Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

New York in June continues.  The weather remains amazing for the most part, as if California has come to us.  In fact, last week we experienced the effects of forest fires hundreds of miles away in Canada, as the wind blew the smoke high into the atmosphere above us.  The sky turned overcast and brownish and hazy, and the next day it got more intense, and everything had an orange tint and smelled like a campfire.  Luckily the day after that the wind changed and it blew away, and we were back to blue skies for the weekend.

The Origami USA convention is coming up in just a couple weeks.  It was my job to put together the class schedule.  We had almost 150 classes that had to be fit into three days, with many constraints on time, availability, class size, use of document cameras and projectors, etc.  So that kept me busy Monday night and Tuesday.  It went smoother than last year.  I’m using scheduling software that I’d purpose-built in the OUSA web site, and like so much one-off business software, is more clunky than one would hope.  However this year we’re starting to grasp the essence of the problem, and we’re refining it to make the workflows smoother and faster.  So the schedule got approved and published on time.  On to the next thing.

The Global Jukebox is submitting a grant application to the National Endowment for the Humanities for part 2 of a multi-year project to create an interactive experience within the jukebox on The Roots of American Music.  In addition to new content and visualizations, it includes a brand-new mobile experience built on our existing web application framework.  So I was busy helping Kiki get some materials together for the grant application.

Meanwhile at the CR Innovation Lab, we’re getting to planning for an upcoming product launch, setting up a program for deploy pipelines, unit testing, e2e and integration testing, QA, and infrastructure availability and scaling.  We also have a bunch of new team members, so everything is a bit hectic these days.  I went into the city for a set of onsite meetings, however some of them got cancelled to due people calling in remotely because of the smoke condition.  Unfortunately, the conference room chairs there are singularly awful and triggered some fairly severe pain in my back and leg.  Ah well, I was back to normal after a couple days.

Friday night Jeannie and I went to see Kurt Elling at the Village Vanguard.  Before the show we went out a fantastic dinner at a Persian restaurant, with shish kabobs and fancy rice.  We walked around the city from midtown to Greenwich Village.  Great night for people watching and taking in the city.

Kurt Elling is one of my favorite jazz singers around today.  He has a great voice and sense of phrasing and style, and always picks really interesting material and treats it in a fresh and fascinating way.  The Village Vanguard is of course one of the classic jazz clubs in New York City.  What I didn’t know is the Vanguard has an in-house big band that was started back in the 1960’s by Mel Lewis and Thad Jones, and plays every Monday night.  So the show was Kurt backed by the Village Vanguard Orchestra, doing big band arrangements of his songs.  Wow, totally amazing.  (The Vanguard is a very small club, so the fact that the band fit on the stage was pretty amazing before they even played note one.)  

One thing Kurt likes to do is add lyrics over rarely covered jazz songs.  He did this for several tunes, including Continuum by Jaco Pastorius, and the second movement of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.  They’re great lyrics that add new depth to song, clever, thoughtful, playful and even profound, but because they’re so unexpected it can take you a minute to figure out what songs he’s doing.  Another highlight of the show was the sax solo during the Coltrane number.  The tenor play at the end of the sax section was a really old guy who looked like Mark Twain.  Half the set he was slumped in his chair and looked like he might fall asleep at a moment’s notice.  But when he stood up, he roared to life and delivered a high-intensity solo worthy of a Trane number.

Saturday morning I listened to two Joco albums: the first one that begins with Donna Lee, and The Birthday Concert which featured the Word of Mouth Big Band including Michael Brecker.  Great stuff.

Saturday afternoon we went out to a barbecue at Cousin Mary’s.  My two nieces Katie and Valerie both graduated from college.  On the car ride down, we listened to Kurt Elling’s latest album Super Blue, which is sorta jazz-adjacent soul funk fusion.  Totally blew me away.  Some of the songs sound like they could be Steely Dan.  And the album before that has the studio cut of Continuum, among others.

Sunday we went for another bike ride.  Jeannie got a new bike, a Trek mountain bike, very nice.  And she passed her old bike on to Michelle, so now everyone has a bike that fits them comfortably and they like to ride.  We went back to the Empire State Trail, this time starting in Elmsford and going up to Thornwood.  They both did ten miles, and I did fifteen, and new personal best for the season for everyone.  I was thinking of getting a new bike too, but my 26-year-old Trek 850 is still going strong.  It was a pretty high-end bike at the time, very light, with an aluminum frame, handlebars and rims, and 21 gears.  (I bought it from Palo Alto bicycles, because at the time Jeannie and I were sharing a car, and she had a longer commute than I did.  Above the bike shop was a small startup called Google, but that’s a story for another time…)

I finally completed the spring yardwork cycle but trimming the branches from the neighbor’s willow tree that hangs down into our yard.  Hopefully a week or two off from that, then the it starts over with weeding and edging.

As mentioned previously, the Origami USA convention is less than two weeks away, and doing origami has finally risen to the top of my todo list.  In fact, now is the time of year when I tend to stay up late folding like a madman.  In fact, I just destroyed a super complex model I’ve been working on since Bogota by trying to wetfold it!  Ah well, at least I have the pattern worked out now.

Yet the universe won’t leave me alone, and in addition to the predictable demands of work and all that, random tasks pop up at inconvenient times.  Jeannie borrowed my car the other day, and came home with a flat tire, so I had to get that fixed.  Then it was supposed to rain and cool off, but the weathermen lied!  So around five o’clock I put in the air conditioner.  It’s a new AC that’s supposed to be much quieter and more powerful than the old one, but it was a major pain to install.  Ah well, now it’s in and I’m enjoying the cool zone.