Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A side discourse on camping and trail food

Minstrel Boy claimed that MRE's taste "like sawdust". MRE's are actually quite tasty, I ate several of them this trip and they were pretty yummy. He likely was thinking of freeze-dried food, which is pretty awful. But MRE's are quite heavy as well, so my trail food does not include them.

Unfortunately I make the decision to leave town with about five hours' notice, so I was not going to cook hardtack or carry hard salt bacon or do anything like that prior to leaving. I was hard pressed enough getting all my camping gear out of the plastic bins that I'd hauled back from storage the previous evening (I'd hauled it to storage when I thought I was going to move, as one less thing to move on moving day). So I tossed some MRE's into the big black bear canister for car camping, and tossed some freeze-dried and some tuna (pouch) and ramen noodles into the small bear canister for backpacking, and headed out. Luckily I like tuna and noodles. And while freeze dried is nasty, there's a few freeze-dried that taste okay either with MRE crackers (sorta hard-tackish) or with enough Tabasco. Still, if I were planning a long trip, this is not what I'd do for food.

But, alas, that is what happens when you are a penguin pining for snow and suddenly realize that there is still snow in the Sierras...

Hmm. Between the MRE's and what little freeze-dried I have left and the stuff in my pantry, I have enough food for several weeks. And the white gas, propane, and isobutane to cook it. Not bad for disaster preparedness, even if it's accidental...

-- Badtux the Camping Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 5/28/2007 09:04:00 PM  6 comments  

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Great balls of fire!

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

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

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

-- Badtux the Singed Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 4/14/2007 09:27:00 PM  3 comments  

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Back from backpacking

How does a penguin hike, you ask? Well, in this case, thanks to New Balance trail runners. New Balance makes shoes in a bunch of different widths, including "flipper feet wide".

Here is this penguin's portable iceberg, nicely appointed (click for bigger pic):

Now, it occurs to this penguin that he has been somewhat remiss in his cat blogging. Indeed, both the curmudgeonly Mencken and the mighty Fang have bitterly complained that this penguin is ignoring them in favor of those nasty "politician" people. Thus I shall rectify that problem: Hmm. That doesn't look like a cat. Let's try that again: Darn, that doesn't look like a cat either! Let me try this one last time...

Ah yes... the curmudgeonly Mencken simply cannot maintain his usual disdainful posture when there's an ear-rub to be found...

And that is all from my iceberg for this Sunday. Hope your weekend was as pleasant as mine!

-- Badtux the Backpacking Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 3/04/2007 09:31:00 PM  0 comments  

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I survived jury duty...

They didn't call me. SOB! I just had to check a web site twice a day for a week to see if they wanted me to report. Not that I would have been chosen for a jury -- it's a "jury of peers" and hey, how many penguins are subjected to trial by jury? A penguin on the jury of a people trial just doesn't work out! But it's nice that I'm finished for a year with that silliness.

In other news, I got a new tent, an ultralight one-man tent (no link, not sure I want to recommend it yet). Last night I set it up to seam-seal it. Because it was raining outside, I set it up in my living room, using string and weights to take the place of stakes. The Mighty Fang was much help in tying the strings (not!).

-- Badtux the Judicial Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 2/27/2007 06:55:00 PM  2 comments  

Monday, February 19, 2007

Back from my backpacking trip...

There's nothing like backpacking into the wilderness with all of civilization being the 30 pounds on your back to realize just how nice civilization is. Especially grocery stores. I took enough food for three days. I finished it all by the end of day two. I must be the only penguin in existence that can actually gain weight while hiking 20 miles a day with 5,000 feet altitude gain both ways (don't ask -- I swear that this particular park defies the laws of physics here!).

Anyhow, other than blistered feet (forgot the Right Guard to sweat-proof my feet!), I'm back, and intact. Meanwhile, let me tell you a little story about tents, and condensation.

I have Eureka Zeus EXO tent. It's about 5 years old, and well used. This is a large 2-man tent, but very lightweight (under 4 pounds) because it is a single-wall tent built with coated nylon ripstop rather than with polyester. One day a couple of months ago I managed to "force" one of the poles and it split at the end. The whole tent is looking rather faded, so it looked like it was time to buy a new tent rather than get a replacement part for the old one. The nylon fabric these things are made of is UV sensitive and decays with time, and I'd rather replace it after five years than risk the thing totally failing when I needed it.

So anyhow, I look for a replacement tent, and they've replaced the Zeus EXO with the Zeus LE. The Zeus LE has two doors rather than one. It has two top vents rather than one. It should ventilate better than the EXO did. Not that I had any problems with the ventilation of the EXO, mind you. But still, seemed like a reasonable thing to pull the trigger and get the new LE.

BIG mistake. I went to the exact same location, under the exact same conditions, with the LE and found out a few things:

  • All tents condense on the inside of their outer fabric when the air goes below dewpoint. What matters is how well they keep the wet fabric away from you. So let's see how well the two tents do that:
    1. The EXO had your head at the all-mesh door that was between you and the vestibule fabric. It had side flies that started about a foot and a half up at the head, and came down to the foot corner on the side. All that could get wet was your feet. Big deal.
    2. The LE only has about six inches of mesh at the head. It is easy to rub the wet fabric above it with yoru head. On the left and right of your head is the outer wall. It is easy to roll over and rub your head on the outer wall. BAD news.
  • The Zeus EXO already required an astounding eight stakes to stake it out -- four at the dome corners, two for the vestibule, and two to pull out the side flies. The Zeus LE requires *TEN* (10) stakes to stake it out -- four at the doam corners, four for the two vestibules, and two for the end flies.
  • If you have the vestibule open on the EXO to get more ventilation, you can still put your boots under the remaining half of the vestibule to keep the mud and dirt out of your tent. If your vestibule is open on the LE, your boots are out there in the open ready to get full of water if it rains or dew if it gets below dewpoint.
  • The LE is a *very* complicated design, with lots of little pieces of fabric stitched together. This gives it lots of places to leak. Which means lots of places to work seam-sealer into the stitching. Which means lots of places where you can miss getting seam-sealer into the stitching and thus get a leak :-(.
Progress? Hardly. The Eureka Zeus LE simply *sucks* compared to the EXO. The Eureka marketing department looked at the common complaints about the EXO -- that it only had one door (the one at the head of the tent), that it needed more ventilation (true, it can get a little stuffy in there with the vestibule closed), and then they completely ruined it. Part of the problem is that they were working under a strict weight budget and thus, for example, could not make the side flies wide enough to fully protect the side walls. Part of the problem is that they were working under a strict dollar budget and thus could not go to a more lightweight fabric. And part of the problem is simply lack of imagination on the part of the Eureka engineers.

The good news is that Eureka apparently realized that they screwed up. On their website it appears they have discontinued the Zeus LE in favor of resurrecting the old Zeus EXO as the "Zeus Classic". The "Classic" still has the same flaws that led to the LE redesign -- the ventilation is still poor when you close the vestibule and it still only has one door -- but at least it isn't dangerous when it's damp outside. Not that this matters to me anymore. I've decided to eBay the Zeus LE to someone who lives in a desert (where condensation isn't an issue) and get a tent that weighs an entire 23 ounces, and only needs six stakes to set it up, not eight or ten. Yes, the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo weighs an entire 23 ounces, or roughly 1 1/2 pounds... now that's more like it when ya have to haul your entire house on your back!

Anyhow, now you know why I'm a conservative (of the old fashioned sort, not one of these big-spendin' big-war-makin' neo-conservative types). You don't take a reasonable design (like the old EXO) and just throw it away and start over from scratch. You look for little ways to improve it, ways that will address the biggest flaws without totally discarding the good parts. The ventilation could have been improved, for example, by making the vestibule vent slightly larger and the top vent slightly larger to get better cross-flow through them. There was no need to simply re-do the entire tent and risk ruining it. Yet that is what they did. Similarly, there was no need to invade Iraq and get involved in a gigantic nation-building scheme, when sanctions were working fine at containing Saddam's ambitions. If it turned out that the sanctions were leaky, the conservative thing to do would have been to re-tool the sanctions to give them more teeth. Yet taking the huge risk of invading Iraq, a risk which George H.W. Bush had warned about ten years prior, is exactly what the neo-cons did rather than taking the conservative choice of tweaking what was already working. Conservative? Hardly! Bah humbug!

- Badtux the Backpacking Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 2/19/2007 09:44:00 PM  4 comments  

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fuckity fuck fuck

Just disqualified myself from working for a political campaign. Good!

I was going to go camping with my new tent. But it is raining outside. Now, I hear you saying, "No duh, it's the rainy season in Northern California. So? You're an aquatic waterfowl, what do you care about rain?" Well, granted, rain just beads up and rolls off of my fine feathered carcass (thanks to the wonders of Marmot and Outdoor Research and Gore Inc.), and the gear in my backpack is either in heavy-duty utterly waterproof kayaking drybags or doesn't care if it gets wet, but still. I am wimp. Hear me whimper.

Of course, it's not *entirely* paranoia. I set the tent up in the living room of the apartment where my iceberg is currently docked and ran a line of seam sealer across the major seams, but I probably need another coat or two of seam sealer on the seams before I can really trust them not to leak. And sleeping in a leaky wet tent is just plain miserable. But it would just be miserable, not dangerous. I am such a wimp...

So I curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Hey, don't misunderestimate the danger of a cup of hot chocolate! Why, if I set it down on the futon beside me as I blog from my notebook computer and accidentally spilled it, it could soak my clothes and cause burns! Oh the dangers I put myself through for your sake... what can us say, us fowl (penguins and chickenhawks) must make sacrifices. Why, maybe I'll even put pants on sometime today! (Which of course is more than the brave cheeto-stained-finger warriors of the 101st Fighting Chickenhawks, 1st Chairborn Brigade, will do as they blog from their mommy's basements in support of a war they refuse to fight in, but still).

Oh, as you may have noticed, I'm back on my old ugly template. The new one I tried out just could not be made to work across all major browser platforms. I finally got it looking good under both Firefox and Opera, but then it broke under Internet Exploder. Sigh. Back to Web 0.9 (i.e., table tags).

-- Badtux the Cocooning Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 2/10/2007 09:45:00 AM  5 comments  
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Name: BadTux
Location: Some iceberg, South Pacific, Antarctica

I am a black and white and yellow multicolored penguin making his way as best he can in a world of monochromic monkeys.

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