Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Damn Esquire Fact Checkers

El Guapo, I thought you said the fact checkers called you. So when Esquire prominantly features you, as well it should, in the February 2004 issue, why does it say you're from Mizzou?

For crying out loud, brother, you may live in St. Louis, but you're from somewhere else entirely and you have no relationship with the University of Missouri, commonly referred to those of us here in the Midwest as Mizzou. I guess to the coastal types, Mizzou, Missouri, Nebraska, all the same. Midwest. Nobody in the Midwest reads Esquire since they have Grit.

Friday, January 16, 2004
Steinberg on Mars

Neil Steinberg, of the Chicago Sun-Times, on Mars:
    Myself, I'd ask, "How come nobody applies the same logic to Kennedy? Nobody says, 'Oh sure, Kennedy committed us to go to the moon and then he up and died and left the hard work to others.'''
He also manages to spank NPR, too. Read it. You will like it.

Thursday, January 15, 2004
A Turning Point

Spoons links to this column by Radley "The Agitator" Balko. It's about the deficit and the mighty vote-pandering going on, wherein our current politicians pass out entitlements like Tic Tacs to woo aging voters. As a member of the Libertarian wing of the Republican party, or perhaps the sane fringe of the Libertarian Party, I agreed with the sentiment until I hit this point, buried in the lead of Balko's column:
    A few of us had our taxes cut, but that hardly matters when government keeps spending the way it is. Sooner or later, the waiter will come by with the check, and it?s those of us under 30 who will be reaching for our wallets.
Under 30? You mean, I, being of the distinguished and learned age of 31 and 10.75/12, won't be on the hook?

Heck's pecs, politicos, pander to me, too. I want guaranteed Federally-subsidized Guinness, and a pizza a week, and could do with a couple of new t-shirts. What, do you want the poor elderly IT professionals to freeze? You heartless kids are ungrateful for all that Generation X has given you.

Don't trust anyone over 30.

The Truth--Revealed!

Pejman Yousefzadeh is a damn kid!

According to the mathematicians I consulted (as people with English and Philosophy degrees cannot be troubled with mere counting), he says Moxie is 32, and Pejman will be reaching that hallowed age in five months. Since I'm reaching it in a month and a handful of sand grains, that means I'm older than he is.

So now matter how much smarter than I am he sounds, he should respect his elders. Damn kids and their online "diaries."

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Shine Up The Land Seizure Jackboots

I saw this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was smitten with the title. New Urbanism! In St. Louis!

Except it's in St. Louis County, which doesn't have much of the old urbanism really. And then I realized the location in mind: Hanley Industrial Court. I work on the edges of Hanley Industrial Court. New Urbanist, this area ain't.

Across Hanley, Richmond Heights just eminent domained a pile of houses to build a Walmartplex, and the area features three drive-to shopping complexes (four, if you count the new Meridian). Acres of parking lots is not New Urbanism. And wait a minute... in Hanley Industrial Court, there

Wait a minute:
    There, the $48 million, 8-acre Hanley Station is being planned by MLP Investments, a Frontenac-based developer. MLP envisions a neighborhood where condo dwellers walk to upscale restaurants and stores, and eventually, take the MetroLink to the St. Louis Galleria or Forest Park. A proposed light-rail station would be integrated into the town center-style community.
It will come to pass, I bet, when Brentwood seizes condemns through eminent domain the majority of the industrial court. It's blighted, don't you know.

And if it's not now, it will be. I've walked through the industrial court and have seen buildings for sale or rent back there. Now that the developments are being planned, who's going to waste money buying a building that's going to be seized? Who's going to take out a lease, not knowing when it will be ab-ended by the municipality? Suddenly, those vacancies, which would have been filled by the business cycle and the marketplace, stand empty. A blight, I tell you!

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a piedmont here, but I know that the Animal Protective Association, where we get all of our quality recycled animals, just renovated, and Centene just did some work to make a mail distribution/child care center in the industrial court. I'd hate for them to lose it. Also, since my employer's currently occupying a building at the edge of one of the megastripmallplexes, I'd hate for them to move anywhere that's not closer to me.

Bear this in mind, you foolish local governments, when you realize all the industrial jobs are disappearing from your area. Why is that?

Because you wanted the sales tax from the discount store/electronic store/strip mall instead!

New Urbanism my johnk.

I Prefer "Laid Back"

Your Character’s Alignment

Based on your answers to the quiz, your character’s most likely alignment is Neutral.


A neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most neutrality is a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil. After all, she would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, she’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. The common phrase for neutral is "true neutral." Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.

It's TSR's Wizards of the Coasts'Online Alignment Test, you geeks.

To be honest, I was hoping for Chaotic Good, but oh, well. I don't care that much one way or the other.

(Link seen on Fark.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Java Developer

Design servlets to deploy every day.
If we hit the Web server, would it play?
XML with an exception,
XML it doesn't know
How to SOAP the right connection.
You wrote that code.
You wrote that code.

Java Java Java Java Java developer
You wrote that code.
You wrote that code.
Testing would be easy if your app worked like a dream,
Type, click and save,
Type, click and save.

Didn't check your method calls every day
And all of them used to work, or so you say.
But your app is like spaghetti,
It's the knots that makes it strong.
Once it's kludged, it's kludged forever,
It breaks anon.
It breaks anon.

The Event OnClick doesn't fire.
Get the gum and the baling wire.
The Event OnClick doesn't fire.
Get the gum and the baling wire.

XML with an exception,
XML it doesn't know
How to SOAP the right connection.
You wrote that code.
You wrote that code.

(Apologies to Culture Club.)

Engineer on the Gravitas Train

Let me be the first to ask:

Don't you feel the Democrat contenders for nomination lack gravitas?

It was so damn important four years ago.

No Probable Cause? No Problem!

The Supreme Court has said that the police can stop your car and give you a flier, and then arrest or ticket you for whatever they uncover:

    llinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the Supreme Court's ruling "will allow law enforcement in Illinois and across the nation to seek voluntary assistance from citizens in their efforts to solve crime."

Roadblock = Voluntary assistance

Once you embrace that, citizen, you will be happy.

The case stemmed from someone who was busted for DUI while stopping for one of these roadblocks for an unrelated crime committed a week earlier:
    The constitutionality of the informational roadblocks was challenged by Robert Lidster, accused of drunken driving at a 1997 checkpoint set up to get tips about an unrelated fatal hit-and-run accident. The roadblock was at the same spot and time of night that the hit-and-run took place about a week earlier.

    Authorities in Lombard, Ill., got no helpful tips that night in the death of a 70-year-old bicyclist, but they arrested Lidster after police said he nearly hit an officer with his minivan.
Law enforcement loves roadblocks. And they're not just for dangerous criminals anymore! They're for illegal immigrants, drunken driving scans, and for passing out literature. Did the roadblock work? No.
    Lidster argued that police could have used other methods to get information about the hit-and-run driver, like billboards or stories in newspapers and on radio and television stations. Television coverage of the roadblock did lead to information that helped solve the case.
So the police handing out literature, nor stopping drivers in the middle of the night to answer a few questions, helped them in the case for which they set up the roadblocks. But those roadblocks did, however, come in handy for at least one unrelated crime. That's the point.

This, like so many other handy law enforcement practices and new laws, is all about bringing you, the potentially guilty citizen, in contact with police where they have a pretense to look for probable cause. Now, police can pull you over for driving without a seatbelt, or if it looks like you don't have a seatbelt on, or for driving in the left lane for longer than they want. And once you're on the side of the road, then the fun begins. Where are you going? What's in the bag? Can we take a look in your trunk?

Gun Bans Aren't Enough

Let's see. New York's banned guns. They've tried to ban toy guns. And it's still not enough to stop criminals:
    Dan Looney, a chief prosecutor with Nassau County, said that each time Trantel pulled off a heist, he handed the tellers a note saying he had a gun.

    "He produced a robbery demand note detailing the threat of using a firearm and thereby placing the tellers in fear of injury from the use of the weapon," Looney said.

    Authorities do not know "whether, in fact, he had a loaded gun," and no weapon was recovered, Looney said. The prosecutor declined to comment on a motive in the case.
Criminals are committing crimes and frightening innocent people with just the word gun. Therefore, in the interest of public safety, we should strike it from our language and make it a felony to use or write the word gun.

Of course, since criminals can convey the meaning with synonyms, such as pistol, rifle, niner, firearm, and so on, so of course, they'll have to go, too.

And since they can, at least some of them can, convey the proper image through metaphors, such as hand-held volcano that erupts leaden lava, we'll have to banish the entire concept of personal projectile weapons. Maybe taking it back to slingshots and atl-atls is a little much, but it's for The Children somehow, so we must!

Report to public reeducation camps immediately.

Public Health Announcement

As someone from searched this blog yesterday for "colleen shannon" (and hit the cache, too), I can only assume that Colleen Shannon, the fiftieth anniversary Playboy playmate, is at the heart of a national health epidemic.

As a public service, I shall issue the first warning:

Colleen Shannon is suspected of causing blindness in young men.

Thank you, that is all.

Sunday, January 11, 2004
This Cannot Stand

So the Recording Industry Association of America is dressing up like law enforcement officials and conducting raids. This, my friends, cannot stand.

    Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black "raid" vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read "RIAA" instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo.

    The Recording Industry Association of America is taking it to the streets.

    . . .

    "They said they were police from the recording industry or something, and next time they’d take me away in handcuffs," he said through an interpreter. Borrayo says he has no way of knowing if the records, with titles like Como Te Extraño Vol. IV — Musica de los 70’s y 80’s, are illegal, but he thought better of arguing the point.

    The RIAA acknowledges it all — except the notion that its staff presents itself as police. Yes, they may all be ex-P.D. Yes, they wear cop-style clothes and carry official-looking IDs. But if they leave people like Borrayo with the impression that they’re actual law enforcement, that’s a mistake.
Oh, ramsexcrement. The RIAA is playing cops, although it's using real ex-cops to do so. Win/win. Ex-cops get to pretend like they still have some sort of power--and don't you believe for a moment they lack an attitude--and the RIAA gets to harrass citizens.

Meanwhile, our country steps slightly toward that dystopian future where corporations have their own cops out there enforcing the laws and shooting them up with bad guys. These guys with RIAA stitched onto their backs aren't ED-209, but if this travesty is left unchecked, soon the Business Software Alliance, the Mystery Writers of America, and every other person whose copyright might be infringed will be fielding their own set of jackbooted thugs to menace and harrass society. So who loses?
  • The citizens, of course, because its our right to be freed from persecution, and let's face it, the RIAA's persecuting and not prosecuting when its minions "raid".

  • True law enforcement loses because the weight of its actions are diluted by the other thugz and playaz conducting their own raids. If a citizen's got a bunch of surly looking men with dark vests bearing an acronym ending in A standing on his property and acting menacing, he's got to wonder if they're surly looking men with dark vests bearing an acronym ending in A who are illegal trespassers whom he can shoot or if they're surly looking men with dark vests bearing an acronym ending in A bearing legal warrants. Does law enforcement win whenever it puts someone who guesses wrong into the ground? Hardly.
It's encouraging to see that the law might not take too lightly anyone antitrusting its monopoly on power:
    But if an anti-piracy team crossed the line between looking like cops and implying or telling vendors that they are cops, the Los Angeles Police Department would take a pretty dim view, said LAPD spokesman Jason Lee.
I hope we see it loudly and soon. The RIAA, with all its subpoenas and lawsuits and whatnot has crossed the final line by adding physical intimidation and blatant deception to its playlist.

(Link seen on /. or Techdirt or both.)

Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Sometimes it strikes me how readable the classics are. I've always found the works of Hemingway exceedingly accessible. Of course, I find the works of William Shakespeare and Ben Johnson accessible, and often funny. Regardless, I've recently been on a Steinbeck kick since I picked up a matching set of some of his books in nice Collier hardback editions (although I must include the obligatory Amazon link to a paperback edition). I've read Cup of Gold and The Winter of Our Discontent and enjoyed both. So when I was looking for a more classical turn from the sci-fi on my shelves, I went back to this collection of Steinbeck novels (for which I paid $1 each at an estate sale--good deal at those estate sales). And I selected Of Mice and Men.

I'd never read it before. I realize many of you read it in high school, but somehow I dodged it in high school and in my numerous college classes. Yeah, I got an English degree, but before you use this single anecdote to thrash English programs and modern education today, remember I chose to read this of my own accord at 31. On the other hand, such enlightenment probably is a statistically insignificant minority of college graduates, so feel free to thrash academia anyway. I do.

So, about the accessibility of this book. It's written in modern English, even modern American, so it requires no footnoting. And unlike modern "classics," old time classics, part of the canon disparaged by peers of mine in English programs who never evolved beyond English majors--that is, they never grew up and got jobs outside of the English department--some of these books dealt with weightier matters than nihilistic couplings of college professors or the emotional melodramas favored by Oprah. No, life and death were on the line.

The edition I have clocks in at 186 pages, but the margins are wider than the term paper from a twelfth-grade wrestling stand-out, so it's a quick read. Not Old Man and the Sea quick, but I went through it in a couple days. Another good selection if you want to impress your book club with your classical educational leanings but don't want to spend a lot of time on it.

Of Mice and Men tells of two traveling farm workers, Lennie and George, who find work at a ranch after getting in some trouble in Weed and leaving in a hurry. They're working to earn enough to buy their own land, but of course they encounter obstacles, or mainly an obstacle, and then there's a surprising ending where George has to defuse a nuclear bomb while Lennie holds off a number of Columbian revolutionaries with a half-full revolver and a bottle of whiskey....

Well, not really. It's not that bang-and-flash, but the book delves into the nature of friendship and man's obligations to right and wrong better than most blockbuster thrillers or buddy cop movies do. Plus, it makes you sound smart to allude to a John Steinbeck novel, which is why I do so frequently. Maybe it won't make you sound smart. Maybe it only makes me sound like I've read only one Steinbeck novel, once, in high school. But I am a slightly better person for it and I'm not angry at the writer for wasting my time. Does that count as a rousing endorsement? You bet.

Fair as Ballast

What liberal media? The Associated Press, as reprinted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch works both pro and anti-war viewpoints into this headline/subheadline combo: I envy the news service's flexibility. Cannot find an anti-war sentiment in a single incident? No problem! Just mash two completely separate instances together so you can create the proper "balanced" story. Yo ga, girl!

Look at All The Pretty Dots!

On the front page of today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, marginalized by the two columns of Rams' agony, we have a hard-hitting story entitled "Pipeline for antibiotics is running dry". Lead:
    Major pharmaceutical companies have abandoned or scaled back research and development of drugs that kill bacteria in favor of anti-viral drugs, such as those to combat HIV, and medicines for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Journalists see a lot of dots in the industry, from the drug reimportation ideas to the lawsuits to force legalized patent infringement for the generic drug producers to the lack of new drugs in development. All are Bad Things for the Proletariat, which undoubtedly the continued Marxist evolution state can better handle, but the journalists don't have the time, foresight, patience, or perhaps open minds to realize that the first two lead to the latter, and to ensure that pharmaceutical companies can occasionally profit from the great financial risks they undertake would ensure a steady stream of new, innovative drugs.

Oops, I said profit with an F instead of a PH, didn't I? Well, that's not to be allowed. Perhaps the State could better run innovation with the same élan demonstrated by the nationalized shipping and passenger transportation companies.

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