Goose the Blog 2.0

"Oh, ha! Sarcasm: The last refuge of sons of bitches!"


good news

by John at 3/30/2004 06:14:00 PM

I'm a couple of days late on this (Thanks a lot, TiVo!) but I just heard that Flying Crocodile beat Flying Shark. As if it wasn't totally obvious who would win; Flying Shark is a loser.


clone wars tonight!

by John at 3/26/2004 08:07:00 PM

Just when you thought March 26 would never arrive... Chapter 11 of Star Wars: Clone Wars premieres on The Cartoon Network tonight!

And lucky you - if you missed the first ten chapters, you have another chance to see them at 8pm (1-5) and 9pm (6-10), before the premiere at 9:30.


30 second book reviews

by John at 3/25/2004 07:52:00 AM

Singularity Sky - Charles Stross
This is a pretty good book. Set in a post-Singularity universe where a Sublimed emergent strong AI enforces causality to preserve its own existence and other AI travel the galaxy raining cell-phones and wishes on unsuspecting human societies, this story is a combination of a space opera and a morality tale about libertarianism, totalitarianism, information, and technology. If any of that makes sense, you should give it a try. It's short.

Teranesia - Greg Egan
With a focus on one of my favorite subjects (evolution) this book starts out promising as a boy begins his life with an island adventure in Indonesia. Its stays promising through the middle, and then falls apart completely in the last chapter. Disappointing, so don't bother even though it's short. Maybe you would like Diaspora instead?

Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich
Another short one, you will either hate this book, or like it, or feel mixed up about it. You will hate it if you are a free-marketer. You will like it if you are a bleeding heart liberal unless you think about how the author made it too much about herself, in which case you will have mixed emotions. I'm in the last category.

Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser
This one is longer, and is a detailed discussion of the growth, mechanisms, employment practices, sanitaton, and social impact of the fast food industry. There is a lot of talk about Colorado Springs. You will probably dislike this book if you are pro-big-industry. Likewise, this book will tell you everything you want to hear if you are anti-globalization, anti-agribusiness, or anti-big-industry. In any case, you'll think twice before eating a hamburger again.

Why Things Break - Mark Eberhart
Supposedly a study about the recent discoveries concerning why materials break, this book is actually 50% about the authors personal and professional life (consisting mostly of academic slights he has suffered), 3/8 about lawsuits and society's changing attitude to broken things, and 1/8 about why things actually break. If you had a material science course in college you know the technology stuff already, and if you didn't there have got to be better places to find out about it than this book. Don't read it even though it is short.

Tatja Grimm's World - Vernor Vinge
Vernor Vinge is great! But don't bother with this book, which is actually a collection of three stories in which a major character is a super-genius girl named Tatja Grimm, stuck on a backward-ass, low-metal planet on the verge of a renaissance (or maybe just a naissance). Mostly boring. Read A Deepness in the Sky instead.

Eastern Standard Tribe - Cory Doctorow
A good followup to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, this short novel is set in the near future where the time-zone you walk around in is not necessarily the time-zone you live in. A man is betrayed, struggles with his personal demons, and comes out ahead in the end. Or does he? If you think this sounds like the plot of Down and Out, you are right, though the similarity is mostly superficial. Everything Doctorow writes about in this story is going to come true within ten years (it's all possible now, I think), except for all the methane cars.

Everything and More - David Foster Wallace
This book is long and feels long. I took three weeks to finish it. Nonetheless, it is an engaging study of the theory of infinity, and the implications of infinity in mathematics from the Greeks to the early 20th Century. If you have an affinity for math, the first five chapters are fun, the sixth and most of the seventh are hard, and then it all comes together at the end. I felt like I learned something, though I can't remember much of it now. I can tell you that the Pythagoreans hated irrational numbers, and defined the number 2 to be 49/25 so that its square root would be rational. Did they actually think they were fooling anyone?

Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson
This is a long novel, only the first of I think three, and a sort of prequel to Cryptonomicon (which you won't need to have read to enjoy this). My general stand is that I don't enjoy literary series, especially ones that don't really finish a story at the end of each book. This book is that kind of book, yet I liked it. It takes place in late 17th and early 18th century Europe and America; deals with alchemy, war, calculus, vagabonds, The Restoration, and the philosophy of science; and stars Enlightenment luminaries such as Newton, Leibniz, Hooke, etc. This review is getting too long, so I'll finish with recommending you read it if you enjoy historical fiction and don't mind making a big commitment.

Save some trees and cash and borrow these books from your local library. And if you have some spare cash you want to get rid of consider supporting your local library, because some states are reducing funding for these kinds of valuable services.

Also, you can sometimes find electronic versions of these books.

Update: I've added my review of Quicksilver because I forgot to include it the first time.


...and he's in charge of what?!!!

by SamIam at 3/23/2004 08:01:00 PM

This is a classic. It remindes me of another Republican administration being grilled back in the 80's. Evidently, amnesia is epidemic among Republicans.


the dream of the red menace

by John at 3/18/2004 09:20:00 AM

Last night I had the following dream:

My wife and I are on vacation in Spain. It is a sort of eco/adventure vacation where you go bike riding, sailing, etc. with a group or guides. The favorite afternoon activity is rollerblading, and frustrated by my lack of skill, the guide assigned to me just starts dropping me off at a cafe while she goes off to rollerblade with the others. My wife Wendy, being an accomplished skater, joins the group and leaves me alone every afternoon.

So armed with what I remember from highschool Spanish, a Spanish-English dictionary, and a card with the name of my hotel on it, I wander around the city on my own. I'm much more open and friendly in this dream than I am in real life, and I end up speaking with many people in my pidgin Spanish. I'm having a good time.

One afternoon, however, it starts to dawn on me that something is wrong. Part of my life is missing. I finally understand that for several years, I have been brainwashed by the Socialists.

These aren't the friendly, seemingly benign kind of socialists, either. Not the kind Europe's been flirting with for the last half century, the ones who brought universal healthcare, free education, and a welfare state into being. These are the seize the means of production and transportation kind of socialists. They are The Red Menace.

They have been using me as a spy, and I have been sharing all the industrial secrets I am privy to with them to aid them in the overthrow the American capitalist system. But is it real, or am I just imagining things? And now that I know what I am, will they kill me? Or will they just let me go, confident that no one will believe my story?

When I awoke, I vowed to myself that I'd write it down so that I wouldn't forget it. Here it is. In the harsh light of wakefulness, it seems sort of silly. Does this dream mean something, or is it just a combination of current events and the headache and cold medicine I took before going to bed last night? I'll let you decide.


creative excuse of the week

by SamIam at 3/17/2004 04:05:00 PM

Most American's favorite past time isn't baseball, shopping, or even TV--it's figuring out how to blame someone else for their own fuck-up. It is good to see that despite our recent disagreements with the French, we still have something in common--take bad driving, for instance....

Man Thought He Was Running Over Bin Laden

MONTPELLIER, France March 17 — A Frenchman was convicted for trying to run over a pedestrian he mistook for Osama bin Laden.

The man's lawyer, David Mendel, said his client was traumatized by last week's terror attacks in Madrid and was temporarily the "victim of a hallucination," while driving Monday through Montpellier's historic center.

many dead

by John at 3/17/2004 01:54:00 PM

Powerful blast shatters Baghdad hotel

The more progress we make in Iraq, the more desperate the terrorists will become. - George W. Bush, Aug 27, 2003

I guess we are doing well. Since Feb. 1, there have now been six major terrorist attacks associated with Islamic terror groups (not including the consistently bad Israel/Palestine region). There are at least 602 noncombatants dead so far in these six attacks. That's a little more than 13 people killed each day. More than 2000 have been injured.

How much more winning can we stand?


nothing comes between me and my nano-pants

by John at 3/15/2004 01:41:00 PM

Except for my underwear, that is.

Today I'm wearing a pair of high tech slacks I bought on sale this weekend - they are SLATES® Custom Fit Microfiber pants with Stain Defender™ and NANO-PEL™. Both technologies (it may actually only be one technology) are related to the nano-scale (or maybe just sub micron-scale, but nano sounds cooler) surface features of the fabric. I don't think that the technology is really related to DuPont's traditional Teflon® technology, which is polytetrafluoroethylene, the brownish-gray stuff that covers some non-stick cookware. Instead, this fabric protecting technology is associated with the Teflon® brand because some marketing geniuses decided that all DuPont products that had to do with non-stickiness should get the Teflon® label. This confuses the heck out of me, but apparently it is nonetheless a good idea.

Whatever. What you really want to know is do they work? To that question I can answer an emphatic yes! They do indeed work. After lunch, I deliberately poured the last sip of my Diet Coke on my pants leg. The soda actually bounced off, repelled by the nanoscopic stain fighters that were valiantly defending my pants. The few drops that remained on my pant leg beaded up like rain on a newly waxed car, and were easily removed by gently dabbing at them with a napkin. No evidence of the spill remained (except on the floor, where the Diet Coke that couldn't stay on my pants soaked into the carpet).

Very cool. I tell you, if they can make these pants with reinforcing Kevlar® fibers, I may never need to buy another pair of pants again.


precision grip on the planet

by John at 3/12/2004 07:08:00 PM

Juju writes (found via boingboing):

A simple change in finger length results in us being massively more effective as a species. This picture represents your history. Your world is the way it is today as a result of many, many things. But this change was certainly a big one, and our world would definitely not be the same without it.

Where would we be without our stubby fingers and long thumbs? Still hiding from the hyenas on chilly savannah nights, probably.


the triplets of belleville

by John at 3/11/2004 02:45:00 PM

Yuris writes:

Remember the equation in the early scenes of The Triplets of Belleville -- right under the stage... where the naked black girl with the bananas was dancing... (among other things) ??

It was, as we suspected, Einstein's Field Equation. It describes how matter creates gravity and, conversely, how gravity affects matter. It reduces to Newton's Law of Gravity in the non-relativistic limit (low velocities, weak gravitational fields).

It reads (as it showed up in the movie)

where Rik is the Ricci curvature tensor and R the Ricci curvature scalar. Tik is the stress-energy tensor. K is a gravitational constant. You will find the equation in short form (introducing the Einstein stress tensor Gik) as

This started me thinking about the possible relationship between general relativity and the theme of the film. The first thing I came up with was that the grandmother, Madame Souza, is stuck in her grandson Champion's gravity well, so her life revolves around his. Similarly, the dog Bruno's life revolves around his dislike of / fascination with trains. Both situations are due to unfortunate events in Champion's childhood (at which point I should make some comment about space-time and overlapping lightcones).

Other ideas?

11/3 cambiado todo

by John at 3/11/2004 10:22:00 AM

More than 180 dead in Madrid. More than 1000 wounded. Blame is going to the Basque separatist group ETA.

If you can parse at least a little Spanish, here is a list of Spanish language blogs covering the terrorist attack. (blog link via boingboing)

cave capitalist

by John at 3/11/2004 09:33:00 AM

From Howard Lovy's Nanobot comes "Cave Capitalist", the continuing struggle of Two-Grunts & One-Cluck, an inventive Cro-Magnon man who is looking for research funding.

"Tools," indeed. "Spears," "Fishing Nets," scraping skins off of animals to "wear" during the coming of a great "long period of cold things." Clearly being an educated homo sapien, I can hardly even fathom how you take these fantasies and turn them into reality in your round head.
Mr. One-Cluck, let me make this perfectly clear. We here at the Neanderthal Alliance believe in only one thing – and that is our immediate, short-term survival and hording of existing resources. That is what "technology" is all about.

Be sure to check out Part 1 (wheel) and Part 2 (fire) for the backstory.

rhino rampage!

by John at 3/11/2004 09:16:00 AM

A crazed papier-mache rhinocerous escaped from its enclosure at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo during a simulated earthquake, endangering zoo workers and visitors alike. No one was seriously hurt and the papier-mache rhino was returned to its pen after being subdued by pretend tranquilizers. (click photo for story)



by John at 3/09/2004 05:57:00 PM

Today, I found a few neat avatar generators: Reasonably Clever's Mini-Mizer (based on Lego mini-figs) and a kid-safe version of the same; South Park Studios Create a Character (that's me on the right, South Park style, in today's clothes); and an unbranded face generator (which makes good cartoony faces).

Does anyone know of any other good ones?

Guns don't kill people...the morons who own them do.

by SamIam at 3/09/2004 05:38:00 PM


March 9, 2004 | PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (AP) -- A man was killed during a Masonic initiation ceremony when another member fired a gun loaded with real bullets instead of the expected blanks and shot him in the face, police said Tuesday.

See the rest of the article here

Dear Abby, I'm married to a cartoon

by Wendy at 3/09/2004 09:38:00 AM

In a recent newspaper column:

"Stuck [in a Love Triangle"] complained to Dear Abby that she was a 34-year-old mother of three, married for 10 years to a "greedy, selfish, inconsiderate and rude" partner by the name of Gene. An unwitting Gene had committed the unforgivable sin of gifting his darling wife with a bowling ball for her birthday--a bowling ball that was sized for his fingers and engraved with his name, no less.

Sound familiar? Read the rest of her dilemma here.


this is fluffy

by John at 3/06/2004 05:26:00 PM

He is the destroyer of worlds.


The First Amendment, Our Founding Fathers and Atheism

by Weisshaupt at 3/05/2004 06:56:00 PM

The First Amendment in the Bill of rights of our Federal Constitution reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

From this it can be seen, that the same word, "Religion" is used to both protect the free exercise thereof and to specify a prohibition against government establishment. Therefore, if something is classified as a Religion then both provisions must apply to it.

"What is a Religion?" is a good question and a difficult one to answer. However, for the purposes of the definition used in the constitution, it would probably be best to use the definition used by the legislators who wrote and ratified the bill of rights:

"Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered."

James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, 20 June 1785

So apparently Madison felt religious freedom was extended at the very least to Agnostics....

"Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness"

Virginia, Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, 31 Oct. 1785 (Thomas Jefferson)

(Emphasis mine)
Note the use of the words, Civil , Opinions and Morals. Pretty secular words for referring to Relgiious beliefs. He could have used words like Doctrine, Revelation etc. The definition being devised here does not necessarily specify one of the worship of a deity but ANY system which teaches Morals. Hence the teaching of (Human Secularist) Morals in the public schools would fall under this definition.

To further this point, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography:

"The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

By Infidels he probably means any other Non-believers in Christ including Agnostics and Atheists.

This bill was the inspiration for our Federal Religious rights.

Jefferson also commented to a friend on a bill before the
" Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in God a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body"

Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 16 June 1817

Again, including in his opinion that Atheists should be protected.

John Adams also included Atheists in the same category, often listing them with every other sect and denomination he could think of. In expressing his concern for a protection of religion he said:

"Every Species of these Christians would persecute deists, as soon as either sect would persecute another, if it had unchecked and unballanced power. Nay, the Deists would persecute the Christians, and Atheists would persecute the Deists, with as unrelenting Cruelty, as any Christians would persecute them or one another. Know Thyself, Human Nature"

Letter to TJ June 15th 1813
The Adams/Jefferson Letters edited by Lester Cappon

So I think its pretty clear that Atheists and agnostics were on the minds of our founding fathers, and included in the protections offered by the federal government. So the establishment of Atheism or Agnositicism is also not permitted by the federal government, as far as Madison, Jefferson or Adams was concerned.

This is probably best summed up by Madison's statement that

" it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions & doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinance of the Govt. from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, & protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others."

James Madison to Rev. Adams, 1832

or his statement that

"There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it, would be a most flagrant usurpation."

James Madison, Virginia Ratifying Convention, 12 June 1788

Of course today, we now have the government denying the people public displays of any religious symbols, and as in New York, only certain religions are affected.
That, my friends is persecution by an Activist Judge.

The government should be avoiding making any rulings on Religious displays, unless they are paid for by Public dollars or unless certain sects are being excluded -- you know like those Christians in New York.

But should court officials and members of Government be able to display the trappings of their religion? Madison said it was essential, since putting any type of religious official on the government payroll would be against the freedom from religion.
He suggests the ranks of Congress, Officers in the Navy and the Army who a religiously inclined, could perform the services of a dedicated religious leader in addition to their other duties., as long as

"In their individual capacities, as distinct from their official station, they might unite in recommendations of any sort whatever, in the same manner as any other individuals might do. But then their recommendations ought to express the true character from which they emanate."

He also says "An advisory Govt is a contradiction in terms. The members of a Govt as such can in no sense, be regarded as possessing an advisory trust from their Constituents in their religious capacities"

Yet our judge in New York seems to think that its his job to balance the messages heard from various Religions.

James Madison, Detached Memoranda, 1817

microsoft digital diary

by John at 3/05/2004 08:11:00 AM

Hey Steve, remember how you wanted a device that would capture your whole life digitally so you could go back and replay the parts when you weren't paying attention (or something like that)? Well, Microsoft is on the job:

SenseCam, touted as a visual diary of sorts by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), is designed to be worn around the neck and take up to 2,000 images a 12-hour day automatically.

The prototype responds to changes such as bright lights and sudden movements and might one day even respond to other stimuli such as heart rate or skin temperature - to track medical problems as easily as to record a Hawaiian vacation. And it could eventually link with other technology, such as face recognition to remind wearers when they've seen someone before.


movie alphabet

by John at 3/04/2004 08:45:00 AM

Film fans will like this very challenging quiz - the movie alphabet game. I could only get a few correct on the first page, and there are multiple pages...

Douglas Adams audio archive

by John at 3/04/2004 08:39:00 AM

While it lasts, it looks like you can get just about all D.A.'s work in audio form from this site.


garden monorail

by John at 3/03/2004 10:00:00 AM

I want one of these.

While we go around the loop, imagine how much of the garden and fence we would have needed to rip out to put in a garden light rail instead of this!


the lord of the rings

by John at 3/02/2004 11:02:00 AM

This article from discusses the changing relevance of the Lord of the Rings to popular culture. (You'll have to watch a commercial to get in).

Though he detested these interpretations, Tolkien offered a truce by drawing a line between "allegory," which placed responsibility on the author, and "applicability," which left readers free to find parallels of their own without pretending to read the author's mind. However, the worldwide success of Peter Jackson's film version of "The Lord of the Rings" has produced a whole new generation of mind readers claiming to understand Tolkien's motives, and opened up another front in the culture war that has long simmered around Middle-earth's frontiers.

These letters dispute the author's findings.


Defining a "Micro$oft Moment"

by SamIam at 3/01/2004 06:01:00 PM

Today a colleague of mine asked me what I meant when I said something was a "Micro$oft Moment". I thought I would post my definition here for posterity.

“Have you ever heard that the definition of insanity is ‘doing something identical repeatedly while expecting a different result each time’?,” I asked. “Well, a Micro$oft Moment is when you do something identical repeatedly and the result IS different each time.”

the winner is..

by John at 3/01/2004 04:01:00 PM

Last week, polled it's readers to find out who they thought would win the Oscars last night. They had 3238 responses, and the readers (in aggregate) correctly picked the winners of 13 out of 14 awards. (If you ask me, I think they picked 14 out of 14 winners, because Murray should have won best actor, not Penn. The Academy made the mistake, not the readers!)

Below is a list of the actual winners and the most popular salon pick.

Best picture: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Salon reader pick:
71.19% "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Actor in a leading role: Sean Penn in "Mystic River"
Salon reader pick:
46.20% Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation"

Actress in a leading role: Charlize Theron in "Monster"
Salon reader pick:
59.96% Charlize Theron in "Monster"

Actor in a supporting role: Tim Robbins in "Mystic River"
Salon reader pick:
53.13% Tim Robbins in "Mystic River"

Actress in a supporting role: Renée Zellweger in "Cold Mountain"
Salon reader pick:
38.10% Renée Zellweger in "Cold Mountain"

Animated feature film: "Finding Nemo"
Salon reader pick:
73.38% "Finding Nemo"

Art direction: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Salon reader pick:
73.70% "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Cinematography:"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World"
Salon reader pick:
39.22% "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World"

Directing: Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Salon reader pick:
68.50% "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Documentary feature: "The Fog of War"
Salon reader pick:
42.52% "The Fog of War"

Foreign language film: "The Barbarian Invasions"
Salon reader pick:
54.92% "The Barbarian Invasions"

Visual effects: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Salon reader pick:
87.87% "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Adapted Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson,"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Salon reader pick:
42.80% "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Original Screenplay: Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation"
Salon reader pick:
71.72% "Lost in Translation"

Anyway, the idea that a bunch of dummies could correctly predict the outcome of an event over which they have no control reminded me of the terrorist futures market that the Pentagon wanted to try out. I guess these things really can work, although picking Oscar winners isn't troubled by the dubious ethics of picking terrorism targets. Cool.