Category Archives: blurb

Links (& blurbs about them)

Don’t underestimate the importance of good curves. I stumbled across this Buddhist “Dream Flag” a while back, and while it’s a great design, the final execution of the curves immediately stood out as needing improvement. And it was the perfect excuse to use Raph Levien’s Spiro curves in Inkscape to try to get a better-than-Bézier curve. Here’s my revised version:

dream flag

Here’s a comparison (using ImageMagick’s compare tool) between my version and the original:


And just for reference, here’s the original:

Good curves are important, and it’s much easier to get controlled, smooth, symmetric curves with spiros than with Béziers. With a spiro, you only really need a new control point at every point where the curvature changes, and you’ll get pretty close. And you can use a control point to force a curve through a certain position without having to adjust the curvature of adjacent points by fiddling with Bézier control points.

The green grass on the California flag is looking a bit disingenuous these days, as we’re in the middle of the worst drought in our history. Plus it’s likely this year will be one of the most intense fire seasons ever.

With this in mind, I made the Drought Flag of California:


Some patterns from the 1970s and ’80s

I’ve been fiddling with repeating patterns again, (something I did back when the Internet and I were both young).

I duplicated the pattern on the wall of Paige’s bedroom in the television show The Americans. The show is filled with weird late 1970s and early ’80s design.


Oddly enough, it was easy to find information about the kitchen pattern in The Americans, which is a contemporary design supposedly called “Drama Boheme” by Graham & Brown, although I couldn’t find it on Graham & Brown’s website.

Drama Boheme - Graham & Brown

And I wrote a tiny little background-testing tool, repeatrix, where you can drag-and-drop any image or URL and get a zoomable preview of it as a background pattern.

But the real thing I want to share is the pattern below. It was designed by my aunt, Elizabeth Delphey, in the late 1970′s, for a designer named Jeanne Gantz. Gantz didn’t want this particular color scheme, but the printer had already printed thousands of sheets of wrapping paper in this pattern, so everyone in our family ended up with more wrapping paper than we knew what to do with. All of us instantly recognize it, as it showed up on birthday presents and under the Christmas tree for years. There’s even still a little bit left, so I scanned it, cleaned it up, and present it here to live forever on the internet:

Toucans, melons, limes, strawberries and hearts

Try it out in the repeatrix.


This hypothetical flag for the “Five Eyes” inspired me to do my own Five Eyes flag design:

Five Eyes

The red and blue are averaged from the reds and blues from the US, Canadian, UK, Australian, and New Zealand’s colors, at least according to Wikipedia. The flag is split into five vertical stripes, first a blue stripe with the five-pointed star from the US flag near the top where the US flag has its field of stars; the second a white stripe with red borders and the Canadian maple leaf near the middle where it appears on the Canadian flag; the third a blue stripe with the seven-pointed star from the Australian flag; the fourth a red stripe with white borders evocative of the Union Jack‘s vertical red bar (originally derived from the flag of England); and the fifth a blue stripe with the red and white star from the New Zealand flag.

Since these five countries are also the five countries where English is the de-facto language of the majority of the population, this flag could also double as a flag of the English language, replacing that abysmal diagonally separated US/UK flag. But it’s more inflammatory as the flag of a the massive, probably-illegal surveillance program.

Update: animated version.

Update 8 Nov 2014: Decided to add the crown from the Keep Calm and Carry On WWII posters.

Five Eyes Crown

And the animated version.

Oh, and you can buy this design over on RedBubble, on posters, scarves, tote bags, stickers, and more.

Update 18 Jun 2015: Turns out the inspiration for this has been floating around reddit/imgur for at least two years.

Creative Commons License

Five Eyes by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Three maps of North America

Colin Woodard’s “Up in Arms” breaks down North America into eleven “nations” or regions with distinct attitudes towards violence, gun control, and capital punishment, tracing those differences back to the historical origins of the first groups to settle there. Plus it comes with a nifty map.

Neil Freeman’s Electoral College Reform map is now on sale. I’m still wondering what happens to the boundaries of his fifty new states when the population centers drift.

And this 1879 railway map of the Chicago to San Francisco Burlington Railroad is pretty neat too.

Three-legged Mini-figure

This is a Lego-compatible, two headed, three-legged mini-figure. Legs are fully moveable. Only the torso and the hips/legs are included, you must provide your own heads and arms.

It’s available on Shapeways, and there are full-size photos on Flickr.

The torso was printed slightly warped, and it cracked when I put the arms in. If your print is warped or distorted, ask Shapeways for a reprint. All the edges should be straight and the flat surfaces should be completely flat.

[CUSTOMER NAME REDACTED] or Anything is possible on the internets

I just received this email. Details have been redacted to anonymize it. Rant follows.



Sorry for bothering you, but I found your CV online and saw that you used to be the Lead Developer for [PRODUCT NAME REDACTED] a few years back. My wife owns a small [BUSINESS TYPE REDACTED] in [LOCATION REDACTED] and we recently migrated to [PRODUCT NAME REDACTED], which was a fluid easy process, no doubt due to some of your work — thank you for that!

One question I’ve had since moving over though is regarding their scheduling and if there’s any way to make it play with google cal or ical — I’ve asked [PRODUCT NAME REDACTED] and the techs there and it seems to be a pretty straight forward “no”… but knowing the internets and that “anything is possible” more or less, I gotta think that there must be a way to write some kind of script that could at least scrape the [REDACTED] calendar and at least provide a way just subscribe or “view” the schedule– I’m not even talking about two-way functionality… viewing would be a huge help for us and her colleagues. Moreover, my guess is that we aren’t the only ones who would love to have a way to check the schedule that wasn’t dependent on logging in to [PRODUCT NAME REDACTED], especially since they have yet to offer any mobile apps for smart phones, and that any script/app/plugin/program that’s created could even be shared with other [REDACTED].

Anyway… I won’t carry on as this is a straight cold call… but if you do have any advice and have a chance to respond, I would be most grateful!



This is jaw-droppingly awful. Let me count the ways:

  1. This guy is asking me to think about a job and a piece of software that I stopped working on years ago. Since a programmer’s job is, in many ways, to think, he’s essentially asking me to work for free.
  2. He is fishing for me to contradict what he has been told by the company I used to work for, which would be a totally unacceptable thing for a programmer to do even when still employed by said company.
  3. Even if I was willing to think about a software project that I haven’t looked at in years and undercut my former employer by contradicting them, it’s likely that the project has changed since I left in ways I cannot even begin to imagine. So even if I did remember enough about the project to confidently answer his question, I would probably be totally wrong.
  4. What would he do if I told him it would be totally easy to implement? Go back to my former employers and tell them that some random who used to work for them said that it would be easy? Is that going to make them change their mind about implementing this feature? No.
  5. Anything is possible? On the internets?

This is the kind of obnoxious customer that small software companies just don’t need. End of rant.

Python else in loops: survey results

As promised, here are the results of two totally unscientific surveys, one conducted at PyCon 2011 and the other over Twitter just a few days ago, about the behavior of else in Python loops. The results show that only 25% of respondents know what else in a Python loop actually does, and 55% think they know but are wrong.