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    Busy Day


    2012 - 03.09

    We both had quite the full day today.  I met Karin after school and we did some organizing of her classroom so that it’ll be more pleasant to come back to after spring break!  Karin did most of the work, but I got most of the checkmarks (maintaining the to do list has it’s advantages).  We dealt with a lot of stuff, and I think that she’s going to be really happy when she walks in on that Monday morning 17 days from now.  I think we dealt with 5 boxes and two aquariums.

    We took a break and had dinner at Red Robin, dinner was nice although they seemed a little understaffed.

    We then made a quick trip over to Ikea to see if we could pick up some extra shelf pins for the Ivar shelves that Karin has in her classroom.  They didn’t have any in the spare parts vending machine, so we looked around a bit then took a number to ask if they had any extra ones that we could buy.  They gave us the 20 pins that we needed no charge.  So that was nice.  Thanks to the nice lady at the returns/exchanges desk.

    Back to the school to finish putting the shelves together and deal with a few more things.  Then finally heading home.

    Oh, also finished the first phase of the eSub System for Abandoned Towers (subject to Karin’s final acceptance testing) which allows for contest submissions.

    Anyone want to buy a T-Shirt?


    2012 - 02.17

    Ah, memories of high school, brainstorming sayings and slogans for T-Shirts.  Who knows, maybe someone will actually buy these ones.  Of course, these one’s do have the advantage that they’ll probably actually be offered for sale, which won’t hurt their chances.

    What do you look for in a T-Shirt?

    Mail Merge Experts?


    2012 - 02.08

    The need for this has actually passed, as we solved it (or got around the problem), but thought I’d throw it out to the internet and see if anything came back.

    So one of the problems with having an online magazine is that you’re going to publish content written by other people, which means that you need the rights to publish that content, which means that you need contracts which give you those rights.  Because Karin’s had Abandoned Towers open for submissions essentially since she took it over, she’s got a bunch of submissions that she has accepted and which needed contracts (so that we could have content to publish for launch and going forward).

    I made up the nice template for the contracts, and thought that it might be possible to use a mail merge in order to make the individual contracts.  However, I didn’t find any way that I could do what I actually wanted which was this:

    • Use the Word 2010 document that I’d created as a template (this is easy)
    • Use an Excel 2010 spreadsheet as the source list of fields (this is easy)
    • Merge the source fields into the template document to create unique contracts (this is also easy)
    • Instead of printing, emailing or generating a PDF, I wanted to generate individual Word documents for each contract (and ideally which allowed me to dictate the logic that was used for the file names of those documents).  The key reason being that we need the people who receive the contracts to be able to enter some data into them. (this as far as I was able to tell was impossible)

    Anyway, just throwing it out there that this seems like an oversight and an incredibly useful feature (especially in the current digital environment).  In the long run this probably isn’t a big deal for us, as Karin will going forward be making only a couple of contracts at a time for content (instead of the giant number created just before launch).

    As a second question, anyone know of a way to create a custom Document Information Panel with InfoPath for a Word document without having to use SharePoint?  I suppose I don’t actually care if InfoPath is used to create the Document Information Panel, realistically I just want to customize it and include additional fields (specifically for the contract) without having to resort to using SharePoint (which I don’t have easy access to at present).  All the steps in the process are pretty simple as far as I can tell (and remember) but in InfoPath 2010 at least, the first thing you get prompted to enter when trying to create the custom Document Information Panel is the SharePoint location, and it just seems like this should be possible without using SharePoint (at least technically, if not practically or being worth the effort).

    Dave’s: Abandoned Towers (belated launch announcement)


    2012 - 02.05

    By now it’s hopefully the case that Karin has announced the launch of AbandonedTowers.com, the website that we’ve been talking about off and on since October when she took it over as managing editor.  In the last 6 weeks (especially) I’ve been working really hard behind the scenes to fix up the site and make it launch ready.  Karin seems to be really happy with the results (which is good considering the effort involved).

    So if you haven’t been yet, you should head over to Abandoned Towers Magazine (www.abandonedtowers.com) and check it out.  If you’re not interested in actually reading any of the content, you should try clicking around a bit and seeing what there is to see.

    As of the moment of writing this (2pm Feb 1st) the official launch announcement has not gone out over the internet, so we’ll see what kind of spike in site visitors we get.  If things go well, we can hopefully significantly increase the $4.89 in ad revenue the site generated in January (which is slightly higher than the $4.57 from December).  We’re optimistic given that during those periods the site hadn’t significantly changed and new content was not being posted.  With the launch, the site is dramatically changed and new content is being posted frequently.  So we’ll see, it’s not going to make enough money that it’ll pay a morgage or anything, but it could get to the point where the amount it brings in is actually meaningful.

    Feel free to promote the site to all your friends, or really just everyone ;-)

    Busy Weekend


    2012 - 01.31

    Between getting Abandoned Towers ready to launch, Robbie Burns Night for the Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band (my brother’s band) and the Led Zepplin/Pink Floyd laser show at the Planetarium, we had a crazy busy weekend.  I even managed to get some blog posts cranked out over at Abandoned Towers and on Random Synapses. :)

    I did not, however, manage to get much of my own fiction writing done.  Soon, my pretties.  Once we have the AT site finished, I’ll have a lot more time to get on that. (stop laughing…let me have my delusions.)

    Specialized Skills


    2012 - 01.10

    Ever look back on your life and realize that you have highly specialized skills which you aren’t really sure how you developed?

    Well, I know how I developed these particular skills, but still they are strange, or I find them to be.  It’s probably pretty obvious with the upcoming relaunch of Abandoned Towers that I’ve kind of got that on the brain.  At the moment I’m migrating all of the existing poetry catalogue into the new poetry format, and creating author pages for the poets.  Essentially it’s a copy and paste operation, with a few bells and whistles.  In my experience however most people are really bad at migrating content.

    The problem: they want to ‘touch’ it while they do the migration.  Sometimes that’s appropriate, but most of the time you want to avoid touching the content, as it just slows you down.

    In this particular case, by the end I will have actually touched every single piece of content that goes on Abandoned Towers, and yet I will have read next to none of it.  I’m interested in speed and bulk, not in actually reading the content.  So sounds simple, right?

    “Yeah, I know right!?”

    Well the problem is since you’re not actually reading the content, and doing a repetitive operation, it can become quite mind-numbing, so the skill comes in actually keeping the speed up, while maintaining focus and accuracy.  So far I’m averaging about 20 poems an hour, which is quite respectable, not super awesome, but with the amount of meta data which needs to be extracted from the content (without reading it) makes it respectable.

    Beta Testers Wanted


    2012 - 01.09

    Everyone probably knows all about this already, that in October Karin took over the ownership of Abandoned Towers, since then we’ve been doing all sorts of work on it (most of it behind the scenes).  Well we’re pretty close to being ready, so we’re now looking for some people to beta test the new site for us and provide some feedback.  If you’re interested in doing some testing or even just taking a sneak peak let us know.

    Karin’s Resolutions


    2012 - 01.04

    This year, I’ve actually made some resolutions that aren’t “quit smoking” (I don’t smoke, so haha, I did it…go me…etc.)

    • Eat breakfast.  I’ve been having this nasty crash in the morning when my blood sugar drops. Dizziness and nausea are not fun in the morning.
    • Exercise. I started doing almost daily yoga/Pilates on Boxing Day.  I need to remember how good I feel when I’ve done yoga. I am very bad at remembering things that are difficult but enjoyable.
    • Write. I kind of stalled on the novel again.  I’M SO CLOSE TO FINISHING!!!!  I need to get it down, then start editing.  Also, I have several websites that are collecting dust.  I need to get myself moving on those.
    • Focus. I have things I need to do, things I want to do and things that would be nice to do.  Time to focus and do them…in that order.
    • Not be so hard on myself. I have a LOT of negative self talk, and I tend to spiral myself into fits of anxiety over what someone might be thinking of me.  Time to let some of that go.  Also, just because I make a mistake or mess up on a resolution…doesn’t mean it’s all over.  If I discover in March that I totally forgot to exercise for three months, then it’s just time to start again.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Sleep Hygiene


    2012 - 01.02

    Today is the last day of vacation for me.  I tend to be nocturnal when left to my own devices (aka: not being forced to get up early due to work) and this vacation was no exception.  A week of staying up past 3 or 4 wreaks havoc with my schedule, so in an attempt to regulate sleep patterns, I’ve tried to get up early (ish) the last few days and last night I was in bed by around 8 with a dose of melatonin in my system.

    This was a risk, albiet a calculated one.  Sometimes I’ll go to bed early and sleep through and it will be absolutely amazing.  Other times…well…not so much.  I wind up sleeping like a baby.  Awake and grumpy every half hour.  Fortunately, it seems to have panned out.  I (mostly) slept through the night, waking myself up around 0600 (yikes) with a teaching dream.  Ugh.

    Messed around on my phone for a while until Dave came to bed (apparently he’d been working on the Abandoned Towers website since 9 the previous evening. O_o) then got up to look at the changes, write some email and mess around on the computer for a while.  Now I’m going to have something to eat and do some yoga…two resolutions: breakfast and exercise.  Writing this post is another resolution in the can…trying to keep up with the blogs. :)