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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Wrack and opinion

Usually an Oklahoman editorial flows off the front page of after a day or two. (Hey, at least they’re not putting them on the front page of the actual paper, the way they used to.) But their preposterously early Presidential endorsement — what, do they think they have some clout in Des Moines? — has hung around for the better part of a week; in fact, they’ve built a whole subsection around it in the hopes of luring some of those social-media types.

Given the usual quality of reader commentary at NewsOK — you have to wonder how these people have time to respond to every single item on the site and still meet their meth-delivery deadlines — this has the potential for truly epic, possibly even biblical, fail. It wouldn’t matter so much were the centerpiece stately and timeless. But, as Clark Matthews points out, it falls a bit short of that mark:

Look, I don’t mind that the paper endorsed Mitt Romney. As far as Republicans go, he’s my second favorite (after Jon Huntsman) of the field. I don’t even mind that they pretend President Obama is some all powerful divisive force instead of a middle-of-the-road pragmatist who pisses off the liberals in his party. What bothers me is they are journalists — purveyors of the truth — and the entire article reads like idiotic rantings of ill-informed internet trolls.

Especially compared with the Romney endorsement by the Washington Examiner, Opubco’s corporate sister. Perhaps the Black Tower believes — or has been instructed to believe — that a lack of coherent style will be perceived as honest and homespun. Surely nothing else explains a piece of hackwork like this:

Oklahomans knew Obama was a poor choice for president in 2008. Now the rest of the country knows it. But on Election Day next November, we won’t be checking “yes” or “no” beside the name of the incumbent. It is not a recall election. We will either check Obama’s name or that of another candidate. Romney is the name we must check.

That’s high-school level stuff, and not in the advanced-placement classes either.

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Palin comparison

Back in the spring, I noted that Julianne Moore had been signed to play Sarah Palin in HBO’s film Game Change, though I grumbled something incoherent about how there was no resemblance whatsoever.

Assuming Just Jared hasn’t been punk’d, I must now eat those words:

Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin

And for good measure, here’s a 50-second (more or less) video teaser:

If nothing else, this demonstrates the validity of the modified adage “The man who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the woman doing it.”

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Are there any more at home like you?

Fishersville Mike reports on a curious statistic:

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-4 on the season.

0-3 in games against John or Jim Harbaugh.

10-1 in games coached by someone not named Harbaugh.

You have to figure other NFL teams are hoping that John and Jim’s family will cough up a few more Harbaughs for their coaching slots.

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Spanning a lifetime, nearly

I was pretty happy with the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross soundtrack to The Social Network, so it was a given that I’d go for their newest collaboration, the score for another David Fincher film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is a bigger package: thirty-nine tracks on three CDs for $14 plus shipping, or the same 39 tracks not on CDs for slightly less. I duly put in my preorder — release is scheduled for next Tuesday — and they sent me a batch of MP3s on the spot in a handy ZIP file.

I opened up the file in good ol’ WinZIP, sorted the contents by Date/Time Modified, and I think we can safely say that Reznor and Ross might be, in certain instances, ahead of their time:

Screenshot from WinZIP

Not all of them, though.

You can get your own copy here; there’s a 6-track sampler available.

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Let’s just say you’re on your own

Oh, that brand-new Saab sitting on the dealer’s lot? It’s out of warranty:

According to a leaked memo to Saab dealers obtained by Autoblog, the bankrupt automaker is ceasing all warranty coverage on its vehicles in North America.

The memo was sent out Monday following a Swedish court’s approval of Saab’s bankruptcy petition and — as we suspected — all new vehicles will be sold “as is.”

The North American branch of Saab also is suspending the payment of new car, powertrain, emissions and parts warranties, along with recall campaigns, certified pre-owned coverage and no-charge maintenance programs.

Which sounds like a good argument for a 9-4X at fire-sale prices: your local Caddy dealer might actually recognize it as a sister to his SRX, which means he might be able to fix it, albeit on your dime.

Not that anyone is going to buy one, though, until we find out whether this suspension has an expiration date.

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