Monday, April 30, 2007

Well, so much for the "moving" thingy

After Crazy Anti-Cat Lady's house, there's nothing on the market for a decent price. So guess I'll just fork over the $150 rent increase. Woe is me, except...

My boss called me in to his office with a look of concern on his face. I go "uh-oh." Well, sort of. Bottom line -- I'm not fired. In fact, I'm not only not fired, but I'm being given a significant pay increase and significant new responsibilities. Which means less blogging on my part, but (shrug). Anyhow, bottom line is that a) I'm not going to have time to do any moving, and b) money isn't any reason to move anymore. So tomorrow I'll go over to the office and sign a new lease and get my concessions for early lease renewal (a $100 Safeway gift certificate, a "free" storage locker or storage room, and a "free" carpet shampoo).

In other news, my recorder practice is coming along. I still have problem holding the low C, and I can't move up the whistle to the higher octave past a certain point without squeaking between octaves, but I'm starting to get a bit of breath control. I ordered several penny whistles today (different brands, they're so cheap there's no reason not to just go ahead and get a collection), I suspect my breath control practice on the recorder will translate well to the penny whistle. I also have a bunch of penny whistle tutorial material and song material transcribed for the penny whistle on the way. I just don't like the sound of my recorder. It sounds... plastic. Which it is. It's a Yamaha that has good reviews in a number of places, but I guess reviewers of recorders don't have very high standards. Or maybe I just don't play the right kind of music for this sound. Who knows. Anyhow, more whistles on the way, so one of them is certain to have the kind of sound I'm looking for...

- Badtux the Subdued Penguin

The myth of the noble savage

One of the more interesting myths to seep into American culture is the myth of the noble savage. In this myth, Native Americans prior to the coming of white people were noble and dignified and lived in harmony with nature. James Finimore Cooper was an early propagator of this myth, and throughout the 19th century it alternated with the myth of the Native American as bloodthirsty savage until finally, after the last Indian was moved to a reservation, it became the predominant myth regarding Native Americans.

Over the past 40 years the Greenies in the environmental movement siezed upon this myth and used it as an anti-technology screed. See, they say. It isn't necessary to have all these nasty dirty machines, you can live a noble life just fine in harmony with nature.

The only problem is: It simply isn't true.

"Native Americans lived in harmony with nature"... bah. What a bunch of drivel. Native Americans drove the proto-horse and mammoths of the Americas into extinction. Using only stone adzes and pottery bowls Native Americans turned the Rio Salado valley into a salt-ridden desert that took hundreds years to recover to the point where agriculture was possible again (the Hohokum culture disintegrated once no longer able to raise enough food for survival). The Anastazi did much the same over in New Mexico. Native American cultures were continually at war against each other, to the point where, when they had a common enemy, they refused to unite and drive said common enemy into the sea, indeed the only way that Spanish could defeat the Aztecs with the few thousand men at their disposal was by enlisting the neighboring tribes to go to war with the Aztecs at the same time. As for technology, the Native Americans eagerly embraced as much technology as they were capable of absorbing given their lack of education, rapidly adopting the horse and stirrup to the point where when American settlers encountered the Plains Indians they assumed that the Plains Indians had always been nomadic tribesmen (they had previously been sedentary agriculturalists), embracing whiskey and wool blankets to the point where they were used to destroy Native American cultures by giving them smallpox-infected blankets and all the whiskey they could drink, and Native Americans could never get enough guns.

All in all, the only difference between the Native Americans and us is that they didn't have a Scientific Revolution. If they'd had the capability, they would have despoiled the Earth just as much as we're doing. If you really believe that nonsense about Native Americans being such "stewards" of the Earth, I suggest you go to any Native American reservation. There's enough trash and junk lying around to make that stereotypical TV Indian cry. The backside of the Hopi mesas has centuries of trash just piled up where they just shove their trash off the edge of the mesa. The Navaho stripped all the grass covering off their reservation by running so many sheep that they turned high plains grassland into utter desolate desert. Some of this is just poverty, of course -- impoverished people generally aren't concerned about making their homes look nice, they're concerned about survival. But the same was true 500 years ago before the "White Man" came on the scene too.

Too many people have bought too much Greenie propaganda. The fact of the matter is that technological civilization is the only civilization, ever, in human history, that has ever given even one thought to ecology and preservation. Technological civilization is the only civilization, ever, in human history, that has ever had any understanding of the impact of human behavior upon the planet, or the luxury in terms of economic resources to actually start reducing some of those impacts. And furthermore, technological civilization is the only civilization, ever, in human history, that has ever made any attempts to restore that which human behavior has despoiled.

The only way we could go back to living the way the pre-contact Native Americans lived would be to kill off 99% of the world's population, none of whom would go lightly and all of whom would swiftly destroy all the trees and topsoil on their way down (see: Haiti). We'd also kill off all technology at the same time, and it'd never come back -- there simply are no longer the easily-exploitable resources that allowed the Industrial Revolution. We'd live as ignorant tribesmen with no knowledge of anything other than what's immediately necessary for survival in our short, nasty, and brutish lives -- forever. No more art. No more science. No more literature. All of that requires resources and leisure time which would no longer exist. All there would be would be survival. Just survival. Forever.

- Badtux the Socio-Technology Penguin

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blackthorn Stick/Swallowtail Jig/Swallowtail Reel

Interesting pennywhistle playing. I think the young kid's percussion instrument might be a bit hard to carry to a gig tho... yes, that is a leather sofa and sofa cushion that he's beating on.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Pizza comparison: Frozen vs. Little Caesar's

As you know, I did a long frozen pizza bake-off. I found that the best frozen pizzas were actually quite tasty, not at all like the stale lardy pizza-like manhole covers of yore. The average price of the frozen pizzas that I tested was approximately $5.50 apiece, so we aren't talking about 50 cent Totino's pizzas, but we're still talking cheaper than the typical $11-$15 pizzaria pizza.

Recently, however, a pizza chain called "Little Caesars" opened up a shop near where my iceberg is currently docked, and advertised a $5 "Hot and Ready" pepperoni pizza. If you go there between 5PM and 8PM, they also advertise a $6 "Hot and Ready" thick-crust pepperoni pizza. So how does this "Hot and Ready" pizza compare to the best frozen pizzas?

Well... badly.

Crust: This is actually the best part of the Little Caesar's $5 pizza. It tastes like fresh bread, exactly like pizza crust is supposed to taste. The crust on the $6 pizza, on the other hand, tastes more like grease. The crust on the $6 pizza is utterly inedible.

Sauce: Too little, and somewhat watery, without the tang of the best sauce (the tangy sauce used on the Schwan's Freschetta and Red Baron brands). The lack of sauce is especially pronounced on the $6 pizza, where the taste of greasy crust is all you can taste.

Cheese: Too little, and little flavor. Nowhere near as good as the rich flavorful cheese flavor on the Kraft pizzas (Digiorno and Tombstone). Maybe as good as on the Red Baron pizzas (Schwan's doesn't do cheese as well as Kraft does, hmm, go figure). But if so, only barely.

Pepperoni: You get maybe two pepperonis per slice. All of the best frozen pizzas had more pepperoni.

All in all, my rating is: $5 hand-tossed: Edible. Barely. And only because of the nice bready crust. $6 thick-crust: Inedible. Utterly inedible.

The one and only reason to buy one of these pizzas is if you're in a hurry and not willing to wait the 14 to 24 minutes needed to bake a good-quality frozen pizza. Otherwise, if you are wanting a thick-crust pizza buy a DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni (NOT the "garlic bread" crust one though, that one is nasty) or the Freschetta Naturally Rising Crust Pepperoni. If you are wanting a thin-crust pizza, get the Freschetta Brick Oven Pepperoni or the Red Baron Ultimate Pepperoni Thin Crust pizzas. All of those frozen pizzas are far, far, far superior to the Little Caesar's pizzas. Indeed, they are so yummy that just writing about them I'm *almost* hungry for a pizza, despite being somewhat pizza'ed out after eating pizza for 10 days over the course of two weeks. But I shall resist, because 10 days of pizza also equalled 5 pounds of weight gain. Ah well, the sacrifices that a penguin must make for science's sake...

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

Inaction sequence

So I moved a box from behind my closet door to the kitchen counter, in preparation for hauling it to storage tomorrow morning (it's full of little boxes and old electronics junk, all of which should be thrown away but I might need one of the little boxes). I glance over there, and The Mighty Fang is on top of it, investigating. It isn't an open box, but it's a box, thus must be investigated.

I went and grabbed my camera and shot an action sequence. But really, it's more of an inaction sequence. He sniffs the left side. He sniffs the right side. He looks at the crazy penguin flashing a camera at him. He pokes his paw down the middle. He tires of that and curls up on top of the box and falls asleep. A few minutes later he jumps down and goes and eats.

BORE-ing! So of course Sunday morning I'm going to upload the full inaction sequence just to chew up all your bandwidth.

-- Badtux the Abusive Penguin

Saturday, April 28, 2007

At least it wasn't a dead girl or a live boy...

As the Bush administration's so-called "AIDS czar," Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias was criticized by some for emphasizing faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS.

In a 2004 interview, Tobias explained his approach as "A and B and C. . . Abstinence works. 'Be faithful' works. Condoms work. They all have a role. But it's not a multiple choice, where there is only one answer."

Friday, Tobias resigned. Guess why. Oooh, a madam calls him as a witness in her prostitution trial! No sex, huh? This sounds a lot like someone who didn't inhale. I wonder if he was wearing a condom when he was doing this not-having-sex thingy?

Republicans. They talk all the time about how important it is to keep your dick in your pants, all the time that they're porking half the neighborhood and their neighbor's pets too. Then they whine and bend their knee and claim they're "saved". Bah humbug. People who make a big production of being "saved" are generally just goddamned liars. Real Christians know that salvation is what you do, not what you say. Or as the sayin' in Texas goes, if you're all hat, no cattle, don't bother calling yourself a real Texan. You're just a goddamned Connecticut Yankee pretending to be a Texan.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
From Andrew Sullivan via Balloon Juice

On the other hand, do I really want to move?

Okay, so it's an apartment. So I got an "affordable housing" lady living downstairs who watches a brood of screaming kids all day (1 bedroom apartment BTW), has toys and cardboard boxes and old junky indoor furniture piled up in her patio like some redneck house with a sofa on the porch, and the kids are little ruffians who keep jumping over the patio fence and tearing a path through the landscaping outside the patio (BTW the junk on the patio is completely against the rules, and she's going to be gone in a few months because of that, but that's how long it takes to evict an "affordable housing" resident, sigh... unfortunately to get a building permit in this town you have to dedicate a certain number of apartments to "affordable housing" voucher people or you don't get a permit). The duo next door would get a '10' in the Bedsprings Olympics, if you know what I mean, complete with OOOH AHHH OOOOOOOH sound effects and the occasional SCREEE! of joy.

But at least the guy with a Dance Dance Revolution upstairs moved away. And while the garage is small and isn't connected to my apartment, at least it's a garage and big enough for my motorcycle or even my Jeep. And if it's expensive... well, this morning I went to the office and explained that the spray wand on my kitchen faucet wasn't working right and sometimes my kitchen faucet itself stopped working. A few minutes ago I got a call from the maintenance office, saying that they knew what was wrong, and that they were going to replace my kitchen faucet next week, they would get the faucet Monday and replace it Tuesday, because it wasn't worth the trouble of changing out the cartridge when half the time it would just tear right back up within a few weeks anyhow. So they would just change the whole thing out.

No begging on my part. No hassles. No incompetent coming up to my apartment and going "doh, I don't know what's wrong." Just service. And that's how it's always been, whenever I had a maintenance problem here. Crap, do you know just how rare that is?!

-- Badtux the Iceberg-dock-pondering Penguin

If only I was 30 years younger...

I would want this girl to have my babies. A 16 year old girl running down three thieves who'd stolen a purse and a laptop computer while wearing a tiara, prom dress, and combat boots? Only in San Francisco!

And BTW, I watched the interview on the TV news. Erin Schrode is a tall skinny kid who does not give off a lesbian vibe, more of a Lola Granola vibe if you remember your Bloom County. Not that this penguin really cares.

I wonder if she's related to the small teenage girl who recently ran a race as fast as niCK (who is an experienced long distance runner) -- barefoot, without breaking a sweat. Hmm, no, wrong geographic location (Montgomery AL vs. Marin CA). Still, makes you wonder what they're putting in girls' water nowdays heh!

-- Badtux the Elderly Pervert Penguin

Furry alarm clocks

So something wakes me up about 7:10AM. F***, it's a g**d*** Saturday, I flip the alarm to wake me up at 8:30AM and roll over and try to go to sleep. Vaguely I hear the thunder of little cat feet. Cats chasing each other again doing their morning exercises, I suppose...


Huh? What was that?! I try to roll back over and go to sleep, but then I hear... CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK ...

Oh f***. Fur-bearin' varmints have knocked the floor fan over. I groan and get out of bed and yeppers, the throw rug that was under it is in a pile, my desk chair that was next to it is several feet away where it got flung probably by kitties jumping onto it then off of it at high rates of speed, and the fan is on its face under my computer desk. So I pick it up and go searching for the culprit... "It wasn't me! I was busy drinking from the toilet! And if I did do it, I was drunk!". Uh. Ohhhkay... "Not me! I was busy, uhm, oh yeah, playing the guitar!"

Gah. You're not supposed to be playing my guitar either, silly kitty!

Oh well. I'm awake. Even though that's a tragedy at 7:30AM on a Saturday morning. Frickin' furry alarm clocks!

-- Badtux the Wide-awake Penguin

Friday, April 27, 2007

The best place for a child is in a prison cell

I must heartily applaud the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency for their application of the principle "spare the rod and spoil the child". These pesky children today are simply spoiled and soft. They need to be placed in prisons or shut up in airless rooms and taught their proper place as a citizen of Soviet America, i.e., subjects. Liberty and freedom must be earned, they are not birthrights granted unto us by our Creator, regardless of what some idiot lefties might have written on their web sites (I mean, sheesh, what do men with gay pussy-wimp names like "Thomas Jefferson" and "John Adams" and "Benjamin Franklin" know about liberty and freedom anyhow? Dirty unwashed hippies, all of them!).

I most especially applaud the Imigration and Customs Enforcement Agency for refusing to call in the local Child Protective Services to care for children for whom a guardian is not available. When I was in the school system we were directed that if an unattended child was in our custody for two hours after the end of the school day and no parent or guardian were located, we should contact Child Protective Services to take temporary custody of the child until such time as a parent or guardian were located. But the Imigration and Customs Enforcement Agency wisely regards that as just some sissy state law. They are the Department of Homeland Security. They can do whatever they want to, because, like, they're the Federal governent and, like, they got the goddamn ATOMIC BOMB, kapiche? And if you don't like it, you can sleep with the fishes with concrete goulashes! (Or occupy a clean cell at Gitmo as an enemy combatant, whatever). That child needed to be in a cell. It was for his own good.

Yes, I feel safer knowing that ICEA is protecting me from these horrible children, most of whom are even, like, brown (SHUDDER!). If ICEA does not imprison children, why, why... those hideous little brats might sneak into our bedrooms at night and KILL US ALL! Horror!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Penny whistles and iceberg docks

Hmm, after Minstrel Boy recommended the penny whistle ("tin whistle", "Irish whistle"), I find that Wikibooks has the beginnings of a book on the subject and there's entire web sites devoted to the instrument. There are literally dozens of penny whistles available for cheap from $3 and up from lots of places.

Reading various reviews on various sites it looks like lots of people like the Clarke's Meg whistle for beginners because a) it's cheap ($3?!), b) it's easy to play, c) it sounds quite, well, Irish. For an even more Irish sound some folks seem to like the Feadog (available for under $10), but apparently it is somewhat harder to play for a beginner. Crap, I'll spend $3 for a whistle and five times that for instructional materials just to have another musical instrument around the place (it's not as if I have any shortage of the things anyhow, though of course Minstrel Boy's guitar collection is probably bigger than my whole instrument collection, but then I think he has a room of his house for his guitars :-).

Anyhow, just wish to thank Minstrel Boy for introducing me to the penny whistle. I suspect I shall be practicing Gaelic airs in California canyons shortly :-).

Regarding an apartment or house to dock my iceberg, I may just re-sign to the current dock. Yeah, they're raising the rent by $135 per month. But looking around at the local market, it looks like this isn't much above market rate, other than the crazy anti-cat-lady-who-advertised-cats everybody else seems to be advertising about $100 per month less than the new rate, which doesn't make it worthwhile to move. Plus I note that I get a "free rentable storage unit" if I renew before May 19. Hmm. I need to see exactly what that means. Maybe a place to store these new musical instruments...

-- Badtux the Homeless Musical Penguin

Death notices

This is about three people who died this week. Two people's death made it into the news. One person's death was noted only by members of a particular community of geeks and nerds.

David Halberstam wrote the book The Best and the Brightest about the lies that got America into the Vietnam War. JFK's brain trust, certain that they knew better than the American people what the best interests of America were, decided to lie to the American people rather than tell the truth. Because if they told the truth, then the American people would not support going to war in Vietnam. The result was that once the lies were uncovered, American support for the war collapsed and Americans never believed their leaders again when it came to Vietnam, even when their leaders were right. A similar book could be written about the lies that resulted in America going to war in Iraq, except the title of that book would probably be The Dumb and the Dumber, where solid "C" students and graduates of two-bit Bible colleges decided that telling America the truth would not result in America supporting war against Iraq. David Halberstam was killed in an auto accident in Palo Alto this week while being driven to the airport after a seminar on his work. He was 73 years old.

Jack Valenti was the long-time head of the Motion Picture Assocation of America. He is most famous for three things -- abolishing the Hays code and thus allowing movies with high levels of sex and violence to appear on-screen if rated accordingly, suing Sony for creating the VCR saying that the VCR was "to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone" and would destroy the movie industry, and suing a small magazine for daring publish vulnerabilities in the encryption scheme used for DVD's saying that if DVD's could be copied it would destroy the movie industry. It's not really clear if Valenti was ever right about anything but he was an influential lobbyist who often appeared on Capital Hill to make outrageous statements like the Boston strangler one in support of whatever agenda the big movie studios wished him to support. He died of a stroke yesterday. He was 85 years old.

Fred Fish is the guy whose death didn't make the news, I learned about it from one of Fred's former business partners. Fred was an engineer at Motorola in Phoenix in the mid 1980's working on compiler technology for their new microprocessors when a new computer called the "Amiga" came out. Fred started collecting public domain and freeware for the Amiga and distributing it as floppy disks and floppy disk images via the UUCP network (a predecessor of the modern Internet) and via mail, the "Fish Disks". He also wrote a backup program for the Amiga called "BRU", which is still being sold for Unix systems today though he sold all rights to it long ago. Fred did a lot of work for Cygnus Consulting on the GNU "C" compiler and debugger in the early days when they were porting Richard Stallman's original VAX-oriented GNU "C" compiler to other architectures, and was often paid with Cygnus stock, eventually holding a significant number of shares. When Red Hat bought Cygnus, Fred got a bunch of money out of it, paid off the house, bought a big boat, and lived his dream of cruising around the world. Fred and his wife had just moved to Idaho when Fred died.

I worked with Fred's son when I lived in Phoenix, and met Fred a couple of times. Fred was one of those fireplug-built guys who was almost as wide as tall, built sort of like a short football lineman. I didn't really interact with him except to say hello and thanks for all the Fish Disks, but from all accounts he was a nice guy. I guess all I can say is goodbye and thanks for all the fish. Fred was 54 years old.

- Badtux the Life and Death Penguin

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trying to master a new instrument

The recorder. No, no, not the tape recorder. The musical instrument.

C'mon, how hard can it be, the 4th grade kids at the last elementary school that I taught at mastered it, right? Piece of cake!

Except I can't seem to make the stupid thing behave. It wants to SQUAWK and squeak and squeal. Sometimes I can get the right sound out of it. Other times it sounds like fingernails scratching down a chalk board.

Sigh. Back to harmonica. At least with the harmonica the only way to make it sound bad is to clog it with your spit...

-- Badtux the not-woodwind-playin' Penguin

Grrr crazy landlady...

Well, the house rental fell through. Turns out the landlady is nuts. First she tried to insert an illegal clause into the lease regarding non-refundable fees because she didn't like cats yet advertised she accepted cats. Then she refused to put any kind of reasonable early termination clause in the lease, which was not acceptable to me because I've had to exercise such a clause twice in the past twenty years, once for the move from Houston TX to Lafayette LA, and once for the move from Wilmington NC to Phoenix AZ.

So this penguin is once more looking for a new dock for his iceberg somewhere in the South San Francisco Bay area (South Bay or Peninsula only, thank you!).

-- Badtux the Dock-less Penguin

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Dolchstosslegende, Vietnam, and Iraq

The word Dolchstosslegende in German roughly translates to "stab-in-the-back myth". This originated amongst the right-wing generals and aristocrats of Germany in the years after WWI to explain their loss of the war. As they were fond of pointing out, at the time the Armistice was signed, Russia had been defeated and there were still German soldiers on French and Dutch soil. It was the leftists -- the Communists, the socialists, the labor unionists, etc. -- who literally "stabbed the nation in the back" and signed the humiliating Treaty of Versailles and lost the war for Germany.

When the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, shortly followed by Pol Pot's final takeover of Cambodia, the same basic dynamic came into play. We were winning when we left, the right wingers said. It wasn't the Communists who defeated us in Indochina. It was the leftists -- the socialists, the labor unionists, dirty unwashed hippies, radical peace and civil rights movements, etc. -- who literally stabbed the U.S. war effort in the back and made victory impossible. It wasn't Communist bullets that placed those 58,195 names on the Wall. It was Jane Fonda.

The same dynamic is currently in play in Iraq. When we inevitably leave in Iraq, it will not be because our soldiers found themselves in a situation where they were too few in number and not properly trained and equipped. It will not be because we have no definition of "victory" that makes any sense given the culture and history of the region. No. It will be because "the left" has stabbed the U.S. war effort in the back and made victory impossible.

One thing I would warn you about, however, is making a direct comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. In Vietnam, the South Vietnamese government that we supported had a clear external enemy, i.e., the government of North Vietnam, which in turn was supported by a clear existential threat to the United States, i.e., the Soviet Union. There were clear and achievable goals stated, including the overriding strategic goal of a non-Communist government in South Vietnam capable of maintaining its territorial integrity, a strategic goal that the majority of the American people supported even after support for U.S. troops in Vietnam collapsed, a goal the public supported until 1974 when the majority of Americans decided that the costs of maintaining such a government in South Vietnam outweighed the benefits to America.

By contrast, in Iraq there has not been a clear attainable strategic goal stated -- the stated goal of "a pro-American democratic government in Iraq" is as achievable as human flight via flapping of arms. Might as well wish for a pony. Furthermore, there is no external enemy in Iraq. We are fighting the Iraqi people, not an external threat to the Iraqi people. Worse yet, we are fighting factions of the Iraqi people, factions that support us, factions that oppose us... and factions that support us one day and attack us the next day (and vice versa) as required to attain their factional goals. We are basically sitting in the middle of the Lebanese Civil War writ large, except even bigger and with more factions making it even harder to keep track of who is your friend and who is your enemy on any particular day. When Ronald Reagan got us into that situation in 1984, it took only a few months and one barracks bombing to convince him that these people were effin' nuts and then he got the Marines out of there. Even Ronald Reagan wasn't dumb enough to pop us into the middle of an Arab civil war and expect miracles to happen.

Furthermore, there is just enough of a factual kernel to the Dolchstosslegende regarding the Vietnam War to render it not entirely ridiculous: Congress cut off military assistance to the South Vietnamese government just as the North Vietnamese were preparing a massive military invasion with hundreds of tanks and hundreds of thousands of troops. But this merely hastened the end. The end would have happened eventually anyhow, sooner or later. North Vietnam was larger than South Vietnam and would always win a war of attrition. . It is possible for a small highly educated state with a competent military leadership class and a committed populance to hold off larger states lacking said competent military leadership and committed populance, Israel has done it since 1948, but South Vietnam never had many highly-educated people and its top military leadership was incompetent and corrupt politicians appointed by the civilian government rather than being professional highly-trained military men who rose through the ranks by merit. Furthermore, South Vietnam's population as a whole was not heavily committed to the notion of fighting off North Vietnamese aggression. When I read the accounts of South Vietnamese who later fled after the war as refugees (as vs. those who left before the final collapse), one thing that strikes me about all of these accounts is their passivity. In no cases did they ever think of taking up arms themselves and going and helping fight off the North Vietnamese. No. They simply sat around their drugstore or beauty parlor or whatever business they ran and waited for the North Vietnamese to take over, "just another government, no better or worse than any other", they thought. They found out differently, but only after being sent to "re-education" camps for the crime of being a shopkeeper or beauty parlor operator or whatever.

The only way to save South Vietnam, given the qualitative equivalence of its armed forces with those of the North Vietnamese and its smaller population base, was to either a) provide U.S. troops or b) take out its external enemy -- North Vietnam -- and doing that would have risked WWIII. Re-fighting the Vietnam War is like re-fighting the American Civil War -- in the end, the North always wins unless some foreign power sends troops to help the South. And the American people, in the end, decided that the overall strategic goal of deterring Communism in Southeast Asia simply did not provide benefits to America that would justify the cost of sending troops to help the South.

Meanwhile, nobody has even defined victory (or defeat, for that matter) in Iraq. If you define "victory" as "no armed resistance to U.S. rule of Iraq", that's attainable, but we're not acting like that's our goal. Defeat of the insurgency via conventional military means is not possible given our military's abysmal lack of knowledge of the culture and language, a lack of knowledge that is far more dire than anything that ever confronted us in Vietnam where at least we had a reliable anti-Communist satrap class to handle the hard work. We could defeat the insurgency the same way the Brits defeated the Boers in South Africa or the same way we defeated the Filiponos in the Filipino-American War where we "liberated" them from their own rule, but concentration camps (a central aspect of those anti-insurgency campaigns) got sort of a bad rap after Hitler's abuse of them during WWII. And while we've tried to Chechnya a few places (Fallujah is a pile of rubble much like Grozney now), we just don't seem cut out for that genocide bit. We could withdraw like in Vietnam and simply send massive amounts of military assistance to the government but the "government" in Iraq isn't even as capable as Thieu's shaky military junta in South Vietnam was, not even controlling its own capital city (something that never happened during Thieu's rule of South Vietnam, with the exception of a brief period during the Tet Offensive when VC guerillas took over a few buildings). In short, Iraq is not Vietnam, and if there were ever any grain of truth underlying the Dolchstosslegende in Vietnam, conditions in Iraq are such that the whole notion of the war effort being "stabbed in the back" by liberals and leftists is utter nonsense. The war effort was "stabbed in the back" by a Bush Administration incapable of formulating clear achievable strategic objectives and a workable plan for achieving them, not by organizing a few thousand people to demonstrate in the streets.

Not that this will stop the right wingers from revving up the Dolchstosslegende machinery once again on the day the last American soldier departs Iraq. You can see it at work already. Just turn on Fox News.

- Badtux the History Penguin

Touchy, touchy!

Apparently Pat Lang gets rather touchy when you mention the Dolchstosslegende promulgated by the neo-conservatives rewriting history regarding why the U.S. lost in Vietnam (i.e., it was all those lefty's fault, it wasn't Vietnamese communists who killed tens of thousands of our soldiers, it was Jane Fonda!) or why the U.S. is losing in Iraq (we were stabbed in the back by those lefties again!). Pity. And thus I am banned from yet another forum. This one, alas, I shall not treasure as much as my bannings from places like Corrente and Red State, since despite his blind spots Pat is a good source of information regarding happenings in Iraq and their military significance, but so it goes.

Lesson learned: Do not use the word "Dolchstosslegende" to describe stab-in-the-back rewritings of history when you submit to a blog whose proprietor in part subscribes to said Dolchstosslegende. It's rude and he will merely discard your comment and be offended.

- Badtux the Rude Penguin

If our leaders don't lie, the terrorists win!

Jessica Lynch told Congress, "The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals for heroes, and they don’t need to be told elaborate lies."

Silly girl. Everybody knows that if our leaders don't lie, the TERRORISTS WIN! And Little Baby Jesus will cry. Haven't you heard? Mayor Rudy says that if lying politicians can't be elected to office, another terrorist attack will happen. Because, you know, no terrorist attack has ever happened while a Republican President was in office, or while a Republican Mayor was in charge of New York city. And the only proper response to al Qaeda bombing the World Trade Center in 1993 was... uhm... moving the city's disaster management center into the World Trade Center? WTF?! But hey, none of that matters, because Mayor Rudy looks simply mahhhhvelous in pink... So remember, boys and girls. We must elect politicians that lie (especially politicians who look pretty in pink), or the terrorists will swim across the Atlantic Ocean with knives between their teeth, sneak into our bedrooms at night, and kill us all!!!!!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A sad and horrifying admission

In light of my mentor Jonathan Swift's horrifying tale of a child behaving badly, I have my own sad and horrifying admission to make. I have done a bad thing. I, I, I... YELLED AT MY CAT.

Yes, my cat. A fluffy innocent kitty that had done nothing wrong except jump up on my computer desk and walk in front of my computer screen and mew pitiably to be petted, as cats are wont to do when their human is not properly worshipping them. But I was too busy, too inconsiderate, too, too... HUMAN... and I yelled at the cat instead, calling him bad names for getting in my way while I was trying to work on my computer. I even picked him up and set him down behind my chair! Sob! Can you ever forgive me? I have damaged my poor kitty for life. Oh I feel so ASHAMED...

-- Badtux the Abashed Penguin My poor innocent victim asks, "Why, daddy? Why?"...

Energy density, global warming, and nuclear power

Now, as you know, I'm derisive of the tighty-righties and their hatred of science, especially their hatred of the science of biology and the science of climatology (both of which have made discoveries that conflict with their small-minded interpretation of their holy scriptures). But I have lately come across yet another group of people who hate science because it conflicts with their small-minded interpretation of their holy scriptures, though the science they hate is physics. Tightie righties, meet loonie greenies. Different religion, same ****.

The fact of the matter is that technological civilization is pretty much the only way we're going to prevent a massive die-off of the human race in the near future, because the human race has pretty much used up all the easily-accessible resources that can be exploited without a technological civilization. There are no more nodules of high-quality iron ore lying around on the ground ready to be smelted with charcoal and beat into plowshares. And a technological civilization requires a high energy density to maintain, an energy density that is not attainable with current solar or biofuels technologies. I don't know how many of you have any manufacturing experience. In my last job, I designed the manufacturing processes used to manufacture our product, which was a server similar to the one that this blog is maintained on. Every single one of those servers rolling off our assembly line represents a massive energy investment as parts and resources from around the world are collected into one place and assembled into a final form.

Technological artifacts such as the computer you are reading this on cannot be made as a "cottage industry". The world is long past that point. No single nation has the resources, skills, or know-how to maintain technological civilization all by itself. Your computer has parts or resources in it from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, the Phillipines, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia, ... and all these pieces were gathered together using massive amounts of energy to transport them from point A to point B. The last nation to try doing all of this all by itself ended up collapsing in disgrace (see: Former Soviet Union). A modern technological civilization simply is too complex and requires too many resources both human and physical for it to be maintained by a limited number of people in a limited number of places. And keeping this technological civilization going requires huge amounts of energy, an energy density far higher than what is available via current technologies from solar and other "renewable" resources (all of which boil down to solar, BTW). We need high-density energy sources to keep technological civilization going. And right now, that gives us two choices: Hydrocarbons (i.e., stored solar energy, causing issues with global warming and with rapid depletion approaching), or nuclear fission (waste disposal issues, health issues dealing with mining and refining of uranium ores, issues with radiation leakage in the vicinity of the reactor).

So now I hear loonie greenies grumbling, "technological civilization is over-rated," as they chortle about how their storage batteries and solar panels power their home (both of which are products of technological civilization -- see the microchips in the battery management unit?) and talk about "sustainable" lifestyles (sustainable only because technological civilization has provided them with the resources to sustain those lifestyles). The collapse of technological civilization, if and when it happens, will have consequences that are similar in scale to the consequences of the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century AD. Within the course of 100 years the city of Rome went from being a city of over 1,000,000 people to being a heavily armed camp of maybe 50,000 survivors huddled in the ruins of the city. It was not until 1931 that Rome ever again had more than a million people. Today we are all Rome, because technological civilization is far more interconnected than Roman civilization ever was. If we look at the effects of the collapse of technological civilization upon the world's population, you can figure that the world's population would plummet from 6,600,000,000 to around 330,000,000. That's a lot of dead bodies (6,270,000,000 dead bodies, in case you're counting). And the result would be a permanent Dark Ages where the survivors live short and miserable and hungry lives, since, as I previously noted, all the resources necessary for the creation of a pre-technological civilization such as easily-accessed nodules of iron have long since been exhausted.

Technological civilization substitutes energy and technology for those pre-technological resources, and theoretically, if provided with dense enough energy sources, is sustainable for pretty much forever since technological civilization is capable of using energy to reclaim resources that otherwise are unusable waste. The "dense enough energy sources" part, though, is the killer. Thus far technological civilization has relied upon fossil fuels. This is not sustainable, both because of the damage that it is doing to the world's climate and because fossil fuels will not last forever. We cannot cover sufficient area of the world with solar panels, biofuel plantings, and wind turbines to replace the fossil fuels because that would have its own environmental consequences (even if we planted every inch of arable land in the Americas with soybeans we wouldn't have enough soy oil to maintain sufficient transportational infrastructures to keep technological civilization going in the Americas, not to mention the environmental consequences of turning topsoil into diesel fuel), not to mention the fact that solar and wind are good "peaking" sources of power but lack sufficient reliability and are geographically ill suited for providing "baseline" power for much of the world's population. At the moment, the only replacement we have for the fossil fuels that has the required energy density is nuclear fission feeding a "hydrogen economy" to meet the transport needs. As the loonie greenies will be swift to tell you, nuclear power has its issues. On the other hand, it will not bankrupt the world (France gets 3/4ths of their power from nuclear fission and thus far I haven't noticed them bankrupted by it), it will not result in the entire world being sterile eunochs (while Frenchmen seem to be uninterested in reproducing nowdays, their North African slave class that they keep in bondage and refuse to give citizenship to seem to have no such reproductive problems), and at least for the short term, until nanotechnology and warm superconductors come along to allow transporting solar power more easily and allow constructing solar panels without the current massive infusions of energy required, it's the only technology we have that'll replace the fossil fuels with sufficient energy density to maintain technological civilization.

Of course, if you want to kill 6.3 billion people, merely outlaw nuclear power world-wide and wait. It won't take long. 100 years, tops. That's a *lot* of dead bodies, folks. Makes me glad I will never have grandchildren to be subjected to such a world. Lack of suitable female penguins up here in the warm Northlands isn't the only reason this penguin has not reproduced...

-- Badtux the Energy Penguin

It's a Virginia Tech every day

R.J. Eskow points out that more people die every day in the United States from lack of health insurance than were killed at Virginia Tech, and wonders why the press gives Virginia Tech all this press, but not an inch of ink to a similar mass murder happening every day on our very own shores.

I mean, it's not as if we can't afford to provide high quality health care to everybody. We are the richest nation on the planet (even if a lot of that wealth is owned by Asian banks) and are spending 16% of our Gross Domestic Product on health care. France is spending half that and provides the best health care in the world by all measurements of health care quality to all its citizens. But I forget. They're French. That means they're better than us and can do stuff we can't do, like provide better health care for half the cost. U S A! U S A! U S A! Fuck Yeah!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Monday, April 23, 2007

Weeds of Mass Destruction

niCk (Mem Beth) suggests legalizing growing marijuana for your own consumption since it's a victimless crime.

Silly niCK. Marijuana makes you feel good. If it makes you feel good, it must be Satan's handiwork, like dancing and women wearing pants. Worse yet, it's a method of feeling good that doesn't require sending large sums of money to Big Pharma for Happy Happy Pills, since it is literally a weed that you can grow on your own on your back porch. Big Pharma employs hundreds of thousands of people and pays hundreds of millions of dollars of bribe money to politicians every year. So not only would legalizing marijuana be doing Satan's work, but it would also hurt dozens of hard-working legislators who would have to work for a living instead of live off the Big Pharma payroll, it would hurt dozens of millionaire Big Pharma executives who'd lose a few thousand dollars of their bonus money, but most importantly, it'd hurt all the regular working people who work for Big Pharma, who would lose a few cents off their paychecks if Big Pharma could no longer sell Happy Happy Pills by the bucketload.

Knowing all that, I have just one question for you, niCK: Why do you hate America?

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Beware the Poetry of Mass Destruction!

I always suspected that English professors assigned poetry in their classes as a mechanism for torturing undergrads, but now we find out that it can explode too, causing an entire college campus to be evacuated? Oooh, poetry of mass destruction! How *dare* a professor be guilty of driving while brown and carrying a box of poetry to the dumpster. Doesn't he know that al Qaeda is targetting dumpsters outside of Podunk University for destruction? Why, I think Osama bin Laden issued a jihad just the other day saying "All your dumpster are belong to us." Oh the horror!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thinking of the children

So, more women and children die violently in Iraq every day than died at Virginia Tech a week ago, yet VT is all we heard about last week. Racism?

Well, no. For it to be racism, Americans would have to see Iraqis as being human to begin with. They don't. The children in Iraq are just extras in a new reality TV show called "Survivor:Iraq". They don't actually *die*. They rise from their shallow graves at the end of each day's shooting to have warm milk and canapes in the casting shed, doncha know?

Survivor:Iraq is on the verge of being cancelled due to poor ratings, but only because the American public is bored with it, not because they, like, think the Iraqis are actually human or anything... I mean, dude, it's just a reality TV show, dig?! The producers of Survivor:Iraq are trying their best to keep interest up, like the recent "Surge" thingy, but while folks tuned in for a few minutes in hopes that "surge" meant something sexual, they swiftly tuned right back out. So the ratings continue to sag. Bummer, if you're a producer of Survivor:Iraq. Executive Producer Cheney must be beside himself...

- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

Spring shedding

I'm not dusting. I'm de-furring. What I can't figure out is how shelves of my bookshelves (and the tops of my books) can accumulate such a collection of fur, when my cats never get on those shelves. Unless they furtively sneak up there at night when I'm not looking...

-- Badtux the Temporarily-furry Penguin

"Culture of Life" indeedy...

Iraqi children are being terrorized or killed because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as thousands of Americans die due to lack of universal health care coverage in the United States. Meanwhile, tighty righties chortle at the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court somehow "protected life" with their muddled decision on late-term abortions, but swiftly change the subject when you start asking, "do post-born children have a right to life", indeed, even delete your messages on their boards when you ask that question. Nevermind that everybody agrees that post-born children are, in fact, people, while not everybody agrees that fetuses are, in fact, people. For some reason, pre-born children have more rights than post-born children in the Brave New World of tighty righty blogs.

Ah yes, the "Christian" Culture of Life. Offer void at birth.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Gay Agenda sighted on cable!

Uh-oh. That mighty supervillain The Gay Agenda apparently now has his own television show, where he can shoot innocent young children with his Gay Ray of Gayness and, like, turn them all gay! Oh the horror! America is doomed, doomed I say, because the next generation will only gay-marry instead of fornicating with men, women, and sheep like God intended. We must immediately round up torches and start killing people, because as Jesus said in Luke 10:25, "Kill all the motherfuckers, yo."

In other news, Canada has had gay marriage for almost two years now and hasn't yet slid into the sea. Man-on-dog sex still hasn't been legalized in Canada (sorry, Senator Santorum!), and men are still not marrying their box turtles in Canada (sorry, Senator Cornyn). BOR-ing. C'mon, I wanted to see all that fire and brimstone and the disintegration of Canadian civilization and stuff like the tighty righties predicted! This business of Canadians simply going about their lives as if gay marriage actually didn't mean the end of civilization is... dull! I know, I know, those polite Canadians are just looking around puzzled and saying "Eh?", but you tighty righties said there'd be some fireworks. Sheesh!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Frozen Pizza bake-off: Day 10

Okay, this is the last of the edible frozen pepperoni pizzas available at my local supermarket. It's a rather unusual one in that it appears to be the last-man-standing of stuffed-crust pizzas.

At one time there was a whole hoard of stuffed-crust pizzas. Cheese-stuffed, sauce-stuffed, garlic-stuffed, crap probably even catfood-stuffed. Nowdays, though, there's this one last survivor in the supermarket: Tombstone Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza (Pepperoni made with Pork Chicken and Beef) More 40% Cheese than Tombstone Original Pepperoni Pizza made with 100% Real Cheese.

So what does it taste like? Well, what do you think? It tastes like, duh, cheese. Pretty good cheese, actually. The crust does a good job of complementing the cheese too.

The other toppings are more mediocre. The sauce is plentiful but rather bland. There is a lot of pepperoni on this pizza -- they stole the Schwan notion of putting little baco-bits of pepperoni as well as round disk pepperoni onto the pizza -- but it isn't the best quality pepperoni around.

Still, this pizza has a rather pleasing blend of flavors. It isn't the Digiorno Rising Crust or Freschetta Brick Oven pizza (the two top pizzas in this contest), but it's still quite tasty, especially if you like cheese.

-- Badtux the Pizza-lovin' Penguin

On quoting Bible verses

Anything can be justified by taking a handful of Bible verses out of context. The neo-Nazi "Christian Identity" movement, for example, sprinkles Bible verses all through their literature to justify calls for the murder of all non-white Americans, genocide of Jews, and other such apalling un-Christian activities. Only by considering the totality of the life of Christ can you truly begin to comprehend what it means to be Christian. A sprinkling of Bible verses out of context means nothing, especially when said Bible verses are bad translations of Greek translations of Aramaic and Hebrew verses.

There is a saying, "can't see the forest for the trees." Bible verses are the trees. The life of Christ is the forest. You cannot have a forest without trees. But, conversely, a tree, alone, is not a forest, just as a verse, alone, does not begin to express the totality of God's will as expressed in the Bible. Too many people see a few trees and fail to see the entire forest that is God's word as recorded in the Bible.

I can quote Bible verses quite well, thank you, and have done so extensively in the past to support various points I've attempted to make. I have ceased to do so, because the realization has dawned on me that this representation of a few trees as the forest that is the totality of God's will is fundamentally dishonest. Only by reading passages in their proper context can you begin to see the totality of God's word. Scattering verses hither and fro out of context is a means of serving Man, not of serving God, a means of making rhetorical points that serve the goals of Man, not a means of appreciating God's word regarding what it means to be a Christian.

- Badtux the Theology Penguin

Friday, April 20, 2007

Evil Spock's lover

Evil Spock is an evil Vulcan who occasionally wanders by. While browsing around in the intertubes I found his perfect lover: Evil Spock, if you come wandering by, this penguin has your perfect mate for you!

-- Badtux the Matchmaking Penguin

A reminder of my position on abortion

That is, I don't have one. As a Libertarian I do not believe laws should be made unless there is an overwhelming consensus that something has to be done by the people who are affected by the laws. I am not affected by any law dealing with abortion because I'm male. I don't have a vagina. I cannot become pregnant. Duh. Case closed. If women as a whole decide that abortion is evil and should be outlawed, I will agree with them. Until that happens, I have no opinion that's relevant.

Some folks wonder, "what if someone is killing grown-up women, shouldn't there be a law against that?" Well duh. If you polled 100,000 people, 99,999 people would say "Yeah, there should be a law against that." There is an overwhelming consensus that a law is needed here. When it comes to abortion, there's no such consensus. Since as a Libertarian I believe no law should be passed unless pretty much everybody affected agrees that it's needed, I thus believe that government has no business passing any laws regarding abortion.

This isn't because of my opinion of abortion. Like I said, I don't have one. This is because of my opinion of law. I be agin' it. As a Libertarian I think laws should be passed only under certain very restricted circumstances -- i.e., pretty much everybody agrees that the law is needed -- and until the majority of women (the people affected) agree that a law is needed here, there should be no law.

-- Badtux the Libertarian Penguin

Bush hating: For the record

I am on record (in the USENET archives at saying, in November 2000, "What's the big deal with George W. Bush being elected? A moderate conservative is not some evil demon, and besides, he has all his Dad's old people to run things so things should be run pretty well." Sure, he was a draft dodger just like Bill Clinton (who I *also* did not vote for). Big freakin' deal.

The first 9 months of the Bush Administration were rather uninspired but so what? In my opinion, the fact that the government didn't do much during that 9 months was a feature, not a bug. Government should move slowly and only with a general consensus of the people, rather than precipitously and in ways that can cause real harm to many people. But then September 11, 2001 came. Then we got the so-called Patriot Act attacking America's freedoms and I started getting nervous. John Ashcroft going after sick people and girly magazines rather than after terrorists. Then an invasion of a country that had never attacked America and was no threat to America and Hans Blix's team had even verified that Iraq had no WMD at the time we invaded, had visited every possible factory that could be used to make WMD and found no 'there" there, but it didn't matter because Baby Bush had a hard-on about Saddam, and all I could say there is, "Well, I guess we're an empire now, let's hope the Bushies actually have a plan for the occupation that'll prevent an insurgency against American soldiers and a civil war between the Sunni and Shiites", after all that's why President George H.W. Bush had not sent the troops on to Baghdad, because there was no plan for dealing with the problems of occupation. Then the slowly dawning awareness that not only did they not have a plan, they even decried the notion that they needed a plan, until disaster slowly slipped upon us and the insurgency and civil war that George H.W. Bush had predicted in 1996 was upon us. Then Katrina, where the federal response was incompetent and days late and often kept real aid out due to bureaucratic bullcrap, like the line of Cajun fishermen pulling boats from Lafayette that were turned away by Homeland Security goons that could have saved hundreds of lives in the flooded-out streets of New Orleans.

It's not George W. Bush that I hate. Frankly, George W. Bush isn't worth hating. He's just another overpriviliged frat boy in over his head, like so many other overpriviliged frat boys that I met when I was in college. He's too pathetic to hate. What I hate is what he's doing to our nation. It's the bloody freepin' incompetence that I hate. It is the lying that I hate, such as the continued lies that we invaded Iraq to "disarm Saddam" when the U.N. inspection team of Hans Blix had already discovered (and Bush's hand-picked inspectors later verified) that Saddam had nothing worth disarming other than a few missiles with a 50-mile-too-long range. It is the spending money we don't have like a drunk sailor that I hate. I don't care that Bush's politics are not mine. What I care about is the damage that his incompetence, his borrow-and-spend budget-busting, his useless and horrendously expensive wars of foreign occupation, are doing to our nation and its future.

- Badtux the Libertarian Penguin

Gonzo Gone Watch continues

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) isn't really known to be a Commie faggot-loving liberal. He's called for the death penalty for abortionists, said that the country was under attack by a secret gay conspiracy that had “infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country." He once said that in the town of Coalgate, Oklahoma, "Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in Southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it." Ole' Tommy Boy, despite his physicians' oath to "first do no harm", is also a firm advocate of torture, and enjoys regaling interns with pictures of dead fetuses and STD-afflicted vaginas. In short, Dr. Tom is the wingnut's wingnut, nuttier than pecan praline that's mated with peanut brittle and hatched a bowl of mixed nuts.

Yesterday, however, Dr. Tom had enough. After four hours of Attorney General Gonzo answering "I don't recall" to each and every question, either lying or having the memory of a newt (no no, the lizard, not the Grinch), Dr. Tom pounded his meaty fists on the table and bellowed, "It was handled incompetently. The communication was atrocious. You ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered, and I believe that the best way to put this behind us is your resignation."

This sentiment was also echoed by other notorious liberals such as Senator John "Man-on-turtle" Cornyn (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Gonzo is *so* fried... and it couldn't have happened to a better person. So I'm just going to sit here sipping soda and smirking at the sight of Abu "I love Torture" Gonzales sweating buckets as his beady little eyes whirl frantically around looking for anything, anyone, that might seem even a teensy bit sympathetic to his plight...

-- Badtux the Sadistic Penguin

A little comment for right-wing readers: watching Gonzo sweat is funny no matter *what* your politics. How many different ways can one man say "I can't recall" anyhow?! BTW, it was his outright fibbing and lying, not the actual act of firing the attorneys, that had the Republican senators irate. If Gonzo had simply come out and said "Yes, I fired these attorneys because their politics did not match the goals of our administration", there would have been tut-tutting from the Democrats (of course) but no problem with the Republicans. But then he had to come out and *LIE* about it. Just like the Clenis lied about that blow job. Just like that.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Frozen Pizza bake-off: Day 9

Sadly, we are coming to the close of this series of food-like product reviews. I have only one more frozen pizza in my freezer, then I have exhausted the supply of edible frozen pizzas available at my local Safeway and Food Saver stores. Sorry, I do *not* intend to do an in-depth review of Totinos or Tony's pizzas, neither of which is edible enough to justify any more review. I also will not review "fancy" pizzas (i.e., those with meats on them other than pepperoni), which rules out the California Pizza Kitchen imprimature (which actually is a Kraft-produced pizza).

Today's pizza is the "Freschetta Naturally Rising Bake To Rise Crust Pepperoni Pizza". This is a good rising crust pizza, but the crust lacks just a tiny bit compared to the Digiorno rising crust, which is still "the" standard by which rising crust pizzas must be compared. Still, it is quite good, and has one advantage over the Digiorno pizza -- it has slightly more pepperoni. Still not enough to match the amount of sauce and cheese on this crust though. The sauce is Schwan's typically peppy sauce, used on all their pizzas, and in good quality to offset the bready taste of the crust. It is a better tasting sauce than that on the Digiorno pizza. The cheese isn't quite as good as on the Digiorno pizza though, probably because Kraft (the maker of Digiorno) is a cheese whiz.

All in all, I have to rank the Digiorno just a hair better than the Freschetta. But it's close. Real close.

My personal favorite is still the Freschetta Brick Oven pizza, which has a wonderful toasty crust. But that is more because I prefer thinner-crust pizzas. If you like thicker-crust pizzas, this is certainly a worthy pizza to honor your oven with.

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

What a mess...

I have the Valley Transit Authority's system map open on my computer. What a mess. What a freaking mess. No wonder the VTA is bleeding cash like a Republican administration handing out no-bid contracts to administration cronies. They have routes running in parallel all over the place, they aren't using their light rail and the Caltrain heavy rail in a hub-and-spoke arrangement as would be required to make the most of the limited passenger-miles available for the bus fleet, they have long-haul bus routes that take an hour to get across town running in parallel with Caltrain that takes 20 minutes to run that same distance, they have "express" buses that take longer to get from one side of town to the other than Caltrain does and that should probably leave from the Caltrain station in downtown San Jose or from the Great Mall transit center rather than from Sunnyvale or Mountain View, yada yada yada.

What we have here is a bus map that was created decades ago that does not in any way reflect either a) the new improvements made in Caltrain rail service (which runs every 15-20 minutes during rush hours and implements a rolling limited service station schedule to make trips much faster on common commutes), or b) the creation of the light rail network. They kept these bus routes the way they were 25 years ago because, well, that's the way it's always been. But that ain't the way it needs to be, and VTA is bleeding cash as a result.

I'm wondering: Is there, like, some law, that says that bureaucrats have to hide their head in the sand and mutter "I see nothing! I hear nothing!" when things start going downhill? Because VTA's current route map and schedules are simply unworkable. They don't properly feed Caltrain and light rail, they have too many long haul routes that should instead be more of a hub-and-spoke setup feeding rail and limited-stop express buses so it doesn't take so bloody long to get from point A to point B, and let's face it Los Altos probably doesn't need bus service very much (just once in the morning to bring the servants to work, and once in the evening to take the servants home) and East San Jose's bus service is dying for more buses. But you say all this to VTA bureaucrats and they run screaming and hide under their desks...

-- Badtux the Transit Penguin

Yay! I got the house!

The property manager for the house I looked at yesterday called me back this morning and said I was the winner in the rental sweepstakes. My lease starts on May 1. So if I don't post much for the next couple of weeks, it's because I'm packing everything up so I can weigh anchor and move my iceberg over to the new digs, yippee, moving is SUCH fun! Anyhow, I'm going to be 1 mile from Santana Row, 3/4 mile from Safeway in the other direction, 1 1/2 mile from downtown Willow Glen, and 2 1/2 miles from the Pruneyard and downtown Campbell, and 3 blocks from Stevens Creek Blvd and tons of shops and stores and restaurants. It's 1 mile from the Los Gatos Creek bikeway, 2 blocks from a great Korean restaurant, 1 mile from the light rail station, one BLOCK from one bus line that goes to the downtown San Jose bus station, two blocks from two other bus lines that go to downtown San Jose, one block from the I280 freeway, 3/4 mile from the CA17/I880 freeway, 3/4 mile from a local motorcycle accessory shop, ... location, location, location, baybee!

I hope she didn't think I was laughing at her when she called me this morning. She's a late-middle-aged Asian grandmother, and she was giving me advice. Like, "You should buy a house! I saw your credit and income, you can afford one, why rent?" And "You need to advertise your lease at your current apartment on Craigslist, you will rent it right away! Why pay money for the rest of that lease when you can get someone to take it over? You're wasting money!" The reason I was laughing was because late-middle-aged Asian grandmothers are always giving me advice, all the way back to my college sweetie, a Chinese girl whose grandmother was always giving me advice, and even the waitress at the Chinese restaurant down the street and the haircutter who cuts my hair are always giving me advice. Maybe they just think penguin-Americans are such cute and befuddled-looking beings that they will just wander out in traffic and get killed if they do not have a Chinese grandmother to watch out for them. Whatever it is, I find it hilarious that, even in my advanced age, they're still giving me well-meaning and sincere advice, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with why they're interacting with me or even if it's not necessarily in their own financial best interest (hmm, if I bought a house, I couldn't be renting one from her, could I?).

-- Badtux the Well-housed Penguin

PS - I've been checking out the restaurants near my new place. YUMMM!!! This penguin shall have no problem at all maintaining his pleasing rotundity!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Frozen Pizza bake-off: Day 8

Today's Pizza is the "TombStone Original Pizza Pepperoni Made With Pork Chick And Beef Made With 100% Real Cheese". (Whew!). Unlike the other pizzas tested so far, this did not come in a box. It came in shrink-wrap with a cardboard back and a paper front.

The cheese on this pizza is good. It is abundant and has a pleasant cheesy taste that goes well with the bready taste of the crust. The sauce is abundant but somewhat thin in taste, not the tangy sauce that the Schaum brands use. The pepperoni...

Ah yes, the pepperoni.

I was surprised to find a vague medicinal aftertaste upon my first bite into this pizza. Yet this rather nasty taste went away as I ate towards the outside crust. But then it came back again when I started on the next piece. But then it went away.

After some experimentation, it appears that this taste is the grease from the pepperoni. It runs down to the center of the pizza, which is why my first bite, near the center of the pizza, had this rather odd and obnoxious aftertaste, the taste of rancid chicken grease.

It's a pity, really. Other than that rather nasty taste near the center from the pepperoni grease, this pizza has a lot going for it, especially if you like cheese. It isn't as good as the Frescheta Brick Oven pizza, but then few pizzas are. It is, rather, a solid well-conceived well-balanced pizza... except for that rather nasty and medicinal-tasting pepperoni grease.

I have to, therefore, reluctantly give this pizza a grade of "F". It's a shame that Kraft (the maker of this pizza) cannot put a good-quality pepperoni on their pizzas. Rancid chicken grease is not appropriate for any pizza with even the vagues pretensions of being edible, and as long as the pepperoni has enough chicken fat in it to produce that rancid chicken grease flavor at the center, this pizza is disqualified from the edibility sweepstakes.

-- Badtux the Pizza-lovin' Penguin

In case you forgot...

Carl and 42 and Mustang Bobby and a million jillion other bloggers point out that there's a Virginia Tech type tragedy in Iraq EVERY FUCKING DAY. And that's been true for at least three years now, ever since the insurgency started ramping up.

So why the fuck are the goddamned blathering talking heads on television *STILL* talking about some loser doing a one-time slaughter then removing himself from the gene pool, rather than about the continuing slaughter happening EVERY FUCKING DAY in Iraq?

Oh fuggedaboutit, I keep forgetting. One white blond sorority girl at Virginia Tech is worth a million jillion of them overseas darkies who, like, aren't WHITE. Alrighty then! Personally, I think they just ought to provide the white hood and KKK membership upon employment for every major U.S. television news "personality" and every major U.S. newspaper "editor". I mean, c'mon. They push the KKK agenda (white America is all that counts!), why not go all the way and make it official?!

-- Badtux the Ranting Penguin

Maybe a place...

Located: A funky 1940's cottage with an added-on garage on the side. It has a garage for my motorcycle. It has a driveway for my Jeep. It has hardwood floors for my allergies. It has a fireplace for my romantic interludes (if I ever find a female penguin around here). It is located two blocks from a great Korean restaurant, one block from a bus line that serves the hospital and community college and two blocks from two bus lines that run down the main drag of the area, 3/4 mile from a large new plaza with a Safeway, 3/4 mile from Santana Row and the mall and another Safeway, and in the middle of a lot of newly-restored homes similar in age. It does not, however, have a refrigerator, washer, or dryer (though it has washer and dryer connections in the garage and a place for a refrigerator), and the dining nook is too small for my current dining room table (oh boy, I get to buy a new table from Ikea!). It also lacks a garbage disposal, central air or heat (still has the old gas furnace in the wall between the hallway and the living room), or a dishwasher (still has the old 1940's kitchen, except with a modern oven).

All in all, it looks like a reasonable place to park my iceberg for a few years. Only question is whether I, of the half dozen or so folks who put in an application, get it. Sigh. Sorry, Mixter, penguin-Americans are not a protected class under discrimination laws...

-- Badtux the Applying Penguin

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No pizza review tonight

I just got home from looking at new places to park my iceberg. The rent on my current place is going up yet again, and frankly it's just not worth it. So I'm looking at a couple of places, one in Willow Glen (San Jose) and one in Redwood City. I like the location of the Willow Glen place, it all depends on a) whether the place is halfway reasonable inside, and b) whether I can convince the landlord to rent to a penguin.

Anyhow, since penguins need regular infusions of food to retain their pleasing rotundity, I ate a sandwich while I was on the road, and thus will not be eating a pizza tonight.

-- Badtux the Disappointed Penguin


From Sumo Merriment, I find out that big corporate chocolate-makers want to adulterate our chocolate. They want to replace the cocoa butter with vegetable oil, and replace the whole milk with "milk protein".

Boo! Hiss! Heretics! Barbarians! Clicky-click and let the FTC know before April 25th that you don't want chocolate standards relaxed. The fate of our civilization is depending upon you!

-- Badtux the Chocoholic Penguin

Time to talk gun control again?

Unless you got kidnapped by aliens, you know that a South Korean college kid shot up a college yesterday, killing dozens of other college kids. As conservative blogger Jon Swift reports, this is all the fault of liberals. Why, if liberals simply allowed college kids to pack heat, they woulda capped that gook before he even got his first dozen kills!

Naturally, as a snarky penguin I must agree. I believe that every American should be armed with an AK-47, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, a RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher, and 100 rounds of RPG ammunition. Then we can be a peaceful and polite society just like Iraq and Somalia. After all, just ask Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who will be swift to tell you that going to the market in Iraq is safer than going to the market in Indiana. Especially when there's a blue light special on sexy lingerie, in which case you best have your body armor on or a herd of women and transvestites and Rudy Giuliani will send you on to the great beyond...

Remember, gun control is hittin' what ya aim at! As for the notion of a national dialogue on gun control... oh look! Over there! It's a missing young blond girl!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Below: A couple of shoppers at an Indiana market prepare to obtain the last Playstation 3's in town.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sultry temptress croons

Beth Gibbons and Portishead. In a previous era, she would have been a nightclub torch singer.

But they're desperate

Monday: 6 GIs, 69 Iraqis Killed; 39 Iraqis Wounded.

Yeah, the "surge" thingy sure is workin', ain't it? Them insurgents must really be desperate!! Why, if they weren't desperate, they'd... err.... get a job at Starbucks selling latte's to our brave GI's? Prance around like Japanese sailors? C'mon, somebody, help me here!

-- Badtux the Not-desperate Penguin

Frozen pizza bake-off: Day 7

Yes, ladies and germs, I've re-stocked on frozen pizzas and am back in the saddle again!

Today's pizza is the Freschetta Brick Oven Fire Baked Crust Italian Style Pepperoni. This is thus far the best balanced of all the pizzas. The crust and cheese are especially good, the sauce is not quite as good but is plentiful, and the pepperoni is abundant without being overwhelming. While I still personally prefer the Red Baron Thin Crust Ultimate Pepperoni because I love the kick of all that pepperoni, I must admit that the Ultimate Pepperoni kinds overdoes it with the pepperoni -- the taste of the pepperoni overwhelms everything else. Not so with this pizza. There is plenty of pepperoni, but not too much. Unlike the DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza, which has a great crust, but not enough pepperoni to balance it out.

One hint though -- cook it on the rack, and if the back says "baking time 12-16 minutes", cook it for the 16 minutes. Getting the crust nice and toasty is the secret to this pizza. Yes, the cheese on the edges will start looking a bit overdone. But that's okay. It's all good. You have to get the crust well toasted in order for it to balance out the flavors of the rest of the pizza, and a slightly toasty taste to the cheese on the edges doesn't hurt the taste of the pizza at all.

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

Want your favorite frozen pizza reviewed? Here's the ground rules: 1. It has to be a PEPPERONI pizza. Not one of them fancy multi-meat kinda pizzas. 2. It has to be available from a regular grocery store in Santa Clara CA. And 3. It cannot be a Totino's pizza! ICK! Anyhow, leave a comment if you see your favorite frozen pizza missing!

I owe, I owe...

it's off to work I go. But not without dropping tax forms and a check made out to "IRS" into the mailbox. Sigh.

-- Badtux the Poorer Penguin

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Vladmir Putin needs to take lessons from Mayor Blumberg

When the Republicans came to New York City in 2004, Mayor Blumberg arrested thousands of people and imprisoned them in toxic waste warehouses for the duration, resulting in lawsuits and mass dismissal of charges.

When protests broke out in Moscow, President Putin arrested "dozens" of people and kept them in jail overnight.

That's all? That's all you got, Pooty-poot? What kinda freakin' banana republic President are you anyhow? I mean, c'mon, the mayor of freakin' New York City is more repressive than you are! Sheesh! Keep up this level of repression, and, why, why, Dear Leader might rebuke you again! Sheesh!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

I probably should have ate the cat food

In my search for the perfect can to use to make the perfect alcohol stove, I brought home two cans of cat food, a can of "Deviled Chicken Spread", and a can of "Potted Meat Product".

Having fed the cats the cat food and seen them noisily guzzle it down, then subjected my gullet to the "meat product", I have to say the cat food looked and smelled a lot more appetizing. The cats seem to agree too. When I put the leftovers down after making sandwiches, they walked over, sniffed, turned up their noses, and ignored it from thence onwards.

Yeah, maybe I shoulda ate the cat food, and given the "meat product" to the kitties. On the other hand, I have to sleep tonight, which might be hard with irate kitties yowling at me that I ate the good shit and gave them the crap...

-- Badtux the "this is supposed to be FOOD?" Penguin

How much is an Iraqi life worth?

Answer: $500. Because of course they're heathen untermenschen, not real human beings like you and I, so nevermind that $500 is 5% of the fine for killing a dog in the state of Washington (the fine for animal cruelty is $10,000). Iraqis, apparently, aren't even worth as much as dogs in today's AmeriKKKa. I mean, they had the timerity to be born on top of our oil, how dare they! So like a crack-addicted junkie faced with someone between him and the ends to get his fix, our oil-addicted nation has no problem just blowing anybody away who gets between us and "our" oil...

So it goes, in the United States of Delusion, where we pretend that we are a humane and just nation with liberty and justice for all. For all except those people over there who are the wrong color. Or those people over there who worship the wrong god. Or those people over there who speak the wrong language. Or those people over there who ....

-- Badtux the Non-delusional Penguin

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Great balls of fire!

I tried making the Penny Stove today. I didn't have a Heinekin can so I tried to jerry-rig it using soda pop cans. The first time I tried to light it, a ball of flame exploded out of it and threw the penny halfway across the kitchen and singed my feathers. After that, I couldn't get the #$%@ thing to stay lit.

Because of this failure, I decided to turn it into a Trangia-style open-center burner with liner. But when I went down to my garage and fetched my Dremel tool to do the cutting, the power switch finally died (it had been on its way out for a while). Sigh. Oh well, the thing is 15 years old and I've used the stew out of it over those years, so it was about time it died. So off to Wally World I went to get a new Dremel tool along with some epoxy (don't fuss, Wally World is the closest place that stocks them and with gasoline at over $3 per gallon I'm not going one inch further than I must!), then off to the grocery store to pick up some drinks (to get another supply of aluminum cans to chop up) and frozen pizzas (for the next round of pizza testing).

So now I'm going to build a Photon Stove, but using the penny valve rather than a screw. Hopefully I won't have another explosion...

-- Badtux the Singed Penguin

The Big Dick

Yesterday Dick Cheney emerged from his undisclosed location, like a troll emerging from under a bridge, and said...

Oh who the fuck cares what Dick Cheney said? I mean, c'mon. The man has been wrong about everything, I mean everything, for these past five years. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Wrong. Saddam aiding al Qaeda? Wrong. No extended occupation in Iraq? Wrong. That rustling over there is a dove? Wrong.

I mean, c'mon. Has there been anything -- I mean, anything -- that the man has been right about during these past five years? I mean, we're talking about a man who can't tell the difference between a lawyer and a dove (oops)! So when he pops up out of his undisclosed location like some evil mole man and belches out some silliness, does anybody really give a fuck anymore?

-- Badtux the Don't-give-a-fuck Penguin

Friday, April 13, 2007

Flying albatross headed to Iraq

The Marines are sending the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey to Iraq.

I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the Osprey isn't safe. It has some significant issues in the software that controls its rotors, and the dadburned things have crashed left, right, up, down, and every whichway. It's fundamentally unstable, and it's fundamentally unstable in a way that no other aircraft in the world is fundamentally unstable, meaning that none of the lessons learned with, say, the F-16, work with it.

On the other hand, the CH-46 Sea Knights that it replaces aren't safe either, for a totally different reason. The Sea Knights are slow fat targets for insurgents. The Osprey, on the other hand, is as fast as a normal prop airplane when it's in level flight, and as quiet as one too, unlike the choppers, which sound like freakin' egg beaters. Its IR signature is insignificant too, which gives IR missiles very little to aim at, and it flys too high and fast for bullets and RPG's to hit. Not to mention that the Osprey has a much longer range than any helicopter, giving the Marines a level of operational mobility that previously was not available.

In the end, given the reality that this thing is going to be used in combat and the chances of it falling out of the sky are probably less than the chances of the Sea Knights getting shot down, I gotta agree with the USMC's decision to deploy. Yeah, it's a risk. But it's not a risk that's avoidable. At least this way when the damned thing crashes, maybe the geeks in the software lab can figure out what the fuck happened and fixed it. When a Sea Knight crashes and kills everybody on board, nobody learns a thing other than that Sea Knights are sitting ducks for insurgents. Doh. Like we didn't already know that...

-- Badtux the Aviation Penguin

Frozen pizza bake-off: Day 6

Okay, this is the last of the first batch of frozen pizzas. There's going to be a few days delay until I get a chance to re-stock from the local supermarket.

Today's frozen pizza is the Red Baron Gold Edition Naturally Rising Crust Pizzeria Style Pepperoni Pizza (Pepperoni Made With Pork, Chicken, And Beef). Yes, that is what it says on the front of the box.

Kraft actually sued Schwan over this pizza, claiming that it is the result of corporate espionage. Apparently one of the top dudes in their pizza division quit during the development of the DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza and went to work for Schwan for a ginormous salary (BTW, Schwan has also sued Kraft over their "brick oven" pizza, these two companies do *not* like each other, they have lawyers who do nothing but sue each other!). But Kraft needn't have bothered. Schwan's spy did a lousy job.

The fundamental problem with this pizza is the crust. It just plain doesn't do much rising, at least not when cooked on the rack (there are two ways on the box to cook it -- on a cookie sheet or on the rack -- I chose the rack for a crisper crust). The crust is a dense chewy thing that tastes suspiciously like raw dough near the middle. The taste is sort of a vegetable oil taste too.

Above that, the sauce is Schwan's trademark peppy sauce in good quantity. No problem there. The cheese is in good quantity too, and provides a good base of taste.

There is a lot of pepperoni on the top, but Schwan makes one more mistake there. In order to balance out the thicker crust with more peppy pepperoni taste, they added little pepperoni nuggets in addition to the round disc pepperoni. Unfortunately, these pepperoni nuggets are small enough that they completely dry up and taste like hard little chunks of bacon, rather than pepperoni. While it's not a bad taste (a pepperoni and bacon pizza?), if you are looking for copious amounts of pepperoni flavor having something that tastes suspiciously like a bac-o-bit go crunch in your mouth is somewhat disconcerting.

All in all, it's not a bad pizza, but in the battle of the rising crust pizzas, DiGiorno is still #1. Sorry, Schwan. You overpaid your spy. His rising crust sucks.

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin


The Mighty Fang dusts off the scanner on the shelf above my computer...

-- Badtux the Bad Housekeeper Penguin

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Frozen Pizza bake-off day 5

Today's pizza is "DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza" (Pepperoni Pizza). "Made with pork, chicken, and beef".

Kraft Foods (yeppers, the mac'n'cheese people) introduced this pizza back in 1996 with a gigantic $2 *billion* dollar advertising campaign with the tagline, "It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno!". They instantly seized a majority of the premium frozen pizza market from the Schwam brands (Red Baron and Freschetta), which do not have the advertising budget of a gigantic Fortune 50 company behind them.

So, is it any good? The answer is: YES.

The strength of this pizza -- indeed, its basic reason for being -- is the crust. This is a crust with the consistency and taste of a good Italian bread. It doesn't rise as well near the center as it does near the margins -- probably too many toppings pushing down on it there -- but it is, overall, by far the best crust of the pizzas I have surveyed thus far. (But don't go away, there are some more pizzas coming up that will give it a run for the money!).

Now, this is a medium-thickness crust, so it needs a suitably large dollop of toppings to balance it out. And it has them, with one exception that I'll discuss toward the end. The sauce is abundant and suitably tangy and offsets the bready taste of the crust quite well. The cheese is a bit less so, but still sufficient in quantity to provide balance to the sauce and complement the crust.

Indeed, the only disappointment is the pepperoni. The pepperoni is not in sufficient quantity or quality to properly balance the taste of the other toppings. Thanks to the tangy sauce the pizza is still very, very good. But with just a little better pepperoni, it could have been exquisite.

So, thus far, I rank this as the second-best pizza on my list of reviewed pizzas. The current leader is still day 2's entry, which did not have as good a crust but made up for it with toppings that were excellent, especially the suitably greasy and abundant pepperoni.

Still, don't go away. Who knows, tomorrow's pizza might top both of these!

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

18 1/2 minute gap

Shades of Nixon... so the emails just "accidentally" go missing. Just like that 18 1/2 minutes just "accidently" got erased. Except that this is an 18 *DAY* gap. Just an "accident". Yeah, right...

-- Badtux the "I seen this before!" Penguin

Indianapolis is bad for your health

In one of those ironies, the City of Indianapolis chooses Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five as their "Book of the Year" and as part of a city-wide celebration of Kurt Vonnegut's life. And half a continent away, only hours later, Vonnegut croaks.

Vonnegut was one of many Americans of the WWII generation who objected to what their country has becoming, bemoaning in his last book that the America he grew up in and loved was dead, that he was now a man without a country, marooned in a foreign land of dead dreams and lies that occupied the same general geographical area as what was once America but had now turned into a mean and vicious place where hope was dead and dreams were tiny little things, pale shades of dreams, a new car or a a few cents an hour raise at your job or hoping you don't get fired tomorrow or don't get sick in this new and meaner America where if you don't have health insurance, you die if you get sick. In his final years, clearly ill and dying, he still made the rounds of the talk shows to thump his book and make his point to national audiences.

And no one listened. Because he was, after all, a man without a country, a man whose dream, the American dream of a better place with liberty and justice for all where no child need go to sleep hungry or cold, is dead and gone and replaced with the dream of a boot stamping upon a human face, forever. A dream where we stamp upon the untermenschen, those who are not like us, those who are poor, those who are children and therefore helpless, those who have done nothing but exist and breathe the same air as us. The dream of a vicious, mad people who will die, in the end, but whose possession of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet will undoubtedly take the rest of the world with them.

When dreams become nightmares, there is no place for people like Kurt Vonnegut to remind us of an older America, a better America, an America which may not have been perfect by any means but where people were not afraid to dream of a better America and a better world. It is perhaps fitting that Kurt Vonnegut checked out only hours after news of this award in his honor. How better to crack a huge joke upon the people of Indianapolis and elsewhere?

And so it goes.

-- Badtux the Vonnegut-readin' Penguin

Note: A better version of this story is up on the Mockingbird's Medley.