Outlaws and Vestries

If you follow British politics at all, you’re probably familiar with the State Opening of Parliament. In this, the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) rides in a gilded carriage from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster (as the Houses of Parliament are formally known). There she changes into formal attire – including the crown – and sits in the House of Lords, where she reads a speech that has been prepared for her by the current government.

The Queen opens Parliament

The speech outlines the things the current government wants to do in the upcoming legislative session. In a way, it’s like a more subdued State of the Union address… without the clapping every 30 seconds.

Incidentally, my favorite part of the ceremony involves someone known as the “Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod”. Usually called “Black Rod” for short, once the Queen and the Lords have assembled for the speech, Black Rod is sent to summon the House of Commons. However, as he approaches the Commons chamber the door is slammed in his face, and he bangs on the door with his staff to get their attention:

This is a response to an event that took place on January 4, 1642, when Charles I, accompanied by armed soldiers, stormed into the House of Commons to arrest five MPs he believed had encouraged the Scots to invade England. Although the House of Commons and Charles I had been at odds for decades by that point, this one event proved to be the spark that ignited the English Civil War, and is why, to this very day, the monarch is not allowed to enter the House of Commons. By slamming the door in Black Rod’s face, the Commons reminds the monarch that they won’t be bullied by the anyone, especially the Crown.

And hey, speaking of “being bullied by the monarch”, have you ever wondered what happens after the Queen’s speech?

Well, the Commons takes up a bill known as “A Bill for the more effectual preventing clandestine Outlawries”, which is mercifully shortened to the “Outlawries Bill”. And here’s something you might not know: in Anglo-Saxon times, to be declared an outlaw was the second worst thing the government could do to you, outside of torturing you to death. That’s because an “outlaw” was literally a person “outside the law”. An outlaw convicted of a crime couldn’t just hire a better lawyer and file an appeal, since he was now excluded from the legal system. Anyone offering an outlaw food, shelter or assistance could be executed for aiding and abetting. And if an angry mob happened to come across an outlaw… well, you couldn’t be arrested for killing a person the law no longer recognized, so… It may surprise some that the “WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE” trope made famous in old Western films actually has its origin in Anglo-Saxon England!

Of course, England doesn’t have “outlaws” any more, at least not in the old fashioned Anglo-Saxon sense. But a bill about them is introduced into the House of Commons after every Queen’s Speech. This is to symbolically show that the House will control its own agenda, and not be bullied or persuaded by the monarch. An interesting side note is that, since the bill is purely symbolic these days, no one bothers printing up the text of said bill. And no one really knows what the exact text of the bill actually was. This version of the bill, used during the reign of Queen Victoria, is the most complete known example of the bill:

A Bill for the more effectual preventing clandestine Outlawries.

For the more effectual preventing Clandestine Outlawries in Personal Actions, Be it Enacted by the Queen’s most excellent Majesty by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same. That if after the [date] any attorney Solicitor or other person who shall prosecute any person or persons to Outlawry in any action personal wherein no Writ or Exegerit shall be awarded shall make default to send or deliver the Writ of Proclamation to the Sheriff of the proper County where the Defendant shall be dwelling at the time of awarding the Exegerit (the place of such dwelling being known), every such Attorney Solicitor or other person aforesaid making such default being lawfully convicted shall for every such offence forfeit [amount]; and if the Sheriff (the Writ of Proclamation being duly delivered to him) shall refuse or neglect before the Return of the Writ to make [number of] Proclamations according to the directions of the Act made in the thirty-first year of the reign of [Queen Elizabeth] for the avoiding of privy and secret Outlawries in actions personal, every such Sheriff being lawfully convicted shall for every such refusal or neglect forfeit [amount].

While all this is going on, the House of Lords discusses vestries. In the United States, Ireland and Scotland, vestries are committees of lay people who advise the clergy of parishes in Episcopal churches.

The vestry serves two purposes. For one, it takes some of the workload off the clergy. If a church needed roof repairs, for example, the vestry might be in charge of getting estimates and determining the best course of action. Or if the church had a sensitive situation – like a deacon getting caught with a prostitute – the rector may seek the vestry’s help in crafting a response.

The vestry’s second (slightly darker) task is to keep an eye on the books, not just to keep the rector’s hand out of the cookie jar, but also to make sure the parish is financially stable generally. This is the origin of the vestry in England: a secular group made up of prominent citizens that had control over the parish’s public charity funds, such as aid to the poor. Over time, vestries assumed more and more power, such as appointing church officials like clerks and sextons, and maintaining public utilities like water pumps, market scales, clocks and fire engines. At their most powerful, in the early 1830s, vestries spent almost 20% of England’s national budget!

By the late 19th century, it became obvious that professionals were needed in many cases. While many vestries were responsible for cesspits in early days, modern sanitation systems required more knowledge than the average vestry member had. And by this point, the 20,000+ vestries hopelessly overlapped each other and offered inconsistent services throughout the country. So their civil powers were removed by legislation in 1894, while their ecclesiastical powers were removed by a reorganization act in 1921.

So why does the House of Lords introduce a bill for a thing that was abolished 96 years ago? Again, it’s symbolic, just to show the monarch that he or she can’t bully the House of Lords, either. Specifically, the Lords debates “A bill for the better regulating of Select Vestries”, which is predictably just called the “Select Vestries Bill”. But what’s a select vestry? Well, in the early days, any taxpaying resident of a parish could be a member of the vestry. But massive population growth in the 1600s, especially in cities like London and Manchester, meant that it was no longer feasible for every taxpayer to have a seat on the vestry. So “select vestries” were created which had a property ownership requirement, and one had to be “selected” by existing members (much like a country club, an analogy that adequately describes how the process actually worked). Not surprisingly, many vestries became corrupt over time. Since the House of Lords includes all 26 bishops of the Church of England, many of those bishops pushed for reform. In fact, the “Select Vestries Bill” was once a real bill the bishops wanted to pass. When it failed to pass in that session, the bishops ensured that it was the first thing discussed in the next session of the Lords. And the next. And the next. They kept pushing for the bill for years, until its introduction became a tradition unto itself.

While you may think all this is just some nutty practice British people do because someone made it a “thing” 400 years ago, know that our neighbors to the north do something similar. Canada is a constitutional monarchy, so their parliament sessions also begin with a royal speech… although it’s almost never delivered by the actual Queen of Canada. It’s called the “Throne Speech”, and it’s actually two speeches – a short one delivered by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec called “the Allocution”. The premier of Quebec then reads a much longer speech, “Discours d’ouverture”. After this, the two houses debate two bills: C-1 (in the Commons) and S-1 (in the Senate). But while the British bills reference past legislative needs – outlawery reform and vestry corruption – the Canadian bills are refreshingly direct. They simply state that the bill they’re discussing is about how they’re free to discuss whatever they want. The bills are identical, save for the stuff in brackets, which is specific to each body:

Whereas the introduction of a pro forma bill in the [House of Commons / Senate] before the consideration of the Speech from the Throne demonstrates the right of the [elected representatives of the people / Senate] to act without the leave of the Crown;

Whereas that custom, which can be traced to [1558 / before 1867] in the Parliament at Westminster, is practised in a number of jurisdictions having a parliamentary form of government;

And whereas it is desirable to explain and record the constitutional relationship represented by that custom;

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

1 This bill asserts the right of the [House of Commons / Senate] to give precedence to matters not addressed in the Speech from the Throne.

Brainiac Musicians

In this post from 2013 I talked about the hottest brainiacs – that is, female academics and engineers who just happened to be pretty in addition to being smart as a whip. In this post, I want to talk about musicians who are surprisingly smart. Let’s do this:

Amelia Fletcher is a British singer and songwriter, known for being in a string of bands in the 90s, including Talulah Gosh, Marine Research, Tender Trap and (most famously) Heavenly. Looking at it from afar, you might wonder why Fletcher was in so many bands, or why she seemed to quit one as soon as the band started getting famous. That’s because Fletcher was getting a doctorate in economics from Oxford, and could only be in a band as time permitted. In 2001 she was named chief economist at the Office of Fair Trading, roughly analogous to America’s Federal Trade Commission. In 2013 she was named “Professor of Competition Policy” at the University of East Anglia.

Like Fletcher, Ladytron’s Mira Aroyo also studied for her doctorate at Oxford. Unlike Fletcher, Aroyo quit after deciding that the lab work needed to get a doctorate in genetics was much less fun than being in a band. Rumors persist in some circles that she’s still in school, or that she went back and got her doctorate, but these are untrue. In an interview with The Sunday Mail she said “I was a geneticist doing a PhD and realizing lab work wasn’t for me. We were doing Ladytron at the same time and I was enjoying it more. It was easier and more fun”.

After being unceremoniously dumped by British New Wave band Japan, guitarist Rob Dean tried forming a few bands with limited success, including “Illustrated Man”, with Gang of Four’s former drummer, Hugo Burnham. Dean played on a couple famous albums, including Gary Numan’s 1981 album Dance and Sinéad O’Connor’s debut The Lion and the Cobra in 1987. Not getting anywhere in the music industry, Dean left the UK and moved to Central America where, as “Robert Dean”, he has become one of the leading experts on local birds. In 2007 he illustrated The Birds Of Costa Rica: A Field Guide, and in 2010 he illustrated The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide.

The early 80s British “swing revival” band Roman Holliday is mostly known in the UK for their Top 20 hit “Don’t Try to Stop It”. In the US they’re known for their song “Stand By”: although it only reached #54 on the Billboard charts, the music video was played heavily on MTV in 1983. The band’s guitar player, Brian Bonhomme, is now a professor of Russian history at Youngstown State University in Ohio.

Like most parents, Lauren Mayberry’s folks insisted that she get a college degree as something to fall back on if her music career didn’t pan out. Mayberry didn’t just get one, she got two: a bachelor of laws degree and a masters in journalism. She even won an award in 2010 from the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland for an article she wrote about body piercing safety practices. Not that she needed to: her band, CHVRCHES, is doing quite well, thanks! [NOTE: in most English-speaking countries outside the United States, one can get a “bachelor of laws” degree which, with passing the bar, is all one needs to become a lawyer.]

Lastly, Dan Spitz – lead guitarist and songwriter for Anthrax – left the band in 1995 to pursue an education and career in… watchmaking. He attended the prestigious Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP) on a full scholarship, where he was awarded the title of “Master Watchmaker of Mechanical Complications Specialist”. This is serious business: we’re not talking about Spitz being able to assemble a watch from a kit: he can design (and build) highly precise mechanical watches from scratch! Neat, huh?

The World of Sid and Marty Krofft

If you grew up in the late 60s or early 70s, you probably remember the names Sid and Marty Krofft. The Canadian brothers created a ton of iconic kids programs such as The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, H.R. Pufnstuf, and Land of the Lost. They were behind a few variety shows including Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters and Donny & Marie, too.

So it was huge news when it was announced that a Krofft-themed amusement park was going to open inside the Omni Complex in downtown Atlanta. An indoor amusement park… with H.R. Pufnstuf? OMG! OMG! OMG! Sign me up!

The park opened on May 26, 1976… and closed less than six months later, on November 10, 1976. And here’s the thing: for decades, the narrative was that the park’s failure was due to Atlanta’s high crime rate in the 1970s. I’m not gonna lie – crime was an issue back then. My dad had Hawks season tickets in the 70s, so I was down there all the time. It was a bit scary, and dad made sure to never let me out of his sight, even for a second. But while that was an issue, the park did itself no favors.

For one thing, The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft was designed so that a visit would last three hours. That’s it: three hours. If you showed up when the park opened at 10AM, you’d be done by 1PM.

But few visitors actually stayed that long, because the park only had two rides: the Crystal Carousel and the pinball ride. The Crystal Carousel, a giant merry go round made out of clear acrylic, was kinda cool to me, a little boy… but was probably considered pretty lame by anyone over the age of 10. And the pinball ride was incredibly lame, even by my five year-old standards. You sat inside a large silver “ball” which ran on a track and “crashed” into flippers and bumpers and such. It sounds cool, but the ride was so slow and the mechanics were so loud there was just no element of danger or fun. It was like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World with all the effects turned off. Aside from those two rides, the park was mostly a mish-mash of carnival performers (I remember a sword swallower), live shows, shops and restaurant.

What’s more, the park was designed to lead visitors in a specific path. You’d take the World’s Longest Freestanding Escalator to the top floor of the park, then work your way down to the bottom floor. There was nothing stopping you from going back and experiencing something again… except all human traffic you’d have to walk against. For people who specialized in “imagination”, the park sure lacked it.

Lastly – and I can’t stress this enough – The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft was the MOST EXPENSIVE ATTRACTION in the Atlanta area at the time. Adult admission was $5.75 per person ($24.63 in 2016 dollars). Kid’s tickets were $4.75 ($20.35). Contrast this with Six Flags, where adult tickets were $5.00 ($21.42) and kid’s tickets were $3.50 ($14.99). But it wasn’t just about the money: Six Flags could easily be an all-day adventure, as opposed to the three hours (max) at The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft. And at Six Flags you were free to wander around the park at your leisure, riding the dozen (or more) rides in any order you chose. When it came to “bang for the buck”, Six Flags coaxed The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft down a dark alley and beat the everlovin’ snot out of it.

If your parents were cheapskates, you could go to Stone Mountain Park (one-day car pass: $2) and climb the mountain (free), have a picnic (free-ish) and play miniature golf (like, 50¢ per game per person, or go to the water slides (around $2 for 2-3 hours).

And THAT was the real problem The World Of Sid And Marty Krofft faced: ALMOST ANYTHING was cheaper and more fun than the park.

An Open Letter to Spotify

Dear Spotify:

You know how some families have two children, and one child is a straight-A student who gets in to Stanford… while the other child is a ne’er do well who’s been to jail at least once and still lives at home… yet, paradoxically, the parents are always riding the successful kid’s ass?

You, Spotify, are that successful kid. You’ve grown from nothing to become the most successful music streaming service in the world. You’ve literally changed the way I consume music, and – in a very real sense – you’ve changed my life. You’re standing at the precipice of greatness.

But you’re not perfect. Nothing ever is, really. Which is why I’m constantly complaining about you. Not because you’re awful… but because you’re so close to becoming The One True Music Service. It’s like you have victory inches from your grasp, and you don’t even see it.

So here’s a laundry list of things you could do to to become truly great:

For starters, get rid of the 10,000 song limit. If you’re not familiar with how Spotify works, there’s a “Your Music” section of the app which lets you “save” albums and singles to your account. So instead of having to search for an album every time you want to hear it, you can “save” it to an easily-accessible list of albums in your account. I keep putting “save” in quotes because the app isn’t really saving anything: it just creates a shortcut to the album in your account, not unlike a browser bookmark. Spotify limits the total number of songs in “Your Music” to 10,000 for some reason (Apple Music’s limit is 100,000). There’s no engineering or data storage reason why Spotify can’t allow you to save 100,000 songs to your account, too. And, if you think about it, it actually makes sense for Spotify to raise the limit: the more music you have in your account, the more invested in Spotify you become, and the less likely you are to switch to a competing service.

Secondly, Spotify should really consider a cloud storage option. No music service has everything. Some artists sign exclusive agreements with one service. Some artists, like Peter Gabriel and Prince, eschew streaming completely. A few albums temporarily disappear while the service renegotiates its contract with a record label, much like how TV channels can disappear from cable lineups while networks and cable companies argue over carriage fees. Some albums were put out by labels that have since gone out of business, and the rights holders can’t be easily found. And most music fans have at least some music that’s “too obscure” or “too sketchy” for a streaming service. I’m not just talking about my treasured MP3s of 86, an Atlanta post-rock band from the 80s that no one remembers – I’m also talking about live bootlegs, demo tapes, etc.

Apple Music and Google Play Music both have apps that scan your local music and upload any songs missing from their catalogs. That way, all the music you’ve collected over the years – the bootlegs, the rare remixes, the fan club singles, the vinyl rips of albums that never made it to CD, much less streaming – becomes part of Apple or Google’s cloud. You can stream it to any device at any time. From the end user’s point of view, it becomes part of Apple Music or Google Play Music’s catalog.

Spotify’s solution to the problem is much less elegant. You can integrate local files into the desktop app, and you can add local files to playlists. If you sync that playlist to a mobile device – but only on the same Wi-Fi network as the desktop app – the local files will be copied to your device. So if you create a playlist which contains 2GB of local files, that playlist will take up 2GB of storage space on your device… which defeats the entire purpose of a “streaming service”. With Google Play Music – which allows you to upload up to 50,000 local songs – those files would take up zero space, ‘cos Google’s streaming it to you from the cloud.

Even worse – and this is something Redditors at /r/Spotify just don’t seem to get – once you leave your Wi-Fi network, that music is simply inaccessible. Example: my all-time favorite version of The Cure’s “A Forest” is from The Cure in Orange concert. I have In Orange on Laserdisc, and ripped that track to mp3 years ago. The song has been uploaded to my Google Play Music account. So if I’m at a friend’s house, and we’re sitting around listening to music via Bluetooth speaker and we get a random urge to hear it, I just open GPM and stream it. With Spotify, I could add it to a playlist and listen at a friend’s house… but only if I had the foresight to sync it to my phone before I left. Otherwise I’m just out of luck. I don’t know how much it would cost for Spotify to add the ability to upload 20,000 or 50,000 songs, but they need to do it. Every time I exit Spotify and open GPM just to play one song is a chance Google has to get me to switch. But if Spotify goes public sometime soon, that sweet, sweet IPO money could get something like this going.

While I’m here, Spotify please don’t stratify your accounts. If you do get around to adding cloud storage, don’t create a new “$14.99/month Spotify + Cloud” plan. Either figure out a way to include it in the $9.99/month Premium plan or increase the cost of Premium to $12.99/month. Or whatever you have to do. My point is, don’t make it more complicated. I wasn’t a paying customer when you had Free, Unlimited and Premium plans, but every time I read about it my head hurts. And I still don’t really know the difference between “Free on Mobile Phones” vs. “Free on Tablets and Other Devices” accounts. It doesn’t really matter, since I’ve got Premium… but just… keep it simple.

Speaking of “simple”, could you please post changelogs somewhere? Like any app, Spotify has bugs. It also gets new features. It sure would be nice if you published lists of bug fixes and new features with every version of the app so end users could know if that weird bug has finally been fixed. Spotify sometimes changes the way things work, and it sure would be nice to be able to go to the app’s page on Google Play and to get confirmation that yes, something has changed, and here’s how it works now.

Next, you guys should fix the apps. On paper, Spotify’s apps are great, and work on multiple platforms, like Windows, Mac, Android, Roku and more. But each has its own share of bugs and quirks. There was a 2-3 month stretch where Spotify’s Android app would take forever to start up on Wi-Fi. It was fine over LTE, and the bug affected all my Android devices, not just my phone. And we’ve got a 200Mbps connection with a decent router that can stream multiple Netflix HD feeds over Wi-Fi no problem. The problem seemed to go away for a while, but still comes back from time to time. The Roku app still can’t scrobble. The Windows app has always taken forever to start (although I disabled the Friends pane, which speeds it up some). Just sit down with your developers and figure out a way to make them faster and more reliable. If that means a new development environment, so be it.

And lastly, a personal beef: the gift card situation in the United States. Some people prefer not using credit cards online if they don’t have to. I’ve paid for my phone service with Virgin Mobile Top-Up cards for almost 8 years, and it works because Virgin cards are available everywhere: Walmart, Target, Publix, Bi-Lo, CVS, Walgreens, Lowe’s, QuikTrip and more. There’s a 99% chance I’ll go to one of those stores at least once a month, so it’s no problem to pick one up. However, finding Spotify gift cards is almost impossible. Best Buy is the only B&M store I know of that sells them, so I have to make a special trip to buy a card. This is especially galling for two reasons: 1) Spotify cards are sold everywhere in Europe; and 2) Shops like CVS carry all sorts of “marginal” online cards. Are people still buying Facebook Game cards? Are Groupon cards a big seller? Is the Nintendo Network a big seller? If not, why aren’t Spotify cards replacing them? Again, you should be making it easier for your customers, not harder. And having options is a good thing, especially since you already have the tech on your site to redeem gift cards.

I didn’t quite say this in my opening, Spotify, so I’ll say it now: I love you. I love you with all my heart. It’s a rare day that I don’t open Spotify and listen to some tunes while running errands, or doing household chores or writing articles like these. I want you to succeed. You’re the best app that ever happened to me! I just wish you’d pay a little attention to some of the points I’ve raised. You’re a sexy supermodel, Spotify… but you’re a sexy supermodel who chews with her mouth open.

Sincerely,

Jim Cofer

The “Random Command Prompt Flash” Issue

If you’re using Windows 10 and Office 365, you might have noticed a strange issue: for the past six weeks or so, some users have reported command-prompt windows popping up for a fraction of a second, seemingly at random. This issue may affect computers running Windows 7 or 8.x and\or Office 2016, but so far I have only seen the issue on computers running Windows 10 and Office 365.

I noticed the issue on my own computer a couple weeks ago, after the latest Office 365 update. But the random command-prompt pop-ups didn’t happen immediately after the update, so I failed to connect the two. At first, I thought it might be some kind of malware, so ran scans using multiple products… which came back clean. I checked Event Viewer, but there were no obvious issues there. I looked at Task Scheduler, but nothing appeared to be amiss there, either.

Stumped, I downloaded and installed Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), an open source video capture tool. I closed all open apps, except for a single Chrome window, which I left open on a maximized nearly blank page. I set OBS to record my screen for two hours and walked away. I returned later and played the video back on my second monitor in VLC, with the playback speed cranked up to 4x. Sure enough, I eventually saw the command-prompt flash:

Office Handler window

If you can’t make out what title bar says, it’s

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\officebackgroundtaskhandler.exe

If you’re having this issue, you should be able to make the pop-up happen any time you want to by opening Task Scheduler and going to Library > Microsoft > Office, right-clicking on

OfficeBackgroundTaskHandlerRegistration

and choosing “Run”.

I don’t know how to “fix” this issue, and I assume Microsoft will address it in an upcoming Office 365 update. However, there is a workaround to prevent that damn command-prompt window from popping-up: right-click on the task and choose “Properties”. Click the “Change User or Group” button and change the user from “Users” to “System”. It’s not the most elegant solution (especially from a security perspective), but it works.

Things I Miss About Atlanta

So, this topic came up on Reddit recently, and I thought I’d share. Note that most of the things I miss are lost to time, not distance.

Yakitori Den-Chan! A yakitori bar in Buckhead. That place was such a beautiful scam: they had 3 tiers of yakitori: “mostly vegetables” (75¢ per skewer), “basic meats” ($1.50 per skewer) and “exotic meats” ($3 per skewer). You’d walk in, order one of those giant Sapporos, then order 10 skewers for around $11. But that wouldn’t fill you up, so you’d order another 25 oz. Sapporo and another round of skewers. But then you’d start looking at the exotic meats:

“Yak? I’ve never had yak before. Where else can you get yak in this city for $3? Gimme a yak skewer… and a kangaroo skewer – when will I ever get to try kangaroo again?… and a rattlesnake skewer? Why not? And a wild boar skewer (well done, please)… and another round of these 25 oz. Sapporos!”

Next thing you know, you’ve ordered a couple more rounds of skewers, and your bill’s $125, which was a gigantic amount of money to blow on dinner back in 1992! And I fell for it multiple times.

Frijoleros on Peachtree – Like Tortillas, one of the first burrito places in Atlanta. Only I liked Frijoleros better. I thought Tortillas was kinda bland (sacrilege, I know). I guess I should also mention the Cotton Club while I’m here.

Jaggers at Emory was a student bar that had the best cheap eats. $3 for two “chili pups” – hot dogs generously covered in chili, cheese and onions, in a basket (it was a knife and fork job, for sure) – was the best cheap dinner ever! This place also had some of the nerdiest bathroom graffiti in town. I once saw graffiti arguing about Latin grammar, and on another visit saw graffiti where people argued over which version of the Book of Common Prayer was better.

I fell in love with Monte Cristo sandwiches at the St. Charles Deli in VaHi. I fell in love with a couple girls there, too.

Horace at Moes and Joes, Erby Walker at The Varsity.

When Junkman’s Daughter was at the corner of Euclid and Colquitt.

I went to Club Rio a couple of times – an amazing trick, since I was, like, 16 or 17 and barely needed to shave.

Bridgetown Grill. The jerk chicken and black & white soup still bless my dreams from time to time.

When Churchill Arms in Buckhead was an actual English pub. When the elderly couple ran it, it was a nice, quiet pub. They had piano singalongs on Friday nights, the average age of the patrons was probably 50, and they mostly served pale ale and Irish whiskey. In winter, you could sit on the beat-up leather sofa by a roaring fire with a glass of Jameson and a cigar and just be. In the late 90s they turned it over to their sons, who turned it into their very own goddamn frat house.

The County Cork Pub in Buckhead. This place was always off the chain Friday and Saturday nights. Always well over the fire marshal’s capacity, it was jam-packed with the good sort of people who appreciate Guinness. They also usually had an actual Irish person on stage singing the filthiest drinking songs known to man! Oh, and the popcorn machine: all the free baskets of popcorn you can eat while downing 6 (or more) pints of Guinness!

When Wax N Facts was half the size it is now. And the part where the used records are now was the “hippy furniture store”, owned by the guy who sat in a giant comfy chair reading a book, smoking a pipe and hanging out with his cat all day.

Moto’s Café was a short-lived vegetarian café near Emory that became a hipster coffeehouse after 9PM. I’m not a vegetarian, but their vegetarian lasagna was delicious, and I saw quite a few good acts there. And “hipster coffeehouse” was actually a cool thing in 1987.

While I’m on coffeehouses, Aurora Coffee and the short-lived (but much beloved by GSU hipsters) Trinity Coffee House. Coffee? Beer? Musical acts? In a 1920s building on the post-industrial wasteland of Trinity Avenue? Instant hipster cred.

Gear was a short-lived store next to Wax N Facts. They sold original t-shirts based on Soviet propaganda posters. They also sold high quality army\navy surplus clothes. I got a badass Swedish Navy jacket and a cool pair of black Israeli BDU pants there. And an Audrey Horne sweatshirt too, oddly.

audreytoodreamy

Cinefest and Album88. Thanks for destroying the happy memories of my college years, GSU. You can stop wondering why I refuse to send you money now.

Calcutta Indian Restaurant in Little 5. I can’t remember if this was actually a good restaurant, but… my first job out of high school was about 30 seconds from L5P. I went there every day for lunch, and it didn’t take long to get tired of Fellini’s, Bridgetown, La Fonda, Zesto, and that crappy Chinese buffet where The Brewhouse is now. I’d never had Indian food before, so gave it a try one afternoon. And I’ve been hooked on Indian ever since!

The old George’s. I used to go to Church of Our Saviour across the street. I’d go to George’s after mass, or to pass time before Adult Confirmation class. George’s was a run-down dive, full of beer signs from the 50s that hadn’t been dusted since the 70s, booths with peeling vinyl, and the less said about the restrooms the better. It’s all… nice now. At least the burgers are still pretty good.

That weird “magick shoppe” underneath (and behind) Abbadabba’s.

The Buckhead Taco Mac. I lived about 100 yards from their front door, and could get drinks or food until 4AM. And I did, quite a few times!

I also lived directly across the street from the Oxford Books on Pharr. I’m still sad they’re gone.

I never went inside The Gold Club: strip clubs aren’t my thing. Still, there was somethin’ about rolling past the Gold Club on Piedmont on Friday or Saturday nights…

Being a 16 year-old high school kid and having a student membership at the High Museum (i.e. free admission). Remember when Ferris Bueller skipped school and went to the Art Institute? I did something like that on a lesser scale at least 10 times.

Mick’s. If only because it was “like Applebee’s, but good”. Their crowd-pleasin’ menu made it the first stop before many Georgia Tech football and basketball games, concerts and such.

Jalisco Mexican Restaurant. I think it’s still there, in the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center. This place didn’t card at all back in the 90s. When I was 19 or 20, it was the go-to place for pre-concert beer and nachos! And on some days – maybe Tuesdays? – they had $1 Tecates. Hell yeah! When my little sister was a freshman at Georgia Tech, she offered to get us tickets to a football game. To return the favor, I took her to Jalisco beforehand. I told her to just be cool and order a beer. So she did. Several, in fact. I got her good and tipsy for the game, and she seemed to have a such a great time, being away from home and “breakin’ all the rules”. Oh, and I almost got thrown out of the game myself.

The Ugly Mug Pub in Duluth. It was just a bar in a suburban strip mall… but it was right around the corner. The great food specials – a huge cut of Prime Rib, with potato and a salad for $9.95! – brought us in, but Braves games, trivia nights and everyone being home from college kept us going there.

3660 Peachtree is a condo complex in Brookhaven, a couple blocks north of Phipps Plaza. One unit was owned by the father of one of my high school classmates, and he rented it to different combinations of my former classmates for the entirety of the 1990s. My high school friends stuck together for a very long time after graduation and that condo is a big reason why. There was always a birthday party or Labor Day cookout, or someone back in town from school, or really any kind of get together there, and everyone was always invited. So it kept us together.

Last one, promise: the Shakespeare Tavern. I think it’s still there… but I dunno ‘cos I moved away 14 years ago. Even if it’s still there, there was something so charming and slapdash about how it was back in the 90s.

DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2017-18 Schedule!

The NFL released the official 2017-18 schedule today, and for the 15th straight year, I’ve got your Pittsburgh Steelers schedule ready to go!

There are a few changes. For one, I dropped all references to flextime games in the schedule since all games from week 5-17 are subject to flexing. I also added the actual location of the games (“Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA”) in hopes that Google will add a nifty image of the stadium to your Google Calendar (I did the same with my Georgia Tech calendar last season and it looked really cool). Also, home games are listed as “[visitor] vs. Pittsburgh Steelers”, while away games are listed as “Pittsburgh Steelers at [home team]”. I dunno why… I just liked it better that way. Lastly, I’ve dropped the playoff\Super Bowl dates from the calendar, mainly because I’m tired and don’t want to look it up tonight.

Both the CSV and ICS versions of the schedule are included in the zip file, so be sure to import the correct one! Click below to download:

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017-2018 Schedule

For more information (including complete instructions), click the “Continue Reading” link below!

Continue reading DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2017-18 Schedule!