Sunday, December 14, 2008

Urban Sketching - Misc


Here are a few sketches from a few years back.

This is of Chicago guitarist Eric Lugosch whom I sketched while he was playing at a restaurant in Lincoln Square maybe around 2003. That's his signature on the picture. While the detail in the hands is obviously a mess, I was pleased with the simple accuracy of his face and posture. His signature and his hair was done with a fading brown felt pen that didn't scan very well, so I enhanced these details a bit digitally.

This is a self-portrait sketched in pastels on paper at an open house at the Hyde Park Art Center in Winter '07. It was done in a room themed as Andy Warhol style portraits; hung on the wall were various classic Warhol portraits (Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, etc.) and we were encouraged to use bold, non-representational color to evoke the mood of the subject. At the time I was feeling kind of burnt-out about work, so I took the instructions pretty literally, as you can see.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mastercard Commercial I'd Like to See


Karl Rove and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales found to be involved in a cover up of the U.S. attorney firings by the Senate Judiciary Committee?


Nice.




Valerie Plame to take CIA leak lawsuit to Supreme Court?
Sweet.




A democratic-controlled White House, Senate and Congress?


Priceless.

Claudia the Photographer


I'm pleased to announce my 4-year-old daughter Claudia's first photo gallery!

We let her run around the kitchen with the digital camera, and she took these shots. Keep in mind that she composed each shot by looking at it on the digital display before snapping it. (Except for the self-portrait, of course.)

As you can see, she likes closeups. Now is that just a kid being silly, or does it somehow reflect a child's view of her world?

Monday, November 10, 2008

'Rachel Getting Married' perfect...not in a good way

What Babbette's Feast did for dinner parties, Rachel Getting Married now does for music at weddings.

'Rachel Getting Married' depicts a wedding that raises the bar on having music at your wedding that is played by friends, where you have an endless number of music-playing friends, who play in an endless number of styles, except for any style one might consider classical or non-rootsy.

My friend Andrew, who earns part of his living playing classical string music for weddings, will now be getting all sorts of odd requests he won't be able to meet.

"We'd like a quartet consisting of lute, guitar, ethnic percussion and violin. They will play at each of our meals, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and the wedding banquet. We want them there the entire weekend, from the first morning as the overnight guests trickle in, to the morning after the wedding while they are leaving. They should be sitting around everywhere, noodling around, tuning up, improvising, and never taking a break unless told to shut up. At the wedding banquet they have to morph into a backup band for an annoying folk-roots singer.

We also want a 'White Stripes' style guitar-and-drums duo that will play really loud, but far away across the lawn, so they don't hurt our ears. They need to be content with not playing any actual rock music, but standards such as the Wedding March in Hendrix-playing-the-National-Anthem-at-Woodstock style.

All the other musicians, however, will be playing in extremely cramped spaces like tiny dining rooms and small tents. But don't worry, this will not be your ordinary gig. Everyone is really going to have a good time. All at the same time, all the time. They will all sway together and sing. Nobody, not even the groom's family and guests who haven't met anyone before, will be withdrawing into a contemplative mood, or feel shy or disconnected to the group mood. Well, there might be one person in whom we'll concentrate all the types of dissatisfaction that someone at a wedding might experience. Because that would make a good story.

By the wedding banquet, it should seem to our guests like we've already reached our peak, but wait until the wild nighttime bachannale we'll have in a very cramped tent, with a soul band with five brass players and hot Brazilian dancers direct from Carnival de Rio. Can you supply that? By the way, the wedding is in Connecticut.

Bear in mind that our wedding party is extremely multi-cultural. The band should match this demographic, or if you can't do that, achieve it with outlandish costumes.

We're really looking forward to this!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Grant Park Rally Report

It wasn't like a celebration after a Bulls victory or a Pistons victory in Detroit.

It wasn't like a Taste of Chicago or a Blues Fest.

It didn't lure hooligans or Obama-haters looking for trouble. They weren't in the neighborhoods either.

It wasn't a "complete mess" or any of the things some people said it would be. It was a gathering whose core was made of people deeply involved in the outcome of the election.

What it was, was an evening of watching CNN on a Jumbotron and then hearing McCain's concession and Obama's victory speech. And then it was time to go home. The Chicago Tribune has a time lapse photography video of the entire event in 3 minutes.

There were two high points for me. First, when at 10pm CDT, CNN announced a projected Obama win from Virginia, immediately followed by their projection of Obama winning the Presidency. The jubilation of that moment is something I will never forget. Next, and this is a funny one, was seeing Biden come out with that smile and his sky-blue tie. I like that guy.

The Chicago Tribune caught a pic of me in the crowd at one of the moments of jubilation. (It's pic #56 of this slideshow.)

The appearance of Obama himself was a bit anti-climactic. His energy level was not like the best we've seen from him, and his speech was more humility than jubilation. I was prepared for this by watching one of his campaign speeches earlier that day on the internet, where it seemed that fatigue from the final push was starting to get to him. Also, I already sensed a Barack Obama changed by his new responsibility. He knows his words aren't just for the purpose of bathing supporters and Democratic faithful in a warm glow. He's now on a higher plane, talking to all of America, the Congress and Senate, the World.

The majority demographic there seemed to be post-college people in mid to late 20's. One reporter described them as "poly-sci nerds." Plenty of people in their 30's, 40's and 50's too though.

There were a few negatives. The Chicago Tribune advised us to bring stuff to eat, but both our water and snacks were confiscated at one of the checkpoints. What's up, Tribune? The second is the standing and the waiting, which comes with the territory of course, but always requires some endurance. The third was the lack of cellphone signal (which everyone warned would be the case) so I couldn't do the Twittering I was hoping to do.

As previously announced, there was no live music (save for a solo singing of the National Anthem), but the choice of recorded music was very nice. Good mix of rock, blues, soul, funk and country, quality songs, but with none of the pieces being tired, worn-out overexposed classics. The African-American artist who sang the National Anthem sang in "the key of soul," but it wasn't one of those over-the-top, love-to-hear-my-voice Whitney-Houston kinds of renditions. The music that followed the Obama speech was of the same cinematic-sounding orchestral variety that was played after Obama's acceptance speech in Denver: a bit manipulative, yes, but not nearly as clicheic as actual movie music and not transparently patriotic sounding. I have good feelings about the music that will be associated with this Presidency.

For the walk back to our train, we were corralled by the police to go west on Jackson (although I needed to go north on Wabash). There the crowd really let some energy loose, whooping and hollering, where the echo from the canyon of skyscrapers was deafening.

Today, I can't find a copy of the Chicago Tribune or the New York Times...they were all bought up before 9am!

Congratulations to President-elect Obama and all his supporters!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama Election Night Rally in Chicago


For my friends outside of Chicago, you may or may not know that Barack Obama's campaign has organized an Election Night rally on the lakefront in Chicago. If Barack wins, this may be the most televised event of the evening, and the likely location of his acceptance speech.

If you're watching TV that night scan the crowd for me, since as you can see, I was able to get a ticket! (Sorry, I've blurred the bar code, so you can't make a counterfit.) There was a less than 24-hour window before they all got snapped up, but all you had to do was fill out a form on a website. To get a feel for how hot an item this ticket is, see these Craig's List ads, and these items on eBay.

If you use Twitter, follow 'gregsandell' and I will try to make updates throughout the evening. I think you can also read my Twitters from my facebook page.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween in the Burbs

For Halloween this year we took our four-year-old old to the burbs for some daylight hours trick-or-treating in a neighborhood of lots of kids under 6.

My poker buddy Josh is shown at the left with his election-timely Paul Revere costume...with a beer in his hand of course. Other costumes seen:

  • Ghostbuster with a beer in his hand
  • Indiana Jones with a beer in his hand
  • Wicked Witch with a beer in her hand
  • Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell character in 'Semi Pro') with a beer in his hand
  • Ozzy Osbourne with a beer in his hand
  • George Michael with a beer in his hand
  • Joe the Plumber with a beer in his hand
The suburbs are about beer, I guess. And kids of course. (Shown below.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Urban Sketching Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden




This is Part 4 (and final) in my Urban Sketches series: Uppsala, Sweden
Part 1: Chicago Faces
Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland

The final leg of my 1997 trip was to travel to Uppsala University in Sweden to present this paper. First I had to get there from Finland, a journey I had left unplanned. My friend Mari advised me that I would have lots of fun taking the overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm. She was right; it was great food, an interesting look at how high-roller Scandinavians take their vacations, and good opportunities for sketching.





I don't recall the circumstances of this sketch, but I'm pleased with this sketch of a nicely tailored gentleman.
I'm pleased with how I captured this smoker's relaxed posture while reading his book. I had a nice long chat with the fellow after I showed him the sketch. His name is Ingo Petry and is a composer and recording engineer.
One of my best executions, and also an example of how much detail goes into rendering hair.
At this point I am already at the conference in Uppsala, having taken a train from Stockholm, and am sketching other participants. This sketch is of Christina Anagnostopoulou of Greece. While I overshot the length of her face by quite a bit, I still like this sketch.
Daniel Levitin of the US.
Jörg Langner of (I believe) Germany.
After dinner the final night of the conference, a group of us including Girilel Baars of Sweden and Helga Gudmundsdottir of Iceland retreated to a bar, where Girilel was playing a gig that night. The writing on the sketch is Girilel's.
My final sketches occurred on the train from Uppsala to catch my flight home from Stockholm. I remember the least about these sketches except that it was a hot sunny day, and this is a guy on the train.
Man trying his best to catch a nap in the heat.
A young blonde woman.
Although a misplaced line added a few years to this young woman's age, I'm pleased with the details of the woman's outfit, and how it captures the wilting heat of that day.

I hope you enjoyed these sketches. See my sketches gallery for the rest of my drawings from this trip.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Urban Sketching Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland



This is Part 3 in my Urban Sketches series: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 1: Chicago Faces
Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden

Part two of my 1997 trip, to travel to University of Jyväskylä (prounced 'gee-VASS-cya-luh') to give a presentation to the Music Department, produced a lot of sketches. The train trip on the way up there from Helsinki was full of lots of families traveling for their summer holiday and it was a gorgeous sunny day.

An unusual character wearing the t-shirt for a Finnish Football team (that's US football, not soccer).
Sketched on the train from Helsinki. Once I botched this guy's eyeglasses, this turned into a cartoon, but I still like this picture.
Another train sketch. This mother reading to her child was actually a quite young woman, but a few botched lines aged her by 15 years and put on 25 pounds. (As my friend Mari told me, "the same is true whenever we put on makeup".) Usually I sketch inconspicuously, but in this case I was pretty overt about it since it was just me and the two of them in a passenger compartment. At the end, I felt compelled to show the picture, which I preceded by an explanation that I did a poor job and I didn't really think she looked like that. But I think she didn't understand my English so I got a blank stare.
My first night in Jyväskylä I stayed in University guest housing and I was on my own, so I wandered into town. I found a bar where I made sketches of three students. This one had a confident smirk which I captured only semi-successfully.
Another student in the bar. I remember thinking he looked a lot like Mike Meyers' 'Austin Powers' which had just come out that summer in the US, but was probably unknown in Finland still.
Another student in the bar. Notice the thing under his nose; that's called a philtral dimple. But when I showed them my sketches, the one in the beret pointed at it and laughed. I guess he thought it looked like his nose was running.
The evening after my presentation, my host Petri Toiviainen inited me to his summer home. He, his son and I enjoyed a hot sauna by their lake. Although it was well into the night, it was daylight out because of their land-of-the-midnight-sun latitude. We baked to unbelievably high temperatures, swatted ourselves with twigs, and jumped into the icy lake. I also learned about the mystical nature of the sauna, and also the correct pronounciation, which is "SOW-nuh."
This was on the train back to Helsinki. This guy was kind of an Elvis/tough guy who was making himself the center of attention in the dining car. He seemed fairly harmless, although he did whip out a switchblade and started doing tricks with it. I'm pleased with the way this sketch caught his looks and self-styled coolness. His response to the picture was ambivalent, but he did ask if he could keep the picture. He declined to give an address for me to send a copy, but he signed his name himself ('suomesta' means 'from Finland').
I'm very pleased with the way I caught the hunched-over attention this woman was paying to her book, with minimal use of lines. Her name is Simi Kouri, and she was in the dining car with me and Vesa Attonen.

See my sketches gallery for the rest of my drawings from this trip.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Urban Sketching Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia




This is Part 2 in my Urban Sketches series: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 1: Chicago Faces
Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden



In 1997, when I was doing research in Music Perception, I got a few papers accepted at the ESCOM conference to be held that Summer in Uppsala, Sweden. (ESCOM is the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music.) Through my contact with researcher Mari Tervaniemi I was also invited to give a talk in Finland at the University of Jyväskylä. That led to yet another opportunity, to go a bit east from Helsinki and visit St. Petersburg, Russia.

Taking a train to Russia by yourself is a pretty daunting experience. But since I thrive on foreign cultures and like using my wits to make the best of foreign situations, it was an amazing adventure. It was a pretty slow train with lots of stops, so I had lots of time on my hands to sketch lots of faces, many of whom were very different from faces one sees anywhere in the USA.

There were many businessmen on the train to St. Petersburg. I spoke at length with one of them (not this man, though). He believed that Russians would take very long to "get" capitalism...two generations minimum. That's how long it would take them to learn not to expect the government to provide them with everything.
This is one of my best likenesses. Later I talked with him and he told me he is a policeman. He and his friends got a good laugh over the pic when I showed it to them.
Here's a few sketches of a very lean, athletic looking business man with a strikingly Scandinavian face. He and his colleagues got a kick out of seeing my sketches of them.
Another sleeping businessman who enjoyed seeing this sketch later.
An accurate likeness of a woman with a very stark Scandinavian face. Made me think of the Finnish composer Jan Sibelius.
Helen, who was my guide to the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, and also showed me around town. That's her handwriting, with her name both in Cyrilic and latin characters. She's right, it was a bad cartoon of her face, but it still helps recall the memory of a nice afternoon.
Young man with a very stark Scandinavian face.
Two sketches of a man from the dining car. Another unusually Scandinavian face...which reminded me of composer Richard Wagner's.
I vaguely recall that this young man was part of a tour group, perhaps as a guide, which explains his very "on" expression.

See my sketches gallery for the rest of my drawings from this trip.

CloudCamp Chicago meeting Oct 21, 2008


Last Tuesday (Oct 21, 2008) was the Cloud Computing one-night conference "CloudCamp" hosted by Tech Cocktail. My company has some really time consuming web analytics tasks that take days to run, and we're exploring using GridGain to distribute the work over several servers, so it was a good chance for me to get an acquaintance with this field.

I've included a few photos from the event, that come from the conference's Flickr photogallery.

The meeting was alright. I didn't see anyone I knew there but had reasonably enjoyable small talk with mostly non-technical people during the drinking hour.

It wasn't a conference in any traditional sense of the word. There were no scheduled topic, no scheduled speakers. They did use the format used by O'reilly's "Foo Camps". They have a grid of sessions and meeting rooms on a whiteboard. All the squares are empty. Then they ask everybody who has a topic they are interested in to write it in a square on the board. Presto...you are now the moderator of that session.

I volunteered the topic "Software Engineering and Grid Computing". Eight really smart people showed up, including two physicists from Italy, two doctoral students, a guy from UBS, and a consultant from CohesiveFT, a Chicago company specializing in cloud computing.

Physics people have been doing grid computing for years, so they were levels above me. But interestingly, a lot of their problems have to do with resource sharing. There can be other research teams that also want to use the grid, and maybe they don't want the nodes installed with the same software you do, and the people with the biggest grants tend to win out.

The most interesting guy there was the consultant from CohesiveFT, Pat Kerpan. He had two pieces of memorable wisdom. (1) Rule of thumb: count on a 30% performance penalty imposed from the overhead of grid enabling your problem. (2) It's easier to bring the computing to the data than to bring the data to the computing.

He talked about the stuff their company uses for their clients called "Open Source Sun Hypervisor". This has an interface that allows you to trick out your nodes with whatever setup you want (e.g. pick and choose between java, tomcat, flavors of linux, struts, etc.) and get a multinode environment all set up in six minutes.

Several of the people spoke knowingly of "paravirtualization". Pat distinguished between problems that are "compute bound" vs. "data bound".

A few people referred to Hadoop. No one had ever heard of GridGain, but I don't think that Java development was strongly represented in that collection of people.

People have different aims in cloud computing. For a lot of people, they don't mind if a lot of virtual nodes are spread over one machine.

Virtualization was recommended as a convention even when you are doing one node per machine.

In many commercial applications, 4 virtual nodes per machine is typical.

Many people responded to my description of what we are trying to do at iCrossing with "why don't you just use Amazon's cloud computing"? To hear them describe it, Amazon gives you the flexibility to do whatever you want.

I could have attended some of the other sessions if I wanted to stay two more hours, but I split after mine. The other sessions were on pretty soft- or business-focussed topics. One guy led a session called “What color is your cloud?” There were two Microsoft people who found each other and made their own Microsoft-focussed session ("Cloud Computing in Windows 8 and SQL Server").

Urban Sketching Part 1: Chicago faces





A few days ago I started enjoying a new blog called Urban Sketchers. Urban Sketching is a name they're giving to a casual kind of amateur art emphasizing simple techniques like line drawing and water coloring, not making a big deal out of making a "finished product" or eliminating flaws, and emphasizing simple subjects found in ordinary life.

I loved this kind of art in Mollie Katzen's self-illustrated cookbooks The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. And a few years back I found another fun book featuring a similar style: The Moonlight Chronicles. Also, there's R. Crumb's sketchbooks and "Waiting for Food" books.

Cartooning was an early love of mine, and in 1997 I returned to drawing to chronicle a trip I took to Finland, Sweden and Russia. During that time, inspired by the excitement of travel, and having a lot of time on trains, planes and boats, I think I became a halfway decent Urban Sketcher.

This is the start of a series of postings featuring some of my better drawings. I'm beginning with the pictures I drew around Chicago after I returned from that trip.

Other parts in this series:
Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden


I sketched this woman on the Chicago red line el. I'm pretty pleased with the way I captured her bundled-up posture as she held on to her purse while trying to catch a snooze. People napping, or reading books are the best people to sketch, because they don't catch you in the act and make you feel self-conscious.
Another napper on the red line el. Generally I would start with the forehead, capture the indent of the eye socket, the nose, and the cheek of the subject. If I got that first stroke right, everything else would follow no problem. So that first moment would take incredible concentration and self-confidence, because I hated botching a sketch.
Shannon Russell, my girlfriend at the time, at Heartland Cafe. It's not the best likeness of her, although it captures her beauty.
This is Bill Yost of Parmly Hearing Institute at Loyola University Chicago, where I worked at the time. I was able to sketch Bill because he was concentrating on a seminar speaker---which I was supposed to be doing too. :-)
Yet another person snoozing on the Chicago red line el.


All of my sketches from 1997 can be found in this photo gallery.