This past weekend a black security guard at a bar in Illinois stopped a shooting when a drunken patron returned to the bar with a gun and started firing. When the police arrived, they saw the security guard restraining the drunken shooter and decided to shoot the security guard. The officer’s shots ended up killing the security guard.
Will the police who committed this murder face any repercussions from their action? Nope! There is not even a slight chance of that. As everyone obviously knows, American police officers are immune from prosecution due to their actions. They could shoot a baby in the face in at noon on the steps of the White House and as long as that baby is black, no police officer will ever lose their job, let alone face prosecution.
It is again the time of the year when we start seeing food drive bins roll out to grocery stores, libraries, fire stations, and pretty much every other location with a roof. Of course it’s a nice idea to donate food to those in need, but I am always left wondering, “Why does the U.S. only encourage food donations during the holiday season???”
Well, obviously it is incorrect to say that Americans only donate food during the holiday season. Charitable contributions occur throughout the year. However, the sight of a food donation bin anywhere outside of the holiday season is remarkably rare. There are close to zero organizations which encourage food donations until October/November roll onto the calendar.
I understand that there is some logic to food donations in the Fall. The weather is getting colder and therefore the less fortunate who often have to spend considerable amounts of time in cold weather need an increased number of calories to survive.
However, the point of this rant is that it is wrong to limit charitable food donations to 2-3 months of the year. That idea is similar to limiting the study of black people in history to Black History Month or only learning about the contributions of women to society during Women’s History Month. Why not respect people with dark skin all year round? Why not learn about the historical contributions of women for all 12 months of the year? Why not provide support to the homeless and poor each and every month of the year?
Encouraging charitable food donations in November and charitable financial contributions in December enables people to check their personal “charity box” and forget about any further help. They can say, “Yep, I’ve done some good for the year and I don’t need to think about helping others until next year.” If our society is going to grow stronger, we cannot forget about people who are less fortunate than us for 10 to 11 months every year. We cannot simply buy several pounds of canned food and think that poverty has been alleviated by a meaningful degree. The idea that other people are suffering while we live comfortably should live in our minds like a rock in our shoe. We must remind ourselves every day that other people who live among us do not have the fundamentals necessary to ensure their wellbeing and happiness.
Back in 8th grade (late 90s for me), music was tough to get. Streaming music was certainly not around quite yet. Listening to music required buying CDs at almost $20 per album, which was a steep price for a kid on an allowance. Buying CDs to discover new music was out of the question at that price. Instead, 100% of the new music I heard about came through the radio or as suggestions from friends.
However, all of the sudden Napster burst onto the scene and changed everything about music. Suddenly I was no longer limited to saving up for multiple months just to purchase a single CD from a well-known band. I could download and sample as much music as my parents’ internet bandwidth could accommodate.
It’s impossible for me to say where I first heard the band Refused. I know for sure that none of my friends listened to that kind of music, so my only guesses are that I either heard it on Live 105.3 FM or randomly happened to download their songs on Napster. Either way, I was definitely an outlier in my appreciation of their music.
I remember driving with my friend and his older brother shortly after I discovered Refused. At the time, “cool” was the last word anyone would have used to describe me and I know my friend’s older brother looked down on me. However, when I told him to play ‘New Noise’ by Refused and the first verse came on, he turned to give me a look that said, “Where the fuck did this come from?!? This music is amazing!” In that moment, I learned the power of respect that can be given to you by someone who appreciates your taste in music. This experience also explains the bitterness I felt towards the friends I developed in college who all claimed my taste in music was shit, but that’s a story for another blog post.
Refused is a Swedish punk rock band which was primarily active from 1991 to 1998. To my knowledge, the band is a mainstay of 90s punk rock and anyone who likes the genre has the song ‘New Noise’ somewhere in their music collection. However, much like a famous Renaissance artist the band only gained popularity and fame after they had broken up in 1998.
All of these factors together leave me truly scratching my head as to how an unpopular, musically-ignorant 8th grader from the Bay Area, California could have discovered Refused in the late 1990s when music discovery on the internet was not a thing and the band was not well known.
Heartless Bastards comes to the blog this week. Other than being from Cincinnati, Ohio, I don’t know anything else about this band. They do produce some fantastic music though. Given that their last record release was over 3 years ago, hopefully they’ll put out some new music in the coming year.
On the internet, it’s commonly stated that millennials are the most emotionally fragile group of Americans that exist. That argument is insubstantial when you consider the current actions of conservatives.
If you ask me what the best bands of all time are, Chevelle is definitely in the top 3. Another band from Illinois, Chevelle has been making music since 1995. I only discovered the band in 2002 with the release of the unmatchable ‘Wonder What’s Next’. If you want one of the most incredible music experiences of your life, queue up ‘Wonder What’s Next’, ‘This Type Of Thinking (Could Do Us In)’, ‘Vena Sera’, ‘Sci-Fi Crimes’, and ‘Hats off to the Bull’. I am not aware of a more visceral lineup of hard-charging rock music. Chevelle is incredible.
If you don’t already use it, Alfred (a.k.a. Alfred app) is a free application launcher and productivity application for macOS. It’s similar to Apple’s Spotlight feature built into all Macs, but it is significantly more powerful. To make a comparison, using Apple’s Spotlight is like watching a high school play in a rural town whereas using Alfred is like watching a multi-million dollar Broadway musical in New York City. The two are nearly incomparable.
This post is not about Alfred though. This post is about a workflow I created for Alfred.
Several years back I got fed up with listening to commercials while watching baseball, basketball, or football games. Sure, I could mute the video player and switch to another window to do something else for a moment, but doing that often caused me to entirely forget about the game I was watching and miss significant portions of play. There had to be a better way.
This got me thinking about what the situation would be like in a perfect world. Well, in a perfect world the commercials would automatically mute when they started and unmute once they were finished playing. Unfortunately, I do not know how to build an audio/video artificial intelligence system that would analyze the incoming stream to determine if a commercial was playing. However, the idea of creating some kind of timer that would automatically unmute the audio on my computer after a set period of time seemed possible. This is what I ended up building.
My finished creation is a workflow for Alfred which I call ‘Temporary Mute’. This workflow allows a user to mute the volume on their computer for a specified duration of time. Once the duration of time has elapsed, the computer’s volume is automatically unmuted to its previous volume. The user can also manually unmute the volume at any time before the define duration is over.
The workflow has two modes which can be used:
Mute for: Using the “mute for” keyword phrase allows the computer to be muted for the exact number of seconds specified. Simply include a number after “mute for” and the volume will remain muted for that number of seconds. [Example: “mute for 145”]
Mute time: Using the “mute time” keyword phase allows the user to select from predefined periods of time for muting the computer. After typing “mute time”, select one of the predefined durations and the computer will be muted for that amount of time.
While this workflow is incredibly useful, it is not perfect. As I already mentioned, it does not automatically recognize when commercials end. If you set a mute time that exceeds the duration of the commercial break, you’ll end up missing a few moments of the game when it comes back. Though, over time you will become familiar with the standard break lengths used in each sport. For example, baseball’s commercial breaks tend to be close to 90 seconds whereas basketball’s come in around 120 seconds and football’s can reach 180 seconds or longer.
Additionally, this workflow was built to be used with the default audio device on your Mac. If you use a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) or other external audio playback device, unfortunately this workflow will not function correctly.
Finally, this workflow obviously requires that you use Alfred. You can probably hack at it so that it functions elsewhere, but it won’t work like that out of the box.