I’ve Rehosted my Portfolio

My Portfolio was the first non-tutorial Ruby on Rails application I created, and while it was functional, there were a lot of things I did wrong.

When I looked for somewhere to host my website, I was still looking at it from a PHP mindset – find a server somewhere that will run Rails, and FTP files up to that host as I create or update them. This meant that I wasn’t taking advantage of Git’s capability to push updates to a production server. Additionally, hosting a Rails application this way meant I was stuck on whatever version of Rails was present on that server – and the server I selected back in 2012 is still running Rails 3.2.11. With all of that, it was time to move my Portfolio to a more modern host.

I’d originally written my Flight Historian as a component of my Portfolio. Earlier this year, I’d split it off into its own separate application, and hosted that new application on Heroku. It was time to make this move for my Portfolio as well.

My portfolio still had a lot of vestigial code from the Flight Log, and there were a lot of changes I wanted to make to the layout and structure of the site (I particularly wanted to move the projects front and center to the home page of the site), so I decided to take the opportunity for a complete rewrite as a new rails application.

The new Portfolio can be found at the same old address:


Time Zone Changes

With two recent work trips and a five-city European vacation, combined with the changes to summer time in the US and Europe, I’ve gone through quite a few time zone changes in the past six weeks.

I wanted to find a good way to visualize this, and I ultimately decided on the following format:

Time Zones

Time zones can be challenging to represent, so let’s start with talking about UTC.

UTC (which superseded Greenwich Mean Time, although for our purposes they’re interchangeable) is the time zone of the prime meridian, and it does not change for summer time. UTC is used in situations where an unambiguous, continuous reference time is necessary. For example, flights are scheduled in UTC to avoid confusion about time zones and summer time – effectively, UTC is aviation’s “official” time.

The time zones we’re familiar with (for example, Eastern Standard Time or Eastern Daylight Time) are then represented as differences from UTC. Eastern Standard Time is five hours behind UTC – that is, when it’s 11:00 AM in UTC, it’s 6:00 AM in Eastern Standard Time. Thus, EST is UTC minus 5 hours, written as UTC–5. In the summer, Eastern time shifts an hour forward to Eastern Daylight Time, so EDT is only four hours behind UTC, or UTC–4.

So when I’m flying around between time zones (or switching to Daylight Savings Time), I’m really just changing the number of hours I am ahead of or behind UTC. So for any given moment in time (as represented by UTC, I can plot my offset from UTC.

Thus, in the above chart, the horizontal axis represents UTC, and the vertical axis represents the number of hours I’m offset from UTC. Every horizontal gridline represents a one hour shift. The colored bars represent time I spend in a time zone, and the dark gray lines between them represent travel.

So, for example, when I flew from Reykjavík to Chicago, I had to set my watch back by five hours (as I traveled from UTC+0 to UTC–5).

You can also see from the chart that I went through two shifts to summer time: I was in the US when they changed to DST on 13 March, and I was in Europe when they changed to summer time on 27 March. In each case, my watch had to move an hour forward, even though I didn’t travel anywhere.

Incidentally, with all this talk about UTC and Greenwich Mean Time, I’m happy to report that my Europe trip included a visit to the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London, which is the point that defined both the prime meridian and Greenwich Mean Time!

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Paul standing across the prime meridian at Greenwich