“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day 19: In Which I Get Distracted By Web Programming
Fri 2010-11-19 23:34:11 (in context)
  • 36,352 words (if poetry, lines) long

I keep a couple of blogs going over at Examiner.com. One of them is National Puzzle Pirates Examiner, where I post mini-game tutorials, announcements of monthly limited edition ships and trophies, and blockade schedules.

The latter, blockade schedules, takes up a bit more of my time than I think it's probably worth. Except, I think it's worth it just to create a web resource that didn't already exist. You can get a flag's info, a crew's info, a player's info, and even the various top rankings of these entities as regards their puzzle standings and fame, all by going to the yoweb pages--but you can't get an up-to-date schedule of upcoming blockades (huge multi-player sea battles determining the control of an island) on the web. You have to log in to get this info.

So I create this resource as best I can, by logging in myself. To each of the nine servers. Every day.

It goes like this. The weekend schedule goes up on Sunday night or Monday morning, and the weekday schedule goes up on Friday night or Saturday morning. Creating the post involves logging in to each of the nine servers, or "Oceans," and copying down what I see on the Blockades tab of the Notice Board into an spreadsheet. Then I sort the spreadsheet, separate out the blockades that start during the block of time the current post covers, and type up a list. Sometimes I come up with something witty to write in the intro para and sometimes I don't.

Then, each day throughout the week, I log onto each of the nine servers again to see if additional blockades got scheduled for the current post's time period. If so, I add them into the current post.

Every single time I write up one of these posts, I find myself thinking, "I need to create a proper database infrastructure, and then a web page that spits out the blockade list so I can just copy and paste it into Examiner's edit page. One of these days..."

This morning, I started creating that database infrastructure. Relearning PHP/MySQL. Navigating timezone offsets and PHP's DateTime object. Scraping the rust off my memory of basic Javascript event handlers, PHP looping syntax, and MySQL INSERT statements. I had a great time kvetching about the DateTime object over lunch with John today. Who couldn't help me much, being more of a Java guy than a PHP guy, but he did help me take a second look at my logic.

("You'd think if you gave it a date/time string AND a time zone, it would create a DateTime object set to that time in that time zone. Wouldn't you? But noooooo, it creates a DateTime object set to that time in the web server's time zone, then it converts the timestamp to the time zone you specify! This is Not Useful to me!" "So why don't you do the conversions client side?" "Because Javascript can't answer the question 'What timezone offset holds in Pacific Time?' It only knows that my computer is 420 minutes short of UTC." "Date objects are universally hinky, aren't they?")

Guess what I didn't do today? Pretty much anything else! Thank goodness for the write-in at Barbed Wire Books today, or I'd have failed to write the next 1800 words of the novel too.

As it turned out, Lia didn't get to keep the car. Which is to say, it wasn't hers. It was both of theirs, because they had to start living in it.

That was Jet's suggestion, but Lia would have brought it up if Jet hadn't. That night, she'd let Jet precede her up the stairs to her apartment, just in case one of the Swifts' thugs was waiting. They weren't. There was no trouble. But Lia couldn't bring herself to lie down on the bed. Standing there in her living room, the sense of insecurity was so great that Lia had trouble believing in the walls. She actually walked through the front room to lay a hand on the window, just to make sure it was solid.

Before Jet said word one, Lia announced, "We can't stay here."

"You're right. Pack what you need, and we'll go."

Lia blinked. She'd expected some sort of argument over this--but only because Jet always argued with her, not because she thought Jet would disagree with her reasoning. She got over her surprise quickly.

Walking into the bedroom, she half-expected someone to shoot her from the fire escape. No one did. No one was there at all.

They traveled north, on Lia's suggestion, though driving through Mapleton Ridge made her cringe even at 65 miles per hour on the highway. She shrank down beneath the level of the passenger window, hoping no one would see her. Hoping no one would recognize Jet, who was plainly visible. They made it through the city unscathed, then crossed another hundred miles of desert on their way to the town of Painted Sands.

Lia's home town. The town where her parents lived, and her brother, and all the years between them. Years suffered don't leave their place of origin. They stay and wait for you to return.

Jet glanced at her as they entered the city limits, then gave her a second look. "You all right?"

Lia shook her head and burrowed even further down in her seat.