Tidied-up edition of Bourgoin’s Arabic Geometrical Design sourcebook on archive.org

b-245Just uploaded Les éléments de l’art arabe: Le trait des entrelacs by Jules Bourgoin (aka Arabic Geometrical Pattern & Design) to archive.org. This is much cleaned up from the Google Books scan, which had many duplicate pages and no metadata.

This is much better than the (now returned) Kindle edition …

Forgive me, A V Hershey …

I’ve been playing with the Hershey Fonts, vector data digitised by the US government in 1967. It’s in a bit of a bear of a format.

I hope to do more fun stuff with the data. For now, here’s an 120 page sample book showing all the characters:


Find The Place: a bloody waste of bloody time

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.

take it or leave it

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?

Lady Goosepelt Rides Again!

Lady Goosepelt, from What a Life!

In case anyone wants them, the 600 dpi page images of What a Life! are stored in this PDF: what_a_life.pdf (16MB). If you merely wish to browse, all the images from the book are here.

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:

aquamacs file size warning

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.

doesn’t rule my web

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.

big boy’s book of big things

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.

in a jam

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.

Categorised as books Tagged ,

Here do books lurk

Catherine has a project involving Toronto’s libraries, and so I, for no particularly good reason, compiled a geocoded list of the Toronto Public Library system: libraries.gpx
Google Earth display of all of Toronto's public libraries

You can thank MapSource for the bloated GPX file. It quadrupled in size when I changed the symbols to look like buildings.


Steve Mann‘s done it again: the FUNtain.

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.

dino out

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 …