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.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

War Porn

War. Death, destruction, killing. To quote a great poet, "War. Huh. What is it good for?"

War does not create. War does not add anything. All war does is destroy. All war does is consume. War does not help economies, because everything created to fight wars does nothing to make people's lives better. Instead, the bullets and bombs and weapons are destroyed by the act of using them, as if the output of those factories had simply been thrown into a bottomless pit. War takes wealth, and turns it into murder.

Yes, murder. I use that word. War is murder. War is the taking of human lives. War is blood and guts and dead children lying in streets and the smell of piss and shit and the screaming of women and wails of children as they die in the crossfire. War is starvation and thirst, as the supply lines of civilization that keep civilians alive collapse in a hail of bombs and bullets and children shit their lives out in the street from drinking contaminated water and women are shot in the head and guts as they venture out of their homes searching for water and food for their children. Those who fight wars do not do anything glorious, unless you are the serial killer Hannibal Lector and believe that the removal of human life from this planet is the most reverent and sacred act that can be done. War is organized murder committed by governments in pursuit of whatever interests the leaders of those governments are pursuing.

Those who fight wars stink. Literally. For the warrior, war means that bathing becomes a seldom-done thing. The cake of dirt and rancid sweat and oil turns your hair into an oily greasy stuff on top of your head that, trapped under your helmet, fells like some sort of animal clasping your scalp. The acrid smell of rancid body oil and sweat and dirt is a bitter taste in your mouth (your nose has long since shut down and no longer smells it). Your underwear is filthy with urine and with feces because toilet paper is in short supply on the front lines. Sometimes you lay on top of your shit -- if your squad is pinned down and you can't move and you gotta go, well, it's a case of shovel a little dirt out on one side of whatever hole you're hiding in using the butt of your rifle, roll over, drop pants, dump, wipe with whatever you got to wipe with, roll back over, shove a little dirt back to try to cover it up enough to keep from squishing it all over you when you move around. This is oh so glorious and glamorous. And never seen when the war porn comes on.

If the war porn -- the movies, video games, and books that describe war -- ever tried to reflect the reality of war rather than some airbrushed glamorized fiction, people would run screaming from the movie theatres. Teenage boys would stare in shock at their video games as their brother or sister or mother or father were dismembered by a bullet in front of their face, begging for mercy, begging for a bullet to put them out of their misery. But of course the war porn does no such thing. Instead, it paints war as glamor and courage and bravery, as a glorious quest that turns a boy into a man.

And so we soak in war porn, every day. War porn comes on our evening news, a curiously sanitized pornography where war happens, yet nobody dies, where there are no dismembered bodies of children lying around on the ground after a 500 pound bomb blows up a daycare, where the men fighting the war look like movie stars instead of people who are very much in need of a bath, where the smell is never described. The smell. Ah yes, the smell. It is, indeed, lucky for the war pornographer that television has no way to transmit smells.

And so the death and destruction goes on, and everybody salutes and goes "hip hip hoorah!" as the war porn plays on their movie and tv screens. And the word "war", which should be a filthy word like "cunt", "nigger", "fuck", and "bitch", instead is used as a word for glorious quests like the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism, the war on... well, I suppose this is all appropriate, in a way, since the War on Drugs, War on Terrorism, etc., involve the mass destruction of thousands of human lives as white American claps and says "Yeah! Another porch monkey caged! Another spic sent to jail! Another sand nigger killed like a dog! U S A! U S A!". But the horror of war is not, of course, what most people think of when they see the word "war" used in this way. Instead, all they see is the airbrushed glamor of the war porn in which they are immersed each day.

And so it goes, in the Delusional States of America, land of the war porn and home of the sheeple...

-- Badtux the Porn Penguin

Comment on this over at the Mockingbird's place

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Posted by: BadTux / 6/17/2007 11:28:00 PM  

Monday, May 07, 2007

Weather redux

Wow. What's up with this weather? 92 F in Santa Clara. This is a place where, until 1990 or so, nobody ever bothered with air conditioning because the climate was so mild. Last week it was in the 50's here. Now it's in the 90's?!

I wore my mesh motorcycling gear riding to work this morning. This evening it'll come in handy. Last week I didn't even ride to work, because it was cold and dreary and drizzling rain. Hmm....

-- Badtux the Weather Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 5/07/2007 11:07:00 AM  5 comments  

Friday, May 04, 2007

WTF is with this crazy weather?!

Dudes, it's May 4. The rainy season here in Northern California ended a week ago, which is why it was sunny and 80F outside a week ago. WTF is with this 56 degrees and raining stuff?!

-- Badtux the Damp Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 5/04/2007 02:06:00 PM  3 comments  

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Energy density, global warming, and nuclear power

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Badtux the Energy Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 4/24/2007 01:20:00 PM  3 comments  

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What a mess...

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

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

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

-- Badtux the Transit Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 4/19/2007 04:57:00 PM  6 comments  

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can you eat gold?

As others have noted, the U.S. Treasury is printing money with all the fervant abandon of a Weimar Republic finance minister, and, as expected when you have too much money chasing the same amount of goods, the value of the dollar is falling. In addition, the sub-prime market is collapsing, and since the notion that trillions of dollars of collateralized securities can be allowed to suddenly vaporize into nothingness and cause a deflationary spiral similar to 1929 is ridiculous, the Treasury will be printing yet more money shortly to bail out the holders of those collateralized securities.

Those are short-term problems. Long term, there are even bigger problems on the horizon. The U.S. economy is hollowed out and makes nothing of note anymore, other than increasingly worthless dollars that we export in ever greater numbers to buy the essentials of life. The American "lifestyle", which is heavily petroleum dependent, is unlikely to survive $25 per gallon gasoline, which is coming within the next twenty years. Add to that the melting of the ice caps, which will submerge many of the important coastal cities, and we may be setting up for a Dark Ages that will rival that which occurred during and after the fall of Rome.

What to do? Some folks say "buy gold." The problem is, you can't eat gold. If the currency collapses and you're reduced to barter, nobody is going to trade stuff to you for gold. They're going to trade stuff to you for something useful. Something that can be eaten, or that they need to keep warm or housed.

So now we know what's NOT useful. Some other things I can think of that aren't useful:

  • Lots of food. Food goes bad after a while, so you end up having to rotate it out. Food is also very bulky. It would be hard to store enough food to be useful in the long run.
  • Seed. Not bulky like food, but unless you're actually a farmer, impossible to rotate out as it goes bad. Illiquid -- you can't easily get rid of year-old seed.
  • Guns. Well, lots of guns would actually be *very* good to stock since as governments collapse neighborhood militias and other such substitutes will take their place, except that in a pre-collapse world lots of guns also tend to result in unwanted attention from the BATF. See: Branch Davidians, Waco. Oh that's right, you can't, because they're dead. Anyhow, the U.S. is already awash in guns, so I think we can figure that there will be no shortage in the future either.

So, what WOULD be useful? Well, being young, feral, and vicious would be useful. Being an attractive breeding-age female would be useful. Since this penguin is neither of those, however, that doesn't seem like a good plan of action. Beyond that, well, discuss.

- Badtux the non-survivalist Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 3/26/2007 01:44:00 PM  13 comments  

Thursday, March 22, 2007

In Soviet America, the politicians tell scientists what is science

In Russia, scientists tell politicians what is science. In Soviet America, when it comes to global warming, politicians tell scientists what is science.

Whether it is Al Gore calmly reading scientific studies to Republican legislators who claim they know science better than scientists, or directives to government scientists to not talk about science, in Soviet America, as in Soviet Russia prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, it is politicians who tell scientists what is science, rather than scientists who tell politicians what is science. Because, of course, being able to round up billions of dollars in campaign contributions makes one far more able to evaluate scientific evidence than, like, being an actual scientist, y'know? Who are these "scientist" folks to tell Senator James Inhofe what is science? Why, Senator Inhofe done been ELECTORATED, and that automagically makes him far more expert than some dude who, like, spent decades learning science from the best and brightest scientists on the planet! Besides, them scientist fellers, they ain't billionares like Senator Inhofe, so they can't be so smart, right? 'Cause the richer you is, the smarter you is, right?

So thank you, Senator Inhofe, for correcting the record here! People like you and me, who aren’t, like, scientist fellers and stuff, we know best. How *DARE* those pesky climate scientist fellers say they know more about climate science than we do?! Them thare scientist fellers just gotta, like know thare place! And if they say they know better than us about science stuff, they’re just… just… POOPY HEADS! Yeah!

– Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 3/22/2007 06:26:00 PM  4 comments  

Monday, March 12, 2007

Local warming

The scientists say that the globe is warming. I'm not going to comment on that other than to say that, as a penguin, it's not my place to say whether the globe is warming or not -- that's scientists' job. Rather, I'm going to talk about another issue: local warming.

Until fifteen years ago, air conditioning was almost unknown in the city where I live. Only large commercial buildings had air conditioning. Residential buildings had windows. You got hot, you open a window. Since the temperature rarely hit 80 degrees on summer afternoons, and was always 75 or less by bedtime, it worked fine.

These last fifteen years, however, have been a scorcher. Yesterday was bright, sunny, and ... 83F according to both the bank sign and the thermometer on the dashboard of my Jeep. Today is supposed to be even hotter. And it was only March 11, not July, not August. March. Not even freakin' *SPRING* yet. And I had to turn on my air conditioner to keep from stifling.

Global warming? I'll let the scientists make that call. All I'll say is that keeping my iceberg afloat seems like it's requiring an aweful lot more air conditioning than it used to...

-- Badtux the Overheated Penguin

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Posted by: BadTux / 3/12/2007 01:25:00 PM  3 comments  
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