Archive for November, 2008

The War on Photography: Still Going Strong

It’s been a while since I heard about a photographer being “detained” or otherwise “having their rights violated” for engaging in a little innocent photography, so it’s easy to suppose that conditions have improved from the hyper-paranoid days right after 9/11, when merely carrying a camera in public was enough to get you a 75% discount on a one-way flight to Guantanamo Bay.

Uncle Sam, however, apparently feels differently about this recent complacency towards photographers; Homeland Security recently issued a reminder, warning everyone that while “questionable photography is among the more frequently reported activities” and “suspicious activity reporting such as dubious photography provides valuable information for analysis and further investigation”, it seems that “only a small number of reported suspicious activities actually receive further investigation.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security, Urban Exploration | on November 25th, 2008 | 1 Comment »

PayPal Disputes: Effective, To a Point

Social conditioning is a funny thing; as (non-sociopathic) humans, we’re generally reluctant to engage in behaviour that in years past would have been called “being difficult”, and today would be called something involving lots of four-letter words. (“Being a copulating posterior orifice”, for instance.) The thing is, this reluctance doesn’t just come into play where such behaviour would be atypical – “going primate-feces” in a coffee shop, for instance – but also materializes as a reluctance to use tools provided for that very purpose – calling a customer-service line with a complaint, for example, or filing a “dispute” with a service like PayPal.

The problem is, while mechanisms like these exist to be used, and are often extremely effective at what they do, they still carry a degree of emotional baggage about them that produces irrationality in some.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on November 24th, 2008 | 4 Comments »

Friday FOIA Not-So-Much-Fun, Actually

Several months ago, I made a FOIA request for an unclassified technical reference manual to a military agency. This week, they denied the request in full, saying the entire document is exempt because its release could “allow circumvention of an agency rule, policy, or statute, thereby impeding the agency in the conduct of its mission” – in other words, exemption (b)(2) “high”. I think that’s cowpoop, but I can live with their denial, and will appeal, for what little good that’ll do me.

Denial-in-full is a fact of life where the FOIA is concerned, so there’s really nothing exceptional or even interesting there. Apparently, though, the DoD felt like spreading a little holiday cheer at the same time…
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on November 21st, 2008 | Comments Off on Friday FOIA Not-So-Much-Fun, Actually

Kwik Hits

Various bits of goodness, short-attention-span style:

Where the impending demise of Detroit’s auto industry fills many with fear and dread, others see hope and opportunity. Remember, technology is only primitive when you can afford something better…

Every military is jumping on the robot bandwagon, including the Israeli Defense Forces, who are building, um, robo-cats. (No, really.) Do androids dream of electronic sheep? Do robo-cats puke up microchips onto carpet in the middle of the night? If anybody knows, they aren’t talking.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: General | on November 20th, 2008 | Comments Off on Kwik Hits

Something Fishy About Somali Piracy

Lately, the ships of Combined Task Force 150 have been doing a seemingly lackluster job of curtailing piracy off the coast of Somalia. The news of an Indian warship destroying one pirate vessel and capturing another would at first seem to be an exception… but I can’t seem to find any evidence that the Indian vessel is actually attached to CTF 150; it appears to be part of an entirely independent, Indian deployment, similar to the much-discussed Russian warships, which are also acting alone and not as part of the task force.

To be fair, members of CTF 150 do have seemed to do the odd bit now and then – usually monitoring merchant vessels after they’ve been captured, alas. Yet, as the recent surge in piracy shows, their presence is having little meaningful effect on the problem, which raises the question “why?”.
Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: General, Security | on November 19th, 2008 | 3 Comments »