Admiral Nelson on OCR Techniques

In the run up to the New Year I planned for my long awaited new years hangover about eight weeks in advance. I know it’s only one night off, but the debilitating effects of alcohol are possibly greater on someone of my fragile stature – probably due to my person being thoroughly irradiated by the warm glow generated from the four enormous flat-screens that have become more a home than my bed this last year.

I also think that a persons proximity to so many millions of pixels tends to have a significant effect on a persons ability to construct long sentences with proper punctuation as well. Add the traditional lashings of Dublins finest stout – extra cold, and available over most of a 24 hour period at a gentle hostelry such as the New Inn Llanrwst – my local pub – expertly proferred by Veronica and Jim, and nothing but the finest friends and witness here the results. …A rambling diatribe with about as much to do with the subject matter of The eponymous Admiral as George W. Bush has to do with global cooling.

But still, the preparation for New Years Eve was fun. Around November then, I started stocking up for xmas by preparing a few thousand more books for the ever-ravenous OCR farm to ingest. The first part of this herculean task was to get a new chair as I had worn the spots off my old one. Secondly, a modest investment from the iTunes store of the complete Aubrey Matururin series Audiobooks. Namely the complete series as written by the inestimable Patrick O’Brien narrated (too small a word really) by the fabulous Patrick Tull.

Simmer gently for 60 days, and then bingo – two months later you get to enjoy New Years Eve drunk in Llanrwst, Wales.The sobering up part has been quite a sobering experience in itself as well. In the general incoherence hereabouts I could barely even mutter -‘mines a double’ so I declined to celebrate the sucessful launch of the beta Pointmore site, so instead I revisited a bunch of OCR related forums I haunt to see what was occuring.

Among the things I pondered in this giddy state were; Could I get a passport for BookLand, and could 13 be ISBN’s lucky number. Was the Dewey Decimal System dead yet?, or should I create a new cataloging system for books by taking an ISBN (ASIN) change a couple of letters – ABSINTH sounded nice…

All the time Patrick Tulls deliciously naval voice rasped and purred over the speakers recounting the adventures of Aubrey and Maturin, and me pausing playback to cross-check facts from the books by inputting interesting and unique sounding events and names into the search engine to see what pops up.

Successes were many and notable. I’ll dig around for the exact book this particular factoid comes from later, but for now please imagine me sweating clouds of Guinness (hic) and the two Patricks spinning in my head when I came across a letter from one of the other captains who were co-victorious with Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and how this particular Captain had sawn off the mainmast of a captured vessel – one that was responsible for an injury Nelson acquired in that battle.

This fine naval gentleman then instructed his ships carpenter to ‘carve from the mast a casket for Nelson’.

Within the Ultrapedia library is the correspondence between Nelson and his as yet un-named benefactor, and as a nice touch a note from his bosun saying that the Admiral was so delighted with his his new ‘trophy casket’ that he stood it on-end for all to see in the captains cabin.

Still Patrick Tulls charming buzz-saw rasp drones on – 28 audiobooks back to back is quite a task to simply listen to – my cap is off to Patrick Tull here, but, like a long-lost foghorn through the cloudy mists of recollection gathered Nelsons famous battle technique – ‘to blazes with tactics – just go straight at ’em’.

I pondered the wisdom of these words, and concluded that I had ‘done a Nelson’ and gone straight at the problems of OCR, without sometimes even realising that hundreds of groups and forums had been discussing the various merits and demerits of OCR technology. Still, if I hadn’t had done this, I wouldn’t have been able to relate the ‘gem’ I found about Nelsons casket would I…?

And then I poured myself another drink. Raised it to the four plasma screens that surround me and remembered I hadn’t even wished the readers of this blog a Happy New Year.

Better late than never – have a great 2008 !!