The brain is a gate for pain

I was watching “House MD” and Doctor House is trying to live without pain killers for a week, and ends up crushing his hand with a pestle to deal with the pain in his leg. Doctor Wilson just shrugs and says “The brain is a gate for pain” or something like that, explaining that the brain only lets you feel the worst pain of the multiple pains you’re experiencing. I’m only too aware of that, as the constant pain in my knees and hips makes it hard for me to feel other pains until they are so intense as to be dangerous. The three days I spent walking around with a burst appendix which I thought was trapped gas is testimony to that, as is the foot and a half of gangrenous large intestine they removed when I finally went to see somebody about it.

And thus, a new sudden shoulder pain is very worrisome. All too often in the past, the first indication I’ve had of a joint pain is when it’s so bad that it becomes permanent. And of course, every new joint pain is just another one that the doctors shrug and say “I don’t know, maybe you’ve just got bad joints”. I don’t even want to bother seeing a doctor about them any more – they’ll think they know what it is, put me through months of treatment, and when all it does is make it worse, they shrug and go on to somebody they can actually treat.

More geo coding

I got the airport data nailed down, at least all the stuff I need for iPhone CoPilot (which unlike the other databases I provide doesn’t care about communications frequencies or runways). And now I’m looking at “waypoints”, the points in space, sometimes defined by the intersection of a specific radial or bearing from this navigation aid and a specific radial or bearing from that navigation aid, sometimes a distance and radial from one navigation aid, or in the case of GPS instrument approaches and air routes, just points in space.

The difficulty with waypoints is that their definition in the file doesn’t have any sort of location information other than latitude and longitude, which means I have to hit the geonames server for every one (and so far I’ve gone over my hourly limit with them multiple times while testing this code), and that sometimes they, unlike airports, can be out in the middle of the ocean somewhere. So the geonames “countrySubdivision” service just says “I have no idea what country this is in”.

Unfortunately, my code doesn’t like it when a point isn’t in a country. I need to assign every point a 2 letter country code (I use the FIPS 10.4 code instead of ISO-3166-1 because my first world data came from DAFIF, which used FIPS 10.4 and I stuck with it. I’d probably switch to ISO-3166-1 except I have no idea how to do it painlessly.)

In my program to load FAA data, I do some messing around trying to map the country names they use to FIPS 10.4, and sometimes I’ve done some things I’m not proud of, like mapping “French West Indies” to “GP” (the code for Guadeloupe, which is just one of the four territories that make up the French West Indies) or “Trust Territories” to “JQ” (the code for Johnston Atoll) – that one is really dodgy because the “Trust Territories” were broken down into the Republic of the Marshall Islands (“RM”), the Federated States of Micronesia (“FM”), The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CQ”) and the Republic of Palau (“PS”). Actually if I looked through the FAA data these days, I’d probably find they never use the name “Trust Territories” any more. Another one that comes up is the United States Minor Outlying Islands, which has an ISO-3166-1 code “UM”, but which consists of 9 separate “insular areas” that have their own FIPS 10.4 codes.

So my thought was to ask the geonames “ocean” service what body of water these points is, and then make up a phoney country code for each ocean. Unfortunately there aren’t just a few oceans, there are are dozens of them – everything from the Arabian Sea to the South Pacific Ocean. So many that I can’t come up with semi-mnemonic identifiers for them. So using the fact that FIPS 10.4 codes never start with O or X, I just went though and assigned anything with “Ocean” in the name a code starting with “O” and anything else a code starting with “X”. It sucks, but it will work. Sort of. I hope.

The long term solution is that separate the code I use for iPhone CoPilot further away from the other code, and not require a non-null country code in iPhone CoPilot. Also try to migrate to ISO-3166-1 country codes.

More geocoding nonsense

I had to go back to using because of the problems I’d already told you about with Google’s geocoder. But has a very strange bug. I’d experimented, and found that sometimes it didn’t return anything, especially for something like a point just off-shore of a small island nation. You’re supposed to be able to feed it a “radius” so it can apply some slop, and sure enough, applying a radius of 25 or so made sure that those points were getting a result. But that’s when I discovered that it was returning the wrong result for places like Pelee Island, which as I’m sure you’re all aware is a tiny little island in Lake Ontario that’s part of Ontario, but is actually closer to Ohio. If you asked geonames for the country and subdivision with no radius, it would return Ontario, CA. But if you gave it a radius of 25, it would return Ohio, US. So I’ve got a dilemma – choose too small a radius, and it won’t find anything for some points, but choose too big a radius, and for some points it will return entirely the wrong thing.

So this is what I’m stuck with – I ask geonames for the country and subdivision with a radius of 1. If it doesn’t find anything, it multiplies the radius by 5, sleeps for 250 milliseconds (to be nice to the geonames server) and tries again. So far that finds a result with a radius of 1 749 times, a radius of 5 9 times, and a radius of 25 3 times. It’s not a good thing – obviously it would be better if geonames returned the right thing the first time, but I’ve done a number of spot checks and it seems to be working.

Geocoding is hard…

One of the problems I’m having with this data load is that instead of telling you what country each waypoint is in, they tell you the “responsible authority”. Ok, normally that’s not too hard to map to a country, and sometimes there are multiple authorities for a country, (and the Czech Republic is super annoying because they designate every little flying club or airport owner as a “responsible authority”). That I can take care of with a simple lookup table – 305 entries, 90 of them in the Czech Republic. The problem occurs because sometimes the “responsible authority” covers multiple countries. “Serbia/Montenegro” in the Balkans, “Comoros/Madagascar/Reunion” in the Indian Ocean, Aruba/Netherlands Antilles” in the Caribbean, “Kiribati/Tuvala”, “Kiribati/Line Islands”, “American Samoa/Western Samoa” in the Pacific. (Although didn’t I read somewhere that the Netherlands Antilles recently split up into a bunch of separate countries?) Anyway, I want to disambiguate these and determine which country points in these merged authorities are in.

First I thought I’d look for the closest point in my existing database. Turns out, some of the new points are near borders so I end up getting the wrong country. Aha, I thought, I’ll use “Reverse Geocoding”. A while back I used a service at to reverse geocode some points to determine which Canadian province they were in. I tried it, and the service is really slow to respond. So I thought I’d try Google’s new reverse geocoding. That’s when I discovered a couple of flies in my oatmeal:

  1. There are locations in the world where Google returns no results, in one case I saw because the point is slightly off shore according to Google Maps (although if you switch to satellite view you can see the point is actually on land). In another case, the result is puzzling – yes, it’s in Kosovo so maybe it’s disputed territory, but it’s not too far from the village of Lluge which Google does recognize.
  2. Addresses in Kosovo show up in the “formatted_address” field as “Lluge, Kosovo”, but the country code that is returned is Serbia. The data I’ve used before comes from the US government, and since the US government officially recognizes Kosovo, it would be inconsistent to label the new stuff as from Serbia instead of Kosovo

Oh, and It eventually seems to do the right thing for both of the above cases, although the country code it returns for Kosovo is “XK” (it appears that there isn’t an official ISO country code for Kosovo – I’d previously seen “KS”. I guess I’ll have to experiment more.

Consider those goals met

On October 13th last year, I posted about my goals for this year, and beyond. In that post, I expressed the goal of doing 650-700 miles of paddling this year. I just checked with Garmin Connect, and it shows that since January 1st I’ve paddled 759.25 miles, including 76.17 miles of races. That does not include a few workouts here and there where I forgot my GPS, or a short gap where my GPS stopped uploading to the computer and I had to buy another one. If I do the “Last 365 days” instead of “Since January 1”, that ups my total to 945.8 miles. I’d say that constituted a pretty decent base.

I also said I’d like to join a pit crew to see what it’s like at the Adirondack Canoe Classic (aka “The 90 Miler”). That I did, and I helped out Sue and Liz as they took care of Doug and Mike at the 90. Granted, I didn’t go to every pit stop, mostly because I was trying to get a decent paddle in each day myself so I could see what it was like, but I was there at the finish to help tired paddlers out of their boats and take care of their boats for them. And in spite of seeing these guys staggeringly tired and bloody and nearly puking, I’m sure that I want to try it next year. I just hope my knees can stand up to portaging.