GJB and TypeScript

We had a pretty major release of The Global Jukebox back in October. Since then we’ve been busy planning new features, and taking some time to up the architecture. One thing we did was to combine the different views and pages into a single-page application. The the two main views are the Map and Wheel. To switch between the two required a full page reload, but now it happens within the page so you can continue in your song, playlist or journey. Very nice.

The next thing is we converted the site to Typescript. We’ve been getting into Typescript in my day job. I must say it’s a big improvement over Javascript, and it feels like coming home to a real programming language. I’ve been getting into alot of functional programming in JS the last year two, and for the first time I really feel like Javascript is becoming a really cool language. I also made a whole new build and deploy pipeline in Node and Gulp. This has been on our todo list for a long time. It’s nice to be making everything more solid.

It’s funny, things have been following a similar trajectory with my day job. It was extremely chaotic in the time approaching our last major release at the end of the summer. Since then the focus has shifted towards getting things done in a more mature and organized way. We started migrating to Typescript in the fall, and we’ve finally moved to GIT as well, and the company is getting a bit more disciplined about sprint planning. This is all stuff I’ve been advocating for for a long time. So things are improving, although I’m still being told more often than I’d like that we don’t have the time to fix things properly. Ah well.

On Composing Interactive Music

A blast from the past – a web site called Audiokinetic Blog found an old essay of mine and asked me if I’d like to dust it off for them to repost. I wrote a new intro and they added some cool artwork. Audiokinetic are makers of interactive audio tools. I haven’t had a chance to play with them but they sound like they’re pretty cool. Ah life is too short.

https://blog.audiokinetic.com/time-travel-to-1993-on-composing-interactive-music/

Fall Forward

Today is a wet, rainy day, perfect for catching up. It’s a good thing too. It’s been warm and dry the whole fall, and the grass everywhere is turning brown like California. Believe it or not we only tok our air conditioners out yesterday.

Last weekend Lizzy came home from college for a quick visit. As it happened we had planned on visiting Martin that weekend, so Lizzy took a bus and met us in Albany. It was a beautiful ride up thru the turning fall colors. The visit with Martin was pretty brief, but we managed to get in a little hiking along the escarpment in a local park and then dinner at nice German restaurant. Weiner schnitzel and potato pancakes, yum!

I also had a little time for drawing and playing with Martin’s kids. They’re all into mythology and mythical monsters right now, and so is Michelle. I’ve also been thinking of alt-tic-tac-toe variations as ideas for video games, and shared some with Charlie.

Lizzy rode home with us Saturday night, and was gone pretty much the whole day Sunday catching up with her friends. Was home again in the evening. Good news she’s enjoying college, engaged and doing well in her studies, making friends and doing stuff. Took a 6:00 AM flight back to Buffalo Monday morning.

Meanwhile Martin and I had alot to catch up on. We just published a major release of The Global Jukebox (http://theglobaljukebox.org). This one includes a major upgrade to the menu system, and integration of Choreometrics in to the app, and a lot of new content. Anna and her academic team are presenting it this weekend at a conference along new research findings.

Now we’re moving right on to the next development cycle, and we’re taking a moment to hit some purely engineering-oriented tasks. One is that we’re converting it to a single-page application, so that you can switch between the two main views, map and wheel, and keep your current song, playlist, journey or whatever. Next is we’ll be converting the whole thing to Typescript.

I’ve been converting my main project in my day job to TypeScript the last few weeks, as part of a larger effort to improve code quality and get things better organized. Coming from strongly typed languages like Java and ActionScript, it feels like coming home. Which is funny because I’ve spent the last few years making my peace with the lack of types in Javascript, and thinking of it more and more in functional programming terms. Now it feels like the best of both worlds, and kind of code you can write looks alot like say Scala.

Another thing that happened last week was I finished the manuscript for my Origami Airplanes and Spaceships book. I had been basically done for quite some time, but then when I went to print out the book for final proofreading I thought the diagrams were a but hard to read. This book is in an 8” x 8” format, where the previous on was 9” x 12”. The typical drawing was about 85% size. So went thru and pumped up the size on all the fold lines and arrows.

It’s particularly critical to distinguish between the valley folds and mountain folds. One is a straight dashed line and the other is alternating dashes and dots. I also made some minor corrections and wrote an introductory blurb to each models and a very nice introduction to the whole book. For a long time I didn’t think I had much to say, but when I sat down to do it the whole thing just flowed out from the first sentence “Since ancient times people have looked up to the sky and dreamed of flying through the air and traveling among the stars.”

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.

The Unfinished Work of Alan Lomax’s Global Jukebox

The paper of record, the New York Times, wrote another, pretty in-depth article, about my project The Global Jukebox:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/arts/music/alan-lomax-global-jukebox-digital-archive.html

We just pushed a big upgrade to correspond with this article, and as it points out, the jukebox is a work in progress. It started off as a short-term contract gig for me, but I’ve been involved for over a year now. We have another major upgrade slated for the fall, and beyond that, if we can get funding, the scope is open-ended.

The Global Jukebox Is Live!

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

http://theglobaljukebox.org/

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/arts/music/alan-lomax-recordings-the-global-jukebox-digitized.html

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/alan-lomax-recordings-digitized-on-innovative-global-jukebox-site-w477625

https://www.grammy.com/news/global-jukebox-a-new-music-website-a-century-in-the-making

http://www.spin.com/2017/04/alan-lomax-recordings-online/

http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-history-of-music-around-world.html

https://lapazgroup.net/2017/04/21/public-domain-cultural-jukebox/

https://utlibrary.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/the-global-jukebox/

https://www.wwoz.org/blog/229581

https://www.damusic.be/telex/the-global-jukebox-van-alan-lomax-vrijgegeven-4748.html

http://m.rozhlas.cz/radiowave/wavenews/_zprava/co-si-zpivaji-baskicke-babky-a-serpove-v-nepalu-vznikl-interaktivni-archiv-folklornich-pisni–1719827

http://razzletazzle.com/music/hear-music-from-1000-cultures-on-massive-alan-lomax-recordings-site/2017/04/19/

http://www.electronicbeats.net/the-feed/explore-the-worlds-folk-songs-with-this-interactive-map/

http://www.openculture.com/2017/04/web-site-puts-online-thousands-of-international-folk-songs-recorded-by-the-great-folklorist-alan-lomax.html

http://www.metafilter.com/166445/Worlds-biggest-jukebox-Alan-Lomax-style-no-quarters-needed

http://www.altafidelidad.org/la-herencia-de-alan-lomax/

http://www.origo.hu/kultura/20170419-tobb-ezer-nepzenei-kincs-egy-interaktiv-honlapon.html

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.

Turn Turn Turn

Life continues as we turn the corner towards fall. Vacations are over and another school year has started.

We often go the beach at Ocean City MD over Labor Day weekend, but this year there was a hurricane barreling up the coast from Carolina, and the weather report was for heavy rains and gale-force winds, so we ended up cancelling the trip. Still we had a nice relaxing weekend, and went out to dinner on the water on Long Island Sound. Lizzy got to work a couple more days at the pool and ended the summer with some extra cash, and got to practice driving too. Michelle got to go the Renaissance Fair with her Aunt and cousins, and afterward we had them all over for one last barbecue.

I spent some of my found time dusting off Elixr, my long-neglected three-quarters completed third Buzzy Tonic album. Been tracking the bass part for what will probably be the last song, Leave the City Behind. I have other songs that I haven’t even begun to track, but I’ll probably save them for a future record. Hopefully I can finish this one by the end of the year. After that, seeing as I now have a working rock band and a real live jazz band too, I want to figure out a way to record some of my songs with real musicians.

But for now I’m going back and listening and mixing, adding the occasional part to round out an arrangement. I’ve been putting autotune on the vocals too. (Shhh, Don’t tell anyone!) Autotune has come a long way since the days of Believe, and the default mode makes it easy to manipulate while still sounding natural. It basically brings it about halfway to true pitch, so there’s still room for tremolo and tonal effects, everything sounds a bit more in tune, kinda like quantizing my midi piano parts for tighter phrasing. So far I have four new mixes out of the eight finished tunes. So watch this space for some new mixes soon.

Now the kids are back in school again. Lizzy is a Senior and Michelle 8th grade; both are really excited. Lizzy is driving to school now (!). I had been thinking of getting her an old jalopy of a car since her commute is so long by train. Then thru a lucky turn of events we got a much nicer car then we originally planned. Only problem with is was the bumper had had a close encounter with a garage door and repainted the wrong color. Today I sprayed it with the correct matching shade and now you can hardly even tell. Other random good news: Jeanne got promotion at work, and a raise big enough to cover the hike in our car insurance.

The last couple weeks at work have been pretty mellow for me. I took a couple Fridays off, and alot of people were gone a whole week, and then at the end of August our management was all out in Vegas for the year’s most important trade show. And as a former trade show exhibit designer, let me tell you we had a very cool booth! The software engineers had all been scrambling like mad to get a sufficiently stable and polished demo of the new UI out for the show. Apparently it’s a hit. Then last week we got to catch our breath, and do some refactoring, bug fixes, and planning.

Now we’re at the top of another big long run of work. The goal is to have a fully functional new UI by the end of the year. Google will no longer support Flex and Flash in chrome, so we need to retire our old one. When we were told this back at the beginning of the summer I thought it was well nigh impossible, but we’ve made alot of really good progress over the summer, and it looks pretty doable from here. Meanwhile we’re also rearchitecting the backend of our product to be modular, distributed and scalable, and to be able to handle a million computers in our system.

2015 Origami Part II

Quick update here – I finished off the pages for my 2015 origami, including the landing pages for Origami By Year and Origami By Subject, as well as all the subject pages that needed updating. I split the Air and Space category into two categories – Air and Space – since I now have so many models in that zone. And, keeping with the trend, the landing pages are now mobile-first responsive, just like everything else on the site, so they ought to look good on your tablet or phone.

The convention is coming up and I’ve been folding some new stuff. I’ve expanded my Flowerball idea into different tessellations and different polyhedra. I’ve been concentrating on the Archimedean solids, with the faces yielding flowers decorated with 6- and 8-petal flowers. I’ve got about four weeks to the convention, so we’ll see how far we get with this idea, and if we have time for something else too.