Goose the Blog 2.0

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


retirement here I come!

by John at 7/27/2007 09:35:00 AM

It's a little bit after nine in the morning now, and I've been at work for three hours already. I've looked up some information in more-than-one-year-old emails, fiddled with a PowerPoint presentation I'm giving next week, and phoned a guy about the meeting at which I will present the presentation (I left a message). And, I'm pretty much done for the day, unless I want to get back to writing the progress-report-that-no-one-will-ever-read. Busy busy busy!

So for fun, I'm going to pretend I'm a celebrity giving an interview, and the interviewer does one of those play-"Shuffle Songs"-on-celebrity's-iPod-and-ask-about-the-songs-that-come-up things. (At this point in the post I have far exceeded my per-post (oops!) hyphen quota, so I'm going to try to rein it in a little bit so I have a few left for any emergencies that might come up before the end of the month.)


Interviewer: What's on your iPod?

John: Oh, no! Now everyone will know I have common tastes just like the regular folk. Haha!

I: That's a red one. For the AIDS thing, right?

J: Yes. It didn't cost any extra, so I thought, why not? Plus, it matches the environmentally-conscious (dammit!) Honda Fit Sport I just bought.

I: Cool. It says "By Grabthar's Hammer what a birthday present" on the back. What's that about?

J: I don't want to talk about it.

I: That's from Galaxy Quest, right?

J: I said I'm not going to talk about it.

(At this point, John looks away from me, his mouth pinched. He is clearly not happy with the direction this is going. A moment later, he looks back, more composed.)

J: Sorry, it's a silly thing. Can we just go on?

I: Okay. I'll just hit "Shuffle Songs." First one: "Too Drunk To F***," Nouvelle Vague

J: I really like this album, remakes of New Wave and punk songs done in a jazzy French style. I have no nostalgic attachment to this particular song, however. I don't even know who did the original. Do you?

I: Nnn... no. "Goodbye to Mother and the Cover", Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

J: I really enjoyed their first album. The singer sounds like Gordon Gano. This album is a little harder to like, though I suppose it is good.

I: "Theme for a Pretty Girl That Makes You Believe God Exists," Eels.

J: Just another amazing song on the double album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. I'm glad this one came up, because I think everyone should listen to this album. It is so good, it just may bring about the end of The Fourth Age. You have to listen to it from start to finish, though, for the full effect.

I: "The Magic Hour," Pretty Girls Make Graves.

J: Umm, okay. I heard they were good, so I downloaded it. I like how it starts out quiet and then they start kind of shouting the chorus.

I: "Kissing the Lipless," The Shins.

J: You know what? These guys are pretty excellent. I've heard their albums dozens of times now, and I just don't get tired of them. I think they are kind of unfairly maligned by the insufferable music snobs because they got popular in a movie, and sometimes because they don't rock out hard enough. Uh, guys, they aren't a hard rock band, okay?

I: "Treat Her Right," Los Straitjackets.

J: Haha! I heard an interview with them on Fresh Air on NPR. I get 40 downloads a month from emusic whether I want them or not, so I got one of their albums. Pretty good surf rock. Did you know they wear Mexican wrestling masks while they play concerts, and now there is a whole genre of Mexican bands wearing wrestling masks, even though Los Straitjackets aren't Mexican? This is a crazy world, people.

I: "What is Humidity," Tom Glazer.

J: This is from a series of "Singing Science" records from back in the fifties or something. They Might Be Giants did a cover of "Why Does the Sun Shine" that was pretty popular. A guy ripped all the songs to mp3 off LP records and put them on the web. Fun to listen to, and if you don't watch out, you just might learn something.

I: "Fiore de la Citta," Seu Jorge.

J: This was recommended by Amy, so I got the album. Shout out to Amy, yo! The thing about 40 downloads a month is you use them or lose them. It's in Portuguese, so I have no idea what he's singing about. It sounds sad. I really like it.

I: "Fists Up," The Blow.

J: I don't know what made me download this album, but I don't regret it. At first I wasn't sure I liked it, but it has really grown on me. It's all done with like a Casio keyboard, only it sounds really excellent with lots of layered pops and buzzes and sometimes this scratchy sound that is out of this world. The singer has a cute voice, too. I haven't seen a picture of her that I recall, but I bet she is small and cute and has a bob haircut.

I: Okay, we are almost done here. Last one: "Planet Minuet," Tom Glazer and Dottie Evans.

J: What I said above about Singing Science. This one isn't particularly redeeming. Do another one so I finish off looking cool.

I: "The Underdog," Spoon.

J: Blew it there, didn't I? I have no idea where I got this. Pretty good sound, though. Kind of early 70's pop-ish (arr) with the hand clap thing going on. Maybe Keith Partridge could have sung this. I guess I like it. Apparently, it's off an album called Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. I like that!


Do your own random ten in the comments? You don't have to be cutesy. I know, it'll take effort. Pretend I didn't ask.

Update: The Dead Kennedys, and I was right about her.

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Action Family!1

by John at 7/19/2007 12:22:00 PM

The year is 2037. Rising sea levels, rapid global climate change, alien invasion, and an energy crisis have led to political and geographic chaos. A world in turmoil calls on the special talents of the few to ease the burdens of the many. But when the few are already busy solving the world's greatest problems, who do you ask to deal with life's petty annoyances?

Meet The B-Team. They may not be the best, but they're the best of the rest.

The Matriarch: Leader of the team, she has more smarts than the rest of the team combined
  • Wields the Power of Hypnosis
  • Always stays cool in a crisis
  • Once aspired to be a Famous Solver of Actuarial Puzzles
  • Whereabouts: B-Team HQ

Pappy: A half-crazy old coot with a short fuse and a knack for finding, and causing, trouble
  • Lost his left hand in a home improvement accident
  • Excels at creative problem solving
  • Can correctly identify poison ivy seven out of ten times
  • Whereabouts: Flame weeding in the backyard

E-chirou: Number one son, a modern day samurai in a world without honor
  • Follows Budo, the path of war
  • Proficient with the daisho, talwar, and cutlass
  • Master of four styles of Monkey Kung Fu: Drunken, Crafty, Stone, and Dropping
  • Whereabouts: Unknown

Major G: Number two son, the greatest North American civilian test pilot in history
  • Weapon of choice is the PP-40W Phased Plasma Assault Cannon
  • Astounding reflexes and manual dexterity
  • Holds advanced degrees in Esperanto and tokamak engineering
  • Whereabouts: Undercover as Assistant (to the) Sanitation Engineer on Lunar L5 Colony.
When all your starting players are sidelined, you call in The B-Team.

The previous characters are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


1. The first three members of the Action Family!2 were created at the LEGO Imagination Center at Downtown Disney in Disney World. For ten dollars, you could create three Lego minifigs from a limited assortment of parts, and put them in a clever plastic holder to wear around your neck. The final member, Major G, was added a few months later from unused Lego parts at B-Team headquarters.

2. The name Action Family! is blatantly stolen from the Chris Elliott comedy, "Action Family," made in 1987 for Cinemax.

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not promising news

by John at 7/18/2007 12:59:00 PM

I few days ago, I read an article (pdf, 9.5 Mb) transcribed from a speech by Nate Lewis, a Caltech chemistry professor, in Caltech's quarterly periodical, Engineering and Science. Lewis used to teach freshman chemistry and was always pretty popular because, I guess, he was a funny guy. I never took his class.

Anyway, Lewis gave a talk about the future of energy use in the world, especially concerning ways to stabilize the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. After analysis for population growth, GDP growth, efficiency improvements (which includes conservation, I think), and the carbon-to-energy ratios of fuels used, he calculates that to stabilize atmospheric CO2 to 550 ppmv* (parts per million by volume - for the last 670,000 years, CO2 has been 200-300 ppmv - it is now 380 ppmv) we would have to have online, by 2050, enough carbon-free energy generation capacity to equal the total energy generation capacity we have today. That is, we would need about 10 terawatts of carbon-free power, if we start now. If we don't start for 30 years, we'll need 15-20 terawatts of carbon-free power by 2050.

Here is where it gets "not promising."
  • To get that much carbon-free energy, we would have to build a new 1 gigawatt nuclear reactor every other day for the next 40 years. Because nuclear plants have a 50 year lifespan, we will have to go on building them forever. Also notable: There is not enough uranium fuel to power all those reactors, so we will have to use plutonium, which exacerbates the threat of nuclear weapon proliferation.
  • We don't have time to wait until nuclear fusion is demonstrated (there has been a 35 year horizon for this technology for the last 50 years).
  • Carbon sequestration pumps the CO2 underground where we hope it stays, but, while we may have the capacity to store all the CO2 generated, the technology is not proven, and if it works, if uniformly distributed, the CO2 generated by the United States and pumped underground would raise the elevation of lower 48 states by 5 centimeters.
  • There are about 0.9 terawatts of economically accessible hydroelectric power, but we are already using 0.6 terawatts of it.
  • Geothermal power has about 11 terawatts of power spread out over all the landmass of the globe, but capturing it is far less than 100% efficient.
  • Windpower can generate about 2 to 4 terawatts over the entire surface of the Earth.
  • Biomass could make available 20 terawatts of power (if growing and harvesting do not require energy) at a cost of 31% of the total land area of the planet. This isn't in the article, but, for example, using corn to produce ethanol to burn as fuel may actually be energy negative - that is, it takes more energy to make ethanol through fertilizing, harvesting, and manufacturing than you get out of it when it is burned.
  • Solar energy is just about ubiquitous, and plentiful. It would take only six 400km x 400km arrays of modern photovoltaic cells to generate all the power we consume today. That doesn't sound too bad, but my back-of-the-envelope calculation says that one of those 400km x 400km plots is equivalent to about 500 million home roofs. Plus, solar is now 5 to 10 times more expensive than fossil fuels, and you have to be able to store the power generated to use it when it is dark out - one option here is electrolysis of water to form H2, which can be oxidized to form water and generate electricity in fuel cells.
So the viable options are: 1) 10,000 new nuclear power plants, 2) keep on burning fossil fuels but sequester the carbon dioxide, or 3) find a way to make cheap solar power, solve the hydrogen storage and transportation problem, and make fuel cells that work.

And we have to start tomorrow.


* From the article: "Although major uncertainties remain, most climate-change researchers set 550 ppmv as the upper limit of what would lead to about a two degree Centigrade mean global temperature rise. This is projected to have significant, but possibly not catastrophic, impacts on the earth’s climate. For example, the coral reefs would probably all die. But we, as humans, would probably be able to adapt, at some level, to such a change. On the other hand, most people in the modeling effort feel that 750 ppmv or higher would be quite serious."



guess who's having a birthday today?

by John at 7/17/2007 09:34:00 PM

The big two week one - Happy B-day, Graham!

(click and browse to next for a few more)

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promising news

by John at 7/12/2007 01:25:00 PM

Organic farming could feed the world

A switch to organic farming would not reduce the world's food supply and could also increase food security in developing countries, say the authors of a new study.


Ivette Perfecto of the University of Michigan in the US and her colleagues found that, in developed countries, organic systems on average produce 92% of the yield produced by conventional agriculture. In developing countries, however, organic systems produce 80% more than conventional farms.

Perfecto points out that the materials needed for organic farming are more accessible to farmers in poor countries.

Those poor farmers may buy the same seeds as conventional farms use in rich countries, but they cannot afford the fertilisers and pesticides needed for intensive agriculture. However, "organic fertiliser doesn't cost much – they can produce it on their own farms", says Perfecto.

Using data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the team then estimated what would happen if farms worldwide were to switch to organic methods today.

The world currently produces the equivalent of 2786 calories per person per day. The researchers found that under an organic-only regime, farms could produce between 2641 and 4381 calories per person per day.

But how are we ever going to find enough ex-hippies to run all the farms?



a big hello

by John at 7/03/2007 11:41:00 PM

Say hello to our newest family member, Graham Ming-Seng. He was born 7:57 pm on July 3, and weighs 7 lb 10 oz and is 20 in long.

Update: New photos are pouring in! Check them out. There are also some new ones of Elias, just to prove we haven't forgotten about him. We haven't forgotten you, big boy - how could we forget when you are climbing all over us all day?

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