New Song: Fine Red Wine

I’ve been working on a new song called Fine Red Wine. It’s basically a love song, and I came up with the idea for it last fall shortly after Jeannie and I celebrated our Twennyversery. So the lyrics are heartfelt and fairly straightforward. For the music, I wanted something accessible, soulful and bluesy. It has a neat little intro with a descending figure in the bass under a constant onstanato, which creates some interesting chords. After that it it’s basically a classic R&B kind of groove and the changes are all based on the 7th chords. It’s a fun number to play, and I put a full horn section arrangement on it. Also some cool two-note figures in the bass.

I started working on it in the early spring. It’s been slow going due to other commitments, but it’s almost ready now. I got the vocals in a couple of weeks ago, and this last weekend I spent tracking the horns. That was a lot of fun. Basically all that’s left is to lay down the solo, then I’ll be ready to share.

This is the fourth song in my current recording project, and when It’s done I’ll have a logical album side or virtual EP. I have another set of tunes ready to start in on, but I want to take a break, so I’ll probably mix and master this set before starting in on the next batch. So watch this space. Meanwhile, here are the lyrics.

Fine Red Wine
by John Szinger, 2007

I love you woman
We’ve been together for a long time
We’ve had our ups and down
River flows like fine red wine


I remember the night we met
Sharing tequila and partying on
Well times they sure have changed
But I believe the best is still to come

The River!
Wheel turning round and round

I remember the day we wed
The look in your eyes just said it all
I knew you love me too
You are so beautiful

Big wheel keep on moving along

I love you woman
River flows like fine red wine
We’ll have our ups and down
Let’s be together for a long time

Let’s go get Mexican food

More Origami

I’ve been busy folding recently. I’m sort of on a roll after completing my recent commission. This week I folded some new models for the upcoming OUSA Convention this June. If you’re an origami person and you can get to New York City you should definitely come. It’s gotten to the point where I’m folding on the train now, where I’d normally be reading. I’m in the middle of Stranger in a Strange land, too, which is really good.

I bought some nice 10″ Japanese washi paper last week, and folded new versions of my Lizard and Turtle. They came out very nice. This paper is softer and more springy than kami, so used paper clips to clamp some of the folds overnight. For the turtle I came up with a new way to lock the shell together so you don’t need to use foil or wet fold it.

Both these models use my hex base and I came up with a third critter for this series: a Frog. I’m still in the refining stage, but it’s coming along. It’s an interesting variation on the hex base in that it transforms from a hexagon to a triangle before it becomes a frog. You can see a prototype here. I like the pose and curved shape. The difficulty now is in the sculpting, getting the back legs just so, and the curve of the back and the eyebrows.

When I’m done that I want to fold a 10″ version of my Armadillo out of washi, and maybe a fox if I can find the right paper. And beyond that, another hot air balloon, and some new ideas if time permits.

Robert Lang’s challenge this year is a prehistoric non-dinosaur animal. Last year it was a plant, which was a really cool topic, and I had a pretty cool concept for a potted plant, but didn’t have the time to develop it. This year I’ve decided to do some ice-age mammal, partly because I always enjoy that hall in the Museum of Natural History, and partly because I have models I can adapt to get there. I have three concepts: one is a Baluchitherium from a kite base, another is a prehistoric Pachyderm, such as a Mammoth or Shovel Tusker (Gomphotherium) based on my Elephant, and the third is a Megaceros, a.ka. Giant Irish Deer, based on my Moose. I was also considering a Glyptodon, based on my Armadillo, but I think the others are cooler (mainly for being more giant when they were living animals, not that a Glyptodon is small by any means). But the problem is: I can only choose one. So which shall it be?

Terrible Idea | Great Idea

While we’re on the topic of amusing office annoyances, here’s another.

I work for a really big company. Big enough that people’s idea of what they think is the right thing do in the corporate context can vary greatly depending on their particular role. This can get rather surreal. My floor alone is well over 100 people, all working on just one small set of applications.

The other day I’m working and I get a last minute and urgent request from a project manager to implement some absolutely boneheaded feature ASAP. This is actually not that uncommon, but more often than not it’s the result of poor communication, so usually the solution is to find the person who made the request and go talk to them, figure out what they really want and implement something sensible instead of their flaky hack.

(The project manager is a neither-fish-nor-fowl role in our organization. They not developers or technical managers, nor or they produces or have anything to do with defining features or product direction. They are basically organizers and mediators and their job is to schedule and track things and make sure people who need to know what’s going on know what’s going on. And to insulate developers from random noise from creative.)

This request came from a producer over in creative, so I go over to ask him about it directly. This particular guy is often more of a “big picture” than a “details” person, but he’s a nice guy and smart and if he can see that his idea doesn’t make sense to a developer he’s usually willing to listen and find a solution that works for everyone.

But not this day. I explain first issue, which is with usability. “You’re right, it makes no sense,” he tells me. ” I know it’s a terrible idea, but we have to do it anyway.” He actually said this. Pressure from the legal department apparently.

I’m sure it seems like a simple request to him but it actually would require some substantial reworking of a nontrivial set of code, and it touches other parts of the code base, so I’d have to get other developers involved. This would make the whole thing run over schedule, and have cascading consequences. So I think it over and tell him, “Actually I think it’s a great idea, but the problem is we can’t do it.”


So the other day I’m at work, writing code, in the zone, working out some complex and esoteric problem. Concentrating, you dig?

The phone rings. “Hello, is this John [horribly mispronounces my last name, which is not even that hard, and doesn’t even come close the standard mispronunciation most people use]. My name is Michael [somethingorother] and I [blahblahblahblahblah]”, talking a mile a minute, without a comma and without getting to the point. No good morning how are you, am I interrupting? or anything.

Eventually he has to pause to take a breath so I ask him “Are you a recruiter?” We’ve been having a growing problem with headhunters cold calling random people in my office looking for an in. They go onto LinkedIn and see your job title and the company you work for and then call the main switchboard and navigate the phone directory to get out numbers at our desks. I don’t know why they do it; it’s a complete waste of time. It aslo seems to me extremely rude. We all tell them about our HR department, whose job it is to listen to people like them. Usually the headhunters are pretty pushy, and some developers will wait patiently to get a word in edgewise, and plead “I’m really sorry but I can’t tell you that. You’ll have to call HR.” Sometimes the hapless developer will repeat this 3 or 5 times.

So the guy says “Yes I am I work for [some recruiting agency] and I [blahblahblahblahblah]”. So before this gets too out of hand, I tell him to talk to our HR department and hang up the phone.

Steve, who sits across from me and is not a developer but a “Resource Manager” and has to put up with more of these calls than anyone, looks up and says “Good answer.”

A minute or so later the phone rings again. I should mention I’m expecting a legit phone call right about then, so I pick it up again. “Hello this is Michael [somethingorother] and I just want to say that it is very unprofessional of you to hang up the phone on me …” Well I’m just floored! This is your sales pitch Mike? You cold call a complete stranger just to spam me, and when you’re told the right way to pitch candidates to our organization you don’t listen? Then you call me back just to insult me? And you expect me to help you because why? I thought for a second or so about trying to explain to him that it really is appropriate to hang up under these circumstances, and that had the info he called me for anyway. But I figured he probably wouldn’t listen to that either. I never found up what his second point was, cuz I hung up again.

I guess I should cut the dude some slack. He was probably just having a bad day. He’s probably just figured out he’s going to get fired for being such a lousy salesman.

Elephant: Evolution

Here is my new Elephant. Not only is it easier to fold, but is also about a third larger, and has a cleaner look with fewer creases and a better stance and body form. The one pictured here is folded from a 20″ square, but it works from regular 10″ kami, something that my old Elephant never did. The head is basically the same (although it uses proportionally more of the paper) except the ears are larger. The legs, feet shoulders and hips are detailed in a new way, again simpler but with a good effect. It’s strong too. This one here is folded from Wyndstone paper and can hold some weight if you press down. The key is to make sure all four legs are the same length so they contract the ground when the model is at rest. I think I’ll call this one Bull Elephant.

Next up: a War Elephant with a castle on his back!

Life and Origami

I’ve been really busy the last few weeks. More on that below, but first a few preliminaries.

First, both of the girls had their models accepted in OUSA’s origami for children exhibit! Look for them this June.

Next, it turns out that won a Webby. Thanks for all your votes. I have no idea how did.

Spring is really, really here.  The weather has been really, really beautiful.  Out in the garden we planted tomatoes a few weeks ago. Critters ate them.

I haven’t had a chance to work on music in a couple of weeks, although I want to get my last song of the current set done soon. Hopefully this weekend I will get back to it. One or two more sessions and I’ll be able to post a rough mix; it’s down to vocals and horns. A couple things came up that delayed the music work.

One is I got some malware on my PC. It looks like it’s under control now, but I’m afraid that next time I reboot it will come back. I had to go out and get anti-malware sofware and all, and it didn’t even fully clean it. I might have to go back and restore my OS from and archive I made last fall. Oh such fun. Glad at least my new computer’s a Mac.

The other is I’ve been really jamming on origami, making a ton of models. I’ve been working the last month or so on an origami commission, and I finished all the models last Friday. It was a cool set of subjects; each on presented different and interesting challenges. I’m please and satisfied that I was able to come up with good designs for all of them pretty much on demand in a short time, and while I was at it, came up with some new ideas I can apply in other models. These were more in the intermediate than complex level, so it was also good to take a step back towards more readily doable subjects. I’m particularly fond of the bear and the moose.

The Bear is in the modern style, which is to say it doesn’t really use a base. With a model like this it’s all about the pose and the posture. I came with the basic form and approach pretty quickly, but it took a couple of days just to work out the ears! And it changed around the design quite a bit.

When I was done I noticed an underlying structural similarity to my Elephant. So I went back to look at my Elephant, and it seemed needlessly complex to me, especially the back legs. I remember a few years ago when I came up with the design really struggling to work it out but never being fully satisfied with the fold sequence. So now I’m redesigning my Elephant. The new version is closer to 30 steps than 50, and the same size paper yields a substantially larger beast. The overall appearance is very similar, and the head is almost exactly the same. Of course one thing leads to another, so now I’m working on the head.

For the moose, I had a bit of an idea about how to approach the antlers. I saved this model for last, cuz it was the hardest and I figured I’d work up to it, but by the time I got there time was running out. So rather then do a free body design I fell back on the tried-and-true bird base. (A modified stretched bird base, actually.) I pretty much nailed the model on the first try with not alot of experimentation and some lucky guesses on the proportions. Using the base turned out the be a good thing because it left me with a thick body with lots of layers; it was strong and the legs could support the weight, and the model doesn’t tend to flop forward despite the big antlers.

I took the day off Thursday and pretty much folded continually from first thing in the morning into the evening and the wee hours of the night, all the final models in one long session. I was amazed at how exhausted I was by the end of the day. It was intensely creative, and my brain felt like it does at the end of a 16 hour marathon of writing code. My hands hurt right at the base of the joint of my thumb too.

Sunday was a folding session at the Museum of Natural History. I took Lizzy and my friend John was in town to teach and hang out. He’s working on a new book that includes a lot of theory, and I looked thru some of the material. Lots of math; very intense stuff. It’s going to be up there with Robert’s ODS. Lizzy learned how to wet-fold. It’s also kind of cool to see how she can function and enjoy herself in an all adults kind of setting. All in all a really good day.

Jeannie stayed home and re-planted the garden, and built a little fence out chickenwire to keep the critters out. Tomatoes again as well as various peppers. So far so good on the critter front.