Friday, April 26, 2019

SearchResearch Challenge (4/26/19): More questions while traveling...?


I hear your quiet murmurings in the vasty hallways of the internet asking "What's going on?" and "Where's Dan?"  and "Why hasn't there been a SearchResearch Challenge this week?"  

Basically, I'm kinda busy.  Lots of travel (see below!) and lots of time on Google projects (yeah, I still have a day job), and lots of work getting details finished on the book (did you know writing a book takes a lot of time?).   

The good news is that the book index is finished (maybe with a bit more polishing, but basically done), AND we now have cover art!  I'm pretty pleased about it, and hope you are too.  This should make it easy to find in bookstores... 

The book is now in the hands of the MIT Press editors who have promised that the final (final!) galley will be sent to me in the first week of May.  I'll turn it around, and then it goes to the printer.  Everything is actually coming together!  

I'm ALSO following up on a bunch of threads I've left open.  

1.  What's the story with the "a" character on the holiday card?  (Why did I get it wrong?)  
2.  What's the update on the recycling story?  (Where do plastics REALLY go after the trash people pick them up.)  
3. What's the update on the strand jack construction project?  

Each of these is taking longer than I ever would have thought... but it means that when I figure them out, we'll have a bunch of great stories here at Camp SRS.  

And, as mentioned, I've been traveling.  For much of the rest of this year, travel will be the new norm.  The downside is that it delays my SRS writing... but the upside is that I'll have a bunch of new Challenges in the near future.  

In particular, today's travel has brought up a couple of little questions--the kind of questions that happens to me (and I bet to you) every time I travel around.  Here are three from my walkabout today.  Can you answer them? 

1.  When I look out of my hotel room window, THIS is what I see:  spectacular mountains.  Can you tell what city I'm in?  (Yes, I've removed the EXIF metadata.  You'll have to work with just what you see.)  

2.  As I walked to my meeting, I found a large field of these beautiful blue flowers--what are they?  (Species specific name, please.)  

3.  Just past the field of blue flowers was this former church building.  As with many church buildings, it has a very distinctive window shape.  As we know, if you know the precise term for this window shape, it's much easier to search for information about these things.  So... what's the precise term for this window shape?  (NOT the round one...)    

BTW, for extra credit, is there a specific term for a building like this that was a church, but is no longer a church?? 

As always, please leave your answer in the comments, being sure to tell us HOW you did it!  What worked?  And what didn't work? 

Search on! 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Answer: What's that logo?


Visually, the world is full of unknowns...

And this week we took on the Challenge of figuring out how to identify logos.  

Recently, SRS Regular Reader Jacob sent me this wonderful holiday card he received that was made up entirely of logos.  Designed by Marc Reiner, it's a gem of a card design.  

On the one hand, it's a fun and playful design.  I recognized a bunch of logos immediately (Pintrest, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.) -- but could you name them all?   I couldn't.

Logo holiday card by Marc S. Reiner (Hand Baldachin and Assoc. LLP)

This is a great reminder that image identification is a valuable skill to have.  And clearly, this particular card pulls a lot of logos together for us to ID.  

Here is our three-part Challenge for the week: 

1.   Can you identify all of the logos shown here?  What are they?
2.  If you wanted to search just for logos, is there a way to do just that?  How about just searching for logos in the EU?  
3.  For what  product is this the logo?  (The usual tricks might/might-not work here.)  

As we've talked about before, subimaging is probably the way to go.  That is, since the card is composed of a bunch of individual logos, we can extract each logo and do a Search-By-Image on that.  (If you haven't seen it, check out my short YouTube video on this.  It's a One Minute Morceau on Search-By-Image.) 

And in our case, we could divide up the holiday card into 12 different small images.  

But as we discussed in an earlier episode (A new search-by-image method on Bing), Bing Image search has a great way to interactively search for parts of a larger image.  Here's an illustration of the normal / old way of doing search-by-image (SBI).  You upload or drag the image from your computer into the Image search.  

A diagram showing me dragging a image from my desktop into Bing's SBI tool.  
But the brilliant Bing SBI tool lets you specify the cropping that you'd like.   (That's the turquoise cropping widget in the image below.)  

Here I've cropped into the letter "H" in the image.  Once you release the crop, it immediately pops up the related images.  You can see on the "Similar Images" region that this subimage is pretty clearly the History Channel logo.  

You can do this for the other letters on the card. Just drag and drop the cropping window to search for those individual logos. 

HOWEVER... It doesn't work for all of them.  In particular, Bing SBI can't quite figure out the script P, the yellow rectangle, the S with the arrowhead tail, the red O with a ship on top, and the squishy L logo.  So, while it's a brilliant tool, it doesn't get everything right.  

To get those logos (P, rectangle, S, O, L), I had to chop up the image into subimages and then do a regular Google SBI on those.  Here's Google SBI for the script P logo: 

You can do this with all of the logos. 

There's an important lesson here... Not all tools necessarily work for everything.  Although Bing's SBI works really well, there are a couple of images it can't find.  For those, I switch to Google's SBI.  (And, pro tip, if both of those don't work, I've sometimes gone to for their SBI tool which also works very well.)  

Interestingly, the yellow rectangle with the blue center did not work with ANY SBI tool.  I ended up going to regular Google Image search with the query: 

     [ logo yellow rectangle ] 

Why that?  I wanted the simplest possible description of the logo, and that was it.  Remarkably, this works!  The search led me to several articles and images about this logo design for National Geographic.

Finding the S + arrow logo was a little trickier.  I did a regular SBI on Google, but then had to edit the query to include the word "logo"  (see below).  That worked perfectly well, and I was able to confirm that this was the Subway logo!  Note that it wasn't exactly the same as the logo letter we searched for, but it was the same color AND had the funny arrow.  (It also had a green additional arrow, but when I clicked through to the article, it was clearly the right thing.) 

Using all of these tricks (the Bing tool and using regular Google SBI on subimages that Bing couldn't handle), I was able to identify all of the logos: 

History channel
Phillip Lim

Holiday Inn
Old Spice
I - National Geographic
Atena (marketing firm in Padova)    (Error was mine.  Remmij pointed out the error of my ways.  Thanks!)  
Aware -- (the Association of Women for Action and Research)  

Interestingly, when I wrote this Challenge, the cat logo was really hard to find.  Google Search-by-Image didn't work, neither did Bing's.  When I tried Yandex (which also has a pretty good search-by-image function), it found something pretty close!  

Here's the target image: 

And here's what I found using search-by-image on 

Not quite, but pretty darn close!  

Just out of curiosity, and making a guess that this was either a vet's logo OR a cat food logo, I tried this as a regular old Image search: 

     [ cat food logo ] 

I was a bit surprised to find this just a few rows down! 

Truthfully, that was just a lucky guess.  (But luck happens to those who are prepared and willing to try a few extra queries.) 

Search Lessons 

Working backwards from the end: 

1.  Sometimes if you guess at what the image might be, you'll get lucky.  Obviously, it wasn't a random guess on my part--it was either X or Y (cat food or cat vet)... and my first guess proved correct. 

2. Using the Bing subimaging tool is pretty fast and effective for searching in multiple places inside of a complex image.  It's a quicker way to search for subimages, and if you have a lot of them, this is a great gadget to use. 

3.  Remember that there are multiple tools out there for Search-By-Image.  If Google doesn't work for you, try Bing, or Yandex--they're all great tools, and some cover images that the others don't.  Keep trying!  

Dan's P.S.  

Sorry about the delay, again...  Wednesdays have become complicated with a few meetings that I can't reschedule.  PLUS, this week I was superbusy trying to create the index to "The Joy of Search."  If you've never done it, believe me, it's not a trivial exercise.  What DO people want to search for in your print book?  In any case, that was a good 20 hours of work inbetween this and that.  

Dan's P.P.S.   

Just so you'll have a sense of what it's like when I solve these Research Challenges, I recorded my path as I answered these questions.  Then I edited it a bit to give some color commentary and a word or two of wisdom. 

Let me know what you think! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

SearchResearch Challenge (4/10/19): What's that logo?

Our visual world is full of logos and brandmarks... 

Just how many do you know?  Probably thousands.  

Recently, SRS Regular Reader Jacob sent me this wonderful holiday card he received that was made up entirely of logos.  Designed by Marc Reiner, it's a gem of a card design.  

I recognized a bunch of logos immediately (Pintrest, Amazon, etc.) -- but can you name them all?   I couldn't.

Logo holiday card by Marc S. Reiner (Hand Baldachin and Assoc. LLP)

This card reminds me that being able to identify the parts of a larger ensemble can be a valuable skill to have.  

Here is our three-part Challenge for the week: 

1.   Can you identify all of the logos shown here?  What are they?
2.  If you wanted to search just for logos, is there a way to do just that?  How about just searching for logos in the EU?  
3.  For what  product is this the logo?  (The usual tricks might/might-not work here.)  

As always, let us know how you did it.  Share your expertise with all of the SRS readers!  

Search on! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Answer: What are paintings of things that are NOT the things they depict?

What're these things called? 


I've seen paintings like this ever since I took Art History as an undergraduate.  You know what they are--paintings of things that are NOT the things they depict.  As you can see in the examples below, the skulls are made of cats or flowers, and the portraits are made-up of fruits, flowers, and vegetables.  

The Research Question for this week is this: 

What are these kind of paintings called?  (As you know, if you have a specific term for something, it's a lot simpler to search for information.)  Is there a specific term?  
In the spirit of our recent direction on getting "the rest of the story," can you figure out WHY these paintings became popular?  Or can you find artists who are famous for making these "paintings of not-the-thing"?   

G. Arcimboldo
When I first saw these paintings, I did the obvious query:

     [ paintings of faces made with fruit ]

which quickly led to the Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimbolo.  Mashable article by Alex Q. Arbuckle which has several beautiful high-resolution images, including a few that are NOT made of fruit or veggies, but which feature other objects (including this amazing portrait that's made up out of many kinds of sea creatures).  This is "Water," (1566) one of a set of four portraits depicting the four different elements.  This is made up of fish and other things from the sea in a wild composition that is much like his more wild images.  

While this is a gorgeous article (be sure to click on the Mashable link above and see the images in full-screen), I naturally wanted some other information on Arcimbolo to triangulate and corroborate what I found (and maybe, along the way, pick up what this kind of artwork might be called).  

So, we've found a particular artist who makes this kind of painting. (And what paintings they are!)  

But our deeper question is "what is this kind of art called?"  

As you know, if you have a specific term for something, it's often a LOT easier to find more-of-this-kind.  

In earlier SRS posts we learned that specific biological terms (e.g., Sequoia sempervirens) is what you want for very focus searching.  So, I was hoping to find an art history term (along the lines of cubist, surrealism, or Pre-Raphaelite).  

But I think I failed.  SRS Reader Arthur Weiss found the term Arcimboldoesque as a kind of descriptor, and that's not bad.  Here's what that search looks like:   

But I was hoping for something more generic that would describe ALL paintings made in this style. 

I found that when I did a simple search in Images for [ Arcimboldo ] and found this: 

This has a lot of suggestions at the top (and many more interesting images below that are done in Arcimboldo's style).  But none of those suggestions are leading to a specific term.  

Arthur's suggestion led me to try a more specific search for Google Images in his style with: 

      [Arcimboldo style ] 

This works surprisingly well find art-in-the-style of Arcimboldo, but it doesn't get us to a specific term. 

And that's maybe just the way it is: Maybe there ISN'T a term for "paintings made of composites of fruit or veggies."  I suspect that Arcimboldo defines this space much as Rembrandtesque defines a particular style of Dutch Master painting.  

Riffing off Arthur's idea I took this one step farther and went to the OneLook Reverse Dictionary (by doing the query [ reverse dictionary ]).  Then I did a * search like this to see all of the words in English that end in -esque.  (I note that you cannot do this in Google.)  Here I've put arrows to all of the words that are adjectives describing particular painters (Rubens, Dali, Michelangelo, etc.).  

Alas, Arcimboldo isn't among them as an "official" term, but it clearly works as an informal construction.  

But we found that a decent answer to our Challenge is "...they're Arcimboldoesque paintings!"  

Search Lessons 

1.  Not everything that you want to exist actually exists!  I really want a specific term for this kind of artwork, but it's not a thing.  Luckily, people seem to create new words ("Arcimboldoesque") as needed.  That's a good thing, as it lets us find things that are otherwise hidden.  

2. There are tools to help with partial-word matches!  There are several tools that exist for doing partial-word matches (such as the one I did above with the * on One Look).  If you work with words much (and you do!), it's worth learning more about these tools so you can use them in your advanced searching.  

P.S.  Sorry about the long delay this week.  I was traveling, which normally doesn't slow me down... but my laptop BROKE on day 2 of my weeklong trip, and I was without any way to write the blog!  Drat.  First time that's happened.  Look for a new Challenge tomorrow.  

Search on!