A good reason to write a blog

Blog posts are a snapshot in time. Just as a photograph can tell you a lot about someone, so can a blog post, even when they talk about seemingly trivial things. Even memes, those things that seem to go around like a craze in primary school, can be meaningful.

I have been sorting through old drafts that were never published, and I found this one from October 2008:

Ten years ago I was:

  1. Working on the implementation of a new computer system to prepare for Y2K
  2. Sharing our new house with my sister’s family until theirs was ready to move into
  3. Wondering how long my mother’s new marriage would last (not long)
  4. Planting Australian natives in the garden
  5. Spending too much money

Five things on today’s to-do list:

  1. Give the cat his antibiotics (done)
  2. Call my Dad to see how my step-mother is doing (trying)
  3. Go and see my step-mother in hospital
  4. Meet an old friend for lunch (will do)
  5. Do some neglected housework (not done)

Five snacks I enjoy:

  1. My sister’s brownies
  2. Yoghurt
  3. A banana, or some grapes
  4. dry-roasted cashews
  5. Did I mention my sister’s brownies?

Five places I have lived (in no particular order):

  1. Beautiful leafy Hornsby in Sydney’s northern suburbs (for the last 20-odd years)
  2. Dubbo in Central Western New South Wales (where I grew up)
  3. A flat in Rockdale in Sydney’s south (while I was at uni)
  4. A semi-detached house in inner-city Stanmore (when I was finishing uni and starting work)
  5. Suva, Fiji (for about 6 months when I was 12)

Five jobs I have had:

  1. Salesgirl at Woolworths Variety when I was 14 or 15
  2. Sales assistant at Angus and Robertson book store in Dubbo between school and uni
  3. Bar attendant at a couple of southern Sydney pubs while I was at uni
  4. Clerk for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for a couple of years when I finished uni
  5. Computer programmer at the gas company

Five places I would like to visit:

  1. Ireland – Northern Ireland and the Republic
  2. The National Archives of Fiji
  3. Namibia (again)

None of this will have any significance for anyone outside of my family, I suspect. For my close family, however, it may mean a great deal. Not only does it say to anyone who is interested some details of my past and present life, but it has some bearing on other events that had great significance.

I suspect that I didn’t finish the post because of what was going on at the time. I did talk to my Dad about how my step-mother was doing, and I went to see her in hospital every day and sat with her while my sister, her daughter, raced home to get things done. We moved her home when the hospital could no longer do anything for her, and after a few days she passed away, in her own bed with her family around her. Only 11 days after I wrote this.

It still hurts that she was taken so soon. 60 is young, these days. Her father lived much, much longer.

I also remember meeting the old friend for lunch. He told me a trick to do with parking near the hospital before the afternoon peak hour.

It was a shock to read through this post after all this time. I thought I would share it with my family, and anyone else who is interested.

Adi, Christmas 2007

Picasa face-recognition scan conclusions

Picasa face recognitionI have posted previously about letting Picasa 3 scan for faces so I can identify them. I had hoped to publish the results at the time but I was caught up with other things and didn’t get a chance.

Unfortunately I don’t have an accurate record of how long it took. I started it on about the 1st October with 14,000 photos to process. On the 4th it was 50% completed after I had added an additional 5000 photos because I added some of the folders under Documents. On the 5th it was saying all day that it had 51% to go. Then that evening it changed to 52%. I thought it was going to take another week, but the next day it was finished.

That’s 5-6 days. For 19,000 photos.

It ran for 24 hours a day, and I only closed it down occasionally when it was slowing down what I was doing. It used an average of 45% of my CPU, so sometimes this was a problem. I don’t remember the processor that my laptop has, but it’s a bit over 2 years old.

Of course, not all of these photos have people in them – there are landscapes, wildlife, and images of documents.

Some things I have noticed:

  • if I sign in to Google it can get the names from my contacts list
  • it runs very slowly at other times and quite quickly at others
  • it picks up faces from the covers of books and photos on the wall behind the real people
  • it can find faces in very fuzzy pictures
  • it is not bothered by hats and sunglasses
  • it quite often suggests the wrong person but that person is closely related, such as a sister, aunt or grandmother
  • it identifies people more accurately the more photos you have identified
  • it can identify people at all ages in their lives
  • it is better at identifying babies than I am
  • it doesn’t recognise cats, dogs or gorillas, although it did identify one front-on picture of a dog
  • I have a lot of duplicate photos, and when I identify one it suggests the same name for the others very quickly
  • I am terrible at remembering names
  • I nearly have more photos of my nieces than I have of my husband or myself

By the time it finished it said it still had about 6500 faces to identify. I am slowly whittling those down. I now have just over 5000. There are also the faces it can’t identify as faces, which I have to do manually if I want it done at all.

It seems to have trouble with faces if they are:

  • at an angle
  • have hair over one side
  • side-on unless they are completely from the side
  • really, really fuzzy

And yet sometimes it sees a face where there isn’t one. I thought this one must be in the background somewhere.

Panda face

He looks like he has a little beard and a receding hairline.

This is the photo it came from:

Picasa panda

Can you see the face, in the top right corner? Not a face at all!

It also picks up the hundreds of faces in the backgrounds of photos and wants to know who they are. You can mark each one as ignored, and you can see these later if you want to. When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was 75 years old they opened it to the public to walk across, and the photos from that day have many people in the background. Fortunately they are mostly wearing lime green hats so I could quickly exclude them when I saw them.

All the people in a wedding photo can be identified if you have already identified them elsewhere. Even if you don’t know their names you can give them a number, like Wedding 12, and group photos of the same person together. You can then more easily identify the person, or a relative can, when you can see a number of photos of the same person together.

I have had a wonderful time with Picasa, and I still am. I am finally learning, through having to identify photos, which of my grandmother’s three sisters is which, and what my mother’s older brothers looked like when they were young.

I have also very much enjoyed seeing pictures of the same person throughout their lives all in the one place. Here are some of my grandmother Amy Eason nee Stewart:

Amy Millicent Eason nee Stewart

You can see her from the earliest photo of her that I have, when she was a baby; as a teenager, a young mother, and so on all through her life. The photos are of varying quality but the only one I had to manually identify was the blurry side-on one in the 3rd row.

A valuable lesson I learned was in trying to identify what it is that makes this person look like that person. What is it in my face that Picasa mistakes for my grandmother’s? Or two of three nieces but not the third?

To be fair, sometimes Picasa is totally wrong. It tried to tell me that this same grandmother was in a shot of my husband posing with the Wests Tigers rugby league team. It wasn’t. When it ‘groups’ unnamed faces it tends to put faces together that are shot at the same angle. Sometimes I think it is suggesting names based on the frequency with which that name appears, or on the previously identified name, but that might just be my cynicism.

All in all I am so glad I went through this exercise. Identifying faces has become my procrastination-of-choice, and it has made me much more likely to name the faces of photos I have just taken rather than leave it for years when I can no longer remember the names. I am also determined to research the names I should know but can’t remember – school classmates, fellow safari tourists, even Wests Tigers. All those unnamed faces bother me!

Australia Day family history events

It’s Australia Day, and I was inspired by Shelley’s blog to find out what happening on this day in my own family’s past.

Here are the highlights:

1616 – Eleanor Nicholas, my 9th great grandmother, was baptised in St Keverne, Cornwall.

1823 – Martha Miles, my 3rd great-grandmother, was baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Towcester, Northamptonshire. She married George Goode from Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire and they migrated to New South Wales with their two young daughters.

1840 – James Pascoe, baby brother of my 3rd great-grandfather Henry Pascoe of St Keverne, Cornwall, was baptised. He died unmarried  when he was only 31.

1865 – Grace Pascoe nee Oates, my 3rd great-grandmother, her daughter Bessie, and her mother Elizabeth Oates nee Williams arrived in Sydney on the Hornet from Plymouth as assisted immigrants, eventually joining their brothers and sons in the Millthorpe area of New South Wales. Eleanor Nicholas was her 4th great-grandmother.

2008 – dear Uncle Ray passed away after a long illness.

For all but the last one there was no ‘Australia’, let alone Australia Day.

To find out how I got the list out of my family tree software, see this blog.