Untitled relief of cow and calf, 50″ x 35″, Peter Coates, 2018, painted wood

Hadoopoopadoop, Time and Material, and Sculpture in Our Time are by me, Peter Coates, a longtime software engineer and sometime artist (more about that below.)


I’ve done a lot of distributed computing and big data work over the years. Hadoopoopadoop came out of several years of work with the Hortonworks Hadoop platform, which is now part of the Cloudera distribution. I did Hadoop-related work as a Hortonworks employee, in pre-sales engineering, post-sales engineering, consulting, and support, as well as directly for companies using Hadoop.  As with many technologies enjoying a moment in the sun, using Hadoop can be as big a mistake as not using it; I’ve advised plenty of teams to ignore it, too.


Hadoopoopadoop has a pro-Horton bias but I don’t work for Hortonworks (now Cloudera) and never did speak for Hortonworks in any capacity. Therefore, please assume that any mistakes or crackpot opinions are my own, not theirs. Most of what you’ll find in the blog concerns basic core Hadoop but there are also some articles on non-Hadoop big data projects I’ve done.

My interest in Hadoop developed from a background in other distributed computing technologies, including CORBA, Tibco, JMS, Gigaspaces, and NoSQL databases. In my recent career I’ve used Java more than any other language but I’ve also worked with worked with Golang, Python, C, Smalltalk, C++, and other languages, including just lately, Haxe. (If you haven’t seen Haxe yet, by all means, check it out ASAP.)

I have a side interest in developing heuristics for processing information in unusual ways that aren’t classic “big data” (see the blog entries on analyzing the Twitter firehose in real-time and estimating Levenshtein distance from signatures.)

Sculpture Wiki

Sculpture Wiki is a manual on stone carving techniques, tools, aesthetic issues and history, basically, a giant how-to on stone sculpture. Not just the mechanics but also the aesthetics. Figurative sculpture in stone was out of fashion for many years and a lot of the aesthetics have been forgotten over the four generations in which it has tended to be a medium for reactionaries.  That unhappy period is gradually ending now. This site is my small contribution to the revival of this lovely medium.

The site might look a little 1990’s but it actually uses some interesting and offbeat Web tech. The content is written using Knuth/Lamport’s LaTex typesetting language. LaTex is normally for mathematics and computer science typesetting but it’s completely general and can and is used to typeset almost anything.  Donald Knuth is a towering figure in the history of Computer Science. His five volume series “The Art of Computer Programming” is by far the single most cited source in the vast literature of computer science.  But he took a few years off to pursue typesetting, and the Tex typesetting system along with the MetaFont typeface design system was the result. Leslie Lamport, who is also a distinguished computer scientist, made Tex more available to the masses with a vast body of macros dubbed LaTex.  Few of us really need the full generality of Tex itself–you can contentedly live your entire typesetting life without ever leaving LaTex.

In addition to LaTex I used a less-well-known package called Hyperlatex that extends its Tex’s capabilities into the normal domain of HTML and JavaScript. This combination allows a single body of text to be automatically issued as both a Web site and as a book.

With Hyperlatex, elements that are specific to the book or the Web page can be tagged for appropriate handling. Once the document is fully marked up, subsequent changes to the content automatically appear in both—there are no extra steps to issue the book, which is generated as a PDF document.  When I compile the WebSite, the system automatically issues an updated book.  I plan to try publishing it in an edition of one using the Espresso book printing machine at Shakespeare and Co.

Sculpture In Our Time

Sculpture in Our Time is articles about aesthetics. It’s not updated much and I’m gradually merging it into the other sites.

Time And Material

Time and Material is my place for general essays and comments: politics, love, making things, whatever.

The Second Pass

I’ve also written about books for the now-dormant The Second Pass. This was a brilliant site—all about giving books a second look after the publication buzz is over.  A hundred years old, or three years old. I wish John Williams would turn it back on.

Art Work

Below are some more samples of my work in the plastic arts. They are presented in approximately chronological order, with the first five and the cows at the top of the page being from the last year or so.

All of the dark-grey sculptures are painted wood. It’s hard to tell what they’re made of even in person. They look like they’re carved out of blackboard slate.

Piglet, painted wood, 2017. approximately life-size.
Lamb, painted wood, 2017, approximately life-size.

These animals in the round are a departure for me. Until this year, I’ve mostly carved bas relief panels. But I’m getting into sculpture in the round.

Chicken, painted wood, 2017, approximately life-size.
Goat, wood, 2017, approximately life-size.
Cow, approximately life-size, wood, 2017

The young woman below was the subject of several pieces, a couple of which are shown here.  She’s imaginary—nobody in particular, not even photos.

Brooklyn was a great place before it got so fashionable. Back in the 1980’s the cool people in Manhattan would sometimes affect ignorance of Brooklyn’s exact location so  that you wouldn’t think they were the kind of people who’d be connected to that borough.  I met a somewhat rough-looking guy on the street one day, and we started talking and it came up that he was a sculptor.  I figured, yeah, yeah, he pastes found crap together and calls it art. But no, turns out he was a real sculptor who had carved figures on the Cathedral of St John the Divine.  We got to be friends and he ended up selling me a ton of this beautiful white, very hard Carrara marble.  Literally a ton. He’d gone over there and bought ten tons–enough to fill a shipping container. It was all fag ends from a tile factory. Big chunks, but too small for the slicing machines, so they sold them cheap. He shipped it back to the US, sold half to pay off the expenses and kept the rest for himself. But he still had a ton left and rent to pay.  With this piece and a couple of other little pieces, I guess I’ve got about another 1900 pounds of it to carve. This was just a little broken off hunk.

Girl, marble, 2015. This is about 2/3 life-size.
Imported Photos 00014
Club girl, concrete, 2012. About 2/3 life-size.

(Yes—it’s the same young woman.)

The boys and I lived in a falling down ruin in Brooklyn that I had used variously as a studio, junkyard, and apartment for many years.  Their sister grew up before we lived there when it was still just a studio, so she never actually lived there, but I was vaguely aware of my keys going missing from time to time.  There’s a reason nature degrades your vision and hearing in middle age.


A polychromed wood panel over the entrance to our old house in Brooklyn, c. 2015, (36″x8″). It’s all the non-arthropod pets and other animals that were part of our lives there. I sold the wretched old pile a few years ago. Don’t miss it a bit.

This hand started out as one of half a dozen rectangular pieces of marble that my oldest boy pulled out of a trash dumpster and deposited at the studio thinking they must be good for something. So I got some stone chisels and started carving stone. You can get started with $25 worth of tools. I think this was the second piece. It’s not that different from wood—you just have to adjust your pace a little. In some ways, it’s easier than wood. Stone is more predictable.


2010  Marble, life-size

The middle son. He works on computer chess-playing engines now and imagines I have any idea what he’s talking about when he brings up data science.


c. 2004 Concrete, life-size. This is my son Dodge at age 10 or 11.


This panel below is old. It’s one of many similar pieces I did when I first moved to NYC to be an artist.  I did a ton of things like this, then discovered computers which were still somewhat exotic back then. I’d come home from my intern job at Bellcore and tell people about this amazing network where you could send  a message to someone thousands of miles away and they’d get it and type back to you in seconds and they’d just give a blank look and say “Huh? So?”

c. 1988  Painted wood, app. 1.25x life size. The image was lifted from a magazine photo.

The colors are off a little. They’re all the same paint—the same charcoal gray as the pig at the top of the page.


c. 1988 Painted wood, app. life-size, also lifted from a magazine photo.

I did scores of paintings in this format— 18-inch square oils on canvas. There are only a handful left now, and I think I only have a couple.  They burned up in fires, got lost in floods, tossed out by mistake, lost in moves, swiped by roommates. Time and chance happened to them all.


c 1986 Oil on canvas, 18″x18″  This was one of the scores of paintings in the same format.

I’ve been making some tools for stone and wood carving lately.  It’s not something I do for itself—they’re strictly for use, but some of them are interesting. Carving tools are one of those rare things you can make yourself that are potentially better and cheaper than store-bought.


A few of the small ones have cutters or handles salvaged from other tools, but most of them are 100% hand-made. The beige handles are all sycamore (AKA plane tree) wood turned on a lathe with brass tubing for ferules. Most of them are O1 tool steel, which is fairly easy to work and heat-treats easily but the U-shaped scorp started life as a mill file and some of them are just handles applied to reworked found tools.  Except for the lathe work, the metal working is all incredibly basic–if you carve, you should try it. All it takes is the steel (you can order it online) plus a hacksaw, file, grinder, and water or oil stones for sharpening.  Once you’ve made a couple you can knock one out in a couple of hours. Stone tools, which don’t need handles can be faster still. If one breaks, or I need something special I often just make whatever is needed on the fly or forge/grind some existing tool I don’t care about into whatever is needed.


The ax with the points is for stone. It’s modeled on one in Vasari’s 16th C. treatise on art technique.   I’ve never even seen one outside of Vasari’s book, so this one is definitely a novelty.  It’s cut and ground out of an old carbon-steel half-hatchet head, then heat treated and fitted with a modified store-bought handle.

The other one is done on a lathe from a ball-peen hammer head like the one shown with it. The points are of #01 tool steel heat treated for stone. They’re seated in holes bored in the hammer and secured with cotter pins so they can be replaced. I’m going to try making a couple with carbide tips brazed on.


The small adze above is for wood. The handle is carved out of glued-up red oak from a scrap of shelf board and the blade is 1/8″ 01 tool steel. It’s screwed on with an array of screws.  Now that I’ve seen how well it works, there are some variations in the offing. I’m thinking one with a gouge would be useful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s