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filling the void

Friday, November 30, 2007

Waterboarding IS Torture

I was reading today about waterboarding. I don't know what triggered it, but an hour of fascinated wikipedia clicking later, and I knew enough to categorically declare waterboarding torture.
I also read that there are some reported and admitted cases of the US using waterboarding to interrogate prisoners in morden times (the last 5-10 years). I'm sure there are also a bunch of false reports, but the fact that there is even one substantiated and confirmed report makes me sick to my stomach.
While the concept of torture is an interesting one, from a scientific point of view, subjecting humans to anythin remotely close to what I have read about today is nothing short insane.
Victims will say anything to escape the torture. Sometimes interrogators are lucky and they go after someone who actually has something of value to disclose, but if it was me on that board, I'd admit to the whole holocaust if it meant that I didn't have to be tortured.
Some might call me wek minded, but torture is an attrocity, and anyone performing it should receive the harshest possibly punishment.
Totrure shoudl not be performed. In any way shape or form. There can be no exception here whatsoever. Even the Geneva Convention backs me up on this one.

The worst part is that there is no oversight. There is noone to monitor the monitors. Supposedly the police are to be the monitors. If you do anything wrong, they punish you. (police / legal system). This isn't the case though, because the military can do things the police can't, and they don't have to tell you about it. What's worse is that the intelligence agencies do even worse things, and it's not that they don't have to tell you about it, but peopel never find out.
Even if countries have strong willed leaders who are against these sort of things, intelligence organizations, such as the CIA for instance, do whatever they damn well please, and noone is the wiser.

The torture has to stop. Humans need to be treated like humans. Not even when they are proven guilty should human treatment be abandoned. There is never a reason for torture.
And even if there was, what if you've got the wrong guy? What if your assumptions are wrong? What if he doesn't know anything? There are so many "what if"s that any argument for torture can be swiftly dealt with by the massive amount of uncertainty surrounding the authorization of torture.

Governments publicly declare that they are against torture (most of them anyway), but when pressed on specific issues (like waterboarding), they squirm and shed responsibility by claiming that a specific interrogation technique isn't classified as torture.
Anything that more than basically a heated conversation with possibly some screaming should be considered torture. Inflicting pain or the threat of pain, both mental or physical, is torture. There are no two ways about it.

Some of you, undoubtably, would say that there are exceptions. Much like how banning certain forms of expression and thought might seem convenient, who determines where to draw the line?
A lot of people would love to ban nazi symbols and racist speech. Make it a punishable offense. This might seem, by most, as an aceptable thing to do, but who's to say that the next "bad" thing isn't being republican. Or muslim.
If we let governments get away with this sort of thing there is no going back. There is no revoking the privilege. History shows that privileges given to governments are never given back.

The problem, as with most things human, is that there is no easy solution to the problem of government. Humans are inherently power-hungry, and they will do all they can in a position of power to make it last longer, or get elevated into a position of more power. One could argue for direct democracy, that everyone votes on all the issues, but that's not feasible. Besides, most people don't care about most decisions anyway, nor are they informed enough to make a proper decision.

I realize that we are moving away from the central issue here, which is that torture is bad, but this issue arises due to the fact that there is very little the population can do about the behavior of the government. Fear is an excellent way of controlling a population, and most governments have mastered it and made it an art.

Don't believe everything you hear. Question everything. Make sure that you know the facts.
You should even question what I wrote here. Don't take my word for it, investigate!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Racing Rocks

I just found a link to a pretty cool phenomenon. Apparently there's this place out in the desert where huge heavy rocks move around and create snail trails with no apparent application of force.
People have never seen the rocks move, but they do move, and when they move, they leave big trails after them, indicating that they have been sliding around.
It all looks pretty cool, and the pictures look really nice.
Take a look here.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Skype Crypto Unbreakable by German Police

Slashdot is running this article today. It's about how the German police is having difficulty breaking the cryptography used by the popular voice communication software Skype.

Germany's top police officer, Joerg Ziercke, said. "The encryption with Skype telephone software ... creates grave difficulties for us... We can't decipher it. That's why we're talking about source telecommunication surveillance — that is, getting to the source before encryption or after it's been decrypted."
My first reaction to this was "so, any and all other forms of encryption are easily breakable to you then?". This is, hopefully, not true, but it was phrased in such a way.
There was an especially good comment, with a really good finisher, and it was this one by hanssprudel:

This is a good thing. Having to install monitoring at the source or destination means an operation that requires effort and, hopefully, a court order. This means that their is judicial oversight, and that to catch criminals police have to do, you know, police work rather than just sitting around spying on us.

Ubiquitous encryption does not make law enforcement impossible. It just makes indiscriminate law enforcement impossible.
The bold face is mine. (If hanssprudel doesn't like me reprinting this, he's welcome to talk to me about it, and I'll fix it).
I think it's a good thing that the police should have to earn their keep. Sure, the beat cops are out there getting shot at, and they earn their paycheck, but in the age of digital surveillance, it has become to easy for organizations (governmental or otherwise) with clandestine agendas to spy on what other people do.
Granted, it has become easier to hide what we do as well (we as in normal people, not clandestine organizations), but that doesn't mean that the intelligence community should get carte blanche for spying on us.
Regardless of what technology you use, there should be checks and balances in place to make sure that the rights of the individual are not being violated. We should not regulate technology. That is useless, because it changes faster than the laws do. We need to regulate what can be done to people rather than how.

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Stopping and Moving Light

I'm no physicist, but I'm enough of a scientist to think this is pretty cool.
A Harvard physicist named Lene Vestergaard Hau has been experimenting with Bose-Enstein Condensates (BECs for short), and found that when you hit them with lasers, you can get them to do pretty nifty things:

Her first trick was slowing a pulse of light to a crawl — 15 mph as it traveled through the BEC. Since then, Hau has completely frozen a pulse and then released it. And recently she shot a pulse into one BEC and stopped it — turning the BEC into a hologram, a sort of matter version of the pulse. Then she transferred that matter waveform into an entirely different BEC nearby — which emitted the original light pulse.
How cool is that!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Browser Wars

Another casualty.
I use Netscape 7.2 as my browser. It's great, it's fast, it's got a wonderful email client, and it uses an old gecko rendering engine (the same that was in firefox circa 2004) that does virtually anything you ask of it.
I say virtually, because one application (that I don't particularly like) has fallen off the wagon and now prohibits me from clicking buttons.
This application is facebook.com.
Whenever I go to respond to a message or accepting a friend request anything that involves any kind of submission, it just does not play ball. It doesn't give me an error message either, so I can't know it has actually failed. It just sits there as if the action I just took was lost somewhere between my mouse and my browser.
It used to work well up until a couple of weeks ago. Did my rendering engine deteriorate all of a sudden, or are the writers of facebook total asshats that will change a working solution to a non-working one without adding any other benefits?
I would have been more willing to accept it if they had some explanation like "as part of an upgrade, clicking a button will not dispense candy from your cd-rom drive, but as a result clicking buttons in Netscape 7.2 will not work".
I would have even settled for something less extravagant, but they have given me nothing, and yet taken a core feature away from me.
Now, I really hate to have an account on that glorified address book, but since "everybody is doing it", I figure I have to throw mine in with the rest.
At least until now.

From now on, please, those of you who read this. Don't contact me on facebook. I don't want to have to fire up another browser just to answer some message that could be sent to me via a plethora of other services (email being one).
People who don't have any other means of contacting me than via facebook, fine, you do that, but the rest of you. Please choose another proven means of communication where I don't have to suffer needlessly.
I would change browsers, if it wasn't for the fact that they all suck. I guess Opera is ok, but it still can't stand up to the awesome performance my Netscape 7.2.

Also, for hitherto unknown reasons, I get a "500 internal Server Error" when I try to use the blogger spell check.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Welcome to civilization

I just came across this little piece of news from Saudi Arabia.
According to CNN, some woman met with a guy, and as a result of her being at this meeting, 7 met converged on her and the guy and gang-raped them.
Why Saudi men would rape another man is unknown, but apparently, that's what happened.
Anyway, the gay rape is not what is at issue here. What we are talking about is the atrocious treatment this woman received from the government.
Her rapist got sentenced to between 10 months and 5 years in prison. I don't know how that stacks up to other international rape convictions, so I will not pass judgement.
The woman, however, the rape victim got, get this, 90 lashes as punishment for meeting with an unrelated male. Not only did she get raped by 7 dudes, but she's getting raped by the Saudi government as well.
As could be expected, she and her lawyer appealed both her sentence (and presumably ruling) and the sentences of the rapists.
The court increased the sentence to the rapists to 2 - 9 years.
What the court also did, and this is where I start getting nervous twitches, is that they sentenced the raped woman to 6 months in prison and 200 lashes!
What the fuck?!
Not only that, but they disbarred her lawyer in the process, so now she has no legal representation.
The reason for her increased sentence was apparently:
The judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media," according to a source quoted by Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.
So, not only do we do horrible things to women in general, but we stifle any and all forms of public outcry.
I've blogged about weird religious laws and getting lashes previously, but this is just ridiculous.
How the hell do they expect to be accepted as equals (and not just oil suppliers) in modern society when they pull shit like this in a regular basis?
It's supposed to be the cradle of civilization, but apparently someone got dropped on the head several times by some evil proverbial stepmother, and we end up with this.
Seriously people, it's time to get your shit together. It's stuff like this that makes me think that the atrocities that the US commits against both its citizens and the rest of the civilized world on a daily basis is nothing to be worried about.
I would never live in the US, but I would sure as hell never live in a country with laws like this.
This is one of the few cases where I can honestly say "go team America - world police!".
I don't care what you say about equality, but sentencing anyone, especially a 19 year old rape victim to 6 months in prison and 200 lashes warrants a serious carpet bombing.

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Frank Lloyd Wright

It should come as no surprised to the people I've spoken to about architecture that Frank Lloyd Wright is my favorite architect, hands down. The man is an absolute genius, and all his designs are masterpieces second to none.
Unfortunately, the man is dead. Died some 50 years ago (the man lived to be 91 years old. remarkable). This unfortunately means that I can't get him on the horn to design my house, but that hasn't stopped Joe Massaro. Massaro has revived some sketches that Fran Lloyd Wright did for a house on Petra island on Lake Mahopac. Joe purchased the island, where the previous owner had chosen to not go on with the building, and decided to put up the house anyway.
Apparently, the only thing available for the project was some pencil sketches that Wright had done for the house.
The result is an absolute beauty, much like all the other of Wright's works. You can clearly see the heritage in the square lines and how thing extend into the air with no support other than the one inherent in the structure. The house also incorporates features of the island it is built on, like pieces of rock coming out of the walls and the floor (picture 4 from the article).
Absolutely magnificent. Even though I am but an architecture dilettante, I know what I like, and I know that I like Frank Lloyd Wright.

Also, as you can see, I just found a wonderful new blog that I will be evaluating. Hopefully it will keep up what I've seen so far.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

People Killing People

It's interesting to note that googling for "people killing people for a reason" (without the quotes) only gives me hits with a little "no" inserted, as in "people killing people for no reason".
If I search for "people killing people for a reason" (with the quotes), however, the only hits I get are from a song by Infected Mushroom called "change the formality".
I don't know why this is, but I can only assume that it has something to do with the fact that there is no real reason to actually kill someone else...


Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I have a couple of jeans that I like. These jeans look great. I think so, others think so.
The fashionistas of the world have decided that in fall you wear darker colors and in spring you wear lighter colors. This makes sense from a cleaning things perspective, but what doesn't make sense is that they just up and stop selling all the other stuff just because the seasons change.
I like pale washed jeans. In fact I like all the colors I wear to be pale, but especially so with jeans.
Since no brick-and-mortar store sells my jeans anymore, I decided to go online and find them.
Shouldn't be too hard I though, and said and done, I found a handful of sites selling them.
After a good 30 minutes of trying to figure out what color was which, I had finally come to some unsure conclusion about which color best matched the ones I am currently wearing.
I go to the checkout stage, and on ALL the sites, the field where you're supposed to fill in "country" is either non-existent, or it is preset to "United Kingdom", and is unchangeable.

Wasn't one of the big things with the European Union that there was supposed to be free movement of goods and money? Why won't these ass-goblins sell me my precious jeans, just because I'm in a different country from them? Even play.com sells me stuff anywhere in Europe with free shipping, but not these fuckers.

I am truly and utterly disappointed. I believe I don't even want to visit a site with a .co.uk TLD.
To quote Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore: "I will not hurt or harm you. Just give me back the board, Lance. It was a good board - and I like it. You know how hard it is to find a board you like."

Apparently good boards aren't the only things that are hard to find...

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Spam Spam Sausage and Spam

In an average week, I probably get something like 4-5 spam messages. Sometimes more, often less.
Today, however, I log on to my webmail system and find, get this, 21 pages full of spam.
One page contains something like 30 messages, so that would make something like 600 spam messages. Delivered to me tonight.
This almost never happens, so I can only assume that something is going on. The thing is that it's 'delivery failure' messages, so my name isn't in the target list, but it seems to be in the list of senders. Granted, none of the emails actually use my email, they just use my domain.
I can, without a doubt, say that I've never received this much spam at any single moment in time before. It'll be interesting to read the news today and see if other people are experiencing something similar.

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Friday, November 02, 2007


Toshiba has finally created a TFT worthy of praise from me.
Previously the only somewhat acceptable fixed-resolution display was the Apple 30" cinema display (or the dell equivalent) with a whopping 2560 x 1600 resolution.
Now, since I'm sitting pretty on 2048x1536 on a lovely CRT, I would be stupid to spend €2000 on a cinema display, no matter how good it is. TFT just can't keep up with CRT when it comes to picture quality. The fact that they don't have variable resolution is another horrible thing that most likely will keep me from ever buying a TFT.
The display that Toshiba has created blows everything else out of the water. At an astonishing 3840x2400 pixels on a 22" screen, it is the display to beat.
Apple needs 30" to cram half of that amount of pixels onto the screen. Laughable!
Granted, the Toshiba is brand new. So new, in fact, that none of the news outlets have a picture of it yet. Not only that, but it'll set you back a hefty $17.500 (according to Engadget, $1800 according to Wired).
This is a 9 megapixel screen, for you photo nuts out there, so the days of scaling to fit stuff in are gone.
All in all an incredible machine. This is development going in the right direction for me. Maybe some day we will have affordable screens at this resolution. Until then, I'm sticking with my CRT.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Call the cops on your neighbor, get a cookie

Try as I might, I can't keep myself from posting delicious nuggets from Bruce Schneier's blog. If your not reading it every day you should be ashamed of yourselves.
This current one is about the war on the unexpected. How citizens are encouraged to report everything that they see that doesn't seem right to them.
In this day and age, that basically means everything.
You really need to read this article. It is very insightful, and it gives further proof that society as we know it is going to hell. The terrorists have won. Shit, they don't even need to kill another person ever. We are already terrorized by our petty fear. Terrorists don't need to blow up planes to shut down airports. Just call in an anonymous tip, and you'll terrorize the travellers and authorities for hours or even days.
This has got to stop!
People, refuse to be terrorized! Refuse to believe that everything outside your own kitchen is out to hurt you. The world isn't as bad a place as people make it out to be.
Sure, people are assholes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are out to destroy civilization as we know it.
A bright example of this fear mongering (that was also linked from Bruce's article) is this campaign that you're supposed to call the cops whenever you see a parent holding a child's hand. Does holding your child's hand automatically mean that you're sexually abusing it? I'm going to go for "no" on that question, but if the societal tendencies today are to be believed, the answer to that question is "yes".
I used to think that people's stupidity was what would bring about the downfall of society, but I was wrong. It's people's unfounded fear that will ultimately cause the world to collapse.

Maybe if people weren't so dumb, they wouldn't believe in all this crap that the media machine churns out.

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