Goose the Blog 2.0

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


for your looking at pleasure

by John at 2/23/2007 07:35:00 AM

Some photos of Elias in last week's snow, and the photos I took on my San Juan vacation before the camera broke.

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in the news

by John at 2/22/2007 10:13:00 PM

Here's my few seconds of news time from last Wednesday. Of course, I'm the nameless guy who was waiting on the plane all day.

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NewsRadio rethought

by John at 2/22/2007 01:38:00 PM

I watched the NewsRadio series finale last night, and it wasn't as bad as I remembered. So there you go. Also, the new blog description is something Beth said (yelled, actually) in the final episode.

Update: After the finale, I also watched the series pilot, where Joe was named Rick and was not played by Joe Rogan, and Catherine didn't have a single line and was not played by Khandi Alexander.

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back in The States

by John at 2/20/2007 08:09:00 PM

I'm back from Puerto Rico. My college friends and I had a great time.

The only bad part was the beginning. Because of the winter storm we had Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, it took me eleven hours to fly from here to San Juan (normally, a less-than-four hour flight).

We boarded the plane a little late (9:30 am for a 9:30 am departure time) and then we sat on the tarmac for seven and a half hours waiting to get de-iced, with only one tiny bag of pretzels each and one glass of water. Luckily, I had packed a water bottle and two books, and with occasional calls to Wendy to let off some steam, I managed to stay sane and calm. Surprisingly, so did everyone else. A minute or two after 5 pm our plane was airborne and on the way to Puerto Rico. To compensate us for our discomfort, they gave us free headphones so we could listen to the inflight entertainment system, which was a nice touch and really made it all better.

I sort of got on the news - I had Wendy send an email to the local NBC station to report the resigned detention of hundreds of paying customers, and later that afternoon, a newswoman called me back to get the details of our imprisonment. She told my story on the air (very briefly), but didn't say my name.

Also, my camera broke the second day, so I only got a few pictures of the trip. I may post them up a little later. However, my friend Matt put his up on Shutterfly. Here's one of me riding a mechanical bull!

I only hurt myself a little bit.

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this breaking news just in

by John at 2/09/2007 02:24:00 PM

Anna Nicole Smith is still dead.

I know it's a lame joke, but it's the only one I've got. How about a fart joke instead? (yoink! Faux Real Tho!)



oh yeah

by John at 2/08/2007 03:39:00 PM

We're back to Bill McNeal for the blog description.


thirty second book reviews, vol. 4, no. 1

by John at 2/08/2007 02:13:00 PM

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus - Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley (1818)
This was pretty good. The prose is old-fashioned, but the thesis is surprisingly current. The story differs significantly from the generally held Frankenstein "myth", and is richer for it. The writing style can get a little bit tedious, but I suppose that overall things move along pretty well. Other than that, I don't have much else to say about it.

The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention - Guy Deutscher
This is a really interesting book about the evolution of language. It starts with the assumption that a very simple language exists (Deutscher calls it "Me Tarzan") and details the mechanisms by which it may have changed over tens of thousands of years to the modern languages we speak. Along the way, he addresses the major concerns of linguists over the last couple of centuries - notably the idea that languages seem to be de-evolving from a complex and sophisticated original. I won't spoil the ending by giving anything away. For a text on something as seemingly dry as linguistics, the author does a very good job keeping things lively and readable. He also drops the more esoteric nuances into appendices to spare the casual reader unwanted effort, which is a nice gesture.

Blindsight - Peter Watts (ebook)
Here's another very dark SF story from Peter Watts. It has a complicated backstory that is dealt with in an appendix (and online), but vampires have been genetically re-engineered from ancient genes. Mentally and physically superior to Homo sapiens sapiens, but physiologically enslaved by them, the vampires serve as councilors to humanity. That's all an aside, however, as the main plot deals with the discovery of an alien intelligence hiding in the Oort cloud around our solar system. A team is sent to contact the ETs, and then it gets crazy. Watts does a good job giving the aliens a very non-human otherness (I like that in an ET story), and I think that facet of his story is comparable to Stanislaw Lem's Fiasco or Solaris. Very good.

Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest - Gerard J. DeGroot
Here, DeGroot writes a cynical history of the American space program. I was surprised to find that I didn't really disagree with much of what he said. Anyway, DeGroot covers the space program from the beginning (von Braun and the Germans), through Eisenhower's reluctance to enter the space race (and Johnson's and Kennedy's political ploys that got us into it), to the eventual disillusionment following the successful moon landing and NASA's self-imposed irrelevance. He makes at least one glaring factual mistake concerning the Apollo missions, asserting that Apollo 9 went to the moon instead of just making earth-orbit maneuvers. Messing up something that simple is kind of unforgivable. I don't have the energy to factcheck everything he says, and one wonders if he can be trusted. Nonetheless, for the most part, the book agrees with history as I already knew it. Overall, I liked the book, and appreciate his point of view, even if my own is somewhat less jaded.

Sailing Alone Around the World - Joshua Slocum (1900)
In the last few years of the 19th century, Joshua Slocum sailed around the world alone in a small ship of his own design. This is the self-authored story of his trip. The most remarkable thing to me is what a different world it was one hundred years ago. I mean, I knew it was different, but reading this book brought home not just the technological changes, but the wildly different pace of daily life. At some point during his trip (perhaps while crossing the Pacific), Slocum becomes something of a celebrity, and the rest of his trip he is treated royally at almost every port at which he stops. While this may be an artifact of Slocum's demeanor and writing, I found it kind of amazing to see the respect and aid given to him by strangers who were, perhaps, only familiar with his journey through occasional newspaper stories. I don't know, I suppose that sort of stuff still happens today. Anyway, cool book.

The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
The title is an homage to the famous novella, but it is also about the only thing in the novel that has anything to do with Philip K. Dick, just so you set your expectations accordingly. It's a good book, though, with a creative plot and a fast moving storyline. It features the eponymous genetically engineered sheep, interstellar diplomacy, an alien civil war, and a lot of "Die Hard" style action, gun play, and bon mots. That last one is the weak point for me. The "funny" seems to fall flat. I'm not obsessed with realism (if I was, I wouldn't read SF), but I like it when characters talk like real people, instead of movie people. Scalzi does funny well, as in Agent to the Stars and many parts in this book, but... I've already made my point. It's pretty light reading - I finished it in a couple of days. The first chapter is killer, and really pulls you into the rest of the story.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan
Whoo. Great book. Pollan traces the history of four meals (just like the subtitle says) made from ingredients of industrial agriculture, big organic, sustainable farms, and wild forage. Obviously he has his biases, and you can probably guess what they are, but nonetheless I think he maintains a pretty even hand in his description of the benefits and disadvantages of each system of agriculture. Along the journey, he discusses evolution, the philosophy of eating, animal rights, hunting, and politics. I think there's been some complaint that the book turned some readers off eating, but I just can't see that. He forces the reader to confront the choices they make when they buy food, but I don't feel like he's making judgments or being holier-than-thou; it seems to me he just wants the reader to actually look at what they are eating, and know what it entails. It's really worth your time - you will definitely learn some new things, and you'll have a good time doing it. I highly recommend reading this.



"Take a break, Driver 8"

by John at 2/01/2007 07:16:00 AM

"Driver 8, take a break, we've been on this shift too long."

Here's Elias driving the GP-9, past fields divided by walls, built up stone by stone. Earlier, there was a treehouse on the outskirts of a farm, and we saw powerlines with orange floaters so airplanes won't get snagged.

(More photos from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania)

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