Goose the Blog 2.0

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



by John at 8/31/2006 09:33:00 AM

This means nothing (sorry, Jung).

A few nights ago I watched "Good Night, and Good Luck," the movie George Clooney made about Edward R. Murrow's fight against McCarthyism. It was very good - there was not a moment of wasted film in the whole 93 minutes.

Last night, then, Keith Olbermann appropriated Murrow when he excoriated Donald Rumsfeld for his comments to the American Legion.


A different point: Haven't Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld been wrong about just about everything for the last five years? Isn't it their policies that have put us where we are today, stuck in an untenable position in the Middle East and without any good options for getting unstuck, while they calmly tell us that if we just stay stuck for an indeterminate amount of time longer, the situation will improve? Why would anyone still want go along with their plans? Why would anyone trust them with anything?


hol-eee crap

by John at 8/28/2006 09:30:00 PM

Check out that graphic. And yet, some people in the article think that we are going to have a "soft landing" or a leveling off followed by a long slump. Unbelievable - definitely "glass half full" kind of people.


you didn't think it was over, did you?

by John at 8/25/2006 10:09:00 PM

The issue of what is a planet and what isn't still hasn't been settled in a meaningful way.

On Thursday, when IAU members voted to define "planet" and consequently demote Pluto, it seems that less than 5% of the total membership of the IAU was allowed to vote. No email votes were allowed, so only the conference attendees were able to vote - this sounds like something far less than a quorum to me! The IAU has no method of actually enforcing the use of the new definition, so as a practical matter it is necessary for a majority of astronomers to actually support it. If there is not a substantial majority support for the definition among the non-voting members, then the definition is moot.

Even worse, the scientists pushing for the part about a planet being the dominant body in it's local area may have goofed up when they decided to define dominant and local area as "cleared the neighborhood around it's orbit." That because Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, by some criteria, have not cleared their orbits of other bodies. There are, for instance, thousands of near Earth asteroids that cross the Earth's orbit, and the other three all have Trojan asteroids that actually share the same orbit as the planet. So, there may now only be four planets in our solar system. I hate to say I told you so, but I did mention that this could be a problem. The first proposal was better.


my new favorite band?

by John at 8/24/2006 02:59:00 PM

They just made the list. Catchy power pop. A couple of great videos. Skinny pants (Those are back again (again)? Twenty year cycles, right? I still have my skinny ties, but I don't think I would look good in skinny pants. Thankfully, I am too old to worry about looking like a rocker).

OK Go: A Million Ways

OK Go: Here it Goes Again

Their website.


I really made up for a lame blogging summer this week, huh? There's no way I can keep up the pace.

two on terrorism

by John at 8/24/2006 02:17:00 PM

1) (via Boing Boing) What the Terrorists Want
I'd like everyone to take a deep breath and listen for a minute.

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.

2) (via This Modern World) Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security
7. And finally, an extra question—what needs to be done?

This may be a country bumpkin approach, but the truth is the best place to start. We need to acknowledge that we are at war, not because of who we are, but because of what we do. We are confronting a jihad that is inspired by the tangible and visible impact of our policies. People are willing to die for that, and we're not going to win by killing them off one by one. We have a dozen years of reliable polling in the Middle East, and it shows overwhelming hostility to our policies—and at the same time it shows majorities that admire the way we live, our ability to feed and clothe our children and find work. We need to tell the truth to set the stage for a discussion of our foreign policy.

Pluto demoted

by John at 8/24/2006 12:36:00 PM

Pluto is no longer a planet. I don't know yet whether a definition of "planet" has been or will be asserted, other than this lame one: "The eight planets are Mercury, Earth, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune" that passed by a hand vote at the IAU meeting in Prague today.

I don't care whether Pluto is a planet or not - I wanted the astronomers to define planet in a meaningful way that would allow us to specify whether newly discovered bodies were planets or not, rather than making ad hoc decisions on planetary status.

Update: Huzzah! "The IAU said in a statement on Thursday that the definition for planet is now officially 'a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.'"

rinse and repeat

by John at 8/24/2006 09:58:00 AM

I'm pretty sure we've been down this road before. How did all that work out last time?

Someone is just looking for an excuse to get the War Dance started so they can win an election or two. And drop some bombs - those always look great on TV. Sure, it's only been four years, but I worry about just how stupid we actually are.


universal healthcare and universal pensions - good for business

by John at 8/23/2006 12:41:00 PM

This article by Malcolm Gladwell has been bouncing around lately, so I thought I'd put it up here for your consideration.
What's behind Ireland's economic miracle—and G.M.'s financial crisis?


When Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy, it owed about four billion dollars to its pension plan, and had another three billion dollars in unmet health-care obligations. Two years later, in 2003, the pension fund was terminated and handed over to the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The assets of the company—Sparrows Point and a handful of other steel mills in the Midwest—were sold to the New York-based investor Wilbur Ross.

Ross acted quickly. He set up a small trust fund to help defray Bethlehem's unmet retiree health-care costs, cut a deal with the union to streamline work rules, put in place a new 401(k) savings plan—and then started over. The new Bethlehem Steel had a dependency ratio of 0 to 1. Within about six months, it was profitable. The main problem with the American steel business wasn’t the steel business, Ross showed. It was all the things that had nothing to do with the steel business.


Ross isn’t a fan of old-style pensions, because they make it impossible to run a company efficiently. "When a company gets in trouble and restructures," he said, those underfunded pension funds "will eat it alive." And how much sense does employer-provided health insurance make? Bethlehem made promises to its employees, years ago, to give them medical insurance in exchange for their labor, and when the company ran into trouble those promises simply evaporated. "Every country against which we compete has universal health care," he said. "That means we probably face a fifteen-per-cent cost disadvantage versus foreigners for no other reason than historical accident... . The randomness of our system is just not going to work."

It's a good article if you find the subject interesting.


yet more baby photos

by John at 8/22/2006 08:39:00 PM

It's been a little more then a month already, so here are some new baby photos (click ahead to see the rest).


what am I, on crazy pills?!

by John at 8/22/2006 12:55:00 PM

Astronomers are super unhappy with the new definition of planet. The original proposal was revised yesterday to alleviate some objections, but that plan didn't work. The revision tried to distinguish between planets that dominate their local population and those that don't, but the originators of the alternate proposal weren't happy with the changes. The subproposal to call Pluto-like planets "plutons" also did not have majority support, nor did the concept of binary planets. The proposal went back into a private meeting to try to sort things out so that there is enough support to pass the measure to define planets.

I'm still behind the first proposal. What seems to be getting in the way here is that many people have a preset notion of what a planet should be and shouldn't be, and they are trying to fit the wide variety of stuff orbiting our sun into those categories. They should let the physics decide - Ceres isn't going to be any more or less interesting if it is a "planet" instead of an "asteroid." The thingness of an object doesn't change because it's name does.

I'm still trying to figure out why this whole issue seems to matter so much to some folks. It will all end in tears.*

Update: It seems like they will be going with the "most dominant body" proposal, so Pluto will no longer be a planet. I don't care much as long as they settle on a definition. The actual vote is Thursday, and we should have the final language of the proposal then. Like you care. :^)


As an aside, one of the guys from my college dorm** (Doug Clowe was a year behind me, I think) just proved that dark matters exists. What have I done? Nothing that gets me on CNN's web page.


* I'm just kidding. I think it's fun.

** Ruddock House!


Can you spot the marmot?

by Amy, Bill, Guillermo and Alma at 8/21/2006 06:39:00 PM

Well, we thought it was a mountain beaver, but alas, he still eludes us. A marmot will have to suffice.


Something for Nothing?

by MarkJumblie at 8/19/2006 05:56:00 AM

Steorn is a company in Dublin.

They were on the news yesterday about their challenge to scientists to prove wrong their new technology- Free energy! Which they readily admit goes against the laws of physics as we know them.

You scientific engineering types should take the challenge and get your companies to foot the bill and come visit!


killer squid in Sea of Cortez

by John at 8/18/2006 08:21:00 PM

Wow. I had no idea. (via Pharyngula)

astronomical dissent

by John at 8/18/2006 08:03:00 PM

An alternate proposal at the IAU meeting would de-planetize Pluto by insisting that a planet be "by far the largest body in it's local population." Because pluto is a KBO (Kuiper Belt Object), it would be classed with all the other KBOs, some of which are larger than Pluto itself (for example, 2003 UB313, unofficially called Xena). It seem to me this proposal would also eliminate the issue of binary planets (the smaller would be called a satellite, unless the pair were of roughly equivalent size, in which case neither would be a planet, right?).

Besides that, the definitions of "local population" and "by far the largest" will need to be made less subjective.

In my opinion, the first proposal should be accepted, despite the likely difficulties (many small objects become planets, how round is round?) and the sometimes counter-intuitive results (Pluto/Charon as binary planets, and in the distant future, the Earth/Luna system as binary planets*). The definition of planet will be based on a physical feature - roundness due to gravitational collapse.

My guess is that neither proposal will pass and the issue will remain undecided, conservatively preserving the status quo.


* The Moon is pulling away from the Earth at a steady pace. In a few billion years, the barycenter (center of mass) of the Earth/Moon system will be outside the Earth's sphere, and the Earth/Moon pair would be binary planets. For some reason, some people have a problem with this. The Moon is already a very disproportionately sized satellite for Earth to have, based on other examples in our solar system - to clarify that oddness by calling us binary planets (when it is applicable) seems appropriate.


oh, those two...

by John at 8/17/2006 10:02:00 AM

(click the kitty for a joke)

She might get along pretty well with this little guy.


planets, plutons, and planemos

by John at 8/16/2006 07:37:00 AM

Astronomers are set to vote on the meaning of the word planet, adding perhaps three new planets to our solar system. Cool!
There will be at least 12 planets in our solar system, and probably many more, if a new definition of the word "planet" is adopted. Next week the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will vote on a draft definition of what distinguishes a planet from lesser space rocks.

The new scheme would retain Pluto – previously threatened with ejection from the club – but it would also admit several new members, including the former asteroid Ceres, and even Charon, which until now has been classed as Pluto's moon.


"We came to the conclusion that we should base our definition as strongly on the science as possible. The word 'planet' was invented millennia ago, and modern science tells us so much more," says committee member Richard Binzel, an astronomer at MIT, US.

The result is radical. "If gravity can make it round, it's a planet," Binzel told New Scientist. That is not quite the whole story – planets also have to orbit a star, and not be either stars themselves or satellites of other planets – but the new part of the definition is roundness.

Whereas very small heavenly bodies tend to be irregular rocks, larger ones are crushed by their own gravity into a spherical shape. The committee decided that the threshold of roundness should distinguish planet from non-planet. "We let nature decide," says Binzel.

Also, in case your wondering, Charon gets to be a planet because the center of gravity of the Pluto/Charon system is outside Pluto's sphere. Pluto and Charon will be the first binary planets (it's in the article). For completeness, "plutons" are planets with an orbit of greater than 200 years duration, and could include Pluto, Charon, Xena, and other large-ish Kuiper Belt objects that get discovered in the future. Finally, "planemos" are planetary-like bodies found wandering in extrasolar space, that is, planets that do not orbit a star.

I like this scheme, but I worry that one day school children will have to memorize a list of dozens of planets and plutons.



by John at 8/11/2006 11:29:00 AM

Sorry I haven't put anything up this week. Here's a new video of Elias playing in a fountain and walking around Longwood Gardens.


I've seen Suri!

by John at 8/04/2006 03:17:00 PM

I've seen Suri*, and she's totally normal as far as I can tell. Just like a regular baby, except she exudes a strange sense of inner peace.

You see, Tom Cruise and I are old friends from way back (don't ask me about it - I'd be happy to tell you, but I don't want a bunch of Scientology lawyers coming down on me like a ton of bricks!). Last night he and Katie stopped by my house for a little chat, and because they wanted to catch Wednesday's episode of Project Runway on TiVo. I wasn't surprised when I saw them coming up the walkway, even though they hadn't dropped by since before Suri was born, but I thought it was odd that Katie was carrying a small black duffel bag. She used to always carry a small red duffel bag!

Anyway - what a surprise - Suri was in the bag! But I didn't know that at first. At first they just came in and after a few pleasantries and air kisses we all went into the TV room for some quality Tim Gunn time. I had put out a bowl of peanuts and Tom was totally stuffing himself. He loves peanuts.

So, Katie put the black duffel bag down on the floor next to the couch, and I kind of called Goose and Diva over to where I was sitting because I didn't want them to get their dog hair all over it. I wanted to ask them what was in the bag, but I had learned my lesson about stuff like that before (Those Scientology lawyers came down on me like a ton of bricks!) so I just kept my curiousity to myself and pretty soon forgot about it. Then, about halfway through the episode, the bag started making little noises. Katie said, "Ooh, Suri's awake," and opened up the bag. Sure enough, there was this pretty normal looking little baby face peeking out of the bag. Two eyes, a nose, mouth, no teeth - just like a normal baby. Katie cooed at her a bit, and then Tom said, "Yeah, so we better go..." and I was kind of confused but I said, "OK, man, we'll keep this episode on the TiVo in case you want to stop by some other time and finish watching it." (Scientology lawyers, bricks, etc.) Then they got up and left.

So, that's about it. I've seen Suri and she's seems like a normal baby, except that she lives in a black duffel bag and I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason for that.


* Note to readers: this tale is a complete fabrication (Like bricks I tell you!).


a new 30 second book reviews

by John at 8/02/2006 10:28:00 AM

Unlike it's namesake, this is a particularly weak episode. If I had any shame I would wait until I had more and better things to say - but as time passes my memory of each of these books fades, and I find I have less and less to say about them. And who knows, maybe I will never have anything better to say? I'm out of my depth on at least three of the books listed below anyway. (Although, sometimes, on the drive home from work when my mind is relaxed and unoccupied with distracting thoughts, I compose really incisive stuff - Hey! Watch out for that squirrel!) My apologies.


Walden - Henry David Thoreau
Remember how I was having a hard time finishing this book? well, I buckled down and did it. Really, it wasn't as bad all the way through as I thought it was when it started out. Some of Thoreau's description of Walden Pond and the surrounding environment is really wonderful, and his apparent misanthropy relents somewhat while his love of nature really comes out. He even seems to show an occassional appreciation of the special economic and social circumstances that put him in the privileged position he holds in the world; a position that allows him to live a "deliberate" life on borrowed land next to the most beautiful pond in world. Not a must read, but a classic definitely worthy of your consideration.

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience - Henry David Thoreau
This text was attached to my copy of Walden, so I read it again. It is short and brilliant, and everyone should read it. There you go, an accurate review in far less than thirty seconds.

Common Sense - Thomas Paine
In another short one, Paine makes his arguments for the immediate independence of the American colonies from Great Britain. His classical liberalism and some of his theory of government are apparent. This stuff seems obvious to (most many of) us today, but it was pretty radical thinking for the time. Illuminating, but is it relevant? Maybe, if you happen to live in a nation that is currently being oppressed by an occupying army. Can you think of any places like that? I'm at a loss.

Clans of the Alphane Moon - Philip K. Dick
This one is another good sci-fi tale. It's a little more straightforward than some of Dick's other works, but the premise is enticing. After a war between Earth and Alpha Centauri, a small moon in the Alphane system becomes an indepedent state run by the former inmates of a mental institution. A mild mannered CIA programmer with a harridan wife, while trying to kill each other, both get entangled in the plots to annex this moon full of crazy people by both Earth and Alphane governments. Know what? I think every PKD story should be a movie.

The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick
See if any of this sounds familiar: The United States government is a fraud run by corporations and an unknown shadow power. The President is, literally, a puppet. One of the two possible escapes from the grinding authoritarian state is a cult of personality with a goal of ephemeral fame surrounding a never-aging First Lady, and the other is a one-way trip to Mars. It will all end in tears, I tell you. This is yet another fast and fun short novel by PKD. Recommended.

Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space - Deborah Cadbury
If you are a Junior Space Cadet (First Class) like me, you'll love this book. Cadbury follows the parallel careers of Wernher von Braun, celebrity former Nazi rocket scientist, and Sergei Korolev, the Soviet Chief Designer whose identity was kept secret from foreigners and countrymen alike until his death. This is a really good story that collects the triumphs and failures of each man as they both reached for their dream of putting men on the Moon. It's filled with amazing details of both the US and Soviet space programs that I did not know. I found the number and quality of the one-off tricks pulled by the Soviets to demonstrate superior progress in space, and the American response, especially amusing. While often lighthearted, the book is also a window into the homicidal madness of the Nazis and the grinding fear, oppression, and deprivation of Soviet totalitarianism. I imagine most people would like this book - it's not just for Moon junkies like me. Check it out. (The book is supposed to accompany a BCC documentary on the same topic - which also aired on the National Geographic Channel , which I don't receive. Anyway, the book stands on it's own, and I'll look for the DVD, or maybe I can find a bittorrent.)

Glasshouse - Charles Stross
This is a sequel, of sorts, to Accelerando, but having read Accelerando won't actually help you get this story. The plot, while not that complicated, is full of sci-fi singularity stuff that makes it hard to summarize, but I'll try. It's about 600 years in the future, and after having his memory wiped for reasons he isn't sure off, Robin is being hunted by an unknown power. In order to disappear into anonymity, Robin joins a sociological experiment to recreate the society of our current day, where he will be given a new identity and will hopefully be able to hide from his pursuers. However (duh!), it turns out it's not as straightforward as it seems. The story starts out a little slowly, but then burns along at a good pace, even though it gets pretty dark sometimes. I think people unfamiliar with this sci-fi genre may not get a lot of the story. Will you prove me wrong?