Where to work on ebooks? Wikisource vs GITenberg

Not enough photos are taken of the undersides of shop awnings.

This morning I’m at Parlapa, the lovely little caffe opposite the town hall. It’s a good place to be sat, with a slight hangover, with some nice small WordPress code to be working on, and of course with a coffee. The only down side is the fact that the City wifi almost reaches here, so I’ve got the most tantalising of faint signals and so keep trying to connect; I should give that up, and read a book.

I’m re-reading Tolstoy’s Dictaphone, which is a terrific book. But I’ve left it at home, un-terrifically, and so instead am reading Live and Let Live by Catharine Maria Sedgwick. Only read the first two pages so far so I’ve no idea what it’s about, and anyway keep getting distracted by typographical errors (so far, all resulting from the fact that Kobos don’t support small-caps. What a joke!).

Talking of small-caps, there’s movement at the GITenberg station, with a project underway to convert PG books to unicode and to use proper punctuation characters (for quotation marks and dashes, at least). The idea is to use Asciidoc, but there is no standard way to express small-caps. In fact, none of the popular lightweight markup languages seem to have small-caps; what an oversight!

So if I were with a more solid connection, I’d try to run the punctuation-fixing scripts against one of Mr Gissing’s works. Because there’s something nicer about working on books as stand-alone Git repositories, rather than in the mammoth universe of Wikisource and the WMF. A feeling that one is producing single editions, and perhaps a number of different formats for each — and is able to give each its due attention. The wikitext-as-source-format paradigm gets a bit tiring sometimes, because although the HTML output is great, and that makes for good ebooks (well, Kobo and its small-caps-ignorance aside), I’d really like to be able to produce printable (and thus bindable) output as well. Say, via LaTeX. And maybe Asciidoc is one way of doing that.

Really, the main thing that PG is missing (and GITenberg, although it’s probably easier to rectify there) is the ability to confer with the original source scans.

CuppaShack (Winterfold Road cafe)

Just tried the new cafe that’s opened at the shops near the corner of Winterfold Road and Carrington Street. It’s far nicer than I was expecting! Not that a suburban shopping centre should be expected to produce boring cafes, it’s just that they rather often do. :-)

It was a nice place to sit outside, the tables are nothing unusual (the chairs weigh a ton), and they weren’t playing the radio but rather had chosen what music to inflict on people — with good results. And the coffee was terrific.

Updated: I got the name wrong earlier; it’s not got a space in it.

Hush

I like this place, the long concrete room and rough edges (even the floor still has lino glue on it, as it should), with the bright sunshine coming in only from the street end. The furniture is pretty bad — I don’t think a single one of the tables is the right height, and they’ve got three sizes to choose from. That doesn’t matter too much (although I never bring my laptop, for shoulder-hunching reasons)… the vibe is good! The coffee is probably the best in Freo. The cakes are good, but few in type. Anyway, I like it here. When the CAT bus passes along Market Street, the whole room becomes orange and dim for a moment.

Coffee

Roll in to work, settle in for half an hour or so, and then head to the tearoom to make a cup of coffee. A good way to get one’s head in for a nice morning building databases. But that’s further down the list of Best Ways to Drink Coffee…

  1. A nice cosy cafe, without overly-loud music, tables a good height and not rocking, and nothing at all to do for a good few hours. Espresso.
  2. The office coffee machine, or ‘coffee printer’ — as it really does behave more like a noisy dot-matrix printer.
  3. Mocca-pot, or (secondly) frech press, at home with just-ground beans and a clean kitchen in which to make it. The choice of cup is far more satisfying here.
  4. A ”coffee bag” can be surprisingly good if all else fails.

Note that the muck they call instant coffee does not appear in this list.

The Fremantle Society AGM

A blurry photo of the FTI auditorium.The Fremantle Society AGM was held last night, at FTI. Always inspiring to talk to people (before and after the meeting) about why they care about Freo. Perhaps less so concerning some of the discussions (during the meeting) — that seem at times to be more about people airing their personal gripes than working for any common good. Ah well.

It was my last meeting as minute-taker (I’m off the Committee now) and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to things like scanning the 1978 photographic survey prints and getting them online, and helping Fremantle in whatever other geeky way I might. :-)

Now then, who’s up for a coffee-powered occupation of that debacle of a scaffold that’s been dumped on the lazing ground of the World’s End Cafe?

Flippin’ ridiculous.

What I Saw From A Café In Fremantle

Spareparts Puppet Teatre; the now-ornamental crane at ‘E’ Shed; a line of billboards hiding much; and the corner of the railway station — these form the horizon of my view from here. There’s Norfolk Pines, this café’s umbrellas, and the awning above filling in most of the rest of the scene, and all framed by a big concertina window and lit with the most fierce summer sun. But were this a painting and myself an idle visitor to the gallery in which it hung, I’d think little of its subjects or composition and be more keen to investigate the trade origins of the canvas on which it was painted, or even the bricks in the wall behind it. Why? Because the puppet theatre is boring, and unknown to me; the crane, though once embodying pure utility, now is more like a beautiful tapestry chopped up and used to pack potatoes (if you follow the analogy); of the billboards nothing need be said (they were built expressly to spew simplified coarseness in to this place); and the railway station has been so much looked at that its fundamental rightness (like that of the crane) is covered with a sort of ‘observatory grime’, and little can be got from it.

These things are all just the big, dumb, human objects that we’re ‘supposed’ to look at, and that’s all it takes for them to become insignificant to a study of this place’s truth or beauty (or whatever it is that I’m looking for here). I don’t mean that these objects should be ignored. Of course they shouldn’t, they are here — and massively defining of what ‘here’ is. They must be acknowledged, and examined, and praised or defiled (as their spirit suggests), and then ignored. Look at them, and then look past them, or into them, or anywhere into a smaller field of inquest. The great sweeping vistas can be only shallowly know, and I’m here in the business of looking (and maybe knowing, though I’ll not be too presumptive) deeply.

I could look closer at any element of this scene and find in it inspiration for days of writing. It wouldn’t matter what it was: the theatre downpipe, the leaves that break up my view of the crane, one advertisment or the light fitting above it — each of these is a passkey to a whole universe of real people, far off places and strange things, if we but look hard enough. Some of these worlds stretch through time from centuries past, and all must continue into the strangely mottled future. Others occupy space barely more than what I see from here; some, the whole globe. They certainly intertwine and have, no doubt, many more points of intersection than just this place. That’s what I like to think about.

Which passkey we choose to begin our journey is almost irrelevant, and is in anycase thrust upon us if we’re only open enough (read: have time enough) to see it. Sit in one spot, let your mind and eyes drift aimlessly, and before long something will suggest itself. You need to be aware that you’re looking, but not force the thing, not have any idea of what you’re looking for.

So today I’m thinking about the steel frame of the awning above me, its shapes and bolts, history and function, the people who have looked at it, the people who never have but who have walked beneath it daily. Who tightened the last bolt in it? What is the name of the colour of the paint? What shopfronts have been beneath it, here where I’m sitting, over the years? These are all ‘facts’, and they do interest me, but there’s more: the structure, design — it’s ugly. An inelegant, clumsy, grumpy bull-nose of a thing, it’s exterior and profile of aesthetic value to the facade but giving nothing to the coffee-sippers who sit below it. This needs to be looked into also.

Another time, perhaps I will…

Goodbye.