Grab bag: Genealogy, soulless soup, death prayers

Grab bag: Farewell, Edward Kennedy

Snow Leopard: Initial thoughts

I did the Snow Leopard upgrade last night, and it went OK.

First step was to back up my MacBook. It’s an exaggeration to say that it had never been backed up–I do, or did, regularly back up files to my .Mac iDisk, but rarely if ever did a whole system back up. A $99 external USB hard drive let me use Time Machine for the first time and I let that run for about three hours. Once it ran, I kicked off the installer and went to bed. (Yes, tempting fate.)

In the morning, I came down to the login screen. After login, about five copies of Software Update popped up, prompting me to install Rosetta so that “HP IO Classic Proxy 2” could run. I cancelled all of them, and went to HP’s site, where I found a suggestion that I didn’t need that driver, or any of HP’s software. Seems that the printer drivers are included in Snow Leopard, and scan support has been added to the built in Apple Image Capture application. Um, yay. Scan support from pressing the printer button is gone, but I never used that.

I couldn’t get my Cisco VPN working, but I should be able to get a later version of the client from work on Monday. Even better, I’ll be able to try out the built in VPN support once I turn up my connection file (it’s in a directory that’s not indexed by Spotlight, apparently).

Best of all? The update did free up disk space. About 11 gigs. Now that’s what I call a good upgrade.

Thinking outside the Internet box

  • What we call the Internet is too big a box to serve as a good metaphorical basis from which to make decisions. There are infrastructure layers of the Internet that should be driving our thinking, but without a sound metaphorical basis we’re making policy decisions about it that are grounded in the physics of radio.
    (tags: internet)

Grab bag: ePub, online ticketing at UVA, and more

Grab bag: Read, evolve, ditch

Snow Leopard arrives Friday

You can now pre-order Mac OS X 10.6, aka “Snow Leopard,” at the Apple Store for delivery on Friday. I forgot what it feels like to be excited and waiting for a Mac OS X release, even what is admittedly a point release with a handful of features. Some of those features are pretty cool, though, like Exchange support.

I’ve decided to get ready for the new Exchange features by doing something I should have done a while ago: I created a new dedicated “work user” on my laptop for those times I need to get into the office from home, and locked down the account–deprivileged it, used File Vault for the home directory, the whole nine yards. When Snow Leopard comes out, I’ll hook that user’s Mail and Calendar into the office Exchange server over the VPN. Nicer experience than Outlook Web Access and still secure.

I think, though, that most of all I’m looking forward to getting up to 7 GB back on my hard disk.

Grab bag: Rebel waltzes and secret doors

Family history: when was it the “Brackbill” farm?


I got email yesterday that there was a fair amount of storm damage at the Brackbill Farm in Lancaster County, PA earlier this week. The storm uprooted half a dozen old trees, and sent major chunks of other ash and locust trees flying, with the result that the old cabin and bunkhouse near the creek were heavily damaged. They had stood for over 50 years, so the loss was pretty painful, but fortunately the main buildings and the people on the farm were spared.

But it got me thinking. I learned yesterday more of the provenance of the cabin–which great-uncle built it; which of my first-cousins-once-removed helped–than I knew about the provenance of the actual farm. So I had to do some digging. I already knew that the farm had been the home of my great grandfather and his large family, and I had noticed in 2003 the dedication name on the side of the house that said Hershey rather than Brackbill. A few years later I went back and took a better picture, and was able to decipher the stone entirely; it said “Built by Abraham & Barbara Hershey 1857.” That’s interesting, I thought. There are plenty of Brackbill/Hershey marriages, but I knew Harry G. Brackbill hadn’t married a Hershey (that’s my great grandparents Harry and Esta above, in front of the farmhouse). So what was the connection?

I went back and looked at my genealogy. It seems Abraham Hershey was Harry’s great-uncle–his mother, Barbara Hershey, was the daughter of Christian Hershey, Abraham’s brother. (He was also Harry’s wife Esta’s great-uncle, but that’s a story for another time.) But Abraham had children of his own. How did the farm end up in the Brackbill family?

This week I found some clues, finally, in the magnificent MennObits archive of old Mennonite obituaries. There we find obituaries for both Abraham and Barbara, and some pieces start to fall into place. Abraham passed away in 1887 and Barbara in 1904, and Barbara spent the last seven or eight years of her life living with her children. Presumably she would have lived at the farm if it was still in the family, and had the children living with her (it’s a large farmhouse with enough room for large families). So sometime around 1896 or 1897, the farm may have been sold. My mother thinks that it was sold to Harry’s father, Elam, but I haven’t been able to find anything to confirm that.

The good news is that the historic deeds of Lancaster County, from the 19th century through 1980, have been made available online. The bad news is that the files are in unindexed images, and there are hundreds of pages of books. So I will find the answer… maybe within the next year.

Grab bag: A new canvas

Web-wide citations?

I recently started a new wiki project, which I’ll discuss in more detail later. Like the Brackbill Wiki, this one is based on the same software that powers Wikipedia, MediaWiki. It’s a powerful site building tool if you want something that’s collaboratively edited.

However, don’t assume that all the power of Wikipedia is in any other MediaWiki site. Case in point: citations. I love the citation templates on Wikipedia, together with the reference templates, because they make it drop dead simple to do professional citations, which if you’re trying to construct a reference work are kind of important.

But the citation templates that power Wikipedia aren’t in the default MediaWiki package; they’re templates that live specifically in Wikipedia’s content. And while Wikipedia’s liberal license policies allows reuse-by-copying, that means you have to keep up with bugfixes yourself. It would be one thing if it were just one template, but by my count I had to copy no fewer than 66 templates to get web and book citations, and their associated documentation pages, working. That’s nuts.

What would be nice, of course, would be to have a nice, robust markup strategy that would do proper footnote citations on any site, not just a wiki. The anchor tag is kind of the degenerate version of it–very powerful but also lacking in some of the stuff you want for a formal citation, such as the date the item was last accessed.

Grab bag: Barney Frank

Grab bag: Twisted words and screams