Penn Station: Gone but not Forgotten

Monday, July 31st, 2006

The old Penn Station in New York was torn down before I was born. Looking at these pictures, that feels like a mistake. The current site is functional, but no more; really just some office towers and underground corridors of no particular interest or beauty. The new Madison Square Garden is an arena, but nothing more. The old Penn Station appears to have been much more beautiful. Whether it could have handled the traffic levels of the 21st century, I don’t know; but I can’t help thinking that we lost something special here. At least we still have Grand Central.

Personal for Elliotte Harold

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Some people use very obnoxious spam filters that require you to type some random string in your subject such as E37T to get through. Needless to say neither I nor most other people bother to communicate with these paranoids. They are grossly overreacting to the spam problem. Personally I won’t even click the links some people send out to verify that I’m a human (though I am sorely tempted to click those links when some worm starts forging my e-mail address and I get a bunch of bounce messages and spam verifications back.) However, I recently I noticed that I have an internal filter that may also be causing me to lose some legitimate personal mail.
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Amazon Author Blogs Now Have RSS Feeds

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

I was fiddling around with my Amazon blog today when I noticed a new link to an RSS feed. This URL now allows you to subscribe to my Amazon feed in your feed reader of choice:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/id/AYXOSXMBUAT1Y/rss.xml

At first glance, this appears to be a full-text feed. There are also Atom 0.3 feeds, though those feeds don’t seem to have anything the RSS feeds don’t. Amazon’s a little behind the curve here. In 2006, I’d suggest going straight to Atom 1.0 and skipping the whole RSS mess.

Here are the feeds for some other authors who blog on Amazon:
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Why Cars Should Stay Out Of Parks

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Car crushed by tree

Prospect Park, July 24, 2006

Why Law Enforcement Needs Probable Cause

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

This quote from today’s Washington Post explain really clearly why probable cause is necessary for competent, effective law enforcement:

Feeding the interrogation system was a major push by U.S. commanders to round up Iraqis. The key to actionable intelligence was seen by many as conducting huge sweeps to detain and question Iraqis. Sometimes units acted on tips, but sometimes they just detained all able-bodied males of combat age in areas known to be anti-American.

Senior U.S. intelligence officers in Iraq later estimated that about 85 percent of the tens of thousands rounded up were of no intelligence value. But as they were delivered to Abu Ghraib prison, they overwhelmed the system and often waited for weeks to be interrogated, during which time they could be recruited by hard-core insurgents, who weren’t isolated from the general prison population.

Bottom line: if you waste your time arresting the innocent, then you don’t find the truly guilty parties. Probable cause isn’t just about protecting the rights of the accused and innocent. It’s also a critical factor in making sure the guilty are caught.

Another Foot Down the Slippery Slope

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

Yesterday the U.S. Federal government arrested a British Internet gambling executive as he changed planes in Texas on his way to Costa Rica. I don’t know how the Dallas airport is laid out, but he may not even have tried to clear customs.

I can’t help but wonder how the U.S. government even knew he’d be on the plane. Might it have something to do with the U.S.’s insistence that any plane landing in the U.S. provide complete details on all passengers to the U.S. government? We were told this was necessary to prevent terrorists from entering U.S. soil. Why am I not surprised to find it instead being used to prosecute victimless crimes and enforce the Bush administration’s questionable morals? Perhaps the EU shouldn’t have been so fast to cave in to U.S. demands that violated their own laws.

Meanwhile, in a practical sense, to all my friends outside the U.S., I have to warn you to stay away. In particular, do not change planes in the United States, even if your eventual destination is elsewhere. This is not an isolated incident. The U.S. government is routinely pulling international travelers off of planes that land here and maltreating them.
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