Codethecity Health

The latest Codethecity event saw a few new developments. We had our biggest turn out yet. Our biggest day two turnout by far. At least half of the projects delivered some real value over the weekend. A similar percentage have genuine likelihood of finding a  live future rather than ageing unloved in a github repo. Our ODI Node activities started to take real shape too.


You can read more on the codethecity blog.

Books catch up

Wow the past couple of months have flown by. When I say ‘couple’, I mean five. The last book I mentioned in my book a week 2016 attempt was A God in Ruins back in March. I’ve run through another stack since then. Train based commute FTW.

Let’s catch up.


20 The Myth of Sisyphus Camus, Albert
OK, so reading books just because you enjoy saying Sisyphus isn’t always a great idea. Not a book to read when work is ultra busy.

21 The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) Chambers, Becky
Sci-fi nonsense is awesome.

22 A Very Expensive Poison Harding, Luke
Still hiding in a cupboard. Terrifying truth.

23 What a Carve Up! Coe, Jonathan
Tried to read this about 10 years ago. Never got very far. Loved it this time round.

24 HHhH Binet, Laurent
What a great book – the only time the whole ‘writers struggle’ stuff hasn’t ruined a book for me.

25 SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome Beard, Mary
Probably the most I’ve enjoyed a history book.

26 The Son Nesbø, Jo
Bought this and the next one after reading a Scandi-crime article. Enjoyable nonsense.

27 Last Rituals (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #1) Sigurðardóttir, Yrsa
This was actually pretty good. Weird names though.

28 Midnight’s Children Rushdie, Salman
As good as it’s meant to be. Longest sentences ever.

29 The Vegetarian Han, Kang
Starts off nice and light and funny, just incredibly desolate by the end. Read most of it in the cafe at Loch Morlich while the boys were sailing. Which was nice.

30 Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Rovelli, Carlo
Brilliantly accessible hurrah for science. Like an abbreviated Brian Cox.

31 A Very British Coup Mullin, Chris
Like a reverse What a Carve Up. Brexit and Corbyn…

32 Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future Mason, Paul
This is either insanely optimistic, or we are doomed, or we are lied to, or all three.

33 An Artist of the Floating World Ishiguro, Kazuo
Self image vs the world and all that.

34 The Sellout Beatty, Paul
The Booker prize long list buying spree kicks off with this one. I hope it wins.

So – 18 books to get through between now and Hogmanay. Which is 134 days away. 7.4 days per book. Easy! …

*okay Google – list of short but good books*

Book a week – March

No real purpose to the list this month. Largely just random grabs from a stack of stuff I’ve thrown into the Amazon basket over the last few weeks based on various lists of things to read / prize shortlists etc… in an attempt to broaden out the kind of thing I’m reading.

13 Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (304 pages) Didn’t enjoy this as much as Dance Dance Dance, but still a delightful way to spend some train journeys. I love the way Murakami describes boring everyday stuff.

14 Vernon God Little (288 pages) Excellent wee book largely constructed of delightful sentences. Read over three days following Super Tuesday where Hillary and Trump look to be stealing a march, and a week after watching Making a Murderer. ‘Murica. Sigh. Another mention of six fingered people. Probably my favourite so far. Second Booker winner on the list. Need to order a few more.

15 A Brief History of Time (256 pages) I’ve never read this before. Oddly. I can argue about emissions from Black Holes, visualisations of four dimensional space, and your general General Relativity with the best of the armchair physicists – but avoided this previously for some reason. Probably a snobbish rejection of overly popular pop-sci. I’m an idiot. The transition at page 23 from Newtonian to Relativistic is brutal. I can see why people stopped at that end of the book. I wish I’d done more maths. I can’t help wondering what shape physics would be in today if it wasn’t for the Pope and his ilk.

16 The Bone Clocks (640 pages) I think this is the first spooky nonsense book so far. Unless you count Murakami dream stuff as spooky. Which I don’t think I do (thereby no doubt demonstrating that I missed the point of the book entirely). I’d have preferred this without the Dungeons and Dragons nonsense. Felt a little bit like an episode of Yu Gi Oh in the third quarter – a bit of a slog. Ended well though, with some This Changes Everything scenario stuff. I preferred the resurrections of Harry August.

17 Trigger Warning (352 pages) Talking of spooky nonsense! Short story books can be incredibly frustrating to read on the train. Getting half way through a chapter is one thing – being three pages from the end of a story is quite another. Some utter nonsense in here. I don’t understand the dr who stuff. Fun though.

18 Good Ideas (368 pages) I’m always being asked how things are made, how they work, why something is, etc… by the wee lads . This is still a good reminder that even boring stuff is endlessly fascinating if you just dig in a bit deeper. Also some nice ideas outside of my usual science / maths / logic zone. Well worth a read if you have little people. While reading this the wee lad asked “Dad. What’s the opposite of medium?”, Discussion ended at head scratching about wether infinity was actually on the number line or not. I resisted showing him this.

19 A God in Ruins (542 pages) This was the only book I already had in the stack that featured in the Baileys long list announced this month. Deliberately bought this because it’s not the kind of thing I’d usually read. A lot of the books so far have done the time jumpy thing to some extent – with things happening out of sequence. You read about the death and then the life – that kind of thing. It feels like this jumps around mid sentence sometimes as recollection and reality get mashed up. My simple brain had to skip back and fore a few times to make sure I wasn’t slipping into that auto pilot where your eyes are reading but your brain is running through a todo list. I’m cheating slightly including this one – I finished it on April 1st.

7 books ( 5 fiction, 2 non-fiction )
2750 pages

Map data glue

I’m at the sixth codethecity, on day two of the History Jam. We’re working on creating a walk through 3D version of 1930’s Aberdeen using open data, Unity, and a lot of transcribing and cross referencing.

I’m working on pairing historic company data with the OSM (Open Street Map) building outlines that we’re using to create our 3D environment. This pairing is harder than it sounds. I’m starting with something relatively simple. Identify the occupants at ground level, using a combination of OSM data, feet and eyes, and Google Streetview.

Starting with RBOS outside M&S and working along to the St Nicholas graveyard should be easy. Shouldn’t it?.

Looking at Open Street Maps there there are six distinct buildings in this stretch.

Looking at Google Maps it looks like we have five distinct buildings.

Continue reading “Map data glue”

One Pixel Two

I’ve been paying with visualisations using p5.js for the one pixel camera project.

With the data streaming from processing to the phant setup, we can easily pull various sets of data as json to feed into p5.js sketches. This makes the visualisation easy enough to be fun, because it removes a lot of the faff associated with moving data around. The docs on give a decent overview of the different cuts of the data you can pull directly.

This is a really simple visualisation – it just pulls a recent data set and plots a pixel for each second – seconds on columns, minutes on rows – in whichever order they arrive.

I like how it goes a bit glitchy when the pixel capture fails for a few seconds, or when the data set spans more than a single hour and it overwrites itself.

Next up – getting the pixel stream to come from this little monkey instead of the Mac. RPi + Lego = Huzzah.

One Pixel

So I’m working on a one pixel camera project with the wee lads. A ‘photo’ from a one pixel camera looks odd. It makes images of time, rather than space. Here is a ‘photo’ of an hour I spent working on some arduino stuff just now.


Each pixel represents one second. Each row represents one minute. The 60 x 60 block represents an hour. What can you tell from this photo? Well, you can tell that I probably wasn’t outside from the lack of blues or greens. Something orange turned up late in the hour. Probably a wee lad in an orange fleece. Something red popped up from time to time. Probably my notebook.

The camera for this little test was just the camera on my mac. I used Processing to grab a pixel from the centre of the frame once a second and plot it to a grid.

The next version uses Python, Raspberry Pi, the RPi Camera, a custom Lego Pi case for directing the camera. It’s using phant for data logging so that I can throw the pixels at a server, and then process them into images or animations elsewhere. I’m mainly experimenting with exposure settings to get a balance of pleasing / accurate brightness through a 24 hour cycle.

Testing takes time when you’re taking photos of time.

Book a week – February

Okay so January was non-fiction heavy. Let’s make February a bit more fictiony. Picking books to read is hard when you’re out of the habit. I realised that in addition to being non-fiction heavy, January had been a month of books written by chaps. So I decided to fix that. I just bought a bunch of prize-winners making sure a decent number were written by ladies.

7 Station Eleven (384 pages) Rattled through this one. Fun to read after Sapiens. Sapiens covered the end of some humans, and the rise of some others. This covers the near death of those heroes of Sapiens, and presents further evidence that religion is largely a negative force in the world. More imagined futures. I should really read King Lear.

8 The Narrow Road to the Deep North (464 pages) A Booker winner. Fancy! I haven’t knowingly read a Booker winner before. I read Life of pi, but didn’t realise it was a booker winner when I read it. I just thought it was a book. I got entirely overwhelmed by something in the first quarter hinting at things to come – felt like the book had eight endings in succession. Which is a good thing. You should read this. It’s early, but this might be the best one on this list. I need to grab some more bookers.

9 The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (448 pages) I do enjoy a bit of time travel paradox. I also enjoy a bit of science and a bit of soviet otherness. Enjoyable. Better than back to the future.

10 This Changes Everything (575 pages) Ouch. Hard read. Sorry kids. We ruined it and we knew, but we didn’t bother to fix it. Found this hard – and took breaks to read other books along the way. Not because it’s a hard read as such – I mean it’s LONG, but it’s fascinating throughout. Hard because I read all about Rio in the Guardian way back in the day and assumed that paying my green party subs, turning off lights, and not using standby on the telly would be enough to fix things. I was an idiot, and so was everyone else.

11 Reasons to Stay Alive (272 pages) Everyone should read this. It’s a tiny book. Go on. You’ll maybe cut a few people a little more slack from time to time. Which might help them. Why wouldn’t you want to help people?

12 Slaughterhouse 5 (192 pages) Back to fiction. I’m not entirely sure why – but I loved this. To bits.

6 books ( 4 fiction, 2 non-fiction )
2335 pages

Book a week – January

I always start the year with some free time, and I always get some books at Christmas. So I always read a couple, go back to work, and then read the rest in summer. Not this year! This year I decided to actually read with some effort. Dedicate train time to reading. Find some more interesting books. Actually read some fiction. A book a week.

1 Norwegian Wood Cutting etc… (192 pages) Much better than it looks – and it looks lovely. It will make you want to buy a little woodland though – so be warned. Slight cheat as read between giftmas and new year but hey. It’s on the list.

2 Moriarty (400 pages) I loved Sherlock Holmes books when I was younger, only grabbed this as part of a 3 for a tenner offer – didn’t expect much – but it was good. I guessed the plot on page 40ish but hey. It was fun. Read like a Sherlock Holmes book that I hadn’t read. Did what it said on the tin.

3 I Am Pilgrim (912 pages) Awesome. Haven’t read a proper thriller in years. Page turner etc… Eyeballs though. Grim. Was worried getting through almost 1000 pages would take months. Took a week.

4 The Man Who Made Things etc…  (100/240 pages) Read 100 pages of the 240 and got a little bored. Partly because I’ve read a lot about wood already. Partly because it should really be titled “the self congratulatory man who watched other far more interesting people make things out of trees but casts himself as hero for finding them and giving them a part of the very special tree that he was also very clever to find” – I’d have loved to read “the man who largely kept quiet while allowing the interesting craftspeople speak about what they do”.

5 So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (320 pages) I always read Jon Ronson books in a terrible Jon Ronson impersonation voice in my head. This slows you down. Still enjoyed it though. Especially worth reading if you’re a judgemental twitterer. Change your ways!

6 Sapiens (512 pages) Tremendous book. Lovely stuff about pre-history, and a straight(ish) line through to the future. Plenty stuff I didn’t know. Less preachy than a lot of pop-sci. The importance of stories in the development of people is utterly convincing and quite pleasing. Certainly contextualises … well… almost everything. From Polar Bears to the indyref vote to buying shoes. Left me similarly enthused about humans as I was after reading Ug – Boy Genius of the Stoneage. Both books are pretty much about how important it is to imagine the future.

5.5 books ( 2 fiction, 3.5 non-fiction )
2468 pages