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I’m a republican. No… wait… come back! That’s not what I mean.
I’m a long way from being a supporter of the Republican Party. I mean “republican” in its older meaning of “someone who thinks their country should be a republic. That is to say, I’m not a big fan of the British royal family.
But while I believe that the UK should get rid of the royal family, I’m also fascinated by them. In particular, I’m fascinated by the laws that determine the line of succession – that is the list of people in line to take over the throne.
When I was a child I believed that the line of succession was a big list that had every British person’s name on it and that it would only take a single catastrophic event to propel my name to the top of that list. Later on I discovered the Act of Settlement (1701), which is the law which actually defines the line of succession (modulo a few later tweaks). I was disappointed to find that there were only a few thousand people on the list (and that didn’t include me!) and also that a lot of the people on the list weren’t British (largely due to Queen Victoria’s children marrying royalty from all over Europe).
A few months ago, I started to think about building a web site that would allow people to explore the line of succession through time. And over the last few weeks, I have build the site. It’s at lineofsuccession.co.uk. On the main page, you will see the current line of succession. And in the navigation bar is a drop-down menu that allows you to move to a few interesting data (the days that the last four monarchs came to the throne) and a date picker allowing you to choose any random date.
The code is, of course, on Github. The web app is a pretty standard Dancer2 application which really doesn’t do anything clever. Most of the complexity in an application like this is in the data gathering.
Currently I have just over a hundred people in the database. That’s most of the descendants of Edward VII (there a few lines that I haven’t completely filled out yet), but eventually I want to go back to all include all of the descendants of Electress Sophia (the person who the crown was “settled on” in the Act of Settlement). I’ve heard estimates that she has somewhere between 5-6,000 descendants. So I have a bit of work to do there!
Other than more people, I have a few other things I’d like to add to the site:
Anyway, there’s my current itch scratched. And, as in so many cases, it’s just given me more itches. But please let me know if you find the site at all interesting or useful.
New Year’s Eve seems about the best date for my review of the gigs I saw this year (I know I’m not seeing another today).
I saw 41 gigs in2017. That’s two more than in 2016 and a lot less than my average number (which is more like the high forties).
Let’s get the disappointments out of the way first. Tanita Tikaram was just dull, as was Natalie Imbruglia (I waited to hear “Torn” and then left). Normally, Amanda Palmer gets an instant pass to the top ten list, but the album she recorded with Edward Ka-Spel wasn’t my cup of tea at all and the gig they played together promoting it was terrible. She played a few other shows in London over the year, but they were all on nights when I couldn’t be there. The Stone Roses at Wembley was all you’d expect it to be – overpriced and uninteresting. And I left the Magnetic Fields show at the interval. Oh, and for the first time ever, I did the same at an Icicle Works gig.
And here, in chronological order, are my favourite shows of the year.
And a few that fell just outside of the top ten.
I’ve seen and been very disappointed by the official current Yes line-up a couple of times, so it was good to see the “less-official” Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman who were great. And who proved to me that if you’re singing Yes material, you need Jon Anderson as lead singer.
Sigur Rós at the Royal Festival Hall were great. And very loud.
The fact that St. Vincent didn’t make the top ten is a mark of how great this year’s gigs. Masseduction is a great album and the tour was fabulous.
Wildwood Kin are a band to look out for. Two sisters and their cousins playing modernist folk. One day (soon) it will seem astonishing that I got to see them somewhere as intimate as the Borderline.
I can’t believe that I haven’t mentioned Tegan & Sara, Adam Ant, St. Etienne, Amy Macdonald, Suzanne Vega, Dweezil Zappa, Billy Bragg, Penguin Cafe, The Unthanks or Kate Rusby – all of which put on great nights that sent me home smiling (and humming).
What am I already looking forward to in 2018? Beth Orton, Superorganism, members of the Art of Noise recreating In Visible Silence, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, Sunflower Bean, Tears for Fears, The The and King Crimson. It’s already looking like a great year for gigs. Perhaps I’ll see you at one.
What about you? What gigs did you enjoy in 2017?
About five years ago I ran a few training courses under the Perl School brand. The idea was simple – if you price training courses cheaply and run them at the weekend then you eliminate the most common reasons why people don’t keep their Perl knowledge up to date.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. And I think I ran six courses before running out of attendees.
But there are still people who would benefit from getting some more up to date information about how Perl works. So I’ve decided to resurrect the Perl School brand in a new attempt to spread the Modern Perl knowledge beyond the echo chamber. I announced my plans during my lightning talk at last month’s London Perl Workshop.
This time I’m going to do it by publishing cheap books. You might remember that time I promised to write a guide to modern web development with Perl and how badly that ended up. But in the process, I learned a lot about publishing ebooks to Amazon. I even gave a talk where I suggested that Perl book publishing could become a cottage industry. And that’s what I’m currently aiming at.
I’ve made a start already. just before the LPW I published a book called Perl Taster which aims to take people through their first two hours of learning Perl. It’s cheap enough (and small enough) that people can give Perl a try without investing too much money or time.
But my plans don’t stop there. I have ideas for half a dozen other books that I can publish over the next few months. Basically, if you’ve one of my training courses over the last five years then you can expect a (short!) book based on that course to appear at some point during 2018. Currently my plans include books on:
Obviously, there are plenty of other books that could be written this way. And I don’t want to have to write them all myself. Which is where you come in. Is there a Perl-related subject that you’re an expert on? Would you be interested in writing a book about it?
I’m offering to help people publish Perl books. If you can write a book using Markdown, then let me take care of the complicated bits of turning your text into an e-book and getting it published on Amazon (and, perhaps later, other e-book platforms).
So, over to you. What do you want to write a book about.
p,s. At some point I should probably finish the e-book I was writing about publishing e-books.
(Photo above by Chris Jack)
Last Saturday was the annual London Perl Workshop. I should write up what happened before I forget it all.
I arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and was able to check in quickly – collecting a bit of swag which included a free t-shirt as I was a speaker. I then made my way up to the main lecture theatre in order to see Katherine Spice welcoming people to the day on behalf of the new team of organisers. After that headed off to the smaller lecture theatre to set up for my tutorial. There were a few differences from previous years. Firstly, I was giving a completely Perl-free tutorial (about on-page SEO techniques) and secondly, I had been moved out of the tutorial track and into one of the main talk tracks. As a side effect of that second change, I was also asked to trim my talk from my usual two hours to a more “talk-like” eighty minutes.
The talk seemed to go well. I got some interesting questions and a few people came up to me later in the day to tell me they had found it interesting useful (sometimes both!) The slides to the talk are available on SlideShare: Web Site Tune-Up – Improve Your Googlejuice.
Following that, I had time to see one talk before the coffee break and I chose Why learning a bit of Crypto is good for you by Colin Newell. Colin gave a good (if, necessarily rather shallow) explanation of how learning a small amount of cryptography can help you improve the security of your systems.
Then it was was the morning coffee break. For the past few years, this break has traditionally included cakes which were supplied by a sponsor. When that didn’t look like happening this year, organiser Neil Bowers (with a gentle nudge from Leon Timmermans) came up with the idea of a community bake. And that’s what happened. A number of attendees baked cakes for us all. I had one of Neil’s blueberry muffins and it was lovely.
There was a slight change in the schedule after the coffee break. Matt Trout was unable to be at the workshop so, at the last minute, JJ Allen stepped in and gave his talk To delete or not to delete, that is the question, which was about some impending data protection laws which will affect all businesses. I stayed in the same room to see Neil Bowers explain The PAUSE Operating Model and then JJ returned to talk about something completely different – Perl and Docker, sitting in a tree. JJ’s company, Opus VL, have released some of their Docker infrastructure code to CPAN and I’m sure many people will find it useful.
Then it was lunchtime. I bought a sandwich from the university’s cafe and sat in the foyer talking to various friends who walked past.
I started the afternoon watching Paul Evans on Devel::MAT updated. Devel::MAT is a development tool which aims to do for memory analysis what Devel::NYTProf does for profiling. It looks very useful. That was followed by Julien Fieggehenn’s talk Turning humans into developers with Perl. Julien doesn’t just train people in Perl, he acts as a mentor for them for a couple of months when they join his company, so he was able to talk in some detail about much wider issues than just choosing which topics to cover in a training course.
Talking about wider issues, I then saw Tom Hukins’ talk Development: More than Writing Code? Tom is, of course, right that there’s more to being a good developer than just writing good code. This is a topic that I’m thinking of developing a training course on. Tom was followed by Paul Johnson giving good advice on Modernising A Legacy Perl Application.
The afternoon coffee break included some professionally baked pastries. They were also lovely, but don’t think they were appreciated quite as much as the morning’s community versions.
After the coffee break, we all gathered in the main lecture theatre for the plenary session. Ann Barcomb spoke about Fifteen Years of Contributing Casually. Ann was once a Perl developer. I first met her at the first YAPC::Europe in London in 2000 and she was then part of the organising team for the second YAPC::Europe in Amsterdam in 2001. But since then she has become a researcher into the sociology of the open source movement. You can read a lot of her research on her web site. Her talk illustrated her findings with some personal anecdotes about her own casual contributions to the Perl community. Everyone seemed to find it fascinating and the Q&A at the end of the talk showed every signs of turning into a full-scale discussion. On a personal level, it was great to catch up with Ann again about fifteen years after we had been in the same room together.
And then there were the lightning talks. They were their usual mixture of intriguing and entertaining. Mark Keating (enjoying his first LPW that he wasn’t organising) implored us to get involved in the Enlightened Perl Organisation. I announced a plan to publish more Perl books (of which, more later). I was particularly impressed by Kenichi Ishigaki who flew in from Japan just to give a lightning talk about his module Perl::PrereqScanner::NotQuiteLite.
After that, there were a few closing words from Neil Bowers and, in another innovation brought in by the new organisers, drinks were served on site rather than in a local pub. Of course, some people went off to a local pub after that as well.
As always, it was a great day. The new organising team seem to have hit the ground running and produced an impressive workshop. My thanks to the organisers, the volunteers, the speakers, the sponsors and all of the attendees.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s workshop.