HISTORY REPEATS: The Heist of the (14th) Century

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Hi! I’m Jim! I have a website where I sometimes share quirky tales from history. Every Monday for the next four weeks, I’m going to share one of those stories to (re)acquaint you with my site in a feature I call HISTORY REPEATS.

Everyone loves a good heist film, right? Our final tale is about one of the most audacious robberies in history: when a man, seeking revenge and tipped off by a monk, robbed the King of England:

Dick Puddlecote was angry. And not your average “oh, I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning” angry, either. He was angry to the very core of his being. Trillions of cells made up Dick’s body, and every last one of them was furious with the King of England.

Check out this amazing true story!

The Heist of the (14th) Century

HISTORY REPEATS: The Charlotte History Field Trip

Hi! I’m Jim! I have a website where I sometimes share quirky tales from history. Every Monday for the next four weeks, I’m going to share one of those stories to (re)acquaint you with my site in a feature I call HISTORY REPEATS.

Our third tale comes from the time I took a field trip to an almost-forgotten Charlotte landmark that may have provided the inspiration for the city’s nickname:

Bags of oats and corn were loaded into British wagons, while livestock pens were emptied of pigs and goats. But then, the strangest thing happened: one of the British soldiers knocked over a giant beehive, and angry bees started swarming all over the troops. Confusion and chaos reigned. Thompson and his men had been waiting patiently for a good time to shoot, and this was it. They opened fire, killing one British officer instantly. The militiamen silently moved to new locations, reloaded, and opened fire again. This caused Captain Doyle to think they were under attack by a larger force, so he ordered a retreat.

Even if you’re not from Charlotte, you just might love this quirky tale, too! Check it out:

The Charlotte History Field Trip

Tonight’s the Night!

The series finale of The Americans airs tonight on FX.  It’s a little too late to start watching it now, but if you should find it on a streaming service, it’s absolutely worth your time. The Americans was simultaneously one of the best TV shows of the 21st century, yet also one of the most underrated  of all time.

The Americans

So… Goodbye to Philip and Elizabeth, and Paige and Stan… and poor Henry! It was a hell of a ride!

HISTORY REPEATS: The Berners Street Hoax

Hi! I’m Jim! I have a newly redesigned website where I sometimes share quirky tales from history. Every Monday for the next four weeks, I’m going to share one of those stories to (re)acquaint you with those tales in a feature I call HISTORY REPEATS.

Our second tale is about the Berners Street Hoax… quite possibly the greatest prank of all time:

Berners Street wasn’t very wide to begin with, and as word of the deliveries spread, onlookers appeared. The street was completely clogged with angry merchants, curious bystanders and police, who wanted to know why traffic had come to a complete stop on Oxford Street. As it happened, traffic had ground to a halt throughout much of London. But Hook had it all planned out. Like a symphony, this prank was approaching a crescendo.

It’s a hilarious story guaranteed to make your sides split! Check it out:

The Berners Street Hoax

Ha!

CHVRCHES singer Lauren Mayberry, immediately after swearing on live TV, having just remembered the many “No Swearing, Please!” posters backstage at the BBC’s Biggest Weekend show:

Lauren Mayberry
(Click to embiggen)

HISTORY REPEATS: Timothy Dexter

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Hi! I’m Jim! I have a newly redesigned website where I sometimes share quirky tales from history. Every Monday for the next four weeks, I’m going to share a story from my site to (re)acquaint you with some of those tales in a feature I call HISTORY REPEATS.

I’ll kick this off with the amazing true story of Timothy Dexter, a Colonial American who, by all accounts, should be remembered as “the worst businessman in history”… except for his unbelievable string of good luck:

A group of high society types then told Dexter he could make money by shipping gloves to the South Sea Islands… and you can guess what happened next: Dexter’s ship of gloves arrived just as some Portuguese ships were about to leave on a trading mission to China. The Portuguese bought all the gloves, and once again Timothy Dexter, like some sort of 18th century Kozmo Kramer, fell backwards into money.

It’s an amazing tale! You should check it out:

Timothy Dexter: Informer of Deer

Quick Site Update

Hi Folks!

A quick update about a “bug” I found on the new site: if you want to embed a YouTube video in a WordPress post, all you have to do is paste the URL into it, like this:

Incidentally, I’m kind of obsessed with that song – if you have time, you should give it a listen!

It wasn’t always like this. Before WordPress supported this natively, a third-party plug-in was needed to embed videos. I used one called Smart Youtube PRO, which worked the same way, but you had to add a V before the http part of the link, like this:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgUfdhd9fzU

I haven’t reinstalled the plug-in yet, so for now every post from 2015 or earlier that has an embedded YouTube video is broken. I don’t know if I want to track down every single post on this site that has a video and convert each one to the “new” WP native format – that’d be a lot of work.  It would be much easier to simply reinstall the plug-in… but lots of those old posts contained music videos, many of which have since been deleted from YouTube. So I kinda need to go through those posts anyway, to see if I can find replacements for all the deleted videos. Or I could just leave the whole mess as it is.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

A Random Memory

Back in the 80s, some time after my family moved from one end of a suburban Atlanta county to another, a married couple moved in a few houses down. The husband was, I think, a former big wig in the Air Force. He’d retired and moved to Atlanta for a new job. Somewhere between 6 months to a year after they moved in, their youngest son failed out of college and moved back in with his parents.

I worshiped this guy. I was a 14 year-old dork, and he was a cool 20 year old guy who’d been away… in college! He liked all the cool bands, movies and art. Cool literally oozed out of this guy. And he especially dressed cool – I started wearing a single rubber bracelet – yes, the same ones Madonna would wear 20 per wrist back in the 80s… just ‘cos this guy did, too.

Now, I’m not gonna lie and say we were friends. He didn’t know anyone in Atlanta when he first moved there, and I was “the kid down the street who liked Bauhaus too, and was good for a laugh on a Tuesday night”. Still, we hung out fairly often, at least for a few months until he got connections to people his age in the city.

And so: in 1985, when I was 14, this dude invited me to see Love and Rockets with him. He bought me a few beers – another cool thing about the guy was that he’d been grandfathered into the drinking age hike, so could buy beer at 20. And I, being 14 and with little alcohol experience, got blitzed.

The venue was a “cinema & drafthouse” that was converting to live music, so security was kind of lax. About halfway through the show, I drunkenly crawled up on stage and propped myself up against the speaker next to David J. He looked down at me, but did nothing. Since I – 5’9″ and 117 lbs soaking wet – didn’t seem like a threat, neither did security. So that’s where I sat for about half the show.

Afterwards, my friend, who’d brought his fancy 35mm camera, magically convinced the back doorman that we were from Creative Loafing, the city’s alt-weekly. We got backstage and hung out for a bit, which was cool. But then the party moved to the Winnebago the band had rented. After a while inside, I realized wasn’t feeling so hot, alcohol-wise. So I stepped out of the RV for some fresh air. While standing there, I got the idea of doodling on the side of the RV with a Sharpie I’d brought. A few minutes later, Daniel Ash poked his head out the door. Instead of getting angry, Ash laughed, came outside and drew on the RV for several minutes with me before they left.

Somewhere I have a fuzzy, black & white photo of our “artwork” on the side of the Winnebago.

I finally left Virgin Mobile!

Ah, the ZTE Max XL… the phone they should have named the “ZTE Max RD”, ‘cos you need to reboot it daily! Gather ‘round children, and let me tell you the story of the phone that was so bad it finally made me quit Virgin Mobile!

I got the ZTE Max XL last Christmas. And it seemed pretty awesome at the time – a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 octa-core processor, a 6” 1080×1920 screen, a 13 MP camera, a 3990 mAh battery, a fingerprint sensor on the back, all wrapped up in some Nougat 7.1 deliciousness! And the thing was only $125 on Virgin’s site! Sounds killer, right? What’s not to like?

ZTE Max XL
(pic via Virgin Mobile)

Well, plenty.

For one thing, the screen is glitchy. Do you remember when a VGA cable would get loose or start to die, and if you brushed against it with your foot, you’d get weird streaks or other artifacts on the screen for a second or two? Yeah, the ZTE Max would often do that when playing YouTube videos, or when I’d play my slot machine games. It wasn’t especially bad – maybe 1 or 2 very short glitches during 30 minutes of game play or video watching – but it was certainly enough to make me worry.

And speaking of “worry”, the entire time I owned this phone I worried constantly about the battery. I’ve never owned a device that ate battery quite like this phone. After charging overnight on my nightstand, I’d wake up, unplug it and spend 15 minutes or so checking my email, catching up on headlines, and seeing what was going on with Reddit. And it wasn’t uncommon for that short usage to drain the phone to 92% or so. Yes, the phone used 8% of a charge just by using Outlook for Android, Google News and Weather and Relay for Reddit for 15 minutes. But that’s better than what I got doing chores: I like listening to music while doing dishes, and 35 minutes of Spotify + Bluetooth headphones could easily eat 20% of a charge. It got to the point where I’d eat dinner and let the phone charge back up to 100%. Then I’d do the dishes, only to watch the battery drain from 100% to 79% in a mere 35-45 minutes. It also didn’t help that the phone had the battery percentage RIGHT THERE on the notification bar, with no obvious way to disable that feature. It was almost like it was taunting me: “You want to listen to the new Sylvan Esso album? Hahaha! That’ll cost you 10% of this charge!”

You might have noticed I said “Outlook for Android” in the previous paragraph. That’s because almost anything Google-related on the ZTE Max did not work once the phone reached a certain amount of uptime.

Continue reading “I finally left Virgin Mobile!”