Global Mobile

Spring is finally here, woo-hoo! The weather was really nice last Friday and Saturday, and I began the spring cycle of yardwork by raking off all the leaves and sticks and debris from the lawn and flowerbeds and under the hedges and on the edge of the patio. Things look much nicer now, and it good to be spending time outside doing sutf again.

I attended a really fascinating meeting last week for the Global Jukebox. Anna wants to create a Global Jukebox mobile app based around some new Journeys. Journeys are guided multimedia experiences in the Jukebox to tell a story, and feature music, text and graphics, sometimes video, plus a responsive map showing the origins of the songs in journey, linked up into a path. She assembled a team of world-class musicologists and cultural scholars to develop the content, and this was the kick-off. My role on the project is as software engineer, so I mainly sat back and listened. The theme for new journeys is the roots of American pop music, tracing its origins back to various kinds of folk music being sung at the beginning of the era of recorded music, and further back to various diaspora from Africa, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and other places, and how the various cultural threads and musical forms came together and influenced each other over time. It was a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion, and I can hardly wait to see what emerges from it.

Meanwhile in my other consulting gig, the Digital Lab at Consumer Reports is picking up momentum. I’ve become immersed in discussions around internet privacy and consumer’s digital rights, both from and issues and policy point of view, and also at technical level. I’m taking over a demo/prototype app, built by a third party vendor, to help people manage their internet privacy. I’ve gotten over the hump WRT setting up tools and all, and have already fixed a few bugs and deployed the front end app to production. Today we had an onsite meeting to discuss strategy as the project, and larger R&D group, move into a new phase. Consumer Reports is a unique place with their own corporate culture. It’s funny how the place is so close to my house, even though the team is all remote. The campus in Yonkers is pretty cool, with lots of testing facilities for household appliances, electronics, and all sorts of other consumer goods one might buy. They have an amazing audio listening room and a completely silent, soundproof room next door. I must say it was weird being back in an office after all this time. There was a handful of people there, some for the first time like me, and others who hadn’t seen their colleagues in a long time.

I’ve been listening to alot of music lately. I did a deep dive into Frank Zappa, after seeing a documentary about him. Zappa has a ton of albums, many of which I’ve never listened to. Live in New York, from 1978, features the Brecker Brother and David Sanborn as the horn section. Mostly I was surprised in particular about the depth and extent of his orchestral works, which existed as a parallel thread to his rock stuff for his entire career. His last album, The Yellow Shark, a recording of his final concert, is a live orchestral performance of his work, and most excellent, fun and interesting. Fun fact: Jazz from Hell was the only instrumental to receive a parental advisory sticker for inappropriate lyrical content from Tipper Gore’s Parents Against Music group of the 1980’s.

The next deep dive was into Joe Jackson. I’ve been assembling and maintaining a songbook of lead sheets to practice on piano, and I got up the letter J in my practice rotation. I was trying to get the bass line together for Stepping Out, which is not so easy when also singing and playing the right hand. I found a demo version on Spotify, on the deluxe edition of Night and Day, and the bass line is alot clearer and more prominent than the actual record. Way cool. Then I listened to bunch of his early records, which I don’t know too well. His start off very guitar-driven and new wave, sort of halfway between Elvis Costello and The Police.

I’ve been listening to alot of Joe Henderson, Horace Silver and Pharaoh Sanders, as we’ve been exploring new material for the jazz group. We’re also doing African Skies by Michael Brecker, and I found several versions of that. The original by the Brecker Brothers and the classic one from Michael’s solo record Tales from the Hudson. There are also a couple cover versions, which leads me to some new bands I want to check out.

Look Sharp!

Well it looked like spring was right around the corner. Last Friday was a beautiful day and I even went for a bike ride, but then Saturday and Sunday it snowed. No heavy accumulation, but enough to make a mess. Up in Buffalo the girls went skiing this weekend. Down here Jeannie and I decided the ski season was over two weeks ago and packed our stuff away until next winter. Ah well.

Meanwhile, I started a new consulting gig a few weeks ago, with the Digital Lab at Consumer Reports. More on that as the situation unfolds, but so far it’s lots of fun and very cool. It’s an R&D lab working in the space of consumer advocacy, digital rights, and online privacy. The people seem smart, organized and forward thinking. I’m doing a combination of hands-on software development, architecture, planning, design and think-tanking. Only problem is, it takes up all my time. Suddenly I’m very busy all day long, and have to plan ahead to slot in all the things I need to do over the course of a week. Hope it doesn’t cut into my saxophoning too much.

Speaking of which, one project I always do in the late winter is to update my photo galleries for the previous year. Considering there was a pandemic going on, we did a fair amount of traveling, and captured enough pictures for a few nice galleries (at least compared to 2020, when we didn’t go anywhere after February). I started thinking I wouldn’t have much, since we didn’t use the snapshot camera at all. However, everyone takes pictures on their phones nowadays.

As usual, these friends-and-family galleries are password-protected, so contact me if you need credentials. Enjoy!

Waiting for the Sun

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

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

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

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

More to come soon, so watch this space!