Blake (old posts, page 4)

What I Did On My Summer Vacation.

Friday was a day off for us Canadians, and because I like the idea of a four-day-weekend, I decided to take Monday off as well. The only down side to not working is that I don't get to ride on my daily 20 kilometer commute. So today, inspired by an article in the Sunday Globe and Mail about the Donut Ride (a 120 km ride around Toronto which happens every Saturday and Sunday), I went on a ride for the sheer joy of it while Delphine and Amy took their nap. It's fairly rare that I go for a ride just to go for a ride, since usually I'm either commuting or riding somewhere to pick something up, even if it's just over to Bayview for gelato. Having a toddler doesn't lead to a lot of free time, and while she's okay for shorter rides, the one time we took her on a long ride, she got a little antsy. (Okay, so she was crying for the last twenty minutes, but we were on the middle of the Don Trail, and it doesn't exit until Lakeshore.)

Since I've never been on a long ride, I was wondering how far I could go, and how long I could maintain a speed. My route was quite simple, through the cemetary to Bayview, then North until I was done. All in all, I think I did fairly well for my first ride, although I certainly made some newbie mistakes. The most obvious mistake was going too fast at the start of the ride. Going down the hills, I would shift into the highest gear, and then forget to down-shift when I started going up the next hill. Between that and the excessive heat (the humidex was around 35, I believe)I was completely beat after 20 minutes. (On the upside, my average speed for those 20 minutes was over 27 km/h.) So, after pulling over onto the sidewalk (and getting a strange look from a lady out watering her lawn), and taking a water break, I felt a lot better, and continued North. I was hoping to ride for one and a half to two hours, but just before the 30 minute mark, I found myself at Finch and Bayview, and so I thought I would I cut over to Yonge, and head home, for a total time of a little under one hour. (57 minutes, 40 seconds.)

So, some more stats. My average speed (25.7 km/h) was quite a bit faster than normal. (I usually average around 22-24.) My fastest speed (51.2 km/h) wasn't faster than normal, so I guess I was keeping speed for longer than normal, which isn't surprising, since I didn't have to stop for more than three or four lights on the whole ride up to Finch. Finally, my current odometer reading is 1808.2 km, which is below the 1820 it would have been had I commuted on Friday and Monday, but is still fairly impressive for someone who doesn't really think of themselves as a cyclist.

Finally, in a desparate bid to get the three of you who read this weblog to comment, I have a question. I'm thinking of getting a cyclocross bike for commuting in the fairly distant future. From all I've read, the Surly Cross Check sounds like a frame I'ld enjoy, but they don't have dealers (any bike store can order in as many as they want, so the stores are stuck with unsold merchandise), so I don't know where I'ld go if I wanted to test-ride one. Can any of you suggest a store which might carry the Cross Check (or any other cyclocross bikes that you like) for test rides? (The nice lady at The Urbane Cyclist suggested their in-house Urbanite brand, which looked fairly similar, but which I've heard absolutely nothing about.

It's Been A While.

And what an interesting time it's been, too. I'm not entirely sure why I haven't posted anything here, other than I've been busy at work, and kind of worn out when I get home. Well, I'm still busy at work, but it's early in the day, and I wanted to post a small update before I started doing my actual job.

First off, I should mention that I got into an accident with a car. I'm okay, the person in the car is okay, but my mirror left a huge scratch down the side of her vehicle. I'm not sure whether she sideswiped me, or I sideswiped her, (my mirror knocked her passenger side mirror flat, which sort of indicates that I was in front of her, but I was passing another cyclist, so I was probably further out in the lane than I would normally have been,) but either way, it's a sucky situation. Supposedly her insurance company would be contacting my insurance company, but since I don't own a car, I don't have an insurance company, so in theory they'll be contacting me directly. But they haven't yet, and I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting by the phone.

In happier news, it's Bike Week in Toronto this week. Uh, these next couple of weeks? I guess it's pretty excellent that there's too much stuff to fit into a single week, but I sort of wish that there was more day-to-day stuff happening throughout the rest of the year. Things like having bike lanes not be less than the minimum width, or giving tickets to people parked in the bike lane. Still, I've been taking advantage of many of the activites recently, including the "6th Anniversary Doors Open Toronto Weekend", the "16th Annual Group Commute & Free Pancake Breakfast" on Monday (Although I didn't get a pancake because the line was way too long. Oh, but I did get the free t-shirt.), the "Coffee and Bagels at Curbside Cycle" on Tuesday, the "Grassroots' Breakfast and Two-Minute Tune-up" (I didn't get the tune-up, because there didn't seem to be anyone else getting one, and I didn't want to ask. I'm curiously shy sometimes.) on Wednesday, and the "Biking Breakfast" on Thursday. I also got a shiny new helmet (pictured to the right) on Tuesday, both because my previous one was five years old (Supposedly the foam breaks down after five years or so, and they become less useful.), and because Bikes on Wheels was having a Bike Week special where if you gave them your old helmet, you would get 20% off of a new one. There are a couple of differences between it and the helmet I used to wear. Most noticeably (to me) is the lack of a brim/visor. This means that the sun is much more in my eyes than it was with the old helmet, and forces me to wear sunglasses while riding, which leads to the second big difference. With the new helmet and my shades on, I look far more like a motorcycle cop from the '70s than I ever have before. I'm not sure if it's crossing a line for me, or if I can still go with it, but it's certainly pushing my look in a direction I never intended it to go. Fortunately, Amy has promised to stop me if I ever try to buy a banana-bike, or bell bottoms.

I guess that's it. I thought I had more to say, but I can't quite remember what it was, and it's almost 11:00, so I should really be heading off.

Daycare Rock Star

I go with Blake to drop off Delphine at daycare every morning, and one morning one of the other toddlers, Claire-Marie, came running to him and gave him a hug around the knees. She's just huggy like that. Then Antonio and Beniam decided they wanted a piece of the hugging action, so they came over too, and now every morning when the kids see Blake they all swarm him. He's like a rock star.

Just like a car.

As you might know if you read the comments in the right-hand box over there containing my biking stats, I took my bike to Cyclepath on Tuesday to get it tuned up after the long period of disuse over the winter. The estimate they gave me was Monday, but I guess they're much faster than they thought they would be, because I got a call on Thursday night letting me know that it was ready. Since Friday was a holiday, I couldn't pick it up then, but early this morning, Amy, Delphine, and I went there this morning to get it. For some reason we decided to get a bike seat for Delphine while we were there, and so we went for our first family bike ride ever. Predictably enough, Del fell fast asleep after about 5 minutes of riding, but when she was awake, as long as we were moving, she seemed to be happy.

Anyways, it was about half as fast as my normal commute, but only a couple of km/h slower than the last ride I took with Amy. Since we weren't trying to go anywhere quickly this time, and had a bunch of stops and starts while we dropped a CD off at the library, or bought some chocolate at Shoppers Drug Mart, or tried to figure out why that road didn't go where we thought it would, I figure we were probably going at pretty much the same speed.

I'm not sure if you can tell from this post, but I'm really insanely excited about going out on rides with Amy and Del. I can just imagine all the places we'll go, and I'm looking forward to seeing how fast we are going by the time we decide to hang up the bikes. Oh, and I've got a brand new rear rack. Shiny.

The First Day Of Spring!

Well, okay, so I think it was actually the second day of spring, but I biked to work on Monday, and today as well, for the first time in four months. And it was great! I made a couple of mistakes, but that's to be expected, and none of them were particularly dangerous.

The first mistake I made was to take the back lane to the Belt Line, over to Oriole. Both the back lane, and the Belt Line were solid packed snow, which I have never ridden on before. It turns out that as long as you don't want to turn the wheel, riding on packed snow is a lot like riding on gravel, only wetter.

The second mistake I made was to not wear some sort of protective pants. There was a lot of muddy water on the sides of the road, and it went all up my leg, and onto my coat, and shirt (because my coat was unzipped cause I was getting warm), and face. Bleah. I had a change of shirt in my pack, but I had to sit with wet legs until my jeans dried out. Ah, well, lessons for the future, I suppose.

So, what else? Surprisingly, given the snow and general attitude of carefulness I had, I was only 1.5 km/h slower than my previous average. And the big-ass hill at Poplar Plains didn't kill me. Nearly, but not quite. Since I'm going to be out at Richmond and Spadina this evening, I might try a different route home. Up Bathurst to St. Clair, or something. Or maybe not.

Learning Python

I'ld like to apologize right now for the length of this post, but there's something about someone learning a new tool that immediately helps them do something that I really enjoy.
Amy: I think I have a python problem.

Blake:	Ooh, I should be able to help. 

Amy:	Well, it's a problem that could be fixed by python.

Blake:	Close enough. 

Amy:	Ah, it goes beyond help.  I still have to figure out where to
start.  Like, do I even have python on this machine?  And how do you
read in something from a file?

Blake:	"python -v" 

Blake:	and:
 myFile = open( "filename.txt" )
 for line in myFile:
   print line 
Amy:	Holy, if comes up with a million lines of... stuff.

Amy:	But then it seems to be 2.3.

Blake:	Perhaps "python -V" 

Amy:	That's better!

Blake:	What did you want to do with the lines in a file? 

Amy:	Well, I want to take a bunch of pieces of data, like company
names and phone numbers and stuff, and stick it into a specific HTML

Amy:	So I want to take in a file of data and output HTML.

Amy:	Do I want the HTML format hardcoded into the python or should
that be another file?

Blake:	Do you have a python prompt up? 

Blake:	Try typing :
 x = "Amy"
 print "Hello %s" % x 

Amy:	Ah hah.

Amy:	That's nice.

Blake:	So, I would do something like :
 myBigTemplate = """abc %s
 def %s
 ghi %s"""
 print myBigTemplate % ('1','2','3') 

Blake:	(triple-quoted strings can span more than one line.) 

Amy:	Oh, I see.  So I set up the formatting and then use 'print' to
spit out the HTML.

Blake:	Yup.  Oh, the other thing you can do is name the variables
you're replacing.  So this works:
 x = { 'name':'Amy', 'food':'apple'}
 print  "Hi %(name)s, do you want a %(food)s" % x 

Blake:	(Just don't forget the 's' after the closing bracket.) 

Amy:	So you think I should define the HTML format in the python
script itself?  It seems easier but somehow less clean.

Blake:	Yeah, for now.  You can always change it later.  :) 

Amy:	True.

Amy:	What's wrong with this:

Amy:	myTable = " %(coname)s "

coname = "Big Developer"

print myTable % coname

Blake:	You need to pass a dictionary in if you use the (name)
feature.  So, make a dictionary of variables, like x = {'coname':"Big

Blake:	Then pass that in.  You could call your dictionary "values",
or something meaningful. 

Amy:	Ooh, that worked.

Amy:	Now I have to figure out how to get the dictionary from a
different file.

Blake:	What's the format of the file? 

Amy:	Well, I guess it could be something like "Company: Big Developer

Blake:	It could be? 

Amy:	Well, it's going to be exported from Access so I guess I could
define the format?

Amy:	It sounds like you can anyway.

Amy:	I'm going to work on the assumption you can export text in a
format like that, for now.

Blake:	Okay, although it might be easier to just assume that the
first thing on the line is the company... 

Amy:	The problem is that each company could have a varying number
of employees.

Blake:	What do you want to do in that case? 

Amy:	I want to iterate through all the names, adding a new row to
my table for each one.  I wonder if it would be possible to include
the number of names in the dataset.

Amy:	Although if they are the last thing on the line I guess you
could just go through them until you get to the EOL.

Blake:	You could, or you could repeat the company name for each employee. 

Amy:	But I don't want to repeat the company name in my HTML.

Blake:	Ahhh...  Okay, I understand.  How about:
 Big Co, "employee1, employee2, employee3", BooYeah 

Amy:	I'm not clear on the function of the "BooYeah".

Blake:	Neither am I.  It's just whatever other data you need in

Amy:	Ah hah.  The confusion is because the employees are the end of
the data.

Blake:	Oh, okay. 

Amy:	Yeah, I think if I could get a comma delimited file with
company information and employees on each line, I could parse it.
Assuming it was always correctly formatted. :P

Blake:	But if you're generating it from another program, it should be
correctly formatted. 

Amy:	It should.

Amy:	"In theory..."  but let's assume it will be.

Blake:	So try "import csv" at the Python prompt. 

Amy:	It didn't do anything.

Blake:	Sure it did.  Type "dir( csv )" or "help( csv )" to see what
it did. 

Blake:	(There's a webpage at that has more
readable contents of the help. ) 

Blake:	(And as another hint, you probably want to use the DictReader
class with a restkey of 'employee') 

Amy:	I will copy that and paste it somewhere and hopefully soon it
will mean something.

Blake:	Feel free to ask me questions about whatever doesn't make

Amy:	Hah.  Part of the problem is that you're not working for me,
and part of the problem is that I don't even know how to begin asking
the questions.

Amy:	What's a sequence?

Amy:	As in "remaining data is added as a sequence keyed by the
value of restkey"?

Blake:	It's just a list. 

Amy:	Okay.

Blake:	x = [1,2,3] is a sequence. 

Amy:	Alright.  So I can iterate through it pretty easily?

Blake:	Yup. 

Blake:	I think I was wrong in my last explanation. 

Blake:	I think what they mean there is that you'll have a dictionary
with keys of "employee1", "employee2", etc... 

Amy:	Hm.

Amy:	I guess I could work with that.

Blake:	But a good way to find out would be to try running it on a
file, and printing it out. 

Amy:	How do I call DictReader?

Blake:	No, I take it back again.  I think my first explanation is
correct.  You'ld have an entry in your dictionary with a key of
'employees', and a value of ['Bill', 'Jane', 'Ted']. 

Amy:	Do I have to define something else to be a DictReader?

Blake:	First, you create one.:
 myReader = csv.DictReader( filename, ['company','whateverelse'], 'employees' ) 
Blake:	Then, you use it :
 for values in myReader:
     print template % values 
Amy:	It's too easy!


Amy:	I give it the fishy eye.

Blake:	That's the beauty of Python.  If you think it's too easy,
you're on the right track.  :) 

Amy:	Ah hah, it's giving me an error!

Blake:	What's the error? 

Amy:	NameError: name 'data' is not defined

Amy:	Where 'data.csv' is the name of my file.

Blake:	What's the line you used? 

Amy:	myReader = csv.DictReader( data.csv, ['company','address','phone'], 'employees' )

Blake:	You need to put data.csv in quotes, too. 

Amy:	It doesn't say that in the manual!

Blake:	No, that's a syntax thing.

Blake:	Hey, can I post this to the weblog? 

Amy:	Uh, sure.

Amy:	How do I get the values in myReader to just output willy
nilly?  (I don't have a template yet, I just want to see if they're
reading in right).

Blake:	print values 

Amy:	I did that but it gave me another ... prompt.  I guess my
question is actually how do I end a for?

Blake:	Just hit return. 

Amy:	Oh, that really didn't work at all!

Amy:	Here is what I got:

Amy:	{'phone': None, 'company': 'd', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': 'a', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': 't', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': 'a', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': '.', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': 'c', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': 's', 'address': None}
{'phone': None, 'company': 'v', 'address': None}

Amy:	It's kind of funny how wrong it is.

Blake:	Oh, hah!  Yes.  Read the examples, and see what's different. 

Amy:	Yes, sensai.

Blake:	(Alternately, see what the companies spell if you read them
going down.) 

Amy:	Yeah, the filename.  That's the funny part.

Blake:	So you need to get it to read your file, instead of reading
the name of your file. 

Blake:	You can do that one of two ways.  Either use "open( filename
)", or "file( filename )".  They're the same, under the hood. 

Amy:	Oh, it worked!

Blake:	It did? 

Amy:	Yeah, when I asked it to print values it gave me this: 

Amy:	{'phone': ' 416-574-8372', 'company': 'Huge Builder',
'employees': [' Bob Smith', ' President', ' Joan Simpson', '
Vice-President Public Relations', ' Huw Thompson', ' Vice President
Technology'], 'address': ' 2002 Yonge St'} {'phone': ' 416-938-2837',
'company': 'Big Buildco', 'employees': [' Joanne Jones', ' CEO'],
'address': ' 19 King St'}

Amy:	Except for some reason it reordered the variables, but I don't
think that matters.

Blake:	No, cause you'll use them in whatever order you want in your
HTML template. 

Amy:	Yup.

Amy:	Cool!

Amy:	I could get this working before your dad gets back from his
golf game!

Blake:	The only other trick will be to get the employee data out.
For that I'ld use a separate template. 

Blake:	i.e. format the employees into a table first, and then add the
'employeeTable' to your dictionary. 

Amy:	A table?

Blake:	(To do that, assuming you've got the employee's formatted into
the variable "temp", you would write:
 values[ "employeeTable" ] = temp

Blake:	An html table.  Or however else you want to add the employees. 

Amy:	Couldn't I format them after I format the rest of the stuff?

Blake:	You could, but formatting them before makes it easier to
insert them into the rest of the stuff. 

Amy:	Okay...

Amy:	The whole thing is going to have to be inside the "for values
in myReader", right?

Blake:	Mostly.  You could define your templates outside, but the
rest, yeah. 

Amy:	Okay.

Amy:	Why didn't this work:
for values in myReader:
...   print " %(company)s "

Amy:	It didn't return anything.

Blake:	Because you didn't tell it where to get the company from.
(You need the " % values" at the end of the print. 

Amy:	Oh.  So "values" is a real thing.

Blake:	At this point, I think you want to switch to a script. 

Amy:	Yeah, just a second. :)

Blake:	So that you can run it over and over again. 

Blake:	Yup, everything is a real thing.  There's very little magic in

Amy:	That's going to take some getting used to.

Blake:	Hopefully it won't be too bad. 

Amy:	Oh, I can tell I'm serious now, i have two shell windows open.

Blake:	Heh. 

Amy:	How do I do comments?

Blake:	# Like this. 

Amy:	Can I do line breaks wherever?

Blake:	Almost. 

Blake:	For now, let's say "Yes", and if you run into a problem,
you'll find out. 

Amy:	Okay.

Blake:	(And I can help you figure out where to put the break

Amy:	Oh my god.

Amy:	It worked.

Amy:	Just like that.

Blake:	Heh.  Now I'm definitely posting this to the weblog.  :) 

Blake:	What did you do for the employee names and titles? 

Amy:	I didn't do that part yet. :P

Blake:	Oh, okay. 

Amy:	I'm just excited I got the company to work.

Amy:	Now I must eat more.

Amy:	I'm running out of food.

Blake:	Heh.  I'll have you pulling your data from the live database
any second now. 

Amy:	Aiy!  Don't even say that!  Your dad would be so excited.

Blake:	It's really quite easy...  :) 

Amy:	Okay, now I'm stuck on the employees thing.  It's a list
called "employees"...  can I just do "for values in employees"?

Blake:	You can, but it wouldn't be quite what you wanted. 

Amy:	Ah.

Blake:	The quickest way I've found to get a useful list out of it is
the following line (assuming you've put the employees list into a
variable named "x": zip( [y for (i,y) in enumerate(x) if i%2==0], [y
for (i,y) in enumerate(x) if i%2==1] ) 

Blake:	But that's nigh-unreadable, so perhaps we should try to do it
an easier way, huh? 

Amy:	Holy wha?!

Blake:	See what I mean? 

Amy:	Yeah.  

Blake:	Ooh, how about this:
 names = [y for (i,y) in enumerate(x) if i%2==0]
 titles = [y for (i,y) in enumerate(x) if i%2==1] 

Amy:	First, isn't my employees list in a variable called

Blake:	Just a sec. 

Blake:	Yes, so replace 'x' with "values['employees']" 

Blake:	Or add the line:
 x = values['employees']
 before those other two bits of code. 

Amy:	And then what do "names" and "titles" end up as?  Lists?

Blake:	Yup. 

Amy:	Hm.  That's not really useful because I want to use them in
pairs, the name then the title.

Amy:	I guess I can use an index to refer to the nth item in each
list, and they shouls match up.

Blake:	Yes, but you could then write something like:
 for name,title in zip( names, titles ):
   print name, title 

Amy:	Should I look up zip or just ask you what it is?

Blake:	(zip takes two lists "[a1,a2,a3]" and "[b1,b2,b3]", and makes
a new list with both "[ (a1,b1), (a2,b2), (a3,b3) ]" 

Amy:	Oh, okay.

Blake:	enumerate (while I'm here), returns the items in a list, along
with their indices.  So you could have written:
 for i, name in enumerate( names ):
   print name, names[i], titles[i] 
Blake:	and "name" and "names[i]" should have the same value. 

Amy:	So basically I'm taking the original employee list, stripping
it into two lists, and then folding it back into a new list with a
slightly different format.

Blake:	Yeah.  An easier to use format. 

Blake:	I suppose you could do it all in one go, if you wanted...
Something like:
 for i,name in enumerate( values['employees'] ):
   if i%2 == 1:
   print "name =", values['employees'][i], " title =", values['employees'][i+1] 

Blake:	Which makes more sense to you? 

Amy:	No, I don't like doing things all in one go!

Amy:	I like doing things slowly and methodically.

Amy:	Hm.  It doesn't like "x = values['employees']"  

Amy:	It says values is not defined.

Blake:	What's your whole script look like? 

Blake:	(That line, in specific, should be in the :
 for values in myReader:

Amy:	Right.

Amy:	Well, it did something that time!

Blake:	Excellent.  Not what you wanted, I'm guessing. 

Amy:	Nope.

Amy:	But it did what I told it to do.

Blake:	Heh. 

Amy:	I have this: 
employeeRows = " %(name)s  %(title)s "

and then
  for name, title in zip( names, titles ):
    print employeeRows % name, title

Amy:	But I'm not passing in the name, title values right.

Blake:	Yes, since you're not using a dictionary, you can't use the
%(name)s format. 

Amy:	Do I just use %s>

Amy:	?

Blake:	So, you can do one of two things.  Stick with the %(name)s
format and switch to a dictionary, or switch to %s and pass them in in
the correct order. 

Blake:	Switching to a dictionary, by the way, is as easy as changing
the "% name, title" to "% locals()" 

Amy:	locals()?

Blake:	It's a link to the local variables. 

Blake:	Try putting a "print locals()" at various points in your

Amy:	So the local variables are just whatever it's working with
right now?

Blake:	Pretty much, yeah. 

Amy:	Hm.

Amy:	Now I have to figure out how to stick the employee HTML into a
variable so I can put it in the rest of the HTML later.

Blake:	What's the format of the html you want to stick it into? 

Blake:	(As a hint, instead of printing it, use += to append it to a

Amy:	Pretty much what I had there, rows in a table.

Blake:	Let me know if you need any help with that, m'kay? 

Amy:	Do I have to define variables?

Blake:	Nope. 

Amy:	Hah, that was a trick question.

Blake:	(Well, kinda nope.) 

Amy:	Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 26, in ?
    employeeTable += employeeRows % locals()
NameError: name 'employeeTable' is not defined

Blake:	You can't just append to something that isn't there. 

Blake:	So start it with:
 employeeTable = "<table>" 

Amy:	That's better.

Amy:	I wonder what is wrong with my brain that I never remember to
put the close quote in.

Amy:	How do I tell it to put in a newline?

Blake:	"\n" 

Amy:	Or should I just triple-quote and put it in myself?

Blake:	That would work too. 

Blake:	Whatever looks nicer to you. 

Amy:	\n looks nicer

Amy:	Okay, I think I have the bones of it working.  Now I need to
put in the real formatting.

Blake:	Cool.  Could you show me some sample output before you do? 

Amy:	Sure.

Amy:	 Huge Builder 
  Bob Smith   President 
  Joan Simpson   Vice-President Public Relations 
  Huw Thompson   Vice President Technology 

 Big Buildco 
  Joanne Jones   CEO 

Blake:	No phone number? 

Amy:	I didn't do that yet.  I just assumed it would be about the
same as the company.

Blake:	(Just making sure it's not being overwritten by something

Blake:	Yup.  It will be. 

Amy:	Actually I think I will do the """ thing for the HTML
templates, so it looks like regular HTML.

Amy:	Uhoh.

Blake:	What? 

Amy:	If a value is empty I want to leave out a row in my table.

Amy:	I will have to do that in an if in my "for values in
myReader", right?

Blake:	What do you mean by "if a value is empty"? 

Blake:	Oh, if you don't have the title for someone? 

Amy:	Well, more specifically, if the company doesn't have a suite

Amy:	If it does I want a row with the suite number, if it doesn't I
don't want that row at all.

Blake:	Yeah.  Or you could build up a sub-template, like the

Blake:	Have a line that looks like:
 values['suiteNumber'] = "<tr><td>%(suiteNumber)s<td><tr>" % values 

Amy:	Either way I will have to break everything else up into
"before Suite" and "after Suite" templates, though.

Blake:	Not really.  If you added the above line, then you could just
use "%(suiteNumber)s", and it would output the whole <tr><td> for you. 

Amy:	Oh, I see.

Amy:	What if suiteNumber is empty, though?

Blake:	Ah, yes, so you would have something like:
 if values['suiteNumber']:
   values['suiteNumber'] = "<tr><td>%(suiteNumber)s<td><tr>" % values  

Blake:	So, if it was empty, there would be no row, but if it wasn't
empty, it would get a row of its own. 

Amy:	Ah.  Okay.

Amy:	This is going to be really swell if it works.

Blake:	It will.  One way or another. 

Amy:	Uh oh.

Amy:	One of my data fields has commas in it.

Blake:	A-ha!  Did it mess up? 

Amy:	I didn't try it yet.  Should I quote the data with commas?

Blake:	You shouldn't have to.  The export thing should do it for you. 

Amy:	Shut up!

Amy:	Wait, what export thing?

Amy:	From access or whatever?

Blake:	Yeah. 

Amy:	Okay.  I'm not using real data yet, I'm just making up
fake(ish) data.

Blake:	Ah, right.  I would just assume that your real data is
correctly formatted. 

Blake:	(The rules for CSV quoting are kind of odd.) 

Amy:	If I have single quotes within a triple-quoted section, is
that okay?

Amy:	Or do I have to escape them or something?

Blake:	Yup. 

Blake:	You can also have single-quotes in a double-quoted section, or
double-quotes in a single-quoted section. 

Blake:	And you can triple-single or triple-double quote stuff, if you
needed a triple-whatever-the-other-quote-was in it. 

Amy:	Ah, wait.  I meant single-double-quote, not single quote.

Blake:	Whatever. 

Blake:	It all works. 

Amy:	Hm.

Amy:	It's whining about something.

Blake:	What's the complaint? 

Amy:	Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 71, in ?
    print myTable % values
ValueError: unsupported format character '"' (0x22) at index 29

Amy:	Perhaps it is the %?

Blake:	It's probably the %.  To get a % in the output, you need to
type %%. 

Amy:	Hah!

Amy:	Ta da!

Blake:	It all works? 

Amy:	Kind of, except some values aren't right. 

Amy:	But it's formatting mostly right.

Blake:	Hmm.  Cool. 

Blake:	Back in a sec. 

Amy:	It's not reading the CSV properly -- it's the problem with
commas inside fields I was talking about before.

Amy:	According to this it should work.

Blake:	No? 

Blake:	What's the line it's failing on? 

Blake:	And is this actual data, or hand-created data? 

Amy:	It's my fake data.

Amy:	Ah.  It didn't like my spaces after my commas.

Amy:	When I got rid of them it worked.

Amy:	Whoo!

Blake:	Hurray! 


Amy:	You can put that in the blog.

Blake:	Oh, I will. 

Amy:	I'm sure I would have spent way more time looking for and
downloading and installing and testing a million graphical things, if
they even exist.

Amy:	Scripting is the shit.

I'm sure it'll get better.

Wow! This has started off as the worst day I've had in a very long time. On my ride to work, someone walking past me snagged my headphone cord with their purse, and yanked the cord out of both my ears, and my Clie. Damn did it ever hurt, and apparently broke my right headphone, since now no sound comes out of it. Then, I just missed the elevator, and no-one in it was nice enough to hold the door for me. Once I got to the office, I tried to make oatmeal, but it boiled over in the microwave after a minute, so I cleaned it up, and decided to cut my losses and just eat the slightly crunchy gruel it's ended up as, and on my way back to my desk, I spilled the cup of coffee I was carrying.

I'm sure it'll get better as the day goes on, but at this point, I'm just afraid of what'll happen next.

Why is Python slow?

I tried replying to this post from Peter Bowyer, but the comment submit form was behind an httpd-authenticated wall, so I figured I'ld post the reply here instead.

Have you tried posting to the Python Tutor list (, and asking them why your code is so slow? You'll probably get some interesting responses. A couple of things I've noticed off the top: You could replace this x = 0
bins = []
for x in range(MAXSTEPS): bins.append(0)
with this bins = [0 for x in xrange(MAXSTEPS)] which should be faster for a couple of reasons. First, list comprehensions are faster than repeated calls to append (I believe). Second, xrange should be faster than range, because it just returns the numbers one at a time instead of creating the whole list at once.

Here's some code showing how much faster that one change is: >>> t1="""x=0
... bins=[]
... for x in xrange(20): bins.append(0)"""
>>> t2 = """bins = [0 for x in xrange(20)]"""
>>> time1 = timeit.Timer(t1)
>>> time2 = timeit.Timer(t2)
>>> time1.timeit()
>>> time2.timeit()

As a side note, I ran: >>> t3 = """bins = [0] * 300"""
>>> time1 = timeit.Timer(t1)
>>> time3.timeit()
which takes half the time of t2 to do 15 times as many entries... Interesting. I'll update this with the results of the other tests as they finish running...

Okay, another thought. You calculate the distance every time through the inner loop, which seems really slow. Perhaps you could keep track of the distance, and update it in the call to walk?

Here are the results from running all of them for 300 iterations. >>> t1="""x=0
... bins=[]
... for x in xrange(300): bins.append(0)"""
>>> t2 = """bins = [0 for x in xrange(300)]"""
>>> t3 = """bins = [0] * 300"""
>>> time1 = timeit.Timer(t1)
>>> time2 = timeit.Timer(t2)
>>> time3 = timeit.Timer(t3)
>>> time1.timeit()
>>> time2.timeit()
>>> time3.timeit()

How to make money on the Interweeb.

I was listening to Maximum Geek 5 on the subway this morning, and was struck with the need to comment on it.

To start off with, damn Jeff and Josh (the two hosts) are some huge geeks! (And this coming from someone who wrote a Palm conduit to post to his weblog.) What I mean is that listening to them takes me right back to my days in the Computer Science Club at the University of Waterloo, complete with interrupting each other in the middle of sentences and misquoting Monty Python.

Second, Jeff Kirvin is perhaps the most naive, and I mean that in the nicest way, person I have ever heard speak. While I'ld like to believe that people would pay for content that I could get for free, I just don't have that much faith in human nature, and sadly, my experience seems to bear out my conclusions. I think that at this point in time on the Internet, paying for something is always harder than not paying for it, so you need to add some sort of value to the paying copy.

Which means that the New York Times has completely the wrong idea. It's true that they've cut themselves off from the rest of the web, and are only harming themselves by doing so. (They're a newspaper, why not make the current month pay-to-read, and open up the archives? Surely their main selling point is commentary on what's currently going on!) So, I have the following suggestion for Solo Media: Put up text-only versions of your serials. By "text-only" I don't just mean versions without any formatting, because given the existance of alt.binaries.e-books, and the fact that the first few doc readers couldn't support formatting, having a non-formatted version is clearly not enough of a difference to get people to pay. What I really mean "text-only" is that you should remove all the punctuation, and force capital letters into lowercase as well! It's very rare that people search for a comma, or a semi-colon, and most-if-not-all of the search engines are case-insensitive these days, so lowercasing everything won't hurt your searchability. It will allow people to quickly find which episode memorable text is located in (and approximately where in that episode it is), And it will even give people the flavour of the stuff you're writing, but it will also make it much harder to read, and probably hard enough that it won't be worth the time to try to fix it.

So that's my idea for you guys. Feel free to use it, and spread it around. I hope you like it, and may you grow rich off of it.

A pEditPro/pEdit32 Conduit.

I've recently started exploring the world of writing COM-based conduits for the Palm in Python. I had one working for the PalmBlosxom application I've mentioned previously, and I figured that it wouldn't be a huge task to modify it to just copy any memos from the Memo32DB to files and folders in a directory. And it wasn't that hard. The biggest problem I ran into was trying to instantiate an object that I should have gotten from another object. The error message was a little misleading (at least to me, someone who hasn't spent a lot of time in figuring out COM error messages), but I finally realized what had happened by reading the documentation. And perhaps the most surprising thing was that I started development on my computer at work, and finished it on my computer at home, through the use of Subversion. I figured I'ld have to install a bunch of stuff on my home computer to be able to build the code, (it currently requires InnoSetup Beta 5, py2exe, wxPython, and Python 2.3,) but I guess I had all that stuff from the last time I tried developing something from home.

So, I invite anyone and everyone to give it a try. It'll only work for Windows users, but it should be fine for them. I don't know of any bugs, and I'm quite sure that even if there are bugs, it won't destroy your Palm's data (I do no writing to the Palm, so the data on it should be safe, right?), and you can always uninstall the conduit. That was one of the toughest things to get working correctly, surprisingly. There are a couple more features I'ld like to add before I feel it's ready to have a 1.0 version number. (Actual two-way syncing being the main one. And having a configuration dialog that wasn't just a big blank screen would be another. Perhaps switching to the C++-based Conduit API would be useful as well, for cross-platform issues, but I'm not sure how I could build a conduit that way.) And leave me some comments if you have any problems or suggestions, or even if you don't. I'ld like to see who's using the little tools I put out there.