Goose the Blog 2.0

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


all babies, all the time

by John at 6/30/2005 07:20:00 AM

You don't have it so bad, Wendy.

Newborn dolphins go a month without sleep

Newborn dolphins and killer whales do not sleep for a whole month after birth, new research has revealed, and neither do their mothers, who stay awake to keep a close eye on their offspring.

The feat of wakefulness is remarkable given that rats die if forcibly denied sleep. And in humans, as any new parent will tell you, sleep deprivation is an exquisite form of torture.

The surprising sleeping patterns of captive killer whales -
Orcinus orca - and bottlenose dolphins - Tursiops truncates - in the early months of life were observed by a team led by Jerome Siegel of the University of California at Los Angeles, US.

Unlike all animals previously studied, which maximise rest and sleep after birth to optimise healthy growth and development, the cetaceans actively avoided shut-eye. "The idea that sleep is essential for development of the brain and body is certainly challenged," says Siegel.


it's hard to blog...

by John at 6/29/2005 11:21:00 AM

dscn1830with a baby in your arms.

Anyone else got something to say?

(new pics available)


welcome to our planet

by John at 6/24/2005 10:17:00 PM

dscn1770We hope you like it here.

Elias Ming-Gung B.
June 24, 2005 12:37 pm EDT
7 lb 2 oz (3230 g)


rethinking Iraq

by John at 6/22/2005 08:15:00 PM

I've been reading Juan Cole lately and rethinking my position on Iraq.

Previously, I've been pretty clear that I think the US should just withdraw from Iraq. Do it slowly, safely, but just get out.

Cole has made the important point that an uncontrolled civil war in Iraq would be disastrous for the region and the world in whole. Because of ethnic and sectarian reasons, as well as political ones, it would be nearly impossible for Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran to stay out of an inflamed Iraqi civil war. With their involvement comes the threat that there would be major disruptions to the flow of oil from the whole region due to guerrilla attacks on the oil infrastructure of Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia (the same kind of attacks already occurring in Iraq). So besides the spread of violence, disruptions in the oil supply would cause sustained price spikes ($80 a barrel or more?) in the already tight oil market, which could easily lead to a global depression that would be especially disastrous for nations that are only now ramping up their industrialization.

Cole's solution is to get the UN involved in peace-making in Iraq concurrent with the withdrawal of US forces. UN forces would have to be drawn from the global South - that is, not Europe or North America, as those continents do not really have any troops to spare (and the USA is trying to get out). The incentive is that the global South has much to lose if Iraq is completely destabilized (the oil crisis) and much to gain if oil contracts and foreign aid are used as carrots for supplying the necessary "boots-on-the-ground." Other UN actions of this nature have been moderately successful, for example East Timor and Cambodia.

There are a few obvious problems with this: 1) it is not clear that the incentives are good enough to get other nations involved, given the obvious risks, 2) the USA would probably be obliged to provide the bulk of the logistical and monetary support for the endeavor which would give the whole operation the appearance of imperialism-by-proxy, 3) there is no way that the neoconservatives currently in power would ever go for something like this because it is practically the antithesis of everything they believe in.

I think a UN option like the one Cole has proposed is, effectively, unrealistic. That does not mean it is not a worthy goal, and a future Democratic presidency may be able to accomplish something like it. However, I now think that there can be no withdrawal of US troops until there is a force to replace them. While it is still not clear to me that the US is really keeping a lid on the violence in Iraq, the downside risks of leaving Iraq to an uncontrolled civil war are too great. We are stuck there for now.

On the other hand, it is also seems to me that we cannot win in Iraq. There is no chance that we will fight the insurrection to a demise soon (that is, within a few years). There is little chance that we will ever be able to build an Iraqi army that is large enough and well-trained enough to defeat the insurrection. The CIA now believes that Iraq will soon be exporting terrorists, because it has become the preeminent traing ground for terrorism in the world. If we cannot shut it down with our tremendous wealth and resources, how can the Iraqis do it on a shoestring budget and riddled with sectarian spies?

On the positive side, there have been some small political victories that might signal a beginning to the end. Sunni politicians were included in the constitution drafting committee in a number somewhat proportional to the Sunni population of Iraq. If successful, this might give the Iraq constitution more legitimacy and encourage future political engagement from the Sunnis, instead of violence. Further, there have been some reports of Iraqi insurgents fighting against foreign jihadis, because the Iraqi insurgents are willing to pursue a political solution. While unlikely, a political solution could allow us to withdraw from Iraq. The only requirement is that the Iraqis themselves standup against almost overwhelming odds and make the solution happen. There is, unfortunately, little chance that an Iraqi Thomas Jefferson or George Washington will rise up to lead his or her nation given the poisonous environment we have gifted to Iraq.

I think it is important to recognize where the fault for this problem lies, so that we can hold the right people accountable and learn from our mistakes1. The problem was caused by the utter failure of the Bush administration to plan for the predictable aftermath of Saddam Hussein's fall from power, and the glacial pace at which they responded to changes in the Iraq political and military climate, not to mention the folly of pursuing the war in the first place, based as it was on deliberate lies and exaggerations.2 President Bush allowed the situation in Iraq to spiral out of control in the summer of 2003, by not effectively shutting down the growing insurrection. His administration did not anticipate any of the obvious problems of occupation, even going against the advice of our top military planners on the number of troops required to occupy a nation the size of Iraq. For political reasons, they consistently downplayed the necessity of major action on their part and minimized the seriousness of the entire situation in Iraq. We were constantly assured that things were getting better, and Bush and company backed up that lie by staying their disastrous course through 2004, which got us where we are today.

So, it seems to me there is no near-term solution. We can leave Iraq and let the civil war evolve as it will, with potentially global repercussions. Or we can stay there, and continue to pay the price in blood and money until the civil war burns itself out. As distasteful as it is, I think the later option might be the better one. Nevertheless, we should not give up on finding another way, either through a breakthough political solution or multilateral intervention. The American people are ready to find an exit strategy. I think we will have to wait for a Democratic President before we get one, unfortunately.


1. Some people will of course point out that the civil war is the fault of the insurgents and terrorists. Well, duh. Mostly, however, "some people" are wrong. We provoked this fight, and we made it worse for ourselves by not fighting well.

2. I also think many Americans themselves deserve blame for sleepwalking through the lead up to war and the war itself. Anyone who was paying close attention should have known better, and we all should have known enough to ask better questions of our leaders.3

3. Yes, I am "blaming the victim" but sometimes the "victim" behaves so stupidly that he deserves some of the blame.

(I know it is long winded, but at least it is somewhat coherent and part 1 of only 1. Thanks for your indulgence.)

decisions, decisions

by John at 6/22/2005 11:24:00 AM

I think voting is over because no more votes have come in over the last few days. The finally tally is something like

Option 1: 1.5
Option 2: 4.5
Abstaining: 1

I've rolled back to the original, non-funkified Option 2 because it looks less cluttered.



more free stuff

by John at 6/20/2005 01:09:00 PM

The free stuff just keeps on coming, signalling the beginning of the post scarcity economy that all the Extropians dream about. Maybe.

Today's free stuff comes in the form of another e-book, this time by Cory Doctorow. It's his latest novel, called Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. You can download it here.

I've been thinking about it, and I should probably buy some dead tree versions of Doctorow's stories. I like his work, and he deserves it. I'd gladly give him some Whuffie instead, but food and shelter still cost money in our world.

Anyway, I'm downloading the free version now, and it'll be on my PDA in a few minutes.



by Bill at 6/19/2005 03:21:00 PM

Here is a shot of some EMD GP-35s we saw at the beach today. They are very similar to the model that I posted earlier. Probably just re-painted in BNSF colors.


help the General

by John at 6/17/2005 03:47:00 PM

General J.C. Christian, patriot, has started Operation Yellow Elephant to encourage College Republicans to drop their studies, give up their plans for the future, and enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces to help fight the war they support so strongly. After all, the Army missed its recruiting goals again last month, and the Iraq war isn't going to fight itself.

For my part, I've created a blog tag Blue Team Operatives can use to spread the word.

Operation Yellow Elephant

Update: you can copy the following into your blog template or post

<a href=""><img src="" title="Operation Yellow Elephant" alt="Operation Yellow Elephant" /></a>

Update 2: New recruiting poster for Operation Yellow Elephant! Available in three sizes: big (663x655), small (300x296), and smaller (200x198)


free Accelerando

by John at 6/16/2005 01:42:00 PM

What could better than a free book? Okay, lots of stuff. Nevertheless, a free book is good, as is a free, multi-format e-book.

Charles Stross has released his new book Accelerando as a free e-book. Here's what Cory Doctorow has to say: "Charlie Stross's brilliant novel Accelerando is available as a free Creative Commons download! This novel collects and bridges all of his Hugo-nominated Manfred Macx stories, published over the last several years in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Charlie is a wild talent, and he writes like the love-child of Vernor Vinge, Neal Stephenson and Hunter S Thompson. Once you start this book, you won't be able to stop."

We'll see. I didn't much like the last book of his I read, but I've been looking forward to this one for a while. It'll be on my PDA in just a few minutes!


news on hobbits

by John at 6/15/2005 04:05:00 PM

Carl Zimmer has an update on Homo floresiensis (from an LA Times article). There is still no resolution of the damaged fossils, except that Indonesian anthropologist Teuku Jacob admits he was trying to "improve" some of the bones. Further digging at the site has been suspended.

Just thought you'd want to know. Previous hobbit posts: 4, 3, 2, 1

voting update

by John at 6/15/2005 01:51:00 PM

Because I'm not too sure how this democracy thing works, I haven't "closed the polls" (which means to stop taking votes) yet. Do we just keep going until we are sick of it?

Right now the vote count is:

Option 1: 1.5
Option 2: 2.5
Abstaining: 1

So if your favorite is losing, go vote some more. And why not? It was easy enough the first time, wasn't it?

In the meantime, I've funkified Option 2 with gradient goodness and color-matched it to the background for a oh-my-god-there's-a-hole-in-this-blog! effect. Want to change your vote now?

Regarding Steve's suggestion to make the title bar thinner and move Goose up: I could do that, but what happens if I want to put in a longer description? I don't have the skills to resize the title bar on the fly. I could do more to center the title and description in the space, if you think that would look nice.



by John at 6/14/2005 12:06:00 PM

I know this democracy thing is just a passing fad, but what the heck? Let's try it out.

In the comments below, if you like you can "vote" (this means to formally express your preference) on which template you like better. Click the pictures to embiggen them.

  • Option 1:

  • Option 2:

Merry democracy to everyone! Freedom is marching all over you! (Isn't that what they say?)

no military solution

by John at 6/14/2005 08:11:00 AM

Commanders fighting in Iraq say that the only way to end the war is through Iraqi politics.

Brig. Gen. Donald Alston: "I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that ... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations... It's going to be settled in the political process."

Gen. George W. Casey: "Like in Baghdad... We push in Baghdad -- they're down to about less than a car bomb a day in Baghdad over the last week -- but in north-center [Iraq] ... they've gone up... The political process will be the decisive element."

Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman: "We can't kill them all... When I kill one I create three."

Brig. Gen. Donald Alston: "We have taken down factories, major cells, we have made good progress in [stopping] the production of [car bombs] in Baghdad... Now, do I think that there will be more [bombs] in Baghdad? Yes, I do."

This is an admission by top military officers that we have already lost the war. It is up to the Iraqi politicians to end it, provided that the Bush administration permits them to do so.


each one, a face and a family

by John at 6/13/2005 11:18:00 AM

Chris Hedges (War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War) writes in "War: Realities and Myths":

The most powerful antiwar testaments, of war and what war does to us, are those that eschew images of combat. It is the suffering of the veteran whose body and mind are changed forever because he or she served a nation that sacrificed them, the suffering of families and children caught up in the unforgiving maw of war, which begin to tell the story of war. But we are not allowed to see dead bodies, at least of our own soldiers, nor do we see the wounds that forever mark a life, the wounds that leave faces and bodies horribly disfigured by burns or shrapnel. We never watch the agony of the dying. War is made palatable. It is sanitized. We are allowed to taste war's perverse thrill, but spared from seeing war's consequences. The wounded and the dead are swiftly carted offstage. And for this I blame the press, which willingly hides from us the effects of bullets, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, which sat at the feet of those who lied to make this war possible and dutifully reported these lies and called it journalism.

War is always about this betrayal. It is about the betrayal of the young by the old, idealists by cynics and finally soldiers by politicians. Those who pay the price, those who are maimed forever by war, however, are crumpled up and thrown away. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they bring is too painful for us to hear. We prefer the myth of war, the myth of glory, honor, patriotism and heroism, words that in the terror and brutality of combat are empty, meaningless and obscene.

Read the whole article.

I was going to end this post with a primal scream and a great big "Fuck You!" to the deluded idiots who still support this war, who purposefully mistake recognizing and lamenting the pain and death caused by this unnecessary, lost conflict for gleeful reporting of the failure of Our Dear Leader's plans. But then I started to feel sorry for those people. They aren't idiots. They are just people who have lost their integrity and honesty and decency, and they are only lashing out at the shadows of doubt they see when they are alone with their thoughts. They are motivated by fear, and most especially by the fear of being wrong, because if they are wrong, there is no one else to blame.


no Strange Science today

by John at 6/10/2005 02:13:00 PM

Haven't you heard? Science gets the day off on Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It's in the contract.


new new new

by John at 6/09/2005 08:44:00 PM

Trying out a new template.

You like-a da template? You no like-a da template?

how many monkeys?

by John at 6/09/2005 02:09:00 PM

Absent yesterday's post, this Strange Science Week seems to be taking on a theme.

Today topic: rhesus monkeys with the ability to count

"The researchers played the monkeys 'coo' calls made by either two or three unfamiliar conspecifics. They then let the monkeys watch their choice of video images showing either two or three animals. The vast majority of the monkeys selected video images that corresponded to the number of individuals heard on the audio sample. Each monkey was tested only once and did not receive a reward. This allowed the team to observe the animal's spontaneous behavior, as opposed to skills learned over the course of evaluation."

Why is this cool? In the words of researcher Elizabeth Brannon of Duke University, "The results we obtained provide evidence that monkeys spontaneously detect a correspondence in number between two different sensory modalities, and this tells us that language is not necessary to represent number abstractly."


Star Wars science

by John at 6/08/2005 11:57:00 AM

National Geographic talked to Bruce Betts, a planetary scientist at the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California about the science behind the worlds featured in the Star Wars movies. Unfortunately, they leave out the moons of Endor and Yavin, which have evolved Earth-like climates despite being, well, the moons of gas giant planets. How possible is that? Not very, I think.

Forbes magazine also had about a month agoa feature on the science of Star Wars in a pretty annoying slide-show format. (I'm not up on my Star Wars geekery, but I think they are wrong about the light sabers - I think light sabers aren't lasers, they are some kind of plasma field.)

Wrapping up the Star Wars science, Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy has a bad science review of Revenge of the Sith. You might also want to check out his reviews of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.


more on animals pretending to be human*

by John at 6/07/2005 09:33:00 AM

I've decided that instead of my usual political whining, this week is going to be Strange Science Week on GtB. We got off to a good start yesterday with monkeys and highschoolers.

Today's entry is about dolphins that have learned to use natural sponges as a sort of snout glove for rooting around the ocean floor. They break off only the cone shaped sponges that will fit over their snouts, ignoring the more common flat sponges. This is the first documented case of tool use among cetaceans.

Most of the dolphins that do this are female, and they all share common mitochrondrial DNA, which means they are maternally related. However, scientists do not think the development is a genetic one, because the trait's pattern of inheritance doesn't fit. Instead, the researchers think that the use of sponges as tools is culturally learned, passed from a mother to her children.

* or maybe we are humans pretending not to be animals?


like tiny furry humans

by John at 6/06/2005 01:19:00 PM

Keith Chen and Laurie Santos, two researchers at Yale, have been spending their time teaching capuchin monkeys how to use money.

I started to exerpt key pieces from the NYT Magazine article by the authors of Freakonomics, but pretty soon I found I was copying the whole thing bit-by-bit (like in school, when you end up highlighting the entire page). You should definitely read it! We are talking about saving, shopping, gambling, stealing, whoring monkeys here. Hilarious.

I'll just copy my very favorite part:

"You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless stomach of want," Chen says. "You can feed them marshmallows all day, they'll throw up and then come back for more."

Just like tiny furry humans indeed!

You can find more information on the monkeys at the Freakonomics website and at Chen's website.

Update: I forgot that the NYT requires registration. Use user mailinator, password mailinator to get in if you haven't already registered.


by John at 6/06/2005 10:17:00 AM

Early school start times questioned

June 6, 2005

BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter

An Evanston Township High School study has found that students lose nearly two hours of sleep each weeknight and show up groggy when classes start around 8 a.m.

The study in the journal Pediatrics adds to a mountain of research showing that teenage body clocks are out of sync with high schools' early start times.

Sixty students who kept sleep diaries reported that during the summer, they slept an average of 8.7 hours on weeknights. But once school began, their sleep decreased to seven hours per night.

The study provides further evidence of the "epidemic of sleep deprivation among adolescents," researchers wrote.

Students in the study all took an identical advanced placement biology class, beginning either at 8:10 a.m., 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. Performance tests showed that students in the earliest class were more tired and less alert and had to work harder.

Early in the morning, students "tend to be passive and sleepy. They're not as talkative and don't ask as many questions," said Martha Hansen, who taught the biology classes and is lead author of the study. Hansen's four co-authors are Northwestern University researchers.

Hormonal influences

Evanston Township senior Kalin Meyer, who graduated Sunday, said he typically stayed up until midnight or later studying. Meyer, who was not involved in the study, said he needed two alarm clocks to wake up at 6:30 a.m. so he wouldn't be late for his first-period Spanish class.

"I don't get focused and going until 9:30 or 10 a.m.," he said. "It's hard to speak English first thing in the morning, let alone Spanish."

Sleep is triggered by production of the hormone melatonin. During adolescence, production is delayed, so teens have trouble getting to sleep. Consequently, their bodies want to stay up late and sleep late.

"It looks like we're pumping them out of their cycle when we start them at 8 a.m.," Hansen said.

Teens at least should be allowed to sleep late on weekends, said Northwestern researcher Margarita Dubocovich. "They're not being lazy or antisocial."

Many high schools begin around 8 a.m. or earlier. Researchers suggested schools consider later start times.

Seven Minneapolis high schools did that in 1997, when they pushed back start times from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. Attendance improved, and there was a slight boost in grades. On average, students slept one hour more each weeknight, dispelling fears they would just stay up later, according to a 2001 University of Minnesota study.

Community meeting planned

However, later start times would mean later dismissal times, and this could complicate scheduling of sports and other after-school activities.

Next fall, Evanston Township plans to hold a community meeting to describe the study and discuss the school schedule, a spokeswoman said. Researchers also suggested that standardized tests begin later than 8 a.m.

The study also found that exposing students to bright light in the morning did not help them adjust their body clocks or boost early morning performance.

If we let the kids start their first classes later in the morning, how are we going to train them to get up early so they can go to work on the factory floor after they graduate? If we let them out later in the afternoon to make up for later start times, when are they going to do all their chores around the farm?

It's bad enough that school starts just after Labor Day. They can't help out with the late harvest and that's when I need them the most!


besides, chimps are cool

by John at 6/02/2005 02:36:00 PM

"When you look into the eyes of a chimp, or another animal, you know you are looking into the eyes of a thinking, feeling being. To me the wonder and the mystery is that you never really know what they are thinking. What do they think of me? What is it like to think without words?"

New Scientist interviews Jane Goodall. (via Boing Boing)



by John at 6/01/2005 01:01:00 PM

"The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
- Vice President Dick Cheney, CNN's "Larry King Live", 5/30/05

It's like I have psychic powers! Maybe I should get a TV show? (Or maybe they are just very predictable...)