Full email breakfast

It seems like I am not the only one doing the full email breakfast in the mornings. Sitting here with my yogurt and freshly pressed orange juice (another new machine for the kitchen – compliments of my mother). I am musing about how healthy this combination really is. Not the yogurt and orange juice. I am pretty sure this is healthy enough. But should I really combine it with email and such.

At the moment I am experiencing a slight computer depression or maybe I should call it IT related stress. I feel that I sit in front of the computer too much. It might be related to the fact that most of my work at the moment revolves around building websites or editing XML and these are very difficult things to do by hand. So I feel slightly trapped and start to resent the computer.

And now of to do some more work on websites…

Coffee and writing

I have just managed to bring down my inbox from 112 email to 13. It feels good. I am just one of those people who get’s slightly stressed by an overflowing inbox and as I am a big fan of Gmail it follows that all my other email addresses get redirected here. It means more control and a better overview of the emails I receive. However, it also means that I need to be very vigilant and have a strict deleting policy. Being a PhD student it does that you get a lot of email which is completely irrelevant to you.

We are a couple of hours into the morning and I have filled my Stelton with coffee. Now I am ready to tackle an hour of writing on my thesis. But first I want to ramble a bit about how I like to write. My thesis deadline is still a year and a half away. It seems like such a long, long time and therefore I find it difficult to pin myself down and just get on with some writing. Of course there are bit’s that I can’t write yet because I haven’t finished the work. But there are bits that I definitely can write. The introduction for example is a good place to begin. In my opinion it is one of the most important chapters. I did a bit of research into how an introduction can be written and found a good way of looking at the thesis background.

Now I am onto the next chapter about the previous research in this field. I have found a way of getting through these chapters with the help of my husband. We sit down together in the weekends and decide which sections I should write in the following week. The following weekend he then reads through these sections and we decide on some more for the next week. The writing I am doing at the moment is still very much in a draft stage and while I would never let anybody else see it I don’t mind that he does. He doesn’t as such read it through for relevance or even to see how good it is. It is more a sort of read through to check that I have actually written something related to the chapter heading. I am very much of the school of thought that when writing bigger pieces it is more important to get something on paper than to worry about the quality. Re-writing and making it sound good is a process that comes much later. Even though I only get through a couple of pages a week this way it is by far better than what I was getting done before. I would be sitting there staring at this huge document with all these headings and not even know where to begin.

A new development in this writing process has come very recently and is related to my earlier post about being stressed about sitting in front of the computer all the time. I find that I am by far a more creative person when I am not behind the computer. So I have recently begun to write my sections on paper and then type them up instead.

In addition to this I am trying to keep my research blog updated about what I am currently working on. I hope to use it to widen my perspective and learn about other projects. At the moment I am researching other projects developing IT tools for working with or reading ancient documents.

Time is of the essence

Well is really is if you are waiting for a page to load. You may not think that 10 seconds is a long time but trust me if you are sitting staring at a blank screen it does seem to be. And people loose patience with websites that take ages to load.

So at the moment I am putting the finishing touches to the new Vindolanda Tablets Online II website. It is supposed to be a sister-site to the old Vindolanda Tablets Online but with more snazzy interaction between tablets.

The work I am doing today is trying to shorten load time on some of the pages. There is one page that loads a list of all the tablets from an XML document generated by a Web Service. The Web Service searches through all 735 documents in the deposit. To do this and load this page takes 10.73 seconds. However, by creating a static XML document from the one generated by the Web Service I can get this down to 6.655 seconds. I have saved 4 seconds. Now, some may think that this seems ridiculous but I promise that you can feel the difference and it may very well be a difference between waiting and leaving the website.

Now that I have mentioned VTO2 anyway maybe I should tell you a bit more about it. The launch will coincide with the Roman Archaeology Conference in Oxford and for this we have made some nice postcards. I have been working on the material for this site for the last 2 years and on the site itself I have worked intensively the last couple of months. And still the thing that excited me the most was the postcards. Don’t ask why!

I quote from the site (no shame in reusing text I have already written once):

…Vindolanda Tablets Online II (VTO2), a sister website to Vindolanda Tablets Online (VTO). VTO2 is meant not as a replacement but as an addition to VTO. It also is an online edition of the Vindolanda writing tablets, excavated from the Roman fort at Vindolanda in northern England.

VTO2 differs further from VTO in the approach to publishing the tablets online. Where VTO is based on a database containing all the tablet information, VTO2 is based on a series of EpiDoc encoded XML documents – one for each tablet. Information is then extracted from these documents by the  APPELLO Web Service.

Unique to VTO2 is the index searcher which makes use of APPELLO’s word search capability. You can choose to search through all indices at once or one particular index at a time. The index searcher uses AJAX Livesearch technology, meaning that it will list suggestions while you are typing your search.