Monthly Archives: April 2007

how to make a quilt using Rasterbator

Marica - is this my birthday face?Recently someone visited here asking about making a quilt using Rasterbator – *free* software (online) or download from here that enables you to print your own images big. I wrote about making a large image of Marica, and how I’d hidden the image behind a quilt my sister had made.

I love the idea of rasterbating a quilt – I have never done so, but I can guess/suggest some ways it might work. If you make such a quilt please let me know – I’d love to see the results. Note – producing a half tone image is possible in Paint Shop Pro 9 – use the ‘Half Tone’ Effect, and in Photoshop by using the Pixelate/Colour Halftone filter, and then desaturate to make the image monotone. This will only make a halftone image, you would have to discover some way of pumping up the size of the image, and sort out the printing – suddenly using Rasterbator seems effortless if you want a large image.

So, ideas about making a quilt with Rasterbator. These are my opinions, not based on personal experience. This is about art and your experimentation. But this is how and where I’d start.

I downloaded the software and it runs beautifully on my xp laptop. I’ve also used the online service without a problem, but I expect it may have problems with looneys setting up for enormous images. You can adjust the dot size in rasterbator – the default size is 1 cm – slightly less than ½ inch. I cranked the dot size down in this image to maybe 1 mm – that’s tiny. You can pump up the volume to 25mm (1″) or beyond, depending on your printing/design desires. Rasterbator outputs a .pdf file, which allows your to save and print at colour print place if that is your wish.

If I wanted to make a quilt for a single bed I’d measure up a single blanket – well, no, I’m less adept than that. I’d spread the blanket out on the living room floor and I’d carefully lay sheets of paper on the blanket to make a call about the anticipated printing – landscape or portrait. Rasterbator will make allowances for the fact that most printers cannot print edge to edge – there’s the white borders to take account of. Personally I like them, so I’d be keeping them – it’s for a quilt, after all.

Pretending the image here is going to be my quilt (about a single bed size at a guess – 6×6 A4 = 6 x 210 mm = 1260 mm = 126 cm = slightly over 4 feet wide by 6 x 297 mm = 1782 mm = 178 cm = 70 inches (5′ 10″). I think this would mean some other fabric down the sides and at the head and foot of the quilt. Could be good. Your design, you choose. Your mileage may vary if you use letter, legal, or A3 sized paper.

What ever paper size I wanted to end up with (I might want a design element based on long strip down the middle – say a tree – or number of horizonal panoramas of vinyards or coastlines for example) I would resize the image in photoshop (Paint Shop Pro or other) to be in proportion. There’s no point in trying to force a square image into a long thin rectangle.

Because I think the scale of the task would be enormous I’d be inclined to make my first quilt using a monotone image (black and white). I would recommend using Photoshop’s Desaturate command rather than converting to greyscale, I think it gives a wider range of tones. I think this, I have no real evidence. Old habits. Would it make any real difference in a quilt? Probably not. Obviously your quilt wouldn’t have to be black and white, although I am imagining how a commission to design and make quilts for accommodation at a boutique vinyard or coastal retreat would be nice – perhaps a series of landscapes of stroked with gold or other colour. Hmm, I can suddenly think of lots of very interesting designs.

So, your photo is the proportion of the anticipated printing, and you’ve converted it to monotone. I’d recommend printing just on a single sheet of A4/letter/A3 – whatever your final output is planned to. Fix the image to a wall and stand back – are the tones working how you want? If not, work with the image until it is as you want it. Test print, rinse, repeat. When you’re happy do the save as thing (I recommend saving all the time as I hate losing my work), and print out the full strength big image. Note – print while you’re there – don’t let the paper fall on the floor or in any way get out of order, or upside down, unless you enjoy jigsaw puzzles. Rasterbator prints top left corner to bottom right corner – the first page out of the printer is the top left corner, the last is the bottom right corner.

In terms of transferring the image to the fabric – really guessing here – I’d make a decision at the image stage about contrast levels and change them so I could cut the image along the dark and then the medium tone edges. That would give me a nightmare of assembling fabrics and at this point I’d give up, but I know this would be nothing to a quilter on a mission. There’s probably some way of sticking the fabric together on fabric blocks, and then doing the assembly part. You might be able to guess I’ve never done this before… 😉 Suddenly my commissions are vanishing…

You could print on a colour inkjet/bubblejet-type printer and iron on the print – which would mean colour options and even more creative experimentation is possible. I think there’d be some very exciting options there.

Another thought – and again, there’s no practical experience of this – would be to use an image and print to bigger dots, and then use a fabric that doesn’t fray, and simply punch holes through using the paper as the template. Lay the fabric over a contrasting colour and attach. In this context I was thinking of using a thin leather – I can imagine (again) a portrait of the old west, in leather, with the sections laced together. Not exactly traditional quilting, but I can see the finished work (always easy in my head) hanging from a suitable branch, in the foyer of my desert resort; or in the boardroom of the Texas branch of my empire…

Good luck with your Rasterbation, and please let me know how your quilt works out.

music man

Renaissance man, Mark Bernstein asks, “How would you know?” What Mark is writing about is how does one discover and enjoy the varieties of music that surround us. It’s a very good question, and one I’ve written about here before – How to explore (without a map) parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 (continued), 5, 6, 7, and 8. It’s all well and good to explore territory without a map – a visual world, but how do you explore an audio world?

It’s a topic near and dear to my heart – one of my work colleagues asked me what on earth was that strange sound on my iPod – “Yes”, I reassured her, “It IS a cover of the Beatles ‘Lucille’ (Loomsiah by Payom Moogda), in Thai, from the 60s; and yes, it is disturbing. It’s the images of go-go dancers in smokey bars I can imagine, the cokes, the boys on leave from ‘Nam. It’s nostalgic and scary, and I love it.”

I got “the look“.

“Life is short, listen to lots of different kinds of music.”

“No,” she said, “Life is short, listen to lots of music that you like.”

“But if you don’t listen to lots of different music, how would you know what you like?”

Oh, and before I know it, Mark’s writing it up…

So, here’s what I’ve done in the past. Last week.

I go to the library and borrow cds. Here I can rent a cd box for $1 for a week. I say a box, because I’m tight, I like to get the double cds – two cds for $1 for a week. I take along $10 and get a week’s worth of music, and have some left over to pay off more of my library fines (presently growing at a rate greater than the Iraq war ‘effort’). My best effort was something like 23 cds for $10. So, ok, I finally got to hear Wagner’s Die Walküre, in English. Here’s a version of Ride of the Valkyries by the American Symphony Orchestra in 1921. Classic. The trick is to cruise along the stacks, and grab cds you think you might like, a name that sounds good, something, anything. Grab it, take it home, and give it a righteous listening to. In my case, that means in the kitchen, while I cook. I’m there for an hour, I can listen, do my notorious boogie thang or generally go with the flow. Love it – listen again. Hate it – back to the library. If you like it, go online to Amazon, search it up. Listmania, or “People who bought this bought that.” Cool. Go to the library, and try to find that cd. Get it, listen, love it. And then there were two…

Wikipedia it. Music never travels alone. It’s never in isolation. Find what came before it, and if it’s an old work, what came after it in the continuum. The context of the music can be very helpful in exciting your interest in the music itself. Mark started with Bach – sure, why not. Bach probably taught someone. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student is probably alive today, playing and recording music. Bach’s influence can probably be traced, the echoes of the motets are not too far away.

Previously I’ve used Napster (I know you didn’t, you noble preserver of artistic integrity, you) and once I’d garnered the songs I could remember and wanted it was a lot more fun to enter in random words and see what came back. I found Tori Amos’s (who?) Mr Zebra this way. I just discovered on Wikipedia that Mr Zebra was included on Tori’s 2003 album, Tales of a Librarian, and the songs were arranged in Dewey decimal order. Whoa – that library thing is catching on. I also discovered the richly diverse work of Mike Nesmith by typing in “Ficus”…

In the end, I think that music begets music – it is part of a continuum, as I’ve mentioned, of time; and influences, both directly to and from music, and indirectly from the rest of our existance here. I think one of the definitions of civilisation is music, and it befits us to have as broad a base for our civilising influences as possible. Which is why recently I’ve been cooking to Yothu Yindi. Tom Waits. And some Indian influenced garage band stuff, probably from Bradford. Diversity, as much as possible, as fast as possible – that’s how you would start to know.

planning for success

A few years back I used to use one of those industrial strength planners. You know, with the clippy-in pages, and black leather binding. When I arrived it looked like I was about to convert you…’Have you accepted planners into your heart?’

One of the weak links in the chain was finding a steady supply of the page$ – and then there was the whole drama ‘I need a day plan but not a week plan’ and then and then… they were supposed to increase my productivity but instead I went nuts. Perhaps that was more productive. And then PDA’s came out and it all went digital – ie productivity became a matter of on and off. Mostly off from my perspective. My PDA is gathering dust somewhere.

I’ve come to think that my life would be better planned if there was less in my life – after all, as my old boss used to say, ‘there isn’t a roof rack on the hearse, you know.’

Then, the other day, I found someone (Douglas Johnston, to be precise) had finally broken through, and produced D*I*Y planner kits. The concept is blindly simple – design up pages suitable for running through a printer. Export a pdf of the aforementioned pages. Print out the ones you want. On the colour and quality of paper you want. Cut up the sheets to suit. Clip them together with a bulldog clip (or hole punch them and accept them into one of those ‘are you saved?’ leather binders). Blammo, productivity soars. Loving it. Didn’t find the template of your dreams? There’s a number of user submitted templates. Even instructions on how to design your own. Yay! Creative Commons makes it social but sensible.

if joy is the engine…

Hillman Curtis on Creating Short Films for the Web (VOICES) - details from Amazon…then hope is the fuel. If I got nothing more from Hillman Curtis’s book, then perhaps that message is sufficient – although perhaps insufficient for the price. Creating short films for the web is less of a text on how to make film, or more precisely, video for the web; and more of a reflection of Curtis’s technique and processes, and what he thinks about it. In this respect, the book is good for the rank newbie – here’s someone who’s been there and done that – get the following gear and get on with it. The book is also good for the seasoned video maker – they no longer have to wrestle with the hardware etc, they might find the reflection on what works and what doesn’t more useful than a paint-by-numbers approach. For the person in between newbie and guru – I think the book isn’t intended for you – you need to grab your camera, sticks, mic, and go. Go make some video, get it up, get it on. Once you’ve got some practical experience (i.e. figured out what works, what doesn’t, and what difference makes a difference) then settling back and comparing notes would likely to prove useful. I liked some of Curtis’s reflections, agreed with some of his technical advice, and learned some valuable new ideas. Not bad for a nicely produced and very readable book.

give the direct oval a half hour’s practice each day…

Image from http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.comThe first time I saw this kind of penmanship was in an old “Speedball” lettering book, long since vanished. Speedball made the nibs, and the book was a combination instruction manual, and of course, if they inspired people, somewhere along the way nibs were sold.

I love this kind of work, and knowing that it is done by hand makes it even more mind boggling to me – if I can find the time and patience that I didn’t have as a kid, it might be possible. I had forgotten about it and then thanks to the amazing BibliOdyssey I not only rediscovered the idea, but found some great examples as well.

Now, all I need to do is find 30 minutes a day, and a direct oval, and I’m in – well, if not business, then helping the ink and nib business along.


2 minute poseA week or so ago I noticed one of my colleagues drawing during a meeting. Who doesn’t draw at meetings – for some time I thought their sole purpose was to engage people in a reflective drawing interlude. Back to my colleague – he wasn’t doodling, he was drawing. Interesting.

I asked him if he’d had any training, and no, he was a natural – i.e. self taught artist. We spent some time talking about drawing (he was interested because I’d noticed the drawing vs doodling thing).

15 minute poseHe, like I, often spends longer at work while we wait for our respective wives to finish their working day. I mentioned to him that I was thinking of going along to do some life drawing and he, like me, thought that spending a quiet couple of hours starting at a nude woman was not a bad idea, and may even be good for our health. And if we made some drawings, well, so much the better.

25 minute poseWe headed off – me with my roll of aquarelles and a sketchbook, he with some pencils, pens and some paper hooked from the photocopier – desperate times call for desperate measures. Going to life drawing for the first time is quite a daunting prospect.

40 minute poseFortunately my colleague was more than able to manage the situation. The model was also quite daunting in herself, storming in, taking the pose, and generally working at being a model, quite irrespective of us – the artists.

I had a great time – my drawings weren’t overly hot, but I haven’t drawn from life for about five years so you get a bit rusty. I used to have no problems with hands and feet – unfortunately our model appears to have had transplants from an eagle. Or silly putty. Or something. My colleague’s drawings were rather impressive – for someone who’s never drawn from a model before he did (annoyingly) well. *Sigh* I’m still working on creating drawings that actually bear a passing resemblance to the person – drawing is one thing, likenesses are something else.

We’ll try again next week – we booked the session into our calendars, and our workmates – well, we’ve managed to supply them with hours of entertainment although sadly for us, a singular lack of interest in becoming models themselves. In some cases, however, this may be a good thing…

just a tiddler

Yesterday one of my colleagues asked me about putting a wiki on a standalone pc – he helps run a business on the side and he’s heard me rant about having procedure manuals on a wiki. I was initially thinking how this was all too hard – we’d need to set up an apache/mysql/php (amp) wiki and just no – who’d do it, maintain it, p a y for it, and more. There had to be a better way…someone must’ve solved this already.

After some searching, TiddlyWiki by London-based technologist, Jeremy Ruston of Osmosoft floated up. TiddlyWiki met all of the criteria – free to use, fits on a standalone pc/mac/linux box – in fact anything pretty much from a shoe box with a couple of toilet roll cores on up – and doesn’t need the amp setup to work. Yay for Jeremy.

But I’ve downloaded plenty of free (and worth every penny) software before – exactly how usable is a TiddlyWiki? So far it’s pretty damn fine, actually. I’ve spent about half an hour getting acquainted with the incantations – and already managed to change the stylesheet so my wiki looks more how I want it, and I’ve learned how to add an image, add a link to a document on my harddrive, to a document on the net, and to external web sites. I’ve also managed to sort out bulleting, and formatting. Nice.

In original request was for a wiki to use as an engine for a procedures manual. Wierdly, some would say, I have a strong interest in good manuals – I think born from the frustration at some of the appalling software documentation. If you have no procedures document at present, TiddlyWiki would be helpful as a framework to build on. If you have good documentation then TiddlyWiki would really lift the game no end. Using material from our exisiting work manual I was able to ‘wiki-fy’ the content in moments – and most of the time was spent obsessing about the formating rather than any difficulty with the content.

I’m now planning on using TiddlyWiki to explore business planning – not something than lends itself immediately to a lineal process – the wiki/web concept is more useful in this kind of concept mapping process. I can see me and Tiddles spend quite a lot of time together – from all appearances it might be a tiddler in size, but not in performance. Yay again.

Update: (14 April) TiddlyWiki seems to work just fine for business planning – there’s a learning curve (gentle, not a learning wall) and a very good help service available at

true colours, 2007

Loving long weekends lots. I noted that this time last year I wrote about sorting the colours for this space – and Dr. Max Lûscher said, ‘Your Existing Situation – Is seeking a solution to existing problems or anxieties, but is liable to find it difficult to decide on a right course to follow.’

Today, the good doctor had this to say about me and my situation…

Your Existing Situation: Imaginative and sensitive; seeking an outlet for these qualities–especially in the company of someone equally sensitive. Interest and enthusiasm are readily aroused by the unusual or the adventurous.
Your Stress Sources: Resilience and tenacity have become weakened. Feels overtaxed, worn out, and getting nowhere, but continues to stand his ground. He feels this adverse situation as an actual tangible pressure which is intolerable to him and from which he wants to escape, but he feels unable to make the necessary decision.
Your Restrained Characteristics: Feels cut off and unhappy because of the difficulty in achieving the essential degree of cooperation and harmony which he desires. Able to achieve satisfaction through sexual activity.
Your Desired Objective: Considers the existing circumstances disagreeable and over-demanding.
Your Actual Problem: Refuses to allow anything to influence his point of view.
Your Actual Problem #2: The fear that he might be prevented from achieving the things he wants drives him to the exploitation of all types of experience, so that he may categorically deny that any of them has any value. This destructive denigration becomes his method of concealing hopelessness and a profound sense of futility.

How rude. Hmmm, perhaps if the good doctor was to offer an expanded range of this season’s colours… Check out what he has to say about you

By the way, on a more pleasantly colourful note, you can see Danny Gregory demonstrating how to watercolour al fresco in LA in a rather good video – or perhaps dream up your own colours. I’ve started to make inroads on the bulb planting under the roses – in Spring, as with all of my recent garden design work, the colour will be ‘slut’ – i.e. the more colur the better. Who needs a riot of colour? A frenzy of colour? A carnival, a cornucopia, a crescendo of colour? I just want MORE colour, and, gentle reader, let me assure you, in the miserable grey Spring days, more IS more.

eating out

View The Story About Ping product details at AmazonValentina, Steve, and kids washed up on our beach today, fresh from the cultural delights of Sunday yum cha. Their youngest is four. He probably has popped in and out of restaurants since the age of – well – conception…

They mentioned another member of their party didn’t eat anything – not holding with that foreign fare. I noted that we were brought up thinking exotic food was good, and strangely I remembered (I think) the first meal out I’d ever had was in a Chinese restaurant in Wanganui. I was about 5 or 6 years old. Eating out in New Zealand, specifically in Wanganui, back in those days, eating lunch out on a weekend would’ve been restricted to a fairly limited range of choices I would’ve thought – chinese, fish and chips, perhaps hotel fare if you were sufficiently la-te-dah. I’m not sure if the restaurant is still there, but I can remember both the restaurant and the meal clearly – my sister Carol and her man took me – how and why I was with them I cannot imagine. I’d read/been read the Story of Ping at school – a story set in China, and so, I ordered and had a duck (stir fry, I guess) and Carol ordered me a glass of milk. An unusual combination, even then, I believe. I was excited to eat duck, it seemed good to be inspired by the story, and very exotic.

It’s strange how I can remember the luncheon I ordered all those years ago, but missed I and the Bird #46. Perhaps it’s because a few hours later the oilyness of the meal (perhaps in combination with the milk) found me downloading the meal – urgh – I was one of those kids who wasn’t too good with overly rich, fatty, or oily food. Never-the-less, the love affair with things of a Chinese nature (particularly the food) was started and continues to this day…

let us prey

Yesterday, while doing my daily lunchtime writing, I was watching a gull and I began to wonder if the most successful species were omnivores. Gulls will eat most anything, and there’s lots of them. Kakapo are vegans, and there’s not many of them. Kiwi are carnivores and there’s not many of them. Is the reason why humans have been so successful because we, like gulls, will scarf down anything? Like gulls, we flock. Perhaps the edge we have over gulls is that we will cooperate more.

Other omnivores I could think of were sparrows, starlings, and pigeons. Heaps of them. Chimps, bonos – hmm not too many of them, but rats and mice, again, omnivores; and lots. I began to wonder about pests. What makes an animal, bird, or plant a pest? I decided the standard answers – along the lines of – a plant pest is one that grows fast, is hard to kill, reproduces easily, and is simply growing in the wrong place – was insufficent. What makes an animal pest is one that grows fast, is hard to kill, reproduces easily, and is simply living in the wrong place. And this is insufficient too.

Why? Cabbages grow fast, are hard(ish) to kill, they reproduce easily, and well, could be growing in the wrong place. Sheep grow fast, they’re sturdy, they breed like sheep do, and the only reason they aren’t in the wrong place is we farm them. A cabbage growing in the wrong place isn’t a huge worry. In fact, there’s never a wrong place for a cabbage because it’s on the way to the table, no matter what. No wonder the sheep are worried. A little minced lamb, a cabbage leaf to roll it in… dinner at 21:00…

And that was my clue. Here’s my new thoughts about what is a pest. While chimps are omnivores, as are rats, chimps have not mastered the ‘eat from the human table thing’. Rats have. Mice have. Sparrows, starlings and pigeons have. They’ve managed to get a food range from near what humans eat. They’ve hung out near the master omnivore, and they dine from our tables.

The reason why there are many ducks, chickens, sheep, cows, goats, pigs, and a few other species that are commonly on or near our tables is because – well, because they are on our tables. Anything that interferes with getting them on our tables is a pest. Simple as that. We go beyond out of our way to protect our food. The same applies to the vegetables we eat. We’ll do all kinds of madness to remove plants and insects using all kinds of chemicals not because they’re inherently evil, but because they compete with us for food. The nerve of them!

We tolerate dogs and cats, and other pets, sometimes because they help defend our food from the ‘pests’, or there’s some other pay off – the aesthetics of the singing canary for example. But for the most part, our ‘good books’ life forms are those who help defend OUR food e.g. the ladybird (yay) preys on aphids (boo). In our ‘bad books’, animals that eat our food e.g. cabbage caterpillars (boo) are preyed on by predatory wasps (hmmm wasps? – wait, they’re goodies – oh good – yay). We like labrador dogs (serve and protect), we don’t like hyenas (omnivores, yes, but altogether too sneaky, and they steal our food, or prey on OUR zebras).

Rain forest is a pest. Takes up the space of a cattle farm, a soya bean farm, a farm farm. Wetlands are a pest. Wild things are pests. It’s our planet, it’s all about us. If we can’t eat you, you better be entirely about dealing to whatever pest is standing between me and my food. Or you’re a pest, and be gone.

I wonder if this is a genuinely ‘human’ thing, or whether this is because of the Judeo-Christian perspective that God said humans will have dominion over everything. When we created God, it’d make sense to create a God that worked on our side in terms of what we eat. Otherwise God would be standing between us and our food. God would be a pest. Be gone. But luckily for God he was created in the image of humans, and therefore knew which side his bread was buttered on.

I think the ‘primative’ races created Gods that were often animal forms – and they worked with the people to ensure there weren’t pestilence in the land. Abundance, paucity according to the ebb and flow of the seasons; but rarely did another species stand between the human and their food. Other species were kind of neutral – and perhaps this is reflected in the broader based eating habits – most anything edible was in the food chain.

It doesn’t seem overly primative to me. Seems unusually sophisticated. But then I am the guy who watches gulls at lunchtime.