What’s Been Happening – Feb 2015 Edition

TorStarSendOff-1024For the past 15 months I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working at an institution I respect enormously: The Toronto Star. My job was to support the toronto.com property, where hard working editors constantly maintain an up to date list of things to do, attractions, restaurants and events such as concerts and plays, in our wonderful city.

And along the way, I got to work with an awesome team of software professionals, tasked with supporting, maintaining and enhancing the digital version of Canada’s largest newspaper.

But, sadly, all things come to an end. The powers that be decided to move the Toronto.com site off the WordPress platform, and onto Adobe’s CQ5 content management system. So my job was disappearing. I was advised of this decision well in advance, so I started my job search early. But truth be told, I was kind of hoping something would materialize at TorStar.

It didn’t.

I finished my term at TorStar at the end of January. My team was unbelievably gracious. They threw me a number of events, mucked in and bought me a terrific going away gift (a FitBit Charge) and a lovely, custom card which used my blog design. I was enormously touched that they’d go to the effort.

So I was very disappointed to be leaving TorStar and the terrific team there.

But we soldier on. Following the end of my stay at TorStar I drove down to Florida with Yvonne, for a couple of weeks. By the time I came back to Toronto, I had a short contract doing an ecommerce site for a company that makes signs for educational institutions.

That was followed up with another short contract helping someone with Javascript on a custom Shopify theme. I’d never done Shopify before, so there was a lot of reading docs.

And now I have another, longer, contract doing something with financial transactions.

Interesting story: the day before I got this contract, I took an Interview Skills workshop. I figured it couldn’t hurt to get a tune up. At the beginning of the workshop, the facilitator asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell us what they did. One older fellow said he was a software engineer, and he hoped to do that or become the owner of his own casino. We got a chance to chat during the break, and ended up having lunch together after the workshop.

Al developed a couple of desktop applications to help people handicap NFL games. He’s had some modest success marketing these. As we talked, the idea arose of putting his programs’ functionalities online, so people wouldn’t need to download and install them; they could simply log in to the site and get the info they needed.

So I’m working on this on the side, and using the opportunity to learn Laravel. I watch two football games a year. At the outside. And I’ve never bet on anything more complicated than a pool where you pick a bunch of squares on a 10×10 grid. This could be fun.

Another side project got started in December while I was visiting my parents in Florida. (Yes, I spend a good amount of time in Florida, don’t I?) I already had a bunch of side projects I should have been working on. But I wasn’t in the mood. Plus I wanted to learn SVG. So I started working on a Javascript implementation of Digital Origami, a computer art program I’d done many years ago, in my youth. (OK, many, many years ago.) I think the original may have been done in C. I’ve had a sample of it hanging in my living room for many years, and I’d been thinking about revisiting it, because there was still stuff I wanted to explore with this. (I’d loaned this very piece to a friend who hung it in his cool loft space, in the kitchen. He dubbed it “cuisine art”.)

It was a very satisfying experience. I’ve already got a functional interface where I can easily tweak the parameters, so I’ve got much more flexibility than I did back when I was producing the output on a plotter. Oh, yeah: it’s also a lot faster. There’s still much more to do, but I’m enjoying learning SVG and RaphaelJS. Here’s some output:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 1.12.00 PM

I can drag the inflection points with the red circles, and the tween lines surrounding it follow along. I couldn’t do that in the eighties.

If you have any thoughts on how I might best output this sort of thing, please do get in touch.

There will be an animated version. I may put it in the background of this blog.

OK, that’s all I’ve got for now. Catch you on the flip side.

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