One of these days, I am going to sit down, spend the time, and figure out some of these workflows over which power users celebrate. I don’t know that I have ever really mapped out the distinct workflows for research versus teaching versus personal interest. And, to be honest, those differences have led to what can only be described as document sprawl.

I’ve taken efforts to bound/tame the sprawl by putting an increasing amount of material in Papers, and letting it manage things. It does a pretty good job now, especially, of letting you set up collections and letting you sync those collections to an iOS device — making sure everything in a collection is local to the device when you are about to leave the webosphere is not quite as convenient as I like, but I trust the developers to figure it out. (They release updates at a pretty impressive pace.)

Still, there are things I handle in GoodReader, if only because some of the electronics work in which I am interested or teaching myself linear algebra doesn’t strike me as “worthy” of Papers. (And that’s a weird thing to consider. Are research materials sacred in some fashion?)

In the mean time, I’d like to start collecting notes on workflows:

Transcribing Piano Rolls, the Pythonic Way

What this guy does with Python is just amazing:

Piano rolls are these rolls of perforated paper that you feed to the saloon’s mechanical piano. They have been very popular until the 1950s, and the piano roll repertory counts thousands of arrangements (some by greatest names of jazz) which have never been published in any other form.

In this post I show how to turn into playable sheet music with the help of a few lines of Python. At the end I provide the sheet music, a human rendition, and a Python package that implements the method (and can also be used to transcribe from MIDI files).


With any luck, one day in the not too distant future, something like Dat will be interesting to humanists. What is Dat? Dat is “an open source project that provides a streaming interface between every file format and data storage backend.”

Sagan on Humans

There will be no humans elsewhere. Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species. Every one of us, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

Roy Blount’s Review of “Confederates in the Attic”, circa 1998

Roy Blount's Review of "Confederates in the Attic", circa 1998

Roy Blount’s Review of “Confederates in the Attic”, circa 1998

My one-book-down-more-to-go purge continues, but now in my campus office. I came across this review of Confederates in the Attic written by Roy Blount and published in the New York Times Book Review on 5 April 1998. (And here’s the PDF version, which has been OCRed and is searchable … because all PDFs should be.)