Category Archives: Art

Christian’s “defective” lens

Christian ordered an odd lens (Helios 44-2 58mm f/2) on ebay from a guy in the Ukraine the last time he came here to visit. It was over the holidays and it took quite a long time to get here. It is a cheap lens for which he had to get an adapter so it would fit his camera.  The reason he bought the thing is that it has an odd “defect” that makes it very interesting. Somehow, the lens “pixelates” stuff in the background. Because of this defect and the very cool effect manifested by image taken with it, it has become somewhat of a collectors item. Christian took the picture below to show us the effect. We thought it was pretty cool.

Kelly draws for a week

Kelly visits for a drawing session or twoI have written extensively about our homeschool art classes (see here, hereherehere, and many more). One of our most fun, long running activities was to sit at the dining room table and draw together for a half an hour every day. One of the outgrowths of that was Kelly’s two year long, 5-day per week comic strip, Betty Blonde, in addition to the caricature and portrait skills she garnered. This turned us into avid art fans (we are art museum nuts) and avocational artists.

It was so nice that Kelly felt inspired to sit quietly and randomly cartoon for an hour or so while I worked on my Sickle Cell project. She really has not lost her touch. I keep browbeating her into spinning back up a comic strip. We developed quite a process to be able to publish her strips that involved drawing, scanning, inking, accumulation of frames, copyrighting, etc. We both miss it (the process, not the comics themselves, although we miss that, too).

Christian sees Renoir’s Dance at Bougival

Dance at Bougival, Christian sees the real one at the Museum of Fine Arts in BostonGrandma Sarah bought a print of Renoir’s Dance Bougival back in the 1980’s for a small apartment where I lived by myself that had nothing on its walls. I had few good going on in my life at the time and was, frankly pretty down, so it was a great act of kindness and I have loved and admired that painting very much. It is such an amazing work of art that has such an amazing reminder of my mother’s love for me and for the underdog. It was so very typical of the kind of thing she would do. The funny deal is that Grandpa Lauro and I, independently came to the conclusion that the dancing man reminds me very much of my brother Doug–even now.

Christian’s last day of work for the summer at Lincoln Labs was yesterday. He presented his research to the team, went out for ice cream with his church friends in the area–visiting scholars and students at the area schools from New Zealand, Toronto and Jamaica and went back to the dorm to pack for home. He knows about this picture. It is always the one we hang first. Last week he learned that he lives virtually across the street from the permanent home the original of our print.

Today, he texted me this photograph of himself by the painting. I had asked him to do that for me if he could, but he was so busy, he knew he was not going to be able to do it. Nevertheless, he found a few minutes and ran into the museum to take this photograph just a few minutes before it closed on his last full day in Boston. I am very grateful Christian was able to make the time to take the picture. He was surprised the painting was so big–bigger than our print by quite a lot. Lorena and I got the painting out and have decided to find an appropriate frame for our print as soon as we can.

Luis’ and Mine’s paintings

Luis paints us a pictureOur dear friends Luis and Mine who are also Lorena’s brother Rigo’s father and mother-in-law each painted us a painting for our new house when we moved to North Carolina. It was so kind of them to paint these for us and we love them a lot. Now we have found a great home for both of them in our new house.Mine paints us a picture Mine’s painting is perfect for a kitchen setting. We found a tripod for it and keep it on the counter. The colors are just perfect, too.

Luis’ painting is amazing. It is a street scene that is very, very Mexican in style. One of the bathrooms in the house has a patently Mexican motif and the colors match remarkably well. We would have had a hard time finding a painting better than the one Luis painted for us.

We are grateful to them both.

A new blog header and some new and old memories

New Mt. Rainier Blog Header

You might have noticed we put up a new blog header. Lorena found my old Canon PowerShot SD 750 pocket camera when she unpacked the house. I immediately went out and took this picture. I am not a great photographer and the camera, while it may not be the best in the world, is small enough to fit comfortable in a shirt pack, still takes good enough pictures that I cannot tell the difference.

This move has really been a joy. We are thankful for it all from our old friends in Texas (Dan, Al, Jill, Gary, Debbie, Sue, the Lee’s, the Drake’s, all of them) to our new friends, starting with Bob and Gena, there is much for which to be thankful. The least of these things for which to be thankful is the “stuff” we are unpacking and even that brings back memories–this is the camera Grandpa Lauro always used while he was with us.

Tio Lauro el artista

Update: For anyone who wants to hear the interview, you can listen to it here.

Lauro art #3
Lorena’s oldest brother, Lauro, has attracted quite a following in social media to the point where he is being interviewed on Internet radio and invited to art exhibits in Europe, Mexico and the United States. Tonight he was interviewed here. He has been recognized for his art in Italy, France, the United States and Mexico. He is very much influenced by the impressionists. His web page is here. His facebook is here. His instagram is here.
Lauro art #1

The humor of Tío Jorge

Yesterday, I saw Lorena giggling as she looked at her phone as I walked to the car where she waited to take me home from work. When I asked her what that was all about. She showed me a joke sent to her by Tío Jorge. It was of the same “high quality” of humor we have come to expect from Grandpa Milo, Grandpa Lauro and Uncle Merle. Here it is:

Un hombre fue al doctor muy preocupado y le dijo al doctor, “no puedo dormir porque cada vez que cierro mis ojos un sueño me viene de ‘uno mas dos, uno mas dos, uno mas dos.’ No me deja dormir bien. Semanas me han pasado sin poder dormir hasta me tiene preocupado durante el día también. Me pasa tanto ese sueño ‘uno mas dos, uno mas dos, uno mas dos’ que estoy perdiendo mi salud hasta el punto que tiemblo todo el tiempo. Que puede ser?”

El doctor le respondió, “Es tres.”

Lauro, a passion for art and Daniel Silva

Lauro painting - El RiachueloLorena’s oldest brother Lauro is a passionate painter. He spends every spare minute painting. We were in Mexico one year when he got sent to Paris by his company for leadership training for a week. While everyone else went out and partied after the daily meetings, Lauro went wherever he could find impressionist paintings. He eventually made is way down to an area frequented by impressionists. They set up their easels there on the sidewalks and paint. He spent hours watching and talking to them. Eventually, he bought a couple of small paintings that he brought back with him to Mexico.

I love Lauro’s passion for his art. I have been meaning to tell him about some novels I am reading where his kind of art and passion for art play a big role in the plots of virtually every book in a fairly large series. To do that, I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is to ready spy and mystery novels. Several months ago I ran into a recommendation for one of the novels by Marvin Olasky in an old article in World Magazine:The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva

Here’s my unconventional reading recommendation for high-school seniors: Daniel Silva’s The Heist (HarperCollins, 2014). It’s real: starts with the murder of a fallen British spy involved in the theft of great paintings. It’s a page-turner: continues with the efforts of Silva’s great hero, Israeli spy (and art restorer) Gabriel Allon, and a brave young woman who survived a Syrian massacre. It’s a proven reader-pleaser: This is the 14th novel in a series that repeatedly hits No. 1 on bestseller lists. And The Heist is 2/3 satisfactory regarding the “bad stuff”: no bad language or sex. Some violence—remember, it has spies and Syrian bad guys—but nothing grossly graphic.

And did you twice read the word “Syrian” in my last paragraph—a tipoff that The Heist will also teach students some current events and recent history? They’ll learn about 44 years of mass murder and mega-theft by the upwardly mobile Assad family that has ascended from peasantry to a $25 billion fortune, according to some estimates. Students will learn about bank secrecy in Austria. They’ll gain sympathy for Israel, a nation still largely aloof from God (sigh) but one deserving support because its citizens built and maintain a tidy small house—although one with broken windows—on a rough street of big mansions with loaded howitzers and unchained pit bulls.

Olasky’s must have similar tastes to my own as I have never been lead astray by his recommendations. There is a lot to like about these novel. I think Lauro would love them, not only because they are thrilling, page-turner, spy novels, but because the author is holds the same kind of passion for art as Lauro. One of the novels is even centered on Lauro’s favorite artist, Vincent Van Gogh. The author’s name is Daniel Silva and I was very surprised to see that his American. You will understand that statement when you have finished the first novel. The first book in the Gabriel Allon series is titled The Kill Artist.

Update: Lorena sent me the following picture from last night while I was reading Daniel Silva’s latest novel on my $33 Kindle with the help of Kiwi the remaining twin cat sister.
Kiwi and Dad read a Daniel Silva novel on the $33 Kindle

Avocation and life skills as part of homeschool

Christian and I talked last night about avocation. There were lots of things we tried when the kids were growing up as part of our homeschool and just as part of life. We focused hard on specific academic paths that gave the kids as many options as possible when it came to career choices. The reality is we did not do so bad at that part–the kids are now in a place they can go virtually any direction they want career-wise. At the other end of the spectrum were things that would be characterized as life skills and or avocations. We had varying degrees of success with things that were not the central focus of our homeschool academics, but at which we invested time, effort and a fairly large amount of our resources. I thought I might make a list of some of that stuff. I say only some of it because there was so much that I know I will miss a bunch of it. So what am I talking about:

  • Music–Lorena and I are actually very limited in our musical ability. The kids are a lot better than us, but not exceptional. Kelly can play the piano and sing very well. Christian is much better at classical guitar than he thinks he is. All in all, we did not do so bad. Both the kids got ten years of music/instrument lessons and both still love to play. I would put this in the joyful avocation category.
  • Art–We did well in art. Of course there is the drawing (e.g. here and here) and all the crafts we did, but the thing that surprises me most is that we all like to go to Art Museums when we are together. We know some artists we like and enjoy art appreciation as much or more as we enjoy making art.
  • Cooking–Lorena is amazing and deserves a post all by itself. She has followed a pretty incredible culinary path that is wildly eclectic. Kelly is going down that same path, but with here own twist that is heavily influenced, I think, by the fact that she lives in the amazing food culture of the Pacific Northwest. Christian is more utilitarian, but goes on a baking or cooking binge that pushes the envelope on a semi-regular basis. As for me, I make an OK omelet which is also the entire cooking legacy I leave to my children. Well that and how to cook a turkey.
  • Sports and exercise–This deserves a post all by itself because we made a decision very early on to assure that exercise become a normal part of life, but sports, especially football, basketball, soccer and baseball were given very, very low priorities on the list we wanted the kids to do or watch. Part of that is because I had seen this so up close and personal, but part of it was because those sports are a time and resource drain that have negative value as either life skills, avocations or activities that engendered positive values. We tended more toward swimming, running and a little bit of hiking. Both the kids are active as weight lifters and runners these days.

The thing that was great about all that stuff is we got into all of it and got excited about it at the same time we did not over emphasize it. We wanted this all to be something for which the kids could have lifelong enjoyment without it consuming their lives. We will have to wait awhile longer to see if we had any level of success at that goal.

Dallas Museum of Art

2016-03-20-DMA-MonetLorena, Kelly, Christian and I all went to the  Dallas Museum of Art. It is wildly impressive. The picture with this blog post is of me with an original Claude Monet. There were Pissarros, Manets, Gaugins and much, much more. It was at least as good as the North Carolina Museum of Art and we truly love the North Carolina Museum of Art. We have just touched the tip of the iceberg in Dallas and are looking forward to much, much more.

Betty Blonde #498 – 07/14/2010
Betty Blonde #498
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.

Will Kelly share her art with us again?

KellyCaricatureKelly went to a conference in Las Vegas. While she was there, here group gambled at the craps table for a little while. Since did not gamble, one of the guys in the group had her roll the dice for her several times and she won him $300. The guy gave her $25 for her trouble which she promptly blew on the drawing she holds in the picture. It was from a slightly tipsy street artist and you can see it is a monumentally bad likeness. You know what they way about ill-gotten gains!

This has inspired Kelly to start to share her art once again. She has started a new Instagram account named Betty Blonde Draws. She has her first three caricatures up there now. They are very good likenesses, but of the very quickly drawn ones. She plans to do more quick ones, but she also plans to spend some time to create some that are more thoughtfully drawn.

This is all great because she is kind of an amazing caricaturist. One of biggest worries is that the kids would have a lousy art education if we homeschooled. It turns out the had a fairly amazing art education including the study of art history. Maybe it was because I am so weak myself in that area, we worked harder to make sure we overcame my weakness. It is certainly true that I also received much more art than I had before we started the effort.

So if you want to be drawn, send her a picture of yourself. She is always looking for more material.

Betty Blonde #491 – 07/02/2010
Betty Blonde #491
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.

What you learned in Kindergarten is still important

Christian PowerPoint slide for Lincoln Labs presentationChristian is scheduled to fly to Boston tomorrow to give a talk on his research. He has all the technical material well in hand and a well organized presentation. Not so amazingly, one of his biggest challenges is to create professional and compelling PowerPoint slides that convey his ideas. It seems like none of the tools commonly used to create graphics for the slides have improved very much or gotten any easier to use in the last twenty years.

Christ has been creating these kinds of presentations for a long, long time. I bought the kids a desktop publishing program called Microsoft Publisher when Kelly was twelve and Christian was ten. You can see some thumbnails of the magazine they published below. Christian is fluent in the use of LaTeX, Inkscape, GIMP, GnuPlot and other graphical tools, but it seems like the tools of choice are MatLab, Excel and PowerPoint. It makes a whole lot of sense to use better tools than MatLab and Excel to create graphs (R is great), but every institution has their favorite PowerPoint template so he is probably stuck with that.

Kaktus Kids 1 Kaktus Kids 2 Kaktus Kids 3

Betty Blonde #376 – 12/24/2009
Betty Blonde #376
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.

Homeschool drawing class: Grandpa Lauro


Yesterday would have been Grandpa Lauro’s 73rd birthday. Lorena and I were thinking about it and went back through the blog to find the portraits of him we drew as part of our homeschool drawing class when Christian was twelve. These were drawn shortly after we moved to North Carolina and some of our very first efforts, so they really were not that great, but it brought back great memories of both Grandpa Lauro and of our drawing classes.

The reality is that I have never been much of an artist so I had to study a lot myself to be able to teach our homeschool art class. I have to say, in the end, it was one of our greatest homeschool success stories. We got some art history along with basic drawing skills and had great time together. Kelly’s comic strip (you can see an example at the bottom of this post) was an outgrowth of our homeschool art program, too. Best of all, though, it put all of us together, sitting quietly, listening to classical music and drawing and talking for an hour at least three times per week for several years. I would not give that back for anything.

You can see some of my old posts on drawing by clicking here.

Betty Blonde #370 – 12/16/2009
Betty Blonde #370
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.

Public campaign for Kelly to start drawing again

Commie professorOne of the great joys of this blog when the kids were in their undergraduate degrees was the reports they brought to us about happenings during class surrounding certain of their ultra-politically correct professors. Sometimes, even usually, they arrived via text messages from their phones in real-time. When I started writing about those events, Kelly drew me a Commie Professor logo to go with those blog posts.

I am quite happy to say this is all happening again in Kelly’s grad school experience. Good grief, she lives in SEATTLE, a veritable hotbed of anarchism and histrionic coffee house emotings. It is as close as one can get to Portlandia without actually being in Portland, but with the potential for anarchist rioting. The purpose of this post is to serve as a public shaming of Kelly to get her to illustrate and describe her encounters in the coffee shops, classrooms, conferences and gala events she attends so that this momentous time of her life as a grad student can be documented properly. She has committed to this and now it is time to put up.

The difference between graduate school experiences between Kelly and Christian (down in Tempe) is fairly stark. Part of that might have to do with the differences in the cultures of the schools. I think the bigger difference is between the nature of the material they are studying. Kelly’s anecdotes about school tend toward the absurd–almost like during her undergraduate degree. Christian has lots of anecdotes that are equally as interesting, but in a completely different way.

Serious is not the right word to describe what I think when Christian talks about his school and his work although the what he does definitely falls into that category. The work is so cerebrally intense that I do not think the people in his program have much time for consideration of much out of their academic domain. It is just very, very interesting. It is not just the work he and his compatriots do. It is also their interactions.

The difficulty of the material, the personalities and wide ranging cultures (different parts of the US, India, China, etc.), the research sponsors from important laboratories, think tanks, universities and industry, the frantic and frenetic race to understand insanely difficult problems before someone else with an off the charts IQ and an insane work ethic beats you to it–all of that is just jaw droppingly interesting. What these people do is beyond the boundaries of my understanding. In Christian’s case, it is down in the bowels of very hard math guided by his professor who just became a Fellow of the IEEE and is associated with all the luminaries in his areas of research. I am trying to figure out how to write about this in a compelling way to describe the extremely fascinating daily workings of Christian’s degree, but I might not ever be able to do it adequately. I will try if I get it figured out.

In the meantime, I am going to keep browbeating Kelly with continued public shamings until she starts sending me some illustrations and anecdotes I can publish here.

Betty Blonde #354 – 11/24/2009
Betty Blonde #354
here or on the image to see full size strip.

Fashion Dads

Instagram: Fashion Dads

I think a lot of people were surprised when I decided on a career in engineering. Everyone pretty much expected me to work as a swimming wear supermodel. I really am glad I decided to follow my heart and take the glamor route as a machine vision guy. I have a modicum of success in that, so I was pretty surprised when they started to drag me back in based on a Mexico vacation picture. Click on the picture to see what happened. There is more.

  • The page to the whole group of us on Instagram is here.
  • The Witty and Pretty website link is here.
  • The BuzzFeed link is here.

The latest is that CNN’s Headline News wants to do a segment and has requested permission to use my photo. I think I am being objectified.

Betty Blonde #238 – 06/15/2009
Betty Blonde #238
here or on the image to see full size strip.

BleAx rewrite: Introduction

My daughter Kelly drew a comic strip called Betty Blonde five days per week for two years starting when she was thirteen years old. I wrote a program called BleAx a few years back to help her accumulate the four hand drawn panels of her daily comic strip into a single image with a title, date, copyright, borders and that sort of thing. The program allowed the her to automatically upload the strip to a website for display. I did the whole thing by hand for about a year, then spent about six months writing BleAx whenever I had an hour or so free, here and there. BleAx stands for Betty Blonde Aggregator of Comix.

I wrote BleAx in Python and still have it, but have decided to rewrite it as a learning exercise. I normally write programs in C/C++ in my day job, but have recently been wrapping some of the time critical stuff I write in C++ in a Python wrapper so engineers who do not normally write in a “non-garbage-collected” language can use it easily. I now have started using a set of libraries called PySide to write Qt GUI’s in Python. It took me a bit of time and hassle to get my environment set up to automate the GUI development and C/C++ wrapping in so I did not have to go through a ton of manual processes to build the programs and put the results where they needed to be. I do a lot of work with OpenCV so I will talk about how to use that effectively in this environment, too.

I am sure my process is not perfect and that is part of the reason I am doing this publicly, so some of the people that might read this can beat up my process and tell me how to do it better.  To that end, I am going to start rewriting BleAx. I do not have a ton of time, so this will be a little bit of a slow process. I am mostly doing it just for fun and documentation, but if it helps anyone else, that will be great.

Betty Blonde #222 – 05/22/2009
Betty Blonde #222
here or on the image to see full size strip.

Programming and comic strips: An example

Kelly has decided she wants to start drawing her comic strip again as she has time. You can see an example of what she did before at the bottom of this post. She is going to do something different now, but plans to do a four panel strip like before. I wrote up some code to accumulate the hand draw single panels, add titles, copyright notices, borders, etc, and then post the results to our website. I could easily dust off the old code and use it again for her current efforts, but have decided to try to rewrite it as a way to improve some new skills on which I am working.

The idea will be to write a series of blog posts on how to set up an environment to write low level code that needs to go fast in C++ and the GUI and everything else in Python. I plan to talk about how I use Qt Creator, OpenCV, SWIG, PyCharm, PySide, some batch files, and a merge tool to automate this and make it easier. I am at the beginning of another series called Our Homeschool Story that I will also continue, but this is a very different thing that will provide some variety. I hope to start sometime over Christmas break.

Betty Blonde #220 – 05/20/2009
Betty Blonde #220
here or on the image to see full size strip.