Islamic Geometric Patterns

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I’m making an effort (not always successful) to avoid falling down the Google/Facebook/Youtube hole vortex in the evening. The siren song of internet distraction rarely leads anywhere useful and I’ve never regretted turning the damn thing off and taking up pencil and paper.

Through some library serendipity, I discovered Islamic Geometric Patterns by Eric Broug. It’s a book of step by step drawing instructions. All you need is a ruler, compass, pencil and pen. While the geometry behind theses patterns is enormously sophisticated, actually drawing out the shapes is surprisingly easy and relaxing. It’s also a fun and painless lesson in geometry, especially for those of us not inclined towards math.

The first chapter breaks down the basis of all the patterns–squares, hexagons and pentagons–and how to generate these shapes with just a compass and ruler. Here’s the square and hexagon:

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Starting with these basic shapes, you then do further subdivisions. Once the pattern is penciled out you start using ink to make the final design. Add color and texture and these basic patterns can become enormously complex, what David Wade calls “windows into the infinite”:

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So what can you do with this arcane exercise in geometry? Just look at some of the amazing things Broug has done with these patterns on his website. I’m particularly fond of simple applications for patterns such as the way he painted his garage door. If only my school geometry was as much fun as spending an evening drawing these patterns.

Weekend Tweets: Poppies, Insane Comics and Black Metal Cats

083 Kris De Decker of Low Tech Magazine

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Our guest this week is journalist Kris De Decker, the creator of Low Tech Magazine, a blog published in English, Dutch and Spanish that covers low tech solutions in great depth and detail. Without exaggeration, I think it’s safe to say it’s my favorite blog. On the podcast we discuss high tech problems, Catalan vaulting, fruit walls, Chinese wheelbarrows, open modular hardware, fireless cookers and alternate forms of the internet.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

The Return of Knickers?

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At the risk of alarming Kelly, who threatened to divorce me over my attempt to “thoughtfluence” the monocle back into common use, I think it’s time to bring back knickers. But first let me clear up some linguistic confusion: some of our English speaking readers will know this garment as knickerbockers (knickers are women’s underwear in Britain). I’m talking about pants that stop around the knee and that are worn by both men and women.

Before my annoying plantar fasciitis injury, I used to don knickers twice a week to go fencing. They are comfortable, allowing for easy movement, and more dignified and modest than shorts.

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Modern fencing knickers are white. The Victorian, black version of the fencing uniform was more stylish:

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A tangent here: please, dear fencing officials, do not attempt to “modernize” the uniform:

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Remember, the classic uniform is still sexy. Note slightly NSFW examples: 1 and 2.

Baseball, football and golf all adopted knickers for the same reasons they work in fencing: comfort, warmth, lower leg flexibility and dignity.

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The garment also played an important roll in liberating women from burdensome hoop skirts and corsets. Above is mountain guide Alice Manfield. And, of course, we can’t forget, late 19th/early 20th century women’s cycling apparel:

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These days, outside of the fencing strip, the only place you’ll see knickers in an un-ironic context is when you find yourself hunting shooting in Britain:

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UPDATE: Alas, Root Simple reader Peter informs me that this picture is fiction. Current shooting attire, Peter informs me, is “rubber boots, jeans and one of those nice Barbour waxed cotton jackets. The Queen does not wear jeans, but a tweed skirt. This uniform is accompanied by a battered, mud-splattered Land Rover and a pair of ruinously expensive, handmade shotguns. Anyone who dressed like the men in the picture would be found guilty of that most English of sins, Trying Too Hard, and sniggered at.”

At least there’s (pre-ironic?) Oktoberfest in Bavaria:

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Image: HaTe on Wikipedia.

Yes, I know, you’re too distracted by the Tyrolean hats to notice the knickers.

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Bike in Tweed, Stockholm 2013. Image: Wikipedia.

In a somewhat more ironic context, knickers have appeared at “tweed rides” in various cities around the world. Still, it’s hard to pull this off outside of an organized ride without seeming like you just stepped out of a steam punk convention.

Alas, our fashion overlords have banished knickers to the historical recreation ghetto. But maybe there’s hope. Since writing this silly post Google is now suggesting I visit this modern knicker purveyor. Nice, but could we skip the polyester?

As Marshall McLuhan used to say, “If you don’t like that idea, I’ve got others.” Not ready for knickers? How about my idea for a hipster Alpine wear shop? Get ready for the Kickstarter . . .

Coffee Grounds in the Garden

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According to a handy fact sheet from Washington State University, Coffee grounds will buzz your garden. Coffee grounds build humus, boost nitrogen, phosphorus and zinc, bind pesticides and toxins, prevent bacterial and fungal infections and feed earthworms. Authored by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension Urban Horticulturist and Associate Professor, this peer-reviewed pamphlet also provides a set of suggestions for using coffee grounds in the garden:

  • Coffee grounds should be composted before used as a soil amendment but can be used fresh as a mulch.
  • Fresh grounds are phytotoxic, so keep them away from direct contact with roots.
  • Coffee grounds will not necessarily make your soil more acidic.
  • Don’t use coffee grounds where you are starting seeds.
  • Despite rumors, coffee grounds do not repel pests.
  • Let coffee grounds cool before adding to compost bin so you don’t kill beneficial microbes. And don’t let coffee grounds amount to more than 20% of your compost pile.
  • Don’t add coffee grounds to vermicomposting bins.

If you’re using coffee grounds as a mulch Chalker-Scott has two suggestions:

  • Apply a thin layer (no more than half an inch) of coffee grounds. Cover with a thicker layer (four inches) of coarse organic mulch like wood chips (Chalker-Scott 2015). This will protect the coffee grounds from compaction.
  • Don’t apply thick layers of coffee grounds as a standalone mulch. Because they are finely textured and easily compacted, coffee grounds can interfere with moisture and air movement in soils.