At least the British still give lip service to the rule of law
Mar 27th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Britain responds to the “rule of law” nuisance.

Britain responds to the “rule of law” nuisance: Via Salon: Glenn Greenwald.

(updated below – Update II)

One of the problems for the U.S. Government in releasing Guantanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treatment to which they were subjected.  When the Bush administration agreed to release Australian David Hicks after almost 6 years in captivity, they did so only on the condition that he first sign a documenting stating that he was not abused and that he also agree — as The Australian put it — to an “extraordinary 12-month gag order that prevent[ed] Hicks from speaking publicly about the actions to which he has pleaded guilty or the circumstances surrounding his capture, interrogation and detention,” a gag order which “also silence[d] family members and any third party.”

Last month, in response to increasing pressure in Britain over reports of British resident Binyam Mohamed’s deterioration in Guantanamo, the Obama administration released him back to Britain.  Ever since, he has been detailing the often brutal torture to which he was subjected over several years, torture in which British intelligence officials appear to have been, at the very least, complicit.   read more »

[Privacy Digest: Privacy News (Civil Rights, Encryption, Free Speech, Cryptography)]

Hopefully the British investigation will be allowed to proceed. Unfortunately I suspect it’s more likely that either the Evil Empire will order them to drop the matter or else they’ll follow the example of cops and find themselves innocent of any wrongdoing.

Freeman Dyson and ecofreaks
Mar 25th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

The Civil Heretic [The New York Times]

A lengthy and well-written article on Freeman Dyson and his disbelief in the “global warming” religion.

Occasionally I see job listing…
Mar 12th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Occasionally I see job listings saying “high stress job supporting three different projects” and I think “Wow, sounds like a vacation.”

Truth in advertising
Mar 11th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Seen on the menu in an LA restaurant: “Nano Burger.” When your $13 gets you a burger the size of a quarter, at least they can say they warned you…

Kindle 2 Review
Mar 6th, 2009 by Ken Hagler

Last week I got a Kindle 2 from Amazon. Here are my impressions so far.

Physically, the Kindle 2 looks like an oversized iPod. The screen is noticeably better than any other computer screen I’ve seen. The contrast is a bit less than a printed book, but unless you’re reading in very low light this won’t be a problem (and reading in such low light wouldn’t be very comfortable with a book either). I’ve found that I can read the Kindle screen all day without getting the headache I would from a computer’s LCD monitor. The interface is simple and well-suited to its rather minimal job of keeping out of the user’s way while he reads.

The device is a bit wider than a paperback book, but still narrow enough to fit in the cargo pockets of my fatigues and the large inside pockets of my photographer’s vest. For people with less practical wardrobes, it would probably be necessary to carry it in a briefcase or purse. Although it doesn’t come with a cover, it would be unwise not to buy one. The official Amazon cover works well, holding the Kindle with two flat metal hooks and protecting the screen with thick cardboard covered by soft cloth on the inside and (allegedly) leather on the outside.

Amazon claims that the battery life is four days with wireless on. I’m sure that’s true somewhere, but it’s not good for four days on any planet I’ve heard of–I’d say it lasts for about twelve hours of use. Battery life is greatly extended by turning off wireless. Since the wireless feature is basically a cell-phone transceiver, it’s a good idea to leave it off almost all the time anyway, unless you like the government tracking your every move.

Besides the “Amazon Kindle” format, the Kindle 2 can read Mobipocket and plain text files without any conversion. The Mobipocket format seems to be fairly common among ebook sellers other than Amazon. Books from sources other than Amazon can be loaded via the included USB cable, or emailed and then delivered (for a ten cent charge) over the wireless connection.

I’m less impressed with Amazon’s pricing of Kindle books. They seem to consider $9.99 the “standard” price for Kindle books, with some going for more and older books going for less. It seems fairly ridiculous to charge more than a paperback for something with no manufacturing or distribution costs. The selection also has some rather large holes in it–nothing by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Forester, for example.

That’s not to say that Amazon’s Kindle store is entirely worthless. They do have some books old enough to be out of copyright for free, such as The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. There are also periodic promotions where they sell books for significantly reduced prices or even give them away for free for a short time.

Fortunately, I never intended to rely on Amazon’s Kindle bookstore for my reading material. For years now, most of my fiction reading has come from publishers who sell ebooks for considerably more reasonable prices, such as Baen Books, and from entirely free fiction published only on the Internet, such as the (many, many) works of Eyrie Productions. Now I can read those books anywhere, without being dependent on a laptop (and without the headache).

Overall, I’d say the Kindle is an excellent choice for anyone who already reads extensively from online sources, or who travels often and currently carries heavy stacks of novels with them. For anyone else, though, it’s probably not worth paying the inflated prices.

A strange sort of vulture
Mar 2nd, 2009 by Ken Hagler

People wait for a chance to sneak into apartment buildings.

People wait for a chance to sneak into apartment buildings.

Lately I’ve been seeing groups of people like this lurking like vultures outside apartment buildings in Koreatown. They wait for someone to enter or leave a building, and then one of them pounces on the door, holding it open so that the entire group can enter.

I’m not certain what their goals are, but the somewhat bizarre yet similar nature of their clothing and the printed materials they carry rather strongly suggest that they are a bunch of religious fanatics looking to harangue residents.

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