1585 Trip Miles

We just got back from a trip upstate to see family and friends. It was over a week, a double trip split between Western NY and the Adirondack mountains. It was a very nice time, relaxing and invigorating.

First stop was to visit my parents. We drove up Friday and spent Saturday relaxing. My brother and his fiancé came over for a barbeque, with their dog Loki. Did a bit of fishing and took the girls on a hike along the creek in the park near their house. Sunday we went up to Canada for a family reunion. Good to see all the cousins and uncles. Martin blogged about it too and put up some pictures here.

My grandmother told I should take a trip to Hungary. This is something I’ve been considering doing in a few years, when the girls are old enough to handle a big international trip. There is an origami conference each year in Budapest, and it might be a cool thing to check it out. I had already talked to my mother about the possibility of coming along, as she is fluent in the language, and she likes the idea. So one step closer to reality and added to the list of destinations. With luck the next few years will be a good for traveling with the family.

On Tuesday we went out with my Mum and Dad to my Dad’s woodlot. It’s a piece of land he has out in the countryside with a meadow and a creek and a forest. He goes deer hunting there in the fall. It’s a beautiful place and it was a perfect sunny day. We had a picnic there with bacon cooked over the fire, then went for a hike in the woods and let the girls splash in the creek and try and catch minnows in cups.

Wednesday we went out to Victor, NY to visit Jeannie’s brother and their family. Carrie was delighted to have Michelle over and they played together. But the big news is they just had a baby! Little Anna, only a few days old, and as tiny and cute as can be. A very peaceful baby.

Then it was on the Saranac Lake, NY, in the very heart of the high peaks country of the Adirondacks. We stayed with our friends Mark and Kelly. It was great to catch up. They had just bought a new house and have been busy fixing it up: drywall, paint, a pretty big amount of work. Alot of it was done but the place was not yet ready to move into.

On Thursday we went for a hike up nearby Mount Baker. It’s about a mile up the hill and then again back down, and the kids complained a bit because whenever we stopped the mosquitoes came at us something fierce. But the view was great and it was worth it for the character-building. Later that day we went to a place called the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, a sort of natural history museum of the region. They had had a big hall of exhibits with native plants and animals including frogs and turtles and salamanders and fish and even an otter. They also had some (taxidermically) stuffed fauna including a loon. I must admit I’ve never seen a live loon, and when I made my origami loon it was based on pictures from Google image search. So I kind of have this thing about loons now, trying to get to know them. The bird was a good deal larger than I expected (almost 2 feet long), and wider. I think I did a pretty good job at capturing its essence.

Went to a great restaurant in Placid called The Caribbean Cowboy that night. They had all kinds of good stuff I had some seared tuna over a bed of jambalaya.

Mark works at the Olympic center in Lake Placid, and Friday we took a tour. There was a triathlon in town that weekend so the roads were all full of cyclists, and the town it itself was pretty packed with people. First we went up the car road to the top of Mt. Whiteface. We had to drive around to the far side of the mountain and put up with the kids clamoring to stop at Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY along the way. And when we got to the toll we were told the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds and visibility was zero. So we turned back. This might be a good time to mention that we used to come up to the Adirondacks alot in the days before we had kids, and in three trips on three different winters I went up with the intention of skiing Whiteface and the mountain was closed because of extreme cold, extreme wind or a combination of the two. So this really came as no surprise.

So we spent the morning at a place called High Falls Gorge on the north fork of the Ausable river. It’s a neat little canyon with some falls and rapids and some nice hiking trails including some bridges and catwalks that let you get in close to the action.

By the time we were done there, the weather was clearing so we thought we’d get up Whiteface while we had our chance. Rather than motor all the way back to the north face, we decided to take the gondola, which was nearby. The ride up was pleasant and soon we arrived at the top of Little Whiteface (elevation 3900 ft), which was just as well, as Big Whiteface (elevation 4700 ft) was still obscured by clouds. After hanging out in Tahoe and the Sierras for a few years these peaks don’t sound that high, but it’s about as tall as it gets on the east coast! The view was great, of the surrounding peaks and lakes and the sky was properly dramatic.

Maybe a bit too dramatic at that. We’d had a good look around and were ready to come down, when all of a sudden up came a fierce wind and pelting rain. A dozen or so people up there all went into the ski patrol cabin to wait it out, as they stopped running the gondola. After a short while the rain stopped, but they were reluctant to start the gondola up again, cuz another storm was on the way. Finally there was a break and they decided to get everyone down at once. The ride up took 18 minutes but the trip down took maybe 5. And not a moment to soon. By the time we got back to our car it was raining again, and minutes later it there was hail and rain so hard I had to pull over.

We went into Placid and got some lunch. By the time we were done the storm had passed so we went to check out the ski jump complex. Boy ever neat. There were guys practicing acrobatic jumps and landing in a pool, which was fun to watch. Then we went to the main tower. It’s amazing how tall that thing is. And it’s built on top of a mountain! You have no idea seeing it on TV; you really have to check it out in person. I don’t think I’d ever have the fortitude to be a ski jumper. In fact when I go to the gate where they start the run I got a but spooked. On the way down –- you have to take a chair lift up the hill to the tower — I noticed it was one of the highest lifts I’d ever been on, and there’s no kind of seatbelt to keep little kids from falling out. But we all landed safe and sound.

The last stop of the day was the ice skating center. They have 2 rinks there, one from the 1932 games and one from 1980. On the older rink was a figure skating show, featuring girls from all over the northeast. A girl who did a Tinkerbell routine won. Michelle, who had taken ice skating lessons last winter, absolutely loved this. She has been thinking of ways to pretend to practice ice skating since we got home, mostly sliding around our wood floors in socks.

There was also a “Virtual Reality Simulation” ride there, which took you down the bobsled run, luge, ski jump and some other events. It was pretty cool except for the heavy, clunky, lo-rez, 15-year-old headmount displays from VPL which didn’t even do any motion tracking. They would have been better off (and I’m saying this now as a former professional VR software and systems developer and designer) with a big screen in the front of the room for everyone to look at. The fans were a nice touch I’ll admit. Also they could’ve used Adirondack chairs. That would’ve been cool.

Saturday was much more mellow. We went swimming in Middle Saranac Lake, at a tranquil little beach accessible only be hiking trail. Twice it started to rain, then rained hard for a minute or two, and then cleared up again. Crazy mountain weather. Later that we took a really nice canoe ride around Lake Flower, and checked out all the cottages. It really reminded me a lot of when we used to go up north in Canada as a kid. Mark’s landlord, also name Mark, was a really nice guy. We struck up a conversation and he offered us the use of his canoe. He also gave us a ride in his powerboat to take the girls for ice cream.

Mark had spent most of the day working on his house and missed all the fun. Saturday was big painting day for him, so I went over there and helped him out for a few hours. He had a They Might Be Giants boxed set on his iPod, which made the whole experience pretty pleasant.

Sunday it was pouring rain from the time we got up. We went to brunch in town, and the place was packed, but the food was good. It was also triathlon day so we decided to take the scenic route home, via Tupper, since the roads would be closed near Placid. Drove a good 100 miles in the rain on the mountain roads. The weather finally cleared as we got on the Northway. Almost as soon as we got past Albany the Thruway slowed to a crawl, so we took an alternate route home.

While we were on the road, my car passed 90,000 miles. Woo-hoo! I put more miles on my car on this trip than I have the whole year before that. While were on the road, I listen to the girls sing songs from Hannah Montana. I now have every song memorized even though I’ve never heard the CD! Also Lizzy and I concluded that an RV that turns into a house boat and then turns into an airplane would be a really cool thing to have. I have it all worked out in my mind. Remind me later and I’ll make some sketches.

Coming soon: Pictures!

Origami Convention 2008

Last week was the annual OUSA Convention. It was a great time and it was great to see all my origami friends. Most years I work intensely to come up with a new design, but this year I had so many new designs it wasn’t necessary. I did fold some of John Montroll’s unpublished polyhedra, and talked with him about some polyhedra ideas I have. But mostly I hung out. I met some Brits, and a Canadian / South African folder (Hi Quentin!), plus all the usual suspects. (Hi John, Brian, Marc, etc.) Although not strictly origami, T. J. Norville had a cool thing he did making geodesic balls out of paper plates.

Jeannie and the girls came this year. It was Michelle’s first time, and Lizzy’s first time going 2 days. The girls made crowns and flowers, and Jeannie folded tessellations and flexicubes. Both kids had their models in the Origami By Children exhibit. Back in the spring when the kids did their models, I had them fold a bunch and picked the best ones to submit. Michelle didn’t want to part with her Candy Cane at the time, but shortly forgot about it. When she saw it on display she suddenly remembered, and got upset until I explained to her the whole point of the exhibition was so people could see her model. She seemed to like that.

I taught my Adirondack Moose, which is a new model, not diagrammed and I hadn’t taught it before. I rated I intermediate because it had no closed sinks or other crazy moves, and is not as difficult as many of my other models, but in retrospect maybe I should have rated it complex. The students of complex classes self-select and are all expert folders. With intermediate classes it can be more of a mixed bag. In this case it seemed most everyone was up to it, but the class was very full and the desks were large and far apart, so most people couldn’t see as well as they would like. I spent most of the class walking up and down to make sure everyone got a good luck. In the end everyone came out with a successfully folded moose.

I put a lot of work into my exhibit. I came up with about ten new models this year and folded new versions of some of my existing designs out of better paper. Of course as I get better, everyone else does too, and lot people had interesting cool stuff. On Sunday Dan Robinson led a critique of a group of people’s displays, sort of a round-robin atelier, which I found quite productive. I got some complements from folders I really admire. Dan, who folded an awesome Egret and is into birdwatching, praised my Loon. Robert Lang, who had a whole chapter on elephant design in his book, liked my elephant for it’s massiveness and power. And Brian Chan, who does alot of sci-fi themed subjects, liked my Rocket, UFO and Balloon.

The Monday sessions were interesting, especially the afternoon ones. Dan had a discussion on the aesthetics of origami design. There was alot of discussion of paper. I haven’t used alot of this, but need to find better paper, larger thinner sheets. There are a handful of exotic papers people use for origami: Washi, Hanji, etc. The are very hard to find in larger than 25cm sheets. I’m also out of Wyndstone paper, which had been my main paper for extra-large models, but I can’t seem to find it online. I also ran into Marc Kirschenbaum in the morning; he was on his way to do a seminar on publishing. This lead me to realize that I now have over 30 original models, and seem to be generating them at an accelerating rate (I just came up with a Wizard this morning because I friend brought a Balrog action figure into the office.)

So I decided to start work on an origami book of my own. I have 10 or so models diagrammed and need to diagram a bunch more. I’m hoping to get the diagramming mainly done in a year and then turn my attention toward assembling the book and getting it published.

Coming soon: Pictures!

Origami Baluchitherium

Still catching up here. Last week, as previously mentioned, was the annual Origami USA Convention. Robert Lang led his annual design challenge, and this year’s subject was a prehistoric animal, non-dinosaur. I had considered this topic for a while, and settled on an Ice-Age mammal, a.k.a. Megafuana. I mean, how could you not like the name, Mega-fauna? It means giant animal!

I had made a start on a Megaceros (giant horns), a.k.a., the Irish Elk, an extinct deer which has the largest antlers of any member of the deer family, up to 3 meters across! I had used my Moose as a starting point, and changed the proportions to get even bigger antlers. But once I got to the point where it was time to sculpt the model it became clear this approach wasn’t going to work. It didn’t look distinctly deer-like enough, and working out the details of the antlers would require some time, and probably a deeper redesign going all the way back to the base. Else I’d just end up with a funny-looking moose.

So I put it aside for a while to give it some thought. And then suddenly it was Friday, and that evening I would be setting up my exhibit, so I if I was to participate in the challenge I’d have to come up with something fast!

Luckily I had another idea in mind: a Baluchitherium. This extinct giant may have been the largest mammal ever to walk on land! It was as tall as a giraffe and had the girth of an elephant, and although it was a member of the Rhinoceros family it had no horn on its head. So I combined the back half of my elephant with a long neck and a head with ears and snout similar to the moose. I folded one test out of a 10″ sheet of kami and then went straight on the display model, made of a 20″ square of Wyndstone. And it came out pretty well, if I say so myself.

The challenge display was full of diverse and exciting work, and I was happy to be a part of it. And as for the Irish Elk? It’s just as well I didn’t do that because Robert folded one that totally kicked ass!

New Lyrics: Vikings!

Before it recedes too far too fast I want to mention how Steely Dan reminded me about another show I saw not very long ago. It was a year or two ago, another one of those sultry late June evenings, I saw Keith Emerson at a theater in Tarrytown very similar to the Beacon, decedent with post-vaudevillian anachronistic art-demo splendor. Like the Steelies, I saw ELP once before, in a large outdoor summer concert setting, but this show was much smaller and more intimate.

Keith Emerson is one of my all time musical idols, and the only person I know of who ever led a rock power trio on keyboards instead of guitar. His piano playing, organ, not to mention his pioneering work in synthesizers. Wow! He put on a really good show, revisiting alot of classic ELP material, plus a good helping of newer stuff. He even had is Modular Moog all set up and used it to reproduce a few critical solos from various songs. To this day Karn Evil 9, 2nd Impression remains one of my favorite tunes to play on the piano.

Around this time we were finishing up the Buzzy Tonic record and tossing around ideas for songs for a follow-up. I thought it might be fun to an album-side-length prog epic, in the grand tradition of Tarkus, Karn Evil 9, 2112, Hemispheres, Close To The Edge or one of those. If you’re a prog fan you’ll know what I’m talking about. But what topic? I’ve always had a thing for Vikings, so the night of the concert I came home and came up with a lyric. The only problem is it pretty much turned out as a recapitulation of the plot of the classic Terry Jones movie “Erik The Viking”. Well I could do worse I suppose; at least it was suitably epic. However, the task of arranging and recording a twenty minute song was rather daunting; as much effort as four or five normal sized songs. So the odds me actually getting around to it any time soon are slim to none. I might do a demo of it someday, but meanwhile, I thought I’d share the lyric with you.



I. Overture: Looting and Pillaging



II. Freya

Young men only interested in fighting and killing
But has it always been that way?
An axe age a storm age an ice age
Brother against brother in hatred and rage
Until the world is destroyed

Look, what do you see?
I see the world, Freya
I see the world

The winter is gone, the summer has come
Yet Fenreya the Wolf still covers the sun
So the old legends are all true
Once as a child in a dream the sky was blue
It was blue

So this is Ragnorok
What must I do, Freya
What must I do?

And will the dead ever return?


III. Vikings!
(including Erik, What Are You Doing?  Thorfinn Just Said That Sven’s Grandfather Died of Old Age! and Harald the Cleric)

Erik, What Are You Doing?
Thorfinn just said that Sven’s grandfather
Died of old age!
He’ll have to kill me!  He’ll have to kill me!
No he didn’t he died in battle!
Now he must kill me!  Now he must kill me!
He died of old age!
He’ll have to kill me!  He’ll have to kill me!

No wait!
There is another way!
I’m not afraid of anything

Harald the Cleric no warrior he
Sandals treading in the snow

Harald the Cleric doesn’t believe
In violence and revenge
Asgaard or Valhalla
Cuz he believes in something else
One god or many?
What does it matter?
He seeks serenity transcendence and wisdom
Forgiveness salvation
Yet no one will listen

Harald the Cleric pilgrim missionary 
Sandals treading in the snow
He’s sure got a long way to go


The Voyage
(including Sven the Berserk vs. The Dragon of the North Sea and Thorfinn Doesn’t Know the Meaning of Fear)

Earnestly Erik with Harald the Cleric
And Leif the Lucky too
Sven the Berserk and Sven’s Berserker Dad
All join in the crew
Kietel Blacksmith, Thorfinn Skullsplitter
Even Ivar the Boneless and Snorri
Start on their quest in their open long boat
That’s the last we shall see of old Norway!

Many cold days pass on rolling waves
Puke, puke, puke, puke, puke
Pursued by Halfdan the Black –
There’s no turning back
The dragon attacks!
The long ship cracks!
Frame by frame death by drowning
On the Devil’s doorway

The dreaded black sails are drawing near
But Thorfinn doesn’t know the meaning of fear
The battle is joined and Erik brings
The magic from the daughter of the King
Now you see me now you don’t ha ha!

Thorfinn falls, Sven rages on
The day won under the sun, but now
Loki shows his face, has yet to play his hand
What does fate have in store for poor Snorri?


V. Hy-Brasil
(including The Tee-Tum Song)

Welcome, welcome we always welcome friends
Everyone is friends here in Hy-Brasil
Being nice to each other is what it’s all about.
Here in Hy-Brasil
A thousand years of peace and love
Here in Hy-Brasil

Tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum
Tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum
Tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum

We come from a land where there is no music
Where men live and die by the axe and the sword
Where Fenreya the Wolf covers the sun
Far from Hy-Brasil

Tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum
Tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum

And so human blood is spilled
And the land begins to sink beneath the sea
Murder tragic disenchants the island’s magic
The end of Hy-Brasil

Stay calm, stay calm this is not happening
I repeat, this is not happening
Save yourselves! Save yourselves!
Panic mongers!  Who do they think they are?

It’s all a question of what you want to believe

Tee-tum, tee-tum, tee-tum


VI. The Horn Resounding

You do know how to play the horn d’you?

The first note to take you to Asgaard
The second note to awaken the gods
The third note to bring you home

The first note to take you to Asgaard
Over the edge of the world
Over the edge of the world

Once you’re in the spell of the horn
Hatred will destroy you
Hatred will destroy you

And she said,
You don’t have to love me
But do you believe that I love you?
Then let go, let go
Let go


VII. Bifrost Asgaard Valhalla (and Home)


Bifrost – Asgaard  – Valhalla!
Bifrost – Asgaard  – Valhalla!

The second note to awaken the gods

Bifrost – Asgaard  – Valhalla!
Bifrost – Asgaard  – Valhalla!
The gods awake!
Better look out!

Bifrost – Asgaard  – Valhalla!
Bifrost – the rainbow bridge
Asgaard  – the hall of the gods
Valhalla – the destiny of the great warriors
Yeah we’re the lucky ones!

Now Fenreya the wolf is gone
But the fate of man
Is in man’s hand

The realm of earth is not for you
You’ve crossed the rainbow bridge
And will the dead ever return?

The third note to bring you home

Harald the Cleric, blows the horn
He doesn’t believe but he wants to go home

Look, what do you see?
The sun … !

Adirondack Origami

It’s been a really busy week. Last weekend was the annual Origami USA convention, which is always lots of fun but exhausting. Lots of exciting things this year, but I’ll talk about that more in a future post, once I get my pictures developed.

For now, though, another origami topic. You may remember back in May I was jamming on an origami commission and developed a bunch of new models. The project was for Adirondack Life magazine. The new issue, which just hit the stands yesterday features a 4-page spread of my work, including a moose, bear and a loon. There is also a companion feature online, which has diagrams for my canoe:

http://www.adirondacklife.com/index.php?option=com_content& task=view&id=155&Itemid=119

Thanks to Kelly for this opportunity. My first mainstream print publication for origami. Enjoy!