Monday 31 October 2011

EasyJet Memories

I was lucky enough to work in the Netherlands from October 2004 for 3 years. I had a great time and the people I worked with were some of the best people I have been lucky enough to work with. One (big) downside was the weekly commute out from Liverpool to Schipol. I flew EasyJet and they provided a great service. 

Since I finished doing that regular trip I have not been back many times. This morning I caught the 7:00am EasyJet from  Manchester to Schipol. This was the view out of the window once we had escaped the gloom on the ground in Manchester (and before we went back down into the gloom at Amsterdam).

Late October Sun - 2011

The weather has been beautiful. This is from the sea front at West Kirby in the afternoon of 30th October.  

Sunday 30 October 2011

Myford Super 7

The last post I put up describing the Rotel RP 1500 deck reminded me of how I used to play on the Myford lathe that my Dad had in the garage. It was a beauty - a Myford Super 7. From the age of about 14 to 18 I used to play about on this lathe to teach myself how to make things from metal. I can still remember that to get the finest finish you need to work out the spring in the tool.  Although I haven't used one of these lathes for the past 30 years I think that given an hour with one and the instruction book I could probably make a good go at using one again. 

Here is a picture of a Super 7 that is close to the model of lathe that I used. It has a 3-jaw chuck, tool holder, screw cutting gearbox and lead screw, face plate and stand. 

Vinyl - 1978 Style

In 1978 my elder brother Greg and I worked hard during the summer holidays, I had just finished my O levels and was waiting to begin my A levels. We saved as much money as we could and at the end of the the summer we went and bought the best Hi-Fi we could afford. Naturally we needed the biggest speakers we could get, in our case this was a pair of Goodmans RB 65's (even then these were about £130) and a Rotel Amp. But the heart of the system was a Rotel RP-1500 deck, complete with a tone-arm and cartridge. This deck was to me a technological marvel. I  had been fascinated with tone-arms - the SME 3009 was incredible to look at and was (and is) an example of incredible high precision engineering. I had even built one myself using the lathe that my Dad had in the garage. 

The Rotel RP1500 wasn't anywhere near state of the art (SME arms with Shure cartridges and Garrard decks were more like it). But it was ours and it lasted for years. 

Friday 28 October 2011


Candy Chang is a designer working on changing how communities use the spaces they have in the cities they live in. 

An example of her work is the I WISH THIS WAS stickers. An example is below.

Real programming on the iPad

This looks like a really interesting way for people to learn how to write computer code using all of the native features of an iPad: Codify.

The programming language used in Codify is Lua (which claims to be "the fastest language in the realm of interpreted scripting languages"). Lua is free open-source software, distributed under the MIT licence.

Maps of South Coast Harbours 1698

South Coast Harbours 1698 - this site has a collection of beautiful hand drawn maps from a survey carried out in 1698. Edmund Dummer was appointed Surveyor to the Navy at Portsmouth, Hampshire and was the officer in charge of dockyard stores and ship maintenance. In 1698 he initiated a plan to survey harbours on the south coast, at a time when war with France, and possible invasion, was a real threat. The survey was allowed only 2 months for 18 harbours, and involved Captain Thomas Wiltshaw of the navy and Captains Conaway and Cruft of Trinity House. 

A lo-resolution example of the map of Falmouth is shown. The original is 202 x 316mm giving a scale of about 1:52000.

The set of harbours mapped is shown below.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Explosion of Shipping (1894-1905)

Again from HERE.

A plot of Sea Borne Traffic (per half-year) through the Manchester Ship Canal 1894-1905.

The Manchester Ship Canal

I was brought up in the North-West of England. One of the notable engineering features of the area is the Manchester Ship Canal.

Here is an early map created before the Ship Canal was dug. Map of the Rivers Mersey and Irwell from Bank Key to Manchester. By Thos. Steers, 1712. HERE.

Taxonomy - the first step to Quantitation.

The first step towards a quantitative observation is often the delineation of a classification scheme of some sort. This type of classification will often arise from a series of qualitative observations that have been carefully recorded and noted. 

The classic example of classification is the binomial nomenclature developed by Carl Linnaeus for naming species (fully worked out and included in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae - 1758) 

In 1753 he published the first edition of Species Plantarum. This was a very substantial work (1242 pages in two volumes) that included all the plant species then known by Linnaeus. The prime importance of this book is that it is the primary starting point of plant nomenclature as it exists today. 

A town plan of Imola

By Leonardo da Vinci HERE.

A zoomed in portion shows the quality of draughtsmanship that da Vinci put into this.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Sylvan Bar, Yosemite

Muybridge first made his name as a photographer in the West. Below an image of his from Yosemite. A relevant exhibition HERE and Online Archive of his images HERE

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge was both brilliant and strange. Thomas Grier, one of the students who assisted him, recalled that he had a penchant for working naked himself while photographing the naked human form. “Muybridge was a peculiar man,” Grier remarked. “He did not give a hang for clothes and we used to have to keep an eye on him in the studio.”

Above a set of tracings of a (fully clothed) man on a horse from his book Descriptive Zoopraxography. Or the Science of Animal Locomotion. Published by University of Pennsylvania 1893. 

The subscribers to Animal Locomotion have all of their signatures shown in this book. The following page shows some of them [I see a few well known names here; T.H. Huxley, Richard Owen, A Agassiz, Francis Galton.].


Symmetrical layouts for Intense Seeing

I continue to play with the design of Intense Seeing. Recently I decided that I wanted to keep the sidenote style of Edward Tufte's books - but change over to a symmetrical layout.

Below are some example spreads.

The page height is 248 millimetres and each page is about 171 millimetres.

And a high resolution image of a single page.

Police Notebooks

In common with artists, laboratory scientists and field scientists, other people who seek to make contemporaneous records resort time and again to making a record of their observations in ink in a bound notebook. 

The British police are no exception to this;

I cannot too strongly recommend every constable, however good he may fancy his memory to be, to write down word for word every syllable of every conversation in which an accused has taken part, and of every statement made to him by an accused person, and have that written memorandum with him at the trial.

Cited in Gerald Abrahams (1964). Police Questioning and the Judges' Rules. London, 1964, pp 14-15. 

An image of a Great Train Robbery era police notebook from HERE

Castlemain's Globe (1677)

The Royal Society is making all of its archive material searchable and much of it free. HERE.

As an example below is two pages from the Proceedings of 1677-1678 mentioning Joseph Moxon. Not only his Mechanicks Exercises but also the invention by the Earl of Castlemaine of a new kind of globe. 

The description includes the following timing;

... exposed to sale about August next (God willing).

Saturday 22 October 2011

Art is Art, Fake is Fake

In 1998, the English novelist William Boyd created a completely hoax abstract expressionist artist called Nat Tate, then he wrote his biography, Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960, then published it and held a launch party. 

A number of months later it was discovered that Tate had never existed. Boyd had forged thebiography, with critical reviews, photographs (including artworks painted by Boyd himself), documents and other items associated with the life story of Tate.

Earlier this month Sothebys in London listed a Nat Tate piece for sale (HERE and HERE).

William Boyd describes the whole thing from his point of view in Harpers Bazaar this April Fools Day (HERE)

The Migrant Mother in imagined colour

The Image below is a colourised version of an iconic picture known as Migrant Mother taken in 1936 by Dorothea Lange, it shows Florence Owens Thompson and three of her children. The black and white original is incredibly powerful and a high resolution version is available from Wikipedia. As an image it immediately says to me Grapes of Wrath

This colour version is new to me and is a combination of being believably contemporary, because of the colour, and being timeless because of the anguish on Florence Owens Thompson's face. 

Full size version of it from HERE

Movement - Marey

Étienne-Jules Marey (5 March 1830, Beaune, Côte-d'Or – 21 May 1904) was a French scientist and chronophotographer.

He published a classic book on his use of chronophotography in 1894. This was translated into English and published by William Heinmann in 1895. The complete book as a PDF is available HERE.

Examples are shown to the right and below.

An excellent online exhibition of his work is HERE.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

A Gamesworth of reasoning

Count that day lost whose low descending sun sees from thy mind no gamesworth of reasoning done.

If you think for a living it is hard to describe a quantum of work. Usually hours are used but this is an input measure not an output measure. Many other output measures are too crude - a typical scientific paper will represent a significant amount of lab work, thinking, data processing and then writing.

Here is a better output quantum of thinking the Gamesworth of reasoning;

“the amount of reasoning involved in a forty-move game of chess or a hard end-game problem, or a fairly hard (for you) crossword puzzle; that is, half an hour to an hour of problem-solving”

From The excitement of science. John Rader Platt. 1962. Houghton Mifflin.

A longer excerpt from Platt's The Art of Creative Thinking (HERE)

I would like to suggest the convenience of having a rough unit of analytical reasoning so that we can talk more or less quantitatively about how much thinking is involved in this job or that. I think a good unit would be the amount of reasoning involved in a forty-move game of chess or a hard end-game problem, or a fairly hard (for you) crossword puzzle; that is, half an hour to an hour of problem-solving. This might be called "one gamesworth" of reasoning, to give it an obvious name. It is a useful unit because we are all acquainted with such problems and have a feeling for their difficulty easily distinguished from ten-minute problems on the one hand and from three-hour problems on the other. I also think the sequence of mental operations is fairly typical of formal thinking on complex problems, a mixture of memory, rules of procedure, deductions, analogies, inductions, evaluations and insight, all leading to an elegant and novel solution with the loose ends tied up. Also we shall see that it is a natural unit, measuring roughly the amount of reasoning most of us can do at one sitting.Many of us do crossword puzzles every day, but I think that few do a gamesworth of serious reasoning every day. Sherlock Holmes lived for nothing else, but most people, even creative artists and scientists, are creatures of habit and only think occasionally. This is unfortunate. Our highest powers lie unfocused. ... If, one day, a hundred million adult Americans all gave one gamesworth of thought to their work, the world would tremble and mankind would never be the same again.... when Newton was asked "how he had made discoveries in astonomy surpassing those of all his predecessors," Newton replied, "By always thinking about them." ... Actually, I believe that the time need not be very long, that no one really spends a whole working day every day in the kind of intense analysis I am talking about. ... Probably the brain, like the rest of our physiology, is designed for maximum power output in short bursts only. ... Patience and interest flag. In some sense the brain is indeed tired. I suggest that in concentrated analytical thought, one or two gamesworth every day would be about the maximum for most of us. This much actual thought--a couple of crossword puzzles' worth--is not so distressing, is it? This principle is often neglected in the long hours and numerous courses of our schools. ... Who knows what immortal little result you are but two hours away from: Have you done--or revised--your page of thought today? ... I conclude that a page or a gameworth or two of thought every day is about the maximum; and yet this amount is possible for everyone and even easy. We all confess it, in our enjoyment of the daily crossword puzzle. Real thinking is brief and it is fun. ... The daily intellectual tortoise can pass many a high-speed brain that only operates when fancy strikes.
The effort itself changes a person's outlook for the better. A gamesworth of thought takes so little time that a man who has done his hour of reasoning and has had even one idea--even a small one and still buried in the notebook--feels a sense of success and freedom for the rest of the day, or night. ... This pleasure and confidence is seductive, and makes it easy to go on with such a program--one of the motivational feedbacks.



Nepenthe is from the Greek. It is a medicine for sorrow, an anti-depressant and a drug of forgetfulness, that is mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology. A number of poets and writers have used Nepenthe as a way of describing an elixir e.g. Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Triumph of Life:
In her right hand she bore a crystal glass
Mantling with bright Nepenthe. 

Nepenthe is also an excellent restaurant in Big Sur, California. It has unbelievable  views of the rugged Pacific coastline and makes great food. The building that houses the restaurant was once the private home of Orson Welles and his then wife Rita Hayworth.

I heartily recommend it.

Sea. Mark Laita

HERE is a book full of fantastic photographs of sea life by photographer Mark Laita. 

The blurb;

Internationally award-winning photographer Mark Laita has focused his vast technical and artistic expertise on the creatures of the deep. In Sea, with cutting-edge photographic techniques, Laita unveils the full splendor and otherworldliness of the ocean’s inhabitants in an entirely new and thrilling way. Rippling reflections, stark backdrops, and surprising angles lay bare the astonishing beauty of the life that teems under the water’s surface. Leaping from the pages are piggybacking sea horses, iridescent jellyfish, ethereal but menacing stingrays, and deadly puffer fish. Laita’s masterful photography reveals their extraordinary colors, textures, and personalities to us as never before.

Some examples below.

The R in K&R is no more.

The classic description of the C programming language was given in a book written by Dennis Ritchie (the person who invented the language) and Brian Kernighan, it became known as K&R.

Dennis Ritchie has just passed away and his obituary is HERE.

Ritchie was a modest man and he claimed that hwe wasn't smart enough to be a physicist. The MIT technology Review had an obituary that began;
A giant of modern technology passed away recently, after a battle with cancer and other ailments. His efforts transformed the computing industry, and the fruits of his life's work animate the products that surround us. This may sound like late news to you, but I'm not writing about Steve Jobs. Rather, the man in question is Dennis Ritchie, who died last week at age 70, and without whom not only Apple products but countless other technologies might look very different.
A fascinating article describing the historical development of C by Dennis Ritchie is HERE.

To date the book has been translated into Albanian, Bulgarian, Czech, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Lovely Language


isbn 9789086901272   ONTWERPWERK
Idea Code 10601      £30.00

The world speaks in about 7000 tongues and countless dialects. For centuries, people have tried to overcome this tower of Babel. For instance by propagating one language or by making a new language, such as Esperanto. But the language which today is best understood world-wide does not consist of words, but of images. A universal visual language was the ideal of two Modernists: the social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath (1882-1945) and graphic designer Gerd Arntz (1900-1988). In Vienna, from the 1920s onward, they developed more than 4000 icons, which together formed Isotype: a visual language in which important information on society, politics, economy and industry could be summarized, also for those who could not read. This book aims at providing material for the discussion about visual communication tomorrow.
294 p, ills colour & bw, 18 x 25 cm, pb, English

Lino cut Isotype

Here is a lino cut of an isotype by Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) and his proof print of it from 1930. From HERE




Scottish usage:
a) Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others. 

Worth keeping this in mind when looking at the US PTO office data visualisation.

An example below. And an analysis HERE.

Friday 14 October 2011

Watch Faces

A specialist company called Cador that prints watch faces.

Breakthrough - 1969

In 1969 the following front page indicated the news that a "Self Winding Chronograph" had been invented and launched. 

Art is Art

The famous words of  Ad Reinhardt, here rendered by Edward Tufte as US style road signs, more in this style by Tufte HERE

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Information is what forces a change of rational beliefs

There is much said about the difference between Data and Information. Some of it even makes sense. Personally I have found that the people who have grappled with the concept of entropy (as in the concept of Shannon Entropy) have thought about this more deeply than most. For example, here are some thoughts from Ariel Caticha on information (Caticha is a Prof of Physics at the University of Albany).

The need to update from one state of belief to another is driven by the conviction that not all probability assignments are equally good; some beliefs are preferable to  others in  the  very pragmatic sense that  they  enhance our chances to successfully navigate this world.
The idea is that, to the extent that we wish to be called rational, we will improve our beliefs by revising them when new information becomes available: Information is what forces a change of rational beliefs. Or, to put it more explicitly: Information is a constraint on rational beliefs.

This is from an excellent paper on entropy and inference;

Entropic Inference

Ariel Caticha
Department of Physics, University at Albany-SUNY,
Albany, NY 12222, USA.


Wednesday 5 October 2011

Isotypes - the Gerd Arntz archive

I have been researching around isotypes again.

HERE is a web archive of the isotypes created by Gerd Arntz. Some blurb from the site about isotypes;

The International System Of TYpographic Picture Education (Isotype) was developed by the Viennese social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath (1882-1945) as a method for visual statistics. Gerd Arntz was the designer tasked with making Isotype’s pictograms and visual signs. Eventually, Arntz designed around 4000 such signs, which symbolized keydata from industry, demographics, politics and economy.

And some examples;

stick_man.gif   Gert Arntz draws the unemployed symbol

The bottom isotype is of an unemplyed man. The image to the right shows Arntz working on this illustration. 

A treasure map from the library of Congress

An early map of the Shaker village Canterbury New Hampshire. From the Library of Congress site.

Eames on Design

In 1972 Madame L’Amic of the Musee des Art s Decoratifs in Paris asked the designer Charles Eames a short list of questions about design. The answers are below, and they include one of my favourite definitions of design;

A plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.

Monday 3 October 2011

Eduard Imhof collection

Eduard Imhof (1895-1986) was professor of cartography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich from 1925 - 1965. Imhof was a legendary visual designer, artist and map maker. He wrote a classic book on map making - Cartographic Relief Presentation.  

Edward Tufte makes the following comments on Imhof;

"Imhof is one of the people responsible for the great Swiss national maps, one of the best information designs ever (see my Envisioning Information, p. 80 for a sample of the Swiss mountain maps). It is one of the most technically sophisticated design books, so much deeper than the standard books on graphic design.
The book is required reading for anyone serious about information and interface design. Imhof also published many articles in cartographic journals which are also relevant to information and interface design."

HERE is a website of his work, hosted by the ETH library.