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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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