We Got Oliphaunts

Last weekend was the 2107 Origami USA convention in New York City. It’s a bit more low-key now that it’s out in Queens, but still a great time, and St. John’s campus is a great venue.

I had been thinking that I didn’t have much new to put into my exhibit, but I ended up with a good amount of great stuff. For the last month or so I had been meaning to get around to developing some new model ideas but I’ve been busy with work and graduations and stuff. Nevertheless, I recently finished the draft of my Airplanes and Spaceships book, and had five new models from that plus a few others that I’d never really folded a nice version before. So I made a collection out of 8” squares of so-called shiny paper. I folded another batch out of 6” shiny lotka paper for the model menu. Both very nice and very effective.

Both my classes went over really well. One class was the new Airplanes and Spaceships. I had diagrams and the class folded the models well, and along the way proofread them and found a few corrections.

The other class was my War Elephant a.k.a. Oliphaunt. This is an older model but I always thought it was cool. I only ever folded one satisfactorily and alot of the details were improvised. At the time it pushed the limit of my abilities. So the goal was to get it to the point where I could reliably reproduce it, teach it and eventually diagram it. In the last few weeks I folded quite a few studies and began honing in on the trouble spots. With a complex model like that you may have to fold for an hour or more before you get to the point where you can try out a solution to a design problem. Unlike with a computer there’s no save and revert, so if it doesn’t work you crumple up the paper and start again. This process can take some time.

By the start of the convention I was getting close. I’d completed several studies, although the best one, which I used for the model menu, was a bit sad looking and I didn’t have one worthy of putting into my exhibit. I’d created a CP and pretty much worked out most of the issues except for a critical series of steps steps to separate the head from the shoulders. With animals this is very important to the whole pose and attitude of the model; it can make or break it. For this model there’s alot of layers at that point, and crumpling it down was the easy way out.

We had to take off early on Saturday to go to a wedding on Long Island, so by Saturday night I’d run out of time to work on it any further. When I went to bed I meditated on it, which led to a lucid dream. When I woke I (felt like I) knew what to do.

When I teach supercomplex models soemtimes there’s only maybe two or five people in the class. This class was very full, to the point where I ran out of handouts and people had to share. And everyone in the room was actually and advanced folder too. When I got to the critical step I had all the proportions worked out and all the precreasing done, but had never really attempted the collapse before. So I told the class to do the collapse however they thought was best. Then I looked around at everyone’s result. I immediately saw that three people folded the correct solution. Everyone finished the class with a good looking model.

Since my Airplanes and Spaceships books in now with the publisher I’m in waiting mode. There will be some revisions, and the photography is still ahead, but it’ll probably be a year before it hits the shelves. I’m free to invest some creative energy in some other project. Since the response to the War Elephant was so strong I decided do an ebook with Brian of a half dozen or so complex to supercomplex models with a fantasy/mythology theme, including my War Elephant and Medieval Dragon.

I’m off to France and Switzerland in a few days for the Origami Creators Conference. That should be a good time and give me alot of opportunity to develop new ideas.


The first day of summer is here! We had a big graduation party for the girls last weekend. Martin came down from Albany, and lots of Jeannie’s cousins from Long Island. Good time. Things are a lot more more mellow around the house now that the kids don’t have to get up for school. Plus I’ve cut back on working out while I bounce back from an injury. Still, lots of stuff coming up including Origami this weekend and a trip to Europe next month.

The quartet format for the rock band seems to be solidifying, and I must say my singing is sounding better and better. Most of the new songs are far enough along that we basically know them, so I can focus on phrasing and performing. And we can get started adding a few more. It’s a pretty big switch to go from singing two or three songs a set to singing most of the time. You’ve got to make your voice last. Which means singing loader and stronger but more relaxed. Which makes you sound better too.

Also I’ve been finding it easier to stay on pitch. The big breakthrough came last fall when I got my new piano. I typically practice with the lid open and I’ve found that when I’m on really right pitch my voice resonates with the open strings, and sounds louder and fuller. This lead to increased microtonal awareness and a cycle of getting the know how the sound of being on pitch feels in my throat, a sort of self-reinforcing feedback thing. Now I find it easier and more natural to get there.

I guess it also helps we’ve been picking songs that are in my vocal range. Next step so to convince the band to do some of my originals. Of course now that it’s the summer all the rehearsal schedules become more erratic as lots of people have vacations and other commitments. Ah well.

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!

Space Race

Over the weekend I completed a major milestone on my forthcoming origami book, Origami from Sky and Space, namely a complete draft. The diagrams and layouts are done and I’ve approved the graphics for the paper to be included in the kit.

There was one late-breaking substitution. I created a new Jumbo Jet to replace my Jet Airliner. The model looks similar but is much larger for the same size paper, and uses the sheet better, is thinner, has fewer steps, and is better proportioned. I went from design to full diagrams and layouts in one day.

It’s a strong collection, fourteen models of low intermediate to intermediate range, ranging from 14 to 30 steps, all foldable from an 8 inch square. This being my second complete book, designed for a wider audience than Origami Animal Sculpture, my style has become a bit more streamlined. In fact although I had a bunch of models that fit the theme and were the inspiration for the book, most of the models were designed specifically for the kit book format.

None of the original models made it in, and I have lots of others that are too complex for the requirement of this book. These include some great designs such as my original Rocketship and U.F.O, as well my Zeppelin and Biplane. Some of these are 60 or 100 steps, and they’re already diagrammed. So there’s a whole nuther potential book out there or Airplanes and Spaceships on the level of Origami Animal Sculpture.

Next step is the photography. I’ll be shooting models from the kit paper and unpatterned paper as well. For while the graphics are nice and eye-catching, the models can be folded equally well from just about any paper, and in a way the plain paper shows off the pure form better.

Fulsome Foursome

After MJ left as lead singer of LEFT HOOK, we decided to audition a replacement. We’re setting our sights fairly high since Gary and I can already sing, and we want someone who will come in and lift up the group, someone who’s as good on vocals as we are as instrumentalists, i.e. a real musician. Unfortunately it’s hard to find someone like that when you don’t have any gigs lined up.

We got a good handful of responses, and five actual candidates. I called each of them up to pre-screen them. It’s interesting since everyone can now point you to a performance they have on the internet. They were mostly were pretty good, but in the end we decided none of them really brought anything we don’t already have, or else they don’t fit in with the sound we’re going for. One in particular was in a band that just kinda sucked, to the point where the vocals didn’t really matter. Yet somehow they’re getting gigs!

After that exercise we decided to carrying on as a quartet, with Gary and I splitting the lead vocals as well as the harmonies. And so we join the ranks of bands without a frontman and with multiple lead vocalists. This list includes the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Chicago, Supertramp, The Cars, They Might Be Giants, Fishbone, the Cheshire Cat, Run DMC and countless others.

We’ve added five songs in the last few weeks, and we’re finding it’s not hard to find songs that are doable and in our zone. Recent additions that I’m sining include You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Till You Know What You Want) by Joe Jackson and I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News, both really fun, uptempo numbers with a great sax part.

There are some songs from our old set we can’t do, but we probably have about twenty song right now. Not enough for three sets but maybe two. So the focus is on adding more material and getting the whole set tight. And it’s time to start looking for gigs once more. As the first step I’ve updated out poster. Soon we’ll be making a new demo. Rock on!

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.

Vacation Pics

We’ve only been home a little over a week and it already seems like it was ages ago. So before it recedes too far into the past here’s some pics of our trip to Puerto Rico. As always drop me a line if you want login credentials. BTW Lizzy’s run of Hunchback of Notre Dame started last weekend at it was very impressive. I’ve seen professional shows on Broadway that weren’t as good.


Jump Jive and Wail

The dance band gig last weekend with Crazy Feet Pete went great and was alot of fun. We started with In The Mood, a song I haven’t played since high school in stage band (hi Kris!), and went on to all kinds of other songs with a tempo between 105 and 115 bpm. I was sight-reading out a book and soloing whenever Pete called for it. It took a couple numbers to get used to it, but everything was fine. A good group of musicians too.

It was fascinating watching these people moving in unison since they know all the steps. It turns out there’s a distinction between East Coast and West Coast Swing. I had no idea. East hews closer to classic big band music, while West favors more rockabilly and bluesy shuffles. Also the east is based on an eight-step pattern while the west is based on a six-step pattern. The dancers definitely appreciated the band and some of them even taught me some steps. It looks like Pete has a pretty solid niche playing this kind of gig so hopefully I’ll do another one sometime.

The Global Jukebox Is Live!

Last week while I was away the Global Jukebox was finally debut. Come check it out at:


I’ve been working on this project for over a year as lead developer, designer and architect, working with Anna Lomax Wood and her research associates Karan and Kathleen, as well as other scholars, statisticians and developers, even bring in Martin the last few months. It’s been alot of fun and very cool piece of work.

For those of you who don’t know, the Global Jukebox is an interactive showcase for a comprehensive library of world folk music and cultural data assembled by music scholar and anthropologist Alan Lomax. Beginning in Texas and Mississippi the 1930’s, Alan went all around the world, from the Caribbean to all over Africa and Europe, the far East, and even Buffalo, NY, building up a comprehensive library of folk music from all different cultures. He then created a scientific framework, called Cantometrics, to compare the characteristics of the music and the relationship between the music and the culture. The results are very revealing about who we are as a species and why humans make music.

The Global Jukebox was the Alan Lomax’s lifelong vision and the culmination of his life’s work and scholarship. He began working on it 1960’s using punch cards, and I first became aware of it in the 1990’s while writing interactive music software at Interval Research. Now, many years later the computer technology finally exists to present it to the world and in interactive resource for educators, researchers and lay people who care about music.

We’ve been getting lots of press, beginning with the New York Times. Looks like we’re over 700,000 page views now. See the links below.

















Caribbean Blue

Just got back a few days ago from a fantastic vacation in Puerto Rico. I’d been to the Caribbean a few times, but always British islands. This was my first time on a Spanish island, which is a bit funny cuz it’s part of the U.S.A. It reminds alot of a humid version of California more than it does of Jamaica or the Bahamas.

Spring break is kinda of a weird time of year for a tropical vacation, cuz spring had already arrived so it’s too late to escape the cold. Still, it was summertime hot down there, which felt great. Out trip was a nice balance of hanging around relaxing by the beach on going on adventure outings. This may be the last big trip for the four of us as a family, with Lizzy going off to college in the fall.

We stayed a resort hotel on the seaside. It was very nice. The first day we arrived in the mid-afternoon and the weather was stormy, so we explored the place, relaxed at the bar and got dinner. Next day the weather slowly improved so we spent most of the day hanging around the pool. By the afternoon the sun came out but the ocean was still too rough to go swimming. We had a visitation in the hot tub by the local giant iguana, who was very friendly.

We went on an evening kayaking trip, starting in a bay on the ocean and going up the river thru a jungle of mangroves to another, inland bay where there was bioluminescent algae. Very Kurztian. We watched the sun set floating on the still water of the bay. Once it got dark the water literally glowed when you cut thru with your paddle or waved your hand around in the water. Other than that the trip back was in total darkness. Very cool experience.

Next day we went to El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rainforest. Went on some hikes to some waterfalls, saw some cool birds and lizards and lots of strange plants, climbed to the top an observation tower. Had lunch a roadside stand and discovered mofongo. Now we need to find a place around here that does mofongo. Yum!

The ocean finally got calm enough to go for a swim, although they had no life guards so I didn’t go too far out, and the kids didn’t go in at all.

Another highlight was we trekked out to the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which was until a few months ago the world’s largest radio telescope, with the main dish 1000 feet across, or 20 acres in area. It’s built in a natural depression in an part of the island with weird hilly terrain, full of caves and sinkholes. It turns out you can’t rollerblade in the dish even if you wanted to cuz it’s not solid. It’s just a bunch of aluminum mesh plates held up by a gridwork of wires. There’s jungle growing underneath! You need special metal snowshoes to walk on it, and there’s a weight limit of 120 lbs. So there goes that dream.

The telescope itself is storied and older than I knew, designed in the 1950′ and operational by 1963. It was where they first measured the length of Mercury’s day, and where they first discovered pulsars. In addition to receiving signals it can send them, so it can function like a giant police radar gun and image individual asteroids millions of miles away, halfway to Jupiter. One of it’s major missions now is building up a catalog of all the near-Earth asteroids. It has a whole ‘nuther antenna for atmospheric research. And more lizards!

The last stop of the trip was Old San Juan and the fort build by the Spaniards in the 1500’s. We threaded thru the neighborhood by car, although the streets were clearly not designed for cars, and as luck would have it we found the one parking spot on the street, as close as you can get. Also right when we arrived a big cruise ship was leaving, so it was all relatively uncrowded.

On the way into the fort we saw a band setting up in the square outside, trumpets and tin pans, but by the time we came back they were gone. I wish we were able to hear more local music. Ah well. At least we found a nice pub and a cold relaxing drink after all that.

The flights were uneventful and comfortable enough. We got home around two in the morning. I don’t fly as much as I used cuz it’s so often a hassle, but this trip was fine. Now I’m thinking of going to France in July for an origami conference.

Coming soon: pictures!