If you build it, they will come. Really?

When Ray Liotta whispered the now famous words, “If you build it, he will come”, he probably never imagined them becoming one of the most misquoted lines of our time. Many of us have used the sentence countless times, mistakenly substituting the word “they” for the word “he”.  In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray was referring to Shoeless Joe Jackson, a real life baseball legend from the early 20th century. Today of course, we use the quote when talking about venues, attractions, and all sorts of commercial construction.

Back in the late ’80s, it became the mantra for luring Major League Baseball to the Tampa Bay area.  Both Tampa and Saint Petersburg launched major campaigns to bring a team to their city, courting existing clubs like the White Sox, Mariners, and San Francisco.  As with many other major issues historically, both cities worked hard to one up the other in its attempt to win a deal for their town. When Saint Petersburg convinced it’s taxpayers into building an arena, even before landing a team, Tampa’s bid became a moot point, and soon thereafter baseball came to Pinellas County.

Stu Sternberg, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, has  announced that the team will begin actively considering a new stadium site for the team. Sternberg said he will be open to any new location in the area, regardless of the county.  To which Saint Petersburg’s mayor, Bill Foster replied, “hold up just a minute there”.  (OK, maybe not those exact words)  The Rays current deal with their arena, Tropicana Field, runs through 2027 and prohibits them from even talking to another city about relocation.  This brings us back to our original quote, “if you build it, they will come”.

Saint Petersburg built a baseball venue and was awarded a team. But soon after, low attendance became an issue.  And a new catch phrase emerged; If you win, they will come.  Well, the Rays have had two back-to-back winning seasons and attendance is still a real issue. This year the team has been at the top of the standings and spent more promotional dollars than any other team in the MLB. Yet attendance remains far below expectations.  So what’s the excuse now? Economy? Yes that’s a legitimate factor, but the economy also affected many other baseball cities who still manage to maintain larger attendance averages than the Rays.

It would seem that Sternberg has a well-founded reason for wanting to move the team.  Fortunately he isn’t talking about considering other markets.  You can be certain that those “other markets” are already brainstorming ways to lure the Rays to their city.

So what’s the solution?  Whatever it is, it won’t happen soon. But decisions need to be made to get the wheels in motion. And as all sides begin to assemble their legal teams to hash out an agreement, one thing really needs to be considered; who benefits from all this? If you answered Tampa Bay, you win a free cowbell. And there lies the solution.

The tri-county area; Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco,  even Manatee, would all be affected by any decision on where the Rays end up.  So why do our cities insist on fighting over where the team plays? Aren’t they the TAMPA BAY Rays? I realize that the Trop was funded by city tax payer dollars, (as well tourist dollars). So whatever the outcome, some sort of decision needs to be made about that arena which will become a white elephant and a possible reimbursement to Saint Pete if the team relocates across the bay.  Keep in mind even moving to Tampa doesn’t guarantee more fans in the seats, although statistics show that attendance is directly affected by location and population density.

I think our cities need to leave their respective egos at the conference room door, and start thinking as a strong unified major market. We can’t risk losing Major League Baseball to another state. Nor can we continue to bicker over binding contracts and lawsuits. We need a solution that will keep the Rays here – in Tampa Bay – long past 2027.  We need private sector parties to step up to the plate with ideas and money. We need city mayors to put away their differences and work together on this issue, the same way they should be working on a viable solution to funding  mass transit in the area. But I’ll leave that for another day.

That’s my take. What’s yours?

Are you dying to smell good?

Being a healthy red-blooded male, I admit that the sweet smelling scent of a woman passing by will often set off pheromones, which unconsciously  urge me to steal a  second glance toward the scintillating aroma’s origin.  Being a married guy, those urges usually also result in a dirty scowl or punch in the arm from my better half.  To which I say, “Hey, it doesn’t hurt to just look, right”?

Well, now there’s evidence that shows smelling good may actually be harmful to your health.  We’re not just talking about headaches, eye or nose irritation here. This is real life and death.

Recently two advocacy groups say makers of celebrity perfumes, colognes and body sprays are using unidentified odor creators that can cause health problems.

AOL News reports the nondisclosure is the result of a loophole in a 37-year-old federal law allowing makers of the products to conceal the chemicals that comprise the fragrances.

Tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by the Environmental Working Group showed the average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label.

The chemicals have been associated with hormone disruption, allergic reactions, asthma, reduction in your sperm count, and even cancer.  Other side effects include damage to your central nervous system, loss of coordination, and…uh, where was I…oh yeah, forgetfulness.

Seriously, the recent popular craze of celebrity fragrances now has some fans seeking medical advice after being exposed to these secretly created concoctions. And unfortunately, the more  someone exposes themselves to these potions, the more danger they subject themselves too.  According to the study, it’s not just the perfumes being marketed by famous people but also cheap knock off type fragrances that can cause you harm.

So the next time you reach for that bottle of eye catching, aromatic sweetness, consider the consequences.  What you just applied to your body could be robbing you of life’s other enjoyments, like the ability to have healthy children.

Then again, I just read that eating bacon, sausage,  and many processed meats greatly increases your chance of heart attacks,  so I guess all of life’s little pleasures come with some sort of caveat, don’t they?

That’s my take.  What’s yours?

Audiophiles, Can you hear me clearly now?

I got my latest catalog from Crutchfield last week and on the cover was “The Joy Of Sound”.  Crutchfield is an electronics mail order company that specializes in higher end audio and video gear.  I’ve bought a few items from them in the past and have been pleased with their service.

As I gleamed over the new cover, I noticed a speaker brand I’d never heard of – PSB.  The 2 bookshelf speakers pictured seemed highly crafted in rich, dark, cherry wood veneer cabinets with top quality drivers (speakers).  Sweet! I thumbed right to their page inside to find out more.  The speakers on the cover, the Synchrony One B monitors, measured about 9″x14″x13″ and housed a tweeter and a woofer.  Price tag?  $2199.99 a pair. They were the smaller set.

Now I realize many of us can’t even consider owning speakers in this price range, particularly since these days you really need at least a 5 speaker array to complete your audio system.  Taking into account a center channel unit, the front & rear pairs, and a sub-woofer, the total cost can escalate quickly.

As a speaker technician in a past life, I can appreciate good sound quality and craftsmanship; which is why I shudder at the thought of how many people have grown accustomed to listening to their favorite music in MP3 form, myself included.

M-PEG-1 Audio Layer 3 technology was actually born almost 20 years ago. However, the audio medium has gone viral over the last 10.  Today, almost every piece of audio out there is available in MP3 form. Its compactness and convenience have made it a favorite standard, especially among youth.  It has also been embraced by thousands of independent music brands for its ability to be easily marketed online. Tiny audio players and flash drives can house hundreds and hundreds of song titles in MP3 form. Many music lovers have converted their entire libraries to MP3 or similar format in order to store them on their computers or exercise companions.  But for those of us who grew up listening to records and later CDs, there is a certain amount of remorse.  Remorse for the music we aren’t able to hear.

For you see, in order to accomplish its convenient reduction in size, the MP3 format is designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording and still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio for “most” listeners. The compression works by reducing accuracy of certain parts of sound that are deemed beyond the auditory resolution ability of “most” people.  Many audio purists would certainly argue that point.

Putting down my catalog, I began wondering if there will ever come a day when the uncompressed wav form will become extinct.  I hope not.  For I believe to truly enjoy music, it must be heard with its full dynamic range – uncompressed and unaltered by some algorithmic technology. The same way we experience it in a live setting.

That’s my take.  What’s yours?

Will HD Radio ever catch on and become viable?

It was not that long ago, (technically 2002) that HD radio was born.  For those of you who still are not familiar with what HD radio is, here’s a quick explanation.

A company by the name of iBiquity came up with the technology of digital radio that allows AM and FM stations to transmit audio and data via a digital signal using a part of their existing analog bandwidth. What that means is radio stations can either simulcast or transmit different programming on a hybrid version of their licensed signals.  And they can have multiple digital signals transmitted on the same frequency.  In order to do this, Radio companies had to go out and purchase expensive new transmitters and other equipment, decide what type of content they wanted to have on these new “sub-channels”, and build formats to meet those goals.  Oh, and one other thing; listeners had to buy new radio receivers in order to hear and take advantage of the new digital technology.

It wasn’t until about 2007 that the radio industry became seriously dedicated to HD. At that time most of the major players in the radio industry decided to launch their new “HD stations” and gain programming footholds in their markets. Many offered (and still do) their programming completely commercial free in order to build an audience and create a buzz about the new technology. Major car manufacturers like Ford and BMW started offering vehicles with HD radios built in. Terrestrial radio began regarding their new HD product as a viable free alternative to subscription based satellite radio.  But there were a few more obstacles to overcome.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) first granted stations the ability to broadcast HD at 1 percent of their existing analog power.  So basically speaking,  a 100,000 watt FM station could transmit HD channels at 1,000 watts.  That itself put limitations on the ability of listeners to pick up their new favorite stations clearly.  The digital technology threw in another monkey wrench.  Just like the new television digital signals, a radio HD signal is made up of data that contains specific values. Unlike the analog signals we are familiar with, which are made up of infinitely variable values.  With HD, the signal is either there or it isn’t. There is no signal fading or drifting that takes place. So the listener can be singing along to their favorite tune one moment, and then lose the signal completely for up to minutes at a time. Obviously this can be a frustrating way to listen to a radio station.

The good news is that the FCC is on the verge of granting power increases to HD radio – 6% is what I’m hearing.  That will certainly make a coverage difference, but will stations go forward with the increase?  Before you say, “Why not?” think about this.  Radio companies have just devoted lots of money to new transmitters for this HD technology.  And most of the new transmitters are already working at their maximum digital output. This means that companies will now have to justify reinvesting in a technology that so far has brought in zero revenue.  That’s some pretty hard convincing for an industry already in murky waters due to the current economy.  The other factor right now – HD transmitters are power hogs. So the cost of electricity to run them is also a thing to consider.

And finally, will the public ever embrace HD radio the same as  its traditional terrestrial forefathers?  Hard to tell. The biggest thing HD radio has going for it right now is it’s free and it’s local.  Radio listeners can go from enjoying 20-30some stations in their market, to upwards of 60 or more with their new receivers.  Which means more programming niches to choose from, and many commercial free – for now.

So, much like the ole chicken & egg scenario, it’s a wait and see before we’ll know whether HD radio is here to stay, or become just like Quad stereo and Beta video was in the 70′s; a passing fad.  I personally would like to see HD radio survive these current hurdles and give terrestrial radio the rebirth it needs to continue growing and evolving. Of course, internet radio may already be doing that.

That’s my take.  Thanks for checking out my first blog.  Your comments are welcome!

Until next time…