Foldinator 2 Build 3

Development of Foldinator2 continues. You can see the third prototype here:

Earlier prototypes is archived here:

The main feature for this time around is that I am now generating the paper procedurally using the drawing API. This is core to the whole application, and everything going forward will be built on more sophisticated instructions to the drawing algorithm. The paper is initialized only after the user loads a model. The paper gets its initial state (white or colored side up) from the OrigamiXML for the model. I’ve defined a set of constants for the various lines weights and colors that the rendering will need. For the next build I am going to set the paper’s initial rotation as well.

I’ve also begun putting in controls to toggle the enabled states of the various buttons and to allow the user to switch between View and Edit modes. This will be more fully fleshed out in the next build.

Since it is still fairly early in the development cycle, even simple features require a fair amount of new behind-the-scenes structure to be built. For this build I extended the event framework to handle callback events. I use this in the app initialization sequence when loading the list of OrigamiXML files, and when a file is loaded to trigger the Paper initialization. I also created a class to hold application constants outside of the drawing API styles. These include definitions for steps, actions, folds and their properties and parameters. This will come into play as the folding code develops.

News on the Street

It’s Thanksgiving break, and I feel like I have alot to be thankful for this year. Things are generally good for my loved ones and my overall situation, and goals I’ve been working towards for years have been showing signs of progress and paying off. Of course its easier to feel good about life when you’re relaxed. This is my first break since the start of the school year in September, and we’ve been taking it easy and getting things done this weekend. No big travel or entertaining, other than going to Jeannie’s folks for Thanksgiving day. Played a fun game of Earthopoly (Monopoly with a “go green” spin) with the kids. Jeannie and I both went bankrupt early, and it was and epic battle between Lizzy and Michelle.

I got a nice big block of time to work on music. I re-recorded, edited and mixed the vocals the song “Angel or Alien” (soon to be renamed “U.F.O.”). It sounds much better and this makes six out of nine songs ready for mastering.

I kicked off the this winter’s home improvement project cycle. We have four projects on the slate and I thought I would tackle the easiest one first and knock it off the list this weekend. It was just to shore up some towel bars in the bathroom that were coming loose from the wall. However one thing leads to another and jobs are not always that simple. I took off the first bar and put in a new stronger wall anchor. But then the towel bar would not go back on to the mount since the new anchor had a bigger screw head and the towel bar would not fit. Bad design. We had to get a whole new set of towel bars and rings. The dimension were just different enough that it meant drilling new holes and painting over the place where the old mounts came up. So it turned into a three day job. But whatevs, it’s done now. Woo-hoo. Three to go.

One nice surprise this week is that the town paved our street, so we went from having the bumpiest, potholiest street in town to the newest, smoothest one. Immediately the kids started clamoring to go out rollerblading, but it was sort of rainy for a couple days, so it had to wait until the weekend. We finally got a chance to play outside. Lizzy recently got her cast off her arm, and immediately did some cartwheels, something she’s been pining to do for weeks. The weather has been really mild all November, and we still are picking fresh parsley from our garden and believe it not have roses in bloom.

Now we’re turning the corner into December. Looking at three intense weeks of work and everything, then a short week and some time off for the holidays.

Pentagon Origami Tessellation

One upside of having all these meeting at work is I can sometimes fold while sitting and listening. Tessellations are very popular in origami these days, although personally I haven’t done much with them. But I was hanging out with Eric Gjerde in San Francisco few weeks ago, and I got intrigued with a couple ideas. Here is a tessellation I came up with that features all pentagons. It doesn’t use pentagonal symmetry however, the underlying grid is square. It’s an ancient pattern used in Moorish and Mideastern art and architecture. But it’s a cool pattern and I a haven’t seen it folded before so I decided to give it try. I actually just sort of started doodling it in a meeting that was dragging on, and it dragged on long enough that I had a fully folded sheet by the end of it. People really responded to it, so I decided to make a better one out a nicer paper.

Everybody Knows a Turkey

Birds are the new bugs in origami in that making sculptural, realistic birds is trendy these days. Robert Lang has done quite a few, and Seth Friedman’s Blue Bar Pigeon is a recent standout, and other folders as well. So here’s my contribution: a turkey.

I tackled the subject because I’ve not seen an origami turkey out there that I like. I’ve make several prototypes and I’m pretty happy with the outcome. Mine features a detailed head complete with wattle, a nice round plump body, a fan tail, realistic four-toed feet (better to make it stand), and some nice color change effects. The base is unique and interesting. The feet are developed using a method similar to Robert Lang’s Songbird I in Origami Design Secrets, with little bird bases embedded in two corners. The main base is something like a semi-sunken stretched bird base, except that it use 15 degree symmetry instead of the more typical 22.5. The proportion between the feet and the rest of the body is also based on a 15 degree ratio, which provides some nice symmetries.

Unfortunately the design folds beautifully from foil but getting it to look good from regular paper is a bit more difficult. My recent folding style has been trending towards thicker papers, but for this model that kind of thing is completely inappropriate. Too many layers in the legs for one thing. So I’m on the hunt for some good paper to use. I have a couple sheets of origamido paper, but neither is two-colored, and I don’t want to risk wasting it on an experimental design. The way the tail comes out of the body seems to turn out a bit different every time. Plus I’d have to wet fold it, and so I’d have to work that out too. So I ordered some foil-backed washi from Nicholas Terry’s website. It’s 35cm square and brown on one side and gold on the other, so with luck that will be perfect for this model. Check back in a few weeks to see how it turns out.

And while we’re at it, here are a couple pictures of my Eve, to go with Brian Chan’s Wall-E.

E is for Elephant

Since I got back from my trip I’ve been meaning to get another build out on my Foldinator software. It’s very close, I swear. But fate has conspired. My work situation is, um, interesting again. The VP of my new group is leaving the company at the end of the year to start up a startup, which puts my team somewhat out in the woods again. Meanwhile we are aligning like battleships amid icebergs with two other platform projects and one brand business unit to bring a whole slew of web sites online on our technology stack in the new year. Crunch time is coming as we all figure out the missing pieces we need to go live. I’ve been spending most of my work days doing planning lately, and trying to jam in some coding in the spaces between meetings. So it’s been hard to sink my mind into another codebase.

The other thing is I’ve been working on a new origami sculpture which I want to have done by Thanksgiving. I came up with the idea right after I got home from PCOC and have folded a few tests out of foil, to the point where I have it refined enough to give it a go from nice paper. These advanced models take a while to work out.

To take your mind off your troubles, here’s a link to an article about the OUSA Holiday Tree in the American Museum of Natural History, featuring an alphabet of very nice models, including one by yours truly.


I just got back from a great trip to San Francisco for the Pacific Coast Origami Conference. It was Jeannie’s idea for me to go, and I must say I was kind of ambivalent about the whole thing until I actually started the journey. But it was great and she deserves a big thanks. The conference went from Friday to Sunday and was a ton of fun. I lived in the Bay Area from the mid-90’s to the early 2000’s, but haven’t been back for a few years, so I also spent an extra day visiting old haunts and catching up with friends.

I must be getting older. Old people are famous for getting up early. It didn’t really bother me to have to get up at 4:30 to get to the airport in time. It felt like getting up for a normal day of work. A few random skipped meals didn’t bother me either, nor did the time zone change or lack of sleep. I cashed out the last of my frequent flier miles from the 90’s when I flew 100,000 miles a year and got an upgrade to business class. It was awesome! The seat was like a living room recliner chair. Since I’m well over 6 feet tall it made a big difference for me being able to nap on the plane.

I was flying alone and wanted everything to fit in my carry on including the models for my exhibit. For my exhibit I made a new batch of models from the designs I know well; sort of a greatest hits collection. These included my Elephant, Moose, Lizard, Turtle, Balloon, UFO, Luv Bug and Loon.

The Pacific Coast Origami Conference (PCOC) is smaller than the New York convention, but a bunch of friends showed up, including some NYC people like Jan and Tony, and the M.I.T. crowd including Brian, Jason, Aviv, Andrea and Tian, who are smart and geeky enough to be fun to hang out with, and others like Eric G, Jared, and Nathan. Brian makes lots of puns and Jason quotes Monty Python enthusiastically and inaccurately and sings contagiously. Andrea has moved to San Mateo and is working for Oracle and Aviv was out there for an interview. Nathan is done college and living in SF working as a school teacher. And so it goes.

I stayed at the hotel where the conference was, which made it pretty convenient. We had some really good Thai food in Japan Town after wandering around in an indecisive group looking for a place Robert Lang recommended, but knew neither the name or location. I bought some really nice origami paper and won a sheet of handmade origamido paper for participating in a folding challenge.

While I was there I folded (among other things) a new original model: an Eve robot to go with Brian’s Wall-E. I taught a class which was a hit. I’m working on a book and brought a whole stack of diagrams, hoping people would fold them and give me feedback. Everyone wanted to fold my Turtle since it was in the model menu, and so I taught that from memory while a few people folded from diagrams on the side.

I’d forgotten what a beautiful city SF is. So mellow and picturesque, especially compared to New York. Saturday morning I took an epic walk. I went from the hotel across town, down the crookedest block of Lombard Street, up to Coit Tower, and then down and around to the waterfront, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. I had planned on riding the cable car back to the hotel, but when I got there the line was way too long and there was a bad guitarist playing guitar and singing badly to try and get tips from the people in queue. So I walked back up to the hotel.

Monday I rented a car and drove down 280 to Silicon Valley. I had lunch with my friend Wanda in Palo Alto. It was great to see her and catch up. It was a beautiful day and fun to see my old neighborhood. I went for a hike at a place called Windy Hill, which is just up at the top of the hills from there. The ride up is a crazy switchback road thru redwood forests. From the top you can look down and see Stanford, Moffett Field and the whole bay, and even San Francisco off in the distance. Turn around and you see the Pacific Ocean out over the hills to the west.

Ah, my heart is torn in two. I loved living there and love the land and the climate and the culture and people and everything about the place and would love to go back.

In other news, Lizzy got her cast off the day I left. She was born in California and fantasizes about going to college at Stanford as her destiny. I tell her get good grades. She’s with me in pining to move back. I suppose if the right opportunity comes up. But then there’s reality of there here and now.

The last thing the happened at work before I left was that I packed up my office. My whole project moved to a new floor. I flew the red eye overnight Monday and worked at home yesterday, so today I got in to see my new space. It’s much nicer than my old one. It’s a corner office with windows on three walls and a view of Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square. The movers didn’t take my chair (which was a nice one that I brought with me from Nick when I joined the platform group), and my colleagues told me the chairs all were gone and lost. But I went up there and another guy had appropriated it, and gave it back without me having to get too insistent. Another thing, my company just announced extra days off for everyone for the holidays, so it looks like I can take a good long xmas vacation this year.

Coming soon: pictures!

Origami Polyhedra Design

My friend John Montroll has a new book out, called Origami Polyhedra Design. It’s been in the works for quite a while and is a real tour de force. Congratulations John! This is his third book on origami polyhedra, and his first for the publisher A. K. Peters. (They publish a bunch of origami books including Robert’s ODS, and the Proceedings from the 3OSME Conference, which contains a paper by yours truly.) Unlike most origami polyhedra, which are modular, John’s are always from a single square sheet. This a challenging and rigorous style to fold in.

In a change from John’s usual style, this book is much thicker, almost 300 pages, and divided into three major sections. The first is a wealth of theory including general principles, design techniques and consideration, and methods for dividing into nths, for finding angles, folding various polygons, and other related topics. This is really good stuff. The second section of the book is devoted to a variety of models related to the Platonic Solids, including color-change and sunken variations. Totally awesome. The third section is Dipyramid models. This a particular specialty of John’s and there is a great variety of dipyramids with different proportions and number of facets, and a chapter of really cool dimpled (semi-sunken) dipyramids.

All in all the book is really quite amazing, and really takes origami polyhedra design to the next level. And while it is a real Magnum Opus, John has enough unpublished polyhedra to form the basis of anther book, so I hope this one does well and a sequel materializes.

John asked me to fold a few of the models pictured on the cover. I must say it’s very nice looking cover, with the model well arranged and photographed. John’s site is not yet updated to list the new book, and if you go to order it on Amazon there is no cover image yet. So I was taking some pictures of my models for the upcoming PCOC origami convention in San Francisco, and thought I’d share a shot of John’s book while I’m at it. (I know the lizard there doesn’t strictly fit with the theme, but it reminded me of an Escher print and I thought it looked cool.)