Tuesday, June 21, 2016


As of today, I am the owner of an Oscar Schmidt 36 String 12 Chord Vintage Autoharp, certainly the only one on my kibbutz and possibly the only one in Israel. I bought it from Ebay a few weeks ago and to be honest, buying it was a mistake. I had participated in several auctions for more modern autoharps, but I didn't win any.

This one was priced very low which is why I entered a bid. Shipping was available to Israel, which was not the case for about half of the 'harps offered for sale. A moment after entering the bid, I read the seller's comments: Seriously out of tune and needs TLC. Attic find (my own attic- used to play this when I was a kid). No structural issues that I can identify- just cleaning and tuning (and the two missing keys, which I unfortunately do not have). Had I been less frustrated about not winning any auctions and less excited by the fact that the item could ship to Israel, I would have read this prior to entering the bid and probably would not have bid. Silly me. At least I had enough sense to buy a tuning wrench (like a piano tuner's).

Both items arrived today, and it was with some trepidation that I opened the package. The 'harp survived the delivery although there were some extraneous bits of broken plastic in the package; I couldn't identify their source and it doesn't really matter as I couldn't do anything with them. As the package states, the 'harp is totally out of tune; some strings are three or four semitones sharp! So far, I've tuned about half of the strings. Obviously I haven't developed a feel for the tuning wrench yet; this needs a very delicate touch. A slight turn makes for a change of several semitones. But I'm getting there.

One of the 'two missing keys' (these are the white things on the lower half of the picture) was taped with sellotape to the 'harp; I've glued this into place. Hopefully I can find something for the other missing key, which is the closest to the bottom. More importantly, I have to figure out what chord that key plays. 

The autoharp is like a folk guitar in that it plays mainly chords, but unlike a guitar (or a piano), when one presses on a chord bar, the strings on which the bar presses are muted; one hears the unmuted strings. It probably won't be very difficult to get to a simple standard of playing but I doubt that I'm going to get very far. The quality of the instrument doesn't help.

The layout of the chords is:
top row: Gm, A7, Dm, E7, Am, D7
bottom row: Bb (missing), C7,  F, G7, C, G

Having discovered this,  I realised that I had glued the key onto the wrong bar (the key says G but I had placed it on the Bb bar). Fortunately, the glue had not set, so I was able to pull the key off and glue it in the correct place. These chords allow one to play in the keys of C, D, F, G and E; four or five chords in each key. It's a shame about the G7 and C7 chords: these are effectively the same as G and C so the bars could be put to better use for other chords. This site (and others) imply that one can recut the felt on a chord bar in order to create new chords, but that's way above my ability. There aren't going to be many of my songs which I'll be able to play, but most traditional songs and those in the tradition should be ok.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Today's reading matter (2)

I read Randall Bolten's latest blog entry, "Did you spell '273' correctly?" with interest. The issues mentioned in his blog are not the sort of thing which affect me, even though the other day I found a long-standing spelling mistake in my thesis (I also found one on this blog, where I had used a homonym for the word I wanted). I'm writing the thesis with Word, which has a spell checker, so most mistakes should be caught. Unfortunately, Word uses American spelling whereas I use British spelling; supposedly I have 'told' Word to use British spellings but it consistently ignores me. So all the time I get squiggly red lines under words such as 'organisation' and similar.

I continued trying to find suitable material which will help me phrase the data analysis portion of the submission. This section - less than a page long - is proving to be a field of thorns for me and seems to be causing my supervisor - who is a statistician - a great deal of frustration. I have been dreaming about this section for the last few days, which shows how deeply it is affecting me; I still cannot find suitable language.

Something which may help is a paper from Trinity Washington University which gives a sample of a quantitative research proposal.  There doesn't seem to be much material about statistics there but there are a few pages on creating a model of the theoretical framework, which looks like this:

Note independent variable one (IV 1): ECONMOIC DEVELOPMENT. Oops - someone didn't check their spelling!

I will try and create a similar model for my research, which makes me wonder whether what I have termed 'company variables' are not independent variables but rather moderating variables. It could easily be argued that a user might have certain values for some of the independent variables, but these are moderated by the company variables. On the other hand, examples of moderating variables in the Trinity example are 'time in residence' and 'political affiliation'; translated to my research, 'time in residence' could be 'age' or 'years of experience with ERP'. I think that I will ask my supervisor about this - maybe I will get a useful answer.

According to 'Ask Yahoo' (definitely an accredited source of information), the best answer says that:
In general experiment design, you might typically think of a moderating variable as an independent variable, as it is often something the experimenter will manipulate. Its more useful to think of it in terms of causal relationships between the variables, and think of independent variables as those which you think will have a *direct* effect. A moderator variable specifies *when* a predicting variable will have an effect. Say I want to look at the effect of caffeine on memory for example, and I predict that increased caffeine consumption will improve memory performance. In my design, I have a caffeine vs no caffeine condition and male vs female as my independent variables, and memory test performance as my dependent variable. My results show that there is an interaction between sex and caffeine, with males doing better after consuming it, but it making no difference for females. We would call sex a moderating variable in this instance; whilst it doesn't predict memory performance itself, it determines when my predictor (caffeine) will have an effect (only when it is males). Moderation effects are generally demonstrated by significant interaction effects in your analysis.

On that basis, 'gender' and 'age' are definitely moderating variables in my research.

[SO: 4187; 4,20,40
MPP: 647; 1, 3, 6]

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Just another proud grandparent

I suppose I should be like any other proud grandparent and post pictures of my grand-daughter and I together. I normally only get the chance to see her on Friday nights - because I'm too busy during the week - and then I have to wait my turn for access.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

An advanced - and possibly useless - technique in Priority

Someone asked how to execute a procedure within a form trigger. It's easy to execute a predefined external program such as 'sonraw' (explodes bills of materials) -
but I assume that this was not what the person was asking. Rather, he wanted to execute a procedure which he had written in Priority from within a trigger. I can't think of any real reason to want to do this: passing data in the procedure is problematic and getting data out is even more problematic. Hopefully the person who asked the question will reveal what his motives are.

The answer came to me last night out of the blue. I had awoken in the middle of the night with my mind buzzing with ideas following a meeting in which I had participated earlier during the day. One of the ideas would require implementing a trigger in a standard form, and suddenly the solution to another problem - invoking an internal procedure from within a trigger - popped into my mind.

Looking back on the process now, I can see that there was some mental preparation: a few days earlier I had written a procedure which causes a report to be sent automatically to people via email. This procedure uses a certain technique to invoke an internal report, so it wasn't much of a mental jump to realise that I could use the same technique to invoke a procedure by subtly changing its parameters.

Here is the called procedure: its name is XXXX_TEST and it receives one parameter, STK, of type FILE. All the procedure does is create an external text file containing the values which had been passed.
The trigger which calls this procedure is as follows
After running the screen which activates the trigger, I discovered that I had created a text file, R:/1.txt, with the contents 0, 1336; just as I expected.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Saturday salmon

I discovered a few weeks ago that the supermarket where my wife shops stocks frozen salmon steaks. I decided to buy some and see how well I could cook them. After marinading them all night in a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil, I grilled them for about twelve minutes (six per side) on a hot griddle pan. Below is the result

I had already smeared mayonnaise on the fish before remembering that I should take a photograph, but the burn marks from the griddle pan are still visible.

I think this is how fish should be served: a crust on the outside (with Maillard reaction products) and soft inside. I have to admit that the flesh didn't have any lemon flavour, implying that the marinade was either ineffective or unnecessary. Once I used to cook the steaks in the slow cooker, but that method doesn't give any advantage, save allowing me to prepare the food a few hours in advance of eating. Grilling them in the pan means doing so immediately prior to eating; it would be wrong to grill then keep the food warm in the oven for an hour.

The quality of the served fish justified the price of the salmon: all the diners were very appreciative.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Dave Swarbrick, RIP

A brief tribute can be found here. No doubt more will be posted in the coming days (here's another, more detailed, tribute).

Swarb is the bearded guy in the front left; it's possible to see that he was comparatively older than the others. This picture was taken in 1970, when he would have been 29 whereas Simon (green shirt, middle) was only 19, although seemingly older than he actually was.

I was introduced to Swarb's music in early 1970, once again via the seminal 'All you can eat' album, although it would be a few months later with the purchase of 'Liege and Lief' that I really heard him play.

In retrospect, Swarb was fairly restrained on that record; he began to let loose on 'Full House', after which Richard (far right, blue shirt) left and Swarb remained as the main musical force in Fairport. He carried the flag for several more years until the deterioration in his hearing and the audience shift at the end of the 70s caused the band to dissolve for several years.

Despite appearing at several Cropredy festivals in the early 80s, he declined to play on the revival "Gladys' Leap" album, since when he has been a friend but not a member of Fairport.

When listening to those Fairport albums now, I quite enjoy them but wish that he had been less dominant as I don't necessarily care for the musical values which he propagated.

The only personal memory which I seem to have of Swarb is from Cropredy 1996. I found myself dozing during the mammoth Fairport set, and had to awake myself by saying "It's Swarb! You may never ever get the chance to hear him play again!" (of course, I did in 1997 and 1998, but never again. Mind you, I haven't seen any of them since 2004).

Now Swarb joins the Fairport alumni all-star band in the sky, along with Sandy, Trevor, Bruce and Martin. Strangely enough, the first three along with Swarb appeared together on "Rising for the moon" (1975). As far as I know, their fellow musicians on that album - Peggy, Jerry and DM - are still doing well.

[Update from several months later: that final paragraph was written some months before Jerry Donahue had a stroke]