Author Archives: Dan Nguyen

On the Deferred Life Plan (HN)

I didn’t watch the video linked to here from HN, but I enjoyed the discussion. One person’s advice and life circumstance rarely applies to the general population, but this comment was particularly poignant:

I have a client, nice old lady, a widow, in her 70′s and while working on her computer she started talking about her life and times. She warned me about working too much and told me her tale of woe.

She and her husband worked all their lives, raised a family and saved their money. Their plan was to retire early at 55-60 and then travel the world once kids were grown. All was going according to plan and they both retired but then her husband got colon cancer and died 6 months after he retired before they took a single trip.

She wasn’t bitter but clearly regretted deferring life for work, and she did not want me to make the same mistake. After her husband died she tried to travel but said it was just too difficult to carry on without her husband. Sad to see her living with a broken heart.

More on programming and fashion casting directors

Models and their comp cards

Models and their comp cards

My “Fashionistas: Please Learn to Code” made it to the front of Reddit’s r/programming and got a good amount of commentary.

If you thought the original post got into pedantic detail, you should see the counterpoint and rebuttal between me and a few other commenters. This user tries to argue that my situation could be dealt with Lightroom and tethered shooting (connecting the camera to a laptop with a USB cable).

This is ridiculous, because the photographer has Lightroom or Aperture to do this all without writing a single line of code. He then hands his catalog for the shoot along with the hi-res JPGs, which have all been renamed to YYYYMMDDHHmmSS-#.jpg format (where # is the sequence number of the file from the camera).
All the photos have then been tagged with the model name (first name will do), hair color, eye color, and modeling agency. There are also keywords indicating the background, pose, clothing, and props. So now the casting director can winnow 1,000 photos down to 5 or 10 and then look through them for the the ones he/she wants.
This is a fine example of how to solve a problem with code, but it’s a terrible example of how to solve a real-life problem.

Well, besides the cost of any additional software/equipment, I point out that his solution is photographer-centric. That is, a real photographer should have these tools/workflows available rather than needing custom code. Maybe so (I disagree a bit, but see his point), but the point of my original article was to see this from the casting director’s point of view.

Because the casting director is primarily concerned about casting, not photography, she does not have the incentive to hire a full-fledged photographer or own such equipment/workflow herself. The code snippet I provide is written when she can only assume the following:

  1. She has someone who is operating a digital camera
  2. She has an assistant with a laptop

And that’s it. She can’t assume that the laptop has Lightroom, tethering software, or that there’s many multiple memory cards to swap in and out. She also has to assume that the flow of models will be fast, so taking more than 2 minutes per model is not sufficient.

Given those constraints, I think my coding solution beats any commercial setup when cost and efficiency is concerned. Most importantly, even if the code fails, the casting director can still do the photo sorting as she has always done it. This is because the code requires only the information that the casting director has traditionally gathered (with the exception of the timestamp, which isn’t too arduous).

Someone can point out that my circumstances seem arbitrary, but they are what I’ve experienced in real life. They may seem arbitrary and contrived to an outside programmer, and that underscores my point: there are more problems and variability in their details that non-professional programmers have a lot to gain from learning a little code.

A reader pointed me to this post, Automating Mass Portraits with QR Codes, which provides Python and PHP to deal with a similar situation. Another programming photographer!

Learning Python for the libraries

I’ve stuck with Ruby because that’s what we use at ProPublica and it’s been great for app development in Rails. But it’s been gnawing at me how I’m missing out on such great libraries as SciPy, NTLK, Pandas and Scrapy.

I don’t feel the jump from Ruby to Python will be all that difficult (which presents its own disincentive: learn a similar language, or learn a language that can bend my mind, i.e. Lisp?). I’ve already bought a few Python books and have already plunked $30 for Wes McKinney’s (author of pandas) Python for Data Analysis. I think once I’ve spent enough money on something, I’ll realize its time to get ‘er done.

proof NY – clothing with modern design and technical fabrics

At the High Line park

The past couple of weeks I’ve been helping my friend start a clothing line called proof NY that he’s had in mind for awhile. Most of my work was in getting the site up (with Shopify) and doing the photography, which we shot in about 3 days all in New York with no budget or much preparation.

I even shot this video, in the space between my bed and dresser where there’s enough light from the window when I wake up. You can hear the construction outside.

Anyway, it was a fun, hectic experience. I’d never set up a online shop or done product photography before. Check out proof’s first offering, the Spelman shorts, which are water/wine/coffee-proof stylish gray shorts.

Blind and deaf

Recently, there were a couple of highlighted discussions on Hacker News dealing with developers who were either blind or deaf. David Peter, a comsci major at RIT, wrote a sublime essay on being deaf, hitting all the facets of humdrum life (including in the development world) that are profoundly impacted without a sense of hearing.

The insightful discussion on Hacker News reminded me of this inspiring Reddit Q&A by a blind programmer. I’ve always wondered how difficult it is for non-English speakers to learn to program considering the English-based syntax of popular languages. I can’t imagine not ever seeing what you type, or what it results in. Bravo to this programmer.

He doesn’t just talk about programming; I’ve always wondered what the sightless “see” when taking LSD.

Fashionistas (and bureaucrats and journalists): Please learn to code

The technical part of this post is painful, but not this painful

Great programmers and thinkers have already railed against Jeff Atwood’s essay, “Please Don’t Learn to Code.”

But we haven’t heard enough from amateurs like me, nor has anyone, as Poynter’s Steve Myers claims, “written a single line of code” in response to Atwood.

Well, I may not be Zed Shaw but I have a knack for coming up with the most brain-numbing code snippets to deal with slightly more brain-numbing journalism-related tasks, such as extracting data from PDFs, scraping websites, producing charts, cropping photos, text processing with regular expressions, etc. etc..

But for this post I’ll try to show (with actual code) how programming can apply even to a field that’s about as far removed from compilers and data-mining that I can think of: fashion design

(insert joke about fat-models and skinny-controllers)

—-

Besides clearance sales at the flagship Macy’s, my main specific connection to the New York fashion industry comes from the few times that a friend of a friend hires me to take photos at a casting call.

I knew there were casting directors in TV and movie business. But I thought designers could just pick for themselves the models. Well, they do. But there’s still need for someone who handles relations with modeling agencies, managing the logistics of bringing in and scheduling hundreds of models, and having the aesthetic sense to make valuable recommendations to the designers.

And, sometimes, there’s the occasional holy-shit-does-anyone-own-a-camera-because-this-came-up-at-the-last-minute scenarios that create the need for non-fashion professionals like me. During the day of the casting call, the director and designers are busy doing informal interviews of the models, skimming their lookbooks, and judging – yes, there seems to be a wide range of skill and style in this – their strut down the catwalk.

The models don’t show up primped as if it were a Vogue cover shoot, and they probably couldn’t maintain that look over the other 5 to 15 other casting calls they trek to throughout the day. Often, at least to me, they look nothing like they do in their lookbooks. Which is fine since the designers need to imagine whether they’d fit for their own collections.

So I take photos of the models – of the face looking at the camera, then looking off-camera, and then a full-length head-to-heels shot – and then say “thank you, next please.” The photos don’t even have to be great, only recognizable so that the designer and directors have something to refer to later on. It’s likely one of the easiest and most monotonous photo assignments (at least to the point that my brain starts to think about programming), like yearbook photo day at a high school where almost nobody smiles or blinks at the wrong time.

So casting calls are uncomplicated from my extremely limited standpoint. But there are logistical hassles that come into play. A friend of mine who actually does real work in fashion told me, when Polaroid film went out of production, casting directors “pretty much shit themselves.”

For the digital-only generation, Polaroids were great because they printed the photo right after it was taken. Having a physical photo just as the model is standing there made it easy to attach it to the model’s comp card for later reference.

With digital cameras, the photos are piled in a memory card’s folder under a sterile naming convention such as “DSC00023.jpg” and won’t materialize until the memory card is taken out, brought over and inserted into a computer, and then printed out. Unless I’m doing that right after each model, there has to be some system that tracks how “DSC00023.jpg” is a snapshot of “James S.” from Ford Models at the end of the day.

Stepping back from the material world of fashion, this is at its core a classic data problem: in lieu of instant print photography, we need to link one data source, the physical pile of comp cards containing each model’s name, agency, and sometimes measurements – with another – the folder of generically named photo files in my camera.

There’s nothing about the contents of the digital photo file that conclusively ties it to the real-life model and comp card. On a busy casting call, there are enough models to sort through and some of them look similar enough (or different from their comp card) that it’s not obvious which “normal” snapshot goes with the comp card’s highly-produced portrait.

Assuming the photographer hired is too cheap (i.e. me) to invest in wi-fi transmitters and the like, the director can throw old-fashioned human labor at the problem. I once had an assistant with an even more monotonous task than mine: writing down the name of each model and the photo filenames as I read them off my camera. The director has her own assistant who is also writing down the models’ names/info while collecting their cards.

Models holding up their comp cards

Having the models hold up their comp cards

One way to reduce the chance of error is to have the models hold up their comp cards as I take the snapshots. But no matter how error-free the process is, there’s still the tedious work of eyeballing hundreds of printouts and clipping them to the correct comp cards.

The code fix

Let’s assume that the procession of models is swift and substantial enough (200-500 for New York Fashion Week, depending how many shows the casting director has been hired for) that the chronological order of the physical comp cards and the digital photos is bound to be muddled.

So, in our traditional setup, the linking of the two data sources is done through facial/image recognition:

Casting director: “Hey, can you find me Aaron from Acme’s photos? He has brownish hair, bangs and freckles and I think he came earlier in the day.”
Assistants: “OK!” (they hurriedly look through the pile of photos until someone finds the photo matching the description. The photo could be near the top of the pile or at the bottom for all they know).

The code-minded approach: attach the name and agency information to the digital so there’s a way to organize them. They can, for instance, can be printed out and sorted into piles by agency and in alphabetical order.

Casting director: “Hey, can you find me Aaron from Acme’s photos?

Assistants: “OK!” (someone goes to the Acme pile, which is sorted alphabetically, and looks for “Aaron”).

So how do we get to this sortable, scalable situation without adding undue work, such as having the photographer rename the photos in-camera or printing them out after finishing up with each model? Here’s a possible code solution that efficiently labels the photos correctly long after the model has left the call:

  1. Have the photographer sync up his camera’s system time with your assistant’s laptop’s time.
  2. Have the assistant open up Excel or Google Spreadsheets and mark the time that the model has his/her photos taken:

  3. Name AgencyTime
    Sara Acme9:10:39 AM
    SvetlanaAcme 9:12:10 AM
    JamesFord 9:15:57 AM
  4. At the end of the day, tell the photographer to dump the photos into a folder, e.g. “/Photos/fashion-shoot”

And then finally, run some code. Here’s the basic thought process:

  • Each line represents a model, his/her agency, and their sign-in time
  • For each each line of the spreadsheet:
  • Read the sign-in time of that line and the sign-in time of the next
  • Filter the photofiles created after the sign-in time of the given model and before the sign-in time of the next model
  • Rename the files from “DSC00010.jpg” to a format such as: “Anna–Acme Models–01.jpg”

If you actually care, here’s some Ruby code, which is way more lines than is needed (I’ve written a condensed version beneath it) because I separate the steps for readability. I also haven’t run it yet so there may be a careless typo. Who cares, the exact code is not the point but feel free to send in corrections.

# include the Ruby library needed to 
# turn "9:12:30 AM" into a Ruby Time object	
require 'time'

# Grab an array of filenames from the directory of photos
photo_names = Dir.glob("/Photos/fashion-shoot/*.*")

# open the spreadsheet file (export the XLS to tab-delimited)
spreadsheet_file = open("spreadsheet.txt")

# read each line (i.e. row) into an array
array_of lines = spreadsheet_file.readlines

# split each line by tab-character, which effectively creates 
# an array of arrays, e.g. 
# [
#	["Sara", "Acme", "9:10:39 AM"],
#	["James", "Ford", "9:15:57 AM"]
# ]
lines = lines.map{ |line| line.chomp.split("\t") }[1..-1]

# (the above steps could all be one line, BTW)

# iterate through each line
lines.each_with_index do |line, line_number|


   # first photo timestamp (convert to a Time object)
   begin_time = Time.parse(line[2])
   
   # if the current line is the last line, then we just need the photos
   # that were last modified (i.e. created at) **after** the begin_time
   
   if line_number >= lines.length   
      models_photos = photo_names.select{|pf| File.mtime(pf) >= begin_time }      
   else
   
   	# otherwise, we need to limit the photo selection to files that came
   	# before after the begin_time of the **next row**
   
      end_time = Time.parse(lines[line_number + 1])
      models_photos = photo_names.select{ |pf| File.mtime(pf) >= 
			begin_time && File.mtime(pf) < end_time }
   end

   # now loop through each photo that met the criteria and rename them
   
   # model_name consists of the name and agency (the first two columns)
   model_name = line[0] + "--" + line[1] 

	models_photos.each_with_index do |photo_fname, photo_number|
      new_photo_name = File.join( File.dirname(photo_fname),
 			"#{model_name}--#{photo_number}.jpg" )

		# you should probably create a copy of the file rather 
		# than renaming the original...
      File.rename(photo_fname, new_photo_name)    
   end

end	

Here's a concise version of the code:

require 'time'
photo_names = Dir.glob("/Photos/fashion-shoot/*.*")
lines = open("spreadsheet.txt").readlines.map{ |line|  line.chomp.split("\t") }[1..-1]
	
lines.each_with_index do |line, line_number|
	begin_time = Time.parse(line[2])
	end_time = line_number >= lines.length ? Time.now : Time.parse(lines[line_number + 1])
	
	photo_names.select{ |pf| File.mtime(pf) >= begin_time && 
		File.mtime(pf) < end_time }.each_with_index do |photo_fname, photo_number|
      new_photo_name = File.join( File.dirname(photo_fname),
 			"#{line[0]}--#{line[1]}--#{photo_number}.jpg" )
		File.rename(photo_fname, new_photo_name)    
   end
end

The end result is a directory of photos renamed from the camera's default (something like DSC00026.jpg) to something more useful at a glance, such as Sara-Acme-1.jpg, Sara-Acme-2.jpg and so forth. The filenames are printed out with the images.

So even if the physical comp cards are all out of chronological order, it's trivial to match them alphabetically (by name and agency) to the digital photo print outs. As a bonus, if someone is taking videos of each model's walk on a phone and dumps those files into the photo directory, those files would also be associated to the model (this might require a little more logic given the discrepancy between the photo shoot and catwalk test).

With a few trivial modifications to the code, a coding-casting director can make life even easier:

  • Add a Yes/No column to the spreadsheet. You'd either enter this value in yourself or give some kind of signal to your assistant (ideally more subtle than "thumbs up/thumbs down" while the model is still standing there). And so you could save yourself the trouble of printing photos of the non-viable candidates.
  • Why even use a printer? Produce a webpage layout of the photos (add a few lines that print HTML: "<img src='Sara-Acme-1.jpg'>")
  • If the client is old-style and wants the photos in hand as she marks them up and makes the artistic decision of which model would look best for which outfit, then you can at least resize and concatenate the photos with some simple ImageMagick code so that they print out on a single sheet (like in a photo booth), reducing your printing paper and ink costs. Congratulations, you just saved fashion and the Earth.
  • If you hire a cheapo photographer (like myself) who didn't buy/bring the lighting equipment/batteries needed to keep consistent lighting as the daylight fades, then models who show up at the end of the call will be more lit up (and probably more reddish) by artificial lightings. A line of code could automatically adjust the white balance (maybe by executing a PhotoShop action) depending on the timestamp of the photo.
  • Fashion bloggers: speaking of color adjustments, you can get in on this programmatic color-detecting action too: if your typical work consists of curating photos of outfits/accessories that you like, but you've done a terrible job taking the time to tag them properly, then you can use ImageMagick to determine the dominant hue (probably in the middle of the photo) and auto-edit the metadata. Now you can create pages that display fashion items by color and so with no manual labor and fairly easy coding work on your part, your readers have an extra reason to stay on your site.
#NYFW Model, headshot

A model has her face photographed, from a casting call during NY Fashion Week Spring 2012.

Forget the details, though. The important point is that someone with code can abstract out the steps of this chore and – just as importantly – expedite them without adding work. They see how to exploit what already has to be collected (photos, names) and use what is essentially useless to non-coders (file timestamps, metadata). And, thanks to the speed of computing, the menial parts of the job are reduced, allowing more time and energy for the "fun", creative part.

Of course the number of times I've offered to do this for a director (or any similar photojob) is zero. It's not the code-writing that's hard. It's understanding all the director's needs and processes and explaining to and getting everyone to follow even the minimal steps outlined above. It's much easier for me to just stick to my role of bringing a camera and pressing its button a thousand or so times. The incentive to implement this pedantic but life-improving code rests within the person whose happiness and livelihood is directly related to the number of hours spent pointlessly sifting papers.

But since casting calls have gone fine for directors without resorting to this fancy code thing – or else they would no longer be casting directors – why fix what's not yet broken, right?

Jeff Atwood writes, "Don't celebrate the creation of code, celebrate the creation of solutions." In other words, focus on what you do best and let the experts handle the code. But the problem is not that non-coders can't create these solutions themselves. The problem is that they don't even know these solutions exist or why they are needed.

They suffer from, as Donald Rumsfeld described best, the "things we do not know we don't know." But so do those on the other side of the equation; expert coders really don't grasp the innumerable and varied obstacles facing non-coders. So isn't it a little premature to dismiss the potential of a more code-literate world?

It's a bit like the church, soon after Gutenberg's breakthrough, telling everyone: Hey, why waste your already-short lives trying to become literate? It's hard work; we know, because our monks and clerics devote their entire lives to it. So even if you do learn to read, you're likely to make some uneducated, sacrilegious misinterpretation of our holy texts and spend the afterlife in eternal damnation. So all you need to know is that books contain valuable information and that we have experts who can extract and interpret that information for you. That's what we've done for centuries and things have gone very well so far, right?

I don't mean at all to imply that Atwood wants to keep knowledge from the masses. But I do think he vastly underestimates the gulf of conceptual grasp between a non-programmer and even a first-year programmer. And he undervalues the potential (and necessity, IMHO) of programming to teach these abstract concepts.

Erik Hinton from the New York Times puts it nicely:

If you don't know how to program, you filter out all parts of the world that involve programming. You miss the loops and divide-and-conquers of everyday life. You cannot recognize programming problems without the understanding that outlines these problems against the noise of useless or random information.

Atwood imagines that non-programmers can somehow "get" the base level of data literacy and understanding of abstraction that most programmers take for granted. I'd like to think so, but this is not the case even for professionals far more grounded in logic and data than is the fashion world, including researchers, scientists, and doctors. For instance, check out researcher Neil Saunders's dispatches on attempting to introduce code and its wide-scale benefits to the world of bioinformatics.

So I too am skeptical that Mayor Bloomberg, despite his resolution to learn to code, will ever get around to creating even the classic beginners customer-cart Rails app. But perhaps his enthusiasm will trickle down to whoever's job it is to realize that maybe, the world's greatest city just might be able to find a better way to inform its citizens about how safe they are than through weekly uploads of individual PDF files (Or maybe not. Related: see this workaround from ScraperWiki).

My own journalism career benefits from being able to convert PDFs to data at a rate/accuracy equivalent to at least five or more interns. But I'd gladly trade that edge for a world in which such contrived barriers were never conceived. We don't need a bureaucrat who can install gcc. I'll settle for one who remembers enough about for loops and delimiters and can look a vendor in the eye and say, "Thank you for demonstrating your polished and proprietary Flash-powered animated chart/export-to-PDF plugin, which we will strongly consider during a stronger budget year. But if you could just leave the data in a tab-delimited text file, my technicians can take care of it."

I do share some of Atwood's disdain that the current wave of interest in coding seems to be more about how "cool" it is rather than something requiring real discipline. So don't think of coding as cool because that implies that you are (extremely) uncool when you inevitably fail hard and fast at it in the beginning. Focus instead on what's already cool in your life and work and see how code can be, as Zed Shaw puts it, your secret weapon.

How can coding help non-professional programmers? I've already mentioned Neil Saunders in bioinformatics; here are a few others that came from the Hacker News discussion in response to Atwood: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Finding this purpose for programming may not be obvious at first. But hey, it exists even for fashion professionals.

-----

Some resources: I think Codecademy is great for at least getting past the technical barriers (i.e. setting up your computer's development environment) to try out some code. But you'll need further study, and Zed Shaw's Learn Code the Hard Way is an overwhelmingly popular (and free) choice. There's also the whimsical why's poignant guide to Ruby. And I'm still on my first draft of the Bastards Book of Ruby, which attempts to teach code through practical projects.

Bastards Book of Ruby has a Hacker News revival

Bastards Book HN spike

The Hacker News traffic spike for the Bastards Book of Ruby

I’ve procrastinated in updating my book of practical Ruby coding. But the site got an unexpected boost in interest and traffic when someone posted it to Hacker News this past week, possibly in response to the “Please Don’t Learn to Code” debate started by Jeff Atwood.

Sidenote: The Bastards Book did reach the front page when I submitted its introductory essay, aptly titled “Programming is for Anyone.” That sprawling essay needs to be revised but I believe it in even more.

The HN posting reached the top, something I couldn’t get it to do back when I originally posted the draft. It was encouraging to see the need for something like this out there and makes me want to jump back into this as a summer project. I’ve definitely thought of many more examples to include and have hopefully become a better writer.

The main “fix” will be moving it from my totally-overkill Ruby-on-Rails system, structuring the book’s handmade HTML code into something simple enough for Markdown, and pushing it to Github. I’ve since gotten familiar with Jekyll, which is mostly painless with the jekyll-bootstrap gem.

Louis C.K. releases new $5 DRM-free comedy recordings: Carnegie Hall (2010) and Shameless (previously on HBO)

I just got a mass-email from Louis C.K., apparently sent to everyone who bought his $5 Beacon Theater show. He’s offering audio-recordings of two previous shows with the popular $5-no-damn-DRM price. The email itself is hilarious as well.

Here is what it says for those who aren’t on the mailing list:
——–

Hello there. I am Louis C.K. for now. You are a person who opted into my email list, when you bought my Live at the Beacon standup special. As I promised, I have left you alone for a long time. Well, those days are over. I am writing now to let you know that I am offering some more stuff on my site, which you are more than welcome to buy. What does “More than welcome” mean? Well, it means you can totally buy this stuff. Like, totally.

Okay so there are two new products. They are both audio comedy specials. One is called…
Louis CK: WORD – Live at Carnegie Hall

This is about an hour long and it’s a recording of a live standup show that I did at Carnegie Hall in November of 2010 as part of a national tour I was on entitled “WORD” I’ve had a lot of requests from people to release that show as a speical or as a CD. I hadn’t done so because a lot of the material that I did on the WORD tour, was in the second season of my show “LOUIE” on FX. But I decided since it’s never been released as an entire show, and some of the material was not on my show, I’m releasing this now. I’m giving you this long and boring explaination because, as most of you know, I release about an hour or more of new standup material every year and folks can count on seeing a new show every year. This is old material, so I don’t want to be a dick and pretend it isn’t.

Anyway, Louis CK: WORD – Live at Carnegie hall is available for the same 5 dollars as everything will be on louisck.com. It is the same deal as before that you get 4 downloads and the file is drm free. YOu can burn it onto a CD, play it on your ipod, whatever you want. The special is broken up into separate tracks because I think that’s more fun for a comedy album, but they are all just one thing you buy all at one time.

The second new thing is even older, actually. It’s an audio release of “Shameless”, my very first hour long standup special that I did for HBO. It was never released as an audio CD, so I asked HBO to let me offer it on this site and they agreed. They also agreed to let me offer it, the same as the rest, DRM free, for 5 dollars. Obviously I’ll be sharing the Shameless money with HBO but I think it’s pretty cool that they’re letting this be out there unprotected like this. Shameless is also 5 dollars, drm free, and you can download it a bunch of times for the price.

Lastly, I’m offering Live at the Beacon Theater as an audio version, for those many of you who have asked for it. This is just exactly an audio version of the video special. Those of you who have already bought Live at the Beacon theater already own this. If you just return to the site louisck.com with your password, it is now live and available for you to download at no extra cost. Those of you who now buy LIve at the beacon theater for 5 dollars, will also have the audio version availbable to you. It’s simply been added to the video downloads and streams you already were getting.

Later, I am going to make a version of Live at the Beacon theater, that is a separate audio special, which will be much longer. That will cost money. Because I’m an asshole. But that’s later.

Also later, actually soon, I’ll be putting my first feature film “Tomorrow Night’ up for sale on the site. And also other things. Soon. For now. Please feel free to click on the button below, to purchase some of the new stuff, using Paypal or Amazon payments, we now accept both. Or go to louisck.com and peruse the new items. I think we have some samples there that you can check out.

You may have noticed that Louis CK LIve at the beacon theater is airing on the FX network. FX agreed to air it 10 times over the next few months. The version on FX is only 42 minutes long and we had to take out the fucks. The reason I chose to air the special on FX is that FX is my people. They gave me my show LOUIE (season 3 premieres on June 28th at 10:30pm) and they have never aired a standup special. So I thought it would be cool to let them air it and bring more people to the site who want to get the complete unexpurgated version. Also FX doesn’t make me cut things for content. Just the big words (fuck, etc)

Okay. that was exhausting. Sorry. I didn’t even ask you how you are. How are you? Oh yea? Oh good. That’s great. What? Oh man. That’s tough. I’m sorry… Oh well that sounds like you handled it well, though. So. Yeah. Yeah. I know. I know that’s… yeah. Well… Just remember, time will go by and that’ll just be on the list of shit that happened to you. You’ll be okay. Yeah. Huh?… Oh. Really? HE DID? Oh my GOD! hahaha!! That’s CRAZY! No. no. I won’t tell him you told me. Of course not. Alright well… uhuh? Oh wow. yeah. Alright well.. I really gotta go. Thanks for listening. I’m glad you’re basically okay. Stay in touch.

your friend,

Louis C.K.

—-

The shows are available at his site, louisck.com. If you missed the email he sent out after his huge success with independently releasing his Beacon Theater show, here it is.

A HTML GUI for training Tesseract on character sets

The Tesseract OCR Chopper, by data journalist Dino Beslagic.

I’m making this short stub post because ever since I’ve used tesseract to convert scanned documents into text, I’ve wondered why the hell is it so hard to train tesseract (to make it better at recognizing a font)? As it turns out, Beslagic created a web-app that makes the task comparatively easy and platform-independent.

He recently updated it but posted it about 2 years ago. I can’t believe I didn’t find it until now. How did I find it? By stumbling upon the “AddOns” wiki for the Tesseract project. I love Tesseract but am surprised at how such a useful and popular utility can have such scattered resources.

Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant, brief career at Sports Illustrated: “He was not good at being an employee”

Kurt Vonnegut (photo courtesy of Random House)

Slaughterhouse Five is one of my all-time favorite books. But I hadn’t known that Vonnegut was also one of the finest sportswriters to have graced equestrianism:

From the introduction – written by his son, Mark: – to his posthumous work, Armageddon in Retrospect:

He often said he had to be a writer because he wasn’t good at anything else.

He was not good at being an employee.

Back in the mid-1950s, he was employed by Sports Illustrated, briefly. He reported to work, was asked to write a short piece on a racehorse that had jumped over a fence and tried to run away. Kurt stared at the blank piece of paper all morning and then typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and walked out, self-employed again.