Since I’m Already Going to Hell

Since I’m already going to hell, let me be the first to say it: I’m sick of the coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting.

There. I said it.

My sympathy is with the victims, don’t get me wrong. But don’t expect to turn the news on and expect actual news for several days as the news media attaches itself to this story and competes for the most speculation-ridden, emotional coverage.

Currently on the cable news networks: MSNBC – Were the guns legal purchases?; CNN – Kiran Chetry on campus, What do we know about the weapons?; Headline News – All about the guns, the criminal weapon of choice; Fox News – Shepard Smith on campus, Survivors’ stories.

The president has spoken. The congress has rescheduled important hearings. The talk radio circuit will be unlistenable today. But for every other working American, it is Tuesday. We will all go to work, complete our jobs, go home, eat dinner, and go to bed. In the grand scheme of things, this story only truly effects those who are directly involved.

OK, we get it. It is a big story. Now let us please move on.

But no, we’re going to have this crammed down our collective throats for the next week, all under the headline of “breaking news.”

We’re going to see anti-gun stories. We’re going to see stories about poor security and poor response plans. We’re going to see an endless parade of victims. We’re going to see non-stop press conferences where nothing new is revealed, and on the rare occasion that new information comes to light it will be breaking news all over again. We’re going to hear about proposed legislation at the local, state, and federal levels that will likely not be enforced or enforceable, and only serves to restrict the rights of law abiding citizens and not the crazy nuts who are going to break the law anyway.

Currently on MSNBC – Commercials (gotta profit from tragedy, right?), but with a scroller giving us non-breaking breaking news; CNN – Kiran Chetry, talking with more victims with a non-breaking breaking news banner; Headline News – cancellation of athletic events, more non-breaking breaking news with the dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Robin Meade; Fox News – Virginia Tech president talking with Geraldo from yesterday, more non-breaking breaking news.

Let’s move on. Please, let’s move on.

Grrr.

So I’m sitting here this morning at about 11:30, simultaneously helping two different customers and working on a coding project, all with literally three hours of sleep.

My neighbors had hired a tree service to come out and trim a tree above their driveway that happened to be sitting on our roof. Good news for me, right?

I’m hearing all sorts of noises as they trim the tree and pull it off our roof. Bangs and scratches and scrapes. And then…

CRASH!

I head out into the hall to see what broke.

I look down to the bottom of the stairs to see a 5″ thick limb sticking about a foot into my house and glass all over the place!

Damn it.

Luckily it’s an old window with a single pane of glass, and so fixing it will be as simple as caulking, putting the glass up, and putting on new molding.

I was a little mad at first, but I think that was just the three hours of sleep. These guys were here to trim a tree, not break my windows. As long as they fix it, it’s no big deal.

So my kitties are locked up in the bedroom for the day while I await the crew’s return with a new piece of glass.

I just thought I’d share.

How to Search GarageBand.com for Creative Commons Music

GarageBand.com, for all of its good qualities, is lacking in one major, major department: Their search is crap.

The main options are Band, Song, and CD. The sub-options are named like…, from the city or state of…, in this musical sub-genre…, sounding like the band…, or influenced by the band….

What is missing? The option to search by license. You cannot search for music only released under the Creative Commons license. This is a huge problem, and one that is easily solved.

It is a huge problem because folks like me– who want to play Creative Commons music on their online radio show– have no choice but to manually visit every page on the entire GarageBand.com site just to find the insanely small amount of Creative Commons music that they actually host. This deprives up-and-coming bands the opportunity to achieve airtime and increased exposure simply because their music cannot be easily located.

The solution is a check box that allows people to search only Creative Commons music, which in turn makes minimal changes to the query that actually powers their search. I’ve emailed them to tell them as much. Their response is the typical form-mail crap that you would expect, e.g. “We’ve forwarded this to our development team for consideration.”

So for those of you who are looking for Creative Commons music at GarageBand.com, here is your solution: Click this link.

Yeah, it’s a Google search. It restricts the results to pages at GarageBand.com. It requires that the URL either contains “artist” (pages for artists that releases under the Creative Commons license) or “song” (songs released under the Creative Commons license). And lastly, it requires that pages contain the words “Creative” and “Commons.”

Simple. Functional. And waaaaaaaaaaay better for finding Creative Commons songs on GarageBand.com than anything GarageBand.com offers.

You’re welcome.

Sandgnats Season Opener

In the past five years, Jaime and I have taken a liking to Minor League Baseball. Our local team, the Savannah Sandgnats, is the minor league affiliate of the New York Mets in the Single A South Atlantic League.

In the past, the Sandgnats have been a crummy team. Really crummy. They have finished just about every season in which I’ve seen games with a losing record. But, that’s okay. It’s a fun time going to the ballpark, and– win or lose– it doesn’t really matter.

The Gnats play at Historic Grayson Stadium, about 4 miles outside of downtown. It’s a beautiful old ballpark, sometimes billed as the “Wrigley Field of the Minor Leagues.” Over the years, it has hosted many great players, such as Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson. The stadium is in need of lots of love.

That’s why I was a little disappointed in some of the changes that were made to Grayson for this season. The people of Savannah were nice enough to give $5 Million via the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, meant for improvements to the stadium. To me, the improvements were not improvements at all.

The largest and most visible change is the “new scoreboard.” I put that in quotes because it is really not a scoreboard at all. What it is is a billboard for advertisements with a big television on it. There’s a huge Minor League Baseball advertisement, a Coke advertisement, a Budweiser advertisement, and, if I recall correctly, a Sandgnats advertisement. There is a clock/temperature display. The only redeeming quality is that there is a pitch speed indicator.

But notice what I did not mention: something to display the score. That’s right, the new scoreboard doesn’t actually display the score. Instead, it displays advertisements that resemble– ah hell– they are commercials. The play commercials between innings now. During the actual game play, they display static graphics of the batting player’s name, number, and position.

But still, no score. Also missing is a progressive statistic indicator, such as “Joe Blow, CF, #12 – 0 for 3, 2K and Ground Out”. Also missing is a “guess tonight’s attendance” trivia. Hell, there is no team trivia at all. Isn’t that a staple at the ballgame?

The new scoreboard is also terribly bright. I mean really bright. So bright, in fact, that when the main lights went out, the field was still clearly illuminated by the huge advertisement on the big screen. The sign was so bright that looking to the sign and then back to the action on the field was a difficult transition. It is just this massive, glaring beast of an annoyance in center field. The worst part? They left the sign on with a super-bright advertisement while the fireworks show took place. The sign was literally brighter than the fireworks.

So where is the score, you ask? Well let me tell you about the old scoreboard. Here is a photo:

Old Grayson Stadium Scoreboard

As you can see, it was in rough shape. But, it had something that the new scoreboard will never have– character. It fit with the stadium, and with Savannah. It was manually operated because it’s electronics didn’t work. It was old, and it was a bigger part of Grayson Stadium than I think many people realized.

So, the score. Well, there is a new manually operated “scoreboard.” It is in left center field, painted onto one of the walls. The bottom of the scoreboard sits on the warning track, making it very low, very dark, and very difficult to read. This problem is compounded by the fact that they put what appear to be floodlights in the wall to indicate balls, strikes, and outs. When these floodlights turn on, it makes it even harder to read the score. It is still manually operated, like the old scoreboard. But to my eye, the digits seem smaller than the old scoreboard, and the contrast between the actual “scoreboard” and the digital screen “advertising scoreboard” makes keeping up with the score of the actual game very difficult. And, if you’re in the picnic area and a single person stands up, you’re not seeing the score.

As you can see, I’m quite disappointed. I don’t see how anyone can look at the new scoreboards and think that they are an improvement over what we had.

Among the other changes to the stadium is a new sound system. Unfortunately, it seems that the logic that was followed was “increasing bass makes it sound better.” The speakers used for the mids and highs are the same as in years past. They have the same massive amounts of distortion at any volume of significance, the same rattles, and the same buzzing and crackling when no audio is being pushed through them. I could go on and on and give a bigger critique, but even the best sound system can only do so much with the audio that is provided.

The other main improvement– and the only actual semi-improvement in my eyes– is the expanded seating. Basically, they ripped out every other row of benches in the stands, making sitting in the stands bearable for a six foot tall person like me. Of course, this has some major drawbacks. The problem with removing half the available seating is that the seating area is now twice as crowded. Granted, it was opening night and Thirsty Thursday (1/2 price beer, soda) so the crowd was much bigger than it would be for a normal game. But still, whose idea was it to rip out half the seating? That person should be looking for employment elsewhere, and not by choice.

There is another “improvement” in the works at ol’ Grayson. They’re tearing out the old left field bleachers. They have been condemned and off-limits for years now, so the plan is to remove them. The problem, in my eyes, is that there will continue to be no outfield seating anywhere in the stadium. None. Seating extends from 3rd base, around behind the plate, and all the way down the right field line. Fans at Grayson Stadium have no chance at ever catching a homerun ball, only foul balls. Where is the fun in that?

It stands to reason that if you are going to remove every other row of seating at the stadium, and you’re going to remove and not replace the left field bleachers, you’re setting yourself up for a big lost opportunity when a big name pro comes to Savannah during rehab. Let us catch home run balls! Let the kids catch home run balls!

There are only two other criticisms that I have. First, reluctantly, is the new MC. I’m optimistic that she will improve by leaps and bounds. She talks too fast, so fast that it is difficult to understand what she is saying. And after every unintelligible phrase comes the inevitable “WHHHHHOoooooooooooo!,” so loud that it made me thankful that beverages are served in plastic drinkware at Grayson Stadium.

The last criticism is a carryover from last year. To me, it is an irresponsible action that is repeated for every Thursday home game. See, every Thursday home game is Thirsty Thursday. Beer is half price. Pizza is $1 a slice. The new addition this year is that soda is half price as well. This is a good thing. Last year it was just cheap beer and pizza.

The problem I have with Thirsty Thursday is that at NO time does the PA announcer say anything about drinking responsibly. At NO time does the PA announcer mention anything about designated drivers. Beer is served through the last inning– not the 7th or even the 5th like other professional ballparks. The only semblance of suggested responsibility at Grayson Stadium is the final “Drive Safe.” Hell, the PA announcer doesn’t even announce that soda is half price– just beer and pizza. And the lines for beer– dedicated lines for beer– only serve beer. But if you’re a designated driver, you get to miss two innings standing in line to get a drink that won’t alter your consciousness.

To me, this is ridiculous. I mean, come on– you can’t feed people half price beer and not even suggest that they have a sober friend drive home, or even suggest that they curtail their drinking in order to help prevent drunk driving.

Instead what do they do? They have an official after-game bar that sponsors the stadium. Yeah, that’s right, after you’ve tossed back 7 or 8 cheap beers, grab a to-go cup, jump into your car, and drive downtown to drink some more. What a load of crap, a huge, steaming, stinky load of crap. Pathetic.

Anyway, I really do like the Sandgnats, and I really do like Minor League Baseball. I’ll probably head out to the stadium every couple of weeks for the rest of the season, as I have in seasons past.

I guess I’m just resistant to change when it degrades the ballpark experience. And I suppose that someone– someone who is completely off-base– could argue that I’m totally wrong in terms of responsible drinking.

That is all.