Link: Pimp my Bookcart Contest

Some webcomic is holding a Bookcart decoration contest. The only place I have ever seen decorated book carts is at UC Berkeley's library; that's where I've shot all of my book cart graffiti photos. But I guess there must be other places that this happens, as evidenced by the impressive previous winners of that contest.

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Book Report: The Non-Designer's Design Book

An introduction to layout design. There are general principles; there was also more detailed advice on designing brochures, business cards, and other stuff I don't care about. But the general principles seem like stuff I could apply.

  • Proximity Keep related things together
  • Alignment Create strong lines through alignment. Use alignment to "connect" far-apart page elements.
  • Repetition Re-use elements
  • Contrast Why use a small difference when you can use a big one?

Families of type. Don't use two typefaces from the same family--they'll be similar enough such that they won't work for contrast. That rule of thumb of using sans-serif vs. serif for headers vs. body text comes from this general principle.

  • Oldstyle Times, Palatino, Baskerville, Garamond
  • Modern radical thick/thin transitions more likely to hit at 90deg than at the slanty-pen Oldstyle look. Bodoni, Times Bold
  • Slab serif Thicker lines. Clarendon, Memphis, New Century Schoolbook. Readable for extensive text, but they make the page look dark.
  • Sans serif Be careful with varying-weight fonts like Optima--they don't combine well with other sans-serif, but also don't combine well with serif fonts
  • Script
  • Decorative

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Jack O' Lantern Hidden Message

Pumpkins? This year, I can't deal with pumpkins. This year, I'm leting Hallowe'en slide. My free time goes into BANG 19. Puzzles and logistics, logistics and puzzles. That's plenty to think about. But last year... last year at around this time I went to a pumpkin-carving party. The people were fun. We carved pumpkins. It was fun. Here's a photo: [Photo of pumpkins by Steven Pitsenbarger]

I hid a message in one of my pumpkin carvings. Can you find it? (Don't guess "Who me?" The "Who me?" pumpkin wasn't me. (Appropriately, I can't remember who carved the "Who me" pumpkin. (Hey, give me a break; it was a year ago.)))

In the name of art, scholarship, attribution, and citationship, I should point out that I didn't take this photo. Steven Pitsenbarger did. Yeah, that same Steven Pitsenbarger who takes photos of plants and then develops the photos using plant juices. If that guy were really hardcore, then this photo would have been developed via pumpkin juice. But it turned out pretty well anyhow.

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Book Report: Goodnight, Irene

My internet service provider sent me an interesting email--in a few weeks, they will stop offering dialup service. Yes, my main computer is still on dialup. Stop laughing. It has an ethernet port, but its ethernet controller is some nonstandard thingy built into the motherboard, and I never found a Linux driver for it. A while back, I bought an ethernet card--which didn't fit in this ancient computer's ancient slots. I guess I could have looked around for an ancient ethernet card, but that was starting to sound like effort. But now, now, I am being spurred towards effort. And thinking about dialup. And thinking about the past. Oh, right, I'm supposed to be talking about the past, about "Goodnight Irene", a collection of Carol Lay's old comics.

This comic book is a romance (keep reading!) story about Irene. Irene was raised by a tribe in Africa into body modification, specifically into facial changes, such as lip disks. She comes to America and then the wacky hijinx ensue. Her friends include a bearded woman, Irma from Burma (who's very tall and has neck rings), a Fat Lady, and other, uhm, people of unusual appearance. There is love and betrayal, but it's pretty silly. Just when things have settled down a bit, a facsimile of Strong Bad's head appears. It doesn't make too much sense, but it makes enough. Check it out.

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Link: Steven Pitsenbarger on Anthotypes

Steven Pitsenbarger writes about making pictures of plants from their own juices.

And that, children, is why you should never leave your salad out in the sunlight all day. It will become part of your salad plate forever! Especially if you accidentally reduced most of it to concentrated pigment earlier. Don't do that. You should eat the salad instead. It's good for you.

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Site Update: Photos of Library Book Trucks

So far, this page of photos of library book trucks only has a few photos. But I'm setting it up anyhow. I've taken other photos of library book truck graffiti--and thrown those photos out because I didn't have a good place to put them. A few weeks back, I went to Doe Library and some of those decorated book trucks were locked up, look like maybe they were heading for the junkyard. I was regretting not keeping those photos. Didn't one of those carts have a label making a funny Sisyphus allusion? Maybe now I'd never remember.

From now on when I take goofy photos of library carts, I'll know where to keep them.

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Books Report: Visual Explanations, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information

I worked late tonight for no good reason. My deadlines are all self-imposed. I just got a little excited, missed the reasonably-timed buses, caught a late bus back. Mother Nature abetted my bad behavior, displaying a full moon over a rippling San Francisco bay, a nice view for an evening commute. Sometimes I get a little excited. Blame the full moon.

A while back, I read three Tufte books in the space of a couple of weeks. He writes about conveying data through graphics for E-Z analysis. I was bouncing up and down with excitement about charts. I wanted to draw a chart. But I didn't know what data I should try to present. Finally, I chose something gratuitous.

[Chart: Time required to transmit letter in Morse code]

When designing a language like Morse code, how do you choose the encoding? It makes sense to use short symbols to transmit common letters, and long symbols to transmit the rare letters. How well did the designers of International Morse Code achieve this goal?

(The numbers behind this chart are arguably contrived. I say that dashes take three times as long to transmit as dots. But that's only true if you're keying these letters by hand. There are (were?) plenty of telegraph systems that used the same amount of time to transmit "dit" as they did "dah". But that would have been less fun to chart.)

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere

Peter Tang just rented a new apartment. Today Steven, 'Lene and I went over to paint some of the walls.

Watching paint dry is not interesting. So between coats we headed out for lunch. As we walked towards Chestnut Street, we ran into Alexandra. She was carrying a printout of puzzles. These were not just any puzzles, these were puzzles I'd found this morning.

I had been surprised to find them--they were on a blog about programming, knitting, and the Swedish language. Who knew that Raymond Chen liked puzzles? But he'd thrown a puzzle hunt for a departing friend of his.

Anyhow, I'd spent most of the morning on those puzzles; they'd almost made me late for the painting party. Now Alexandra was reading them. It was good to see her; and it was good to see her dog Liberty Belle, who was friendly as always.

* ~ * ~ *

Not exactly a puzzle hunt, but it came up the same day:

After the painting party, I caught the 43 bus. It went up through the Presidio. At the Presidio Street exit, next to the House of Pixels, I noticed an arrow drawn on the sidewalk. Was it a chalk arrow? Was it the spoor of the Hash House Harriers? Or was it some spray-painted thing indicating the presence of water pipes? As the bus went along, it went past more arrows. Who had left them? Then an arrow pointed off to the side, Beside it in big letters: "ON IN". I recognized that phrase. That was some sodden socializing at the end of a Hash.

Ah, mystery solved; hypothesis confirmed. I settled back in the seat and let the bus carry me home.

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