2011 organizational system

Last October I purchased a blank leather wrapped journal to turn into a custom calendar system for myself. I was so excited that I wanted to date it for Nov. 2009 and use it immediately. Since I had a current calendar at the time, I forced myself to date it for Jan. 2010 but started carrying it immediately to schedule things for the new year. I made a two-page spread for each week, a section for tasks, a section for projects and a section for random notes. I hated it. I am pretty sure it was the journal I chose. While the journal was attractive, it was bulky and heavy. I could tell instantly when I took it out of my bag or put it in because of the dramatic weight difference and it didn’t fit into my purse at all so I didn’t carry it unless I had my bag. I used it faithfully for a few months because I wanted to love it. I found myself only using the calendar part. I think I have used a total of 3 page fronts in the tasks/projects/notes sections. I tried to like it, I spent so much time drawing lines and number the pages and dating everything. It was so unhelpful that in October of this year I purchased a new pocket calendar that is so light I can’t tell if it’s in my purse/bag without looking.

I’m sure you know the kind, it’s a paper calendar with a staple or two in the center. It has a nice plastic outer wrapper that the covers slip into to protect it. I love it, well, not love it, but I’m using it and like it. It has silly inspirational quotes every month, though I’d prefer weekly ones. I started using it immediately. It’s a 16 month calendar, so October was already there just begging to be written on. I can’t cram 5 appts. into each day, but it’s working because it leaves the house with me. I’m using the post-it sticky flag to mark the current month so I can just flip to it. I use the covers to carry a few of my personal business cards in case I need to give someone my contact info. Each month has a two-page spread, the boxes for each day are less than an inch but I can write small. At the same time I purchased a wall calendar for 2011. I haven’t purchased one in years, I usually receive one as a gift at some point or am allowed to pick from a stack someone is giving away. I love to pick the ones with animal pictures for the months. The calendar I picked for 2010 had a problem. I couldn’t read the numbers on the calendar from across the room as the print was too light. The 2009 calendar didn’t have that problem. I tried using a sharpie to darken the numbers but that only frustrated me because it looked messy and sometimes the numbers still weren’t dark enough. Next year I have a rather plain calendar. It’s larger than the others I’ve had, at last 6 inches longer and the two pages are all calendar. I can write multiple things for each day when I need to and perhaps interesting sayings when I don’t. I can see it across the room and think it will be a good thing for me. The secret is the calendar’s intended purpose,I bought one that is marketed as an organizational calendar. I can write my stuff, Boo’s stuff and husband’s stuff as well as family stuff on it. Yes, there will be multiple times to write stuff because I also put family, Boo’s and my stuff on the one I carry but it’s worth it if it doesn’t aggravate me and I get where I need to be when I need to be.

The last organizational tool I added to my arsenal was a calendar plugin for Thunderbird. I tried multiple online calendar plugins with the blog, but 2010 has not been a stellar year for me blogging as I’ve been busy chasing a little boy. If I don’t look at the blog, I miss events or miss counting down and preparing for them. I can’t cram everything I’d like to do on to any paper calendar and lists were getting lost. I really only want to write the repetitive task once and let it carry itself along until an end date arrives. So I finally looked to the intarwebs (giggle) for a solution. While I detest MS Outlook, one of the nice tools is the calendar system. I’ve never used it in a company where everyone uses it but I love that I can schedule a meeting and it automatically sends invites to everyone or I can just make them accept it if I have the right privileges to do so. I have no need to do that, but I have my computer on every day. While I don’t spend all day at it, I hear the beeps and check in once every couple of hours or so. I love being notified as soon as I start my day of the tasks I need to accomplish or the appts scheduled for the day.

Check back in a year to see how it’s working for me. I can tell you that for the last month this new system of small paper calendar and huge Thunderbird calendar been wonderful.

Note to self:

While at the time multiple copies of the same files didn’t bother me much and seemed like a good idea the time, I have reconsidered my stance on the subject. I must come up with a better backup/file transfer plan for various computers in my possession. Having four copies of an mp3 file is not really cool, well, if it were just one file it would be, but it’s not just one file there are probably at least 1500 duplicate files on the hard drive. Every now and again I sit down and hunt for multiple files, decide which to keep and delete the rest. I’m so far behind. On the brighter side my 750GB drive will be much less full when I am finished, some time in 2030.

I blog this random tidbit because it is part of my 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days. I’m not doing so great on that list. I’ve accomplished a few things, like the basement, that was huge. The basement is clean, well, cleaner and way more organized.

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A lesson in WordPress

You may not have noticed there is an event countdown widget1 in my sidebar. Since no one has complained, I gather that no one is particularly upset that I countdown to a few select events and birthdays. Really, it’s a reminder to me that it’s coming soon because I do tend to forget things.

Yesterday, I discovered a small bug in the display of the events. I’m not sure if it has always been there and I’m blind or what, needless to say, I live in GMT-5 time zone give or take a little daylight savings time, it’s lovely here. The weather is ever changing, there are interesting birds and animals. However, the code as written doesn’t address possible time zone issues. The code assumes that the host computer is in the same time zone as the event, which is not always accurate. In an ideal world the plug-in/widget would ask me to input my desired time zone and adjust accordingly, someday I may sit down and “fix” it so that it does inquire. In my case, the server hosting this application lives in California, GMT-8 give or take a DST. What does it mean? My events calendar is about 3 hours off when it displays an event. For example, it’s midnight in GMT-5 and an event occurs at 8:00AM. As the code is written, the event is is not 8 hours away, it’s 12 hours away. In another example, an event that happened 2 hours ago is listed as one hour in the future with the code as written.

I don’t write PHP from scratch, I just read it, usually understand it and then alter it to suit my needs. But this time, I really just wanted a quick fix. This particular code was written in PHP and WordPress, so rather than trace the code from top to bottom across two files, I chose the one file I knew I needed to change and went to work. I changed random and not so random numbers and hoped that I would find it while refreshing the events list. Chaos ensued. After spending too much time, I gave in and read the code across the two files as well as comparing it to the two web pages that are produced from those files. One file is the admin interface page where all events are entered into the php database and stored as variables in the table. The other file waits to be called by a widget or page, and then pulls data out of the database, applies code to it, and displays it. All I have to say for my efforts is, “DUH!”

I had already determined that the problem existed because the of host server being in a different time zone and hoped to alter the script to tell the host server to pretend it was in my time zone. That didn’t work so much, so I read about what the different time statements were. I spent some time at PHP-Date.com and PHP.net reading about various date/time functions like current_time(), date_default_timezone_set(), date_default_timezone_get(), gmmktime(), strtotime() and a few more. The solution turned out to be very simple once I read the code and looked up what each command did. In my defense, there are nine variables but between the two files, the order is constantly rearranged so I had mixed up four of the variables, thinking they held values they didn’t hold. I discovered that current_time() was a WordPress function and MYSQL function. The actual line I tried to alter was current_time(timestamp, $gmt = 1), the however, I don’t know how variable for $gmt is used by WordPress nor what the possible values are beyond 0 and 1. I tried to alter it up through 10 and didn’t find the correct value, I added single quote/apostrophe around timestamp, I tried using mysql instead but that seemed to break it the most. Dates were displayed as seconds, rather than years, months, weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds. Why on earth would that happen? Well, Unix/Linux uses a time system based on the Gregorian calendar and midnight on January 1, 1970, also referred to as Unix Epoch. All dates/times are expressed as seconds before (negative values) or after (positive values) that date. Fun factoid: The 24 hours (a.k.a. 86400 seconds) representing August 5, 2008 are through . The previous timestamps are generated using the php command strtotime() because I desperately need to something to show for the last 24 hours. Should you like to experiment with this, I recommend using using your favorite search engine and looking up the terms “unix time” or “POSIX time” along with the word converter. Please be aware that based on the command used to call the timestamp, results will vary so you may not get the same result across several different converters. I didn’t count them all, but there didn’t seem to be a shortage of unique commands to call time for various purposes, such is the nature of UNIX/Linux. One of the reasons for the difference is a problem calculating leap seconds. I’ll spare you the details.

As I just mentioned, strtotime() was a php function. While searching, I found that the php-date.com page had an interactive strtotime() box, strtotime() was used several places in the timestamp section. I could display the current GMT time, then practice using different commands to alter the displayed time. After reading that, I wondered why both strtotime() and current_time() were used. So I changed current_time() to strtotime(‘+ 3 hours’) because I knew it would display the correct time based on experiments at php-date.com, at least until DST ends. Solving it this way seems crazy because somewhere in California the current time is converted from GMT to GMT-8 and I basicall changed it to GMT-8+3. Some day I’ll learn how to use the time zone things and just use GMT-5, but all it did today was break the plug-in, so I’ll leave it for now.


1 A widget is a piece of code inserted into a spot on the sidebar to perform a function. There are many widgets that have been in my side bar including a search bar, the answer to why this site is orange for August 2008, a random image from my photo gallery, and Now Reading (a list of books).

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Online Survey

A few years ago one of my friends told me about an online survey company for which he completed surveys. I asked him to send an invite and on 2004-09-10 I joined. I completed a lot of surveys my first couple of years, but slacked off last year due to a lack of time. Since I work for myself now, I have some time on my hands and decided to start completing them again. I updated my email address and accumulated a number of points. I used to redeem the points for gift cards to a computer/office supply chain, but those are not offered anymore. I decided to redeem my gift cards for PayPal payments, I’m curious to see if I get the full amount or the amount minus fees. I would hope I don’t pay the fees as the company now saves on postage. I’ll see, either way I’m excited to have my account with $$ so that I can use the account to buy more songs. I am slowly accumulating my music stash for the music team I am a part of, it’s nice to have the music to practice during the week.
If you have extra time on your hands and would like an invite to participate in the surveys let me know, I’d be happy to send along an invite. My email address? My name at the proefrocks.net 🙂

If you read this blog with an rss reader, you will notice that old posts pop up again. I am slowly editing old posts that lost their categories due to my failure to restore the correct database table. The longer I live, the more I learn. I’m rather pleased with myself for fixing my blog and implementing some long-overdue changes. Thanks for bearing with me.

April 29-My PayPal account has money in it, without losing any of it to fees, less than 24 hours. I’m quite impressed, wish they had done this all along. I am glad not to have to exchange one gift card for another at a store in GR.

In which I am reminded backing up

and the difference between SQL database back up and WordPress export. I received notice the other day that WordPress, my blog of choice, would like to be updated to its newest version. I said self, let’s wait a bit before we do that, then upgrade the test one if that goes well, then Josh’s, and finally mine. Of course, backup the files first. I grabbed the current theme that I had majorly tweaked, I backed up the SQL database, tables go wonky some times. What I failed to do was initiate the WordPress backup, why? Because I have never really done it except to set up the test blog. I wanted all the same posts in the test blog as of March 18, so I exported from one WP install and imported to the new one. It never occurred to me to export my own WP data from inside WP. I shall chalk that up to lack of knowledge, I now know it is much easier to import than to tweak the SQL database. The brighter side of all of this is I have a really clean SQL database. For some reason my initial install of WP last Julyish, had one naming scheme. There was a brand new naming scheme for this upgrade, I think. And that leaves the middle naming scheme, I don’t really care where it came from, though my guess would be from one of the installs where a major database upgrade was required. Now there is just the current one, hopefully everything will play well. I was able to shift around, delete, and rename the tables without errors. I checked upon each movement, before deleting anything. I was able to see why my newest upgrade balked, unfortunately, I was a bit reactionary. Had I dived into the SQL database first, I would have been able to fill the empty tables from the newest install with the last install data and go happily along. However, doing that would have made me uneasy in the long run and I would just exported the data and started over anyway. Which is where I am at now. The posts are back, my gallery works, my plug-ins are back, but not activated and I uploaded my theme. I’ll get everything up to snuff by Monday or Tuesday night if not sooner. Meanwhile, enjoy the new theme, let me know if anything is broken 🙂

It would be important to point out that my system failed, I shall have to investigate further. My test blog upgraded flawlessly, I left all the plugins active. My real blog crashed and burned, I remembered to turn all the plugins off. When I got the new install up, I did notice that I already had spam. If something tried to post a spam comment during an install, it may have caused a problem. I have since corrected an initial mistake I made when I installed the blog. I installed it to root of the website, which meant that a new install would be impossible as the root website folder would never be empty. I didn’t know about this requirement until I already click install. Dreamhost has an awesome feature: one-click installs for many of the popular pieces of software. We as users are of course strongly encouraged to read any and all documentation before proceeding. They have made the profess even more simple than when I originally started. I do advanced one-click so I choose some options, but the other option allows Dreamhost to choose default locations, databases, etc. I’m a bit miffed, but what’s a girl to do, the test blog said it was happy.

My email is my name at this domain name.

Checklist:

  1. Theme
    1. Sidebar/Widgets
    2. Blogroll-fix titling issues
    3. edit bottom line to use terms “based upon”
    4. Upgrade all plugins, including cystat uninstaller
    5. Pages
      1. Archives-currently very broken, I wonder if I took notes on what I did last week-grumble-need to reinstall some stuff and turn some other settings off, php was broken by WordPress-reinstall exec php, duh!
      2. About
      3. turn the rest into posts and check temp drafts of posts
  2. Edit all posts and put categories back, on the bright side, I can add tags now that I know how to use them
    1. While editing tags, place posts in a series if applicable
    2. remove all coding associated with hr, define in CSS
    3. Remove tables and use CSS for photoa and photob
    4. Retitle ABC-along A is for, B is for, etc.
    5. check permalink structure for linked posts-my default is year/month/day, not the WordPress default
  3. Reconfigure all plugins
  4. It almost goes without saying-export it all. I wonder where my categories went, I have a feeling it had something to do with a table in the database not being renamed correctly, which would be my fault.

Knitting Podcasts with Show Notes

I use iTunes exclusively to subscribe to the podcast itself and Firefox with a plug-in to grab the show notes feed. I should give a small warning for content at this point. Some of the podcasts are benign while others can be offensive. Please be sure to read about the podcast, check for explicit tags, etc. The name of the show is linked to the website of the podcast and “Podcast” links to the podcast feed, in case you don’t use iTunes. The “Show Notes” link is as it describes, notes from each podcast show containing links to other websites, links to books and other things the hosts discuss. The “(feed)” is a link for the rss feed to the show notes. If you have iTunes installed, you may click on the phrase “iTunes Feed” to add it to your podcast list there.

To Africa and back . . . (part the fifth)


Tuesday, June 19

We were up by 6:30, to breakfast at 7 and work at 8. Each group, after breakfast, gathered around the previously assigned MCF staff member and set off to work on the assigned tasks: projects, teaching, or interacting with the children. My team, Mike and I, was joined by Isaac, one of Charles and Esther’s biological sons. The computer team headed to work!A bit of history of Africa and the internet, then our task: major cities often have a reliable power grid, traditional phones, and most other conveniences we would consider modern, picture Tokyo or NYC, with more trees. Outlying regions rely on generators for power, cellular phones for communication, and satellite for consistent, quality internet. The brighter side of this is much of Africa will bypass slow speeds may of us have endured using arcane cables laid before I was born and dial-up modems that some of us still use. It will most likely go straight to fiber or something faster if it exists when cables are finally laid. Due to several constraints, including time, skill levels, and budgets we felt that satellite was not practical. The more research I did, the more I realized that it would be tens of thousands of dollars to just install it. Then there would be monthly access fees and maintenance of equipment and training in satellite technology, none of which our team brought, had or could teach. We, however, didn’t come empty handed. Dial-up modems were out of the questions as there are no phone lines. Cellular network access card would not necessarily accomplish everything with the fastest speeds, but it would be easy to obtain technical support, replacement equipment should something fail and it was slightly portable. It could be shared between the campuses.
After installing whatever internet service we found while in the States, my team was to help MCF with any computer requests/needs.In addition to “bringing internet access,” we also collected and brought as many things off their wishlist as possible. Each time a team goes to MCF, supplies are brought with the team. Most of the supplies teams bring are too expensive to buy in Kenya or not available. Our team brought several hard drives, cd-rom/dvd drives, blank media, memory, old laptops with minor flakey problems (on-board wireless or wried nic not working, motherboard not charging the battery, things that make it hard to use as a laptop, but wonderful to use at MCF) motherboards, software, toolkits and other parts we hoped could be put to good use. Before we could hand off our goodies, MCF requires that all gifts be documented so that there is no question as to where supplies came from and how supplies are dispersed. After completing an inventory and signing off on it, we headed to work. We walked up to the greenhouse to install the internet and upgrade some hardware in one of the computers already there. This would be my first trip of the day to the greenhouse, but by no means the last.We settled on a USB cellular network card for internet access, so that it could be utilized by both desktops and latptops as long as it could find a signal. We installed it on the laptop we brought for the greenhouse. The idea behind that was a new computer, never used would probably function to optimal specifications and allow them to take it to any campus and not worry about installing the network card on other machines. We tried to set it up on another computer as well, but for some reason that one was not behaving well. I was confident that Isaac could install it later after troubleshooting the errors, so we decided to move on to upgrade the machines in the greenhouse area. We needed some parts left at the room, so I volunteered to retrieve them while the guys worked on the computers. After I returned, took some pictures and realized they were happily working along, I headed back to the printers to document some things for Isaac. We worked with Isaac until lunch, then he had some other tasks to finish. We tried to schedule some time to take a complete inventory of computers-location, purpose, specs, software, needed upgrades. Unfortunately, we were not able to settle on a time because of other activities planned for our large team on subsequent. We had hoped to spend time at Yatta helping with the computer program there. They teach the girls how to use computers, how they work, etc. Ndalani will be starting that as soon as the library is ready, I believe.After lunch, Mike and I joined the arts and games team for an afternoon of absolute fun with a smidge of confusion. We set up stations inside for arts and crafts, while games were played outside. We split the groups as best we could and set about to have fun. The activities varied with the age group but generally consisted of decorating a t-shirt with markers or tie-dye, drawing or coloring pictures, getting a picture taken, making an animal out of pony beads or blowing bubbles. Most importantly of all was to spend time with the kids, hear their story, listen to their hearts. By the time Mike and I joined the fun, roles were assigned and filled, so we floated as needed. Mike went to the games area; it needed a guy’s touch. I was a floater-see what needs to be done and made myself available to each of the activity leaders.My first assigned task was with the little ones, and was it ever difficult! I had to blow bubbles with them. We set up inside, even though I asked if we could go outside. The cement floor soon became extremely slippery. The bubbles were supposed to keep the children occupied when they finished getting their picture taken, but it didn’t work well. We had difficulties keeping children at the correct station and helping the children with free time understand that it wasn’t their turn yet. After a good amount of confusion, I decided to take the bubbles outside, we found a way to manage the little ones inside. The huge benefit to me staying outside was that it kept the other children from trying to sneak into the arts and crafts area until it was their turn. I had so many little ones all around trying to catch and pop the bubbles. We shared the wands and made glorious messes giggled and enjoyed. I even convinced a team member passing by that he needed to blow bubbles. He looked at me as if I had suggested he jump of an extremely tall building or play in the middle of a busy highway. He returned much later and thanked me for inviting him to blow bubbles. One of the little ones managed to avoid the picture process; I had taken a liking to her and her to me. She was very unsure of having her picture taken; she had to sit by herself on a large bench. I sat with her first, then next to her, just out of the picture. I was supposed to get a copy of that picture, but I don’t think I did.beadsWhen we worked with the older children, I assisted with the pony beads. We had diagrams for them to use, but the threading is difficult to get the hang of, luckily, I like to bead. We had fun and learned a lot about managing a lot of children in a small space with a small amount of time. I won’t write in specifics, I will just say that children are children, no matter where they are and there are always opportunities for growth and learning for all involved.As activities wound down and we transitioned back to our dining area, we talked with many of the MCF workers. My heart broke to hear some of the stories of other groups. No specifics were ever given, nor names, just generalities. Some groups come with an agenda they push on MCF, some are upset when plans change and they are unable to complete tasks, some are unwilling to pitch in and help. I was so grateful that those descriptions did not apply to us. Each of our teams understood when some projects were put on hold, others canceled. We rolled with the flow and asked what we could do, how we could help. We asked many specifics on day-to-day operations, needs, and goals; and MCF graciously answered.One of the girls on our team was sick, probably a cold of some sort. It began to go around the room, I went to bed not feeling very well-runny nose, scratchy throat, and extremely tired, but I knew that I had done 100% of my day with God. On my own, I would not have made it through that day.

With the spare time . . . oh wait!

So I finally got the desktop working again. For some reason my motherboard doesn’t like cable select, so I went to the old-fashioned way of specifying which hdd is in which position. I am wondering if this is the same problem for the cd/dvd drives, yup, it is the same problem. I let a friend install the drive last time, mostly I begged not to have to do it myself, so I have no idea what the original configuration was. For a while, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I stopped doing computer hardware and just pawned it off on willing victims friends. So the upshot, I have access to my files again. I need to back up the music drive and rebuild the machine. I was able to format the new small drive to be used as OS holder. Quite excited actually, apparently it still had remnants of an old OS so it wouldn’t boot properly, nor let me add a different OS. I am contemplating server install as well as standard and some Linux flavors, we’ll see what I am motivated to when time comes.

Other than a blanket (which was supposed to be a sweater), my needles are empty, so I am ready to cast on socks. I am going to use generic toe-up instructions with a simple K1-P1, P1-K1 pattern for Jason. It shall be my first pair of socks, though I’d rather make them for me in case it goes horribly wrong I can hide it.