How ‘Jingle Bells’ by the Singing Dogs Changed Music Forever – The Atlantic

December 20th, 2014

This is a fascinating account of the version of “Jingle Bells” recorded by The Singing Dogs. I always assumed this song was from the late 1970s – big deal, someone sampled dogs and made a song. I was shocked tonight to find out it was actually recorded in 1955! I had no idea that this was such a groundbreaking song, launching the arts of multitrack recording and sampling. Who knew?

Let’s, for a moment, consider "Jingle Bells" as performed by the Singing Dogs. With jaded, 21st-century ears, it’s easy to dismiss as Yuletide kitsch. It topped a 2007 survey of most-hated Christmas songs, but there was a time when listeners marveled at it—Dogs! And they’re singing!

It’s time we give the Singing Dogs their due. Created in Denmark in the early 1950s by a self-taught ornithologist and released in the U.S. in 1955, the record marks a turning point in how we listen to music. I’ll explain.

via How 'Jingle Bells' by the Singing Dogs Changed Music Forever – The Atlantic.

Cuban relations

December 18th, 2014

President Obama caused quite a stir yesterday when he announced the normalization of relations with Cuba. Of course, Republicans quickly went ape-shit at this announcement and are already lining up to oppose it. Being that it’s the President’s constitutional prerogative to conduct foreign affairs, I’m not sure what whiny Congressmembers can do.

As for ditching restrictions on Cuba, I say good riddance! I’ve never understood the continuing economic embargo against Cuba. Yes, Cuba is a communist country but for decades we’ve had no trouble doing business with communist (and nuclear-armed) China. Hell, China actively spies on us, conducts provocative naval maneuvers, and is actively working to diminish the stature of the United States in the Pacific region. I suppose if Cuba had a population of a billion potential consumers like China we be falling all over ourselves to put aside our differences.
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Hallie to appear in HBO documentary

December 3rd, 2014
Hallie, Travis, and Nora on the HBO website

Hallie and Travis on the HBO website

Hallie’s climate change work last year with iMatterYouthNC.Org was filmed by HBO as part of a documentary they made about kids and climate change. We found out that documentary is airing Monday, December 15th at 7 PM on HBO. The film, called Saving My Tomorrow, features kids from all over, speaking about their planet. It’s really inspiring!

We don’t know how much of Hallie will appear in the film but the image the producers chose for their HBO webpage is a shot from Hallie’s march through downtown Raleigh, flanked by Travis and Hallie’s friend (and co-organizer), Nora. I’m hopeful we might see Hallie’s speech from the rally but we’re not sure what they used or not.

I’m hoping I can finagle a way to record the film as we don’t have cable. Any assistance out there would be greatly appreciated!

Questions raised over Queen’s ancestry after DNA test on Richard III’s cousins

December 3rd, 2014

Isn’t this interesting.

The bones of the king under the car park have delivered further shocks, 527 years after his death and more than two years after his remains were discovered in Leicester: Richard III was a blue-eyed blond, and the present Queen may not be descended from John of Gaunt and Edward III, the lineage on which the Tudor claim to the throne originated.

Five anonymous living donors, all members of the extended family of the present Duke of Beaufort, who claim descent from both the Plantagenets and Tudors through the children of John of Gaunt, gave DNA samples which should have matched Y chromosomes extracted from Richard’s bones. But none did.

Since Richard’s identity was proved by his mitochondrial DNA, handed down in an unbroken chain through the female line from his sister to two living relatives, the conclusion is stark: there is a break in the claimed line of Beaufort descent, what the scientists described as “a false paternity event”, which may also affect the ancestry of their distant cousins, the Windsors.

via Questions raised over Queen’s ancestry after DNA test on Richard III’s cousins | UK news | The Guardian.

Putin’s failures leave Russia reeling | MSNBC

December 3rd, 2014

Great, quick read on Putin’s failures.

It was poised to be the biggest arms deal ever between a NATO country and Russia. France had a deal worth more than 1 billion euros to deliver a warship to Russia, and given Europe’s economy and the number of jobs involved, French President Francois Hollande really wanted the deal to go forward. But it did not. President Obama urged Hollande to leave Vladimir Putin isolated and the French president agreed, announcing last week that the warship delivery was off “until further notice” in light of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. Late yesterday, Putin suffered yet another failure.

“President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he would scrap Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West.”

The New York Times characterized this as a “rare diplomatic defeat” for Putin, though I’m not sure why. Indeed, diplomatic defeats appear to be the only thing the Russian president has accomplished lately.

via Putin's failures leave Russia reeling | MSNBC.

Kicking gas

December 3rd, 2014
Our Ford Focus Electric

Our Ford Focus Electric

Kelly and I have finally gotten sick of the cars we own. With the Odyssey’s transmission bound to fail again within the next three years, it was time to check out other alternatives. We hate buying cars, though, and can’t stand car payments. Thus, when we buy cars we tend to drive them for a while.

We wanted a car that’s more efficient than the ones we have, so we went to the local Carmax to check out a Prius V (in other words, a Prius wagon). Having taken it around the block, we weren’t impressed with its feel for the road nor its space. As we were deciding whether to leave the lot or not, I noticed that a Ford Focus Electric was parked next to us. I’d only driven an electric vehicle one time before (which ended disastrously), so I thought it might be fun to take the Focus out for a test drive. After a short spin around the neighborhood and I-540, we were hooked. We became the owners of a Focus Electric last week.

Unlike my electric car experience of eight years ago, the Focus has some pickup! We tooled around I-540 with ease, merging into the fast-moving traffic and being able to pass anytime we needed. Plus, it’s super quiet. You get the sound of the tires and wind, with the electric motor making a slight, futuristic whirring sound. It turns out it was much more fun to drive than the Prius.
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Bootstraps? What if you don’t even have boots?

November 18th, 2014

A post I made to my Facebook page regarding the minimum wage turned into a pointless discussion about how the poor, lazy SOBs should just get better jobs. Yeah, I know … predictable. I know enough to not fan those flames but I came away from it really wondering what it might take for conservatives who subscribe to that point of view to really grasp what life is like for the working poor. Would spending 24 hours with a struggling single mother help them to see that the poor aren’t lazy? If not that, then what?

There is a force in play in our universe called karma. Those who mock the plight of the poor may one day find themselves in the same predicament. I would hope it wouldn’t come to that but honestly I’m not sure what might open their eyes. How can I help them understand?

More light rail

November 18th, 2014
NCDOT's Engine 1792, "The City of Raleigh"

NCDOT’s Engine 1792, “The City of Raleigh.” This is heavy rail.

Continuing the spotlight on light rail reporting, today’s editorial in the N&O expressed support for light rail, which is good:

“Transit has been a topic of discussion for so long that advocates of light rail and commuter trains in the Triangle had been on the verge of giving up – on light rail and on the possibility that Wake County residents would be given a chance to vote on a small transit tax, already approved in Orange and Durham counties.

But now light-rail advocates are taking heart with a study of rail lines and crossings in West Raleigh and eastern Cary, with an eye toward the day when there will be light-rail stations and accompanying development.”

I have to make somewhat of a correction myself, as there will indeed be light rail on part of the NCRR corridor between Cary and Raleigh. This is in addition to the “heavy rail” commuter rail service proposed between Cary and Durham on the existing tracks.
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N&O makes “light rail” goof on front page

November 17th, 2014
Light Rail? Umm, no.

Light Rail? Umm, no.

While we’re holding the N&O under a microscope, I tsk tsked over my coffee this morning when I read the headline that accompanied the print edition of this story…

RALEIGH — In West Raleigh and eastern Cary, government planners are laying the groundwork for the development and traffic that may accompany a string of proposed passenger rail stations.

A coalition of local governments and others has put half a million dollars toward a study of the roads between the two municipalities, aiming to improve safety and traffic flow at a half-dozen places where rail lines cross pavement.

I re-read the story again just to be sure and the conclusion is that these hearings have nothing to do with light rail. Heavy rail, yes. Light rail, no.
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I told the cabbie, “take me to Midtown”

November 17th, 2014

… said no one, ever.

The News and Observer ran this story last week about changes to Enloe High School’s base. As you know, changes to Enloe are of high interest to me, so of course I read it. I didn’t get too far before something really irritated me:

CARY — Enloe High School is among nine overcrowded schools that Wake County school administrators have identified for possible limits on enrollment.

In a briefing for the school board’s facilities committee Wednesday, school planners also suggested keeping enrollment caps in place at 10 other schools, including Combs and Hunter elementary schools in the Midtown area during the 2015-16 school year.

See that? The “Midtown area?” What the hell is the “Midtown area?” Hunter Elementary is firmly in Southeast Raleigh and Combs is out on the southwestern edge of Raleigh. Neither one would be considered “midtown” in anyone’s estimation.

“Midtown” is an invention of the News and Observer to create a new outlet for its advertising. Have you ever in your life ever heard anyone say “I’m from Midtown?” Have you ever heard any other media source refer to Midtown? No? Me neither.

Maybe it’s time to give up on this moniker since no one outside of the newspaper has any idea what it means.

via CARY: Enloe High School near downtown Raleigh could see enrollment limits | Education |