The Digital Stereogram

Library of Congress

I just discovered the New York Public Library’s Labs initiative, an “experimental design and technology unit creating interactive experiences around research library collections and data.” They have some SERIOUSLY COOL tools available on their website, and many of them ask the public to contribute to the content.

I was immediately taken by the “Stereogranimator,” a website where you can create 3D GIFs out of old stereogram images. The first time I ever encountered an old-fashioned stereoscope (aside from the classic View-Master, of course) was my grandfather’s collection, which, if I recall correctly, included some photos of belly dancers in the vein of “Little Egypt,” the famous gal from the 1893 Chicago world’s fair. At the time, I thought they were pret-ty scandalous, let me tell you.

Stereograms work because each image is just slightly off from the other, so when you view them next to each other through a set of binoculars, your brain stitches them together and creates a 3D image for your viewing pleasure. It’s basically applying the same cues your eyes and brain use every day to perceive depth in three-dimensional space to a pair of closely matched two-dimensional photos. I admit that I have trouble seeing them, but when it works, it’s super awesome.

For my first stereogranimation, I decided to use an image from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. I’m nothing if not consistent in my interests, let me tell you. I think this image is fabulous — bustling and exciting and in color! — and seeing it in almost-3D, right there on my computer screen, is pretty fantastic.

The St. Louis World’s Fair was apparently a big moment for stereograph images. The one up top is of the “biggest wheel on Earth (240 m.) with the heaviest axle ever forged (56 tons)” from the fair. And this one here has quite the poetic caption:

Library of Congress

“As if chalked with fire against the lucky sky.”

Almost in Central Park

Saturday morning, I woke up with nothing to do until seeing The Hunger Games (reaction summary: guh! in a good way!) at 2 pm. I didn’t feel like cleaning or anything responsible like that, and E was heading to campus for some dumb thing, so I ended up going into Manhattan with grand plans of going to the Central Park Zoo to take pictures without an impatient spouse in tow, but I gave up after fifteen minutes of standing in a very slow-moving line to buy tickets while unsupervised toddlers wandered around me. Instead, I wandered around the perimeter of Central Park, bought some bowls at Crate & Barrel, and loitered on the patio by the 5th Avenue Apple Store. At least the weather was nice.

At the southeast corner of the park, near the entrance to the zoo, The Strand sets up a whole slew of books for sale. With Borders out of business and a Kindle (which I love) in my purse, I’ve found that the amount of time I spend idly browsing books has gone way down, and I’ve been feeling a little lost as to what to read next. Today, as I picked through piles of new and used books in the spring sunshine, I was reminded of how wonderful it can be to have a physical experience of shopping — whether for books, clothes, or other items. To see the designs of the covers, smell the pages as I flipped through them, and run my fingers down the spines as I turned the books over to read the back was a wonderful experience, and much more inspiring than clicking through a list on Amazon. In a digital age, it’s easy to forget how important the tactile can be.

Nosy Bitches Swap Love

Last Monday (I know, I know, I’m really bad at blogging!), I stumbled home from my office holiday party at the late hour of 8:30 pm. No, I did not get drunk at my office holiday party. That would be really unclassy. But, I am at an age where my liver just throws its livery little arms in the air and says, I give up!, and I continue to get drunk even when I stop drinking after a reasonable beverage or three. So, by the time I got off the subway Monday night, I had gone from slightly buzzed to actually-pretty-drunk.

When I got into the lobby of my apartment building, I registered excitedly that there was a package waiting for me on the entry table. It did not faze me that the top had been cut open. As I said, I was intoxicated. I wasn’t joking.

I made it up to my fourth floor apartment and gleefully sifted through the contents of the box. I then proceeded to watch a documentary about Charles and Ray Eames that was airing on PBS with E, who was barely tolerating me.* I passed out around 10 pm, woke up the next morning, and went to work. Sometime that afternoon, I thought to myself, “Wait a second, I got a package last night! A package that was mysteriously open when I retrieved it from the lobby! I think it was my Nosy Bitches Swap Package!”

But I couldn’t remember what was in it.

The lovely Bunny of Bunnies’n’Beagles orchestrated a non-denominational gift swap for folks who blog and/or are on Twitter, and I was lucky enough to participate. That afternoon I rushed home to gather up the components of the package that I had scattered about my apartment the previous evening, and was thrilled with what I’d received!

The inimitable Robin from HitchDied and Double R Diner sent me a card warning against accepting candy or gifts from strangers, a handmade bookmark featuring an illustration of my fabulous section of the map, and 2 items with geographic significance: Zombie Gum to represent her home, Pittsburgh; and I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York to represent mine (and my feelings thereabout). The book is hilarious, the bookmark is awesome, and, as you can see above, I opened the gum that Monday night and have enjoyed it thoroughly. Also, Zombies.

It was so much fun to shop for my Nosy Bitch, and to receive this artifact of Internet awesomeness in the mail this holiday. Robin got married shortly before I did, and her blog was one of those that got me through the marathon that is wedding planning. I was so glad to be a part of this swap, and to feel like a bigger part of this community of bloggers that I stalk than I deserve to be. 😉 Thanks, Bunny!

I still have no idea why the package was open.

* E and I are currently tearing through Parks & Recreation on Netflix, and just watched the Season 2 episode where Leslie gets drunk and knocks on Dave’s door to tell him how awesome she is. While Leslie extolled her own virtues, E looked at me and told me that was what I was like when I’m drunk. I told him he was pretty lucky, then, because obviously I am hilarious and awesome.