Thursday, November 25, 2010

Celebrate This Dirty Life!

Yes it's that time of year again:

"It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

Sorry about the recent lack of posting. I've been super-busy at work the past few weeks, and home life has been pretty hectic as well. Next up is another long weekend...

Oh, the Embarrassment #1: My droid has been having problems recently with the headphone jack -- something I use at least twice every day -- and the problems were just getting worse and worse. I read online of a bunch of other people having the same problem, and when the jack finally died last week I went in to the Verizon store, ready for whatever battle was necessary to get my phone working again. The guy took it in the back and came out a minute later saying, "It's fixed. The connection was filled with hair and dirt and lint, and I sprayed it with compressed air to clean it out." Ewwww! -- but it works fine now. My phone spends a lot of time in my pocket, which might not be a good idea but I think it's common; I wonder if all those other droid jack problems have the same source.

Reading: I read a book excerpt in the US Airways in-flight magazine, and it was so good it prompted me to buy the book -- that was a first. The book is The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kiristin Kimball, the story about how she gave up the city for farm life. Pretty good so far, but I made the mistake of picking up The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, and now I can't put it down. I guess I'll finish them both eventually.

Oh, the Embarrassment #2: Anne's car stereo is crapping out, so I decided to get her a new one for her birthday (this was the same day I got my phone fixed). I went over to the nearby stereo store, the only one I know, and drove into their parking lot -- only to find they were out of business. I called Eric, who once worked there, and he said "So glad you noticed, it's been closed for about three years now!" On Eric's advice I got the stereo at a place in Montgomeryville, and they'll be installing it Sunday.

Listening: Many thanks for all the music advice. I downloaded maybe a half dozen albums, most notable so far being the latest from the New Pornographers and the Black Keys, and one by Rachid Taha that wasn't from this year but was new to me. Mucho recommendo!

A Quick GRASS HOWTO: I finally broke down and purchased a whole bunch of data from the Lehigh County GIS Bureau. It was $150 for the whole kitchen sink, but what I was really after were property boundaries, and I got them so it was worth it. The data is in ArcGIS "shapefile" format, but GRASS should be able to handle it so...

Fire up GRASS in my current map, from the menu: "File->Import vector map->Multiple formats using OGR" (ie the v.import.ogr command), and -- error: there is no location/projection data associated with the shapefiles that OGR can find. For each shapefile there's an associated *.PRJ file in the data, and inside the *.PRJ file is the projection data that I need, but how do I use that?

Here's how: use like before, pick a shapefile and import it, but check the button on the "Options" tab to create a new location for the shapefile. (That location will have no projection data associated with it.) Next you close GRASS and re-open it in the new location, then "Config->Manage projections->Config->Manage projections" (ie the g.proj command), on the "Input" tab choose the PRJ file as the "ASCII file containing a WKT projection description" and on the "Create/Edit" tab check the button to create new projection files. Press "Run" and you should be good -- the shapefile is no in its own location wiht the proper projection information. That's one way to do it!

UPDATE: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!