There’s U.F.O.’s over New York

Springtime in New York deepens.  I participated in another origami event this weekend.  It was FoldFest, a 24-hour marathon online mini-convention, with folders and attendees from around the world.  I led a two-hour session of Saturday evening and taught my Astronaut followed by my Flying Saucer, both from my book Air and Space Origami.  These are good intermediate level models, and the class went quite well.  As always, good to connect with my origami friends.  Next big origami event is the OUSA convention in June.   Gotta bunch of new stuff to finish!

Also over the weekend I finished project dirt, 2023 edition.  You’ll recall the over the last couple I filled in alot of low spots in my yard with dirt my neighbor had excavated to create a swimming pool. It did an admirable job of filling in, but was rather clay-ish and stony, and not the best for growing grass.  It started off promising last spring, but when it got really hot in July and August the crabgrass kinda took over on these spots.  So this year I found a local nursery who delivered a cubic yard of organic topsoil and I did a thinner version of filling in, and topped it off with new grass seed.  The timing was perfect cuz we had a heavy rain Saturday night and everything is well soaked.  This was the major project this spring; all that remains is to put mulch under the hedges, and start mowing and trimming when the time is right.  Oh and I guess some weeding too, and Jeannie wants to plant some things in the garden.  Anyway, probably start mowing this coming weekend.  After that it’s get the mustang into the shop for some service, and we’re ready for summer.  Hope to get back to more biking and traveling.

The Return of Special Sessions

This weekend I participated in a favorite origami event, a Special Folding Session at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  These used to happen on Sundays a few times a year, and it’s a good opportunity to learn some new folds and hang out with origami people, as well as see the museum.  But there hasn’t been one since before the pandemic, so it’s good that they brought it back.

I taught my Halloween Spider, which I invented and developed last fall at the CoCon and OrgamiMIT conventions, and contributed one of ’em to the Origami Holiday Tree at the museum this year as well.  The students in my class turned out to be middle-school-age kids, but already advanced folders.  Meanwhile the adults there all took simpler classes.

This was first time I taught it so I was eager to see how it came across.  When I designed it, my hope was to have an intermediate level model, but it turns out it’s pretty complex and technically demanding.  In particular, there’s the sink of doom, probably around step 30 if I diagrammed the model.  It’s the kind of fold where you just let the paper do it’s thing, and it usually just works out, but if you don’t see it in your mind it can be hard to understand.  The students all got thru it, and did a pretty nice job, but not to the point where they could do the final sculpting to make the model look the model look truly great, spooky and terrifying.  

I fell like if I spent some time unfolding the model and tweaking the proportions, and maybe adding a prefold or two, I could make the sink of doom much more intuitive and easier to execute.  I’ll try and work on that before the next time I teach it.

After my class was over Jeannie and did a tour of the museum.  I haven’t been to the AMNH in at least five years, so it was nice to be back.  In some sense it feels like my “home” museum, since OUSA is headquartered there and I’ve been to visit so many times over the years.  Alot of things haven’t changed.  The dinosaur and megafauna fossil collection remains world-class, and the halls of African Animals, North American Mammals, and Marine Life, with their evocative dioramas, remain must-see classics.  Even the overall Teddy-Roosevelt-era vibe and architecture feel warm and welcoming.

We saw a few new things.  One was the revamped and newly re-opened hall of rocks, minerals and gems, which was quite impressive.  Another was a show at the planetarium about the planets of the solar system.  This was preceded by a short film in the waiting area about the history of the planetarium itself.  The was also an excellent Imax film about the Serengeti in Africa, very informative and with great photography, but kid-friendly in that they didn’t actually show and zebras or wildebeests being slain and devoured by lions or crocodiles.

Permission Slip by Consumer Reports Nominated for a Webby Award

For the second time in my career, my project has been nominated for a Webby Award. The first time was back in 2008, when the internet was still cool, and I worked at, where I helped build groundbreaking apps such as Nicktropolis and Turbonick. Our main competition that year was, and believe it or not we won.

This year the project is Permission Slip (, a mobile app to help people take back control of their personal data online, inspired by California’s Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CCPA) which defines compliance measures a company must undertake when a consumer requests the exercise of their privacy rights.

As lead engineer on the project and of the Innovation Lab at Consumer Reports, I’m especially gratified that we’re nominated in the category of Technical Achievement. Of course I’m part of a pretty large, and very intelligent, creative, knowledgeable and otherwise awesome team. And sometimes it feels like a large part of my job is just going to meetings and telling everyone my opinions. But I guess that actually is an important job.

Anyway, you can vote here, until the end of the week:

Vote now for: Apps & Software – Technical Achievement (

Vote now for: Apps & Software – Public Service & Activism (

Bunny Hop

We just got back from a fun trip upstate, a mini vacation to visit friends and family for Easter.  Our first stop was in Watkins Glen to do some hiking.  We drove up the night before and stayed right on the lake.  I’d never been there before, and it was a cool hike and a gorgeous gorge full of waterfalls.  Unfortunately, the trial that goes right up the bottom of the gorge was not yet open for the season; I guess they have to make sure it’s in good repair after the snow melts and there’s no danger of falling rocks.  So we stayed on the rim trails, which still provided plenty of views and scenic overlooks, a few bridges and the occasional side path down into the gorge. Still we want to go back in season when the gorge trail is open cuz it’s pretty spectacular.

When we were done our hike we drove the rest of the way up to Buffalo.  We stayed with my mum and dad, and Lizzy and Michelle came down for dinner and to hang out.  Played some board games, drank some wine, did some story telling.  Next day we went to see the Sabres play.  I hadn’t been to a hockey game in many years, and it was alot of fun.  Our friends Larry and Jackie met us as the arena, and just by coincidence their son and some of his friends had seats in the row behind us.  It was a good game, fast and exciting, and the Sabres won by one goal.  Now they’re hanging on to playoff hopes if they win more than two or their last few games. Afterwards we went out to dinner at a local craft brewery, which was alot of fun.  I hadn’t been walking around that part of downtown Buffalo in a long time, and it’s good to see it all cleaned up and full of restaurants and other businesses.

Sunday was Easter.  Jeannie and I went for a long walk around my parent’s neighborhood in the morning.  We ran into Lizzy, who is training to run a half marathon and came over early to do a run around the ‘hood as well. My uncle Ron and aunt Emöke came over for Easter dinner.  I hadn’t seen them since my dad’s ninetieth birthday party before the pandemic, so that was really nice.  Lots more storytelling and wine, and finding out what all my numerous relations are up to.

Now we’re home and the weather here is just gorgeous. Even got out on my bike today for a short ride. Hoping to have a chance to do some yardwork before the weekend.

Good Day Sunshine

Early spring continues to get springier.  Last Friday I finished up raking the yard, filling up three more big bags of leaves and debris.  This morning the town came and picked it all up, so it’s on to the next task.

Sunday morning I took my ’67 Mustang out for the first drive of the season.  I’m happy to say it started right up, and sounded and felt good on the highway.  Woo-hoo!

Then Sunday afternoon Jeannie and I went for a bike ride.  Last summer we started doing bike rides on local trails around the area, but we only did a few.  This year, I figured since we had such a good ski season, I want to do something athletic the rest of the year too.  So we’re starting early in the spring (just two weeks ago we were still on our skis) and hope to get a regular pattern going.  This one was just over ten kilometers, in about an hour.  Nothing too huge, but not bad for the first time out. 

I also finished a longstanding software development project, adding some sort functionality to the class scheduling tool for conventions on the Origami USA web site.  This was a rather drawn out endeavor because it’s built in PHP on an old version of Drupal, and the whole dev environment is an enormous pain in the neck.   The overhead of keeping the site running locally is non trivial:  updates from the git repo, managing the dependencies, updating the scripts to sync the database and media assets, it’s all a major headache and time suck, and there are breaking changes from time to time.  All this is before one can even start writing code.  So I’m pretty happy it’s done with.  Well, maybe one more tiny change.  Robert Lang, who is OUSA’s web master and the only person who really understands how the site works, helped me drag it over the finish line, so thanks to him for that.

Meanwhile, my origami stellated icosahedron is coming along.  I’ve finished pre-creasing on the smaller one, and on the larger on I collapsed it halfway, then unfolded to reinforce the valance of all the existing creases to make it hold its shape better, and refolded it.  All that’s left is to fold the lock.  I’m thinking I’m going to wetfold this one when it’s done, since it’s folded from Elephant Hide and it will hold its shape amazingly after that.

In other news Nicolas Terry has started selling Elephant Hide paper in large sheets of previously unavailable colors on his web site, so I ordered a whole bunch.

Finally, my new song, In the Purple Circus is almost finished.  It’s basically a prog metal song, so naturally I added a tenor sax part.  It came out totally wailing, channeling some Michael Brecker energy, screeching and growling in the high altissimo rang, up to the fourth C#.  The next day I added a bari sax way down low to reinforce the tenor, and blend with the overtones of the subsonic bass synthesizer.  Now it’s pretty much down to the final mix, which I hope to share soon.