Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Wonderboy - Hits and Misses

In baseball, if you're batting .300, you're doing pretty well.  Keep in mind this means you are getting a hit only 3 out of every 10 times you step up to the plate.

This is something I've been reminding myself quite a bit as I work through developing my interactive exhibit.  It seems as if every time I solve one problem, two more seem to pop up!

In my last post about the Wonderboy, I talked about my plans to use an Adafruit wave shield hooked up to an Arduino to produce the sound that will be wired into the batting helmet.  My professor, Bill, brought a wave shield into class for me to work with.  I started working through the steps on the online tutorial, just with the hope of getting some sound out of the shield.  Instead, every time I tired to verify the sketch before uploading it to the Arduino, I got an error message.  At the time, I had just started working with sketches, codes, and processing language, so I was having a hard time figuring out what was wrong.  Bill suggested I Google the error message I was getting and see if others had had the same problem.  When class was over that day, and I was no closer to solving the error message, I had a conversation with Bill that went something like this:

He encouraged me to keep banging my head against the wall, and I'd figure it out (at the time I thought that was the stupidest advice I'd ever gotten - turns out he was right!)  I was so determined to figure it out, I took my Arduino home and kept working.  Finally, I found my error.  It turns out that when I downloaded the library to use with the wave shield, I had saved it in the wrong place on my computer.  Yes, you read that correctly, the mistake was that small.  (Fortunately, I wasn't the only one to ever make this mistake, as I found the solution to my problem in an online forum where someone else posted about getting the same error message.)

So as this point I had the Arduino recognizing the wave shield attached to it, but I didn't have sound yet.  Per the instructions of the tutorial, I was working with the waveHC library and was trying to get the dap_hc.pde sketch to play all of the home run audio files I had on a loop.  (This isn't my ultimate goal, but I wanted to start somewhere.)

I tried running the dap_hc.pde sketch, but again, I was getting an error message.  After Googling this error message, I was directed to the Arduino website.  Turns out there had been a update the the Arduino software, and so I had to make some changes to the code in the waveHC library I downloaded.

This was completely new territory for me.  I started opening the files that had come with the waveHC library, and making the code changes where I could.  The files looked something like this:


After going through and making all the additions/changes the error messages on the Arduino sketch finally went away and there was sound - YEA!

So since I had solved the problem with using the waveHC library.  I copied and pasted the sketch for the Halloween Pumpkin project (which is similar to what I plan to do with my project) into the Arduino and tried to verify it.  Guess what?  I got an error message!  It turns out that the pumpkin project uses the older AF_Wave library (which I had read was cumbersome to use) as opposed to the newer waveHC library that I had just finished fixing on my computer.

So it was back to another round of getting error messages:

And trying to figure out how to solve them:


At this point I still haven't solved my SPI.h error message.  So I'm debating between trying to work out the error and get the AF_Wave library working.  Or trying to figure out how to rewrite the pumpkin project code so it will work with the waveHC library that is operational for me at this point.  Either way, it involves a lot of writing and rewriting code, which is still very new for me.

Also, my professor Bill is currently soldering my wave shield so we can hook up a distance sensor as an input device.  I have a feeling that this will lead to a whole new group of error messages.

Hopefully, batting .300 will continue to be good enough for this project!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Significance of Built Heritage - Ada First United Methodist Church

Yesterday, while working at Fanshawe Pioneer Village, I was reviewing some  archival boxes filled with information about the buildings in the Village.  I was particularly impressed with the documentation regarding the efforts of a congregation to preserve their church building by raising funds to have it moved to the Village, as the congregation had vacated.  There were numerous fundraising letters, newspaper articles, and photos.  This was clearly a community effort, they saw this structure as an important part of their built heritage.

Ada First UMC
Today, that point hit home for me.  Shortly after noon, a fire broke out at 301 North Main Street, Ada, Ohio.  In a matter of minutes, the entire Ada First United Methodist Church building was engulfed in flames.  This is the church I was raised in, am a member of, and still consider home.  Let me put it this way - I lived in three houses growing up in Ada, I only attended one church.

Photo by Anna Guillozet
Being in another country, I found out about it the way I get much of my news these days - through Facebook.  Almost immediately my news feed was full of photos and even videos of the building consumed by flames.  I contacted my parents - who were amazed that I knew about it already - and they passed on what information they had.  Everyone was safe, the fire was still burning and the damage extensive, and though nearby buildings had sparked from the ashes fire crews had the blaze under control.

Memories of a community member

Responses to the fire on my Facebook news feed were urgent and emotional.  I was also feeling emotional watching it all unfold on social media.  There were comments and memories from fellow congregants, which I expected - but what struck me was the attachment that other members of the community had to the church building, even if they did not regularly attend services.  This structure, dedicated in 1899, was definitely an important part of Ada's built heritage.

Community Blanket featuring Ada First

Built heritage is defined as the unique and irreplaceable architecture with historic background that merits preservation for future generations.  In small towns especially, it is an important part of the residents' sense of space.  In a village the size of Ada - about 5,800 people - nearly everyone has a connection with a church building like Ada FUMC.  It sat on a prominent corner of Main Street.  Numerous community organizations used the basement: Head Start, 4-H, Girl Scouts, Kiwanis, Red Cross, and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.  This is a case where not only is the church an significant part of the community identity and heritage, but the structure itself as well.  This experience has quite literally brought home the importance of preserving our built heritage.

My 6th grade Sunday School Class
I’m the second from the left

On a more personal note, I would like to stress that as devastating a loss this is to the architectural heritage of Ada, the damage was only to the structure and thank God no one was hurt.  As the song goes, "the church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people."

For more information on the history of Ada First United Methodist Church - congregation and building - see Celebrating a Century: Reflections of Faith 1899-1999.

Friday, March 2, 2012

From Student Permit to Work Permit - Updated

I realized that I've been talking mostly about classes, research, and projects as of late.  In fact, I have about three other blog posts in the works that are all school related.  Obviously this makes sense as I am a full-time student, but I want to pause occasionally and bring up the specifically international student aspect.

As part of the Public History program here at Western, I have to complete a 12 week, full-time internship this summer for my degree.  Now these internships can be paid or unpaid (as I will be getting college credit for working) but obviously I would prefer if I could find something paid.  I have applied to programs both here in Canada and back in the States, but I would much prefer to stay here in London with Doug.  

The student permit that I currently hold allows me to attend university and work on-campus.  Since I have a research assistantship (RA) I am technically employed by Western, even though I spend my time out at Fanshawe Pioneer Village.  So I could remain in Canada on my student permit only if I take an unpaid internship.

So I have started the process of applying for a work permit in order to legally work anywhere in Canada.  (By starting the process I mean filling out all the forms and making sure I have copies of all the necessary documents.)  I went to a seminar a few weeks ago for international students about immigrating to Canada.  Though Doug and I aren't to the point where we want (or are able) to start the immigration process, I was hoping they would provide some information relevant to my situation.

I had to sit though a two and a half hour presentation (much of which did not pertain to me) but I got the nugget of information I needed.  Basically, there are three different ways I could apply for a work permit.  (These are all without already having a job lined up, which I don't, or falling under the category what Canada considers a "skilled worker.")

First, there is an option for a co-op work permit if it is required for your degree and the co-op isn't more than 1/3 of your program.  However, this permit would only be good for the length of the co-op, then you would need to renew.  That's a lot of money to spend for a relatively short period of time.

Second, I could apply for a post-grad work permit.  This allows someone who has just earned a graduate degree to get a work permit that would be the same as the duration of their program - up to two years.  So for me that would amount to a one-year work permit.  Not bad, but still not great.

Finally, I can apply for a spousal work permit.  Since Doug's PhD program is longer than my MA program (his student permit is valid until 2015), as his spouse I can apply for a work permit that matches the duration of his student permit.  Three years, now we're talking.

I talked with one of the speakers at the seminar to make sure I understood everything correctly (it can all get pretty confusing) and I've also made an appointment with a counselor at the International and Exchange Student Center next week to go over everything.

In the meantime, as I already had a planned trip to Ohio to visit family this weekend, I am going to stop by the Consulate in Detroit and try to apply for one in person, rather than mail in the application and wait to hear back.  I just like the idea of talking with someone face to face before paying the fee and possibly being rejected because I filled something out incorrectly.  If that happens, they keep our money, and we have to pay again when I reapply.

So here's to hoping I'm as over-prepared as I was when we crossed the border the first time and things go as smoothly.  I'll feel a lot better when all this government paperwork is behind me, and I can stop worrying about it for a few years! 

(Oh, and here's to hoping I get a paid internship - or better even - a job in the area to go along with my work permit!) 

Renaissance Center, Canadian Consulate Detroit



I have decided that there needs to be a special link on the Citizenship and Immegration Canada website that is specifically for those coming from the United States.  All it need say is - "whatever documentation you want to get, you can do it at the port of entry."

Much like my last time crossing the border, I didn't need to go to the Consulate in Detroit, they just directed me to the port of entry (I stopped in Sarnia on my way back from Ohio.)  Once again, I had more paperwork than necessary, and I spent about an hour waiting for the immegration officer to put all my information in the computer, and then printing out a nice work permit for me.

Though it was frustrating to go through way more work than was necessary (espcially since I was just doing what I had been instructed to do) in the end I guess it's better safe than sorry.

Most importantly, I have a permit to work in Canada through May, 2015.  Let the job hunt begin!