August has been a very difficult month for me with two immediate family members hospitalized for weeks with life-threatening illnesses, a promising business opportunity failing to develop as hoped, and our savings running low. Nevertheless, I’ve been quite creative! In the last half of August:
- I wrote a program that uses the API for the Defense Visual Information Distribution Systew (DVIDS) to search for all the images related to a particular unit (in this case, a ship), pull down their metadata, sort them by page views and other categories, then insert them all into a Microsoft Word document, where they become the raw material for the latest entries in my Cool Ships series for Nimble Books LLC. I also updated a Python script I wrote for the Scribus layout program (the open source equivalent of Adobe InDesign) that automates designing and building book cover files.
- Inspired by learning Python’s docx library, I then wrote a script that takes a user’s Facebook archive in json, extracts posts and comments, clusters them by similarity, then creates a Word document that is the Zeroth Draft of that book you’ve always wanted to write. I plan to extend this to read Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress as well, and to plug in GPT-3 as soon as I can get access.
- Part of the reason I wanted to do Zeroth Draft is that I’ve had an ambition of getting everything I’ve written ever into one giant pile of machine-processable text. In addition to my social media json, I also have some large stashes of content in WordPress XML, markdown, and Word. I realized last week that after mastering json and docx I am now proficient enough to transform all of my content stashes into markdown or text. So I looked around and found the Jekyll static page generator, which takes markdown and processes it using the Liquid template language into site html. I taught myself enough to build the framework for a new master website at fredzannarbor.com.
- Along the way I realized that I could use Jekyll to solve another long-standing problem – how to communicate my varied experience. I’ve been in the workforce a long time and learned how to do a lot of stuff, but I often feel somewhat hampered in job searching by a lack of alignment between my formal credentials (history major and law graduate) and my actual skills. I’ve held job titles including research scientist, information scientist, product manager, publisher and founder, and I’m also an accomplished writer, editor and programmer. What sort of jobs should I even be looking for? How can one resume possibly communicate all this in just one page? Then I realized that I could use Jekyll’s nifty Collections feature to write a “smart” multipurpose resume. It will take a couple more days to edit all the resume accomplishments and tweak the logic so that I can instantly create a bunch of different resumes depending on the goal in mind. But I’ve cracked the hard part of the problem. An article on Jekyll and smart resumes will be coming soon!
So, lots of creativity that I feel good about – but my bank account is heading towards negative territory, and none of these ideas is making me any money! A vexing situation. What should I do?