Herman I. May

Herman I. May


31 March 2005

Merciful relief

...then again, perhaps it is not so merciful.

The dysfunctional shell of what was once the human known as Theresa Marie "Terri" (Schindler) Schiavo has finally been allowed to end its hollow, artificial existence. The husband of the once vibrant Ms. Schiavo, Michael, will now be able to lay his wife to rest and get on with his life.

This is surely the most disappointing and infuriating media event of recent memory. What began as a pitiable attempt on the part of a grieving family to assert its misplaced religous dogmatism, degraded into yet another example of the paternalistic nature of our national political establishment. In October of 2003, Florida governor, Jeb Bush, took it upon himself to sponsor legislation allowing him to intervene on behalf of the noncustodial parents to have Terri Schiavo's nutrition tube reinserted — against the wishes of her custodial spouse and, apparently, her own wishes as well. A little over a year later (November 2004), the Florida Supreme Court struck down that exceedance of power. The so-called "feeding tube" was removed once again in mid-March (2005) prompting the Federal Congress to intervene and attempt to give the Federal Judiciary jurisdiction. The courts refused to take the bait and, thirteen days later, the body of what was once Terri Schiavo died. One could argue at least five years, if not a decade, later than she might otherwise have.

Continuing a trend of controversial social commentary, Greg Storey stimulated a lively discussion which proved to be one of the most popular on his site. On 20 March, he posted "Green" in response to the irresponsible Federal involvement in the saga. As is the unfortunate case with most controversial social commentary, the most striking feature of his treatise are the comments contributed by the crevice dwellers. Most pathetic (they would be humorous if they were not so pitiful) are the know-it-alls who profess to be privy to facts the rest of us lack, but who, in reality, are simply ignorant.

To be sure, Terri has achieved the immortality of which many of us can only hope to realize. Sadly, in her case, it will be tinged with controversy and some degree of infamy. The politicians are most to blame for that aspect. Had they kept their inept hands out of the situation, it would have quietly ended eighteen months ago as a regrettable family squabble. Instead, "compasssionate conservatives" have tainted the legacy of this woman and her survivors with their meddlesome involvement.

As I write this commentary, news is being broadcast that Karol Józef Wojtyła (akak Pope John Paul II) has taken a turn for the worse. He has developed a severe fever secondary to a urinary tract infection, according to reports. Given his age and recent infirmities, one can rationally speculate that he will be dead within the next week or so as well.

The Reaper is truly earning his keep in my world during this fortnight spanning from March and April.

30 March 2005

Ungratifying support

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has released a disconcerting report which warns mankind that continued depletion of the "Earth's natural capital" is likely to result in "such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted." Unfortunately, this report has received little coverage in the mainstream press.

The release of this document provides ungratifying support of my previous comments that mankind will be the chief instigator of its own demise. Never mind the threat of an asteroid striking the Earth; disregard the inevitability that Sol will fizzle into a black hole and take us with it. Long before either of these events takes place, man will have destroyed the carrying capacity for our planet to sustain life and we will cease to exist. Hopefully, he will not take all of the other life forms with him and something other than cockroaches and rats will survive our ignorance.

Follow-up: The Cape Times has printed one of the only in-depth pieces covering the release of the MA report. It is well worth the read; especially if one is disinclined to peruse the full report.

29 March 2005

Isaac Newton Adams

Coming on the heels of yesterday's distressing announcement is equally disheartening news that a beloved teacher from high school has died. A member of the TKG Class of 1984 mailing list shared with other members the fact that I.N. Adams, biology and chemistry teacher extraordinaire has died at the age of ninety-two. In sharp contrast to Kaecie's death, Mr. Adams lived a long and full life. I am sure it is no less distressing for his survivors, though.

Few teachers have the effect upon their students that Mr. Adams had upon several generations. Hardly a month goes by that I do not think of him in one way or another. I must admit that it is not in the manner one may suspect given my chosen scientific profession. Rather I often make use of the moniker he ascribed to the female, half-time performers at sports functions: referring to them as "kick and squeal girls". Nevertheless, he did have a marked and ongoing influence on my education in the sciences.

It is interesting to note that it was only after his death I learned of his given names. Heretofore, I had never heard nor seen him referred to as anything but I.N. Adams. Through the years I had hoped that, perhaps, one name or the other might echo that of the I.N of my own ancestry: my Ggrandfather, Ione Nehemiah May. Somehow appropriate is the knowledge that these initials represented Isaac Newton.

It is on the note of that personal revelation that I contribute in my own small way to the immortality of I.N. Adams by sharing his obituary as published in the Tyler Morning Telegraph for this and future generations to appreciate.

Isaac Newton Adams
Services for I.N. Adams of Tyler are scheduled for 1:30 P.M. Monday, March 28, 2005, at Lloyd James Funeral Chapel with the Reverends Dr. Robert Montgomery and Dr. Michael D. Dent officiating. Burial will follow at Cathedral in the Pines Cemetery under the direction of Lloyd James Funeral Home.
Born November 8, 1912, in Bomarten, Texas, trail drove to Spur, Texas, at age 13, died on March 24, 2005, at age 92. He was a pure son of Texas, the tough kind, born of John Quincy Adams and Willie Myra Truman Adams. He was a resident of Tyler since August, 1978. He became the husband of Stella Adams on Feb. 23, 1935. He grieved the passion in his life for her after her death on June 5, 2004.
He was a member of Marvin United Methodist Church, the Crusaders Sunday School Class that kept him thriving for years, and a Methodist lay minister.
He made the invisible visible before activism became a buzz word.
He was a biology graduate of North Texas State University years before its current name and did graduate training in many places. He stood 55+ years at the chalk board starting in a one room school, then high schools, 13+ years at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, TX, 20 years at Taft College in Taft, CA, and for about 15 years at Gorman High School in Tyler. A chemistry teacher without credentials, just one of the best there ever was. Never had a student fail even though his son and daughter tried him real hard. His students learned through the unique pathways of his mind, no barrier withstood his drive to their success. His success was measured in their success. His legacy are the leaders and teachers he left behind among whom are all of his grandchildren. Dad's belief in God, dry humor and somewhat idealistic views are preserved to be shared with the greater universe in his soon to be published writing. A gentle man of the old ways who wrote of the positives of his life regardless of the highEr dollar value of other stories. The pots of his Christmases will not bang again in our life on this earth. But he waits for us at the gate with his wiry grin.
He was the beloved father of George M. Adams of Malakoff, Texas, and Jane Livingston Hoshijo of Los Cruces, NM. Survivors include his two children; nine grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; one sister; and a multitude of in-laws, out-laws, nieces, nephews, former students and friends.
Pallbearers are Jack Cowan of Shreveport, LA, Jimmy Moore of Bowie, Texas, Ray Hatch of Taft, CA, Howard Adams of Lubbock, TX, and Dan Childs of Jacksonville, TX, and the man who stood tall as the Shepard in his life in these later years, Dan Dozierof Tyler, TX, Honarary pallbearers are Crusaders Sunday School Class of Marvin United Methodist Church.
The family will receive friends 6-8, Sunday, March 27, 2005, at 705 Top Hill Drive, Tyler, TX, I.N. will be at home to receive you.
I.N. Would appreciate donations be made to the Hospice of East Texas, 4111 University Blvd., Tyler, 75701, for the love and care they showed him and they bestowed upon Stella.

published in the Tyler Morning Telegraph on 2005.03.25

28 March 2005

Sharon Kay "Kaecie" (Dozier) Cutts

It is with surprise and sorrow that I share the news that a former administrator of the department in which I am employed died last Wednesday. Known as Kaecie to her coworkers, Sharon Kay Cutts died as the result of cardiac arrest. Perhaps most distressing is the fact that she was only fifty-eight years of age.

Kaecie was an institution not only in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, but at UT Southwestern in general. Everyone knew her; everyone liked and respected her. Maternalistic in the extreme, she treated everyone as a member of her extended family and bent over backwards to ensure that everyone got their due. This is particularly true in my case as she was instrumental in pushing through a promotion for for me when others were attempting to stifle it.

Below is a transcription of her obituary as it appeared in the Dallas Morning News yesterday. It is reproduced here as a a meager contribution to the extension of her legacy and immortality.

Sharon Kay Dozier Cutts
CUTTS, SHARON KAY DOZIER, age 58, of Garland was born January 31, 1947 in Phillips, TX and passed away March 23, 2005. She was a retired Chief Administrator of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Texas Medical School and was a member of The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration. She is survived by her husband, Phil Cutts; son, Tim Cutts and wife, Doreen of Rowlett; daughter, Amy Brimer and husband, Carl of Arlington; grandchildren, Carson and Kacey Brimer, mother, T.R. Dozier; sister, Rori Martin and husband, Rick of Dallas; nephew, Blake Martin. She was preceded in death by her father, Charles Edward Dozier, brother, Greg Dozier, grandparents, C.E. and Charley Dozier and Minnie Tarwater. A Memorial Service will be held 2:00 p.m. Tuesday March 29, 2005 at The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration 14115 Hillcrest Rd. Dallas, Texas 75254 with Father J.D. Godwin officiating. Memorials may be made to the American Heart Association.
Williams Funeral Directors Family Owned and Operated Since 1885 1600 S. Garland Ave. Garland TX 75040 972-276-5000

Published in the Dallas Morning News on 2005.03.27
where a link to her Legacy Guest Book is also available

27 March 2005

Watch out Alcor!

It would appear that having been kept in a state of suspension for over a decade had little effect upon the general viability of some of my seed stock. A cursory glance of the peat pods reveals that at least one example from each of the legumes has germinated. Seedlings can be seen emerging from the purple hull, lima and chickpeas. My favorite, the okra, has yet to show signs of any progress. However, as I recall, this species usually takes a bit longer to establish.

Regarding the garden plot in general, it was necessary for me to make a pass through the sodden section (carrots, radishes and spinach) to rebury poppers. Yesterday's all day precipitation caused a little under half of the radish seed and a few of the spinach germ to filter to the surface. A gentle poke, followed by a sweep of soil, has returned them to their subterranean incubation. The carrot seed appeared unaffected by the rain in this respect.

In all other aspects the plot appears to be thriving. New growth has appeared on all of the transplants. This is especially true of the squash, which have almost doubled in height over the past week.

Success of this year's tomato crop will be somewhat of an experiment in itself and worthy of observation. We were about four weeks later into the planting season last year before the beds were established. As a result, the transplants were almost three times taller (eight to ten inches compared to three to four this year). Following established, recommended protocol, all but the upper most leaf cluster were pinched. The rootball and denuded stem were then buried laterally beneath the surface. this year's shorter seedlings mean less subterranean root stock. It will be interesting to see if the level of production is comparable or if I should allow them to become more leggy in the future.

26 March 2005

Finding the McNeils

Taking advantage of a delay in the arrival of Collin's flight in Austin, I took a detour of a few blocks in Georgetown to try, once again, to locate the graves of Wiley Jones (May) McNeil, her spouse and other family members in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery. This time; success.

Two previous attempts at locating the memorials to my 3G aunt and a portion of her family were failures. The first try took place three years ago when, on a trip similar to the one today, Elizabeth and I stopped for a few moments on the way to Austin to pick-up Rebecca from a return flight from Florida. At that time, we only had thirty minutes to spare and, given that the section markers are non-existent at this worm farm, were unable to locate the small group of known plots within that time frame. The second attempt took place approximately one year ago. We were on our way back from a spring break camping trip to Enchanted Rock. The weather was quite uncooperative; so, again, we were forced to abort. This time, due to a flight delay of close to 1.5 hours, I had considerably more time at my disposal. It was close to my self-imposed time limit of seventy minutes that I came across the McNeill Family plot near the back of the Oddfellows Cemetery. Photos were obtained; a survey of the surrounding plots executed; and another research loose-end tied.

Woodmen of the World
June 10, 1905
55 Yrs. 21Ds.
(— front —)
We miss thee from our home Papa
We miss the from thy place
A shadow o'er our life is cast
We miss the sunshine of thy face
We miss thy kind and willing hand
Thy fond and earnest care
Our home is dark without thee
We miss thee everywhere
(— back —)
NOV. 30, 1851
NOV.  9, 1931
JAN. 15, 1876
JAN.  8, 1946
JAN. 5,  1879
SEPT. 17, 1857
Suda Velma McNeil
July 17, 1889
May 29, 1919
All things that we must love and cherish.
Like ourselves, must fade and perish.
AUG. 1, 1899
NOV. 25, 1900


25 March 2005

Priming the soil

Following on the heels of the garden preparation this year, I have transplanted several favorites and seeded many more. Among the transplants were twelve tomato plants (six each of two varieties); six jalapeño peppers; six banana peppers; two bell peppers; two zucchini squash; and two crook-neck squash. Seeds sown included broccoli, carrots, several variety of legumes, okra, radishes, spinach and sunflowers.

Some of the sown stock comprise an experiment of sorts; originating from gardening exploits of over a decade ago. Some surplus seed was found to have been saved in the deep freeze. They were thawed and placed in starter pods. If they germinate, they will be planted; if not, fresh stock will be procured. I will give them ten days or so to show some progress towards eruption, then it is off to the feed store.

I am going to give all of this a chance to establish before proceeding. Other probable plantings include cabbage, lettuce and other salad greens. Being a raised bed plot, a denser population is capable of being accommodated. However, i do not want to overextend myself in terms of management. We shall see.

24 March 2005

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

Upon arriving home this afternoon, I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. Arriving a week early was a box from Amazon containing a copy of the newly released DVD version of Tom Stoppard's excellent existentialist experiment, "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead".

This is the 1991 screen adaptation of Stoppard's 1966 stageplay contemplating the reality of one's existence as a secondary character In a famous Shakespearean play. The acting is inspired, the premise is ingenious and the result is pure entertainment. Until Tuesday, instant, I had to keep an eye on the broadcast schedules in order to catch an infrequent airing. With its release on DVD, I can now view it anytime the mood strikes me.

The release is on two disks with the second containing lots of extras; including interviews with all of the primary cast members. Check the "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead fanlisting" for more information about the film.

22 March 2005

Tilling soil

The time of year for sowing the seeds of life has rounded the corner once again. Though I am getting a late start of about three weeks for this temperature zone, preliminary preparations have been made to begin planting later in the week. A more in-depth summary can be found at the family site. However, I plan to keep a more-or-less detailed diary of the planting season this year here, on my personal site. Check back on occasion, if you have an interest in following the progress.

21 March 2005

Being "a guy in a skirt..."

I mentioned previously that I have embarked on a new frontier: the wearing of a kilt for other than special occasions. Our just concluded trip to Mississippi provided me the opportunity to test the efficacy of this practice for reasons of comfort and convenience on extended trips. For the most part it was quite successful in this respect. The only notable exception being getting in and out of the vehicle without unduly binding and wrinkling the garment. Of course, women do this regularly and I am sure that practice will make perfect, so-to-speak.

An anticipated side effect of kilt wearing is the potential for attracting attention. Contrary to potential opinion on the matter, this is not factor influencing my action in any way. Nevertheless, it happens. For instance, we stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast on the return trip. Seated at a nearby table was a Hispanic gangbanger in the company of his family whom I caught more than once staring in my direction. A more interesting occurrence was one which came to my attention indirectly.

Our normal route to the deep southeast US takes us down IH-49 to IH-10. This is a long and largely bland stretch of road. There is a section between Alexandria and Lafayette which has its merits in terms of scenery. There are numerous rice fields and several swampy regions. Around mile marker 34 is a rest area of particular appeal. It rests near a lowland area which is subject to inundation, but is secluded enough with open spaces to facilitate allowing the hounds to run free of a leash. This stop has been added as a regular waypoint on our trips through this corridor.

On the return trip, we stopped to allow Catalina and Oberon the ability to stretch their legs. Ten to fifteen minutes later, I noticed a couple walking three hounds of their own. Greyhound guardians have a natural affinity toward one another that comes from the adoption of a relatively unique breed of canine. So, we had occasion to chat. During the course of your conversation, it was mentioned that this couple had occasion to engage in dialogue with a woman at another rest area during the course of their weekend travels. This individual had marvelled at their hounds and mentioned having seen "a guy wearing a skirt with two greyhounds." Being of somewhat greater intellect that this individual, the couple had inquired as to whether it was possibly a man in a kilt with two hounds. The other party had answered in the affirmative and the couple indicated that they had been on the lookout to meet us.

20 March 2005

Touring the NERR

Christopher treated us to an extended tour of the NERR today. Being an estuary, the only efficient means of doing so is by boat and so it was.

The trip began at the primary boat launch down the road from the administration building. Our first stop was an eastward spur to the deepest most water quality station. From there we proceeded south and west, toward the Gulf. We surveyed briefly, by water, a shell midden near the launch site. Next stop was the reserve meteorological station, which Christopher mentioned clocked wind speeds in excess of seventy-eight MPH during last summer's visit by Ivan. Continuing to near the western most edge of the reserve, we stopped to take a walking tour of one of the larger shell midden ecological sites. Christopher mentioned that, as recently as a few weeks ago, federal agents, acting on a tip from NERR personnel, discovered criminals had established a temporary meth-lab on this island. On the final leg of our tour, we entered the Gulf and traveled the outer banks of the NERR to near the eastern extent before heading back to the launch. Rebecca acted as our pilot for the bulk of this portion of our trip.

This excursion has only served to whet my appetite. While the NERR is closed to extended and overnight stays, it is welcoming to day usage. Our tour only touched on the exploration potential as a combination of time constraints and weather limited out visit to only three hours and the major waterways. There are numerous minor tributaries and islands which beg for further probing. It is almost assured that I will return in the future to continue forays into the backwater reaches with camera and scientific inquiry.

18 March 2005

Grand Bay CP trek

I have been looking forward to our return trip to Mississippi. Plans to visit the Grand Bay NERR for a CP field trip were thwarted in November when it rained for most of the afternoon prior to and the day or our departure to return home. such was not the case on this trip. With five days at our disposal, we had plenty of time to make time for a brief survey.

As stewardship coordinator at the NERR, Christopher has great knowledge regarding all of the secrets of the estuary. He led Collin and I to a field near the NERR which is rich in carnivorous plants of two genus. Within several meters of our exploration, we came across the first of the pitcher plants (Sarracenia alata). In fact, this seems to be among the most abundant in this area. Eventually, we would discover specimens of S. psittacina and S. purpurea as well. As an added bonus all had representatives in some stage or another of flowering.

Not to be limited to the Sarracenia genus, we also came across a multitude of sundews. All were Drosera capillaris and ranged in size from less than a centimeter to over three centimeters in diameter. As a result of recent rains, several were found in the subaqueous environs of temporary ponds.

As an interesting side note, we also found a healthy representation of D. capillaris at Jen and Christopher's home. They were growing within five meters of the Franklin creek tributary framing their backyard. Most are unlikely to survive for long as they were likely deposited as the result of resent rain swells. However, a few may just prove hardy enough to remain for most of the spring in the shady moist soil.

16 March 2005


Life is full of experiences. Some are good and some are not so good. Regarding others, we hear that they are unpleasant and, in response, are happy that we have yet to experience them. This all sounds like a series of clichès, I know, but is applicable to something which I experienced yesterday afternoon.

For thirty-eight years, I have managed to live without the need for a dilated eye exam. Due to a desire for insight into a chronic periocular condition with which I have had to live for the past half decade or so, I got a referral to an opthomologist. Going in, I expected to simply endure a manipulative procedure with, perhaps, a skin scrape and some lab tests. What I received instead was a full workup. Included was a vision test, , glaucoma screening, a retinal exam and, finally, the expected dermal workup.

Many have been the time when necessity has required that coworkers, family and friends experience a similar procedure. Almost without fail, their relating of the experience has left me thankful that I have not had to experience the same. Complaints have ranged from pain from bright lights, blurred vision and headaches. Once informed I undergo this exam, I cringed at the prospect. Even the resident who performed it seemed to take a perverse pleasure at my novitiate status. In the end, it really was not so terrible. Perhaps sharing my experience will help others to be less anxious when destined for the same procedure.

The procedure went as follows: two treatments of a pupil dilating drug were sequentially administered at a three to five minute interval; a few drops of a yellow dye were then added and I was left for about seven minutes or so. During this stage I began to experience...well, nothing really. The lights had been dimmed, but I noticed no increased sensitivity to it. What I did appreciate was that my depth of field was becoming greatly diminished. The focal length at which I could clearly resolve details had become fixed at a point at approximately half a meter to infinity. Everything closer became increasingly blurred.

After ten minutes had elapsed, the resident returned to perform the exam. My chin was placed in one of those machines one always sees used. And a concentrated light shone into my eye to illuminate the retina for examination. To be honest, this was the most painful aspect of the whole experience. As the light shone across the more sensitive portion of my retinas, the level of discomfort increased substantially. I would compare it to the act of looking directly into the sun, but I have never been so stupid as to do something like that. So, I can only imagine that to be analogous — sans the intensity and damaging effects.

So far, so good. However, I had remained in a dimmed environment for the duration of the exam and I still had to get home.

As mentioned earlier, I had no expectation I would be undergoing this procedure and did not give prospective consideration to potential issues of commuting. As I left the clinic and became exposed to the full intensity of fluorescent illumination, the only extraordinary experience was an odd cast to the world in general. It is difficult to explain, but having all available light rays make contact with my retinas did not really increase the brightness or intensity. Rather things just looked a little different. Thankfully, it was an overcast day. So, my ride home was quite unremarkable. Everything still had a strange hue, but my black irridium lenses sliced the intensity to nothing greater than that which might be experienced at midday on a mildly overcast day.

While exercising the hounds after dark, I was unable to appreciate any increased sharpness in night vision. By bedtime, I began to experience a mild headache. The latter likely being the result of persistent attempts to focus on objects closer than half a meter. My eyes were still fully dilated at 2300 — fully six hours after the exam. I awoke the next day to normal vision and no lingering effect. Overall, nothing anywhere near what I expected.

The hypothesis, based upon my experience in relation to the reports of others, leads me to speculate that an unpleasant experience from a dilation eye exam is directly proportional to the integrity of their vision. In other words, the worse their eyesight, the worse their experience. There may even be a discrimination between those suffering from myopia and those afflicted by hyperopia or presbyopia. Presumably, the latter would fare better than the former given that they have lost the ability to focus on near objects already. Those with myopia are likely almost totally debilitated by the experience.

For those interested in the conclusions: I still maintain perfect, 20/20 vision; my ocular pressures are well within the accepted range for normal; no retinal issue to speak of — at least no one did; and the diagnosis of my chronic condition is simply contact dermatitis.

11 March 2005

Becoming a Kiltman...early

Upon arriving home from work this evening, Rebecca informed me that a package had arrived which was addressed to me. Not expecting anything, I developed a puzzled look. She indicated that she thought it was the kilt I had ordered. This was a pleasant surprise. The kilt was not expected for at least another week or so at the earliest; and possible as much as a month.

Sure enough, a hefty thirteen by twenty inch mylar envelope had arrived from Utilikilt. I ripped into it and had it on in less than a minute. It has been on my person ever since.

The earlier than expected arrival is quite fortuitous. Several events are upcoming and during which I plan to wear it. The original expected delivery timeframe would have stifled this intent.

After only a few hours of wearing, I can tell this will be a dangerous piece of clothing. The substantial nature of the utilikilt gives one the impression of wearing a mail skirt. "Mail" as in chainmail that is. The experience imparts a sense brazen confidence which is sure to add to my already intimidable demeanor.

10 March 2005

Drupal still incubating

My enthusiasm at the prospect Drupal has matured into a more perfect CMS may have been a bit premature. Cursory examination of the features specified on the web site and an initial browse of the management interface gave cause for excitement. After a week of hammering, though, has revealed there is still much work to be done before anything close to perfection is reached.

Several issues have cropped up, which make the immediate use of the package problematic as an immediate migration target for the work with which I am assisting Ron at the mt-daapd project site. Of primary concern is the interface for many of the interactive/editing screens. They are somewhat less than intuitive. The whole forum module begs for a cosmetic makeover; subject lines do not auto-populate based upon the parent thread, it appears one is forced to preview a post before submitting it for post — even if one is assured of content and intent; and many statistical bits are missing entirely. Among the latter are number of reads a given message has received (i.e. popularity). There is probably a module available to provide this functionality, but I feel it is something which should be built-in and available as an enable/disable bit.

Another big impediment to imemdiate adoption is the database structure. While this is not necessarily a shortcoming of Drupal itself, it begs the question of project proliferation and adoption. The issue is basically this: there is no ready means of migrating content from one CMS to another. A limitation of just about any CMS — commercial or open source — this problem dissuades one from ever changing management systems. Certainly, one would not expect a project to offer export scripts. On the other hand, one would expect them to have a battalion of import scripts available in order to foster the adoption of their CMS with a minimum of headache.

After a week of work, the task of migrating from Mambo to Drupal has proven to be more difficult that previously suppsed. Migration of the user and news tables was pretty straight forward and took less than a day to script and accomplish. The problem has been the forums. This is the most popular feature of the current incarnation at SF and it is important to fluidly transfer the content with as little downtime as possible.

In Mambo, the forum is actually an add-on module based upon Two Shoes' Simpleboard. The problem is the illogical construct of the database tables. The forum posts are split into two tables; the first contains all of the identification and meta data for a given post and its author, while the other is solely the content of the body. To add to the complexity, original posts are stored in the same table as subordinate follow-on threads. Each is defined by the "parent" column, which is "0" for the parent and the UID of the parent if it is a reply. The complexity of migration is manifest by the fact that, given the forum is an integrated component of Drupal, forum posts reside within the same table as new, bugtracking issues, collborative book pages, etc. Meanwhile, all responses — news comments, forum responses, issue discussion, etc. — are contained within a separate database. The complexity needed to develop a functional migration script was more than I could invest at the moment.

Following discussion with Ron, we have mutually agreed that, for the time being at least, we will stick with Mambo. Attempts will be made to resolve some of the outstanding issues which led him to consider another CMS. Should this not be possible, we will play with another management system (perhaps Drupal?) Behind the scenes. At the very least, the site will be relocated to its own domain and the functionality enhanced.

06 March 2005

Revelation of dress

I have a feeling some are going to wish that I had stayed home yesterday afternoon. Yes, stayed home instead of attending — with the rest of my family — the annual North Texas Irish Festival. Having been enthralled by that quintessential of Celtic garb, the kilt, for many years, I have decided to get one for myself.

On its surface, this may not sound like such an extraordinary thing. At the many Celtic heritage festivals and Renaissance fairs I have attended over the years, it is quite common to see men wearing these traditional garments as a means of getting into "character", so-to-speak. One does not, however, encounter many folks on the street in this sort of attire. Certainly, I cannot recall seeing any in this burgeoning metropolitan area. That is about to change! For I have decided to procure a kilt and wear it on a semi-regular basis.

Many years ago I looked at buying or making a kilt. The primary impediment was cost. The average kilt is constructed of eight yards of tartan wool. Add to that the fact most commercial offerings run upwards of several hundred dollars for even a specimen of modest quality and it is not difficult to see that my priorities have usually been elsewhere. Things they have a changed, however, In the six or so years since I last priced a kilt, a whole slew of alternative vendors have arrived upon the scene. A somewhat functional, if dubious quality, kilt can be had for under one hundred dollars. They are not wool; they are usually a polyester blend. This variety lacks the utility I would demand, though.

There was a vendor at the festival; located in the Automotive Building. Their purveyance stall was modest in size, but seemed unusually popular. So, we stopped by for a look. Hailing from Washington, Utilikilt has enbraced the concept of the kilt as a daily-waer fashion form and is none to modest to advocate such. One is encouraged to browse the web site even if there is not the remotest desire to become a kiltman. They are both irreverent and outspoken. Two features which I found quite appealing were the the six-pack potential of some of their more popular designs and the honesty to call a spade a spade with respect to more "fat-bellied brothers". ;-) What caught my attention, though was the thought that went into their designs. They were built, as the company name suggess, to be utilitarian; not for dress or special occasions only. This was perfect: a kilt with pockets and the functionality for daily wear. So, I decided to get one. Unfortunately, they did not have my size. (Remember, they were one of the most popular stalls.) Instead, I got a business card and visited their web site.

Just a few moments ago, I completed my order. My only regret is that there is an average wait six to eight weeks unless one's size is in stock. I am hopeful that my size is common enough to be among the normal stock, but not so prevalent that I will have to await the next production run. Perhaps I will only need to wait a couple of weeks. :-\

05 March 2005

Reconsidering Drupal

Several recent events have prompted me to reconsider another look at Drupal as the CMS powering the #kempiWeb interactive community. This versatile and well supported management system was among the finalists considered a little over a year ago. At the time, there were a few limitations which ultimately persuaded me to go with a commercial system, pMachine.

Shortly after I decided to go with pMachine, the developers released a more powerful and versatile companion system, ExpressionEngine. Initially, there were certain assurances that pMachine would be continued for the foreseeable future; so, I was content. In December of last year, an announcement was distributed to registered owners that an incremental beta (2.4) was being tested and soliciting participation. I decided against participation. After a year of use, several limitations had presented themselves, but the message boards seemed to suggest that "the next version" would address several of them. Nevertheless, I had other projects on the burner and could ill afford to add beta testing of a CMS to that list. I would simply await the GM release.

Less than a month later, however, the vendor announced that further development of pMachine was being terminated and the product discontinued. As a consolation, registered pMachine licensees were being offered the opportunity to upgrade to ExpressionEngine for $80 — a savings of only 20%. This sounded a little shitty to me, but I had to give it serious thought given the limitations which had cropped up in pMachine.

Early in February, the developer of the fabulous DAAP server daemon, mt-daapd, let it be known that he was investigating a move from the project host, SourceForge, to a dedicated domain. One component of the move was to be consideration of a migration to a new CMS. At first, he had settled upon PostNuke, but was not happy with some of its limitations. During the course of other discussions, I suggested Drupal as it had been among the finalists for my consideration.

My interest in this CMS has continued even though I did not decide to go with it and I knew it to have matured in many areas. After looking at it, he concurred and suggested that he might be interested in my assisting with the development and migration of the site. I agreed and after a week or two of playing with it have come to appreciate even more its maturation over the last year or so. Almost all of the limitations which had eliminated it from my final decision earliier have been fixed or were being addressed in the next release. Given the fact that pMachine is now a deadend, I am left with the dilemma of choosing between an eighty dollar investment to stay with a pMachine product or moving to a robust and very extensible opensource alternative. Frankly, it is not much of a dilemma; short of working on a migration script. Drupal was a serious contender previously and having pMachine force my hand to a decision on what i consider to be a less than generous upgrade has only encouraged me to return to consideration of a move to Drupal.

Further news is sure to follow...

01 March 2005

MyFamily expiration

As of midnight this morning, the last interactive community node hosted at MyFamily.com expired. #kempiResearch.thigpen was unique in its scope and membership. It was also the first of the interactive nodes to be established.

Created in November of 2000, the site was a gathering place for distant cousins of mine to meet, discuss and share the fruits of our family history research as it pertained to our common Thigpen ancestry. At its height, there were twenty-two members of varying degrees of relatedness. Most ranged from third to fifth cousins up to two degrees of removal. Unfortunately, it never really lived up to its piotential.

Most of the "participants" — and I use that term loosely — never really grasped the consortium ideal. Sure, some would engage in private eMail correspondence. However, when urged to pose the same question or share the same information with the community as a whole, few if any even responded to the suggestion — much less carried through. The activity of others seemed limited solely to the harvesting of data. Over ninety percent of the content available was contributed by myself and one other researcher. This information conisted largely of the transcriptions of historicval documents ans excerpts from various census rolls. Critical analysis of the latter were also staples. Yet throughout the four year existence of the site, only two of us contributed. The other twenty took without giving back.

Were that the extent of the discontent on my part, I would have gladly maintained the resource with an eye toward the, possibly naive, belief that meaningful contributions by all members would eventually come to pass. However, in June of 2003, the host admins decided that they could no longer provide even modest storage space to non-paying customers. The lack of participation combined with a looming stipend requirement, pretty much sealed the fate of the consortium.

The change of policy initiated a procedures for consolidating and migrating all family related interactive nodes to this domain. Community centered content management systems had begun to reach a level of maturation which enabled their serious consideration at the individual group level as a solution. However, the unique nature of the research consortium lent itself to seriously considering the perpetuation of that particular node at MyFamily.

I was happy to sponsor the site for the first year as MyFamily was willing to offer an interim special of one year subscriptions at 33% of normal charge ($10 vs. the normal $30). Repeated solicitations of contributions to fund continuation past the first year fell upon deaf ears or were met with excuses. With a population of over twenty individuals, even a few dollars each would quickly meet or exceed the $30 annual fee. Still no takers. So, I made the difficult decision to dissolve the consortium.

All of the content still exists. It has been exported and is being readied for archive at #kempiCommunity. Once that occurs, however, it will cease to exist as a potentially viable, interactive meeting place devoted to the discussion of the mutual Thigpen ancestry of its members. Instead, it will become a static novelty for interested family members. In and of itself, that is not a particularly bad thing. It is disappointing, though, that the original consortium members did not see the value of even a few dollars a month to keep it alive.


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last BBEdited: 2005.04.01