1655 Trip Miles, Part 4: Mountain Jam

Friday afternoon we departed the Thousand Islands for the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains. Our friends Mark and Kelly, who live in Saranac Lake were our hosts. You may recall Mark was recently in NYC for a gig with his band Crackin’ Foxy. It was a pretty chill hang, and great to catch up. We stayed up talking late into the night about life, music and the internet business. (Mark runs whiteface.com and other ORDA sites.) Saturday we did some sightseeing. Drove up to the top of Mount Whiteface. I’d tried to get the top of Whiteface quite a few times before, in both winter and summer, by car, tram and skis, and every time the weather has forced me to turn back. But this day was perfect and clear, and you could see for miles and miles. Lake Champlain the east, the high peaks to the south, and the St. Lawrence river to the north. Totally spectacular. Plus a cool little trail from the parking area to the weather station at the top, featuring carved stairs and solid stone architecture. Later in the day we went blueberry picking, which was a real treat for everyone, especially the kids. We brought home a big jar of blueberries which I’ve having for breakfast every day this week.

That evening we went to see Harry Potter 7.2 in Lake Placid, for the second time (first time in Buffalo). It was the best movie of the whole series IMO, and in some ways even better than the book. Placid was really jumpin’ that night cuz the triathlon was in town. Took a nice walk around the main drag by Mirror Lake after the movie.

Sunday was the big drive home, but we still got one more visit in. We stopped in Albany for lunch with Marin, Kathleen and Charlie, checked out some weird/cool book stores and toy stores, and even got a little shopping in. The ride home was smooth and devoid of major traffic jams.

It’s been a crazy week at work, trying to meet a deadline. Looks like we made it. Also back to working on a live set of music. I finished my Adirondack Moose diagrams, but no time for new origami this week. Still, I now have 10 models laid out for print, including three that weren’t in my ebook.

Next up: I have to fix my lawnmower.

1655 Trip Miles, Part 3: It’s a Beauty Way To Go

Next day we took off bright and early for our main destination in Canada: the Thousand Islands. Stopped for lunch at a Canadian rest stop on 401. Nicer than the ones on the NY State Thruway. Pizza with Canadian bacon. Yum. BTW, Canadian bacon in Canada is just called “bacon”.

We’d been there once before for my cousin’s wedding and have been meaning to go back for years. The name (of the islands not the meat) doesn’t do it justice: there are actually over 1800 islands in the Thousand Islands, where Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence River. The whole area is just amazing scenic beauty of water, islands rocks and forests.

We got pretty lucky because we threw this trip together at the last minute, and were able to rent a cottage right on the water. We found the place on the internet while we were looking to rent a boat. Indeed the place is called Spencer’s Boat Rentals and Cottages. The woman who runs it, Lynn, was really nice, friendly and helpful. They normally rent for a week but were willing to rent to us for just a few nights. Must’ve had a cancellation. Lucky indeed.

The cottage itself was small, but big enough for us, and like I said, right on the water. The setting was beautiful and peaceful with a gentle breeze off the river cooling of the otherwise unseasonably hot weather (for up there at least, but no one really has air conditioning cuz it almost never gets up into the 90’s). We spent the afternoon swimming at a nearby beach and the evening barbecuing and fishing off the dock.

Next day we were all set to rent a boat but the wind was strong and the water was choppy, so our hostess demurred. So instead we went into town and took a tour on a much larger boat. It took us all around, under the big international bridge, past castles, mansions, and random rocks. It was so hot, even out on the water, we had to get into the shade fairly often. It was just as well we didn’t get our boat that day; we would have fried. I now have a paper model of the boat on Hoban’s dashboard.

We had a seafood lunch at some nice waterfront restaurant (sensing a theme here?) and then it was onto another park for the afternoon. The place had a nature center with live snakes and turtles, which the kids really enjoyed. Then it was more swimming on another beach. This one looked to be a favorite spot for windsurfers and parasailors to put in, so it was fun to watch that. That evening we were all really wiped out from the heat, so we let the kids watch Phineas and Furb while we barbecued. BTW, did I mention the Metro grocery stores up there are fantastic?

On the third day the weather broke. It was back to the mid-eight’s and low wind, so we finally got our boat. It was a little bass boat with a 30hp engine, but big enough to have fun. Our neighbor in a nearby cottage had a boat with a 225hp motor. Totally outrageous! We spent the morning touring around the islands, having a ball. Parks Canada has lots of islands where you can just pull your boat up and dock it, and then picnic, hike and swim. So around midday we did exactly that. Found a great spot on a place called Mermaid Island. Deep blue water, but calm and with a good way in and out on shallow, smooth rocks. I’m amazed at how clean the water is up there. The whole experience was just so awesome.

One last thing: I’ve spent a lot of time out west, including our last two summer vacations, and I’m amazed at how green everything is in the summer in the part of the continent.

1655 Trip Miles, Part 2: The Great White North

Our first stop was Toronto. On the trip up I realized it’s been three years since I last visited Canada, and many more since TO. The downtown area is all built up with apartments now. But it’s good to know that Q107 is still rockin’ the airwaves from the top of the CN Tower. Emotional feedback on timeless wavelengths.

We visited the Ontario Science Center. I’d been there once as a kid and again in college and remembered it as a very cool place that the kids might enjoy. Of course back then it was just about the only hands-on museum of its kind. Now there’s the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Still the Ontario Science Center stacked up well, with exhibits on space and physics and other cool stuff. And a great live exhibit about reptiles, which Lizzy especially loved. We also saw the Imax movie Under the Sea. This was a big, old-fashioned Imax with the nine-storey tall 180 degree screen, and it was pretty impressive. Lots of weird fish, squid, cuttlefish, nautilus, sharks and even some seals. I’d been interested in folding origami cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus) and feel I now have a good sense of how they look and move. And, I got a cool wind-up dancing robot in the gift shop.

We spent the evening downtown on the waterfront, walking around after a fantastic seafood dinner. Touched the base of the CN Tower and looked up, seein’ tower. Briefly snuck into the 12th inning of a Blue Jays game.

1655 Trip Miles, Part 1: Shufflin’ Off

Just got back from a major road trip family vacation. Great to change your mode of living every once in a while. The last couple of years we’d taken flights to faraway lands, but this year, between having a new car and a desire to avoid any Imperial entanglements at airports, we opted for a car trip.

We started with a drive up to Buffalo a few ago Friday. The kids were already up there with my Mum, having all kinds of adventures of their own. Meanwhile Jeannie and I had a week to catch up on our work and our rest. So it was just the two of us for the drive up. Got an early start; it was smooth and mellow. Made great time and explored the satellite radio stations.

We spent a few days in Buffalo. It was a very chill scene. The kids went swimming at the local lake. I put new wheels on my rollerblades. Jeannie and the girls did some shopping. Went out to see the new Harry Potter movie one night. It was probably the best of the bunch. We hooked up with Larry and Jackie at a beach bar on the Lake Erie waterfront; it was a good time and good to catch up. Larry had the good fortune to see the circus elephant walk last time he was in NYC. Sunday we went out to Rochester for my niece’s birthday and swam in Denis and Sara’s pool. Sara made me a Jayne hat for my birthday. Awesome thanks!

Monday we went up to Old Fort Niagara, which is now a very cool living museum. It was established by the French in pre-revolutionary times, and subsequently captured by the British in the 1751, handed over to the Americans in 1783, re-captured by the British in 1813, and returned to the Americans a year later. Lots of history, old stone buildings and wooden furniture, cannons, muskets and bayonets. Re-enactors really brought the experience to life, garbed as colonial soldiers in layers of hot wool on sweltering summer day. They put on demos and answered questions about weapons, food, and lifestyle from back in the day, and were knowledgeable and friendly. The high point was the drum and fife exhibition by two lovely ladies in colonial military drag, followed by firing a cannon into Lake Ontario by a group of more veridical soldiers.

After that we headed down to the falls. Hadn’t been there in a few years and it was great to walk around and take in the views. We took the tour of the Cave of the Winds. It takes you down an elevator carved into the rock of the falls. At the bottom you can walk around on some boardwalks and get the view from the bottom. They give you sandals and ponchos because it’s really wet down there. The kids got completely soaked. It was an awesome experience.

Tuesday we lit out for part 2 of our trip, a tour that included several destinations in Ontario and upstate New York.

Two New Songs on CDBaby and iTunes

I’m happy to announce I have two new songs for sale on CDBaby and iTunes.

Rocket To The Moon

Sea of Tranquility

The concept here was to have a single and a b-side, but nobody knows what b-sides are anymore, so it’s a double single, like, uh, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever.

I did this a bit out of order, in that I usually put a page on my site for my next record as a work-in-progress and updates about the tunes along the way. But for these I decided to release them as mp3’s so I don’t have to wait for an album’s worth of songs to be done.

You may recall from previous posts that the songs have been basically finished for a while. Since I decided to release them as singles I had to do my own mastering. My stereo upstairs died on me, so I had to get a replacement receiver and power amp just so I could listen back to my mixes in a known listening environment. Once I took care of that I could hear the mixes sound great. So here they are, go ahead and enjoy!

I have a whole bunch of half-written songs, and I have to decide which ones to work on next. But sometimes it can take a while to really sharpen up a song, and I’ve had enough of the studio for a while. It’s time to come out and play. For the rest of the summer I’m going to focus on getting together a live set to play out. More on that soon.

Crackin’ Foxy at the Jalopy

Last weekend I saw a show at the Jalopy bar and theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn, featuring a bunch of old-time country and folk bands as part of the Brooklyn County Fair. This isn’t my usual genre of music, but in this day of electronic hypercompression it was refreshing to hear acoustic music done well by good musicians. All of the bands were excellent, and two of them featured a really amazing fiddle player named Jason. The first act was him and a bass fiddle player doing standards from the nineteenth century. Later he appeared in a four piece combo with male and female co-lead singers and an awesome pedal steel player.

One of the bands on the bill was Crackin’ Foxy from Saranac Lake, NY, led by my friend Mark H. The Foxies diverged from the format a bit by doing old-timey jazz and pop, things like Cole Porter and The Triplets of Bellevue.

They feature a lineup of three female vocalists, resplendent in black polka dot dresses and white opera gloves (for that show at least). Mark played ukulele, and there was an acoustic guitar, standup bass and a clarinetist who doubled on tenor sax. They group was really good, with great energy, style and musicianship. They had pretty complicated arrangements, with lots of vocal harmonies and instrumental sections, which they pulled of really well. Great group sound as well as lots of individual feature moments. The singers were all great individually and in harmony. After the set Mark told me they missed a few cues, but I never noticed. Crackin’ Foxy has been around about a year and are picking up momentum. They’re gigging out more and more, mostly in the Adirondack mountain region. If you ever get a chance to see them, go for it!

Also, the Jalopy is a great place to see live music!

OUSA ’11 Recap

With the 4th of July weekend right on the heels of the origami convention, it’s been a busy few weeks. So here’s a bit of catching up. I had a good time at the convention, and caught up a bunch of friends. I also to a very positive response to the release of my new eBook. I taught my Walrus, which turned out to be a big hit, as well as my Narwhal. I also taught my Stellated Octahedron with Color Change, which turned out to be very challenging to fold. I came up with several new models including my two interlocking cubes (I’ve been working out how to do it with a color change from a single sheet), and some new tessellations including a Quadrose tiling and a Penrose tiling. I bought some nice paper from a vendor from Ohio, Origamido-style but thicker. The plan is to fold a few of my complex models out them, including the Zeppelin, Dragon and War Elephant. I also got an idea to extend my origami-from-space series to include a Space Shuttle. Photos of all this coming whenever I get around to it.

Every few years it seems someone new arrives on the scene folding amazing stuff. In the last few years it was T.J. Norville and then Dinh Giang. This year it was teh charming Beth Johnson, who has lots of curvy, dimensions models such as a pinecone and sheep that make use of tessellations as a design element. You can see some of her work at http://bethorigami.wordpress.com

My publisher Brian gave a Monday talk about eBook publishing for origami. One topic he covered is the diff between eBooks and apps. After we got to talking, and I realized my Foldinator is almost ready to be an origami app engine (notwithstanding the issue of running a Flash application on iOS). I haven’t worked on it in a while, and when I left off I was getting deep into the heart of the computational problem of mathematically representing and manipulating a folded piece of paper. The whole thing can be greatly simplified by just using pre-rendered graphics for each step. This may be a bit of a cheat, but it’s a good hack, since I’ve had to create images for all the models in me eBook anyway. So soon I’ll be putting together a prototype. Meanwhile, Brain has been dusting off my OrigamiXML spec with an eye toward expanding it for use in ebooks and apps.

Also, now that my ebook is done I’m working on putting together a print book. I’ve been going thru and making page layouts. This well be a superset of the ebook, with 20 – 24 models compared tot eh ebook’s 12. Hopefully when that’s done I can move straight on to a second ebook.

For the long weekend of the 4th we had out of town guests, a 70th birthday celebration for my father-in-law, a big ol’ barbecue the next day, plus trying to fit music and origami stuff and work around the house and yard. More on that soon. Back to the office today, which almost feels like a break. Lots more excitement coming in the next few weeks, with travel and adventure, so stay tuned.

Fire On The Mountain

In other news, my brother Jim and his family live in the mountains of New Mexico, where they’ve been experiencing the worst forest fires in the history of the state. About a week ago, the fire was threatening their town and everyone had to evacuate. After almost a week firefighters were able to contain the blaze at a road at the edge of town. Yesterday people were able to return home. Luckily their home was intact, if a bit smoky, and the threat to the town has been averted.