“The War of the Worlds” : a 21st Century project (Pt. 1)

Addlestone, Addlestone golf links, Albany street, Albert hall, Albert road, Albert terrace, Aldershot, Asia, Astronomical exchange, Atlantic, Baker street, Banstead, Barnes, Barnet, Belsize road, Berkshire, Berlin, Birmingham, Bishopsgate street, Blackfriars bridge, Blackwater, British museum, Broadstairs, Brompton, Brompton road, Bushey park, Byfleet, Byfleet golf links, Byfleet road, Cannon street, Cardigan, Castle hill, Chalk farm, English Channel, Chatham, Chelmsford, Chertsey, Chipping barnet, Chipping ongar, Chobham, Chobham road, Clacton, Clapham, Clapham junction, Colchester, College arms – pub, Coombe, Crewe, Crouch, Crystal palace, Deal, Derby, Ditton, Dublin, Ealing, East barnet, East end, East ham, Edgware, Edgware road, Edinburgh, Earth, England, Epping, Epsom, Epsom downs, Epsom high street, Esher, Essex, Euston, Exhibition road, Eybridge, Fleet street, Foulness, Foundling hospital, France, Fulham, Fulham road, Germany, Great north road, Guildford, Hadley, Haggerston, Halliford, Hamburg, Hammersmith, Hampstead, Hampsted, Hampton, Hampton court, Hanwell, Harrow road, Harwich, Haverstock hill, High barnet, Highbury, Highgate, Horse guards, Horsell, Horsell bridge, Horsell common, Hounslow, Hoxton, Hyde park, Imperial institute, Inkerman, Inkerman barracks, Irish sea, Isleworth, Kensington, Kensington gardens, Kew, Kew lodge, Kilburn, Kingston, Kingston hill, Knaphill, Laleham, Lambeth, Langham, Langham hotel, Leatherhead, Lick observatory, Limehouse, Lisbon, Liverpool street, London, Malden, Maldon, Manchester, Marble arch, Marylebone, Marylebone road, Mauritius, Mars, Maybury, Maybury bridge, Maybury hill, Maybury inn, Merrow, Middlesex, Midland railway company, Mole, Molesey, Mortlake, Moscow, Natural history museum, Naze, Neasden, New barnet, New malden, Newhaven, Nice, Ockham, Old woking, Oriental college, Oriental terrace, Ostend, Ottershaw, Oxford street, Painshill, Painshill park, Paris, Park road, Park terraces, Parliament, Perrotin, Petersham, Pinner, Pompeii, Pool, Portland place, Portman square, Portsmouth, Primrose hill, Putney, Putney bridge, Putney common, Putney hill, Pyrford, Pyrford church, Regent street, Regent’s canal, Regent’s park, Richmond, Richmond bridge, Richmond hill, Richmond park, Ripley, Ripley street, Roehampton, Royal academy of arts, Send, Serpentine, Sheen, Shepperton, Shepperton church, Shepperton lock, Shoebury, Shoeburyness, Shoreditch, Sodom and gomorrah, South kensington, Southampton, Southend, Spotted dog – pub, St. albans, St. edmund’s terrace, St. george’s hill, St. haggerston, St. john’s wood, St. martin’s-le-grand, St. pancras, St. paul’s cathedral, Staines, Stanmore, Strand, Street cobham, Sunbury, Surrey, Thames, Thames valley, Thames-side, The mole, The wandle, Tillingham, Tower bridge, Trafalgar square, Twickenham, Upper halliford, Venus, Victoria, Virginia water, Walham green, Waltham abbey, Waltham abbey powder mills, Walton, Wandsworth, Waterloo, Waterloo bridge, Waterloo road, Wellington street, West hill, West surrey, Westbourne park, Westminster, Westminster bridge, Weybridge, Wimbledon, Wimbledon common, Winchester, Windsor, Woking, Woolwich, Zoological gardens.

You may be confused at first. Please read on.

Background

As a kid, I was first brought to the attention of “The War of the Worlds” through Jeff Wayne’s musical adaption, and naturally it freaked me out! (Seriously it gave me nightmares and my fear of the dark)
I have since watched the film 2005 film, and again more recently.
Although the two adaptations had scenes that crossed over, there were differences between them and so I set upon finding which version was more true.
(In short we are lucky to have so many great versions of the story, including the novel itself)

The original story was written by H. G. Wells which was first published in 1897. I was surprised at the incredible depth and detail Wells takes the trouble to recount as the lonesome protagonist during the martians’ escapade.

The thing that struck me most about the novel are the endless places that Wells mentions in the book to really help the reader feel like they were in amongst the chaos. Not much thought was given to the distance between two places until you remind yourself that 1897 was a car-less time and infact travelling by foot or carriage, there were sometimes imense distances involved. I wanted to create something that would be more visual to a reader in modern times, a map like the sort that J. R. R. Tolkein included in his fiction novels.

The Map Idea

Wouldn’t it be cool to piece together a map based on the places that feature in the book? Luckily we have a great platform in the form of Google Maps that will allow us to place pins on places of interest. Before this stage however there is work to be done.

The age of the novel allows anyone to gain access to the text in many different formats for either free or for a small fee. I downloaded my copy at Gutenberg.org.
I downloaded the most basic format (Plaintext UTF-8) which will allow me to manipulate the novel without the need for an advanced parser.

Wells capitalizes all the places that he mentions in the book, which helps greatly when trying to identify them. I split the entire book into a list of words which would have been seperated by the space character.
From this, I created a “shortlist” of words that were capitalized. During this process, I made sure to keep consecutive capitalized words together incase they made up a place name.

The shortlist was rather large, so I got hold of Ordnance Survey data and created a list of all unique places and roads that appear throughout the UK. I then ran the shortlist through the OS data, yet again creating two new lists;

  • Shortlist strings that match with the OS data
  • Shortlist strings that didn’t match the OS data

Both the lists had duplicate items in them. The problem stemmed from the fact that in order to keep place names like “St. Paul’s” together, I had to ignore all punctuation. So we might have 2 similar entries within the list, such like “St. Paul’s,” and “St. Paul’s.”.
This became a bigger issue then I first thought, with sometimes 5 duplicates for the same place. However, after having a total of 1500 strings to sort through, I wasn’t too troubled with refining it further by hand.

I went through the list manually, checking the “more probable” list first against the novel. I’m glad that I did this method; yes it seems a little long winded, but there are some corner cases that this resolves.

For example, Wells writes about St. Pauls Cathedral, but simply refers to it as “St. Paul’s”. There isn’t a place simply called St. Paul’s however in context, you can understand that the Cathedral was exactly what he was talking about.
There is another word he uses such as “Naze”. In the text, he refers to it as “the Naze”, but in context, he might be refering to either Walton-on-the Naze or a place just north of Walton called The Naze. I am unsure as to the exact location of this place as of yet, but I have left it in the final list. (I have a feeling it might be the latter, although Walton-on-the-Naze railway station was opened in 1867, fairly recent in relation to the publish date)

Amongst the “less probable” list, I found some interesting places such as planets, continents, and altogether different countries. He even refers to an observatory in America which now seems to be a historic site of interest.

The final list is mostly a direct copy of places from the book, shown exactly as found from the text. As stated above, there are changes that I have made, that might not be directly found in the novel, but rather (with 100% certainty) of the place being refered to in the book.

Conclusion

So to round this off; although this endeavor didn’t exactly perform as planned, I am happier with the final list then I might have been simply allowing a simple algorithm choose what it thinks to be a place and discard the rest. Some manual work has gone into this to make a nice comprehensive list to work with when deciding where to pin these places to a map.

Afterthoughts

After refining the list to the one that is mostly complete, I may now have something to work with. I could pick out the whole sentences that contain the place names and try and create a weighing algorithm to more closeley identify places. I wonder how many similar words are used in sentences where other place names reside.
Also I wonder how many place names contain similar sequences of letters that may also be an identifier in trying to decide whether a word is a noun or not.

Unemployment is initially strange

This is not another self pity article about redundancy, but more of an elightening one (even though I speak from Day #2)

After almost 11 years in a dead-end job, I see this as a rebirth of myself. Just under 2 years ago, the wheels of the redundancy process started to turn and with this came as no surprise to me. Since then, I have spent some time in re-evaluating and investing in myself, which leans heavily towards my ambitions and importantly, self-interests.

The last 3 months of work went by quick mainly due to the monotimous routine of the job and the commute. I have various reasons for being there so long; financial commitments, financial stability and being well versed in the role, to name a few. (I would be here all day to name them all)
I initially started work during a recession, and infact felt lucky that I had a job at all. As time went on, I can look back and see a 6 year hole in which I felt trapped primarily due to some bad investment descisions (all of which involved cars, but that’s for another day).

During the notice period, as the day became nearer, the anticipation became ever stronger, like an unearthly will that was edging me towards a cliff. The gloomy greyscale cliff isn’t hiding jagged rocks below, but is actually a platform overlooking a sea of colourful opportunity.
The more I studied the situation, the faster I wanted to run off the edge and grasp every colour that I could. This is exciting, not a downfall.

Back to reality… and time has really slowed down for me. I feel like this day has lasted a week. I am not overexaggerating. My mind is becoming less foggy, and as I try to mentally delete everything that I have learned specifically to my old job role, the colours are becoming brighter. This is exactly what I thought would happen and for this I am grateful.

Next

All this said, there are many things that I wish to accomplish with this new-founded clarity and time. I am going to complete courses in these areas:

  • Linux
  • Word and Excel
  • CS50X web
  • Data analysis and presentation
  • AI: machine learning

As well as these, have a few interesting projects that I feel are worth persuing, and I will endeavor to complete those that are unfinished.
I also want to take the time to do things that I’ve never done before, such as going to some auctions (which is part of a future project) and maybe even a seminar or talk relating to programming.

This journey isn’t primarily about programming. It is about experiencing and learning new things, meeting different people and growing as a person. Perhaps this is the jump start I

Project: tools.jsephler.co.uk

jsephler project - default image

tools.jephler.co.uk is a project site that I have set up which primarily houses different tools ranging from convertors and calculators to more generally links to reference sites. It was built with ease of use and portability in mind and is fully compatible with mobile devices too!

I think of the site as my coding playground and allows me to create and share tools which I not only find interesting, but more importantly useful. Thanks to Django, this does not limit the site to what you see today and will hopefully be expanded upon through time.

I have some existing projects that currently live in a myriad of Python files which I am hopeful to convert and eventually host here.

Suggestions or comments welcome! Please get involved.

tools.jsephler.co.uk

Adding desktop shortcuts in Ubuntu 18.04

I like having my desktop filled with shortcuts to programs that I regularly use. In Ubuntu 18.04, there is a lack of a “right click > add shortcut to desktop” option. If you are missing this option too, don’t fret! There is another way to do just that.

In the Terminal, navigate to:

/usr/share/applications/

If you list all files with ls, you will see many different .desktop files each of which houses the information for executing a program. It also tells the UI where to find the icon that it should display.

Find the program that you wish to add to the desktop (you should find it here if it is installed through apt and it is a GUI application)

Copy the .desktop file to your own Desktop folder:

cp /usr/share/applications/<app>.desktop /home/<user_name>/Desktop/<app>.desktop

Next we need to make the desktop file executable:

chmod +x /home/<user_name>/Desktop/<app>.desktop

Now looking at the desktop, you should see your copied .desktop file.

ubuntu 18.04 desktop shortcut
ubuntu 18.04 desktop shortcut

Double clicking on the file will bring up a prompt, warning that the program is untrusted. Click “Trust and Launch”

ubuntu desktop 18.04 launch application
Ubuntu 18.04 desktop launch application

Once accepted, the application should launch as normal. Close it down, and you should now see the once .desktop file changed into an icon launcher as intended!

ubuntu 18.04 desktop shortcut 2
ubuntu 18.04 desktop shortcut