Origami Coast to Coast

Okay so, still trying to catch up with the story.  Before I dive in, I will say it’s the darkest time of year nowadays, and on top of that they changed the clocks last week, so I feel like it starts getting dark around two or three in the afternoon, and it’s a challenge to keep your energy level up and balanced.

Anyway, we got home from California two weeks ago Monday morning, and Monday night I finished my supply of elephants for AMNH.  Jeannie was working in the city the next day, so she hand delivered them to the the museum.  Since I’d given away all my recently folded elephants, including the golden one from my PCOC exhibit, I made one more during the week, this one from a 50cm square of red wyndstone paper.  Friday evening we were off to Boston to another origami event the OrigaMIT conference.  Our friend Adrienne, who we were hanging out with in San Francisco, recently moved back to Brooklyn from Texas, so we gave her a ride.  She was staying with our other friend Brian, so we got hang out with him a bit Friday night.  In addition to origami, Brian is into robots, 3-D printers, insect photography, anime and a bunch of other things, so his house is full of fascinating stuff.

The OrigaMIT convention is a one-day event that starts early Saturday.  It’s usually in the student center, but that’s closed this year, so it was in the engineering building.  It was fun to see a part of MIT campus I hadn’t been to before (been mostly to the student center and the Media Lab back in the day).  Brian showed us some robots he built for his thesis project that mimicked the movement of snails.  To get there we went down a hallway called the Infinite Corridor, but the name is an exaggeration; it’s just really really long.

In the morning I set up my exhibition, which had its own room this year.  I gave my talk on Single-Sheet polyhedra for the fourth time at four different conventions.  After this I’ll retire and think of a new topic, or at least wait a few years until I have an update to give.  The talk went over well and the discussion at the end was interesting, with a different audience wanting know about different things.  A group of us went to lunch we got to for a walk thru the far side of the campus and around Cambridge.  In the afternoon I taught my Octopus and Cuttlefish.  There was no document camera in the room, so I improvised a stand for my phone and hooked it up the the room’s projector.  This worked great for ten minutes or so until my phone went to sleep and I couldn’t get it to connect again after it woke up.  So I finished the old fashioned way, folding a model out of large paper and holding it up for everyone to see after each step. 

After that I went back the exhibit area, which was also the vendor area.  I ended spending a couple hours talking to Michael and Richard of Origamido.  Michael was fascinated by the single-sheet polyhedra thing so I gave him a short, personalized version of my talk.  Richard told us about a cool sculpture garden he knows of, not far from where I live.  Origamido paper, as you may know, is handmade by Michael and Richard in small batches for the purpose doing advanced origami, and widely considered the best in the world.  For many years I did not buy much of it because it’s very thin, which is not useful for my style of folding.  However, they’re now making thicker papers, including some duo-color ones made by laminating two sheets together, so I just had to buy a bunch.  I want to fold a bunch of photo-worthy models I’ve designed over the last few years, to update my web site and for my next book.

We drove home Saturday night, and Sunday we were not yet accustomed to the new clock situation.  It’s getting to the point were every time we have a nice day it might be the last one until next April.  It’s already too cold in the mornings for a big bike ride, so it looks like that’ll have to wait until the springtime to pick that up again.  I decided to take the mustang out, possibly for the last time of the season, and we combined it with a light hike around the sculpture garden Richard had told us about.  It’s at the Pepsi corporate headquarters in Purchase, NY, and indeed is a very pleasant stroll around some well manicured lawns and gardens, featuring an array of so-so to really impressive outdoor sculptures.

Finally this last weekend Lizzy was home for a quick visit after attending a conference for her work in Philadelphia; it was very nice to see her, and good that she’s doing well.  Then there was one last origami event, a Special Folding Session at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday.  I taught my Octopus and Cuttlefish one more time, and this time the group was small enough I could just show them across the table.  More than half my class was extremely talented kids, with the youngest ones being in the fourth grade.  One kid in middle school brought a copy of my book and asked me to sign it, and said he was my greatest fan.  He seemed know know alot about my models and could fold many of them.  After my class was over I went outside for a walk around Central Park at lunchtime, from the Belvedere thru the Ramble over the Bow Bridge and back up past Strawberry Field.  I hadn’t been there in many years, so it was fun getting reacquainted with a place I used to know well.

Now finally we have no travel plans coming up, and no events or concerts or anything.  I’m looking forward a few weeks of cozying up against the cold and dark and making progress on some random tasks.  Of course random tasks can turn into a slog, with the darkness and all, but I’m carrying on. I’ll let all y’all know when there’s news about any big updates.

Pacific Coast Origami Convention 2023

Been to two back-to-back origami conventions.  Catching up with my blog now, picking up the story where we left off…

The 2023 Pacific Coast Origami Convention (PCOC) was at a big fancy hotel right near Union Square.  This conference was supposed to happen in the fall of 2021 but got delayed due to a resurgence of COVID, so we were all really looking forward to it after all this time.

We arrived Thursday evening and ran into a bunch of origami friends in the lobby, including Maria from Bogota, Colombia. Jeannie and took the cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf and had dinner Pier 39, right on the bay near the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz where the sea lions hang out.  Total tourist stuff, lots of fun.  We got back to the hotel for the first of several late-night folding sessions.  I practiced my Halloween Spider, which I was teaching the next day, and made a small but important improvement to the folding sequence.

First thing Friday was the exhibit setup.  I brought a shoebox full of models in my backpack, which I’d been carrying around the whole trip.  Luckily everything survived being bumped around for a week and was in good shape.  It was a good assortment of animals, spaceships, and single-sheet polyhedra, including most of my newly folded stuff and things I was teaching.  I had a nice, new large elephant folded out of a golden-yellow paper, because I’ve been folding elephants lately to donate to OUSA’s annual holiday tree.

My Halloween Spider class was full and it was among the more complex models I’ve ever attempted to teach, despite my aim to design a relatively simple and easy spider.  The class went over really well, and everyone finished.  I had a document camera to show a close-up view of my work in progress on a projector, and that helped alot.  One kid folded tiny one out to 3″ paper.  Very impressive.

We found a Japanese restaurant near the hotel that served udon and sushi.  Several other groups from the convention were there, and I was able to borrow some paper to fold with, and made an Octopus and Cuttlefish for model menu.

That afternoon I took Jared’s class, a Sea Lion.  We kinda ran out of time toward the end and didn’t really get to do a proper job of the sculpting and shaping.  Too bad, because his version of the model looked pretty nice.  During the class I was able to fold my own California Sea Lion, a new model which I’d only folded once before, two years ago, so I could submit diagrams of it to the convention collection of 2021.  I found out later there was a table or California themed models in the exhibit space, so I put it there.

That evening there was a reception with drinks and food, very yummy, followed by some activities.  I won a copy of Tomoko Fuse’s book Origami Art, and later on she signed it for me.  Tomoko Fuse is one of the world’s great origami artists from Japan, so it was great to meet her.  The book signing was in the shopping area, and Paper Tree was the vendor, so I bought lots of cool papers.  From there we all went into the hospitality area for more folding, which ran well into the night. At one point I went out with some friends on a beer run.  When I returned, Jeannie had brought down the last remaining beers that Dazza had gifted us to share with our table.  

Saturday morning I decided that the golden elephant in my exhibit didn’t really go well color-wise with the others I’d folded for the museum, and anyway it was nice enough that I kind of wanted to keep it.  So I began folding a new elephant in my hotel room.  It was the nicest one yet, made of a 50cm square of whitish marble wyndstone, a.k.a. elephant hide that I’d brought with me.  I folded as far as I could before making it 3-d, then stuck it in the book to finish when I got home.  

That morning my first class was Peter Engel, who was explaining a system of bird designs he came up with for a commission for a sculpture in a corporate lobby.  After that was Tomoko teaching a spiral shell made out of four sheets of paper. I also took a class to fold the Columbus Cube, a cube variation with a sunken corner.  It was a modular but an interesting shape, and during the class I worked out how I could fold it from a single sheet.

At lunchtime Jeannie and I walked to Japantown to visit our friend Linda’s store Paper Tree, one the finest origami shops in America.  I was happy to see they had my Animal Sculptures book for sale there and prominently displayed.  Also lots of paper, other books, and display cases of folded origami, many by Robert Lang.  He’d just done a gallery opening there the night before the convention.  I bought a cool little metal model of a Japanese temple that you can assemble.  We went to a place called Bullet Train Sushi for lunch.  The food was really good, and it was delivered by little trolleys in the shape of the Japanese bullet train that ran the length of the counter.

That afternoon I taught Octopus and Cuttlefish.  This class was full and went over really well too, and gave me a chance to plug my book.  After that I hung around the exhibit for a while, and the hospitality area, talking to other artists.  Saturday night was the banquet, followed by more activities including Chocogami, run by my friend Maria, where you fold a model of a thing depicted in the wrapper of a chocolate bar from Colombia.  This time I got a shark, and it came out pretty well.  It seemed like alot of people asked my to sign their copy of my book at this convention.  Maybe I’m a hit out on the west coast, or maybe I just don’t get out there very often.  In any event, my book is now on its second printing, which is quite gratifying.

Sunday I slept in and then hung around the exhibit and hospitality.  At lunchtime Jeannie and I took a walk to Salesforce Park, the High Anxiety hotel, and the Embarcadero, all together in the same neighborhood.  It was a beautiful day and great to see some of San Francisco and the bay.

After lunch I did my polyhedron talk.  Again it was very well attended, and Tomoko Peter Engle both attended.  At the end there was time for questions, and I got into a great discussion with Peter about single sheet polyhedra and the whole philosophy behind it.  This discussion carried out into the hallway after the class was over.  I’d never met Peter before; he never comes to New York.  It turns out he’s a big fan of my work, particularly my animals.  This was a great compliment to me, because I consider Peter one of the original masters, and his book Angelfish to Zen was a big influence on me early on, in particular the way it connects origami to art, design and philosophy.

Later in the afternoon I took Goran’s class.  He’s doing really interesting stuff with pleating and curved folding.  I also won a book at the silent auction.  It’s an older book in Italian, about folding boats.  I went thru a phase of designing boats after I’d done airplanes and spaceships, and one of the models on the cover reminded me of one of my own designs.

By Sunday evening I was pretty tired.  Lots of our friends were going out to dinner but Jeannie and had dinner at the hotel, because after that we had to catch a cab to the airport.  Before I left I gave my golden elephant to Maria for her collection for the Bogota origami group.  The flight home was a redeye, and I was able to get some sleep.  We landed in NYC as the sun was coming up, and when I got home I went straight to work.  By Tuesday I’d caught up on my rest and was back to normal.  Only a few short days until the next event.  More on that next post.

Single-Sheet Stellated Icosahedron

Summer continues.  The weather’s been either really hot or really rainy, or sometimes both.  Been busy with things.

Last week I went into the the office pretty much every day for work, because it was the summer onsite for our research fellows.  This turned out to be alot of fun, because the fellows are smart and interesting people, plus I got to spend face time with the people on my team.  However, by the end of the week I was pretty fried.  I was able to keep my workout and music practice routine, but didn’t do any biking, partly due to commuting and partly because of the weather.

Saturday was a beautiful day and we went out the beach at Robert Moses State Park.  The waves were pretty rough but once you got out past the breakers it was okay, and I took a couple nice swims in the ocean.  Sunday it rained all day, so I ended up catching up on my rest and on some random tasks.  No mustang, no bike ride this weekend, but I finally got out on my bike again today.

I finished the updates to my music site, including the page for Spacecats, now featuring our new drummer Rick.  We’re starting to actively look for gigs, and to that end I’ve started recording our rehearsals, particularly a batch of new originals we’re working up.  Hopefully I’ll post some of these soon.

I’ve also been woodshedding the sax part to A Plague of Frogs.  I’ve been just laying down a take or two a couple times a week.  They started kinda rough but steadily improved.  I edited together a full track from all the takes, and it’s pretty much there.  Now that I understand the part, I’ve done a few more takes to hopefully bring it to the next level.

Another thing I got done was to take some pictures of my new origami models.  The most important of these is the Single-Sheet Stellated Icosahedron, which I’ve been working on since the wintertime, and debuted in my exhibit at the recent OUSA convention.  Shown here are two models, one made of 19″ elephant hide, and the other of 15″ skytone paper.  The next model is the Halloween Spider I folded to teach my class, made of a 10″ square of some nice tissue foil.  Lastly is a Dragon model I came up with as a kid, in third grade or so.  I remembered it all at once when a group of us were sitting around talking about early origami experiences and the first models we designed.  My brother and I used to fold dozens of them and have epic dragon battles.  

Back in the USA

Just finished the Origami USA convention in New York City.  It was a really great time this year.  I felt like last year it was good just to be back again after the pandemic, but this year I was drawn into getting deeper into different creative ideas I was seeing in other folders’ work and in connecting and talking with people.  Also it was good to see attendance was up, including lots of first timers and lots of kids.  Maybe a few will stick around in the years to come and become the next generation’s leading origami artists.

I felt good about my new work this year.  Last fall I invented my Halloween Spider, and after attempting to teach it in the springtime I reworked the folding sequence to eliminate the “sink of doom”, which made it a good deal easier to teach and to fold.  I practice folded quite a few of them in the last couple weeks to see how it works in different kinds of paper, and to get a feel for the details of sculpting and finishing.

I also finished my big new polyhedron idea, a Stellated Icosahedron that also featured sunken stars.  It was the third in my series of icosahedron variations folded from a hexagon. Although I conceptualized it first, on my trip to Bogota in February, it turned out to be the hardest to fold by far.  I finally got a model completed a couple weeks ago, but then I attempted to wetfold it and it ended up looking not very nice, so I started over.  By the final attempt I finally knew how it would go together without experimenting, so was able to do some precision precreasing to help it along.  I used a fairly large sheet of Elephant Hide, about 19″ square before cutting.  I did a second, smaller one out of a sheet of Skytone paper, about 15″, which was also very nice but a bit more delicate.

In addition to Jeannie and Michelle, we had a houseguest this year: our friend Madonna, who we got to know in Bogota.  She won the OUSA Convention teaching award this year, but that only included three nights in the hotel.  So she stayed with us Thursday and Friday.  Madonna is mainly into tessellations, often out of a grid of triangles on a hexagon sheet.  This doesn’t overlap much with what I do, but is nevertheless quite interesting and beautiful.  Almost as soon as she arrived at our place, she noticed our fridge magnets which are a combination of hexagons, triangles and rhombi, and set about the rearrange them to demonstrate some patterns that were in her mind.  We hung out folding late into the night and exchanging ideas. She gifted me lots of skytone paper, which is one of my new favorites.  It’s alot like Elephant hide but thinner, and comes in great marbled pastel colors.

The convention itself was great.  We arrived Friday afternoon and started seeing alot of our origami friends as they trickled in.  I set up my exhibit, which had a bunch of new stuff as I mentioned.  I chose some classic models to set off the new stuff, including more polyhedra and insects, some animals from my Sculptures book, and a few spacecraft.  We mainly just hung out and folded Friday night, and went out to dinner.  John Montroll was there, with lots of new diagrams, and it was good to catch up.  

Paul Frasco and Ryan Dong folded the world’s largest origami swan out of an eighteen-foot square of paper, certified for the Guinness Book of World Records.  One cool thing was that Paul built an armature of out PCV pipe to support the model’s weight.  He assembled it as the model was being finished, and it looked totally improvised.  But it was pretty clear he had an adaptable plan that would fit to the proportions of the folded paper without having to know the dimensions ahead of time.  Very smart. Once the swan was stood up, it was fifteen feet long and ten feet tall, and looked like a dinosaur in a museum exhibit.  Very impressive.

Saturday we got there early since Madonna was teaching a class first session.  I took a class for someone else’s Spider, a box pleated model with a clever asymmetrical development to form the legs.  I taught my first class in the afternoon, my Foxy Fox from the Sculptures book.  The class was very full and had one or two too many kids who were a little too talkative and weren’t paying enough attention, so that made it challenging. Still the class was a success and everyone folded a nice fox.  

I had agreed to teach this class because there was a call from the convention committee that there weren’t enough mammals being taught, and I knew this one would work well in a single period class.  I haven’t really checked in with the models from this book in a while, so it was fun to revisit.  Kind of makes me want to do a new version with new improvements and refinements I’ve incorporated over time as my style and skills have evolved.  Same with my Loon, which I taught to my friend Kathleen.

Sunday at lunchtime I ran the paper airplane competition.  I’d never done this before and had  some help from Paul Frasco and Steve Rollin, who had participated in the past.  It was pretty intense!  There were contests for distance, accuracy and time aloft.  The distance winner went over fifty feet, and the time winner over three seconds.  In the target contest, the fist and third place winners were separated by only one half of an inch!

Sunday afternoon I taught my Halloween Spider.  There were only ten or so people in the class, which made it much more relaxed.  Also I had a document camera giving a close-up view of the folding in progress, projected on a giant screen.  There were a bunch of kids in this class too, but they were all already virtuoso folders and followed along without any difficulty.  The time I spent practicing paid off because we got done with time to spare, and had time to focus on the sculpting at the end.  Also, I folded mine from a sheet of tissue foil I bought at the source, so it came out looking great.  There was a new line of high-end tissue foil this year in all kinds of color combinations, in 10″ and 20″ sheets, so I bought a ton of it.

Sunday a bunch of us including John and Madonna and Marc Kirschenbaum went out for Indian food for dinner.  When we returned it was time for the giant folding competition.  Marc was running it and I helped judge for awards.  I feel like people get better at it every year, even though everyone underestimates how much a giant sheet of paper tends to behave like it’s cloth.

Monday we decided not to go into the city until noon, so I got a chance to work out in the morning.  I had lunch at Ray’s Famous Original Pizza next door to the conference hotel, which I presume is not the same as either Ray’s Famous or Ray’s Original, which were both down in Greenwich Village when I first moved there in the early 90’s.  I’d heard that Famous Ray and Original Ray had settled their feud some time ago and joined forces to become a chain. Anyway, great genuine New York pizza.  

That afternoon I gave my lecture on single-sheet polyhedra.  When I gave it at CFC in the winter, the interest was mainly on the mathematical and geometric aspects of it.  Here the crowd was a little different, and in discussion afterwards tended toward the craft and ornamental side. Still, quite well recieved.

Throughout the weekend there was alot of free folding in the hospitality area.  Jeannie and Michelle both took classes and learned some nice new modular ornamental things, and Michelle folded one of John Montroll’s complex insects, a dragonfly.  Also, I met Taro and some of the people from Taro’s Origami Studio.  I’ve been looking for a publisher to work with for my next book, and it turns out they’re getting into publishing and are looking for authors, so that might just work out.  Also Michelle is looking for work this summer and they sometimes contract out piecework folding models, so that might just work out too.  Now she describes herself as the world’s first origami nepo baby.

We had the banquet Monday night, and then it was time for goodbyes, and now here we are again back to the normal routine.  Ah well, the next big convention is in the fall, so that gives my time to fold some new models and hopefully make some progress on the publishing front.

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.

Rack On

Our run of luck with the nice weather continues, interrupted only last Saturday when it rained all day.  I spent a good chunk of the day doing origami.  I completed the first successful single-sheet stellated icosahedron earlier in the week.  I made out of a 19″ sheet of elephant hide.  I unfolded and refolded the bottom and the lock several times, experimenting until I found an arrangement of the paper that worked best.  The finished model is a bit squished, so Saturday I spend a bunch of time folding a new one now that I know how it goes at the finish.  This one is out of 15″ mohawk skytone paper, given to me by my friend Madonna.  It’s a very nice paper, a bit thinner than elephant hide, but just as strong and crisp, and in a variety of nice soft colors.  This one is almost finished, just the final collapse to go.  With luck it will be an exhibit quality model, just in time for this year’s OUSA convention.

Michelle came home from college Saturday.  we immediately rebooted family game night.  We also finally also finished Muppets Mayhem.  Now Michelle is baking a cake.  Nice ot have her home.

I got three bike rides in last week during the week.  Then went for another bike ride with Jeannie Sunday morning, on the same pathway but this time starting in Yonkers.   This time Michelle came with us.  Jeannie thought her bike was too tall for her, so she tried riding Michelle’s.  She thought that was too small, although Michelle likes Jeannie’s bike. (Michelle is about six inches taller than Jeannie, although they were around the same height when I bought Michelle her bike.)  Anyway, Jeannie is now shopping for a new bike.

I went 12 miles although Jeannie and Michelle both turned around earlier.  Afterward I came home and did a bunch of yardwork, including washing the Mustang and putting armorall on the new tires.  Ah how it all gleamed, for one brief shining moment.  I left it out in the driveway for a few hours and by time it was already dusted in tree pollen.  Ah well.  I also trimmed my hedges, which involved going up and down a ladder and swinging around a trimmer over my head for a few hours.  By the end I was pretty tired.

In jazz land, Steve, the old drummer for my group Spacecats had to leave for health reasons. This was unfortunate because he was an excellent drummer, a great guy and a good friend.  Luckily, we got a new drummer a couple months ago, and he’s been working out well.  His name is Rick, and he’s a friend of our bassist Ken. He’s an excellent player, great chops, great groove, very responsive and energetic.  He also writes, and is into alot of the same kind of stuff we are, not just jazz but fusion, rock, prog, and jazz-adjacent funky jam bands, and likes experimenting with bringing those sounds into the group.  Last week our piano player Josh couldn’t make rehearsal, so we got together as a trio, sax bass and drums.   It was super fun exploring different sounds and ideas.  We did tune by Stone Alliance called Sweetie Pie for just such a set of instrumentation.  Also ran Some Skunk Funk a few times, getting it fast and tight.  I think it’s time to start looking for gigs.

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.

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.

New Origami

We ended up not going skiing this last weekend, which means I finally had time to follow up and develop some origami ideas I started exploring in Bogota.  I’ve been doing a series of single-sheet polyhedra based on an icosahedron from a sheet of hexagon paper, using a triangle grid. The first step was to figure out how to lay the faces of the finished form into the unfolded sheet so that you’d end up with the right amount of paper at the edges to form a good lock.  Then I tried folding a few times, trying out a few variations to get good at it.  The most successful so far is a Dimpled Icosahedron.  This is a fascinating shape, and a good, strong model that holds together well and can even stand being thrown around.  More coming soon, so watch this space!