How I spent my Summer
© 8 Jul 2014 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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An explanation of my recent silence, with comments on FHISO and Polygenea.


I don’t often write about me in this blog. Plenty of me shows through, no doubt, but I have rarely seen writing about my life as an end in itself. There are so many things that can be exposited along the way, and people who have legitimate reason to care if I have pets or how long its been since I last watched a chick flick can either ask me themselves or wait until I die and then read my journals.

However, I feel that I owe you an explanation as to why I have not written lately, and to do that I have to talk about me.

As anyone who has read many posts in this blog knows, I teach computer science by trade. I teach at the University of Virginia, and as a University teacher my summers are… diverse. Once the Spring semester ended I spent four weeks teaching a summer class overlapping with three weeks teaching a high-school programming summer camp overlapping with running two high-school teacher training workshops. Not all of that was something I had planned; some unfortunate circumstances caused some of my friends and colleagues to need to excuse themselves from a few commitments and I stepped in to fill the gap. As you might expect, all these overlapping activities kept me rather busy, partially explaining why I have not written much in the last two months. The long gaps earlier this year were partly just forgetfulness, but also because I was planning three courses at once while reacting to the numerous difficulties that arise in a pool of 600 students.

This past week, though, I did not post to this blog for a very different reason. I had essentially nothing on my schedule, but I spent almost all my time I did still visit with friends, home teach, prepare for and give a lesson in our Elders’ Quorum meeting, write out the full schedule for a course I teach next fall, bake, clean, wash, iron, mend, etc. But almost all my other time… working on family history technology. genealogy I was recently asked to chair the technical standing committee of the Family History Information Standards Organisation, which for various reasons has been mostly dormant over the past year, so I am still working out how to get that committee rolling.

I also felt inspired to dust off Polygenea, a family history data model which I’ve been working on for some time but that hit a snag back in February. The challenge centered around how to represent inference rules, which are needed so that it the computer can understand indirect evidence. This past week I decided to code a fully-functioning datatype library containing everything except those still-ill-defined rules in hopes that, having gone that far, the way to handle the rules would become clear. This hope was partly because I thought coding would help focus my thoughts; but more because surprisingly large portions of the data model have come to mind fully-formed in the midst of church meetings and other spiritual settings and I have come to expect divine assistance in its development. Divine assistance often waits until we cannot progress without it, so I was set on reaching that point.

Last night Technically this morning; it is hard to stop working when I am in the flow and know that I have no appointments the next day. an answer presented itself. It may or may not be the answer, and given my weary state at the time I can not state with confidence if this answer was divinely revealed or not; but it shares with many great ideas an elegant simplicity, the sort of idea that I wonder how I never considered before. I think perhaps I may have diverted into the wrong though process more than a year ago when I was writing CFPS 8 and began thinking in terms of a language instead of data I am embarrassed by this mistaken thought process. Did I not listen to my own second postulate? . No matter the source, the obstacle seems, as far as I can now tell, to be gone.

There are still things to work on before Polygenea is “‍done‍”, but they are mostly stylistic things and details. For example, I don’t have a clean way to represent the core claim on which negative evidence is based, namely “‍source S does not contain a person with name N.‍” I also think that note nodes need a bit of work, and there’s a lot of refining needed with the various property keys, and so on; but the structure is now there.

There is, of course, summer remaining. I have another high-school teacher workshop coming up and some curriculum planning to do and hopefully a lot more work with FHISO. It is my expectation and hope, however, that I won’t feel it important to give another of these life updates anytime soon because I’ll be posting to this blog throughout.

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