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Tempo experiment over

The online tempo experiment is now over; I am no longer collecting information. You are welcome to continue playing the game if you find it helpful, though! More information below.

Thanks so much for participating! We collected a total of 1041 games played. Of these, 882 games had the human player agree with the calculated tempo. In 89 games, the player disagreed with the calculated tempo and gave their own tempo estimation, and 70 games had the player disagree with the tempo without giving their own tempo estimation.

My task now is to examine all these games; my goal is to have "3-agent agreement". For the "agreed with tempo" games, I need to check that I agree that the tempo is good -- this means that the player, me, and the computer all agree on the tempo. For both categories of "disagreed with tempo", I need to figure out what the real tempo should be, then tweak my algorithm so that the computer produces that tempo -- without ruining any of the detected tempos of the "agreed" examples. And if there's any disagreement between me and the player, I'll have to show the specific examples to our resident professor emeritus of music so that he can give a tie-breaking vote. And if he disagrees with both of us... well, there will probably be so few of those games that I can just discuss them individually in a special section of the paper. (I doubt there'll be any of those, though)

A few people asked me privately about getting 100%, so I took a quick glance at the games. The very best game had an average error of 1.25 milliseconds (this was on level 5), while the best game on level 1 had an average error of 12.6 milliseconds. Mathematicians everywhere just winced at my use of the word "average", so let me clarify that those were the RMSE. The mean squared errors were 1.5*10^-6 and 1.5*10^-4, respectively.

Those games were very much the exception, however -- most "great" exercises had an "average" error of 30-40 milliseconds. This is just based on me skimming through a list of hundreds of numbers, though... a detailed (and non-subjective :) analysis will be coming in the next few days.

Vancouver Visit

I considered calling this post a two-word version of "my only visit to Vancouver in 2010", but then I realized that I'd be attacked by a rabid mob of angry international olympic organizationlawyer-weasels. Anyway, read on to hear about my Canada trip from two weeks ago.


Victoria Vancouver hiking

The flight from Glasgow to London was typical. That was the fifth time I've done a 1-hour flight with British Airways, so I knew exactly what it would be like.

My seat from London to Vancouver was upgraded from "world traveller" to "world traveller plus" because they'd oversold the cheaper seats. This gave me a slightly nicer chair, a toothbrush -- but also noise-canceling headphones. Those made the flight incredibly much better. I don't know if it would be worth buying the more expensive seats on their own, though. I'm going to continue flying with the cheapest seats, but I'm buying my own pair of noise-canceling headphones before having another 8-hour flight.

Vancouver was fantastic, as usual. I managed to meet almost everybody I wanted to meet -- I missed two people. One was working in a law firm in London, and the other was flying around BC training local tax workers how to deal with HST. Unfortunately I was sick for the first few days that I was there, but I recovered fairly quickly.

The first full week was spent at the usual West Coast Amateur Musician Society summer music camp. I was concert-master of the string orchestra playing the Elgar String Serenade, first violinist in a quartet playing the first movement of the Dvorak American quartet, and cello in a clarinet quartet op 1 by Rabl. (not a typo; he's a very unknown composer. Very much in Brahms style)

In addition to music-making, the summer music camp was great for my research. I saw the people that my educational music games were really written for -- amateur adult musicians -- but I also just had the chance to talk about my work. Lots of people were asking what I was doing, and talked about it with me. Sure, maybe they were just making polite conversation and feigning interest... but feigned interest is still better than a complete lack of interest! I'm more fired up to work on my research than I have been in the past year! :)

Victoria was Victoria. I saw my old research lab, caught up on the local academic gosspic, etc. It was really interesting to get (briefly) re-immersed in that atmosphere -- in the past few months, I've been in contact with the NUS research group as well, so I'm pretty much up-to-date on three "music technology" labs on three different continents. It's surprising how different they are!

That said, as I type this, I'm realizing that they are on three different continents, precisely separated around the globe by time zone (8 hours each way). So maybe it's not surprising that there would be huge differences between the labs, after all.

Trip back to Glasgow wasn't as nice as the way home. I went to the airport via the new "Canada line", which was quite convenient, but was boring. Too much tunnel.

At the airport, I noticed a Tim Hortons and eagerly went to get some timbits. I'd forgotten to have some any earlier, and I've spent the past year whining about the lack of timbits (and doughnuts in general) in Glasgow. For better or worse, I seem to have identified timbits as the distinctly Canadian food that I miss while abroad. (I'm sure that their marketing department would be overjoyed with this post. :)

Anyway, in my eagerness to have the doughnuts, I forgot how much I disliked their coffee (ok, maybe their marketing department wouldn't be overjoyed). Also, I didn't spot a deal for half a dozen timbits (which is what I remember from 10 years ago), so I got the 10-timbit deal. That was a bit too much, so I began the flight feeling a bit queasy.

Oh, but before the flight, I got called on the PA system! Apparently if you print a boarding pass from home and don't check any baggage, they call you so that they can swipe your passport themselves. I guess that makes sense from a security standpoint... but in that case, what's the point of 24-hour early online checkins? Just to choose seats?!

Flight was distinctly meh. I saw toy story, toy story 2, and another movie which escapes my memory at the moment. Oh wait, it was Alice in Wonderland. It didn't leave much of an impression, other than wincing at the clumsy attempts at romance between Alice and the Mad Hatter. And it wasn't just the amount of time spent on it -- a great romance doesn't need an hour to develop. One of the best love stories I've ever watched was about 5 minutes long. This was just bad writing.

The flight landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule, but then we had to wait for 15 minutes before they brought in some airplane taxis to move the previous airplane that was occupying our gate. They weren't expecting us there that early.

I wandered around in Heathrow in a bit of a daze, feeling lightheaded and a bit dizzy. I spent about 10 minutes reflecting on how I was unusually dehydrated from the flight, or had a problem with low blood sugar or something... but then I remembered that it was about 7am Vancouver time, and I hadn't slept at all, and that I was just experiencing the usual "stayed up way past his bedtime" symptoms. (in my defense, I'll remind you that a decrease of cognitive abilities is one of the symptoms of being awake for a long time)

Final amusing note -- when the flight landed at Glasgow, the pilot announced that it was 23 C, and almost all the passengers burst out laughing. I think he must have heard us, because he quickly corrected it to 15 C.

I felt a brief (and surprising!) burst of pride at the laughter, though. Apparently even though I don't have any accent and still sometimes have problems understanding the dialect, I've picked up the Glaswegian (or Scottish in general? or maybe even British in general?) pride in having poor weather.

Looking ahead, I have a few goals for non-academic life:

  • Join at least one amateur orchestra. I don't know whether it would be a community or student orchestra, but I definitely should start making contacts with local amateur musicians.
  • Join a club or something.
  • Get into the habit of saying "aye" instead of "yeah" / "yup". I feel incredibly self-conscious whenever I consider saying "aye".

Time spent on LilyPond

I'm one of the main developers of LilyPond, which takes a fair amount of time. As discussed previously, I'm trying to keep it under control setting limits on the time I spent on it. I slipped up during the summer, so as of 1 Aug, I'm restarting these limits. This time it's 10 hours per week. And I modified some software to help me!

Is 10 hours ok? Well, it sounds like a lot... I mean, that's 40 hours -- a week of full-time work -- each month! But look at it this way: if I was a serious amateur violinist, I'd practice for an hour a day, plus maybe a two-hour orchestra rehearsal once a week, and maybe a one-hour quartet rehearsal. Hey, that's 10 hours! So I figure that 10 hours a week is a decent amount of time for a "serious hobby".

I modified TimeTracker, a simple python script for timing various projects. The program came from:

My modified version adds a "modify" (or "mod") function, which lets you add extra minutes to an existing project. Read the main documentation first. My new function works like this:

$ mod 1 30
Added 30 minutes to task 1.

This addition is useful when I've been working on my desktop computer -- my time-keeping is done on my laptop, so I just need to remember that I spent 30 / 45 / 90 minutes working on the desktop, and add that time to my laptop's record when I have a chance.

If other people find this program useful, I might clean up the documentation a bit. The program is in the public domain (following the original author's decision).