2005-11-26 - London Perl Workshop
Oh, not again!
Just when you thought it was safe to wander back to London again.... TermiSocitis strikes! It all started early on a Saturday in November 2005...
4am... ish -
The 3 members of TermiSoc - Rich, Skippy and Gem - woke to freezing cold conditions and pitch blackness. (well, it is winter - what did they expect!) To be honest they hadn't got much sleep, Skippy especially as he was still feeling inebriated at 7am! After Gem being ready after 15 minutes and Rich taking an hour and 15, they headed off to the station to catch a 5:40 train... and here's where their troubles began.
They left the house. Have you noticed the problem yet? Leaving 5:20 for a 5:40 train. They increased their speed. By that I meant they're on the verge of jogging. Really.
At 5:36, Rich realised that he should go ahead and get his ticket from the ticket machine (pre-booked you see, but unlike Gemma had not been paranoid enough to get them delivered). Upon getting to the station, he found that the train was delayed until 6 so rang Skippy and told him not to worry. However, one snag emerged... Rich had forgotten his debit card. Turned out when he had picked up his wallet that morning, he failed to put the card he was using to book the Travelodge *back* in his wallet. Time was running out to get it. Upon plenty of deliberation and gritting of teeth and even calling a poor taxi driver to hang about for 5 mins, it was decided that he would be fine without his card after it turned out you could put anybody's card in the ticket machines and get your tickets. Gemma had a working (albeit low on money) card and tickets theyre dutifully printed. Yay! Please note the domino effect this would cause seen later in the story.
6:00y (like fishy means a bit like a fish)
Train delayed until 6:20.
Sandite train turns up on platform, apparently with no plans to move until 7. Skippy explains that Sandite is actually mixed with orange juice to make the Sandite corrosive so it eats leaves on the track... Train delayed until 6:25.
TermiSocians have thoughts about stealing Sandite train. They dismissed that plan for 2 reasons:
- Train very windy if driven to London Paddington; and
- Likely to get pulled off at Laira; and for an extra Brucey bonus
- No idea what to do with orange juice mixed in with the Sandite.
Train delayed until 6:36 - realised that they would've had time to get Rich's debit card.
Train turns up, delayed by 5 minutes due to another train leaving. Train now almost an hour late. The TermiSocians pray for that extra four minutes so they can complain and get a discount on our tickets.
Skippy starts audioblog... only entry linked -> HERE <-.
Hurrah! Free caffeine! Unfortunately, hot drinks unavailable despite masses of steam pouring out of kitchenette. Admit it, they're secretly keeping it for themselves.
Arrived 55 minutes late (damn!) and encountered Ruth (Skip's gal). However, they realised that they have no idea where City University is, let alone how to get to it. LondonTown.com told us it was in Finsbury, so Skip recommended Finsbury Park (note to self: don't trust Skip's directions.... ever. Not even instructions on how to get to the end of the road. You'd end up in Edinburgh). All of the Circle Line and half the District Line were out, so they had to go via Oxford Circus to Finsbury Park. Anyway, when they got to Oxford Circus Skippy and Ruth departed as they had no intention of learning Perl.
Rich and Gem turned up at Finsbury Park, only to find that every map had no road names they recognised, let alone any noting of their destination. Using a broken 2G phone and the crappy Nokia WML browser they navigated to many sites on t'internet before finding some directions. The two realise that to their horror they are in completely the wrong area. The nearest station to the University was Angel, so they headed off back up to King's Cross to transfer to the Northern Line to get on the RIGHT train. As they approached the platform, there was an announcement that the Northern Line was closed due to a 'security alert' (aka: drivers have gone on fag break). According to the map, Angel isn't on any other line and apparently it wasn't that far from King's Cross (yeah right!) so they started walking.
After endless bouts of looking at maps on bus stops and finding where they needed to be 'just' off the edge of the map, they spotted a road name they recognised (St. John Street) and so start walking down it. However, they ended up circling a random college several times after being told by a street map that the university *should* be there. Eventually, they gave up and started walking down St. John Street and bumped into a 24-foot long sign with City University written on it. Typical!
They finally signed into the conference (The London Perl Workshop, run by the London Perl Mongers), and started with Packaging Perl Applications, which covered the issue of making Perl-written programs usable as a standalone.
This was followed by "Sticking things together with "The Goo"", a program which helps you organise and work, presented by it's creator Nigel Hamilton.
Then there was lunch, where our intrepid explorers spent 30 minutes of their half-hour trying to find a small reasonably priced cafÃ©, but were still back in time to catch "3D Graphics in Perl". This was all about coding using the OpenGL hooks in Perl to draw pretty shapes, and there was much rejoicing.
They then rushed over to 'Accessing databases with Perl' (in a different conference hall), but your writer cannot remember much about it because, due to all this rushing about and starting the day at 4am he fell asleep.
Your writer did wake up in time for an absolutely fantastic presentation on MighTyV, a BBC award-winning television schedule website built purely in Perl in 3 weeks. The creators were so excited by their work it was hard not to find yourself wrapped up in it. And they are looking for users, so please take a gander for yourself. It really is fantastic.
Finally, there was 'Programming Red flags and Higher Order Perl' by M.J. Dominus. This was a walkthrough on how to improve your coding style. It was very interesting and made you think about structural and readability issues when coding a project. It was part of a larger talk but had to be cut down to fit in the time slot. We at TermiSoc say if you ever get the opportunity to see this presentation, really do. It should be viewed by EVERYBODY, even if you're not a Perl programmer.
There was a final wrap-up, and then off to a local pub for some free alcohol. However, it was getting late and they had no idea what time the desk shut. So, with only a name of the nearest DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station to the Travelodge Docklands (which turned out to be wrong) and a reference number, they set off.
You find our intrepid explorers wandering down a dual-carriageway, with no idea where they are going, with only an assumption that they are on the right road (why the hell are there no road signs or street names???). Luckily, they spot an Esso garage and so buy the most important thing to buy in times of stress - an A to Z.
And, unsurprisingly, they found it was 3 mins away, and right opposite *another* DLR station. Typical!
They arrive at the Travelodge, only to find it was purely *booked* on Rich's card, not actually paid for. "Never mind", they thought, "we'll just get some money off Gemma's bank card." Trouble is, when you're relaxed and you always use your debit card, you might enter your PIN wrong. Say, 3 times?
So, with not enough cash to get a room, and after spending donkey's getting there, you might start to panic. And boy, did they panic. Just to make sure they were scuppered, they checked Gemma's debit card (note that if Rich had his card with him, then the problem wouldn't be there). At a rough guess, they may have enough money if they put whatever change they had with all the money on Gem's debit card. However, whilst taking money out, the cash machine froze up. Mid arranging to to dole out cash. Arrrgh!
After a phone call to the company who runs the cash machine, they got the money put back on the card, but the machine was then out of action whilst the machine company tried to solve why it froze up. So, after asking the desk staff (who were polite and helpful the whole time, so good on them) where the nearest cashpoint was, which turned out to be back at the Esso garage), they set off again out into the blistering and gusting chill outside.
Getting to the Esso garage, they tried the card only to find out that they'd read the wrong balance and in fact they didn't have enough between them and on the card. However, on a whim, they tried the telephone number on the back of Gemma's bank card and, to their suprise, got it unlocked within 3 minutes. Blimey!
So, trying the card in the cash machine and this time typing in the *right* PIN, they discovered that they could get cash once more! Hurrah! But wait, the machine's out of cash! D'oh!
Meanwhile over in Leicester Square, Skippy and Ruth had just finished their lovely meal out and phoned Rich & Gem to enquire whether they wanted to meet up. They agreed to meet at the Travelodge at 22:30.
Rich and Gem check back at the Travelodge whether the cash machine is working again. It isn't. So, they ask a up-class cabbie (well, what else do you call a taxi driver who wears a suit and drives an unmarked taxi?) some directions to another cash machine. Apparently, there are some shops etc. 5 minutes down the road in the opposite direction. So they start walking.
And shockingly, they *did* find a cash machine.
And it had money!
And they were happy.
So they bought pizza. For throughout this experience, they hadn't had any dinner. And they deserved it.
And Skippy got lost finding a hotel that was visible from the station.
They all met up, money in hand, and got their room key. Gemma and Rich devoured the pizza in 10 minutes. And once they were all settled, Rich and Gem kicked Skippy and Ruth out of their room. Thus, Rich and Gem promised themselves a better day tomorrow, and rested their weary heads.
Next Chapter (broken link)