The Daily Render


A Digital Scrapbook for the Past, Present, and Future


Carte du Telegraphe Optique [dans l’hexagone]
|| 1/10/2008 || 10:21 pm || Comments Off on Carte du Telegraphe Optique [dans l’hexagone] || ||

Undated Map of Optical Telegraph Stations in France
Courtesy of Low-Tech Magazine via Ecole Centrale de Lyon

E-mail in the 18th Century

Centuries of slow long-distance communications came to an end with the arrival of the telegraph. Most history books start this chapter with the appearance of the electrical telegraph, midway the nineteenth century. However, they skip an important intermediate step. Fifty years earlier (in 1791) the Frenchman Claude Chappe developed the optical telegraph. Thanks to this technology, messages could be transferred very quickly over long distances, without the need for postmen, horses, wires or electricity.

The optical telegraph network consisted of a chain of towers, each placed 5 to 20 kilometres apart from each other. On each of these towers a wooden semaphore and two telescopes were mounted (the telescope was invented in 1600). The semaphore had two signalling arms which each could be placed in seven positions. The wooden post itself could also be turned in 4 positions, so that 196 different positions were possible. Every one of these arrangements corresponded with a code for a letter, a number, a word or (a part of) a sentence.

The other day I found this tremendously enlightening article about optical telegraphs on Low-Tech Magazine. Prior to reading this article I had no idea about this arcane method of communication. The authors supplied a map (above) to really drive home how extensive this system was.

Something that I think few people do when surfing through Wikipedia is to check the articles in other languages. It’s really easy to do and the results tend to be very useful. For words that have equivalent spellings, all one has to do is change the URL’s prefix (fr to en). For words that have different spellings (telegraph vs télégraph) you will have to correct this spelling in order for the entry to show up.

For example, the French entry on telegraphe yields quite a bit more information related to the use of semaphores (the object used to construct the optical telegraphic code) than the English entry on telegraphs.

Below is a carte of the semaphoric number system and an engraving of Mont St. Michel with a semaphore at the top. Both images obtained from the French wikipedia.


Tessellated Space
|| 1/9/2008 || 1:13 pm || Comments Off on Tessellated Space || ||

The Messier 101 Pinwheel Galaxy photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope
Courtesy of the European Space Agency & NASA

Back in October, Georgetown English professor Mimi Yiu gave a presentation at conference called Defining Space in Dublin, Ireland. The title of her presentation was “The Virtual Fabric of Tessellated Space: Nikolas Schiller’s Geospatial Art as Map, Quilt, and Arabesque.” I mention this because my next project uniquely involves tessellated space.


Syndicated in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution & ABC News
|| 1/8/2008 || 9:33 pm || Comments Off on Syndicated in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution & ABC News || ||

Screen grab from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Teresa Mendez article from the Christian Science Monitor was syndicated on Sunday, December 23rd, 2007 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to wikipedia, Sunday’s circulation is a little over 500,000 papers and this article appeared right before Christmas (when there are a lot of house guests). Unlike David Montgomery’s article, Teresa’s was not edited very much upon syndication, but her’s is a shorter article in wordage.

A couple weeks ago I spotted the article syndicated on the ABC News website (screen grab below), but I still don’t know how the article was ultimately used. It was written for newspapers and ABC News is broadcast news, so did it appear on a TV segment? I doubt it. ABC News probably just paid to have the article syndicated on their website to get more advertising dollars.

For both ABC News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the editors included my URL in the story, but unlike the Christian Science Monitor article, neither hyper-linked the URL, so I don’t know how many direct visitors my website received because of the article’s syndication. This is very annoying and I wished the web editors of the respective news organizations would do a better job with their on-line articles.

Regardless, what I like best about this syndication is that while the Christian Science Monitor article contains a 90 second audio report by the author, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a robot that will read the entire article for you.

Getting to know Mr. SID
|| 1/7/2008 || 3:13 pm || Comments Off on Getting to know Mr. SID || ||

Screen grab from the Library of Congress which DOES NOT list Graphic Converter as an option…. yet?

For the last few years I’ve found the file format Mr. SID to be the bane of my cartographic explorations. When I’d see a map available in the MultiResolution Seamless Image Database format, it meant I’d have to keep looking for other maps. Conversion of the Mr.SID format on a Macintosh had kept the maps locked away in an obscure file format; smiting me.

In my opinion, one of the worst decisions that the Library of Congress made was the choice to use the Mr.SID file format for their on-line maps. First off, its a proprietary compression algorithm patented by a company that is motivated by profit, not by the intent of furthering academic research. This means that any software maker originally had to get a license (pay) to use it. This resulted in only a few programs being written that can convert the file type. Worse is that there are even fewer Macintosh-based programs that can convert these files. The patent owner’s website offers only one Macintosh product and does not allow the rendering of the map at it’s full size. As in, I could only export sections of the original map, which makes the reader useless. Secondly, the file type is in itself “an American Memory,” because its not widely used anymore. It made sense to use it originally- it saved server space because of the high compression algorithm, but now server space is relatively cheap. Today only people who use high-end GIS software use Mr.SID formated imagery, and since most of this software only exists on PCs, there has been little cross platform support. Lastly, for any maps to be used by an image editing program, the map must first be converted out of the Mr.SID format and converted into another filetype (.jpg, tiff, etc.). This means that for every map that is available on the Library of Congress website, I have to spend 15 minutes converting it to a useful format.

Over the weekend I discovered that there is *one* program for Macintosh that can convert this file type: Graphic Converter. I also discovered that the newsest version (the Universal Binary, which I downloaded last summer) did not handle Mr.SID. Instead, I had to download an obsolete version (Graphic Converter for PowerPC) to convert this arcane format! So for the last 7 months I had been unable to convert any Mr.SID formatted map, but now I can, and I’m very excited about the new possibilities this opens up (literally hundreds of maps are now within virtual reach! The Library is only a few blocks away, but the digitalization is just as important.).

I sincerely hope the Library of Congress updates the page above to list Graphic Converter as one of the programs that can convert Mr.SID formatted maps. This software program is already listed for use with other media on the same Library of Congress webpage. Also of note, is that Graphic Converter can also convert JPEG2000 encoded maps.

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.


Cities & Nature is now available
|| 1/5/2008 || 1:35 pm || Comments Off on Cities & Nature is now available || ||

I look forward to seeing my copy when it arrives! The book cover uses my map of Central Park in New York City. From the screen grab above, the final design looks a bit greener than the original map, but I won’t know until I see my copy. Regardless, I genuinely look forward to reading it instead of fussing over the colors. What’s inside is what counts!

Russell Weekes Map of the World (inverted)
|| 1/4/2008 || 12:27 pm || Comments Off on Russell Weekes Map of the World (inverted) || ||

A couple weeks ago I found this map and laughed. The “dude” looks just like this person. The color in the map above has been inverted and I added a citation and a linkback to the original. The animated version of the map, “If I Ruled The World” is quite funny as well.

Added by the Map Department at the Cambridge University Library
|| 1/3/2008 || 1:59 am || Comments Off on Added by the Map Department at the Cambridge University Library || ||

Since my website is coded uniquely, I have developed a means to find new incoming links. A couple weeks ago I was linked from a popular architecture blog “Archidose,” and today finds me linked from one of the finest universities in the world, the University of Cambridge. Next year the university will be celebrating it’s 800th year of educating the future.

Typographically, I like how Geospatial Art is oneword. I own, but the author did not link to that URL, so it reads odd that the words have been concatenated. Regardless, but equally entertaining, is that Postmodern Art is still #5 or so.

Comparative Front Pages: Washington Post / Philadelphia Inquirer
|| 1/2/2008 || 10:58 pm || Comments Off on Comparative Front Pages: Washington Post / Philadelphia Inquirer || ||

Photograph of the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers showing my map Jefferson Mandala

On March 26, 2007, the Philadelphia Inquirer published David Montgomery’s Here Be Dragons article. That morning I received a phone call from one of my best friends who happened to be in Philadelphia on business. He excitedly informed me that one of my maps was on the cover of a section in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I asked him to purchase as many copies as possible and about a month later I picked up the six copies from his house. My housemate let me borrow his camera to take an overhead photograph of the two newspaper articles side by side. When the housemate moved out a few months ago he gave me all of his photographs that he had on his computer and I found this photograph that I had forgotten about. What I found to be the most interesting aspect is the size of the map that was used in Philadelphia, the change of the article’s name, the movement from “Style” to “Health & Science.” I’ve tried to track down other syndications, but so far only the Philadelphia Inquirer has been obtained. The article itself has already been deaccessioned from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website.

Related In The News Entries:


It’s been a nice break
|| 1/1/2008 || 10:36 pm || Comments Off on It’s been a nice break || ||

I ended up taking a longer break than I originally intended so I’m going to do add a few entries that I missed in the last week or so.

Before the year ended I sent out a mass e-mail with some these 2007 stats:

288 = total number of blog entries in 2007
115 = total Quilt Projection maps made in 2007
505 = average size in megabytes for each map
2,070,000 = total number of pixels wide
1,752 = feet long, if printed at 100 DPI
3 = the number of Washington Monuments (555 ft tall) in length

I don’t have any Quilt Projection maps in the pipeline at the moment, but I’ve been working on a few other projects.

__updates forthcoming__

The Daily Render By
A Digital Scrapbook for the Past, Present, and Future.

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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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