Archive for December 17th, 2013

progressWell, the code moves on. Today I did pretty much ZERO UX. Today it was all about consuming the data, getting it into the data structures and then being able to start consuming where the user is. This comprised about 3 hours of work this evening.

The JSON now lives on an internal server.  My internal network is firewalled, so in the words of the (not exactly im-)mortal Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a d!©k.” I see my blog logs and know how many script kitties are out there trying to see what they can do; and with enough effort damage could be done; but come on. It’s not worth it. I run a blog. People like reading about stuff. That’s it. No heavy crazy stuff.

Well, with that disclaimer, likely to bait people (unintentionally)… The JSON was moved to the internal server so that the app could call it up. At this point it’s just a JSON file that gets belched out in one large monstrosity; but the REST will come later. (Ooh, bad pun.) Having used my data structures to generate my first two JSON records, it was easy, but busy work to turn it around to consume the JSON into data structures rather than create the JSON from the data structures. (Hurray for serialisation libraries.)

Once that was all tested, then I went on to build in the location management. I have stuff, now I need to know where it is in relation to a location. (And vice-versa). And there is a first hint about what I’m working on!

The location stuff I’d played with in another project (aeons ago) so it just took a little bit of a memory jog to remember how to make it work.

Tomorrow is the data wedding. I pull the lorem ipsum data out and push in the data that’s now loaded into proper data structures. And then I can do my first demo’s to people who have been looking forwards to see progress. I showed it last evening to one supporter with only the lorem ipsum data and they seemed to want to start using it. (My lorem ipsum data was somewhat convincing). So, I take that as a good sign.

We’re (I love the royal we when my engineering team is “Me”) developing initially on the iPhone, then branching to Android and iPad. Win 8.x… not worth it at this point to me. So, people who may be interested in seeing or playing with early alphas and want to offer comments/criticism/suggestions are welcome. For this, I’m likely to keep it to people I know personally unless you convince me through the power of commutative coolness.

Happy with where code is. Happier with where it is going! More soon. (Sing Off is Wednesday)

P.S. For those who want to feel really young (or old). It’s probably been about 17 years since I had a web page that had the icon for this post on it.

The Sing-Off_ Season 4, Episode 4 - My Generation - EPLet me start this review by saying that my pre-show guesses were off, but I am happy for why. We’ll come back to my pre-show calls later. I should note: I do like all four of this episode’s group. I will sadly make this comment many times through this analysis.

Episode 4: My Generation. Which is described as songs that are “Chart toppers that span the decades.” After a quick recap from the previous show. There is a mention that this week’s “Mentor” will be Ben Folds and we go into the opening production number.

“My Generation / We Will Rock You / It’s Time”

Well, in the words of Jim Steinman, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” Actually, all the songs were really amazing, I just know the first two inside and out and didn’t really know the third. I felt the transition out of WWRY into It’s Time was a little messy and jarring, but besides that. greatly entertaining. I’m also really happy when they get vocalists from different groups to sing together in duets/trios. It’s just a nice unique sound for the series.

And allow me again to state how much I love the theme to the series in a world where show theme music has gone the way of such ironic travesties as the theme to “Glee.” The Sing Off theme is perfect for the mood of the show. This of course brings in Nick LeSwagger and the introduction of the judges. The pre-competition video shows Ben Folds talking to the group about the theme and how he will mentor each team. Ben has one interesting quotation for the episode in the opening bit:

Each group has something getting in the way of them being unstoppable.

The competition.


Home Free – “Ring of Fire” – Johnny Cash.

My comments earlier about Home Free:

Once again, Home Free finds a country hit that has enough cross-over to keep them in the running. My fear is that so far we have begun to see a formula where the lead singer is awesome, the song is “Fun” and then they trot out Uber-bass for a few lines for the sex. I am beginning to want to see more from them.

I gave them 15:1 on the fear that they were going to trot out the same formulae again. Then Home Free came out and did EXACTLY what they needed to. With an impressive interpretation which told a story and changed the focus around, Uber Bass Tim Foust took control of the song. One person on Twitter said the group should be called, “Tim Foust, Super Bass and some other country guys.” The Beat Box brought out a Reggae beat which was astounding. Admittedly, again mentioning Pentatonix; it’s not the first time that Reggae was brought out during a country song. Granted… it works. Austin Brown’s lead vocals are always very nice. But if the reggae worked and the arrangement worked, then the ending worked overtime. Foust let loose with a low F#. Which is a frightening note to begin with and he hit it like a hole in one. I am privileged/cursed during my viewings because I have a sub woofer. Or more correctly until this song ended: Had one. The note was almost sub-sonic. It was a huge signature. Home free brought it, and my belief that they were 15:1 at worst odds for the episode were entirely wrong.

The Judges:

Ben: You did it all. Perfectly executed. Bass went from an instrument to a human. The end… Heavy note. “Holy $#|^! What was that?” Awesome guys.

Jewel: June wrote the song. Great Poignancy. F#. Over 3 octaves. Country a cappella reggae.

Shawn: A “country” a cappella group with a beat box doing reggae. Never would have thought of it. It works. Austin: Voice… Smooth as butter.


HoneyLaRochelleVoicePlay – “Don’t Speak” – No Doubt

My comments earlier about VoicePlay:

 I really love this song. And I can not envision it as a cappella. This doesn’t mean anything of course. VoicePlay was the first group to get the Ultimate Sing Off wake-up call. So hopefully, they can keep up the energy and give a huge surprise.

I feel badly because I didn’t feel as strongly about this performance as the judges did. Things they greatly like didn’t work for me.  Honey’s entrance seemed uneven. At first the song seemed slow, but then I grew to like the story telling they were doing with it. About halfway through was a Hebraic chant. I thought it was stunningly well done, but it just didn’t fit into the song for me. The arrangement overall was great and it was in the correct direction for them. I walked away feeling that Honey Larochelle is a mixed blessing for the group. There are things she does very well, and there are things that seem to feel like her vs. the rest of the group. I gave them a 10:1 to continue on which was at the time a weak second place. Which was where I ranked them with Home Free holding an easy 1st place.

The Judges:

Shawn: Amazing. A different side. Fantastic arrangement. Eli: Middle Eastern Solo… Very nice

Ben: They kicked the song’s ass. You started with your liability. This time you used the dynamics to say something. When You earn it, everyone feels it with you.

Jewel: Week 1 was very technical. This week we saw your hearts. You showed us angst. Showed us the poignancy in the moment. Fantastic dynamics.


elementElement – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – The Supremes

My comments earlier about Element:

As opposed to the previous song; I can hear this one easily done a cappella. This also doesn’t mean anything. However, Element has not been bringing it anywhere near the power of Delilah (and one of their members was in that group)… They need to show or be in the bottom this week.

Ben’s advice was to let the soloists stand apart and not get lost by backup singers on the same parts. Element brought out the soloists. When the focus was on the solos this song really shined and Element was ‘in theirs’ and was doing a vey good job. Soloists were well highlighted, balance was good. Some very good energy and storytelling. Where things went wrong was that the harmonies got off far more than once or twice. At this stage in the show where there are only four groups… this is a kiss of death. With the level of euphoria the judges had for VoicePlay and Home Free, this performance does not look good for Element’s future. I gave them a 12:1 which meant they were positioned at third with their own ability to steal 2nd or clench defeat from the jaws of victory. After this I rank them 4th even though I don’t have a 3rd place yet.

The Judges:

Ben: Supported the lead and gave her space. A few tuning issues. You are such nice people. You almost got pissed. Drive it home. Like that you really focussed on singers. A step in the right direction.

Jewel: Thought you did a great job. Song had female empowerment. Hard to make modern. Good job.

Shawn: Compliments the look first (again). I like what you do. Some of the moments: The harmonies were a little muddy/unglued. I did like it.

Additional from me: I respect Shawn Stockman for his musical acumen. But I feel that he has been highly disrespectful to the members of Element. In general, the fact that the group is referred to as girls rather than women… In general it just makes me unhappy about the respect for the groups.


The Sing-Off - Season 4Vocal Rush – “Holding Out for a Hero” – Bonnie Tyler

My comments earlier about Vocal Rush:

This is a song that once again pre-dates the singers (which I find very amusing each week.) I think this one is a challenge and will really be the one that people measure Vocal Rush by. I like them a lot but I don’t know if they have the ability to push through the whole season.

I suppose I need to out myself once and for all. I have never (Outside of High School and College Choir) sung in an a cappella group. I truly wish I could. And if any of my readers are local to Pittsburgh I’m really good at several ranges, picking out names, being a ham, but on rare occasions have issues holding a pitch. Sigh. What this means is that sometimes I can miss the errors in a harmony blend. Vocal Rush hit the ground hard and hit it in a dead sprint. The initial beat and entry vocals got my attention from the word, “Go.” The intensity and performance from the beginning had that mature intensity that makes you forget their ages. Tonight at points I doubted that they really were all under 19. I also would be more than happy to buy this single. I loved it. The rap breakout in the middle was a fresh addition to the song. Sadly I was so captivated that I missed where they fell off the beat and where their harmonies muddied. So my rankings were higher than the judges. I initially gave them a 5:1 expecting them to hit this one out of the park. This may have coloured my opinion of their performance going in.  In the end, I moved them into 2nd position because I liked their performance better than I liked VoicePlay’s.

The Judges:

Ben: The bass and drums. Held it down in a way you hadn’t before. Thanks. Double force. Landed the plane very well.

Shawn: Young; Have no fear. You just go for it. You just give 100%. It’s so great about you. So musically intelligent because of you age. Double Chorus. Something happened. It fell apart a little bit. But you picked it back up. It was awesome.

Jewel: You made the song cool. Loved the rap. Didn’t expect it. Male voices are so warm and mix in well. One chink in the armour, can be the youthful exuberance makes you rush in the fun.

To recap my original odds:

  • Home Free – Ring of Fire  15:1
  • Element – You Keep Me Hangin’ On 12:1
  • VoicePlay – Don’t Speak 10:1
  • Vocal Rush – Holding Out for a Hero. 5:1

And my rankings coming out of the competition

  1. Home Free – Amazing growth, new sides of the group, Obscene bass.
  2. Vocal Rush – Energetic, fun, new take, mature
  3. VoicePlay – Honey felt uneven, and as much as I liked the Middle Eastern Chant… it didn’t work for me.
  4. Element – Just not bringing the sound I expect to hear.

My call for the Ultimate Sing Off (which I still dislike, but have grown to appreciate a good show, better performance, and sometimes a needed kick in the butts for the groups that shouldn’t be down there): Originally, by my rankings it would be: VoicePlay vs. Element.

HOWEVER, The judges gave no ill words to either VoicePlay or Home Free; so it looks like it’ll be Vocal Rush vs. Element. Even though I like my review of VoicePlay and Vocal Rush better. So, despite how I feel:

I think Vocal Rush’s energy take Element out. I like Element a lot, but I just don’t see them showing what they need to after 3 shows in a row where they haven’t. I think the Ultimate battle will be the “Time to really grow up” call to Vocal Rush.

And then I get all conspiracy minded and try to talk myself out of it:

Granted… they keep talking about how far Vocal Rush has made it in the competition for a High School group… which may mean that they are already done before singing.

The final judging:

  • Element vs. Home Free (Really? Ouch)
    • Safe – Home Free
    • USO – Element
  • VoicePlay vs. Vocal Rush
    • Safe – VoicePlay
    • USO – Vocal Rush

I’d really like to see Vocal Rush move on. I think they have a lot of potential. And I feel badly because I like Element.

Ultimate Sing off: Element and Vocal Rush – Survivor – Destiny’s Child

Both groups come out with both their groups fully energised. The “Game Face” attitude is annoying and distracting. Both groups sounds strong but each have their weaknesses. Element is showing a lack of variety while Vocal Rush is letting the emotion muddy their sound. Both groups are very good. Unless something changes for the winner, neither will make it to the final 3. Honestly it’s a coin flip from listening and watching. It’s very hard to call.  In the end I let my cynicism for Reality Programming to win out and lean toward Element for having a tighter group cohesion. My wish is for Element, my belief is that they will chose Element. Element I think had the slightly better showing in the Ultimate Sing Off; but I think between the two of the groups, Vocal Rush has the better chance to grow and get better. I inevitably call this one a coin flip.

Ben Folds on behalf of the judges and without any explanation calls “Vocal Rush” as the survivor. (Which honestly and happily surprised me)

Final notes:

  • Next episode:
    • Wednesday @ 8:00 pm
    • Movie Themes – Ooh Yum!
    • 6 team Ultimate Sing-Off Battle
    • 2 teams will be eliminated.
  • Single Best thing from the episode: Vocal Rush continues on
  • Single Worst thing from the episode: Sexism and Sexist condescending comments from Shawn Stockman

See you this Wednesday!