Monthly Archives: April 2012

Watercolor Map of San Francisco Bay Area

This is very nice. Based on OpenStreetMap data.

Write It Down

As an engineer, we are often reminded how important it is to write stuff down. Stuff that’s written down is more available than stuiff that exists only in someone’s head, or in someone’s private stash somewhere. In the UK, the warning was always,

“What if you fall under a bus tomorrow?”

– leaving the rest of the project in the dark about what you had planned.

In the US however, the version of the warning I hear more often is

What if you win the lottery tomorrow?

which is a much nicer and more positive message, typical of “sunny California”, perhaps. Of course, there are extremes in both places. One colleague in London would say

What if you get torn apart by wild dogs tomorrow?

– dark, but unlikely (although I can’t be sure about Tooting HAHAHAH). Another colleague in the US, when greeted and asks how he is, responds, “Top o’ the world, Ma!” which is fun and yet also dark when you realise where it’s from.

Actually, thinking about it, if winning the lottery meant you immediately quit and never saw any of your colleagues again and you didn’t go into the office to hand over to your  replacement – not such a positive message. It’s a good measure of how much you enjoy your job and like your team. I like to think that if I won the lottery and won a life-changing amount of money, I would have at least a few minutes for my esteemed colleagues. Send them a note at least.

Carlton Production Pages

Back when I was a member of Carlton Dramatic Society in Wimbledon, I was for a while the newsletter editor, and by extension, the website editor as well. The site was already packed with pages from the earlier productions, so when I spruced up the site, I corralled them into a new page, and tied them together with some semi-automating PHP. This is a language designed for use on websites, which allows dynamic content, file access, etc.

I was learning PHP at the time, and of course learning by doing is always best, so I was quite pleased with the way they came together, and how it was easy to reuse bits and pieces to reduce the work each time a new page was needed. Basically, each show had a main PHP file, a selection of reused INC files (which were just snippets of text with an INC extension to remind me they were to be INCluded, and which provided the repeating structure), and a couple of CSV files containing the cast list and crew list, which allowed me to display the cast without having to fiddle with HTML and UL/LI tags.

When a new show was announced, all I needed to do was copy the previous show’s folder, rename a few things, change some copy text, change the CSV files, and drop in the relevant graphics. Simple, but flexible, and it made possible the great difference between the simpler pages for Teechers and Stags and Hens, and the one for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. In some cases I added in some custom bits, for example with 84 Charing Cross Road, which had extra airmail-style borders.

Once I’d got the PHP toolkit set up, I started to go back and create retrospective pages for productions which came before my time with the group (some of which came before the web was properly around!). I had gathered and scanned some programmes from older members, and I was able to OCR and edit the pages together from the program notes. I used the free program SimpleOCR for this. A classic example of this retroactive webpage creation is the page for the 1991 production of The Crucible, which uses the same components, a generic CDS logo as a marker, and a scan of the program as the artwork.

This was a good experience of trying to learn a new skill, so I decided to put up all the pages I created on this website. The full list of productions page can be found here. Many of the links originally led back to the Carlton’s homepage, so I’ve changed them so they go to the group’s new website.