2014-08-24

Peacekeeper 2 - 50% mark

Final editing of Peacekeeper 2 has passed the 50% point. My wife is trying to move through the proofing as fast as she can but family events are interfering. This is the point in all my novels she hates the most because I am so focused on finishing the book I tend to exclude everything else. Her time has also been limited due to her mother's health issues (in and out of the hospital in recent days). But good progress is being made.

Last week, I received an email from an 11th grade student in Australia asking if I would mind being interviewed for a school project she was doing. Of course I agreed. The questions were about science fiction and how it relates to religious beliefs. I found them to be very eye-opening and many of them I had to pause and think before I answered. She seemed pleased with the answers. I hope she receives a good grade.

I also received the highest compliment possible from one of my readers yesterday. He compared me to E.E. 'Doc' Smith, an author from my youth who wrote stories back in the 50s. I consider him the master of the space opera and I periodically reread his Lensman series. Although I have a style of my own, it is heavily influenced by Smith. I could not have been happier.

I attended a different writer's group yesterday. This one has a much longer format running about 5 hours. I enjoyed the feedback they provided to the others in the group (I did not bring anything this first time) and I will go at least one more time. It's farther away and it does take up another Saturday so I may not continue to attend. If, for some reason, I miss my normal meeting, attending this one would be a good option.

I said last post that I had wanted to write something about my programming activities. My new job entails writing a lot of code in Microsoft's Access database program. I'm a heavy user of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and quite good at building complex solutions. I would prefer to build my programs in a better language such as C# but there would be nobody around who could maintain the code after I leave. At least by using VBA there is a chance someone else can take over. My company does not support non-IT people writing code and installing a C# compiler would require so much paperwork as to be nearly impossible.

What I really wanted to mention is being efficient. There is a project I will have to tackle in the next few months that boggles my mind. Our work is divided up into weeks with 13 weeks to a period and 4 periods to a year. We have a website where people can go to look at past or future work for almost an entire year. Each of these weekly reporting periods has 6 types of reports. The current way of generating this data involves 6 x 13 x 4 = 312 separate reports. Maintaining this collection is a nightmare. If a change is needed to one report a minimum of 52 reports have to be changed. My plan is to use programming code to reduce the number of reports down to 6. The reports don't change, just the data they work with. Proper coding can simplify generating this grid of reports making maintenance far easier. This is what computer are for and this is how they should be used.

I did a similar thing on a project I just finished. This one generates charts - 8 to be exact. But the charts all look the same - just with different data. I created a single function that can feed the correct data to a single Excel spreadsheet which generates the chart and then exports that chart as an image (JPG). It is those images that become part of the final report. One routine and some code to feed it the correct data was all that was required. These charts used to be done manually taking 3 to 4 hours a day. The program spits out the report in about 30 seconds.

That's efficiency.

Now it's time to get back to editing.