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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Simple Book Binding

Stack of bound PDF print-outs

I like printed documentation. You can add sticky bookmarks, highlight material (I typically use colored pencils for that), annotate the text, and have multiple things open at once easily.

I'd really like to find an easy way to turn a Gutenberg Project book into a decently bound volume through some print on demand service. Getting things like page numbers, headers, footers, and proper margins (need more space at spine than at fore edge!), to say nothing of cover, illustrations, and table of contents makes it hard.

But for smaller works, say things that can print on a few dozen sheets of duplexed paper, that's achievable. First get the document ready for printing. Things that start as PDFs are usually good. Things that are HTML pages are sometimes good, and sometimes need the HTML paired down some.

I print my stuff on a "business" Brother laser printer, the HL L6200DW. In general the monochrome laser printers (single purpose, as opposed to "all in one" scanner/copier/printer ones which are more hit-and-miss) from Brother are a good deal. Thanks to the large amount of printing my wife does for her business, we've run through quite a few. After about 60,000 pages the replacement parts needed start to cost more than buying a new one. Most people won't have that problem. The Brother printers are cheap and Just Work(TM) with Mac, Windows, and Linux. And they print double sided (duplex) automatically.

So print the material duplexed and then neatly collate the output. If you've got less than 25 sheets (50 pages), an ordinary stapler will work to bind the edges. If you have more than that, you need a heavier duty stapler and extra long staples. Swingline makes a few options, but be sure to be careful about staple selection.

Staple close to the edge, six or seven times along the spine. This will make the printout function like a book.

Binding process

Then use a medium thick tape to cover the stapes and bound edge. You can use one peice wide enough to fold around, or multiple strips. This is important to prevent the staples from catching on things (eg fingers) and improves the look of the binding considerably.

You can quite easily print some parts on larger paper and fold them so only one edge staples in. For my Vectrex Service Manual here, I printed the schematics single sided on legal (8.5"x14" paper) in landscape orientation. This is probably close to how the original was done.

Extra wide foldout sheets

The Act of Sewing

laser printed manuscripts stacked

How It Started

cover of final printed book

How It's Going

My wife's book, The Act of Sewing launches this week. Work started a long time ago, with finished manuscript going to the publisher before this covid-19 thing appeared.

This book is for you if you are looking for beginning sewing patterns and want to learn how to adapt patterns to suit your own tastes. Both cosmetic variations and adjusting the fit are covered.

(NB: The patterns are aimed at women's body shapes, but could be adjusted.)


Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trashpicking in the Anthropocene by Tim Dee. Copyright 2018, first printing February 2019.

I've read a bit about garbage, most recently Waste and Want by Susan Strasser (1999, but apparently used as a textbook, so easy to find new), so I thought this might be good to get some fresher information. The title, and subtitle, certainly pulled me in.

No. This is a British author writing a lot about his personal experiences, often as a reporter following more serious bird watchers than him. There are, it seems, a fair amount of bird watchers who specialize in watching sea gulls. In many cases these people hang around landfills and transfer stations because the gulls like the easy pickings.

Every chapter is essentially a self-contained essay with at least some tangential connection to gulls. There's one that compares and contrasts Hitchcock's The Birds to the original short story, with some attention devoted to the gulls in each for example. It's not what I wanted, but it's not a bad book.

When I found this in a bookstore (the famous "City Lights Books" in San Francisco, which I was visiting with some out-of-town house guests), I was drawn to the title and picked it up to read a couple of pages from inside. I happened upon chapter eight "London Labour and London Poor". This is one of the least gull-ish chapters, but also one of the most interesting to my tastes.

That chapter is about Henry Mayhew's three volume 1851 (based on 1840s work writing a newspaper column; volume four came out 1862) London Labour and the London Poor (at Wikipdia and volume 1 at Gutenberg, volume 2 at Gutenberg, volume 3 at Gutenberg, but apparently no volume four). Mayhew interviewed and wrote about the most marginal people of the time. The excerpt that made me buy the book:

Trash has a deep and determing place in Mayhew's cosmology. Waste management, in its widest sense, is vital to the story. This begins with the lowest class (Mayhew calls them low but was clearly sympathethetic to such people). The endeavoured to eke out scraps for a penny or two from what others had decided was useless. Contemplating suc lives and such labour makes Mayhew ask big questions. When do objects — or people — cease to have value?

There are dustment in Mayhew — men in the vanguard of professional waste collection. But they were far outnumbered by informal rubbish collectors. On these people Mayhew performs a kind of rescue anthropology. He describes them as if they were members of a ramshackle federation:

  • Bone gubbers and rag-gatherers
  • Pure-finders
  • Cigar-end finders
  • Old wood gatherers
  • Dredgers, or river finders
  • Sewer-hunters
  • Mudlarks
  • Dustmen, nightmen, sweeps, and scavengers

"Pure" is dog shit. Its name alone indicates our classificatory anxiety about its status. It was sold to tanneries, where it was used to cleanse and purify leather. In London, 200 to 300 men were "engaged solely in this business." A covered basket and a glove were required, though many dispensed with the glove, "as they say it is much easier to wash their hands than to keep the glove fit for use." There were even those who worked fakes and passed "mortar" off as pure.

That's great reading. The connection to gulls for this chapter? How the presence of so many and so varied human trash pickers squeezed the gulls out of the easy trash-pickings niche.

Husain Haddawy's 1001 Arabian Nights

I recently saw a list of English literature for programmers, which prompted me to think of this.

I read the Husain Haddawy version of 1001 Arabian Nights not too long ago. I selected it because it's a well regarded translation and closely follows one of the oldest known editions (ca 15th century). It's not originally English, so it doesn't really belong on the list I had seen, but the story construction seems relevant to "Should appeal to the lisp programmer in everyone". There are frame stories within frame stories, with "daily" interruptions and with them reminders of how deep we are: "Oh king, I heard that barber then told the Chinese king that: {continue the "Hunchback" stories}."

Stack is problably never more than five stories deep, shallow for a programmer, deep for literature.