Tinsel Town

The new year is off to a start.  Everything is going okay I guess.  I’m getting things done and having some fun, but everything feels very slow and tiring.  This is natural because it’s the wintertime, and there’s still lots of cold and dark.  The days are starting to get longer, but there’s been lots of rainstorms and wintry mix.  We’ve finally stared to get some snow.  First time last week, but it all melted after a few days, and now last night into today.  Hoping we can finally go skiing this weekend.  We’ve been going ice skating as a local alternative, a good way to move the body when you can’t do much outside.

Working out has been actually been going well.  Often it can be really tough in the winter, but I’ve add weight to my workout at the start of the year, and so far so good.  I’ll probably put on a few more pounds again soon.  Meanwhile I’ve dropped some body weight, which is also counter to the usual wintertime trend.

Of course winter break is over and it’s been back to work the last couple weeks, so getting anything else done requires planning around that to have a few hours of focus time on the weekend or at night.  Just as I was getting into the rhythm of being able to do what I want when I feel like it.  Ah well.

I’m trying to migrate my web site to a new host, but there’s just a ton of picky details to attend to.  We wanted to get this done by the new year but had to let is slide.  Next sub-project is migrating my blog.  So soon you may be reading this at a new url, at least temporarily.

And I finished my new song Head Downtown.  More on that in another post.

This last weekend we had a sort of make-up xmas, since Jeannie was down with Covid on Xmas day.  Lots of good food, games, more legos, music and movies.  Mary and Lou came over along with the niblings.  And the Bills are in the playoffs, which is pretty exciting.

Visions of Sugarplums

We had a very nice and relaxing holidays this year.  Well mostly anyway.  Michelle came home mid-week after her finals, and started baking the cookies the next day. So far so good. Thursday I went into the city for an Innovation Lab holiday lunch. That was lots of fun and it was good to see my colleagues face to face. Ben, Ginny and I spent alot of time hanging around talking afterwards. 

Lizzy was supposed to come home Thursday, but got into a fender bender pulling out of her driveway leaving Buffalo.  She flew home the next day.  Jeannie was delighted to see her. That evening we went out to dinner and played legos.  I finished my Porco Rosso fake lego airplane.  The design was kinda structurally unsound, so I had to improvise some reinforcements. Later we watched the Charlie Brown, Grinch and Rudolph specials.

Unfortunately, Jeannie came down with Covid the day before Christmas eve.  The three of us tested negative and went to the family Xmas party on Long Island, this year moving into a new generation of cousins as hosts, at Megan and JJ’s house.  Good to see everyone and catch up.  They have a bar in their house, and JJ is into different kinds of rum.  He’s also into different kinds of alternative and independent music, and wants to help me get set up on Bandcamp.

Xmas eve Jeanne was mostly sitting around or in bed napping. Lizzy was exiled to the sofa bed in the family room so Jeannie could isolate in her office, which was also Lizzy’s old bedroom. The girls did the last of the shopping and Michelle baked while I did the household stuff and we all did the wrapping. Listened to a bunch of Xmas music, best of which was Ella Fitzgerald.

Xmas day just the four of us; we had to un-invite Mary’s and Jeannie’s folks.  We all slept in.  Lots of legos, I got a pirate ship, Michelle got a zen garden, and Jeannie got an a-frame camp house. Lots of other gifts too.  My new favorite game is Ticket to Ride: San Francisco.  By afternoon Jeannie was feeling better, and supervised as the girls made Xmas dinner.  Roast beast, very nice.

Boxing day morning Jeannie was over Covid but still testing positive. The three of us tested negative and decided to go up to my parents in Buffalo b/c Lizzy had to work the next day anyway. Martin and Kathleen and their kids were there too.  Lizzy rented a car and went back to her apartment.  She came back at dinner time with her boyfriend Josh.  After dinner we opened gifts and facetimed in Jeannie.  Afterwards we drank some wine, sat around and talked and played games.

Wednesday was very mellow.  I talked to my mum awhile and took a walk around the lake in the morning and went shopping with Martin and Kathleen in the afternoon. In the evening Lizzy and Josh came by again and we all got pizza.  Thursday Michelle and I went home.  On the car ride we listened to a bunch of new music including Hozier and Noah Kahan, both of whom I liked alot.  I turned Michelle on to the new Peter Gabriel record I/O, and some classic records including Chicago and Bowie.  This led to me figuring out Lady Stardust on piano, a forgotten gem.  I tried to listen to Cortez the Killer but Neil Young is still boycotting Spotify.  

We got home in time for a four-day weekend.  Unfortunately, Michelle came down ill, though not as bad a Jeannie.  I tested positive for Covid too, although I never had any symptoms.  So we didn’t get to see any friends, but it was relaxing to hang around, build legos, work on my song, play games and watch movies, and things like that.  I’ve been reading alot.  Before Xmas I read Geddy Lee’s autobiography My Effin’ Life, and Howl’s Moving Castle, which I like better than the movie.  I’m in the middle of two other books now, recommended by Martin.  One is about Columbus, John Cabot and Amerigo Vespucci, and the whole discovery of the new world thing.  The other is the first of the Discworld series, which is alot of fun, sort of halfway between The Princess Bride and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A Season of Darkness

It’s been a few weeks since my last post.  Nothing really exciting going on.  Been getting ready for the holidays.  Put up our tree, sent out our Christmas cards.  We saw the new Miyazaki movie.  It was amazing but he’s totally lost his mind.  Lizzy was home for a visit for a couple weeks ago with her new boyfriend.  They saw my origami elephants at the tree in the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.  Both girls will be home for the holidays soon.  I’ve been trying to wind down work for the year, and been thinking about old friends I miss, and how I’d like to make the time to see people.  Luckily, the plan for the end of the year is pretty laid back, so it looks like there’ll be some time for that.

It feels like it’s been dark all the time the last few weeks.  Only a few hours of tepid daylight before the sun sets in the mid-afternoon. At least the weather has been mainly pretty mild, even warm, and there’s been a handful of sunny days mixed in with the cloudiness and rain.  Been trying the get psyched up for skiing, but it’s not time yet. 

We did go ice skating the other day, which was lots of fun, and good exercise.  I haven’t been on my ice skates in years, and neither has Jeannie.  It’s good to know our skates still fit and we remember how to skate.  We’ll have to do that again soon, hopefully when it’s less crowded.  It seemed like I spent all my time maneuvering around a kid who fell over in front of me, pretty much every lap around the rink.

Even though my energy level has been up and down, my strength is up these days.  Usually the winter is a difficult time for weightlifting, but it’s been really solid since we got back from California.  My elbow, shoulder and back all feel great, and I just went up in weight on my last few sets of exercises, and I’m going to up on the rest in the new year.  

I’ve been trying to lean in to the season by getting more sleep, and although I must say I’ve never been good at going to be early, I find it easier these days. But try as I might, I remain very busy at work right up to the end of the week, which makes it hard to slack off too much. We’re into a new planning season, and things are always in motion.  I compare myself to water seeking its natural level as I slosh around to the most needful tasks from day to day. Good news, I may have just gotten approval to add another engineer to my team.

And, just in time for the holidays, The Global Jukebox 3.0.1 is now live.  This release was basically a hardening of 3.0, with numerous bug fixes and usability enhancements, an a beautiful new splash screen when you enter the app.

I’ve also been working on a new song, called Head Downtown, and there may a Spacecats record in the offing.  More on that next.

New Song – All of the Above

I started this song a while back, when I was in a phase of writing singer-songwriter style things on guitar.  The original idea of this one was an uptempo boogie shuffle number in the mold of Can’t Get Enough by Bad Company.  As I developed it, it became slower and bluesier and a bit less glib, since I’m not so young anymore and my relationship goals aren’t that same as a teenager’s.  So it’s a bit more retrospective, looking back on young love from a distance.

Musically, it’s alot more pop than my last song, but still with some interesting twists.  The meter shifts from 4/4 to 6/4 throughout, but is more easily expressed as 2/4.  I had the basic arrangement of guitar, piano, bass and drums, with the bass kinda channeling Geddy Lee in the verse.  But I felt it needed something more.  To finish it off I added a horn section of tenor and bari sax, and an ’80’s style lead synthesizer.  It took a little while to get the tone and dynamics right on the synth.  Lastly I added some real cymbals, played with mallets, to the intro and outro to support the guitar and bring some warmth into supplement the midi sample drum kit.

I now have six complete songs for my new album, whose working title is Plutonium Dirigible. That’s about twenty-eight minutes of music.  I have another close-to-ten-minute epic about halfway tracked, and one more song to record after that.  Hope to have the record out by the end of year.

Here it is, enjoy!


All of the Above

I wasn’t lookin’ for a true love
I was just lookin’ for a new love
I wan’t lookin’ for a long love, strong love
Yeah yeah yeah no, none of the above

I seen you out dancing last Saturday
Monday you’re in my class in chemistry
Now I’m thinking ’bout you and me
Let’s get together for some history

If I invite you backstage tonight all right
We just might dance and party all night
Okay day by day into brave and new love

Now I ain’t waitin’ on no old love
An’ I ain’t wastin’ time on slow love
Tonight I’m wakin’ to some fresh love new love
Yeah yeah yeah yeah, all of the above

And maybe if the love grows who knows how it goes?
A few more shows electric glide power slide
Side by side into a tried and true love

So now I’m sowing seeds of strong love
Maybe grows into long love
It all started with a fast love new love
Yeah yeah yeah, all of the above

So tonight it’s fast love new love long love true love
Yeah yeah yeah yeah all of the above
Oh fast love new love long love true love
Yeah yeah yeah yeah all of the above
Hey fast love new love long love true love
Yeah yeah yeah yeah all of the above

– JFS 7/19

The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down

First of all, it’s been incredibly rainy the last week.  It rained the entire weekend starting Friday afternoon thru Sunday night, alot of the time sustained heavy downpour.  The pond in the neighbor’s yard is in effect, and there’s still puddles everywhere.  I left a wheelbarrow outside over the weekend, and now it’s full of a good six inches of water.  Needless to say I didn’t get any yardwork done, and the lawn is getting desperate for it’s first mowing.

We went to a party on Long Island on Saturday; Jeannie’s cousin’s daughter’s first communion. It was great to see everyone on that side of the family, especially since we missed the family Christmas party this year due to having covid.  A bunch of us ended up hanging out in the party tent in the backyard long after things had begun winding down.  It took over an hour to say goodbye to everybody.

I’ve been reading alot lately.  First was a book on the Italian Renaissance, focusing on sculpture, architecture and painting, the whole historic and cultural context, and the threads of development among the various famous masters.  

Next was a book called The World in Six Songs by Dan Levitin, a famous music brain science writer.  I used to work with Dan back in the ’90’s at Interval Research, and has a story in his book about the psychic research going on there to make a point about how hard it can be to design as study to produce verifiable claims in the social sciences.  That was fun, I’d forgotten all about the psychics there, and it inspired my to dig out an old song I wrote from those days call Paul Allen’s Limo Driver.  Anyway the book was really interesting, all about the purpose of music in terms of its origins in human evolution, and the different roles it plays for individual people and human society.

Then it was a book about the famous John Coltrane album A Love Supreme.  Everything you could want to know about the record, its writing, recording, and various reissues.  Of course it had alot on John Coltrane himself and his various phases of musical exploration and development, his relationships with Miles and Monk, and the coming together of the classic quartet that was the group for the record.  This led me into a deep dive into listening to Coltrane, which is something I hadn’t done in a while.  After all this time, it’s still a challenge to grok his later stuff.  In addition to A Love Supreme, I listened to Crescent, Ascension, and Live at the Village Vanguard, and with one of my favorites The Gentle Side Of.  For all his high energy playing in all keys at once, he sure could shift gears and deliver a killer ballad.

Big Wheel Keep On Movin’ Along

Spring weather has finally arrived.  Ah, lovely. At least some days, others are stormy, windy and rainy.  Ah well.  Michelle was home for spring break last week, which was fun, but pretty low key.  She went out with her friends a few times, did some homework and studying, and did some baking.  We had game night a couple times, and watched Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part II, which was pretty funny and held up to the tradition of the original.  Probably the funniest bit was when Jesus thinks he’s John Lennon.

The season was well begun by spending time outside.  I raked up half the yard and filled up my available cans.  Need to get some yard bags so I can finish the job.  Also got the Pilot washed waxed and vacuumed on the inside, cleaned all the mud and salt off from the winter.  

And, I had some time to continue with origami.  I completed a model called Dimpled Dodecahedron II, which resembles a soccer ball, and made good progress on my stellated icosahedron. I had done a few studies on that one, but the paper I chose was too small or too soft.  Now I’m doing a nice large one out of elephant hide and medium sized on out of skytone paper.

Here Comes That Heat Wave

It’s late July.  It’s been really hot out all month.  Almost every day over ninety degrees, many close to a hundred.  I’ve been watering the lawn most every day, and trimming and edging continues unabated.  We went to the beach last Friday.  It was a good time, despite warnings about sharks attacking swimmers, and the ocean being unusually rough.  It took alot of effort just to get past the breakers and swim for even a few minutes.  Luckily no one got eaten.

In other news, Lizzy got a raise and promotion at her job, and went out and bought a new car, a VW SUV.  She got pretty lucky and found the exact model she wanted, available and at a reasonable price.  So I bought back from her her old car, a Toyota Camry that she drove thru high school and college, and that I’d given her as a graduation present.  Now Michelle has a car to take to school.

I’ve been trying to schedule another gig for my band, but everyone is going to be out on vacation a different week in August, so it’ll have to slide into September.

I’ve been working on music in the studio.  I have two songs, Slope and My Ol’ Brokedown Truck, that are close to finished.  I recorded real drums for them last night, since I can’t re-create the sound of brushes with midi and samples. Sounding real good.

The Analog Kid

More summer, more busy these days.  The weather has been beautiful.  One night last weekend we built a fire in our fire pit and hung out on the patio and considered what song we might use to break Vecna’s curse.  Last summer I made a playlist of 80 favorite 80’s songs, and now I’m thinking of making a new playlist of 77 favorite 70’s songs for this summer.

I edited up some highlight form the the Spacecats gig.  I’m going to update my web site soon to feature of few of the best ones, but for now, you can see the whole set here:


I got out for a bike ride five days last week.  I mostly go around our neighborhood, which is kinda hilly and some streets have alot of cars. Sometimes to a local place called Nature Study Woods, which is mountain biking trails, and not particularly well maintained.  The steep parts tend to be washed out and stony, and the low spots muddy.  Also I tend to go on fairly short rides – a half hour to an hour, and usually go as fast as possible.  

All in all Jeannie doesn’t enjoy this style of riding, but we wanted to start doing some biking together.

So on Sunday Jeannie took our bikes out to Jones Beach and biked along the scenic Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway.  It’s a great bike path, smooth and flat, that runs the length of the island, out from the main beach, through as series of smaller beaches, saltwater wildlife refuges, and the occasional marina, restaurant or bar.  We went out a little over seven miles then turned around, for a total of fifteen miles or so.  On the way back there was a pretty consistent headwind, but it was a very doable and fun ride.   We had a lunch of ice cream and clam strips, then went out to the beach, but it was too cold for swimming.  The water was unusually calm and there were lots of seashells.  Also tons of giant container ships out at see, queued up to get into New York harbor, like I’ve never seen before.  There’s usually maybe two or three, but this time there was over a dozen.

I also got the mustang on the road over the weekend, and continued with the yardwork.  This time is was doing the edging on the driveway and front walk.  Still to go is the walk around the back of the house, and the patio.  It seems everything has grown in quite alot this spring, and needs an extra level of cutting back.  Also I’ve never seen so many bunny rabbits and chipmunks in our neighborhood, nor heard so many songbirds.

Lastly, I’m continuing with doing origami and preparing for the convention, which starts this Friday.  My two dodecahedron star balls are nearly complete, but it’s taking some work to finish them.  They’re single-sheet polyhedra, a very advance form of origami, and closing off and locking the bottom where the edges come together is a nontrivial design challenge.  I’ve also been experimenting with a new design called the Space Cat, a variation on my Sophie the Cat, with a midcentury modern look and proportions.  Hopefully will get there and have a few new pieces for my exhibit.

Meanwhile, I’m teaching a couple classes, and agreed to pre-record them for people who are attending the convention remotely.  This process grew out of last year’s online-only convention, in which all classes were taught live as Zoom calls.  This year we’re recording Zoom sessions, with a camera pointing down at the work as it’s being folded.  I kind of view this a run-thru, a rehearsal for the real class, and good opportunity to make sure I know the model and can teach it.  My first class, Sophie the Cat, went off without a hitch, totally great.  For my second class my Five-Banded Armadillo, I somehow skipped a stepped and messed of the proportions of the bands, which are created by pleating.  I realized my mistake after I did the collapse and it was too late to undo, so I had to just roll with it and adjust the proportions as I finished the model. All in all it still turned out in the end, and I’m sure to get it right in the actual class.