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PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:14 pm 
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I've got various obscure sailing sites with inherent restrictions making them rarely usable, and I can forget them when the opportunity arises. So I found it useful to document them all on google's free web based spreadsheet tool. Makes a good thought experiment to set up and then use by sorting by columns, which indicate the unique conditions of the day permitting which watercraft launching where. Each row contains a site and it's suitable watercraft types, tide requirements, wind directions (to avoid offshore), wave height limits, and other things like weekday closures.

There is room for improvement since I sometimes have to add almost redundant site records. A blank works ok as a wildcard, but I should try to implement ranges like wind direction of "any" or "east to south" for instance. I really wanted to use a reasoning engine to input a marine wx forecast and pop out the opportunities, but this crude approach is a good start. Just loading the data on a structured display makes you think for instance, why not allow this watercraft here instead. Anyway someone may have a better suggestion for tools and techniques.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2017 4:31 am 
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daft wrote:
A blank works ok as a wildcard, but I should try to implement ranges like wind direction of "any" or "east to south" for instance.

A blank can be dangerous in google "sheets" because it will sort differently if it is null or 1 or 2 blanks. I added a column for pollution to remind me of some sites having a brownwater river after it rains. I added a row at the top for labels which google allows frozen from sorting.

Windranges I handle like this: first a number 00 to 15 for the ideal one of the sixteen compass points for that site (or 16 for "any"). I didn't use degrees because it would be in messy 22.5 increments. Then I add underscore and the range of the compass points in human readable abbrev like 01_n-ne. Sorting the sheet by wind is nice because it's mainly driven by the ideal direction, but the tolerable range can be read. I didn't post ideal wind speed range because it's mostly always the same.

May sound fussy, but I just got spanked by 22.5 degree wind direction I should have ruled out. One beach is kind of down a slot of a bay with mountain ridge on right. Winds from the left are unobstructed, but from the right become squirrely going over the ridge. The windwaves wrapped around and push me onshore, but the wind doesn't make it enough to help me tack and overcome the wave push.

This is a great memory aid, but one problem is wind and tide vary at different locations, so sorting for, say, max or high tide doesn't lead to universally correct results... takes judgement.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 12:47 am 
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Blah blah, what does it look like? In early form with the first column for sites cropped and the wind ranges not widened out enough. Any advice before I add more? I'm a complete novice with spreadsheets.

Image

So I can sort it by any column of interest; this one is sorted by preferred wind compass point. There can be multiple rows per site. Pollution isn't always there, it just reminds of the potential after rains. Wind (dir), tide, waves, days are sort of requirements for that watercraft to work as intended at that site. Has to do with deep draft vs shallows, poor paddling effectiveness drifting out to sea, etc. I use a blank (null) to signify "any" or "limits unknown".

P.S. Just looking at this makes the mental gears spin further. For instance next to the "big" wave entry, I just now remembered to post "low rising?" for tide and next to the "huge" wave entry I thought to add "highish?" tide. Question marks for preference, not a limitation. Exclamation marks for legal requirements.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 12:30 pm 
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If you end up with multiple rows per site you might be better served by a database instead of a spreadsheet. It would allow you to have many to many relationships between a site and any of the conditions. Basically each of your columns becomes it's own table with a relational table between it and the site table. You could then write some simple queries against the tables passing in the conditions and the watercraft and returning the best location. Sorry if I'm confusing you, I'm a database and data administrator and I tend to look at data different than most folks.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 4:41 pm 
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Thanks Tom. Originally I tried to code it in an expert systems language called Prolog, or a less nerdy tool built upon that. For the latter, I was allowed a free trial for my favorite and then threatened with $100 per month charge. I have heard these called relational databases at heart, but am unfamiliar with that concept or any such free tools.

Quote:
Prolog is sometimes called a declarative language or a rule-based language because its programs consist of a list of facts and rules. Prolog is used widely for artificial intelligence applications, particularly expert systems.

A Prolog like tool and probably a relational database could answer queries very precisely and probably explain why it is true. But the current challenge seems to be scrubbing my facts and their relationships for being either too restrictive or not enough. The spreadsheet format is poor at giving answers, but for now it is good at revealing my flawed assumptions and habits. A process that goes on as I observe trial and errors of other boaters at tricky sites. Our state has one of the lowest per capita boat registration rates, I think because of catch22 pitfalls like gnarly ocean conditions where ever it isn't painfully shallow.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 7:13 pm 
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Hmmm...I've heard of Prolog, but have never seen it. If you're looking for a free database MySQL is an open source database owned by Oracle. It supports you're typical jdbc connections so you can easily write an ASP based application or Java based applications (asp.net and Java are both free to use as well). That might all be more than you're looking for though. Hell, Microsoft Access will do the job just fine and you can create reports that are based on a form that queries the tables in the database.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 7:23 pm 
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TI_Tom wrote:
Microsoft Access will do the job just fine and you can create reports that are based on a form that queries the tables in the database.

Thanks, but Windows on my cheap refurb doesn't have "Access" and of course my Mac doesn't either.

I've upgraded my spreadsheet to use hyperlinks! For example I added a column for TRAFFIC but it seemed silly for most cells to say "check". Now those cells are clickable and brings up the Live Traffic mode of google maps. I hope google paints red not only for jammed traffic but also closed roads. Frequent sundays we get critical routes closed for cleaning (!?) which I can only guess is some double overtime scam leveraging into bloated pensions.

Anyway I also upgraded my POLLUTION column to index into actual status sites. One canal location actually has an animated forecast map site for particulates as a PHD project or the like. Shows all shades of yuck being plumed this way and that by tide and maybe even uses rain projections. And so cool to be able to reference the different TIDE tables for different sites from one column as needed, instead of doing it as "homework" beforehand and forgetting,

These aren't frills, but oversights I started forgetting about when getting tunnel vision using the spreadsheet. Trail of tears stuck in avoidable traffic or blown out local sea breeze. Soon I will have WINDSPEED hyperlinks, but the text labels will tell if you should bias that up or down for that site. My inflatable sail fleet tolerates tiny windranges (the non Hobies sometimes can't be efficiently paddled in weak winds so I even carry swimfins for towing).

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:27 pm 
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daft wrote:
I've upgraded my spreadsheet to use hyperlinks

And now I have google "sheets" automatically spitting out a web page snapshot of my spreadsheet (non-dynamic but useful):

(SITE column cropped) Image

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:15 am 
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If you want something similar to Microsoft Office on the cheap...OpenOffice works amazing and it's compatible with Microsoft extensions.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 5:41 pm 
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Thanks Tom, that openOffice does look more professional. Google sheets has quirky human factors and even it's handy html generator makes my links slow due to overhead perhaps trying to get referral credit for ads or something.

There is one flaw in the spreadsheet and relational database approach, for which I may switch to a crude decision tree approach like pictured below. The problem is there is no universal status of "tide" or even "wind direction". Winds can be different at various places due to high topography or local seabreezes. I could have the spreadsheet calculate "goodness" for each local tide and wind, but then I would have to type in data I would rather keep in my head.

Image

So I use the spreadsheet as a web page prototyper. I add a last row and column where I jam in info links in a certain order to diagnose present or forecast conditions. I flag them by color code or symbols to represent blocks that can be skipped or focused on based on earlier findings. This is all on one page on a laptop screen, with the spreadsheet grid still in the center, but framed by required info gathering dialog first.

Sounds like overkill, but organizes a process I already do imperfectly. Forecasts always change overnight, maybe after I already packed the car for a now dead scenario. In the frustration of wind sensors that are late or failing to report, I get tunnel vision and overlook new possibilities that I will regret not taking.

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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 2:01 pm 
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daft wrote:
I add a last row and column where I jam in info links in a certain order to diagnose present or forecast conditions. I flag them by color code or symbols to represent blocks that can be skipped or focused on based on earlier findings. This is all on one page on a laptop screen, with the spreadsheet grid still in the center, but framed by required info gathering dialog first.

I've recently been prodded into action by making terrible go-or-stay-home decisions, avoidable by more logical review of sometimes contradictory forecasts. Google sheets fights me in introducing color, so I switched to typing in raw html tables - not too hard. Actually I could easily implement a rigid decision tree in html, but I really like flexible approach I am prototyping now:

Image

The site column is clipped, but the initial focus is to click on ALL red links to see if any of the 3 colored regions are possible for boating. Then within chosen area be sure to at least click all maroon links (gotta pick a more visible color) to choose the right site within that area. Then there will be a ton of blue links to confirm the wisdom of that choice (the blank last row and col will be filled with them).

The problem I am fighting is some sweet sites can go for a month with hopeless conditions. I may have a dozen forecast and sensor sources that I don't want to check all daily for the same bad news. Problem is I start just checking one if it fits my preconception of no-go. But now I "force" the checking of at least the 2 best sources (which often contradict and lead me to follow up as appropriate). More links are or will be available, but in a prioritized and digestible form. All on one page to allow random brainstorming or just a quick check of general situation.

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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 12:51 am 
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Now I think I have something powerful No more should the weather gods needlessly lure me to a hopeless site or leave me at home when conditions turn perfect! I have an organized path thru tremendous firepower of maritime weather links if I need them.

In the pic below I cropped the first column with list of site names and a final catchall row entitled "overall". Red links must all be checked, then some of the brown ones if one of the 3 regions look feasible. And blue links can optionally explore stuff like wave buoy readouts, or weather balloon charts for seabreeze prediction.

Image

I could have added a couple columns to the left to make it a straight decision tree. First col would span all rows with just the 4 red links, then a second col with 3 regional rows and brown links to guide into the individual sites. Could even use iframes to preload all links... no clicking needed altho would then have to scroll all over a dining table sized tree. Bah; that brings other problems.

Future directions: refine and add sites, maybe change some watercraft. Maybe loosen constraints due to learning experiences or by getting one of those electronic thingies with a "rescue me" button. Apply this grid decision-support system to other aspects of life like finances or event calendars (I actually began with those years ago).

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 4:43 pm 
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I realize I am mainly blogging to myself, but I wanted to note one big omission that I've corrected... sort of a fun rating for each site to at least serve as a tie breaker.

I had tightened up my "decision support grid" to be more accurate, compact, and use less nerdy wording. But when using it recently, my heart would sink at the results. Maybe an unexciting site is looking good, but a more fun one has borderline conditions. Now I see I am not on a sacred quest for best conditions where fun factor is lost in the mix. Also I don't want to wear out watercraft too much on ho-hum sites and may sometimes stay home when they are the only choice.

So I added an asterisk to 30% of sites that are most scenic or relaxing or exciting. I removed the other asterisks that meant wild card, and use blank for that. I could also post a fun rating for favorite watercraft, but they are more like my equally loved children. Anyway I somehow forget the pitfalls of sites more easily, like bad parking or theft or crowding... hence the flagging.

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 5:12 pm 
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You're not blogging to yourself. I'm following [SMILING FACE WITH SMILING EYES]

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:53 pm 
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daft wrote:
Actually I could easily implement a rigid decision tree in html, but I really like flexible approach I am prototyping now

On the other hand, sometimes now my eyes glaze over and I want a simple way to check without grappling with the big picture. I could make that html decision tree, probably using approach like "Wind speed is LOW or HIGH" and "Wind direction is SOUTH or NORTH" where the capital words are links that pop you to a label on a web page with further dialog. That is the most mindless extreme, but I've started with a simple conceptual guide in english:

Quote:
- NOTE: Table sorted by clockwise wind direction
- BLUE zone needs huge waves from south (rare)
- TAN zone needs southish wind (rare)
- GREEN zone needs weak east waves (windspeed, tide as noted)

That helped a lot except I noticed within the green zone is confusing and hard to get a "green light". I swapped the wave and tide columns so that things are in order of decreasing importance going right. Waves are important but most rows have the same requirement of being under 3 feet.

The tides really dominate, and serve as a brainstorming feature. My new grid is updated to show when winds are moderate I have few options. I often need a tide so high that it may only come a few times a month... and then at midnight or dawn or dusk. So that means I either need better shallow draft sailing craft, techniques, or some micro launch environment that is deeper draft. Oddly my high wind case handles any draft. Not sure how to conceptually document this... I could post a comment that if winds are moderate, only unusually high or low tides work, which is a helpful but disturbing insight.

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