The Charlotte History Field Trip

If you drive north on Beatties Ford Road headed towards Huntersvillle, you will eventually come to the intersection of Beatties Ford and McIntyre Avenue:


If you look to your left, diagonally across the intersection, you’ll see a gravel parking lot, a lonely picnic table, and his only friend, a trash can:


If you were to park your car in this lot… well, first you’d see this creepy sign warning you to “walk with a friend”, a polite way of saying “don’t come here alone”:


But what you’d really see is a tiny park, not much larger than a typical residential lot. And the only amenity at this park, other than the picnic table and trash can, is a poorly-maintained path, which winds around the park:


The whole park seems kind of pointless, as if the Mecklenburg County Parks & Recreation Department somehow ended up with this piece of land, and half-heartedly decided to turn it into a neighborhood park.

But something really, really important to Charlotte’s history happened here. If you take a few steps back, you’ll see something amazing:

(click to enlarge)

OK, so that was a bit of a let down. But don’t let that empty space fool you.

Continue reading “The Charlotte History Field Trip”

NIFTY GADGET: CANZ Bluetooth Speaker

The funny thing about gadgets is that sometimes you buy them thinking they’re going to change your life… but they don’t. And sometimes you buy them on a whim, and they do change your life.

It’s probably a stretch to say that 808 Audio’s CANZ Bluetooth speaker “changed my life”, but it was an impulse purchase that I ended up being very pleased with. See, the missus and I have a Sam’s Club membership, and we go there every couple of months to pick up the same six items: bacon, gallon-size tea bags, generic Benadryl, lotion, and a few other things. We were there a few months ago when I spotted a display of Bluetooth speakers on sale for $19.99. I figured at that price, it wouldn’t be a big loss if it sucked.

CANZ speaker
(picture via

But the thing is, it doesn’t suck. Yes, the speaker tries way too hard to put out bass, and yes it rattles so much at higher volumes that it slowly moves across tables, desks and anything else you put it on. At high levels the sound becomes quite distorted. But at moderate levels the sound is quite good, and the Bluetooth works well. I’ve had no trouble pairing it with my new iPod nano, my Asus MeMo tablet, or my Samsung phone. The speaker is smaller (much smaller) than a drink can, so you can have Bluetooth-enabled goodness everywhere you go!

I carried it on a couple of trips, and it was nice having music in the hotel room. I sometimes take it downstairs to listen to when doing household chores, too. But the awesomeness of the thing didn’t really hit home until I carried it to a local brew shop.

If you’re not into the whole “craft beer thing”, you might not know that there are beer stores out there that have sofas and tables, and the owners encourage people to stay a while and enjoy themselves, much like how cigar shops have long had comfy sofas and newspapers lying around so customers can relax for a while. But the thing is, many of these craft beer stores have a BYOE policy: bring your own entertainment. I took my Android tablet and this speaker to a local beer shop one night, and had a GREAT TIME passing the tablet around and letting my friends queue up tracks in Spotify. It was downright magical, really, and it was all possible thanks to this speaker. Sure, there are tons of better Bluetooth speakers out there, and there are many speakers in the same small form factor that sound better. But you won’t find them for $19.99. In fact, you probably can’t find a better bang for your buck anywhere!

Don’t just take my word on it: PC Mag says pretty much the same thing: there are better Bluetooth speakers out there, but you won’t find them in such a small size for so low a price.

Save WRAS!

I don’t often ask you guys for help, but today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: a radio station named WRAS. It’s the “student voice of Georgia State University”, which broadcasts “live from the concrete campus in downtown Atlanta”. It played a HUGE role in making me who I am today, and is one of the things that made Atlanta a great place to live.

See, WRAS isn’t just your average college radio station. It has a 100,000 watt transmitter, which made it the most powerful college radio station in the United States before Georgia Tech’s WREK upgraded their tower to 100,000 watts, too. WRAS can be heard over the entire metro Atlanta area. Founded in 1971 – the same year I was born – the station is known for being one of the most innovative college radio stations in the country:

  • WRAS was the first radio station in the world to play Arrested Development.
  • WRAS was the first radio station in the world to play OutKast.
  • WRAS was one of the first radio stations to ever play R.E.M. and was the first to put them in regular rotation.
  • WRAS was one of the first stations to ever play the Indigo Girls, and was the first to put them in regular rotation.
  • Bob Geldof was sitting in the studio at WRAS giving an interview when news of a school shooting came over the station’s teletype machine. The shooter was asked why she did it, and her reply was “I don’t like Mondays”, thus inspiring Geldof to write his most famous song.
  • The Replacements’ song “Left of the Dial” was inspired by WRAS’s slogan, “left on the dial, right on the music”:


But now, it’s all in danger. A couple weeks ago – on the next to last day of finals, when the campus was nearly empty – GSU announced a “partnership deal” with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) in which GPB will air talk radio from 5AM to 7PM. WRAS’s “regular” programming will air outside after those hours; during the day their music programming will be relegated to an HD subchannel and online streaming only.

Continue reading “Save WRAS!”

AllConsuming Shutting Down

A quick note:, the website that tracks the books you’re reading, the movies you’re watching and the music you’re listening to, is shutting down at the end of May. I used the site to make the “Books I’m Reading” and “Albums I’m Listening To” widgets in the sidebar of this blog.

It’s sad news, but not unexpected: seems like the site had stopped updating with new releases over the past few months. I have gone ahead and removed the widgets; I’ll be looking for replacements soon.

Amazon Deal

You may have heard of “Amazon Coins”, the virtual currency Amazon has started. You can use Amazon coins to buy Android apps in the Amazon Appstore, and in some cases you can use them for in-app purchases… if you’ve just gotta buy some more poker chips in a casino game, or buy the Sword of the Undead in some RPG game, for example.

Well, for the next few days you can get a WHOLE BUNCH of coins for FREE! All you’ve got to do is click this link and “buy” the five free apps shown on the page. Each app credits 200 Amazon coins ($2) to your account, for a total of 1,000 free coins ($10). You can then use your free coins to buy GTA: San Andreas for Kindle here for 699 coins; Amazon is running a deal that gives you 2000 Amazon coins ($20) with that purchase, so you can end up with 2,301 free Amazon coins, just for clicking a few buttons.

And no, you don’t have to actually install any of the apps on your Android devices, and you can even buy the GTA game, even if you don’t own a Kindle (if you don’t own a Kindle, you’ll get a message saying the game in not compatible with any of your devices; you can click “Proceed” and buy the game anyway).

This is a pretty good deal for doing… well, next to nothing, really. Check it out!

NIFTY GADGET: 1ft Extension Cords

OK, so today’s “nifty gadget” might be the least sexy thing ever, but it’s a cool lifesaver nevertheless.

As you probably know, many electronic devices have bulky power adapters. And the problem is, if you need to use a power strip, these adapters sometimes take up 2-3 outlets. So instead of being able to use all six outlets on the strip, you can only use two or three:

(photo via

There are solutions to this, namely odd looking power strips. PowerSquid sells this odd looking unit that looks like… well, a squid. Pivot Power sells this power strip where each outlet is its own “pod” and the unit can be twisted like a snake, allowing large adapters to fit in nicely. But the thing is… these units are expensive: the Power Squid is $59.95! And what if you have a power strip already? Why waste a perfectly functional power strip just so bulky adapters can fit?

Enter Monoprice’s 1 foot extension cords:

(photo via

Ya just plug your device into the extension cord and then plug the cord into your power strip. Done and done. You can buy only as many cords as you need, and the best part is, they’re cheap: as of this writing, Monoprice has them for $1.18 for one, $1.14 for 2-9 units, $1.10 for 10-19 units, $1.06 for 20-49 units and $1.02 for 50+ units.

I recently bought four of these: two to use immediately on a power strip, and two to have as spares for guests. As I said, it’s the probably least glamorous gadget ever, but it solved a real problem I was having cheaply and quickly. Instead of having a 6-outlet power strip with only 1 usable spare outlet, I now have three available outlets. Simple and beautiful!