Goose the Blog 2.0

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


don't panic

by John at 4/30/2005 07:04:00 PM

That's right, we just got back from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and it wasn't that bad! The characters are a little flat and it's not as funny as it could be. While the plot isn't rushed, they did skip over some of the funniest Guide bits (to get it down to two hours, I guess). Nonetheless, I laughed out loud a few times. All in all it was a pretty good interpretation of the the story. Fanboy that I am, I have to admit I got chills when they finally, finally played the theme music ("Journey of the Sorceror")!

Props to Alan Rickman/Warwick Davis as Marvin and Sam Rockwell (aka Guy Fleegman) as Zaphod, and the Magrathean planet factory. Watch for the BBC TV Marvin and Douglas Adams head (twice, I think).

Update: Check your TV listings! Our PBS staton is repeating the original BBC TV episodes tonight.


Q: When is a civil war not a civil war?

by John at 4/29/2005 10:42:00 PM

A: When it's in Iraq.

How many people have to die before they call it what it what it really is?

Charts below are cumulative deaths since 1/30/05 (except when otherwise indicated). The data comes from Iraq Coalition Casualties and Today in Iraq - they are not complete. For instance, not all of these people are accounted for yet. But you get the idea...


two cool toys

by John at 4/28/2005 09:06:00 PM

Recently, we got two cool new toys.

First is Phatbox - it's a built in 20Gb mp3 player that plugs into the CD changer cable in Wendy's Passat. The Phatbox is installed in the trunk area, and you control it through the dashboard stereo controls. It does everything an mp3 player is supposed to do. The best part is that, because the in-dash stereo only has a small display area, the Phatbox actually tells you the settings it is using and the artist, album, track name, etc. of the track you are listening to (if you want) using text-to-speech. Very cool!

Second is a free toy called JavaHMO. JavaHMO is a java-based server for TiVo Home Media and TiVoToGo. This doesn't sound that cool, but wait for it. So, we have TiVo Desktop (the TIVo brand server software) running on Wendy's WinXP laptop, but, since the laptop is off most of the time, we can't use it to serve music and photos to the TiVos in our house. If you want to listen to music instead of watching TV, you first have to boot up the laptop, and if you are going to do that you might as well get off your lazy ass and put on a CD, right? Anyway, we do have a computer in the house running all the time, and that is my Linux box, but because there isn't a TiVo Desktop version for Linux, we had no easy way of getting the music files and photos on the Linux computer to the TiVo. Long story short, JavaHMO fixes that if you have a Series 2 TiVo with OS 7.1 or better. Plus, it does even more than TiVo Desktop, in that it actually lets your TiVo access the internet. You can set it up to check your email accounts, blogs, weather, local movie showtimes, and web pages. It can also play Shoutcast streaming music, so you aren't limited to the music you have stored on your hard drive. Like TiVoToGo, you can also download saved TV shows to your computer, but you can't play them back because they are DRMed (and they will only play back on Windows computers). It's possible, but not trivial, to remove the DRM so you can play them anywhere - but it's just not worth it to me. Otherwise, very cool!


happy unbirthday!

by John at 4/27/2005 04:02:00 PM

So, yesterday Wendy gave me two cool presents, even though it wasn't my birthday. I think she did it because either 1) I am awesome or 2) I was up between 3 and 6 yesterday morning because Goose woke me up with his persistent cough and then I was so upset I couldn't get back to sleep. (Why do I get angry at Bordetella Bronchiseptica? They have nothing against me.)

The presents were Grandaddy's Sumday and Ben Folds' Songs For Silverman (which just dropped yesterday, to use the kids' lingo).

Sumday sounds more like The Sophtware Slump than I expected after reading online reviews, for which I am grateful. I think the tone of the album is a little less techno-dystopian, and a little more optimistic.

Songs For Silverman sounds like Ben Folds, which means it sounds good and you are getting what you expected. "Landed" is the one getting a tiny bit of airplay on your better radio stations - is it the flip side to "Don't Change Your Plans"? Now do we really know why he left California?

Any other good albums or artists I should be looking for? Which ones do you want for a surprise present?


only doing one thing right?

by John at 4/25/2005 09:49:00 PM

From the Washington Post - ABC News poll, 4/21-24/05:

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way GWB is handling his job as president? Approve (Strongly) 47 (25) Disapprove (Strongly) 50 (38)

2) Do you approve or disapprove of the way GWB is handling:

a. Social Security? Approve 31 Disapprove 64
b. The situation in Iraq? Approve 42 Disapprove 56
c. The economy? Approve 40 Disapprove 57
d. The US campaign against terrorism? Approve 56 Disapprove 41 +
e. Energy policy? Approve 35 Disapprove 54

3) Which of these should be the highest priority for Bush and Congress this year: Terrorism 12 Iraq 22 Economy/Jobs 32 Health care 15 Social Security 11

4) Do you support or oppose a plan in which people who chose could invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market? Support 45 Oppose 51

6) Who do you trust to do a better job handling Social Security? Bush 32 Democrats in Congress 50

7) On another subject, all in all, considering the costs to the US versus the benefits to the US, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not? Worth it (Strongly) 44 (31) Not Worth It (Strongly) 54 (42)

8) Do you think the US has gotten bogged down in Iraq, or do you think the US is making good progress in Iraq? Bogged Down 58 Good Progress 39

9) How confident are you that Iraq will have a stable, democratic government a year from now?
Confident (Very) 39 (8) Not Confident (At all) 60 (31)

14) Do you think Bush does or does not understand the problems of people like you? Yes 40 No 58

15) Do you think Bush does or does not share your values? Yes 47 No 51

17) On another subject, do you favor or oppose the death penalty for a person convicted or murder? Favor 65 Oppose 29 *

18) Do you think same-sex couples should be allowed legally to marry, should be allowed legally to form civil unions, but not to marry, or should not be allowed to obtain legal recognition of their relationships? Allowed to marry 27 Civil Unions 29 No legal recognition 40

19) Would you support amending the US Constitution to make it illegal for homosexual couples to get married anywhere in the US or should each state make its own laws on homosexual marriage? Support amendment 39 State laws 56

21) Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases? Legal (All) 56 (20) Illegal (All) 42 (14)

20) Do you support or oppose embryonic stem-cell research? Support 63 Oppose 28

11) On another subject, would you describe the state of the nation's economy these days as excellent, good, not so good, or poor? Excellent 2 Good 35 Not so good 44 Poor 20

24) Which political party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you think better suits your personal values? Dems 47 Reps 38 **

25) Generally speaking, which political party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you think is more:

a. tolerant of different kinds of people and different points of view? Dems 63 Reps 24
b. sympathetic to religion and religious people? Dems 34 Reps 48

27) Do you think religious conservatives have too much influence, too little influence or about the right amount of influence over the Republican Party? Too much 40 Too little 17 About right 37

28) Do you think liberals have too much influence, too little influence or about the right amount of influence over the Democratic Party? Too much 35 Too little 21 About right 38

34) The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals courts judges nominated by Bush while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations? Right (Strongly) 48 (22) Wrong (Strongly) 36 (17)

36) Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees? Support 26 Oppose 66

901) Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as: Democrat 35 Republican 28 Independent 32

908a) Would you say your views on most political matters are liberal, moderate, or conservative? Liberal 20 Moderate 47 Conservative 30

* you can't win them all
** Hell yeah! Take that, "values" voters

Update: + the Medium Lobster explains this result


30 second book review: special physics edition

by John at 4/20/2005 10:56:00 AM

Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman
Lightman, a physics professor at MIT who also teaches writing, has written what is a kind of counterpart to Calvino's Invisible Cities. The book is a catalogue of Einstein's dreams as he prepares to publish his work on special relativity. Each dream concerns the nature of time and its possible forms, leading to many fantastic worlds. Some of the dreams provide insight into the forms of special and general relativity, but many are simply strange concoctions of what might have been in an another universe. Short book, engaging and pleasurable to read. As an added bonus, this month is the one-hundredth anniversary of what may be Einstein's most accessible theory. Check it out.


A: Seven.

by John at 4/19/2005 08:23:00 PM

Q: How many 12-year-olds could I beat up before they overtook me? (via email from A. Crews)

philosophy, morality, and religion

by John at 4/19/2005 04:08:00 PM

Gah, what a pompous and boring post title.

You might want to look at these pretty fun games that check your philosophical skills, your morals, and your religious beliefs. There's no winning or losing, there is just moral parsimony or logical contradiction. No cheating! (via Rudy's blog)

My favorites are Battleground God, Do-It-Yourself Deity, Taboo, and Morality Play. The rest are neat, too.


tracks ahead!

by Bill at 4/17/2005 06:50:00 PM

Next, I laid down some track to mark the points where the cutouts will be. This track will then be removed to make the cuts. I used Flextrack in order to have more natural looking curves. The Flextrack comes in standardized lenghts, hence the overhangs, which won't ne in the final version.

Step one

by Bill at 4/17/2005 04:57:00 PM

I built a frame for the 2x4 sheet of plywood for the train layout today. The frame is necessary as the next step involves using a jig saw to cut away the track path on the 2X4 sheet, this will allow me to gently raise and lower the track above the falt surface of the sheet using risers attached to the frame. Terrain can the be built up around the elevated track using insullation grade sytrofoam. This will hopefully give the layout a more geographic look than buliding up from a flat surface would.


poultry internet

by John at 4/15/2005 04:56:00 PM

Sa-weet! (Can I say that again?) It's probably not legal in this country. Watch the explanatory movie (3.4 Mb Quicktime).

"The chicken sure is having a whole-body-massinging experience. Poultry internet provides a new cybernetic direction experience for both we humans and our poultry friends."

(via BoingBoing)

pig olympics

by John at 4/15/2005 02:13:00 PM

Be sure to check out the slide show in this AP story about the Shanghai Pig Olympics.

"These lovely pigs are of a special species that is good at sports by nature," said Yang Ying, a manager with promoters Bluesea Broadway Co. Ltd.


"It's incredible," said 8-year-old Tan Yizhou, who presented a gold medal to one of the winning pigs. "I never thought that a pig could be so clever."

Sa-weet! (via email from eK)


by John at 4/15/2005 02:05:00 PM

I was just enjoying re-reading my last post (such vanity - it's sad, really) when I glanced up saw something in a whole new light.

"That's the way it was. The medieval people fought with the sci-fi people. It's been thousands of years of that. That's why they're doing this. It's a re-enactment."

The current "Blog Description" at the top of the page is from an episode of Home Movies, one of my favorite cartoons. In this particular episode, the kids are working at a ren-faire, which is right next door to a sci-fi convention. Of course, as you might gather, there is a battle-royale between the two nerd sub-species before the episode is over.

Anyway, the metaphor, by this point, might be obvious. So which are you: a medieval person or a sci-fi person?

it's fun to pretend

by John at 4/15/2005 12:53:00 PM

I saw some photos on BoingBoing of the "Minutemen" (I'm sure you've heard of these guys) who are protecting Arizona from the scourge of illegal dishwashers, agricultural workers, and housecleaners that are pouring over our border with Mexico every day.

Anyway, looking at the photos reminded me of a summer when I was about 12 and my friends and I would play Army, running up and down Little Dry Creek for hours, shouting the cadence from "Stripes" - "Aaaarmy training, sir!" Those were fun days, in the hot sun and cold water, and I wouldn't give them up for anything. But, too soon from where I sit now, other things started to seem more important, and we grew out of it pretty fast.

Some lucky people never do, I guess.


I'll meet the challenge

by Bill at 4/10/2005 06:40:00 PM

Here's a photo of some of my trains. The more astutue may notice some Northern Pacific rolling stock mixed in on a Great Northern train. Not that unusual really.


Unitarian Jihad

by John at 4/09/2005 03:57:00 PM

Remember the Belief-O-Matic, and how everyone tested as more than 96% Unitarian Universalist? Well, this is pretty funny.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.


We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Billmon has an equally funny response to their terroristic threats.

I've been wondering how long it would be before some of the younger hotheads in the church started issuing non-threatening communiques. As I've said before, extremist movements tend to become progressively more radicalized over time. And the Unitarians obviously are no exception.

You should read the rest of both of them! (If you want, that wasn't an order...)

Update: It was only a matter of time. Get your Unitarian Jihad name here or here (for members of the First Reformed Unitarian Jihad). I am now Brother Atom Bomb of the Short Path. Post 'em if you got 'em!


intelligent design*

by John at 4/06/2005 03:36:00 PM

Pennsylvania legislators are considering a bill (H.B. 1007) to permit the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classrooms. Intelligent design (ID), simply expressed, is the belief that some sort of conscious entity was behind the creation of the universe, the evolution of life on Earth, and the eventual evolution of humans. As Scientific American put it recently in a facetious April Fool's editorial:

"Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details."

Of course, the lack of details is what makes it non-scientific. ID has no testable hypotheses, begs the question of observed design, and is not falsifiable. It stands to reason that it's not appropriate to teach a non-scientific idea like ID in science classrooms, because it is not science. It is no more science than popstrology is science, and you wouldn't want them to teach that to your kids in science class, would you? No, you wouldn't.

To the point: if you live in Pennsylvania, write your state representative and let him or her know that you are opposed to this bill.**

You can read the full text here. I especially like part b, "When providing supporting evidence on the theory of intelligent design, no teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational, sectarian or religious belief," which means that students must be taught intelligent design in such a way that theism is not stressed. This, as you correctly surmise, allows only the possibility that powerful (yet natural) extraterrestrial intelligences directed evolution on the Earth. The Scientologists and Raelians will be pleased, but I don't think evangelicals will.

(via Tea Leaves)

* no, not a Grandaddy song
** no, I'm not kidding myself - there's only one person in PA I know who reads this blog besides me

miner at the dial-a-view*

by John at 4/06/2005 09:43:00 AM

I found your house and I saw your car
But I've no idea where you are
From the dial-a-view

Tire scraps on the federal roads
Look like crash landed crows
From the dail-a-view

"Hello, welcome to Dial-a-ViewTM. To locate the area in which you wish to observe, you must program in the longitude and the latitude. For a closer, more detailed picture, use either the zoom or the micro-zoom controls. Good luck!"

* Yup, song by Grandaddy


he's simple, he's dumb, he's the pilot*

by John at 4/05/2005 06:28:00 PM

Adrift again 2000 man
You lost your maps,
You lost the plans
Did you hear them yell,
"Land damn it land?"
You say you can't
Well I hope you can
I hope you can

* song by Grandaddy, polling data by Gallup

not any stupider than astrology

by John at 4/05/2005 09:16:00 AM

Check out Popstrology, and then find out which pop song you were born under. I was born under "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel in The Year of The Jackson 5. Sweet!

(Bill, you don't want to know what song you were born under. Don't even look.)

(via Gaijinworld)


soon, very soon!

by Bill at 4/04/2005 11:00:00 PM

Not to worry, you can all breath easy. My picture is coming soon, ETA tomorrow night, PSTribe. I've been busy trying to dodge phone calls from the college of cardinals (what they could be callling about, I have no idea, heck I nearly flunked out of CCD).


waving my geek flag proudly!

by John at 4/01/2005 02:24:00 PM

One of my favorite parts of my job is thinking of ways to represent the data I generate that might help people understand it. Maybe one day I'll show some examples.

But, inspired by the picture challenge, I thought I'd put up some visualizations I made several years ago just for fun. They are both SF related, so it ties in with another one of my pathetic hobbies.

I called the first one "Mars Attacks!" Using what is appropriately called a shooting algorithm, I calculated the trajectories of a number of ballistic missiles launched from a Martian battlecruiser in geosynchronous orbit. The plan of attack calls for the missiles to simultaneously impact the largest cities on Earth, or something like that. What was tricky about this is that the targets are moving with respect to the launch point as the Earth spins on its axis. In plotting the trajectory, you also have to be careful not to try to fly a missile through the Earth to get to the other side.
  • the missile trajectories and impacts, and the position of the Martian battlecruiser at the time of impact as it continues it's orbit around the Earth from an external position
  • same, from the north, directly over the Earth's axis of rotation
  • same, from the Martian ship's position over the Gulf of Guinea

The next one is an illustration of the Fermi Paradox. Enrico Fermi is reported to have wondered, more or less, "If they are exist, why are they not here?" He thought that if there was an extraterrestrial intelligence that was capable of interstellar travel, then they should already be at Earth - once they started spreading out, the interstellar civilization would grow exponentially until it covered all available stars. The following animation demonstrates this as a single civilization develops the ability and desire to colonize other stars, and then spreads out, virus-like, moving from star to star through a globular cluster of 10,000 suitable stars, about 20,000 light years across. After 30,000 years, approximately 83% of the cluster is colonized and the number of colonized stars begins to plateau after 20,000 years of explosive growth. Only the most inaccessable stars remain un-colonized. Changing the parameters of the simulation (probability of launching a mission, probability of technological collapse, probability of technological bootstrapping, etc.) changes the results. The initial speed of spreading is dependent on the density of nearby stars - if there an too few stars nearby, the older interstellar travellers have a greater odds of dying out before there are new colonies to replace them.

  • animation from outside the cluster - green stars are colonized, and white stars are not (790kB)
  • same as above, but viewed from an observer watching the whole sky from the center of the cluster - this animation uses a simple transform to represent the spherical sky as a flat object (839kB)

The animations are avi files and should run in Windows Media Player.

Update: Good timing! April is Math Awareness Month.