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No Sale
Nov 22nd, 2008 by Ken Hagler

I was about ready to order Mass Effect, a computer RPG from Bioware, when I read the reviews on Amazon.com and discovered that it had EA's DRM infesting it. That's the second sale EA has lost that way.

Hopefully the upcoming Star Wars MMORPG that Bioware is developing will be published by LucasArts and not EA. They did an excellent job on Knights of the Old Republic, and if they don't let their publisher sabotage the sale I will almost certainly buy the new game when it comes out.

Denny’s went through a bad per…
Nov 20th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Denny’s went through a bad peri­od, but it’s back to being tol­er­a­ble.

Testing link between Twitter a…
Nov 18th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Test­ing link between Twit­ter and weblog.

The result of public schools
Nov 17th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Amer­i­ca the Illit­er­ate. We live in two Amer­i­c­as. One Amer­i­ca, now the minor­i­ty, func­tions in a print-based, lit­er­ate world. It can cope with com­plex­i­ty and has the intel­lec­tu­al tools to sep­a­rate illu­sion from truth. The oth­er Amer­i­ca, which con­sti­tutes the major­i­ty, exists in a non-reality-based belief sys­tem. This Amer­i­ca, depen­dent on skill­ful­ly manip­u­lat­ed images for infor­ma­tion, has sev­ered itself from the lit­er­ate, print-based cul­ture. It can­not dif­fer­en­ti­ate between lies and truth. It is informed by sim­plis­tic, child­ish nar­ra­tives and clichés. It is thrown into con­fu­sion by ambi­gu­i­ty, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gen­der, more than rural or urban, believ­er or non­be­liev­er, red state or blue state, has split the coun­try into rad­i­cal­ly dis­tinct, unbridge­able and antag­o­nis­tic enti­ties.

There are over 42 mil­lion Amer­i­can adults, 20 per­cent of whom hold high school diplo­mas, who can­not read, as well as the 50 mil­lion who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade lev­el. Near­ly a third of the nation’s pop­u­la­tion is illit­er­ate or bare­ly lit­er­ate. And their num­bers are grow­ing by an esti­mat­ed 2 mil­lion a year. But even those who are sup­pos­ed­ly lit­er­ate retreat in huge num­bers into this image-based exis­tence. A third of high school grad­u­ates, along with 42 per­cent of col­lege grad­u­ates, nev­er read a book after they fin­ish school. Eighty per­cent of the fam­i­lies in the Unit­ed States last year did not buy a book.

The illit­er­ate rarely vote, and when they do vote they do so with­out the abil­i­ty to make deci­sions based on tex­tu­al infor­ma­tion. Amer­i­can polit­i­cal cam­paigns, which have learned to speak in the com­fort­ing epis­te­mol­o­gy of images, eschew real ideas and pol­i­cy for cheap slo­gans and reas­sur­ing per­son­al nar­ra­tives. Polit­i­cal pro­pa­gan­da now mas­quer­ades as ide­ol­o­gy. Polit­i­cal cam­paigns have become an expe­ri­ence. They do not require cog­ni­tive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feel­ings of eupho­ria, empow­er­ment and col­lec­tive sal­va­tion. Cam­paigns that suc­ceed are care­ful­ly con­struct­ed psy­cho­log­i­cal instru­ments that manip­u­late fick­le pub­lic moods, emo­tions and impuls­es, many of which are sub­lim­i­nal. They cre­ate a pub­lic ecsta­sy that annuls indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and fos­ters a state of mind­less­ness. They thrust us into an eter­nal present. They cater to a nation that now lives in a state of per­ma­nent amne­sia. It is style and sto­ry, not con­tent or his­to­ry or real­i­ty, which inform our pol­i­tics and our lives. We prefer hap­py illu­sions. And it works because so much of the Amer­i­can elec­torate, includ­ing those who should know bet­ter, blind­ly cast bal­lots for slo­gans, smiles, the cheer­ful fam­i­ly tableaux, nar­ra­tives and the per­ceived sin­cer­i­ty and the attrac­tive­ness of can­di­dates. We con­fuse how we feel with knowl­edge.

[…]

The core val­ues of our open soci­ety, the abil­i­ty to think for one­self, to draw inde­pen­dent con­clu­sions, to express dis­sent when judg­ment and com­mon sense indi­cate some­thing is wrong, to be self-critical, to chal­lenge author­i­ty, to under­stand his­tor­i­cal facts, to sep­a­rate truth from lies, to advo­cate for change and to acknowl­edge that there are oth­er views, dif­fer­ent ways of being, that are moral­ly and social­ly accept­able, are dying. Oba­ma used hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in cam­paign funds to appeal to and manip­u­late this illit­er­a­cy and irra­tional­ism to his advan­tage, but the­se forces will prove to be his most dead­ly neme­sis once they col­lide with the awful real­i­ty that awaits us. [Infor­ma­tion Clear­ing House]

It’s pop­u­lar for peo­ple to say that pub­lic schools are fail­ing, but all of this demon­strates that they have in fact been a bril­liant suc­cess at their actu­al objec­tive.

New M1911 variant
Nov 16th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

460 Rowland - .44 Magnum Performance from a 1911 Platform.

Just learned about a new wildcat cartridge. The 460 Rowland cartridge gives better than .44 magnum performance by switching the barrel, guide rod, and spring on a standard 1911 pistol. Felt recoil is similar to regular .45 Auto, but, due to the compensator, directly back instead of twisting up. The case, made by Starline, is 1/16" longer than a .45 Auto case, to prevent chambering it in a regular 1911. Can be reloaded with standard .45 Auto dies.

A $300 drop-in conversion kit is available from Clark Custom Guns

Press release: http://www.clarkcustomguns.com/460press.htm

Conversion kit order page with links to reloading data: http://www.clarkcustomguns.com/rowland.htm

Demo video: http://www.gunsandgears.tv/movie1.php?file=460_demo.flv

Guns and Gears Television promises a .460 Rowland carbine soon: http://www.gunsandgears.tv/

Photo below from This Real Guns article.

[End the War on Freedom]

I like the idea, but I'd be afraid to try it with my own M1911--I suspect that it might be a bit much for a ninety year old frame.

Large earthquake in Indonesia
Nov 16th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

M 7.8, Mina­hasa, Sulawe­si, Indone­sia. Novem­ber 16, 2008 17:02:34 GMT [USGS M>2.5 Earth­quakes]

Hope­ful­ly not too many peo­ple were hurt.

Article on sci-fi publisher Tor
Nov 13th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

New at Rea­son: Kather­ine Mangu-Ward on Sci­ence Fic­tion Pub­lish­er Tor Books.

From our Decem­ber issue, Asso­ciate Edi­tor Kather­ine Mangu-Ward offers a guid­ed tour of the anti-authoritarian uni­verse of Tor Books, the world’s most suc­cess­ful sci­ence fic­tion pub­lish­er.

Read all about it here. 

[Hit and Run]

Some par­tic­u­lar­ly good quotes from the arti­cle:

Sci­ence fic­tion nov­el­ist Cory Doc­torow, a self-described civil lib­er­tar­i­an whose Tor titles include the bril­liant­ly para­noid young adult nov­el Lit­tle Broth­er, sug­gests why sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers think so much about alter­na­tive worlds. “It’s com­plete­ly unsur­pris­ing that peo­ple who, you can imag­ine, aren’t at the top of the peck­ing order in high school would turn to sci­ence fic­tion,” says Doc­torow, who is also co-author of the wild­ly pop­u­lar geek blog Boing Boing. “The peo­ple who write it have often not been ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the author­i­tar­i­an sys­tem. They’re the peo­ple who don’t fit in exact­ly, and if you always rub up again­st social con­straints, you’re the kind of per­son who’s will­ing to sit down and have a good hard think about whether this is the best way to do things.”

And:

I sus­pect S.F. has an indi­vid­u­al­is­tic, anti­au­thor­i­tar­i­an trend to it not least because so many of the peo­ple who read and write it (not all by any means, but quite a few) are innerdi­rect­ed intro­verts who make nei­ther good lead­ers nor good fol­low­ers,” emails Har­ry Tur­tle­dove, a best-selling author whose most famous nov­els pose ques­tions about con­tin­gen­cy in his­to­ry and the impor­tance of indi­vid­u­al action. “Am I talk­ing about myself? Well, now that you men­tion it, yes. But I ain’t the only one, not even close.”

A warning from Canada
Nov 12th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

A voice from the grave's edge. Our Canada is now very close to a condition in which everything that is not compulsory is forbidden. We have become prisoners of the state. Like modern jail prisoners, all our needs for balanced diet, climate-controlled shelter, approved and tested medication, mental health counselling, higher education, suitable entertainment, grief counselling and consensual safe sex are available free. The inmate lacks only freedom itself.

When I was young, Canadians were born almost free; now we are born in manacles of silk and gold.
To the recent generations, this is hyperbole. I understand that. I also understand that young people cannot be expected to miss freedom. How can you miss what you never had? But a few of the old may remember and a few of the young might feel the tug of curiosity. I hope so. [The Vancouver Sun]

The author is a Canadian, and writing for a Canadian audience, but everything he says is just as true of the US. He even includes some examples from the US.

European hypocrisy
Nov 11th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Rwan­da expels Ger­man ambas­sador. Rose Kabuye, the director- gen­er­al of state pro­to­col in Rwan­da, was detained at Frank­furt air­port on Sun­day, a move that Paul Kagame, the Rwan­dan pres­i­dent, has called a “vio­la­tion of sov­er­eign­ty”.

Louise Mushiki­wabo, Rwanda’s infor­ma­tion min­is­ter, said: “The Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment told the Ger­man ambas­sador to leave with­in 48 hours until the arrest of Kabuye is resolved.

The ambas­sador should leave the coun­try by Thurs­day,” she said.

Kabuye was arrest­ed on an inter­na­tion­al war­rant issued by France in 2006 for her and eight oth­er asso­ciates of Kagame.

She is accused of involve­ment in the shoot­ing down of an aero­plane car­ry­ing Juve­nal Hab­ya­ri­mana, the Rwan­dan pres­i­dent, in 1994. His death was one of the sparks that ignit­ed a cam­paign of geno­cide in the cen­tral African nation, Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors have said. [Al Jazeera]

I note that Bush has been to both Ger­many and France with­out being arrest­ed, and there’s no ques­tion that he’s guilty of far worse crimes than what Ms. Kabuye is accused of. I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly approve of coun­tries impos­ing their own laws on for­eign­ers for things that hap­pened in for­eign coun­tries (a prac­tice the Evil Empire is fond of), but the dou­ble stan­dard here is even more offen­sive.

Woman suing police mysteriously shot
Nov 11th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Homi­cide Vic­tim Iden­ti­fied as Trans­gen­dered Per­son, Duan­na John­son. Accord­ing to detec­tives, when offi­cers arrived at the scene, they found the body lying in the street. Police say a wit­ness heard gun­fire and then saw three peo­ple run­ning away from the scene. Inves­ti­ga­tors do not have any sus­pects at this time. 

[…]

John­son was the sub­ject of an alleged video taped beat­ing that hap­pened in June of 2008. John­son, who had been arrest­ed on a pros­ti­tu­tion charge, said for­mer Mem­phis Police Offi­cer Bridges McRae beat her after mak­ing deroga­to­ry remarks about her sex­u­al­i­ty. John­son said anoth­er man, Offi­cer J. Swain, held her down dur­ing the beat­ing. Both offi­cers were fired from the depart­ment.

John­son was suing the city for $1.3 mil­lion.

Mem­phis Police are ask­ing any­one with infor­ma­tion about Duan­na Johnson’s death to call Crime Stop­pers at (901) 528-CASH. [ABC24 – CW30 Eye­wit­ness News]

Gee, I can think of some pret­ty obvi­ous sus­pects with 1.3 mil­lion motives right now, but some­how I doubt that the police will be too inter­est­ed in inves­ti­gat­ing. I sure hope that if any­one does have infor­ma­tion, they’re smart enough to go far from Mem­phis and then call the media and not the prime sus­pects.

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