Thursday, September 30, 2004

I misunderestimated Bush

Thirty-six minutes left in the debate, and I've counted 10 references to Kerry's inconsistencies.

Oops. Make that eleven.

Stay tuned for the final count of "flip-flop" references.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Debate Predictions

I'd like to make a few predictions about tomorrow night's Presidential Debate.

1. George W. Bush will only deviate from established sound bytes/talking points long enough to steer whatever question into one of his sound bytes/talking points.

2. John Kerry will go over the time limit more explaining his positions.

3. It's a 90-minute debate, so that should give time for at least five references to John Kerry's "flip flopping," though George W. Bush will not use that particular term.

4. Both candidates are going to claim they won, so long as no one projectile-vomits on the moderator.

5. We're not going to hear anything we haven't heard before.

Click here to read the Memorandum of Understanding outlining the debate specs. (pdf file)

The debate starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Schedules indicate it will be carried live on C-Span 1, CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and MSNBC (apologies to anyone I left out). My personal preference is for C-Span.

Please, for the love of all things good and decent in this world, tune in for the debate and turn off the TV as soon as the second closing statement ends. Watch what the candidates have to say, then make up your own mind. I have the utmost confidence that Penguin Perspectives readers have the intellectual capacity to form your own opinions based on the evidence presented, without relying on the spin doctors and media talking heads.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Donkey Konga

I've managed to beat my hands into raw pulp on our latest toy, Donkey Konga. Basically, someone over at Nintendo thought, "Percussion karaoke in a video game? Cool. But how would it work? We could splice a game controller into toy bongo drums!" It's cool, and that's coming from me, the one who has what Elie affectionately refers to as "Natural white girl rhythmic ability," which is to say I couldn't keep time if someone beat my skull in with a metronome. In the last three hours, I've beaten my palms nearly bloody drumming out the song "We Will Rock You." That's the song that a couple thousand drunk people at basketball games can beat out on the bleachers with more or less decent rhythm. But me on a set of plastic bongos? Not really.

By contrast, Elie has a Master's degree in Conducting and can take your pulse without looking at a watch. Needless to say, when we get the second bongo controller and go head-to-head, it is going to be a little lopsided. I look forward to being soundly trounced. Donkey Konga is fun as I'll get out.

Irony Alert

The Lone Star Iconoclast endorsed John Kerry for president today.

Don't feel bad if you've never heard of the Lone Star Iconoclast. Crawford, Texas is not that big a town (about 700 people in the last census), so there's no reason you should have heard of its weekly newspaper.

Click here for the full text of the endorsement. When a small local paper sides against their hometown President of the United States, they pretty much have to have a good reason and write a solidly well-reasoned argument for the decision. I don't ask you to agree with them. I just ask that you read why they thought they had to do it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Truth Comes Out At Last

Somehow, as you listen to the chipper on-hold voice interrupting your dose of classical muzak to remind you, "Your call is very important. Please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order it was received," you know this is what they really think of taking your call.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Happy Blogiversary

Today marks a full year of Penguin Perspectives. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

News Item Footnote

This paragraph was appended to the end of an article in Time about how the former Cat Stevens got on a terrorist watch list.

"Still, the TSA is learning. It recently acknowledged that a Federal Air
Marshall, unable to fly for weeks when his name was mistakenly put on the
"no-fly" list, was in fact not a threat, and removed his name from the list."

Either we are not screening the No Fly list additions anywhere near adequately enough to avoid stupid errors, or we are making suspected terrorists into Federal Air Marshals (y'know, the guys who are supposed to take down the terrorists if they manage to get onto a plane). I definitely feel safer now that I know that the people in charge of assuring transportation safety can't tell the difference between one of their own agents and a security threat.

More Star Wars

Tonight was our screening of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. By all accounts, this is the movie that has been tweaked most for the DVD release. Most of the changes simply readjust some minor elements to match continuity with the prequels or tweak some technical issues. The only major material change in the movie is that George Lucas rewrote the dialog between Darth Vader and the Emperor, and if I may say, the new scene adds to the depth and overall coolness of the movies.

The benefits of the changes notwithstanding, obsessive fans are up in arms over the second round of changes to the original trilogy. They seem to fail to understand that these are George Lucas' movies to do with what he wants. If he wanted to add a line of Ewoks doing the Macarena to celebrate the destruction of the second Death Star, he could. He owns them, he made them, they're his vision.

Here's a link to an interview from CNN in which George Lucas defends the changes. Among the more notable points he makes:

"The special edition, that's the one I wanted out there. The other movie,
it's on VHS, if anybody wants it."

"It's like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I'm sorry you saw half
a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it
to be. "

Now, assuming CNN is quoting him correctly, this may sound a little harsh, but he has a valid point. Not only that, but I'm sure if George Lucas had not dubbed in Temura Morrison's voice for Boba Fett, these obsesso-fans would be harping over why Boba Fett sounds nothing like Jango Fett even though they are clones.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Star Wars

We've gotten our Star Wars DVDs (for those of you living under a rock, the original trilogy came out on DVD Tuesday). Having just finished watching the newest version of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, I'd like to advance what I'm sure will be a controversial theory.

Darth Vader doesn't kill Obi-Wan Kenobi.

You have to watch part of DVD Chapter 38 frame-by-frame to see it, but it's there. When Vader takes that last swipe at Obi-Wan, the cloak begins to drop a few frames BEFORE Vader's lightsaber passes through the cloak. By the time Vader's lightsaber makes contact, Obi-Wan is no longer inside his robes.

Why does this matter, you say? It supports and clarifies my theory of why some Jedi disappear but others do not. The Jedi who do not disappear (Qui-Gon, etc.) are taken down in battle; the Jedi who disappear (Obi-Wan, Yoda, Aniken) are not killed. In fact, there's no definitive indication that those three actually die at all before they disappear.

Yes, I'm a geek. Some days you just have to give your brain a break and contemplate things of no importance whatsoever.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

From Last Night's Daily Show

Last night, Marc Racicot, the chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign, put in some time on the interview couch at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart asked him what the campaign had planned for an October Surprise (not, I'm sure, thinking they would actually admit to having one, much less disclosing what it is). The response, and I could not make this up:

"Our campaign is just so focused on being positive that there's just no way that would happen."

Speaking for those of us at home in the swing states subjected to the near-constant barrage of attack ads, Jon Stewart interrupted between "positive" and "that" with a spontaneous "WHAT?" It was one of those rare interview moments where the interviewer actually pointed out the interviewee's complete denial of reality. This is Comedy Central, on a self-described fake news show.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Memory Lane

Found this on eBay today. If you don't feel like clicking on the link, it's a little porcelain koala. Though the auction description doesn't say so in the item description, this is part of a Lipton tea promo from the mid-80's. Each box of 100 tea bags came with one of these little porcelain animals. There were about 15 different figurines in the collection, but it seemed like every other box contained a squirrel. Back in the day, the women of my family had an informal competition going to see who would get the koala figure first. I don't recall who won, but they drank far more than $3.99 plus shipping to get it. I also don't recall what happened to the herd of squirrel figurines we collected in the process.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

More on the Lobsters

This interview in Salon with Lobster Expert Trevor Corson, author of The Secret Life of Lobsters, puts my mind at ease. Corson spent 2 years catching lobsters as part of his research, and apparently, many stupid but large or pregnant lobsters wander into traps repeatedly and are thrown back to spawn more stupid lobsters. So we may be eating stupid lobsters, but there's a lot more lobster stupidity where that came from.

He also offers instructions on more humane ways of killing your lobster dinner and a few factoids about lobster life that will make you feel not quite so bad about plunging it live into boiling water if you choose to stick with the traditional method. They're vicious, cannibalistic, belligerent creatures, and I won't even get started on the urinating from the forehead.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Sky Captain

We just got back from seeing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Go see it. Forget the stunning visuals. Forget bringing Laurence Olivier back from the dead. Forget the amphiplane (a submersible P-40) and all the cool gizmos. Go see it for very last line. I laughed so hard I cried. I laughed even more than when Polly Perkins looked over in the rocket ship and saw the cow.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Recommended Reading

Larry David says what I've suspected for a while about undecided voters (New York Times, registration required but it's worth it).
A few weeks back, NPR interviewed some supposedly undecided voters. Fortunately, at one point in a gushing Bush lovefest of an interview, the reporter called the interviewee out on being not really undecided. The guy was sent scrambling for some positive words to say about Kerry. Caught off guard, he came up with some lame and general positive "I think he's a good guy"-type praise for Kerry. The fake indecision cuts both ways.

I'm not convinced there really are undecided voters in this presidential election. The closest thing might be Democrats who don't like Kerry but can't stomach voting Republican and Republicans who don't like Bush but can't stomach voting Democrat. These people are not undecided; they are more loyal to a party label than their beliefs, and find it is catching up with them. There are also the apathetic, but in order to be an "undecided voter," I think you should, at a minimum, intend on making a decision.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hurricane Warning

Charley, Frances, Ivan, and now Jeanne.

The first hurricane is to be expected. After all, this is Florida we're talking about. The second is a fluke. The third makes you wonder. But four hurricanes in as many weeks slamming into Florida just has to be some kind of message.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Ain't I A Woman?

Here's a New York Times op-ed about how George W. Bush appeals to women. The focus groups say his popularity hinges on "his building an emotional connection, humanizing himself and portraying himself as the candidate who can keep America safe."

As a woman, I find that insulting.


My recent lack of posting is mostly due to some computer difficulties and me smashing my right index finger with a hammer while trying to assemble a floor lamp that now refuses to be either straight or illuminated. It has nothing to do with any observations of any solemn moments. But if I may make an observation...

Way back in the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there was an episode where Sisko, the station commander, met a group of alien beings who existed without linear time and had no concept of "now" or "then." They kept taking Sisko back into his past to the moment when he was commanding a ship during a space battle while his wife and son were on the ship with him. Mrs. Sisko was killed in the battle, and the commander was unable to rescue her or retrieve her body. When Sisko asked the aliens why they kept making him relive his most painful memory, the aliens replied something to the effect of "we are simply taking you back the moment you are living in." Though time continued to pass, because that is the nature of time and our relationship to it, Sisko had remained stuck in that moment, and the aliens thought that he must have wanted to be there.

I think a lot of people have that relationship with the morning of September 11, 2001. A lot of people are stuck in the moment when they lost loved ones, and that is a matter of personal mourning, but others simply refuse to move beyond that day, choosing for whatever reason to let that moment rule their existence. I'll venture that one of the biggest reasons, other than overwhelming desire for revenge, is that people are afraid in this political climate to come out and say that their lives are pretty much the same today as they were on September 10, 2001 (barring changes that came about from other people's reactions to the events, e.g. airport screenings and the PATRIOT act). It's not PC to admit that the events themselves didn't affect you personally all that much in Bat Guano, Ohio, and that life goes on.

Dick Cheney has taken some heat (rightly) by suggesting that electing Kerry would risk the nation lapsing into a "pre-9/11" mindset. Given the amount of time this administration seems to take in reminding us of September 11, they seem to have a vested interest in keeping the nation in a "during-9/11" mindset in which we are all freaked out for our safety. I'd venture that when Cheney said we risk lapsing into a pre-9/11 mindset, what he really feared was us moving from "during-9/11" to "post-9/11."

Thursday, September 09, 2004

From the Bad Idea File

Now, I'm all in favor of any peripheral that makes video gaming a more realistic experience. Sports games in particular lose something when they're ported to a video game format. It's hard to get absorbed in playing soccer or hockey or football or whatever when the extent of your action is thumb-wiggling and the occasional index-finger twitch. This interactive baseball game, with bat and ball wireless controllers, is a great idea. Anywhere but in the main aisle of Best Buy.

Some brilliant marketing strategist set up the demo of that hard plastic game device in one of the busiest aisles of our local Best Buy, a high-traffic area perfect for increasing the game's visibility, but with a couple of major logistical flaws: swinging a baseball bat has certain spatial requirements, and people don't always look around themselves when they're playing video games. I almost got clocked in the face by a preteen trying to slug one out of the park. That's not all bad, though, because that incident put us on guard when we had to go back down the aisle when a much younger and shorter child was swinging the bat willy-nilly at waist level.

Desperately Seeking Knowledge

I've had a few misgivings about posting this, but I've decided to go ahead anyway. I'm asking Bush supporters out there to please explain to me why his policies offer a good direction for the country.

First let me point out that I did not particularly like Kerry in the Primaries and I don't like him any better just because he won. I'm not trying to persuade any Bush supporters to cross over to the Kerry camp. I just want to understand the logic behind Bush support because I've looked at his policy stances and proposals, and I am at a loss. They simply do not make sense to me. Not only do the positions not add up (e.g. if we suck money out of Social Security for individual retirement savings, who pays for all the current retirees?), but I don't understand how people can believe some of the talking points that are repeated when the facts do not bear them out (e.g. yes, Bush was the first president to fund stem cells, but he was also the first president to restrict stem-cell funding).

So here are the rules for anyone offering explanations:
1. Stick to the substantive positions on issues.
2. Be polite and thoughtful. We're striving for a mature discourse here.
3. Spell out all words. We're commenting, not taking dictation.
4. The following words are irrelevant to a discussion of the merits of Bush's policies and record: "Kerry," "flip," "flopper," "horse," and "midstream." Please avoid.

So I call on Bush supporters to please explain the logical process that led you to support Bush's positions on issues and plans for the future of the nation. I'm just trying to understand the sides before I cast a ballot in a couple months.

Monday, September 06, 2004

War on Terrorism

Slate offers a brief overview of the history of Chechnya, which goes a long way in explaining why Chechens do things like what they did last week--not excusing or justifying, but explaining.

The article also briefly hints at one of the biggest problems with fighting a "war on terrorism": terrorists are not a unified group you can fight. Currently, the State Department lists more than 70 groups as terrorists, and they all seem to have two characteristics in common: they use the same broad family of tactics known as "terrorism" (threats, bombings, hostage-taking, random civilian killings, etc.) and they each have an end result that they hope to bring about--a "cause" if you will. Thing is, there are about 70 groups and just about as many causes. We can't fight all of them.

No one seems to be saying this, but although some of those causes are linked to the US or American interests, not all of these terrorist groups have an interest in the United States. Being "The Lone Remaining Superpower," it's hard to believe that there are bad guys out there who find America completely irrelevant. Groups like ETA (the Basque separatists), the Irish Republican Army, and the Chechen rebels have narrowly focused beefs with other countries. It's like having a wasp's nest in your neighbor's backyard: makes you nervous that they're there, and there's always the chance that they might migrate over the fence, but for the time being, the problem is between the wasps and your neighbor, and you've got hedges of your own to take care of. As long as we don't do anything to rile these groups up, they'll largely ignore us, and there is a chance that the other countries might be able to fight their own war without us.

If we are to fight a comprehensive War On Terrorism, what we are really intending to do is to get involved with conflicts worldwide. Yes, these people do very bad things and should be stopped, but even the Lone Remaining Superpower has limits. We can't fight a 70-front war, which is what a War on Terrorism must be. We can fight the groups who want to fight us, though even that will tax our resources and patience. Terrorists, like small ill-behaved children, tend to cling tenaciously until they get what they want, and this country has a policy of not giving in to terrorists--a recipe for a very costly stalemate. The President has said that the War on Terrorism (he calls it a War on Terror, but you cannot fight a war against a feeling that the enemy is supposed to evoke in you) is not a conventional war. A War on Terrorism cannot be declared, fought, and won by conventional means, but a War on Terrorist Groups can. We can declare war on Al-Qaeda and fight them. It will hard, long, and messy, but it can be done, and there is even a chance we can win. First, though, we must define the enemy. Terrorism is not an enemy. Terrorists are.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Leave a Message at the Beep

Being as it is a long holiday weekend, I will skip the rant about annoying things people leave on their outgoing answering machine messages (except to plead for parents to PLEASE stop letting their inarticulate children near the machine). I'll skip straight to where I direct you to this website where you can access entertaining, short outgoing messages that Lorenzo Music did for the Garfield website before his death three years ago.

Friday, September 03, 2004


Historians correct Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian history from his convention speech. The highlights: there were no Soviet tanks in the region at the time, nor was the government Socialist.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Thus Spoke Bush

Just finished watching George W. Bush's convention speech. Click here to read the text. Nothing changed my mind about the way I will cast my ballot in 2 months, but I did not expect anything of the sort. Oddly, I do agree with at least a few of Bush's overall concepts--simplifying the tax code, moving away from reliance on Social Security for retirement planning, and improving the quality of education, for starters. Nonetheless, I fail to be convinced that the few specifics offered will do anything to work toward those goals. The only tactic I heard that might work is allowing younger workers to invest in their own retirements. I'd better hope that will work, or I'm socking money into my IRA for nothing.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Homeland Security

It seems Fort Polk, a military base in Louisiana, has a stray bengal tiger running loose. That's a large predatory animal that has somehow been sneaking around one of our military installations since Friday. I'd think someone should have noticed a freakin' tiger entering a military base, since there was no way that thing is carrying proper ID. Either the circus is in town or we should be a little concerned about the security at places other than the airport.