Dissertation dilemmas

The experiment two nights ago worked.

I created a new user account on my Macbook with access only to my word-processor (Scrivener), then reset my admin password to something like 673hdhsa568fdje8sosjyr8jdhs7si which I wrote down on a piece of paper and put in my sock drawer. I then went to the library, and could do nothing but write.

I have a deadline of Monday to turn this thing around. I’ll do it.


This morning I was listening to Macbreak weekly, when Andy Ihnatko gave his pick of the week: Freedom.

It is the most wonderful piece of Mac software in the whole world. Basically, you launch it, and then tell it how long you want it to block all Internet connections.

It then shuts down your wireless and Ethernet, and there’s no way to turn it back on unless you do a restart. I really don’t like restarts so this suits me very well.

I’ve spent about 11 hours in the library today. Just came home for beans on toast, then will go back to write another chapter.

A lot of my time has been spent reformulating my question, and then rewriting what I have already written to suit my new argument. I’d started off by seeking to show how wonderful the 1998 Non Profit Organisation Law was. After doing that for a bit, I discovered that actually, it had been a bit of a flop. So then I switched to showing why it had failed. But I didn’t like that, it was negative, and I was getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of reliable data on which to base my argument (civil society is notoriously difficult to define, let along quantify).

Finally, in despair I emailed my tutor – and got the green light to change my title again. I’m now assessing the changes that have occurred since 1995 in Japan’s third sector, including the effects of the NPO law, and many other factors that have brought civil society to where it is today. I’m happy with that.

The thing is, 3 new laws come into force in December, and the whole situation will be turned on its head, meaning that my dissertation will only be current for about 6 months! Well, at least I’ll have graduated by then!

Ok,better heat up the beans.

Wanted: No Internet

It’s reached the stage with this dissertation writing where drastic action is called for. I need to go on retreat this weekend to write it.

The only problem is finding somewhere that is affordable, quiet, and has no Internet access. Hotels are out on both counts. I’ve found a camp site, but it lacks a desk.

If I hadn’t got Broadband put in at mum and dad’s I could have gone there. Any ideas?

There is another 3-step option, which is looking more and more like the only option:

1) Set up parental controls on my Macbook’s second user account so that it will not allow any Internet access, and will only allow me to use my word-processing application, then…

2) Ask my class mate to reset my Macbook’s admin password, and not tell me the new password until Monday. Then…

3) Spend the weekend in Western bank library, which has very few PCs with Internet access.

Sounds like a plan.

Up in smoke

Caw blimey gov it’s been one hell of a day. Just got back form the library (2am) where I’ve spent the last 7 hours trying to finish off this website for my employer. I’m always astonished by how long it takes. It was all working fine in Safari and Firefox, but then I made the mistake of testing it for compatibility with Microsoft Internet Explorer, and it all went horribly wrong…

Still, glad I got it done. Eventually.

It was a funny old day. Started with a chap coming to see my darling 17-year-old Claud Butler mountain bike which I’m selling to hope pay for the move to Japan – every penny counts. He said he’d let me know… Then it was off to uni for a Japanese class. Crikey, my speaking ability really has dived this year. This is through no fault of my course, I don’t see my coursemates experiencing the same thing. If I chose to make the time to speak japanese outside class, and if I chose to put the effort into my course that I know i should, then I’d be improving, but I don’t, and thus I probably only talk japanese for about 30 minutes a week. I feel a little bad about this as I don’t want to let my teacher down, but she knows me well, and I think understands my situation.

My listening is Ok though, and my writing not too hopeless, when I use a keyboard!

It’s reached the stage now where I know that I’ll be back in Japan soon, so I’m not too concerned about this brief interlude of crapness. In the long term I will be fluent. Now though, it’s a matter of just trying to scrape by.

I was delighted yesterday to be presented with three Third Prizes and one First Prize at the Photo Soc Awards ceremony. It almost seemed like one of those Bafta situations where the film of the moment sweeps everything up … which made me feel a little uncomfortable, as it would have been nicer if the prizes had been spread around a bit. Hmm, I left quite quickly after I’d spoken to the judges about my photos (taken in Mongolia last summer).

i received an email today to let me know that one or some of my photos have gone though to the final or another university photo competition. The awards ceremony is Thursday, but unfortunately I’ll be in class at that time.

My Macbook power adapter went up in smoke today, literally! Prolonged wear and tear and over-zealous winding of the cord caused the outer insulation to break, and the thing short-circuited. I didn’t realise though until I actually saw this whiff of smoke cross my screen – I thought it was a feather and tried to grab hold of it!

Off to the Apple Store I went, and was shocked by the cost of the replacement – £60! Just as I was about to pay, one of the staff asked me if my Macbook was under warranty. Yes, it was …and 20 minutes later I was given a new adapter for free. I asked if the battery would have been harmed by the incident – no it should be fine. But how old is the battery? 21 months – Ancient! Did I know that Apple have a free replacement policy for that model? No, i didn’t …but moments later I was delighted to be presented with a brand new battery, which retails at £100!

Oh, then I mentioned the loose screws on the side of my macbook. That prompted the ordering of a new bottom case for it, to be delivered soon.

With this latest incident, in 6 months I would have had the hard drive, optical drive, keyboard, screen, power adapter, battery, bottom case and fan replaced- all ‘free of charge’. I say free, but in fact I paid £50 for a 3-year warranty, which I would strongly recommend to anyone buying an Apple product. That’s not because they break down more often than any other hardware, it’s that the service you get for your money is so superb. Outside of Tokyo, I know of no place where you can just walk in with your computer and get it fixed on the spot, and I’ve never heard of a warranty covering a battery or power adapter before (both of which were victims of wear-and-tear, although apparently my battery was especially crap, not that I ever noticed, thus the new one).

Anyway, I’ve got a meeting with a local web design company tomorrow, er, today, in 6 hours time, to discuss getting our publishing site made (again). Best get some sleep!

xxx

p.s. Liking Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. The 24 hour audiobook is about £50 from Amazon – only £7.99 on subscription from Audible!

Tagging and my Photo workflow

This year I’ve started keywording my photos. Until now, I’ve simply renamed them upon import, but you can’t describe all that much with a filename alone. 

This month I finally broke through the 20,000 photo barrier – that’s 20,000 photos that actually mean something to me and are not blurred / underexposed / of nothing in particular. With such a large collection I’ve grown increasingly aware of how important it is to label them as accurately as possible. For example, a shot of *twinkle* may be called ‘twinkle_in_london-1243.jpg’ – but it also fits into categories such as ‘people’ ‘family’ ‘holidays’ ‘2008’. Unless I assign those keywords to it I’ll only ever be able to find it with ‘twinkle’ or ‘London’.

Until now it’s not really been an issue; I’d either search by filename or simply remember which directory it was in, but as I start to do more with my photos so finding what I’m looking for becomes more difficult – thus my adoption of photo libraries (Lightroom for RAW images, iPhoto for JPEGS) and the adoption of keywording / tagging. 
It was only last autumn that I switched from shooting in JPEG to shooting in RAW, and this of course necessitated a new workflow. It took quite a bit of fine-tuning but I’ve got it sorted now. It goes like this:
1) Download RAW files from camera using Image Capture. These are kept in their own directory separate from all JPEGS.
2) Rename all RAW files with the excellent Renamer4Mac: I use search and replace, replacing ‘DSC’ with a name that describes each batch (this means that every photo maintains its original unique number whilst having a descriptive name)
3) Import in batches into Adobe Lightroom. This is the stage at which I assign keywords.
4) Adjust levels etc in Lightroom
5) Export full size JPEGS to iPhoto library
6) Export small JPEGS with watermark for upload to website via FTP, and to Flickr using the amazing Photonic
I really enjoy this process. I love organising, and I love adjusting the levels in Lightroom, (something that any camera that shoots in JPEG does on your behalf).
I’ve also discovered that when uploading to Flickr, Photonic will automatically convert your keywords into Flickr tags – very handy (except when you inadvertently assign some cat photos the keyword catering). Not only that, but Coppermine (the photo-album database that I use for this website) can also read those tags …and of course, iPhoto picks them up too. 
I then back up my photos to two external drives and an FTP server (talk about anal…), before formatting the memory card in the camera (not the computer); this helps prevent corruption of future photo files.
This evening when musing over photo tagging, I started to think about how I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find blog posts. With about 750 mumbles in the blogger database, the only tool I have is Google – and that’s a bit hit-and-miss. Thus, I’ve finally decided to start using Blogger’s built-in-labels. I’ve not used them before now as they are not so user friendly when you’re publishing on your own FTP server (each label becomes a unique html file which has to be republished every time you use that label, thus one blog could result in (for example) 10 files being published).
So far I’ve only had time to label this month’s mumbles, and I may not bother do the other 700. We’ll see.
Oh, and I’ve re-admitted non-registered commenters to the fold – a review of past comments has showed that the vast majority of anonymous commenters have actually left a lot of very helpful comments, rather than just banging on about how boring the mumble is. 
:-p
Anyway, I’d best be off to bed. It’s been a long day.