Friday, December 23, 2005

Reminder: On Hiatus 12-24-2005 to 1-1-2006

So amuse yourselves while I'm away. Or not. You know how that goes.

-- Badtux the Traveling Penguin


I bought myself a Christmas present -- a cheap Yamaha keyboard. $150. Not fancy. Doesn't have lots of features. But compared to even five years ago... man! I am using it as a baby grand piano right now... touch-sensitive keys? On a cheap-ass low-end keyboard? It's not a piano, but it sure as hell responds to my fingers tickling its keys like one! We truly live in amazing times...

So at the monent, I'm sitting here composing small piano concertos. The only real problem is that there aren't enough keys on the keyboard -- it chops off a couple of octaves of bass keys -- but I just couldn't justify spending four times as much money to get an "electronic piano" that has them all, especially given the, err, portability problems, inherent in having so many keys. Besides, where the hell would I store it? Icebergs have limited space for stuff like this! (Now, if you were asking me about frozen herring, there's *plenty* of space to store *that*!).

So if you hear a penguin on an iceberg playing parts out of Mozart's Piano Concerto #20 and adding in some stuff, well, you know what's going on...

- Badtux the Musical Penguin

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Southern Lights District

Scientists have discovered an Antarctic red-light district where tuxedo-clad prostitutes ply their trade.

You'll have to excuse me for a while, I'm going to be busy gathering rocks...

-- Badtux the Amused Penguin

RFID: The Number of the Beast?

Sigh. The conspiracy nutcases are now ranting about RFID. While an *actual* conspiracy exists at the top of our government -- a conspiracy to subvert the Constitution, destroy rule of law, and bring in Imperial government via a permenant Republican majority instituted via fear, intimidation, and control of the voting machinery of America -- they're inventing new and ludicrous "conspiracies" to distract us.

For the record: RFID tags have no power source. They are completely reliant upon RF waves impinging upon them in order to power them. And RF waves fall off dramatically in field strength with distance. I did some back of the envelope computations (won't bore you with them here) and found that for a highly directional RFID reader, practically speaking you have a range of 11 meters (about 33 feet). For an omnidirectional RFID reader, practically speaking you have a range of 3.3 meters (about 4 feet). Anything beyond that, and the signal strength loss means there just isn't enough signal strength to power the RFID tag. Upping the signal strength can get you more range (upping your signal strength from 4 watts to 14 watts will get you ln(10) more signal strength at a given distance, for example, or about 2.3 times the distance), but RFID tags operate in a crowded frequency range and this would cause all sorts of issues with other technologies that use that frequency range.

In short, as a spy technology, RFID tags suck rocks. You either need to be aiming directly at a person like with a radar gun from a distance of 11 meters or less, or have a reader set up so that it will detect RFID tags passing within 4 feet of it. Practically speaking, what ends up happening is that you end up with those semi-directional gates like at the exit of Wally World that detect the tags as you walk through the door (and corresponding pallet-sized gates at the loading dock entry to get the stuff into the system in the first place). Which is fine and dandy if you're Wally World trying to make sure that your pallets have as many cans of Coca Cola as promised and that everything going out the door has gone through a cash register counter and been paid for, but pretty damned useless as a general-purpose spy technology.

In short: given the real conspiracy to destroy America that exists at the very top of our government, RFID is somewhere around a gnat's ass on my list of "technologies that scare the shit out of me".

- Badtux the Electronics Penguin

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Collapse of Western Civilization imminent

The biggest danger to Western civilization isn't Osama bin Laden, according to right-wing nutcases. Rather, the biggest danger to Western civilization are those two people above: Elton John and David Furnish gay-marrying each other.

Why, before you know it, heterosexual marriage will be outlawed, and we'll exterminate ourselves through lack of babies! Yeppers, we're doomed, doomed I say, now that gay people can, err, hold hands in public and say wedding vows in front of a judge. They'll destroy civilization with their mighty Gay Laser of Gayness that turns us all into, like, gay people, just like them!

Alrighty then, glad we got that issue resolved (heh!).

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Newsflash! 13th Amendment to Constitution repealed!

A Brooklyn (NY) judge has ordered transit workers to report to work immediately, and is threatening to jail their leaders.

Now, last I heard, you couldn't just order someone at gunpoint to work as a slave for you, but what the hey, I keep forgetting, the Constitution is just a "goddamn piece of paper" (as our Dear Leader is fond of pointing out) so who the fuck cares if a judge tramples all over it? I mean, c'mon, when dear Preznit Cartman wipes his butt with it every day and nobody seems to mind except a few of us cranks out here in Blogistan, who cares when a mere *judge* does it?!

In the meantime, for those who wonder "why don't the transit workers just get another job if they don't like working for the New York Transit Authority?". Well, doh, the City of New York has *OUTLAWED* all other transit companies in their city. They have installed, at gunpoint, a monopoly on transit in New York City. They regularly embark on crackdowns against neighborhood "shuttle services" that threaten their monopoly, even to the point of occasionally confiscating vans that they merely *suspect* are being used for one of these shuttle services.

In short, the City of New York is a gang of thugs that has basically told these workers, "you will work for us, or you will work for no one." And when the workers say "fine, we won't work for you," then hire a pliant judge to order them back to work.

Now, granted, there are some decided issues with transit in New York City that demand that some parts of the transit system be a monopoly. For example, you can't have two subway tunnels under Broadway. They just won't fit. The entire subway system is a picture postcard illustration of the concept of a "natural monopoly". Having that system owned and operated as a government monopoly is probably the best thing for the people of New York City, since if it were a private monopoly it would be run for the benefit of the owners rather than for the benefit of New York City (and no, the two are not synonymous). But for a judge to order New York Transit workers back on the job when the job is a government monopoly enforced by government goons with guns isn't the action of a democracy. It is the action of slavers intent upon imposing slavery upon a portion of the population.

- Badtuxc the Libertarian Penguin

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Makeovers of mass destruction!

Apparently the Pentagon is concerned that gay groups are a terror threat. I suppose their main fears lie around the notion that hairdressers of mass destruction might, uhm, give bad haircuts, or maybe give bad home-decorating advice. Oh the horror! The horror, I say! My flippers flap frantically in applause for the Pentagon's efforts to save me from such a horrible fate!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

"You will respect my authoritah!"

Awwwe, so Preznit Cartman doesn't like it when the presstitutes ask hard questions. Poor widdle thing! Why, just listen to him whine about how we must respect his authoritah! "I have the authoritah!" he practically shouts at one presstitute. "You will respect my authoritah!", he shouts, stamping his little feet and glaring with his beady little eyes. Isn't that just so cute?!

Well, it might be cute in an eight year old, but not in the Preznit of the United States. Sigh. Asserting that he has the authoritah to spy on Americans anytime he feels like isn't the same thing as actually, like, having it. Of course, what do you expect from a guy who insists repeatedly, “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”???

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Monday, December 19, 2005

Time to go to the library...

Do it today -- put in an inter-library loan request for Chairman Mao's Little Red Book. Drive the Department of Homeland Security bonkers trying to interview all of us.

-- Badtux the Mischievous Penguin

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Self-hating women

A woman who is not a feminist is like a Negro who likes slavery.

C'mon. If you're a woman, why would you not want equal rights and equal opportunities? Why would you want to have fewer rights and fewer opportunities? That'd be like a black man who thinks that Abraham Lincoln did the black race a grave disservice by abolishing slavery. I mean, it's the same basic mentality... "oh, I don't want to be free, I want to be taken care of by a massah!". Sheesh.

Note to freakin' *MORONS* out there: Wanting equal rights for yourself doesn't mean ya gotta quit shaving your legs and armpits, quit showering and douching, start eating lots of granola, and gay marry each other. C'mon, who the hell wants to be a freakin' slave?

Other than 51% of the population of the United States of America, that is?

Oh well. If they wanna be slaves, no skin off my beak, since I'm not a member of the female sex nor a Republican. But you must admit that it's puzzling...

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Friday, December 16, 2005

What was the American Experiment?

A couple of days ago, I proclaimed that "The American Experiment is over, was it worthwhile?". That got a lot of responses, some of which I'll address here.

The first one was, "oh sure, our government is doing lots of bad things right now, but what about McCarthyism?" Yeah, what ABOUT McCarthyism? At the very same time that McCarthy was doing his "Red Scare" stuff, blacks were getting equal rights in the armed forces and equal rights in schools and transportation, and full voting and housing rights were being held up only due to fillibusters by a small minority of Southern senators. You can't say that the McCarthy era was one in which the majority of Americans had fewer rights than in earlier eras, because it just isn't true.

Then there's the old, "oh sure, the government is doing lots of bad things right now, but they did lots of bad things before, too. Remember the Trail of Tears?". Yeah, and remember that slavery was once legal, too. But the whole point of the American experiment during its classic era that ended with the Presidency of Richard Nixon was that more and more Americans had that "freedom" and "liberty" stuff. In the beginning, only white male property owners had the right to vote, for example. That was progressively extended to more and more Americans over the decades, until finally all Americans over age 21 had the right to vote after 1965.

But that was the high water of American liberty. The late Hunter S. Thompson describes what happened next in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

By 1972, when Hunter penned those words, the vile and evil Richard M. Nixon had been President for three years and had just declared a "war on drugs", widely felt by most people under the age of 30 to actually be a "war on young people". The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy by supposed "lone gunmen" had been used as an excuse for a massive expansion of the power of the BATF and FBI. And over the next 30 years, it has become even worse, to the point where we acttually need to pass a law against torture -- something which even the vile and evil Richard M. Nixon would have been shocked to see, because even he, even as evil as he was, would not have condoned the torturing of captured enemy soldiers.

The wave indeed finally broke and rolled back, and has been rolling back ever since. Whereas the progression of freedom was overall increasing every year until 1968, since then the wave has peaked, and started receding -- receding even faster over the past five years, until nobody is surprised to find out that the NSA is spying on Americans without warrants (not that getting a FISA warrant is a big deal -- they hand'em out like monopoly money -- but the NSA isn't even bothering with getting a FISA warrant to spy on Americans).

So what was the American experiment, and why did it fail? Two questions, very interesting questions. I'll give my answer to the first, in tomorrow's installment (maybe). As for the second... you already know my answer to that one.

- Badtux the HST-quotin' Penguin

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Was the American experiment worthwhile?

Just wondering. Nowadays, since the United States now has secret laws, secret courts, secret evidence, spying on any American citizen anywhere for any reason, and secret prisons, it seems rather obvious that the American experiment, with all that "liberty" and "freedom" stuff, is over. The question is, was the experiment worthwhile? Did it add anything to the world during its short lifespan of a little over 200 years?

Just curious. What do you think?

The only thing I know for certain is that, for the majority of Americans, this isn't a question they care about. They care respectively about a) their job, b) their family, and c) their close personal friends. That's it. All this "freedom" and "democracy" stuff? They might emit meaningless babbling sounds in support of such, but they certainly don't care enough to, like, do anything about it. I mean, what's in it for them?

- Badtux the Observant Penguin

Eric Massa

Gen. Wesley Clark reminds me that another old military hand is running for Congress as a Democrat from upstate New York - Eric Massa, who spent 26 years in the U.S. Navy before being forced to retire due to an incorrect diagnosis of cancer. If you have a few extra dollars, send them his way. Even though he is running against Randy "Shotgun" Kuhl, most famous for two things (pulling a shotgun and threatening to shoot his wife in front of party guests, and working on his golf game), upstate New York is to New York what Alabama is to the United States as a whole.

Incidentally, if you're looking for veterans, it seems they all tend to be Democrats. The whole Republican schtict about "big government doesn't work" fails miserably when you're talking to people who worked in a big government organization (the military) which demonstrably DOES work, and works very well thank you. Republican candidates for Congress tend to be chickenhawks -- very vocal in their support of endless wars of foreign conquest, but who actively avoided military duty when they had a chance to serve (as Dick Cheney most famously put it, had other priorities).

In short, the majority of Republicans talk a good game, but when it comes to actually putting their butt on the line, they're a bunch of pussy-wimps. And if the Democratic Party wasn't such a bunch of hacks, they'd take advantage of that and whip those pussy Republicans like the cowardly curs that they are.

- Badtux the not-Democrat Penguin

Ink jet printers

Just a word of advice: do *NOT* buy an Epson ink jet printer. printer. Oh sure, they print very, very well. But after about a year, the heads clog up to the point where all attempts to run the head cleaning program make the innards of the printer into a solid clog of goo. It seems that the head cleaning program discharges into a little sponge, and once that little sponge is saturated... well, no more workee! While you can disassemble the printer, get at that little sponge, and clean it out, it never seems to work right afterwards... this is a fundamental design flaw, and I went and looked at the latest greatest Epson personal ink jet printer at the store and it has the same #$%@ design flaw.

My places of employment have been using HP inkjet printers for years. Never a clog, even on printers that sit idle for a month between test runs. They don't have the high resolution of the Epson, but they just work and work, and if the head ever clogs, the head is actually part of the ink cartridge so you just replace the ink cartridge and voila!

The one I brought home last night is the HP Deskjet 5440. We'll see. It can't do worse than that #$%@ Epson.

- Badtux the Computer Geek Penguin

Monday, December 12, 2005

A 12v charging system monitor

As some of you know, I have a Kawasaki KLR-650, which is sort of the Jeep Wrangler of motorcycles i.e. go anywhere type of bike. I recently added heated grips to it, as well as a socket for a heated vest. Now, one of the limitations of the dated KLR design is its pathetic excuse for an alternator, which puts out only 200 watts of power, total, when the engine is revved way up. It's possible to run your battery down if you're put-putting around at slow speeds because the alternator doesn't put out full wattage then and the KLR has no means to monitor your voltage.

I thought about putting a voltmeter on the KLR, but delicate mechanical movements and rugged onroad-offroad motorcycles don't mix too well. I then found the LM3914 chip which could drive a bar LED to basically display a bar graph of the current battery voltage, but a KLR doesn't really have a good place to mount such a LED bar, the instrument panel is very small. There is an area where there is a blank like for an idiot light, but no idiot light behind it. So I decided that what I needed was an idiot light that would go there and light up when my battery voltage got too low to tell me to turn off my heated grips and/or vest. At which point I did a swift Google search and found this design, a simple voltage ladder calibrated to generate 6 volts when the external voltage was 12 volts, and a 6 volt zener diode to drive the base of a transister which in turn switched the power to the LED on when the zener avalanched. So I printed it out and ran it by a friend, who said... "Uhm, you know, this is wrong. This will light up the LED when the battery is *above* 12 volts, not when it's *below* 12 volts."

So he moved the LED so that its cathode was sunk to ground and the anode was between R3 and Q1, so that the zener diode D1 caused the voltage to the LED to quench to ground when the zener diode avalanched at 12volts. Then he said, "You know, you could use a red-green diode and have it show up green at 12 volts, and red below there." He scribbled in another transister to drive the green portion of the LED when the voltage was above 12 volts.

Then I pointed out that a red-green diode actually had *three* states -- red, yellow, and green -- and that we could use this quite usefully via just adding another zener diode and potentiometer so that when the situation was unfavorable but still not disasterous, we got a warning (yellow) prior to the "you're screwed" notice (red), leading to the final design:

The 10K potentiometer for Ladder A is calibrated so that the zener avalanches when the +12v supply is above 12.1 volts. Ladder B is calibrated so that the zener avalanches when the +12v supply is above 11.7v. The cathodes are tied together internal to the LED package and thus must be tied to ground. The three states are like this:

Above 12.1 volts: green: At 12.1V, ladder B is sending power to the green (since the voltage is above 11.7V, but the ladder A transister now turns on and sinks the input to the red LED to ground -- leaving only the green LED on.

Between 11.7v and 12.1v: amber. Red is no longer suck by ladder A, since the voltage is below 12.1v, so the red LED is on. But we're still above 11.7v, so the green LED is also still on. This actually should be yellow, but the 2N3904 inline with the LED in ladder B adds a little bit of resistance to the green, meaning that the output is slightly more reddish than would be expected, since the red LED gets the full current through resister 'x' when ladder A is not activated. Thus "amber". Fiddling with x and y can make it more yellowish, but why bother?

Below 11.7v: red. Ladder B is now below 6 volts, meaning that the green is turned off. Ladder A is still below 12.1 volts, meaning that it's not sinking the input of the red to ground, meaning that red is turned on.

x,y - 620 to 1k ohm depending on LED. My LED states that it needs 20mA of power. Going to our handy dandy Ohm's Law calculator, I enter 12.1volts (the point at which the red LED turns on), and .020 amps (the amount of current for my LED). The calculator spits out that I need a 605 ohm resister which would mean using a 620 ohm resister. The back of the package recommends a 680 ohm resister at 12 volts, presumably because 12 volts might actually be 13.8 volts when the alternator is churning away. So be it. Because this is also .242 watts according to the calculator (i.e., about 1/4th of a watt), I select 1/2 watt resisters rather than 1/4th watt resisters for x and y. This is important because when ladder A turns on, the entire .242 watts flows through resister x and is quenched to ground. BTW, this circuit pulls approximately half a watt total in its most power-hungry state -- the green state, when all power from resister x is being quenched to ground.

In the end, the components can be grid-boarded then put into a small project box and silicon caulked in place to prevent water and vibration from having their way with things, and the LED itself soldered to wires that are then run up into the instrument panel and pushed up through a hole in said panel (there is a blank where that can be done). The project box can be screwed or glued to the back of the instrument panel somewhere where it is out of the way, and all that you see is the battery voltage indicator -- green for good, yellow for "Warning!", and red for "Turn off your electric gear *NOW*!".

After doing this design, I found out that somebody else already did it. Oh well, at least I have my own battery monitor now, and the parts aren't very expensive if you buy them from a discount electronic components vendor rather than from rip-offs like Fry's Electronics or Radio Shack.

Oh, final components list:

Add in some breadboard, wire, a small project box, etc. and you, too, could construct this inexpensive voltage monitor. How much it costs depends on whether you already have all the other stuff (voltmeter, soldering iron, wire, breadboard, a spare potentiometer to use to tweak the input voltage in order to calibrate the ladders, etc.). But if you already have all that kind of stuff and have discount electronic supply houses near you, you could easily put together this circuit for $5. If, on the other hand, you don't have that stuff, it's cheaper to buy it already pre-made...

- Badtux the Electronics Penguin

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yet another sign of the apocalypse.

I am drinking decaffeinated coffee. Me. Self-proclaimed coffee snob. Drinkng DECAF. Furthermore, drinking decaff PRE-GROUND OUT OF A CAN!

Just chalk it up to the increasing decreptitude of the mortal shell in which this penguin is currently waddling. After all, I'm somewhere around 350 years old in penguin years. Sigh. I remember when I could drink real coffee and sleep like a baby (hmm, does that mean I fell asleep then a couple of hours later woke up crying at the top of my lungs?). Now look at me. I'm reduced to drinking DECAFF.

Gah. Getting old sucks. The only thing that sucks worse is the alternative.

- Badtux the Elderly Penguin

The youth are our future

So preacheth Brother Driftglass. He may even be right. But history doesn't seem to support his optimism.

So what does history show? Well, history here in the United States shows a continuous pattern of rule by the elites for the elites, interrupted by periods of democracy when the elites have fucked up the nation so much that the sheeple look up. For example, the end of the 19th century was the age of the Robber Baron. They managed to get things so screwed up that Teddy Roosevelt got elected and got the first real anti-trust enforcement going (as well as setting up the first national parks). Then WWI gave the elites the excuse they needed to regain power, which they did, with the usual results -- they ran the country into the ground until the whole charade collapsed into the Great Depression, at which point democracy returned in the form of FDR and Harry Truman. Then anti-Communism gave the elites another excuse to take over, which all came crashing down when their Vietnam disaster became irretreivable and democracy temporarily resurfaced. Etc.

The deal is that democracy requires that the majority of people give a shit. And in general, the majority of people don't. As long as it's not an utter disaster immediately attributable to the folks in Washington D.C., the majority of people simply don't care who rules them. I mean, c'mon. Richard Nixon was elected not once, but *TWICE*. You're tellimg me that a vile, evil little man like Richard Milhous Nixon (to quote the late Hunter S. Thompson, "Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning") could get elected not once, but *twice*, if people really gave a shit?

Not no, but FUCK no. Same deal with that vile mean little dopehead George W. Bush. Oh sure, the flying swift boat attack monkeys had some small part in this last election, taking to the air after gorging their intestinal tracts upon lies, slanders, and confabulations to fling their feces with all the intensity of a Republican congressman accepting bribes, burying the truth beneath a constant rain of flying swift boat monkey feces... but look: the majority of people didn't even try to get out their umbrellas and grab their shovels and start looking for grains of truth underneath all those reeking piles of flying swift boat monkey feces. Frankly, the majority of people simply did not give a shit.

Brother Driftglass places his hopes upon the younger generation. All they need, he suggests, is a dream worthy of their passion, and they shall change the world. But our ruling elites have already dealt with that, making sure that the only dreams our youngsters have are small and puny things, pale little shriveled worms of dreams, hardly even qualifying as such. Getting a new pair of sneakers that are the "in" thing, getting the latest high-tech toy, that's what qualifies as a "dream" today. The television that raised our current crop of children pumped and primed them with these pale puny worms of dreams, stuffing them full of mindless consumerism until their very guts roil with the blind pale worms of dreams-that-aren't-dream, eating out their very substance until there is nothing left but a hollow shell and a big pile of worm poop. Even the more clear-eyed, who have recognized what has been done to them, fall back upon a pragmatic clear-headed view of the world that has no place for dreams, no place for passion. Some of these youngsters engage in street theater like marches and protests, but that's all it is -- theater. Meaningless. You ask them, they'll probably even agree with you.

The only thing -- the ONLY thing -- that ever makes the sheep look up and start participating in democracy, is national disaster. That's it. And the good news, or bad news, if you will, is that we are swiftly approaching that point. The federal government is printing money with all the fervant abandon of a Weimer Republic finance minister in order to cover the bills, the massive sucking sound of jobs being outsourced have hollowed out our economy into an unsustainable real estate Ponzi scheme, the health care system is at the point of collapse, and then there is the freakin' 500 pound gorilla of all national disasters going down in Iraq right now, sucking our nation's wealth and power into a tarpit of death and destruction without end. So it looks like, any moment now, the sheep will look up.

The question, then, is whether we will be ready when they do, ready with a dream, a plan, that can move this country forward, instead of a dream or plan that is just enough to put the sheep back to sleep but not enough to take this nation to the next step in its national destiny. Unfortunately, given the tired Democratic Party hacks in Washington D.C., I doubt it. I doubt it. I think we're in 1976 again. The tired old Democratic party hacks in 1976, the last time the sheep looked up, had no real dream to move the country forward, meaning that the evil vile people took over again in 1980. If we are to avoid a repeat of that, we must start, *today*, to talk about the dream that is America, to dream big, dream mightily. Alas, I fear we have forgotten how to dream in these past thirty years of blindness...

So it goes in the United States of Delusion, where we pretend that we are the home of the brave and land of the free -- when what we actually are, is the land of the sheep.

- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

What I'm watching/listening to

One seriously fucked up anime (Japanese animation) series: Gunslinger Girl. I won't bother trying to review it for you, someone else reviewed it better than I could. I'm not an otaku (fanatic about Japanese animation and comics) but do appreciate good stuff when I come across it. There is also a manga ("comic book") upon which the anime series is apparently based. I read the manga first (well, sort of, it's hard for me to follow the Japanese right-to-left panel ordering), the anime format allows much more depth, which in turn makes it just that more powerful. The manga has been continued, hopefully once the manga gets enough additional episodes in it and comes to a conclusion they'll complete the anime series.

Listening to: I went looking for Courtney Love's new album, but the store didn't have it. So I bought an old one that I somehow missed getting earlier. There are rumors that Kurt Cobain wrote major portions of Courtney Love/Hole's 1994 album, "Live through This". Whoever wrote it, it's good grunge-punk-pop, basically telling the story of one very fucked up young woman from young girl to rock star-dom. Unfortunately, if this was Courtney Love's attempt at self-therapy, it didn't work, as her recent history of drug rehab, jail, and judicial scoldings proves. Still rocks.

Finally, what I'm reading: When I was out of the country I picked up Neal Asher's The Line of Polity, which has not yet been released in the United States. Basically a sequel to Gridlinked, I'm about halfway through it now...

- Badtux the Literary Penguin

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Clingy kitties

One of the things I like about cats is that they're independent. They'll condenscend to let you pet them or pick them up, maybe, but they look at you like, "oh great, you again."

Except for my cats.

I don't get it. My grey and white kitty, every time I sit down at the computer, he has to lie inbetween my monitor and the edge of my computer desk (the keyboard is on a slide-out tray below the edge) and "help" me type if I don't pet him. The black one, on the other hand, has another distressing habit. I sit down on the toilet and he grabs my hand with his paws and tries to make me pet him.

I've never had clingy cats before. Anybody else ever run into this?!

- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans looks like rebuilding Iraq

It appears that New Orleans has been abandoned by our nation. Its people scattered everywhere, its body-strewn rubble left to rot, there is no more rebuilding in New Orleans than there is in Fallujah. But wherein the Busheviks blame "the security situation" for the lack of rebuilding in Iraq, what is their excuse for the situation in New Orleans? That the people of a destroyed city should somehow "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" despite the federal government controlling the only asset (the port and its tariffs) that they could use to do so? What about the fact that it was *federal* levees that failed and destroyed the city and thus the response is a *federal* responsibility, under any system of Christian morality that has ever existed?

But I forget, while the Busheviks loudly proclaim their Christianity, Busheviks are to Christians as macaroni is to meat... All that stuff about "love thy neighbor" in the New Testament? Doesn't exist in their Bible, which seems to more resemble Anton Levey's Bible...

- Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The day the last dreamer died

Note: Does not work so well as prose or poetry (it's lyrics to a song):

Once I had a dream I know
a dream a long long time ago
dreaming of a better world
a place where children learn and grow
where peace on earth was not a dream
and love, not war, was everything

But John Lennon is dead
and so is Martin Luther King
John F. Kennedy's dead and gone
and so is Bobby Kennedy
John Lennon is dead
and so is the dream
and so is the dream

So I survive every day
struggling to make my way
though streets filled with blood and hate
I pretend to like my fate
where have all the dreamers gone
gone to graveyards every one
but once I had a dream I know
a dream a long long time ago

But John Lennon is dead
and so is Martin Luther King
John F. Kennedy's dead and gone
and so is Bobby Kennedy
John Lennon is dead
and so is the dream
and so is the dream

John Lennon died 25 years ago today. Since then, we have been afraid to dream.

- Badtux the Saddened Penguin

Why does John Kerry bother getting out of bed in the morning?

Yes sirree, as someone who donated to John "I hocked my balls in 1975" Kerry, I'm on his mailing list. And he keeps sending me stuff. That I don't read. And keeps interjecting himself into Democratic Party stuff. As if he actually mattered anymore.

Now ole' Johnny boy says that we can "win" in Iraq if we just replace Donald Dumsfeld with, like, someone who hasn't lost all his brains to the brain-sucking alien in the Oval Office. WTF?! What does "win" mean?

Nobody's ever been able to answer that. To me, "winning" means some outcome that is good for America and Americans. I mean, that's the whole point of the Government of the United States -- that it is the government of the *UNITED STATES*, existing only because it has some benefit to the people of the United States. But I can't see any such outcome. Even the goal of "establishing democracy in Iraq", even if doable, would be good for Iraqis but probably not for America and Americans, since any viable democratically-elected Iraqi government *has* to be anti-American or else won't get the votes to be elected under any fair system of government, since America is hated with a passion in all sectors of Iraq except Kurdistan (which is still operating under the delusion that the Busheviks won't betray them in a second if there is political hay to be made).

As for Kerry, he is pathetic. He still thinks that any Democrat would vote for him again after Kerry betrayed his past and the Democratic Party by playing all haughty when the Flying Swift Boat Attack Monkeys were dispatched by the Wicked Witch of the Oval Office with orders "Attack, my little dearies, attack!", thenceforth to prime and pump their fecal orifices by gorging themselves on lies and slanders until the point of bursting, then take flight to fling feces with all the frantic intensity of a Halliburton executive seeking government money to do nothing. Under assault by these hoards of flying swift boat monkeys, truth becomes obscured under the feces flying everywhere, feces piling up in malodorous heaps of lies, libels, and confabulations, but Kerry didn't even *try* to clear a path through the piles of reeking feces, instead haughtily declaring himself above it all and piously proclaiming that the body public would somehow be super-smart and have x-ray vision enough to be able to see the truth buried under the constant rain of flying swift boat monkey feces.

Kerry is a loser.

There, I said it. Kerry... is... a loser. And needs to just shut his yap and let winners guide the party, instead of constantly attempting to interject himself into every debate and every discussion as if he actually really mattered anymore.

- Badtux the non-flying-monkey Penguin

Hat tip to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

President lauds his plan to improve the economy -- the Iraqi one

Today the President of the United States made a major speech. Things in Iraq were going quite well, he said. The Iraqi economy was turning up, thanks to his courageous economic plan of turning cities into rubble and then paying Filipino workers to rebuild them, just as the Louisiana economy is now booming thanks to the Bush economic plan of turning New Orleans into body-strewn rubble then paying (or not paying, in some cases) Mexican workers to rebuild New Orleans.

Yes indeedy, as Dear Leader says, all we must do is stay the course and victory in Iraq will be ours. Victory being defined as, err, ah, errm, let me get back to you on that one....

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fear and intimidation: how to suppress free speech

Let's say you have a prominent critic. He's a university professor. He blasts your policies on Israel and the Middle East as being fundamentally immoral, and backs this up with facts. The weekly talk shows are starting to invite him on, and his presentation there is devastating -- he comes across as a regular dude with a lot on the ball, rather than some kook. What do you do, if you're a Bush Administration official?

Well, that's simple. You destroy him. You have your sycophantic fans in the right wing media organize a smear campaign and get him fired from his job at the college. Then, to cap it all off, you have him arrested as a terrorist, despite the fact that, as far as anybody knows, he has never even advocated violence, much less committed any.

And thus he sits in jail. And sits in jail. And sits in jail. And three years later, even when prosecutors cannot convince a jury to return a guilty verdict, he still sits in jail.

But more important is the effect upon other potential critics of the administration. Because just about anybody who opposes American policy has been branded a terrorist by the administration, if you've ever even talked to one of these folks, you yourself could be arrested. Thus you keep quiet. You don't speak out about the injustices being perpetrated against your people. You keep quiet, and hope this will keep that knock away from your door, that knock where you, too, are destroyed, utterly destroyed, never again to have a normal life.

That burning smell? Pay it no mind, that's just the Bill of Rights, you know that those Commie founding fathers were all objectively pro-terrorist anyhow to write such silliness into our Constitution, right?

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Take a left at the next street, fool!

Mr. T. driving directions... "Listen up, fool! You aren't going to get there unless you turn left now."

- Badtux the Blogger-testing Penguin

Blogspot bloggered

As usual, Google isn't doing anything at all to inform its users about why Blogspot is bloggered. Meanwhile, many Blogspot sites are currently unavailable. If yours is one of them, try re-publishing your site, that seems to bring it back sometimes. Or not. Hmm.

- Badtux the Bloggered Penguin

Monday, December 05, 2005

The giant IQ sucking sound

I've noticed something strange about the Bush II Administration. You get folks who, in previous government jobs, did a decent or even exceptional job, and put them to work as a Bush administration employee, and it's like there's this giant sucking sound that sucks out every iota of intelligence in their brain. Let's take Donald Rumsfeld, for example. This isn't the first time he's been Secretary of Defense. He was Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford, after all. In his previous stint as SecDef, he was basically responsible for building the all-volunteer military after Nixon had finished LBJ's job of destroying the draftee military in Vietnam. He did a fine job of it too -- the various policies he put into place resulted over time in the U.S. military becoming the best trained, highest-morale military in the world.

Then he joins the Bush II administration, and.... suuuuuck!. Every little bit of brains in his tiny little noggin seem to have bled out of his ears and oozed to the ground, leaving vacuous sound bites, energetic karate-chopping hand movements, and a general grouchiness that makes the late Walter Matthau seem like a bundle of joy.

Or let's take Dick Cheney. He's no stranger to the situation in the Middle East. Under Bush's Daddy, as Secretary of Defense, he strongly argued against invading Iraq during Gulf War I, saying that doing so would result in being an occupying power for decades. He even mentioned the situation in Israel, noting that the Arabs couldn't defeat the Israelis militarily, but were making life miserable for them with suicide bombings and such, and stated that the United States shouldn't get involved in that sorta mess.

Then he joins the Bush II administration, and.... suuuuuuck! Every little bit of sense he ever had deserts him, and he is spotted wandering around Washington mumbling things like "weapons of mass destruction... 9/11 connection... fight them there so we don't have to fight them here..." that make utterly no sense since Saddam had no WMD, no 9/11 connection, and no Iraqi-based terrorist had ever committed any act of terrorism against the United States. It's as if every bit of brains in his noggin got sucked out into some giant black hole, leaving only pure evil behind.

What can we make of this phenomenon, then? I have a pet theory that I'll trot out for you, and I'll trot it out now for public derision: George W. Bush isn't actually human. His body was actually hijacked at some pont in the 1990's, and now is in the service of an interstellar IQ vampire, out to destroy all semblance of intelligence in Washington D.C. by sucking out the intelligence of anybody who goes to work for him.

Consider: Until the late 1990's, Dubya was known as a slick talkin' con man. He had no problem debating Ann Richards under the table when running for Texas government. Folks might describe him as lazy, vicious, and a bit of a rascal, but "dumb" wasn't a word used often to describe the young Dubya.

Now, though... his inarticulousness, warped grammar, strangely mutable vocabulary, and fumbling when asked unscripted questions are just plain embarrassing. Almost as if an alien, for whom English is a foreign language and the various culture mores of American politics were foreign concepts only vaguely understood, were responding. And what's more, when he appears at those unscripted press conferences, the IQ OF THE PRESS SEEMS TO DROP TOO! It's as if he's sucking out all intelligence from the Washington press corps, reducing them to asking stupid questions like "What do you feel about your critics?" when he ought to be being asked questions like "Did you lie to the American public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq".

And then there was the "debates" between him and Kerry. Yeah, he came out looking stupid in those debates. But KERRY LOOKED ALMOST AS LAME! Almost as if the alien who now possesses Bush's body somehow, via strange mental powers, was feeding on Kerry's brain, reducing his IQ by at least 30 points as we watched!

This also explains the strange hump on Dubya's back... it's Puppet Master!

Now, here's what I want to see: I want to see a reporter at one of these press conferences to dare George W. Bush to take off his jacket, shirt, and t-shirt, and turn around 360 degrees to show us that he's not wearing a wire -- or something worse. Then, and only then, can the theory that George W. Bush is actually an alien IQ vampire be vanquished forever.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Censorship: A new American value

To: Mr. Kevin P. Reilly, Jr.
Chairman & CEO
Lamar Advertising Co.
5551 Corporate Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Dear Mr. O'Reilly: I want to thank you for upholding fine Republican values by refusing to run billboard ads commissioned by the Democratic National Committee. That took balls. I've heard of folks censoring third party political ads, but this is the first time I heard of someone turning down an ad by a national political party, and you're going to come under a lot of fire for that.

Now, there's some folks who say that censorship of political speech is un-American, anti-freedom, and un-democratic, and that folks who engage in censorship are objectively pro-terrorist enemies of freedom and little different from the Commies we fought the Cold War with, i.e., just a bunch of goons and thugs out to loot the wealth of nations for the benefit of a Party elite. Well, they're right, of course. But remember, if we don't destroy freedom here at home before the terrorists do, the terrorists have won!

Once again, I thank you for upholding fine Republican values of censorship and suppression of political speech. You are truly an exempler of modern American values!

Sarcastically yours,

Badtux the Snarky Penguin

An aside for non-Louisianians: Lamar regularly refuses to run billboard ads commissioned by folks like the Sierra Club, Earth Now!, etc., while at the same time accepting tobacco and liquor advertising. This is, however, the first time I've heard of them turning down advertising from a national political party.... Their number is (225) 926-1000. Another option is faxing your message (225) 926-1005. Please do so responsibly, we don't want them complaining that they're being persecuted by left-wing kooks.

The death penalty: Fixable? Or no?

The Fixer sez on his blog that we ought to make the death penalty more immediate so that it would deter more people. Well, there's one basic problem with the death penalty that making it faster would make even worse: We have almost certainly put innocent people to death. Before the era of DNA testing and The Innocence Project, which proved, via DNA testing, that over a dozen people on Death Row were innocent, it is likely that over a dozen *other* people on Death Row who were innocent were executed, we just didn't know they were innocent because DNA testing didn't exist back then. Even now, if you consider that probably the same percentage of *other* people on Death Row (ones without DNA to test) are probably innocent too, that means we probably put to death at least a half-dozen innocent people per year.

The fact of the matter is that the criminal "justice" system in this country is fucked. It reaches its judgements based upon the size of a defendent's wallet, not based upon any notion of truth and justice. An example happened locally. A rich woman turned her back on her toddler for a minute while taking groceries in from her car, and the toddler toddled off, fell into a fountain, and drowned. The Sheriff's Department found that there was no crime there. A poor woman turned her back on her neighbor's toddler for a minute to walk across some railroad tracks to get the baby carriage, the toddler toddled onto the railroad tracks and got hit by the bullet train, and the poor woman is charged with negligent manslaughter. Justice? What justice?

The University of Chicago Law School did a little experiment. They devised several crimes, and "arrested" various people for these crimes. They set it up so that 50% of the people they "arrested" for the crime were actually innocent. They then pulled in experienced prosecuters from the DA's office to "prosecute" these people, and put inexperienced final-year law students, only a few months from staffing your typical public defender's office, to defend them. They then pulled in a random sample of the general public to serve as a "jury" for the "trials".

The conviction rate was 80% -- including over half of the innocent people (remember, only 50% of the "defendents" in this experiment were guilty in the first place!). In short, if you are an innocent man who has committed only the crime of being poor in the United States, and you're being defended by the typical public defender's office, you have an over 50% chance of going to jail. That does *not* make me feel good about the criminal "justice" system in this country!

Finally, sociologists have closely studied criminals and found that it doesn't matter what punishment you apply for murder, because most murders are *not* cold-blooded murders. They happen in the heat of passion, in the heat of an argument, in a panic during an armed robbery, but there is one clear characteristic of the typical murderer: he wasn't thinking of *anything* at the time he did the crime, much less what the punishment for murder was. You could literally state that the punishment for murder would be to be slowly skinned alive while suspended from a cross until you expired of pain, and it would not deter a single one of these crimes of passion.

Now, there's obviously some *real* stone murderers out there, like our pal Tookie, but they generally fall into *another* category of criminal: The criminal who believes he is too smart to be caught. If you're not going to be caught, why would you care about the punishment for the crime?

The fact of the matter is that the mere threat of jail is plenty to keep the typical person from committing murder. That is why there's ten times more people killed in auto accidents than there are murdered. I've felt like murdering some people before -- like the guy who left his car outside my front door with the alarm on, went on vacation, and his damned car alarm was going off for THREE STRAIGHT DAYS every time a jet flew over or a train rumbled by -- but y'know, I'm not young enough or buff enough or gay enough to even dream of enjoying prison. So I didn't even vandalize his $%@# piece of sh*t TOYOTA COROLLA (yes, that's right, TOYOTA COROLLA! In an upscale apartment complex full of Mercedes and BMW cars, this moron thought someone would steal his f'ing TOYOTA!).

Anyhow, to summarize: the criminal "justice" system is too broken to currently trust when it comes to the life of a man, and even if it wasn't broken, and even if it were done instantly and 100% accurately, the death penalty would not reduce the murder rate significantly, because most murderers are either a) not thinking at the time they do the crime, or b) think they're too smart to get caught.

And them's the facts. Make of them what you will. Or don't, if you're a Republican ("facts? Who needs facts when you have faith, FAITH, I say?!").

- Badtux the Fact-spewing Penguin

Friday, December 02, 2005

New Poll

What is your major source of fake news?

  1. Saturday Night Live
  2. The Daily Show
  3. The Onion (thanks, Newsblog 5000!)
  4. Fox News
- Poll boldly ripped off from Jim Shea. Select your choice below!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bad penguin joke

From the Internets:

A vacationing penguin is driving his through Arizona when he notices that the oil pressure light is on. He gets out to look and sees oil dripping out of the motor. He drives to the nearest town and stops at the first gas station.

After dropping the car off, the penguin goes for a walk around town. He sees an ice-cream shop and, being a penguin in Arizona, decides that something cold would really hit the spot. He gets a big dish of ice cream and sits down to eat. Having no hands he makes a real mess trying to eat with his flippers. After finishing his ice cream, he goes back to the gas station and asks the mechanic if he's found the problem. The mechanic looks up and says "It looks like you blew a seal."

"No no," the penguin replies, "it's just ice cream."

-- Badtux the non-Arizona Penguin

I gawb a cowb

sniff sniff.

Pentagon shocked by reports it plants propaganda in press

Secretary of Defense Ronald Dumsfeld announced yesterday that he's shocked, shocked I say, that someone within the Department of Defense could ever engage in planting propaganda in foreign newspapers, and immediately announced that the Pentagon was going to immediately investigate allegations that the Pentagon paid reporters to plant favorable stories in their newspapers. It is widely expected that the Pentagon will find that this did not, in fact, happen, or if it did in fact happen, charges will be filed against the same seven rogue soldiers who are to blame for all torture allegations against the Pentagon.

In other news, Enron is going to investigate whether Enron defauded investors, and Arthur Anderson is going to investigate whether Arthur Anderson did not fulfill its fudiciary duty to Enron investors. It is widely expected that they will find that the companies did, in fact, fulfill their fudiciary duty to investors, and that any reported problems were caused by The Evil Seven, who, prior to enlisting in the National Guard, were highly-ranked Enron employees. Also, the heirs of former President Richard Nixon are re-opening the Watergate investigation, and will perform a full and thorough investigation of the unproven allegations that Richard Nixon was a crook. It is expected that this thorough and impartial investigation will also find that The Evil Seven also were responsible for all those misdeeds, and that Nixon was, in fact, an honest god-fearing man who was unjustly accused of being a crook when he was, in fact, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin