Forge your character

If you think you can temper yourself into manliness by sitting here over your books, supposing you will grow into it as a matter of course, by a rule of necessity, in the same way as your body grows old, it is the very silliest fancy that ever tempted a young man into his ruin. You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.

James Anthony Froude

Geeky trip planning using the dstk gem


The following is an almost-true story that may or may not have happened earlier this summer.


I’m sitting on the couch with my wife one night when she reminds me that we need to plan our trip to Oregon.


“I found this list of places to visit on Google”, she says, pulling up a website.

(the table below is the simplified list)

Place Address City State
Seaside Aquarium N. Prom Seaside OR
Tillamook Air Museum 6030 Hangar Road Tillamook OR
Mariner Square 250 S.W. Bay Blvd. Newport OR
Sea Lion Caves 11 miles north of Florence on U.S Florence OR
Myrtlewood Gallery 1125 Highway 101 Reedsport OR
West Coast Game Park Safari seven miles south of Bandon on U.S. 101 Bandon OR
Prehistoric Gardens between Port Orford and Gold Beach on U.S. 101 Gold Beach OR

After looking over the pictures, she says “Do you think we can we hit them all?”.

She opens up Google maps and starts searching.

“Hang on a second!”, I say. “That’s going to take forever!”.

Ever trying to prove to my wife that programming is cool, I say “Can I see that for a minute?”.

“Watch this”, I say, taking the laptop.

I create a CSV file (attractions.csv) in Vim with the Name, Address, City & State of each of the locations.

(I’m using ruby-1.9.3-p448, if you use Ruby < 1.9.2 you will need the FasterCSV gem to run the code below.)

“I’ll use the Data Science Toolkit to get coordinates for these places”, I tell her. “Then I’ll plot them out on a map”.

She looks skeptical.

I consider explaining how once we have 100 different places on our list, looking them all up on Google will take forever.

Before I can, she just smiles and says, “Let’s see it.”

“I need to have the Data Science Toolkit gem installed”, I tell her. “It’s already installed, but if it weren’t, I would install it like this”

gem install dstk

“Now I have to start up Pry”.

I run ‘pry’ in the command line.

“Next I need the library that will help me pull data from the CSV, so I’ll type:”

require 'csv'

“Then I require the Data Science Toolkit

require 'dstk'

I think about explaining ‘require’ in depth, but I can already tell that I am loosing her.

“Now I need a place to store the stuff I get from the CSV, so I’ll create a variable called ‘locations’”

locations = []

“Then I’ll take each row from the CSV and store them in the variable”

CSV.foreach("attractions.csv", :headers => true) do |csv|
  locations << csv

I set up for the DSTK

dstk =

“This is where we start having fun”, I say. “For each location (row) I’ll do the following:”

  • “Create a search string”
  • “Get the coordinates from the dstk API”
  • “Add the coordinates to the row object”
  • “Add the latitude to the row object”
  • “Add the longitude to the row object”
locations.each do |l|
  search = "#{l['Address']} #{l['City']} #{l['State']}"
  coordinates = dstk.street2coordinates(search)
  l["coordinates"] = coordinates[search]
  l["lat"] = l["coordinates"]["latitude"]
  l["lng"] = l["coordinates"]["longitude"]

She points out that I misspelled ‘locations’. I fix it and continue.

“Now I’ll pull the coordinates out of the row objects and put them into an array”.

place_coordinates = {|l| [l["lat"],l["lng"]] }

“You just typed ‘map’. Will that create the map?”

“Not exactly”, I say. “I’m building a new list of just coordinates. It looks like this:”

I type:


And we see the array of coordinates.

"[[45.99316, -123.92264], [45.419218, -123.80523], [44.630535, -124.052149], [43.974707, -124.101731], [43.702045, -124.107248], [43.168543, -124.350079], [42.420493, -124.418655]]"


“Now I’m going to put all those points into a map with little tents as the ic…”.

I shift my eyes to find her fast asleep on the pillow. I think about nudging her, so she can be here for the most exciting part. She looks too comfortable, though, and I can’t bear to wake her up…

So I log in to WordPress and start typing up this post.

The Art of War

Many people have talked about how Sun Tzu’s The Art of War can relate to one’s business and personal life. It’s not the easiest read, but there are definitely some nuggets in there. I found this great little visual synopsis of the book on YouTube.

Everyone in war can see the tactics, but no one knows the strategy