President Obama visited the National Hurricane Center today and became, as far as I can tell, the first president to receive forecaster credit in the forecast discussion. That seemed historical enough to add to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame.
I recently came across a project called “blatter”. It’s a Python script that uses jinja2’s template engine to build static websites. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d been looking for. I don’t do anything too fancy with FunnelFiasco.com, but every once in a while I want to make a change across all (or at least most) pages. For example, I recently updated the default content license from CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 United States to CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International. It’s a relatively minor change, but changing it everywhere is a real pain.
Sure, I could switch to a real CMS (heck, I already have WordPress installed!) or re-do the site in PHP, but that sounded too much like effort. I like my static pages that are
artisinally hand-crafted slapped together in vi, but I also like being able to make lazy changes. And I really like page-to-page consistency. With blatter, I can create a few small templates and suddenly changes can be made across the whole site in just a few seconds.
Blatter smoothly merges static and templated content. The only downside is that because it seems to touch all files every time it builds (blats), pushing the new content to my website becomes a larger task. That’s not a huge concern because of the relatively small size of the content, but it’s something that seems fixable. So pretty much all of the site has been blatterized now. For the most part, you shouldn’t really notice any changes.
Thanks to Tony Cristaldi, I’ve added a couple of new discussions to the Hall of Fame. They’re a bit hard to read because they’re scans of printed discussions from 17 years ago. I can’t say much for the meteorological quality of the discussions because I haven’t actually read them. The real beauty is in the artwork. I hope Forecaster Moore got as much enjoyment writing these and I’ve had looking at them.
A reader named Jill passed a few discussions to me recently. They’re National Hurricane Center discussions about two storms that refused to die: 2002’s Hurricane Kyle and 2005’s Hurricane Epsilon (which was notable enough just for being a December Hurricane). I’ve added them to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame page at http://weather.funnelfiasco.com/fd-hof/.
Robert Deal sent in an AFD from Lake Charles, LA discussing how NWS employees remove ice from their cars. I’ve added it to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame. Since I edited the page, I also updated the copyright wording to reference the CC-NC-BY-SA license I’m using. It’s on my to-do list to PHPize at least some of the site so that these sorts of things are easier.
That’s certainly not going to happen for at least another week, as I’m leaving in a few hours for the LISA Conference in Boston. Once again, I’ll be on the conference blog team, so you can follow along at http://blogs.usenix.org/.
After some effort, I’ve completed my to-do list for the mobile radar page and decided to call it version 1.0. It is now available from the Mobile Weather page (http://weather.funnelfiasco.com/mobile/). A mostly complete list of changes is below:
- Bugfix: Fixed problem with selecting alternate products. An update in the previous version caused the site variable to not be set correctly when an alternate product was selected at the bottom of the page. This has been fixed.
- Added adjacent site dial. Toward the bottom of the display page, there is now a dial to select the same product from an adjacent site (if it exists). This is really handy for times when the area of interest is right on the edge of a site’s coverage.
- Images now have a file extension. Previously, images were saved without an extension. This wasn’t really a problem unless you wanted to right-click on the image. All images are now displayed with a .gif extension, even though some of the static images are actually PNG files. This does not appear to have any adverse effects.
- Site name now in the headline. The name of the site, as well as the ID is now given in the headline along with the product type.
I put a little bit of effort into the NWS mobile radar page this afternoon and am proud to announce that it has been bumped to version 0.2b. It is now available from the Mobile Weather page (http://weather.funnelfiasco.com/mobile/). A mostly complete list of changes is below:
- Added site selection menu. I didn’t think it was necessary initially, but several users have suggested it, and my own experience while on vacation proves that there probably aren’t too many people who know the ID for all 154 sites. The added bonus is that I’ve begun support for a requested feature, which is to select adjacent radar sites. The difficult part will be filling that information in for each site, so it will likely be a gradual roll-out. Sites can still be selected manually, which is probably quicker if you already know the ID.
- Added license information. In line with the rest of the website, the code for this script is licensed under the CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0. That information is now contained in the comments as well in the code output.
- Put site selection and product selection on separate lines. This is a small tweak to (hopefully) improve usability. While horizontal real estate is constrained, there’s more room to separate things vertically on most devices, so let’s go with that. If nothing else, users are used to vertical scrolling.
- Added spacing of other products under radar image. Another usability tweak, which should make the clicking process a little bit simpler, especially on touch-only devices.
- Change radar image label from <p> to <h3>. This makes the site and product a little more visible and adds some vertical spacing to keep things from looking too jammed together.
You may recall on Saturday that I mentioned some big things that were coming. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait long. I’m proud to announce that an idea I’ve been thinking about has finally been realized this weekend. Without further ado, the Funnel Fiasco mobile weather site. The idea behind this site is simple: the National Weather Service makes a lot of data available but it isn’t always in a mobile-friendly format. Even the NWS mobile page has some bad navigation (and more importantly, doesn’t include velocity data, which is very important to chasers). All I’ve done is to re-package the data in a way that I want to see it when I’m away from the computer.
All of the data is mirrored and hosted locally to minimize my impact on the NWS servers (and thus save taxpayer money!). The local storm reports (LSRs) are grabbed by a cron job every 10 minutes. I use the comma-separated value (CSV) files hosted on the Storm Prediction Center’s storm report website. The CSVs are parsed by a Perl script I wrote and then a static HTML page is generated. For the radar data, the images are mirrored on demand and a Perl script generates the output on the fly. The radar data piece is a fairly heavy-duty script (by my standards, at least) and so I still consider it in beta. For now, it actually runs on my server at home and not on the main funnelfiasco.com server. I plan to move it onto funnelfiasco.com (and hope it doesn’t kill my bandwidth limits) after further testing.
I have to say, I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done, almost all in the space of a weekend. It’s nice to be able to add some useful content to my site. I hope that it will get some good use and continue to grow. As I come across data that can be easily manipulated, I’ll add it to the site. Of course, if you wonderful readers have data you’d like to see, please let me know.