Waiting for the Sun

Been waiting for spring to begin, but still hoping to get one more ski trip in. I really want to start spending time outside, biking and skating and working on the yard. I’ve been feeling good so I’m going to go up in weight on my workout in the next few weeks. I’ve also added pull-ups to my routine.

It looks like the pandemic my finally be ending, so I’ve started looking to get out of the house and go see some jazz and other music concerts. Lots of interesting acts coming around the next few months. I also want to see about getting some gigs for my band. I haven’t played a gig since February 28, 2020 (wow, two years ago to the day). I really don’t know where to start. That group broke up and my new group has a different sound, although you can still call it jazz. I suppose I can start by calling up all the places we used to play.

We’re trying to get together a demo to play for the clubs, so we’ve been taping our rehearsals. We’re sounding really good overall, but you always compare everything you do to the best music you’ve ever heard, and there’s room for improvement to really live up to our potential. We need to focus on a handful songs for a few weeks to get them really tight, to have a really killer demo.

I’ve started the process of transitioning my website to a new host. I ran into issues with my current host not being able to host a Unity app, and their customer service was so terrible I decided I want to get rid of them. However, I’m doing it one step at a time, since I want to do some long overdue upgrades to my site’s architecture, deployment and other things. For one thing I want to deploy via git instead of ftp. So for now, I have a placeholder home page at: https://zingmanstudios.com

More to come soon, so watch this space!

New Year State of Mind

It’s been a little while since I last posted. Took some time off for the Christmas holidays. Both kids came home the week before Christmas for a whole week, which very nice. Lots of baking and gaming and listening to music and watching movies, and of course visiting with family. Lizzy’s boyfriend Tim came down too and spent a couple days with us. Mary’s came over on Christmas day and we had a great big feast. On boxing day we went up to Buffalo and visited with my parents and Martin for a few days. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them, and Martin’s kids are getting big fast. Charlie is thirteen now. Martin and I stayed up late talking, alot about music and software and things, but there’s never enough time to get into everything there is to say. We saw our friends Steve and Scott up there. Haven’t seen Steve in some time, so it was good to catch up. Both have been going thru difficult times. We did not see my friend John due to the the threat of heavy weather, nor Larry and Jackie due to the threat of covid. Nor did we see any of the extended family from Canada. Ah well, we’ll be back in a month, hopefully with our skis.

Over the break I read C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet and the rest of his planet trilogy, regarded as one of the groundbreaking classics of science fiction. (Earlier in the pandemic I tried to read Jack Vance’s Dying Earth saga, but I had to put it down because, you know, dying Earth and all that.) The planet trilogy is fascinating and very well written, but not what I expected. The first book is about a journey to Mars, in which the protagonist meets some wise aliens, including ones made of energy. The second takes place on Venus, and goes deeper into similar themes. The third book takes a sharp left turn and is set on Earth, in postwar England, and involves sinister research institutes, strange conspiracies, Arthurian legends, the Numinor, reanimated talking heads, and a pet bear, among other things. A surprisingly well executed combination of science, mysticism, philosophy, mythology, action and adventure and even terror. Still mulling it over.

Before the kids came home I wound down and wrapped up the year’s work. The last half of November into the first half of December was super busy. There was a big push of new work for the Global Jukebox, to support a talk Anna gave at a conference. Improved playlist and lots of other stuff.

I’ve also been looking for other consulting and software gigs, with an eye toward getting into web 3D, three.js, and Unity, with the long term goal of developing my own independent games. I’ve been working on my own but there’s alot to learn, so I’d like someone to pay me to get deeper into it while leveraging my existing skill set.

A while back I applied to a place that makes casual card and board games, looking to get into the online gaming space via Steam and Jackbox. It seemed like a perfect gig for me. However, between the time I made first contact and the time they set up the main interview, the job morphed from full stack engineer to Unity dev. The company wanted me to do an all-day Unity coding challenge. Normally I’d tell them to get lost, but this looked like a good opportunity to get up the learning curve faster than I otherwise would. In the end they didn’t want me for the Unity role, but the full stack role is still in the offing.

Meanwhile I’ve been working on my own little game, called Rock-Tac-Toe, so I plan to finish that up, both as a Unity application and as a web/mobile app, so I can compare the pros and cons of each approach.

Another area I’ve been trying to get deeper into is music software. Out of the blue I got a call from these guys from Switzerland. They’re academic researchers in computational musicology, and fans of the Global Jukebox. They have a database of 20,000 classical music compositions as midi files, and some kind of software tool to do statistical analysis on the corpus, and they’re looking to build a web application to publicly showcase their work. They seemed really eager to work together. I submitted a scope of work proposal, but unfortunately they were not clear about their budget, so it came in high. I submitted another, scaled back proposal, and am waiting to hear back.

In music, I finished my fourth Buzzy Tonic studio album. Unlike previous records, this one is all jazz instrumentals. I titled the record Bluezebub [Pandimensional Jazz Tesseract], after the song Bluezebub, the Devil You Don’t Know. It should be on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon any day now. I even got a small batch of CD’s printed up.

Now it’s on to the new rock record. More on that soon. For the moment I’ll remind you that I had three songs in the can before I switched my focus to the Jazz Tesseract, and several more in various stages of writing and recording. I started by dusting off the completed songs, and decided to add some new overdubs to two of them.

One of my goals for 2021 was to increase the amount of weight I lift when I work out. For bench press I went up 15 lbs., and am back up above 200 lbs. for the first time since six years ago, when I suffered a rather severe injury to my left shoulder and pec. For curls and most everything else that uses dumbbells I went up a similar amount, from 100 lbs. to 115, and from 50 lbs. to 90 for the light weight exercises. For 2022 I aim to add another ten pounds to every set.

The global pandemic looks to be entering its third year, with still no end in sight. We keep making and cancelling plans. We were supposed to go out to California last fall, then were thinking of going to Arizona this winter break. Now we’re thinking of going on a ski trip instead, somewhere more local were we can drive instead of fly, and spend most of our time outdoors.

And lastly, Go Bills!

Channeling Ringo

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. Spent the day out on Long Island with Jeannie’s sister and the niblings, playing Jackbox and watching the Bills game. Michelle came home from college, although Lizzy stayed in Buffalo cuz she had work on Friday. We observed Slack Friday, as is our custom, and did no shopping. For someone who doesn’t watch alot of TV, however, there was alot on.

First, we watched the new Cowboy Bebop live action series the weekend before Thanksgiving. I thought it was great, very entertaining, and want to watch it again at Christmastime. John Cho is excellent, as is the whole cast, and they pulled off the trick of staying faithful to the spirit of the original tone, action, humor, and sci-fi world building, while pulling the story arc and characters in into deeper directions. And the music was great.

The internet seems to hate it, but they must all be super picky nerds who do nothing besides wallow in their fandom. After all, it’s a show on a streaming internet service, based on a cartoon from the ’90’s. What do you expect? If you’re at all reasonable, the new Bebop blows them away.

Then we watched the new Peter Jackson remake of the Beatles’ Let It Be. I heard it was long, but was hopeful nonetheless. After all, Jackson’s adaptation of Help! was the original extended trilogy, and remains one of my favorite movies of all time, even at thirteen hours long. In fact, we usually watch it every winter, and since Michelle was home for the long weekend, we viewed the first half.

Granted, Jackson transposed the setting for Help! from 1960’s England to a place called the Shire, and the four young lads are Hobbits rather than Liverpudlians, and as they try and get rid of the ring, they’re being chased by a death cult of Nazgul rather then a death cult of Kali, and they’re trying to get to Mordor rather than the Bahamas. Eleanor Braun is replaced by a CG Gollum and Victor Spinetti by Christopher Lee. They added a few new songs and changed the title, but the basic plot remains the same.

So, was the new Get Back on the level of Lord of the Rings, or more like PJ’s The Hobbit, bloated and stretched thin like butter over too much toast?

Well, I have to tell you I’m a huge Beatles fan, but now I finally feel like they’ve jumped the shark and landed in overrated and self-indulgent territory. It would have been a much better film if it was five or six hours long rather than eight. As a musician who has spent tons of time in rehearsals and recording sessions, I know very well how tedious it can be to write, arrange, rehearse and perfect a set of tunes. I think there was actually a great story in there, and a bit of editing would have moved things along without all the false starts, noodling jams, and endless complaining how they don’t have the material for a movie yet. Eight or sixteen bars would do. As it is, the new film is not really much better than the original, just alot longer. They should have named it The Long and Winding Road.

Ah well, at least Jackson has kept in touch with his horror movie roots. He featured Yoko Ono “singing” (ok, really just screaming) for several minutes, presumably anguished over George quitting the band. Why anyone would let that woman near a microphone is beyond me, even if you’re drug addled, madly in love, and think it’s avant-garde. The look on young Heather McCartney’s face at witnessing the spectacle is priceless though.

In other news, my new jazz album is almost done. I’ve decided on a running order for the tracks, and five of the six songs are fully mixed and mastered. The last one, Sun of the Son, was the first track I did, over a year ago, and I did a three or four rock tracks after that before I decided to make the focus of the album instrumental jazz. So I changed my mastering setup for the newer songs, to give the sound more depth and dynamics. Now I’ve gone back and done the same thing for SotS. Almost there!

What’s Going On

Things have been mellow lately. The kids are out of the house, and my main contract gig ended a little while back, so there’s less to do than usual while I line up a new gig. Last year at this time I was building a patio, but right now there’s no need for any big home improvement projects. We’re kinda in the middle of defragging the house, but that’s slow going. We’ve been thinking, mostly idly, about getting some new furniture. The world is still under a pandemic, so it’s not a great time for any epic travel adventures. We do have a few mini road trips coming up, but I’m hesitant to do anything that involves air travel nowadays.

I’ve bee updating my web site, including my online software projects portfolio (https://zingman.com/portfolio/). So far alot of it has been invisible, behind-the-scenes stuff, but there’s some new content too. More stuff is in the offing, so stay tuned for future updates.

Been working on the Global Jukebox (https://theglobaljukebox.org) too, and in fact we just did a push to live a couple weeks ago. There’s also another site for The Association for Cultural Equity called The Alan Lomax Digital Archive (https://archive.culturalequity.org/). The site is pretty much what the name implies with lots field recordings, films, radio shows, etc. plus a section of curated exhibits. The site is built in Drupal, and most of the work involves styling and skinning, plus a few UI widgets. The workflow is pretty convoluted, since the site is not under source control and there’s no dev instance nor any way to deploy a local version. A large part of the early phase of the project was setting up a pipeline were I could do chunks of work locally, rapidly deploy and test, and roll back if things didn’t look or behave as expected. Now things are pretty much humming along, but there’s gotchas at every turn.

Although the heat of summer is gone and suntanning season is over, the weather has remained quite mild and pleasant into mid-October. We’ve yet to turn on the heat or even take out the air conditioners, but the days are really getting shorter faster these days. I’ve been going for walks in the nearby field alot, and Jeannie and I even got in a good hike last weekend, up Mount Hook in the Palisades. I’ve also been biking about twice a week on average, once on the streets and once in the Nature Study Woods. I still want to get back on my rollerblades a third time before the end of the season. I went up in weights recently in me workout, and added back in tricep curls. I’m still 5 lbs. short of my goal for the year, and hope to go up one more time, but it gets harder when the weather turns cold, so I better do it soon.

In music, I’ve been working on a new song Bluezebub (The Devil You Don’t Know). This is the last song on my upcoming Computer Jazz record I’ve been working on since the start of the pandemic. It’s a sort of 60’s spy-jazz meets King Crimson vibe, in 5/4 time with a sort fugue-like riff structure for the first half, a crazy uptempo jam in the middle, and then an elaboration and recapitulation to end it all off. I have the whole arrangement worked out, and have tracked the drums, fender bass, synth bass, and fender rhodes piano, and have sketched midi tracks for the horns and lead synth. Yesterday I broke out my bari sax to attempt to lay down the part, only to realize that I better write it out first and practice it a few times, so that’s next.

I’ve been a bit of a Beatles phase lately, as I tend to do every few years. This time I created and printed out lead sheets for a whole bunch of their songs , as part of my ongoing songbook project. Most of the stuff from the first half of their career is to play on guitar. Turns out they’re mostly pretty easy and really fun to play, and full of little twists and tricks and tight arrangements. If only I knew someone who like to sing harmony. Their later songs are mainly to work up piano, with a focus on maximum psychedelia such as Strawberry Fields Forever and I Am the Walrus, plus some not-quite-rock Paul songs.

The jazz group is humming along, although I haven’t had any luck getting gigs, and admittedly I haven’t been trying very hard. Also keeping an eye out for the opportunity to form a new rock group, although there’s not much movement there either.

I Love New York In June

Well it’s summertime and the living is easy. The last few weeks the weather has been really pleasant. Since I expanded my patio last fall I’ve started working outside for an hour or so in the afternoons to work on my tan at the same time. I made a shade screen out of cardstock for my laptop that slides onto the edges of the lid. Practical origami skills. I usually go out after I’m done working out (which is usually lunchtime), and I’ve found it’s usually the best part of my workday for deep concentration. I’ve had a run of increasing good workouts since the springtime, and have gone up in weight and distance on my various exercises. Been getting out on my bike too. This week, however, it’s turned brutally hot (96 degrees today) so getting a walk in the early morning, and going outside to move the sprinkler from time to time is enough.

Work has been pretty interesting lately. We’re gearing up for a big new product launch at the end of the summer, a new electronic musical instrument with wifi network capabilities. The project involves hardware and software. As the cloud architect, I’ve been reaching across into our client codebase to work stuff like analytics integration and authentication. Our backend is in Firebase, which works well if your client is a mobile app or web site. And indeed all my end-to-end prototypes so far have run on that stack.

But our clients also include embedded hardware devices and also desktop applications. I’ve been learning our application tech stack built in C++ and JUCE. It’s set up to compile to Mac OS, Windows, iOS or Android. Only problem is, there’s only Firebase SDK for the mobile platforms, even in C++. Of course the Firebase SDK ultimately sends http requests over a REST API, which is documented. So we’ve put some REST libraries into our JUCE app, and got things working that way. Now I’m taking the building blocks and assembling them into reusable components for use in any future app.

In music world, I bought a new synthesizer from Josh, the piano player in my jazz group. It’s a Nord Stage 3, their current flagship product. It’s pretty cool because it combines a digital stage piano, a dedicated organ simulator, and a synthesizer/sampler unit. All the controls are laid out in a gigantic spread, but it’s very readable, and because each knob or button has a single purpose, there’s no menus to scroll thru, and it’s very friendly to live performance. And it has great sounds and a great-feeling weighted keyboard. Plus it’s red!

I have the the 76-key model, and Josh sold it to me because he’s moving up to the 88-key version. Of course that’s a good deal more expensive, and I’m happy with the deal we worked out. In any event the 76-key version is more portable, in case I ever start gigging again. I did my full piano practice on it the other day to put it thru it’s paces. It’s funny, I only missed the really high and low keys on a couple songs, and they’re all written by piano players: Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Donald Fagen. There’s one Keith Emerson song – Karn Evil 9, 2nd Impression – that literally uses every single key. Luckily, it’s not to hard to adjust the voicings to fit in the available range. And hey, it’s still three keys more than I have on my Fender Rhodes.

Now I have an old keyboard I want to get rid of. It’s a nice enough keyboard, a Privia PX-5S, with great sounds and layering, and its own performance-oriented array of knobs and sliders. It’s just that the new board is a serious upgrade. While I’m at it I have an old soprano sax I want to unload as well. I hope I can sell them, or at least give them to a good home.

The new jazz group as been coming along, lots of fun, good chemistry. We do a mix of jazz standards, jazz interpretations of pop and rock tunes, some funk/fusion stuff, and a bunch of my originals. Now that the pandemic is pretty much over, I’m thinking it’s time to get some gigs.

In my recording studio, I was kind of stuck for a while on my song Lift Off. It’s basically a bebop number with some twisting melodies and chord progressions. This being a computer jazz record, I sequenced the drums in midi, but for some reason the groove wasn’t really happening. I worked on different ways to embellish the arrangement with synths and things, but as they say, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing…

So I bought a couple books on jazz drumming, and began to work thru them. One is The Art of Bop Drumming by John Riley. In addition to writing out alot of patterns, it gives some good theory about how to play, how to swing, what to listen for when you practice, and how to balance and control the sound. So I adjusted my midi drum pattern following the advice in the book as best I could, lots of subtle changes to the patterns and accents, adding some hi-hat behind the ride cymbal on the backbeat. And it made a huge difference! I mean it still sounds like a sequencer, but it grooves now! It still remains to flesh out the arrangement with accents in the comps, and this includes the other instruments too. But now it’s a matter of closing the distance to get the sound I want.

I was telling Steve, my drummer about all this, and he was giving me advice on things like how to mic a drum kit, and offered to lay down a human drum track to my song. That would change everything, but he’s a really good drummer and he’s set up for recording in his home, so I figured let’s go for it and see how it turns out.

Last topic for this post: this weekend was the Origami USA 2021 Convention. I was a member of the OUSA web and convention committees this year, on account of me having built a new scheduling tool for classes that integrates with our web application, replacing an old offline tool. I built the convention class schedule with the new tool too. So it’s satisfying to be able to say all my hard work has paid off, and everyone else’s too. I must say, before I got involved, I had no idea how much work went into one of these conventions.

This year’s convention was completely virtual and online. Classes were via zoom. We had something like 140 classes being taught in eleven parallel tracks. There was also a virtual hospitality space provided by an app called Gather, and an online exhibition. Of course it’s not as satisfying as the real thing, but I did get the sense of being able to hang with my origami friends, talk about origami and do some folding together.

I taught two classes, which is my favorite part. To run the zooms, there is a tech manager, a host and a Q&A manager (all OUSA volunteers) in addition to class teacher. Jeannie is tech volunteer, doing three five-hour teaching blocks.

I had my phone on a tripod over my shoulder with the camera pointing down at the paper as it’s folded, and my laptop facing me, to speak into. I taught my Martian and Flying Saucer from my recent Air and Space kit book, and Gladys the Platypus, a previously undiagrammed model that I submitted to this year’s annual collection. Both classes went quite well, although for the Platypus we just barely finished in time.

Because I spent so much time writing software and attending committee meetings, I didn’t do as much actual folding this year as I would have liked, so I had very little new stuff to put into the exhibition. I spent a good deal of time this spring work on a single model, but it’s really complex I never quite got it finished. It’s a single-sheet polyhedron, a half-sunken cuboctahedron with an embedded hydrangea tessellation on each square face. Making the grid of hydrangeas was large effort by itself, but the collapsing the model into its 3-D form was something else again. The issue was that there’s just a ton of layers that need to be managed, and they all tend to make the model want to spring apart.

I kept at it, facet by facet, working out the inner hidden geometry. Saturday morning of the convention I finally got it to close. But I wasn’t fully satisfied, so I unfolded it and cut off two corners from the sheet, making the square into a hexagon. This substantially reduced the inner bulk, and made the final close much nicer. Unfortunately, by this time the paper had gotten pretty worn from handling, so it’s not the tightest lock ever. Nothing a bit of tape or glue (gasp!) can’t take care of. Still, it works, and so we can declare victory! It looks great as long as you don’t turn it over.

And now I feel I’ve gotten my origami energy active again to get back into folding. I have several half-finished books, and lots of designs in my head waiting to be worked out. A few people told me they love my work and would really digging seeing a book on this or that theme. That’s pretty motivating.

Freeze This Moment a Little Bit Longer

A week ago was Michelle’s high school graduation. Of course we’re very proud parents, but at the same time it’s the end of an era for raising kids.

The ceremony was outdoors, and it was a very hot day. Lizzy came into town for the weekend to help celebrate, even though we only had two tickets to the event so she stayed home. We all went out to dinner afterwards, at a fancy place in Hastings on the river. While we were waiting for our table, we enjoyed drinks at the adjacent waterfront park, and sat for a spell on the Michael Brecker memorial bench. I had to explain to Lizzy who Michael Brecker was. The food was very yummy, plus some fancy drinks, and then game night once we were back home. Michelle started her new job the very next day. Ah, gainful employment.

She got a new laptop computer as a graduation present from her grandfather to use in college. It’s a Windows PC. She wanted that for gamins, and because she’s going to engineering school. Jeannie is staunchly a Macintosh person, and I haven’t used Windows as my main OS in years, so she’s kind on her own.

Last Sunday Lizzy and went to the beach in Long Island. It worked well cuz Jeannie and Michelle aren’t big beach people. We talked pretty much the whole time. I haven’t really had big one on on conversation with her in a couple years, and her life has changed alot, so it’s interesting to hear her perspective on things.

We’ve lived in our house for almost twenty years, and it’s gotten to the point where all our closets and storage spaces are full of old stuff, alot of it obsolete or no longer of any use to us, and we literally have run out of space to put new things away. So this summer we’ve started a project to get rid of our old useless stuff. We’ve done this periodically, but not since before the pandemic. It’s sort of a big undertaking, cuz everything must be evaluated as to whether it’s worth keeping or not, and then if it’s trash or something we can donate. Once you start opening doors, drawers and bookshelves, there’s alot of places to look. Lizzy helped out by going thru her old room, which has become Jeannie’s office, and getting rid of some clothes, books, cosmetics and other things. She discovered all kinds of artifacts from her childhood along the way.

This last weekend we finally got the Mustang out on the road again, and did alot of yardwork, pretty so we’re pretty much caught up for the time being. The last few weekends there was alot of trimming, weeding and edging, but it was also hard to find the time because we’ve been traveling and having graduations, and then the weather has been either rainy or super hot alot of the time. At last a temperate weekend.

Saturday night we made a fire in our backyard fire pit and listened to music from a playlist Jeannie made. Very enjoyable.

Ev’ry New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

I feel like things have been coming back to life, slowly but inevitably increasing. Things are new and hopeful on many levels. A few weeks ago I got my second shot of vaccine, and have slow been starting to go out and do things. We went out to dinner one night to celebrate Michelle’s birthday. Jeannie’s parents dropped by for a visit one afternoon.

I got a haircut, the first in over a year. Having long hair again was kinda fun, but it was time to move on. I went out and bought some clothes – a sports coat, slacks and a couple neckties. I haven’t had an occasion to get dressed up in a long time. It’s funny, a year and a half ago, even before the pandemic, when I started working from home full time, one of the first things I did was to go thru my closet and get rid of some old clothes. Now it feels like it’s come full circle. Soon it’ll be time to tune my piano, get an eye-exam, and all the other things made difficult to impossible by the pandemic.

Michelle’s last day of high school was today, which means I’m done picking her up after school (before the pandemic she took the train). She’s got a job lined up for the summer, which should be fun and exciting. Meanwhile, my workdays will be a little easier and more flexible. And safer.

I couple weeks ago I was on my home from picking up Michelle, sitting at a traffic light, when I was hit from behind by another car. It was a pretty strong jolt, but my car was basically unharmed; the only damage was the tip of the chrome cuff around the tailpipe was dinged. His car, a Mini, was a wreck. Bumper, hood, radiator, the whole front end smashed. It looks like he was driving without a tier, just a bar wheel. Maybe the tire came loose from the wheel and that’s why he couldn’t stop. He told me he was driving with a flat because Minis have no spare tire, and was on his way to the garage to have it fixed.

I took my car to the shop for inspection, and while they were at it I asked them to look and see if there was any serious damage underneath, but all was good. Then an oil change, which they didn’t notice I needed when they did the inspection. So I brought the car back for that. While I was at it I told them to rotate the tires. Then it turned out the needed new brakes too, which somehow they also failed to notice when they did the inspection. But then it takes a few days to order the parts. So three different days the car was in the shop. Yeesh! We had a big road trip coming up, so I had to get this all done ASAP.

Lots more happening. I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.

Mupple Earth

Things have been moving along, but nothing really exciting to talk about. Spring is in full bloom, and all the flowering trees around here look gorgeous. The Japanese maple tree which I planted in my front yard four years ago as a sapling really came in alot bigger this year. Project dirt was completed weeks ago, with 57 loads total. Now we’re well into project watching the new grass grow, and that’s coming along nicely. I need to make a place in my garage to store my wheelbarrow, which I probably won’t use again for years. Our next-door neighbors sold their house and so we now have a new neighbor. So far she seems really nice. When Jeannie first met her, she said she was thinking of putting in a pool and fence around her yard. I talked to her a few days later, telling her I was fond of the hedge row separating our yard from hers, and she agreed and told me she’s not going to make any changes until she’s had a chance to let the house speak to her. Maybe the crazy cost of lumber these days helped sway her too.

Continuing to work on music and origami. At my day job I’ve dusted off my C++ chops and started learning JUCE and diving in the app side of our codebase. So far, so good. My first goal was to revive a product for editing patches, which was broken because it relied on a shared code library that had changed. The major part of the work was refactoring the shared library so code that was being shared was in there and correctly exposed, and then going around to the different projects and updating their shared dependencies. A good way to learn my way around the codebase and the build process. Soon I’m gonna be building features on top of this, including stuff that integrates with the cloud stack I’ve been building.

But the main point of this post is to think thru what if the Muppets did The Lord of the Rings? Working out the casting is the first step. So…

Bilbo: Kermit, obviously

Frodo: Robin the Frog, because he’s Kermit’s nephew

Sam, Merry, and Pippin: This sets the precedent that the Hobbits are frogs. We need some more frog muppets for the rest of the Hobbit roles. There are few that appear now and then in songs and skits, but are not named characters. Time to give them names and personalities.

Gandalf: Fozzie Bear

Aragorn: Viggo Mortensgten, because there’s always one token human among the muppet cast, to give a sense of scale. If anyone reading this blog knows Viggo, please contact him and make this happen; it’ll be awesome. It doesn’t even have to be a 13-hour recreation of the Peter Jackson epic, a two-hour-long condensed version would be fine.

Boromir: Animal. He’d be great at the dramatic death scene

Gimli: Rizzo the Rat, which means the dwarves are rats

Legolas: Link Hogthrob. At first we were going to make the pigs orcs, but we realized the pigs being elves is way funnier. Link is the most heroic and action-oriented of the pigs.

Galadriel: Miss Piggy, obviously
Elrond: Dr. Strangepork
Arwen: Annie Sue

Saruman: Gonzo, obviously. Gonzo vs. Fozzie would be an epic wizard battle.

Gothmog: Camilla. All the orcs are chickens

Faramir: Scooter
Denethor: Sam the Eagle

Eowyn: Janice
Eomer: Floyd
Theoden: Dr. Teeth

Wormtongue: Pepe the King Prawn

The Balrog: Big Bird

Hmmm, maybe it still needs some work. Anyway, next up: The Muppets do Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Hippity Hoppity

Spring continues. The days are getting longer faster, and the nice weather appears more often than not. More and more people I know have gotten the vaccine and getting hopeful about life returning to normal soon.

We didn’t have much of a spring break this year, but it was enjoyable. Busy with work and stuff. Jeannie and I both took a long weekend off from work, and Lizzy came home for the weekend. Hard to believe she’s graduating college in just a month or so. We had family game night Friday night, which was lots of fun. On Sunday we went down to Queens to visit Jeannie’s parents, and Lou and my neblings came over too. It was good to see everyone in person, even if it was pretty low key.

We normally try to go to a museum or day trip this time of year. We haven’t picked a place yet, but we’re looking at next weekend. Most places are running at limited capacity and you have to get tickets in advance. Michelle has asked that we go Washington D.C, this summer to visit a few more museums. That might happen. We might even get back to Ohio for the Centerfold origami convention, and swing my the National Air Force Museum while we’re out that way.

I finished diagramming my Platypus model, called Gladys the Platypus, for the Origami USA 2021 Convention Collection. This is my first new diagram in some time, and hopefully I’ll get back into the groove with that. I hadn’t been that motivated to do much origami during the pandemic, cuz all the conventions were cancelled, and I don’t enjoy the online ones that much. But I’ve been involved in planning and setting up the 2021 OUSA, that includes a virtual gallery, and there may even be some live, in-person conventions later this year. So I’m starting to get back into folding again.

Project dirt continues. I’m up to thirty wheelbarrows of dirt, and have gotten maybe two-thirds of the way around the yard. I filled in one really big low spot on the north side of my house that took four loads by itself. It’s good to spend some time outside, and it’ll be really nice when it’s finished. I made a pretty good dent in my neighbor’s dirt pile, but he has a whole swimming pool’s worth, so there’ll be plenty left.

Smarch Smadness

We’re coming up on a year under the pandemic. Last year on February 28 was my last live gig with a band. At least the first hopeful stirrings of spring are afoot. A week ago I was a-shoveling snow, and it seemed endless. Then we had a few days of warm weather and rain, and vast quantities melted away. Now only the rump ends of the biggest snow piles remain. Only downside is we didn’t go skiing this weekend as planned. Ah well, it’s supposed to turn cold and snow tonight. In fact it’s storming out right now. Hopefully we’ll get back on the slopes one more time next weekend.

I’ve been working on my Computer Jazz record this whole winter. I’ve been mainly focused on Lift Off, but it’s taking a long time because it’s a difficult song and I’m trying to capture some subtlety in the arrangement. I got the organ part done, including the solo, and made some changes to the piano part to make them fit together better. Also been working on the drum solo and the overall form. Even laid down a first take of the sax part, which was not too bad. But it was starting to feel like hard work. So I took a break from that to focus on Mo’bility instead.

I wrote Mo’bility for my last jazz group and it always went over really well live, with it’s danceable gypsy-jump vibe. For the studio it was shaping up okay, but didn’t really have the tone and character I wanted. It needed a bit of Raymond Scott cartoon vibe. The other night at rehearsal we working on a different original of mine, and somehow the the feel shifted to 3/4 time. It was pretty interesting, and got me thinking about different ideas for the meter and groove for Mo’bility. I changed it to 7/8, and it was just the thing the song needed. The arrangement fell together pretty quickly, and is very satisfying, just a little unbalanced. I quickly got up to the point where it was time to record the live instruments, soprano and tenor sax, and bass guitar. Unfortunately it’s much harder to solo on and groove on now, so I have to practice it a bit. Still this song should be in the can pretty soon.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s been a long pandemic. We’ve been watching alot of movies on the weekends, and seem to have fallen into a zone that includes a good amount action-adventure-scifi-fantasy. In addition to a number of family all-time favorites, there are lots of great movies that Michelle has never seen and I haven’t seen in along time, and lots of great movies out there that I’ve never seen. So we’ve started making lists of movies we want to watch.

I tried to make a list of my 100 favorite movies. It ended up more like 70 or 80 all-time favorites plus an equal number that might or might not make the cut. Still there are some definite trends. The oldest movie is from 1940 (Fantasia) and the newest from 2017 (Thor Ragnorok). By decade so far there’s 8 from the 1960s, 12 from the ’70s, 30 from the ’80s, 8 from the 90’s, 21 from the ’00s and 5 from the ’10s. The most movies in any single year is 5, for 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Big Fish, Underworld). Favorite directors (appearing more than twice) include Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Terry Gilliam, Chris Nolan, James Cameron, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and Robert Zemeckis. For directors I counted multiple movies in the same franchise if I like them (e.g. all the LotR movies but none of the Hobbit ones). For actors I didn’t count them again if they reprised the same role in a sequel, even if both movies are favorites. Favorite actors (in 3 or more movies) predictably include guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, and Samuel L. Jackson. Perhaps more surprisingly it also includes Billy Crudup (Princess Mononoke, Almost Famous, Big Fish, Watchmen), Keith David (The Thing, They Live, Princess Mononoke), Frank Oz (Star Wars, The Muppet Movie, The Blues Brothers), and Ian Holm (Alien, Brazil, Lord of the Rings).

Our newest hobby these days it to re-imagine a favorite movie as done by the Muppets, and try and and fill out the cast. Go ahead and try it. it’s lots of fun! Like I said it’s been long pandemic.