Royal Danish

There’s nothing like an American election to make me appreciate European royalty. (Make of that what you will.)

Formal-ish portrait of Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark

The lady in question is Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, forty-four, married to Crown Prince Frederik, the heir apparent to the Danish throne. She doesn’t look especially Scandinavian, which is probably due to the fact that she was born in Tasmania, off the Australian coast; His Royal Highness met her in a pub in Sydney during his visit to the 2000 Olympic Games, and they were wed four years later. (In 2003 she started taking Danish lessons, for perhaps obvious reasons.)

Highly informal portrait of Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark

The couple have four children, the youngest (just turned five) a pair of twins. I am, of course, delighted to see that Her Royal Highness can rock the LBD:

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark attends some sort of fest

Okay, it’s not all that black. Big deal. Mary is the Patron of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, and if she says it’s black — which she hasn’t, actually — I shan’t dispute her.


Starting something

Texarkana Baby by Eddy ArnoldEddy Arnold’s “Texarkana Baby” was not a big hit, appearing on neither pop nor country charts. It was issued on RCA Victor 20-2806 in 1948 on a black-label 78. But the following spring, RCA reissued it on green vinyl, assigning it the auspicious catalog number 48-0001. This was the very first 45-rpm record available to the public, and RCA was anxious to make them look nothing like the black shellac of the 78s, or the equally black “Lp” record put out by archrival Columbia. Hence green, for all the country issues: orange, for RCA’s occasional forays into rhythm and blues; yellow, for the kids.

The problem was that oversized hole in the middle. It worked perfectly well with RCA’s Victrola record player, which you could plug into the back of your RCA television set. (Before you ask: yes, they used RCA plugs and jacks.) And the Victrola, as designed, would not play any of those pesky Columbia Lps. But David Sarnoff, bless him, figured out that eventually they’d have to do a long-play disc of their own — classical music four minutes at a time on 45s was no less annoying than it had been on stacks of 78s — and further, that he might want to sell 45s to people with those tiny little spindles made by other manufacturers. And so General Sarnoff (he wore a single star in the Signal Corps) ordered one Thomas Hutchison to come up with a solution.

45 rpm adapterAnd Hutchison delivered, coming up with an inexpensive little plastic doohickey that would snap inside the enlarged 45 hole and fit neatly on the smaller spindle, making multi-speed turntables almost inevitable. The spider, as it was sometimes called, did not catch on in much of the rest of the world; instead, they pressed small-hole 45s from which the center section could be punched out if necessary.

Still, the 78 refused to go quietly: EMI was issuing Beatles 78s in India as late as 1968, and R. Crumb (yes, that R. Crumb) and his Cheap Suit Serenaders, while they recorded their LPs at 331/3 like everyone else, put out singles at 78 rpm into the 1980s.


Trojan apparently slain by geek

Not even malware is hackproof, it appears:

Users tricked by spam messages to open malicious Word documents that distribute the Dridex online banking Trojan might have a surprise: they’ll get a free antivirus program instead.

That’s because an unknown person — possibly a white hat hacker — gained access to some of the servers that cybercriminals use to distribute the Dridex Trojan and replaced it with an installer for Avira Free Antivirus.

Good thing, right? But still against the law:

Although replacing known malware with an antivirus isn’t an activity most people would consider a hacking crime, it’s likely against the law in most countries. A whitehat hacker who figured out a way to penetrate Dridex servers and tamper with the malware distribution channel may have done so discreetly to prevent being detained or prosecuted by law enforcement authorities.

And of course there’s a worst-case scenario:

A competing theory is that Dridex operators intentionally included the AV installer, possibly to throw off the detection process of other AV engines.

Which might be plausible, since the installer does not actually autorun: the person receiving it has to run it manually.

(Via Fark, with the kind assistance of @SwiftOnSecurity.)


Cortez the killer organist

I have yet to find out why David Clowney Cortez was billed as “Baby,” though I suspect it had something to do with a couple of doo-wop songs on which he actually sang; most of the time he was behind the keyboard. In 1958, he scored the first-ever instrumental #1 on Billboard’s new unified Hot 100 chart with “The Happy Organ,” so big that mighty RCA Victor put out a whole album of Cortez, licensing the single from tiny Clock Records. Several smaller hits followed, and then in 1962 another monster: “Rinky Dink,” which married the instrumental break from “Shop Around” to the guitar lick from “Love Is Strange.”

What was believed to be the last Cortez album came out in 1972. But a mere 39 years later, Dave resurfaced with Lonnie Youngblood and his Bloodhounds for an 11-track album on Norton Records. The lead track, “The Lemon Drop,” is definitely of a piece with Dave’s earlier work:

Cortez was 73 when this came out. He’s still out there.


Obviously not too damn much

I suspect this incident will never make it into a future edition of How to Make Friends and Influence People:

Okay, maybe in the Appendix, under “Bad Examples.”


Poor but dishonest

Every barrel, it seems, contains a few bad apples:

GRACE Marketplace thinks of itself as being the Walmart of homeless centers.

In one centralized location in Gainesville, Florida, it offers end to end services: substance abuse counseling, help with signing up for public benefits such as food stamps, showers, restrooms, meals, a place to store personal belongings, an adjacent tent village called Dignity Village, and more.

Unfortunately, it just lost one crucial service: namely, the free Wi-Fi that could have helped Dignity Village residents to find or apply for jobs.

And how did this happen? Pretty much the same way a lot of people with roofs over their heads lose their service:

“We would love to be able to provide Wi-Fi out here, but we don’t have any IT support,” said Jonathan DeCarmine, GRACE Marketplace operations director. “We were notified by our Internet service provider that there were people downloading things illegally, and if we didn’t put an end to that, they would turn off Internet to the entire property, which would keep us from being able to do business and provide services.”

Meanwhile, at the next level up:

Theresa Lowe, executive director of the North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said she has no plans to turn the Wi-Fi back on. They had some security restrictions in place already, but people found ways around them. She said there can be hefty fees for illegal downloads, and that’s something the center can’t afford.

“We had a couple complaints from our provider and notified everyone, ‘please don’t do this, we’ll end up losing the service,” and it happened again, so our decision was to disable the Wi-Fi because we would be charged,” Lowe said.

Those whose business model depends on depicting the homeless as saintly and utterly without blame will be crying into their kale smoothies; as with any other community, any other demographic, “good” and “not so good” live cheek by jowl.

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She’s such a girl

Sometimes Rebecca Black shops, and she will show you what she bought:

I got curious about that neutral-colored shoe, the one her mom picked out for her, and went looking for it:

Flat oxford from Zara with rippled sole

In sand color, $89.90 from Zara. Not especially pricey, but perhaps tall for what is nominally a flat. And, as she says, “I already know some of you guys are going to hate these, but I really don’t care.”

(I was listening to this in the editing stage, which may explain the first line.)

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Ununiquely unstyled

New Title 1Unmage of Bridge by Daniel PenwellThe James Joyce-on-Quaaludes title of this new Daniel Penwell novel is almost enough to justify reading the damned thing. Repeat: almost. Bill Peschel, I assure you, is not recommending it:

While cruising Amazon looking for new thrillers, I came across a series of books by “Daniel Penwell” that suggest the coming robot overlords need to tweak their writing algorithm a tad.

Eight books were published by “Penwell” during the last week of January, with titles evocative (The Flame’s Runelord; The Mayfair Cavern) and odd (Annal of School; Abyss of File) which sounds like it came from the same list that gave us Quantum of Solace.

Amazon is asking $6.99 for its Kindleized version, and while it’s true that I’ve paid more for arguably less — I own a copy of the highly dubious Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea — I’m not sure I want to know more than what’s in the blurb:

Not so long ago, a regular high-school woman was handed a wood cat figurine by her deceased grandma just who really was into miracle. Whoops, she just dropped they, but oh we-why did a tremendously good looking and nearly nude man just emerge from that figurine? And just why do he meow?

I frankly am not that much into miracle.

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Quote of the week

The billion-dollar hole in the state budget has brought out the usual “No! No! Cut THEM!” calls from various state agencies and their clients. No shortage looms larger than the one presented to the state education system, but as the Friar notes, the solution is not exactly cut and dried:

The problems with salaries and school funding are real: Our teachers are not paid what they should be, nor are our schools funded at the level they should be.

The problems with the revenue stream are real: The tax cut was an iffy idea at best considering how hard it would be to go back to the higher rate when need arose. And it made no sense whatsoever to tie the triggers to projected future income instead of to past or current income or to an average of them over several years.

But the problems with a 19th century educational system are real too. It’s organized for an agrarian culture without the ability to artificially cool buildings during summer. Its funding and governing structures assume myriad small populations near to but mostly isolated from each other by slow travel. Its methods and instruction principles have as much to do with the Procrustean production of two-legged voting and tax-paying citizen widgets as they do with educating students for their own growth and flourishing as thinking human beings. That many teachers manage to bring about 21st century people testifies to their ability to work in spite of the system that employs them, not because of it.

Being hopeful, alas, is not part of the mix:

I also fear that if the state somehow manages to find a Peter with a wallet fat enough to let Paul boost teacher salaries and per-pupil expenditures from their rank in the high 40s to the low 40s or even high 30s, the people who can make that change happen will smile and wave and say they’ve handled things and la-la-la-la their way long enough that when the problem reappears they’ll be sipping retirement coffee and shaking their heads at what the world is coming to and why their barista can’t make change.

I am generally inclined to dismiss rankings: no two states have exactly the same circumstances, and the Wobegon Factor, which afflicts too many of us, demands that everyone be above average, because fairness. But at headline level, only one metric seems to matter.

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Not your father’s retail

Received in email, a letter from a mediocre CEO.

No, wait. Received in email, a letter from Mediocre CEO Matt Rutledge, on behalf of Mediocre Laboratories, which operates Money quote:

THE RULES: Sell one thing a day. Repeat.

Not terribly complex. But the Meh project is the heart of what we are building at Mediocre. As wholesalers by trade, we shun the traditional retailer role. Success for us here is to grow an intelligent, informed community that eschews superfluous services in favor of making shit cheaper. You could call it “anti-retail”: an experiment in selling without marketing hype or bias. But maybe the term “anti-retail” is itself marketing hype.

Which may even be true, given how many people today have antiheroes for their heroes.


Proto-Superb Owl

The flap over the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game, later retconned into Super Bowl I, is simple enough: one guy in North Carolina has an almost-complete tape of the game, and the NFL declined to buy it from him. While looking around for supplemental materials, I happened upon this little contretemps:

Super Bowl I was the only Super Bowl in history that was not a sellout in terms of attendance, despite a TV blackout in the Los Angeles area (at the time, NFL games were required to be blacked out in the market of origin, even if it was a neutral site game and if it sold out). Of the 94,000-seat capacity in the Coliseum, 33,000 went unsold. Days before the game, local newspapers printed editorials about what they viewed as a then-exorbitant $12 price for tickets, and wrote stories about how viewers could pull in the game from stations in distant markets such as Bakersfield, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

The blackout is weird enough, as it always was; but focus, if you will, on that twelve-buck ticket price. At Super Bowl 50, $12 won’t even buy you a Bud Light.

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Keep your head to the sky

And yet another of the greats ascends to the next level:

Maurice White, the founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, has died at home in Los Angeles, said his brother Verdine White. He was 74.

A former session drummer, White founded Earth, Wind & Fire in the late 1960s. The group went on to sell more than 90 million albums worldwide, displaying a flashy and eclectic musical style that incorporated his influences from growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, and working at the influential Chicago music labels Chess and Okeh.

EWF was practically everywhere in the 1970s: you couldn’t avoid them if you wanted to, and why in the world would you have wanted to? I got tuned in circa 1973, with the Head to the Sky album, which still delights me today.

But White went back farther than that. From his days as a studio musician, we have here the supersized version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” as trilled by the late Billy Stewart, and on the kit off to the right, Maurice White playing like the greatest drummer ever to work out of Chicago.

Head to the Sky led off with a lovely little number called “Evil,” which was in fact a reworking of “Bad Tune,” off EWF’s very first (and eponymous!) album in 1971, the sort of thing that might make you think that this was where Sly might have gone if he could have kept his head together.

Said Verdine of his brother:

“While the world has lost another great musician and legend, our family asks that our privacy is respected as we start what will be a very difficult and life changing transition in our lives. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.”

Amen to that.

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He’s just Hectoring her

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic, which will be working its way through Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique this weekend, put up this, um, item on the orchestra’s Facebook page:

Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here's a symphony about me overdosing on opium and murdering you, so marry me maybe

Might fill some seats at that.


Warm-water update

When last we looked in on the Great Water Heater Caper of 2016, I was vowing vengeance on the uncooperative elements, which in circumstances like these tend to be all of them.

For maximum spitefulness, I called in at 6:30 am Wednesday, thereby cementing my reputation as a Nasty Person for all time. The tech arrived a couple of hours later with about twice as many tools and, eventually, a sheepish admission: “I think I may have cracked the thermocouple.”

Off to the parts depot to obtain an uncracked thermocouple. He had to eat the cost of it, so it’s probably a good thing he identified the problem component fairly quickly. No further issues, and smiles all around when he left.

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What the well-dressed hooves are wearing

Found by Fillyjonk on Polyvore, and contemplated by yours truly for entirely too long:

My Little Pony peep-toe pump


Headed to Equestria, dames? A darling pair of My Little Pony platform pumps, these vegan heels are fashioned in a charming cosmic celestial motif, boasting a peep toe, sleek 4.75 inch heel, 1 inch hidden platform and PU rubber outsole. Let your imagination run wild!

Unique Vintage has these very shoes for $64, or however much that is in bits.

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Warlocked and loaded

Several hours before the game, Alex Roig predicted the Thunder killer: Victor Oladipo. Not the most difficult prediction, perhaps, but Oladipo pretty much had his way with any deployment of Thunder defense — rather the way he did the last Thunder-Magic clash, in which he knocked down a triple-double. Into the final minute of the game, Oladipo had 37 points, one short of his career high, and the Magic were up two. “Killer,” for the moment, looked literal. Then at :30, Russell Westbrook came up with a layup to tie, and with half a second left, Kevin Durant splashed a 28-footer. Oladipo’s desperation shot at the horn did not go, and it was Oklahoma City 117, Orlando 114, wild and woolly, though only one actual W word counts for anything in the grand scheme of things.

Still, it took some serious heroics to get past those shots of V.O. That last trey gave KD 37 points, and Westbrook, who’d worked up a triple-double in a mere 22 minutes, had 19 rebounds, a career high, in the middle of it. (Otherwise: 22 points, 14 assists.) And the Magic were shooting 50 percent or better almost all night, finishing at 49.5. Serge Ibaka wasn’t scoring much, but he did block six shots, one more than the entire Orlando squad. Still, the guy who scared me as much as Oladipo did was Mario Hezonja, the #5 draft pick in 2015, who scored 16, one short of his career high, and who beat two buzzers. (There are only four buzzers to beat in regulation.)

All eyes, inevitably, now turn to Saturday night’s clash with the mighty Golden State Warriors, who have yet to lose one at home this season. (Then again, neither have the Spurs, who have played more home games.) I’d like to be hopeful, really I would. But then the Thunder just beat a team that had lost nine of its last ten by three points. The Warriors haven’t lost nine since the French and Indian War.

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