Signed Sealed Delivered

Things have calmed down and gotten back to normal around here. The weather has been beautiful, and I’ve been watering the new grass every day. Then the weekend turned unusually hot and we had to put in our air conditioners several weeks earlier than usual. Today it got cold again. Go figure.

In all the excitement of the last week I forgot to mention that I’ve been busy doing origami stuff. First off, the Pacific Coast Origami Convention (PCOC) is in San Francisco this year, coming up in the fall. Jeannie and I are planning on going. It’ll be the first in-person origami convention, and the first time we’ve travelled outside of New York State in almost two years. They put out a call for models with a California theme for the convention book, and the deadline was last week. I contributed a California Sea Lion, after the famous denizens of Pier 39. It was a new original model, using the base for my Walrus and Elephant Seal. I finished the diagrams last Monday, the day we got back home. Now I’m thinking of doing a seal with a ball on its nose. I also had some ideas for California Seabirds, the Canvasback, Greater Scaup, and Bufflehead. All have a similar duck-like shape but with interesting and different color-change patterns. I ran out of time to draw up diagrams, but hopefully I’ll be able to exhibit them at the convention.

Meanwhile the OUSA Annual convention is coming up in just about a month. This is an online convention, and I’ve been on the convention committee by virtue of my handling the class schedule. I finally got to use the scheduling software I wrote last winter. I’m happy to say it worked flawlessly, although going through the process for real made me think of a few enhancements I’d like to add to make the workflow faster and smoother. The schedule is complicated compared to other years because each class is a zoom session and requires OUSA people to manage the tech and play host, in addition to the teacher. Also they’re having an empty session after every class to allow for the possibility that it runs over time. So about 100 people signed up to teach about 160 classes. I originally thought I could schedule 125 to 140 or so, so we ranked the classes, giving preference to original, unpublished models, plus some rarer categories like simple, supercomplex and presentation/lectures, as well as aiming to have every teacher teach one model. Then I got the news that a few tech and moderator volunteers dropped out, so there will be fewer classrooms that originally anticipated, and we’ll be lucky to get 120 classes in. Unfortunately, most teachers who signed up to teach multiple models won’t be able to. So I presented a first pass of the schedule to the committee, and explained the constraints. Now everyone has an opinion, and they want to schedule more meetings to discuss it. Ah, committees.

Time for You to Go Out to the Places You Will Be From

Last weekend we took a road trip up to Buffalo for Lizzy’s college graduation. She earned a B.S. in business, with a minor in psychology, Cum Laude, from the University of Buffalo. Congratulations!!!

The whole trip felt like a very strange time warp, like I stepped out of a time machine 30 years in the future. Jeannie and I met at UB. We were teenagers. I graduated in 1990, and she in 1991. The night before our trip Jeannie pulled out a bunch of old photos from her graduation and time around that. Man, we were so young! But we still feel like those same people.

When I finished college I couldn’t wait to get out of town. After a couple years of working a day job at a slowly dying company and trying to make it as a musician by night, it was pretty clear that things were going nowhere, so I moved to New York City to enroll in grad school. Now Lizzy, who grew up downstate, has decided to stay in Buffalo and make a life for herself up there. She has a good job awaiting her, and some close friends, and just likes the city. The cost of living is so much cheaper, and we’ve heard Buffalo is up and coming once again. We all feel fortunate about how the whole situation turned out.

We drove up on Thursday evening so we could help Lizzy move on Friday. She and two of her current roommates got a new apartment in the downtown area, just off the Elmwood strip between Allentown and Delaware park. It’s been a long time since I spent any time in that neighborhood. My various bands played gigs in some bars around there, but there wasn’t much reason to go down there otherwise. Although once beautiful back when the city was in its prime, it had been in decline for a while and was mostly pretty shabby in the post-Reagan era (although there were always pockets that remained nice, they were like islands). The city’s economic base of heavy manufacturing, cars and steel, had collapsed, and there was a massive population exodus in the 80’s and 90’s.

But they were right, Buffalo is back! After we moved Lizzy’s heavy furniture we walked around the neighborhood to find a place for lunch. A generation has gone by, and everything that was once run down is now super nice, restored, rebuilt, repurposed, and reimagined. Lots of apartments, restaurants and shops, bars and coffeehouses, and vibe is very much young positive energy. Lots of pedestrians out and about. Trendy shops for things like fancy pet supplies, gourmet coffee and yoga studios. Really nice looking houses down all the side streets. It reminded me alot of Greenwich Village and SoHo in the early 1990’s, San Francisco in the dotcom era, or Brooklyn in the aughts, when I lived in those places. We ended up at a great little Mexican restaurant with a great selection of margaritas.

We stopped at the Darwin Martin house, a local landmark designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. When I was in college as an architecture student, I helps work on its restoration. I friend of mine who was a grad student actually lived on the grounds in the caretaker’s house. One of the buildings had a carpentry shop set up in what was once the living room. I remember measuring and cutting up pieces of wood to create trim to match the existing molding. For my graduation the school of architecture had a brunch on the grounds before the ceremony. Anyway, the place was a mess back then, in serious decay, but now it’s been fully restored, looking glorious, and even has a new visitor center.

Then we were back on the UB campus for the graduation ceremony, which has changed alot in 30 years. For one thing, there’s a new outdoor sports arena, which provided a safe venue for the event. After we went out to Baird Point so Lizzy and her friends could take pictures. That was a favorite spot to go smoke pot back in the day.

Afterwards we found ourselves back in Allentown for lunch, then hanging out at Lizzy’s new pad, and yet again in Allentown going out to dinner with friends. Michelle stayed to hang out with Lizzy and go to her graduation party and had a great time. She’s starting college at UB in just a few months, so it’s good for her to get to know Lizzy friends. She’s already making plans to come over to Lizzy’s apartment and use her kitchen to bake in.

On the ride home we listened to the 90’s grunge/alternative station for an extra dose of nostalgia.

Ev’ry New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

I feel like things have been coming back to life, slowly but inevitably increasing. Things are new and hopeful on many levels. A few weeks ago I got my second shot of vaccine, and have slow been starting to go out and do things. We went out to dinner one night to celebrate Michelle’s birthday. Jeannie’s parents dropped by for a visit one afternoon.

I got a haircut, the first in over a year. Having long hair again was kinda fun, but it was time to move on. I went out and bought some clothes – a sports coat, slacks and a couple neckties. I haven’t had an occasion to get dressed up in a long time. It’s funny, a year and a half ago, even before the pandemic, when I started working from home full time, one of the first things I did was to go thru my closet and get rid of some old clothes. Now it feels like it’s come full circle. Soon it’ll be time to tune my piano, get an eye-exam, and all the other things made difficult to impossible by the pandemic.

Michelle’s last day of high school was today, which means I’m done picking her up after school (before the pandemic she took the train). She’s got a job lined up for the summer, which should be fun and exciting. Meanwhile, my workdays will be a little easier and more flexible. And safer.

I couple weeks ago I was on my home from picking up Michelle, sitting at a traffic light, when I was hit from behind by another car. It was a pretty strong jolt, but my car was basically unharmed; the only damage was the tip of the chrome cuff around the tailpipe was dinged. His car, a Mini, was a wreck. Bumper, hood, radiator, the whole front end smashed. It looks like he was driving without a tier, just a bar wheel. Maybe the tire came loose from the wheel and that’s why he couldn’t stop. He told me he was driving with a flat because Minis have no spare tire, and was on his way to the garage to have it fixed.

I took my car to the shop for inspection, and while they were at it I asked them to look and see if there was any serious damage underneath, but all was good. Then an oil change, which they didn’t notice I needed when they did the inspection. So I brought the car back for that. While I was at it I told them to rotate the tires. Then it turned out the needed new brakes too, which somehow they also failed to notice when they did the inspection. But then it takes a few days to order the parts. So three different days the car was in the shop. Yeesh! We had a big road trip coming up, so I had to get this all done ASAP.

Lots more happening. I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.

Mupple Earth

Things have been moving along, but nothing really exciting to talk about. Spring is in full bloom, and all the flowering trees around here look gorgeous. The Japanese maple tree which I planted in my front yard four years ago as a sapling really came in alot bigger this year. Project dirt was completed weeks ago, with 57 loads total. Now we’re well into project watching the new grass grow, and that’s coming along nicely. I need to make a place in my garage to store my wheelbarrow, which I probably won’t use again for years. Our next-door neighbors sold their house and so we now have a new neighbor. So far she seems really nice. When Jeannie first met her, she said she was thinking of putting in a pool and fence around her yard. I talked to her a few days later, telling her I was fond of the hedge row separating our yard from hers, and she agreed and told me she’s not going to make any changes until she’s had a chance to let the house speak to her. Maybe the crazy cost of lumber these days helped sway her too.

Continuing to work on music and origami. At my day job I’ve dusted off my C++ chops and started learning JUCE and diving in the app side of our codebase. So far, so good. My first goal was to revive a product for editing patches, which was broken because it relied on a shared code library that had changed. The major part of the work was refactoring the shared library so code that was being shared was in there and correctly exposed, and then going around to the different projects and updating their shared dependencies. A good way to learn my way around the codebase and the build process. Soon I’m gonna be building features on top of this, including stuff that integrates with the cloud stack I’ve been building.

But the main point of this post is to think thru what if the Muppets did The Lord of the Rings? Working out the casting is the first step. So…

Bilbo: Kermit, obviously

Frodo: Robin the Frog, because he’s Kermit’s nephew

Sam, Merry, and Pippin: This sets the precedent that the Hobbits are frogs. We need some more frog muppets for the rest of the Hobbit roles. There are few that appear now and then in songs and skits, but are not named characters. Time to give them names and personalities.

Gandalf: Fozzie Bear

Aragorn: Viggo Mortensgten, because there’s always one token human among the muppet cast, to give a sense of scale. If anyone reading this blog knows Viggo, please contact him and make this happen; it’ll be awesome. It doesn’t even have to be a 13-hour recreation of the Peter Jackson epic, a two-hour-long condensed version would be fine.

Boromir: Animal. He’d be great at the dramatic death scene

Gimli: Rizzo the Rat, which means the dwarves are rats

Legolas: Link Hogthrob. At first we were going to make the pigs orcs, but we realized the pigs being elves is way funnier. Link is the most heroic and action-oriented of the pigs.

Galadriel: Miss Piggy, obviously
Elrond: Dr. Strangepork
Arwen: Annie Sue

Saruman: Gonzo, obviously. Gonzo vs. Fozzie would be an epic wizard battle.

Gothmog: Camilla. All the orcs are chickens

Faramir: Scooter
Denethor: Sam the Eagle

Eowyn: Janice
Eomer: Floyd
Theoden: Dr. Teeth

Wormtongue: Pepe the King Prawn

The Balrog: Big Bird

Hmmm, maybe it still needs some work. Anyway, next up: The Muppets do Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood