improved review1

Improving Restaurant Reviews with Basic Data Visualization

Like many, I rely on various restaurant review sites before making a decision to try a new eatery.  However, every major site has a huge flaw.  They aggregate ratings throughout the history of the restaurant.

tess-us

This would be fine if restaurants were run by robots and immune to changes in staff and quality over time.  It also doesn’t take into account that as a culture, our opinions change.  Trends die, better options come to town, what was universally great years ago may be average or worse today.

So the place above, seems like a reasonable choice with an 84% approval rating.  However, if you dig into reviews, there are many people saying the restaurant has gone down hill over the past year or so.

But you can’t gather that quickly, especially from your phone.  So how can we fix this?

With very very basic data visualization.  Here’s an example of what’s possible:

improved review1

This has a lot of implications.

  1. As consumers, we have solved the “restaurant going downhill” problem I outlined above.
  2. Anyone can spot someone trying to cheat the system (ie – getting all your friends to post positive reviews of your business at one time)
  3. Business owners can fairly easily judge the customer feedback on various promotions (the Groupon note pointed out in the screen shot)
  4. Owners have additional external pressure to turn around a struggling business, and their potential customers can actually see when changes have had a positive impact, rather than letting past mistakes continually haunt.

Taking it a tiny step further – I always get annoyed by the list of restaurant details with simply “yes/no” type items.  Seemingly everything outside of the snootiest joints on Yelp say “casual” attire, even if you’re expected to show up with nice pants and a tie.  We could use, again, very simple visualizations to help people.

attributes

As you can tell from my examples, data visualization is not a strength of mine.  But a bigger takeaway is that this can be done very simply and provide a lot of value for the consumer.  I’d love to see review sites attempt to go this route.

2-13-2014 12-44-37 PM

What If We Just Slowed Down?

In the early days of the internet, it was all about accessibility.  You could find up to date information on all sorts of topics.  You could join newsgroups and constantly learn more about your favorite subjects without waiting for books to be published.

Then things got bigger.  Lots bigger.

And then we had twitter and blogging and everything was about instantaneous information.  You’ve gotta have the latest news and opinions NOW!

Sure, instant has a ton of downside and there’s crazy pressure to put out a story, even when you don’t have all the facts, but it’s still a good deal overall.

But now, we’re beyond instant.

Now we’re at constant.

And constant really sucks.

There’s endless content all the time from everywhere.  It doesn’t matter if it’s anything useful as long as more pages are being created and more pageviews are happening and ad revenue keeps climbing.

So we go from people being excited to share ideas to people feeling pressured to share ideas fast, to people just sharing regardless of whether an idea exists.

2-13-2014 12-48-34 PM

As absurd as sports reporting is… it’s nothing compared to reporting about sports reporting.

The content hurricane is so fierce, we’re even reporting about that.  Yep, we’re making content about making content.  And we’re doing it by the truckload.

2-13-2014 12-58-03 PM

But why?

If you ask anyone that does marketing-ish stuff on the web, they’ll give some gut-reaction claim about how frequent creation/distribution of content leads to engaged and loyal fans who will see and click lots of your ads share your message with friends.

And they know this because they read it somewhere on the internet.

But it’s all simple math.  If we cared about advertising revenue, content should be scarcer and of better quality.  Quite simply, TV (despite the endless array of channels and reality contests) is infinitely scarcer and better quality than the internet at a whole.  Sure, there are great websites out there, but when you aggregate things, it’s not even close.

And engagement on TV is tons better.  I’m only 330 words in and the majority of you have given up on this post by now.  But those same people will have their eyeballs glued to a special one hour episode of Honey Boo-Boo.

And that’s why TV can charge CPMs of $40 and up, while websites are lucky to snag $3.

But let’s forget the whole revenue thing for a bit.  Because there’s a bigger issue than just dollar signs.

The web could actually be really really good if we just eased off the gas a little bit.  By not going for the constant media mentality, we’re unlikely to lose many fans because it’s so easy to get notified when new stuff is posted.  There’s RSS and email subscriptions and social networks and google now and hell, even bookmarks.

The idea that people only come to your site because you have something new to read every 3 minutes is absurd.  That model might work if you’re posting rubbish top 10 lists like the Huffington Post, but it doesn’t matter if you’re actually creating something worth reading (complete and total offense meant for HuffPo there – their site is shit).   So unless you know that nothing you write is worth reading, why get caught up in that game?  (And if you know none of your stuff is worth reading, why are you writing?)

The prevailing problem is we’ve tried this and determined it doesn’t work.  When things first went digital, all the long-form journalists from traditional papers/magazines went to the web and basically repurposed their print pieces online.  There were certainly some disappointing moments when people definitively knew what types of content readers were clicking on – but revenue was the big issue.

Again, ad revenue online is nothing like in traditional media.  And rather than find a way to charge more for ads, the major media outlets just tried to get more ad impressions.  So they focused on SEO-friendly articles, headlines that grab clicks, slideshows, etc.  Essentially they said “screw substance, we need volume.”  And that pushed us to the horrible place we’re in today.

But that doesn’t mean well done long form content doesn’t work online.  It does, just not the way we want it to.  For one, we can’t charge a paywall AND show ads – users will revolt and get their news elsewhere (unless you’re a niche source that helps people make money – like WSJ, MorningStar, etc).

You also can’t just throw ad boxes online and expect to be rich.  Check that, you shouldn’t expect to get rich from anything you do.  There’s a nasty entitlement from online so-called businesses, where they think just having a website grants them the privilege to cash in.  That mindset may have gotten you by for a little while in the late 90’s, but that was a long time ago.

We’re no longer stuck with whatever news can get delivered to our door.  We don’t have to put up with the one decent clothing store in town.  The accountant down the street isn’t the only option for getting our taxes done.  You’ve gotta really give people a reason to come to you.

And it pains me to write all this, because it’s nothing new.  Not a fucking word of it.  Yet, every day I see sites that are seemingly online for no purpose at all, yet expect to make money.

When they have the sad realization hit that nobody cares about them, they usually blame Google for not giving them more free traffic.   Then they go do some shady link buying or write even worse headlines to get more traffic.  And then things get worse and they blame Google again.

All the while, the website owners are the ones cheating the system and ruining the web with their non-stop garbage.

Whoops, I was in the middle of a statement.  Oh yes!  Ad boxes.  So many sites use contextual banner advertising, that tries to match advertisers up with the content on a page.  It’s usually a nightmare because the ad networks don’t really know what a page is about and the people buying the ads are largely morons that expect their advertising to be automated…

If you seriously want to make money, you need that traditional mindset.  You need to actively sell ad space, not just throw a change jar on your front door and hope people donate.  You think the Chicago Tribune gets Macy’s to buy two 6×21 slots in the main section of every paper because they put out an “advertise here” flyer?  Fuck no.  They get it because some salesman spends his entire life making sure the marketing folks at Macy’s are happy.  And even though their rates have certainly been slashed in recent years, the Tribune gets a ton of money out of that deal.

But when you have a website, you expect the advertisers to come to you.  How backwards is that?  You’re the one with space to sell, go out and sell it.

Back to the matter at hand.  We’re quickly approaching more websites than people.  Damn near every one of those websites has a blog.  And probably 99% of them have nothing unique to offer, yet they expect your money.  The only way sites have figured out how to solve this is by attempting to grow rapidly and constantly via new content.  The ad impression race is a dull one, but it’s going to end in a  horrific crash.

Please, jump off before it’s too late.

 

 

JCPenney__jcpenney__on_Twitter3

The JC Penney Fake Twitter Super Bowl Controversy…

It’s not official, but I’m calling it regardless.  Twitter blew up after this happened:

JCPenney__jcpenney__on_Twitter1

And then this:

JCPenney__jcpenney__on_Twitter2

 

Plenty of comments about drunken social media mistakes, and PR disasters and the like.  It was one of those funny moment where we collectively rejoice in someone surely losing their job.

JCP seemingly regrouped nicely enough with this follow-up:

JCPenney__jcpenney__on_Twitter3

 

Here’s my problem with it… it’s a professional photo.  How do I know?  Because it’s the same prop they used in a tweet just hree hours earlier.

JCPenney__jcpenney__on_Twitter4

 

Could someone see the drunken tweets, get a photographer to drop everything and head to the photo studio, snap/edit the shot and send it to someone with access to the twitter account who was able to craft the idea & hashtag?  Sure…

Could the photo and messages been thought of and prepared all along?  More likely.  The only variable is the minor specifics relating to the game.

I’m just not buying this one.

photo courtesy of packers.com

Is Time Up for Mike McCarthy & Aaron Rodgers?

photo courtesy of packers.com

photo courtesy of packers.com

For the third straight year, the Packers lost in the playoffs.  For most teams, this wouldn’t be so terrible, but the Packers feature one of the two or three best quarterbacks of the past decade.  Someone who is believed to be a sure fire Hall of Famer.  A quarterback who has nine seasons behind him and might be seeing his window of opportunity closing.

The early responses point to a few common themes in the Ted Thompson era.  Many critics are saying there’s a lack of overall toughness, citing repeated losses to very physical Giants and 49ers teams.  Others say the defense is terrible.  And there’s a healthy mix of complaints about a lack of veteren leadership / free agents.

Let’s look at the criticism and see if we can sort out what is going wrong with this team.

Toughness

This is a rather difficult thing to measure.  But let’s see if we can quantify it a bit.  Looking just at the most recent playoff loss, there are a few possible “toughness” numbers (per NFL.com).

49ers avg yards/carry: 5.6

Packers avg yards/carry: 4.0

49ers sacks allowed: 3

Packers sacks allowed: 4

49ers QB Hits: 6

Packers QB Hits: 2

You might look at some of those numbers and think they indicate San Fran is the tougher team.  They run more, they have a better pass rush, they allow fewer yards against the run.  But there is a lot more to it than that.

Running the ball, San Fran barely did anything in the traditional sense.  Gore carried 20 times for a 3.3 yard average.  His longest run was 10 yards.  The yards/carry average was grossly inflated by Kaepernick’s 98 rushing yards and 14 yard/carry average.  And his long runs did not come as a result of the option, but pass plays where he felt pressure and his first read wasn’t open.  Basically, he scrambled and Green Bay couldn’t catch him.

On the Packers’ side, they were facing the 3rd rated rush defense in the league and performed admirably.  Their running game is the best it’s been in years.  I’m not sure how you can rationally argue this.

The pass rushing stats are a bit more subjective, but Green Bay has been very limited in that department all year.  With the strength of San Fran’s offensive line and all the injuries on the Green Bay defense, it’s not much of a surprise.  The 49ers have allowed 2.4 sacks per game this year, so Green Bay was pretty much right on pace.

The Packers’ pass protection remains a mystery.  They without their projected starting left tackle the entire season.  The fill in was lost during the playoff game.  They also have a first round tackle who has yet to get on the field for any meaningful amount of time (although it’s beginning to look like this is less about injury and more about ability).

There are certainly bigger and faster teams compared to the Packers, but I don’t think you can really prove it’s an issue.

Defense

I covered the run defense already.  On the pass defense side, Kaepernick had 227 yards and a 53% completion rate.  Coupled with one touchdown and one interception, this wasn’t a terribly impressive game on paper.  But visually he dominated once again.  Kaepernick still is not an accomplished passer.  You can watch him follow a single receiver on every play, and either force the pass or run if that player isn’t open.  He’s occassionally hitting a second read these days, but it still looks to be rare.

Even with those limitations, he still kept making plays when it counted.  Especially at the end of the game, where the 49ers were 4/4 on 3rd down and 3/3 on the final drive of the game.

Giving the league’s 8th rated offense (according to FootballOutsiders.com) the ball with 5 minutes left, only needing a field goal to win, is not a good situation for any defense.  The Packers made some critical mistakes (Bush allowing Kaepernick to run past him on 3rd and 8) and had some big missed opportunities (Hyde’s dropped interception), but ultimately just looked outmatched on the final drive.

The rest of the game, they looked really solid.  When the offense was absolutely pathetic in the first quarter, the defense stopped two drives inside their own 10 yard line.  The only touchdown they allowed in the first half was a result of a terrible bit of defense that led to Kaepernick’s 42 yard run.  That play included a lot of people out of position.

But basically the two big Kaepernick runs and the Davis touchdown were the only plays where the defense did not look good.  A good defense wouldn’t allow those plays, but this performance was still much better than what we’ve seen in the past.

Veteren Leadership

There are all sorts of variations of this theme thrown out every year under Thompson.  Let’s look at a few numbers for defensive & offensive starters… Below is name followed by years of experience.

Offense

– Aaron Rodgers: 9 years
– TJ Lang: 5 years
– Josh Sitton: 6 years
– James Jones: 7 years
– Jordy Nelson: 6 years

Defense

– Tramon Williams: 7 years
– Ryan Pickett: 13 years
– BJ Raji: 5 years
– AJ Hawk: 8 years
– Brad Jones: 5 years
– Clay Matthews: 5 years

11 of 22 starters are 5+ year veterens.  Every one of those 11 players were on the Super Bowl roster, all but Brad Jones as a starter.

So what we’re really talking about here is free agency.

In the last offseason, probably the most prominent free agent to change teams was Elvis Dumervil.  While his 9.5 sacks for the Ravens looks good, he was just a situational pass rusher.  He totaled 31 tackles and 3 passes defended.  While the 3rd down presence would help, it’s hard to imagine $5.2 million per season being worth it for such a limited player.

While plenty of people wanted Greg Jennings to stick around, it’s hard to argue against the results without him.  The biggest struggle the Packers’ offense faced was the loss of Aaron Rodgers.  No receiver group could make Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn look good.

Where the Packers missed in free agency is at the less attractive end.  Glenn Dorsey was a big contributor at the end of the season for the 49ers.  Chris Cante is an ideal 3-4 defensive end that eats blockers all day.  Shaun Phillips was a steal compared to Dumervil, but offered virtually identical production.  And these were all positions of great uncertainty entering the season.

Injuries

I don’t know if enough data will ever be available to figure this one out.  The Packers players get injured more frequently than the rest of the league.  This has happened historically under Thompson.

I’ve tried to pull data about player growth from high school to the pros, and it looked like a lot of Ted Thompson draft picks showed big increases in BMI (35-30% increase from high school to pros).  The rest of the league, appears to have gains more like 10-15% over the same timeframe.  The theory is that players are bulking up fast, to a size larger than their frame is designed to hold.  so you have someone with the skeleton of a linebacker by the mass of a lineman.  Potentially, if your body isn’t meant to hold that kind of weight, it could break down more often.  There’s no science I know of to support this, it’s just a guess.  Trying to turn correlation into causation.  But data from high schools is not reliable enough.  Too often, it seems players measure bigger than they really are (maybe to appear bigger and get noticed by scouts?).  I’d love to look further into it, but without access to scouting data, I think it’s a dead end for now.

Beyond that, there are plenty of questions out there about the conditioning staff and McCarthy’s training/practice program.  Changes have been made in both departments over the year, with no changes.

Regardless, something desperately needs to change.  The Packers had 15 people on injured reserve this year, and had a lot of missed games by other starters.  You cannot operate a team that way and expect them to be successful through the postseason.

Playcalling

I’m not throwing this entirely on McCarthy, since Rodgers runs the show in the no huddle to a great degree.  But things just don’t seem to make sense year after year.  In 2007, Favre’s last year with the team, McCarthy had a young team and a very shaky offensive line.  He dealt with that by using a fantastic variation of the west coast offense.  The Packers were a late game Favre meltdown away from the Super Bowl that year.

Ever since, we haven’t seen that willingness to adapt to adverse situations.  In Sunday’s game, despite struggles with the 49ers’ pass rush, the Packers kept sending their receivers deep play after play.  In most instances, one receiver would go short on a slant with everyone else 15+ yards deep.  If that short pass wasn’t open, it left Rodgers waiting in the pocket far too long for routes to develop.

And then there’s the Cobb run inside the red zone.  And the wasted timeout at the end of the first half.  Nearly every game includes questionable moves like this.  The team nearly missed the playoffs because McCarthy didn’t go for two later in the Bears game.

The Packers have obviously built their offense around big plays, but they can’t expect them every snap.  There needs to be some adjustment to the playcalling philosophy to allow for adapatation against tough defenses.  Just like the first touchdown drive on Sunday when they went exclusively with runs and short passes

Closing Windows

Next year will be difficult for Ted Thompson to orchestrate.  Two thirds of their starting defensive line will be unrestricted free agents.  Sam Shields, James Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jermichael Finley, Mike Neal and CJ Wilson will all join them.  The following year will see the same time come for Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga and Randall Cobb.  Tramon Williams is a likely cap casualty in 2014 with $9.5 million in salary and bonuses due.  The team has $107.8 million in spending against the cap (according to OverTheCap.com) for next year, before drafting anyone or even getting a full roster.

The point is, things are going to get a lot harder.  All of this doesn’t take into account teams like the 49ers and Seahawks contuing to develop, along with other powerhouses around the league.  If the Packers hope to not let another hall of fame quarterback career go by with only one title, they are going to have to figure out a lot of issues that don’t have obvious answers.

Unless you believe there is a coach out there that can make an immediate impact given the existing talent, you can’t make a change in that department.  The aging roster and heavy contracts of Matthews & Rodgers won’t allow big splashes in free agency, and history shows there really aren’t big splashes worth making most years.  Thompson will likely need to replace veterens on the team currently with lower priced options (via draft and lower tier free agecy).

But he’ll need to go on a talent evaluation run that ranks up there with the best GM’s of all time, as the window of opportunity for this team appears to be closing.

 

 

More Self-Serving Social Media Marketing

social media marketing fail

The above image is the featured part of an email I received from a regional chain of hardware stores.  First off, not a prime candidate for an exciting social media campaign, but there’s always hope they can make it work.  My hopes were low when I saw the subject line “Let’s get social!”.

But fine, they want to promote their Facebook page, that’s cool.  What’s in it for me?

Oh, I get to explain how much I love your company?  I get to give you ideas about how you can make more money off of me?  I can alert you whenever I’m in your store so you know just how valuable of a customer I am?

Sounds great, where do I sign up!

About the only thing they got right here, is they seem to understand that their social channels are for existing customers – not awareness building.  But seriously, you expect the customer to opt in to even more of your marketing, at least throw them a bone.  Say their might be social-only coupons or sales.  Or maybe promise to randomly post how-to guides, since people come to your stores to buy supplies for major projects.  Hell, gardening tips would be a step in the right direction.

The funny thing is, what they promise here is exactly what the vast majority of social media campaigns deliver.  This company just happens to be up front about it.  Maybe that’s a positive?  At least I know right away that I don’t have to waste my time.

I don’t want to jam. Is that rude?

“We should jam sometime!”

If you play guitar, you hear this often.  I usually don’t even tell people I play guitar (it’s almost like I’m ashamed), but it still comes up eventually in conversation.  And if it happens to come up with another guitarist, all too often you’ll be presented with the invitation to jam.  If you’re one of the people who hear that and are stricken with fear or disgust, this is for you.

 

Please note that when I say “musicians” I’m mostly referring to western rock/pop musicians.  People that generally play in 3-4 piece bands involving drums, guitars, etc.

 

Why do I have to share?

Music is fairly unique as an artform, in the sense that sharing is almost demanded.  Most other artists (writers, photographers, painters, etc) will certainly share their creations, but at their discretion.  They’ll have a portfolio, gallery, blog, or some other self-curated sample of their work for the world to see.  And that’s assuming they even want to do so.  There are countless people out there creating art just for themselves.  Nobody seems to pressure them to share their work with the world.  Especially not other artists.

 

That’s where musicians are different.  Musicians always want to hear what other musicians are doing.  You have to show off your bandcamp site, or  soundcloud tracks or worse yet, perform live.  It’s almost as though the only reason someone would play an instrument is to present their playing to the world.  Is this being taught in schools and I missed it?  Is it a competitive thing?  I don’t get it, but while I’m fine presenting my own self-curated collection of sounds to people, I don’t want it to be on-demand.  I don’t want to be put on the spot, handed an instrument and expected to perform like a trained seal.  And more than anything else, I play because I enjoy it (not because you enjoy it), and more often than not, enjoy playing alone.

 

Music is less collaborative than you think

Western music has its clearest origins in the church.  Those in power dictated which notes could be used, how songs were to be structured, etc.  The new Justin Timberlake album sounds like it does because of what the church did ages ago.  And as music evolved, a composer took these rules and created songs.  That’s one guy, dictating what a group does.  Not a group of violin players sitting down and working out how a sonata will go.

 

In the modern era, so much music is dominated by individuals.  The Beatles had 3 strong songwriters, but they wrote songs individually.  Some of the greatest names in popular music history are solo acts (Elvis, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince; to name a few).  Even when there are multiple names on songwriting credits, it’s usually because one person wrote the song but had others fill in their parts.  The Rolling Stones are another great example, where Keith Richards would write the guitar part and come up with a vocal idea, and then hand it over to Mick Jagger to write all the words.  That’s two people writing the song, but working separately and alone.

 

So why do so many musicians not understand this?  My hunch is, again, out of competition.  If you’re jamming together, you have a chance to size up and show up the competition.  You can try to throw another person for a loop with a complex turnaround.  Or you can smoke them with your incredibly skillful licks.  This sort of thing plays out daily in guitar stores around the globe.  The one-upsmanship is what drives guitarists to play faster than anyone else, or louder, or heavier.

 

Hell is, other people

There are endless articles out there documenting the lives of introverts.  Many, dare say, most artists are introverts.  It simply gets written off as being “moody” or “reclusive” or even just “artsy.”  The truth is, they just prefer the ability to think and process things completely and without distraction.  That in depth take on issues is probably what leads to creating abstract work.  It’s what allows them to imagine things that don’t yet exist.  It’s why they don’t like to present in progress work.  And jamming, flies in the face of all of that.

 

Yes, social interaction is required if you ever want to be known as an artist.  But it is not required for creating art.  Personally, I do my best songwriting work alone and late at night.  There is nothing to get in the way of creating.  It’s quiet, it’s calm, there is nothing else to think about.  If I’m playing music in a band setting and somebody presents a new song idea, I’ll prefer to take notes and work out my part at home later.  I know a lot of people who operate the same way.  Sure, something could be thought up on the spot, but it might be less than ideal.  The time and stress involved in doing that could be much better spent understanding the song as it was written rather than just jumping in with a reflex-driven idea.

 

Our musical tastes aren’t the same, probably not even close

This is the one thing that amuses me most about the concept of jamming.  If two chefs meet, and one of them is a strict vegan and the other works for a greasy burger joint – they wouldn’t likely be eager to cook for each other.  But if you play late 80’s eastern European death metal and I play mid 90’s garage rock… why should we try to bring those sounds together?

 

Yet most musicians don’t even wait to ask that question.  They just discover another person that plays, and assume they want to jam.  At least ask the question of what kind of music the person enjoys listening to and performing.  If it sounds like there is a match in styles, then pursue further.

 

No matter what, I’m a jerk… or a hack.

Despite all logic and reason, in the end, the outwardly-focused jammer wins.  If you shrug off or flat out deny their request, you’re going to be looked at as a jerk.  There’s no nice way to do it.  If you try to make up excuses, you’ll probably get tagged as a jerk who can’t play.  It’s just assumed that being at all talented involves the ability to collaborate and improvise.  The only thing is, everyone assumes there is only one way to do that.

I know jamming has its merits.  I’ve done it plenty of times and it can even be fun in the right scenario.  I’m not saying it should never happen, but just hoping someone out there can at least understand the perspective of the anti-jammers.

Les Paul Smartwood Project: Complete!

So back in, oh maybe ’99 or ’00, I got this Les Paul Smartwood.  I guess it’s technically a “Smartwood Studio”.  I believe the wood on this one is Peroba, but I really don’t know anymore.  I do know that it was ugly out of the box.  I got it for a very low price because nobody wanted it and it was seemingly built on a Friday afternoon.  Frets were all overhanging, setup was horrid, and again, it was ugly.

Here’s the only shot I have of the guitar kind of in its original state.

les paul smartwood studio

les paul smartwood studio


 Promptly stripped and sold all the gold hardware, ripped out the nasty frets, bought new hardware/electronics, started to paint… and then it sat.

And sat…

Until about two weeks ago.  July 2013, probably 13-14 years later.

The only real inspiration for finishing was a pretty logical one, actually playing guitar.  Been getting together with a few buddies regularly to play; myself and the other guitar player both had fender-ish single coil guitars into fender-ish amps.  I showed up with my Gretsch from time to time and it was a little magical with some contrast in sound.  Got me thinking of how much better it’d be with a solid body humbucker guitar.

Oh, I have one!

Shit!  It’s in 50 pieces.

So I got to work.  Put in new frets, 6105 wire that is actually round and not sanded down to a pancake like Gibson does.  Painted, pumpkin orange on top, black on the sides/back.  Threw on hardware, all chrome.  Pickups – Duncan JB/Jazz (which was a cool combo when I bought them, back in ’01), which I don’t love but they sound good enough through my setup.  Amazingly, it all works and looks pretty okay.

les paul smartwood studio 1

 

les paul smartwood studio 2

 

 

 

 

 

Braun PED Case – Enough Already?

All the talk lately is how Ryan Braun refused to talk to MLB about the PED case.

This is not a defense of Braun. He likely cheated and deserves the suspension.

This is a question of what the hell is the point of all this. The league’s view of PEDs needs to change. We aren’t looking at a generation of fans that is still hurt by Pete Rose or even the strike. The current and future fan base, the young families that stadiums desperately try to cater to, grew up with McGuire & Sosa making the most exciting baseball in decades. They grew up with Clemens being the best pitcher ever right in front of their eyes. They saw Bonds… Well, let’s leave him out since nobody likes him.

Point is, the current generation of fans has only known steroids. Not just baseball, but football, cycling, basketball(evem though there are no stories), golf (those long drives, think about it), etc. It’s made sports so entertaining for those fans.

And isn’t that the point?

Sports is not a sacred institution. Teams move, rules change, hall of fame players get cut, traded, or quit. Thinhs change all the time and we don’t care as long as the product on the screen stays enjoyable.

It’s time to move on from this outdated view of the rules. I know Selig is a dinosaur and won’t change his mind, but everyone else needs to stop siding with him. Sports already is better because of drugs, has been for decades. Let’s start accepting it and move on.