Using eraser crumbs to get DNA from old manuscripts

Old books were written on vellum which is treated animal skin. As the article says “Every one of these books is a herd of animals.” Researchers have learned to get DNA samples from 1,000 year old books by non-destructive method of analyzing eraser crumbs. And it’s just a plain, old, white Staedtler eraser, nothing fancy.

When Collins and postdoctoral researcher Sarah Fiddyment first approached archives to collaborate though, they made the mistake of thinking like archaeologists used to routinely pulverizing bone for DNA analysis. “They told us we would not be allowed to sample the parchments. Matthew and I didn’t think of it,” says Fiddyment. She ended up shadowing conservationists for several weeks and learned about their eraser technique. White plastic erasers made by Staedtler turned out to be perfect for cleaning manuscripts and for collecting DNA.

I think it’s crazy that from plain, old eraser crumbs we can learn the species, breed, gender and more of the animal that was the source of the vellum.

You can read the whole story on

Extracting images from Microsoft Word documents

I often get book manuscripts in Microsoft Word that have images placed in the document. Sometimes the author doesn’t have the images as separate image files and I have to use the images in the Word document.

In the version of Word that I’m using on my Mac, right-clicking on an image gives the option to “Save as Picture” – unfortunately it’s not the highest resolution version that’s available.

Luckily there’s a way to get a higher resolution version, but it’s totally unintuitive. I never would have figured it out if it wasn’t for Google. Here are the steps:

Go to “File” > “Save as Web Page”

Select “Format: Web Page (.htm)” and “Save Entire File into HTML”

That will create a folder with a bunch of .png and .jpg files. There should be two versions of each image, one .png and one .jpg. The .jpg file will be the version with the highest resolution.

The CBS Sunday Design Issue

CBS Sunday Morning advertised their Design Issue with this very badly designed image.

The image is uninteresting and unattractive and I don’t even know where to start on the typography.

CBS Sunday Morning – I love you – but you’re killing me.

Friends don’t let friends type two word spaces after periods

While hanging out with friends and drinking beer at Rhinegeist Brewery, someone brought up the subject of using two words spaces at the end of a sentence. I didn’t bring it up. I’ve learned to never bring up the subject of typography with anyone unless they’re a family member and they’re locked in a moving car with me.

Several of my beer drinking friends said they always use two word spaces after a period. They were taught to do that in high school typing class (I need to digress here and note that all of the beer drinkers were old enough that we learned to type on actual typewriters), they’ve always done it that way, and it looks weird with just one space.

My first impulse was to tell everyone “NEVER USE TWO WORD SPACES AFTER A PERIOD!!!” But my years on this planet have taught me that things usually go better when I ignore my first impulse.

So instead I said “95% of the books, newspapers and magazines you’ve ever read have used only one word space after a sentence.”

The two-word-space people looked at me like I just said the world was flat. One of them asked why they were taught to use two spaces in high school typing class.

I didn’t have an answer. But I said that when I get copy from a client one of the first things I do is to change all the double spaces to single spaces. It’s what I was taught in typography class and it’s the industry standard.

I also said that on the internet, whether on Facebook, or anyplace else, multiple word spaces get converted to single spaces. So even if they type two word spaces in a Facebook post, it always displays as one word space.

I don’t think I convinced anyone to stop using double spaces. But I did convince them to never bring up the subject of typography around me.