Bonkers in Yonkers

Last weekend the Left Hook Played the Bryn Mawr Tavern in Yonkers. Nice place, good crowd. Easy parking, and they let us run a tab and then didn’t charge us for drinks. I’m happy to say that the band is getting to the point where it’s predictable we’re going to sound good. All those little things we’ve been working on – beginnings and endings, tempos, dynamics, vocal harmonies and balance, are all coming together now automatically, without thinking, so we can focus more on performing and interacting with the crowd. It’s good too that our set seems to be working, at least for the kinds of crowds we get at this kind of bar. Pretty much every song we have people dancing and singing along. Some of the ladies were very, uh, friendly and enthusiastic, which was quite flattering, but then again they were drunk too.

In a completely random encounter, my local UPS guy was in the audience. He came up to me between sets, said he knew me, sees me rollerblading around the neighborhood. I told him he delivered the speakers he’s hearing the band thru. Our guitar player Gary also drives a delivery truck, so they bonded over that like they’re part of some secret brotherhood.

A long time ago I had a bass player who drove a delivery van as his day job. One day he delivered a bomb to a doctor’s office. Learned about it on the news that night. Quit the next day.

I now have three gig’s worth of audio and video to sort thru. I hope to put up some new clips on the web site soon. Meanwhile we’re all taking a break for Thanksgiving and learning a batch of new songs. We have gig coming up in a couple weeks back at Fisherman’s Net, but it may be a private party. I’ll keep you posted. Beyond that, the search for more gigs and bigger venues continues. Onward and upward!

OrigaMIT and AMNH Holiday Tree, Part III

So the day after I got home from my trip I spent a day volunteering helping put up the annual Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, since I was dropping by to give them my models anyway. It was a great experience. I’ve been contributing models to the tree for years know and have gotten to know the people who run it. Last year Talo took over as director, and he likes my work.

This year he asked me to make a pod of Elephant Seals in a variety of poses to be featured in one of the hero displays at the base of the tree. I folded them a few weeks ago, going as far as I could before they became 3-D, and finished them after I got back from OrigaMIT. I figured they’d need to be wetfolded, but once I was done the sculpting they were just fine, and held their shape. The two largest ones were about two feet long, so it was it was a bit cumbersome packing them up for transport.

There’s no convenient way to get to the museum from Metro North, so I ended up getting off the train in Harlem and walking thru Central Park (one of my many recent walks to random places in the city; more on that later). This was longer than I expected, but it was a great day for a walk. Once there, I found a whole cache of models I’d folded in years past, which was a fun surprise. So were among my best stuff, while others show how far I’ve come as a folder. There was one old Elephant Seal in particular – I’d designed it just fro them – that I totally reworked to be more like the newer ones.

I also got to see more of the secret part of the museum than ever before. If you know where you can just open semi-hidden doors and go right in. The OUSA office is in basement, and I’ve been there plenty of times, but the underground, working part of the museum just goes on and on like a catacombs, all 19th-centrury stone a ironwork. They’d set up a photography studio in some crypt in a sub-basement. I’m glad I had a guide or I’d have never found my way back. There’s even a cafeteria for museum employees and volunteers, that serves the same food as the public cafeteria, but at 1/3 the price. They told me I could go there whenever I’m in the museum if I want.

Since they’re volunteers they don’t work that fast, and so I had some time in the afternoon to go up an take a tour of the hall of dinosaurs and some of the other exhibits. I came up the stairs instead of the elevator, and finally found out how to do the dinosaurs coming in at the beginning instead of the middle. The only disappointment is that the Whale Room was closed for some corporate event. Ah well I’ll be back there in December to teach.

It was a day of much walking and heavy lifting, so I took the train from the museum back to Grand Central. I was able to take a single train right from the museum to 42nd street and 6th avenue, which is pretty close.

OrigaMIT and AMNH Holiday Tree, Part II

I spent a good amount of time at OrigaMIT just talking to people I hadn’t seen in a while. Anne, Talo, Michael and Richard, Jason, Meenakshi, Robert, Erik, and others. Talo convinced me to spend a day volunteering at the museum in New York, Anne is into welding, I got to tell Robert about my simple approach these days, and Beth too. Robert and Erik are into all kinds of cray math stuff, hardness proofs with Big-O notation and stuff like that. At one point I was explaining to someone about my Flower Ball, that it was inspired by Meenaksh’s work, and that I’d met her at Centerfold. This person was local and didn’t know Centerfold was the name of the Ohio convention. Turns out it’s also the name of a strip club in Boston!

Normally I like to take a walk down along the Charles River at lunchtime, and since it Michelle’s first time in Boston she’d enjoy it too. But it totally ran out of time.

One conversation in particular was with Michael Lafosse and Richard Alexander, who have the same publisher as I do, and have the same misgivings about the shiny printed paper they like to use. I told them I’d hate for some kid to get that paper in their first origami kit ever, and have it turn them off to origami for good. Michael told me a story of how his first oil painting experience as a kid was ruined by a cheap, crappy paintbrush. Fortunately for me, the publisher relented the day after I got back from Boston, and said they also have uncoated paper as an option. So it looks like the book is moving forward again.

My afternoon class was the new airplanes and spaceships. A few of the people in my class were kids, maybe eight to ten years old, and quite advanced. One of them I knew from other origami events. I taught my UFO II and Astronaut, which are not yet diagrammed, and also passed out diagrams for some other models, including the more complex ones like the Biplane. On the other hand, kids are funny. At one point one of them complained about how there was so much folding. I mean really? It’s friggin’ origami!

A couple of the kids stayed late cuz we got to talking. One suggested I make a Mothership UFO that’s sort of a fractal conglomeration of the UFO I have. I showed him my Hemi Flowerball, which is kind of the same idea, each cell in the model divided down to make a the pattern of the whole model. He said why not go three levels deep? This really blew my mind, cuz beleive it or not I hadn’t thought of that before. It would be a damn cool model, but it would take all winter to fold.

That night the four kids joined together to form a team and rocked the giant folding competition. Their theme was Bug Wars, a play on the bug wars of the 1990’s (go look it up if you don’t know), but they took it literally. Each one folded a complex insect (one of them of the kid’s own design) and then had the bugs fight. Way cool!

Next up: the Holiday Tree!

OrigaMIT and AMNH Holiday Tree, Part I

Continuing to catch up on the news. Last weekend I was in Boston for the 5th annual OrigaMIT convention. Thanks again to Jason and the MIT crew for organizing and putting on a great convention. This year Michelle came up with us, and folded a bunch of cool stuff including a Totoro and some Tom Crain tessellations.

The models I exhibited were in two series, one for each class I taught. The first series was Dodecahedral Flower Ball and its precursors, and the second was more Airplanes and Spaceships, mainly the simpler ones I’ve invented since returning from Centerfold. Uh, fotoz coming soon.

The first class was my Flower Ball, which I recently perfected and folded an a exhibit-level model. This class was very popular; it filled up a big room. I had planned on drawing up some crease patterns beforehand, but like I said it was a busy week. So I thought thru and rehearsed how I was present it on the car ride, which turned out to be just fine. They had large paper to draw and write on at the front of the class, so I was able to just draw out what I needed by hand. They were all advanced folders, which helped alot. The class was attended by people like Tom and Beth Johnson, so I was encouraged that I have something interesting here.

Inspired by last year’s OrigaMIT, I’ve been moving away from simply teaching a single model, and trying to explore what I can get across in a classroom context as far as a system of models goes, or a method or a way of thinking about folding and designing. This is a bit more abstract, so I decided the way to go would be to keep it grounded in a set of examples, and bring across the theory in explaining the connections between them.

So I presented a series of models. The first I’m calling the Square Flower. It’s a stand-along model that’s pretty simple and quite charming. I’ve had it for some time, but considered it basic to publish or teach, until it became the basis for something more. It has the virtue of having all the edges of the original paper ending up on the square outline of the finished model. This means it can be used as a tile unit, and repeated to make tessellations.

The second model I taught was the Pentagon Flower. It’s pretty much the same idea but folded from a pentagon. In order to do that I needed to make a pentagon out of a square. I used Montroll’s method, which I had practiced countless times and looked up the night before just to be sure. Of course you can’t tile a plane with pentagons, which leads us on to the third example.

I went back to the square model, and showed how it could be used to tile a plane. Going one step further, one doesn’t have to tile just a plane, one can tessellate a 3D shape like a cube. As far as I know no one else is doing this in origami except me. So I laid out the theory and then taught the compete Flower Cube. Everyone completed that model and liked the model alot. Beth unfolded hers to be flat for the flight home.

I ended by explaining how to apply the same method to the pentagon and showed the half- and full-dodecahedron variations of the pentagonal Flower Ball. If we had another hour I could have had ‘em get pretty far on the half dodec. As it was, everyone had the knowledge they needed to do the models on their own. Of course the full Dodecahedral Flower Ball is a pretty advanced model, and would take far more time than even a three-hour class would allow. Mine was a one-hour class so the presentation and examples were just right. Everyone got to feel like they learned something without having to do the hard work.

So yeah, crease patterns coming soon too.

It Keeps Changin’ Fast and It Don’t Last for Long

It’s been a extremely busy time for me the last few weeks, and today is literally the first time I’ve had a chance to rest in a month or so. So now there’s lots to catch up on.

First of all, earlier this month Lizzy celebrated her sweet sixteen. She’d been planning the party for months, making lists of everything. There was food and music with a sound system and custom playlists and dancing and fancy dresses and shoes and a cake and a ceremony lighting up the sixteen candles with Lizzy appreciating the people in her life. Very touching. My parents and brother came into town, and Jeannie’s family was there too, and lots of friends. Nick had to work late, and Martin had a long drive home and had to leave early. So they just missed each other. Even so, thanks everyone who came and shared a special night with us.

Now Lizzy’s gliding into the grownup world without skipping a beat. She’s getting her first bank account, her passport and her driving learner’s permit. She just got her first job, singing a choir at the church where she does her singing group. (My first job at sixteen was changing lightbulbs in a department store.) It’s not alot, but it’s not a heavy commitment either. She’s making at least as much singing as I am making playing bars with my rock band.

She also seems to be getting a bit more serious about learning the piano. But now hearing someone else playing it make me realize it needs a tune-up.

I’m putting together a photo gallery of the party, but may be a while before I can finish it. Meanwhile here’s one photo. And in completely other news, Michelle’s basketball team won their first game of the season today!

Responsive, Mobile-First

It’s all the rage these days in web development to make your web site responsive and mobile-first. What that means is that it will look good on your phone or tablet, and you don’t have to rewrite the entire web site to do that. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for my site for a long time.

I recently took a consulting gig where making everything responsive, mobile-first is the main focus. There’s a ton of frameworks out there to help you do this, so I spent some time surveying a few of the more popular ones. It turns out the alot of these frameworks are pretty heavy, and pack in alot of design assumptions that might or might not fit with your vision.

For my own web site it’s total overkill, so I decided to roll my own responsive grid work. So far it’s pretty basic, but I can add on to it as needed. The basic definitions can be found at: So far I’ve implemented it on two pages: the main home page at and the music landing page at Go ahead, resize the window, then go look at it on your small, wireless device! It may take a while to update the entire site, but everything is all tempalated out already, so look for more responsive, mobile-first pages coming soon!

Pumpkin Time Again

Things have gotten really busy lately, so before it recedes too far into the past, here’s a picture of this year’s Halloween pumpkins. As you can see, we were really lazy this year and just drew on them with magic marker rather than actually carving them. Like I said, really busy. Still they came out pretty cool. One is by Michelle, the other by me.

This year, inspired by her trip to the National Air Force Museum in Ohio, Michelle went trick-or-treating as a WWII era pilot, complete with bomber jacket and shades. Bonus: I found a 7-foot-tall blow-up Godzilla costume from the internet. Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go go! Also makes a good lawn ornament. Scary stuff.

New Song: To Be a Rock

Here’s a new song, To Be a Rock. It’s been sitting there mostly done for a while, but I didn’t really work on recoding much over the summer. There’s alot of layers on vocals toward the end, so it was a bit of work to mix them all and make all the parts come out clearly. After that I felt it still needed something, so I added an organ part and a mellotron part. So here you are.

While I was at it, I went back and made a new mix of Your Dancing Shoes. This song also has alot of layers as it gets toward the end, but in this case it’s a sax solo on top of a horn section. It took a little editing to make everything fit together nicely. I’ve also been getting into sculpting the bass sound, with EQ and running it thru amp simulators. This simple trick can add alot of character to a song.