Making the Samsung Galaxy Ring Stable

I’ve been with Virgin Mobile for almost 4 years now. They have decent coverage and nice data speeds, but what actually keeps me coming back is their $25/month plan: 300 minutes, unlimited texts and “unlimited” data (2.5GB) for the low, low price of $25/month.

What I don’t like about Virgin is the phones. My folks got me a Samsung Intercept for Christmas one year, and the phone locked up and required battery pulls several times a week. Virgin sent me a new Intercept, which locked up just as much. I kept a log of all my issues, and when I contacted them again a couple months later, they offered to replace the Intercept with the Motorola Triumph.

On paper, the Triumph was a nice phone for its time. It had a decent processor and nice large screen. But while it didn’t have major issues, like the Intercept, it had dozens of minor issues, most notably the GPS taking up to 10 minutes to get a lock. Time passed, and I got tired of all these issues. I also tired of having a phone with Gingerbread when the release of Kit Kat was imminent.

About that time, Virgin released a new phone, the Reef, which was a water-resistant version of the Triumph running a newer version of Jelly Bean. There were Internet rumors that this phone was made by Foxconn, not Huawei, and that several of the hardware issues had been fixed. It was (supposedly) everything great about the Triumph with none of the bad stuff!

So I went looking for one locally. But I couldn’t find one. What I did find was the Samsung Galaxy Ring. It looked just like an S3 or S4, only smaller. It ran Jelly Bean. And Walmart had it for $50 off: $129! I went to some other stores, but they didn’t have the Reef, and their Galaxy Rings were still $179. So I went back to WM and bought the Ring.

This is why impulse purchases can be a bad thing. When I got home, I went to Virgin’s site and read the reviews for the Ring, which talked about constant spontaneous reboots, and stock apps crashing. I ignored this at first, since my phone seemed to be OK. But within a few weeks… reboots happened. 3-4 a week. Sometimes I’d be in the middle of using the phone and it would reboot. But sometimes I’d wake up, check my email on it, then put it down on my desk and not touch it for two hours… and BOOM! Reboot out of the blue.

Continue reading “Making the Samsung Galaxy Ring Stable”

Sad News from Myrtle

The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove is a very cheesy gift store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I made my first visit there in 2009 with some friends – read my review here.

While there, we discovered this ugly-ass pillow:

Gay Dolphin

We went back in 2011, and the pillow was still there:

Myrtle 01 047
(click to embiggen)

And the pillow was still there when Lisa and I went in 2012:

The Saddest Pillow

My friend William went there earlier this year and reported that the ugly pillow was nowhere to be found. Our hearts sank. How could the ugly pillow be gone? Who would have bought it?

In my heart of hearts, I knew the pillow was still there… William just didn’t look hard enough. So when we went back to Myrtle this week, I searched the store high and low for it, but the ugly pillow was gone. Lisa thinks the store put it in one of their infamous “grab bags”, and she’s probably right. But I want to think that the sad pillow is still there, waiting on a sucker someone to buy it.

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On a happier note, the Atlanta Braves Nacho Cheese Gift Pack is STILL THERE:

Braves Nacho Gift Set
(click to enlarge)

I’m 99% certain this is the exact same gift pack I referred to in my original review from 2009, and pictured in this post. It has the same “best by” date of 08/31/2008, and has the same 12/06 date code on the price tag:

Braves Gift Pack Close Up
(Click to enlarge: you know you want to!)

Meaning, of course, that this “gift” pack has been sitting on the shelf at Gay Dolphin for almost 8 YEARS!


How Britain Became Great

With the vote for Scottish independence coming very soon, I thought this little tale was timely.

In 1707, the parliaments of England and Scotland voted to dissolve themselves and create a new parliament made up of members from both countries. “England” and “Scotland” effectively ceased to exist, and a new country was born: the “United Kingdom”.

Which is really odd if you think about it. Hadn’t they been at war with each other off and on for, like, 800 years? Why the sudden change of heart? Why would England and Scotland – two longtime foes – suddenly become friends?

Scotland vs England
Image via

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By the late 1600s, most of Europe’s maritime powers had founded colonies. Spain controlled much of South America. Portugal had Brazil, parts of India as well as a bunch of economically important islands. The Dutch had New Amsterdam in North America and most of the Spice Islands. And the English had North America and a few outposts in the Caribbean.

Many in Scotland wondered why they didn’t have a colony of their own. But it wasn’t as simple as just getting in a boat and putting up a flag somewhere. There was little point in having a colony just to have one. The Spanish made millions off South American silver, while the Dutch made money off spices and tea, and the English money from tobacco and sugar. What the Scots needed was a colony that could provide some sort of economic gain.

Colonisation 1660
European Colonization by 1660 (map by Andrei Nacu)

And gain was sorely needed in Scotland. Economically it was a pipsqueak compared to England, an advantage the English used at every level to keep Scotland subjugated. England’s Navigation Acts kept independent Scottish trade to a minimum, not that it really mattered, since Scotland’s navy was tiny compared to England’s. Most imported goods therefore had to be bought from England, and England required the use of pounds sterling, not Scottish money, which drained the economy even more. A couple of civil wars had squandered a lot of human and financial capital, and several years of crop failures pushed Scotland’s economy to the brink.

The “Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies” was created by the Scottish parliament in 1695. Capital was raised for the venture in Amsterdam, Hamburg and London. But not really. England’s East India Company complained to the crown they they, not some Scottish upstart, had been given a monopoly on trade to the Indies. And the East India Company was one company you did not mess with. At the apex of its power, the Company ruled much of India – an area much larger than the United Kingdom, with several times as many people. It ruled other places – the East India Company created modern Singapore, for instance. The Company had an army of 200,000 men, its own church, currency and government, and accounted for over half the trade in the entire world. What the East India Company wanted, the East India Company got.

Immense pressure from King William III and East India investors caused Company of Scotland investors in London, then Amsterdam, and finally Hamburg to abandon their pledges. The Company of Scotland tried looking elsewhere for money, but Europe’s other banks and investment centers got the hint from London, and no one stepped up to the plate.

So the plan to trade with Africa and India was abandoned, and a new idea was formed: a Scottish banker named William Paterson wanted to create a “gateway” between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He noticed that the land in what is now Panama was very thin. Just as people later got the idea to build the Panama Canal, Patterson’s plan was to built a seaport on the Atlantic side of the coast, another on the Pacific side, and build a road connecting the two. Goods could therefore be sent safely by land instead of ships having to navigate the treacherous waters around Cape Horn or the Strait of Magellan. This would shave weeks off shipping times for goods, and for this merchants would pay a small fee, which would earn money for Scotland. Easy, right?

Continue reading “How Britain Became Great”

Two Classic(al) Stories

In his day, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) was a respected and popular composer of “Southern German” baroque music. He left a large body of secular and sacred work, such as this pretty Chaconne in F Minor:

Sadly, though, Pachelbel’s work was almost completely forgotten. Oh sure, some of his music would be played from time to time, especially his organ works. But for a couple hundred years, his name was lost in the sea of Bachs, Händels, Telemanns and Scarlattis. Few classical music scholars knew much about him or his work, to say nothing of the general public.

All that changed in 1970, when French conductor Jean-François Paillard recorded a slow, majestic version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D:

Just for fun, contrast Paillard’s overwrought, saccharine version with what many music scholars think the piece actually sounded like in Pachelbel’s day:

In any case, the piece became popular with classical music fans almost overnight, and went mainstream when it was prominently featured in the 1980 film Ordinary People. Since then, the work has become a staple of weddings and 100 Most Beautiful Pieces of Music box sets you see at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Pachelbel married twice. His first marriage ended when his wife and first son died in a plague outbreak in 1683. Pachelbel remarried a year later, and had two daughters and five sons with his new wife. Two of those sons – Wilhelm Hieronymus and Karl Theodor – became composers like their dad. But history remembers the second son as “Charles Theodore Pachelbel”, not Karl Theodor. And that’s because Charles became one of the first European composers – certainly the first European composer with name recognition – to move to the American colonies.

Exactly why Charles made the move is a complete mystery. We know for sure that he moved to Gotha when he was two, and Nuremberg when he was five. After his father died in 1706, the historical record falls almost silent, except that Charles probably lived in England for a time: his name appears on a list of subscribers to a volume of harpsichord music published in London. And how weird is it that customs or parish records from the time have been lost, but a list of magazine subscribers has survived?

We know that Charles Pachelbel was living in Boston by 1733 because he was asked to consult on the installation of a new pipe organ at Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island (the oldest Episcopal church in the state, by the way). Pachelbel lived there for approximately two years, having been hired as church organist. In 1736, he performed two concerts in New York City.

He moved to Charleston some time after March 9, 1736 (the second New York City concert) and February 16, 1737, when he married a woman named Hanna Poitevin at St. Philip’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in South Carolina. This was probably Pachelbel’s second marriage, as there are records which indicate that he already had a daughter. But what happened to her (or a possible wife) is unknown.

Charles Pachelbel lived in “Charles Towne”, as it was known, for the rest of his life. He held what is thought to be the very first public concert in the city on November 22, 1737. He became organist at St. Philip’s in 1740, and opened a singing school, probably the first music school in South Carolina, a year before his death. In 1750 he contracted a disease – recorded as a “lameness of the hands” – and died shortly thereafter. His wife lived on for 19 years, dying on September 6, 1769. He had at least one son – Charles, born on September 10, 1739 – but absolutely nothing is known about him or any of his descendants.

Very little of Charles Pachelbel’s music survives. One of the few pieces is this beautiful Magnificat:

Still, it’s amazing to think that Pachelbel’s son lived just a few hours away from me. I know full well that Johann Pachelbel existed at the same time the American colonies existed… but I’ve just never put 2 and 2 together on this one.

I sent an email to the good people at St. Philip’s in Charleston asking for any additional information they may have about Pachelbel, and will update this article if they reply with anything interesting. I specifically asked if they knew where he was buried, because the current St. Phillip’s isn’t the one Pachelbel knew. The first building was built in 1680 but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1710. A new building – the one Pachelbel knew – was built by 1723, but burned to the ground in 1835. The current building was completed in 1836.

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There is (or was) a music group from New York City called “Anonymous 4”. I always assumed that the group got its name because they specialized in medieval and early Renaissance music written by unknown authors… and there were four of them, Hence, Anonymous 4:

By the way, that chant is in 15th century ENGLISH:

Edi beo thu, hevene quene,
Folkes froure and engles blis,
Moder unwemmed and maiden clene,
Swich in world non other nis.
On thee hit is wel eth sene,
Of all wimmen thu havest thet pris;
Mi swete levedi, her mi bene
And reu of me yif thi wille is.

Come to find out, however, Anonymous IV was a real person, and a very important one, too.

Anonymous IV wrote a treatise about the Notre Dame School of Polyphony, at the time the epicenter of European music:

As the name suggests, no one knows who Anonymous IV was. He was almost certainly male, and almost certainly a student at Notre Dame in Paris. He was very likely English, because his works were discovered at Bury St Edmunds in England. Because of historical references in his work, they can be dated to the 1270s or 1280s.

It’s through Anonymous IV that we know Léonin and Pérotin, the two earliest European composers known by name. Anonymous even helpfully named specific works by them, greatly helping music scholars assign authorship to previously anonymous works. Although Léonin and Pérotin had both been dead for decades by the time Anonymous IV wrote about them, his description seems to indicate that they were still popular at the time, not unlike Elvis is today.

But there’s more than that. Anonymous IV mentions early music theorist Franco of Cologne, and describes several types of chants in detail, like organum and discant. He talks about the rules of music – why things were written they way they were – as well as how notation worked, and various genres that were popular in his day.

It’s all breathtakingly interesting stuff, and you can read a copy of his work (or download it in PDF, EPUB, Kindle and other formats) for free here.

The Strangest Riot

When I was a small boy, I was in awe of my mother and grandmothers, particularly because they seemed to know every detail of those Old School social rules. For instance, every Mother’s Day our church offered carnations to the ladies of the congregation, and my mom knew to take a pink one (because her mother was alive), while my grandma knew to take a white one (because her mother had passed on). Both instinctively knew to wear them on their left side, just as they instinctively knew when to send thank you cards, how long they had to send them, and how much writing to actually put on the card itself… just a quick thanks? A long paragraph or two of sincere gratitude for a gift or thoughtful action? They always just… knew, somehow.

Many of these rules have fallen by the wayside, but there’s one rule they absolutely, positively keep: no white after Labor Day. I can imagine my grandmother now: “Son, I’m 94 years old. I’ve come to accept women preachers and gay marriages… but I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear white shoes in October. There are some rules you just don’t break.”

Society doesn’t seem to take the “no white after Labor Day” rule very seriously any more. I bet millennials don’t even know it is a rule: that’s the beauty of Generation X: we knew about the rules like “no white after Labor Day”, but we broke ’em anyway. But some people used to take the rule seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it caused a riot.

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Straw hats were popular with men in the early 20th century. In Europe and Asia, the tradition of wearing hats made of straw or reeds – but only in summer! – dates back to the Middle Ages. And why not? They keep the sun out of your face, and unlike felt or wool hats, they’re breathable, keeping you cool in the summer. Although hilariously unfashionable now, they were kind of dapper:

Straw Hat
(Image via Wikipedia)

In New York City, the custom was to wear straw hats until September 1st, but no later. At some point in the early 1900s, for reasons unknown, the cut-off date shifted to September 15th. It also became something of a popular prank – not just in New York, but throughout the country – for teen boys to sneak up on people wearing such hats after the cut-off date and knock the hats to the ground and stomp on them. Don’t ask me why: these things just happen.

In 1922, some teens decided to jump the cut-off date by two days. On September 13, a pack of teen boys in the Mulberry Bend area – one of the worst parts of Five Points, arguably the worst neighborhood in Manhattan – went around knocking off people’s hats and stomping on them, as was the custom. That is, until they tried knocking the hats off a bunch of dock workers. These guys fought back, and soon a full-scale brawl was underway between the two groups. The fight was so big that it shut down traffic on the Manhattan Bridge until police could come and break it up.

But police couldn’t arrest everyone involved. Groups of teen boys would scatter from police and start the hat stomping anew in other neighborhoods. The next day, the riots intensified. Some teens even roamed the streets carrying big sticks with nails sticking out the business end. Up to 1,000 teens caused trouble on Amsterdam Avenue, beating up some so badly that they needed medical attention. Cops didn’t take the matter seriously, partly because of “boys will be boys”, but also because if they broke up the rioters in one area, they would just splinter off into other areas. Rioters, emboldened. even snatched the hat off a police sergeant, who hilariously fell face-first into a mud puddle while chasing the lawbreakers.

The riots kind of died down by themselves by September 16th. Although “hat violence” continued for several years – one man was murdered in a hat stomping incident in 1924, and several “hat hooligans”  were arrested in 1925 – the full-scale riot of 1922 was unique: never again did groups of youthful social enforcers take to the streets. Within a few years, straw hats themselves went out of fashion altogether, taking with them the odd custom of teens knocking them off people’s heads.