Friday Time Machine: Walter’s BBQ

Sometime between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I grew tired of loud-ass punk rock music, and drifted towards the “local music” scene. Which was great, as it was 1986 at the time, and “local music” included bands from both Atlanta and Athens. So my “local bands” included R.E.M., Pylon, Guadalcanal Diary, Dreams So Real, Love Tractor, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, and a host of other great bands of the time.

We’d often skip school and go to Athens. Part of this was because none of our parents worked anywhere near there, so our chances of getting caught were slim (I’d previously gotten busted when my dad, driving to a dental appointment, saw my car parked in Little Five Points). The city of Athens was also chock full of college students, so we just blended in with the crowd, making us a tough mark for the rarely seen (but always feared) “truant officers”. Having said all that, the main reason we chose Athens, of course, was that we were unrepentant R.E.M. fanboys and weren’t ashamed to admit it.

We’d sometimes drive around Athens for a bit and check out the architecture of the fine old Southern homes. We’d sometimes try to find where Pete Buck or Michael Stipe lived (we found Pete’s house, no luck with Michael’s). We’d try to find the railroad trestle featured on the cover of R.E.M.’s Murmur album (we found it on the second trip). We’d sit on the hard-ass granite benches at the corner of Broad and College and discuss girls or politics or music or books or religion while we waited for the record stores to open. Then we’d go to Wuxtry and quietly look through the records, straining to hear the names of the bands that the real college kids were talking about. If we had a friend named Chris Haskins with us, we’d try to talk him into buying us some beer, since he looked 25 even when he was 17.

But one thing we absolutely had to do on every trip was to eat at Walter’s Barbecue. Walter’s was the subject of a song on R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office outtakes album. I believe it was an aborted attempt at a jingle for a radio commercial… but I could be wrong. In any case, on the way out of town, you’d see this little place:

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

This picture is from 2004, long after Walter’s had changed hands. And no, I don’t know who that chick in the picture is – I accidentally stumbled across this picture via Google Image Search and it made me all nostalgic. And that’s why I’m writing this post. Anyway, here’s a picture of R.E.M. eating there in 1984:

(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

I think I sat on every single one of those stools the band’s sitting on. Heh – and look at how much hair Michael Stipe has! It’s funny to see him eating chicken, too… Vegan, my ass!

Walter’s had an awesome hot sauce for the BBQ, and he made the world’s best Brunswick Stew. I don’t know what happened to ol’ Walter, but you can still see him in his heyday in the excellent documentary Athens, GA Inside/Out.


All the Internet gossip sites were in a flutter a couple of days ago, publishing photos of Jessica Alba pushing her baby in a stroller:

(Click to Enlarge)
(Click to Enlarge)

Here’s what I think: “Screw Jessica… who the hell is her friend?”

Senator investigates SMS

How come text messages now cost 20¢ each, when they used to cost 10¢ each?

That’s what Democratic Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin wants to know. Acting as head of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, he recently sent a letter to the presidents and CEOs of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile asking for clarification as to why text message costs have gone up 100% in 3 years… especially since the wireless carriers have been pushing data plans like there’s no tomorrow.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

My girlfriend’s boss recently purchased a laptop with built-in Wi-Fi and mobile Internet. Wi-Fi is, of course, free in most places, but mobile Internet requires a data plan from a cellular carrier. So the boss signed up for a 5GB/month data plan from Verizon. It costs $59.99 a month. That’s 1.1998 cents per megabyte, per month.

Text messages are limited to 160 characters, which is 160 bytes. Assuming that one sends the full 160 characters per each text message, and those messages cost 20¢ each, that’s $1,310.72 per megabyte. So if Lisa’s boss were to send the same 5GB worth of data via SMS instead of her mobile Internet plan, her monthly bill would be (are you ready for this?) $6,553,600.

Of course, 5GB of text messages would be around 33,554,432 texts per month, so that’s not a very realistic analogy. And most people that text a lot usually have some kind of “text messaging plan” from their carrier, which drives the cost down a bit. I’m also not comparing apples to apples, as the data plan I quoted is from Verizon and the SMS costs are from AT&T.

But still… that, my friends, is highway robbery, pure and simple. For some reason, the wireless carrier have seen fit to charge insanely high rates for text messages while at the same time they’ve cut costs for voice plans (even a ten-second voice call uses far more bandwidth than a text message). It’s insane, and I wish someone would do something about it. Sadly, it looks like it might be Uncle Sam instead of the market in this case.

Read more about it at Ars Technica here.

Netbook prices starting to fall

Netbooks are small laptop computers that ship with the latest energy-saving processors, smallish amounts of RAM, small SSD storage devices, built-in Wi-Fi and stripped down operating systems that can run quickly on such meager hardware. Although you can buy a netbook with Windows XP installed, most netbooks come with some form of Linux on them. In a sense, they’re more like “extremely useful PDAs” than actual laptop computers, but the distinction is slight.

The big draw with netbooks was supposed to be their low price. When manufacturers announced pricing for netbooks, prices of $199 or $249 were bandied about. People were excited – and why not? A laptop computer with a color screen that could play back movies and mp3s and had built in wireless for less than 2 bills? Sign me up!

The only problem was that initial demand was so high that manufacturers felt free to ignore their previous quotes of $199, aiming instead for the $399 to $499 range. One manufacturer (Asus) really ran with the idea, releasing ever beefier netbooks with ever more bizarre price points. The Eee PC 1000, for example, comes with a 10″ widescreen LCD, a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM, an 8GB SSD, and a 32GB SDHC card for $650. That’s a lot of sexy new technology, but for that kind of money you can buy a “regular” notebook from Dell with Windows XP, a 14″ screen, and 80 GB hard drive.

Thankfully, a couple of things have happened that have started to push prices down. Initial demand has fallen off, so manufacturers are dropping prices to keep up sales. And Dell, the 800 pound gorilla of the IT world, just released their own netbook. So prices should fall considerably by Christmas time. Case in point? The afirementioned Asus Eee PC 1000 – the price has recently fallen from $650 to $449.

Listen up, IT people!

Harry McCracken, founder and editor of Technologizer and former editor-in-chief of PC World, has posted this entry in his blog about the mistakes he’s made with IT implementations throughout the years. Most of it is pretty basic stuff, but it’s worth a read to refresh yourself on the causes of IT disasters. After all, most people tend to take their jobs a bit casually after doing them for several years. Harry’s entry just might slow you down and make you think before doing something that just might screw the pooch. Here’s a sample:

Biting off more than I can chew at once. You don’t need to address every issue that technology can solve for you all at once. In fact, if you try to, you’re more likely to create new problems. Worse, you may have more trouble diagnosing and fixing them than if you changed one thing at a time. I just wish I always remembered that.

Like I said… basic stuff, but well worth a read.

Google Chrome: Meh

Last week, the guys from Google released their own web browser: Google Chrome. And thus, Google fanboys all over the ‘Net fell to their knees in religious ecstasy, chanting over and over again: “Google my master, Google my master…”

Look, I frankly just don’t see the point of all this. On the Windows platform you already have Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari. And now there’s another browser? And what does Chrome do that any other browser doesn’t? Well, nothing, actually. And it actually lacks a lot of the features that other browsers have, even boring old Internet Explorer.

After using it for about a week, I can honestly say that the one (and only) feature I like about Google Chrome is the “paste and go” feature in the address bar. If you cut and paste an address into Chrome’s address bar, you can either “Paste” it or “Paste and go”, which pastes the address then automatically loads the page in question. Nice, but hardly groundbreaking, especially when the “Right-Click Link” extension does the same thing in Firefox without the need to paste the address into the address bar.

As of this writing, Chrome doesn’t have any extensions. None. So you either get the full “Chrome experience” or you get nothing. No AdBlock, no Weave, no DownThemAll… nothing. Oh, you can hack together something similar to a lot of Firefox extensions – see this post from Lifehacker for instructions on setting up Privoxy as your ad blocker in Chrome, for example – but it’s nowhere near as elegant as Firefox.

So… for now… I’ll stick with Mozilla, thanks!

Epic Fail from AA

Oh, now this is just horrific: when 57-year-old Teresa Olaya died, her husband Miguel arranged for the body to be shipped to her hometown of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Unfortunately for Migel, American Airlines lost the body for 4 days. When American finally found Teresa’s remains, she was “so badly decomposed… [that he] had to forgo a traditional open-casket funeral”.

It’s unclear what, exactly, happened here. Migel and his daughter Laura flew to Guayaquil ahead of the body to make arrangements. When the body didn’t show up, he was given contradictory information from American personnel, who told him at times that the body was in Miami, other times that she was in Guatemala City. What’s absolutely clear is that the body was not refrigerated. At all. “When I opened the casket, it was a terrible shock,” said Olaya. “I still can’t get it out of my mind”. It’s unclear whether Teresa’s body had been embalmed (it was picked up from a mortuary in Brooklyn, but the original article doesn’t say if embalming took place there or not). I also don’t know if embalmed bodies need refrigerating.

Dear God, people! What the hell happened here? This isn’t your average Samsonite bag we’re talking about here… it’s a giant fucking cardboard box with “HUMAN REMAINS” stamped in big letters on the side! American isn’t talking – Migel is suing for millions, and American won’t comment on “pending litigation”.  So we have no idea if the body was shuffled from airport to airport, held up in customs, or misplaced in an unheated warehouse for those four days.

This is, quite frankly, one of the most pitiful stories I’ve ever heard. It seems that American Airlines can even screw you over in death!

Vote for the next History Blog article!

UPDATE: The people have spoken! Look for “The Border Blasters” as the next History Blog entry tomorrow morning!

I hope you guys are enjoying the History Blog! History is one of my favorite subjects, and the History Blog allows me shine a light into some of the forgotten or mysterious events in human history.

I’ve decided to do something different for my next History Blog article: to allow you to vote for which article you’d like to see!

Below are several ideas that I’ve been kicking around. In fact, I’ll probably do History Blog posts on all of them in the coming months. But which one should I do first?

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