Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, September 06, 2003
Misplaced Modifier of the Week

In The Skeptic Volume 10, Number 1, Michael Shermer writes in a review of The Origin of Minds: Evolution, Uniqueness, and the New Science of Self:
    Alfred North Whitehead once famously quipped that all Western philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. Although Aristotelians would beg to differ, a similar observation may be made that modern theories of the mind are footnotes to Darwin.
As someone who considers himself vaguely Aristotelian (next person to ask me how I am gets that as a response: "Vaguely Aristotelian. You?"), I have to say I have never considered begging or differing with observations that may be made about Darwin.

Heck, no one's even asked.

On the other hand, I'll lick any self-important Idealist who wants to tell me that I should be ruled by a class of my betters or that I, as a better, should rule everyone else. If you call a size eleven cheap sneaker applied judiciously to the glutes and occasionally the tensor fasciae latae a footnote, then I guess I'll have to agree with the poorly-written statement in the quote.

Nockuonyer Bock

The good news: Samuel Adams Utopia clocks in at 25% alcohol by volume, according to this Sacramento Bee story.
The bad news:It's a swanky limited edition.

The good news: A single bottle could probably do you.
The bad news: It's limited edition, and it costs $100 a bottle.

The bad news: It doesn't taste like beer.
The good news: It works as a contact disinfectant.

(Link seen on Fark.)

My Father Would Have Been Relieved

Hey, Suburban Blight has lead me to another quiz: Flooble Gay Quiz.

My father would have been happy if I could only have shown him the results:
    flooble said that I am
    Not Gay
    (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
    Take the flooble Gay Quiz
You see, when I was in college, I was not very good at catching the women I chased. As a result, I experienced a lot of Romantic sonneteer mooning over the various perfect inattainable women, but very few dates. One Sunday, though, I arranged a date with a young lady (less than perfect, but it was a real date). I usually borrowed my father's car on Sunday nights to go out with some of my buddies, but the Sunday of the date, he found me washing the car, cleaning the windows, and whatnot.

"What, are you going on a date?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said, scrubbing Golden Retriever nose prints from the windshield.

His voice lowered. "With a girl?" he asked.

Thursday, September 04, 2003
Governor Holden Proposes to Eliminate Loopholes For Small-, Medium-Sized Businesses

Missouri Governor B. Holden has called a special session of the legislature to increase state revenue as much as he can without calling for a full statewide vote for approval. By eliminating tax "loopholes," according to this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, B. Holden wants to raise state money to spend on The Children.

Governor B. Holden undoubtedly wishes to reassure the really large companies in Missouri, the Fords, the Boeings, and the Anheuser-Busches, as well as the sports teams, that their loopholes won't be closed. Any time they start scuffing their feet and publicly muse about closing a factory or (heh heh) moving the ball team to East St. Louis, your state government will still be ready to shut off your tax liability entirely, add costly infrastructure to support your plants, or build you a whole freaking stadium.

Just remember not to flaunt it before the rabble populace he continues to flout.

Protecting the Environment Weekly

Hey, look at that! I found my list of chores from last weekend here on my desk, where it had been previously been buried by junk mail and other effluvia cast off because I didn't have the time or inclination to deal with them. So as I was "dealing with them," which means I left them around long enough for the cats to knock over, I rediscovered my list.

And son of a gun, but that's what I was planning to do this weekend. So I am saving trees by recycling these lists, including tasks, week to week.

See, honey, I am doing it for the environment.

Someone Shoot Rupert Murdoch in the Leg!

This madness must end! First, they sued Al Franken for using the phrase "Fair and Balanced." Now Drudge has linked to a story headlined:

Fox attacks girl in her bedroom

Rupert Murdoch must be neutered! Too late? Well, what about hobbled? I read James Fallows' long, and I thought at the time laughable, clawing at the ankles of an entrepreneur.

It wasn't until Murdoch's minions started showing up unnanounced and pulling the pigtails of British schoolgirls that I read the writing on the television!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Hide The Pointy Things!

According to this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Department of Homeland Security (DOHS!) wants to remove the diamond-shaped placards that display on the sides of trucks that carry hazardous, corrosive, or flammable chemicals. You've seen them. They have the esoteric sub-diamonds with numbers that tell you how bad the contents of the truck are when the semi dumps its load on the interstate because the proud mother of a 2001 Girls 7-9 State Champion soccer player swerved into the opposite lane while arguing with her husband on the cell phone whether little Tyler bends it like Beckam or breaks it like Geremi.

You see, those little diamonds tell emergency responders what thickness of rubber to put between themselves and the various oozes and gases when they try to pull Bud, the truck driver, Melissa, the mother, and little Tyler from the green-flaming wreckage. Without those diamonds, the emergency responders either have to resort to taste tests or they have to suit up like they're invading an Iraqi Chocolate Milk Factory that's surrounded by barbed wire. These accidents occur with some frequency, you see, because Melissa never learns to just hang up the phone and drive.

But DOHS! thinks that removing these diamonds is a matter of national security. Because, you see, terrorists could see that information! And they could do things with those trucks!

Because these terrorists are spur-of-the-moment guys who see a truck driving through Nevada and say, hey, let's spill some chlorine!

Without the little diamonds on the side of the truck, the bad men who have been casing the chemical plant for six freaking months will mistake that the tanker truck coming out of the front gates carries nothing but crisp, refreshing (as Mike Shannon alleges) Bud Light, or that the glimmering behemoth bearing the Shell logo carries milk.

Soon, DOHS! will extend the ban to include removing Mr Yuck! from everything under your sink so the Doctor-of-Chemistry-bearing terrorists won't figure out that mixing a lot of bleach and a lot of ammonia is bad, and then DOHS! will want to strip warnings from cigarette packs because those warnings indicate that lit tobacco emits a colorless, odorless gas capable of killing people in enclosed spaces.

Hey, I cannot blame DOHS! for their efforts; I mean, much of my job is looking busy too, and not every bureacrat can just make up columns of numbers in a spreadsheet to stare at and say, "Mmm-hmmm," whenever the boss walks by the cubicle door. So keep up the good work, fellows, and keep hiding the pointy things for national security.

That's It. I'm Messing With Them.

I get the pleas for money from the NRA because, well, I am the NRA, and the ACLU because I subscribe to Harper's (at least, I did until my current subscription runs out).

I got pleas from them both today, and I swear I am going to write out $10 checks to both of them, and then I will put the checks into the wrong envelopes.

Let them figure it out.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Ah! Got the New Packer Pro Shop Catalog

I've received my Packers Pro Shop catalog in the mail today. Now I can get down to some serious home redecorating!

Because I want to be as serious of a fan as my homies in Wisconsin. Where everyone has at least one piece of furniture with the Packers logo on it.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of the women's lingerie that they have advertised in the catalog on the Web site, so I cannot show you the beautiful Green and Gold chemise that my beautiful wife will get for Christmas.

Monday, September 01, 2003
Who's Down With OPP?

You know, the funniest thing in this story about what the Toronto authorities have had to deal with when drivers attempt to "explain" their infractions is that:

The Ontario Provincial Police goes by the abbreviation OPP!

You down with OPP? Yeah, you know me!

Ha hahahahhahasnerk!

Not funny? You're too old! Or too young, you damn kids!

(Link seen on Fark, of course. Who else besides me and Drew are posting on a holiday?)

Book Review: Lullaby by Ed McBain (1989)

As if to rinse my head out of the The McBain Brief, I quickly read Lullaby, the fortieth (!) novel in the 87th Precinct series. Written almost forty years later than some of the short stories in The McBain Brief, Hunter McBain's proficiency has definitely increased.

As usual, the novel follows the squad of the 87th Precinct in The City. Again, McBain introduces several plotlines into the story, which he might or might not connect later. Carella and Meyer catch a squeal for a double murder--a baby and her babysitter--on New Year's Eve, or rather, New Year's Day. Kling prevents a bunch of gangbangers with baseball bats from killing a guy, and the guy's none-to-happy to have been saved.

I love the 87th Precinct series and McBain's depictions of The City. Harsh, brutal, and strangely romantic. Of course, I have a City that I love, and I see our love story in McBain's characterization. This story takes place in a particularly harsh portion of winter, where leaden skies threaten and deliver snow (I miss you, baby).

McBain's writing style is not only poetic in theme, but in style, too. You have to look for it, which you do if you have an English degree, but check out the line breaking for effect:
    Angela Quist was an actress.
    Who lived in a loft.
    But Angela Quist was in reality a waitress who took an acting course once a week on her day off, and her loft was a twenty-by-twenty space sectioned off with plasterboard partitions from a dozen similar small spaces on the floor.
Or this:
    And suddenly there she was. Standing there. Standing in the door to the room, a knife in her hand.
    He had to go for the knife.
Anyone who's had a poetry class knows repetition and its impact. But most poems don't have knives, at least not ones printed in anthologies. At poetry slams, the poems have knives and the poets have knives and everyone applauds politely. But I digress.

Much like McBain does, digressions and streams of consciousness that flow around sandbars but back into the general plot. To great effect.

So it's the fortieth book (and since it's been fourteen years since publication, many more have come since then). Is it a good place to jump in? Well, if you've not dabbled in the 87th Precinct before, perhaps your first should be something earlier (the first three appeared in 1956). McBain's dilated the time a bit, so the same main characters haven't aged that much; elapsed time has been maybe a decade. But some of the returning characters are evolving somewhat, so you'll not know about Bert Kling, who started out a patrolman, and his lifes and loves, or about other characters reminisced. Still, you have to start somewhere, so if you can pick this up in hardback for a buck at a garage sale, do so.

Cascading System Failure

The Riverfront Times has a story this week about a paycheck-to-paycheck guy who got screwed when his last paycheck from a company that closed down got yanked out from under him, after he'd gotten it. Basically, it went like this:
  1. Company's out of money and closing down, but it's got enough in its account to pay employees their last paychecks.

  2. Company authorizes the payroll outsourcing company to issue last paychecks/direct deposits based on the strength of the money in its accounts.

  3. Payroll outsourcer issues checks and direct deposits from its own funds, expecting reimbursement from the company's accounts.

  4. Employee gets money directly deposited into account.

  5. Employee pays bills with money.

  6. Company's creditor seizes company's accounts.

  7. Payroll outsourcer tries to get money from company's account. Surprise! No money there.

  8. Payroll outsourcer contacts employee's bank and asks for the employee's directly-deposited pay back. Of course, payroll outsourcer can't get money from checks it issued, but it will take what it can get. Payroll outsourcers cannot typically get this money back from the people it pays unless they issued two payments or overpaid, but dammit, it's not going to be the one who takes the hit on this deal.

  9. Bank gives money back to payroll outsourcer, even though some bill payments have cleared, and counts this unethical withdrawal as an overdraft against employee.

  10. Other checks from the employee come in and bounce since the money's no longer there. Bank adds overdraft charges and payees add their charges.
------ (Sum)

Employee on the hook.

Keep in mind, dear readers, that paperless direct-deposit schemes and and their hell-spawned counterparts "online banking" and "online bill pay" are not designed for your convenience, they're designed to trim some costs of your banks and your creditors, and unless they offer a benefit beyond saving you some ink from a ten cent Bic and a first class stamp, they're not worth the possibility of a cascading failure.

For rest assured, this entire system is designed to handle a failure of this nature gracefully, as far as the designers of the system are concerned. When it comes to Paul and Mary getting reimbursed for financial shenanigans beyond your control, guess who's paying for it? Why, that's you, Peter. Hand over the money and you won't get prosecuted for passing bad checks.

Of course, as a final bit of fiscal advice, I recommend you take your pay in the form of guns and whiskey like I do. When the whole system collapses, you'll have something to defend yourself with and something to trade for necessities.

Also, I would not recommend cutting me off during my afternoon commute on paydays.

Thank you, that is all.

What Herb I Am

Quizilla says:


What herb are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I think they're doing me too much credit. I think I am hops. You are what you drink, wot?

(As seen on my beautiful wife's newly-redesigned blog.)

Battle of the Gritty Authentic Female Musicians

You think Michael Ironside vs Tommy Lee Jones would be a rumble? Well, you're right.

However, I've been thinking about another match-up: The Battle of the Gritty Authentics:

Ani "Folk You" DiFranco
Pi "I Go By One Name I Got No Place for a Nickname" nk

Both of them do in-your-face, unapologetic songs that describe the modern female condition. While Pink's undoubtedly got a size advantage over the Pierced Pixie and has had radio-played hit songs, Ani DiFranco built her own record label with her bare hands, enduring the heat and the thousand tiny cuts and callouses that the endeavor inflicted, and no one would ever compare Ani to damn Britney Spears--Ani would garrote the offender with a spare guitar string on the spot.

Advantage: DiFranco!


Headline makes it sound like I've lost my job. Not yet.

Kelly has, however, included me in the latest Cul-De-Sac blog round-up at Suburban Blight. She's got me listed for my review of The McBain Brief.

Maybe it's good that I'm not mentioning that some of the books I review are twenty or more years old. Makes my site appear more current and relevant than it is, and hides that I don't necessarily share a fetish for contemporary and important books that some bloggers have.

Sunday, August 31, 2003
Someone Pass This Message on To Rob Thomas

So I was listening to some Ani DiFranco during a long vehicle voyage this month, when I struck it. No, not a motorcycle, since I was heading out of Milwaukee and every Harley-Davidson in the country was on the other side of the highway. I struck upon why I can listen to Ani when she covers some of the same themes I have maligned Matchbox Twenty for covering over and over.

For example, the failed relationship between a person and a woman. Ani DiFranco covers this ground in her song "Marrow" while Matchbox Twenty did it in their hit "If You're Gone". Both songs depict the member of the opposite sex in a less than flattering light, but not with the same skill:

Ani DiFranco
Rob Thomas
cuz i got tossed out the window of love's el camino
and i shattered into a shower of sparks on the curb.
you were smoking me weren't you
between your yellow fingers,
you just inhaled and exhaled without saying a word.
I think you're so mean

So Ani's got a little more lyrical depth. Matchbox Twenty's collective emotions run from A (self-pitying emotions when dumped, a la "Rest Stop" or "If You're Gone") to B (self-pitying emotions when you don't belong, such as "Bent","Crutch" "Disease" or "Unwell").

Ani DiFranco can capture the ins, from "Shameless" to "Hell Yeah" to "Shy", and the outs, such as or "Out of Range". No one's better at capturing the worst, most poignant song, the love song about a couple who almost made it, such as "School Night" or "Both Hands", or the songs about love yet to be resolved ("The Diner"). I won't even begin troubling you with her political or girl power lyrics.

How about the music pacing and variation? Oh, yeah.

Face it, Matchbox Twenty, or matchbox twenty, or m20 or whatever the hell they're going to be for their next album, has two speeds: Slow Moody Grunge Lite, like "If You're Gone", and Regular Moody Grunge Lite, which is everything else that moves a half speed faster.

Ani, on the other hand, varies tempos and even styles. From I-Wish-I-Were-At-A-Slam "Coming Up" spoken word to "Little Plastic Castle" I-Am-A-Folk-Song-Ha!-Tricked-You-I-Am-Ska, Ani varies the rythym and tempo as well as the theme.

Ani DiFranco's a grown up, and a person who's, for lack of a better term, thirtysomething can listen to Ani. Her many albums provide enough variation that an aging Gen Xer can wallow in self-evaluation with her, without riding the path enough to rut it. Ani's music grows with us, and we with it.

If someone reading this feels like it, pass the memo to Robbie and crew. I don't think he'd listen to me if I told him.

Also, please, no one mention to the Republican National Committee that I even know who Ani DiFranco is. I so treasure those personal mass mailings from Dick Cheney.

Book Review: The McBain Brief by Ed McBain

To begin with, I want to admit that I love Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels. McBain's mastered the novel form and can inject his lyrical descriptions of the City, he can explore characters at length (both in one novel and in the series), and can add secondary characters with a few deft brush strokes. He's the master of the quick read, and contrary to what English Teachers everywhere might think, it's not that smutty.

However, the short story collection The McBain Brief is not an Ed McBain book. As "Ed McBain" says in the introduction, most of these stories were published under Evan Hunter or his other pseudonyms originally. This means, of course, that the stories will lack the Ed McBain voice, although many of the characteristics are there: The recreated documents, the cops with Italian names, the city (although in the stories, it's really New York, not New York rotated 90 degrees).

But the flavor of the stories isn't McBain. Some of them date from the 1950s, when Evan Hunter was first starting his Ed McBain line of books, so the writing and plotting are rudimentary. I wrote stories like some of these back in high school, when I was reading Ed McBain and trying to imitate the police procedural, or at least the police detective, style (and may the Roger Williams/John Regen stories remain buried until my heirs want to exhume them to squeeze an extra book, The Early Noggle, out of my desiccated corpse).

This book's got:
  • "Chalk", the study of a sudden murder perpetrated by a madman, told in a psychotic flashback. These days, this goes straight to video.
  • "Eye Witness", a short piece that's obvious from the minute it starts.
  • "A Very Merry Christmas", a brutal, senseless piece about a brutal, senseless murder. Perhaps it's the point, but the tedium's not the message, marshal.
  • "The Confession", another obvious bit that mirrors something I wrote twice in high school. I wrote "Vigilante" in English for fun and in Spanish because I needed something to kill (hem) four pages for composition.
However, nestled among the lesser filler material, the book's got a couple radio-worthy hits:
  • "First Offense", the first story, is a passable study of what they used to call "JD" and what we now would call a super-predator. Nowadays, too, the body count's higher in the newspapers.
  • "Hot Cars", which struck me as slightly O. Henry-esque, but not quite. A light-hearted little raw deal story for a con man. Maybe not O. Henry. Maybe I am thinking E. Leonard. One of those dudes whose last name is a first name.
  • "Hot", an absolutely Hemingwayesque depiction of life aboard a Navy vessel in Cuba (Gitmo, donchaknow) under a brutal, and quite killable, commanding officer.
So if you're a McBain or Evan Hunter fan, you might want to pick it up to see how his early writing developed. It's not a long-term committment; I read it in a couple of hours.

You might want to pick it up out of curiosity for what passed for gritty cop fiction fifty years ago. Criminey, I even read a bunch of Elizabeth Linington for amusement, so Evan knows I am a sucker for them. A story about a mother who killed her baby? Buddy, in the twenty-first century, evil mothers do them five at once. A kid shoots his sibling? Yeah, so? Someone's into pornos? Man, I get worse than what McBain characterizes in "Still Life" in my Hotmail account every day, and that's just from my blog fans (Tom Jones gets underwear thrown at him, I get pix of the hot sexy married virgin sorority girls of the world who like to cheat). The crimes depicted in this collection are becoming more quaint every year.

When is a Cliché Not a Cliché?

Obviously, when a 733t Skillz H34dl1ne Wr1t3r smears the pallete and mixes up some new metaphors, like in this St. Louis Post-Dispatch header: You see, you used to erase slates with an eraser or a cloth when you wanted to change information on them. But this headline writer updated the metaphor by including the shaking erasure style used by this new laptop called an Etch-A-Sketch. Apparently, this new gizmo has an LCD screen or something you can manually clear by, get this, shaking it!

By including it in the headline, this master craftsman ensure that today's kids "dig it."

NYTimes.Com, a Plucky Dot-Com Startup, Apparently Thriving, Too

CNN's got a story talking about how The Onion is continuing to thrive. No, check that, it's that's the real story, even though:
    Today newspaper ads from its five regional editions still account for 50 percent of the company's revenue, compared with about 30 percent from Web advertising. (The rest comes from book proceeds, a few thousand subscribers to the paper, and other businesses.)
Huh! So it's that's turning a profit, wot? Somebody with the national press, banging out this story instead of Shakespeare in a room full of colleagues, probably hasn't seen the ubitquous paper in its stands in Wisconsin, where it's full of local ads for bands and music venues. Instead, it's the big time now that it's on the Internet and important people like him or her can see it.

Sure, I am a little cheesed off, but those sellouts moved out of Wisconsin. Dang them all to New York!

(Link seen on The Volokh Conspiracy.)

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