Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Book Report: The Long Valley by John Steinbeck (1938)
This book collects a number of John Steinbeck short stories. They're centered around the Salinas Valley in California, and I feel a little more connection with them and the topography that Steinbeck describes since we visited northern California this year. Suddenly, I understand mountains at the edge of the ocean.

Steinbeck's writing is accessible enough for modern readers steeped in commercial fiction (like me) to grasp. James Joyce, Benjy Campson, and all the tangled verbiage artists have done more to drive readers away from any literary fiction than Steinbeck or Hemingway could hope to save.

I find Steinbeck's style a little disengaging, although easy to read, and it can take me a while to get into a rhythm where I appreciate the characters and want to find out what happens next. In Steinbeck's novels, this doesn't pose difficulty other than the initial start-up costs of turning the first few dozen pages by discipline. However, with short stories, you have to start over with a new character or set of characters. So a number of stories just don't work.

However, the last set of stories features the same set of characters, so I was able to plunge, enjoyably, through the last quarter of the book.

So I enjoyed the book, but not unabashedly. But this completes my hardback study of Steinbeck spurred by the purchase of a set of these hardback editions at an estate sale two years ago. Although I still have East of Eden in paperback, I don't know how quickly I will get to it.

US Imperialists Attack Sovereign Comet
Deep Impact Spacecraft Ready for Mission:
    A NASA spacecraft was speedily closing in on its target Friday, a comet scientists hope to smash open this weekend, producing celestial fireworks for the Independence Day weekend.
Finally, we're an interplanetary hegemon! Woo!

Perhaps I'll have to retool the t-shirt:

Visualize World Hegemony

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch demonstrates balance in this article: Reverse mortgages can be a godsend or a curse to the elderly. Unfortunately, the balance is only in the ill-written headline.

It sits atop an otherwise evenhanded explanation of the reverse mortgage, including a number of anecdotes of people whom the instrument has helped, coupled with a financial advisor who explains some of the risks involved.

Where's the curse besides the headline?

City forces out 2 downtown businesses: Action follows high court ruling on eminent domain:
    Last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling approving a Connecticut city's plan to take private land by eminent domain may seem far away.

    But to John Revelli, whose family has operated a tire shop near downtown Oakland for decades, the implications hit home on Friday.

    A team of contractors hired by the city of Oakland packed the contents of his small auto shop in a moving van and evicted Revelli from the property his family has owned since 1949.

    "I have the perfect location; my customers who work downtown can drop off their cars and walk back here," said Revelli, 65, pointing at the nearby high- rises. "The city is taking it all away from me to give someone else. It's not fair."

    The city of Oakland, using eminent domain, seized Revelli Tire and the adjacent property, owner-operated Autohouse, on 20th Street between Telegraph and San Pablo avenues on Friday and evicted the longtime property owners, who have refused to sell to clear the way for a large housing development.
It's not fair, but late trends in our governance indicate that it's more fair for some than others.

Friday, July 01, 2005
Philosophical Question
If you, like, bust a vampire in the mouth and skin your knuckles on its teeth, are you in danger of becoming a vampire?

Please let me know within the next night or so. Thanks.

Update Your Scoreboards
Pit Bulls: 19
Sharks: 6.

The Sharks are really pouring it on and could mount a comeback!

Must We Resort to Name Calling?
Juvenile division missing $13,152.

As reported by the Busybody division, no doubt.

The Obvious Replacement
Who better to replace Sandra Day O'Connor than Daniel Day-Lewis?

It keeps the Day parity on the court, which is vitally important, since the judiciousness and meaningful career are less important to opposition forces than trivia.

Misleading Headline of the Day
Minn. Government Shuts Down; 9,000 Jobless.

Jobless? Hardly. It's not as though the Minnesota government will not come back. It should be Minn. Government Shuts Down; 9,000 On Unscheduled Paid Vacation.

But how would that play out the evolving epic of governments tearing dollars from the hands of the little guy?

The St. Lawrence Seaway Is Ours!
The Canadians can no longer adequately defend it:
    The navy is back down to one working submarine.

    Of the four used subs Canada acquired from Britain for $891 million, Halifax’s HMCS Windsor is the only one that can go to sea. HMCS Victoria has stopped sailing from its British Columbia base and will go into an extended docking work period next month that will last almost two years.

    "We have no choice," said Lieut. Diane Grover of navy public affairs.
We had better strike now. The Canadians will enter the 20th century in a matter of months. Well, 30 or 40:
    The navy expects to see its first sub fully operational and able to fire torpedoes by 2009.
BTW, Happy Canada Day to all of my Canadian readers. Enjoy your first of July celebration while you can, before we subjugate you and force you to celebrate the fourth of July with us.

Think Of It As Air Space Eminent Domain
Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times, supports government reduction of property rights:
    I'm generally a personal liberty, Milton Friedman, let-'em-buy-heroin-if-it-makes-'em-happy kind of guy. Yet I'm also always glad to see cigarette smoking restricted, basically, because it kills some people and annoys the rest (so would legal heroin, but heck, why be consistent? It's summertime).

    We seem to be doing it the right way, too, slowly whittling away the social space allowed to smokers. Smoking has gone from being cool to being an embarrassing personal lapse, somewhere between picking your nose and bedwetting. Soon the guy standing on the corner smoking a cigarette will carry the same cachet as someone standing on the corner sucking wine out of a bottle in a bag.

    I'm not gloating. I'm sad for cigarettes -- a lovely habit, a nice vice. Except for the kill-you part. But it's in society's interest to shuck them as soon as possible. Women used to paint their faces with white lead, but it had bad side effects, like death, so they got out of the practice. Habits change, if we're lucky.
Sorry to join the cacaphony of people who only comment when they disagree with you, Mr. Steinberg, but the slow whittling is not of smokers' rights, but property owners' rights in many cases. Would you applaud it were the governments to start banning pasta in restaurants because of the obesity academic?

They wouldn't do that? Why not? It's a public health issue, and property rights mean nothing any more.

Perhaps we could just think of it as though the local governments were condemning the airspace within private property and offered just compensation in the form of their continued indulgence in the "owner's" "right" to own/operate the property/business.

Update: Apparently, this set off William Squire: Neil Steinberg is a Bigot.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Thursday, June 30, 2005
Crikey, I need to go to bed.

No more posts until tomorrow. You have been warned!

(Man, all the cool blogs go onto hiatus from time to time. I just want to fit in.)

Milwaukee Humor
You know you're from Milwaukee when....

However, note:
  • It's not just a Packers flag. You can stand in most rooms in about 80% of the residences in southeastern Wisconsin and have a Packers logo visible somewhere. The waste basket, a photo/wallhanging, an article of clothing, the fine china....

  • What, no mention of the Witch's House?

  • The Safe House IS better than Disney Land. Don't forget to order a Hail to the Chief for your friends.

  • Please note that spending all day bashing the Cubs is not strictly a Milwaukee, nor a Wisconsin thing, nor are bashing those people from Illinois. Remember, Illinois borders five states.

  • Isn't Brother Ron off the scene? I haven't seen him anywhere on my last few visits ("The Jesus Car" as this unknowledgeable blogthing person calls him).
Just offering you a bit of insight into your noble host, gentle reader.

(Link seen on Triticale.)

Keeping Out the Undesireables -- The Students
The mayor of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is against an expansion of the local University of Wisconsin (Mayor backs UW-Waukesha: Lombardi wants Doyle to veto UWM merger proposal):
    Mayor Carol Lombardi has urged Gov. Jim Doyle to veto a plan for merging two college campuses in the Milwaukee area, saying that the move toward consolidation stems from "more politics than practical study."

    Lombardi also said that making the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha part of UW-Milwaukee would strain her city's police force and other resources if the suburban campus must be expanded.
Gentle reader, what motivation for this position would be the least odious?
  • She doesn't want the urban people who go to UWM to infect Waukesha. Since she brings up the cost of police protection, I think this is probably her motive.

  • She's holding the state up for more money, grants, and so on for her fiefdom to spend.

  • She doesn't think government consolidation and efficiency are worthwhile goals if they cut into her pork.

  • She fears the loss of prestige for Waukesha if there's not a University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Come to think of it, that's all the prestige Waukesha might have. In the right light.

Headline: Nude Masked Man Attacks Hamptons Beach Walker

Well, if he's wearing a mask, he's not exactly nude, is he?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Des Moines Columnist Thinks Media Does Not Focus On Important Things, Like How Bush Sucks
It's the only thing I can get from this piece entitled "Little room for real news" by Rob Borsellino of the Des Moines Register. He intersperses the trivia covered by new media with things the media doesn't cover, like the badness of the current administration:
    I knew the exact time Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, and I could tell you that the runaway bride got a half-million-dollar advance to tell her story.

    But I had lost track of how many U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq.
    I listen to the president making a speech about how much better the world is without Saddam Hussein in power and how much progress we're making in Iraq. That's followed by news stories about a car bomb killing dozens in Baghdad, U.S. recruitment going into the tank, Iran and North Korea getting nuke savvy.

    So I've got to wonder if the commander in chief is dealing with reality.

    I listen to the vice president calling Guantanamo Bay critics a bunch of anti-American crybabies with nothing better to do with their time, and then I hear those left-wing radicals from the Red Cross talking how the U.S. is using tactics "tantamount to torture."

    So how much attention should I pay when the V.P. speaks?
    The Bolton nomination and "the deadlock that has centered on Democratic demands to see draft testimony that Bolton's office prepared on Syria for a House committee hearing two years ago and insistence on seeing 36 names Bolton requested and was allowed to see from blacked-out National Security Agency reports."

    Or news that "Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride, was found to have prior records for shoplifting in two separate cases."
Given the choice between innocuous fluff and the common funeral drumbeating of "serious" journalists, I choose....

Not to watch the news or read the newspaper. Duh.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Post-Kelo Nomenclature Change
Dear world, now that Kelo is settled "law," I move we change the naming from eminent domain to:

Imminent Domain

Because now it's just a matter of time.

Radio KELO
Radley Balko rounds up even more private-to-private transfers after the Kelo decision.

To quote Don Henley, "Gimme What You Got":
    Now it’s take and take and takeover, takeover
    It’s all take and never give
    All these trumped up towers
    They’re just golden showers
    Where are people supposed to live?
Municipalities answer: who cares, as long as they shop here?

Wild Day
A message from the President of Marquette University, anouncing the name-change-back-to-the-name-before-the-name-change:
    I am pleased to announce that our athletics nickname effective July 1st will be the Golden Eagles. This decision was made by you, the Marquette community, through the "MU Voice" voting process. I want to thank all of you who participated in "MU Voice" for taking the time to vote for the nickname that we will use as we enter the Big East Conference on July 1st.
The decision, had it been left to the Marquette Community, would have been Marquette Warriors, but Marquette University is a European democracy. You can choose from amongst the choices your betters put before you, of which the most popular choice will not be allowed.
    The name Golden Eagles has a proud association in Marquette's history since it was our name from 1994 to the present. I am pleased that this tradition will continue in the Big East Conference, one of the most prestigious and competitive conferences in the nation. The Big East is also known for the academic quality of its student-athletes, and our Marquette student-athletes will be no exception. They excel both in the classroom and in athletic competition.
Marquette shows its committment to academic evidence by finding the last ten years indicative of history.
    Ultimately, more than one-third of the Marquette community eligible to vote participated in either phase one or phase two of the voting process, with 35,777 total individuals casting votes. Thank you for your passion and enthusiasm for Marquette University. Your dedication is vital to ensuring our future progress and success.
Clicking a radio button and typing in a secret code number is not dedication. Volunteering, financial support, and whatnot are. I've done one of the above. Guess which, and you wouldn't necessarily thank me.
    Let me also thank Advantage Research, Inc., the independent firm that administered "MU Voice," for creating and executing an honest, fair and scientific process. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Nickname Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from the Marquette community, for ensuring the integrity and transparency of this process.
No, no, thank you, Marquette, for expending a large sum of money on a farce that didn't address anything but an ill-conceived name change on your part. Advantage Research just sucked up some dollars from students and those alumni who are dedicated and passionate, or at least just dedicated, to go back to a slightly less ill-conceived.
    Of course, we know that Marquette is first and foremost an academic institution committed to educating men and women to be a leaven for good in our society. We must not lose sight of this important mission rooted in our 450-year Jesuit tradition. Thank you for your care and concern and for the pride we share in the values of this wonderful university. We Are Marquette!
You are Marquette. Me, I am just a guy who graduated there and managed to find a series of jobs in the private sector.

Another Movie Review, Another Parable About Republicans
Last week, Land of the Dead exemplified something bad about Republicans. Now, Joe Williams explains how War of the Worlds symbolizes 9/11:
    It's a thrilling ride, but even those viewers who aren't troubled that the most expensive film ever made is a parable of American victimhood may grow weary of the family's close-call heroics.
There you have it, you crude reader of this blog. 9/11 is a parable of American victimhood, not a trespass to which America responded. If you're reading this blog, you wouldn't be troubled to equate something with 9/11, although victimhood would be another matter. But you're not a cognac-swilling intellectual paid to write criticism of cinema in a dwindling major paper in a diminishing city in the middle America.

I didn't catch his review, gentle reader, of Herbie Fully Loaded, but I surmise it was a parable of environmentally-conscious and fuel-efficient small cars fighting pluckily against the Republican Big Oil machine.

Former Television Critic Wants To Send Social Security Checks to China
Well, one could assume that when one reads the latest column from Eric Mink, the television critic turned commentary editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Writing a rather standard piece attacking Cheney for Guantanamo Bay, Mink madlibs:
    "They got a brand new facility down at Guantanamo," Cheney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last Thursday. "We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well-treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want."

    I kind of wish the ever-dizzy Blitzer had asked a couple of follow-ups: "Everything they could possibly want, Mr. Vice President? Like a fair and impartial process to see if they even belong there?
I assume that Mink means right to the United States court system (since military tribunals and so on would not be impartial enough). Of course, the people at Gunatanamo Bay are (everybody sing the chorus) illegal combatants, not even covered under the Geneva Conventions, but Mink wants to convey the benefits of U.S. citizenship upon people who dedicated themselves to killing American soldiers and , aside from the concrete practice of shooting American soldiers (not like killing citizens), who dedicated themselves in theory to destroying Christendom or the United States (great Satan and so forth).

No word on whether Mink would convey other benefits of citizenship upon other citizens of the world, such as sending Social Security checks to China (think how it would help prevent parents from killing little girl children who could not take care of them in old age!)

As long as Mink continues to help perpetrate his columnular identity as a stereotypical knee-jerk liberal lover of humanity, but not so much a keen observer of its nature, I will help. I think he would.

Book Report: Modern Manners by P.J. O'Rourke (1989)
Man, I don't know where I got this book, but all evidence seems to indicate that I paid $2.00 for it. Of course, since it's P.J. O'Rourke, of course I would.

The book features trademark O'Rourke humor, but its from his early, Reagan and Bush era stuff, which means it's not as hard-hitting and topical as the work he's created after Clinton became president. Ergo, its subject matter and style more closely tracks the The Bachelor Home Companion (oddly enough, 1997 and not as early as I'd originally thought). The humor is more collegiate, but it has its flashes of O'Rourkean brilliance. But the nugget sized sections really don't give O'Rourke enough room to work up a full head of rhetorical steam.

So it's a good book, but not the best in the O'Rourke obra.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Don't you hate it when, in a crowd of other young suburban professional aesthetes, you say topo gigio instead of pinot grigio?

No wonder the other tiny-glassesed IT professionals and accountant types beat me up in the parking lot outside the Whole Foods.

Getcher Urban Legends Here
Bekijken is an esoteric, underground Dutch martial art practiced by people named Inga and Sven.

Great Moments in Interface Design
Thousands held improperly in crowded jail booking room through scroll bar error:
    Thousands of men and women were improperly detained for more than 30 hours each in a crowded county jail booking room because a sheriff's deputy never moved his computer scroll bar, court records show.

    "I think if -- if I may impose on court and counsel's experience, sometimes when the information presented is wider than the screen, there's a little slide bar at the bottom of the computer," Assistant Corporation Counsel John Schapekahm told Circuit Judge Clare Fiorenza. "He never push the slide bar apparently."

    . . . .

    Information about how long inmates were held in booking was available via computer, Schapekahm said. But that particular piece of information was in the eighth column of a table, and only seven columns showed on the computer that a deputy used to track inmates.
Interface design can impair a person's ability to do the job with which the computer software is supposed to assist the person. Too often we in the computer industry think of the person on the other side of the interface as computer user, which implies a familiarity with computers and a time and attention allotment that isn't always there. Although they use the software, it's often only a small part of an otherwise busy, complicated, and multi-tasked job.

(Link seen on Boots and Sabers.)

Powerlight, Powerbright
Brian's office at night

Brian's office at night

Waking Up To Kelo
Good morning, sunshine. Now that Kelo has established how little justification your local government needs to seize your land, do you know what's afoot?

Radley Balko rounds up gleeful local governments' new projects.

Monday, June 27, 2005
Summer of the ...?
Summer of the Pit Bull continues: Woman recovering from pit bull attack:
    A San Jose woman was recovering from bites to her hands and arms after her 8-month-old pit bull mix attacked her in her home Sunday, police said.

    The 36-year-old woman, who was not identified by police, was cleaning up after the dog got sick in the house in the 0-100 block of George Street when the dog attacked her about 6 p.m., according to San Jose Police spokeswoman Gina Tepoorten.

    "For some reason, the dog ended up turning on her and attacking her," Tepoorten said.
Not to be outdone, we get a sequel to the Summer of the Shark: Shark Attacks 2nd Teen Off Fla. Panhandle:
    A teenage boy was bitten and critically injured Monday in the second shark attack in three days along the Florida Panhandle.
Man, I cannot wait till the hysteredia brings us the climactic conclusion in two years: Shark Vs. Pit Bull: The Reckoning (tagline: "People were only the appetizer").

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

Like MSTK With Muppets
Muppets Statler, Waldorf review movies: Curmudgeonly commentators on

Maybe He Should Have Looked in the Trunk
I should have sympathy for the father of three children who were found dead in a car trunk in New Jersey. However, he and the media are all too happy to blame the police: Dad: 'Maybe they should have looked in the trunk': Father of 1 of 3 boys found dead questions police methods:
    As authorities began investigating why police failed to search a car trunk where three missing boys were found dead, the father of one of the children said Sunday he could not understand how they died so close to home.

    Anibal Cruz, 38, said the family assumed that police looked in the trunk of the car that was parked just steps from where the boys were last seen playing.

    "That was the first place to look," Cruz said. "You can look through the windows and check inside. That is simple. Maybe they should have looked in the trunk."
I want to stay away from personally impugning the parenting skills required in this endeavor, since I wasn't there and I only get the understanding and facts of the situation as provided by the media.

I do wonder why it's necessary to fault the police for the children's deaths. If this explodes into a lawsuit against the police, then I will impugn the parents of the children. But not now, damn it. He lost three children and grieves, lashing out. Hopefully, he'll recognize that the police weren't at fault and to blame them at a time like this disservices them and his children's memory.

The media should take steps to keep him from looking bad, too, during this emotional time and not amplifying his comments into an indictment of sloppy police work.

Book Report: Mobtown by Jack Kelly (2002)
I bought this book for $4.95 on the discount rack at Barnes and Noble while spending the holiday gift cards. Of course, the trip turned from burning off the gift cards to an orgy of book purchasing, so we ended up with more than our $50.

This book represents a retro reprisal of hard-boiled detective novels. The main character, Ike Van Savage is a former soldier, former cop, drinks-too-much, womanized a bit too much, kind of private eye. In Rochester, New York, 1959, Van Savage gets a call from a mysterious hottie who thinks her husband wants to kill her. The husband's the local syndicate kingpin whose two previous wives had accidents. Suddenly, Van Savage finds himself where every hardboiled private detective is: fending off willing chippies and dodging the accidental bullet-cushioning while over his head in crime and plots he can barely fathom.

A good book and a pleasant throwback to a readable genre that failed to teach us the life lessons about how being a man in society means something other than being tough and tenacious. Where it means something more womanly. Which is why some reviewers call the main character "cardboard" -- They're part of the drive that lead to more sensitive, bleeding, crying soft-boiled detective who are more frail than the middle-aged working schlubs who read the books. Once they stopped being comic books with heroes to whom readers could aspire, they stopped being good. But this book bucks the trend, fortunately.

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