Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why are the tighty whities so scared of Mexicans?

That's a question that Seb over at Sadly No! asks. So: Why are tighty whities on the right wing so scared by brown people?

Here's my theory: Hispanics believe in family. As in, extended family - grandmothers, cousins, uncles, the works. This is very threatening to white Americans who believe in "I got mine, and screw you" even when it's concerning their own parents or children. Thus all the RV's driven by old white people on the roads with the signs in the back windows that say "I'm spending my childrens' inheritence", the strange depravity of age-restricted communities such as the various Sun City clones (the notion of old people being isolated from the younger people of their family makes the Hispanics that I know get a puzzled frown), etc.

The fact that Hispanics believe in family, in helping one another, simply conflicts with the world view of the tighty whities. Thus the shrieking and screaming and running around in circles pulling out hair and shouting "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!". It's the same bias that was used against Italians 100 years ago, just retargetted to another suspiciously brown populace that is Catholic, speaks some kinda funny furriner gabble, and believes in family.

Anyhow, that's my theory (based upon living in Hispanic communities years of my life). Whether it's true or not, it does point out one significant difference between the Hispanic community and the tighty whities, and explains why, where the Hispanics see family, the tighty whities see conspiracy. The notion of "family" in the traditional sense simply does not make sense to today's tighty whities with their isolated "nuclear families", and when they see it, they can't tell the difference between that and some kind of foreign conspiracy to destroy white people. Of course, it requires someone with a peculiar kind of stupidity and paranoia to think that way, but hey, stupidity and paranoia are two things not in short supply here in these United States of Delusion...

- BadTux the Family Penguin

The flames of hell

For those of you who have read the first draft of my novel, provisionally titled "The Fixer" (and if you want a copy of the first draft for "editorial commentary purposes", drop me EMAIL), you might remember the painting in John Farner's entryway. That painting is not real. However, a similar painting hangs in my mother's entryway, and it is similarly created with red and black and yellow oil paints swirled onto canvas in a way that evokes the flames of Hell, albeit more explicitly so (with a vaguely demonic figure seeming to creep out of the background if you look at it wrong). It seems that a relative, while in college, shared an apartment with a fellow college student who was an aspiring painter. Unfortunately, said painter spent his rent money on canvas and paints, rather than on housing (an old story, eh?). The end result was that this relative ended up with a painting rather than with the painter's half of the rent money, and it ended up wending its way to my mother's hallway since she ended up making up the other half of the rent money. It always seemed to me that it would be more appropriate in the hallway of someone who was more violently-inclined than my mother, who wields a cold stethoscope but otherwise is more into the healing than hurting business (semi-retired nurse, not retired at the time she acquired said painting).

So anyhow, now comes the question of what to do about the title of the novel. To tell you the truth, I was looking at The Fixer's site and at his list of novels that he'd written, and thinking to myself, "Gosh, I wonder if I could write a novel?". So I decided to open up an editor window. So I typed "xemacs" then stopped... xemacs wants a filename. And then I asked myself, "Hmm, filename do I use?" I had a posting by The Fixer open in my browser. So I used the word "fixer" as the filename. Then I looked at the blank editor window. "Hmm, what's the title of this thing?" I didn't have the slightest idea what it was about, so I just wrote "The Fixer" on the blank page.

Then I went away and figured out who my protagonist was and pushed her into the story, and away we went.

The point... well, the story sort of is relevant to the title, in that she fixes a problem for a company that is an amalgam of a couple of Silicon Valley companies (as far as I know Oracle never stole someone else's software and branded it as their own -- but I know at least two other *very* large companies that did), but sheesh. I need a real title, not the handle of some other author stolen off of his web site!

Or maybe sharing a title with a blogger, a couple of classics (Bernard Malamud's and Joe Sacco's) and with a very lame vampire story (ick!) is the fate of this story, given that the titles I can think of tend to revolve around those paintings, and frankly, titles with the word "fire" in them are even more hackneyed. Sigh.

BTW: Just finished importing it into OpenOffice 2.0, remapping OO's keys to look sorta Emacs-ish (thank gawd for customizability!), spell-checking, and doing some minor changes. That was several days worth of work. There are two major changes coming up, a scene with the CEO of Sybil Software, and a scene with the big Russian dude after she wraps up the stuff at the warehouse, and a lot of fixes here and there. There's some parts I'm not happy with, some parts I need to re-arrange, and I need to do more setup for the last line (which will puzzle anybody who hasn't been reading my blog for at least a year). However, all in all, having just read through the whole blessed thing again, I'm fairly satisfied. Given that I wrote the whole first draft in less than two months of weekends and evenings (but had absolutely zero life during those two months other than work and writing, I guess that's how it has to be if you want to get things done) and it's my first attempt ever at writing a novel, it hangs together a helluva lot better than it has a right to, and leaves plenty of room for prequels and sequels if I ever want to come back to this character again.

Anyhow, enough for this Saturday. I'll see you tomorrow on Happy Mission Accomplished Day!

- Badtux the Fiction-writing Penguin

Friday, April 28, 2006

Eichmann in Jerusalem

When Nazi functionary Adolf Eichmann was captured and put on trial in Jerusalem for his crimes against humanity, Jewish philosopher and ethicist Hannah Arendt was dispatched by the New Yorker Magazine to cover the trial. She expected the architect of "The Final Solution" to be a slavering anti-Semite, a madman, crazed, filled with hate. She expected him to be the epitome of evil, a man unlike you or I, someone whose very nature was unlike that of normal men. What she found instead was an ordinary bureaucrat.

Far from being a slavering anti-Semite, Eichmann had no hate at all for Jews. He actually had Jewish friends before it became illegal. He never personally killed anybody with his own hands and in no way was personally a violent man, indeed, was appalled when he saw S.S. troops executing Jews and directed that more "humane" ways be found to exterminate the Jews (thus the gas chambers). His friends and relatives described him as a very boring person whose sole goal in life was to perform well enough in the duties assigned him to get the promotions and pay raises that he felt he deserved. Far from being a slavering psychopath, he was just an ordinary bureaucrat following the rules and following the law, trying to do a good job in the tasks that he had been assigned by his superiors in order to get noticed and promoted.

I am reminded of this because of the Reich-wing Republican's slavering devotion to law in preference to ethics. Reich-wingers never debate the ethical consequences of the behavior of their Dear Leader and His holy appointed administration. Rather, they debate points of law. For example, on the issue of illegal immigration, they focus on the law -- "it's illegal!" they cry. They never focus on ethical issues of right or wrong -- is it, for example, right to deport a 14 year old child who was brought to America as an infant? Reich-wingers, like Adolph Eichmann, never debate whether it's right or wrong. It's the law. That's good enough for them. Like Adolph Eichmann, for Reich-wing Republicans the law is the law, and the only ethical thing to do is to follow the law, even if it requires deporting a child to a land she has never known where she does not even know the answer, even if it requires exterminating the Jewish population of Europe. The law is the law, and as long as you follow the law, you are right.

The Republican Party is a party of Adolph Eichmanns, a party of people who believe that the law takes precedence over humanity, the law takes precedence over right and wrong, that the law is everything and that as long as you follow the law, you have nothing to be guilty about. See their defense of Dear Leader's program to spy on Americans without a warrant, for example. Their defense never touches upon whether it is right for our government to spy on Americans without the checks and balances of a warrant from a court. Rather, they defend it as being legal based upon legal analysis of the Patriot Act as provided by Attorney General Abu Gonzales. And the petty bureaucrats in the Federal bureaucracy who implement the program similarly have no moral qualms about their actions. They have received an order from their superiors to do something, and they implement it. Like Adolph Eichmann, whether an action is moral or not is irrelevant. All that matters is whether it will lead to recognition and a promotion.

The law is the law. That was Adolph Eichmann's defense at his trial. The law said he had to exterminate the Jews, so he followed the law and exterminated the Jews. Morality, for the Adolph Eichmanns of this world -- and I count the Reich-wing Republicans amongst them -- has nothing to do with whether something is wrong or right. The law is the law for them, and that's all that matters, especially if they can bend the law into gaining themselves the recognition and promotion that they feel they deserve.

- Badtux the Morality Penguin

Why can you use .38 cartridges in a .357 Magnum?

That's a question I asked elsewhere. So I did a little research. And it seems that .38 bullets are actually .357 inches in diameter.

So why is it called the .38 caliber, rather than a .357 caliber? It has to do with the old days of cap-and-ball revolvers. Well, "cap and ball" is sort of a misnomer. This was the setup that made the American Civil War so deadly: you'd put the powder load in the chamber, followed by wadding, followed by a bullet with an expanding base. Then you'd put a percussion cap on the nipple that led to the chamber.

Anyhow, the deal is that you'd pull back the hammer, point at whoever you wanted to kill, then pull the trigger to let the hammer fall on the percussion cap. And then, just like the cap pistol you may have had as a kid, it'd go "pop!". But this "pop!" would send flame into the powder chamber. Which, if you packed the wadding in there tight enough, would then go "bang" and shove the wadding up against the base of the bullet, thereby expanding it to match into the rifling of the barrel, resulting in a muzzle-loading rifle that didn't require a freakin' sledgehammer to load it and indeed could be loaded just as fast as a smoothbore.

The expanding-bullet rifle changed warfare. Prior to this rifle, most battles were fought with smoothbores that were accurate maybe to 40 yards. You'd get enough time for a couple of volleys, then get after the enemy with your bayonet. Battles were won by bayonets, not by bullets. Rifles were acccurate to over 100 yards, but were too slow to load. But once the expanding-base bullet was created, you could have a bullet that was smaller in diameter than the rifling, and load from the muzzle without having to hammer the bullet all the way down from the muzzle to the base. Thus Picket's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, which would have been a glorious victory for the Confederacy in the pre-minie-ball day, was a senseless slaughter -- the new minie-ball rifle had enough range that the charging Confederates were cut down long before they managed to run across the wide field they had to go through to get to the Union lines.

Anyhow, this same system was used for revolvers. So the barrel was .38 inches in size, but the bullet was .357 inches in size so that it could be dropped down from the muzzle. The cylinder's chambers were .357 inches in size too so that you could pound the bullet in there with your loading rod so that your bullet didn't fall out the front of the gun. These early revolvers were loaded from the muzzle just like early rifles, you just did it six times. These early single-action revolvers didn't have the swing-out cylinders of modern double-action revolvers -- they were, frankly, a pain to load.

So anyhow, when the brass all-in-one cartridge was invented, the first thing gunsmiths did was bore out the rear of the cylinders of these single-action .38-caliber-barrel pistols and insert brass cartridges. Because the cylinders were designed to hold bullets that were .357 inches in size, that's what they put into them. Eventually gun-makers came out with guns explicitly designed to hold these cartridges, with barrels that didn't have the extra slop needed for muzzle-loaders, but they kept calling these guns .38's because the cartridges were the same ones that they'd originally fitted into the real .38's that they'd bored the ends of the chambers out of. So even though the bullets were only .357 in diameter, and the barrels only slightly above that, they still called it a .38.

Now, let's fast-forward to the early 1930's. Gangsters adopted early versions of body armor, and the metal-bodied cars were hard to penetrate with bullets. The venerable .38 Special cartridge from the late 19th Century just wasn't cutting it for the FBI. So a longer variant of the venerable .38 cartridge was created that held more powder and had a faster burn. Rather than call it a ".38 Special Special" or something stupid like that, the folks who designed the new cartridge called it by its real diameter -- the .357. And because a magnum flask of champagne is one that's larger than the regular one, they called it the .357 Magnum cartridge. Then they designed a gun to shoot this longer cartridge and voila, the .357 Magnum revolver was born.

There are larger calibers of revolver and pistols available nowdays, of course. Even with the .357 Magnum was created, there was the .45ACP (Colt 1911A and its clones), though its ballistics couldn't match the .357 Magnum's. When the .44 Magnum (Dirty Harry's favorite weapon) was created in the 1950's, it pretty much exceeded the limits of gun control in the gun nut use of the term -- i.e., it has so much kick that it's basically uncontrollable by most people. So the .357 Magnum is still a quite popular caliber. A revolver is simple and reliable, and the load is pretty much the heaviest load that most people can shoot and still adequately control. And because revolvers don't care how long their cartridge is, you can put the shorter .38 caliber cartridge into the chambers and have a reduced-kick pistol that is useful for target shooting and learning gun control (in the gun nut use of the term, i.e., "gun control means that you hit what you're shootin' at").

Nowdays revolvers aren't so popular. Blame it on the Feds, again. Once the Department of Defense decided to adopt the 9mm cartridge for handguns in order to have commonality of ammunition with our NATO partners, suddenly the old .38 Special and .357 Magnum just seemed, well, old. So police forces upgraded to 9mm automatics that could hold 15 or more cartridges in a magazine, significantly more than the 6 or 7 that a revolver can hold, and magazines can be loaded far faster than a revolver can be loaded even with speedloaders for the revolver. The problem is that the 9mm cartridge has about the same stopping power as the .38 Special, because of an interesting characteristic of an automatic: the bullet is pushed up into the bottom of the ejector chamber as the ejector chunks the spent cartridge out the side, and then is pushed forward into the actual chamber by the slide sliding back foward via the slide springs. Thus the bullet can't be a soft lead hollow-point that could hang up on any of the mechanisms. It pretty much has to be a jacketed round that will slide smoothly through this process, else it can jam, at which point you're in the same position as the poor GI's whose early M-16's jammed in Vietnam due to poor-quality ammunition, i.e., your pistol is now a rock or club, not a pistol.

Thus jacketed bullets. All autopistols use them. Soft lead rounds like are used in revolvers simply won't slide right through the mechanisms. The problem with a jacketed bullet is that while it might slide more easily through the mechanism of the autopistol, it doesn't expand as well when it actually hits something. A soft hollow-point .38 bullet will expend all its energy in doing damage to the bad guy. A jacketed 9mm bullet will pass right through him and do damage to the wall behind him. Unless you've got something against that wall, this isn't what you want.

So anyhow, the point is that it might seem that, say, a .40 caliber automatic such as is now issued to the FBI would have significantly more stopping power than the .357 Magnum. But that's simply not true. Bigger isn't better. It's just bigger. If the .357 bullet expands to more than .40 caliber when it slams into a body, and it has as much energy behind it, it'll do more damage than the .40. About the only advantage the automatic has is that its magazine holds more rounds. Which is fine if you're in a gunfight with a bunch of bankrobbers, but if you're just wanting to defend your home against a thief, it's way overkill. Not to mention another drawback of the automatic -- because it uses blowback or recoil to slide the slide back and eject the cartridge and allow the new cartridge to feed, if you "limp wrist" the pistol and allow it to kick back, it's possible that the energy needed to eject the cartridge will instead go into your body -- resulting in a jam. Meanwhile, a revolver is dirt simple, with nothing to jam. You point, you pull the trigger, you shoot. Repeat until done.

So anyhow, that's why revolvers are still an excellent home defense weapon despite all these fancy automatics that are so popular today, why a .357 Magnum has more stopping power than any automatic currently sold, and why a .357 will shoot .38 Special cartridges (because they're really only .357 inches in diameter!). Hope you enjoyed this little bit of gun-nuttia!

- Badtux the Libertarian Penguin

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Money is more important than human lives

From my novel:

The headquarters of Sybil Software was a temple to money. People worshiped there, worshiped the almighty dollar and the power that it gave them, worshiped those above them in the corporate hierarchy who had more money and power than they. It was a cult, a cult based on money, a cult based on insanity, on giving up anything and everything that ever mattered in pursuit of pieces of toilet paper with pictures of dead presidents on them.

There was no joy, no feeling, no beauty in this sterile cube of glass and steel. People no longer came to work for Sybil in order to change the world. They came to work for Sybil because they wanted to work for a successful company. They came to work for Sybil because they were worshipers, and success defined as pictures of dead presidents was what they worshiped.

To the members of this cult -- which includes everybody defined as "successful" in this sick society we live in -- people are not important. Pieces of toilet paper with pictures of dead presidents are what's important. Thus Governor Bush of Texas, on behalf of large insurance companies and hospitals, signed into law a bill allowing hospitals to unilaterally take people off of life support whenever they felt like it if the hospital deemed the treatment too expensive. As a result, St. Luke's Medical Center in Texas unilaterally decided to kill a patient who was costing them too much money. And Texas law allows them to do that.

Because, you see, in these United States, there is only one God, and his name is Dollar. Remember that, everyt ime you hear Preznit Born-with-silver-foot-in-mouth mention the word God. He isn't talking about any God that you or I might recognize from the Bible. He's talking about the only God he and his entire retinue of hangers-on and flunkies worship: The almighty Dollar.

So: I wonder how long it will be before other "too expensive to live" people are quietly put down? for example, all those pesky dusky-skinned poor people? After all, money is more important than human lives here in the United States of Mammon...

- Badtux the Mammon-callin' Penguin

Praise Allah! Allah grows terrorist a new leg!

It appears that their Allah whupped ass on Bush's God. All Bush's God has done for him lately is manage to quelch the DT's under a bunch of Zoloft. Meanwhile, Iraq-based terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Allah has performed a major miracle that as far as I know the Christian God hasn't done for a couple thousand years -- Allah grew Zarqawi a new leg.

So: Whose god is a false idol, again?!

-- Badtux the Religious Penguin

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why would Preznit Cartman care about low popularity?

I mean, he done been electorated. Ain't nuthin' nobody's gonna do to get him out of office except impeach him, and that's not likely given that the House of Representatives is thoroughly gerrymandered Republican. So why would he care that he's completely and thoroughly unpopular?

Look. Local price of gasoline is $3.14 a gallon. Vice President Halliburton is dancing a merry jig and giving the middle finger to the U.S. pouplance and saying "Go Cheney yourself!". He's got what he wants. Oh sure, he might not do much governing over the next couple of years, but really, do you think he cares? Not likely!

- Badtux the Realist Penguin

Monday, April 24, 2006

It is done

The first draft of the crime novel, that is. I am somewhat emotionally and physically exhausted. Writing is hard work. Especially writing as grim as the ending of this thing.

It ended up at 63000 words. Longer than most of Raymond Chandler's classics, but too short to be sellable in today's marketplace. But for the second draft there's still a lot of writing to be done, so it could eventually make it to the 80,000 word mark needed to be sellable. Or not.

Now comes the hard work, going back and backfilling, adding clues and hints, fixing things that didn't work out, adding explication, punching up scenes, adding transitions and beefing up chapters, adding whatever is needed to flesh out the plot. During most of the story I didn't have the slightest idea what was going on, I was just pushing my characters forward to see where they went. That's how I write, if I know where the characters are going, I move them around like marionnettes rather than letting them live and breathe, I'm just not the outline kinda guy. Now that I know where they went, it's time to make sure I properly fill in where they were, and tie up any loose ends at the end. For one thing, one of the murderers isn't introduced until shortly before I kill him (well, actually, he got one line in chapter 10, but no hint there that he was more than just a walk-on). Well, let's just say there's a lot of work to be done before this first draft is an actual novel.

Anyhow: If anybody would like to review the first draft, drop me a line in EMAIL.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 9

Previous Chapters

Note: Chapter 8 and 9 will get jammed together as one chapter in the next draft. But you get to see the first draft here. Enjoy!

Chapter 9

Oh of course Wallace objected, but look, I had him. He had forgotten or never learned the cop's first rule, which is to control the situation. He'd been off balance since I'd first confronted him, and was at the point now where he was too befuddled to resist when I pushed him around.

I had Wallace give me his keys and drove his BMW. We stopped by my apartment, where Wallace put his pants back on while I filled my messenger bag cum handbag with goodies and stashed a couple of them under the car seat while Wallace was still zipping his pants in my bathroom. Then I put my own pants back on, along with the ankle holster. I transferred the Kahr from my fanny pack to the ankle holster, hustled Wallace out the door, and we were on our way to Oakland to see his boss.

It was a small warehouse in one of the shabbier neighborhoods of Oakland, an old warehouse district that had declined as newer warehouses had been built to the north. There was a couple of guys hanging around the loading dock, but nobody else around that I could see.

Wallace took me in through a side door, sliding his keycard through the slot. Then he reached for an office doorknob.

"Let me," I said, pushing his hand aside and opening the door.

I walked through the door, pulling Wallace behind me, then let go of Wallace's hand as the bald guy behind the battered desk said into his phone, "I have to go, I'll call you back" and hung up.

It was the kind of seedy office you'd see in a bad gangster movie. The Feds had gone beyond authentic into outright overkill with this place. I wondered what went through this warehouse. Probably guns. Guns to people that weren't nice people, if the CIA's past record was any guide. But I was here on business of another sort.

"We need to talk," I said. There was a wooden chair in front of the desk. I pushed it back, stepped up on it, then sat on the back of the chair with my feet on its seat so that I was looking down at the man. "Are you Vernon Hughes today?"

"I don't believe we've met?" he said, eyebrows raising.

"Kathy Varis. You sent your boyscout Wallace to follow me around. He did a piss-poor job of it, as you can see."

"I see," he said, turning his gaze upon poor Wallace, who seemed to shrink.

"Way I figure it is, we can help each other," I said. "You have things you want done, things that your boy scout here," and I nodded towards Wallace, "can't do because he's too green and too dumb. And me, I want a couple of things too, things that you can get for me but I can't get for myself, not easily anyhow."

"I see. And exactly what do you believe you can do for me?"

I shrugged. "Whatever you want. Surveillance that nobody would ever associate with you. Infiltration. Wiretapping. Bugging. A little B&E. I'm not prime bodyguard material but I'm handy enough with a gun if you have muscle to take care of the beef part of things. And of course information. You won't believe the things I know about pretty much anybody who's anybody around here. Ask me some questions, and I can likely find you the answers if I don't know them already."

"And you want? ..."

I hopped down off the chair and sat on it, leaning my arms on the desk. "I want the FBI and SEC files on my father. All of them, including the parts that are, quote, pertaining to an open case, unquote. And my mother's files too."

"I see. And you believe I can get these for you because... ?"

"Well, Vern, because you got poor Wallace here an FBI ID. Which means you at least have a conduit into the FBI."

Vernon leaned back and smiled. I didn't like that smile. It was like the smile of a shark looking at a minnow. I took my elbows off the table and dropped my right hand near my right pants cuff, and my left hand into my messenger bag. "And would you like to see your own FBI file?" said the shark to the minnow.

"Not really," I said, not liking the direction this was going.

"Really? Because it's quite interesting." Vern pulled a folder out of his desk drawer. I pulled my left hand out of my messenger bag, a goodie clutched in it, and stuck said goodie on the underside of the lip of the desk as my hand came back up.

Vernon opened the folder. "This is quite a story," Vernon said. "You should read it. Talented gymnast, then parents cruelly ripped from you, raped, abused, track star, top of your high school class, cum laude from Stanford with a major in Political Science and a minor in Computer Science? Frankly, if this wasn't an FBI file I'd think it was bad fiction. Survivors like you aren't supposed to exist."

I shrugged. "I was never good at that whole victim thing. What do you say. I do a favor for you, you do a favor for me?"

"Odd thing about your post-college career, though," Vernon said. "You worked at a couple of places, yet never managed to last more than a few months. Why is that?"

"I don't play well with others," I said.

"Yet somehow managed to come out of it with enough money to buy a run-down apartment complex."

"I'm frugal."

"Then there is the strange spate of dead bodies that seem to be left in your wake."

I shrugged. "Trouble seems to follow me."

"Yet it never seems to stick to you. I wonder why?"

"Luck," I said. "And that stupid four letter word, C-U-T-E. I got it, I might as well use it." I leaned back and smiled my cutest head-tilted smile. "What can I say? People just love my natural charm. They want to pat me on the head and stuff. Isn't that just the cutest thing?"

"Let me be blunt, Ms. Varis. You are dangerous, and the fact that you managed to bludgeon poor Wallace into bringing you to my doorstep makes that even clearer. I must admit that I underestimated you. I will give you a piece of information. I believe that certain people here in the Valley are providing critical support to, let us say, various external enemies of the nation. I assigned Wallace to follow you because one of our assets here was targetted by parties unknown and it was unclear how involved you were in that. How do you feel about doing work for your country?"

I shrugged. "Doesn't do me either way. If I'm catching your drift right, you think someone is, say, fixing Osama bin Laden up with some nifty communications gear so he can direct things from his cave without the good guys catching him. I'm old fashioned, so I want bastards like that caught, every bit of skin flayed off their body until they die of pain and shock, then hung for the crows for the next thirty days. But that's got nothing to do with country and everything to do with not liking murdering bastards, regardless who they work for."

"So if I ask you for help regarding certain people who are removing work from our ventures and moving those assets overseas..."

I shrugged. "Get me a copy of the files I want, and I'm your girl. A favor for a favor."

"I see," Vernon said. "A pity. I had so hoped that you would be willing to come to work for me full time. A young woman of your talents could go far in this business."

I shrugged. "I don't play well with others. Besides, I like being able to look in the mirror in the morning without being ashamed of what I see."

"Ah, moral scruples. Do you see yourself as being an honorable woman, Ms. Varis?"

"I don't know what that even means anymore," I said.

"I will get your files," Vernon said. "Then you will do a favor for me. That is what it means."

"I guess so, then," I said.

"Our business here is done, then," Vernon said. "I will get your files, then give you a call." He looked at Wallace. "Wallace, please show the young woman out."

"Been a pleasure," I said, jumping up and reaching out to shake Vernon's hand. Vernon looked as if he were staring at a cobra, then took my hand in his own hand, which was surprisingly moist and limp. My left hand came down with a clunk on the desk just as my right foot pushed another of my toys up onto the underside of Vernon's desk.

"See ya," I said, waving goodbye as I followed Wallace out of the office.

Once the office door was closed, I asked Wallace where the lady's room was, and he showed me. One nice thing about a lady's room -- a guy isn't going to follow you into it. Not a nice guy like Wallace, anyhow. So I had a few minutes to work. There was a suspended ceiling. I climbed up on top of the toilet, and tried to reach it. No dice. I closed the door of the toilet and chinned myself on it, then crawled over it. With all the pushing, pulling, and chinning I'd done today, I was going to sleep well tonight, and be a bit sore in the morning besides, but so it goes. I'd had the kind of day where I could just curl in a ball and pass out from exhaustion, but it wasn't the first time I've felt that way, and like Coach Davis was fond of saying, when the going gets tough, yada yada yada. So I shoved the rather bulky transceiver package on top of the suspended ceiling, where it was hidden from view, and then plopped back down to the floor and went about my business.

I could listen for three days. After three days, the batteries would be run down. Since there was no way in hell I was going to be able to retrieve it all, this was close to a thousand dollars worth of equipment that I was blowing here, with dubious payback. But information was power... and I had the feeling that these guys weren't telling me some things that I really, really wanted to know.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spammers are Timberwolves fans?

Being deluged with spam that has the words 'Troy Hudson' in the title. Who coulda thunk it that spammers were NBA fans?!

- Badtux the Spammed Penguin

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kitten therapy

I am sitting here on my couch with one cat curled up against my right hip, one cat curled up against my left hip, and my laptop computer on my lap. Oh, and they're both purring, too.

All is right in the world. For the moment, anyhow.

-- Badtux the Contented Penguin

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 8

Previous Chapters

Yes, you get a full chapter today! I'm up to 50,000 words in the mainline. It's starting to wrap up nicely. Still a few mysteries to solve before we wind down, and more than one funeral to attend, so it'll end up well past my 60,000 word goal for the first draft before I get all those threads tied together.

Chapter 8

I made my way towards the weights, as my friend from the red Beemer tried to pretend he wasn't watching me, then I stopped right in front of his stationary bicycle and said, "Can you spot me?"

Poor fool almost fell off his bicycle. Which is hard to do, when said bicycle is bolted to the floor. But he was in a jam, so he said the only thing he could say:


"Thanks!" I said, giving him my most winning smile. "I really appreciate that."

I headed over to the bench press, Beemer boy in tow, and shoved the bar onto the uprights, then a 25 pound weight on each end. I lay down on the bench and waggled the tips of my fingers at the bar -- short arms suck. My friendly ogler got the hint and bumped the bar down into my hands. I pumped out ten reps, then nodded at him to bump the bar back up on the uprights.

"They got you working long hours today," I said to my new buddy as I waited between sets.


"Interesting BMW you're driving. Air America? America Import/Export? Hello? Where's your imagination?"

I lay back and waggled my fingers for the bar again.

"I don't know what you're talking about," my new buddy said.

I pumped out another ten reps. I felt the last one. It almost made me forget about the pain from the rope and cigarette burns.

"So what do you want to know?" I asked. "I'll answer any question you ask, if you answer a couple of mine."

"Are you always this weird?"

"Sometimes I'm weirder," I said, grinning. "Anyhow, I remembered something about a CIA-created venture fund. What do you bet that I'll find out that Akilna Software was one of the companies funded by the CIA?"

"Akilna who?"

"You're good," I said. "What's your name?"

"Uhm... Larry."

"Yeah, right. And I'm Britney Speares."


It was time for another set and I waggled at him again. I started running out of gas at the sixth rep. "Larry" gave me just enough assist to get over the bumps, then at the last rep bumped it up to the bar. Somebody had taught the boy good manners.

"So how long you been working for the CIA?" I asked him.

"Larry" looked like a deer caught in the headlights, clearly seeing disaster but not knowing what to do about it.

"I work for an import-export company," he said.

I pointed Larry at the squat machine. I heaved a 45 pound weight onto my end, he heaved another 45 pound weight onto the other. I got under the bar and did one rep.

"So you're just a random stalker?" I asked.


A big guy named Red overheard the last. Red was the kind of guy who bench-pressed 300 pounds and squatted more. He had muscles on top of muscles. He was also bald and, I suspected, his balls were about the size of ants from all the steroids. Despite that, he was basically a nice guy. He spotted me sometimes, and usually talked to me like I was his little sister, not like I was someone he wanted to fuck, not that there was a lot down there to fuck with given how much juice he'd shot himself with over the years. I liked Red, insofar as I liked anybody.

Red came over, and at my stalker's shoulder said, "Is this guy botherin' you, Kathy?"

I looked at "Larry". "He's been stalking me. Maybe we should find out who he is."

Red placed hands the size of a saucer on both of "Larry"'s shoulders. "I suggest you get your wallet out and show the little lady your ID, mister."

My favorite stalker sighed, and pulled out a wallet and government ID. His ID said that he was Wallace Johnson, and that he worked for the FBI.

"FBI?" I raised an eyebrow. "I get it. The CIA isn't allowed to spy inside the United States." I looked up at Red. "Thanks, Red. I guess he wasn't stalking me after all, he was just being very, very incompetent."

"No problem," Red rumbled, and patted me on the head, which I usually hate but I know Red just works that way. That little sister thing. Then Red rolled off to push some other incredibly heavy lump of iron to some other place repeatedly.

"So what should I call you, Larry or Wallace?"

"Just call me Wallace," my new friend said grumpily.

I got back under the weight, picked it up off its stops, and signalled Wallace to flip the stops out of the way. I did ten repetitions, then signalled him to flip them back.

"So I'm not going to ask why you're following me, because I know why. I know how too, you have a transmitter under the bumper of my car, which is why you are in sight only when I'm away from the car for a while or am out running. Just one question -- when I was at that house in West San Jose, were you following me then?"

"I was a couple of blocks away," he said grumpily.

"When I didn't move for a while, did you drive by to see if you could see anything?"

"Yeah, but you weren't anywhere in sight. I figured you were in the house."

"I was in the garage," I said. I waggled my wrists at him. "Some creep knocked me out and tied me up to the rafters, then had fun poking me with a lit cigarette. It would have been nice if you'd been there."

Wallace looked uncomfortable. "Hey, I'm sorry. But you're okay, right?"

I got under the weight again, waggled at Wallace to move the stops, and angrily heaved it up and down another ten times, the last few times pushing it up through sheer willpower through the burn. I came to a halt, catching my breath and signalling Wallace to flip the stops back down.

"No I'm not okay," I said. "Let me tie you up to some rafters and poke you with cigarettes and see how you like it. I had to shoot someone. Have you ever shot someone? Have you?" I saw the look on Wallace's face, which was a look of total incomprehension, and said "Of course not. Let me tell you about shooting someone. You're scared, you're upset, you're stressed out, you're jacked up on adrenalin so far that your blood pressure is about to pop your eardrums out, and you're looking at the person you just shot and wondering if you're going to have to shoot him again to keep him from hurting you, and you're trying to hold yourself together long enough to take care of business. It's one of the most horrifying and terrible things that any thinking feeling person could ever have to do. And you ask if I'm okay? Fuck no I'm not okay. I need to throw some weight around."

We did the ten more reps thing. I fed on the anger, pushing so hard that my vision greyed out on the last rep. Then I pushed Wallace to the next exercise, pullups. I'd already done my share of chinups today, but those hadn't been weighted behind-the-neck pullups. I snapped on the weight belt, directed Wallace's hands to my hips to keep me straight up and down, and jumped up to the bar.

"So, do you think I'm cute?"

"Uhm, yeah", Wallace said. I pumped out ten behind-the-neck pullups as Wallace's hands kept me stable, then dropped back to the floor, and turned around. Wallace's gym shorts showed that Wallace hadn't been kidding.

"Cute enough that you'd be very, very angry at anybody who hurt me?"

No hesitation. "I'd hurt them bad."

"Good," I said. "Just one thing." I poked him in the chest, looking up at him. "Don't you ever, ever, ever kill somebody that I've already put down. That's for me to do, not for you. Got that?" I was looking up at his face, which was showing nothing but confusion and a little bit of fear, and he backed up involuntarily a step. "Do you understand?" I demanded of him.

"I... what... okay. Okay."

"Because when you kill someone that I want to talk to, I become very, very angry. And when I become very angry, you don't want to be near me. So you don't do that. Do you understand?"

"I understand," he said, the fear and confusion mixing on his face. I was still poking him in the chest, and he was still giving ground.

"So did you kill that man in the garage?"

"What!" The combination of outrage and befuddlement on his face was impossible to fake, so I smiled.

"Of course you didn't. You're a freakin' Boy Scout, Wallace."

"Uhm... thanks."

I had Wallace spot me through the rest of the exercises I intended to do that day. By the time I was done, my restlessness had turned into a feeling of satisfaction and contentment as the brain chemistry kicked in. Even my burns didn't feel so bad anymore. Most of my harsh had mellowed quite well, thank you. Most. Not all.

I wiped the dripping sweat off with my towel, and said to Wallace, "Okay. Now we go talk to your boss."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 7 Part 2

Previous chapters

One of the advantages of being self-employed is that you can take a nap in the middle of the day. Of course, the disadvantage is that your days end up so long that you need that nap.

Connie had a long list of maintenance items that needed to be fixed. Apartment 12A was reporting their sink clogged. Apartment 14B had a dripping bathtub faucet. Then the guys in apartment 10D were moving out and I had to do a walk-through with them before the end of the day. My life is neverending excitement.

But first I had to collapse.

I had been running on adrenalin, and I crashed hard, barely making it to bed before I conked out entirely. But thirty minutes later I was okay. Except for my face and belly hurting, and my wrists hurting. But there was nothing to do about that, so I did my best to ignore it, and went off to handle the clogged drain and the walk-through, and retrieved my Kahr too.

I was restless. I couldn't ask about the car until the men started coming home to their apartments. The guy in the red BMW wasn't anywhere around. Harry Emory hadn't called me on my personal cell phone to gift me with a few of his millions in exchange for being tiny and cute. It was a workout day, so I did what I always do on a workout day when I start getting restless -- I went to the gym.

My philosophy is, when the going gets tough, get tougher. And get even. Well, somebody else had handled the "get even" part for me, which irritated me. I'm a big fan of the personal touch. Much more satisfaction that way. But the get tougher part, I could handle. When Coach Davis had shoved me towards the weight room telling me I needed to muscle up to be the best athlete I could be, he'd also let me know there's no better way to get rid of your frustrations, no better way to work through the pains of everyday life, than to take it out on some poor unoffending lumps of iron at the gym. I'm not that girl anymore, but I'd just had a first-class example of why it wasn't a bad idea to keep my body tuned up even as small as I am. I might not be able to beat anybody up except maybe a random twelve year old kid. But getting out of trouble isn't always about beating people up, and I needed any edge I could get.

The gym that I go to isn't one of the meat market type gyms. It's a serious temple to the human body, a shiny testament in glass and chrome and steel to the lengths that people will go in order to be toned or strong. There's only a few fancy machines here, and only a small part of the floor is filled with stairsteppers and stationary bicycles. The rest is a sea of iron and steel, free weights to take care of every muscle you could see. This was a temple I could worship in.

At that time of day, the only people around were the serious types -- the trophy wives resolutely staving off cellulose with hours of stair stepping, the body builders honing their bodies to the ultimate perfection, and me. I waved at Brad at the front desk and grabbed a towel, then headed for the stationary bikes for my warm-up.

Ten minutes later, I looked over towards the weights to see who was lifting today who could spot me, and I saw a familiar face. A familiar face whose name I didn't know.

That, however, was something I could remedy.

Transitions are still not my strength. The next chapter sizzles a bit more, as we get a couple of new characters. On the mainline, I'm up to 47500 words now, and Kathy is about to kill someone, but she has to go clothes and shoe shopping with a friend first. Priorities, y'know. Gotta keep your priorities straight. Shop, *then* murder. Sort of like the advice to Ghenghis Khan's horde... rape, *then* kill, not the other way around. Anyhow, seems I can write about 1000 words per evening, when I have something to write. Less if not. Weekends depend. At that rate, it would take around three months to write the first draft of a typical novel, then probably another three months to polish it. The typical advance on a first novel is anywhere from $6K-$8K and they rarely earn out their advance. Now you know why I'm not interested in becoming the new king of crime fiction...

Fixer [Interim Title] Index of Chapters

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1 Chapter 4 Part 2
Chapter 5 Part 1 Chapter 5 Part 2 Chapter 6 Part 1 Chapter 6 Part 2
Chapter 7 Part 1 Chapter 7 Part 2 Chapter 8 Chapter 9

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Let's nuke'em 'till they glow, says the lunatic-in-chief of the United States of America as he boards Air Farce One to go raise some more money for fat cat Republicans.

The fact that he would even mention the notion of a nuclear first strike in any context means that he makes every other president of the United States since 1945 look like a paragon of virtue. Hell, Richard M. Nixon looks positively splendiforous by comparison.

We have now entered cloud cookoo land -- a President so bad, he makes Richard Nixon, a man so famously twisted that he needed servants to screw his pants on, look good.

- Badtux the not-deranged Penguin

Monday, April 17, 2006

Writing my little flippers off

A bit depressed, actually. I'm at 46,000 words in the crime novel (i.e., more than half finished with the first draft) and one of the murderers just got offed in a particularly gruesome manner by one of the heros. That was a gut-wrenching chapter to write. The kind of person who would kill a fellow human being in that manner is not a nice person, and putting myself under the skin of this person was like immersing myself in bile.

So anyhow, now you know why I haven't been blogging recently -- I've been writing fiction. Once I finish the first draft in a few weeks, I should be back to normal. Insofar as normal can be, when you're talking about a penguin.


Friday, April 14, 2006

I want one

Honda Fit. All the safety features. 33mpg city. Honda quality. Sure the bleep beats the 15mpg my current Chevy S-10 gets...

- Badtux the Gas-hog-drivin' Penguin

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 7 Part 1

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1 Chapter 4 Part 2
Chapter 5 Part 1 Chapter 5 Part 2 Chapter 6 Part 1 Chapter 6 Part 2

Chapter 7

There was mixed gore and brains splattered against the wall. My masked buddy's ski mask was now fragments mixed with the gore. The smell of blood and urine and feces filled the air, the smell of death. Dr. Feelgood had arrived and was taking pictures, humming a happy tune. Officer Jackson looked a bit green about the gills again.

"Hi Marvin," I said, intercepting Dr. Feingold and kissing him on the bottom of his chin again.

"Hi Kathy. You look hungry. Want a sandwich?" He pulled a sandwich out of one of the pockets on his lab coat. Tuna salad. Yum. I grabbed it and took a bite, realizing just how hungry I was. I'd missed lunch getting patched up at the doc-in-box. Officer Jackson was making gagging noises and holding his hand over his mouth. Dr. Feingold handed him a barf bag out of another of his pockets.

I pointed at the dead man. "What killed him?" I wolfed down another quarter of the sandwich, eating like I meant it.

Dr. Feingold pointed at the wall behind the dead man. "The bullet went in there. We'll know more when I get it out, but it looks like a .357 magnum hollow point. Massive destruction."

"I shoot 9mm, full-jacketed."

He nodded. "I know." He pointed to the shoulder and leg wounds. "Those are 9mm bullet holes. Bullet went clean through except where it tumbled in the leg after hitting the bone. Odd angle, though. Almost like someone was shooting from the ceiling?"

I held up my wrists. "I was tied to the rafters. Rope burns."

"Ah." He examined the bandages on my wrists, then produced an evidence bag with frayed rope in it. "Already got that. Your blood on this?"

"Yeah." I stuffed the rest of the sandwich in my mouth. Officer Jackson was shaking his head. He still looked green.

He consulted his notebook, walked to where he'd found the rope, and looked upward. "How'd you work it?", he asked.

"I baited him into getting close, kicked him in the balls, and swung up into the rafters. The rest was easy."

"Not easy," he said. "Not easy at all." He patted me on the shoulder, and looked wistful. "You take care," he said. I was suddenly very interested in my shoes.

Officer Jackson cleared his throat. Dr. Feingold turned his attention to him. "She doesn't shoot a .357. Too much kick. She's too light, can't control it. She didn't have anything to do with this man's death. Send her home."

"She shot a man."

Dr. Feingold sighed, and shook his head. "Even if she did, it was self defense. There isn't a jury in this county that would convict a tiny little thing like her for shooting some goon who tied her up and hurt her. What's the point?"

"Thanks," I muttered.

Dr. Feingold gently put his hand on my shoulder, and said softly to me, "I know you think you're tough. And you are. But that doesn't turn you into a 250 pound linebacker. You've had a hard day. Go home. Get some rest. Go."

"Thanks, Marvin," I said, and leaned my head against his shoulder for a moment, and closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. Then I shook my head and headed for the door.

"Hey," Officer Jackson said, catching up with me. "What's with you and Doctor Feingold?"

"He's been with the coroner's office a long time," I said. "He was there when they brought my mother in."


Fourteen years old. Fourteen years old, and a knowledge deep inside that it wasn't right, wasn't fair. Saying to her father, "I have to see her. I have to know." And a young Doctor Feingold, hands on that girl's shoulders, saying "You don't want to see this, it's not a good idea" but I had to. I had to.

The image of my mother's dead and shattered body on that lonely table remains with me to this day. And the look on young Doctor Feingold's face, as that girl pulled the sheet down, looked, nodded, and said "Now I know she's dead," turned and walked out. I remember that, too.

I rubbed my eyes. The sunlight was making them water. Yeah, that was it.

"You okay?" Officer Jackson asked.

"Yeah. Just tired." I stopped. "What about the Beemer?"

"Leased to an import/export company. America Import/Export."

I closed my eyes, shook my head, and smiled. I knew who the guy in the Beemer worked for, anyhow. I doubted that he was shooting anybody with a .357 Magnum, unless he'd bought it himself, which was unlikely given that his issue weapon was a Glock 23 .40 caliber pistol which for his purposes was preferable to the .357 Magnum. Of course, Doc could be wrong about the .357, but it wasn't likely. He'd seen a lot of bullet holes in his time. A .40 jacketed government load shot from an automatic didn't make the same kind of hole as a .357 Magnum soft lead hollow point shot from a revolver.

"Forget about him," I said. "He's got nothing to do with this. What about the house?"

Officer Jackson shook his head. "Still waiting on the warrant."

I nodded. "It's been a long day. I'm going home."

It was 2PM.

Not much happening here, but still one of my favorite scenes. Got that whole hard-boiled softy thing going, between gobbling down a sandwich amidst the smell of blood and shit, and getting a bit bleary-eyed during the backstory flashback. Kathy is someone who might let her guard slip a bit from time to time, but never much, for reasons that should be starting to come clear now and will be crystal clear by the end. Too bad. There's people who care for her and could be good for her, if she'd let them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Busy busy busy

Just got a nice project at work assigned to me, and am still churning away at the novel (closing in on the 30,000 word mark rapidly). So if I don't do much blogging other than the thrice-weekly fiction blogging, well, I'm busy (shrug).

- Badtux the Industrious Penguin

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 6 Part 2

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1 Chapter 4 Part 2
Chapter 5 Part 1 Chapter 5 Part 2 Chapter 6 Part 1

The receptionist recognized me. "You again. What this time?"

"Cigarette burns. Partial suffocation. Rope burns. Not much this time."

"Kinky. Do we need to call the police?"

"Don't bother. I already did it. You can check if you like." I tossed her Officer Richard Welch's card that he'd given me that morning.

"I'll check. Here, sign in."

She gave me the obligatory clipboard, which I filled out and slid back to her. She directed me to take a seat until the doc-in-a-box could see me.

The doc was a new one this time. They didn't last long here, young interns just out of med school serving penance at the critical care center then moving on as soon as they got a bit of experience under their belt. He gave me an ointment and some dressings for the burns, and warned me that if I didn't take care of it, complete with scrubbing off dead tissue with a gauze pad ("debrieding", he called it), there would be some scarring. "You want to see a real burn specialist for the one on your face," he added. "That'd be a real shame if it scarred."

I think most of the doc-in-a-boxen that I've encountered have had a major crush on me, and this guy didn't seem an exception. Something about them being young, having just spent years of 16+ hour days getting their medical credentials, and being male (usually) and horny (went with the "male" part) seemed to be all it took. It was sort of sweet, actually, but futile. Trust issues, remember? Still, there was no reason to crush the poor child, so I simply said "Thanks. I'll do that," and let him finish up.

When I dropped my folder back at the desk, the receptionist pushed Officer Welch's card back to me. "You ought to get a safer job," she said to me.

"Hey, I'm in real estate. What can be safer than that?"

She shook her head, a bit of a grin on her face. "If you're in real estate, I've got a million dollars."

"Really? Why you working down here, then?"

"I own the place," she ad-libbed.

I smiled and shook my head, and headed out the door.

I was halfway to my car when my cell phone rang. I dug it out of my jeans and flipped it open.

"Hello!" I said cheerfully.

"I'm not in the business of disposing your bodies for you," said Officer Jackson, sounding a bit peeved.

"Not you too! What body?"

"That stiff in West San Jose? The one you blew away?"

"I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about," I said. "He was breathing and all when I left. If you'd gotten an ambulance down there in a reasonable time, he should have been fine. It's not my fault you guys operate at the speed of government."

"Breathing with the back of his head blown off? I don't think so."

I took a deep breath. "Look, he had a hole in his leg and a hole in his shoulder when I left, but otherwise he was fine. I don't know anything about his head being blown off, but here's someone who might." I pulled my notebook out of my bag and read him the license plate number and description of the guy in the red BMW who'd been following me that morning, as well as a general description of the car.

"Get down here," he said. "Or I swear, I'll get a warrant for your arrest."

"Okay, okay," I said. "I'll be there in twenty minutes." I swung my Toyota into traffic, and made my way there as fast as the whiney little hamsters under its hood could run in their wheels.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 6 Part 1

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1 Chapter 4 Part 2
Chapter 5 Part 1 Chapter 5 Part 2

Chapter 6

"I got something for you," I told Officer Dick as I drove home to get some dry clothes. "You might want to reconsider the owner of that car as a suspect." I gave him the address, telling him that he might want to get a search warrant because the place looked like it'd been tossed. "Oh, you also want to send an ambulance, 'cause there's a guy trussed up in the garage and he has a couple of bullet holes in him."

I could hear Officer Welch groan. "We're not in the business of disposing your bodies for you."

"Why does everybody say that to me? Hey, he's not dead," I said in in my best offended voice. "If you hurry and get the ambulance out there, you might even find out who he is and what he was doing lurking around the place in a black ski mask assaulting random women."

"He assaulted you?"

"Yeah," I said.

Dick was quiet for a few seconds. "You okay?"

"I'm in better shape than he is," I said. "I'm not complaining."

"You searched him?"

"Nothing," I said. "Unless you consider a Beretta 96 to be something. I took the magazine and the round in the chamber, but left the pistol there for you."

"Couldn't you just for once hang around and give a statement like a regular civilian?"

"Dick, Dick, Dick. Look, I pissed myself, I got cigarette burns, my head hurts from when he nearly suffocated me, and I have rope burns on my wrists. If you want to talk to me, I'll be at East Side Critical Care, you know where that is."

"You pissed yourself? You?"

"What, you think I change my oil or somethin'? Here's a clue, Dick. When someone tries to suffocate me, I piss my pants just like anybody else."


"Just get the warrant and the ambulance on the way. I gotta see a doctor."

I hung up and turned into my apartment complex, coming to a halt in the manager's spot. I rushed in, saying a quick "Hi!" to Consuela and hustling through to the manager's apartment before she could stop me. My pants and panties went into a plastic trash bag. My shirt went into another, and my sports bra ended up on the bed. Then I took a quick shower to get rid of the smell and the powder residue, tossed on a t-shirt and jeans pair that made me look 14 years old, grabbed the plastic trash bag with the shirt in it, and rushed out almost as quickly, saying "Gotta run, Connie, I'll be back in a little bit." A quick stop by apartment 12B to temporarily stash my Kahr PM9 and holster in the air duct, a quick stop at a random shopping center to throw the shirt into a dumpster, and I was ready to get some medical treatment.

Woohoo! Past the 1/4th mark!

The file 'fixer' on my hard drive currently is up to 26272 words (after writing out the dog, it was a bit longer before that).

Compare to some of Raymond Chandler's classics:

The Big Sleep -- 66000 words
Farewell, My Lovely -- 80000 words
The High Window -- 70000 words

Of course, publishers nowdays want big bricks of books, from 80K to 120K words. Raymond Chandler would have had trouble selling his novels to a publisher today. But then, I don't think a novel which is deliberately written in blog-sized chunks (one chapter = two blog postings) works in today's publishing environment anyhow, so I don't know how long the story is going to be, but I really don't care either. I do know that with the threads I've introduced in the first 26,000 words, untangling them all is going to take quite a few more words.

As for where I'm going: what, you think I know? Geez. I know what the last chapter looks like. I know who one of the killers of the three dead people is (you haven't met the other two bodies yet, or, rather, you've met one of the bodies, but he isn't a body yet). I know you're going to be surprised by what comes out in the last chapter, because I've been deliberately misforcasting it in a number of places (okay, so sue me :). But what happens to get me to that last chapter? Beats me. Kathy's just going to have to rattle the trees some more and see what falls out...

- Badtux the Authorial Penguin

Department of Homeland Security opens detention facilities for *FAMILIES*

You're a little kiddo and your Mommy and Daddy commit a crime? No problemo! Put Mommy, Daddy, and Kiddo too into a detention facility! (See near the bottom, where Homeland Security Secretary SkeletorChertoff says they're being opened as a solution to the problem of illegal immigrants who bring their children with them).

If I were writing a science fiction novel about a government falling into repression, I'd have trouble getting that first paragraph past the editor. She'd say, "Who would believe it?" When reality is grimmer than fiction, it's time to stock up ye olde iceberg with MRE's and prepare to cast off.

- Badtux the Prepared Penguin

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Iranian menace

So just what kind of threat does Iran pose to the United States, anyhow? The answer: None.

The "threat" of Iran providing weaons of mass destruction to terrorists is ludicrous. Iran already has chemical weapons (they used them against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, remember?) and has never provided them to any terrorist group. Furthermore, Iran has never shown any interest in pursuing terrorism outside of their own geo-political interests in the Middle East. They provide support to terrorists in Lebanon, but that's part of a regional geo-political conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran (both are striving for influence over Syria and Lebanon, and both of which are funding opposite sides in the Iraqi Civil War right now as part of that ongoing conflict). Their support of terrorism is pragmatic, rather than ideological, and is intended to prevent the Arab states from uniting behind Saudi Arabia against them, rather than based upon any desire to conduct "holy war".

Furthermore, a compact nuclear weapon capable of being hauled around in a briefcase requires sophisticated technology that Iran doesn't have. They could easily build a 1945-style uranium or plutonium bomb, once they have sufficient centrifuges going or get a nuclear reactor up. But those bombs are enormous. A B-29 had a payload of 20,000 pounds, and could carry one (1) of those bombs.

And finally, the Iranian ayatollahs have proven surprisingly pragmatic in the past. Providing a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization would result in an immediate nuclear strike against all major cities in Iran, turning them into glowing rubble. The ayatollahs had no problem buying anti-tank weapons from the "Great Satan" during the Iran-Iraq War (the Iran-Contra deal, where the U.S. provided weapons to Iran in exchange for money which was then funneled to the Contras) when it was the pragmatic choice for countering Saddam's superior armored divisions and thereby maintaining their power. They like ruling Iran, and are not going to do something so obviously destructive as giving nuclear weapons to terrorists. We have almost 30 years of experience dealing with the Iranian ayatollahs now, and nothing in that time suggests that they would ever engage in such lunacy.

I think that, just as Iranian politicians talk up their military strength for political gain, other politicans talk up the Iranian threat for political gain. Which politicians those are, or why they believe talking up the Iranian threat is politically advantageous to them, is an exercise I leave to the reader.

-Badtux the Geopolitical Penguin

It's all the Democrat's fault

Nevermind that Democrats don't control any position of power in the U.S. government. Preznit Cartman stamps his feet and whines and blames them for stalling his immigration "reform" package.

If only it were true that the spineless wimps of the Democratic Party were blocking that bill. Sigh. The sad fact is that the only thing that the Democrats in Congress are good for is serving as punching bags. They certainly don't act like any kind of viable opposition party, that's for sure. The fact of the matter is that Preznit Poopy-Pants's own Republican Party is in near revolt over the bill, because it would grant citizenship to many of their slavesgardeners and maids, who then would have things like legal rights and stuff. Can't have that!

But what the hey, the Democrats make handy punching bags, so let's blame it on them. Logic? Reason? In Christopath America? Lord forbid!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Christopathic lunacy

Ah yes. Logic? Zilch. Reason? Zilch. To whit, regarding the Dalai Lama visiting the Mayo Clinic:

"... this false prophet, who probably is going to give them some kind of lie because he represents everything that has to do with the New Age movement."

Err, Buddhism predates Christianity, you Christopathic nutcase.


"But this is a false god in a false religion, who has nothing to offer anybody," she emphasizes. "As a matter of fact, he's a Buddhist, and Buddhists don't even believe there's a God."

Jeeeebus. Buddhists don't believe there's a God, yet the Dalai Lama is preaching a false god? Hmm... there's a problem with that statement, but I can't figure it out, because it'd require that nasty "logic" and "reason" stuff. *DOH!*.

- Badtux the Rational Penguin

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 5 Part 2

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1 Chapter 4 Part 2
Chapter 5 Part 1

I woke up with a throbbing headache and a bad attitude, the latter of which, however, had nothing to do with having my hands tied over my head to the rafters of a garage, and everything to do with me berating myself for my own sloppiness at letting someone sneak up on me like that. The smell of piss filled the air, and the dampness at my crotch told me where the smell came from. Unlike in cheap crime novels, in real life near-suffocation often causes loss of bladder control. Don't ask me how I know.

A man wearing a black ski mask moved into my field of view. He was twirling an unlit cigarette between the fingers of his right hand, an oddly hypnotic sight.

I shook my head a bit to shake loose the cobwebs, then said to him, "This is kinky as hell, dude, but couldn't you just ask me for a date like any sane human being?"

"Who are you?"

"Kathy Varis. I'm a landlord and real estate investor. I own some apartments in East San Jose and a few rentals elsewhere. What's the deal here? Hell, if you got some whacky weed growing in the garden it's not something I give a shit about, I'm in real estate, not gardening. Could you let me down from here?"

"Why are you poking around?"

"I told you. I'm looking for real estate to buy. I thought maybe whoever owned this place might be looking to sell. Could you let me down? Please? I promise I won't beat you up." I gave him my best "cute" smile, tilting my head a bit and emphasizing the fact that I'm a girl and quite petite besides, hardly a physical threat to any grown man.

"I don't think so," the man said, and he lit the cigarette.

I involuntarily sucked in my breath at that, knowing what came next. "C'mon, man, look, I don't know who you are, I can't identify you, I don't know anything. C'mon, just let me down? Please? Pretty please? I mean, if all you want is sex, you don't have to do this, okay? C'mon, give a girl a break!"

Then he touched my exposed belly with the lit tip of the cigarette, and I involuntarily screamed in pain, sobbing and crying, tears streaming down my face. "I don't believe you," the man said. "Who are you?"

"I'm Kathy Varis! Look in my handbag! Look at my wallet! C'mon, man, you don't gotta do this, just ask me, ask me anything! Just ask!" The tears were dripping off my chin, and I put a little-girl waver in my voice that was just sickening.

The man might have been smiling under his ski mask, but I couldn't really see. All I could really see was the tip of the cigarette, glowing, glowing, coming closer and closer to my face...

"You have a beautiful face. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it. Who hired you?"

"Nobody," I said. "I work for myself. I just wanted to talk to whoever lives in this house, that's all. That's all!"

The lit cigarette touched my face in an explosion of pain that jerked another scream out of me. I closed my eyes and my breath hissed between clenched teeth. Then I opened my eyes again.

"This makes you feel good, dickhead? Getting a woody? You're pathetic. Just another two-bit goon who ain't gonna last to his 30'th birthday. So fuckin' pathetic you can't even get a girl unless you knock her out and tie her up in your garage. You're so gay that you ought to wear pink underwear, but you don't want to admit it, so you start beating up some random woman who made the mistake of tryin' to see if anybody was home? You ain't shit. Just another loser."

"Shut up, bitch."

"Or what? You'll kill me? You better kill me. Else your life ain't worth shit. Fuck, your life ain't worth shit anyhow, so pathetic that the only way you can get a woman is to hang her from your rafters? When was the last time you had a real girlfriend? Never, I bet. Losers like you spend all their time jerking off to dirty pictures when they aren't killing their neighbor's cats and plucking the legs off of newts."

"Shut up, bitch!" The man stepped forward and slapped me. I kicked him in the balls, thanking myself that I hadn't been slacking off on the leg extensions at the gym, getting a good extension indeed.

The last thing any man expects from a cute and petite young woman is physical violence. The look of astonishment and pain on his face was worth stopping to see, but I wasn't stopping. I pulled myself up and over the rafter I was tied to, then brought my right leg down to my hands and transferred my holdout gun from the ankle holster to my hands. Then I shot the bastard.

Or tried to, anyhow. He'd seen the gun coming out and managed to roll out of the way despite clutching his balls as if that was gonna make them stop hurting, and you try shooting with your hands tied together, it ain't easy, even with a pocket pistol as small as a Kahr PM9. I shot again and managed to get his leg. My third shot went through his shoulder and he went down and quit moving, passed out from the shock, perhaps because he'd tried to stand on his leg and there was bone poking out where my bullet had shattered the bone. I managed to transfer the pocket pistol back to its holster, got my shoe off, and transferred the small knifeblade under the insole therein to my mouth. I tried sawing at the nylon rope that held my hands to the rafter, but it just squirmed under the blade. So I dropped back over and chinned myself on the rope to keep it under tension, and started sawing, cutting strands one by one.

I'm no longer the thirteen year old gym rat who could do more chinups than any boy in my 8th grade class. I'm not as flexible, for one thing. But I've had more time to pack on muscle, and most of the twenty pounds I've added since then are muscle. Still, by the time the rope frayed and finally let go my arms were on fire and shaking with fatigue. But I did it. Coach Davis would have been proud.

My bag was sitting in the corner, the opposite corner from where my mystery assailant was parked. I dropped to the ground and rolled over to the bag, and pulled out my Glock 17 and brought it to bear on the jerk. I gingerly went over and kicked him in the ribs, pistol ready to give him more of the medicine he deserved. He didn't make a sound. I grabbed a roll of duct tape out of my bag, taped his hands together, and swiftly searched him. No ID. No wallet. I pulled up the ski mask and looked at his face. He wasn't my mystery admirer in the red Beemer, he wasn't anybody I'd ever seen before. I got the digital camera out of my bag, and took a picture of his face for my own edification. Then I pulled the ski mask back down over his face, duct taped his feet to his hands, grabbed my bag, and trotted to my car.

Remember, this is a *first draft*, and we're only about 7,000 words into the novel. Why the hell was this dude lurking around? What's he got against perky little blond women? Why are you asking me? I want to find out too!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Everything is change

Just started a new job. Wish me luck!

-- Badtux the Changing Penguin

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 5 Part 1

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1 Chapter 4 Part 2

Chapter 5

There are people who say violence solves nothing. Those people are dangerously naive.

Our society is based on violence. People pay taxes because if they do not, IRS goons with guns will either come take the taxes by force, or will come and take them away and put them in a cage. Violently seizing murderers at gunpoint and, after a jury agrees, putting them into a cage for their rest of their natural life, keeps them from murdering again. And a rapist who has had his balls cut off... well, it isn't likely that he will rape again.

But anybody who would do the last is more than a little bit crazy.

Take a little girl, a typical upper middle class girl into gymnastics and unicorns and boy bands and all the other stuff that typical upper middle class girls are into.

Then have her watch her mom's body lowered into a grave. Then send her father to jail for a crime he couldn't have committed. Then put her into a foster home where Daddy Dearest likes making little girls hurt when he isn't telling truths that test her sanity. Then send her to the toughest high school in San Jose, East Side High School. What you end up is one sad and scared and angry little girl who might, just might, be more than a little bit crazy.

Now toss in one Jimmy Rodriguez, East Side High School's best running back, who refused to believe that a cute little sophomore didn't want to have sex with the big-time football jock, didn't want anything to do with anybody actually as she walked around holding the hurt inside, who laughs when she tells him that if he raped her she'd cut off his balls...

Then have him rape her.

Would that be enough, do you think?

I don't like going back to that place. If Coach Davis hadn't pushed me into track and any other sport he could shove me into, I don't know if I would have survived. Maybe I would have. Coach Davis always did say that I was the toughest-minded kid he'd ever coached. But those three years between the ages of 14 and 18... the pain is what I remember most. I hurt. And I was more than willing to make someone else hurt too, if they gave me reason.

A few weeks later, Jimmy Rodriguez started his car and sat in it for a minute while it warmed up. Then he passed out. When he came to, he was missing a part of his body, and was looking at a typed note that said simply, "I keep my promises."

Jimmy was ruined, ruined far more than if he'd been sent to prison. Never being able to procreate, all at the hands of a mere girl... it was a humiliation so complete that he dropped out of school and moved to live with relatives in San Diego. The whispers started...

And nobody ever messed with that girl again, in all the years she spent at East Side High. Indeed, only a few people even talked to her, mostly team-mates in the sports that Coach Davis pushed her into playing. Nobody wanted to know what other promises she might make. Except a few people, who were willing to pay her money to help them keep their own promises.

Now Jimmy was back. And I didn't have the slightest damned idea what that meant.

I sat in my car for a while after leaving the coroner's office. Too many memories. But I'm not much into that kind of Oprah bullshit, I'm more of the "get tough, and get even" old school line of thought. Or maybe that's Old Testament. Whatever. So I fired up my trusty steed and headed for the next stop on my little tour.

There's a part of San Jose that juts out to the west like an erect penis, stabbing into the surrounding towns like a Silicon Valley CEO going down on an expensive whore -- whoops, "escort". My next stop was a small cottage behind Valley Fair, in a neighborhood of similar small cottages that had been built in the 1950's and which had run down for a while, but now had gotten gentrified. When you could get rich by selling a property you'd bought for $30,000 for over ten times that price even if it was a run-down trashed-out dump, then poor people be damned, it's time to cash in.

There were still a few lonely holdouts from the old days, though, people who had an emotional attachment to their home, or landlords who were simply waiting for prices to go even higher before cashing out. The house that my map directed me to was one of those. The peeling paint and uneven boards of the front porch nicely complemented the dirt and weeds of the front yard. This was not a house that would ever appear on the front cover of Good Housekeeping, except maybe in a "before" picture. I gingerly walked up to the front door, not trusting the porch boards beneath me but figuring they'd hold a lightweight like me, and banged on it for a while, left hand in my messenger bag cum purse. Nothing. Nobody home, it appeared.

I walked around the house, looking in the windows. Whoever lived here made me look like Martha Stewart, and I'm not exactly a great housekeeper myself. The insides were a mess, trash everywhere, drawers open in the kitchen and bedroom, clothes strewn everywhere. I was at the back door, hands shielding my eyes as I tried to look through it, when someone a whole lot heavier than me slammed me from behind into the door, stuffed a plastic bag over my head, and held me there until I passed out from lack of air.


As promised, quite a bit grimmer than the previous entry, which was funny in a grotesque sort of way. That's version 3 of the expository lump at the beginning (before the 'Oprah bullshit' line). It is far, far better than the previous two versions of that lump. Hell, it almost isn't a lump anymore, though I got in the stuff that I need to make further chapters and the ending work. Made this overly-sentimental penguin weepy-eyed just writing it... or maybe that's the onions in my herringburger, hmm. BTW, you can probably figure out where the interim title came from now!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

T-mobile MDA

My cell phone service is with T-Mobile. Their rates were better than the competitors, and they're GSM goodness (as you'd expect, since they're big in Europe).

My ancient Sony Clie PDA recently started acting up. The little edge connector that serves to charge up its battery is worn out. Rather than buy another PDA, I decided it was time to join the modern world and get a combined phone-PDA.

The obvious thing to do would be to get a Palm Treo. This is the "gold standard" of PDA phones -- more functional than a Blackberry, and backward compatible with my Clie (which runs PalmOS). But T-Mobile doesn't offer a "subsidized" Treo, meaning I'd have to buy an "unlocked" one for $600, then if I ever had problems with it, have problems dealing with T-Mobile's customer "service".

Looking at T-Mobile's web site, they have something called the "MDA". I checked it out, and it runs Windows Mobile and is a full-functioned PDA (not some kind of chopped-down hybrid) with a keyboard for data entry. And was almost half the price of the Treo. So, being a cheap penguin who would rather buy herring with the extra money, that's what I went for.

Preliminary conclusions:

  1. Windows Mobile is a *MESS*. PalmOS, while limited, is elegant and easy to use. The Treo, while antiquated, has a user interface that is simple, intuitive, and Just Works(tm). To do anything with Windows Mobile you have to chomp through a ton of menus, and while Windows Mobile has true multi-tasking, I can't figure out how to do anything with that other than maintain a "stack" of programs.
  2. The MDA has a *LOT* of neat features. It'll do WiFi. It has a web browser and can browse the web via WiFi. (It wasn't even very hard to set up to talk to my access point). It'll serve as a BlueTooth modem for your laptop computer if you purchase the GPRS/EDGE service (which is $29.95/month for unlimited Internet). It'll sync via BlueTooth with your Microsoft Outlook.
  3. It charges via USB. There's a seperate charger, or it'll charge from your laptop as long as you've still got 50% of your battery power (otherwise it pulls more power than the USB spec allows, though it still may work).
  4. The CompactSD slot rocks. I bought a 1GB card and stuffed it with mp3's. So now I have a combination phone/MP3 player/PDA.
  5. Battery usage is quite good. I played MP3's for several hours last night, and it went down from 85% to 55% over that time.
  6. It includes a nifty little holster.
  7. The included headset sucks. As you'd expect, since it's "free". It does sound pretty good when playing mp3's though. Expect to spend more money on a headset that doesn't feel like you're sticking clothes pins in your ear.
  8. Reception sucks. It gets about 1 bar less than my old phone. In my bedroom I get no reception at all, I always got at least one bar on my old phone.
  9. Using it as a phone without the headset isn't so hot. The little speaker is very tinny-sounding. It sounds like your caller is underwater.
  10. It's a bit slow as a PDA. TO keep the price and energy usage down, T-Mobile's source put a processor in it that's half the speed of the competitors.
Conclusion: Seven herrings out of ten. The poor reception and poor sound without headset pushes it down the list a bit. Windows Mobile's messiness pushes it down a bit more. The slow speed doesn't worry me -- my Clie was no speed demon either -- but may worry others.

That said, it's an economical and usable phone/PDA/mp3 player combo that'll definitely make you look less like Batman compared to hauling around all three seperately. Two flippers up, so far.

-- Badtux the Connected Penguin

Note: Chapter 5 is still delayed. I tried rewriting the expository lump last night, and don't like that one either. I think I know another approach to take to make it more palatable. Unfortunately the backstory info therein is necessary to understand later chapters, but I suspect that in the next draft, I'll spread that info out amongst several chapters instead of having it all sitting there like a lump at the beginning of Chapter 5.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 4 Part 2

Chapter 1 Part 1 Chapter 1 Part 2 Chapter 2 Part 1 Chapter 2 Part 2
Chapter 3 Part 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 Chapter 4 Part 1
The question of whether I knew the guy or not was bugging me, so I decided to check it out before checking out the owner of the car. I took a trip to the new City Hall, a garish glass tower that was both horrendously inefficient and horrendously expensive. Some of the movers and shakers had gotten some pretty stiff kickbacks off of that one, just as with the trash deal that had sent dough to Mayor Gomez's campaign contributors. Mayor Gomez was now persona non grata and soon to depart for, let us say, a more restricted environment, but it didn't matter. The people who owned him, lock stock and barrel, would just put up another front man to take his place. The corruption never goes away, it just changes its face from time to time.

I took the name and number I'd gotten from Curly to the front desk of the police department, and told them I might be able to ID the John Doe they'd gotten from Curly's Towing. After some time on the phone, an Officer Jackson arrived and escorted me to his desk.

"What makes you think you can ID our Doe?" he asked.

"Nothing. Except that he got left on my doorstep, and I live there. Stands to reason that he might be someone from the 'hood."

He showed me a couple of pictures, blowups of the dead guy. Dead people don't look like living people, and this guy was indisputably dead. It looked like somebody had bashed his head in. I shook my head. He could be one of a dozen people I'd known in high school. It had simply been too many years, and this guy was just too dead.

Then I had a thought. "You got a picture of his dick in there?"

"Excuse me?"

"His crotch?"

Officer Jackson looked at me incredulously. "Y'know, they warned me about you, but this is bizarre. Even the rumor mill couldn't match that one. What, pictures of dead dicks turn you on or something?"

I sighed. "Uhm, I hate to break it to you, Officer Jackson, but I'm not a virgin. What, you think I, like, was saving it just for you? One of my lovers had a strange scar on his penis, I just want to see whether this dead guy has the same scar."

Jackson shuffled through the pictures, then shook his head. "Looks like penis shots aren't something we usually put in the police file."

"Gosh, I would have thought those would be the first shots you made, what with all the repressed homosexuality around here and all. So now we get to go see a dead stiff at the coroner's office. Why, Dr. Feelgood might even be scooping out this stiff's guts when we go in. Won't that be fun? I love watching Dr. Feelgood working, he so enjoys his work..."

Jackson looked a bit green, but he picked up his phone and called over to the morgue and made the arrangements.

Dr. Feingold was the coroner who handled murder cases, and he was happy to take us to his John Doe, who wasn't yet sliced and diced but, Dr. Feingold promised us, "by the end of the day."

The stiff's face wasn't much better in person than in the photos. He was still dead, either way. But what I was interested in was a bit lower. Dr. Feingold pulled the sheet all the way down to the stiff's toes, then spread the stiff's legs a bit so we could get a better view of things. Then all three of us stared in silence.

"Interesting," Dr. Feingold said finally, breaking the silence. He bent closer, examining the void where the stiff's scrotum should have been. There was nothing there but scar tissue. "Appears to be old injury, though, not new one. Done with a very sharp knife or razor, then sewed up in an emergency room."

Officer Jackson looked green. "Recognize him?", he said to me. I leaned closer to the stiff's penis, looking at it curiously. I hadn't seen a penis in a while, and remembered them being bigger. But this guy had an excuse, not having balls and all that.

"No," I said. "I don't think this guy was having much sex. Especially with me. Don't have the slightest idea who he is."

"Guess that's that, then," Officer Jackson said, bolting for the exit.

Dr. Feelgood and I watched Officer Jackson flee, then he turned to me, smiling. "Well, guess I'll see you later, Kathy."

I smiled back at him, and gave him a little kiss on the bottom of his chin -- sometimes being short sucks. "See ya later, Marvin." I waved goodbye, and followed Officer Jackson out the door.

I was lying to Officer Jackson, of course. Now that I'd seen the guy's nether regions I recognized the stiff quite well. I even knew how his, err, injury, had happened.

Somebody had left me a present, indeed. But this present was one that raised as many questions as answers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

So it wasn't racism?

The right wing blogs, and a lot of left wing blogs, are all jumping up and down and accusing Rep. Cynthia McKinney of crying "wolf" when she states that she was inappropriately stopped for being in the Capitol Building while black. They point out that she wasn't wearing her nametag, thus should have been stopped. But consider this:

  1. White legislators who were with McKinney were *NOT* stopped.
  2. Said white legislators were *ALSO* not wearing their name tags.
  3. Capitol Police have been issued photos of McKinney in order to identify her, but appear to have trouble telling one black woman from another, especially if the black woman changes her hairstyle from cornrows to an afro, as McKinney recently did.
  4. A black Capitol Police officer would probably have not had that trouble, but black Capitol Police officers are as rare as hen's teeth (hmm, in a majority-black city? No racism there!).
Racism? Shit yeah. Or how do you excuse the fact that, of all the legislators going through that checkpoint without their ID badge, only the black one was stopped and groped?

And BTW, about the "assault" she supposedly perpetrated against a Capitol Police officer -- if a white man gropes a black woman's breast, he can count on being slapped. That's 100% guaranteed. I don't care if the man is just some random dude on the subway, a police officer, or the Pope Himself -- that white man is getting slapped. I don't know any black woman who would NOT slap a white man groping her breast. The very fact that apologists for racism here can make excuses for a white man groping a black woman's breast shows just how bigotted and racist American society really is.

Racism? Fuck yeah. And if you want to deny it, all I gotta say is that you got your head stuck so firmly up your ass that all you can see is your small intestine. 'Nuff said.

-- Badtux the Observant Penguin

Sick geeks

For those of you who aren't geeks, Perl is the camel of computer languages -- ugly, nasty, brutish, will spit you in the eye or kick you if you so much as look at it wrong, and far too useful to do without. Perl programs are commonly called "write-only" because they look like just plain gibberish if you're reading them afterwards.

Typical Perl code looks like this:

if (/^EXEEXT/) { /^.*=(.*)/; $EXEEXT = $1; }

Not content with this level of obscurity, though, Perl geeks have gone two steps further: Writing Perl programs in Latin, and in Klingon. This is almost as sick as WhiteSpace, the computer language that has only three valid syntactic elements: space, tab, and linefeed.

Some people just have too much time on their hands...

-- Badtux the Geeky Penguin