Still more songs in the key of me

The third collection of songs that made me what I am today, whatever that may be.

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And what a night it was

Monday night on Leno: Sandra Bullock, resplendent in what may be my favorite shade of blue, and Diablo Cody, almost certainly about to crack everyone up.

Sandra Bullock and Diablo Cody on the Tonight Show

This is one of those moments that plays hell with my Crush-O-Meter: I’m never quite sure which way it’s going to deflect.

Update: Laura asked about the shoes, so…

Sandra Bullock and Diablo Cody on the Tonight Show

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It would be really big

The Ed Sullivan Show has been gone forty years now, but if you’re old enough, and I am, you see both historical and mythological value in that Sunday-night staple. So does Rich Appel:

For nothing but kicks, I thought I’d put together a guest list for a typical hour of Sullivan in January 2012. Of course, these days it’d be in L.A.

  • Michael Bublé
  • Vova and Olga Galchenko (brother-sister juggling team)
  • Larry the Cable Guy
  • Criss Angel
  • Jackie Evancho
  • Cirque de Soleil
  • The Muppets
  • New Directions from Glee

Not sure how you’d top a guest list like that, but therein lies the challenge. It’s a good bet that one of the acts listed above wouldn’t get to perform, and Ed (or whoever) would have to run out at :59:40 and say: “We’re running a little late, so … goodnight!”

The Muppets, incidentally, appeared more than two dozen times on the original Sullivan show, starting in 1966, three years before Sesame Street.

Now if we could only find someone to spin plates to Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance.

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Mainstream mediocre

Richard Nixon once nominated a fellow named G. Harrold Carswell, then a judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court vacancy created by the resignation of Abe Fortas. Judge Carswell was perceived as perhaps not the brightest light in the judicial firmament; in fact, the word “mediocre” was attached to him early in the confirmation hearings, leading Senator Roman Hruska (R-NE) to complain:

“Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

And that was [not quite] the last anyone heard of G. Harrold Carswell.

Perhaps invoking the spirit of Roman Hruska, Robert Stacy McCain expounds on the wonders of representative democracy:

This is the beauty of democracy, a tribute to our nation’s greatness, that even the dangerously deluded are entitled to representation in the halls of Congress, where courageous men and women like Ron Paul, Maxine Waters, Sheldon Whitehouse, Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are unfraid to Speak Truth to Power on behalf on their core constituencies of kooks.

Moonbats, perverts, goldbugs, socialists, feminists, Alec Baldwin, environmentalists, freaks, geeks, Keynesians, disco fans, dopeheads, sodomites, animal rights activists, neo-Nazis, James Wolcott, MSNBC viewers, Boston Globe subscribers, Daily Kos contributors, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Krugman, Sean Penn, Chris Matthews — dangerously deranged people who in any sane and responsible society would be confined to psychiatric institutions are here, in America, free to speak and write whatever manic nonsense erupts from their addled minds.

These brain-damaged freaks are also free to support with their money and votes whichever dimwitted nutjob, cynical charlatan or hateful demagogue they believe best represents their neurotic interests.

Two notes:

  • The man who did eventually succeed Abe Fortas — Harry Blackmun, confirmed by the Senate 94-zip — went mostly unnoticed on the Supreme Court until he wrote the opinion on Roe v. Wade;

  • I have acquired, over the years, a greater appreciation for disco.

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Charge more

Optional engines are still the rule rather than the exception in the American car market: almost everything passing itself off as a “family” sedan comes with a base inline-four, though a few grand extra will get you a V6 or at least a turbo for that four, and pickup buyers revel in their ability to select exactly the right engine for what they imagine are their needs.

The hybrids and the electrics, up to now, hadn’t offered such options. Tesla’s upcoming Model S has the same 300-kW (about 400 hp) motor throughout the line. However, Tesla will be offering three different battery packs: the larger the pack, the greater the range and the higher the performance. The base version ($50k after the Federal tax credit) gets a 40-kWh pack, reportedly good for 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and a range of 165 miles. Ante up another ten grand and get the 65-kWh pack, cutting 0.6 seconds off zero-to-sixty and extending range to 230 miles. Yet another ten grand will bring you the 85-kWh pack, bringing you to a 300-mile range and slicing 0-60 to 5.6. (There’s a “performance” version beyond that, with a high-performance inverter, that drops 0-60 into the mid-fours.) The best-selling pure-electric, the Nissan Leaf, comes with a modest 24-kWh battery pack; Chevrolet’s Volt carries 16 kWh.

All the Tesla battery packs will carry an 8-year warranty, though only the 85-kWh version specifies unlimited mileage.

(See also the pricing analysis at The Truth About Cars.)

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It’s trad, Dad

The British trad-jazz movement of the 1950s and early 1960s happened to catch me in my formative years, which is how I wound up with records by Chris Barber and Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk. Half a century later, what I remember most is the mournful undertone: even the most boisterous of those records — Ball’s “Midnight in Moscow” — has some inchoate sadness to it. (It was later that I learned where it came from.)

Last week, being somewhat mournful myself, I sent up this tweet:

Bless you, Mr. Acker Bilk. (Sometimes you just *need* “Stranger on the Shore.”)

Which had just played on the work box. I didn’t think anything more of it for a week, and then a link to this appeared in my stream:

It never occurred to me that the erhu could stand in for Acker’s clarinet. But yes, it works, quite beautifully. And so I pass it on to you, hoping maybe a little more than usual that you’ll look up this band.

Title note: This was the original title, more or less, to the 1962 Richard Lester film released in the States as Ring-A-Ding Rhythm. Believing that those Yanks wouldn’t understand trad jazz, the producers pasted in some footage of Del Shannon and Gary U.S. Bonds and such, short-circuiting the mood.

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Quote of the week

Roberta X assesses the current regime, several previous ones, and probably the next few:

As near as I can tell, the vast majority of Federal incumbents don’t give a fat damn about economic recovery by anybody’s lights — not Rand’s, not FDR’s, not Hayek’s or Keynes’ or even Eugene V. Debs’s. All they care about is tryin’ to maneuver things so the other guy’s party looks like a sack of bastards, then pointing-in-alarm while snickering in unholy glee. They’d be depantsing one another if they could get away with it.

I think we ought to pair ’em up, hand them Go boards and make them play. Then every three days, pick ten at random, knock ’em out and leave ’em, solo, in jeans and T-shirts along desolate sections of railroad track, flat broke and without ID; meanwhile, we elect replacements and we keep at it until one or more grows a spine and stops playin’ games. And I’d volunteer to wield the knockout mallet, too, but I think my breakage rate would be too high.

Two things I don’t want to contemplate: the likes of, say, Maxine Waters trying to figure out a Go board, and the likes of, say, Maxine Waters being depantsed.

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She got this, now I know it

For a few seconds there, I was wondering why YouTube brought in Rebecca Black for its Rewind 2011 video, and then of course it hit me:

With a total of 180 million views during its two periods of availability, the original “Friday” video dwarfs all competition: Number Two “Ultimate Dog Tease” came in with about 77 million. Then again, YouTube reports one trillion views this year, of which “Friday” accounted for only 0.018 percent.

Or you could look at it this way: the video, squoze down to YouTube size, runs a hair over 19 MB, which means that something like 3500 terabytes of the world’s presumably limited bandwidth went into watching “Friday” this year.

(The two later singles, “My Moment” and “Person of Interest,” have rolled up 35 million views in their own right.)

And I have to admit to one bit of puzzlement: if, say, Nyan Cat (55 million views, #5) had finished at the top, who would have introduced the Rewind?

In the meantime, RB refuses to take any of this too seriously. Consider this Monday tweet:

“Christmas is Sunday” is trending…come on guys I already taught you all the days of the week, but now holidays?! too much pressure.

Which pressure she evidently didn’t feel when AOL invited her to their executive party in Chicago.

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Water bored

I am not one to object to expanding the ol’ vocabulary, generally, but I usually don’t expect to get examples out of my spam bucket.

An item in yesterday’s email began this way:

Dear Advisor,

Since 1992, we have helped financial professionals use drip marketing the right way in their business…

I looked at that and thought Geez, is that like the Chinese water torture?

Well, yes, it is, kinda sorta:

Drip marketing is a communication strategy that sends, or “drips,” a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. These messages often take the form of email marketing, although other media can also be used. Drip marketing is distinct from other database marketing in two ways: (1) the timing of the messages follow a pre-determined course; (2) the messages are dripped in a series applicable to a specific behavior or status of the recipient.

Incidentally, the Chinese water torture seems to have originated in Italy.

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Being for the benefit of Princess Celestia

They do indeed get by with a little help from their friends:

Sgt Pinkies Lonely Hooves Club Band

(From The Beatle Bronies via My Little Brony.)

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Chiming in

The day I arrived on the dealer’s lot to test-drive Gwendolyn for the first time, she wouldn’t start: battery deader than Nehru suits. (A condition I subsequently attached to the purchase contract: new battery.) As it happens, whichever lot lizard had exited it last had left the lights on; the car presumably emitted a couple of feeble beeps, which evidently went ignored.

But that’s Infiniti, which circa 2000 was anxious to impress you with its subtlety. BMW, at least once upon a time, did things differently:

[S]hould you commit the grievous error of removing the key from the ignition while the lights are on, rather than a warning beep or chime, the car lets out a noise used in science fiction movies to signal a warp core breach. It would probably cause a U.S. Navy veteran to look around for the button to SCRAM the reactor. It triggers, even after a decade, the same reflexive spinal-level twitch you’d get from the sound of a running Husqvarna being lobbed into a playpen.

Which is, if you ask me, something else Nissan’s BMW-wannabe division should adopt from der Vaterland.

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Doc Searls finds no sunshine trying to connect to the cloud:

The hotel charges about $20/day per device to use its wi-fi. We have seven devices that are Net-enabled, but so far have only one (my laptop) is paying the fare, and the quality of the connection gets a D+ from Our two phones (my wife’s and mine) with cellular data plans are left to the mercies of AT&T, which barely provides phone service.

What’s more, all the nearby hot spots have been chilled out. This won’t last forever, of course:

I’m sure in the long run The Market will fix this, but meanwhile “The Cloud’s” promise and reality are way out of sync.

And for now, I feel better about being Somewhat Less Wired than some of you.

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Follow the finger

“We can set you up with an appointment, but technically, you can’t actually see Dr. Kumar.”

Newspaper clipping from Criggo featuring the Invisible Ophthalmologist

I’m just going to assume that the invisible doctor is wearing her invisible lab coat.

(Via Criggo, which has lots more inexplicable clippings.)

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Porridger’s almanac

The current issue of Mental Floss has a full-page article on gruel, which if nothing else demonstrates that January/February is a rough time to sell magazines. (See also: Playboy’s Lindsay Lohan pictorial, or any Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.)

There’s a recipe attached, but it looked even less appetizing than you’re probably imagining, so I went elsewhere, and apparently rather a lot of folks, and not just SCA types, have developed their own gruels. Here’s Serle’s, from the Woodhouse Defense League:

Add one-fourth cup of cooked and mashed oats, one tablespoon flour and one-fourth teaspoon salt to one and one-half cups boiling water, let boil two minutes, then cook over hot water one hour.

Strain, bring to boiling point, and add milk or cream.

If you prefer something trendier, try polenta.

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That fracking stuff

The Railroad Commission of Texas (yes, really) has approved a disclosure rule for hydraulic fracturing, to apply to all new oil or gas wells drilled beginning the first of February.

In the meantime, Eric Siegmund gives us an idea of what sort of stuff is being shot into the ground:

The Berkley #6 is an oil well with a vertical depth of almost two miles. During the completion process, the formation was fractured using a solution of over 700,000 gallons of water (an Olympic-sized swimming pool holds only about 600,000 gallons), into which was mixed a combination of 27 additional substances, ranging from the mundane (citric acid) to the exotic (dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid, cyclohexene, and alkylaryl ethoxylate). Some of these substances comprised as little as .0005% of the total injected volume, or the equivalent of less than four gallons. I don’t know about you, but I really can’t assess whether this concentration of 2-butoxyethanol or sodium metaborate is a bad thing or not. This stuff is 10,000 feet underground, with several million (billion?) tons of rock on top of it. How can I assess the risk of having a chemical that, for all I know, occurs naturally elsewhere, pumped in relatively minute quantities into a deep hole in the ground?

The actual disclosure sheet for this particular well looks something like this [pdf]. Some of the ingredients are proprietary and described only in general terms, though none of them make up even as much as 0.01 percent of the fracking fluid, which is 90 percent water. And it’s probably a good thing that Texas is getting this stuff out in the open before the EPA gets its green panties in more of a wad.

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To hoon it may concern

The ancient stereotype notwithstanding, women drivers are statistically less likely to crash than men — it’s very seldom you’ll see a story like this about a woman — and women generally pay a smidgen less for auto insurance. The European Union, dedicated to a bureaucratic definition of equality, has ruled that this pricing is discriminatory, and as of next year, all else being equal (whatever that may mean in the insurance market), men and women must be charged the same premiums.

Insurance companies hate to be told how much they can charge, so this Reuters report should surprise no one:

Motor insurers seeking to get around a European ban on charging male drivers more than women are turning to innovative black box technology that could trigger an upheaval in the way car insurance is sold.

Britain’s biggest motor insurer, Royal Bank of Scotland, is among those testing the technology, which allows insurers to monitor customers through devices in their cars, and charge according to how riskily they drive.

Insurers, previously deterred by the high cost of so-called telematics insurance, now see it as their best hope for avoiding price hikes that could drive some customers away once the ban comes into force next year.

Specifically, they’re worried about female customers, who according to German research will be facing an average increase of 11 percent for their insurance.

And the cars are becoming readable:

The European Union’s “eCall” initiative, which aims to ensure that by 2015 car makers fit vehicles with devices that automatically dial for help in the event of a crash, could give telematics insurance a decisive boost by allowing it to piggy-back on a ready-made technological infrastructure.

The eCall black box, separate from those already fitted into motor vehicles, will dial 112 (the Continental emergency number) and transmit crash data and GPS coordinates to the authorities.

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