Archive | January 2014

A macro view of the past

It’s ironic that after 25 years, I find myself returning to Mac macros. Way back in college I worked in the Carleton bookstore, which bought some new-fangled database software to run its billing/shipping/inventory. Since I was more Mac-savvy than most of the adult full-timers, I was in charge of creating a few macros to speed up some of the data entry. I don’t know how useful my initial experiments were. I hope I wasn’t to blame for all of the inventory miscounts we had – you’ve never seen so many “Quantity: -1” records in your life. It certainly couldn’t have had anything to do with the foolproof system we used: we would ring up the price of each book on the NCR cash register, complete the sale, and then write down the ISBN of each book on a pad of paper by the register. At the end the day, or during a lull, somebody would walk over to the Mac Classic and enter in the day’s ISBN numbers. I still say the best skill I acquired from my early days in retail was to use the numeric keypad.

So now I find myself back with an iMac, and an extended keyboard with a numeric keypad, finally returning to the concept of macros. Sure, macro programs have been around for a while, but I guess I’d become inured to the drudgery of repetitive data entry. No more.

So now I’m using Keyboard Maestro to create macros for repetitive tasks that need doing in DT. They probably are also possible if you know Applescript, but I don’t. I do know, however, how to press keys. As long as food pellets or power-ups are involved.

Most importantly, I realized that even though DT doesn’t provide a way to batch edit documents’ metadata, I could create a simple macro that would carry out the 10+ steps required to add the metadata for a single record: open Document Properties of selected record, wait .25 seconds, tab down 5 times to get to the Keyword metadata field, type in “note” (or a separate macro for “thought”, for “map”…), close the window, and go to the next record.

Now if I can only figure out how to do it for multiple selected records, some kind of macro loop.

We’re getting closer, people.

Devonthink, scripted

Busy with administrative, research and teaching matters, but I managed to carve out small bits of time late at night to tweak Devonthink with some Applescript and Keyboard Maestro. Mostly code monkey stuff, with the assistance of my programming wife, but helpful nonetheless. Don’t continue reading unless Devonthink, Applescript and macros get you excited. Read More…

As I was saying…

This time, Pickering and Chatto’s catalog. Warning: if you are interested in all sorts of nooks and crannies (‘holes and corners’, if you will) of early modern Europeana, wear a bib when browsing. And bring your wallet.

Books of direct military note include:

Greenspan, Nicole. Selling Cromwell’s Wars:  Media, Empire and Godly Warfare,  1650–1658. Boydell & Brewer, 2011.
By the mid-seventeenth century, the English public’s thirst for news and a dramatic growth in print culture made the media a powerful tool for shaping public opinion. Greenspan examines a selection of Cromwell’s conflicts, policies and imperial ventures to explore the ways in which the media was instrumental in developing, promoting and legitimizing government actions.
Murdoch, Steve, and Alexia Grosjean. Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years’ War, 1618–1648. Boydell & Brewer, 2014.
Field Marshal Alexander Leslie was the highest ranking commander from the British Isles to serve in the Thirty Years’ War. Though Leslie’s life provides the thread that runs through this work, the authors use his story to explore the impacts of the Thirty Years’ War, the British Civil Wars and the age of Military Revolution. Based on research from archival material from across Europe, Murdoch and Grosjean are able to explore how Leslie and his fellow officers brought a unique set of cultural and societal factors to the European theatre of war.
More Scots!
White, Jason. Militant Protestantism and British Identity, 1603–1642. Boydell & Brewer, 2012.
Focusing on the impact of Continental religious warfare on English, Scottish and Irish Protestantism, this study is concerned with the way in which British identity developed in the early Stuart period. British identity and foreign policy are studied as one, allowing a greater understanding of the role of religious fervour on national and international politics of the time.
Presumably an expansion of his 2009 article in History.

Tis the season for publisher catalogs

From Boydell and Brewer’s latest catalog:

Margulies, Martin. The Battle of Prestonpans 1745. Boydell & Brewer, 2013.

Lieutenant-General Sir John Cope, the leader of the British army, has been ridiculed, in song and history books, for losing the Battle of Preston pans – the first major battle of the 1745 Jacobite rising. His defeat led to the invasion of England, in which the Jacobites almost drove King George II from the throne. But was Cope really to blame?
The Jacobite Risings occurred after Parliament ousted King James Stuart in 1688 and installed a new dynasty. Stuart loyalists, many of them based in Scotland, took up arms repeatedly in futile attempts to restore James’s descendants. The 1745 Rising, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, was the last. Martin Margulies traces Scottish history up to ‘the ’45, describes the sharply contrasting weapons and tactics of the opposing armies, and follows the Prestonpans campaign from the time Charlie landed, almost alone, on the remote Isle of Eriskay through the moment his tiny force destroyed Cope’s regulars in an early morning Highland charge.

We just can’t get enough of those High Flyers I guess.

Jacobites bite back

Recent book out:

Oates, Jonathan. The Jacobite Campaigns: The British State at War. Pickering and Chatto, 2011.

The military aspects of the Jacobite campaigns in eighteenth-century Britain are considered in this study. Taken from the viewpoint of those loyal to the Hanoverian Crown, the three mainland campaigns of 1715–6, 1719 and 1745–6 are examined, using research based on primary sources: memoirs, diaries, letters, newspapers and state papers.

Oates looks at how the eighteenth-century military machine operated in a domestic context, as well as its effectiveness. Such a focus adds a new dimension to the study of this period, and allows for further questions as to the uniqueness of the Jacobite rebellions.

Now 75% off if you subscribe to their email list. Or, I suppose they could buck the trend and only charge $25 for the book in the first place. But that horse has already left the barn, as they saw.

Buddy, can you spare a scribe?

Interesting NY Times story on the increasing use of scribes by physicians – you know, those who claim to be “doctors.”

Three weeks of training gets you a scribe that follows you around with a laptop in hand and takes notes on your interactions with patients, with the scribe company charging $25 per hour ($8-$16 for the scribe). Sounds like something academics could use: there don’t seem to be nearly enough research assistants floating around. Only problem: that going rate is a bit high.

"Tell me where it hurts."

“Tell me where it hurts.”

Apparently all the computerization is one of the biggest complaints among physicians. A money quote from the article: “recent article in the journal Health Affairs concluded that two-thirds of a primary care physician’s day was spent on clerical work that could be done by someone else; among the recommended solutions was the hiring of scribes.

From one doctor to another, I hear ya. Though History must be more challenging, because I’ve had limited success getting some of my department’s past office workers to do much more than photocopy.

Computerized medical records were supposed to make everything efficient, but I guess they forgot the lowly data-entry clerk. I didn’t. So now we’re going back to the days when secretaries actually did typing for doctors, at least the medical kind. Funny how technology sometimes takes you in circles.

What to do, what to do

With the new semester approaching (why is the most appropriate metaphor an oncoming locomotive?), I thought I’d get prepared ahead of time. Feel free to follow along.

Last year I got around to reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Over ten years old, it’s a bit of a cult in the private sector and with IT people especially (witness its coverage on Grad/ProfHacker). Reading the book for myself, I was fascinated by the way in which he broke down all the types of tasks and projects into discrete elements, and combined them into a coherent system. And his discussion of the psychological barriers to organization and productivity rang oh-so-true to my ears. If you know much about his system, you’ve probably seen this summary diagram floating around the internet (and you know I give him extra credit for creating a diagram with icons):

Advanced GTD summary

Advanced GTD summary

Read More…