David Barnes’s new book What’s Weird? arrived today. It’s lovely.
One book put me off geography for ever, and it was called Find the Place. Each page had a map of the UK like this
Next to it, was the numbered list of places. What you were supposed to do was memorize the name and location, and then (with the list covered by the pupils) the teacher would go through the class by turn and you’d have to say the place name. “Find the Place”; clever, huh?
I’ve always been allergic to rote learning, and I never even tried to get these. I just remember trying to hide when that part of the lesson came round. I don’t think there was any theme to the places; they weren’t even the five main glove manufacturing towns in the Midlands, or anything. Just random dots.
To try your mad geog skillz, those dots are real places. Can you name them? Answers after the fold.
I got Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael from the library on a friend’s recommendation. I tried, but I don’t feel the love for the psychic gorilla.
It’s not that the wise protagonist is a psychic gorilla. I can get past that. It’s just that the conclusions are so pat. I wonder how many readers come away with the romantic notion that they’re the only Leaver in a Taker society? (they’re wrong, of course; I’m the only one to which this applies …)
I also didn’t get the “Takers need prophets” deal. if you decide to follow the ideas in the book, what is Ishmael but a prophet? A not-for-prophet?
Writers like Jared Diamond (though flawed) and Julian Cope (though fried; but at least can play mellotron) wrote it better. Ain’t but the one way, as the Drude sang.
What I did like about the library copy that I borrowed was that it had clearly made an impression on a previous reader. Crabbed on every page in tiny, infra-neat madperson handwriting was a seemingly endless thesis about something. What, I can’t tell; the diligent guardians of the Toronto Public Library erased almost every word, so I couldn’t tell if a worldview had been shattered or affirmed. Maybe it was the wisdom of the ages. Who can tell?
City Cafe Bakery, at the corner of Victoria & Strange (!) in Kitchener has the best bagels.
I hadn’t been there for years. Last time was with Steve Izma (typesetter and BTL Books guru) and his family, who are regulars.
Being Scottish and consequently dough-addicted, CCB is heaven.
I got a bit carried away with doing this. Instead of just smacking together all the 360 dpi TIFFs I scanned seven years ago, I had to scan a new set at a higher resolution, then crop them, then fix the page numbers, add chapter marks, and make the table of contents a set of live links.
I’ve got out of the way of thinking in PostScript, so I spent some time looking for tools that would do things graphically. Bah! These things’d cost a fortune, so armed only with netpbm, libtiff, ghostscript, the pdfmark reference, Aquamacs, awk to add content based on the DSC, and gimp to work out the link zones on the contents page, I made it all go. Even I’m impressed.
One thing that didn’t impress me, though:
I used to edit multi-gigabyte files with emacs on Suns. They never used to complain like this. They just loaded (admittedly fairly slowly) and let me do my thing. Real emacs don’t give warning messages.
Lots of people are drooling over the book Rule the Web. I’m not, particularly. It’s good in parts, but reminds me so much of those mid-late 1990s “Best Web Directory Ever” tomes that are currently propping up shelves in bargain bookstore, and propping up houses built on landfills in Arizona.
My biggest complaint is its US-centric approach. Pretty much everything related to buying, selling or finding people or things mentioned in the book only applies to the USA.
As is the way when web meets paper, some things are out of date already. It happens, but it’s a shame when the book’s pretty new in the shops.
I did find a couple of things I genuinely didn’t know about, but might find useful:
- Combine PDFs, for slicing and dicing PDFs under OS X. (I could do this with pdftk, but Combine PDFs is purty).
- The Freesound Project is a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds. When I next need a comic boing, I’ll know where to look.
It also gave links to OnyX and HandBrake, both of which I already use. But that’s about it. I’d have been peeved if I bought the book (yay, Toronto Public Library!), as this is more of a basic manual than a compendium of coolness.
Craig Ferguson’s Between the Bridge & the River is better than I expected. It’s a long way from live at the Tron, eh?
Christmas came early. With money from Carlyle, I bought a reproduction of Knight’s American Mechanical Dictionary, a three-tome work from the 1870s which catalogued mechanisms, devices and machinery known at the time. It’s the ultimate nerd read.
You can browse two electronic versions online:
- at UMich; large page images.
- at Princeton Imaging; in DjVu format, this is a little easier to read if you have the right plugin.
I have to say, though, that the dead tree version is a splendid read.
I was supposed to have a book on the Golden Ratio waiting for me, but instead they had the Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving.
From Apple’s Battery Exchange Program iBook G4 and PowerBook G4, it looks like I’ve got one of the defective ones. It’s good that I’m getting a new battery, as I’ve noticed this one doesn’t have the life it used to.
Though totally different in scope, it reminds me of a device I saw at a street fair in Glasgow. This was a bank of drainpipes, arranged in a circle. One end of each pipe had a pressure washer head with a flat nozzle played across it, and the other end was stopped at just the right length to play a note. The pressure washer triggers were arranged as a keyboard, and there was a (laminated against water damage) music book on the console. You could play simple (if very loud) tunes.
I’ve never seen such a device since then.
Aargh, I hate finishing an Eric Garcia Rex book. I don’t get lost in too many books, but Eric’s ones do that for me. I’d finished Hot & Sweaty Rex, then re-read Anonymous Rex ‘cos I couldn’t get enough of that dino-noir (dinoir?)
Garcia’s books are clearly works of fiction. I mean, to say that 5% of the population are dinosaurs in heavy disguise — the real number’s much higher …
In the humour section at Chapters: George W Bush & his Family Paper Dolls book…
It’s now showing Sh12rt Date for the date entry field; what gives?
Update: Now it’s doing this:—
and then dying with this:—
I found a copy of Linda McQuaig’s It’s the Crude, Dude on the GO train last night. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. I don’t know what I’ll do with it when I’ve read it — Bookcrossing?
I’ve just been listening to BBC Radio 4‘s dramatisation of Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son. It’s rather good.
I think I can safely say that this household knows more about Edmund Gosse than any other in Scarborough. Catherine‘s PhD was based on on the Gosse family, and I’ve read the book and proof-read the thesis. I suspect we’re also the only household in Scarborough that relates episodes from the young life of Edmund Gosse as if they were family anecdotes.
I know, we must get a life …