Latest Blogs

Hover mouse over article to stop it moving to the next article. Click the tabs to manually advance articles. Click the article to jump to blogs of that category.

The Crooked House

I saw an article the other day about Marston's selling off a bunch of pubs including The Crooked House in Dudley. It reminded me of a College outing we had to the pub to see it. The building started to sink until it was propped up, but it's left a rather interesting result. As you can see from the picture everything's skew-whiff. Can't imagine trying to get a door to fit the hole - certainly not going to come from the standard size isle.

The most interesting thing was that the bar was supposed to cause an optical illusion that a coin would appear to roll up hill on it. I have to be honest, we tried and it rolled the way I expected it too, but that could just be that I'm skew-whiff which compensated for the skew-wiffedness of the building to even it out.

I seem to remember it being kind of a spit and sawdust pub, but my memory might be wrong on that. It does look like they've done it up since I went which would have been somewhere around 1991 at a guess. But that's the problem - great attraction to see once, which we did. Something to do in your late teens / early twenties, but not something to keep doing (at least from the distance we were from the pub anyway, which I just mapped to be 70 miles which is a long way to go for a pint).

Talking smack

Slightly delayed, but the update is here and we're introducing the Race Game smack talk, a place to go to comment on the game, the season, the other competitors or anything you want, really. And it's all mobile friendly. (That link is for the 2023 F1 season).

Now, why have we done this? Well .... imagine this .... let's say Mr O is out getting a bit of daily exercise, playing Pokémon. There he is, catching one over here and another over there. Perhaps stopping to take a gym. Then, in the middle of his daily Pokémoning he thinks about something I wrote on about the last race and comes to the conclusion that I'm a knob. Instead of having to send me an email on the matter, he can just pop to a different window on his browser and post to the smack talk.

You might be fooled into thinking this is a very specific use case, but I like to look at this as service. Where else can you go to get pre-emptive problem solving like that?

But there's more. Oh yes, indeedy! Hold your horses and batten down the hatches. Get ready for this one. We are now emoji friendly 😎😍😋. Not going to lie, this change has been a bitch and will be the subject of another blog, but for now, just know that emoji's can be used anywhere on the site.

Why did we do this? You might ask. Well .... today's teenager is incapable of using words to express their feelings. Instead they rely on these symbols to communicate. Given that William is participating in the competition, I figured it would allow him the opportunity to join the conversation. Although I'm not entirely sure we'll understand what he's trying to say. I got confused the other day when I saw him message his girlfriend about coming over to make a very strange vegetarian dish that mixed vegetables and fruit. Something about him coming over to put his 🍆 in her 🍑. I can't think that would taste very nice.

Now with added emoji 🤠

If you've read the website blog on smack talk you will know that I've just “enabled” emoji's on the website. Stupidly, I thought this would be an easy task as I figured it's just a matter of getting the database (MariaDB) to accept the code for each emoji. It kind of is that simple, but a cascading sequence of events happened that dramatically increased the amount of work needed to get there. I've already done a blog title “I knew an old woman that swallowed a fly” otherwise I'd have used that here.

OK, so what you need to do is have the database and each table allow unicode which I'm 100% sure I'd already done. It's quite possible that I did, but emoji's have become a thing since then and they require a specific unicode. In this case UTF8MB4. Not a big deal, just write a SQL script to change the database encoding then iterate through all the tables changing them.

It failed on about the third or fourth table. I've significantly cut down the number of tables post the LEMP conversion, but there are still 51 left. The reason it failed is that the primary key was too big. Apparently the max size of the key is 767 which is 768 bytes. This is not something Neville told me #blameneville. Obviously converting from the latin character set to UTF-8 means that each letter takes up more storage space. I'm guessing 4x the amount given utf8mb4 is a 4 byte UTF-8 encoding. I have some tables that have a 255 character varchar field as the key - apparently this is a bad thing to do anyway as it creates a huge index which I totally get, but didn't .... #blameneville. These 255 character fields are too big to be keys with the new encoding.

Right, so I could have cut the corner here and just converted tables that were going to store emojis rather than all the tables. But if a job's worth doing ... you really should get someone else to do it for you. Next step then, figure out which tables had inappropriate keys. Some of them were pretty easy - I could just assign an auto number as they key and move on. Unfortunately the biggest issue was the email field that I used as a key for the folks that are registered and to link to the race game and playlists (the latter now hidden, but still exists as I moved RagBox to personal use only).

Sidetrack for a minute. I made the email field 255 characters long because an email can be that long. Actually, I think it can be longer. Can you imagine though if your email address was 255 characters long and having to type it in every time you wanted to register or logon with something.

Let's get back on track - data conversion. The fix is to assign each person a unique ID, then to add that field to each of the tables that was linked via the email address. Iterate through the table and populate that new field with the ID associated with each email. Then make that field required and part of the key (as it would have other bits that make up the key such as the competition number). Then delete the email field as it's no longer needed in the referencing tables.

The structure's now in place and we can accept emojis. Only we can't because every page that puts data into the tables is trying to put an email address in an email field that no longer exists and is not populating a required ID field. This is for things like registering with the race game, changing registration, making selections, editing selections, becoming a member, changing your membership, password resets blah, blah, blah. It's more than you think.

Right, so just change those pages and we're up and running. Err, no. The whole logon process that I created recently uses email addresses as the ID and I changed it to the new ID (which has logged everybody out). This bit is actually quite funny. I knew I'd be logged out, but when I tried to log back in, I was locked out because it couldn't validate me for some of the back end stuff that I need to do to run the scripts to make the changes. So I had to un-code the logon, to push the changes, to then re-enable the logon so I could log back in.

We're done now though and the changes are in. I 💗 data conversion. There's something about just figuring out data structures and what needs to be done that I find really calming. I think it's the sense of putting order to something. Parts of the back end are still broken. I need to fix some stuff with the music, but it shouldn't be too difficult. I just need to finish the mobile friendly responsive pages for the front end first. The joy of hobbies.

Cheap Flights

A great video.

Blog Topics

The blogs have been grouped with some kind of logic. The recent blogs show the last ten posts for each topic. The history of all the blogs can be found in the archives.

Stuff blogs are articles or comments about things I've come across that I found of interest and decided to share. Mostly, this is where I get to point out silly things that I've heard. I guess you would class these as general interest.

Website blogs are little snippets of information about something that has been developed or is in the process of being developed for this website.

Build Your Own Blog (BYOB) is the pièce de résistance of the EastBayRag blogs. Being even more sad than people give me credit for, I've documented how this website is created and how some of the components work. To be honest, more so that I don't forget and have somewhere to come back and refer to, but if you're thinking of doing something similar this may be of interest to you.

Open Forum is an open place for anyone to post an ariticle. Ever wanted the ability to create your own article without having to create multiple entries. Well, now you have that ability and there's even the option to add a picture to your article if you want to spruce it up. Note, however, these open forums are open so anyone can submit an article. Hopefully this will work and it won't get abused, but we will wait and see. (We are tracking access by IP, so we can find you!!!)


The archives provide a full listing of all the blogs for each of the categories above stuff, website, BYOB and open. Additionally, there are two other topic areas that are no longer being added to.

OBlogs are the ramblings of a mate of mine back in the UK. Originally this was setup mostly to see if I could build a system that someone else could post on. Mr O posted many articles before realizing that the “Book of Faces” was a much better avenue to write to multiple people instead of shouting in the wind here to, well, nobody.

Road Trip America is the story of the sights and sounds from a road trip across the United States that four of us took in 2009. Two of these people being Mr O of the OBlogs and myself.