Broumov, Czech Republic
14 October 2002
It's actually the 13th of October and I'm writing to you from high above the bar Aztec, where we tower over her from the distinct vantage point of exactly 5 floors. A lot of work has been accomplished since my previous newsletter, well maybe not a lot but at least some progress is being made. So while our first snow is melting through the lens of a thin layer of clouds, I thought I'd pen some additional information.
Section I: Daily Life
Section II: Current Projects
Section III: Upcoming Events
Section IV: Fun and Entertainment
This past week can be described as busy; busy in the sense that there has been quite a bit of investigation, by yours truly, on one of our websites. Since we are poor folks out here in Broumov, the investigation has been quite the manual process. We don't get fancy tools to work with, we're lucky to have electricity and two computers. The investigation I'm referring to is the inner workings of our main website. I never imagined wordpad would become so useful! What took me only a few hours to unlock by hand has taken me a week to document on paper. So mostly I've been looking at html code and figuring out what links to where and how this or that is called into here or there, brutal; brutal sometimes amusing, sometimes disappointing, sometimes exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but mostly dry and boring type work. Now that I've mapped most of the inner workings of the site I'll be carefully dissecting why things are the way they are and, hopefully, fixing the most blatant of errors and the subtle ones as well. I mean, can we, such a small and, nearly an, insignificant organization - which, by the way, has a local reputation at least - just assume that every Tom, Dick and Harry who happens to surf to our wonderful page, has a Java capable browser? And how about, at least, attempting, to make life easier for those of us, who's lives now revolve around this work, that may want to make a single update to a specific region of the website, that is duplicated on nearly every page, I mean a single, lonely, destitute, solitary file, and have those changes ripple through the website rather than, in effect, turn this poor updater into a copy and paste machine. For the love of God! A simple man may consider becoming religious under the strain and weight of some of these situations. But I'm not complaining, this is the work in front of me, as it was devised, developed, engineered and produced by another fellow ex-patriot from California, trying to eek out a living here in the Czech Republic. Today, I refuse to visit the Pivovar, tomorrow morning and afternoon as well; Monday evening I will possibly bare to look, once again, upon this website and begin the honest work of attempting to improve upon someone else's work.
Little did I know, not having made any serious investigation into our website, that the meeting with our current webmaster and his wife would be so interesting. Little did I know then as we sat all warm and chummy in their penthouse apartment, just a few tram stops away from downtown Praha; the conversation flowing cordially amongst the three of us, only periodically begin interrupted by their seven year old son whose recent birthday had brought many people, gifts and well wishers to their home. Little did I know then about the frame of mind, how some of the visions of the players involved differed so greatly; so greatly it was as if neither of them had ever understood each other, let alone communicated. Little did I know about the subtle harassment, the condescending attitude, the childish antics, the unprofessional behavior, the covetousness I would be served the following morning as the first, second and third course at breakfast, but the apples I brought with me, though slightly bitter and mostly tasteless, would disappoint me just the same. Little did I know, nay forgotten, that the term webmaster, when applied to a person's singular skill to operate, via mouse movement and it's associated buttons and wheels, using less than the total population of the spring loaded clickers and knobs that it possesses, is absolutely meaningless when it involves the true skill of the person. It, normally, does not require much skill to load a program on your computer, merely the ability to shuffle disks, and even that is a dying art. Just because a person has a fancy program loaded on their system doesn't mean they can tell the difference between, "return false", or the lack thereof. It just means that someone can feel self assured about their wrongfully vested title as they sit grinning stupidly at their silly program; grinning stupidly at the people gullible enough to believe in their stupidity, grinning.
Yup, most of my life has been centered on our website, mostly it's investigation and documentation. This afternoon or this evening I, towering above the bar Aztec, from the comfort of my spacious room in the apartment, will begin to devise a plan to handle the, currently, countless mistakes and other oddities that are littered throughout this monstrosity called our website. Soon, however, the website will employ a MySQL backend for various functionality that should be, relatively, transparent to the casual visitor; the inclusion and integration of several forms, to make life easier, for those people interested in our workshops and volunteer projects; as well as continuing to convert and restructure several of the pages to utilize some PHP code.
The Centrum Broumov will be hosting a courtyard event during October and November. I hope to visit Kuba in Poland sometime during this period, Poznan to be more exact. We haven't seen each other for over a year so I'm really looking forward to finding the time to hook up with him. In December I also plan to travel to Berlin to visit Fiona, another volunteer I met in Mannenbach, Switzerland who was, and remains till this day, working for Peace Brigades International as a delegate. Other than these two excursions I hope to make it to Praha to buy a few books to read during my off time. I didn't have any luck last time, so maybe in the near future.
Last evening I decided that I would finalize some of my work after dinner in the Pivovar and then, today, make a hike in the afternoon. Well to my surprise, this morning, I discovered we had received a very light dusting of snow. Mostly sticking to rooftops and sidewalks. I still plan to make my hike this afternoon, I'm just not certain if it will be the same distance I had originally decided upon or a different route. It was funny, last evening while I was walking to the Pivovar, ice was falling out of the sky and numbing my bald head, so it was nice to see the snow this morning.
Before I forget, for those of you that know I have, effectively, run out of quota for my website. I have re-posted the photo's I took while on my most recent workcamp in Ticino. To view all the latest photos you can point your favorite browser at:
If anyone has an idea, or some disk storage space available somewhere on the web for a poor pilgrim, please let me know.