Summer Time

And the livin’ is easy.  Moving right on from the OUSA convention to the next adventure, with barely time to put down our bags.  We just got back from a trip up to Buffalo to visit family and friends.  Drank some beer, grilled some steaks and dogs and burgers, took some walks in the park, watched some fireworks.  Very languid, very relaxing.  I feel like it’s been one continuous spell of focus and getting things done since the new year, so it was a welcome stretching out of time.

On the trip up we stopped by Watkins Glen and hiked the trail up the canyon overlooking the river and rapids and waterfalls.  Very scenic, very impressive.  The next day we got together for a fancy dinner at a restaurant downtown with Lizzy, and with Larry and Jackie and three of their kids and Timothy’s girlfriend.  A great time, lots of catching up and storytelling.  After dinner we went to the bar around the corner where Lizzy plays trivia, and continued, and after that even lingered in the parking lot as everyone tried to get in one last story about camping and bears.  On the third Martin and his family came down and stayed for the fourth.  Beers, birthday cake, hanging out, rollerblading, fireworks.  Did I mention it was languid and relaxing?

On the way up there my car started having problems with the air conditioner.  This seemed to fix itself, but then there was a leak in the power steering.  On top of this, the car seems to have mysteriously acquired some scratches sometime in the last few weeks.  Ah well, I guess it’s getting to be kind of old.

Saturday we went to the Pleasantville Music Festival, a local outdoor rock show a few towns up from us.  We’ve been meaning to go and check it out for years.  It was a fun time, and the venue was very well run.  The festival featured a beer tent and food and a bunch of pretty good if rather low-imagination pop-punk bands on the secondary stage.  On the main stage we saw the Allman-Betts band, an Allman Brothers tribute band by two of the sons of members of the original group.  They played about half originals and half Allman Brothers classics, all very good.  There were some old guys in the band on Hammond organ and slide guitar, that were probably the glue holding the thing together.

The headliner was They Might Be Giants.  I haven’t seen them live in probably twenty years, last time being at a bandshell in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  They put on a great show, having fun and mixing it up.  Their new songs sound great, and there’s always a twist on their classic hits.  The current touring lineup has a horn section of a trombone, tenor sax and trumpet, all also doubling on other horns such as the euphonium, bari sax and pocket trumpet.  Each of the them had an excellent featured solo.  The trumpet player in particular was amazing, and used to be part of Conon O’Brien’s TV show band.

Also this weekend we got back to doing bike rides.  Sunday I went for sixteen miles, and the girls for ten along the local trail.  On the return half of the ride, suddenly the sky opened up and we got drenched in the pouring rain.  Nothing for it but to keep on riding.  By the end of the trip the sun was coming out again.  We got home, only a ten-minute car ride away, and it hadn’t rained here at all.

While I was upstate, I came up with an album cover for my upcoming record Plutonium Dirigible, and a new web page to go with it, with the latest links to all the songs, as well as the lyrics and stories about writing and recording the various songs.  This led to an update of my whole music site, which will be finished soon.   Enjoy.


Moving into summer.  I can’t remember a more pleasant May for fine weather.  June brought the hot weather, up into the 90’s.  We thought of putting in the AC, but it only lasted two days.  Now we’re back to another long run of perfectly pleasant days in the mid-seventies.

Been busy doing our best version of living the suburban legend.  Last weekend was the Memorial Day holiday and a three-day weekend.  Saturday we went for a hike up Mt. Hook. Sunday I went for a bike ride thru Nature Study Woods, then we went to a barbecue on Long Island hosted by Nick and Lisa.

This weekend Jeannie and Michelle and I did another rail trail ride, this time 13 miles for me and 9 for them.  I got an app for my phone that tracks me distance, time and elevation change when I go for a ride, and shows it on a map.

I’ve been giving my old mustang some TLC.  Over the last few weekends I washed, waxed, and buffed the whole thing, something I hadn’t done since before the pandemic.  Then the weekend I cleaned the glass and interior, and polished everything up.  Now it just gleams!

Summer is the season for endless yard work.  Over the past couple weekends I trimmed our big hedge row, then the two giant forsythia shrubs and some of our evergreens.  Next weekend is trimming back the willow boughs hanging into our yard from our neighbor’s tree.  Then maybe we’ll have a break and can do just mowing and watering.  Or maybe something else will have grown in by then.

I bought a new oven in the springtime at an auction at my job.  It’s been sitting in my garage, but this weekend finally schlepped it up the stairs, hooked up the gas supply and hauled out the old one.  Glad that job is done with.  Michelle has already baked a batch of cookies and declared the new oven to be much more accurate and superior in every way.  Only problem is it doesn’t quite back up all the way to the wall because they’ve changed oven design over the years, and there’s no empty space in the back of the oven to accommodate the spot where the gas pipe comes up out of the floor.  So now we have to call a contractor to see if wee can get that taken care of. 

A bunch of things still in-progress.  I’ve been working on a summer playlist of 90’s songs.  Continuing in my home studio with my song A Plague of Frogs.  And, increasing in importance daily, the annual Origami USA convention is coming up at the end of June, so I’ve been folding new stuff, planning my exhibit, signing up to teach classes, and helping the convention committee with the class schedule.  More on all this as it unfolds.

Rack ‘n’ Roll

Beautiful spring weather continues, and we’ve been trying to spend time outside to take advantage.  I’ve been getting on my bike more.  I did four bike rides last week, the longest of which was about ten miles, partly along the Bronx River Pathway, which was very nice, and the rest getting there and back from my house, which involved some major hills.

I finished putting down the red mulch under the hedges and in the flowerbeds.  The only remaining task in the spring cycle is the trimming.  I also got the mustang into the shop for an oil change and inspection, and a new set of tires.  All that remains with that is to wash and wax it.  

On Friday night we discovered there’s a new show about the muppets called Mayhem, about the adventures of the Electric Mayhem Orchestra, still together and touring after all these years, as discover they owe their old record company an album.  Great fun.

Saturday we went upstate to visit Martin and his family.  Always a very good time but a long drive.  They’re all doing well.  Charlie is getting tall.  Went out to eat at a local restaurant that’s also a farmer’s market sometimes.  Good food, craft beer and cider.   Came back to Martins house and played Carcassonne with the boys.  Jeannie won with a risky but aggressive farming strategy.

About a month ago I bought a bike rack for my car, and Sunday Jeannie and I put it together and hooked it up for the first time, and took our bikes out the the New York State rail trail, and rode the segment from Elmsford up to Hawthorne or so, about a twelve mile round trip.  Jeannie doesn’t like to bike on the streets around here, and I can see her point.  The trail is so much nicer, smooth and relatively flat, and no cars or traffic, thru the woods, so much nicer.  So the bike rack is a big hit.  Now that it’s put together it only takes a minute to attach it to the car and load up the bikes.  We can go to all different trails around here and ride together.  Hope to get into the habit of doing it most every week until the weather gets too cold.

Running on Empty

One thing about having an old car is that random things break down that you wouldn’t expect on an ordinary car. The fuel gauge has been broken on my Mustang for some time. When it originally went I thought it would be a huge pain to get it fixed, so I just let it go. I started keeping a notebook of how many miles I put on the car, calculating how long until I needed a fillup. But apparently this is not an accurate method of tracking fuel consumption. I ran out of gas on day a couple weekends ago when I thought I had over a quarter tank left.

Luckily it was easy and pretty quick to get it towed to my local garage. Then the real fun began. My mechanic said he’d fix it but I’d have to find the the part myself. Again it’s amazing what you can find on the internet these days. I think pretty much any part for a ’67 pony is available either as a refurb or and O.E.M. So I was able to order a new gas float unit. After the part arrived I had to wait a whole week to bring the car back to my mechanic cuz it was rainy every day. Finally last Friday I got the work done, quick and easy.

Nice to know how much fuel I have again. Hope to get a few more rides in before the winter comes.

Longer Stranger Trippier

I was upstate last week on a visit to Buffalo with a dual purpose. One was to visit my parents and the other to drop of Lizzy for her college orientation. She’s going to UB, entering the business school. Jeannie and myself are UB alumni, along with lots of friends we haven’t seen in a while. It’s getting to the point where thirty years doesn’t seem like a long time ago. I’ve been re-connecting with quite a few people this year, mainly over facebook but in person this spring with my former college roommate Rich, and now on this trip with Danny, who just happened to be in town visiting his parents the same weekend as me.

Danny is literally my oldest friend. He grew up four houses down from the house I lived in until I was ten years old. He’s also one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. We were entering freshmen in the UB honors program together. Danny is responsible for Jeannie and I meeting. His roommate Todd went to Jeannie’s high school, and they had a party one night and Jeannie showed up and we got to talking. After college Danny moved to D.C. while I moved to New York and then California. So there was alot of catching up to do. Danny has has a very interesting career working for the State Department in the foreign service. He’s been all over the world: Egypt, Russia, Brazil, and most recently Afghanistan. I was pretty itinerant for a number of years, but I can’t imagine the level of commitment one must have for this lifestyle. Even now he’s loving learning languages and cultures, passionate about the mission, grateful to be able to do some good in the world. It’s good to know he’s doing well.

We also saw the movie Dunkirk when we were up there. It was very visual, not like a typical Chris Nolan movie. Almost like a tone poem of a war picture. It was also basically a single extended action sequence, like the opening of Saving Private Ryan drawn out to fill the whole movie.

There was a classic car show in my parents’ neighborhood. Over 400 cars they said. Lots of American muscle, Mustangs, GTOs, Cameroes from the 60’s and 70’s. Lots of rebuilt hot rods, and all kinds of more exotic stuff going back to the 30’s. There was a whole parking lot full of Corvettes. Apparently they have this show every year and it was begun by a guy at a local garage who specializes in fixing up classic cars. I wish I’ve know cuz I could’ve gotten his card and talked to him about restoring the Mustang.

Lastly we went to a party at Larry and Jackie’s for their son Joey’s high school graduation. He’ll be entering UB in the fall as well, living in the same dorm as Lizzy. Big wheel keeps on spinning around.

Now back to crazy busy situation at work.


Things have been going by fast around here. Hallowe’en came and went – we did our pumpkins in magic marker this year, and Lizzy birthday – went out for Japanese Hibachi steak house yum, as well as the clocks shifting, the much-ballyhooed election and a major deadline at work. I put in a few late nights and then took off the following Friday.

More fun: the windshield cracked on Lizzy’s car on her way to school one day so we had to get it replaced. Then it leaked in a rainstorm and we had to get it replaced again. Then Jeannie drove into a curb pulling over for a cop car and and banged up the bumper worse than it was before. Luckily I hadn’t gotten around to fixing that yet. Oy!

In the meantime if October was musical gig month, November has been origami convention month. I went to two conventions in two weeks. The first was OrigaMIT at MIT in Boston. It was alot of fun as always. The second was Origami Heaven at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

As usual I taught a bunch of classes. Since it’s the fall I taught my American Turkey out of my book Origami Animal Sculpture. Actually the American Museum of Natural History asked me for a model again this year for the origami Christmas tree, and the one they wanted was my Turkey, so that was the original motivation to dust it off.

This is a pretty complex model, about 100 steps in the book, with a color change and detailed feet with toes and a fan tail and wattle on the neck and everything. The model always gets compliments, but it’s hard to fold well. In particular it’s hard to get it to balance and stand on two feet. It takes a bit of finesse and you have to use the right kind of paper. In fact I folded a beautiful rust-orange one for the AMNH but the paper was too soft. Ah well. I ended up giving them one out of my OrigaMIT exhibit folded out of shiny paper from origami shop, because Talo was up at MIT and I knew I wouldn’t have time to go down the the museum this week.

Anyway I brought paper with me for the students to use, to insure they’d have a good experience. The class at MIT was quite full, but we got thru it all in the time allotted, and they all did quite well. This guy Zev Eisenberg even folded tiny turkey out of a 3” square. Finished size just over an inch. Then he put it in scene as larger-than-life monster to attack a tiny pirate ship he’d folded.

There’s a sequence in the middle that’s a bit tricky, but it went just fine in the class. I realize I’ve gotten better at explaining complicated origami moves over time. It’s been a few years since I designed this model and my style has developed since then, so I began to think about a more refined approach. I tried a few variations in the design that didn’t work but served to remind me about why I went the way I did.

The other class I taught at MIT was my Flowerball Evolution. This was essentially the same thing I taught at OUSA last June. This class was much smaller and included two sisters maybe 8 and 12 years old, excellent folders. The CPs for this class were published in the collection, and Jason Ku also published a limited edition volume of his own works that includes lots of his better-know models such as the Nazgul. Other highlights included Rebecca Gieseking’s vases and bowls, Wan Park in from Hawaii doing dollar folds, and Hugo Akitaya giving a paper on software he wrote for his thesis that converts CP’s to full-on Yoshizawa-Randlett diagrams

Even though the convention is one day, going up to Boston kills most of the weekend cuz we drive up Friday nite and come home Sunday morning. Still the energy level remained up even though it’s getting colder and darker every day. I even moved my workout from Tuesday and Thursday morning to Monday Wednesday Friday to accommodate the travel.

The next weekend we went to Stony Brook on Long Island for Origami Heaven. This was my first time going to this one although Srikant has been asking me for years. It’s not as technical or academic as the MIT one, nor quite as large, but it has alot of OUSA folks from NYC and was alot of fun. It was at the hotel on the Stony Brook campus and at lunchtime Jeannie and I took a long walk around. Lizzy applied there for college so it was good to see the campus.

I taught my Turkey again, and this time I made a few improvements to it, particularly smoothing out the troublesome middle section and also improving the landmarks and geometry or the tail. Still not totally satisfied but it’s getting there. Someday hopefully I’ll published a revised diagrams for it. There weren’t that many classes so in the afternoon I added one and taught my Adirondack Moose.

In the evening there was a dinner and free folding and a raffle and silent action. Jeannie got a bunch of tickets and we won a few sheets of really nice fine paper as well as the new book and Akira Yoshizawa, widely considered the godfather of modern origami. It’s a beautiful coffee-table book published by my publisher Tuttle. Very nicely done.

The other major thing going on right now is I’m shopping for a new piano. However this post is already kinda long so I’ll save that for another time.

Turn Turn Turn

Life continues as we turn the corner towards fall. Vacations are over and another school year has started.

We often go the beach at Ocean City MD over Labor Day weekend, but this year there was a hurricane barreling up the coast from Carolina, and the weather report was for heavy rains and gale-force winds, so we ended up cancelling the trip. Still we had a nice relaxing weekend, and went out to dinner on the water on Long Island Sound. Lizzy got to work a couple more days at the pool and ended the summer with some extra cash, and got to practice driving too. Michelle got to go the Renaissance Fair with her Aunt and cousins, and afterward we had them all over for one last barbecue.

I spent some of my found time dusting off Elixr, my long-neglected three-quarters completed third Buzzy Tonic album. Been tracking the bass part for what will probably be the last song, Leave the City Behind. I have other songs that I haven’t even begun to track, but I’ll probably save them for a future record. Hopefully I can finish this one by the end of the year. After that, seeing as I now have a working rock band and a real live jazz band too, I want to figure out a way to record some of my songs with real musicians.

But for now I’m going back and listening and mixing, adding the occasional part to round out an arrangement. I’ve been putting autotune on the vocals too. (Shhh, Don’t tell anyone!) Autotune has come a long way since the days of Believe, and the default mode makes it easy to manipulate while still sounding natural. It basically brings it about halfway to true pitch, so there’s still room for tremolo and tonal effects, everything sounds a bit more in tune, kinda like quantizing my midi piano parts for tighter phrasing. So far I have four new mixes out of the eight finished tunes. So watch this space for some new mixes soon.

Now the kids are back in school again. Lizzy is a Senior and Michelle 8th grade; both are really excited. Lizzy is driving to school now (!). I had been thinking of getting her an old jalopy of a car since her commute is so long by train. Then thru a lucky turn of events we got a much nicer car then we originally planned. Only problem with is was the bumper had had a close encounter with a garage door and repainted the wrong color. Today I sprayed it with the correct matching shade and now you can hardly even tell. Other random good news: Jeanne got promotion at work, and a raise big enough to cover the hike in our car insurance.

The last couple weeks at work have been pretty mellow for me. I took a couple Fridays off, and alot of people were gone a whole week, and then at the end of August our management was all out in Vegas for the year’s most important trade show. And as a former trade show exhibit designer, let me tell you we had a very cool booth! The software engineers had all been scrambling like mad to get a sufficiently stable and polished demo of the new UI out for the show. Apparently it’s a hit. Then last week we got to catch our breath, and do some refactoring, bug fixes, and planning.

Now we’re at the top of another big long run of work. The goal is to have a fully functional new UI by the end of the year. Google will no longer support Flex and Flash in chrome, so we need to retire our old one. When we were told this back at the beginning of the summer I thought it was well nigh impossible, but we’ve made alot of really good progress over the summer, and it looks pretty doable from here. Meanwhile we’re also rearchitecting the backend of our product to be modular, distributed and scalable, and to be able to handle a million computers in our system.

Functional Programming in Scala

Lots stuff going on these days. I mainly finished the spring cycle of work on the cars, washing and waxing and getting ‘em into the shop for routine maintenance. The only thing remaining is to get the Mustang in for an oil change and the fluids topped off. Also started mowing the lawn a week ago. All our flowers are doing really nicely and the trees are all a-blossoming. The weather has been getting up into the 70’s fairly consistently, although we’ve had our share of rainy days. Ah, spring at last.

I’ve been taking a Scala course from Coursera, taught by Martin Odersky, the language’s inventor. This is after having read a Scala book over the last few months. It’s in the second week of the class now and it’s pretty intense. The lectures and books are easy enough to understand, and in fact very illuminating and even deep. But when it comes time to the assignments it feels like starting over, between the overhead of getting set up, the strong functional programming paradigm, and the language’s wacky syntax. It’s more than just learning a new language, it’s a new way of thinking. I did some Lisp in the 90’s but now I have to unlearn all my Java knowledge. Right now the focus is on using recursive functions in place of loops. Hopefully I’m far enough the learning curve that it should get easier soon. Either that or my Java code will start getting confused.

Forward Yardage

It hasn’t really been warm outside yet, but this weekend was finally nice enough to start in on the spring things. I scraped away all the debris and filled in the craters in my yard made by logs falling out of the sky when they cut down my elm tree over the winter. Then I covered the dirt with the blue stuff so new grass will grow. Today’s rainy so I guess that’s good news for the grass. The town told us they’d come pull up the stump with two weeks; that was three weeks ago. I also expanded the flowerbed in the back corner of my yard to run the length of my neighbor’s garage and rearranged the edging stones. This means one less awkward corner that I have to get the lawnmower into.

I also got my Mustang on the road for the first time over the season. It started right up and ran like a charm, all systems look good.

Reminder: my band THE RELIX are playing this coming Saturday at Vintage Lounge in White Plains. Lots of great new material and the sound is tighter and better than ever. Show starts at 8:30. Playing three sets. Hope to see you there.

Toot Toot!

I couple weeks ago I finally got around to putting a new horn knob on my Mustang (I got the part last summer). The old one was yellowed and cracked on one side from years of sitting in the sun. While I was at it, I tightened up the screws that that hold the horn assembly in place. It’s a good thing too; today I took the Mustang out and had to use the horn three times!