I (might) need a New Camera

I have two digital cameras, both of which came into my possession six years ago. I have a handy little Canon PowerShot SD700, a little thing which I bought before leaving for Scotland because it was the best camera in the store when it came to taking pictures of things through glass and I wanted something for use in museums. Later that year I was given a Canon PowerShot S3, which has a larger body and took better pictures.

Taken with the S3, 2006.

Sadly, the S3 has died (it only works if I hold the battery case very tightly shut, and even then it’s 50/50). The PowerShot works well enough, and has been traveling with me to archives this fall. However, I feel the need for a new camera (especially as my father and sister have DSLRs which take Such Nice Pictures!), and this leads me to a conundrum:

Do I continue to use the PowerShot in archives until it (eventually) dies and just buy a camera for taking out and about, or do I try and find a camera which will work in the archives and on the street (or at the parade)?

Taken with the SD700 at the National Archives (US) earlier this fall

Further, if anyone has advice about a particular camera they’ve used in archives that worked especially well, or a camera setup, please do share. Feel free to point me to some blog post which answers all my questions. I’m just looking for input.

A very large forest

This week and next are text mining and topic modeling in the class on programming for historians. I’ve been reading around on both topics (I present next week, on topic modeling), and I keep shifting back and forth from “okay, this makes sense” to “wait, what?”

It is the problem of forest and trees. Individual trees I can identify: oh, look, a sugar maple, or oh, a short line of python. It’s when I start trying to understand the whole forest (just what is this Text Mining thing, anyway? How can I use topic modeling when I don’t have texts yet?) that I run into trouble.

Further, I admit to being a little daunted by the process, largely because my era is late 18th and early 19th century. Which means I’ll come up against the problems described and solved by Ted Underwood. It’s fantastic that he’s found a solution which works, but 4,600 rules for solving spelling errors is rather overwhelming. I’m trying not to lose sight of the trees in the forest.

What I really need is to play with the tools, and for that I need some texts. Does anyone know of a friendly, downloadable corpus? Preferably one from the late 18th or early 19th century?

Mapping Correspondents

When I started to think about trying to map the addresses (well, cities and states/countries) of the correspondents in my manuscript collection, my first visual was the Mapping the Republic of Letters Project, with the lines showing the to and from of the letters. That would be so neat! Until I realized that for me, all roads lead to Liverpool (and very occasionally, Sedgwick near Kendal). Continue reading “Mapping Correspondents”

What can web scraping do for me?

After last week, I was convinced that web scraping (especially with wget) was a nifty tool, but I wasn’t sure how useful it would be to me. After all, most of the data I’m working with and putting into my database is coming from an archive collection which doesn’t even have a detailed finding aid. The names, dates, summaries, and everything else are created by me as I go through the hundreds of photos I take each time I visit the archive. Continue reading “What can web scraping do for me?”

All Things are New in the Morning

I did no coding this past weekend. Saturday I read and did work for my other class (cholera and yellow fever!) and Sunday, despite the drizzle, I went out and enjoyed my favourite season of the year by picking apples.

When I sat down again with my editdocs file, which has given me so many headaches over the past few weeks, I immediately saw where certain things were going wrong. I had missing spaces in some of my echoes which were interfering with the code (“select” needed to be ” select “). In the space of a couple hours I was able to get the page to display preselected information, something which I’d been trying to do for over a week.

I’m not done with my CRUD yet. I’m slowly writing in the update code for editdocs, which has to update or create for all four join tables. I want to be sure I’m writing things properly so I’m not rushing through it. Plus, ever since we turned on error display I’m getting some odd error messages that I can’t quite understand (the variable isn’t undefined on line 29! Line 29 is where I tell you what it is! There’s an = and everything!).

Still, taking a break and looking at something other than a screen made it much easier to see where I was writing errors and where I need to go. Next time I hit a wall when coding, I will get up and go for a walk or something.

(The title of this post is a line from the poem “Blake Tells the Tiger the Tale of the Tailor” from A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard)

Variable Overload?

Today I worked on the RUD in my database CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete). I was trying to get the RU to work. For the sake of efficiency, I put my desire to display sender and receiver on hold and just made a table pulling straight from the documents database. That worked and I added in links to the “full data” and “edit” pages, only one of which sort of exists at the moment. Most of today was spent working on edit.

Taking some excellent advice, I broke things out into pieces. First step: pulling the record ID as stored in the URL (written into the url in the showdocs page) into the code on the editdocs page. Note that the snippets below assume you’ve connected to the database somewhere upcode.

[php]
if (isset($_GET[‘kp_doc_id’])) {
echo "Isset Success. <br />";}
else{ echo "Problems";}
[/php]

Then get the id and echo it to make sure the value is set correctly.

[php]
if (isset($_GET[‘kp_doc_id’])) {
echo "Isset Success. <br />";
// make sure the ‘id’ value is valid
if (is_numeric($_GET[‘kp_doc_id’]) && $_GET[‘kp_doc_id’] > 0) {
// get ‘id’ from URL
$id = $_GET[‘kp_doc_id’];
echo $id;}
}
[/php]

Once I got all of that to work, I followed Sasha’s lead and added in a $stmt. However, I seem to be running into problems binding more than a few variables and plugging them into the form. Everything works fine if I only bind one or two, but with all the ones I need it seems to grind to a halt.

I’ve made the pages live anyway. Showdocs will give you access to edit docs (by clicking on edit). The code is on git gist, since it was longer than I cared to put here. Critiques welcome.

Open Source Cookies

(Alternate title: and now for something completely different)

A common stress-relief activity among grad students is baking, apparently. I’m not much of a baker, but I do have one or two recipes I enjoy making. I am particularly fond of Will Shetterly’s Finest-Kind Cookies, which he describes as “an open source recipe.” (Shetterly is a novelist – his stories are as good as his cookies).  Therefore, in the spirit of open source, and because I’m in need of some advice, I present my variation on the theme. Continue reading “Open Source Cookies”

Talk About Memory

I’ve posted before about the events of 9/11/2001, my experience(s) of it, and how my undergraduate studies emphasized another 11 September, in 1973 in Chile.

It seems every year when this day rolls around I’m in a situation with new people and we all share the “where were you stories.” It’s a ritual, a bonding experience, and a conversational opening into topics like politics, college life, or the expression of shared memory. In some ways, reciting my experience of the events of that sunny Tuesday morning in September is as calming as any liturgy or mantra. (( On a side note, the fact that 9/11 is again a Tuesday, and sunny, is more commemorative for me than last year’s 10th anniversary. )) Sharing memories, the individual facets of a collective experience, isn’t new, nor do I expect that we’ll stop doing it in time.

A friend of mine who is a very talented historical research focused on genealogy posted today about her 9/11/01 memories, and I want to share a part of that post:

“The December after the attacks I sat at a Holiday Dinner with my mother’s family.  With us was the last few members of my grandmother’s generation.  My Great-aunt Bertie told us about Pearl Harbor.  She could remember exaclty where she was, what was playing on the radio, and what happened that day in December 1941.  She told us that this was our Pearl Harbor.  This event would define us as people and as a nation.”

11 November 1918. 7 December 1941. November 1989. 11 September 2001. Dates that generations and populations remember and commemorate in their own ways.

Parlez-vous code?

This semester I am continuing the trend of taking a digital (history) class. Although we’re calling it clio3, the name is properly Programming for Historians. The code and other work I generate will be going up in its own little corner of my webspace.

Hopefully I will finish the semester the proud creator of a working database into which I can input all of the various letters written by the family on whom my dissertation will be based, and with the database I will be able to conduct analysis (particularly location and movement). I’m excited to be building such a tool form scratch. I could have thrown something together in FileMakerPro (I managed several FMP databases at my previous job), but ever since I heard Jean Bauer talk about her Early American Foreign Service Database I’ve wanted to do the work myself, code and all.

I’ve been mucking about on the edges of codes of various kind for years. As a kid on MicroMUSE I learned the necessary commands to build myself an awesome house with an ever more awesome treehouse in the back yard (I was 10, what can I say?). Working in FMP I wrote scripts whose sytax reminded me a little playing around in the mux. I like the elegance and logic of coding languages, with the if and elseif, @desc and $variables. Unlike English, a language which bounces around and changes its mind about spelling and rules, code language seems to stay consistent once you’ve met it. I say seems to, because I’m still only just learning to speak these various languages, and I could be deluding myself. After all, in code-land I can only say “Parlez-vous anglais?” or “Ou est le WC?” and not much else.