I’m A Coder… Sort Of

When I mention I’ve been coding most of you have no clue what I’m talking about. A little explanation today. Coding is among the most rewarding and frustrating things I do!

First, an acknowledgment. I have a mentor in Greg Senia from Shelton. The amount of help he’s given me is immeasurable. I’d be dead in the water without him.

Atom text editor handling two files simultaneously. My new favorite text editor.

Coding simply means writing instructions a computer program can read. Each program has its own little language with strict rules. They’re all similar, but all different.

Spelling counts and only 100% passes. Keys you didn’t know existed like “|” and “`” and “{}” and “[]” become critical.

Most of what we do with computers and cellphones is done in real time. We’re in control. The programs I write run autonomously, sometimes without a keyboard or monitor, triggered by a clock. They won’t run years without any intervention, but they’re pretty dependable day-to-day.

My goal is animated maps at HD quality. Some of these short movies contain 120 separate maps. Each map is rendered individually and sandwiched between a basemap and overlay. The mp4 HD movie is made next. Once created it’s scanned to produce the optimum 256 color colortable for the animated gif. Phew.

My code has to communicate with three separate programs and the computer’s Linux operating system. Files and values are passed back and forth as the different programs perform different parts of the process. One of my scripts takes nearly a half hour to run while gobbling up a few gigs of data, writing over 7,000 separate maps and producing more than fifty animated HD movies.

TV stations purchase expensive systems to do this. This seemed like a better idea for me. It’s a ton of work and extremely unforgiving but the payoff is huge.

The programs I’m using, GrADS, ffmpeg and QGIS are all open source and free as is the Linux operating system, the cartography and weather databases and even the “Open_Sans” font family I’m using.

These programs are thinly used. Help is often tough to find. A few weeks ago I spent a full night looking for a problem causing a crash every time a certain program ran. Greg found it within thirty seconds. He’s a lot more experienced. Beyond that, my text editor conspired by breaking up long lines in a way which hid the cause. A true FML night.

Tonight Greg figured out how to label the correct time and time zone on forecast maps, stumbled upon a bug that would have randomly bit us later and showed me how to re-write all my code as a series of modules.

Yeah — rewrite all my code. I’m working toward long term efficiency, but it will cause pain today.

He’s given me some sample code and hints at approaching problems. Now I have to make it happen.

Write once. Run many.

Still to come, radar maps in real time and numbers on my forecast temperature maps. I am very pleased with how this is working out. Take a look at some samples below. The high quality mp4’s have around ten times the resolution!

If You Forward, You’re Responsible

I got another email today about Fabrizio Brambilla. Among people who know nothing about how computers work Fabrizio is a feared man.

Notify your contacts in your messenger list that they do not accept anything from Fabrizio Brambilla. He has a photo with a dog. He is a hacker and he has the system connected to your messenger account, if one of your contacts accepts it you will also be Jackeado , make sure that your contacts know it and paste it. Thanks

I don’t know what Jackeado means, possibly a euphemism for hacked? Whatever.

This message (or a close relative) hits my inbox at least four or five times a month. It’s always from someone who thinks they’re out ahead of a big story and has forwarded it without checking.

You can check these things with Google. Just enter Fabrizio Brambilla. He’s well known.

Though I have a problem with folks sending this stuff, my bigger problem is the lack a responsibility often taken by the senders.

It was sent by a trusted friend & to tell you the truth, I didn’t think about it! I figured better safe than sorry! If I was obligated to check all the garbage I receive I wouldn’t have time for anything. Sorry I sent it to you!

Of course this is BS on its face. This isn’t about what my Facebook friend received. It’s about what she sent.

My guess is I’m a little too tough on people who send these to me… but there are so many… and it’s so obviously a hoax… and the ulterior motive of being first with the news is so obvious.

Meanwhile, as I was wrapping up with this message, in comes…

Hi, I’m Mark Zuckerberg The Director of facebook.

Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, facebook use will cost money

If you send this string to 18 different from your list, your icon will be blue and it will be free for you.

If you do not believe me tomorrow at 6 pm that facebook will be closed and to open it you will have to pay, this is all by law.

This message is to inform all our users, that our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking for your help to solve this problem. We require that our active users forward this message to each of the people in your contact list in order to confirm our active facebook users if you do not send this message to all your facebook contacts then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of Lose all your cont the transmission of this message. Your SmartPhone will be updated within the next 24 hours, will have a new design and a new color for the chat. Dear Facebook users, we are going to do an update for facebook from 23:00 p.m. until 05:00 a.m. on this day. If you do not send this to all your contacts the update will be canceled and you will not have the possibility to chat with your facebook messages

Will go to pay rate unless you are a frequent user. If you have at least 10 contacts

Send this sms and the logo will turn red to indicate that you are a user

Confirmed … We finish it for free Tomorrow they start to collect the messages for facebook at 0.37 cents Forward this message to more than 9 people of your contacts and it will be free of life for you to watch and it will turn green the ball of above do it and you will see.to 9 of you

Give me strength!

Connecticut: I Remember Nights Like This

Tuesday night 7:00 pm EST surface analysis. Click the map — it’s immense.

I remember nights like this, staring at my computer screen, hoping the next piece of data would give me confidence. Tonight it won’t. No matter what the computers say at this point it’s too late. No one trusts the output.

It’s not a question of being mostly right. This storm heading toward the Northeast demands forecast perfection. A mile or two misplacement, or degree or two missed forecast, will make the difference between ten inches of snow and zero.

Where the frustration comes in is, it’s not a question of me not working hard enough or missing a sign. Science just isn’t good enough yet.

There will be a storm. It will be an awful day. For folks off the shoreline it will be a day to find a reason to stay inside. Actually, shoreline too. Just awful

Winter is nearly over.

Update: My Buddy Kevin In Scotland Has Disappeared

Kevin Lyon
Just before Christmas I noted I’d lost track of my friend Kevin, a fellow pancreatic cancer patient from Scotland. He and I had the same diagnosis and underwent the same surgery and treatment.

We met via Twitter and chatted a bunch. We understood life in a way others couldn’t.

And then he disappeared.

I got an email this morning about Kevin. It was what I’d feared and expected.

Hi Geoff, hope are you well. This is Claudia – I was the former partner of Kevin Lyon (Scottish).I have seen on you blog that you are looking for Kevin. Unfortunately he passed away on December 6th. He is in heaven resting.
Thank you for your caring – I’m praying for you.

Best regards.

Claudia.

It’s a horrible disease. Stories like Kevin’s remind me how very fortunate I am… how lucky really. I put up with a lot of shit, but I get to live. I am cancer free.

Why me? Why not Kevin? No one knows.

Dear Students – My name is Geoff.

The questions is will it make a difference or are you pissing in the wind? Don’t believe the naysayers. They are scared of you. I come from a time when college and high school student were able to steer our national policy and even drive a president (Johnson, not Nixon) from office.

Moratorium Against the War in Vietnam – October 15, 1969

Dear Students –

My name is Geoff. It’s OK for you to look at me as old. I am.

You’ve gotten a lot of attention for yourselves recently as demonstrated by the amazing pushback by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, FL. Make no mistake, it’s a movement.

The questions is will it make a difference or are you just pissing into the wind? Don’t believe the naysayers. They are scared of you.

I come from a time when college and high school student were able to steer our national policy and even drive a president (Johnson, not Nixon) from office. The issue was Vietnam and it divided America as we are divided today. I shudder to think what 1968 would have been like with the Internet.

On one side were people who questioned the war and what we were doing there. On the other side were people who wished to follow the course. I thought they were misguided They thought they were patriots. Looking back there are similarities with Second Amendment defenders today.

The pictures at the top of this entry are from “The Moratorium” in 1969 — I was there. I marched on Washington. I protested on The Commons in Boston. And the country began to listen. Support for the Vietnam War turned.

Back then the voting age was 21 (and the drinking age 18 — you got screwed on this trade). We had much less power. Today nearly every college student and many high school can and should vote.

My generation has felt special for the last fifty years because collectively we did something good. It was probably the first time in American history that ‘kids’ became a political force. We had a positive impact. Now it’s your turn.

Go with your conscience, but please understand we made a difference before and you should now.

Because this post has spawned some heated comments I am imposing limits. One comment per person (except I will allow Judy to support her statement). All comments must be directed to me about what I wrote, not another commenter’s thoughts. I welcome comments on all sides, but keep it civil.

His Life Is Full Of What He Can’t Do

My father wants to drink Coke. The doctor says water. My sister stepped up on this one. “He’s ninety two. Let him enjoy something.”

Charlotte and Great Grandpa Harold earlier today
Lots of buzzing today. Family conferences taking place between my sister, me, our dad and LaTonya, his aide.

My dad went to the hospital after his fall, then on to rehab. He has returned to his apartment weakened. Yesterday he got a bag of iron via IV and he’s wearing a cannula for oxygen. He’s stronger Saturday than he was Wednesday.

He’s brain sharp but physically weary. No one is really healthy at ninety two. You’re always on the edge.

The good news is my dad can regain what strength he had. The bad news is that means doing things which are uncomfortable or bothersome including exercise. At ninety two my dad should stand every hour and walk up and down the hall a few times a day. This is at the edge of his abilities.

I’m not sure I could blame him for saying, “Screw this.” He says he wants to get stronger, but sometimes it’s tough to match action to those words.

At ninety two you can get away with a lot of shit. I asked him not to be a schmuck to others. I’m sure it’s frustrating to have physical life become so difficult. He said he understands.

Few of us can know what it’s like to be trapped inside a body that no longer works right. If my dad drops something it might as well be on Mars. He could bend down to pick it up, but he’d never get back up!

Part of today’s conversation centered on drinking more water. That my father’s kidneys work at all is a surprise. Allowing more fluid in his body makes their job easier.

My father wants to drink Coke. The doctor favors water.

My sister stepped up on this one. “He’s ninety two. Let him enjoy something.”

She’s right. Water is better than Coke, but he’ll probably drink more this way which is good.

I texted LaTonya. “I think we need to consider his life is full of what he can’t do.”

And so we’re all agreed. Let him drink Coke!