Archive for the “Work” Category

Snow and ice have been falling. Schools are closed. It’s a snow day! Since I didn’t have to go into work, I felt it was a good opportunity to spend a little time working on a programming project for work that I’ve had on the back burner.

One of the things I have to do at work it post the Library’s monthly new acquisitions list. I used to just forward the Excel file produced by the Tech. Services department to the webmaster who would convert it to HTML and post it to the web site. Since the Seminary’s website transitioned to a Content Management System that gives me editing access, I got to take over the HTML conversion process. Much to my chagrin, however, I found out that the conversion process involves a lot of manual copying and pasting in Excel, using a formula to concatenate the various fields into the final product, and then a series of search-and-replaces to clean up special characters and blank lines. I had hoped that there was just a program that I could run the file through to format the data with the necessary HTML tags, so that’s what I set out to do.

I’ve long wanted an excuse to start learning PHP, and this seemed like a good problem to solve via a simple PHP web app, so I started Googling for example PHP code for processing tab-delimited text files, handling special characters, and receiving web form input. I also dusted off my copy of the very handy PHP Function Index application, which provides an interface for viewing, searching, and browsing PHP’s documentation. After a few false starts, struggling to understand some new functions, and debugging a few errors, my first PHP application, HTMLified Acquisitions List Generator, was done.

Now I have a simple web app where I can select a tab-delimited text file containing the acquisitions data in the proper order, and the application will spit out HTML code that I can simply paste into the “Recent Acquisitions” page.

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As I was closing the Library last night, I happened to notice a book laying on one of the shelves in the Bound Periodicals section. Not a big deal I thought—someone probably just set it down while looking at an article and forgot about it. As I drew closer I noticed that it was a copy of Joüon & Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, and that it didn’t have a call number label on its spine—apparently someone’s personal copy. However, when I picked it up I started noticing some odd things about the book. Imagine a Library book where the barcode had been peeled off the back, the call number label had been cut out of the protective tape on the spine, and the ownership label had been removed from the front endsheet. That’s exactly what I was looking at. The call number was still written on the inside front cover and indicated that it was from the Reference section.

Was someone going to steal the book, but had a change of heart? Did someone “borrow” it for the semester and then return it? Who knows? You just don’t expect that sort of thing to happen around a seminary. Sure we have security gates, but they’re more to prevent people from accidentally walking out with books than to deter conscious theft. I was troubled and disturbed that someone in the Seminary community would do something like this.

However, the more I think about it, the less troubled I am. Around the Seminary, where everyone is so nice to everyone else (most of the time), it’s easy to begin believing at some level the illusion that we are good people. People out in the world may be sinful, but seminarians are righteous—or so it might seem. But that’s not the truth. Seminarians are sinners like everyone else. Although my particular struggle may not be the temptation to steal library books, I have my sins, and they are just as evil and ugly. Who am I to cast the first stone?

So, to whoever tried to make off with the Joüon-Muraoka, Christ forgives you, and so do I.

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The Tempest

First up, Shakespeare in the Park. Saint Louis has an excellent Shakespeare festival every year in Forrest Park. This year featured a performance of _The Tempest_. While perhaps not Shakespeare’s finest work, the performance was rather good. Many of the actors had a really good time with their parts, and the set was awesome. I also thoroughly enjoyed the hilarious antics of Juggling Jeff—one of the pre-show entertainment acts. The overall experience was so good, I went twice! The first time was with some co-workers one day after work. The other was with my Dad when he visited during Father’s Day weekend.

Second, cool summer movies. ‘Nuff said.

Star Wars III Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Batman Begins

Third, June is the month of conferences. Things got off to an early start in May when I went to the IUG (Innovative Users Group) conference in San Francisco. The conference was good, and I was also happy to have the chance to meet up with one of my first college friends, Kimberly. Earlier this month, I went to the annual MOBIUS (Missouri Bibliographic Information User System) conference in Lake Ozark, MO. Spanning only two days, it was rather short and uneventful. Although, I did get to enjoy the Japanese garden at the Lodge of the Four Seasons where the conference was held and where I stayed. After that, I got to hold down the fort… er… library while several of my coworkers went to the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) conference. Finally, just last weekend I went up with some coworkers to the ALA (American Library Association) conference in Chicago for a day to see the vendor exhibits. The really fun part was getting to spend Friday evening with John & Ellise. We had an excellent dinner at the Red Star Tavern, enjoyed some of the Swedish Days festival in downtown Geneva, and then watched Shaun of the Dead.

Next on the schedule, I’ll be spending a good part of July editing an article for publication in Presbyterion, the seminary’s journal.

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The Library is quite the busy place this week—at least for me it is. This is Access residency week. For those of you who don’t know, Access is Covenant’s distance education program. During residency week, Access students come into town for a week of high intensity course work for which they’ve been preparing during the previous months. While they’re in town, it’s a good opportunity to give them an orientation to the services that the seminary offers to its students, including library privileges. Thus, being the librarian in charge of public services (reference, circulation, bibliographic instruction, database access, etc.) I had to give a presentation to the Access students at residency for the first time.

Now Per, my brilliant predecessor, having presented at this orientation numerous times in the past, left me the nice PowerPoint slideshow that he has refined over the years. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to make a few changes—to personalize it to my style. The first order of business was to nix the animated screen shots and go to live demos. Second, I had to rearrange a few things to better fit my intended flow. Third, I needed a new design template, since the one Per had used screamed 1990’s (which is probably when he first made the presentation after all). None of the factory-installed design templates struck my fancy, so I ventured onto Microsoft Office Online where I found a nice design featuring a stack of books—rather appropriate for a library, I thought. With a new, more contemporary design template featuring subtler, more natural coloration and a photographic accent, my PowerPoint slideshow was ready to go—and just in nick of time too!

I was pleased with how well the presentation went. I had to go pretty quick, but I managed to cover all the basics and I also answered quite a few follow-up questions along the way. The next day I had the opportunity to have lunch with the Access students, and many of them expressed their appreciation for my presentation. I was glad for the positive feedback.

Back home, I decided that I liked the design template that I had found so much that I wanted it on my home computers. I launched PowerPoint, but found that Office Online wasn’t as nicely integrated on the Mac as I had remembered it being on Windows at work. First, I tried Mactopia, Microsoft’s Mac specific website, but I couldn’t turn up any templates that were not already installed on my computer. I then ventured over to the generic Office site (where every page informs you that you are using an unsupported browser unless you are using IE… grrrr). I tracked down the template and downloaded it. However, when I tried to open the compressed file, I found that it was a .cab file that Stuffit Expander couldn’t open despite the nice Stuffit-style icon that had been assigned to it.

Not to be deterred, I headed over to Mac OS X Hints, where I found just the hint I was looking for. Someone had written in some time ago about an open-source, command-line .cab utility (although no executable binary was available, and it had to be built from the source code). In addition, much to my delight, one of the comments on the hint was someone announcing that he was going to put together a package for Fink. I launched FinkCommander, found cabextract, and installed it. Sure enough, cabextract did the trick. It opened the .cab file and I had my template. I just had to give it a sensible name (and appropriate file type and creator codes for good measure), and I was ready to go. The only snag is that I haven’t been able to figure out how to get the template to show up in the formatting palette along with the default templates. Hmmm…

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