Scratching Simplicity – Per Diem Calculator

Every so often, I scratch a technical itch and because the web is the medium in which I choose to operate, I’ll put my solutions online. My Quiz Generator and Tips and Tricks were definitely of that nature. Most recently I have updated the code for my State of Virginia Per Diem Calculator.

You may have to be a state employee to understand the problem this solves, or you could read the six pages of regulations (pdf) that it manages to encapsulate in one web page.

I love doing this kind of thing. It starts with a tortuous business process that people think they just have to live with, and in a short amount of time, I have been able to produce a simple solution that anyone can use and increases the reliability of the data. I really enjoy this aspect of solving a problem that people didn’t know they had. I regularly get emails from personnel at state agencies thanking me for creating it or anxious because the regulations are changing and they need an update.

When I first created it at the college I was at, the business office person responsible was overjoyed. So was I. Filing travel requests and reimbursement forms prior to creating the tool usually involved multiple trips to the business office and revisions to the forms submitted because the rate was wrong, or it didn’t account for a 75% travel day, or that a lunch was provided, but not a breakfast, etc., etc.. Now a travel request and reimbursement can be accompanied by a print-out (we’re not sophisticated enough to do these things online yet) with a clear explanation of the rate, meals provided and totals.

One of the other dimensions I enjoy is making the interface as elegant and simple as I can. I’m not going to say that I have achieved this, but I do think through each comma, word, sentence and piece of functionality.

It’s fun, and it can be technically interesting (it is all written in Javascript). What more could I ask?

Family stories – Our Man in Yugoslavia (Studies in Intelligence S.)

As a fully documented study of a Second World War Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) operative, “Our Man in Yugoslavia” is absolutely unique. Its subject is Owen Reed, an army officer recruited into SIS in the summer of 1943 and then parachuted in to German-occupied Croatia to work with Tito’s Partisans and other Allied secret organisations. After reporting back to London in July 1944, Reed returned to Yugoslavia to find relations with the Partisans deteriorating. His erstwhile comrades began working against him and the intelligence he passed to the SIS came increasingly to focus on the communist takeover. Reed found himself at the centre of the first great confrontation of the Cold War. Blending biography and operational history, “Our Man in Yugoslavia” is a remarkable case study, illustrating how SIS operatives were recruited and trained, and describing their work in detail.

About my step-grandfather and a case study of an SIS operative, by one of his grandsons who is a military historian. Just found out about it by looking at my brother’s wishlist. More details here and here. His other distinction was serving as Head of BBC Children’s television from 1956 to ? – having less luck finding details on that.

I was actually reflecting on family history earlier today (I’m not sure why). My dad drove from England to Afghanistan and back in 1950 or so and took some slides. I’d love to scan them and get them online.