Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Outlaw Chewing And Save Lives!

In his latest Fox column "Junk Science," Steven Milloy recounts the "science" (snicker) of Mad Cow Disease and its entertaining media hysteria, such that:
    Front-page coverage in the New York Times, for example, reported that eating meat from diseased cattle has allegedly caused more than 100 human deaths in Europe since 1994 and “raised questions about the health benefits of eating beef for many consumers around the world.”
More than 100? A number of "More than 100" in a hysterifluff piece means like 103. Mad Cow disease has killed that many people in ten years? Is that all? Well, at least we're asserting our species dominance and slaughtering hundreds of cattle for each dead human to teach those cattle about going mad. One of your brains swell, all of your friends get it.

However, according to an old United Kingdom government study (see table B.5), in 1995 alone choking caused 153 deaths in just the UK, which would lead one to postulate merely eating (or putting things in one's mouth) kills 1500% more people each year than Mad Cow Disease. Time for some appropriate hysterifluff.

Outlaw oral ingestion! Mandate intravenous feeding! Shoot the herds of people who chew gum with their mouths open! Although, since that would include me, I am less in favor of the latterest (most latterly?) suggestion.

However, in defense of our media and our own perception of statistics, people think they can win the lottery, too, so of course they imagine that Mad Cow Disease could get them if they bought a hamburger or McDonald's stock. So at least we're consistent in our ignorance of statistics and risk analysis.

Those Who Misquote Bush Misunderstandimate Grammar

Spinsanity discusses how some commentators have mischaracterized President Bush's description of certain elements of Al Qaeda's terrorist network. To be brief, the meme has spread that Bush said Al Qaeda was no longer a threat. He didn't actually say that, but once attackers got a hold of that piece of straw, they thought it was meat. (Both Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan mentioned this Spinsanity piece yesterday.)

The problem, and the potential for the straw man, lies within the "slops" contemporary writers and speakers play with collective-noun-subject/pronoun/verb agreement. In many cases, writers and speakers mangle it, and those who read or listen come to expect it. The full Bush quote to which the commentators refer:
    Al Qaeda [singular] is [singular] on the run. That group [singular] of terrorists who attacked our country is [singular] slowly but surely being decimated. Right now, about half [collective singular or plural, plural in this case] of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are [plural, refers to "half"] either jailed or dead. In either case, they're [plural/plural] not a problem anymore.
So the text indicates that the pronoun "they" does indeed refer to the half of the top operatives who are jailed or dead, which is the nearest antecedent. Al Qaeda, an individual entity, should be referred to with the pronoun "it." That group, another singular antecedent that refers to Al Qaeda, is also singular.

Of course, "half" as a noun falls into the collective noun category where it can refer to either a plural (for a number of entities, like Maureen Dowd has lost half her marbles and cannot find them) or a singular (for a quantity not enumerated, like Maureen Dowd has lost half of her mind and cannot find it). Although Strunk and White advise you to play colloquially with such collective nouns, no where would they tell Bush to mix agreement (Al Qaeda is...they're) in the same paragraph.

So Bush's text means what he (or his writers) meant for it to say. Anyone who argues differently is deconstructing. Which will help you graduate from some of the country's finest higher education institutions with a frameable piece of paper that says English upon it, but it won't necessarily help you communicate more effectively.

(P.S. I'll save the extended rant of each word and grammar rule having an individual purpose in oral or written communication and how violating these rules can lead to listen-time or read-time exceptions like the one demonstrated, and exploited by grammatical commentatorial H4X0Rz, above.)

Friday, May 23, 2003
More Google Fun!

My large vocabulary and archaic constructions strike again! In addition to being the only Google hit for "Brian J. Noggle Is a Cheesehead" (proof), I am now the #1 Google search (of 2, oddly enough) for "To whit" syntax safire (proof).

SARS Could Be From Alternate Earth in Different Dimension, Some Tech Writers Say

CNN is headlining a story with Did SARS come from the stars? Delve into the story, and you find:
    "I think it is a possibility that SARS came from space. It is a very strong possibility," Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe told Reuters. The director of the Cardiff Center for Astrobiology in Wales and a proponent of the theory that life on Earth originated from space, admits the theory defies conventional wisdom.
Of course, it's a theory that defies conventional wisdom and only by defying conventional wisdom, i.e., by being completely whacko, does Wickramashinge get its (is Chandra a he or a she or of a nongendered extraterrestrial species?) name in the world press, in a story where it's quoted before scientists who practice science and accurately call the theory nuts.

However, in my own interests of hounding the media into publishing my name, Brian J. Noggle (don't forget the J. as it's extremely important to my own pretensiousness), I wish to offer the following unsubstantiated theory:
    SARS comes from an alternate Earth in a different quantum universe and is a result of biological warfare between the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s, just like in The Omega Man, except in this real alternate dimension, unlike its fictional counterpart where the epidemic turns the infected into pasty shambling zombies whose only goal is to infect the uninfected, the real SARS from the real alternate Earth actually kills a small number of people, which I understand is a goal of bioweapons researchers. (Run-on sentences are easy indicators of Grade A Government Choice Cockamamie.)

    So when the Chinese (those ChiComs!), in their pursuit of extradimensional weapons (or their space program) accidentally opened a rift between our planet and the Alternate Earth, they let in SARS and probably sent a couple of bootlegged copies of the Matrix Reloaded where DVD-playerless SARS-infected zombies can only sharpen the edges to use as weapons.
Of course, it fits all the fact as we know them now, and its mere outlandishness should serve as evidence of its truth.

Brian J. Noggle,
Resident Expert in Foosball Slop Shots,
International Society For Finding Alternate Earths That Resemble Charlton Heston Post-Apocalypse Movies.

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Billy Bob Teeth Mess Straightened Out

Looks like Billy-Bob teeth sales were actually hurt by a copycat novelty teeth maker, so the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decreed. Thank heavens that got straightened out. Perhaps it will stop there and not have to go to the United States Supreme Court.

In our Fun Facts corner, Billy-Bob Teeth, Inc., had sales of novelty teeth of five million dollars last year. Call the investment bankers! We need an sophomorically exuberant Novelty Item stock market bubble to re-energize the markets, and we need it stat.

Schumer Wants an International Treaty On Spam?

The Washingtion Post mentions in passing in a story about a spammer that Senator Charles Schumer of New York wants an international treaty for the non-proliferation of spam.

Protected by International Treaty? What's next, an Axis of Spammers? Trade wars or military intervention to depose those who would forge headers?

For the love of pete, it's just junk mail you can delete from your inbox and filter, fairly effectively, from your server. It's annoying, but the pushes to make it illegal and criminal are a little much for my taste, but I rankle against legislation and regulation more than I rankle at being annoyed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Another Home Schooler Triumphs!

A home schooled child has won the National Geographic Bee this year. And it's not as though he's been in training for the geographic bee: he's also on his state science bowl team.

Regardless of these accomplishments, he probably doesn't feel good about himself since his home schoolers, who love him and don't just look at him as a little monster to suffer for a year, lack diversity and sensitivity training to provide programs to love himself and his fellow little monsters. Of course, his educators aren't paying the administrative vigorish that cripples school district budgets, either.

So this homeschooling win must be a fluke.

Mean Machines, Part II

Nestled among the column in Forbes that examines how small cars have fared in the United States throughout history lies the trivium that Sears once produced a compact car, way back in the 1950s.

Of course, I am not going to tell you its name here; I'll save that for a random conversation about Sears or small cars, wherein I can interject, "You know, Sears once sold its own car. The Sears ....."

Mean Machines, Part I

Maxim, a magazine whose print edition I occasionally read for its informative articles (particularly its investigative photo-essays of women of achievement in the film and print industry), this month featured a number of extremely high-performance cars in its column The Ride (link is to pictures and multimedia, some by subscription, which augments the print piece).

Expert advice provided by Lamborghini technical advisor on how to properly use the Lamborghini Murcielago, which sports a 6.2 L, 575 horsepower V-12 engine that can propel the vehicle from zero to sixty in 3.8 seconds (2.7 seconds Canadian):
    "Try to keep the yellow side up."
Words by which to live.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
When Vezina Winners Attack!

So Dominik Hasek, a goalie who bailed out on the NHL after winning the Stanley Cup last year, goes home and gets a little rough in a roller hockey game, sending a player to the hospital. Big hoary deal. Sure, he tried to fight Patrick Roy, but that's goalie-on-goalie action.

Jean Sebastian-Giguere, my new hero until such time as he signs with the Red Wings, went after a Calgary forward. He's got, um, pucks as big as manhole covers, I kid you not.

I guess Giguere's not a Vezina winner, yet, but I kid you not he's got a Conn Smythe trophy coming.

(Hasek link from Fark. All other research from my own memory supplemented by Google.)

(P.S. Sorry, folks, but it was only a matter of time until a hockey post broke through. I am still capturing developers at the coffeepot to tell them how I think the St. Louis Blues are going to do next year and what I think the Collective Bargaining Agreement ending after next year will mean for the NHL, so it's only natural something like it would leak out in the blog.)

Monday, May 19, 2003
I May Be A Tonto Gringo, But....

A couple of outraged students at UCSB are frothing about the use of the Gaucho as a symbol for the school's mascot or some such nonsense. They've written to the school paper to foam on at length about how the school mox Mexican-Americans and their descendents. Oh, yeah, here's the response to those who might think the collegiate children are being foolish:

    Now some of you reading this might be immediately tempted to dismiss our commentary as some "PC" reaction to what you might perceive as a rather harmless appropriation of Mexican culture. [Emphasis mine]
Oh, spare me the pillaging of your heritage. As some tonto gringos know, gauchos roamed las pampas de Argentina, not Mexico. And gaucho is a romanticised profession, not a race or ethnic group.

See also Green Bay Packers, the Ottawa Senators, Seattle Mariners, the Washington Wizards (sorry, I had to stretch for the NBA) or, more appropriately, the Dallas Cowboys.

Still, the incited students have a great idea! Change the mascot!
    We propose the changing of the mascot name from UCSB Gauchos to UCSB Gavachos, a slang term used by Mexicans and Chicanos to refer to white people.
That learned them Fighting Whities guys, wot?

(Original source: Fox News Tongue Tied.)

Another Luddite Heard From

Larry Blasko from AP has got a really nice piece in the Washington Post describing one of the best computer backup media ever: paper.

I have worked on computers too long, both physically (A+ certified, donchaknow?) and on the software side to trust anything to the vagaries of technology. I mean, some of the coolest short stories I ever wrote are safe enough, I think, on 5.25" floppies that fit into a Commodore 1571 disk drive. But that's no good if I cannot get to them.

Until I am struck blind, though, I can read and retype paper copies. In case you're wondering how many copies I have of the most important document I have created in the last year (my novel manuscript John Donnelly's Gold), the answer is ten, and many are stored off site.

Sunday, May 18, 2003
Report from the Burbs

As the beautiful wife and I have begun landscaping our beautiful suburban home in Casinoport, Missouri (an inner ring suburb of St. Charles, Missouri), I needed to replace the repeatedly-run-over hose with something that continued to fit onto spigot. We replaced the old Sentry Hardware $1.99 Long Straw model hose with the $2.99 (inflation) Ace Hardware Long Straw model hose. But when it came to the nozzle, I insisted we purchase an heirloom-quality water flow control device. I warm pleasurably with the thought of my great-grandchildren spraying each other as they wash the aerocar using the nozzle I bought.

The Nozzle

The Nozzle
So of course we chose the Nelson Model 2280 Industrial Metal nozzle. This nozzle includes a long list of features, including:
  • Water pressure rated to 100 psi. Granted, my Long Straw hose cannot handle that, and my spigot would rather sprinkle the basement than spit out anything beyond 1 TPS (Trickle Per Second), but just in case we get a nuclear-powered water pump in the future, we will be ready.
  • Hot water rated to 160°F, which is what the Azalea prefers. Unfortunately, this model cannot handle water that's actually boiling, but when we need to scald the petunias, we can continue to use the tea kettle.
  • Heavy-duty zinc construction. It's not titanium or Kevlar, but when it oxidizes, it will double as a sun block.
  • THERMOGUARD insulated for hot or cold water comfort. You don't want Anything less than THERMOGUARD, like THERMOBARKINGDOG.
  • Reinforced brass stem and nut. Although it sounds slightly dirty, it's not, but merely sounding phallic is feature enough.
  • Crush-resistant glass-filled nylon handle. Because crushable glass-filled Rayon handles are for wussies.
  • Threaded tip for hose accessories. Definitely a plus, since the type of person who buys an industrial water nozzle will be easily influenced to buying additional accessories.
  • Lock-on water clip. I haven't tried it yet, but I assume this means something like a tone like the fighter pilots hear for those exact moments when I have the rose bushes lined up for a primary "soak shot."
All of this for just $11.99, which is much more than I paid for the hose, but worth it. For aside from the features denoted above, the nozzle has the word Industrial right on the handle. Each time I grip it, I will remember I am above the hoi polloi who use lesser water nozzles.
Of course, when we bought it on Saturday, the nozzle became an instant part of our family. Lawrence, as he prefers we call him, instantly bonded not only with me, but also Heather and the cats.

He's moved right in and has adjusted to life outside of the hardware store and outside the blister card with eager anticipation for what each new day brings. Freed from the NASA-style sleeping arrangement hanging from a hook in Ace Hardware, Lawrence prefers a medium-firmness pillow and likes to sleep late on Sundays.

Although he sleeps late, Lawrence is not lazy. He's ready to get to work dispensing water to the parched flora (and occasional fauna if one of those "cute baby rabbits" gets too close to any of our hundreds of dollars on nursery-bought flora). He understands the impact of the rain, which has left him on the bench this week, but he's encouraged when we tell him that July and August are coming, and with them, the annual unprecedented drought.

In our conversations, Lawrence and I have developed a deep respect for one another. Although we don't always agree on the finer details of some issues, such as how long to deploy a spray upon an individual perennial, we agree that water is an absolute necessity for flowers, and that when April showers are a distant memory, it's only our teamwork that will preserve the order we have established with weedblock fabric and mulch. And that's enough to make our relationship start, and undoubtedly it will grow over time.
Lawrence Sleeps In
Lawrence Sleeps In
Lawrence looks out the window wistfully, ready to begin
Lawrence waits for the sun to come out so he can get to work
Some people wondered how a cosmopolitan, artistic, urban soul like me would fit into the rustic, drive-to-the-strip-mall life in Casinoport.

I fit right in, thanks.

Programming Note

We at vow to be the only media source, ever, to not play that stoopid Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow song "Picture." I hear it on alternative stations. I hear it on country stations. I hear it as the bumper on AM news/talk stations.

This blog is your refuge. We will never play the song, but we deserve the right to mock it from time to time.

Thank you, that is almost all:

And yo, is Kid Rock balding, or what? Mullet + Hat = Balding!

Thank you, that is all.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."