It’s hard to shed the feeling that a fundamental change has occurred, that “normal” won’t ever be normal again. At some point, we’ll come out of this, but how many small businesses and local restaurants will come out with us? When will we feel comfortable going to lunch with friends? When will we feel comfortable going back to work, or school, or church? For me, this may well be the end of my working life – before it all began I was pondering how much longer I would go, now that I’ve basically been off for nearly two months I’m pondering if I want to go back. It’s been like a dress rehearsal for retirement, and I’ve enjoyed the change in my sleep habits, not waking at 4 or 4:30, not constantly worrying about what might be going wrong at work. Walking away from all that offers new opportunities, but present circumstances stop you from taking advantage. The isolation presses on me at times – because my wife and I have been pretty strict about social distancing, I haven’t been inside a store in two months, I’ve had very little contact with friends, church might as well not exist. My only outlet has been a few trips to Home Depot, ordering online and doing curbside pickup of some things I needed to do some projects. I’ve caught up on lots of projects during this time, got the yard and garden looking pretty good. How much longer do we stay like this? I don’t know. While some businesses are opening up again, some restaurants are resuming full service, people are going to work and play again – we’ll be staying home, watching to see if the infection rates start to rise again. Time will tell.

May 16, 2020 · Harry · No Comments
Posted in: Life

Nerdy Spreadsheet Stuff

On one of my projects, I have to process data from lots of sources. One of these provides essentially a report in spreadsheet format. I need to strip out all the extraneous things – empty rows, data split into rows by line feeds – so I end up with one line containing a name and address so I can geocode it. To do this in Excel, I use these steps:

  1. Copy the column (B) containing the name and address to a new worksheet
  2. On the new worksheet, select the column just pasted, then click (on the Home tab) Find And Select –> Go To Special –> Blanks, then click OK
  3. Still on the Home tab, select Delete –> Delete Sheet Rows (the paste command brings lots of empty rows from the original worksheet, because of the report formatting; these commands will select and then delete the empty rows)
  4. Select the Data tab
  5. Select Text To Columns –> Delimited –> Next
  6. Step 2 of the Text To Columns Wizard, de-select Tab, select Other, and type Ctrl-J (control-J) in the box beside Other. You’ll just see a period in the box, but the sample display will show the data split into columns. Click Next and then Finish.
  7. To combine the address for geocoding, use the Excel formula =CONCATENATE(B2,”,”,C2)

For whatever reason, this is a satisfying exercise, watching Excel rearrange the data into a form that is usable for my needs. Especially the text-to-columns function.

November 18, 2019 · Harry · No Comments
Posted in: Geek Stuff

One of the many reasons I love BBC History Magazine

From the October 2019 issue:


In a caption on page 44 of August’s issue (Trafalgar: An Overrated Victory?) we wrote that the “Dutch fleet” was destroyed at the battle of Copenhagen. It should of course have read “Danish fleet”. Thanks to the many readers who pointed out this error.”

November 11, 2019 · Harry · No Comments
Posted in: History

Pilgrim’s progress

Sometimes the stranger you meet on this pilgrim’s journey through life is the person that others see you to be. Self-examination is often not the easiest thing to do. Some recent interactions have sent me down that winding path. For now, it’s expressing itself in a reluctance to post much on social media, and avoidance of some of the people with whom I normally interact. I’m still parsing some things that were said online and in real life. In the case of Facebook, I think abandoning the platform isn’t an option, because of an organization page that I need to maintain. But I think a period of minimization is perhaps called for. I’m pretty sure the world can exist without my opinions for a little while, and I know my head needs to clear a bit while I’m waiting for enlightenment and understanding to come.

November 10, 2019 · Harry · Comments Closed
Posted in: Life

Weekly Conference Call Hell

So once again I’m sitting here on the weekly conference call for this one project I’m on.  This is one of those projects that makes me a firm believer in past lives and karma, and also that in a past life I must have done some bad, bad things.  It has been essentially the same call for over a year – the client has the same problems, they’re going to do the same things to address those, they’re always about to do those things, but week after week they haven’t been done.  And there’s one person on the call who I call Acid Trip Girl, because it’s like listening to someone on an acid trip. If I took a drink every time she mentions stored procedures I would be laying out dead drunk every Thursday afternoon. It’s a classic case of “why use ten words to explain when I cane use a hundred”.  But it isn’t nice to talk about people so I’ll stop.

October 31, 2019 · Harry · One Comment
Posted in: Other Stuff