Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Schooner Envy

As those of you who attend Atari parties know, I have quite a collection of goblets and schooners, the pride of which is a monster which can hold 32 ounces of beer.

But I bow before the royal sceptre schooner of Germany, which can only be wielded by the True Leader of the Germanic Peoples, or some duly elected socialist thereof.

Did Someone Say Bliss?

Michele at A Small Victory has the scoop:

Guinness Ice Cream.

The very thought makes me lusty.

Friday, July 23, 2004
More Florid Whackiness

In another scene out of a Carl Hiaasen novel:
    ERO BEACH, Fla. -- A 16-foot-long Burmese python was captured on a city street after a passing motorist spotted about three feet of it hanging over a curb and called police.

    The brown-and-yellow snake was wrestled into a body bag and taken to the home of Vero Beach Animal Control Officer Bruce Dangerfield.
I want Knopf to publish my novel. They really pull out all the stops for publicity over there.

Book Review: Skinny Sip by Carl Hiaasen (2004)

Clutch your chests and call out to 'Lizabeth, gentle readers, but I bought this book new, in hardcover, and I paid full new bookstore price for it.

Now that you've all choked down some nitro and your condition has stabilized, let me tell you why I did. I read another Hiaasen book earlier this year, and I liked what he did, so I bought another. Worth the price.

Hiaasen is unconstrained by series characters and, quite frankly, the bounds of sensibility when he produces his capers, and this is unexceptional in its exceptionality. A biologist on the take from a local farming operation fakes pollution numbers fears his wife has caught on and will ruin it all. So he pitches her from the deck of the ship upon which they're celebrating, sort of, their second anniversary. Unfortunately, his newly ex-wife was a collegiate swimmer, so she survives the plunge and decides to come back from the grave to make his life problematic.

Chock full of entertaining characters and situations, mostly believable with the right suspension of disbelief (except for one or more moments of "Oh, come on" back story), and a fine addition to my read list, upon which this book is #44 for the year.

I am so smart and literate. Don't you want to be my friend?

Something Out of a Carl Hiaasen Novel

Speaking of Carl Hiassen novels, here's a story you might find in one of his books:
    A man hit his girlfriend with a 3-foot alligator and threw beer bottles at her during an argument in the couple's mobile home, authorities said.

Thursday, July 22, 2004
Stealing Documents In Socks: A Primer

The story continues to unfold about former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stealing classified documents from secure locations. Apparently, Mr. Berger was seen to inadvertently place classified material into his socks to accidentally remove them from the premises. Although it provides an interesting detail to titter about, the documents in socks concept might not be easy for users to visualize.

Our crack staff at MfBJN provides this simple guide into how you, too, can steal documents in your socks. Eyewitnesses here at MfBJN have seen this technique used successfully in the field by adolescents who absconded with enough copies of High Society magazine to make them walk like little tin men, so it's proven effective.

  1. Take your garden variety secret document:

    Step 1: Get a secret document.

  2. Take your garden variety politico leg, clad in nice socks, slacks, and black shoes:

    Step 2: Pick a leg.

  3. Hike up the trousers. Note the extra long sock and no sock suspenders:

    Step 3: Show some leg.

  4. Slide the sock down:

    Step 4: Show a little more leg.

  5. Roll the document around the leg:

    Step 5: Hide some leg.

  6. Pull the sock up:

    Step 6: Secure the secret document with the sock.

  7. Drop trou, so to speak:

    Step 7: Lower the pants leg.

  8. Stand up:

    Step 8: Get a secret document.
Document? What document?

So you can see, there is room for semantic disagreement that some of Sandy's defenders have seized. Is it in his socks? No, no, it's in his trousers!

Of course, this technique rules out any accidency inherent in the action because this is a well-crafted criminal strategy. Berger comes from a long, proud tradition of juveniles who can go into a convenience store with a dollar and come out with 2 bottles of soda, 3 packs of gum, 2 comic books, 1 sports magazine, and change.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Coincidence? I Dare Not Speculate

Two seemingly unrelated events:
  • Less than a week ago, physicist Stephen Hawking maybe things can escape from black holes after all.

  • Today, my Guinness bar towel arrives, over a year after I completed the survey for which I should have gotten it and long after "Guinness Bar Towel" became a Fark punchline:

    The Fabled Guinness Bar Towel
Perhaps I have discovered the inspiration for Hawking's sudden reversal.

Meanwhile, read this satire: Bush Labels Stephen Hawking a Flip-Flopper. The same joke crossed my mind, but I am too late to capitalize on't.

Editors Not Very Tense

Headline on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this afternoon:

Click for large size

Militants threatens to kill 6 hostages. Swell.

Phillipines Needs Strong Allies

Den Beste notes that the Phillipines still claims to be a strong ally of the United States, and that it considers the U.S. to be its big brother in security.

Gee, you think the Phillipines realizes that it cannot buy of China with a couple outlying islands and $6 million dollars?

All Hail Bob's Blog!

Bob Rybarcyzk, the world-reknowned (pending) humor columnist from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has revived his blog: Bob Writes Stuff.

Granted, he could use a Sekimori transfusion, but if you told him that, he'd probably look for it at the corner liquor store.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
I Remain Uninspired

I get this mail from every once and again, and hey, sometimes I read the stories. This Entrepreneur bit, however, leaves me uninspired: New chapter, better verse: After reinventing itself, TWG Consulting writes a richer history:
    Marilyn Breitenstein bought her company, TWG Consulting Inc., for $10 in 1992.

    She saw enough value in the former Sprint Corp. technical writing and training development unit to happily buy it with an Alexander Hamilton note. McDermott International had picked up the unit in its acquisition of Sprint's United Information Services. But the Houston-based energy services company had no interest in following through on the unit's contract commitments.

    It was a gamble because Breitenstein was giving up a director-level position at Sprint for the little consulting business. But she wanted a challenge.
So she was a director at Sprint who managed to buy a subsidiary of Sprint for $10? Yeah, that sounds like the rest of us down here scrounging for the next client.

Book Review: What's Going On by Nathan McCall (1997)

I bought this book at Hooked on Books in Springfield, Missouri, for a less than a buck. As it's a frank discussion of race, I have to wonder how this book came to Springfield, Missouri. After reading it, though, I understand why it was $.33. More on that by and by.

I started reading the book with as open of a mind as I can, considering I am the blue-eyed devil (with actual blue eyes, no less). The book cover depicts McCall (I presume) with a hard look on his face. The introduction and first chapters indicate that McCall's taking the angry approach to the discussion, but I didn't write it off as a matter of course. McCall came from a tough background, including some prison time for armed robbery, but I don't discount that out of hand; I'm just a white boy from the city projects myself, and I realize that but for some accidents of fate (not necessarily my whiteness, for I've known enough white people who've done less than admirable and often prosecutable things) I could have charted a different path.

So I gave McCall a fair enough reading throughout the first section, subtitled "Mixed Messages". This section includes chapters "The Revolution Is About Basketball", "Airing Dirty Laundry" (which I read despite an italicized plea for white people to skip it), "Men: We Just Don't Get It", and "Gangstas, Guns, and Shoot-'Em-Ups". Throughout this section, McCall espouses a sort of personal responsibility message, that blacks (abstracted to all people in my hopeful reading) should take personal responsibility and better their situations as best they can, regardless of the circumstances. Of course, I want to learn something from a book that's not necessarily describing my life's experiences, and apply the lessons of others to my worldview. Regardless of the author's intent.

But the first section of the next chapter really set the tone for the remainder of the book. The next section, "American Dream", begins with a chapter entitled "Father of Our Country" which posits that the founding fathers were hypocrites because Washington fathered children with one or more slaves who cannot now join the clubs formented around his progeny or something like that. I can't argue one way or another whether these people have a case or not or whether it's true; however, McCall doesn't present a compelling case, either. His arguments come down to two:
  • The alleged descendents have an oral history that says it's true.

  • All slave owners boinked their slaves, often without consent of the boinked.
Oral history? The Greeks had a oral history that actual dieties intervened in their wars. The Anglo-Saxons had an oral history that indicated that Beowulf slew a monster and its mother, the latter in its lair in the bottom of a lake. Oral histories prove only that people have been saying things. As for every single slaveowners boinking their slaves, undoubtedly for free extra slaves, all is an awful big number, and it's refuted by one did not. Although I don't have a single instance to refute the point, I can more easily accept one did not than all did. But this chapter's only Fonzie revving the motorcycle before he goes over the tank.

The next chapter, "Old Town: The Negro Problem Revisited", examines the gentrification of a black neighborhood in Virginia. Apparently, Old Town lies on a waterway, which is always a target for revitalization, from the Landing in St. Louis to the Riverwalk in Milwaukee. When McCall talks about the iniquities of eminent domain, I am with him. Frequent readers know how I feel about that. But McCall also charges some racial superiority issues when whites knock on homeowners' doors and make offers for the homes. McCall thinks this is whitey talking down to the "poor" black folk; I see it as people making offers in the market, where both are free to choose what offers to make or accept. But I'm not as tribalist as McCall, who's all about defending black ownership in a downtrodden area, even if that means the area has to remain downtrodden. I like revitalization, and I don't mind it if it's done without the power of the government.

This chapter, though, contained the passage that turned me from an "Oh, Please," reader to a "Fuck You" reader:
    I am reminded of an incident that happened several years ago at a Shoney's restaurant in North Carolina. While heading to the salade bar, I heard a commotion. When I moved closer, I saw a thirtyish black man yelling at a scruffy white guy. It seems that the white man had shoved an elderly black man, who was standing in lin in front of him. The younger black, seeing the insult, intervened in his elder's behalf. I got there just in time to hear the redneck angrily justify his rudeness. "He was in my way!" he snarled, pointing at the old man.

    The white man's audacity infuriated the brother. Stepping closer, he shouted, "He was in your way? Your way? Motherfucka, you ain't
    got no way!"

    The old man seemed embarrassed by it all. He stood quietly, watching the tension between the two young hotheads escalate. At some point, the brother stepped even closer to the white man--he got to within an inch of his noes, daring him to make a move. And as he did that, I instinctively slipped behind the redneck, readying my plate, which I fully intended to crash upside his head.
    [Emphasis mine.]

    I didn't know the old black man any more than I knew the brother defending him--we were all strangers. But I was fairly certain we shared some common experiences: If they live long enough, most blacks experience being deemed a problem because some white person or persons decide that we're in their way.

    That realization was enough to make that brother and me want to take out the wrath of slavery on that redneck--not only for hassling the elderly black but for all the Old Towns, where black life is disrupted or vanquished to accommodate white folks' fancies, for all the times white America has said to blacks,
    Step aside. You're in my way.
This is a Washington Post reporter explaining, even justifying racial violence. He was going to sucker this "redneck" to avenge slavery. He didn't see how the incident started, but he's ready to bust whitey over the head.

Never mind what else I have to say about this book. I finished it, but with less credulity than before. I cannot speak for all black experience, but neither can McCall. Our country is too large and the experiences of its people too diverse to base any all on something as simple as skin color. But McCall's obviously got some issues. He throws out racial epithets like cracker and regional epithets like redneck to bolster his points, or to keep his voice and speech "real."

I'm probably harsher on the book because when the book started, I thought the author and I shared different life experiences, we shared similar beliefs in personal responsibility. The reality of the author's viewpoint crashed on me like Shoney's china, though, and I realized that the author thinks I am to blame for the ills which befall his perceptions of the world. Defensive? You bet I am, but he was offensive first.

Tin Foil Hat Set to Roast

From a Reuter's profile of Teresa Heinz Kerry:
    She is wealthy from her marriage to Heinz, the heir to the Pittsburgh ketchup empire who died in a plane crash and who, she said, was "kind enough to even introduce me to John (Kerry) the day before he was killed." [Emphasis mine]
That's an interesting turn of phrase to describe a plane crash, ainna?

(Link seen on Best of the Web Today.)

Arab Street Rises Up

Roger L. Simon has a photo that warms the heart: a female Iraqi soldier on patrol in Iraq.

Now that's the street rising up.

More photos on Centcom's Web site.

Arm the women. That will change the Middle East, you bet.

Monday, July 19, 2004
Discriminating Taste Part II

Would you choose a wine because it was named after a sainted philosopher?

Aquinas wine
Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas

My beautiful wife points out that I don't even like Cabernet Sauvignon. But honey, I went to Marquette University, a known Thomist redoubt until well into the second half of the twentieth century.

(More Discriminating Taste here.)

A Blue Book Value By Any Other Name

From today's junk mail:
    This is the most aggressive Incentive Program to hit the St. Louis Market and it's only available to 1997-2002 Model Year vehicle owners in your area. Any customer trading in a 1997-2002 GM vehicle on a like or upgraded 2004 Buick, Pontiac, or GMC will receive 100% of the factory full base model MSRP when new, less a reasonable deduction for mileage and wear!
Perhaps I try to read things too logically, but:
  • Isn't 100% minus something not 100%?

  • Isn't that 100% less mileage and wear typically called "blue book value"?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

On a bottle of Sea Breeze Oily Skin Astringent:
    Deep Cleans Excess Oil Down To The Pores
I am no dermatologist, but I had not realized that one should deep clean the oil on one's face. I was under the mistaken impression that all oil was bad oil, but apparently it's dirty oil that causes acne. Given that, would Sea Breeze go so far as to recommend oil changes for one's face? After, say, three months or thirty scowls and smiles?

Book Review: The Official Nintendo Player's Guide (1987)

I bought this book last week at a yard sale for a quarter as the annual search for old gaming systems and small televisions reaches its crescendo immediately before the Atari Party. I also got a third Sega Genesis almost as cheaply, but that's beside the point.

Back in 1987, the Nintendo Entertainment System was under two years old, and Nintendo was still driving the PR bandwagon pretty hard, so they published this tome. Part strategy guide and part catalog, this book was designed to get you excited about your Nintendo Entertainment System and excited about spending more money on more cartridges.

Still, it offers a quick overview of the cartridges that addicted users to the NES, including Super Mario Brothers, Metroid, Kid Icarus, and There's Something about Zelda. It provides tips, maps, and pointers to help you get hooked, and once you're done with the basic cartidges, surely you're going to want to buy more.

The individual chapters on each game were written by different writers, all Japanese, and all probably marketing flacks. This led to several interesting turns of phrase that are too formally casual to be native and an excess of exclamation points, as well as declarations that anything that ran on an NES was a "realistic simulation" of anything other than the height of mid-1980s computer game console technology.

Still, it was an interesting flashback and pre-Atari Party 5: The Fellowship of the Joystick preparation. The book was also unintentionally a read-n-sniff experience; the person from whom I bought the book obviously had stored it with a Nintendo or the Sega for some time, for this book carried the scent of obsolete electronics, which was worth the quarter itself for an aging Gen Xer like me.

Add More Cameras

Another law enforcement official proves that technology is only as good as the user:
    A San Francisco police officer faces internal charges that he abandoned his traffic control duties at the airport so he could fiddle with surveillance cameras and ogle women as they walked through the terminal.

    Officer William Rossi, a 25-year veteran assigned to the traffic company at San Francisco International Airport, is accused in departmental charges of using the closed-circuit surveillance system at Terminal One substation three different times Feb. 29 to "focus on women's breasts and buttocks."
Yessir, for every argument that cameras will prevent crime or keep us safer (as opposed to merely documenting our demises for posterity), there's an argument that, given human nature, cameras merely allow security officials to engage their inner Porky's.

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