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Disjointed but with purpose

So yesterday was the watershed moment for the reason I couldn't go to Corflu this year.

Every year around this time I have to send some files to an outside vendor who runs a website for us that allows students to sign up for the commencement exercises in June. This involves gathering some files from the three branch campuses, and I spent last Thursday and Friday consulting about and collecting the files. On Monday I imported them into the proper databases, reformatted them, refamiliarized myself with how everything fit together, and generally made sure that everything was ready to roll. What I had to do yesterday was pretty simple, basically running macros and then reformatting the resulting tables into tab-delimited text files. I also wrote up the procedures for all this, because I've become acutely aware of being the only one who knows how to do this job now.

These days I frequently feel like a monkey running around in the ruins of a previous civilization. I run databases that my forebears wrote -- forebears who were lost to death and budget cuts. These databases are often black boxes to me. I don't understand how they work, I just run the macros. There are some, like the commencement databases, that I've worked with enough that I have some understanding of them and have even made modifications. But if I were asked to write them from scratch, I probably wouldn't be able to do it. My expertise is really in the underlying data structures, the institutional knowledge and policies -- the "business rules" as they apply to student data. That's valuable knowledge, for sure, but we are sorely missing somebody with in-depth knowledge of SQL and/or statistics.

Well, that's more about work than I had intended to get into. I was explaining why I couldn't make it to Corflu this year. I did manage to join the fun in the virtual consuite/program a time or two, and many thanks to the folks who made that possible. I won a FAAn Award this year for Alternative Pants, so I also thank those who voted for me, bless your hearts -- and thanks also to carl for the great design and layout work on the zine. This award was in a new category for one-shots or fanthologies. This ended up being a weak category, and one that a lot of people didn't understand, although certainly there was another strong candidate in Travlin' Jiant, the collection of Art Widner's writing put together by Kim Huett, which came in second. Andy Hooper indicated during the ceremony that the category wouldn't be continued, and I would agree with that decision. It's true that single issue fanzines rarely get award recognition, and are expressly excluded from Hugo consideration, but there probably aren't enough of them in any given year to support their own award category. Still, it was nice to get the recognition, and it also reminded me of what a great trip that was. It reminded me of all the friends I visited and hung out with on my travels, and it reminded me of previous fun times, like the 2002 Corflu where I met the fishlifters, the 1996 Worldcon where I met gerisullivan, or my 2003 TAFF trip where I met reverendjim and pingopark.

It also made me think about my vague idea of going to Novacon again this year. I didn't make it to Corflu and won't be making it to the Chicago Worldcon, so Novacon beckons again. However, lately I've been feeling like that wasn't going to happen, both because I'm feeling so wiped out from work and because my sister and I are planning to take Mom to France in 2013 for her 80th birthday, and then it's the London Worldcon in 2014, and maybe another British Corflu in 2015. How many years in a row can I afford to travel across the Atlantic? But another Belgian adventure sounds like just what the doctor ordered right about now. Wouldn't that be a nice reward for all my hard work and stress this year?

Still dreaming ...

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
grytpype_thynne
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
I, too, couldn't have made Corflu this year even if I'd had the time and money, due to doing work I'm proud of (nut might have been better done by someone else so I could do the job I was actually hired to do) so...

It would be a pleasure to see you again, and I'm speaking for a lot of British fans. I accept it's not just 'across the Atlantic' but twice that distance but Novacon NEEDS an American pissed in the bar at 3 am... and not just any American.

I promise we won't try and make you go on stage with [REDACTED] this time.

PS - you couldn't persuade Richard and Stacy or Jay and Dixie to come too?

randy_byers
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Man, wouldn't that be a Novacon if we could get those guys to come along?!
fishlifter
Apr. 25th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
I gather Rich may still be thinking about this...
kalimac
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:12 pm (UTC)
I only vaguely understand the last half of your third paragraph, even though I think I've been in a similar position. One of my jobs at the Stanford library was to periodically run the URLs attached to catalog records (online versions of the texts, supplementary material, etc.) through a URL checker and update the ones that had changed. This required jumping through some amazing hoops to format the data, some of which hoops I had to invent myself, and I remember thinking as I wrote up the procedure prior to leaving the job, "Will anybody understand why they have to do it this way? Will anybody continue to do this job at all?"

Edited at 2012-04-25 06:13 pm (UTC)
randy_byers
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
Sounds as though you were more in the position of the people who wrote the databases that I now run without completely understanding how they work or why it was done that way.
fishlifter
Apr. 25th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
If you can make it to Novacon, or anywhere in the UK en route to Belgium, it would be lovely to see you. And of course you can stay here if that would be useful at any stage.

And maybe we could go to Belgium too, this time...
randy_byers
Apr. 25th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't that be fun! Well, maybe I should at least ask my boss if I could have the time off.
fishlifter
Apr. 25th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
The con is 9-11 November: http://www.novacon.org.uk/index.php
pingopark
Apr. 28th, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
Congratulations on your award, it was well deserved. I'm very pleased to have played a tiny part in the making of your fanzine, and it was a lot of fun. If you could make it back over for Novacon this year that would be awesome.
randy_byers
Apr. 28th, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
Yes, it was a lot of fun! And at this very moment I'm feeling very inclined to try it again. Although looking at the Novacon dates, I guess if we go back to Belgium we'll miss Death to Clowns Day this time.
pingopark
Apr. 29th, 2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
We could celebrate it at Novacon instead.
randy_byers
Apr. 29th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, we could. Have just sent a long message to the Fishlifters on that front. Speaking of which, have fun at the pubmeet this evening!
pingopark
Apr. 29th, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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