Advanced Log Parser Charts Part 2 - Using Gradient Colors for Area Charts

In Part 2 of this series, I'll show you how to customize the area chart from Part 1 to show the chart area with a gradient. More specifically, there are three different chart gradient methods that we'll take a look at in this blog post:

Before I continue, there is one quick Log Parser convention that you should realize: there are two objects that Log Parser will create and pass to your script. As you look at the sample scripts in this post, you will see these objects in use:

Object NameDescriptionExample
chartSpace This is the base chart workspace object.
// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;
chart This is equivalent to the chartSpace.Charts(0) object.
// Change the background color.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#ffffff";

Before I get started, here's a quick review of VBScript that uses Log Parser COM objects:

Option Explicit

' Declare the variables.
Dim objLogQuery, strSQL
Dim objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

' Create the Log Parser objects.
Set objLogQuery = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery")
Set objInputW3CFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.W3CInputFormat")
Set objOutputChartFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.ChartOutputFormat")

' Define the SQL query.
strSQL = "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits " & _
" INTO _Part2.gif " & _
" FROM *.log " & _
" GROUP BY Date " & _
" ORDER BY Date"

' Specify the chart options.
objOutputChartFormat.groupSize = "800x600"
objOutputChartFormat.fileType = "GIF"
objOutputChartFormat.chartType = "Area"
objOutputChartFormat.categories = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.values = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.legend = "OFF"

' Execute the SQL statement to create the chart.
objLogQuery.ExecuteBatch strSQL, objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, you don't have to use the COM objects, but I chose to do so for this blog series because it makes it a little easier to script. That being said, if I use one month's worth of log files from one of my low-volume websites, Log Parser and this VBScript creates the following rather ugly daily hits chart:

With all of this in mind, let's take a look at some simple configuration scripts.

Setting Fonts and Titles and Such...

The above chart really needs some help, so the first thing that we'll do is change a few things. First things first, we need to specify the name of the chart configuration script in the VBScript sample:

Option Explicit

' Declare the variables.
Dim objLogQuery, strSQL
Dim objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

' Create the Log Parser objects.
Set objLogQuery = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery")
Set objInputW3CFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.W3CInputFormat")
Set objOutputChartFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.ChartOutputFormat")

' Define the SQL query.
strSQL = "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits " & _
" INTO Part2.gif " & _
" FROM *.log " & _
" GROUP BY Date " & _
" ORDER BY Date"

' Specify the chart options.
objOutputChartFormat.groupSize = "800x600"
objOutputChartFormat.fileType = "GIF"
objOutputChartFormat.chartType = "Area"
objOutputChartFormat.categories = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.values = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.legend = "OFF"
objOutputChartFormat.config = "Part2.js"

' Execute the SQL statement to create the chart.
objLogQuery.ExecuteBatch strSQL, objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

Next, we need to create the actual chart configuration script, which I wrote in JavaScript; you will need to save this as "Part2.js" in order to use my samples:

// Set the title above the chart.
chart.HasTitle = true;
chart.Title.Caption = "Hits by Day"

// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;

// Change the background color for the plot area.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#f0f0f0";

// Set the font size for the chart values.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Size = 6;

// Get the start and end dates from the X axis.
var startDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(0).Caption;
var endDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.ItemCount-1).Caption;

// Set the caption below the chart.
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption =
"This chart shows the hits by day from "
+ startDate + " to " + endDate + ".";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 10;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Set the style and caption for the Y axis.
chart.Axes(0).Font.Size = 8;
chart.Axes(0).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(0).Title.Caption = "Dates";
chart.Axes(0).Title.Font.Size = 9;

// Set the style and caption for the X axis.
chart.Axes(1).Font.Size = 7;
chart.Axes(1).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(1).Title.Caption = "Hits";
chart.Axes(1).Title.Font.Size = 9;

This chart configuration script does several things:

  • Sets the title above the chart to "Hits by Day"
  • Sets a black border style for the chart
  • Sets the background color for the plot area to a light gray
  • Sets the font size for the chart values to 6-point
  • Sets the caption below the chart for the start and end date
  • Sets the font styles and captions for the Y and Y axes

When you run the VBScript, the resulting chart looks like the following:

This looks a little more legible, but now let's look at setting some colors.

Setting a One-Color Gradient

Using the same JavaScript sample from earlier, we just need to make a couple of changes to the chart configuration script in order to use the SetOneColorGradient method:

// Set the title above the chart.
chart.HasTitle = true;
chart.Title.Caption = "Hits by Day"

// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;

// Change the background color for the plot area.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#f0f0f0";

// Specify the chart gradient styles.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).Interior.SetOneColorGradient(
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientHorizontal,
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientVariantEnd,
1.0,
"#ff0000");

// Set the font size for the chart values.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Size = 6;

// Get the start and end dates from the X axis.
var startDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(0).Caption;
var endDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.ItemCount-1).Caption;

// Set the caption below the chart.
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption =
"This chart shows the hits by day from "
+ startDate + " to " + endDate + ".";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 10;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Set the style and caption for the Y axis.
chart.Axes(0).Font.Size = 8;
chart.Axes(0).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(0).Title.Caption = "Dates";
chart.Axes(0).Title.Font.Size = 9;

// Set the style and caption for the X axis.
chart.Axes(1).Font.Size = 7;
chart.Axes(1).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(1).Title.Caption = "Hits";
chart.Axes(1).Title.Font.Size = 9;

When you run the VBScript, this renders a chart that looks like the following:

There are four parameters for the SetOneColorGradient method to look at:

ParameterDescription
GradientStyle This is a value from the ChartGradientStyleEnum enumeration, which specifies how the gradient will be displayed. For example: horizontally, vertically, diagonally, etc.
GradientVariant This is a value from the ChartGradientVariantEnum enumeration, which specifies which direction the gradient will be displayed. For example: lighter to darker, from the inside to the outside, etc.
GradientDegree This is a double value from 0.0 to 1.0, which specifies whether the gradient will range from the color to lighter or darker shades.
Color This is a string that specifies the color. This can be a commonly-named color, such as "red," "blue," etc., or this can be an RGB hexadecimal value, such as "#ff0000" (red), "#0000ff" (blue), etc. (See my 216-Color Safe Web Palette blog post for a large series of hexadecimal color values.)

Let's make some quick changes to parameters that we are passing to the SetOneColorGradient method and alter a few of the colors:

// Set the title above the chart.
chart.HasTitle = true;
chart.Title.Caption = "Hits by Day"

// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;

// Change the background color for the plot area.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#333333";

// Specify the chart gradient styles.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).Interior.SetOneColorGradient(
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientHorizontal,
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientVariantStart,
0.0,
"#00ff00");

// Set the font size for the chart values.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Size = 6;
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Color = "#ffffff";

// Get the start and end dates from the X axis.
var startDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(0).Caption;
var endDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.ItemCount-1).Caption;

// Set the caption below the chart.
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption =
"This chart shows the hits by day from "
+ startDate + " to " + endDate + ".";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 10;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Set the style and caption for the Y axis.
chart.Axes(0).Font.Size = 8;
chart.Axes(0).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(0).Title.Caption = "Dates";
chart.Axes(0).Title.Font.Size = 9;

// Set the style and caption for the X axis.
chart.Axes(1).Font.Size = 7;
chart.Axes(1).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(1).Title.Caption = "Hits";
chart.Axes(1).Title.Font.Size = 9;

When you run the VBScript, that results in the following considerably cooler-looking chart:

Setting a Two-Color Gradient

The SetTwoColorGradient method offers more color flexibility than the one-color gradient method, and we only need to make a couple of changes to the JavaScript for the chart configuration script in order to use the new method:

// Set the title above the chart.
chart.HasTitle = true;
chart.Title.Caption = "Hits by Day"

// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;

// Change the background color for the plot area.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#FFFF99";

// Specify the chart gradient styles.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).Interior.SetTwoColorGradient(
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientVertical,
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientVariantStart,
"#0066FF",
"#00FFCC");

// Set the font size for the chart values.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Size = 6;

// Get the start and end dates from the X axis.
var startDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(0).Caption;
var endDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.ItemCount-1).Caption;

// Set the caption below the chart.
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption =
"This chart shows the hits by day from "
+ startDate + " to " + endDate + ".";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 10;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Set the style and caption for the Y axis.
chart.Axes(0).Font.Size = 8;
chart.Axes(0).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(0).Title.Caption = "Dates";
chart.Axes(0).Title.Font.Size = 9;

// Set the style and caption for the X axis.
chart.Axes(1).Font.Size = 7;
chart.Axes(1).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(1).Title.Caption = "Hits";
chart.Axes(1).Title.Font.Size = 9;

When you run the VBScript, this will create the following chart:

There are four parameters for the SetTwoColorGradient method to consider:

ParameterDescription
GradientStyle This is a value from the ChartGradientStyleEnum enumeration, which specifies how the gradient will be displayed. For example: horizontally, vertically, diagonally, etc.
GradientVariant This is a value from the ChartGradientVariantEnum enumeration, which specifies which direction the gradient will be displayed. For example: lighter to darker, from the inside to the outside, etc.
Color This is a string that specifies the first color for the gradient; this can be a commonly-named color, such as "red," "blue," etc., or this can be an RGB hexadecimal value, such as "#ff0000" (red), "#0000ff" (blue), etc. (See my 216-Color Safe Web Palette blog post for a large series of hexadecimal color values.)
BackColor This is a string that specifies the second color for the gradient; this can be a value like the Color parameter.

Using a Preset Gradient

There is an additional gradient method that uses a collection of preset color palettes; this method is appropriately named SetPresetGradient. Once again, we need to make a couple of changes to the JavaScript for the chart configuration script in order to use the new method:

// Set the title above the chart.
chart.HasTitle = true;
chart.Title.Caption = "Hits by Day"

// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;

// Change the background color for the plot area.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#EEFFDD";

// Specify the chart gradient styles.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).Interior.SetPresetGradient(
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientHorizontal,
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientVariantStart,
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientFire);


// Set the font size for the chart values.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Size = 6;

// Get the start and end dates from the X axis.
var startDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(0).Caption;
var endDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.ItemCount-1).Caption;

// Set the caption below the chart.
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption =
"This chart shows the hits by day from "
+ startDate + " to " + endDate + ".";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 10;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Set the style and caption for the Y axis.
chart.Axes(0).Font.Size = 8;
chart.Axes(0).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(0).Title.Caption = "Dates";
chart.Axes(0).Title.Font.Size = 9;

// Set the style and caption for the X axis.
chart.Axes(1).Font.Size = 7;
chart.Axes(1).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(1).Title.Caption = "Hits";
chart.Axes(1).Title.Font.Size = 9;

When you run the VBScript, this will create the following chart:

There are three parameters for the SetPresetGradient method to look at:

ParameterDescription
GradientStyle This is a value from the ChartGradientStyleEnum enumeration, which specifies how the gradient will be displayed. For example: horizontally, vertically, diagonally, etc.
GradientVariant This is a value from the ChartGradientVariantEnum enumeration, which specifies which direction the gradient will be displayed. For example: lighter to darker, from the inside to the outside, etc.
GradientPreset This is a value from the ChartPresetGradientTypeEnum enumeration, which specifies the gradient preset palette.

There are several of preset gradients in the ChartPresetGradientTypeEnum enumeration, and a little experimentation will yield the best results.

Using 3-D Area Charts

For one last sample, I'd like to show you what gradients can do for your 3-D area charts. To do so, we first need to make a couple of small changes the VBScript that will create the chart:

Option Explicit

' Declare the variables.
Dim objLogQuery, strSQL
Dim objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

' Create the Log Parser objects.
Set objLogQuery = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery")
Set objInputW3CFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.W3CInputFormat")
Set objOutputChartFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.ChartOutputFormat")

' Define the SQL query.
strSQL = "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits " & _
" INTO _Part2.gif " & _
" FROM *.log " & _
" GROUP BY Date " & _
" ORDER BY Date"

' Specify the chart options.
objOutputChartFormat.groupSize = "1024x768"
objOutputChartFormat.fileType = "GIF"
objOutputChartFormat.chartType = "Area3D"
objOutputChartFormat.categories = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.values = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.legend = "OFF"
objOutputChartFormat.config = "Part2.js"

' Execute the SQL statement to create the chart.
objLogQuery.ExecuteBatch strSQL, objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

Next, we need to update the JavaScript for the chart configuration script to work with the new VBScript; for the most part, I'm just updating font sizes and chart colors:

// Set the title above the chart.
chart.HasTitle = true;
chart.Title.Caption = "Hits by Day"

// Clear the caption for the chart series.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).Caption = "";

// Set the border style for the chart.
chartSpace.Border.Color = "#000000";
chartSpace.Border.Weight = 2;

// Change the background color for the plot area.
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = "#FFFFCC";

// Specify the chart gradient styles.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).Interior.SetTwoColorGradient(
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientHorizontal,
chartSpace.Constants.chGradientVariantEnd,
"#00CCFF",
"#FFFFFF");

// Set the font size for the chart values.
chart.SeriesCollection(0).DataLabelsCollection(0).Font.Size = 7;

// Get the start and end dates from the X axis.
var startDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(0).Caption;
var endDate = chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.Item(chart.Axes(0).CategoryLabels.ItemCount-1).Caption;

// Set the caption below the chart.
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption =
"This chart shows the hits by day from "
+ startDate + " to " + endDate + ".";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 10;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Set the style and caption for the Y axis.
chart.Axes(0).Font.Size = 10;
chart.Axes(0).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(0).Title.Caption = "Dates";
chart.Axes(0).Title.Font.Size = 11;

// Set the style and caption for the X axis.
chart.Axes(1).Font.Size = 9;
chart.Axes(1).HasTitle = true;
chart.Axes(1).Title.Caption = "Hits";
chart.Axes(1).Title.Font.Size = 11;

When you run the VBScript, this will create the following chart:

Summary

In this blog post, I've written a lot of code samples in order to show you four different ways to set gradients for your Log Parser area charts. In future posts, I'll show you how to do some more cool things with some other types of charts.

;-]

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/

Advanced Log Parser Charts Part 1 - Working With Configuration Scripts

I recently had a situation where I wanted to customize the chart output from Log Parser, and after a bunch of research I eventually arrived at the conclusion that configuration scripts to create customized charts are probably the least-documented feature of Log Parser. After a lot of experimentation, (and a bit of frustration), I finally managed to achieve the results that I wanted. With that in mind, I thought that it would make a great blog series if I documented some of the settings that I used.

Log Parser and Chart Configuration Scripts

When you look in the Log Parser help file, it makes mention of using configuration scripts to customize charts, and it provides the following small JavaScript sample:

// Add a caption
chartSpace.HasChartSpaceTitle = true;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Caption = "Generated by Log Parser 2.2";
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Font.Size = 6;
chartSpace.ChartSpaceTitle.Position = chartSpace.Constants.chTitlePositionBottom;

// Change the background color
chart.PlotArea.Interior.Color = chartSpace.Constants.chColorNone;

Unfortunately, this sample isn't very useful, although I found dozens of forum posts that quote this sample as a way to do things - but it's the only sample that most people cite. The Log Parser help file mentions looking at the MSDN ChartSpace Object Model documentation, but that documentation is only slightly more useful. These two references are what led me to my earlier conclusion that chart configuration scripts are not well-documented, and especially when you are trying to do something with Log Parser.

What I found to be particularly helpful was to use the Log Parser COM interface and write scripts by using Adersoft's VbsEdit and JsEdit. In case you haven't used either of those applications, they are great IDEs for writing scripts; they both give you a great debugging environment, and they have a great object browser that I used to discover what options were available to me. In the end, these two editors made it possible to create the chart configuration scripts that I will discuss in this blog series.

By the way, chart configuration scripts can be written in VBScript or JavaScript, but for this blog I will use VBScript for the Log Parser COM samples and JavaScript for the configuration script samples. I didn't have to do it that way, but it seemed like a good idea to help differentiate between the samples.

Using COM versus the Command-Line

For the samples in this blog series, I will use Log Parser's COM interface and VBScript to create my charts, but this is not necessary; everything that I am documenting can be done from the command-line version of Log parser, and I'll give you some quick examples to see the differences.

The following examples generate some simple area charts that plot the total number of hits by day, and both examples do exactly the same thing:

Command-Line:

logparser.exe "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits INTO HitsByDay.gif FROM *.log GROUP BY Date ORDER BY Date" -i:W3C -fileType:GIF -groupSize:800x600 -chartType:Area -categories:ON -values:ON -legend:OFF

COM Interface:
Option Explicit

Dim objLogQuery, strSQL
Dim objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

Set objLogQuery = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery")
Set objInputW3CFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.W3CInputFormat")
Set objOutputChartFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.ChartOutputFormat")

strSQL = "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits " & _
" INTO HitsByDay.gif " & _
" FROM *.log " & _
" GROUP BY Date " & _
" ORDER BY Date"

objOutputChartFormat.groupSize = "800x600"
objOutputChartFormat.fileType = "GIF"
objOutputChartFormat.chartType = "Area"
objOutputChartFormat.categories = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.values = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.legend = "OFF"

objLogQuery.ExecuteBatch strSQL, objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat
Ugly Charts

Using some of the log files from one of my websites, the above samples created the following basic chart:

Taking a look at this chart makes it easy to see why you would want to customize your output; that light blue is pretty awful, and those values are pretty hard to read.

Specifying Configuration Scripts

If you remember the incredibly basic configuration script from earlier, you only need to add one parameter to each example in order to specify the configuration script:

Command-Line:

logparser.exe "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits INTO HitsByDay.gif FROM *.log GROUP BY Date ORDER BY Date" -i:W3C -fileType:GIF -groupSize:800x600 -chartType:Area -categories:ON -values:ON -legend:OFF -config:HitsByDay.js

COM Interface:
Option Explicit

Dim objLogQuery, strSQL
Dim objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat

Set objLogQuery = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery")
Set objInputW3CFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.W3CInputFormat")
Set objOutputChartFormat = WScript.CreateObject("MSUtil.LogQuery.ChartOutputFormat")

strSQL = "SELECT Date, COUNT(*) AS Hits " & _
" INTO HitsByDay.gif " & _
" FROM *.log " & _
" GROUP BY Date " & _
" ORDER BY Date"

objOutputChartFormat.groupSize = "800x600"
objOutputChartFormat.fileType = "GIF"
objOutputChartFormat.chartType = "Area"
objOutputChartFormat.categories = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.values = "ON"
objOutputChartFormat.legend = "OFF"
objOutputChartFormat.config = "HitsByDay.js"

objLogQuery.ExecuteBatch strSQL, objInputW3CFormat, objOutputChartFormat
Simple Output

Taking a look at the resulting chart, you can see why I mentioned earlier that the configuration script wasn't very useful; all it does is add a centered title to the bottom of the chart:

Yup - that's a pretty useless sample configuration script for chart customization.

Next...

In my subsequent posts, I'll show how to make this chart (and several other types of charts) look a lot better.

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/

What I do not admire...

A friend of mine recently posted the following news link to Facebook:

Atheist teen forces school to remove prayer from wall after 49 years

He accompanied the link with a statement which stated that he admired the young girl for standing up for herself despite all of the misfortune that has come her way. While I strongly object to the hostility that has been directed at her, I do not admire this girl; not because I might disagree with her, but simply because this is yet another symbol of what is so often wrong with this country. While I strongly support standing up for what you believe in - or in this case what you don't believe in - do not mistake self-centered motives for moral courage.

At sixteen, you are convinced that the world revolves around you. (I have just raised three teenagers, so I am speaking with the voice of recent experience.) The question here is not whether the state is cramming religion down someone's throat - which it clearly is not - but whether an entire community should be inconvenienced for the self-interested attitudes of a single detractor. This solitary malcontent is asking for her community to discontinue a half-century of tradition, and she is demanding that thousands of previous students, parents, and faculty look the other way while she forces the world around her into a mold that is custom-fit for her and no one else; how immature.

There are so many things in contemporary society for which we are asked to look the other way if we have an objection; simply flipping through a magazine or turning on the television will provide ample material for one person or other to raise a protest. You might agree with their objections, or you might disagree, but we live in a free society where you do not have the right to never be offended. In our culture the generally-accepted answer is for the complainant to avoid what offends them; we do not require every publisher to pander to the wishes of every objector. If we managed to remove everything that offended any individual person then we would have nothing left to look at or listen to. (For example, I can't stand country music, but I don't sue Nashville in order to force them to stop cranking out album after album of music that makes me want to hurl.)

But that is not the case in this situation. What is taking place here is that a single student has raised an objection out of self-centered desire; perhaps it is a desire to get her way, perhaps it is a desire for attention, or perhaps she has ulterior ambitions in mind. In the end, it really doesn't matter. If you read the "prayer" in question, there is nothing in it that should be offensive to anyone; it is not forcing religion on anyone - it is simply a call to be a better person:

"Our Heavenly Father,

"Grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers, to be honest with ourselves as well as others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

"Amen."

Since when is being good offensive to anyone? Is it because she wants to violate the thoughts of goodwill that are expressed within those few words? Does she find it threatening that someone wishes for her to aspire to be better than she is? (Note: You may choose to believe in God, or you may not, that's your choice; but that's actually beside the point in this scenario.)

What is extremely revealing of her attitude is her cause for atheism; when she was ten years old, God didn't do what she wanted, so she decided that there is no God. It's an odd coincidence that the source of her disbelief was a similar situation to her current predicament; when the school voted to keep the prayer banner in question, she lost faith in them. If her parents had opposed her outspoken position, she would have undoubtedly lost faith in them. If the courts rule against her, then she will lose faith in government. This is a bad set of precedents that she is establishing; she wants the world to bow down to her demands, and if they don't comply, then she will simply complain to someone else until she gets her way. Ultimately, it's a bad signal to society when we do so.

This is where she is the most wrong; we live in a tolerant culture, and tolerance means accepting the fact that someone has a right to a conflicting opinion. This is true for religion, politics, sports, entertainment, etc. No one should be allowed to force everyone else to agree with them. So I reiterate my earlier statement: do not mistake self-centered motives for moral courage.

The Wheels of Time Have Rolled Over Me

When we moved to the Seattle area, one of the selling points for our new home was the backyard. The back door of our house empties out onto two large, wooden decks which overlook a large greenbelt of towering evergreen and maple trees. When our son was younger, he and his friends would play paintball and other games in those woods for hours.

My son is currently in college, so he's moved on from such 'juvenile' pursuits as paintball; now a fresh crop of kids has taken over the timberland. This new batch of boys has replaced the paintball pistols of yesteryear with airsoft artillery; in the summer season, we hear them waging war till all hours. This has never bothered me at all - it's simply part of the experience of living near a cool stretch of forest.

But recently, a few of the boys were skirmishing through the thickets, and one of them was crouching low to avoid being seen by his pursuers as he took a running shortcut across my backyard. I happened to look out the window as this unfortunate event unfolded, and we had just laid fresh layer of bark throughout the yard. With this in mind, and before I had a chance to consider the consequences, I had opened the window and yelled, "Hey! Don't run through my backyard!"

And then it hit me - I had officially become Old Man McMurray; the antiquated ancient who lives on the hill and yells, "Hey, you youngsters get out of my yard!"

[Deep Sigh.] Sad smile

Is it time to buy a new guitar yet?