Dead Computer New Computer

It’s been awhile since I last wrote.  The deep cold, long dark nights and bleak days continue without interruption.  Five weeks now with only one or two afternoons barely breaking freezing.  Snow still on the ground from December has crusted up to ice and is covered over by newer layers like a fossil record.  I’ve been trying to keep busy by working on music and origami lest the season work its way thru my bones and into my soul.  Making progress on that stuff, albeit slowly.  A new version of my origami Lizard is basically finished.  But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

I have been reading Martin’s blog about his new music recoding efforts.  I have some stuff to say, partially in response, about song writing and recoding from my own POV, particularly in regards to the guitar and the bass.  But it’s been hard pulling all that together and I realize it’s probably more than one topic, so hopefully I can get to that some time soon.

I’ve also been really busy at work getting up to speed with the Platform Group.  A bunch of new people have joined, so the lot of have been going thru three weeks of twice daily meetings to learn about the whole platform architecture, application stack from soup to nuts.  As well current state and future plans of the project.  It’s valuable stuff but alot to absorb in a short amount of time.  Basically like school.  And on top of this I’ve been getting into the code base and working on fixing bugs and adding new features from day one.

Tuesday into Wednesday a storm of snow and freezing rain descended on us.  I worked from home on Wednesday because the kids’ school was cancelled.  That morning my old laptop finally gave up the ghost for good.  It went to sleep and wouldn’t wake up.  My best guess is the power manager is fried and thinks the battery is dead and can’t tell that it’s plugged in.  At least I successfully migrated my music production off that machine, and I have a recent full backup, and most of my most recent work is on a thumb drive, so the timing of it was not too bad.  Unable to face the prospect of another week or more of downtime trying, probably in vain, to fix the machine yet again, I went out and got a new computer.

Fortunately there’s an Apple Store right near my office, so I swung by the next morning and picked up a new MacBook Pro.  So that’s the end of Microsoft OS for me for the foreseeable future (BootCamp and Parallels notwithstanding), and good riddance.  Now instead of trying to recover and old dead machine, I have the slightly less dreary task of installing all the software and my data on the new machine.  I feel like I’ve done this so many times that I’ve stacked up the carcasses of old computers like so many cloned conjurors a la The Prestige.  Ah well, hopefully this one will last me a few years and it’ll be a good long while before I have to go thru this again.

New Song: Earthbound

My new song is called Earthbound, and it’s coming along nicely. I just laid down a take of the lead vocals last night, so now we turn the corner from writing to fleshing out the arrangement. It’s a winter-themed song, sort of an impression of my morning commute, coming out of Grand Central Station into the winter weather, becoming part of a crush of people, and arriving at Times Square in all it’s neon monstrosity. It’s always dark this time of year and cold, and the city is sort of an alternative virtual reality devoid of nature. A Kafkaesque metaphor of rebirth and metamorphosis.

The sound I have in mind is sort of an 80’s post-prog pop. So there’ll be a good deal of synthesizers but little to no saxophones.

The chorus is based on a riff Lizzy made up, and it turned out to be a great hook for the theme I was developing, a sort of hopeful transcendent mantra. So I incorporated into the song in the same as I did with It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Day. I’m gonna have her sing on it too.

Not to be outdone, Michelle has been wanting to get in on this too, and has been pitching a song idea called “Ouch My Toe.” I told her I wasn’t too sure about that one, so now she has a new on “You Can’t See Me”.

So here are the lyrics now. Look for a rough mix coming in the next few weeks.


I wanna fly up in the sky
Like a butterfly or a swan
I wanna fly away up high
Rising closer to the sun

Concrete canyons
Rooftop roadways
When the rain appears
Slush melts into Gotham gullies
And washes out to salty seas
Like tears

Stone stairways
Under watchful gargoyles
Navigate a cryptic maze
Vaulted like the heavens only Earthbound
Long slow climb out of the underground
Alight and dream of flying

I wanna fly up to the sky
Like a butterfly or a swan
I wanna fly way up high
Rising closer to the sun

Glassy cages
Steely windows
A tyranny or rectangles
Sometimes the sun still shines
Silver splinters strike the street
Forming angles
That kindle hopes of warming

No moon in our sky
No stars in our night
We’re in the dark side of the year
Helicopters hang in hazy red light
Plasma prisms dance down on Broadway
Sweet young vampires come out to play
And drink of dreams of dying

I wanna fly up to the sky
Like a butterfly or a loon
I wanna fly way up high
Waxing closer to the moon
I wanna fly up to the sky
Like a butterfly or a swan
I wanna fly way up high
To the perihelion

It wants you
It’s never thru
Colossal tempting
Troubling teeming
Pulsing flashing
Glowing gleaming
Pale of darkness
Dearth of dreaming

I wanna fly up to the sky
Like a butterfly or a swan
I wanna fly way up high
Rising closer to the sun
I wanna fly up to the sky
Like a butterfly or a swan
I wanna fly way up high
To the perihelion

I wanna fly up to the sky
Like a butterfly or a swan
I wanna fly way up high
Rising closer to the sun

John Szinger, 2009

Winter Update

Well it looks like we’re having a classic winter this year, which is unusual for NYC.    It’s been cold and snowy since late December.  I’ve been out shoveling almost every day the last week.  I can’t remember the last time there’s been snow on the ground for a month or more.  There’s even ice floes on the Hudson.

It got down to 5 degrees one night last week.  This prompted a project of putting new weatherproofing in our garage and lower hallway at the door between the garage and the hall, and in the wizard room, a.k.a. the unheated closet under the stairs.

For some reason, though, the cold seems alot more tolerable when accompanied by snow.  So all in all I’m doing pretty good this winter.  We even took the kids ice skating this weekend.

The other thing we did this weekend was get back into the ongoing house painting project.  We painted our main room downstairs, which our family room, guest room, office and studio.  It was mainly cover damaged and dirty parts of the walls, and since it was the same color as before, we literally cut some corners by not doing any trim or edging, and not moving most of the furniture, but just going over the areas the needed it with a roller.  Still it took a half a day and we used a whole gallon of paint.  The long term plan is to remodel this space, since this is now the only part of the house left that has the original paint left from when we moved in.  So this will definitely hold us over until that day comes, and we’ll be touching up the upstairs hall and stairway at some point later this winter.

Montroll Polyhedra

When I first started designing my own origami models one of my areas of focus was creating polyhedra from a single square. At the time most polyhedral origami was modular, made from lots of little bits of paper folded (usually) into triangles with tabs that fit together. This was not so interesting to me as the single-sheet approach, which no one else was really doing.

When I met John Montroll it turned out he was doing it too, and in fact had just published a book of single-sheet origami polyhedra, the first of it’s kind. I’ve learned a lot from hanging out with John and my polyhedra concepts have advanced considerably. Now John is close to completing his third book on polyhedra, which take things to a whole nuther level. He recently asked me to fold a few of his designs to be used for photos in the book. Here are some pictures I took before I sent them off.

They are made of 12’” squares of Canson paper, which is a thickish art paper that has a really nice color and texture. I’ve been getting more an more into folding with thicker papers these days. For years the prevailing trend in origami has been to thinner and thinner papers for subjects like insects and stuff. But I like thicker papers because the model comes out stronger, more sculptable and more durable, especially if you work with larger sizes. This has also had an impact on my design sensibilities, as I tend to avoid designs that absolutely requite thin paper, such as using lots and lots of internal layers. This also leads to larger, more optimized designs. Of course thick is relative. A lot of these papers are barely thicker than standard office paper, but working on fine details it can feel as thick as cardboard.

John is always very elegant with his paper usage and most of polyhedra are just one layer thick on the facets. So although these are complex models, they came out really well, and very strong. You could probably play hackey-sack with some of them!


OK Computer

You might recall I bought a new computer, an iMac, about a year ago. The plan was to use is as the centerpiece of my recording studio. But ProTools didn’t run on 10.5 so that led to a big OS reinstall. I finally got ProTools, my Box and my MOTU MIDI interface all working together on the Mac under 10.4, only find out that SampleTank, which is my main onboard sampler, wasn’t compatible with Intel Macs and I’d have to get a whole new (as opposed to an upgrade) version of SampleTank. So that kind of bottomed out here. I did manage to install Boot Camp and Windows XP, but by the time I was done with all that I just wanted to get on with making music, so I went back to using my laptop again.

Well that laptop has been acting funny, and I don’t know why, and I went thru all kinds of pain to replace the hard drive last month. So over xmas vacation I finally got around to installing ProTools, SampleTank and all my samples, and the MIDI software on the XP partition of my Mac, and doing all the authorization rigaramole.

All was looking good, until I went to work on some actual music. Then to my dismay I discovered that after a few seconds the thing came to screeching halt. I tried again and it was the same thing. It was completely unusable. So I googled “protools xp bootcamp” and found lots of other people experiencing similar problems. Well misery loves company I guess. I learned that I probably needed something called the “microsoft dual core hotfix” so I googled that and it led me to this link:

Shawnuff I installed the patch and now everything is working splendidly and completely copasetic. The one caveat is I have to turn off wifi on the mac, which is something I never had to do on my laptop. The good news is that mac is a way more powerful machine. Mixes that would max out my old machine are only using about 40 percent of the CPU. Also, with the big monitor, I can display a full 24 tracks worth of faders without having to scroll! So a longstanding goal has been realized and I’m back in business in the recording front.

And it’s a good thing too. I’m in the middle of a new song called “Earthbound”. Or maybe it will be called “Perihelion”. After a month of downtime I can finally get back to it.

The next problem is that if the machine sleeps while XP it kinda crashes when it wakes up, and then reboots in the MacOS. I think Microsoft has a fix for that too.

Winter Break

Well the holidays have come and gone and the tree is sitting by the curb, and it’s back to the ol’ grind in the new year.  Getting up before dark and standing out in the cold waiting for the train is what I love best about January.  But I don’t want to sound to grumpy.  I had a really nice winter break.  Got to see some friends and family and do a bunch of travelling and other things, and just as importantly, take some much needed time to rest.  Of course the vacation was too short and there were people I wanted to see but didn’t get the chance to.  Sorry John, John and Larry.

Here are a few assorted highlights:

Way back over two weeks ago, the Friday before Christmas was supposed to be the night of the kids’ big xmas concert at school, but nature had other plans.  A big snowstorm meant school was cancelled so the concert was postponed until the following day prompting all kinds of frenzied reordering of plans.  In the end the concert was a success.   Lizzy had a Flute solo (the only solo in the band) and did very well.

It was a big xmas for legos.  The kids had a lego advent calendar and they both some lego sets as presents, Jeannie set up her lego train from a few years ago around the tree, carrying presents and all.  To I got a lego Avatar Air Temple set as a gift from the office.  So we put ’em all together under the tree in a big ol’ explosion-at-the-genre-factory kind of legopalooza extravaganza.

We played a good amount of Nintendo after playing virtually none at all since last winter break.  Up to 59 stars in Super Mario Galaxy, plus played a bunch of other games at various people’s houses.

I had some good Origami time.  I finally got a chance to get back to working on my book.  I finished diagramming and laying out my Elephant II, which weighs in at 33 steps, well down from my previous pachyderm with its 57 steps.  Also closed in on my Moose, which will be about 70 steps — just the antlers to go — and am more than halfway done with my Adirondack chair.  So I now have models diagrammed, and 2 more in striking distance.  Not too far off the pace of one a month, which isn’t bad considering I did no origami at all the last month or so.  Winter has always been my big origami time, being dark and cold outside and all, so I’m optimistic that I can continue in this groove.  (Last year was a bit of an anomaly, as it was right a year ago I started a three-month marathon of working 7 day, 60+ hour weeks.  Luckily I don’t have that sort of thing on the horizon now.) 

Also my friend John Montroll asked me to fold some of his polyhedra for the cover photo of his forth coming book.  I recently bought some Canson, which as an art paper normally used for pastels, thicker than regular kami. I thought it’d be perfect for these models. So far I’ve made 4 out of 5 of them in 12″ squares, and they’ve come out quite well.  Nice look, good and very strong.

I also spent some more time on the continuing saga of fixing and upgrading my computer and music recording system.  I will talk about that in a separate post, since I’m sure you’ll want all the tedious geeky details.

Lastly we took the girls for a day trip skiing.  After staying up and sleeping late every day for more than a week, it was hard going getting up and out the door, and the mountain was the most packed I’ve ever seen it, but the snow was good and we all had a good time.  Lizzy is doing quite well.  She picked up right were she left off last year and got here groove after a run or two, and even went down a blue trail in the afternoon.  Michelle is not a big or strong, and needed some coaxing.  I spent a good deal of time with Michelle on the bunny hill, getting her used to basic sliding, turning, stopping, shifting and holding weight and skis.  I think she progressed pretty well.  I’m hoping she’ll be ready to get on a lift by the end of the season.