Two Questions for Google

1) Why are / and \ different keys on the default Android keyboard? You have to press the “?123” key to get to the numbers and symbols keyboard, and / is available there. So you have to press ALT to reveal the \ symbol… but it’s not the same key as / was. And don’t say “That’s how it is on a QWERTY keyboard”, because you altered the ?123 layout anyway.

2) Why, in the name of all that is holy, does Gmail always mark every single newsletter and promotional email that I actually want as “SPAM” and move it to the junk folder… but never marks newsletters and promotional emails I never signed up for as junk, even though I have repeatedly told Gmail I’m not interested in emails from AstraZeneca and Pfizer?



SimonHey, ya’ll! Simon here! I went 9-5 last week, which makes me 70-48 for the season so far! Not too shabby for the Football Feline, no? Let’s see if I can’t do even better this week! Here are my fabulous picks for week 9!


Chiefs at Chargers: Normally my daddy DVRs regular shows like 30 Rock and The Office and watches Thursday NFL games live. I asked him about this game, and he said he might not even watch it! And who can blame him! The Chargers, one of the most overrated teams in the NFL… going up against a Kansas City team whose entire offensive gameplan appears to be “hand it off to Jamaal Charles”. Now, Jamaal Charles is pretty sexy… but come on, man! You’ve gotta have a better plan than that! The hapless Chiefs haven’t led a game for a single second this season (their one win came against New Orleans in OT). I hardly think this week is going to be any different… take the Chargers to breeze through this one!

Denver at Cincinnati: The Bungles are the most overrated 3-4 team in the NFL, and I expect The Forehead and my HANDSOME MAN Demaryius Thomas (sigh!) to put the beat down on ’em. Hey, I love my fellow kitties as much as the next cat, but I just don’t see how the Bengals can win this game. Put all your ducats on the Broncos to win this one!

Baltimore at Cleveland: If the Bengals are the most overrated 3-4 team, then the Browns are the most underrated 2-6 team in the league. Make no mistake… anything to do with Cleveland is just awful – hideous, even – but while the Browns will remain a cellar team in the AFC North, they have the ability to play any team, any time. Having said all that, there’s no way they beat the Ravens this week, even with the Ratbirds missing Ray Ray and Lardarius Webb and all rest. I hate picking those nasty Ravens, but there’s just no way the Browns take one from the ‘Birds.

Arizona at Green Bay: Simon would love to get man-handled. But Arizona didn’t much care for it on Monday night. The 49ers made them look like a Pop Warner team… and you can expect more of the same when they go to Green Bay, baby! Those poor Arizona boys just won’t be able to handle the hotness of Aaron Rodgers or the coolness of the Green Bay autumn. I love you, Larry Fitzgerald – seriously, girls… have you seen his butt in those tight pants? – but I’m picking the Packers to win… even without studmuffins Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. And Jordy… if you need a warm, comfy place to rehab, come see Simon! I’ll be waiting for yooooooouuu!

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 9”

Top 10 Tunes

From the home office in London, here’s the Top 10 song chart for the week ending October 27, 2012:

1) Roxy Music – “Angel Eyes”
2) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Enola Gay”
3) Modern English – “Life in the Gladhouse”
4) Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”
5) Serge Gainsbourg – “Ah! Melody”
6) Serge Gainsbourg – “En Melody”
7) Serge Gainsbourg – “Valse de Melody”
8) Kim Wilde – “Water on Glass”
9) Tears for Fears – “Mad World”
10) Serge Gainsbourg – “Je t’aime…moi non plus”

Quote of the Day

“Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, ‘that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.’ The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.”

– James Madison
Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

Townships in North Carolina

I was looking at sample ballots for the upcoming general election today, and was reminded of something I’ve wondered about for a decade now: why are “townships” listed on ballots in North Carolina elections? Aren’t townships a Yankee thing?


They are indeed. According to Wikipedia, the following states use some form of the “township” government: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. You’ve probably noticed the complete absence of any Southern states on that list. So how did they end up in North Carolina, and what are they used for?

After the American Civil War, the former Confederate states were compelled by Congress to write new state constitutions. In some cases, states simply dusted off their pre-Civil War constitutions, made a few changes here and there (especially incorporating previous amendments into the new documents), and ratified it thusly.

Things were different in North Carolina. The post-Civil War legislature was dominated by Republicans, including many members from the north (a.k.a carpetbaggers). And the township system was not only what they were familiar with, it also reduced the political power of “good old boy” local governments put in place by the antebellum aristocracy. So it was win-win for them. The Republican legislature therefore adopted the township system into the North Carolina Constitution of 1868. In it, each county was divided into multiple townships, and each township had two justices of the peace, a clerk, a three-member school board and at least one constable. Each member of the township government served a two-year term, and the overall system was almost identical to the township systems of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Whigs and former Confederates in North Carolina were, unsurprisingly, livid about the new system. They opposed it so much, in fact, that they put aside their differences to form the Conservative Party, which, in 1877, took control of the legislature. And one of their first acts was to abolish the township system. They passed constitutional amendments that removed taxation power from the township governments, abolished the position of township clerk, and changed the justice of the peace from an elected to an appointed position. County governments began to take control of local governance, although township school boards would remain in place for several more years.

So… if townships no longer have any power, why do they still exist? They are used as convenient subdivisions for counties. County taxes are based on which township you live in. Voting precincts and polling places are determined by township. Fire department districts are divided up by township. And, 144 years later, the boundaries of most school boards are still determined by township. But the main reason townships still exist is real estate: land deeds were once categorized strictly by township. This is optional today, although many old buildings, like churches and old farmhouses, might still have only the township on the deed. Land surveys are also conducted by township, a process also used by Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Gaston County Townships
Gaston County Townships

Counties are free to add, change or rename townships. As you can see, Gaston County has retained traditional township names: Cherryville Township, Dallas Township, Riverbend Township, Crowders Mountain Township, Gastonia Township, and the South Point Township. Mecklenburg County, to the east, just over the Catawba River, has simply numbered their townships, so folks in Huntersville can enjoy living in “Township 15”.

Top 10 Tunes

Sorry I haven’t posted one of these lately… I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts instead of music!

From the home office in London, here’s the Top 10 song chart for the week ending October 20, 2012:

1) Adele – “Skyfall”
2) Jessica Bailiff – “Helpless”
3) Ladyhawke – “Magic”
4) Class Actress – “Careful What You Say”
5) Foretaste – “Goodbye Horses”
6) Peter Gabriel – “Solsbury Hill”
7) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Enola Gay”
8) Roxy Music – “Angel Eyes”
9) Roxy Music – “Same Old Scene”
10) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Telegraph”


SimonHey, ya’ll! Simon here! Guess who went 12-1 last week? Go Simon! Go Simon! Thanks to that great week I’m now 61-43 for the season. And I’ve got a good feeling about this week’s games, too! So here are my picks for week 8!


Buccaneers at Vikings:
This game features two groups of sexy outlaws: the dirty swashbucklers from Tampa Bay vs. the handsome Nordic raiders of Minnesota. Gosh, who to pick? Simon wouldn’t mind being boarded by the Bucs… but he wouldn’t mind being ravaged by Vikings, either! Oh my! In the end (hehehe!) Simon thinks that handsome Adrian Peterson will run all over those dirty pirates from the place bad strippers go to die from Tampa Bay. Take Minnesota for the win!

Panthers at Chicago: Simon just can’t be bothered with politics, so instead of watching the debate last night he watched the Bears’ defense totally shut down the Lions’ offense. Now ya’ll know I love me some Cam Newton (and some Steve Smith and some Jonathan Stewart and some DeAngelo Williams!), but Simon just doesn’t think my hometown kitties have the mojo to beat the Bears, who seem to be clicking at just the right time. Simon says to take Chicago to make Carolina look like a Division III team!

Chargers at Browns: Phillips Rivers looks like a giant doofus. And one could argue that Norv Turner doesn’t deserve to be a head coach in the NFL. But I don’t think they’ll have any problems taking out the hapless Browns this week. Sure, the Browns are probably better than their 1-6 record would indicate… and oftentimes it’s the teams with nothing to lose that you have to worry about. But honey, San Diego will dominate this game! This one is a lock!

Seahawks at Lions: Getting back to that Monday Night game: Are the Bears just that good? Or are the Lions just that overrated? Simon loves him some Matthew Stafford, and he especially loves Calvin Johnson (Heeeeyyy Megatron!!!). But the Lions’ dynamic duo just looked lost last night! I know they’re playing at home this week, and I know they’ll want to redeem themselves. But I think that sexy Russell Wilson and that chocolate Adonis Marshawn Lynch will run rampant (haha! Heraldry humor!) over the Lions this week. Take Seattle to win, girls!

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 8”

1,000 Plays!

According to, as of Wednesday of this week I’ve officially listened to my new favorite band, Marsheaux, 1,000 times since December 11, 2011:


That’s an average of 3.22 Marsheaux songs a day over 311 days! Obsessed? Perhaps!

RETRO TECH: Sony NetMD Walkman

I’ve owned several mp3 players over the years. Back in 1998, I got a Diamond Rio PMP300 for Christmas (which was eventually stolen… enjoy your 32MB mp3 player, jerks!). After that, the girl I was dating at the time gave me a Samsung UpRoar for my birthday, the first cell phone to feature mp3 playback. After I moved to Charlotte, I upgraded to a Samsung SP-i600, a giant clamshell phone running Windows Mobile 2003. The i600 was pretty nice for its time, but I’ve always been the kind of guy who prefers a single gadget that does one thing well over a “Swiss Army” gadget that does many things poorly.

You would think an iPod would be right up my alley. But iPods were expensive when they first came out, and I was reluctant to buy an Apple product. The search for a music player that was better than the i600 but fairly inexpensive led me to the Sony NetMD MiniDisc Walkman:


Sony developed the MiniDisc in 1992 to compete with Philips’ Digital Compact Cassette (DCC). While DCC was an abject failure, the MiniDisc fared slightly better. The format was popular in Japan, where record labels enthusiastically released albums in the MD format (record labels in the rest of the world? Not so much.). But because of the strength of the dollar against the yen at the time, MiniDisc players were just too expensive for most folks in the United States. And the fact that only component (non-portable) MiniDisc players had the ability to record also limited the appeal. A few years after MiniDisc players hit the market, CD burners became popular, allowing people to burn their own CDs for use in nearly ubiquitous portable CD players. So, by the early 2000s, the MiniDisc was all but a dead technology.

Sony is also the poster child of “Not Invented Here” Syndrome. Sony executives dismissed the mp3 format as an inferior technology. They, of course, considered Sony’s own ATRAC encoding to be a better product. That may or may not be true, but what really mattered was that no one was trading ATRAC files on the Internet, or ripping their CD collections into ATRAC files. So Sony sat on the sidelines, touting their “better” in-house technology, while Apple sold iPods by the million.

Continue reading “RETRO TECH: Sony NetMD Walkman”


SimonHey, ya’ll! Simon here! OMG! WHAT is going on in the NFL? Denver led 24-0 at the half… only to lose by 11? Dallas had multiple chances to beat Baltimore… but gave it away? Oakland took Atlanta to the brink? The Giants destroyed the 49ers? I just don’t understand! I went 4-10 last week, but I guess lots of others did too! Let’s see if I can rebound in week 7!

Seahawks at 49ers:
That super-sexy Russell Wilson hooked up with studmuffin Sidney Rice to spank the Pats (and my beloved Tom Terrific!) last week! [imagines Russell Wilson nude, spanking Tom Brady] Ummmmmm..What? Oh yes, sorry. The Seachickens turned giant-killler by knocking off the Pats last week… but do they have the cojones to go to San Francisco and take one from the 49ers? Will the 49ers, still smarting from last week’s ass-beating by the Giants, let them do it? Simon says no! Take the 49ers to win, although Wilson and company could make this a close game!

Tennessee at Buffalo: This is a game between two hapless, middling teams. It’s like “Olive Garden vs Applebee’s”, and there’s just no winner here if you know what I mean! I want to pull for the handsome Southern gentlemens from Nashville, but I think the home team will (just barely) win this one. Simon says take the Bills to win this one!

Cleveland at Indianapolis: Cleveland or Indianapolis? And I have to choose between them? It’s like the Price is Right Showcase… in Hell! Do I pick the dying Rust Belt town known for being a mistake? Or do I pick the town so fat that a deep fried pork brain sandwich is known as a “light snack”? You sure there’s not an NFL team in Saint Lucia? Simon would be happy to go on a fact-finding mission to investigate! No? Blech. Simon says take the Colts at home, although he’s not happy about either pick!

Green Bay at St. Louis: You could see it building and building. For weeks. Green Bay’s frustration mounted and mounted and mounted… until last Sunday, when they blew up all over the Texans! Honey, if the Packers play the rest of the season like they did last Sunday, they’re a lock for the playoffs. And Simon thinks they’ll bring their green and yellow vengeance to St. Louis this week. The Rams are a better team that most people think, but they’ll be no match for the handsome mens from Green Bay. Simon says take the Packers to win big, baby!

Continue reading “SIMON’S PICKS – WEEK 7”