This tree is a guest tree from my past. I drew this “holly” tree in December, 2013, with accompanying aliens and Christmas present, on the whiteboard for one of my elementary school English language debate classes that I taught in South Korea. Drawings of silly aliens in various strange contexts was a staple of my standard just-before-class whiteboard art of the period.
This tree is a cartoon palm tree in a stop-motion gif I made while messing around in January, 2014. Really, the tree is ancillary – the alligator and mouse play the central roles in this drama.
The power went out today, because of high winds. A standard Southeast Alaskan gale. It was out in town for only about an hour, but it was out at home for more than 6 hours. Arthur and I heated some leftover spaghetti sauce with rice on the wood stove, it went fine. As long as the temperatures aren’t substantially below freezing, power outages at home are very low stress, really. The stress only arises when low temperatures cause anxiety about our water system freezing.
This tree is in front of a house which replaced another house where my grandfather grew up.
This house that no longer exists was known in the family as the “San Marino House” – it lies on almost the exact city line between Pasadena and San Marino. My grandparents didn’t live there when I was a small child – they lived over in Temple City. My great grandparents lived in the San Marino house. But when my great grandparents passed away, my grandparents had moved into that house by the time of my memorable trips to LA with my parents when I was 7 or 8 years old. That San Marino house was a fabulous old house on a very large lot, with passages, bamboo forests, outbuildings, an ancient 1920’s era pool, a fountain, a pipe organ…
When my grandparents had passed away, my dad and his siblings inherited it, and in 1990 or so, my dad and stepmother and brother Andrew moved into it. And when I came back from Korea the first time, in late 1991, I stayed there for about a year, too. So I know the neighborhood, and developed my own relationship with that old family estate. But for various reasons, the house and lot were sold a few years later, and the house was torn down and replaced by three modern and relatively boring houses – though the one on the corner, which can be seen in the picture above, retains some of the “Craftsman” style features the original old house had. I miss that old San Marino house.
I don’t have many pictures of it. I need to remember to get some from my dad and scan them. Meanwhile, I did draw that house. Here’s one scan of an ink drawing I did of the house in 1992.
And here is one photo of it I found – that’s my dad’s cousin Larry in his Model A in front of the San Marino house, as seen from the driveway.
ㅁ While the Men Converse Went so. / for Wntr. / can y. undstd -- In spc. mny types awt. the end. | | °°° ~ now the blue/bk. over / turned the eggs of Tps. To reveal to me the Vrts. That man dwells amidst * - c ? Id.s. ,,, / (,,,) -- ... / / / -- \ °°° Tps Vrts -- flowing like lamposts on dusty grey bookshelves -- While the Men. Converse°°° °°
– A free-form poem, a guest-poem from my past. I wrote this poem in the summer of 1983, a point in time when I was keeping a fairly regular journal (a kind of analogue predecessor to this here blog thingy, right?). It was hard to transcribe – I was experimenting with what is called “concrete poetry” I guess. My handwritten letters and the spaces that I filled with bits of punctuation and pseudo-writing were as important as the actual text. I was being deliberately gnomic with my weird abbreviations and omissions of letters – most of them I can figure out, but in fact I’m clueless about the meaning of “Tps” in the above poem. I’m guessing that “Vrts” is “virtues”… maybe? So perhaps “Tps” means “typos” – that would please my notion of meta-referentiality, anyway. Let it be so.
So transcription is quite difficult. Here is the image of the original poem. And the facing page with its accompanying illustration.
Here is a miscellany of my recent work at the matting and framing shop, without much commentary. Included is a work of my own, a bit of throwaway art that I had crafted in a spare moment and given to my coworker Jan, and she insisted that I frame it.
This picture includes a huge project of 32 separate posters, mounted on mat board but not framed or matted. It took me 4 working days to complete this.
[The following is a cross-post from my other blog.]
This will be a fairly long write-up, so depending on your interests, you can skip sections that aren’t useful to you.
First I will write about the OGF topo layer, and give a tour of its current status, with some discussion of how it works.
Then in subsequent sections I will try to discuss how to create or edit your own contributions to the OGF Topo layer.
Part I – Introducing The OGF Topo Layer
The term “topo” (short for topographic) refers to a style of map that shows the physical elevation of land, either through shading or drawing contour lines or both. There are many topo renders available for the OpenStreetMap platform. My own favorite for daily use is the Cycle Map layer on OSM – not for any specific reason except that it’s easy to get to – it’s included right there in the layer selector for the OSM site. The best known, however, and one of the oldest, is the separately built and maintained OpenTopoMap. The code for OpenTopoMap is freely available on github.
All the various implementations of topo style for OpenStreetMap rely on the easy availability of free data from the United States’ NASA. This agency did a planet-wide survey of the elevation of all the land in the world on an arc-second (approx. 30-meter) grid, using radar, and published that data, online, for anyone to use. This data is called “SRTM”. Developers implementing OpenStreetMap’s various topo layers are able to download and use this SRTM data to use as a raw source of the detailed topographic information needed to draw the map. So, in the case of OpenTopoMap, the SRTM data is loaded to the render machine, processed in various ways, and turned into the hillshading, contour lines, and map-elevation color shading that we all know and love.
For the real world, getting topo data is matter of launching a spacecraft or satellite with a little radar range-finder on it, and flying over the surface of the earth finding how high each part of the earth is relative to some baseline (i.e. mean high sea level). Easy! But OpenGeofiction is on a fictional planet. To repurprose Virginia Woolf’s famous line: There’s no there, there.
Instead we have to sit down and make up each square of elevation information – there’s got to be a 30-meter square grid for our entire imaginary planet, and we have to invent the elevation for each and every square! And just randomizing this isn’t going to work – real world topographic data betrays the evolved geophysical patterns of our planet, influenced by everything from plate tectonics to vulcanism to erosion to human landscaping. The data is going to have to either be “drawn” by creative human hands, or “drawn” by well-trained machine-learning AI’s. Both are possible in principle, but then we have the data problem.
The data problem is this: the NASA SRTM format was developed for storing real world data. But no one ever thought: we need a nice, user-friendly, SRTM file editor! Why? Because no one needs to edit real-world data. It came from a super-precise scientific gadget, who’s going to need to edit that? They could only mess it up.
So there simply does not exist any easy way to get the “imaginary” SRTM files that we need for our topo layer. Some geofiction genius is going to need to write a converter.
Luckily, OpenGeofiction has such a genius. The original creator of OpenGeofiction, Thilo, wrote a little program that turns a standard OSM XML format file (.osm) that has been filled with hand-drawn contour lines (tagged contour=elevation / ele=nnn) into a pseudo-SRTM format file (.hgt). Then we just need to install the standard OpenTopoMap software on our render server, copy the pseudo-SRTM files across, and voila, topo for OGF!
Still, we have a whole planet to cover. At this point in time (the time of writing this article, early 2022) the overall coverage for OGF’s topo layer is tiny, and of fairly low quality, on average, so far.
One of the main reasons I started my “OGF Mirror” project, last year, was because Thilo had decided he could no longer invest the time and energy required to support the topo layer for OpenGeofiction. I had a strong desire to see the topo layer continue to be supported and expand. Eventually that “OGF Mirror” became the migration project and I and user wangi and some other admin took over running OGF from Thilo, with his blessing. So it was my interest in topo that led to my taking on all this work for OGF, and therefore it remains of a focus of my efforts, moving forward.
Part II – The Current OGF Topo Zones
OpenGeofiction currently has 14 actively maintained topo zones. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
This zone has been created by mapper SwissCrusader. It’s a first draft, and clearly needs a lot of cleanup work, but it’s an excellent and ambitious start.
This zone actually is two smaller areas that have been combined because of their close proximity. The older is the topo work for Khaiwoon, on the eastern tip of the Gobrassanya peninsula. The territory is one of the oldest on OGF. It was developed by user isleño with a lot of additional mapping by user histor. The contours were drawn as a collaboration between thilo and isleño. The other is the background topo for Gobras City, to the northwest. Gobras City is one of the most successful wholly public and collaborative projects on OGF, created by a very large number of different mappers over almost a decade, now. User Ūdilugbulgidħū volunteered to draw contours for the city, and in my opinion, they are quite excellent. Obviously, since the contours were drawn after much of the city, and since there is work in the city drawn without a strong awareness of the contours, there are areas where the human development (roads, etc) doesn’t really properly “match” the contours as drawn.
This zone is also actually two adjacent areas combined because of proximity. The older part, to the west, is my own work (user Luciano), drawn for my territory Ardisphere, in 2014-2016. I think it has well-done areas, but it’s quite noticeably incomplete, full of lacunae and missing expanses and weird glitches where the contour work is too sparse to properly cover the map. The newer part, currently in development by user Martinawa, is the largest single expanse of topo work on OGF, and still in early stages across most of the territory, but it’s got a lot of promise.
This is a quite small but complete set of contours for an island territory drawn by mapper Ūdilugbulgidħū.
This zone includes several islands in a chain called Iscu, drawn by mapper Lithium-Ion. The contours are quite detailed and excellent.
This zone includes a few of the southern islands of a the nation called Izaland, by the user Izaland Terramorphing Committee. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Izaland getting contours.
I (user Luciano) drew these islands as part of a collaborative effort between myself and mapper deltanz. I later turned over the islands to deltanz. Personally I think they are my “most complete” set of contours among those I have done.
This is a new effort by mapper Huachachi. Kofuku is an immense territory and so far these are just a few islands off that country’s north coast. They are excellently done, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Kofuku with contours.
I (user Luciano) did a small spot of contours in collaboration with user Leowezy some years ago, in the southernmost spot of this zone, at the Joenji Peninsula. Leowezy has subsequently been gradually adding other areas of coverage for his territory, Kojo. Hopefully will come in the future.
This zone actually overlaps not just the territory of Makaska, but also the one to the south, called Ooayatais. I (user Luciano) own both of these territories. The northern territory, Makaska, has a very complete set of contours and is work I’m quite proud of. The southern territory, Ooayatais is much lower quality and, for now, also quite incomplete. It’s my “current project” with contour mapping, however, and hopefully sometime later this year I’ll upload a major update.
This is the oldest and, arguably, best of all the topo zones on OGF. User thilo, the original creator of OpenGeofiction, uploaded this topo zone when he first created the OGF server, for his territory Roantra. It is the archetype of OSM-style topo work.
This is a small project done by user Toadwart for his outlying (overseas) territory of his country, KA076 (apparently this mapper recently decided to change the name of the country, and the new name hasn’t been decided on). Anyway, the contours are clearly still in development but I’m looking forward to seeing more progress.
This zone, a small island, was created by mapper Ūdilugbulgidħū, but he subsequently gave up the territory. It’s someone’s chance to take on an already-existing topo project.
This is another of my own (user Luciano) territories. The Duchy of Tárrases is the one case where I quite successfully imposed a set of contours on an already-created map. I’m quite happy with the result. The surrounding islands used to be owned by me, too, but for now they are in a bit of limbo. For that reason I haven’t bothered to repair the mess of half-finished contours on those surrounding islands.
Part III – Create A New Topo Zone
There is quite a bit of work involved in creating a new topo zone for the ogf-topo rendering process. Multiple new working and data directories must be created, code must be added to xml layer specifications and data-processing scripts, and the proper raw contour templates need to be created and populated with initial draft contour data.
Therefore if you want to create a new topo zone for your OGF territory, you need to contact me and we can discuss, so I can get things set up and I can create the templates you’ll need to draw your contours (see next section). There is nothing wrong with diving in and drawing contours for yourself before contacting me, but bear in mind you’ll probably end up doing a lot of cutting and pasting and manipulation using the JOSM editor once I’ve created those templates for you, because I will no longer accept contour data drawn in files other than the pre-created templates.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not you want to create a topo zone, one good way to get a feel for what’s involved is to download one of the osm-squares from the server (see below) and just go ahead and open that up in JOSM and try to get a feel for how it works and what’s involved. Start with something small, complete and well-done, like the January Islands or Hesperis (see above).
Part IV – Edit or Improve An Existing Topo Zone
In the past, I’ve allowed users to simply submit new, hand-drawn “contour files” which I then clean up and process using the tools at hand. However, I have found that the first step – cleaning up the submitted files – can be quite tedious and time-consuming, and further, I often end up repeating work as newly submitted files have the same problems as previous iterations.
I would like to move toward a more reliable system of iterative improvement. To do this, if there is an already-existing topo zone and you want to add to it or improve it, you must download the existing osm-squares (contour files) from the ogfsrtm server, edit those, and send the edited copies of those files back to me. Do not try to bypass this process – I have special tags embedded in those contour files as found on the server, and I’ll know if you haven’t used those as a basis for your edits.
You can find downloadable individual squares for most topo zones at this location on the ogfsrtm server: https://ogfsrtm.rent-a-planet.com/osm-squares/
If a given square is missing from the server, contact me and I’ll create an initial template for that square and post it there, that you can then edit. Don’t try to create squares not found on the server.
Part V – An Alternative Pathway To Maintaining Your Own Topo Zone
If all this business of drawing vast numbers of contour lines in JOSM is not your style, there is, in fact, an alternative. You can directly submit NASA-SRTM format compliant .hgt files. This bypasses the whole contour conversion process, and would be quite a bit easier for me to do.
That said, so far, no one has done this successfully. There have been challenges to finding a program that produces .hgt files in the exact NASA-SRTM format expected by the OpenTopoMap rendering software. If, as a community, we find such a tool in the future, that may make a lot of what’s written above obsolete and we’ll have a better way to do things, moving forward.
Regardless, if you want to try doing it this way, you still need to contact me in advance, so I can set up the new zone on the render server – that aspect won’t change. Then you’d send me the pseudo-SRTM files (.hgt) so I can post them on the ogfsrtm server in the proper directory, since that’s where the render server expects to find them.
I last posted one of these “Frame shop journal” entries about 3 months ago.
Certainly it’s not the case that I haven’t been making frames. Perhaps I got so busy that I simply stopped consistently recording my work. The month of December probably saw me assembling on the order of 50-75 frames – I don’t know the exact number. This was the Christmas rush, combined with the community panic over the possibility that the Gift Shop (and therefore the framing and matting shop it includes) would be shutting down permanently.
But then with January 1st rolling around, the Gift Shop was rescued by new owners, Chad and Kristin. They are slowly implementing lots of changes to the business, but fully intend to retain the matting and framing aspect, and thus, for now, I continue with job security in my relatively low-stress, very part-time position.
As I said, I’ve stopped recording every single frame I’ve done. But setting aside the Christmas insanity, here are a bunch of shots of recent work, from January and the first half of February. In no particular order and with minimal commentary.
Maybe if I start posting more regularly, I’ll manage to include more examples of my work.
This tree (on monotone palmtree the right, a bit hard to see) was something I drew on an agenda handout during a boring staff meeting in May, 2013, to provide some shade for a creature I invented called a centipigator.
Here is the entire agenda. You can see how I diligently went through and glossed all the items (Korean-to-English) – I was in one of my phases where I was more hardcore about my efforts to learn Korean.
I took a very long time between posts. And I think I missed taking some pictures of frames I made. But here, just for completeness, is a disordered list of some things I did in the frame shop over the past month and half or so.
This tree – located at the center of this map screenshot – is imaginary: a real dot on a real map of an imaginary place.
I placed this tree earlier today because I am testing the functionality of the new opengeofiction map server. As of right now, the “old” server is down. The new server is running, but only in testing mode, so I won’t place a link. I’ll add a link to the tree on the map server when it goes “live” – maybe later tomorrow or Sunday. This is part of a long ongoing project, mentioned before, to build a replacement website for opengeofiction. The moment of truth approaches…
This tree was drawn by me in 2013 and published to this blog originally, here. The title of the drawing was: “girl cavorting in a tree with small aliens.”
I learned a few hours ago that my mother, who lives in Queensland, Australia, is in the hospital ICU. This girl in the tree, above, could be seen as a kind of notional representation of “my mother as child” – something I never saw, obviously, and something where my insights are limited. Yet I recall my mother reacting to this drawing when she saw it with a lot of engagement and interest and maybe a tone of nostalgia, too. There were also other influences, of course: I had a student named Violet, at the time, who often spoke of aliens, so that’s probably where the violet dress came from.
[daily log: walking, 3km; retailing, 6hr]
This still life complements the same one done in more garish color (#61), done in 1992.
In 2015, I drew this incomplete and rather bad portrait of a fictional character, Victoria Persson, who lives in my imaginary country, Ardisphere. She was a war hero in their civil war, in an era resembling the 1840’s.
It would be stretching the definition to call this art. But what else is it? When I was an elementary-school-aged kid, I liked drawing mazes. I haven’t run across any until this one. It’s incomplete. I’d been using these scraps of large billboard paper with fragments of lettering as a kind of background for my mazes. I’m guessing this is from around 1974.
I remember this being a series of quick sketches from photos projected on a screen in my 1988 art class. Each sketch had a two minute time limit or something like that, and we were told a particular style to try to use ahead of time.
[daily log: walking, 3.5km]
This abstraction was created using techniques I learned while working at the University of Minnesota’s Library Book Bindery in 1988. It is how custom end-papers are produced for custom-made books. I made several blank books while working there, using hand-stitching and custom papers.
I did this ink drawing in 1992 in imitation of some famous drawing or painting, but I’m not sure at the moment which. It was preliminary to doing my own original drawing of the San Marino house’s backyard fountain.