The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

I love the government

| February 28, 2005

Ignoring the fact that I have the honor of giving away a pile of money for stuff I don't care about, I love how the W4's are, by default, set up so that you end up having to come up with something like 4% of your yearly income around tax time. At least, this is what happens to me, when I have no kids, no house, and everything big that I buy (like a car) doesn't help me because the standard detuction is more.

And besides, what is this “standard deduction” thing anyway? The way it's worded, it makes you think that it's the deduction you need to support yourself, and it's a whole what? $4850? Yeah, because you can maybe live on that. Hell, my rent in my crappy apartment was over $8000/year.

Ooh, and let's just look at ratios:

  • Twice as much money went into social security as was collected by the state
  • The federal government collected about 4 times as much money as the state.

What happened to the idea that the federal government was supposed to: 1.) Raise a military 2.) Coin money

Oh, wait, a bunch of socialist bastards came in and decided to redistribute the wealth and bloat the government with tons of programs and then devised a huge, complicated, ungainly system to govern it all.

It almost makes me look at the 5% that the state takes as “reasonable” (my federal tax liability, including social security) was about 22%.

Good thing March has 3 pay periods – I should be able to pay it off just by cutting them a check at the end of March.

Bastards.

Broadcast Flags, Bars, PBS, Microsoft Tools, and The Episcopal Church

| February 22, 2005

Broadcast Flag: So, I don't know where this is going to go, but Slashdot is reporting that a US court of appeals chastised the FCC for the FCC's rule mandating the broadcast flag implementation. For those of you who aren't aware, the broadcast flag is an “bit” (not even an encryption) contained within a digital TV broadcast stream. This bit is used to “protect broadcaster copying from being traded all over the internet”, or so says the industry. In reality, it basically allows them to tell hardware “don't record this”. Well, that's easy, I'll just get hardware that lets me do what I want, right? Wrong. Forget the bad stuff with DVD region coding – this is an FCC mandate. It would be ILLEGAL to make a device that doesn't handle this flag. This means that a digital TiVo or digital VCR can be told NOT to record something, because the network doesn't want you too. However, this ruling might very well be the beginning of it being overturned. Might not, but here's hoping.

Bars: Liz's bar arrived.

Liz's Bar Closed Liz’s Bar Closed Liz's Bar Open Liz’s Bar Open. Her standing next to it should give you an idea of scale

Still here, folks!

| February 19, 2005

Sorry I've been away, been busy.

Did everyone have a nice Valentine’s Day? I did. Lizzy and I did. She got me some books (Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For the Food, The cult of Mac and another book on customizing OSX (I don’t recall the name), as well as a KitchenAid coffee grinder. It’s quite good, I recommend it. I got her some flowers (of course), some of the special vodka she likes, and some chocolate (because it’s not the same without chocolate). Plus, I chipped in on her bar, which we ordered today (will be delivered on Tuesday). I’ve been playing Mercenaries. It’s quite good. Thing Grand Theft Auto in a warzone, and designed as a shooter. It plays a lot like Star Wars: Battlefront (third person, with a targeting reticle). You can jump in and use most vehicles. It’s far more up my alley than the GTA series. I hope they make a sequel. I’m also switching from Gentoo to Ubuntu. The long compile times were bugging me. Ubuntu is basically Debian, but with a pushed up release cycle and a more focused package list (Debian’s reach often overextends their grasp, in my opinion). So far, it’s decent. There’s a bunch of stuff that needed to be added to make it useful to me, but for most folks it should be fine out of the box. It goes in very smoothly (don’t know if it can resize Windows partitions; didn’t try, but the installer is very simple). The hardest part is the partitioning, which I think is fair. If you want to blow away your system, then the install is very easy. Dual booting is a little harder, but that is usually the case. Aside from that, they ask what the machine’s name is, has you make a username, whether to get packages from the internet, and that’s basically it. No package selection annoyances or anything like that. When it’s installed, the default GNOME setup is nice and Synaptic is a nice package management frontend for folks. Basically, if my mother didn’t already have a new iBook, I’d recommend she use this. Oh, and they do a PPC version, so I can run Mac On Linux on my Mini. Anyway, back to migrating systems to Ubuntu.

Chain letter

| February 9, 2005

I don't usually like these, but this one was decent.

WOULDN’T THIS BE WONDERFULL WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR OUR PRESIDENT GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH? And I wouldn’t care what party he represented. My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of Iraq regime has been completed. Since congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete. This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now time to begin the reckoning. Before me, I have two lists. One list contains! the names of countries that have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. The United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there. The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the worlds’ nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening. Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war. The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption. Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France. In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth. Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France, or maybe China. To Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yo, boys. Work out a peace deal now. Just note that Camp David is closed. Maybe all of you can go to Russia for negotiations. They have some great palaces there. Big tables, too. By the way Palestinians, we are no longer going to restrain Israel! I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, Germany, and Russia Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis. I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I don’t care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beamers, and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York. A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change. Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple of extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put em? Yep, border security. So start doing something with your oil. Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty—starting now. We are sick and tired of the one-way highway. It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, “darn tootin.” Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America. To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won’t forget. To the nations on List 2, a final thought. Go to Hell. God Bless America. Thank you and good night. If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier!!!!!!!!!

Random bits

| February 8, 2005

  • Liz and I tried the Peking Duck at Seven Moons. Not the greatest. The skin had good flavor, but it didn’t penetrate into the duck. Also, they didn’t slash the skin over the breast, so there was a lot of fat there. The legs were good through.
  • Why Rhode Island is the short bus state: I’m headed up a rather empty route 1, at night, doing a reasonable 60mph in the slow lane. A minivan pulls up to the stop from a side street. I change lanes to the fast lane so that they can pull out. They do. They proceed to get right in the middle, straddling the center line. I slow down, pull up behind them, and lean on the horn, so that they’ll realize that they should pick a lane. What do they do? They STOP. I mean, literally, they went to like 5mph. I hit the horn again and then they pull a U turn in one of those turnarounds. Needless to say, there was no blinker. Super special drivers.

Dear Mr. President

| February 7, 2005

Mr. President,

I've been watching the news reports on the road trips concerning the restructuring of social security following the state of the union address. I have to say that, while I think the idea of “fixing” social security is headed in the right direction, I think it falls short. First, it is not the government's place to ensure that I save for the future. It is my responsibility, I will take care of it. Second, it is not the government's responsibility to provide retirement savings for people. While we cannot cut off the folks who have already payed into the system (because that would be cruel), I do not expect the government to pay for my retirement, nor do I expect the government to tax my children to pay for mine.

In short, it is the job of the state to provide for anything other than the common defense. If people want social programs, they can move to Europe. I want to keep the money that I earn, take care of my family, and make my own way. It's called “rugged individualism”. Please disassemble social security. Allow the people who have payed into it and are near retirement to collect until their deaths, but let the system die with them.

Thank you.

PS – If you can lead congress into interpreting the second amendment as aggressively as they interpret the first, I would be tremendously grateful.

Movies, shopping, and Linux

| February 7, 2005

  • Watched Bowling for Columbine. A bit more even-keel than I would expect from Michael Moore after Farenheit 9/11. He makes some good points (the media keeps feeding us news that instills fear because that’s what sells; Canada has similar gun ownership and such, why do we have such violence problems, etc.) but he also hits some stuff that I don’t like. I felt he was a little mean to the KMart people (he goes there with victims of Columbine to get them to stop selling bullets) and to Charlton Heston (he just harasses the guy, following him around the house even after Mr. Heston granted him a nice interview.
  • Also watched Super Size Me. Not bad. Makes me realize how well I actually eat. I mean, our main “eating out” vice has been sushi, and there are worse things for you than fish and rice.
  • Liz and I went shopping this weekend. I got some random art for my area of the apartment. You know, those little campy signs that say things like “Fresh Coffee, 5 cents” and so forth. Just to brighten the bare walls. Got a super cute picture of a little kitten in a coffee cup.
  • So, I was going to compare and contrast doing video editing on Linux vs. on my new Mac. Unfortunately, it seems that IEEE1394 (also known as FireWire by the marketing inclined folks) is horribly broken under Linux/SMP systems. This does not make me happy. It’s kind of a shame, because under Linux 2.4, it worked great. I plugged in the card, cabled up all the bits and it was working in like half an hour. Enter 2.6, and it’s just completely, completely broken. I’ve tried 2 cards, and the 2 1394 drivers. It keeps complaining that it’s not 1394a-2000 compliant. So, I called it a wash and will do the work on my Mac.