Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Family History Projects, Any Ideas?

I've been trying to come up with a worthwhile programming project. I wanted to do something related to family history. (If anyone has any ideas, feel free to post in the comments below.) I haven't done much research to see what already exists. That will be the next step I guess.

Here's some things I've thought of:
  1. Problem: You have scanned in letters / wills / obituaries/ photos of headstones, etc and want to transcribe them. Solution: A program that would do an initial OCR of images looking for text. It would create a file of what text it was able to extract. Ideally, it would know when it was doing a bad job and allow you to make corrections.
  2. Problem: You have a bunch of family history documents on your computer and a GEDCOM file. You want to know which people are mentioned in which files. This would allow you to site sources (esp. if you've forgotten to do it or the GEDCOM your grandpa gave you didn't have them) and to see if you already have some of the information you are looking for. Solution: a program that looks for names from your GEDCOM file in specified folders on your hard drive. It would create an index of names and files they appear in. If you were missing date information, it might flag some documents saying this document has a name similar to your ancestors with a date nearby. Maybe also it could add links to the documents in your GEDCOM file if you asked it to. (This idea is based on my one family history experience where a distant cousin called up and asked for the source of a specific date for an ancestor. I text searched a book my dad had put together and found the source. She had the source, but hadn't realized the information was there.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Going Bananas

I had a few over ripe bananas today. Since throwing them away would be wasteful, it was time for the traditional making of the banana bread. There are two problems with this 1) I don't like banana bread all that much except for one recipe and 2) I forgot what recipe that was. So I turned to my handy dandy cookbook. I could make muffins or banana chocolate chip cookie bars(I got excited at this point) . Of course I opted for the option with chocolate in it. The cookie bars are really good. Now I can look forward to overripe bananas. (I'll post the recipe later if I get around to it)

Monday, July 25, 2005

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

My pillow is flat. Recently I've noticed it is getting flatter. I bought it about a year ago, two for $10. Not a bad price, but I'm wondering about investing in a slightly nicer pillow, one that will remain soft and fluffy for many years to come. I haven't had a good experience with down pillows. I'd wake up with my head on the mattress and all the down piled around my head, not useful. Here's JC Penny's take on the perfect pillow. I don't think I'd be willing to spend more than $20 on one though, unless I knew for sure it would be amazing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Pear of Tattoos

I saw this article in the NY Times about tattooing fruit with a laser instead of putting those little stickers on. On the one hand, I'd be glad not to have to peel those little stickers off any more. On the other hand, my toddler saw getting the sticker as a big treat. Maybe she'd view getting the slice with the tattoo on it the same way.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (spoilers)

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. I enjoyed it.

Here's my questions and speculations from the book (warning: spoilers):

1) Why did Voldemort give Harry's mother the chance to live? I've had this question since book 1. My friend thinks he wanted her on his side, but did he really think she would join him after killing her husband and son? But then again, he never really understood love and thought death was the worst fate, so maybe he was that dumb.

2) Who was RAB? I was wondering about Sirius brother. His name started with an 'R' and we know the Dark Lord killed him, although I don't remember why.

3) Are there any of horecruxs left? We know of at least 2 in existence, the snake and Voldemort himself, but has the mysterious RAB managed to find and destroy the other ones like he did the locket? Or did RAB think Voldemort only had 1.

4) Is Snape really evil? He did kill Dumbledore, which would imply he is, but then, maybe it was necessary from some greater plot from Dumbledore. Dumbledore always trusted Snape, but then D. also said since he was clever, his mistakes tended to be larger. Also, by killing Dumbledore, Snape fulfilled his vow and probably usurped the Malfoy's place of favor (must have been rather pleasant for half blood to beat out the old wizarding families).

5) Does Malfoy have some redeeming qualities? At the end of the book, he was unable to commit the murder he planned. He also seemed to realize the cost of joining with Voldemort: failure is fatal to you and your family, and power is not all it is cracked up to be. I wonder if he realizes the stories his parents probably told him of the golden days with Voldemort aren't quite as rosy as they seemed now that he is back.


My daughter and I were standing on my great-grandmother-in-law's back porch which has a beautiful view of Provo. Here's how our conversation went.
Me: "Do you see the temple"
Sarah: "Yes, it's far far away."
Me: "Do you know what temple that is?"
Sarah:"It's the temple where Mommy got her donuts."
Me: "Endowments. Mommy got her endowments there."
Sarah:"in donuts"
Me: "En-dow-ments"
Sarah:"endowments. Some temples have donuts."
(Me: thinks about temple cafeterias) I suppose.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Can my computer match my dishwasher?

I noticed something interesting the other day while wandering around Circuit City. The newer computer cases seem to be in the same style as appliances -- the slick black, the stainless steel gray. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What do you wear to a funeral

My husband's grandfather passed away Sunday morning. We were both saddened, but expecting it. Besides the grief (or perhaps to ignore the grief) we started wondering about the funeral. Neither of us have been to very many.

The first question was, what do you wear to an LDS (Mormon) funeral? My husband has it easy, he just wears his black suit. I know from watching TV that black is the expected color, but LDS funerals, since we believe death isn't the end, tend to be more lenient. Seeking the source of all wisdom, I called my mom. She plays the organ and so is asked to play at many funerals. She said usually people wear dark, conservative clothes although she's seen all different colors. (In LDS circles, conservative means, for women, skirts should be approximately knee length or lower and tops should have sleeves. For men, a dark suit with a white shirt and unobtrusive tie.)

Second question, what do you wear to a viewing? I asked my mom this question too. She said, wear what you would wear to church (i.e. dresses for women, suits for men), you don't need to wear black or dark colors like you would to a funeral although it should probably be conservative.

So now I know.

(Updated 11/7/05)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Identity Infringement

I've read some of the recent stories about how companies have stored personal information such as social security numbers unnecessarily. Then a hacker or employee steals the data and sells it, putting millions of people at risk for identity fraud. (I've written about a similar topic here.) This is what I think should happen to the offending companies:

1) Any company that keeps personal information not central to it's core business is held to higher standard
  • You must be informed of what information the company is storing and how long they will store the information. For example, some companies like to run credit checks. I believe this requires a social security number (ssn). If the company holds on to the number after the check is done, they must inform you of it and become liable for it.
  • If for any reason your ssn is breached, the company must 1) notify you within 10 days 2) pay you $100 for your troubles and 3) pay to provide you with full credit reports from all 3 credit bureaus for the next 3 years.
  • If your credit card number pin is stolen the company must pay you $50. (I don't think the company should be storing this at all) but in theory, it's a lot easier to close down a credit card then recover your ssn.
  • These conditions also apply to government agencies like schools who foolishly use a ssn as a personal identification number.
2) Any company that keeps personal information central to it's business (i.e. banks have your ssn because they have to report taxes) must
  • Notify you within 10 days if they suspect your information has been breached
  • If investigation determines the company has been negligent (data not encrypted or casually shipped via ups) all the conditions for #1 apply.
I recognize that given a determined hacker, almost any computer system is vulnerable, but these companies have no incentive (other than bad publicity) to ensure your information is protected. Let's give them some.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ashes to Ashes

Warning, lame pun ahead:

I was talking to my dad yesterday about the fires burning in southern Utah. "It's too bad" he said, "It probably burned down the last trees in southern Utah."
"Well," I said, "They're still there they've just turned into ashes"

(OK, this is funny if you realize there is a kind of tree called an ash.)