Tree Time

I used to have a champion Elm tree growing in my front yard. It was a great tree, the best, the tallest in my end of the block, over 100 years old. A couple years ago it succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and had to be cut down, leaving a giant crater. I finally got around to planting a new tree over the weekend. It’s a Japanese maple, very nice. Not so very big yet, but give it a few years. Obviously it’s a different kind of tree and will never get as mighty as an Elm, but still it ought to fill out the front yard quite beautifully. While I was at it I also re-graded and re-seeded the lawn. Luckily my neighbor across the street had pile of dirt he’s looking to get rid of, so I grabbed a few wheelbarrow’s worth.

And, wouldn’t you believe it, Lizzy already banged up the bumper on her car, on the opposite corner from where I painted it. Ah well.

We Got Elephants

Recently OrigamiUSA announced a partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in its official attempt to break the world record for the largest display of origami elephants. Who knew that was even a category? The goal is to reach 35,000 origami elephants to bring attention to the 35,000 elephants that are killed each year for their ivory. So I happily contributed a few, my own design diagrammed in my book, made out of 25cm Marble Wyndstone, A.K.A. Elephant hide paper. This was something of an experiment since I usually don’t make ‘em that small, but they turned out quite successful. I finally got the wetfolding down for this model. It’s funny how they all come out a little different, how each has its own personality.

While I was at it I made a couple to put on my desk at work, one for the Westchester office and one for the Manhattan office. Whenever put origami on my desk at work someone asks if they can have it, so I have to keep making more.

I don’t know when or where the exhibition of all these origami elephants will be (maybe the Bronx Zoo, cuz that’s where the Wildlife Conservation Society has their offices), and frankly I can’t even imagine 35,000 folded paper elephants, so it should be something to see. I expect there’ll be an announcement when the time draws closer. Hopefully it will be effective in raising awareness, cuz obviously we’d all like living elephants to be around for a while. By coincidence I’m shopping for a new piano these days, and I wonder what they use for the white keys. As I understand it the only legit source of ivory left in the world is digging up Wooly Mammoth tusks from the permafrost in Siberia.

LEFT HOOK Returns to Fisherman’s Net

The rock band basically took the month of August off, but now we’re back and rehearsing again. We’re still running our master plan to break into bigger and better gigs, but meanwhile we’re always down to play the local neighborhood bar Fisherman’s Net in Pelham, which has become something of our home base. Someday all’y’all’ll say that’s where it all began. We’re playing there on October 8, and it should be a great show, fresh off our break and with lots of new material.

While we were at it, I made a new image for our poster. This was from out gig at Burke’s last spring, where our friend Nick showed up with his camera and took a bunch of great shots. Only problem was there wasn’t a single one with all five of us, so I had to stitch two together. Michael doesn’t like it so much cuz he’s not singing in this shot, but at least you can see our drummer Gus.

Turn Turn Turn

Life continues as we turn the corner towards fall. Vacations are over and another school year has started.

We often go the beach at Ocean City MD over Labor Day weekend, but this year there was a hurricane barreling up the coast from Carolina, and the weather report was for heavy rains and gale-force winds, so we ended up cancelling the trip. Still we had a nice relaxing weekend, and went out to dinner on the water on Long Island Sound. Lizzy got to work a couple more days at the pool and ended the summer with some extra cash, and got to practice driving too. Michelle got to go the Renaissance Fair with her Aunt and cousins, and afterward we had them all over for one last barbecue.

I spent some of my found time dusting off Elixr, my long-neglected three-quarters completed third Buzzy Tonic album. Been tracking the bass part for what will probably be the last song, Leave the City Behind. I have other songs that I haven’t even begun to track, but I’ll probably save them for a future record. Hopefully I can finish this one by the end of the year. After that, seeing as I now have a working rock band and a real live jazz band too, I want to figure out a way to record some of my songs with real musicians.

But for now I’m going back and listening and mixing, adding the occasional part to round out an arrangement. I’ve been putting autotune on the vocals too. (Shhh, Don’t tell anyone!) Autotune has come a long way since the days of Believe, and the default mode makes it easy to manipulate while still sounding natural. It basically brings it about halfway to true pitch, so there’s still room for tremolo and tonal effects, everything sounds a bit more in tune, kinda like quantizing my midi piano parts for tighter phrasing. So far I have four new mixes out of the eight finished tunes. So watch this space for some new mixes soon.

Now the kids are back in school again. Lizzy is a Senior and Michelle 8th grade; both are really excited. Lizzy is driving to school now (!). I had been thinking of getting her an old jalopy of a car since her commute is so long by train. Then thru a lucky turn of events we got a much nicer car then we originally planned. Only problem with is was the bumper had had a close encounter with a garage door and repainted the wrong color. Today I sprayed it with the correct matching shade and now you can hardly even tell. Other random good news: Jeanne got promotion at work, and a raise big enough to cover the hike in our car insurance.

The last couple weeks at work have been pretty mellow for me. I took a couple Fridays off, and alot of people were gone a whole week, and then at the end of August our management was all out in Vegas for the year’s most important trade show. And as a former trade show exhibit designer, let me tell you we had a very cool booth! The software engineers had all been scrambling like mad to get a sufficiently stable and polished demo of the new UI out for the show. Apparently it’s a hit. Then last week we got to catch our breath, and do some refactoring, bug fixes, and planning.

Now we’re at the top of another big long run of work. The goal is to have a fully functional new UI by the end of the year. Google will no longer support Flex and Flash in chrome, so we need to retire our old one. When we were told this back at the beginning of the summer I thought it was well nigh impossible, but we’ve made alot of really good progress over the summer, and it looks pretty doable from here. Meanwhile we’re also rearchitecting the backend of our product to be modular, distributed and scalable, and to be able to handle a million computers in our system.