Goose the Blog 2.0

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


Mickey Mouse

by John at 4/24/2007 12:17:00 PM

Here's a little something I found on Flickr. That should be about all you get from me for the next week or so. But hey, it's relevant.

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it's worse than we can even imagine

by John at 4/19/2007 07:18:00 AM

Shocked by the VT shootings? How about this?
Up to 200 killed in Baghdad bombs

Nearly 200 people have been killed in a string of attacks in Iraq's capital, Baghdad - the worst day of violence since a US security operation began.

In one of the deadliest attacks of the last four years, some 140 people were killed in a car bombing in a food market in Sadriya district.

A witness said the area had been turned into "a swimming pool of blood".

You can do the math. How many minutes of television airtime did these dead people get yesterday? But there is exciting new nonsense video of the VT shooter posing for his camera! I'm not sanctimonious - I admit I was halfway interested. We have got to be better than this.

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when I woke up this morning Kurt Vonnegut was dead

by John at 4/12/2007 06:47:00 AM

Kurt Vonnegut is dead.

Several years ago, I spent many months reading every Vonnegut novel in my local library. Goose (still a puppy, then) even tore the cover off one (Cat's Cradle?) and I asked the librarian if I could pay some money to compensate them for the damage. I think she charged me a dollar, taped the cover back on the book (tooth holes and all), and put it back on the shelf. Go librarian!

Anyway, if you haven't yet spent time reading Vonnegut, it is of course not too late to start just because he is now dead. I suggest Player Piano, Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, or Jailbird, in no particular order. But just pick up whatever they have around and read it.

"We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodley do,
What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must;
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust."

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vote for your favorite Star Wars stamp

by John at 4/03/2007 02:50:00 PM

Go. Now. (yoink! Crooked Timber)

C3PO is winning, and that just isn't right. I'm not going to tell which to pick, but I will say that you are wasting your vote unless you vote for Yoda. Also, you have to vote by registering your email address and replying to an email. This certainly sucks, but you do have a throwaway email for collecting spam, don't you?

(In case you didn't know, USPS is, for some reason, collaborating with Lucas to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars this year. They have R2D2 style mailboxes and will soon be selling Star Wars theme stamps and Express envelopes. I wonder how much money the USPS make off stamp collectors?)



thirty second book reviews, vol. 4, no. 2

by John at 4/02/2007 06:21:00 PM

The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery - Daniel Max
Max writes an interesting history of the discovery of prion diseases, beginning with an Italian family that suffers a genetic disposition to a fatal insomnia. He covers pretty much the whole history I guess - scrapie, kuru, BSE, and C-JD. He spends a lot of time explaining how agricultural practices made scrapie, and then BSE, much more widespread than they should have been, and how regulatory inaction may have led to many people becoming infected with prions from BSE cattle. I learned a lot. This one one of two books I read while stuck on the plane to San Juan.*

The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo - Peter Orner
This is the second book I read while stuck on the plane to San Juan. I didn't finish it until later in the trip, though. It's enjoyable. In it, Larry, an American Jew from Ohio, goes to Namibia to volunteer as a teacher. He ends up teaching at Goas, an isolated school somewhere in the Namib desert. There, he meets and has a love affair with a beautiful woman (the titular Mavala). The country has just recently gained its independence and many of the teachers (including Mavala) are former soldiers from the war. The style is unusual - the story is told as a series of short recollections or tales (real or apocryphal) by the various characters. It was really engaging. Good reading.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
There are two main points of this book. First: If you are exceedingly clever and have access to a lot of data, you might be able to ask a more-or-less pointless question and figure out the answer to it. Second: One of the authors is one of those exceeding clever people. Frankly, if I was economist Levitt, I would be embarrassed to put such effusive praise to myself in a book I co-wrote. Anyway, the book has some fun facts in it, but it seems to be missing out on the big picture stuff about how to actually ask questions and solve problems, other than to have the gift of exceeding cleverness. It reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's work - lots of anecdotes and personality, but no real substance. Don't misunderstand me, it is enjoyable to read and if you happen to find a copy laying around you might want to pick it up and read a chapter, because the writing isn't bad and like I said before, there are fun facts you can use to impress your more ignorant friends (providing you can recall what the authors wrote for more than 30 minutes after you put the book down - I can't, except for the the thing about baby names). Airy and light, like a marshmallow.

Midaq Alley - Naguib Mahfouz
This is a story by the Nobel prize-winning Egyptian author, credited with introducing the novel to Arabic literature. It takes place on a poor Cairo sidestreet during the waning days of World War II. It has a full cast of characters of all stripes from saintly to slimeball. It is sort of a soap opera, with a variety of connected subplots taking place in a small locale where everyone knows everyone else's business. Better yet, none of the characters are one-dimensional! Anyway, I read this book because it was recommended by someone on the internet (Juan Cole maybe?) as good fiction to read if you wanted to better understand the Arab people. If so, what did I learn? Arabs are petty, greedy, hypocritical, and vengeful, and occasionally pious, honest, generous, and wise, just like everybody else on the planet. A good thing to learn for those who doubt it, I guess.

Sixty Days and Counting - Kim Stanley Robinson
This is the final book in Robinson's "Abrupt Climate Change Trilogy" (I don't know what the official trilogy name is. Maybe it's the "Counting By Tens Trilogy."). Anyhow, this one is more a return to the form of the first book, in that I liked it more than I liked the second, but still less than I liked then first. Got that? I was thinking about this novel the other day, and I realized it had no actual plot. It had a couple of subplots, but no plot. The subplot with the Quibler family and the Buddhists is my favorite. I had more than enough of Frank Vanderwal (the Mary Sue) in the last novel; luckily, I don't have to read about him sleeping in trees, kayaking, or going on hikes anymore. Still, I enjoyed the novel. It's actually a feel good story about what could happen if we had competent, proactive government that based its policies on the actual real world instead of ideology and opportunism (that's the "fiction" part of this particular scifi, haha!). Robinson is getting a lot of credit for grounding his climate change story in a bunch of science, rather than the conspiracy theories that another prominent author has promulgated (even in front of Congress!), so that's a bonus, too.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl
Here's another good one. It's the story of Blue van Meer, a genius IQ sixteen year old who has traveled the back roads of America with her father, a semi-famous, itinerant visiting political science professor at out of the way state universities and small liberal arts colleges. The novel's conceit is that it is actually written by Blue as an autobiographical excerpt of her life, beginning when she starts her senior year in high school at an elite private academy in small town North Carolina. At first, this seems like a straightforward coming-of-age story as Blue gets involved with a clique of popular students; the weird thing is that the teacher these kids hang out with on weekends (weird, huh?) dies by hanging sometime during Blue's senior year. You learn this at the start of the story, so I'm not giving much away. Regular H.S. bullshit ensues, moderated by Blue's detachment and cultural awareness. It's fun, but you can see the disaster coming. After the beloved (that's not exactly the right word) teacher kills herself, the novel switches gears wildly, but that's all I'm saying. This is a first class effort all the way, and highly fun to read.

The Road - Cormac McCarthy
I started reading this after Elias' bathtime one evening and didn't stop until I finished it in the early hours of the morning, five hours later. It was riveting. In it, a father and his son are walking through a post-apocalyptic landscape of ruined cities and ash, rain, and snow, on the run from roving bands of cannibal brigands. They have only the clothes they wear, a shopping cart full of dirty blankets and rare, scavenged canned goods, and a pistol with two bullets. They are going south to the shore, because the father hopes, improbably, that things will be better there, and because staying in one place means death only catches up with you faster. It's a brutal short novel written in a evocative spare style, but what really sets it apart is the father's unending love for his young son. There is nothing left in the world for them but each other and they are both acutely and painfully aware of it. I want to say more but I don't want to give away the story because I want you to read it, too. Highly recommended.


* A few days ago I got a ticket voucher from US Airways worth $150 as compensation, probably because I wrote them a long complaint letter. That's $20 for every extra hour I sat on the plane - not too bad! I expect that the passengers who didn't complain got nothing.