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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Perhaps I should check WTF

Nancy Friedman reports that there are currently eighty-five live trademarks registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office incorporating “OMG,” of which the earliest might be OMG Object Management Group, which dates to 1991, well before you sent your first SMS text.

Then there’s “omg!” Yahoo! uses this version, lower case plus exclamation point, for its celebrity subsite. And if there’s anything that needs lower case, it’s celebrity news. Despite this, all the feature links appear in VERY LARGE CAPS.

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I guess they just do

While tracking down the historical details for an earlier post, I tripped over this 1963 clip of yeh-yeh girls Les Gam’s, complete with apostrophe, doing a cute version à la française of “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others’ Hearts,” a spiffy Phil Spector/Ellie Greenwich/Tony Powers tune originally recorded by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Les Gam’s aren’t quite as marvelous as Darlene Love, but then who is?

Never you mind how I landed on this.

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Kilowatt or two

Jennifer is impressed with the savings she’s getting on time-of-use pricing of electricity:

According to our most recent statement, which arrived in the mail late last week, we saved more than $170 over the same billing period last year. We reduced our kilowatt hours by 1159.

This actually impresses me, since my total usage for the most recent period was 1251 kWh, versus 1542 one year ago, so I saved 291 kWh, and I’m not even on the program, though I do look at their weekly energy-use updates. I attribute this to running the A/C at 74 instead of 73, though in July I’m lucky if it gets down to 75 before bedtime.

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Sad commentary of the week

Possibly the year.

Adam Gurri’s Stories of Progress and Stagnation, which you should read even if it takes you all day, contains this wonderfully rueful sentence:

At Founder’s Fund, the venture capital firm at which [Peter] Thiel is a partner, they have a saying: “we wanted flying cars, and instead we got 140 characters.”

Feel free to tweet this.

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Now if it could only vacuum itself

Research. Is there anything (else) it can’t do?

Functional coatings, for example with highly water-resistant or antibacterial properties, have at their surface nano-sized molecular groups that provide these specific properties. But up to now, these molecular groups are easily and irreversibly damaged by minor contact with their surface (such as by scratching), quickly causing their properties to be lost. This has been a big limitation to the possible applications of these coatings. Researcher Catarina Esteves of the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e and her colleagues have now found a solution to this problem. They have done this by developing surfaces with special ‘stalks’ carrying the functional chemical groups at their ends, and mixing these through the coating. If the outer surface layer is removed by scratching, the ‘stalks’ in the underlying layer re-orient to the new surface, thereby restoring the function.

This development can be of great importance for many applications. For example it will be possible to make a self-cleaning car, with a highly water-resistant coating that keeps this self-cleaning property for long periods. The superficial scratches will be self-repaired and the water droplets simply roll off the car, taking dirt with them. An occasional rain shower is all that’s needed to keep the car clean.

Of course, it can’t work with really deep cuts through the coating, but you can’t have everything, can you? Dr Esteves says this process could be made production-ready in six to eight years.

(A Jack Baruth special at The Truth About Cars.)

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With August yet to come

Lileks wanders into the mall and encounters a time-displacement phenomenon. And he does not like it, no sirree, does not like it at all:

There were great sales on clothes, because July is when everyone starts thinking about wearing heavy brown stuff, right? Aren’t we all just itching to get into fall clothes? TO HELL WITH THAT. Target has school stuff up: TO HELL WITH THAT. There will come a day when something in the air, something in the angle of the sun, something in the quality of light through the leaves, makes me think: Oatmeal. Leaves. Nip in the air. Woodsmoke. Halloween delights. But on behalf of July, still standing, hand on the doorknob of the exit, TO HELL WITH THAT.

Although, you know, I won’t mind a whole lot if August moves along at high speed and gets out of the way. Apart from my daughter’s birthday, the only thing that happens in August is that I will be handed the worst electric bill of the year, which I don’t find particularly endearing.

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This is UTV

For you, the viewer!

No. Wait a minute. This isn’t UTV. This is Me-TV, and it’s coming to OKC. From the press release:

Weigel Broadcasting Co. and Hearst Television announced today an affiliation agreement in which five additional Hearst markets will carry Me-TV. Those local stations will be WCVB, Boston; KCRA, Sacramento; WBAL, Baltimore; KOCO, Oklahoma City and WXII, Greensboro. This brings the total of Hearst’s Me-TV affiliates to 13. In addition, Hearst has extended its commitment to the network with the renewal of its existing Me-TV affiliate agreements to 2015. The launch date of the stations is TBD.

The Me-TV Network now clears more than 82% of the country, serving more than 128 affiliates.

I assume KOCO will slot this into channel 5.3, which would put it right next to This TV, co-owned by Weigel and MGM.

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From 1968, three French girls dressed like British birds model Austrian hosiery:

Ergee hosiery advertisement from 1968

Ergee, the brand, was founded in Saxony in 1901; underlings of the Soviet Union — the German Democratic Republic had not yet been proclaimed — confiscated their facilities in 1948, and they relocated, first to the southern tip of Bavaria, then to Austria. In 2008 they went broke, as did everyone else in the world, and were acquired by KiK, a German retailer of discount clothing known for its low prices and its oddly-shaped retail racks.

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In the year 9595

Or maybe 12,012, depending on how things go and who’s counting:

Presuming humans are still around — or some kind of intelligent-life successor to humans — 10,000 years hence, what will they be able to learn from OUR culture? Even with writing, so much of it is lost, or its meaning is (Have they completely deciphered Linear B? I know that was a particularly tough one). What will we leave to future peoples? (Or, as I think in my more pessimistic moods, will we all just wind up destroying ourselves and intelligent life, at least on Earth, cease to exist?)

I persist in thinking that we’ll leave. Period. As in “off the planet entirely.” The logistics of such an operation being what they are, only a comparative handful will actually be making the trek toward the stars; the rest, I think in my more pessimistic moods, will destroy one another once they discover that they’re not going to get to go.

That said, I don’t expect this ball of rock to be totally devoid of sentient life at that point, though the top of the food chain may not be what we think of these days as humanoid. Then again, if the only artifact surviving from this era is Fifty Shades of Grey, perhaps we deserved to die off.

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