January 2002

Happy New Year

One of the signs of adulthood, I once said, is the first party you throw where one of the guests brings a baby. This happened to Ian and Ruth when they volunteered to be this year s (or last year’s) New Year’s Eve party venue: Dan and Lucy brought with them tiny Nathaniel (a bare few months old). Given Lucy’s profession (genetics research) involves inseminating frogs through a process that is fatal to the male frogs, we were relieved to see that Dan is still hale and hearty (or perhaps she replaced him with another genetically identical copy). Jenni (visiting from the US) have me a fantastic Xmas pressent: a framed drawing by Matt Feazell.

Today Jeremy and I spent mainly recuperating (Jeremy has a lousy cold right now) but after a while we felt we had to go stomping out in the cold bright winter sunshine through one of the bits of green that the Oxford map is liberally daubed with. I took the opportunity to phone my Dad while ducking under ivy-laden branches to say Happy New Year. Phoning my parents while Jeremy is throwing sticks at frozen rivers is becoming something of a tradition...

Alleged Tarot project

A while back I produced a minicomic (on paper) which depicted the 22 major arcana and the aces of the traditional tarot deck. I have decided to start a new project, which is to produce a colour version of this deck, to be published in SVG format. (OK, I will also include versions of the images in good old-fashioned PNG for the sake of people with older browsers.) When I have a complete deck I intend to make some sort of automated generator of readings.

So far the Alleged Tarot 2002 has two cards drawn: the Fool (number 0) and the Magician (number I).

Alleged Tarot (2)

Still tweaking the first two entries in the Alleged Tarot 2002: I am still having trouble with my crude tools, which consist of an obsolete version of Adobe® Illustrator (on Mac OS 9), a free Python-based sketch program called Sketch (which can output in a near-SVG format, but which has trouble converting Illustrator’s CMYK colours), and a script for fixing up the namespaces in SVG files...

SVG fonts; SVG Problems

I have created proper card mock-ups of my two Alleged Tarot 2002—adding the title of the card in a font I have cobbled together for the occasion. The SVG format allows for the creation of fonts using SVG primitives, and just this once I have elected to write a font by entering the numbers by hand, viewing some sample text, and changing the numbers til it looks right (yes, I know this is crazy). To do this I an using a text editor on Jeremy’s NT box, displaying the SVG in MSIE with Adobe’s plug-in. It works so long as I include the font definition in the same SVG file; my attempts to use indirect @font-face definitions (so the font data can be in one file shared by all the SVG files) have so far failed. Also, after repeated reloads of slightly broken SVG files, the plug-in eventually crashes and takes MSIE with it.

I also discovered a strange anomaly when using the image element to include one SVG file in another: it all worked OK while I was viewing SVG in files (file://... URLs), but when the same images were installed on my test server, the referenced image vanished! Worse, after I had tried viewing them from the web server, the same problem manifested when I viewed the corresponding files on disc. After closing MSIE and restarting it I was able to view the files again. The workaround for this problem is to not use images indirectly, and instead to copy the referenced SVG direct in to the referring image. At some point I will make a script for doing this automatically...

I have tried viewing these images with Mozilla 0.9.7 with SVG. The simple images are partially displayed, but the viewBox attribute is ignored; as a result you see only the top-left corner of the image! Also, the colours are all replaced with shades of blue and magenta. The fancy versions with the title displayed in my special font do not display at all.

Alleged Tarot: Aces

I have added the four Aces to the Tarot project. I have also hand-corrected the colours in the SVG files (to adjust for the oversimplified CMYK-to-RGB conversion). Because I have not yet defined some letters in the title font, there are some blanks in the titles on the cards...

Alleged Tarot (4): The deuces

The fourth installment of this work in progress is the Twos of Wands, Cups, Swords , and Coins. For a while I have been debating whether the ‘pips’ cards should be decorated or not I happen to prefer the graphic purity of having the pips alone on a white card, like old eighteenth-century playing cards, but you don’t have to read much about Tarot to know thjat undecorated Minor Arcana are not rated highly. In the end I have compromised: the SVG version has a little blue button which you can click on to toggle the decorations on and off!

Alleged Tarot (5): Emperor and Pope

In the latest installment of the Alleged Tarot 2002 I have decided to try to reward people visiting in SVG by adding a couple of pointless details to the Emperor and the Pope that cannot be seen without zooming in!

As I work on the cards I am also doing little bits of scripting to automate the repetative parts of the process of taking the picture I produce in Adobe Illustrator and turning it in to a complete card image (basically the additon of the card border, the keywords, and the title in the custom font). The Pope is assembled automatically; the Emperor I did by hand. The main thing missing is an automated colour correction step; until I manage that, the Pope’s lawn is a bit garish....