Aiming for Precisionism but Missing

When I was in Houston, I took perhaps my favorite photo-of-mine ever, this shot of the Houston Hyatt. It reminded me of some photos that the artist Charles Sheeler took. But he didn't leave his photos alone. He used them as models for his paintings. His paintings smoothed the images out, made them flatter.

I don't know how to paint. I'm not going to get good at it any time soon. As a lazy engineer, I'm always looking for shortcuts. If all I want to do is smooth some of the texture out of a photo, maybe I can do that in software. I tried opening up the photo in the GIMP, a photo-editing program. I told it to use a palette of just 16 colors. That looked--too flat. Too weird.

So I tried writing my own image-manipulation program. Python has an Imaging library; its API is nice; this was a fun thing to play with. What did I try? Consider the image, one row of pixels at a time. For each row, set up four levels each of Red, Green, Blue. Draw the photo, "restrained" to this palette.

[altered photo]

The result is... not so great. Not so precisionist; all to pointillist. It reminds me of an old GIF file, full of noise forced by its small palette. On the other hand, it's strange to look at this image, and to know why it's noisy, to understand the complicated filter I applied to it. It inspires other filters.

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Site: Yet more Library Book Cart graffiti photos

I uploaded more library book truck graffiti photos (scroll down to the section marked February 2009 for the latest greatest). Can you find the palindrome? I knew you could.

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Book Report: Code Complete

Computers are hard. This afternoon, I was trying to figure out why some people couldn't view my web site. It sounded like a DNS problem; one guy reported it was affecting him on Comcast in Boston. So I tried Googling for DNS problem reports; I found people complaining that Comcast provides crappy DNS. I don't know if that means that Comcast provides crappy DNS or if that means that Comcast has many customers and thus has more people to whine about it. And then I got sidetracked when I found out that I no longer know what organization manages Back when I set up this domain, was managed by an outfit called They were the (something something) delegate. No one outfit was going to try to handle registering all of the .us domains; depending on what region you wanted a domain in, you'd deal with some local delegate. Thus, Don't look them up, they no longer exist. I found a forum post which reported that got gobbled by something which got gobbled by something else which got gobbled by If still manages, I didn't find any evidence of it on their web site. seems to imply that manages it--but it doesn't have any record of my domain. So the good news about my domain is that it's free, but the bad news of "free" is that if no-one's cashing your checks, then maybe you don't know who you're dealing with.

Computers are hard. Anyhow, yeah, book report, yeah, Code Complete, here we go.

This is one of those influential books that I didn't get much out of because their ideas have already percolated out into society. Heck, a large part of what it does is distill down ideas that had already percolated around society long ago. This book takes the time to summarize both sides of the goto-considered-harmful debate. So I kinda spaced out most of the time I was "reading" this book. Still, there are advantages of skimming over a book that's considered an authority of sanity and stuff.

I'm thinking of this section in particular:

Taking pictures of whiteboard drawings with a digital camera and then embedding those pictures into traditional documents can be a low-effort way to get 80 percent of the benefit of saving design drawings by doing 1 percent of the work required if you use a drawing tool.

I do that. I draw on the whiteboard and snap a photo instead of diving into you favorite diagram-drawing tool. And people laugh at me when I do. But now I can point at this book. I can say, "It's in Code Complete, thus it is accepted industry practice QED."

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Publishing News: Cyanotype HOWTO

My friend Elizabeth Graves is a photographer, but she's also a chemist. She experiments with with alternative photographic development techniques. She's created some neat images, and some of them made it into this new how-to book about blueprint and cyanotypes.

If you don't know about her work, you might be thinking, "Why should the presence of her photos convince me to buy this book?" Heck, if you want a book about how to make your own cyanotype prints, you don't have much choice. I just did some searching on, and there were few choices--a few out-of-print expensive choices. When you're ready to combine mad science with rad art, this book looks like a good resource.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #37

This issue of "Giant Robot" features interviews with a few Chinese-Jamaicans who were part of the music scene back in the early days of reggae. You want to send a message back in time to these guys: "No, don't let them slow down the ska!" But it's too late.

Oh, and there was a good photo by Takashi Homma, apparently part of some series called Tokyo Suburbia: an empty road past a stark-white painted solid fence/wall, so bright it has to be computer-generated, but of course it isn't. It's just a bit of reality from a particularly bleak place.

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Link: Elizabeth Graves @

Check it out. Elizabeth Graves is a photographer. She makes some normal-looking photos, but she makes some by unusual methods. Some of these were sufficiently unusual to win her a spot at

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