Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Steinberg Bites Pit Bull Controversy
Neil Steinberg has the right perspective on the current municipal fad of banning individual breeds of dogs:
    After a safety study found that most railway accidents involve the last car of the train, railroads started getting rid of the caboose.

    An old joke. But a form of illogic still too often used. Eliminate the thing that seems to cause the problem. Consider the severe, burdensome restrictions -- basically a ban -- proposed in the City Council against pit bulls. Pit bulls often maul people because pit bulls are a popular, powerful dog that people train to be aggressive. Should they be banned, certain Chicagoans won't stop wanting mean dogs -- they will only shift to another breed that is also powerful and can be trained the same way. Lose the caboose, and the next car in line becomes the last car on the train. Rottweilers will be next, then bull terriers. Soon only pugs will be legal.
Steinberg is an optimist, of course; given how the mandatory non-smoking section in restaurants went to all restaurants and then all municipalities once the anti-smoking agitators got to legislating, why would anti-dog biting agitators leave pugs to kill and maim one person every millenia?

Book Report: Man Plus by Frederik Pohl (1976)
I bought this book as part of a sack of books for a buck on the last day of a library book fair in some rural southwestern Missouri county earlier this year. It's a Stated First Edition, woo hoo! Unfortunately, it's also a former library book, with all the stamps, scrawlings, and pockets, but a nice acetate cover anyway. Oddly enough, it's a former Granite City library book, which means this book has been to Springfield and back in its limited lifetime.

But I digress. This book describes the progress of the Man Plus program, a program designed to modify a man to survive on the surface of Mars and to get that man to Mars. It's a good old school science fiction piece, set in the near future for the time (the president in the book is the 42nd President, which we all know served in 1993-2001. It features an limited omniscient narrator who uses the third person the identify interested onservers who are not a part of the Man Plus project, but who direct it from behind the scenes. This compelling little mystery kept me turning the pages and offers some foreshadowing that keep the story moving.

Overall, a good book, the kind I ate up in my formative years to make me the lesser geek I am today.

And for those of you keeping score at home, this book marks my 94th read of the year. Unless I start hitting the coloring books, I won't make 100 this year, but my goal was 70, so I did well. Of course, I haven't met any of my other personal goals this year, and I likely won't read this many next year with the impending lifestyle change upcoming, but I'm rather pleased with my bookishness this year.

The Age of Innocence
Remember when security cameras were so novel and interesting that you would stop when you spotted one and smile, wave, or act goofy?

Yeah, me, too. That was a long time ago.

Book Report: Firestarter by Stephen King (1980)
I bought this book a long, long time ago when I was doing the eBay thing. Undoubtedly, I bought it for a buck or less and hoped to turn that into a quick three or four dollars, minus eBay's cut of fifty cents plus twenty percent plus PayPal's quarter plus twenty percent plus whatever shipping cost over what I charged plus the cost of packaging compounded with the cost of gas to the post office and my time in preparing and shipping the item. In retrospect, perhaps my bottom line is better off that I didn't actually sell the book on eBay. Now that I've come to better appreciate Stephen King, my library is certainly better off.

As you probably already know, gentle reader, this book deals with a father and his daughter on the run from a clandestine government organization called the Shop. A participant in a small study while in college, Andy McGee (the father) found that he had special abilities beyond those of normal men. He married another participant, and together they begot the very special titular pyrokinetic daughter Charlene. The clandestine officials kill the mother and pursue the father and daughter so they can study them and perhaps use the child's power on the Russkies. Hell, you know how it works out, sorta; you remember the Drew Barrymore movie, back when it was startling that the little girl from E.T. could be dangerous--back before the little girl who played the little girl from E.T. became actually dangerous.

The book moves along quickly and captures not only early King narrative, but also some of the zeitgeist of the time. Unfortunately, the book's ending also reflects that zeitgeist, without any cathartic retribution or quiet return of the hero to normalcy; no, we get an indication that the child will tell her story to the one periodical that will stick it to the man, a periodical of some influence at the time, perhaps, but not any more. Of course, it wasn't 2005 in 1980, so I couldn't certainly expect Charlie McGee to start a blog, but come on.

John Kerry Wants Iraqi Secret Police
Some people think John Kerry called American soldiers terrorists, but that's a stretch. He did, however, say that Iraqi troops should be terrorizing the Iraqi people. Here's one of the only transcriptions of the comments from last week's Face the Nation that I could find:
    There is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- of -- of -- historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not. Iraqis should be doing that.
Let's replace the relative pronound that with its antecedent, and Kerry says:
    Iraqis should be oing into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- of -- of -- historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not.
Perhaps in Kerry's world, Iraq was better off with Saddam, since under his rule, Iraqis were doing just that.

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Casinoport, Missouri, Municipal Snow Removal Plan Executive Summary
The sun'll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun.

Just thinkin' about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow 'til there's none.

When we're stuck with a day that's gray and snowy, we just stick out our chin and grin and say, "Oh!"

The sun'll come out tomorrow, so ya gotta hang on 'til tomorrow come what may. Tomorrow! Tomorrow! We'll love ya tomorrow. You're always a day away.

Undue Process
So is this Alito guy confirmed yet, or what?

No? How come criminals have the right to a speedy trial, but nominees to the freaking courts don't have the right to a speedy confirmation vote?

(Professor Bainbridge has more on the latest ginned-up controversy from Alito's past.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Message from Interstate 70 Westbound, 5 pm.
You know what really pushes my buttons in traffic? The single thing that turns me from mild-mannered, but mildly-sadistic-QA-person into a seething hulk of inhuman anger?

A bumper sticker that says Stop Road Rage.

I mean, not only does that particular driver think that he's got an inside track into the psychology of the human condition, but also he thinks that you're a weak-minded soul upon whom his Jedi mind trick of a bumper sticker will have some influence after he's cut you off, zip zip, while on the phone so he could move one car ahead in the jam to the exit and prompting your extreme braking with a methamped trucker on the road for 9:58 and wanting to make Forrestel in the next two minutes before his rig shuts off on your tail, the Mack's lights so bright in your rearview mirror that you're tanning, now burning.

No, the Stop Road Rage bumper sticker works reverse psychology and actually boosts road rage. It's only slightly more annoying than the Prevent Child Abuse license plates profferred by the state of Missouri with the colorful handprints-in-green-paint-on-a-white-wall motif that indicates another damn mess made by the kid that you'll have to clean up that deserves a spanking or too, all the while with Missouri not offering an opposing viewpoint with the inspirational message of Corporal Punishment Builds Good Republicans and a colorful belt logo.

But, ah, we're off the brakes and moving now past the friendly Motorist Assist truck behind the Corolla on the jack. Never mind, life is good.

Sunday, December 04, 2005
Steinberg, Condensed
For those of you who don't want to read Neil Steinberg's columns, allow me to summarize today's:
  1. Blackberry users are rude, and the law should outlaw rudeness.

    Of course, Some of us live outside the urban media world and its satellites in Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and California and can't think of a single person who uses Blackberry rudely or otherwise. We can at the issue abstractly and recognize the dangers inherent in the patent process as made concrete through this case and realize that its precedent and example of government intrusion into industry and our lives far exceeds our own pet peeves.

  2. Thrivent for Lutherans is whacky in conception, but cool.

    As I (your host, Brian J.) am married to a card-carrying Lutheran, I hope it's also lucrative.

  3. Illegal immigrants aren't as bad as people who think illegal immigrants are bad.

    To quote the maestro:

      I wrote them back -- every one, until I got tired of it -- asking what other international laws are being broken that they are hot and excited about? Or is it just this one? See, to me, that is where the racism comes in. Nobody in the world writes TOO MANY MANGOS are ENTERING THIS COUNTRY in VIOLATION OF THE FRUIT IMPORT QUOTAS.

    It's not international law. It's United States law, which is more important. Also, we who oppose illegal immigration often think prevention of unchecked border crossing is more important than the legislation slathered on by protectionists who care about limiting the import of Canadian wood or the environmentalists who care to limit the import of shelled pets from Costa Rica. But some of us conservatarians are bothered by the hobgoblins of foolish, consistent prioritization.
If you, gentle reader, will read on, you'll see I've posted thrice this evening; why should I not deserve a column in a daily?

Crikey, how ungrateful can one man be? After all, Steinberg once called the author of MfBJN as a "genuis", or at least might have said something I posted was "genuis" once. Ungrateful, perhaps, but I prefer to consider myself the sole remaining paladin of Bob Greene, whom Steinberg routinely snarks in his columns.

Teach Your Children Well
Boys hurt on bikes sue Wal-Mart, importer: Marin trial to focus on wheel clasp used on millions of cycles:
    He and eight other boys from around the nation are suing retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sold the bikes, and a San Rafael company that imported them from China. A trial in the case begins Monday in a Marin County courtroom, and the youths are expected to testify about smashing their faces into pavement after the front wheels came loose. The lawsuit asserts that the so-called quick-release devices on the front wheels malfunctioned when the bikes hit bumps. The clasps, used on millions of bicycles, are designed to hold the front-wheel axle to the frame and allow the wheel to be easily removed for repairs or transport. The boys and their parents also claim that Wal-Mart conspired with Dynacraft BSC Inc. of San Rafael and Carl Warren & Co., which investigated complaints for the importer, to cover up the defects.
Nine kids fell off of their bikes, and it's the fault of the bikes....although millions have been sold and none have been recalled or otherwise cited officially for safety concerns.

When I was a child, we used to take our old Kent bikes down the side of a freeway embankment past some electrical transmission towers at high rates of speed. I'd like to think it was skill, but it was probably also a large amount of luck that kept me from serious injury. But assuming I had come to harm, in the early 1980s and even though we were poor, we wouldn't have sued for recompense. What a pity, as it offered such lucrative targets:
  • The Federal government, for building overpasses where children had access to the steep embankments.

  • Kent, for making bicycles without frictional inertial dampening systems that limited us to sissy speeds.

  • The power company, for not putting bumpers on the legs of its transmission towers.

  • The City of Milwaukee, for not replacing dirt and grass with a comfortable poly-foam of some sort.
The lead plantiff in this case says he cannot absorb information like he used to. Hell, I don't absorb information like I used to, either. But, on the bright side for this young man, he's certainly absorbing the litigious lotto lessons of his environment well enough.

Donald Trump's Hot Live WebCam
Subservient Donald

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