Back to the Beach

It really feels like summer now. It’s been a really hot week, up in the 90’s every day. Last Sunday was Father’s day and we spent a great day out at the beach swimming in the ocean. Earlier this week was the summer solstice. Yesterday was the kid’s last day of school, and both kids made the honor roll and now they’re on summer vacation. Now I have Ocean City on my mind, but there’s lots of adventures to get thru first.

It looks like one of the elm trees in our yard is sick. Maybe Dutch Elm disease. That’d be a bummer cuz we may have to cut it down to save the other one. At least it’s the lesser of the two elms, not the champion elm that I’ve grown particularly fond of is home to the family of squirrels that includes the red one with the black tail. The sick one is almost as huge and extends to over to our neighbor diagonally across the street. It’s very lopsided and I figured its destiny would be to fall over in a storm and take out 4 houses worth of power lines.

My office remains chaotic, although I’ve been productive and zen about the situation as things swirl around me. Viacom lost their big billion dollar lawsuit against Google – thrown out of court — so it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any fallout from that. My boss is in a bit of a funk over her deceased cat. I’m taking some time off over the next two weeks. A much needed break.

My recording project has progressed to the actual mastering, and Blick wired up a chain of external gear including a Weiss EQ and something called a BCL (Bass enhancer, Compressor, and Limiter). We rendered out the mixes without the final master effects (mainly dynamic compression) and ran them thru this chain instead. The difference was really striking. I’m really psyched. Blick is really getting into it. It seems he doesn’t get the chance to master full albums very much (mostly does promos and soundtracks fror TV shows) so he’s putting his full effort into it. His partner Glen dropped by and liked the sound. He dug Green Glove, saying it sounded just like Night Fly. Which I’m taking as a compliment, since it’s the most deliberately Steely track on the record.

After many attempts I successfully folded an origami zeppelin tonight. So I have one more nice new model for my exhibit this year. It also is the last word on the series of polar coordinate flying things that include my Rocketship, Hot Air Balloon and U.F.O.

Origami Book Progress

It’s been a long time since I bogged about my ongoing origami book. Well I recently finished diagramming two more models. One is my Medieval Dragon, clocking an just about 100 steps. That’s twelve pages as I currently have it laid out. The other is my U.F.O., which is ten pages and a shade above 60 steps, but from step 40 or so onward it’s all fully three dimensional, so each step is a major work of drawing. These are by far two most involved models I’ve done so far. The only thing that comes close is my Adirondack Moose, which is also about 60 steps, but it’s only 3-d for the last few steps. Both the Moose and the Dragon are fairly traditional designs, using variations on classic bases and inspired by models in John Montroll’s first book. The U.F.O. however is completely modern and without an antecedent, and well over half the folding sequence is precreasing. So while it may not seem like a lot in terms of number of models, it’s a lot in terms of page count, and I knocked of two major models to boot. This brings me up to 16 models done, about 90 pages worth. I’m definitely more than halfway done with the book, so I think its time to start looking at the publishing process.

I signed up to teach both of these at the upcoming OUSA convention – only a week away. So I’m glad I got the diagrams finished but as usual I have lots of ideas for things I’d like to fold but haven’t had the time to fully develop. So I think this weekend will be a big folding jam.

I’m posting pics of the final step of each model as a way to motivate myself to continue by showing the result without giving away the whole diagram. I may go back and post pictures of the final steps of my other completed diagrams to create a sort of evolving table of contents. I need to update my origami site anyway. I have a number of models, going back more than a year, that I need to photograph and post. Well July will be a good time for that. I always get a big boots of energy and creativity from the convention, and that will fuel me into the summer to continue developing things.

Squirrels, Concerts, Cartwheels and Fireflies

When I was kid all squirrels were grey. Then one day we went up to visit my cousins in the suburbs outside of Toronto and we saw something new: a black squirrel. It turns it was a mutant strain, but a successful one, and over the years the black squirrels have spread out across the northeastern part of North America, to the point where now in the 21st century, they are common in Westchester County, NY. We have a champion elm tree in our front yard, and in it lives a family of squirrels. One Saturday morning a few weekends ago I was sitting on the couch sipping my morning coffee when the new family of young squirrels came out to play. I called the kids over and they were knocked out by overwhelming cuteness of all those squirrels frolicking in the trees, on the power lines and on the ground. I counted nine of them, some black and some grey. Then I saw something new I’d never seen before: a black squirrel with a red tail!

I was out rollerblading earlier this week and I saw another one. That’s two. I wonder if this a new variety of squirrels, and if it’s going to become common in a few years.

Last Friday was Lizzy’s spring band concert. I’m happy to say that the school band is getting a lot better and Lizzy in particular is sounding quite good. This is important to me as a parent and musician, because school band was a big part of my early musical training and experience. Two years ago (Lizzy’s first year in the band) the teacher quit at the end of the year, and about half the band graduated the school. So last year it was a new teacher and a ragtag group of beginners. So as you might imagine, they sounded pretty rough. But the teacher, Mr. Quinn, was quite dedicated and patient, and the kids have been steadily improving. This year was a dramatic both in terms of the material they could handle and the level at which they played it. This year they did a dress rehearsal at the school, which by all accounts was a big success and instrumental in recruiting new kids into the band.

Lizzy had a solo too, the Hunter’s Chorus by Weber, and I’m happy to say she nailed it. And at the end of the concert the band director told me he’s inviting Lizzy to join the honor band next spring. This is a band formed from the best players from a bunch of schools in the area. It’s made up kids in grades 6 – 8, and Lizzy is just going into 6th grade next fall, so that’s pretty cool.

This is the time of year when the evenings are really long. This kids are all excited about summer vacation and me, well, I have a couple long weekends coming up. Lizzy had the end of her gymnastics class last weekend, complete with a demo competition. It’s something she’s been working to master, so one night this week she was out on the lawn doing cartwheels back handsprings and asking me to spot her. Michelle was out too and as it started getting dark the fireflies came out. Firefly season is always special since it’s so short and only comes when the evenings are long. The kids caught a bunch of fireflies and but them in a jar, although I persuaded them to release our little glowing friends when it was time to go inside. It was a nice shiny moment of serenity.

Source Control as a Service

I’ve been doing software development for my friend Erik for a while now. It’s been going well, but I’m sort of bound by time constraints (I have a day job and kids, as well as commitments to developing my art in music and origami) and he’s been budget bound (small business owner). We worked out an arrangement to trade studio time for software development, but since my record is nearly done so is that deal. Erik had the idea to begin outsourcing the development, which would put me in the role of architect/designer/team lead and (potentially/hypothetically) triple our output as far as software dev productivity goes.

As a prerequisite to sharing the code, we needed to get the project under source control. I remember a few months back my friend Nick blogging about how to set up a GIT server. I thought this might be something I could do, but what a time suck and a hassle. As it turns out Erik is a big believer in the whole software-as-service thing. He’s using a service ( to line up offshore developers, and he’s even trying to convince to use a service to help on my next album.

The thing is, he’s not really into my drum sounds, which is not too surprising, since they’re all redended MIDI parts, jammed using the four-finger method and/or step recorded by yours truly. They sound a heck of a lot better than say They Might Be Giants, who used a similar technique back in the day, but fall short of a really good real drummer. And the cymbals in particular are a bit thin samplewise. So Erik is like, “Man, somewhere out there is a drummer who’s just killer, who will nail your tracks and bring a whole new level of energy. You send him a file of your song, and he’ll send you back an amazing drum part.” And this really sounds not far from the truth. I’ve had good experiences collaborating over the net with my brother to create our last album, and on this album with my friend John, who’s just recently hung out a shingle to do mastering as a service over the internet.

As to the question of source control, Erik had a friend who turned us onto source-control-as-a-service at, a.k.a Codesion. The cost is pretty low — on the level of your basic web hosting service, and they have an admin interface to let you set up source repositories, bug/feature tracking, and to add users and set access control. Totally worth it as far as the time it saved for me not having to do all that by hand. I was able to fairly quickly create a repository, upload the source, and set up version control in my IDE on another machine to confirm it works as advertised, then checkout the source, make some changes and commit the new version. So it’s all humming along quite nicely.

Of course the project up to now has just been living on my local machine, so there’s a whole cycle of organization, cleanup and documentation ahead before some third party developer can jump in. And the other thing is, before y’all get all drooling over the idea that the day of software-as-a-service has really arrived, Codesion is still just another scrappy startup trying to get by like the rest of us. At first I was taken in by their slick web interface and their more-human-than-human support/sales bot, but the illusion was soon shattered. I had signed up for a trial account to see if they were legit, and then Erik went ahead and creates a permanent account. The problem is, for some reason (like a flaw in their database design) they don’t’ allow the same email address on two different accounts, so every time I tried to log in I got an error and a nastygram from their server to my inbox. Their tech support cleared it up by nerfing my trial account, but this is disappointing because at some point I’d like to get the Foldinator under version control, but I don’t want to get a new email address just to appease these guys.

Batch o’ Tracks

My recording project has gotten to a place that I would call “very close to done”. After going into Erik’s studio one night every week or two, we’ve gone thru all the tracks to create really awesome sounding mixes of every one of them. While we’ve been working I’ve been reading an excellent book about John Lennon in New York, written by his personal photographer. Learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know, plus it’s full or great photographs including the iconic “New York City” picure.

There might be a couple tweaks on one or two tracks, but for seven of them or so, I’m ready to pronounce them complete and perfect (or at least as good as we can make them). As for the other two, I need to give them a few more listens, but it’s basically there. The only step remaining on this project is the final mastering, and then its on to the cover art, liner notes and then printing and selling some CD’s and tracks online. Here’s the rundown of tracks:

Heat Wave – 5:30
Earthbound (I Wanna Fly) – 5:10
Who Can Fool Me – 3:20
Fine Red Wine – 4:45
Making Miles – 5:10

Touch the Ceiling – 6:30
Green Glove – 3:45
The Nine – 4:10
Angel Or Alien – 8:15

I already have enough material for more than half of the next album, but once this project is done I’m going to take a little while to upgrade my recording studio. More on that as it develops.

Tri-Square Origami Tessellation

My first origami tessellations was a grid of pentagons. Now I’ve made a tessellation of triangles and squares to go with it. And mean that in a very specific way. This mesh is the dual of the other. If you draw a dot in the center of each cell of the pentagon grid and connect them all, you’d get this pattern. Five cells converge at each vertex. In the other pattern all the cells were the same shape, but either three or four cells converged at a vertex. I’ve never seen anyone fold this pattern before and the two of them make a nice set.

Summer’s Here and the Time is Right

The season has progressed to full on summer. Finally made it to a long weekend, a much deserved and needed break after rather chaotic spell at work. Been trying to get our software release out the door, filling in for my boss who was on vacation, as well as running things since our project manager was gone too. Dealing with uncooperative directors of other projects, and that all-time favorite of software development, fixing other people’s bugs. Well all’s well that ends well I suppose and we met our deadline.

We went upstate to see Martin and Kathleen and Charlie over the weekend. Very nice hang. Went swimming, which was great for my back; the first time since the winter it really felt good. Unfortunately the car ride home undid that. We also watched the Queen open the British parliament on CSPAN. This was pretty random, but the girls are Anglophiliac these days because of Harry Potter, so we thought they like to see a real Queen in action commanding the Lords and Commons. The weirdest part was when the chief constable shouted “Hats off, strangers” before the Queen entered Parliament, predicted beforehand by a very blasé announcer.

I did some research into the wacky traditions of British government, and learned some interesting factoids. There is a movement afoot to replace the phrase “strangers” with “visitors” to be less anachronistic. The word strangers dates from the time of Cromwell. Smoking in parliament was banned in 1696, although snuff is available to all members at the public expense. Wearing of armor was banned in 1313. There’s a list of words banned from discourse that includes “blackguard”, “git”, and “traitor”.

Here’s some pictures from my yard and garden from 2 or 3 weeks back. The roses and fig tree are doing awesome, and we even have some ripe strawberries.