The Voice of Fenway App

I’m the technology guy for my town’s Little League, so I get to do things like the website, player database, email distribution list stuff etc.  (Google Sites, Google Spreadsheets and Mail Chimp if you’re wondering… all done with a $0 budget)

Last week I got tapped to fix the PA system for the tournament season.  The home team is responsible for announcing the teams, players and coaches and playing the national anthem.

I decided I wasn’t going to just buy another CD player (seems that was the plan the last few years).  Instead I donated an old iPod with just the Anthem on it (I recommend the US Coast Guard Band rendition.)  I also replaced the “strip & twist” wiring with soldered and shrink wrapped connections.

Then I got an idea – I emailed Carl Beane, the PA Announcer for Fenway Park and asked him about announcing.  I dropped my uncle’s name because he had mentioned they were friends.

Mr. Beane responded almost immediately and was very excited to help out of tribute to his friendship with my uncle.  Turns out the drive to our field was a bit too far (2hrs each way) so we decided he could record the rosters.  I think he’s done this a few times before – because I emailed him the rosters and he emailed me back a collection of MP3s for each team with each player’s name announced separately.

Now the hard part – how to use these in the booth during the game?  I thought it’d be a simple matter of setting up a few play lists and just hitting PLAY for each name.  The big roadblock was that none of the popular music playing apps on the iPod/iPad/Android Phones had this feature to “PLAY then STOP.”  So in practice I couldn’t get it to consistently play just one file – I would almost always stop too early or play a piece of the next MP3.

Enter the “Sound Board” technology.  I’ve seen a ton of these – they are basically a collection of buttons on a screen that play a single sound when you play them.  I found a good one for Android called Custom Soundboard and was able to create a sound board for each team.  I t could not have worked any better.  I never played the wrong sound, and it always sounded perfect.  Creating the soundboards was intuitive and not too many steps.

My only regret was not having better music lined up for between the innings.  I had a play list setup on the iPod but I didn’t want to plug/unplud devices during the game.  I tried moving the files from the iPod to the droid – but the format wasn’t friendly.

Bottom line – I was open to using either an iPad, and iPod or the android and the android solution won hands down.  I was also very happy I remembered to go into Airplane mode before the game… wouldn’t want to take a call over the PA system.

You can check out the sounds Mr. Beane recorded for me on the league website here: Voice of Fenway Park recordings.

Mr. Beane provides this and similar services for a pretty small fee if you’d like his voice somewhere in your life.  Weddings, corporate events etc.  Go to Carl Beane’s official website to find his email etc.  If you’d like to hear him live – go to Fenway Park.

I think the kids liked it – I know a few of the coaches got a kick out of it – and nobody had to hear my stupid voice.  Win-win.  OH yeah, our team won the game… last inning… tie run on 3rd.  I did NOT play dirty water at the end.  I played Tweezer Reprise instead.


Free Octave

I’m a big fan of the Star Spangled Banner.  I find it inspiring to witness crowds in the thousands silence themselves during it’s performance pre-game.  This year’s rendition by Jennifer Hudson was notable for a few reasons, but what I really liked about it is the musical flair added during the singing of line “O’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” 

Many performers add a note to the word “Free” by raising up an octave – I think it’s amazing.  I call this technique the “Free Octave” and always cheer then I hear it.  It comes right at the end of the song too – and is a perfect queue to begin the applause.  It also coincides with fly-by timing nicely.

Hudson’s rendition is available on the iTunes store, and you can hear her “Free Octove” at the 2:11 mark in the recording.

Got website?

Lately I’ve been asking various service provider’s and friends if they have a web site.  Most don’t – and the reason is there isn’t a really easy and wicked cheap solution.  So I say to these people that I do web sites… sometimes it leads to something, sometimes it doesn’t.

Lately my favorite way of building these things is using GoDaddy as a registrar and Google Sites as the source for the webpage.  A few times I’ve just purchased a domain and pointed it at an exsisting site, and for a couple I’ve helped them get a blog up and running. 

Some recent additions to the portfolio:

Leigh’s Barber Shop : A most excellent Barber Shop in Shelburne, VT  – This is a whole google site, with google analytics and multi-user content management.  Still need to add some content to this really simple site.

ReJardin.Com : I secured a domain and redirected it to an existing site.  The real goal here was that the user had a unique domain name that wasn’t claimed yet – so I grabbed it and redirected it.

ToddAubertin.Com : I found a wooden flute maker/ furniture maker up the road and saw his web site needed a lot of work.  I set him up on wordpress in barter for a custom flute.  Did some picture editing/ content creation as well.  We’ve got some plans for more stuff on the site, and I have some plans for some custom furniture for our home. : I try to make it to Baltimore to see the Red Sox play at Camden Yard once a year.  This year while I was there with the girl: Manny Rameriz hit his 500th home run – and it was a baseball moment we will remember sharing forever.  A fraternity brother of mine was there as well, and took a photo he wanted help selling online.  So we put this site together.  Then the stupid looser Manny had to go and get himself traded to the Dodgers.  A kewl part of this project was tapping the photo editing talents of our friend Jean Wozniak.

There are a couple more not quite ready to mention – but my favorite part of the process is that I haven’t exchanged money for any of them.  A couple cost me about $10 and time – but it was time spent not just building the collateral, but learning the process and being better prepared for the next one.

License Plates I want

The DMV in NH has a website where you can check if a combination of letters, numbers and -, +, & are available for a license plate.  Over the years I’ve found a few that I’d consider getting, here’s a list I can remember right now:

SOX09, SOX2009, 2009SOX : These won’t last

SOXTUX, TUXSOX, SOX+TUX, TUX+SOX : Gotta get a “Tux” bumper sticker back on the jeep – and this’ll make the plate match the big Red Sox logo on the back of the jeep.

TRSKIEE : It’s the word “Ski” inside “Tree” – aka Ski in the Trees

P-K3 : My standard opening chess move, sets up for the fools mate.

YANKS04 : A nod to the team that choked and let the Sox go on to the 2004 World Series Victory.  Never gonna park in NYC with this one.

LOSTSOX: A group of Red Sox friends who help each other get tickets and enjoy games together at fenway is called “The Lost Nation.”  This is the smallest version of that name I could come up with.

CODE4U : A nod to my avocation – and one I used to see all the time commuting down to Boston.

FF0000: The hex code for RED, would look good on a Red jeep.

If you have any other suggestions, check the website to see if it’s available.  You’d be surprised how many license plates you thought were such an original idea are already taken.

ASDFGHJ: This would be good for someone in a QA department.

QWERTY: Same theme – not quite as funny some how.

Home Climate Server

We’re moving in a couple of weeks to a house with oil heat – which has me worried about heating costs.  I’d like to be able to manage the heating of the house via a climate server that has internet access.

The mimimul functionality this server will need is temperature readings from various parts of the house and control over the furnace valves that control where the heated water goes that heats these areas.

The next level of complexity comes with a weather monitoring station with data available to the server (like this one) that can provide exterior temperature information.  I would like to use this to predict how much it will cost to keep the house at a specific temperature on a specific day.

The server will surely be online – with access to forecast model predictions of expected temperatures.  I would like to use this in the modeling of the household environment and predicting heating costs.

Another layer of complexity comes in with the central air conditioning system – which has two compressors outside the house.  Balancing these two units such that the optimal cooling is achieved would be something I would like to monitor and control on the server.

Eventually I like the whole thing to be driven not by a clock (morning vs. night), or even a weekly schedule (weekend vs. weekday) – but to be tied directly to the family calendar, such that heating and cooling needs are specifically spelled out – and a house based use case like:

  • M@ is working at home today
  • SuzShe is working the morning and coming home with the Boy at 2pm
  • The Girl gets off the bus at 3pm
  • Red Sox game is at 7:05pm

Would be stacked up against a hypothetical weather forecast

  • 55deg at 8am
  • 75deg at 12pm
  • 65deg at 5pm
  • Mostly cloudy in the morning
  • Overcast in the afternoon

Would be balanced with the

  • current temperature
  • the relative “cost” of heating/cooling various rooms in the house

And could potentially not just control the heating and cooling systems with control outputs like

  • 6am-9am upstairs at living temperature
  • 7am-6pm office at living temperature
  • 2pm-6pm kitchen at living temperature
  • 3pm-6pm playroom at living temperature
  • 7pm-10pm media room at living temperature
  • 7pm beer storage at beer serving temperature
  • 7:30pm upstairs at sleeping temperature
  • 8pm red wine storage at bordeaux serving temperature

And the data would be presented in such a way we could see things like

  • M@ should work in the basement until noon, saving $8 in climate control
  • The children should do their homework in the media room, saving $3 in climate control
  • Dinner should be cooked on the grill and eaten outside on the West edge of the deck, saving $1 in climate control and with a 82% chance of seeing a good sunset

And the really advanced piece of programming would spit out things like:

  • Today’s climate control cost is estimated at $14.
  • Working from the office is estimated to cost an additional $4.
  • The pool party you declined to goto at Vader’s house would have saved you $8.20 in climate control

I’d also like the system to warehouse data, so I can perform query’s that might tell me that running an electric space heater in my new office will be more efficent than burning oil.  I will definatly be interesteed in how much a pellete burning stove could save on our heating – but only after knowing how our daily heating needs fluctuate.  What I’d really like to produce is data supporting a geo-thermal heating system.

Pie-in-the-sky uses include having our family menu detail if we are sitting in the dining room, the kitchen island or (gasp) eating in front of the TV and controlling the interior climate appropriatly.

And now I must pack the garage.