Kitchen Tile Project, Part 2

I’m happy to be able to say that we’re done with our kitchen tile project, and it’s a success. Lots of steps involved, the tiling, grouting, sealing, caulking, and finally touch-up paint. But that’s all behind us now, and nothing left but a nice looking kitchen. Later this year we’ll see about the bathrooms …

Section the first.

Section the second.

Section the third.

Detail of the fancy tiles above the oven.

Happy Spring, Again

A couple weeks ago I thought spring was here but then it turned cold and stormy, and we had lots flooding in our neck of the woods. (The federal and state governments both declared our county a disaster area, but apart from a temporary pond in the neighbor’s backyard, the storm had little impact on us.) The last few days it’s been absolutely perfect. Such a joy. I spent some time last weekend on our yard, raising up some stones on our garden path that tend to get washed out with mud when it rains. Big lower back day. Toward the end of the week we had a pretty good rain, and it appears the project was a success because no mud washed up on the stones. BTW, this is part of the larger leveling-the-patio project that is coming up. I’ll take the opportunity to tell the story of the patio project when the time comes.

Meanwhile, check out our flower bed.

New Recodings: Heat Wave

Meanwhile, back in the insular isolation of my home recording studio I’ve been working on a new song called Heat Wave. Here’s the story.

Last summer I took a vacation in Florida. The first part of the trip was a visit to Treasure Island on Tampa Bay, and consisted of me and my family, along with my cousin Peter and his wife Kim, hanging around and rotating from the pool to the beach to the bar to the restaurant and back in a loop for 2 or 3 days. The hotel was literally right on the beach, so by the time we were done with that we were pretty relaxed.

The next part of the journey was centered on Orlando, so on the drive up I had the Van Halen song Beautiful Girls going thru my head. I turned on the radio and, perhaps predictably, found a central Florida nonstop party rock station. You know, all ZZ Top, Steve Miller Band, that sort of thing. Even some Rush! Within 20 minutes they did a Van Halen song, Running With the Devil I think it was.

So I was inspired to write a high-energy summertime party rock song, and came up with a number called Heat Wave. Of course as I developed it, it became a bit twisted, with a 7/8 time signature, and copious use of upward chromatic movement, jazz chords, allusions to John Coltrane, and an environmentalist subtext. But it sure is high energy.

I started recording it in January, but this one has been taking a long time. It took a little while to get the arrangement together, and then doing the drum parts was fairly tedious on a sequencer. Which is ironic, because the whole point of it to make it sound free and spontaneous, and above all really grooving. At least the bass went down fairly easily, played live and in real time. From there I’ve been experimenting with the arrangement. I had originally thought of doing it in a Brothers Zing style, with a horn section and guitar, sort of a prog soul vibe, and that I’d ask my brother Martin to play guitar and bari sax. But he recently bought a new house and dismantled his recording studio for the move, so that was not an option. I reconceptualized it for tenor sax and a synth horn section, and layers of synths instead of guitars. Still some work to do, but I like the direction it’s going.

Then there were the vocals. It took me a few tries to really nail it, cuz the part is fairly high in my range, and it’s fast and has some longish phrases with some subtle intervals. I finally got a good vocal take last night, so soon I’ll be editing up the first rough mix. I still have to do the sax part, and I’ve done a couple passes at that too. It’s a challenging solo , a bebop vibe in an out time, and again I want to really nail it, so I’ve been woodsheding that a bit too. It’ll be worth it.

I had hoped to get two songs tracked and in the can this spring, progress toward my eventual next album, but at this point I’m thinking getting just this one finished off is more realistic. Heat Wave is a longish song, over 5 minutes. It’s funny, you think you’d get some economy on a longer song with repeated sections and all, but it really the same amount of work as 2 two-and-a-half minute songs.  I have more songs written and ready to go, so maybe I can find a short one that I can polish off without much effort.

Anyway, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s shaping up nicely. Of course it’s impossible to get across the essence of a song by describing it; words can only describe so much. But a mix will be coming soon. Meanwhile, here are the lyrics.

(Here Comes That) Heat Wave
by John Szinger

Ev’ryone is in the sun and having fun
Dance and sing and party all day all night long
Tomorrow’s gonna get up to a hundred and one (Tum tee tum-tum)
As a rule we hit the pool
But the beach ain’t out of reach
Anyway girl you look so fine having a good time
And Santa Claus is swimming cuz the North Pole can’t be saved

Cuz it’s heat wave, yeah a heat wave
C’mon heat wave, here comes that heat wave, look out!
Here comes that heat wave, hey a heat wave
Yeah it’s a heat wave oh yeah

Ev’ry fool is out of school and stayin’ cool
No one’s gonna work today whatcha gonna do
Tomorrow’s gonna get up to a hundred and two (Shoo-be do doo)
Think I’ll have an ice cold drink
Not too far hit the bar
Anyway girl you look so good that I know we could
And Santa Claus is drinking cuz the North Pole can’t be saved

Cuz it’s heat wave, oh yeah a heat wave
C’mon it’s a heat wave, here comes that heat wave, look out!
Here comes that heat wave, yeah a heat wave
Hey a heat wave yeah yeah

You and me time to party feelin’ free
Oceans rising endless summer come to be
Tomorrow’s gonna get up to a hundred and three (Shoo-be do bee)
And Santa Claus is swimming the North Pole can’t be saved

Cuz it’s heat wave, oh yeah a heat wave
C’mon it’s a heat wave, here comes that heat wave, look out!
Here comes that heat wave, yeah a heat wave
Hey a heat wave yeah yeah

Baby baby …
I feel the ice is slowly melting …
Sometimes I feel I want to run away …
Your love is like a heat wave …


Last Saturday night I hung out and jammed with my friend Erik and his friend Thomas. It was a good time. I mainly played piano while they played guitars. Thomas had a bottleneck slide which was pretty cool. We covered a pretty broad range of material, which was quite satisfying. I realized somewhere in the second half, as I was starting to get tired, that it’s alot of work to cover the bass parts with my left hand and so my soloing was sort of limited as a result, especially on tunes I hadn’t played before. I mean it was alright, but I really wanted to take flight. I think I told them at one point I don’t know any jazz numbers on piano, which isn’t true, but I was getting tired and didn’t have anything mentally queued up that I knew I could pull off. If there’s a bass player that sort of thing becomes a lot easier, because you don’t have to hold down the bottom. Ah well, something to work on. It’s funny too, cuz I’ve gotten used to playing solo piano, so although the low end was solid, I haven’t spent a lot of time on comping or improvising lately. Even so, its good to stretch out in a different direction.

Here’s a partial list of songs we covered …

Martha My Dear (The Beatles)
I Shot The Sheriff (Bob Marley)
Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull)
Isn’t It a Pity (George Harrison)
My Sweet Lord (George Harrison)
I Want to Tell You (The Beatles)
Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
Red Wine (?)
Blues Jam
I Wish (Stevie Wonder)
Sir Duke (Stevie Wonder)
Contusion (Stevie Wonder)
Canteloupe Island (Herbie Hancock)
Funk Jam
Blue Bossa
(some other Bossa)
(some Little Feet song)
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
Don’t Let Me Down (The Beatles)
Oh! Darling (The Beatles)
Home at Last (Steely Dan)
Taking Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)
Let It Rain (Eric Clapton)
Layla (Derek and the Dominoes)

It’s been a while since I’ve played out with a band, or even jammed with other musicians. It’s something I miss very much. I played in bands pretty much constantly from high school until a few years ago when I had kids. Now that they’re no longer babies I think it’s time to start looking into getting a regular jam going…

Origami Butteryfly Diagrams

Well it’s been a busy week. We got the tiling and grouting done in our kitchen, so we’re over the hump on that job, and it’s looking really nice. Still have the sealing, caulking and some touch-up painting to do, but each of these tasks is small compared to the work so far. I’ll take some pictures of the completed project and blog about it in a future post.

Meanwhile, the other bit thing is I finally completed diagramming my butterfly. I aim to do a full diagram of one original model a year. Because of the level of work involved, that’s about all I have time for, although I’ve been making more and CP’s of late. I blogged about this model previously, when I posted pictures of it. I mentioned at the time that I mainly developed it at last year’s OUSA. Well, I began diagramming it way back last summer, but then I got busy with work and put it aside for a while, and changed jobs around New Year, and so it took a while to get back to it.

And now here it is. I’d consider this an intermediate level model. I can make a nice looking one from a 6″ square, in about a half hour. The diagrams are only forty-something steps. It does have a rather advanced closed sink. People who don’t like closed sinks might like this one, cuz it doesn’t matter if you do a good job making the inside neat. I posted it online at:

The diagrams are done in Flash, using (the current version of) my Foldinator tool. I’ve done a bunch of diagrams in Flash this way and it works pretty well for me. One of the things I like best is that the vector drawings scale up smoothly, so you can get a lot detail into the drawings and it won’t be lost. At some point I’m going improve the Foldinator to include a more generalized representation of the model, animations between frames, and eventually and authoring tool. But for now the next feature will probably be non-sequential access to the steps. In any event, the Foldinator project has taken a back burner for me of late, despite requests from the Origami community. Since I write software all day, and I’d rather spend my origami time making origami than writing more software. Now if I could get a grant or something, that might change the picture…

I submitted this model to this year’s OUSA Annual Collection, so if you want a printed version, look to see; it may appear in there.

Also, soon I will be updating my main origami page to include the Butterfly pics and diagrams, as well as other new models. I’m sort of waiting on that until I have a chance to take some nice pictures, set up with lights and all, rather than just the snapshots I’ve been posting here.

Kitchen Tile Project, Part 1

Lately we’ve been working on putting up tiles in our kitchen. When we bought our house we made a list of thing we wanted/needed to do to fix it up, and putting tile in the backsplash area was in the plan from the start. Right when we moved in I painted a good part of the house, including the kitchen, but left that area unpainted, figuring I’d get around to it soon. Well five years went by, and we were busy with other things, but last Thanksgiving we kinda messed up the wall carving the turkey, and discovered the limitations of cheap paint (it can stain) so it was time.

Now neither Jeannie nor I had ever done any tile work before, although I’m pretty handy and she’s an expert in stained glass. Still it seemed pretty daunting to get started. But we bought some books, and made some trips to the tile store and figured out what tools and materials we needed, and finally picked out some tile and bought everything.

We put up about half the tile last weekend. Honestly the prep work, planning measuring and cutting takes more time than the actual laying the tile. Here are some pictures of our kitchen as a work-in-progress. Hopefully I’ll be able to report back in a week or two that we’re done it was a great success.

A bit of tiled wall, with our tools.

As you can see, we’re about half done.

We have something special planned for the area above the stove. Jeannie picked out some nice accent tiles.

We have 7 electrical fixtures to contend with in this small space. Making these U-shaped cutouts was tricky. Luckily Jeannie came thru with the glass grinder!

I had to pull out a tile because a screw on the electric box was sticking out and the tile wouldn’t lay flat.

Fun with PhotoBooth

Happy spring everyone! The weather had finally changed, and winter is gone. Allergy season is right around the corner! Although it feels like winter dragged on far too long this year, even with global warming, it also feels like time has flown by, that it was just the holidays and I just started my new job. But I’ve been there coming on three months now.

The big activity last weekend was getting the yard ready for spring, part one. Or another way of saying it, the start of yardwork season. I had wanted to start the weekend before, but it seemed pointless as there was still piles of melting snow on our lawn. And the weekend before that we spent the whole time shoveling. In any event we made good start. Raked off all the debris, and I filled in some low spots in the back corner which are prone to flooding with dirt. Not particularly creative, but it’s constructive at least. I have a project in the offing to re-level the patio I made 3 years ago, as the stones have begun to heave and settle in one corner. I think when I get around to that I’ll blog about building the patio, since it was a creative project and a major effort.

Meanwhile the main topic for today is fun with PhotoBooth. A few weeks ago Jeannie brought home one of those MacBook Pro computers from work, the ones with a built-in camera and a cute little app called photo booth. You gotta hand it to Apple, they’re good at making computers fun, and this app is a good example of that. Not a lot of depth to it, but easy to use and engaging. Let’s you take pictures of yourself (or whatever else is in front of the computer), with some cool realtime effects. It’s the kind of thing we might have made at Interval Research back in the 90’s.

The girls really got into it, and Lizzy in particular, who likes photography to begin with, explored the creative dimension. She took over 400 pictures. Presented here is a gallery of some of our favorites.