And a yo-ho-ho to you too

Apparently if you killed off every single illicit download site, every online file-sharing scheme, and every single torrent, music piracy would decrease by, oh, a measly 19 percent:

A leaked report from the music industry shows that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which heavily lobbied to pass the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts (SOPA and PIPA), reported that digital piracy accounted for only 19% of illegal music acquisition in 2011.

Even more damning, under the heading “SOPA/PIPA debate,” the report admitted that “legislation [was] not likely to have been an effective tool for music.”

The report, dated April 26, is credited to RIAA Deputy General Counsel Vicky Sheckler and was obtained by Torrentfreak.

The major source of, um, unpaid file distribution remains SneakerNet: you carry a copy of the original to a friend’s house. The RIAA’s next move, apparently, will be to require people to stay home.

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Unsealed for your distraction

There were guns for hundreds of years before there were such things as “gun safes.” In fact, Bill Quick, not far from my age, never saw one when he was growing up:

When I was a kid growing up in the midwest back in the 1950s, there were a lot of guns around, but very few actual gun safes.

Parents trained their kids from a very early age how to treat firearms, though. They did this weird thing called “taking responsibility for the safety of their children.”

This latter practice, I’m guessing, slid into desuetude some time after my adolescence. I was marginally skittish about firearms as a teen, but I had reason to believe that my peers would not actually shoot me, since they seemed to know what they were doing. And indeed, I didn’t get shot even once.

My son once caught a BB on a hair-parting trajectory. Then again, nobody I know keeps a BB gun in a safe.

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No fooling

I am reeling from the idea that Rachel Sweet is fifty today.

Fool Around by Rachel SweetSweet — that’s her real name — was born in Akron in 1962, and in 1978, after a couple of flop C&W singles in the Tanya Tucker mode, she wound up on Stiff Records, alongside the likes of Ian Dury and Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. In the clip above, she’s appearing on the UK series Top of the Pops, backed by The Records, who didn’t record for Stiff; you may recall their glorious ’78 single “Starry Eyes”. (Rachel’s song here, of course, you remember from Carla Thomas’ 1966 waxing; it was an early composition by the team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter.)

Her music career held up for several years, after which Sweet got a literature degree from Columbia (not the record label) and started working in television, co-producing for Dharma & Greg, George Lopez and, most recently, Hot in Cleveland. Truth be told, though, I still think of her in terms of, you know, records:

Rachel Sweet and Nipper

You’d think Nipper would have retired by now, but no.

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Where’s Mistral?

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Oh, and your coffee sucks

We begin with the tale of a coffee shop that seemed to have everything going for it: cheerful staff, cozy ambiance, excellent location — everything except drinkable coffee. “It tasted like the water left after you rinsed your socks.” Not a good sign.

The shop folded after a year or so of indifferent-at-best business. Upon hearing this tale, Andrea Harris asked, innocently enough, “Didn’t anyone tell him his coffee tasted like sock water?” The next commenter down suggested that it’s not our job to tell him his product is inferior, and Harris was incensed:

See, this is why so many people are against capitalism and the “free” market. Because they see this sort of “fuck you, I’ve got mine, I don’t care if you starve” attitude from too many of its proponents, this attitude that even if you do everything right one tiny mistake OR EVEN unforeseen shit happening like a hurricane or other natural disaster wiping you out means your business should fail and you should crawl off into a hole and die, this dog-eat-dog nasty-ass treatment of other people, and of course they start looking at socialism, communism, anything communitarian that seems to promise a system where people won’t be treated like disposable garbage.

The majority of new businesses do fail. It has always been thus. We are missing, perhaps, one piece of information about this defunct java joint: how long ago did this happen? I submit that it’s almost impossible to avoid getting feedback from one’s customers in this day and age; where I live, offending vendors are routinely grilled on Twitter and pilloried on message boards and Yelp. Restaurant reviews in the Gazette concentrate on the favorable stuff, but there’s always a line left for “What needs work.” (Sample.)

And besides, entrepreneurs with one strike, even several strikes, against them seldom crawl off into a hole and die. They’ll be back with something else. They might even have learned something in the interim. As a system, it’s way better than the establishment of a Ministry of Beverage Evaluation.

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Your educational material for the weekend

Mythological references in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Seriously.

(Which is the follow-up to this.)

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This is not an F-stop

And in fact, the Big F is audible in offices large and small, all through the nation, to the extent that some of these corksoaking iceholes think it retards your farging career development:

Employees who make frequent contributions to the swear jar may lose more than loose change; they may lose out on a promotion. Sixty-four percent of employers said that they’d think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words, and 57 percent said they’d be less likely to promote someone who swears in the office. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive® from May 14, 2012 to June 4, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and 3,800 workers across industries and company sizes.

Half (51 percent) of workers reported that they swear in the office. The majority of those (95 percent) said they do so in front of their co-workers, while 51 percent cuss in front of the boss. Workers were the least likely to use expletives in front of senior leaders (13 percent) and their clients (7 percent).

Any universe with 1.9 workers per hiring manager is, ipso facto, not worth a flying fish.

(Via James fracking Joyner.)

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Future Black

Once upon a time, an Orange County legend made his exit from the scene — an exit which, you’ll remember, proved to be temporary — by saying “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

Rebecca Black at the 2012 Teen Choice AwardsA current Orange County legend makes no such rash promises. At the 2012 Teen Choice Awards, Rebecca Black was asked if she planned to continue making videos for YouTube. Said she: “For sure. For sure. Until the day I die. Until the day I die.” Assuming a life expectancy of 80 years, this means we’re going to have sixty-five years of Rebecca Black videos. I couldn’t be happier — unless, of course, there’s some way to insure that I could see the last few, assuming I can still see anything at all at the age of 123.

RB did allow that there are no collaborations on the new album, shipping date still undetermined, although she’s not ruling out the possibility for the next one. (Ed Sheeran, call your service.)

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One mile over we’ll be there

There is “Share the Road,” and there is “Dammit, stay out of our lane”:

I lived in Ottawa for a year, and it totally ruined me for any other city. They have off-road bike lanes so cyclists don’t have to dodge storm drains, garbage, parked cars, and the ever-feared, sudden and deadly driver-side-door openings. And when that wasn’t feasible, at the very least they had barriers between bikes and cars.

We’re a long way from this idyllic future here in the Big Breezy, you may be sure. The following advice is passed along to — well, they know who they are:

[A] really quick fix is to just stop building multi-lane roundabouts. They’re made to reduce impediments to car travel, which encourages car travel (and speed), which is filling our city with smog. Worse, they put the onus on pedestrians and cyclists to travel cautiously for their own survival. Roundabouts reduce fatalities for car drivers because they take out the risk of T-bone accidents common at intersections, but multi-lane roundabouts increase fatalities (see 2.2) in cyclists and pedestrians.

I assure you, we have drivers in this town who can T-bone you in a single-lane roundabout. Or, for that matter, in a fast-food drive-thru.

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I can half-duplex?

Our Unutilized Dictionary defines “legacy hardware” as “anything you can’t afford to replace any time soon.”

You may have seen this item from my Facebook page yesterday:

Thursday, of course, was named after Thor, who had that big hit “If I Had a Hammer.” If he still has it, I have some hardware I’d like to decommission.

The hardware in question is one of the workhorse matrix printers, which for the last several weeks has been dropping jobs like they’re hot, sending the cryptic message “Command Reject” to the console. (“Who the hell are you to reject a command?” I would shout.) I could live with that every thousand pages or so. Maybe even six hundred. When it got down below 40, I had to call in a trouble ticket.

The device’s own error log contained the slightly less cryptic notation “Serial Line Parity Error.” Holy RS-232, Batman, do we have to go through stop bits and such all over again? Twinax is bad enough. But twinax is what we have, and if you follow it into the back of the machine, sure enough, there’s the dreaded DB-25 connector.

After a round of de rigueur cable-swapping, it was decided that either the machine’s serial card or the actual DB-25-to-twinax adapter was failing, and both were ordered, presumably at a price that justifies the four-digit-per-year service contract we have on this beast. The serial card proved to be wonky, and the replacement seemed to work just fine. When the printer was wheeled back to its home location, though, it refused to talk to the tower. Apparently we’d swapped one too many cables. Or maybe it was four too many. There comes a point in any service call when it becomes difficult to tell.

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Cleared for takeout

Remember when “Top Secret” meant, you know, really top secret? How secret can it be if 1.4 million people are cleared for it?

I offer here and now, without any hedging or weaseling, to bet my entire income for the rest of my life, against the same from any reader who cares to take my bet, that at least 1% of those currently holding Top Secret clearances are compromised in some way from a security perspective, and that at least 0.1% — one in a thousand of them — are currently engaged in and/or guilty of felony-level criminal (perhaps even treasonous) activities. (Judging by my experience in security-cleared posts in another country, I think that’s probably a very conservative estimate.) I don’t suggest anyone take the bet, though. For a start, there’s no way to verify that. Furthermore, any security specialist reading these words is undoubtedly already nodding his head in agreement with my figures — if not rebuking me for being too conservative in my estimates!

That’s 14,000 compromised individuals. I’m not what anyone would call an experienced intelligence expert, but I spent enough time in S2 shops in the service to find a one-percent estimate appallingly reasonable.

My own thinking, for what it’s worth, is that the number of people with security clearances will continue to grow, if only because their presence on org charts creates the illusion that their superiors are somehow Important.

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Silence in north Texas

“It looks like I don’t get my full year,” said Ric Locke last weekend. “In fact if I get another month or two I can count myself very, very lucky.”

The author of the acclaimed 2011 novel Temporary Duty didn’t get so much as another weekend. Presumably the Divine Plan had something else in mind.

Barb Caffrey posted this remembrance of the man who for so many years gave us “observations, some valid.” He will be greatly missed.

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Quote of the week

AP stringer Helmund Gormworthy calls ’em like he sees ’em:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama’s annual State of the Union speech was a gigantic lie from start to finish, as he told one fib after another in an increasingly desperate effort to hide the multiple failures of his administration.

“My fellow Americans,” Obama began, in an obvious attempt to conceal his Kenyan ancestry, before proceeding to tell Congress a series of big fat whoppers in a deceitful lecture that continued for more than an hour before concluding with a trite and transparently insincere, “God bless America.”

During the course of his 72-minute speech, the president told 64 outright lies and more than three dozen half-truths, according to an analysis provided by the Republican National Committee.

“Frankly, the overwhelming stench of bullshit nearly made me vomit,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said afterwards. “This was the most heinously dishonest speech I’ve ever been forced to sit through. Not even Bill Clinton told this many outrageous lies.”

You may already have spotted this as an object lesson in Neutral Objective Journalism from Robert Stacy McCain, but there are a few things not even slightly hidden in the text that give away the game. For one thing, what normally passes for “analysis” from the RNC seldom gives any actual numbers. And John Boehner calling out anyone for BS is like Jeffrey Dahmer bitching about Iron Chef.

Still: “Gormworthy”? I like it. Especially now, given the utter gormlessness of certain of our pundits and most of our candidates.

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Forever Helen

Helen Mirren is sixty-seven today, and it’s been decades since she had to prove anything to anyone. And I do like this off-white Donna Karan shift:

Helen Mirren at the premiere of State of Play 2009

State of Play, released in 2009, featured Mirren as the ruthless editor of the Washington Globe, the sort of hard-bitten news hound who can say things like “I want you to do a complete rundown on this Sonia Baker: who she knew, who she blew, the color of her knickers.” Her underlings include Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams.

Mirren’s father, incidentally, was named Vasiliy Petrovich Mironov, though shortly after Helen’s birth he decided to become Basil Mirren.

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While your lawn dies

If you’ve seen late-Forties side streets in this town, you’ve seen concrete cracks a block long in various shades of green, courtesy of the vegetation that’s been growing in them for the last few decades. Traffic, of course, cuts it down to size on a regular basis.

For a few months, there was an apparently immobile Volkswagen — and not one of the cute ones, either — hard against the curb up the street. The strange grasslike substance, now protected from traffic, just grew and grew and grew. A couple of days ago, it was tall enough to reach over the Vee Dub’s bumper.

The city ticketed the offending vehicle, which was removed sometime yesterday. (By what means I do not know, but I’d be very surprised if it departed under its own power.) I brought out the trusty garden shears, walked up the block, and scissored the weed at street level. This won’t kill it by any means, but it’s a matter of principle, dammit.

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Fark blurb of the week

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