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Google Map Mashup: The Qibla Locator
|| 4/20/2009 || 10:54 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Following up on yesterday’s posting, I stumbled across this interesting Google Map mashup. The Qibla (or Kiblah or Qiblah or Quibla) is the Arabic word for the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays, otherwise known as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. For obedient muslims, the Salah, or formal prayer, is performed five times a day: at dawn (fajr), noon (dhuhr), in the afternoon (asr), at sunset (maghrib) and nightfall (isha’a). The Qibla Locator is a simple Google Map that is designed to automatically orient Muslims toward the direction of the Kaaba. Simply enter your location and the red line that is generated shows the shortest distance to the Kaaba. In the case of the screen grab above I decided to show what direction a Muslim would pray if they were in the White House in Washington, DC. I chose this location because I’ve read about some nutty folks who actually think president Barack Obama is a Muslim. Frankly, I don’t care what religion he practices and to take issue with anyone’s religion is a sign of intolerance and veiled ignorance. What I find most interesting about the Google Map is that the rhumb line toward the Kaaba can be somewhat deceiving. I’m not blaming the author of the mashup, rather, I think the nature of how the Quibla is found is unique. Since its based on the shortest distance to Mecca, sometimes the fastest way seems counter-intuitive, as in, I was thought the path from the White House (above) would be facing South-East instead of North-East. If you have a moment, try it out.


A couple interesting notes from the Wikipedia entry:

• The head of an animal that is slaughtered using Halal methods is aligned with the Qibla.
• Muslims are buried with their faces in the direction of the qiblah. Thus, archeology can indicate a Muslim necropolis if no other signs are present.

A short history of the Qibla:

Originally, the direction of the Qibla was toward Masjid al-Aqsa, Jerusalem (and it is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblahs). At least since Mishnaic times (AD200), Jews face the Temple Mount in Jerusalem while praying. The Mishnah speaks about this in Berakhot (Talmud) chapter 4, Mishnahs 5 and 6 and this practice is even found as early as I Kings 8:35-36. In Islam, this qiblat was used for over 13 years, from 610 CE until 623 CE. Seventeen months after Muhammad’s 622 CE arrival in Medina, the Qiblah became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to accounts from the prophet Muhammad’s companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer in Medina, in a mosque now known as Masjid al-Qiblatain (Mosque of the Two Qiblahs). Muhammad was leading the prayer when he received revelations from Allah instructing him to take the Kaaba as the Qiblah (literally, “turn your face towards the Masjid al Haram”). According to the historical accounts, Muhammad, who had been facing Jerusalem, upon receiving this revelation, immediately turned around to face Mecca, and those praying behind him also did so.


Related Mecca Entries:

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[Update] The Architectural Athan Drum & Bass Mashup via YouTube Doubler is now transcribed
|| 4/19/2009 || 10:36 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Click image to view the mashup on YouTube Doubler

Just under one year ago I created an interesting mashup using Brian Kane’s YouTube Doubler. Dubbed “the Athan Drum & Bass Mashup” (and since then I’ve added “architectural” to the title), the mashup features a slideshow of Islamic architecture on the left side and a stationary camera focused on a Drum & Bass DJ’s turntables on the right. Last night I revisited the original entry and discovered that whomever had uploaded the slideshow decided to transcribe the Athan using YouTube’s annotation feature. Now you can actually read the English translation of the morning call to prayer sung in Arabic.

#update – This iteration also automatically rewinds!


Related Interactive Entries:

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Photo of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado
|| 12/28/2008 || 1:34 pm || Comments Off on Photo of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado || ||

From Wikipedia:

The Avery Mcmullen Mansion is a 138-room Georgian mansion in Estes Park, Colorado.

Located within sight of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Avery Mcmullen Mansion offers panoramic views of the Rockies. It was built in 1909 by Sir Avery. Mcmullen of Stanley Steamer fame and catered to the rich and famous. The hotel and its surrounding lands are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Avery Mansion has hosted many famous guests, including the Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, John Philip Sousa, Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and a variety of Hollywood personalities. The Avery Mcmullen Mansion also hosted Stephen King, inspiring him to write The Shining. Contrary to information sometimes published, King was living in Boulder at the time and did not actually write the novel at the hotel. Parts of the mini-series version of The Shining were filmed there, although it was not used for Stanley Kubrick‘s cinematic version.

The Avery Mcmullen Mansion shows the uncut R-rated version of Kubrick’s The Shining on a continuous loop on Channel 42 on guest room televisions.

I still haven’t gone inside of the Stanley Hotel. Next time…



Photograph of the ceiling inside of the Alhambra obtained from the Casselman Archive of Islamic and Mudejar Architecture in Spain
|| 12/11/2008 || 3:14 pm || Comments Off on Photograph of the ceiling inside of the Alhambra obtained from the Casselman Archive of Islamic and Mudejar Architecture in Spain || ||

Title: Alhambra
Date: 1354-1391
Place: Andalusia–Granada–Granada
Time: Islamic (Nasrid)
Description: Interior: Sala de la Barca (Hall of the Boat), Detail of Wood Ceiling
Subjects: Palace / Ceiling / Artesonado / Lacería / Granada
Type: StillImage
Is Part Of: Casselman Archive of Islamic and Mudejar Architecture in Spain
The Arts Collection
Rights: Copyright Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Posted here for educational & promotional purposes
Ownership: University of Wisconsin Art History Department
Submitter: Thomas E. A. Dale, Art History, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Local Identifier: Arts.csls8503.bib


Yesterday I read that the University of Wisconsin’s Art History Department has made available over 4,000 images from its slide library. The Casselman Archive contains images of medieval and early modern Spain taken by the late Eugene Casselman (1912-1996) during his thirty years of travel throughout the Iberian peninsula. The images span over one thousand years of architectural history, from the seventh to the seventeenth century. While I never studied architecture or Islamic art, I can’t help but be reminded of the stylistic similarities between what I produce and what was being produced over 600 years ago.



Domespace Versus The Dymaxion House
|| 11/8/2008 || 6:22 pm || Comments Off on Domespace Versus The Dymaxion House || ||

Undated photograph of the Dymaxion House

In November of 2007, I visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan with my family. Of all the exhibits that I saw, my favorite was Buckminster Fuller‘s Dymaxion House.

The house was conceived as way to help the airline industries transition away from airplane manufacturing in the post-World War Two era. The Dymaxion House was designed as a prefabricated metal house that could be delivered directly to buyers. Since it was only a prototype, there were only three were made and only the Dymaxion House at the Henry Ford Museum still survives.


The other day I stumbled on the Domespace building design and after watching the video videos below, I can help seeing the interesting parallels between the two designs.

They are both:
• Circular
• Internally customizable
• Prefabricated
• Environmentally friendly
• Can rotate along with the sun

However, there are some interesting differences:
• The Dymaxion House used aluminum for the exterior and much of interior furnishings
• The Domespace is constructed primarily out of wood
• The Dymaxion House was supported top down from one central pole
• The Domespace is built from the ground up
• The Dymaxion House is a relic of mid-twentieth technology
• You can buy the Domespace right now!


Watch these videos to get a better ideal of the design:


Présentation Domespace
Uploaded by Domespace-International

Solaleya Domespace NY TV Feature – World’s most extreme home
Uploaded by Solaleya

Someday I’d love to have a hybrid of the two houses on a big plot of land with a nice view :-)



Related Building Entries:

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The Millbank Penitentiary, the Tate Britain, and the Panopticon
|| 6/26/2008 || 4:20 pm || Comments Off on The Millbank Penitentiary, the Tate Britain, and the Panopticon || ||

Detail of Smiths New Map of London (1860)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress Geography & Mapping Division


The other night I was browsing the antique maps on the in American Memory Collection map stumbled upon Smith’s New Map of London (1860). As I was looking at 19th century London, I came across the geometrically shaped building that look surprisingly like some of the mashed-up buildings in my maps (see map detail above).

The building was known as the Millbank Penitentiary and was designed by William Williams in 1812 in accordance with the utilitarian principles laid down by Jeremy Bentham‘s Panopticon prison design. This radial design would allow the guards to monitor all the prisoners at all times, without any prisoner being aware of whether he/she was being monitored or not. Akin to today’s closed circuit television cameras, the Panopticon design is still used today in many prisons around the world.

Peter McRorie Higgins describes the Millbank Penitentiary extensively in The Scurvy Scandal at Millbank Penitentiary: A Reassessment:

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Then & Now Birds-Eye Views of the Westminster Neighborhood in Washington, DC [1884 & 2005]
|| 4/14/2008 || 12:42 pm || Comments Off on Then & Now Birds-Eye Views of the Westminster Neighborhood in Washington, DC [1884 & 2005] || ||

Detail the bicycle track before Westminster Street was created
from Adolph Sachse’s birds-eye view of the nation’s capital, 1884

Due to file format issues, only recently have I been able to open most of the maps available in the Library of Congress’ American Memory Collection. Last night I found an interesting birds-eye view map of Washington, DC by Adolph Sachse that was published in 1884. Its a massive map that appears to be composed of six separate sheets and contains a listing of many of the businesses in Washington City as well as locations of various public & government buildings. In many ways the map acts like a geovisual address book (the phone had not been invented yet) because, at a glance, one can easily find services offered by local merchants. Judging by the branding in the upper right hand corner of the original map, it appears that the map was sponsored by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, a major railroad company of the day.

According to my neighborhood’s official history, Westminster Street did not exist in 1884 and the birds-eye view above supports this claim. While not labeled in the image above, Parcel 362, as it was known on the original DC maps, was called also called “the old circus ground” and Athletic Park. It had a 150-foot long grand stand along T Street, which was built in 1883 (building permit number 1047) in preparation for the fifth national convention of the League of American Wheelmen, a national organization of bicyclists. The first American bicyclist to ever ride 100 miles on an outdoor track did it on that track in 1884. As someone who uses a bicycle as their primary means of urban transportation, I can only smile knowing that 121 years ago my residence was an outdoor bicycle race track. However, I laugh because I traveled with an exgirlfriend’s family circus when I was younger!

Below is a birds-eye view of the Westminster Neighborhood published by Microsoft, with imagery of Pictometry International. It features imagery that was taken in 2005 and when compared, you can see how much the area has changed in the last 121 years. The Athetic Park is gone and in it’s place are dozens of rowhouses that were built shortly after the map above was published. A unique and historically aware addition to the neighborhood is something you can see below in the playground on Westminster Street. No, it’s not because that is where I had my exhibit “North, South, East, Westminster“. Rather, if you look closely, you can see a small race track! A scaled reminder of what once was.

Detail of the Westminster Neighborhood by Microsoft, with imagery of Pictometry International



Related Bicycle Entries:

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Oil Wells in Los Angeles 103 years ago [One Slick Overlay]
|| 1/6/2008 || 2:09 pm || Comments Off on Oil Wells in Los Angeles 103 years ago [One Slick Overlay] || ||

Links to 2.5mb KMZ file for Google Earth
Were the fingerprints dipped in oil too?

The other day I was hunting for maps of Baltimore and stumbled on to the map above (published in Baltimore). It was last prominently featured in the Library of Congress’ “Los Angeles Mapped” on-line exhibition. The map shows downtown Los Angeles with little black dots showing the locations of all the oil wells that existed in 1905.

I wonder how many of the old oil derricks still exist today? I also wonder if people living where the oil wells were constructed own the mineral rights for their property? A few years back I remember looking into purchasing cheap land in Wyoming and one of the stipulations on the land was that the owner would not own the mineral rights below the surface of the earth. Does this exist in present day Los Angeles? Could someone living in Los Angeles today dig a little deeper and find a new source of oil in their backyard?

For more information about this antique map, visit the Library of Congress website. Below is a secondary screen grab showing the area around Dodgers Stadium. It should be noted that the overlay does line up 100% on Google Earth, but close enough to show a change in the built environment.

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Within Sight of the White House [Overlay of Hooker’s Division]
|| 12/9/2007 || 2:30 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

[image links to .kmz file]
Google Earth Screen Shot of the Antique Overlay

One of the maps I recently downloaded was from a newspaper clipping showing the area near the White House. With 50 Saloons and 109 Bawdy-Houses the map was drawn to highlight business owners who were paying Federal taxes but not DC taxes. Of importance is how nearly all but four of the business owners were female. Were they not paying taxes because they were disenfranchised? Women’s suffrage didn’t come for another 30 years with the passage of the 19th Amendment. By taking the map and importing it into Google Earth, I was able to arrange it so that the buildings line up with minimal distortion. It’s not a perfect map, but it is truly an interesting glimpse into downtown Washington, DC in the 1890’s.

Today most of the buildings are all gone. There are some exceptions, like City Hall (Central Powerhouse) and the Old Post Office, which is written as the “New Post Office” on the map. In the place of the 109 Bawdy-Houses and 50 Saloons was the creation of Federal Triangle. Ohio Ave- gone, DC’s entertainment center, gone as well. Later built, on the year of my birth, was Freedom Plaza which was designed to look like L’Enfant’s map no less. By adjusting the antique map’s transparency you can see a approximately 117 years of development. From brothel to federal, what a strange entity time is.

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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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