Another "non-artistic" example

I make it pretty clear in the introduction to Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy that I use the word "artist" to mean any creative person, and that includes anyone who Makes the Thing That Is Not, not just painters and poets and singers of songs.  All dreamers of dreams count.

One of the fun things I do is serve as Placement Lead for the Georgia burns, i.e., the mini-Burning Man events.  I call it "camping with the hippies," and while it's certainly not for everyone—after all, you have to camp, and there are hippies—I enjoy it.

So here's what I do.

Placement Map

Placement Map

Most of the hippies band together in theme camps, and they have the opportunity to register those theme camps (and art projects) for placement: when they arrive for the event, they have an area already staked out for them.  It has the space they need, and with any luck fits their other criteria: flat, near the trees, away from sound camps, etc.

It is my job to take all their data and find a place for them, all the while balancing the needs of the burn as a whole: overall passeggiata, night life, focal points, infrastructure.  The online registration form dumps into an online spreadsheet, but that's unusable.  I suck the data up into a FileMaker Pro database, where I can create layouts that make sense and are understandable.

The weekend before the burn, all us leadership types and our minions go to the land and build what we need to build.  For Placement, that means driving stakes into the ground and stringing that plastic construction tape you see broken and fluttering at every construction site ever, as boundaries for the camps.  We also have to attach signs for each camp and art project to longer stakes and put those up.

Which means I have to do a budget, which means I need to know how many 300-ft rolls of tape I need, and how many 12" and 24" stakes I need.

Which leads us to today's post.

I could just kind of guess how many stakes and how much tape I need, OR I could make the database tell me, which before this morning it did not do.

Follow closely.  This is a lesson in SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.

First, I create a new blank layout where I can put my calculations.  Then I need to calculate the perimeter of each camp:

That one's easy: the hippies have told me how wide and how deep their camp needs to be, and while I may have modified that somewhat in the actual map, it's close enough.  So 2D + 2W = P, right?

Then I create a field which totals all the perimeters of all the camps (including infrastructure); divides by 300; and rounds up, to give me the number of rolls of tape I need:

Next, number of short stakes: most camps are rectangular, so four stakes should do it, plus a 10% overage for odd-shaped camps and extra support on long edges. Don't forget to round up—no one likes dealing with .1456 stakes:

And finally, the stakes for signs.  Many camps, mine included, have art projects embedded, so I figured that if I took the total number of records in the database (i.e., theme camps, independent art projects, infrastructure, and a couple of odds and ends) and added 50%, that should be plenty. 

It occurs to me that I don't need those first three fields on this layout: they are from the record of whatever theme camp is actually selected in the background.  All I care about is the totals of all the records.

So I can delete them and move everything else up.  And once I have all this set up?

Hey, presto!  I can use this as a basis for ordering.  What do I already have in inventory?  How much do I need to replace?

And of course, this may very well turn out to be an ABORTIVE ATTEMPT: these numbers may not be adequate, and I will have to make careful notes on build weekend to make SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATIONS to the calculations for next time.

See?  Even database managers (and hippies) can make use of the Nine Precepts.


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