Goose the Blog 2.0

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


*Happy* New Year

by John at 12/31/2005 12:08:00 PM

It's New Years' Eve on the last year of people sufferin'. (by Hitherby Dragons)


review roundup

by John at 12/29/2005 07:58:00 PM

Here's a year end roundup of each 30 second book review from the last two years, covering all the books I've read since around Christmas 2003:

30 second book reviews (3/25/2004)

1) Singularity Sky - Charles Stross

2) Teranesia - Greg Egan

3) Nickel and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich

4) Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser

5) Why Things Break - Mark Eberhart

6) Tatja Grimm's World - Vernor Vinge

7) Eastern Standard Tribe - Cory Doctorow

8) Everything and More - David Foster Wallace

9) Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson

son of 30 second book reviews (6/4/2004)

10) Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water - Marc Reisner

11) The Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster - Mike Davis

12) The Confusion - Neal Stephenson

13) The Polynesians: Prehistory of an Island People - Peter S. Bellwood

more 30 second book reviews (8/17/2004)

14) Pattern Recognition - William Gibson

15) Reason : Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America - Robert B. Reich

16) Supermen: Tales of the Posthuman Future - edited by Gardner Dozois

17) Supertoys Last All Summer Long: And Other Stories of Future Time - Brian Aldiss

18) The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. LeGuin

19) Jupiter - Ben Bova

20) Heal Your Headache - David Buchholz

21) Forty Signs of Rain - Kim Stanley Robinson

22) Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software - Steven Johnson

23) War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning - Chris Hedges

even more 30 second book reviews (11/15/2004)

24) The River Why - David James Duncan

25) Iron Sunrise - Charles Stross

26) Camelot 30K - Robert L. Forward

27) Distraction - Bruce Sterling

28) America the Broke: How the Reckless Spending of The White House and Congress are Bankrupting Our Country and Destroying Our Children's Future - Gerald J. Swanson

29) The System of the World - Neal Stephenson

stop the madness: 30 second book reviews (2/8/2005)

30) Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

31) Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

32) The Prophet - Khalil Gibran

33) Mind Wide Open - Steven Johnson

34) Little, Big - John Crowley

35) The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy - Stanislaw Lem

36) Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell.

37) Plum Island - Nelson Demille

30 second book review: special physics edition (4/20/2005)

38) Einstein's Dreams - Alan Lightman

30 second book reviews: back in the saddle (5/11/2005)

39) The Science of Good and Evil - Michael Shermer

40) How to be Good - Nick Hornby

41) Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate - George Lakoff

42) Hospital of the Transfiguration - Stanislaw Lem

43) The Family Trade - Charles Stross

44) The Expectant Father - Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash

30 second book reviews: has it been that long? edition (9/8/2005)

45) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Jared Diamond

46) Accelerando - Charles Stross

47) Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town - Cory Doctorow

48) Starfish - Peter Watts

49) Maelstrom - Peter Watts

50) Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth - Andrew Smith

51) Wildside - Stephen Gould

30 second book reviews: the final countdown? (12/19/2005)

52) A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs

53) Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

54) After London or Wild England - Richard Jeffries

55) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain

56) Agent to the Stars - John Scalzi

57) Inversions - Iain M. Banks

58) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick

59) Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals - Robert M. Sapolsky

60) Saturday - Ian McEwan

61) A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby

62) The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger - Lee Strobel

Best Fiction - Forty Signs of Rain
Best Non-fiction - War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
Worst Fiction (tie) - Camelot 30K, A Princess of Mars
Worst Non-fiction - Why Things Break

Update: Now I've included the Special Physics Edition.


Merry Christmas!

by John at 12/25/2005 03:29:00 PM

It's not actually that cold, but he looked pretty cute


a note to conservatarians

by John at 12/21/2005 06:57:00 AM

"L'etat c'est moi."

How will you feel about super secret Executive struggle-time powers to ignore acts of Congress and various Constitutional protections when Queen Hillary rules in 2009? Look, I know that taxation is slavery. But you know what? Slavery is also slavery.

Update: I like this perspective from Amanda at Pandagon.

Update 2: Judge Richard Posner, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in a WaPo editorial:

The goal of national security intelligence is to prevent a terrorist attack, not just punish the attacker after it occurs, and the information that enables the detection of an impending attack may be scattered around the world in tiny bits. A much wider, finer-meshed net must be cast than when investigating a specific crime. Many of the relevant bits may be in the e-mails, phone conversations or banking records of U.S. citizens, some innocent, some not so innocent. The government is entitled to those data, but just for the limited purpose of protecting national security.

Really? Entitled? I thought the American people got to decide what the American government was entitled to, and we did when Congress passed a law against warrantless wiretaps of American citizens.

Update 3: From the very conservative Washington Times, in an editorial by Bruce Fein, a former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan:
President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.

(via Boing Boing)

Update 4: Sometimes you have to turn to music to find the right words. (Bobby Conn is the singer, Rox Populi is the blog)


by John at 12/21/2005 06:40:00 AM

Happy Solstice!

I like the solstices. There's something about extrema that just seems important.


intelligent design is thrown out of classroom

by John at 12/20/2005 11:59:00 AM

The judge in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District has determined that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classrooms because it is an implicit endorsement of religion.

Hurray! (via Pharyngula)

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs' rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants' actions. Defendants' actions in violation of Plaintiffs' civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs' attorneys' services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

More from Darksyde at DailyKos.


30 second book reviews: the final countdown?

by John at 12/19/2005 07:25:00 AM

Note: I decided to read a bunch of old timey sci-fi stories, mostly because I could get them as e-books and I didn't even have to go to the library. I normally try to write the reviews in roughly the same order as I read the books, but this time I've lumped the older stories together at the top and I've given the original publication dates just for fun.


A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)
This is probably some kind of SF blasphemy, but A Princess of Mars is keerap. John Carter is an Earthman who is magically transported to Mars through some kind of astral projection, where he has many adventures and fights - he can and will kill just about anything that moves, but that fits in as normal behavior on Mars. He also meets a beautiful, mostly naked Red Martian princess. Carter is an obvious Mary Sue, perfect in every way, except he is too modest and sometimes more brave than prudent. This is very annoying to me. I'm sure this book was very inventive and titillating once upon a time, but it hasn't aged well. I hear it is going to be a major motion picture some day real soon. No joke.

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (1932)
Now we are talking. Here is a story that holds up over that last 3/4 of a century. You might have read this in highschool (I did), because it is a classic of world literature. I probably don't even have to tell you what it is about. Some of the conceits are a little silly ("After Ford"?) and (of course) the author misses out on potential of the genomics revolution, opting instead for pre-and post-natal conditioning, cloning, and breeding programs. It skewers totalitarianism, socialism, consumerism, hedonism. All but one of the heroes gets everything he didn't know he always wanted. Huxley's style, in this novel, is easily readable. It is an enjoyable book. When is this one going to be a film?

After London or Wild England - Richard Jeffries (1885)
Jeffries was a famous naturalist, and it shows in the brilliant first half of this novel, where he describes the return of England to wilderness after the fall of civilization due to some unexplained environmental and societal collapse. The second half of the novel is much weaker - a coming of age story in a post-apocalypic world. In it, a young, impoverished noble sets out to find his fortune so he can win the hand of his true love. He has adventures and ups downs, but finally wins his fortune with his brains and skill. Then wham! the story ends with the central problem unresolved. Did the publisher think it was too many pages? Eh, no big loss. Maybe you'd want to read it for the first couple of chapters.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain (1889)
Here is a classic, well known Twain story. Maybe you've seen the films, including "The Unidentified Flying Oddball"? All based on this work. The novel is full of Twain's acerbic wit and humor. He also uses the opportunity to be an advocate against slavery, state religion, and hereditary aristocracy (easy targets!), and for democracy, free markets, and liberalism. More than the social commentary, this book intentionally skewers the romantic Arthurian legend and such works as Ivanhoe. The ending is strangely weak and doesn't seem to follow the logic of the rest of the story. If you read it you may see what I mean. Should you read it? It might be good for you, but there are other books you'd probably like better.

Agent to the Stars - John Scalzi
This is a breezy novel about what might happen if extraterrestrials visited Earth. How would they introduce themselves to the world? Easy - they'd get a PR flack. Tom is a young Hollywood agent who gets the strange and difficult assignment of introducing smelly, blob-like aliens to humanity in the best possible way. Scalzi takes this unusual premise and makes it realistic enough for the reader to buy into, especially by presenting a light but convincing portrait (at least to me) of the Hollywood representation business. This is a fun story. It's free online, so check it out.

Inversions - Iain M. Banks
This is almost a sword and sorcery novel (without the sorcery). In the not too distant past of the story, a vast feudal empire fell due to an unexpected natural disaster, and various muckety-mucks are battling it out for dominance. In the small spaces is a story of love lost and found. At first glance you wouldn't think it, but the "M." means this is a Culture novel, although there are enough hints in the text for anyone familar with The Culture to make that guess anyway. I liked it - it moves along well and has some unexpected turns. Toss in a bit of medieval misery and occasional violence and it makes a good story. It has less graphic violence than some of the other Banks novels I've read, so there's that, too.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
Deckard is not a replicant! Should I type it in caps?! I don't care what Ridley Scott says. He can go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks! Anyway, DADoES? is the inspiration for the film "Blade Runner". Some of the dialogue in the film is ripped right out of the book. But there are some important differences, too, which I think make this a better story than the film. I think highly of Dick - not as a writer, necessarily, because he was often sloppy and needed better editing, but because he had such great and wild ideas. That said, this is one of the most well-written Dick stories I've read. It's not that long, and while you probably already know most of the the themes and how the story ends, more or less, you should check it out.

Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals - Robert M. Sapolsky
This is a collection of essays that Sapolsky has written for several magazines on a variety of subjects relating, in general, to the dependence of human behavior on our evolutionary history, genetics, and environment. The essays are engaging and quick to read and one could probably finish a couple each night before bed. Sapolsky also wrote a touching account of his time in Africa studying baboons, A Primate's Memoir, which I also recommend.

Saturday - Ian McEwan
It's February 2003, and the world is gearing up for an invasion of Iraq. On this particular Saturday, after waking early in the morning and witnessing a suspicious aviation accident, a London neurosurgeon prepares for a small family reunion that is set to take place that evening. Unexpected events intervene. The novel is a meditation on fate and happenstance, and the role of fear in life. In fact, there is a little bit of everything thrown in - art, love, family, science. While there are one or two parts that don't ring true to life, I really enjoyed the descriptions of London (I should be careful here - I thought at first that the author was being overly attentive to detail, and wondered why), and it was a particulary enjoyable novel.

A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby
My second Nick Hornby novel (after How to be Good), it is also not like the ones that have been made into films. This story is about four strangers who meet on New Year's Eve on top of a building that is a popular spot for suicides. They are there for the obvious reason, yet somehow manage to save each other lives. The story is told in a "Rashomon" sort of style, with each of the four main characters taking turns as first person narrators. Rather than have overlapping narratives, however, they speak of events sequentially in time, and differences of perspective are only witnessed obliquely. While the novel is often humorous, it is mostly a somewhat sad recounting of desperate and disappointed people. So what else is there? It's a nice story, but if you are looking for a neat ending or moral, you should look somewhere else.

The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger - Lee Strobel
My sister sent me this book, because she wants me to stop being a heathen and accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior. I can appreciate that - she loves me and cares about my wordly happiness and my eternal soul. This short book is actually an excerpt of Strobel's full length book The Case for Christ. Strobel, a former investigative legal journalist and "spiritual skeptic" is trying to present a case for believing in the literal truth of the Gospels in the New Testament, in the hopes that the reader will follow his path and decide to accept J.C. based on evidence. The book basically takes the form of a series of credulous interviews with leading Christian apologists. A short review of this book goes like this: "Unconvincing." A slightly longer, critical review would point out a fundamental flaw: The key for believing that the gospels are literally true is to accept the writers as reliable eyewitnesses to the events therein, but, despite Strobel's and other Christian apologists' efforts, this seems to remain an easily challenged assertion. In any case, I thought faith, not evidence, was the most important thing.


Whew! All done. Now we arrive at the pathetic part.

I know it's not apparent, but writing these is hard work. Wendy once told me she thought "30 second book reviews" meant it took thirty seconds to write a review. Ouch! No, it's supposed to mean it takes thirty seconds to read one, you silly. It often takes tens of minutes to write one! My point? It's hard work (hard, hard work) writing these, especially for a near illiterate like me. Look above; I only know about three synonyms for the word "story" (but I just thought of another one that I'm saving for next time - nevermind, I'm going to write it down so I don't forget - "tale"). So, if you appreciate these reviews and want to see more, let me know in the comments. I know it's hard work (hard, hard work) to leave a comment, but otherwise I may discontinue the series which would be easier on me and no sweat to you since you don't care about it anyway. K? Thx!

Update: I've added a review for Agent to the Stars because I forgot to include it the first time.


I need a second mortgage - right now!

by John at 12/16/2005 09:53:00 AM

How else can I afford to place the winning bid on this 8ft LEGO model of a Republic Attack Cruiser (officially endorsed by George Lucas and designed by Lego Master Builder Erik Varzsegi), proceeds to benefit Habitat for Humanity's hurricane relief effort?

This would make an excellent Christmas present if you haven't already bought me something.


I've got purple on my fingers!*

by John at 12/15/2005 01:45:00 PM

In case you were wondering (I was), they dye one finger with indelible purple ink to make sure no one votes more than once.


* not-so-obscure song ripoff

Christmas xmas history

by John at 12/15/2005 01:25:00 PM


Pagan celebrations in Northern Europe because: finally, the days were getting longer; cattle were slaughtered so they wouldn't have to fed throughout the winter (fresh meat!); the wine and beer was finally fermented and ready to drink; it was freaking cold out and boring to be cooped up all inside so it was party time.

Rome: Saturnalia holiday in honor of the God of agriculture, Saturn, was celebrated for a whole month; the social order is inverted with peasants and slaves taking over cities and households (but all in good fun).

Early Christians: Pope Julius I decided that December 25 was Jesus' birthday - it also happened to be the birthday of Roman God, Mithra; he hoped that pagans would easily adopt new celebrations because they are, basically, the old celebrations with a different name.

Middle Ages: Christmas celebration, after going to church, was like Mardi Gras (without all the plastic beads); societal inversion was still popular - poor often demanded gifts of the best food and drink from the rich or would subject them to mischief; a beggar or student was crowned the Lord of Misrule.

The Puritans and early America: outlawed Christmas because Puritans didn't like fun; Congress was in session on Dec 25, 1789; anti-English sentiment in America lead many to reject Christmas as an English custom.

Christmas revisionism: in 1819, Washington Irving reinvented Christmas as a family centered holiday instead of a big raucous party - his work is probably mostly fictional; the upper class embraced the new image of Christmas because they were tired of the whole rioting thing. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol; families became less disciplinarian - it was now considered alright to give a gift to a child without the risk of spoiling him or her. Americans looked to recent immigrants and adopt their holiday symbols - Christmas trees, Saint Nicholas, gift giving, feasts, etc - many of which have their roots in the ancient pre-Christian pagan winter celebrations.

Early Twentieth Century: Commercialization of Christmas is driven by the growth of a consumer economy.


Aside: I plan on celebrating Christmas a more traditional way by having a huge bonfire in my yard while getting ripping drunk on hot mulled wine and hard cider. After appointing Goose the Lord of Misrule, we will then pester my more prosperous neighbors for gifts of food and more alcohol to consume at our feast.

Or maybe I will just stay at home and play with Elias. In addition to jumping in the jumparoo and riding the bus, perhaps we will play "spot the zealot."


Posted photos

by SamIam at 12/10/2005 01:51:00 PM

I think it was Mark that asked us all last month to post a recent picture. Well, I blew it off and have been feeling a little guilty about it ever since. To help redeam myself, I've finally gotten around to posting some of my photos on the web. So, if you're interested, check them out!

I'll try to be updating regularly, so check back in the future.




by John at 12/08/2005 09:37:00 PM

New header image in honor of tomorrow's impending snowstorm! We're hoping for a day off from work...

Update: Aww, not enough snow to cancel work, but enough to be a pain in the neck. I'm at home anyway, working on my models. Telecommuting (do they still call it that?) is nice.



by John at 12/05/2005 09:26:00 AM

This weekend I bought a Mac mini. It is very small, very quiet, and very cool looking. But I am going through some major culture shock as I switch over from Fedora linux.

Any hints for organizing media in iPhoto and iTunes? Are there advantages to using Safari and Mail instead Firefox and Thunderbird?

Anyone know why the printer shared through the Mac shows up in the Windows network but is not accessible? (Even though file sharing is working alright?)


Jabba no wonka Solo, ho ho ho ho!

by Bill at 12/04/2005 04:19:00 PM


wormhole distortion has overloaded main power systems!

by John at 12/01/2005 11:36:00 AM

"Wormhole!... Get us back on impulse power! Full reverse!"

"Negative helm control, Captain! Going reverse on impulse power...!"

"Subspace frequencies are jammed by wormhole effect!"