I had my first “calendar party” today. Its purpose was to get a group of people to start working through Isaac’s calendars and enter the information in a common computer database. Isaac kept all of his calendars from 1973 through 2010; it’s a wealth of information for any biographer.
(Some came to the party with purposes of their own; the utterly awesome brought a surprise sugar-free birthday cake. Yay!)
What I learned is that this task is much, much harder than I thought it was, so hard as to make my original goal impractical.
For one thing, most of the calendars are dense with information. One of us took two hours just to enter a couple of weeks.
That leads to the second issue: Isaac used a private notational language for his calendar entries. Some things I recognize (the circle with two lines through it means Druidry) and some I’d have to deduce (a filled-in five-pointed star means a specific person… I think). Those symbols can’t be entered via computer, much less the colors he used for different kinds of entries.
The point of entering the information was to avoid scanning the images of the calendars into computer files. I now know that that’s exactly what I’ll have to do. Back to the scanner!
I’ll still have calendar parties, but it will be just to enter milestone information; e.g., festivals. I’ll have to look at the pictures of the calendars to understand his day-to-day life.
For anyone who thinks I’m dwelling on useless trivia: When I say the information is dense, I’m not talking about trips to the grocery store. In 1973 he appeared to go to some form of ritual every couple of days. He made things even more complex in 1978 by changing the calendar dates into a Druidic scheme; culturally accurate, I’m sure, but torture for a biographer.