Goose the Blog 2.0

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



by John at 12/31/2006 03:15:00 PM

Technical problems: my Mac-mini broke yesterday morning. It will cost $450 to fix it, so I will probably just buy a new computer.

Blog news: I'm going to switch over to the new version of Blogger pretty soon. Since this is a team blog, members would have to log in to Blogger and switch their accounts over to the new version, too, if they want to post. One can even switch over to the new version right now, I think, without it affecting one's posting ability on this blog. You never know, it just might work.

From the relevant "Blogger Help" section:
What happens when team blogs switch to the new version of Blogger?

A team blog will only switch to the new version of Blogger when the original owner moves his or her account over.

Team members who have not yet switched to the new version will still see the blog on their dashboards, but it will be grayed out and inaccessible. Once those members move their own accounts to the new version of Blogger, they will be able to access the blog as before. If they can't yet switch, or don't wish to, they can ask the owner of the blog for a new invitation to join the blog on the new version. They can then accept that invitation by logging in to or creating a Google Account to post to that blog. (Later on, when they do switch their Blogger account to the new version, they'll have an option to merge it with this account.)

If a team member of a blog switches their account to the new version of Blogger before the blog owner does, then the team blog is not converted. It will appear on the team member's converted dashboard, but clicking on it will lead back to the old version of Blogger. Thus, the blog will still be usable, but without the new features of Blogger (e.g. Labels, Layouts, etc.).

I'll let you know when all this goes down.


Blue Steel

by Amy, Bill, Guillermo and Alma at 12/30/2006 02:22:00 AM


last post before Christmas?

by John at 12/20/2006 07:02:00 AM


More Elias photos starting here.

Special bonus: Christmas caroling!

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review roundup 2

by John at 12/18/2006 09:37:00 AM

Reviews 1)-62) are here.

the phantom 30 second book reviews (2/4/2006)

63) Life of Pi - Yann Martel

64) The Amphora Project - William Kotzwinkle

65) Everyone in Silico - Jim Munroe

66) Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask - Jim Munroe

67) Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China - Rachel DeWoskin

68) Fifty Degrees Below - Kim Stanley Robinson

attack of the 30 second book reviews

69) Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America - Harm de Blij

70) Ubik - Philip K. Dick

71) Never Let Me Go - Kazou Ishiguro

72) Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami

73) Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind - V. S. Ramachandran

revenge of the 30 second book reviews (6/1/2006)

74) Feersum Endjinn - Iain M. Banks

75) Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

76) The Trial - Franz Kafka

77) A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

a new 30 second book reviews (8/2/2006)

78) Walden - Henry David Thoreau

79) On the Duty of Civil Disobedience - Henry David Thoreau

80) Common Sense - Thomas Paine

81) Clans of the Alphane Moon - Philip K. Dick

82) The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick

83) Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space - Deborah Cadbury

84) Glasshouse - Charles Stross

the 30 second book reviews strikes back (9/15/2006)

85) Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) - Jerome K. Jerome

86) Radio Free Albemuth - Philip K. Dick

87) Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality - Steven Poole

88) The Cyberiad - Stanislaw Lem

89) The Atrocity Archives - Charles Stross

return of the 30 second book reviews

90) Spin - Robert Charles Wilson

91) We - Yevgeny Zamyatin

92) Erewhon - Samuel Butler

93) The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

94) "The Call Of Cthulhu", "The Dunwich Horror" - H. P. Lovecraft

95) The Fourth Turning - William Strauss and Neil Howe

Best Fiction (tie) - Life of Pi, Never Let Me Go
Best Non-fiction - Space Race1
Worst Fiction - The Amphora Project
Worst Non-fiction - None2


1. Unspeak is a sooo close second, but I wanted to be decisive.
2. Clearly, one of them has to be "worst", but it doesn't seem right to put anything here since I liked all the ones I read.



by John at 12/08/2006 08:48:00 PM

Lego Christmas train!
Click here to see a few more photos.

Unfortunately, I can only take it out in the evenings after Elias has gone to bed. Once he sees it, all he can think about is how he is going to get his grubby monkey paws on it.


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return of the 30 second book reviews

by John at 12/08/2006 06:34:00 AM

While this set of reviews may seem late, it is actually right on time. The previous set was early.


Spin - Robert Charles Wilson

This book won a Hugo this year. The plot goes like this: one night, a mysterious force field that blocks out all the light from the stars or the moon surrounds the Earth. The next day, it turns out it blocks the sun, too, and an artificial sun has replaced the real one. What has really happened is the Earth has been sealed into some sort of time warp, and the planet and its inhabitants are speeding rapidly forward into time relative to the universe around them. Time is limited, however: in only a few dozen years Earth time, the dying sun will destroy the planet. It's a set up I've never read before. The story is about the relationship between a driven father and son, and between them and a family friend and hanger-on, and how they and everyone else deal with the coming apocalypse. It's not bad, but I didn't really get into it except as far as wanting to find out what the heck was going on. I thought the ending felt tacked on. Not really recommended, but I'm still going to try reading some of Wilson's other books.

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)
This is an old one by a Russian author (and naval engineer), who first supported the October Revolution but then quickly became disillusioned with Bolshevism. The story is written as the diary of D-503, a member of the ultimate communist society with no property, no privacy, and complete separation from the environment. He is a mathematician tasked with building a giant rocket ship so they can export their society to other planets. The main focus of this dystopian vision is the dehumanization of totalitarianism. D-503, in pursuit of a vexing and mysterious love interest, attempts to circumvent a plot by the leaders to remove the last vestiges of humanity that his fellows have. It's a significant work, because it anticipates both Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four (in different ways). It was a bit of chore to read, but at least it was kind of different from a lot of the more modern stuff I've read.

Erewhon - Samuel Butler (1872) (ebook)
Here's another even older one, also about a dystopic society. This time, a European visitor stumbles upon Erewhon, a society hidden up in the mountains of some unspecified continent. The story itself is short - the visitor falls in love with a native, gets in trouble with authorities when his novelty begins to fade, and attempts his escape. The book is much longer than the actual plot, because the narrator spends a lot of time explaining the peculiar conventions of Erewhon, which are obvious satires of important European beliefs. This gets very tedious because the book, written as a memoir, reads like anthropology instead of a story. It took me a long time to finish this one because I wasn't enjoying it at all. Maybe I missed something?

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi
The first scene in the novel hooks you. The book itself was fast paced and interesting, and I finished the rest in just a couple of days (I was really into it). For stuff that's meatier than the action scenes, he touches on some cool ideas about cloning and conscience. In retrospect, however, it seems less impressive. I should temper that by saying that it's military science fiction, which I don't usually read or enjoy. The last mil sf for me was a re-reading of Heinlein's Starship Troopers a few years ago after watching the movie on TV. ('Was the book really like that?' I wondered. For the most part, yes it was). Scalzi doesn't get near Heinlein's fascism, and the book's politics (such as they are) didn't rile me. Looking at the reviews above, it's probably me that's in a slump. Anyway, if you are in the mood for some intelligent, action-oriented science fiction, this book is probably a pretty good choice. It His previous book, Old Man's War, was nominated for a Hugo, but lost to Spin. [I knew this - I even looked it up to make sure before posting, but then I screwed it up anyway...]

"The Call Of Cthulhu" - H. P. Lovecraft (1926) (ebook)
"The Dunwich Horror" - H. P. Lovecraft (1928) (ebook)
Here are two classic Lovecraft horror stories. There are probably a number of volumes where you could find these in print. I hadn't actually read any Lovecraft since the early 90s, and after reading some of Stross' latest stuff I thought I read some more. These are actually very good horror, although there is little gore or violence to work you up. You have to let yourself get into to the scene, and imagine actually coming face to tentacle with an incomprehensible, otherworldly whatever. Pretty fun and short, so download a few and read them before bedtime.

The Fourth Turning - William Strauss and Neil Howe
The first quarter of this book is junk. It's a review of moldy pseudoscience about theories of four - four humours, four elements, four seasons, four temperaments, four phases of life. It has little or nothing to do with the central premise that there is a four generation cycle of behavior in Angle-American society - all you have to do to justify the length of this cycle to me is to point out that the normal death from old age occurs about four generations after birth. After the authors finish with the above nonsense, they get into actually detailing the different cycles, and the subsections of each. There have been seven cycles since the 1400s, and each cycle has four subsections called Turnings, each corresponding to a particular constellation of generations. There are four kinds of generations and they always appear in the same order (except for once!): Hero, Artist, Prophet, and Nomad. There are therefore four Turnings: High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis. The social environment (constellation of generations) determines the values and behavior of each new generation, which influences the future generations, so the cycles keep rolling. The theory is not deterministic - it does not predict what events will happen - it only tries to predict how Americans will respond to events that inevitably occur. This makes a lot of intuitive sense to me and the authors present a lot of evidence to back up their assertions. However, I have not looked for criticisms of their work or know enough about the history of social movements to say whether there is substantial counter evidence. The book was written in 1997, and it is interesting to read how the authors feel the Silent (b. 1925-1942, Artist), Boom (b. 1943-1960, Prophet), Thirteenth (b. 1961-1981, Nomad), and Millennial (b. 1982-200?, Hero) generations would develop over the next decade (that is, the last decade from where we sit), before the Crisis catalyst arrived somewhere around 2005. To me, it seems like they miss the mark. Maybe I don't have a good grasp of what's really going on outside my own experience, maybe they were wrong, or maybe the Crisis started earlier than they expected (say, September 2001). Missed predictions aside, they seem to get a lot of the general feeling of American society right. All in all, interesting to think about.



by John at 12/07/2006 09:14:00 AM

What's that sound? That's the sound of me not banging my head against a wall anymore.
Legislators may reconsider suspending habeas corpus for detainees
By Lesley Clark and Margaret Talev
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - President Bush's victory in getting the rules he wanted to try suspected terrorists could be diminished.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush signed into law in October, prevents detainees who aren't U.S. citizens from challenging their detentions in civilian courts. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who voted for the legislation despite his opposition to stripping such rights from detainees, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to restore those rights. A similar measure sponsored by Specter failed by three votes in October.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Specter said he was reintroducing the issue to prevent federal courts from striking down the legislation, which some of the detainees' attorneys have challenged.

But some lawmakers privately speculated that Specter may have decided to reintroduce the legislation after a recent article in the New Yorker magazine suggested that his desire to retain his powerful committee chairmanship led him to go along with the administration's wishes.

Specter on Tuesday repeated his contention that the act violates the Constitution.

"The Constitution of the United States is explicit that habeas corpus may be suspended only in time of rebellion or invasion," Specter said on the floor. "We are suffering neither of those alternatives at the present time. We have not been invaded, and there has not been a rebellion. That much is conceded."

His co-sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who'll become chairman of the Judiciary Committee when the Democrats take over in January, noted that the effort to secure habeas appeals for all detainees failed by only three votes.

"Since then, the American people have spoken against the administration's stay- the-course approach to national security and against a rubber-stamp Congress that accommodated this administration's efforts to grab more and more power," Leahy said. "Abolishing habeas corpus for anyone who the government thinks might have assisted enemies of the United States is unnecessary and morally wrong. It is a betrayal of the most basic values of freedom for which America stands."



by John at 12/02/2006 08:34:00 PM

More new Elias photos starting here