs until the 9th) and to the Sidney Museum and Mineral World/Scratch Patch today. Both outings afforded plenty of opportunity to test the new cameras.


I really feel like I got lots done this weekend which, while rare, is a great way to kick off the new year.

04 January 2008

The Dangers of OCR

"Stoopid Computers."

For those who may not be aware, OCR refers to Optical Character Recognition and is usually part of a software program (Adobe Acrobat has an OCR option, as do some scanner software packages) or can be a standalone program like OmniPage or ABBYY Finereader. At it's best, OCR is artificial intelligence on a very small scale, using pattern recognition algorithms which it may or may not be able to adjust on the fly. At it's worst, it is a frustrating process which may actually add time to a project; I have read some studies that suggest simply hiring a good typist/data entry clerk to input the text, especially if the original is hand-written or poor quality.

At work, I use OmniPage which is very robust and very good at learning as it goes but still only manages about a 90-95% accuracy rate. Other readers are not so good; tests on Acrobat's functionality found it had about a 55-60% accuracy on English documents. Sometimes it is the fault of the copy -- smudges on the original or the use of multiple fonts in one document can confuse the software; sometimes it's the hardware or its operator -- dust on the scanbed or a crooked scan can instantly make a mess of things; and sometimes, well it's a mystery.

I have no idea what happened in this example from Neil Gaiman's Journal, but it sure is funny:

Incidentally, I think Amazon are using more Optical Character Recognition these days. At least, according to this description I just cut and pasted from their description of Sandman: The Doll's House, where I learned,

Excerpt - Back Cover: "... . ~~- ~. ~ . _ .. " N Neil Gaiman is the New Yak Times bat-sdrmg hWphor of Mnorkan rods ..."

And, of course, I am.

03 January 2008


Originally uploaded by triviaqueen
Hubby and I got new cameras today -- matching Cannon EOS Rebel XTis!

This is my first ever forray into SLR (Single Lens Reflex) photography so there may be somewhat of a learning curve. Happily, the Rebel comes with some presets so hopefully I can take some acceptable photos before I figure out what all the camera can do.

Interestingly, the camera I will be using at work for upcoming digitization projects, the Cannon EOS 30D is only one step up from this one (at least that's how it looks from Cannon's SLR website)

By getting the same model of camera, however, hubby and I can share lenses and other accessories while still having "our own camera" -- I really want a macro lens of some sort one day, and if a telephoto lens came our way, I wouldn't be likely to complain.

While this won't likely become my "everyday" camera (it won't fit in my pocket) I do look forward to some dedicated "photo days" in the near future.

02 January 2008

On art and translations...

There's a photo of a marvelous piece of art floating around out there in the blogosphere today. Its medium is porcelain, the artist is Lei Xue, and the title of the piece at its German gallery is "Tee trinken, 2007." The average English speaker would probably read that as "Tea drinking" which a quick Google search confirms is close to accurate ("to have tea" is the most common translation).

So why, then, are the objects pictured being described as beer cans or pop/soda cans? I presume because most people outside of Asia (and the Pacific Northwest/BC cities which boast large Asian populations) are unaware that tea and coffee are sold in cans, too.

Still, it's no excuse for laziness.

It even makes more sense as tea cans, because both the medium and the designs on the "cans" look like Chinese tea cups, thus the piece can be seen as a reflection or comment on modern convenience. I found another, larger piece by the same artist featuring even more porcelain tea "cans" at another gallery, unfortunately the page cannot be directly linked, but you can get to it from the artists' page by clicking on Xue.


As an aside, if you like these art pieces, you should also have a look at works by Ma Jun (see also Majun) who has in turn been compared to Charles Krafft (though Krafft's work has a much darker edge to its subversiveness). Incidentally, I would dearly love to have some of Krafft's Delft-like Disasterware™ plates hanging in my next kitchen....

01 January 2008

A year's progress on the Big List

I mentioned in the last post, our Big List o' Unfinished Projects. The idea was that we were supposed to work on projects from the list before starting other things... that didn't exactly happen but we did make some progress. I got more done than hubby but only because he had a ridiculously busy year work-wise and his projects were much bigger both in scope and time required. Oh, and I did get stuff done in between rounds of self-pity while I was laid up with my busted ankle.

What did I get done?

  • I learned about Drupal; enough to launch and contribute to several websites (frugalvictoria.com, innerharbour.com, 951.cupe.ca, and thosedewolfes.com) and enough to help hubby with a book-to-be on Drupal, plus a beginners guide which, with a little more tweaking, will get posted online.
  • I posted stock photos and created a calendar on lulu and crafts on etsy and I worked on my CuppaJoe Cozy site and our CafePress store. Unfortunately, I don't think I did enough with any of these items -- while I did list a lot of items on etsy, I have yet to make a sale and while I listed only 22 out of my goal of 100 stock images on lulu, I made two sales. I sold a few more cozies online but when I did try to get them into a store, that failed spectacularly. Our biggest sale from CafePress was when we bought a bunch of our own stuff but we have made other sales.
  • I also finished the commissioned Doctor Who scarf and I prepared my Coffee Haiku minibook; I bound the first 13 of 40 (I have the rest ready to bind, I just have to "get to it"), sold some at the Libraries craft fair, and have some listed online.
The other projects -- about half of them -- remain unfinished. Over the year I decided to abandon a few projects but I also added or adjusted some others, so I figure it still works out to "about half." I will continue to work on the projects as they are listed and have pledged to help hubby with his projects, at least as far as my abilities allow.

My biggest goal for 2008 is to get my creative stuff out there -- both online and in local stores and/or galleries. This is not something I am good at (self-promotion) so it is going to take a lot of work.... but it is something I really need to do at this point... if for no other reason than to get the stock out of our house before we move.

Oh, that's the other goal this year: moving into a house of our own (buh-bye strata), but compared to self-promotion, that one seems like a cake walk. ;)

Looking back ...

In case you've just joined this blog, already in progress, here's a quick little overview of what I did in 2007:

Jan - started contributing to theVictoria Grid Project; drafted a big list o' unfinished tasks
Feb - managed to get very very sick for Valentine's day
Mar - designed the first of the Huggitz creatures
Apr - Drupalized and re-launched FrugalVictoria.com
May - travelled to Naramata; visited the Abkhazi Garden for the first time
Jun - cleared out the storage locker, reassessed our big list o' unfinished tasks
July - Spent an entire day reading Harry Potter; decluttered some more
Aug - had a fun, productive, busy, creative month then broke my ankle
Sept - recovered from broken ankle and relaunched 951.cupe.ca as a Drupal-driven site.
Oct - celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary; madeover my etsy shop
Nov - traveled to Parksville and Burlington; blogged every day for NaBloPoMo
Dec - sold lots at the Libraries craft fair; designed my first knitting pattern, the Ma Cobb hat.

Here's a mosaic of some of the many, many things I sewed, knitted, beaded and otherwise handcrafted in 2007...

Craft-Fu 2007

Though there were many hurdles in 2007, we pulled through it with our health in tact, our home in one piece and our bellies... well, maybe a little too full.