And Then There Were Three

Just got back from another road trip upstate, this time to drop Lizzy off at college. Major life milestone, hurray! The whole thing went pretty smoothly, and all of Lizzy’s planning paid off moving in. She’s off to a good start in the dorms, making friends and learning her way around. Jeannie and I went out with Larry and Jackie and Nick and Lisa after the move-in, so they finally got to meet. Amazingly, they both independently went down south to see the eclipse last week. Both said it was a fantastic experience but the drive home, eleven hours long, sucked. While we were up there we got a visit from my cousin Tom and his family, who were on their way home from New York City. On the way back we stopped by Martin’s. He and Kathleen just ran a 5K race. This is a pretty big deal for Kathleen, who just a year ago broke her leg pretty badly. Their kids are all into Greek mythology these days so we spent some time drawing mythical monsters. I came up with a beast that head seven heads, including those of a bear, antelope, Komodo dragon, giraffe, and two snakes and a chicken as tails!

Overall a relaxing trip and nice weather for driving. Now we’re home again and the house feels large.

Summer Fun Part Duex

Since I’ve been feeling better the last few weeks I’ve been trying to enjoy what’s left of the summer. Last weekend I took Michelle to the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island. This was the first airplane museum we’ve visited since our trip to Ohio. It’s a pretty cool place, featuring mainly locally built planes from the World War I era and the space race. Not as big as the Smithsonian or Wright-Patterson, but first rate. We met Mary and the cousins there and it was a good time. Michelle still really into seeing and learning about airplanes (and still wants to grow up to design airplanes and spaceships, or videogames).

By coincidence there was a videogame convention going there that day too. At first this seemed a little nerdy even for me, but it turned out to be a really fun bonus. There was a ton of classic videogames, vendors, even cosplay babes. Michelle was to see an original Atari condole and play the classic E.T. game. They had an amazing band, called Con-Soul, with a six piece horn section (two trumpets, two trombones, alto and bari sax), a synth mallet player, drums and fender bass. They played all video game music, with the format of doing a horn arrangement of the main themes and going into a funk/jazz jam. Very cool.

Then one night last week Mary’s came up and went with Jeannie and the girls to Rye Playland. I joined them after work mainly for a walk around the park.

I’ve been working really hard the last month or so to meet a deadline at work. Going back to work in the evenings and weekends, and all the while trying to focus on my health. It’s not easy keeping a huge amount of code in your mind and tends to take over your imagination a little bit. Kinda stressful but I try to be zen about it. Two days ago I finished and made probably the largest single commit since I’ve been writing software, at least 60 files in four different languages, into both the trunk and the release branch. So that’s a huge load off my mind and I can relax a little.

Last night I went to sit in with my friend Charlie’s band. It’s a happy hour gig at a little cafe right on the waterfront in downtown Yonkers where there’s a little park and everything. Great spot to watch the sun go down over river and sip your drink and listen to some jazz. We did some standards like Impressions, Footprints, There Will Never Be Another You, and All of Me. Felt great just to let go and be in the moment.

Graduation Time

It’s graduation season and this is a big year for us. Two weeks ago it was Lizzy graduating from high school, and then last weekend Michelle graduated from eighth grade. Lots of ceremonies and parties, and a time of big transitions and moving on. Of course I’ve very proud and happy to see them growing up and doing well. It was a bit poignant for me to say goodbye to ICS, since we’d been there for six years, with both girls going thru and we met and became friends with a lot of other parents. I’ll definitely miss doing the musicals. I was involved with five of them, three with the kids and two with the parents and friends, as well as a couple talent shows. Well they said they’d love to have me back in the orchestra next time the do one, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile both girls are off to new adventures in the fall. So it a time well worth celebrating. One more party coming up this weekend!

On with the Show

Getting towards the end of May already. How time flies! Alot has happened in the last few weeks. Rewinding a bit, Michelle had her Confirmation. My parents came into to town for a visit (and my Mum brought cabbage rolls!). Jeannie’s folks and Mary’s came up for the day. We went out for lunch at a local restaurant and came back here for a party.

Toward the evening my dad got in a storytelling mood. We were watching some horse racing on TV. It began with a story I’d never heard before of him driving a wagon as teenager, and his horses being scared by an exploding shell. It went onto all kinds of memories of growing up in Hungary, the war, the time they spent in Germany, coming to Canada and going to college and the early years of his career. Even though I know the general contours it’s always good to hear because there’s always new details, nuances and connections.

The following weekend it rained. We had lots of stuff planned but instead we stayed indoors and realized how tired we all were.

Lizzy had her spring choir concert last weekend, in the local Episcopalian church with the monster pipe organ and fantastic stone reverb, no mics or electronics. The concert was in the evening, choir and organ, not all liturgical music. Quite a bit of Mozart in fact, plus a few originals by Philip Stopford, the choir director. Lizzy had a solo, really beautiful, and the other highlight for me was the organist did a really modern, modal piece by some French guy from the 1930’s. I wish I could remember his name; it sounded like something Keith Emerson might’ve done.

Now Lizzy is done with classes, writes her last final exam tomorrow, starts her summer job this weekend, and is all gaga over her upcoming prom and graduation. You’ll be happy to know she has a tall guy as her date.

Meanwhile Michelle is closing in the end of her school year too, and the end of middle school. We had a birthday party for last weekend. She and a group of friends went to opening day of Rye Playland. This was a couple weeks late cuz of her Confirmation and then the rain. She got a new Nintendo system.

Last night was her spring band concert. We’ve known Mr. A, the director since Lizzy was in 3rd grade. He’s a really great and the kids all love him, and also happens to be a really excellent jazz drummer. This was Michelle’s last concert, so now that he’s no longer my kid’s teacher I asked him if he’s interested in playing in my jazz quintet.

In between was lot of yard work now that spring is here, a busy release cycle work at my day job – our first major Cloud functionality, getting going on the next round of work on the Global Jukebox, finishing the last of the diagrams and approving the graphics for my new origami book, and lots of action with the rock band and jazz combo. More on that soon as time permits. Looking forward to the long weekend, and then there’s lots more activities in the time ahead.

Joy Spring

Yesterday we finally got our first nice day of spring. Spent some quality time outdoors, took a long walk around the neighborhood, started the spring yardwork cycle, and got the Mustang out on the road the first time this year. Last weekend I finally finished my main indoor/wintertime home improvement project, which was to paint the doors and trim in the stairway in my house. Just in time for spring.

Last weekend was also the first Left Hook gig in a little while. Back at the Fisherman’s Net in Pelham, which is something of a home base. Debuted some new material, including me singing The Cars, although our lead singer MJ conveniently forgot the lyrics to the new songs he was supposed to do, which evaluate to the ones he doesn’t like. In any event it was a fun gig, and the crowd at the bar definitely thinks we sound good and enjoyed the show. Plus Charlie and Lana from Lagond came down to catch the show. Going forward Gary and myself are going to take on a larger share of the singing to avoid MJ limiting our repertoire. We’re learning some new songs now by Joe Jackson, Huey Lewis, Santana and Grand Funk Railroad. And the search for mo’ better gigs continues. Onward and upward!

Meanwhile in the Wednesday jazz circle we’ve been following a format recently where a different member of the group picks the set list each week. This has unearthed a wealth of rarely-played gems as well as revealing something about everyone’s preferences and style. Only drawback there’s now alot of great songs that we’ve barely scratched the surface, so once the first round is complete we’ll circle back and dig deeper into alot of those songs.

In the Saturday group Gary and I are both continuing to bring in new songs. I really like Gary’s songwriting style, especially as contrasted with mine; make for a really nice diverse set. My most recent contribution is a song called The Sun, a reworking of a number from the Event Horizon days that features grooves in 5/8 and 7/8. I hope our drummer can handle it.

Springin’ in the Slush

March sure came in like a lion this year. After a very mild 2nd half of February it turned cold and we had two major back-to-back snowstorms on Saturday and then Tuesday. Jeannie and the kids ended up missing two days of work/school, while I worked at home in between shovelling out. Now we’re well on the way to having melted away but hey, it’s already the third day of spring. And it’s back to the cold in the days a head.

The kids have been busy with shows and performances. The first weekend of March Lizzy had her school musical called The Boyfriend, in which twenty-first century high school kids pretend to be British thespians from the 1950’s pretending to be French debutantes of the 1920’s. Lots of fun, good cartoon-jazz music and dancing the Charleston.

Next weekend after the Michelle performed in the Lower Westchester Honor Band. Highlights included A Night on Bald Mountain and The Firebird, as well as lots of epicly-titled selections such as Fight Squadron A, Alien Attack, and THe Final Countdown.

And then a couple nights ago both girls sang in the Young at Arts Salon. This is an annual fundraiser in which the people who run the group call in favors from some of their Broadway friends to come and participate. Lizzy had a featured solo alongside the woman who is currently playing Princess Jasmine in Alladin on Broadway. I helped set up the PA the Saturday before.

Now Lizzy is in rehearsals helping out as a ringer with a prodcution of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at another local high school. She’s the only soprano who can hit and sustain the really high notes.

Meanwhile my band LEFT HOOK is playing this Saturday night at Fisherman’s net in Pelham. Lots of exciting new songs including some 80’s Australian power pop as well as all your rock’n’soul favorites.

And my Saturday jazz group is up to 10 originals. Gary keeps writing more bossa novas and latin-oriented stuff, and Jay the bassist contributed a great, slow bluesey number in 5/4 called slope. I have one more song we haven’t even gotten to yet.

The global jukebox is almost, almost, almost done, after sixteen month’s work. Just a few more tweaks and minor bug fixes and final testing. Then we’ll take a couple weeks off and start in on Phase II, which is shaping up to be another year’s work. Very cool stuff, very psyched for the launch.

Meanwhile in my day job we just moved offices to a much larger and nicer space in downtown White Plains. More on that in a future post.

Steppin’ into Spring

It looks like spring may be just around the corner. It’s been warm and sunny lately, at least for February, and the day are getting longer. It used to bother me all winter to have to get up before the sunrise but this year it seemed okay. I’ve gotten into the habit of working out early mornings, so when the sun comes up it’s sometime in my workout, a little earlier each day. I had had a rather bad foot injury over the winter, but it looks like it’s pretty much better. I’m taking longer and longer walks and I’m back to doing my full workout in the mornings, which feels good.

I worked from home quite a few days while I was recovering but now I’m back to going into the office every day. At work we’re at the top end of a big push for improving our code quality, which I’ve been pushing for, as we make the transition from a startup to a more mature company. We set up a unit testing framework for our front-end javascript project and have been going to town writing unit tests and getting our coverage up. Fun fun fun.

New Year New Music

Here it is, mid-January already. I feel like I missed out on the worst of the post-holiday cold and darkness this year. It’s been a pretty mild winter this year and I’ve spent alot of time indoors, working from home waiting for my foot to get better. Now I’m on the mend and feeling pretty well rested, and the days are beginning to get longer again. Of course there’s still alot of wintertime ahead, but it’s time to start getting going with new projects for the new year.

Both the software I’m writing for my day job and the Global Jukebox are now in beta/big-fix mode, counting down to the inevitable release date. So lots and lots of coding, fixing testing, repeat.

Lizzy had been getting her college acceptance letters and some scholarships. She got into every place she’s applied so far. Meanwhile Michelle has been getting acceptances for high schools and some scholarships as well. So things are good on that front and we have some choices ahead.

The new origami book is coming along. I have 12 or so diagrams done, and I’ve been working with the graphics guy on the patterned paper. The balance of the models are in the offing. Working with the publisher now on page layout and book format issues.

I had some projects I wanted to do over the break in the home improvement sphere that I had to push off. Also it looks like I won’t be skiing this winter. Ah well.

But the main point of this post is to update y’all on the music situation. Music has been coming along too, although at different rates of effectiveness on different fronts.

I’ve had my new tenor sax for a year now and I’m digging it more than ever. Also I’ve had the new piano for almost two months and I’m getting used to playing it, building strength in my fingers. I had it tuned and it sounds killer. Turns out the piano tuner is also and origami fan and we folded some paper airplanes together.

The Left Hook is still keepin’ on. We had a strong run in the early to mid fall, but we didn’t rehearse that much from November thru the end of the year because our singer was working for a political campaign. We did learn a few new songs in the time, mainly funky 80’s stuff.

The challenge remains to find more and better gigs. That was our main goal for 2016 but we we ended up playing the same old bars. Ah well gigs like that are still a good time. Part of the problem is there’s not that much demand, and the same half dozen bar bands are constantly rotating around the best place. Still, now we’re back at it, trying to crack into that circuit and casting a wider net, making a new round of inquiries and dropping off demo tapes, making a fresh list of venues . Onward and upward even if it takes a little more persistence to get up and go the distance.

My recording project, the third Buzzy Tonic album remains unfinished as well. I’m midway thru tracking the last song, City. I’d hoped to work on it over Xmas break but that was among the things I had to push off. Hopefully finish it before the end of the winter.

On the other hand I made great progress with my jazz demos, and that whole thing has taken on a life of its own. I’ve brought seven or eight tunes to the group, five of which are keepers, and I have one more in the offing. I encouraged the other guys in the group to bring in songs as well, and Gary Guitar has started writing too. He says I inspired him, which is great and fun and flattering to hear. So far he’s brought in two songs, both very good and different than mine. It’s good to have another voice and a good spread of styles and moods.

The guys in the band all like learning originals, and like the particular set of tunes, so now the main monkey business is to make a record. This is the Saturday group BTW, the Haven Street Quintet. It’s shaping up to be nine or so originals and probably one standard. Maybe Giant Steps since we have our own arrangement of that.

Now I’m looking into recording studios. The idea is to go in a do the whole thing live, like we did with Event Horizon back in the day, or like pretty much all classic jazz records. So I’m looking for a good live room with a grand piano and a nice sounding mixing board with warm preamps. Once we get the basic tracks down I can bring it into ProTools and Jay the bassist and I can mix and master it, although we’ll need an engineer to run the recording session.

So far though the local studios I’ve seen (via their web sites) seem more geared up for doing overdubs and electronic music production. This is useless to me since I already have a few good mics and an endlessly looptastic effects-o-rama ProTools rig in my basement. To me a real studio implies a real live room. Of course I’m just at the beginning of the research phase so you never know what’ll turn up. I’m toying with the idea of doing it in my living room as a backup plan, since I have an nice piano and a big, acoustically pleasant space.

Happy New Year

Happy new year everyone! 2016 was a great year full of all kinds of adventure and accomplishments. Kids growing up, a new day job, the Global Juke Box now feature-complete and on its way to release, a good number of jazz and rock gigs, a new piano and sax. The holidays came at us fast, amid a flurry of work deadlines. By the end I definitely needed a break. Among other events, we hosted Jeannie’s family’s big holiday party, which rotates around among the cousins so it’s our turn every seven years.

Lots of good stuff for Christmas. I got Michelle and acoustic/electric ukulele since she’s now playing in a band, and Jeannie a 3-D printer. She and Michelle have been having a great time learning how to use it, pulling files for models off the net. I must say it’s a pretty cool piece of technology! We went upstate to visit by parents and brother and his family which was very nice, and had Jeannie’s brother’s family down for New Year’s.

Only downside was right after Xmas I started having problems with pain in my foot and ankle. It got pretty bad to the point where I had to stay off my feet for a few days. Luckily Jeannie got me a book for Xmas – Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. It’s very well written and you can tell you doesn’t use a ghostwriter. However, like his records, the early part of the story, up to the early 80’s is much more interesting the second half, in which rides out a comfortable plateau of superstardom. (Even thought I really dug it at the time, I still don’t feel like hearing anything off Born in the U.S.A. again, although I still enjoy the E Street Shuffle.) In any event my foot is starting to get better now, so hopefully I’ll be back to my usual self soon.

Here’s looking forward to a mellow and prosperous 2017. Lots more changes ahead.

BTW, this January marks the ten year anniversary of my blog. Thanks to all who’ve been reading. Might be fun to page back thru the archives and see how things have changed in that time.

Dog Days

Moving into the long backstretch of summer. The political conventions are over and the Olympics are on TV now. Believe it or not we’ve had two low-key weekends at home in a row, but we’ve been so busy it’s been a nice break.

The weather was really nice in late July into early August, but then it turned really hot. It’s been 100 degrees here the last few days, and very humid. I had to get up and go out early to do the yardwork so I could be in before the full heat of midday. Even so by 11 it was well over 90. There’ve been flash thunderstorms almost every day. There’s violent lighting out right now. It’ll probably pass in ten minutes.

Last weekend I went rollerblading, which turned out not to be such a great idea cuz the streets around here are hilly and roads have grown bumpier, and I don’t tolerate bad pavement as well as I used to. Still, good fun. This weekend it worked out that both the kids were out of the house Friday and Saturday nite, so Jeannie and I got to go out to dinner two nights in a row.

Work has been fun and exciting and so has the Global Jukebox. I hope to devote a full post to each of those soon.

Been working on music. People have been on vacation so we haven’t been doing full rehearsals. Left Hook is on hiatus all of August so we’ve been doing unplugged sessions and vocal sectional. I have a new jazz demo in the offing called King’s Hex; hope to debut it soon.

I had a random origami commission, a dude in Texas wanted one of turtles as a gift for his wife. He had in mind to put in some glass dome, so I had to make it a but smaller than usual, but it turned out very nice. I used at 10.5” sheet of green Rhino Hide. The final model was a little over five inches long. Totally forgot to take pictures before I sent it out. As an experiment I also folded one out of an 8.5” sheet of some kind of blue sparkly paper that’s alot like Elephant Hide. That one came out pretty well too, but the detail on the toes was a bit sloppy. Really at the limit of foldability.

Lizzy is going to take her road test for her driver’s licensee this week Good luck!