RANT: Ashlee Simpson Lipsynching

It looks like lil’ ol’ Ashlee Simpson was actually booed (quite vocally) at the end of her halftime performance at the Orange Bowl.

Let me tell you, that was DAMN REFRESHING to see! Now, I’m not being naive here. I know that I’m far past the age of being in MTV’s target demographic. I know that record stores and radio stations no longer care what I think about music. I know that teenagers these days refer to my 80s music as “oldies”. But I’m also not stupid enough to believe (as some frustrated musicians apparently do) that the single yardstick by which musicians should be measured is musical ability. If that were the case, teenage girls all over the world would have posters of Andrés Segovia or Anne-Sophie Mutter on their walls.

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RANT: Charlotte Bars Padding People’s Tabs

When it comes to this week’s rant I’m really pissed off. It seems that there is a rash of Charlotte nightclubs and bars padding people’s tabs. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that the missus and I don’t even start tabs and buy drinks “by the each” with cash if possible. Now, it might be one thing if Charlotte was a large as say, Atlanta or Chicago, but the simple fact is that there aren’t that many bars in this city. So “our people” are a sort of captive audience as it were, hustling back and forth between four or five places depending on how bad the padding is getting at one particular place. But it’s simply outrageous.

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RANT: Stupid Diets

This week’s rant is in honor of my missus. Ya see, Lisa is trying out a new diet. Now this diet is not just to lose weight. Lisa is diabetic, so this diet is also about getting her blood work in good enough shape so that her physician will stop harassing her about seeing a nutritionist. So the good people at Blue Cross Blue Shield sent her a book with just that – a diet plan for diabetics that not only want to shed a few pounds, but also want (or need) to get their glycosides or glycerides or whatever into shape. So Lisa got into bed one night and started reading… and immediately started ranting.

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RANT: Duke Power

The worst utility company in the entire world is Duke Power. According to Microsoft’s “Streets and Trips 2005”, the missus and I live a mere 1.6 miles away from the Allen Steam Station here in Belmont, but our damn power goes off all the frickkin’ time. And it would be one thing if it was just a blink here and there, but it goes off for hours when it does this. If anyone from Duke Power is reading this, PLEASE FIX YOUR SYSTEMS! I mean, when’s the last time you picked up a phone and didn’t have dialtone? Was there any weather-related issue that caused our power to go off for several hours yesterday? No. Do you people have ANY idea of what a pain in the ass it is to have to reboot an Exchange server? Do you know how much fun it is to sit in the dark on Labor Day? Do you have any idea of how frustrating it is to buy a freezer FULL of food the day before the power goes out for several hours? Do you?? Do you??? As ol’ Ralph from Ben Hill would say… “Duke Power.. GET OUTTA TOWN!”

By the way, I was really sneaky today and managed to sneak in to the Allen Steam Plant and snap this picture of the generator in action!

RANT: “Replacement Music” on TV Shows on DVD

This week’s rant may sound silly, but bear with me while I try to justify my anger. You see, the people that produce television shows are required to obtain a license for most of the “pop music” you hear on a TV show’s soundtrack. I’m not talking about the instrumental “classical-type” music you hear in the background; that music was probably created specifically for the show or is part of the studio’s ‘stock library’ that it can use in any production. No, I’m talking about the sort of music you’d hear on the radio. Many shows that appeal to younger audiences like The OC, Veronica Mars and Popular – shows that often have the “this show featured music by…” ad just before the end credits start rolling – use this type of music. The problem – and this rant – comes when the shows get transferred to DVD. Many times it’s simply too expensive for the studio to license the music that appeared on the original show. Other times it’s just too confusing; for example, if a song has three songwriters, each might have his or her own publisher for the song’s rights. So instead of dealing with one company, the studio in this example has to deal with three – not to mention the actual songwriters and\or their estates. Needless to say, it can get quite confusing.

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RANT: TLC’s “Command Decisions” Show

Have you guys seen the show Command Decisions on The Learning Channel? It’s a show with a cool premise: take a historical battle and give the viewer three options per point-in-time about how he or she would do it. The only problem with the show is that it takes the decision the commander made and makes it the right one. Sometimes this makes sense – lots of times the questions relate to technical issues. For example, the question might be “how should George Washington begin the attack?” and the “official” answer would be “because it’s raining, muskets won’t fire reliably. Sneak up on the British from behind and use bayonets”. OK, that makes sense. The last thing I’d want to hear while staring down thousands of British troops would be seven thousand “clicks” from the wet gunpowder in my troops’ muskets. But at other times, the questions and answers are far more ambiguous. Like: “George Washington gets to the end of a road. Both roads lead to the same town, are equally straight, have an equal incline and equal cover. The British are equidistant from both roads and face the same terrain no matter which way they pursue you. Which way do you turn?” Of course, the official answer is “left – because that’s the way George Washington did it!”

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REVIEW: Illegal Tender

What: An awesome book by author David Tripp
Where: Bookstores everywhere
How Much: $16.38 from Amazon (as little as $2.70 used)

Would you believe me if I told you that one of history’s greatest mysteries was about… a handful of coins? Author David Tripp makes the case with his book Illegal Tender: Gold, Greed, and the Mystery of the Lost 1933 Double Eagle, a tale of intrigue at the highest levels of government, back-room deals between shady coin dealers, a madness of pursuit worthy of the search for the Holy Grail… and one corpulent and corrupt king.

Here’s the basics of the story in a nutshell:

Theodore Roosevelt had long been critical of the beauty – or lack thereof – of American coinage. In fact, one of the things he was bound and determined to do while in the White House was to remedy this, and to that end he sent a brutally short and to-the-point memo to Secretary of the Treasury Leslie Mortimer Shaw on December 27, 1904: “I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness.” This memo set off a chain of events that eventually resulted in the hiring of famed American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to redesign American coins. Although Saint-Gaudens was in ill health – as it turns out, he would barely live long enough to see his designs to completion – he took to the task with gusto, creating new designs for just about every American coin. Sadly though, most of Saint-Gaudens’ designs were simply too complex for the Mint to implement. Striking a coin four times was perfectly acceptable for medallions, but it just wasn’t cost-effective to do the same for pennies. Of all of Saint-Gaudens’ designs, the only one to be implemented without major alterations would be $20 gold piece, which was nicknamed the “double eagle”. The coin would go down in history as perhaps the most beautiful coin the United States ever minted, and it would enjoy robust circulation for around 25 years.

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What’s a “fish camp”?

When people move from one state to another, they often have a ton of questions when they arrive at their new locale, stuff like “how does voter registration work here?”, “when do I need to change my car’s tags?”, “when’s trash pickup day?”, “how late are liquor stores open around here?” and “what’s the deal with local handgun laws?”. That sort of thing.

Of course, when I moved from Atlanta to Belmont, North Carolina in early 2003 I asked all those questions (and more). But I noticed one thing that seemed to be particular to Gaston Country, North Carolina… the “fish camp”. I gathered (correctly, as it turns out) that a fish camp is a locally-owned restaurant that serves up heapin’ helpins of fried seafood. But why is it a camp? And why are almost all fish camps located in Gaston County?

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