Don’t Ask Me Why

Well we’re getting into the home stretch of summer. Lizzy is back to school; Michelle has one more week of vacation. Things have been pretty mellow and relaxing, but at the same time really busy.

One thing we wanted to do this summer was go camping. We didn’t get a chance to go last summer at all, and the summer before it was just one quick trip. Now the kids are older and the other families we used go with, well their kids are older too. So this time it was just me and Jeannie, like when were in California. We were up in the Catskills, so Martin and his kids came by for the afternoon. And we did get to build a fire and go walking in the moonlight and do a little hiking and commune with nature and have a nice trip thru the countryside. Well hopefully we’ll have a chance to do more of it next summer.

Our streak continues — six out of the last six bands we’ve seen have had a trombone player. We saw Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden last week, his hundred and first show there. Lizzy was originally supposed to come, be Jeannie’s sister Mary came instead. It was a good time. I worked in the city that day and we all met up for dinner. The show itself was great. We him recently, or at least it feels like it; it was four and a half years ago. So it was basically the same band and the same show. The band of course is excellent, nine players including horns, percussion, multiple guitars, a second keyboardist, faithfully reproducing all the sounds on all the records, and jamming it out and bringing it alive. And Billy Joel has become a much better singer since the days when he was making records. In the first half of the set he tends to mix it up and play alot of his deep cuts that I’ve never heard live before, and sliding into a batting order of hit after hit by the end. Billy is also a monster pianist, but because the songs are so tight most of his virtuosity comes out in random snatches of improvisation between songs, where he’ll suddenly riff on some Art Tatum or Rachmaninov.

Work has been busy. We’re preparing for a major release and it’s all bug fixes and chaos. I guess it’s not as bad as it was this time last year. And you know, at least I’m healthy. We’re also really active with the Jukebox these days, preparing for a major release with alot of new feature work and far less chaos.

The jazz group Haven Street has a few gigs coming up, including one in Brooklyn in October. We’re also starting to plan out or next album and recording date. Everyone is going to be missing a rehearsal or two the next couple weeks but we’ll hitting it in September.

And the big new thing is my new rock band G! Force. We’ve been rehearsing for a couple months and have thirty songs down. Our first gig is in September and we have several more after that. More on the group, the lineup and the setlist in a future post. But for now I’ll tell you it’s a fun and very exciting project, and it’s sounding great, and it’s going to be a busy fall for music

Heavy Skies

Last Friday my jazz group Haven Street had a gig at Hayfields in North Salem, NY. It was a cool place and a fun time. Hayfields is out in the woods past Katonah, and it’s a sort of cafe restaurant with wine and beer and yummy food fresh farmer’s market fare. They treated us really nice.

The band set up in an enclosed porch area with roll-down plastic screens in case there’s a change in the weather. Which was a good thing, because right at the start of the second song the sky opened up and it started pouring down rain. A few songs later I announced the next song was called Heavy Skies. Just then a huge gust of wind came up, knocking everything over in the outside area just beyond us and causing a general panic. We had to stop the song and start over. The rain continued off and on the rest of the night.

All in all it was a good show. The crowd wasn’t huge because of the storms, but a good number of people turned out and enjoyed the music. We played most of the music of our record, plus four new originals: A Fat Cat, Fever Dream, Lift Off, and Closing the Distance, as well as a handful of covers and standards. The group’s sound and playing and solos were all right on, a couple minor glitches in the new tunes aside. The Hayfields said we sounded great. I hope we get to go back.

On the way home the weather turned stormy again. At one point it looked like we had just missed a tornado touching down. There was debris swirling in the air everywhere. At another point it the roads were starting to flood and I drove thru some pretty deep water.

We were supposed to go camping the next day, but we had to cancel cuz of the weather. In fact we were supposed to go the week before but that got rained out too. So we replanned again for next weekend. On Sunday the weather finally broke and it went from weeks of being in the 90’s down to the 70’s. In lieu of camping Jeannie and I decided to go for a hike.

We picked Anthony’s Nose, a trail near the Bear Mountain Bridge. It’s only about three miles there and back but the first half is very steep, about 700 feet vertical, and very rocky. The view from the top looks down on the bridge, and across the river at Bear Mountain and Harriman Park, and the whole vista of that part of the Hudson Valley. You can even see the new Tappen Zee bridge far to the south. We did the hike in about two hours and afterward stopped by a scenic overlook to check out the eagles flying around. It was as great hike and we felt invigorated afterward, and now we want to do a few more hikes this summer and fall.

As the summer draws to a close we’ve been trying to maximize our weekends. It turns out Sunday morning is a good time for some good outdoor time. A couple weeks ago we went to the beach and swan in the ocean, and the week after that we went to a BBQ brunch out on Long Island for our friend Antonio who is moving to Florida for college.

This morning Lizzy drove off for her second year at college and now she’s on her way upstate. It was great having her home for the summer, but wow it went by fast. We’ll miss her but we wish her well.

New Origami – Blimp and Platypus

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month and a half since the OUSA conference. I did alot of traveling in July but I’ve been back and getting stuff done the last few weeks. Now is a big time of year for origami conventions, there’s one in Ohio this weekend, and one in Japan, and one coming up in Oxford in a few weeks. It’d be fun to go them all but you gotta choose your adventures in life.

Meanwhile I’ve finally circled back to finish work on some new origami models. I debuted two new models at the OUSA convention back in June: My Platypus and my Blimp. As mentioned before, the Platypus uses the hex base from my Lizard, Turtle and Armadillo.

The Blimp is big improvement on my previous Zeppelin, which was just barely possible to fold. I did a couple more tweaks to the design since the convention, and now have a model I’m happy with. The way the nose locks is especially satisfying. In addition to having nicer proportions, the Blimp is much more straightforwardly foldable from a variety of papers of different thicknesses and sizes. The one shown here is made from 12″ Stardream, which is an excellent paper. It’s thick and workable like Marble Wyndstone, but with a bit of sparkly luster. Luckily I was able to reuse the stand I made for my Zeppelin.

So onward and upward. I have lots of ideas for more new models and hope to find the time to work on them in the fall. I also plan on getting started on a book or ebook of Complex Air and Space Origami, as complement to my forthcoming book from Tuttle.

Haven Street Live

Here’s announcing that my jazz band, Haven Street, is playing live:

Hayfields Market
North Salem, New York
Friday August 17 6:30 PM

This is our fist time playing at Hayfields, really looking forward to it. It looks like the place is a farmers market with a cafe offering food and wine where the group is set up. Cozy local vibe. Looks like fun. We’ll be playing two sets, so we’ve prepared a bunch of new material. Find out more at:

This is the first of several upcoming gigs for my jazz band and mew rock band this summer into early fall, so watch this space for future updates.

Buzzy Tonic – Elixr

Announcing the release of the long-awaited third Buzzy Tonic record, Elixr. This is my solo home studio project, focused mainly on original compositions. I started this record a long time ago, and midway thru I got into playing in live bands again, so there were lots of other things going on musically to keep me busy. But I kept circling back and and I’m glad I did. I must say I’m happy with the result. The mixing, and in particular the vocals, sound better than my previous works. I guess it took me this long to learn how to really mix a record. Now I want to go back and remix the previous Buzzy Tonic record, Face the Heat, before I start in on Buzzy Tonic IV.

Right now you can preview the record, order the CD or download the mp3s at CDBaby. Soon it will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, all the usual suspects. Also coming soon: I need to update some pages on my web site. Look that for that in the near future.


Cruisin’ Part II

Rejoining the party mid-adventure…

The one and only port of call was Bermuda, famous for its triangles. The consensus among our group seemed to be that there was not much to fear since we were only going to the very corner of the Bermuda Triangle. It was deemed unlikely we’d all die in a shipwreck after crashing into a flaming iceberg of fire or sucked into a vortex of the spacetime continuum. That was until I pointed out that the corners of any triangle are the sharpest part, and therefore the most dangerous. Everyone grew concerned. Luckily there no supernatural mishaps or anomalies. Still I’m glad we convinced Lizzy to not bring a ouija board with her.

In addition to the voyage itself taking about twenty times as long as by airplane, the logistics of getting on and off the boat every time were cumbersome. The port was on the extreme end of a long hook of land, which meant either a long bus or ferry ride to anything at all, and that meant queueing up with thousands of our new closest friends for limited service. Our first stop was the famous Crystal Cavern. It took us three hours to get there, even though the island is only twenty miles long. The whole trip was lovely and scenic so we didn’t really mind. The cave itself was a cool experience. It had a very blue (when lit up) underground lake. Still, after that we switched to taxicabs.

We decided to go one of the famous pink sand beaches. We found a very nice beach called Horseshoe Beach. And shaw’nuff the sand was actually kinda pink. The beach was sheltered from main ocean by a row of rocks like giant teeth out in the bay. Next to the main beach was a smaller beach like a tide pool. The whole scene was very beautiful, with the blue water, the sunshine, the waves, the rocks, the cliffs and the caves. Right next to the beach was a bar and restaurant, so we took a break and got some fruity rum drinks. Lizzy made a point of telling me this we the first time she and her friends had been to a bar while being of legal drinking age, so I bought them all a round. We stayed at the beach and the bar the rest of the afternoon and into evening. It was alot like actually being at a resort.

Late that night, after dinner, Jeannie and I walked around the village near the port. The next day we only had a half day on the island, so we stuck close to port. There was an old fort that was also a museum, so we checked that out and learned alot about the history of the island, the British navy, pirates, shipwrecks and of course triangles.

The trip home was much like the trip out. I must say the food was very good.

We resumed our D&D campaign on the at-sea day the trip back. The party wound their way thru the jungle toward the central plateau of the Isle of Dread. Along the way they encountered a treehouse village of some kind of flying-monkey-squirrel type creature. A melee ensued. The party was outnumbered but they escaped when Michelle used a Thunder Clap spell to repulse them.

A bit later they were scrambling down a mountain side toward a rope bridge crossing a chasm in order to reach the plateau, when suddenly a pair of giant lizards appeared. As luck would Abby was collecting toy rubber lizards given as prizes from the ship’s videogame arcade, and they were just the right size to use with the lego minifigs I brought along to use as tokens for the party. Because they were on a hillside I made a rule that if any player rolls 1 in a combat action they must make a dexterity check or slide down the mountainside some distance. (I don’t know if it’s a house rule of mine, because I’ve played so many version of D&D over the years, and in any event I like the keep the focus on fun and adventuring rather than rule minutia, but I like to play that just as a 20 is a critical hit, a 1 is a critical miss and is always followed by a roll to see if there is some tragic or hilarious consequence.)

So anyway, Carmine the Invincible is single handedly taking on one of the lizards (remember this is a party of first-level characters again 3 hit-dice monsters). Meanwhile the rest of the party is confronting the other one. Abby has the idea she wants to make friends with all the creatures she meets, so even though it attacks, she repeatedly attempts to charm, grapple, lasso or otherwise subdue it. Soon the whole party joins in. At one point Michelle makes a lasso and tries to toss it to Valerie, only to roll a 1 and go tumbling down the hillside. In any event they eventually subdue the lizard and name it Lizzy after her cousin. Abby, a halfling, is able to ride it as mount. I awarded them double experience for that encounter. What I didn’t tell them is every day, and whenever there’s a new combat, the lizard has a chance of running away or turning on the party!

That session was so much fun that everyone asked if we could do another one that evening after dinner, the last night of the cruise. By the end the party reached the central plateau, seen and even fended off a few giant dinosaurs, and reached a village in the middle of the plateau on the shores of a high lake in a dormant volcanic crater. On an island in the middle of the lake is the Forbidden Temple with the evil priest and undead army, and the final phase of the adventure. We left on a cliff hanger, and now it looks like the campaign will continue over the rest of the summer and maybe into the fall. I figure it’ll take two or maybe three sessions to complete. This is good news as far as I’m concerned, and Michelle too. When this adventure is done she wants to DM.