2014 Music at the Half

Well, this has been a weird year for music so far. I’ve been listening to tunes as much as ever, but as you’ll see, not a lot of it is from this year…


My top ten artists of 2014 so far, with playcount in parenthesis:

1) Marsheaux (350)
2) Gliss (111)
3) Cocteau Twins (107)
4) CHVRCHES (104)
5) Warpaint (63)
6) Washed Out (56)
7) The Raveonettes (55)
8) Saint Etienne (54)
9) Flunk (54)
10) Fotonovela (45)


Here are my top overall albums of 2014 so far. You’ll find the year of release in parenthesis along with the playcount:

1) Marsheaux – E-Bay Queen (2004, 147)
2) Gliss – Langsom Dans (2013, 111)
3) Marsheaux – Inhale (2013, 85)
4) CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe (2013, 81)
5) Marsheaux – Lumineux Noir (2009, 60)
6) Flunk – Lost Causes (2013, 54)
7) Warpaint – Warpaint (2014, 53)
8) Fotonovela – A Ton of Love (2013, 45)
9) Sarah Cracknell – Lipslide (1997, 37)
10) Blondfire – Young Heart (2014, 35)


Here are my top albums released in 2014. Note the pathetically low playcounts so far:

1) Warpaint – Warpaint (53)
2) Blondfire – Young Heart (35)
3) Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso (23)
4) Pegase – Pegase (15)
5) flyingdeadman – sending fires to the sky (10)
6) Owlle – France (8)
7) Blackbird Blackbird – Tangerine Sky (8)
8) Kalax – Outlands (8)
9) Broken Bells – After the Disco (7)
10) Clan of Xymox – Matters of Mind, Body and Soul (7)


My top tracks of 2014. In parenthesis you’ll find the name of the source album, the year of release, and the playcount.

1) Marsheaux – “Analyze” (E-Bay Queen, 2004, 74)


2) Marsheaux – “The Game” (E-Bay Queen, 2004, 47)
3) Flunk – “Queen Of The Underground” (Lost Causes, 2013, 45)


4) Gliss – “A to B” (Langsom Dans, 2013, 38)


5) Marsheaux – “So Far” (Lumineux Noir, 2009, 32)


6) CHVRCHES – Recover (The Bones of What You Believe, 2013, 27)


7) Still Corners – “Berlin Lovers” (Strange Pleasures, 2013, 26)


8) Warpaint – “Love Is to Die” (Warpaint, 2014, 26)


9) Gliss – “Hunting” (Langsom Dans, 2013, 19)


10) Marsheaux – “Secret Place” (Inhale, 2013, 17)


As always, thanks to the good folks at Last.fm for keeping track of my music listening. If you don’t have an account, why not sign up today?

The “Unknown Vigilante”

I was surfing the web yesterday, and just happened to stumble upon this photograph:

(click to embiggen)

This was a parking lot near Georgia State University in Atlanta. It was a bit of a hike from campus, but it was always less crowded than the official university lots, and cheaper than private lots closer to the school. I parked there pretty much every weekday from 1993 to 1995.

The lot is gone now – replaced by GSU’s “Freshman Hall” – but back then the lot’s spaces were numbered, and there was a steel collection box with numbered slots (which you can see next to the tree on the left). You pulled into a space, noted your number, then put $3 in quarters or bills into the corresponding slot in the box. Simple, right?

Well, the parking company had a guy who would drive around and issue “tickets” to cars that hadn’t paid the fee. It wasn’t a real parking ticket, obviously, but it nevertheless demanded a “fine” of something like $5, in addition to the regular $3 fee. Since students needed to park there regularly, most folks would just pay the $8 and be done with it.

Every so often, though, the parking guy would go on a tear and issue “tickets” to cars whether they’d paid for parking or not. Every day for a week or so I’d walk to the lot after class and find a student cursing or crying, having gotten a ticket but insisting that they’d paid their $3. Like my lower back pain, I often thought about doing something about it… but by the time I did, the problem was gone: parking guy would stop issuing rogue tickets for a month or two.

But then the bastard gave me a ticket. Not only had I paid to park, I’d stopped at QuikTrip on the way in to get a Dr Pepper and break a $5 bill into dollar bills. Let me repeat that: I made a SPECIAL STOP to get change to pay for the parking I was now accused of not paying. I was pissed. I looked over at a cute blonde girl who was also mad that she’d also gotten a fake ticket. So I decided to do something about it.

I thought about it for a second, then opened the trunk of my car. There I found a full can of WD-40, complete with the little straw. I walked over to the collection box, and sprayed a generous squirt into each and every money slot… and there were like, 40 of them! I went back to my car and grabbed a notebook. I wrote a quick note, something like “Dear Parking Guy: Sorry about the collection box, but if you keep ripping off students, I’m going to do this every day until you stop”. For some reason, I had a roll of cellophane tape in my backpack, so I taped that sucker to the box… with, like, 30 strips of tape. That thing wasn’t going anywhere until Parking Guy came around again.

As far as I know, Parking Guy did stop… at least for the rest of my time at GSU. I never again heard a complaint about those bullshit “tickets”. It’s hard to believe one can of WD-40 could stop an illicit money-making scheme, but it appears to have worked.

The Return of Rich’s… and Hydrox?

Charlotte has been lucky in that their regional department store, Belk, still exists. If anything, Belk is as strong now as it’s been in years. Other cities weren’t so lucky. Chicago, for example, had its heart ripped out when it lost Marshall Field’s, and Atlanta lost its favorite department store, Rich’s, too.

For decades, Atlanta had two department stores: Davison’s and Rich’s. Davison’s was founded in 1891, and the thing I remember most is their weird, half-height charge cards:


The story back in the 80s was that Macy’s bought Davison’s and converted the stores over to the Macy’s brand. The truth was a little more complicated:  the store’s three owners sold out to R.H. Macy & Co. all the way back in 1925. So Atlantans were pretty much shopping at Macy’s the entire time. But in the early 80s, Macy’s decided to consolidate many of their regional brands under the Macy’s name. In 1984, Davison’s iconic logo was changed to mimic that of Macy’s:

ga atl davisons

And, in 1985, Davison’s and all of Macy’s midwest brands were combined into one division, Macy’s Atlanta. In 1986, all Davison’s stores were rebranded to Macy’s.

While all this was going on, Rich’s thrived. The store was an Atlanta institution. Ever heard about the time Nordstrom took back a set of tires from a customer, even though the store has never sold tires? Yeah, Rich’s had tales like that too. There were so many, in fact, that Atlanta Constitution columnist Celestine Sibley was able to write an entire book – Dear Store: An Affectionate Portrait of Rich’s – about it. I remember my dad telling me a story about a child once losing a beloved stuffed animal, and the father called Rich’s in a panic. Problem was, the doll was several years old and had been discontinued. Rich’s staff nevertheless called all over the United States until a new one was found; the stuffed animal was put on a Rich’s truck and delivered to the customer… at no charge. Its’ stuff like this, combined with the Great Tree (a Christmas tree placed atop the downtown store, the lighting of which was a city tradition) and the Pink Pig (a tiny monorail hung from the ceiling of the toy department that thousands of Atlanta kids looked forward to riding every holiday season) that really wove the store into the fabric of the city.

Continue reading “The Return of Rich’s… and Hydrox?”

(More) Android Annoyances

Oh, Android… you’re the operating system I love to hate. Android could be SO AWESOME, if only carriers would allow Google to update ALL handsets… and if Google would just fix some of the tiny annoyances that make Android so frustrating:

– I’ve owned four Android devices, The first ran Froyo, which was upgraded to Gingerbread. The second was a Gingerbread phone. The last two are a phone and tablet, each running Jellybean. Every single one of those devices had this “bug” where, after anywhere from two to six months, they’d stop being able to get a DHCP address from Wi-Fi. No combination of toggling airport mode on or off, or “forgetting” the network and adding it back, or rebooting and\or pulling the battery will fix it. Seems to me that there are only two ways to fix it: one is to switch to a static IP; this works great for home networks, but is absolutely useless for public Wi-Fi connections, since you don’t know what subnet the public router is on, or what addresses are available. Which is why the second fix – resetting the device – is the only real fix, and that means starting over from scratch. Hooray.

– Speaking of resetting a device… can anyone explain exactly how Android’s built-in “backup and restore” feature is supposed to work? I said that I’ve “owned four Android devices”, but It would actually be more accurate to say that I’ve owned 9 devices: 2 Samsung Intercept phones, 2 Motorola Triumph phones, 3 Samsung Galaxy Ring phones and 2 Asus MeMo tablets. The tablet had a bad pixel and was swapped out a few days after purchase. The Intercept was a piece of crap that constantly locked up and required battery pulls several times a week; Virgin Mobile replaced it once, then sent me the Triumph. The Triumph was much more stable, but not without issues of its own, including odd vertical lines developing on the screen, which is why VM replaced that phone. I bought the Galaxy Ring on impulse, not knowing that reviews on VM’s own website talk about spontaneous reboots and lock-ups. They’ve already replaced it twice, and I’m **this close** to sending in the third one as well. 

Anyway, the point is… I’ve owned many Android phones, and have had to restore my stuff at least 7 times just for hardware swaps. That’s not counting the 15-20 additional resets I’ve done just to fix stuff (like the Wi-Fi issue), or when I’d upgrade the Triumph to the latest build of CM. But I’ve never been able to get the restore feature to work consistently. 

On Ring #2, I went through setup and logged in to my Google account… and the phone immediately started downloading all the apps I’d had on Ring #1. All I had to do was wait 45 minutes or so for everything to download and install, then log in to any app that required it. Everything was just like it was before. Smooth! But when I moved to Ring #3 I did the exact same thing… and 45 minutes later, the only thing the phone had done was prompt me to update the pre-installed apps. It was the same when I reset the MeMo a few days ago: I checked the “Do you want to restore this device?” and… 20 minutes later… nothing. No sign whatsoever that anything had been updated or restored… just the prompt to update all the pre-installed apps. I’m assuming that iPhones have a similar restore feature. Does the iPhone version have some sort of progress indicator? Because that would be a nifty thing to have, knowing that the Android restore was somehow stuck at 0%, or was 23% done or whatever. Just “putting the phone down and hoping for the best” doesn’t seem like it works very well for me.

– But hey, at least with ICS Google finally allowed you to set up a Wi-Fi connection before it asked if you wanted to restore your files and settings. Nothing’s more fun than wasting 200MB of your 2.5GB data plan restoring your apps because Google can’t figure out the proper sequence of steps in a setup routine!

– In Jellybean (or maybe ICS, which I leapfrogged) Android introduced this SUPER ANNOYING warning message that comes up when you turn the volume past a certain point: “Listening to music at loud volumes for extended periods can damage your hearing” I have four problems with this: one, the warning comes up no matter what audio device you’re using, even Bluetooth; two, the threshold for the dialog is set way too low, if you turn the volume up past 33% – as most people would – it comes up every single time; three, the dialog is modeless, not modal… which means that instead of retaining focus, the message can “fall behind” your music or video player, so you have to exit the player, press “OK” on the message, then restart the player; four, there is no “don’t show this again” check box. You can say what you will about Microsoft, but I can’t think of a similar warning message in Windows that DOESN’T come with a “don’t show this again” option.

– And hey – the Android API is up to version 19, and there’s STILL no option to mute notification sounds when listening to music. Sure, you can go to settings and manually mute the sounds… but then you’d have to go back and un-mute them when you’re done. Would it be SO HARD for Android to have an API that allows music players to add a “when music’s playing, don’t play notification sounds” option? This is one of the most common questions asked of third-party media player creators, and their unanimous answer is: “great idea, tell Google to add it to the OS”.

– “Insufficient Storage Available”. This is annoying as shit. I picked up my phone last night after several hours of not using it, only to find that the battery was much lower than I’d expected. Why? Because Android was fruitlessly and repeatedly trying to update the Facebook app. I had 507 MB of free space in main storage, yet somehow that wasn’t enough to update a 20.1 MB app. Thus: “Insufficient Storage Available”. But WHY Android needs free space in excess of 25 times the app it’s installing is a mystery.

R.I.P. Rik Mayall

So long, old friend.


From the BBC:

British comedian and actor Rik Mayall has died aged 56, according to his management team.

He played the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick in The Young Ones alongside his friend Adrian Edmondson before the duo later went on to star in their sitcom Bottom.

Mayall also appeared in shows including Blackadder and The New Statesman.

He died at home in London. The Metropolitan Police said the death was not believed to be suspicious.

They said they were called to reports of a sudden death of a man in his 50s at 13:19 BST on Monday, in Barnes in south west London.

Misspelling Your Own Name

Around 19,000 years ago, Native Americans started building villages near the confluence of what we now call the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers in western Pennsylvania. European explorers arrived in the early 1700s, building trading posts as early as 1717. Actual European settlement in the area didn’t happen until the late 1740s, when an English outfit called the Ohio Company won a land grant and sent a large group to survey the area. But the French were there, too, having moved south from Quebec. From June 15 to November 10, 1749, a French expedition headed by Celeron de Bienville warned the English to stay out what they considered French territory.

It seemed inevitable that the French and British would clash over the matter, and that’s exactly what happened. The governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, sent Major George Washington of the Virginia militia to warn the French that the area was British, not French, thank you very much. Washington delivered the message to French commanders at a couple of forts, and was received with all the courtesy officers gave each other. But his message was ignored. Dinwiddie then sent Captain William Trent to build a fort at the confluence; thus, Fort Prince George became the first permanent European settlement in what we now call Pittsburgh. 500 French soldiers soon arrived, and they ran off the British, tore down the fort and built a new one – Fort Duquesne – in its place.

Of course, the British had to respond to this, so Dinwiddie sent a regiment under Colonel Joshua Fry to take the fort back. Fry ordered his second in command – Washington – to lead an advance column, and on May 28, 1754, that column clashed with French forces in what would become known as the Battle of Jumonville Glen. 13 French soldiers were killed, and 21 taken prisoner. It was all pretty routine stuff, at least until one of Washington’s Indian allies, the Seneca chief Tanacharison, executed the French commander, Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, with neither Washington’s knowledge nor permission.

The French were outraged, and sent a whole mess of troops to track down Washington and his men. Desperate, Washington asked Tanacharison to round up as many Indian allies as possible. A motley bunch of Delaware, Shawnee and Seneca Indians joined the group, as did the rest of Fry’s men (but not Fry himself: he’d fallen off his horse, and died of a broken neck two weeks earlier). With a French attack only a matter of time, the ragtag group exhausted itself building Fort Necessity. The French finally arrived, and Washington ordered his troops to attack. But the Virginia militia were terrified, so they fired a single shot then fled into the safety of the fort. Washington, on the battlefield with only a handful of British army regulars and Indian warriors of dubious loyalty, had little choice but to retreat as well. The British, tired, scared, and dreadfully low on supplies, surrendered to the French on July 4, 1754. It was George Washington’s only surrender… but he had inadvertently set a chain of events in motion that are now called the Seven Years’ War, sometimes called the French and Indian War in the United States.

Continue reading “Misspelling Your Own Name”