For the fallen

Today started, for me and my family, like any other Memorial Day: we got up, we got dressed, and we went to the parade. As usual, the citizens of Perry lined the streets eagerly anticipating candy, smiles and marching band music, and as usual, the Girl Scouts, American Legion, and public services delivered.

As the end of the parade passed us, my family and I started walking, following the parade to the corner of Main St. and Center Road, for the ceremony. However, there were too many people who, after getting their doses of candy, smiles and music headed back to their houses and cars to go somewhere else.

To me, this ritual represents all that is wrong with Memorial day today. Every May, the last weekend is set aside as the first official holiday weekend of summer. Families pack their cars and go see family in other states, watch races, have barbeques, go to baseball games, and many other things – the parade portion of Memorial Day weekend.

But at some point, everybody should step back and take some time to think about why we have this weekend – the ceremony. Many teenagers don’t know what this weekend is for. Many adults are even worse – they take the freedoms that they have for granted, forgetting what this holiday is about.

Ironically, it’s only because of what these men and women fought for that Memorial day has become what it has. None of the veterans have asked for a day in their honor; no veterans insist that this day be a solemn day of rememberance instead of a celebration of summer beginning.

I had a thought today during the ceremony, and found it mind-boggling. Consider this: there were 2,974 deaths as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks. But according to a quick Wikipedia lookup, over 1,000,000 men and women have died in United States armed conflicts. We in no way celebrate on September 11th. How is it possible that we can celebrate on Memorial Day?

The answer is simple: because our armed forces would have it no other way. But as much as they would prefer this weekend to be a celebration, as American citizens, we owe them at least a few minutes of reverence and meditation for the sacrifice they’ve made.

So I guess my message today is simple: go to Memorial Day parades, but more importantly, go to the ceremonies. It may not mean a lot to you, but it means a lot to them. And hopefully, throughout the year, even when you’re paying taxes, paying high prices at the pump, filling out endless forms for social security or listening to crack-nut politicians, you’ll remember that it’s because of the men and women who gave their life for this country that I have the right to call someone a crack-nut politician, that you have the right to complain about gas prices and taxes, we all have the right to practice whatever religion we choose (if any), and on what should be a dreary, solemn day, that we can celebrate the beginning of summer.

Here I dreamt I was an architect…

Hello blogosphere! I bet you thought you got rid of me, but never fear, my faithful (or obsessive, in some cases) following. Lots to catch up on, so hopefully my fingers don’t get tired – there’s a lot of stuff to talk about.

  • I’ll start with some personal news, involving my ballpark tour thus far. I took a somewhat long-awaited trip to Ohio University this weekend, and thus unexpectedly went to a game at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinatti, OH.

    I say the visit was somewhat unexpected, because as you all may recall, Cincinatti was not on my to-visit list when I made the list back in March. However, given its close proximity to Ohio University (at least somewhat) and inexpensive tickets, I could hardly pass up the opportunity.

    Getting to Cincinatti was somewhat of an adventure, thanks to our fearless leader (ahem, Frankie) but we got there and the stadium looks very nice and new from the outside:

    Great American Ballpark

    The view from our seats was also nice:

    Great American Ballpark
    As nice as the stadium looked, something about it didn’t quite strike the right chord with me. Maybe it was the obnoxious (and dumb) Cincinatti fans, maybe it was the old fashioned organ music playing constantly in what is a very new ballpark, or maybe it was the fact that the Indians simply weren’t playing very well. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say the Great American Ballpark gets a solid 6. Nonetheless, a good time was had by all and some more pictures have been posted.

  • I have a suggestion for the people at Apple, particularly those making iTunes.

    One of the coolest features (in my opinion) of iTunes is the ability to generate Smart Playlists, ones which are automatically populated based on rules that you set. For example, one of the preset Smart Playlists is the “Recently Played” playlist, which creates a playlist of all of the items played in the last two weeks.

    But say, for example, you wanted to have all items played in the last three weeks. All you would do is right click on the playlist and click “Edit Smart Playlist”. You get this interface:
    iTunes Smart Playlist

    You can filter by date last played, rating, play count, whatever you want. But what the Smart Playlist feature basically boils down to is the ability to query the iTunes database. For example, the SQL query for the screenshot above (more or less) is:

    SELECT [songs] -- TOP 25 -- not needed here
    FROM TableOfSongs
    WHERE (UNIX_TIMESTAMP() - LastPlayedDate <= 2*7*24*3600)
    ORDER BY LastPlayedDate

    Before really discovering this feature, I made a playlist about once a month featuring my favorite songs at that time. But the last playlist I made was in August 2007, because I created a “Random Favorites” playlist which looks a little bit like this:
    iTunes Smart Playlist

    Notice the “match any” criterion. What I really wish is that there were more options, because as it stands right now, I can only have PlayCount > 5 OR (UNIX_TIMESTAMP() - DateAdded) < (1 * 7 * 24 * 3600) OR Rating = '*****'. What I'd really like is the ability to have PlayCount > 5 OR ((UNIX_TIMESTAMP() - DateAdded) < (1 * 7 * 24 * 3600) AND Rating = '*****'). You can't do that with the current tools, and while that's a meaningless example, if I were given the tools I may never have to create a real playlist again.

    Editor's note, 3/31/2013: I'm replacing these screenshots because the originals no longer exist, but since 2008, many of these features have been added.

  • Hillary Clinton is still alive - not only alive, but alive and kicking. The primaries in Kentucky and Oregon are tomorrow, and most experts expect that Clinton will win Kentucky while Obama will win Oregon. And "Operation Chaos" continues.

    Clinton should really drop out unless she wins Oregon tomorrow - meaning that she should simply drop out. She's hurting Obama, whether she likes it or not (and secretly, I think she enjoys the fact that she may not win the election but she'll still decide who is elected). But we'll see.

  • I saw Iron Man over the weekend, and let me just say this: I was floored. I totally did not expect that movie to be as good as it was, although I did figure it might give me a quote of the day:

    Army: Is it true that you went twelve-for-twelve with the Maxim Girls last year?
    Tony Stark: That is an excellent question. Yes and no. March and I had a scheduling conflict but fortunately the Christmas cover was twins.

It's still way too cold for the month of May - here's to global warming, everybody!

Update: Fixed the SQL to match.

There’s a place up ahead and I’m going…

I’m 3/4 done with my college career, and without a doubt the last year was the hardest. The good news is that this time next year, I’ll be planning for life after college and hopefully becoming more of the person I’d like to be.

  • After work tonight, a friend and I decided to try to get one of those famous 23 cent pizzas. Actually, the original plan was to get more than one – as many as possible, actually. Unfortunately, we weren’t counting on every single Clevelander having the same idea. The talk radio people like Mike Trivisonno (who is normally fun to listen to, for the record, but has his moments where he’s just an absolute moron) were very annoyed that so many people were taking advantage, and as the previous article states, there were some issues. But tomorrow is another day, and by this time tomorrow, we’ll all remember that Papa Johns doesn’t really make great pizza.
  • The Indians took a series in New York (mostly thanks to Cliff Lee and David Dellucci, two oft-maligned southpaws on this blog), but another southpaw, Travis Hafner, is really struggling.

    All you can hope for with Travis Hafner is that he’s seen video of his swing from this year (and presumably last year – last year he wasn’t ever bad enough to merit drastic reconstruction on his swing, but it might have been enough for him to develop some bad habits) and compared it to video in 2006. To me, after watching the video, it’s pretty obvious. Of course, it’s far easier said than done – but the season is still young, and Hafner has plenty of time to turn it around.

    Ben Francisco is up, and is getting regular playing time, which is nice to see. He’s had some good solid hits already, and his defense in the corner outfield spots doesn’t leave me holding my breath as much as Dellucci.

  • And now a message from every mathematician in the world: “To Hillary Clinton: It’s Over”. She doesn’t seem to think so, and I guess when you have as much money as the Clintons do (although that amount is dwindling, because she keeps loaning herself money) you can alter math.

    One thing I’ve noticed about John McCain recently – his supporters are far easier to get along with than either of the Democratic candidates. Perhaps the Democrats are a little edgy because they see McCain gaining ground quickly while Obama and Clinton battle it out, but seriously, there is no need for the fawning on the message boards: “OMG PRESIDENT OBAMA I LOVE YOU” or the hatred: “OMG PRESIDENT CLINTON II BARACK OBAMA SUCKS”.

I’m typing this from my work laptop and I’m really not a fan of the keyboard or touchpad (I have a docking station and a mouse at work, but not with me at the moment), so I’m going to adjourn. Once again, I apologize for the lack of updates lately – hopefully I’ll be on a more regular schedule soon.

It’s the final countdown…

Some therapeutic blogging before tomorrow’s AI exam steals my soul away.

  • In politics, the big news is the primaries tomorrow in Indiana and North Carolina; Hillary is up in Indiana, while Obama is up in North Carolina. A couple controversies the last few days and weeks have made this pretty much a deadlocked race.

    First, Rush Limbaugh is calling for all Republicans to vote Hillary Clinton, in what he calls “Operation: Chaos”. I agree with Rush Limbaugh a lot of the time (definitely not all the time), but Operation: Chaos seems destined for disaster. Anytime you try and influence your opponent without worrying about yourself is a bad idea – although, Rush may realize that John McCain doesn’t really have much to brag about, so this may be his only move.

    Second, the gas tax holiday. Totally agree with Barack Obama on this one – it’s a classic Washington move that’ll save us maybe $5, once. Instead of worrying about a gas tax holiday, let’s figure out how to keep gas prices down. I’d much rather pay $3 for gas all the time than $3.50 most of the time and not have to pay tax once.

  • The Indians are struggling, and it looks like they’re finally going to take my advice and call up Ben Francisco. If it were me, I’d try and package Andy Marte and Jason Michaels in a deal for some single-A prospects and call up Francisco and Josh Barfield to take their places. Ben Francisco may not be the ideal situation, but it’s better than having career role players Jason Michaels and David Dellucci handle left field – Michaels is a liability offensively, and Dellucci is a liability defensively.

    I hope Travis Hafner watches Baseball Tonight, because for the first time since last year I’ve seen video evidence as to why Travis Hafner is struggling. Steve Phillips (I know, right? Second time he’s said something smart… like, ever) pointed out that Hafner’s stance is incredibly spread out at the plate and that instead of keeping his hands up and driving the ball for line drives, he’s dropping his hands before he swings and thus either hitting fly ball outs or rolling over top and hitting grounders. He needs to get it going, particularly with Victor Martinez’s power outage of late.

Sorry about the lack of updates lately – hopefully after tomorrow (or maybe the next day, got a lot of stuff to move), I’ll be able to update more regularly.