New Recording: Green Glove v2

Here’s a new version of the song Green Glove. I wasn’t satisfied with the sound of this song when I had finished it last fall, so I retracked quite a bit of it. I redid the lead and backing vocals. I changed the bass line and added a guitar part. I changed the horn section arrangement around and added a flute part (played by Lizzy) as the top voice. The final thing I did was to re-track that bari sax. The original take was out of tune and made the whole thing sound a bit off. The new version is spot-on, plus has a great feel and energy.

I had been waiting to redo that part because the baritone saxophone is such a giant beast. It’s heavy and takes a lot of strength just to hold it and a good deal of power to play. I’ve been getting over a back injury, but last week was the end of my physical therapy and I’m pretty much better. I’ve changed my whole workout around to incorporate the exercises my therapist gave me, and have mostly worked most of my old exercises back in. It will still take a while to be completely back to a hundred percent, but I can do most everything normally at this point. Still I was a bit hesitant about doing the bari part. It turned out well enough, but after an hour of playing I could really feel the gathering soreness in my lower back. I felt fine the next morning, so I guess that it was OK.

So this is it. All the recording is done for my record; just the finishing remains. The mastering sessions are past halfway. We’ve done five of the nine songs, including the two longest ones, or about 27 out of 47 minutes worth of music.

Spring Activities and a Visit

The mild spring continues. I’m wondering if we’re in for a cool summer this year because of the volcano in Iceland. But for now we’re off to a fantastic start.

Last week I got chance to adjust the brake on Lizzy’s bike. I also got my Mustang on the road for the first real drive of the season. The engine runs great, smooth and with good power. The front end has a little rattle when you get above about 85 or 95 MPH, but I don’t think that’s a major concern since it’s rare to have to opportunity to do that.

My Mum and Dad were in town for a visit last weekend, and it was an excellent time, full of activities for the kids. Friday night was Lizzy’s school science fair. It was cool to see all the different projects. A lot of the kids did demos, but not all of them did actual experiments with collecting data over multiple trials. Lizzy’s team did, and they won for her grade with her Gravity project! Good to see her hard work pay off. I think was the word “Data” written in glitter on her display really put her project over the top.

Saturday Michelle had her dance recital. It was very nice and had a circus theme and different sets of kids putting on dances at their level. Michelle’s group did “The lion tamer and her cubs.” Some of the older kids were really pretty good and had several number’s worth of stage time. The whole thing hung together as a show and was pretty entertaining, and Michelle was thrilled.

Saturday we were planning on a barbecue, but by the time we started cooking the weather was cooling off so we ended up eating inside. Sunday and Monday it rained all day, so that was the end of our warm and sunny spell. Cold and rainy today too, but at least it’s good for the allergies. And hey, look, the sun is coming out again.

Spring Outing With Origami

We had another fantastic spring weekend. The weather has been great but that means we’re having an early allergy season this year. My hay fever has been going on for a couple of weeks and is peaking right about now, so I can expect them to diminish soon. Compared to other years it’s not that bad. I never had pollen allergies until they year 2000, but then last year they were a lot less severe and this year the same. Weird.

Saturday we helped Lizzy with her project for her school’s science fair. She was wondering if heavier things fall faster than light things (like a rock compared to a feather) and designed an experiment to test her hypothesis. She and a classmate filled out several water bottles with different materials: sand, water, cotton balls and empty (air), and dropped them out of a window two at a time, and observed which landed first for numerous trials, basically recapitulating Galileo’s classic experiment. To her surprise, they all pretty much fell at the same speed, except the empty one, which seemed to be slowed down a bit by the air. This got us into a whole discussion of weight vs. air resistance and shape, and turned out to be quite a good experience for her. She’s already thinking of ideas for her next year’s project. I’m trying to convince her to build a Tesla coil.

Sunday was an origami Special Sessions event at the Museum of Natural History in the city, and I volunteered to teach a class. We made the day into a family outing with the kids. Took a walk thru Central Park to Strawberry Fields (Michelle’s request in keeping with her current Beatles obsession) and to the Belvedere weather station. In the museum Lizzy asked to see the hall of minerals, which was a very cool thing to see, and something we usually overlook when we’re there.

The model I taught was my Turkey, which I developed over the winter. I have not diagrammed it yet and it had been a few months since I folded it, so I was a bit concerned if I needed to be more prepared. It took me a couple of minutes to remember the first few folds that set up the geometry for the whole model, but once I got that we were off and running. The folding sequence for the feet is pretty complicated, but I remembered that as I went and it worked out fine. The tail and head were a bit tricky. I never really worked out a single best folding sequence for either; it’s always a bit improvisational. The class turned out to be a success, but I feel like I should drill down on these details and nail down the best way to do the sculpting. This will be necessary when I get around to diagramming it anyway.

Meanwhile the girls took a class to fold flowers out of ribbons. After the class we headed back into the museum and checked out the marine hall under the life sized whale replica.

Today I used my new library card for the first time. The real library (where all the books are) is across the street from the main library. I have a long list of books I want to read, but I soon discovered the card catalog system there is kind of a mess. It’s all computerized and the listing mixes books from the two buildings. So in the end I just walked over to the fiction section and borrowed a bunch of books from authors whose names are in the S – Z range. Mostly 100 year old science fiction: Shelly, Stoker, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, with some Steinbeck and Terry Southern thrown in for good measure. I told Jeannie I borrowed seven books and she said “You’re just like Lizzy. Make sure you remember the due date.” Heh.

New Recording: Making Miles v2

I have new version of the song Making Miles. You may recall that last summer I recorded it with just piano and vocals, but after listening back for a while I decided it needed something more. The new mix retains the heartfelt simplicity of the first one but evolves into a something much more powerful. I redid the lead vocals, added some harmonies, drums, bass guitar and synth pads. I expanded the song with a solo section and reprise of the chorus, making it closer to Martin’s original arrangement. For the solo I used the Yamaha woodwind synthesizer. That thing has such great sounds and is a lot of fun. The solo started off as an improvisation, but with each take I converged a little more on what became the only solo it could be.

Now eight songs completed in terms of arranging and tracking. The last one, Green Glove, just requires a few punch-ins on the horn section and it’ll be good to go too. I’ve gotten back into doing mixdowns at my friend Erik’s studio this week too. We had to take a few weeks off while he built out a new mixing room to take on a new client. But now we’re back at it and have four songs polished off. I will post these mixes soon too. Soon it will be time to start thinking about finishing the album: the track order, cover art and that sort of thing.

More Spring Things

Lots has been happening the last few weeks, and things are coming to fruition. Here are some of them.

One big piece of news is the my project at work has shipped our first working release of our software to a customer. Almost a year of effort went into it and everyone stopped arguing and pulled together as a team for the final haul, which was good to see. Of course they started up again as soon as we began planning the next cycle of work, but the group feels less dysfunctional. And, with this major milestone met I feel a bit more relaxed, at least for time being. Back to straight-up coding again, as opposed to all this config, build and deploy stuff.

I got my old Mustang to a mechanic earlier this week. Last fall I had a problem when I stepped on the gas and engine dropped in power before it accelerated. It had me kind of worried, but it turned out to be a problem with the vacuum pump in the carburetor that was petty easy to fix. My garage has a new chief mechanic who is enthusiastic about working on a classic car. He gave it a good looking over and everything is sound. So the car is back in action, purring like a kitten and roaring like a lion. Gonna give it the first real drive of the season out on the highway this weekend if it doesn’t rain. The only other thing I want to do with mechanically it is to maybe get new shocks. I think this will be year that I’ll finally get it painted, so I’m going to start shopping around for body shops. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’ve also been making a lot of progress on origami, part of which is explained in the last post, and on music. More on that later.

Origami Great Dodecahedron

Here is a crease pattern for an origami Great Dodecahedron. This fascinating shape is something like a sunken icosahedron, and can also be seen as twelve intersecting pentagons with a raised star on each face. I tried several iterations of the layout because the details of forming tabs and pockets to close the model took some trial and error to get right. The basic idea is fairly straightforward. I use fivefold polar symmetry, and the whole pattern embedded in a single pentagon that takes up pretty much the entire square sheet. I was able to divide it into a grid of parallelograms using simple ratios. Each parallelogram then gets subdivided into the triangles that form the faces of the shape.

Since I just fold back the corners of the square to form the base pentagon, I tried a version folded from a pentagonal sheet, but this turned out not have enough extra paper around the edges to from the tabs and pockets. The pentagon’s height is slightly less than its width, which results in a then strip of unused paper at the bottom edge of a square sheet. I decided to try folding the strip around all five sides (except where it gets truncated at the corners), and that turned out be just the trick.

I’ve successfully folded a couple of these now that stay together well. Pictures as soon as I make one out of nice paper.

Spring Brake

The mild spring weather continues and we spent most of the weekend outdoors. Jeannie and I (mainly her, since my back is still recovering) did another big round of yard work, weeding, putting down mulch under the hedges, and starting with the season’s lawn mowing. The kids on our block, led by Lizzy and Michelle, took it upon themselves to clean up the trash down at the and of the street, where there is a strip of no-man’s-land lawn outside the fence to the local school athletic field. Jeannie and I were impressed with their effort and helped them out with gloves, trash bags and some tools.

I got Lizzy a new bike over the weekend too. She’s big enough now for a full size bike, with 24 inch wheels and gears and shifters and all. We went first to the big bike shop up in Scarsdale, and it was all high-end bikes that were more than I was looking to spend, and moreover the place was super crowded and there was no one to help us. So we went to Toys’r’Us, which was a much less hectic scene and they had a good selection of reasonably priced bikes. I encouraged Lizzy to pick a Schwinn, but she didn’t like the color (red and black, too “boy”) and instead picked a pink and white model from a brand called Rallye. It was a good deal less expensive than the Schwinn, and in most respects looks like a pretty good bike. Mountain bike frame with eighteen gears. The shifters and brake handles are made of plastic and look a bit flimsy, so it remains to be seen how they’ll hold up. Also the back brake doesn’t seem to grip as tight as it should. I adjusted it but am not really satisfied. I’ll try again before next weekend, but it’s an important part for safety, and if I can’t get it right we’re going to have to return it and keep looking. Probably hit the bike shop in Pelham next.

I also took a nice long ride (5 miles) on my rollerblades Sunday, which felt great.

Concert — Emerson Lake and No One

One evening last week Jeannie and I saw a rather unique concert. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer played a show of mainly unplugged material, interspersed with stories about their songwriting and touring and that sort of thing. More intimate and laid-back than polished and high-energy, but it definitely had a few special musical moments. Most of the songs were altered or adapted to fit the format. They opened with “From the Beginning” which featured an expansive jazz intro by Keith. Next came an adaptation of the King Crimson classic “I Talk to the Wind”, played in a similar style. Quite nice and surprising. Then Greg switched from guitar to bass and it was on to “Take a Pebble” with a piano solo that segued into a mainly solo piano rendition of Tarkus. I think I preferred it to original. You could hear the piano ideas a lot more clearly, and it didn’t sound so bombastic or repetitive, and I think they tightened it up a bit and dropped a solo section or vamp here and there. Toward the end Keith fired up the Moog and did a combination keyboard and knob-twiddling solo, which left the machine in a state of generating automatic weird noise to ride out the song as he returned to the piano. Very nicely done.

The second set included a versions of “Ces’t la Vie”, “Bitches Crystal”, a semi-successful jam that took off from Blue Rondo a la Turk, a rendition of “Pirates” not quite as good as Tarkus but admirable nonetheless, and even a bit of “Benny the Bouncer” (which Keith claimed is his favorite ELP song), and of course closing the show with “Lucky Man”. At one point they opened the floor to questions from the audience and woman requested to lie down on the stage under Keith’s piano for a song, so he indulged her and spun out a fantastic improvisation for a few minutes. It was nothing I’ve ever heard before but it was reminiscent of several of his compositions, and fairly structured in its use of ostanotos, rising and falling lines and stabbing chords, and I feel like I have some new insight into “how to sound like Keith Emerson” now. All in all an interesting and enjoyable experience. I wish them the best for their plans for a reformed ELP tour this summer!

Spring Break

I took a few days off for spring break. Unlike last year, when we went on an epic journey to distant lands, this year we pretty much hung around the house, rested, got caught up on some chores and did a few fun things locally. The weather has been absolutely fantastic, more like June than April. We’ve been barbecuing almost every day. I haven’t seen a lot of the neighborhood kids since last fall, and its surprising how everyone’s grown.

All our flowers have come in beautifully, including the new flower bed by our neighbor’s garage that we planted last fall. We got rid of our little kiddie play structure slide and sandbox now that the kids have outgrown them. We covered in the low spot with dirt and blue stuff. The end of an era. Some other random tasks put us about half done with the spring yard work cycle. Still to go is getting the mulch under the hedges and turning over the garden. Plus getting the roof fixed. At least we got a few estimates and it looks reasonable. Oh yeah, and Lizzy’s gonna need a new bike this year.

We washed, waxed and vacuumed the cars for spring. I like to do that once a year. I also started up the Mustang, and it’s good to know it turned right over. No problems with the batteries or anything major like last year. When you step on the gas, however, there’s a temporary drop in power before it surges back. I noticed this towards the end of last summer, and I suspect it’s the carburetor. So I’ll taking it into the shop as soon as I get the chance.

On Easter Sunday Mary’s came over. It was a really nice visit and another great day. We had everyone sit at the dining room table rather than have a separate kiddie table in the kitchen. The end of another era. Everyone growing up fast.

Yesterday Jeannie and I took the girls on an outing to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and for a walk thru Central Park. It was a fantastic time. The Met has been on my list for about a year now. I haven’t been there in many years and had forgotten that it’s much more than just art. One of the big old classic New York museums, up there with the American Museum of Natural History, which I know pretty well by now, having visited a few times a year for origami the last few years.

In addition to paintings and sculpture, the Met has all kinds of artifacts: medieval armor, musical instruments, furniture, all kinds of metal, wood and glass vases, vessels, instruments and implements, plus ancient ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Inca wings. All of it fascinating stuff. (Well maybe the furniture got to be a bit much after a while…) The armor and musical instrument galleries were probably my favorite. There are two huge wings of paintings, Modern and Classical, but I feel like we didn’t really do them justice. For one thing, the whole place is laid our like a maze rather than designed for flow-thru, and the painting galleries in particular are not well organized. They could do with some signage to tell you about what county and century you’re looking at and what is the story from hall to hall. Also looking at that many paintings is a lot information, so one tends to glaze over after a while. Still the kids seemed to get a lot out of it and so did I.

They really wanted to visit Strawberry Fields in Central Park, but it was on the opposite side. On a related note, Michelle learned how to play the intro to “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the piano.

Today I crossed off another longstanding todo item: I went and got a New York City library card. I have a card for my local library but I hardly ever go cuz I’m mostly at work when they’re open. Still, I have a long list of books I’d like to read and for most books it seems such a waste to buy it and read it once and get rid of it. The main NYC library -– the famous one with the lions on the steps -– is just a few blocks from my office. So the plan is to go there on my lunch break every week or two from now on. I’d never been inside before. It’s a pretty impressive marble edifice with giant halls and stairways, like it was carved by dwarves out a massive mountain of solid stone. There was an exhibit on old maps, which is pretty cool. Only on the third floor will you find books or librarians. Apparently most of the books are in and underground vault or in the branch library across the street. They have some kind of system for checking out books by computer. I plan on going back soon to get some books, so I’ll let you know how it goes.