January 2006


The waiting is over. Today I received a very nice email from Maryse Plouffe, Collections Canada. The name seems to imply they are the division of the federal tax agency that collects unpaid taxes but they are in fact the library and archives division and the division responsible for handing out ISBNs.

Bonjour!    

Sushigami  is assigned  

ISBN 0-9780196-0-1  

Here is information on Legal Deposit: 
http://www.collectionscanada.ca/6/25/index-e.html

For future contact, here is your publisher name and your
publisher prefix. Using these will help us to serve you better.

Your publisher name is: Invisible Hand Publishing
Your publisher prefix is: XXXXXX  

Thank you.  

Maryse Plouffe 
ISBN Agency/Agence ISBN Library & 
Archives Canada/Bibliothèque & Archives Canada  
Tel.: (819) 994-6872 or 866 578 7777 (toll free) 
Fax: (819) 997-7517 email: isbn@lac-bac.gc.ca 
www.collectionscanada.ca

So I am — or at least Invisible Hand is — now officially a publisher according to the Canadian Government. They have assigned Invisible Hand a small block of ISBNs for the books it intends to publish and — in particular — assigned my Sushigami book the ISBN 0-9780196-0-1. Cool. The project is official.

After the big push yesterday I only had a small amount of time on the project today. So mainly small stuff.

I decided I wanted to have the posts show the day of the project on which they were posted. I think it feels more dramatic to know that this is say ‘Day 26’ of the project than to know it is 23rd Jan 2006 (which incidently is election day in Canada.) To achieve this, I downloaded a plugin called datediff and then used the following magic incantation in the post.php file of my theme

datediff("2005-12-28", get_the_time('Y-m-j'),"d");

inside a php tag. This means my project started on 28th Dec 2005 and that datediff is returning the number of days between then and the date of the post. Note the minor subtlety of using the get_the_time function and not the the_time function. The the_time function will place the post date in the HTML whereas get_the_time does not but just passes it to the datediff function as a String. Minor difference but one works and the other doesn’t!

 

A Sunday with no other commitments and a big chance to get in some serious work, so today was nominated the big blog theme design day. I figured that since I’m no graphic designer this would take a lot of time due to trial and error and googling for tips and techniques. I was right.

I started with the colour sheme: Primary red plus black and white are common design colours on chopstick wrappers in the Japanese and other Asian restaurants I frequent so I wanted these as the main scheme. In my mind, I had the image of the Sushigami name and the blog sub-title in primary red in a font with a Japanese feel to it, one with sans serif and a block-like look. I chose a font called Kozuka Gothic Pro that I initially selected it due to its name but then i discovered it was exactly the font I had in mind. Nice piece of luck.

I wanted a banner image of my turtle chopstick rest so I extracted – using Photoshop’s Filter/Extract command — an image from one of the photos I took on Thursday. The lightning on the photo was poor so I had to fiddle with the image brightness to get Extract to do a decent job. After I had cleaned up the image with the history brush and the eraser I was reasonably happy with it, but unfortunately the strong colours of the bento box and chopsticks I had used as props in the image were not quite right for the feel I wanted, so I decided to convert the image to greyscale. I figured this was just right to work with the primary red for the Sushgami wording. I had to play a little bit with the contrast/brightness/curve adjustments to get the right feel to the greyscale as the image was a little too in-your-face and I wanted a more muted feel. I eventually had to do this last segment twice since, the first time through, I flattened the image as I switched to grayscale and when I adjusted the curves it changed the colour of the background. So I redid the grayscale but didn’t flatten the image so that only the image and not the background was affected by the curve adjustments.

I looked for a WordPress theme using the Alex King Theme Browser and decided that Connections was probably the closest to what I wanted. I’d need to change the fonts, colours and images but the general layout looked right. In the end these changes took much longer than I anticipated especially try to map the many colours used in the original scheme. I eventually used a program called ColourImpact to get a bettter understanding of the colour scheme.

The final result is still a work in progress. I’ve decided to let it grow on me for a while before I make any upgrades. So now the site has an official face I can start to add the back posts from the beginning of the project.

 

For the past two years, I’ve used Host Matters as my hosting service. So far I’ve been reasonably happy — good service and support, reasonable uptime, prices, etc. — but I tend to change providers every few years so I decided to hunt around for the best deal I could for this project. That’s when I hit upon Bluehost.com : an amazing set of features (e.g. 50 dbs!!) for a very cheap price and with good reviews. I bit hard and purchased a two year contract. It’s not my normal style to go in hard like that, but something felt right about Blue Host.

Then the extraordinary happened.

For the first time in, oh, ten years, my hosting service called me, on a phone no less. I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner for the wife and kids when the phone rang and my wife said a guy called Steve was calling me. Normally I’d assume this was some crank wanting money and tell my wife to fob them off, but again I went against my normal instincts and took the call. What a shock, Blue Host checking in that every thing was okay with my initial setup. I was very impressed. Last time I spoke with my provider was probably around ’96 when I last used a service called The Wire here in Toronto which was run by a guy called Allan Park.

I have to say Steve’s phone call left me with a strong, postitive impression and a feeling that I’d made the right choice in going with Blue Host. Time will tell.

Considering that my intention is to write a book on the origami of chopstick wrapper paper, I’ve done very little on the original content that I optimistically assume will populate the book. Yes, I am very optimistic! Today, a glimer of creativity proved that that optimism might be justified; Inspiration struck and I created my second origami fold from a chopstick wrapper, this time for a tortoise. It’s a pretty complicated design — a hybrid base and box pleat — with good strength and a good location for the chopsticks. Probably a little too complicated to fold before the soup arrives, but at least I now have a candidate for an original advanced design. In two designs, I’ve probably bracketed the range of designs that will end up in the book. I’m feeling good.

In a fit of unbashed pride, I decided to photograph the thing to death. I grabbed some ornamental chopsticks, bento box, and ornate Japanese wrapping cloth that I’d purchased while on holiday in Japan several years ago and used them as props. I put my crufty, old Canon G2 camera — note to self to buy a better camera — into macro mode and used simple halogen lighting from a free-standing lamp along with the occassional flash to light the scene. I tried a number of arrangements. Getting the image I had in my head was quiet complicated as at the macro setting the chopsticks and the close up of the tortoise prove difficult to fit in the frame without losing focus. Meanwhile, as I’m eagerly photographing and proudly posing my origami tortoise, my seven-year old daughter happily snapped pix with her camera of “daddy” trying to photograph a “piece of paper.” In the end, I managed to get some shots and, for a completely unplanned session, I was pretty happy with them. I figure a good Photoshop session will fix up the lighting and framing flaws and I will have some decent sample images for my upcoming website (i.e. the one you are currently reading !!)

Only one problem: I need to figure out how to do the tortoise fold again. My inspiration didn’t included writing down how to fold the darn thing. So I’m left with a cool design and only a vague notion of how to repeat it.

Put some thinking into the big picture of publishing the book.

According to my initial reading in PDF Hacks, I’ll need to get an ISBN. I suspect I’ll need a US ISBN at some point, but since I live in Canada, I thought I’d do my country proud and apply for an ISBN here in the Great White North. Actually, my patriotism is only skin deep: Canadian ISBNs are free and, to my miserly mind, a good way to skinny dip my toe in the water.

So first step is to fill in the application, a seemingly simple process. But wait, getting an ISBN means I’m about to become a publisher and, according to the application form, I need a name for my publishing company. So time to brainstorm. Here is my initial list formed in a 30 min frenzy of naming

  • Oh! Really (an O’Reilly pun)
  • Dark Sun (cool but more negative than I want)
  • Third Man (one of my fav films, but taken)
  • Splat (if I ever own a boat I want to call it Splat! with a big ink splat on the front of the spinnaker, but sadly taken)
  • Spotted Cow (dunno what I was thinking here)
  • Workstätte (I like those cool Viennese, Jungenstil dudes)
  • Umlaut press (I’m definitely in a teutonic mood)
  • Moonlight (after the sonata but mainly cos this is not my real job, taken)
  • 5th Symphony (more Beethoven)
  • Stochastic (a random choice)
  • Finite Chain (no idea what this was all about)
  • Exaptive (I guess cos I hadn’t originally intended to become “A Publisher” just wanted to write another book)
  • Spiral (I was looking at a picture of a spiral stair case)
  • Zero Point (very zen)
  • Invisible Hand

And there I stopped. Invisible Hand Publishing grabbed my attention and it stuck. I like the subversive, behind-the-scenes feel, the idea of an invisible hand typing books on a 40s style Remmington typewriter, and the Adam Smith reference (I mean I do want to make some cash out of this enterprise so referencing one of the holy gods of Capitalism can’t be a bad idea.) Also a logo of a hand outlined Murder Inc-style like a crime scene or, possibly, an invisble hand with a glowing neon blue outline appeals to me. I checked and no publisher with this name exists in Canada, the US or England (I must remember to check the antipodes.) The domain name invisiblehandpublishing.com is also free (invisiblehand.com is, predictably, taken) So so far so good.

I’ve now applied for an ISBN in Canada for a book called Sushigami in the name of Invisible Hand Publishing. Let’s see how long it takes the ungreased wheels of my government to turn.