From the armour-plated chair

I remember hearing this exactly once on the radio — probably WAAF, in those days a free-standing, non-corporate rock outlet in Worcester, Massachusetts — and it stuck with me. It went to #1 in the UK, but it never charted here. I turned up this nifty Top of the Pops segment that is pretty faithful to the original:

Reprise, T. Rex’s Stateside label, was hot for some chart action here, following the success of the Electric Warrior LP and the Top Ten showing of “Get It On,” rebranded here as “Bang a Gong” to avoid confusion with a Chase single that sounded nothing whatever like it. However, “Telegram Sam,” the first single from The Slider, stiffed in the marketplace, and “Metal Guru,” the second, did not so much as Bubble Under. (This didn’t stop Reprise from reissuing it on the Back to Back Hits series, b/w “Jeepster”; this is the copy I have.)

Someone else who was deeply affected by “Metal Guru” was Morrissey. Johnny Marr, who should know, said so:

When we wrote “Panic” he was obsessed with “Metal Guru” and wanted to sing in the same style. He didn’t stop singing it in an attempt to modify the words of “Panic” to fit the exact rhythm of “Metal Guru”. He also exhorted me to use the same guitar break so that the two songs are the same!

I admit here to never noticing that, and I’m normally pretty good about spotting borrowed sequences.

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Birthday royal

All that, and an orange dress too! This is Queen Máxima, wife of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who acceded to the throne in 2013 when his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated in his favor. At forty-seven, he’s the youngest monarch in Europe.

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands

Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, forty-three today, was born in Buenos Aires; she has a degree in economics and has worked as an investment banker. Apparently at first she knew him only as Alexander, some guy she met in Spain; he did not mention that he was the Prince of Orange and heir to the Dutch throne. Even before Beatrix’s announcement of her abdication, the Dutch parliament was divided over whether Máxima should be given the title of Queen — typically, she would be given the title Princess of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau — and eventually decided that yes, she would be considered the queen consort. Her Majesty and her husband are bringing up three very lovely girls.

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And it’s time to retire a page

For thirty years in a row, including eighteen on this site, I’d made a prediction for Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, and for thirty years in a row, I’d been wrong.

That changes now, thanks to the well-established Blind Squirrel Principle:

Meet Kennedy Summers, Playboy’s 2014 Playmate of the Year!

The gorgeous blond beauty, who was the men’s magazine’s Miss December, has earned herself the top title when it comes to stripping down and showing some skin for Playboy.

For the heck of it, here’s her Web site. (She also has a Twitter account, which is private.)

The prediction was made on 24 February, after one last glance through the pertinent issues. I suppose I’m glad I don’t have to do this anymore. (Or do I?)

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Volume boutique

Toyota hasn’t yet pulled up stakes in Torrance and headed to Texas, but already their California operation has been eclipsed in size — by Tesla, which now employs 6,000 Californians, comfortably outnumbering Toyota’s 5,300.

Somehow this seems impossible, given Tesla’s occasionally parlous finances — much of their revenue has come, not from selling whiz-bang electric cars, but from trading California emissions credits — yet it is inarguably so. About the only automotive factoid that could shock me more would be finding out that Morgan, the 104-year-old maker of three-wheelers and wooden-framed sports cars that look 104 years old, or seventy anyway, is the largest British automaker still under British ownership.

Which, apparently, they are.

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Burrage is found in unlikely places

Last time I had any particular reason to mention Sean Burrage was way back in 2006, when he was mounting his first campaign for state Senate, and was running one of those grating gawsh-jus’-folks ads. (Well, there was this one piece of legislation.)

Burrage, the Democratic floor leader in the Senate during the last session, may have felt somewhat frustrated, what with the GOP holding three-quarters of the seats. Whatever his motivations, though, he isn’t waiting for term limits to kick in:

The Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents has named Sean Burrage as the 20th president of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

In a special meeting Thursday in Oklahoma City, the Board interviewed five candidates and then voted to hire Burrage, a Durant native who is completing his second term as an Oklahoma State Senator (District 2). He also serves as Democratic Floor Leader. Last November, Burrage announced that he would not seek a third term in office.

Burrage replaces Larry Minks, who will remain at Southeastern as President Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor of Leadership, and will become the director of the school’s new Center for Buzzword Development Transformational Leadership.

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American unexceptionalism

Those who thought Garrison Keillor was just being sly with that Lake Wobegon stuff — well, you think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?

Forget being smarter than a fifth-grader. Most Americans think they’re smarter than everyone else in the country.

Fifty-five percent of Americans think that they are smarter than the average American, according to a new survey by YouGov, a research organization that uses online polling. In other words, as YouGov cleverly points out, the average American thinks that he or she is smarter than the average American.

A humble 34 percent of citizens say they are about as smart as everyone else, while a dispirited 4 percent say they are less intelligent than most people.

Men (24 percent) are more likely than women (15 percent) to say they are “much more intelligent” than the average American. White people are more likely to say the same than Hispanic and black people.

Perhaps I’m not as white as I look:

I was able to finish my obligatory twelve years of schooling in a fraction over eight and a half. According to the template, I was supposed to go on for several years more, earn a bucketful of degrees, and step into a safe and secure future. But there always seemed to be something wrong with that scheme, and you could never have convinced me that I might have succeeded at it; whatever the test scores said, whatever the faculty evaluations claimed, I could not believe that any of it necessarily applied to me, or that I could rely on it when the chips were down.

I may not be precisely as dumb as a post, especially this post, but I am aware of my limitations, inasmuch as I run up against them with dire frequency.

Bill Quick has his own explanation for our high opinion of ourselves:

That’s because they’ve been told for decades that everybody is “equal,” and they’re dumb enough to believe it.

And James Taranto finds a problem with the methodology:

It’s obvious that produces a self-selected sample. There’s probably no way to know if the selection bias is toward above-average intelligence and strongly against below-average intelligence, but it’s certainly possible. At the very least, there is no reason to think YouGov polls capture the attitudes of “the average American.”

Then again, most people also seem to overestimate their driving ability, which certainly meets the definition of self-selection but which has little or nothing to do with equality.

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Tweaking the minimum

The other day, Simon and I were wondering about this minimum-wage proposal: how did they arrive at precisely ten dollars and ten cents? Admittedly, it’s 11 cents more than $9.99, but some of the same psychology might be at work:

A lot of supporters of a higher minimum wage will want to raise it again before too long and some states will want to raise it immediately. $10.00 is such an even number that there might be more psychological comfort with that number. It’s not unlike how some states are finding 10% to be the cap for sales taxes. There’s no particular reason why raising it from 9.5% to 10% should be different from 10% to 10.5%, but there is.

$10.10 isn’t as comfortable a stopping point as $10, and that’s a feature.

Hmmm. Would $9.95 be an easier sell to state legislatures? (Nothing prevents a state from imposing a higher minimum wage than the Federal standard.) And if it’s adjusted for inflation, it will break $10 soon enough, which is to say “almost immediately.”

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Meanwhile, down in the basement

I figure that’s where she’s got to be:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is it fair for my parents to monitor my internet usage when i am 25?

The obvious solution evidently has not occurred to her.

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Grand Old Pillpopper

More than once I have wondered just how much the state of this state can be explained by political operatives who were totally out of their gourds. This doesn’t help:

Chad Alexander, a prominent lobbyist and former chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, was arrested on drug complaints after a traffic stop in Oklahoma City in which police officers said they found cocaine and pills.

Cocaine and pills? Holy flurking schnitt, it’s a double dipper!

A police report indicates Alexander was arrested on complaints of possession of 3.35 grams of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, which consisted of nine pills. His 2014 Mercedes-Benz was searched after he was pulled over at 7:20 p.m. at NW 36 and Western Ave. because his vehicle was “straddling lane lines,” according to a court affidavit. The affidavit stated the controlled substance was the pain-killer oxycodone.

Let’s hope he was actually on 36th, because the lanes on Western — both of them — are seriously narrow.

And, as is de rigueur these days, he’s on his way to rehab:

“I regret to inform you that I will be taking a leave of absence from my personal and professional obligations for approximately the next 28 days,” he said in [a] statement. “I am leaving immediately for inpatient care at the Santé Center for Healing.”

Some Democrat ought to make hay with this, inasmuch as the Santé Center is out of state, specifically in Argyle, Texas. “Don’t we have enough rehab facilities?” My guess: he’s had them on speed-dial for some time, though I suspect not for himself.

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Quote of the week

Relatively few QOTWs come with footnotes, but this particular version does have one, and it deserves inclusion:

While the Margaret Atwoods of the world worry about the Baptists enacting some horrible draconian theocracy here in the US*, it’s actually happening in other corners of the world. I guess over there it’s charming and ethnic and we shouldn’t judge them by our imperialistic Western standards. Why, one person’s flogging for an unapproved marriage is no different from another person’s $15 ticket for jaywalking!

* Both atheists and believers want to feel oppressed here, because oppression is the coin of the realm in 21st century America and can be traded for valuable cash and prizes.

Yep. Don’t even think about writing a memoir unless you can cite examples where you were victimized by The Man, or at the very least by The System.

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A lobless relationship

I’m not quite sure which was less expected: Serge Ibaka’s departure to the locker room in the third quarter — isn’t this guy supposed to be, like, indestructible? — or Nick Collison’s trey with 01.4 left in that quarter to tie the game at 72 after the Thunder had trailed by as many as 16 for 35 of the preceding 36 minutes. That Collison jumper, however, set Oklahoma City firmly on the path of righteousness; over the next 5:15 they outscored the Clippers 15-8, and with 3:11 left, still up seven, Blake Griffin drew his fifth foul, motivating a fan to lob a water bottle onto the court. Forty-five seconds later, Russell Westbrook made his standard mad dash to the rim, and Griffin bit. Goodbye, Blake. OKC ran the lead to eleven before the Clips pushed back with a 7-0 run; a pair of Westbrook free throws made it 99-93 with :32 left. J. J. Redick missed a scoop, Kevin Durant snatched the rebound, drew a foul, made two more freebies. Chris Paul, not going for the obvious trey, came up with a layup; Derek Fisher drew the foul, made two more freebies, and CP3, not going for the obvious layup, knocked down a trey; Reggie Jackson drew the foul, hit one of two, and goodbye, Clippers: 104-98, Thunder in six, and OKC will face — who else? — the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference final.

Three double-doubles contributed to this happy state: Durant, of course (39 points, 16 boards); Westbrook, of course (19 points, 12 assists); and, mirabile dictu, Steven Adams (10 points, 11 boards). Jackson’s last free throw gave him 14 to lead the bench. What is perhaps most remarkable, I think, is that neither Durant nor Westbrook accomplished a great deal in the first half; Westbrook ended up 4-15 for the night, collecting 11 out of 12 from the line, and KD finished with a +6, Westbrook +12. (Both of them will happily point out that Adams was +17 and Collison +16.)

No double-doubles from Los Angeles, though Griffin, his time cut short, came close to a triple: 22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists. CP3 led the Clips with 25. Somehow Jamal Crawford, who’s always a threat, wasn’t a threat; he played 14 minutes and made more fouls than shots. DeAndre Jordan pulled down a rollicking 15 boards to go with 9 points. The Clips left eight points at the charity stripe, which can’t have helped their cause. (They were 12-20, OKC 29-33.) And in the end, the Clips were as good as their third seed said they were. It just didn’t happen to be enough.

Monday night in San Antonio. It doesn’t get any better than this — not right away, anyway.

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Plenty of nothing, and then some

I have always been a skeptic about homeopathy. Wait, scratch that. “Skeptic” suggests serious consideration followed by grave doubt. I, by contrast, offer sarcasm:

A 30C preparation is a dilution to the 10-60 level, which means that there is one molecule of the compound for every 1060 molecules of water. To test this yourself, dump a teaspoon of the stuff into Lake Itasca, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and then wait for it to show up in New Orleans.

On the upside, such absurdly small concentrations mean that, well, if the stuff has been adulterated, how would you know?

Apparently it’s something like this:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knocked the stuffing out of homeopathic drug company Terra-Medica [in March], when the regulatory agency announced that a number of its “natural” remedies contained actual drugs.

According to Wired UK, the FDA found that 56 lots of the company’s drugs contained the antibiotic penicillin and its derivatives. But Terra-Medica’s product information clearly states that their remedies are antibiotic-free. This is problematic because a number of people are allergic to penicillin, and the concentrations found in the products are high enough to spark a reaction.

Moreover, Wired UK points out that homeopathy is based on the idea that medicinal products should only be present at extremely low or undetectable levels because these concentrations can prompt the body to “heal itself.” This is largely how homeopathic products manage to evade most of the FDA’s oversight because, in theory, these drugs don’t contain active ingredients (the FDA currently checks the drugs for ingredient purity and packaging accuracy, not effectiveness).

So if I’m reading this correctly, these batches of homeopathic remedies were considered defective because they actually worked. Got it.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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Sort of organized law

This is, as the young people say, a thing:

So, on the one hand, we have the skilled-trade laborer, inheritor of a justifiably-proud tradition. You may not like his union’s politics — he might not, either — but it does stand for more than picket lines and hard-fought contracts. He (or she) works with hands and brain. On the other, professionals with post-graduate degrees. They may labor in genteel poverty (law school isn’t cheap and the vast majority of legal work doesn’t pay all that well; the rich lawyer is a real thing but he rests upon a vast pool of J.D.’d scriveners who make less than a journeyman plumber) but it is indeed genteel. The heaviest tool an attorney lifts is a pen. They couldn’t be more different, could they?

Not in New Jersey! Deputy ADAs there have, after a long fight, got themselves a union. Not the Teamsters (amazing, really — this is New Jersey we’re talking about), not some “Worshipful Guild of Barristers,” conjured from whole cloth to serve their special needs, nope, they’ve joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers!

Of course, public-sector unionization is nothing new, but this isn’t normally in the IBEW’s wheelhouse: most things their members work with actually have some connection to electrical power. However, I suspect the lines will continue to blur: the Communications Workers of America, of which I was a member for about a decade, has since subsumed the Association of Flight Attendants.

And “Worshipful Guild of Barristers”? I’d just love to see that on a picket sign somewhere.

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The invention of color

Apparently it took place some time after 1900:

At one point I was discussing the uniforms of the Civil War when immediately two or three hands shot into the air. I was not giving a lecture and throughout the discussion we were doing give and take, to make sure the kids understood what I was presenting. I acknowledged one boy who stated in complete seriousness and with an earnestness and thirst for knowledge “I thought there was no color until the twentieth century. Weren’t the uniforms grey and black?” I looked at him in dumbfounded amazement and noticed several other kids nodding in agreement.

You gotta admit, though: Betsy Ross did one hell of a job on that greyscale flag.

The Birth of Old Glory by Percy Moran

Read the rest of this entry »

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Urban chill

This track was so billed on an EqD “Music of the Day,” and I was vaguely familiar with the composer, so I decided to give it a listen.

I was somewhat taken aback: it tugs, not particularly gently, at one’s synapses, yet it’s not creepy or offputting.

This is part of a four-track EP, for which the composer, a fellow over in Lithuania, was asking a single euro. One of the less-explicable facts of my old age, I suppose, is that I’ve developed a fondness for this sort of music. (And I tossed him €2.50, just because.)

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Enough to last a while

In the best of all possible worlds, all automakers would have about 60 days’ worth of inventory on every model, according to automotive orthodoxy the right balance between supply and demand.

And then there’s Cadillac’s Volt Plus, the ELR:

The Cadillac ELR is shaping up to be one of the biggest automotive flops in recent memory — as of May 1, inventories had expanded to a 725 day supply, with Cadillac moving just 61 units in April.

At the start of April, dealers had 1,077 ELRs on their lots. As of May 14th, that number had increased to 1,517, with inventories far outpacing sales of the car.

In case there’s a run on this $80,000 version of a $40,000 Chevy, Cadillac is prepared. Otherwise, they’re screwed:

While a Cadillac spokesman insists that the inventory backup is a result of production scheduling, the rising inventories, lagging sales and heavy incentives paint a clear picture: the ELR is an overpriced dog that is finding few buyers compared to the much cheaper Chevrolet Volt and the much more prestigious Tesla Model S, to say nothing of the various plug-in and pure EV offerings from other car makers.

I’ve seen exactly one of these critters on the local roads, and this market has never been particularly Caddy-adverse; apparently we’re buying the CTS, which is a hair or three bigger — “bigger” counts for a lot when you’re talking Cadillac — and which costs maybe three-fifths as much on a slow day.

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