• Lace Automata — Sunday, February 18, 2018

    Sometime around fifth grade I either invented or stole-and-then-forgot-about-stealing a kind of rule-based doodles that I later realized were cellular automata.

  • How informative are shape notes? — Friday, January 12, 2018

    Shape note singers learn to sight-sing using a mnemonic system. Each degree of the scale is associated with a shape and a syllable, and before we sing a song we “sing the shapes” to remind ourselves how it goes.

  • Finite State Transducers and the Two Kinds of Suck — Saturday, November 11, 2017

    Over the summer I set out to make a language description plugin for rST that would let you call on Fancy Linguistic Resources — like, say, finite state morphological transducers.

    Along the way, I’ve learned one thing:

    Writing finite state transducers by hand really sucks.

    I think it might not have to.

  • Python templates and custom mapping types — Thursday, August 24, 2017

    In the Python world, the Right Way to render a template is to pass it a mapping.

    Python has exactly one built-in mapping type: good old dict.

    This means there’s no consensus on the Right Way for templates to handle custom mapping types. Some downcast them to dict, some take them as they are. This post looks at which template libraries do which.

  • How to do things with redundancy — Saturday, August 19, 2017

    API documentation has lots of examples. Examples tend to be redundant — you show a statement and the result of evaluating it, even though the one can usually be predicted from the other.

    Linguistic writing also has lots of examples. Usually those are also at least a little redundant.

    What if this means that linguists and doc writers can share tools?

  • The source of Conflict — Friday, June 05, 2015

    Elder John R. Daily’s Primitive Baptist Hymn and Tune Book is a seven-shape Primitive Baptist hymnal with a strikingly distinctive harmonic style. [1] It turns out that many of Daily’s arrangements come from a few Primitive Baptist hymnals of the 1880s. One source is Durant & Lester’s 1886 “Hymn and Tune Book.” Another source is Sears & Ausmus’s 1881 Primitive Baptist Hymnal, which I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere. These sources include a number of arrangements that were later printed in Daily. They also include some arrangements that didn’t make it into Daily, but that are written in a similar style.

  • A bug that describes itself — Thursday, May 14, 2015

    Today I found a bug that describes itself. In fact, it tells you how to fix itself.

  • @watts_ebooks — Thursday, May 14, 2015

    I’ve been fascinated for a while by the idea of generative poetry. Recently I started tinkering with it myself, and my first experiment is working well enough that I’ve set it up as a Twitter bot: @watts_ebooks, tweeting randomly generated hymn stanzas in the style of Isaac Watts, such as this (ethically and theologically dubious!) example:

  • Four-shape solfège — Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    In another post I wondered whether it would be possible to enter notes using the four syllables used in Sacred Harp singing, where an octave is not do re mi fa sol la ti do but rather fa so la fa so la mi fa. I guessed that the answer was no, because LilyPond assumes that note names will repeat at the octave.

  • Movable-do in lilypond — Sunday, September 14, 2014

    LilyPond understands note names in a lot of different languages:

  • Kedron — Sunday, September 07, 2014

    Kedron (SH 48) is known to most Sacred Harp singers as a lovely, stark and simple minor-key tune. So I was startled to see that the original version, in the United States Sacred Harmony, is strikingly chromatic in a way unlike anything else I’ve encountered in the modern shapenote repertoire.