Adding data, not systems

For the most part, and leaving aside some tool-making or data-checking programming, I think it is far more relaxing to add data to the world than to add more systems-for-working-with-data. Contributing to Wikisource, Openstreetmap, Commons, even Flickr and Reddit, will further the cause (what ’cause’?) more than building some new system for cataloguing photos or conducting conversations.

So take photos, draw maps, write blog posts, explore the world and record what you see. Don’t devise the means to do these things — we already have the means, and have had for a rather long time. Better to get on and do it, I think. The means won’t be perfectly what you’d prefer, but then they never will be (even after you’ve built the system that’s perfectly exactly what you want).

If you see what I mean?

Anyway, I’m only saying this because I’m going to be away from regular coding for a few months from next week, so shall be focussing on Doing more than Building. And I can’t wait!

Wikisource category browser now has other languages

I’ve updated the Wikisource validated works’ category browser tool to include other languages. So far it’s just Italian, and to some perhaps-incorrect extent French (there’s only four? that’s not right).

I just need more Wikisources to tell me the names of their validated works and root categories, and it’ll just be a matter of adding these to the config to get them running.

The category list is updated weekly.

Drawer for my toolbox

My main woodworking toolbox has two runners inside, near the top edge, on which to slide a drawer. I put them in when I built the thing (I made them too long, or the lid props too long, or something too long, and had to chop a bit out of them so the lid would close; see at right. That’s irrelevant to the task at hand though.)

But I have no drawer — so, I’m making one. I’ve got a few odd bits of pine sitting around, mostly destined to be paint stirrers; I’ll bodge them together in a squarish shape, and my chisels and small things will have somewhere to be put.

The piece of 19×42 was a bit fat, or at least I thought it might look a bit odd next to the skinny walls made from the other pieces, so I ripped it in half.

Docked to length (with a few millimeters to spare for cutting off later), I then cleaned up the sawn surfaces (a bit; I’m not fussy, and sometimes like to see some saw marks). I usually work with Tas. Oak, and am always surprised at the soft squishiness of pine, and the speed with which it can be worked (or butchered, as one might say in this case).

The drawer bottom pieces were actually already within a gnat’s crotchet of where they needed to be, so I just planned their ends to get them squared up and the right length. The sides I then marked to length off the bottoms, because I really don’t care how big this thing is (it just has to fit itself).

I really should get around to making myself a bench hook or two; they’re far better than hanging things off the end of the bench. But I’m lazy; whenever I’ve got energy for woodwork, I want to get on with the thing at hand, and not get caught up in jigs and set-up and prep. A ridiculous, inaccurate attitude, I’m sure. It’s not like I get shit done anyway.

The time had come for beer, so that was procured (from a shockingly plastic homebrew bottle), and the glue-up commenced. It didn’t go right, at first, but I went and found a proper glass for it (and found my battery drill with a 1 mm bit), and after that the nails went straight and true and didn’t blow out the sides.

Probably, one should try to avoid blogging about gluing things together while actually doing it. But then, the computer was right there in the cupboard playing odd things from Radio Paradise, so it seemed easy enough. Got a bit of glue on the camera grip though.

The two short sides were next, being cut to length each to their own. They fitted with no dramas. By this time it was dark, and I was wondering what it would cost to get something more than a single fluro tube lighting my shed. Or even a new extension cord so I could run the computer, amp, and a desk lamp on my bench (radio takes precedence at the moment).

So, all done.

The album for all these photos is at

Agh, the sadness of blunt tools

The wood really wasn’t being nice to me, today. I was dressing some old jarrah with a scrub plane, and it just wasn’t cutting the mustard or the wood. Of course, it simply wasn’t sharp:

Plane blade, blunt

That shiny bit in the middle isn’t a trick of the light, it’s bluntiness.

However, I have no grinder, and this blade needs a fair bit taken off, so I’m giving up for the day…

Maybe I should get one of these from Carba-Tec:

Or be tricky and build something like this:

(From here)

The trouble with that latter is that it’s pretty impossible to find the stone for such a thing! Otherwise, would be brilliant.

Ah well… I’ll keep honing that blade…

if:book: ephemera

I’m bored and tired this Monday morning, but still I flick through my blog feeds; I found this: [if:book: ephemera] from the Institute for the Future of the Book.

It’s an interesting idea: that the inconsequential, unconsidered, printed matter of the day gives ‘the future’ (the people, that is) insight into how normal lives were led. Does it? And if it does, does that mean that it’s a good idea to collect modern ephemera? (oh, incidentally: I have read in old books the word ‘ephemera’ treated as singular in number, so maybe I mean: ‘should ephemeras be collected?’…) I think I am, at heart, something of a hoarder of things — words, pictures, stories, whatever — that seem in danger of otherwise going unrecorded; I must think that there’s some value in these things…

I’m not convinced that we can actually choose what records are left for the future, however. Much extant documentation from the past was never set aside for preservation; much that was set has disappeared without trace (well, obviously not totally without trace: we know a certain library might have existed, but not what stories its books held). Isn’t this what Claudius (well, Mister Graves, anyway) said in the preface to I, Claudius? That it’d be better to leave his memoirs lying on a table somewhere, and leave their preservation to chance, than to entomb them under stone and law?

But maybe we can choose, a bit, or at least make it easier for things to survive (by not destroying them!). Leaving aside the question of why it’s worth doing, I wonder about how. They say that the internet, and computer-based documentation in general, is making the printed record of modern times sparser and maybe less meaningful than that of other times (the eighteenth century, for example). In the post I’ve linked above they ask “what provisions are we making for our own mass memory?” Some people say that computers should be used to solve the problem of things existing only on computers, which seems a little contradictory to me, but (being the geek I am) I also at times think this. So I write programs that help me order things and decide what not to keep.

Oh, then I get confused and wonder why I ever bother keeping a blog…


“Dad, I dug a hole.”

I have been digging this morning, working on the chicken run. It’s muddy, now we’ve started pulling up the concrete, and the clay sucks at my boots and sticks to all the tools; how very far this is from my memories of digging soakwells in Fremantle! (Incidentally: I have only just learnt that around here they don’t even have soakwells, and all storm water goes into Sullies; I’ve just never thought about it…)

I looked down at the mattock, at the ridge that runs down the center of its blade and the taper of the handle where it runs through the eye, and I was stuck by the fierce solidity of this joint of wood and steel. Such a strong place, grubby and perfect for what it does, and so greatly congruent with its materials that I’m sure no one can find fault with this example of truth to materials. And if anything, it is that which I am striving for in my life.

(P.S. The title of this post, if you don’t know it, is a quote from The Castle.)

The Afternoon

I got some lunch on the way back to the workshop, and sat in my corner feeling a bit sad about not wanting to work. It took only a bit of food in my stomach for this mood to pass and I got back to it: more dressing of the ash door jamb for this little box. I made a lot of shavings doing that, and then some dust when I cut and shot each part to length (4 at 377mm, 2 at 77mm and a little bit left over that I will use tomorrow to patch up the holes in the wood).

All that dulled my iron a bit so I went downstairs to sharpen it — little did I know what I was in for! For nearly and hour and a half I toiled over those stones trying various ways of holding the blade, standing, focusing on my big toe – all to no avail until (with a little help from my friends) I hit upon what seems a pretty good way. Locking my elbows and wrists in tight, with a hand on either side of the blade and rocking from my front ankle with my back leg providing the movement. This and a little 30° plastic triangle from R. gave me a sharp blade at last! I have been sharpening it to razor sharpness all year, but a couple of weeks ago I noticed that I was unable to rectify the tendency I have to apply more pressure to one side than the other. So I re-ground it square and since then I just have not been able to get it quite as sharp as usual (until today). I filmed myself as I was sharpening so that I could see how well I kept to the angle.

All of this fiddling around with my plane blade got me right back in the vibe of doing good work, for which I was thankful. So I went back to my bench and worked for the rest of the afternoon. I planed grooves in the box sides to take the bottom and (sliding) top using my No.50 plow plane. It was lovely to be back enjoying wood, and what a marvelous tool that is!

All in all a far better afternoon than the morning; seems to happen that way…