Arabic Geometrical Pattern and Design (Dover Pictorial Archive) [Kindle Edition] review

Product link: Arabic Geometrical Pattern and Design (Dover Pictorial Archive) eBook: J. Bourgoin: Kindle Store

Summary: Buy the paper edition; this book is illegible on Kindle.

The original book features very finely engraved line drawings, with construction lines showing how the patterns are built up. The Kindle edition has only low-resolution scans, so the lines break down into noise and are very hard to follow. You can’t zoom in, either. The figure numbering is entirely absent from the Kindle edition, so you can’t use this book for reference. Some of the page scans are squint and partially cut off, too.

Very disappointed in this purchase. You’re better off with the paper than trying to squint at these smudgy pixels.


(unedited text as simultaneously posted to Amazon)

Beater Bikes: review (and requiem?)

I’ve heard people complain (still) that “… a good bike shouldn’t cost more than $100”. When I heard the news that Dave Chant was closing up  Beater Bikes and liquidating his remaining stock of bikes for $100 each, I thought I’d give it a try.

Through no fault of Dave’s, Beater Bikes never quite got the traction in Canada they should have done. I blame the outdated tariff on imported cheap bikes; Canada no longer has a domestic industry to protect (someone, please prove me wrong). We still have the tariff to shore up those long-gone jobs at CCM/Supercycle, though, so importing bikes into Canada was too expensive a proposition.

The bike still cost me a bike more than $100, though: $100, plus $120 shipping, plus $58 UPS brokerage ‘tax’ (grar), so a total of $278. Still cheaper than almost anything you can get from Canadian Tire, and as the original retail was around $450, still decent.

beater bikes, beat-up boxSo here’s the box it came in; beaten up and retaped, sure, but with an appropriate logo. Inside, apart from a few loose parts, there was this:

how it's packedAlthough well wrapped, the bike had been dropped at one point, and there was a colossal ding on the back mudguard that stopped the wheel turning. I managed to flatten it out enough that the wheel ran free, but it’s still visible under the carrier.

After a couple of hours of fiddling and tightening, I ended up with this handsome steed:

assembled!The basket is an old Wald I had lying around, attached with enough Ty-Raps to add a significant cost to the bike. The only bits missing were most of the screws to mount the rear reflector. One screw plus duct tape did the job.

Ashtabula crank, nifty propstandThe bike has a particularly nice kickstand. Coupled with the steering stabilizer, it’s a bike that’ll lean against a wall without falling in a heap. It’s also my first bike with a one-piece/Ashtabula crank, which is more a matter of where I grew up — only BMXs had them in the UK.

It’s quite a handsome bike, despite the Beater concept of a bike that won’t get noticed or stolen. It’s very basic, but solid. I don’t know how long the chainstay-mounted Beater Bikes nameplate will last on mine (it came partially unglued on my first ride) so maybe the bike will be an anoymous beater sooner than expected.

beater at the moviesIt rides well, though I have to say that riding a bike with only a coaster brake is a little off-putting.  I haven’t mixed with real traffic on it, and our shed has developed a bruise from where I shot up the driveway, completely forgot how to stop, and collided with the shed. Only pride hurt.

Starting with a coaster brake is also weird, as you can’t haul the pedals back to a good starting place. I’m resolutely right-footed, and I’ve had several nopenopenope start offs from junctions. Until I heard about the rolling the bike backwards trick, I was pretty stuck.

bikeshadowCompared to my cushy and sprung Batavus, the Beater has a harsher ride. Its low gear is higher than I’m used to, so I start off slowly. I’d definitely agree with Velouria‘s assessment that it needs a front brake. I’m much slower without one.

It is, however, a very decent bike for the money I paid. I hope that Dave got something positive from his foray into bike sales, as it’s a fine concept, and better executed than flops like the Kronan. The one thing it does do far better than any of my other bikes? The Sturmey-Archer rear hub still makes that lazy tic tic tac tac noise in top gear, which can only be the sound of summer freedom on the open road.

The Smiths, Benny and me

A review of The Smiths written for fegmaniax:

So then, The Smiths. Or rather, mostly Benny, who is so closely linked to the sound of The Smiths for me that I can’t hear Morrissey without picturing Benny.

I knew Benny from the first day of primary school. Within the year, we knew he was a creative kid. He made weekly comics for all his friends, comics scrawled on offcuts from his dad’s stationery shop. Each comic was different, with different characters and careful story arcs (in my case, mostly fart gags) for each friend. We’d forgive Benny’s at best phonetic spelling, ‘cos we were each of us six at the time.

A few years passed, and Benny and I went to different schools. At age 12, tho’, we ended up in the same secondary school. A bit taller, fractionally better at spelling, he was one of the weird kids of the year. He was one of the first indie kids on my radar, and his frantic indie cool kept him from being picked on.

It was easy to be indie in the UK in the 1980s; you still listened to BBC radio, but you tuned to John Peel at night, just like everyone else. If you wanted to be identified as indie, you talked about what John Peel played. There was only one alternative. We’d only just got a fourth TV channel, and we needed alternatives so badly in the Age of Thatch that we’d even wait eagerly for Richard Whiteley to come on …

So there was Benny on the school bus; the clapped-out, clearly illegal motor coach with the brutish owner-driver Spamheid crashing gears and smoking furiously. Benny would be waving his arms about “Woa-hay … Morrissey … This Charming Man … he’s great, woa-hay”, then fall into the smokers at the back as Spamheid took the roundabout at Pollokshaws too fast.

So dedicated to the Smiths was Benny that he’d bring his albums into school. Not that there was any place to play them, it was just the awe of the medium, and his reverence for the sounds that they represented. 12″ was a lot of real estate in a teen bag, especially on transit.

And those sounds … the album starts with an impossible 80’s drum track, but Reel Around the Fountain is so lush and lengthy you can forgive that. You’ve got to have a tolerance for warble and jangle to even get a handle on this album, but the next two tracks kind of lead you away. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” is a surprisingly sweet fourth, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” does almost nothing, and then there’s the album’s stormer, “This Charming Man”, so short it’s almost over by the time you’ve sat up to take notice. You had to live in the now back then. Blink and you’d miss it.

TCM is the first of a run of four epic tracks, with “Still Ill” being the handbook of eighties indie disaffection, “Hand in Glove” adding the bit of depth to the proceedings (I remember seeing Benny’s notes on the song, and what he thought it all meant. I suspect it’s still classified). And then, “What Difference Does it Make?”, the whirling anthem of the album – where the re-enactment of Morrissey’s stage antics got the only marginally-coordinated Benny pitched into the fag pit again as Spamheid gunned the beat-up Plaxton up the Ayr Road.

Last two tracks? Who cares? If you’re not spent and reclining by the end of WDDIM?, you weren’t listening to the same album.