Stepping Out

It feels like just a few short weeks ago that spring arrived, and now it feels like full-on summertime. It was hot over the weekend, up in the 90’s, and we put in our air conditioners.

We just got back from a road trip to pick Michelle up from college, and Jeannie and I took a mini-vacation along the way. On the way up to Buffalo, we stopped in Ithaca. The motivation was to see Joe Jackson, playing with his band at a theater there in town. The show was great. Joe’s songs are always great and the band was really hot. Joe did a solo spot of four or five songs with him just singing and playing piano. The theater was this really cool old art-deco venue, very ornate, good sound.

The next day we spent pretty much the whole day hiking around lake Cayuga and some waterfalls. Very relaxing, beautiful scenery and a beautiful day for it. Went out to dinner that night at a Mexican place across the street from the place we went the night before. Ithaca is a cute little college town with a downtown district maybe four five blocks long. Our hotel was on the outskirts of town, with a trial to a waterfall right out the door.

Next day we spent to morning at the Corning Museum of Glass. We must have driven past it a hundred times over the years, but the kids were never interested. When I told them we were going to check it out, at first they thought I was joking. In any event, it’s vary cool, with a whole big gallery space, in which the pieces range from pretty cool to totally amazing. Another section is all about glass technology, including things like modern forming and shaping techniques, and applications such as telescope mirrors, space shuttle windows, car windshields and computer touchscreens. A third section is about the history of glass, with artifacts from all over the world, going back to the time of ancient Egypt. There was also an interactive area where you could watch live demos of blowing glass, other sculptural techniques, and breaking glass too. There was even a thing where you could blow your own glass bowl or ornament, but we found out about that too late. Now we’ll have to come back another time.

We arrived in Buffalo in the afternoon and went to visit Lizzy. Unfortunately, on the way there she texted us that she’d just tested positive for covid. I had brought up her bicycle because she wanted to ride it this summer. So we handed it off in her driveway, keeping a safe distance. Her hanging out with us was right out, so that was that. Next day she said she’s feeling better, so that’s good news.

Then we went up to the UB campus to pack a carload of Michelle’s stuff to store at my parent’s house. Next morning we came back to get the rest of her things, then back to my parents for a barbecue. We hit the road home later that afternoon. Now we’re back to three in the house again.

In other news, my blog here has been having repeated outages, and the tech support has been just useless and miserable, so I’m in the process of dropping my web host and moving to a new service provider. You can preview it at:

Right now it’s just a few test posts, and I’m working on customizing the visual theme. Hopefully that won’t take too long, and then I can go ahead and do the migration. So watch this space.

Spacecats II

Life continues to be busy on a bunch of fronts. First, check the new poster and web page for my band Spacecats.


So let’s see. I guess project dirt was completed a while ago and the new grass is well on its way to being grown in at this point. I’ve been mowing the lawn for several weeks now. We even did the first round of weeding, planting in the garden, and putting down mulch under the hedges. Next job will be trimming.

A couple weeks back I got up on a ladder to unclog the downspout of my gutter in one corner of my job. I used to have to get up there and clean out my gutters every year or so, when there were hundred-foot-tall trees all around my house. But one by one the trees got cut down and I didn’t have to do it for several years. This time instead of leaves and sticks, it was beads of whatever our roof shingles are made of. We got a new roof put on a couple years back, same time we installed our solar panels, and some of the material has worn off with the weather. Of all the jobs I do, this is the one I dislike the most, because of the potential danger of falling off the ladder twenty feet up. So far I’ve been careful and never met with any harm but you never know. Next time I’ll probably hire someone.

Now that the yardwork situation is under control, I’ve been trying to move forward with project furniture. I want to get a good armchair for the living room to replace the awful recliner we have, and a new coffee table and end tables, plus a new sectional sofa for the family room, and maybe and entertainment center too. By the end of the year, if possible. We started thinking about this at the beginning of the pandemic, but it turns out to be a kinda complicated research project, and there’s always something else to do, and every time we find something we think we like, it turns our to backordered for months. Nevertheless, it’s getting to the point where our kids have nicer furniture than us. So it’s time to get moving.

As the weather has been getting nicer, Jeannie and I have been spending more time outdoors. We’ve gone for a couple hikes, mostly at local places like Saxon Woods. I’ve also been getting on my bike alot more, averaging about three times a week this spring, and my strength, speed and endurance are increasing. My typical ride is pretty short, less than an hour, but the neighborhood is kinda hilly. My main ride these days is a loop into downtown Bronxville, then thru Chester Heights and back home. Also went to the Nature Study Woods once, but mostly it’s been too muddy cuz of the rain.

I’ve gotten the Mustang out on the road a few times. Even had to put a tankful of gas in it yesterday. So far it’s been running great. I want to get new tires put on it this spring. The tires I have are the ones from when I bought the car in 1997!

In the software realm, I’ve been working on several thing. One of which is the Origami USA convention scheduling tool. If you recall, I’m on the OUSA convention and web committees, as the person who creates the schedule of classes and events, and the one who writes the software to make that task easier. The last few years we haven’t had any in-person conventions. Last year we had a zoom convention, and I did the schedule for that. Along the way, I discarded the existing scheduling tool, basically a bunch of macros for MS Access, and wrote a web application in Drupal/PHP that integrates with the main web site and other tools. This year I enhanced the functionality in a few ways. First, I created a workflow to reschedule a class without having to first unschedule it then schedule it again. Second I added the capacity to sort the classes by name, to make it easier to find them. On the roadmap is the ability to sort and filter by a number of parameters including the class name, the teacher name, the class type, level of complexity, number of periods, etc. But Drupal and PHP are a serious pain to work with, so I’ll save these enhancements for a future convention.

Meanwhile I have a little over a month to get some new models completed, get and exhibit together and decide what to teach. I have a big pile of half-finished models and an even bigger backlog of ideas. But for the zoom conventions don’t really inspire me and I haven’t been doing that much folding lately. Luckily, this year’s convention is live and in person, at the Sheraton Hotel in NYC, the third weekend in June (I think). Should be alot of fun to reconnect with my origami friends, and hopefully I’ll have a bunch of cool new models.

Been working hard at my new consulting gig at Consumer Reports R&D Lab. Hard to believe I’ve been there three months already. They’ve just extended my contract to the end of the year, which is good news. My group is involved in this thing called the Digital Rights Protocol, which is designed to make it easier for consumers to exercise their rights to opt out of online data collection, tracking, etc., and easier for companies to comply with requests around these rights. We lead a consortium of startups involved in the internet privacy business, and last week we had the first end-to-end test of the Protocol with partners in various roles. Meanwhile Consumer reports is involved in several business-oriented capacities as well, so I am building a reference implementation of the DRP to live in our application ecosystem and provide a touchstone to our partners. Anyway, the end-to-end test was a big success, and now we’re planning out the next phase of development.

Meanwhile at my other big client, The Global Jukebox, we’re getting ready to roll out a new release to Live. This one has a new backend and a cutover to a new server, to get rid of a bunch of old headaches. Everything is all tested and ready to roll. All that remains now is to switch over the DNS server.

Lastly, my music projects proceed apace. Mary came over and laid down the vocal track for My Ol’ Breakdown Truck a week or so ago, and it came out great. Afterwards we went out for Mexican food. Now I have three songs mostly done, with the vocals, bass and guitar tracked and mixed. All that remains is the fine-tune the drum parts, and add a little keyboards and sax to fill things out. Also, Elixr – 2022 Remaster is vary much almost done; all that remains is one final listening back.

Now that my Thursday band has a name and a gig, the music has been rising to the occasion and getting more intense. Today we had a rehearsal where we really drilled down on some of the finer points of some of our songs, to really master the arrangements and make them our own.

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed my Selmer Reference ’54 tenor sax, which I was so in love with, seems to have developed a leak somewhere, so the notes below low D don’t sound clearly and require alot of force to sound at all. Plus one of the mounting posts on the low C keyguard has come loose. So I need to find a new sax repair guy. The guy I’d been using for year – Virgil Scott – was up on Yonkers, only 10 minutes from my house. Sadly, he died of covid during the pandemic. My new guy is great, he’s out in Connecticut up new Massachusetts, almost two hour from here. So I need to find someone local.

For the time being I’ve switched back to playing my Selmer Mark VII, which I had worked on last summer. The low notes are clear and effortless, but best of all, I had the action set up, which it turns out makes a huge difference on tunes like Some Skunk Funk. I’d been struggling with playing that fast and cleanly on my other horn, and now the notes just roll right off. On the downside, I have to get used to this horn’s intonation again. And even worse, I’d been busting my ass to get good on the altissimo range on the tenor, and could get all the way up to the second high D, and play riffs up there. I was developing some real chops. On this horn, the embouchure required is completely different, so I’m back to square one.


My jazz and funk group has a name now.  It’s Spacecats.

We’ll be playing Saturday June 11, and Alternative Medicine Brewing Company in Mount Vernon, at 7pm.  More info as the date draws nearer, plus a poster and stuff.  Meanwhile, here’s our blurb:


Spacecats is a jazz and funk quartet featuring sax, piano/synth, bass and drums.  The group imparts their own imprint to a spectrum of styles from cool hard bop to high-energy fusion, r&b, rock and pop.

John Szinger – saxophones
John Deutchman – piano and keyboards
Ken Matthews – bass
Steve Russo – drums