Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Just Superstitious Enough
I don't think owning a car branded Kia is good luck. I also wouldn't own a car called Doa. I just think that's asking for an amped up tanker truck driver to try to take the Poplar Street exit at 45 miles per hour some morning, tumbling gently down to a car named deathtrap.

Friday, May 26, 2006
Doomsday Averted, Again
Last of radioactive waste passing through area:
    The last of nearly 4,000 massive containers of radioactive waste are expected to travel through the St. Louis area today on their way to a temporary storage site in West Texas.
Funny, when the authorities first mentioned the plan, it was going to be THE END OF US ALL!!!!!

Better luck next time, environmental doommongers.

If you lie down with dogs, you get peed on by the incontinent dogs.

The Dreaded Tentacles of Convenient Health Care
Judge tosses out zoning that blocked Aurora hospital:
    A Waukesha County judge ruled Thursday that the City of Oconomowoc illegally rezoned land to block construction of a hospital by Aurora Health Care.

    In response to the ruling, Aurora - the largest and, critics contend, most expensive health care system in southeastern Wisconsin - immediately moved to extend its reach into affluent western Waukesha County.
I've written about this before. It's good to see, though, that eventually, occasionally, right-minded citizens cannot EJM (Ends Justify the Means, now a verb of its own coming soon to a blog near you) to thwart the encroaching tentacles of the health care menace. Even if it's from one of those eldritch, foetid for-profit companies.

Cptlism fthagn.

Convenient Technicalities
Ballot proposals rejected by Carnahan:
    The November ballot in Missouri won't be quite as crowded after Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced Thursday that two proposals can't go before voters because of faulty petitions.

    Carnahan tossed out proposed state constitutional amendments to limit the use of eminent domain and to restrict state spending. She cited technical problems with the petitions, each signed by about 200,000 registered voters, and an inaccurate financial summary attached to the eminent domain petitions.
Never fear, gentle reader, the spokespeople are out to assuage your fears:
    Carnahan spokeswoman Stacie Temple said the decision to toss out the petitions was based solely on law, not Carnahan's personal or political views.
How convenient that Carnahan tossed out government-limiting ballot initiatives that would cap state spending and limit eminent domain, but that the following ballot measures--sometimes whose petitions were circulated by the same people as the aforementioned rejected petitions--are still on the ballot: I'm sure that the two conservative ballot items were removed for valid legal reasons. I also think we have too many technicalities and byzantine legalities from which a determined public servant can pick and choose to advance his or her own agendum within the nebulous framework afforded by an inattentive constituency.

Thursday, May 25, 2006
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Red Cross warns blood donors of possible ID thefts in Midwest:
    About 1 million blood donors in the Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross were warned last week that personal information about them could have been stolen earlier this year by a former employee and might have been used in identity thefts.

    The former worker had access to 8,000 blood donors in a database she used in her job, all of whom were notified by mail of possible identity theft problems on March 17, according to the agency. But after the original warning letters went out, the Red Cross decided to expand the identity theft warnings to all 1 million donors in the Missouri-Illinois region because of concerns that she may have accidentally accessed other records in the larger group.
They don't need your Social Security Number to take your blood. But by asking for it and putting it in their computers, they made it available to someone with less than honest intentions who would work for them for minimum wage.

Remember, just say no to SSN, boys and girls.

Rove's Gift To His Beloved Condi
Is there nothing this cabal cannot do?
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took time out from matters of war and peace to catch this week's finale of American Idol. Unlike many adults who claim they watch the show only because their kids commandeer the TV, Condi is an unabashed fan.

    Rice was rooting for fellow Birmingham native Taylor Hicks and will soon send him a congratulatory letter, says a State Department official.
Nothing is too trifling for a conspiracy for these people. Rigging American Idol? Hey, they've got to stay in practice between elections.

Book Report: Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe (1991)
I paid $4.50 for a used copy of this book from Hooked on Books when I went on my books-on-books binge (more details here). Of the other books, this is the one I liked least.

In the introduction, the author mentions that the book stems from a humorous essay. Perhaps the author should have left well enough alone. I bet this was a humorous essay. As a full-length book, though, it's wanting.

The book defines biblioholism too broadly for my test and paints the accumulation of books as trying to just have books or to build a library to look smart. Maybe it's a gag. Maybe it's too close for comfort to me, so I cannot enjoy mirth that ensues as the author lists various and sundry obsessive and compulsive behaviors associated with liking books.

I'm not sorry I read the book, but I am sorry I paid $4.50 for it. Since you don't trust a word I say anyway, feel free to buy the revised edition noted below for almost $6.00.

Books mentioned in this review:

Victory for British Police: One Fewer Armed Klingon
Star Trek blade seized:
    THIS five-foot martial arts sword capable of beheading a man was recovered by shocked cops in a house raid.

    The terrifying Batleth weapon is identical to one wielded by Klingon aliens in the Star Trek sci-fi films.

    Officers seized the three-handled sword — which has huge pointed blades at either end — at a home in Gloucester.
It would be funny if, deep down, I wasn't afraid that these brilliant ideas--seizing all knives and knife turn-in amnesty programs and the eventual outlawing of the fetal position as a defense because it offends those who've had abortions--were impossible here.

Eminent Domain, One Room at a Time
You know that extra room in your house? The city of Chesterfield, Missouri, has taken control of it, or at least who can room in it: Council approves ban on renters in houses:
    Although they added an exception for foreign exchange students, Chesterfield lawmakers approved legislation that prevents homeowners from renting rooms in their houses.

    City officials – and some residents - have insisted the practice can lead to excessive crowding, parking difficulties, more transients, and other neighborhood nuisances.

    Other residents, who spoke to the City Council on May 15, protested that renting rooms can be a valuable aid to young students and elderly homeowners.
Besides, the single occupant isn't high enough density. If you've got a spare room in your house, the city of Chesterfield will put a retail outlet of some sort in it, since that's the best use of your downstairs bedroom from their perspective. And they'll stick you with the bill to make your walk-out basement ADA-compatible.

In a shocking turn of events, the prosecutors are eager to begin:
    Those who violate the law will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or jail time of up to three months.

    Tim Engelmeyer, the city's prosecuting attorney, favored the bill and recently told city officials in an E-mail that the law would "protect the integrity of our neighborhoods."
As a bonus to eroding property rights, it will also generate revenue! What's not to like about it?

Other than the erosion and generation parts to the benefit of a government, I wholeheartedly support bending the dangerous individual to the will of the community.

Dan O'Neill: Disciple of Fark?, Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 5:04 pm: Dan O'Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thursday, May 25, 2006:
    Barbaro is doing surprisingly well after surgery. Apparently doctors reached this conclusion after asking the injured thoroughbred if he was in any pain. Reportedly, Barbaro said, "N-a-a-a-a-a-a-a."
Plagiarism, or simply two people hitting the obvious joke? I guess only O'Neill knows for sure.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
My Other Hockey Team Is A Mercedes
Congratulations to the Milwaukee Admirals (of the American Hockey League) for sweeping the Grand Rapid Griffins and advancing to the Calder Cup playoffs.

Great shot, kids. Don't get cocky.

More Hoopty Than The World
Michelle Catalano, formerly of A Small Victory, is blogging about big 1970s cars and punk music at Faster Than The World. Update your bookmarks and buy misspelled domain names as appropriate.

Book Report: Baby in the Icebox and Other Short Fiction by James M. Cain (1981)
I bought this book for $1.00 at the Greater St. Louis Book Fair because, as some of you know, I'll soon need to know when it's appropriate to place your baby in the icebox. After all, my beautiful wife is reading a number of parenting books; why shouldn't I pitch in?

Imagine my feigned surprise when I discovered that this book was not actual book about child care, but rather a collection of short pieces by the author of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity!

As its title indicates, this book collects a number of short pieces from Cain, including a number of the bucolic "dialogs" he wrote in his early career as well as some of the grittier crime fiction he wrote for some serious money.

I enjoyed the book. The early pieces reminded me of Franz Kafka in that they're more slice-of-lifeish than anything earth-shattering, as though they were written as fictional smalltalk than I'm accustomed. Still I appreciated their language more than Kafka's.

The crime fiction portions were more pedestrian pulp, but that's what I handed over the dollar for. Enjoyable, and slightly unrealistic crimes, but set in the thirties and fourties, so they provide small glimpses into the past as well as into lurid crimes.

And in case it ever comes up, the time to put a baby in the icebox is if your husband has unleashed a hungry tiger into your house to kill you and you're holding the tiger off with a flaming brand which will inadvertently set fire to the house. As soon as I finish this review, I'm going to scan the indexes of some of Heather's parenting books to see if this holds as true in the 21st century as it did in the 1930s.

Books mentioned in this review:


Milwaukee MATC Party
Time to dump some textbooks into the Milwaukee River, what with unelected representatives levying their own taxes:
    A budget endorsed Tuesday by the Milwaukee Area Technical College Board would increase the school's tax levy 5% in the coming fiscal year, outpacing inflation and contradicting the growing anti-tax sentiment in the state.

    After breathing a sigh of relief that the Legislature had failed to pass constitutional tax and spending limits earlier this month, the board backed a budget that would increase spending about 6.3%, based on current projections.

    The $309 million MATC has budgeted for 2006-'07 represents a 32.4% increase from its spending at the start of the decade and tops the rate of inflation for that period by roughly 14 percentage points.
Contradicting the anti-tax sentiment? I'd say not; these bureaucrats are actually acting on it and feathering their nests while they can, because taxpayer relief of some sort will pass in Wisconsin, accidentally, one of these days, and the tax districts want to make sure that they get as much loot as they can before they're leashed. And if it never comes to pass, well, it's even better, as it's a precedent for ever-inflating percentages into perpetuity.

Over at Boots and Sabers, Owen thinks it's wonderful. He's being sarcastic.

New Market For Venezuelan F-16s?
If Greeks and Turks are going to play chicken:
    A mid-air collision between jousting Greek and Turkish fighters in disputed airspace over the Aegean Sea yesterday threatened to reignite age old rivalries.

    The two planes are believed to have rammed each other, in full view of a passing commercial jetliner. The Turkish pilot, Halil Ozdemir, was rescued by a merchant ship after ejecting, but last night emergency services were still searching for the downed pilot of the Greek F-16 jet.
might provide a unique marketing opportunity for South American dictators with too many F-16s on their hands.

Come on, people, think outside the box. We can get this deal done.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

Sign That Kid to an NBA Contract
This kid has skills:
    A Boston defense attorney was nearly strangled to death in a courtroom yesterday by his shackled client - an accused killer whose case he had unsuccessfully sought to drop.
That's the sort of talent one can leverage into a long NBA career.

Bonus flashback: My 1997 riff on Sprewell: The Cynic Express(d) 1.11: Barbarians at the Gates.

(Link seen on Wizbang!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Always Bet on Black(five)
Who are you going to believe, the Beer Advocate when it lists Top 50 Places to Have a Beer in America or Blackfive, who can tell you good drinking cities all across the country?

Didn't your parents ever tell you to listen to Rangers?

Even An Unset VCR Is Right Twice a Day
In Illinois, Rod Blagojevich wants to privatize the lottery:
    Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday proposed selling or leasing the state lottery to raise $10 billion as part of a plan to reform Illinois schools.

    His proposal includes $1.5 billion for school construction, performance pay for teachers and the consolidation of school districts.
As a libertarian, I stand in favor of all fornicating, liquoring, and gambling. As a matter of fact, I would do Rod one better: instead of offering a government-sponsored monopoly on number-running, why not let everyone do it?

Sorry, I guess getting the government to give up one of the things it's seized from the syndicates is a start toward a libertarian paradise.

But that it comes from Illinois, and Blagojevich, irkles me.

In Overland, They Still Practice Recount By Combat
Overland mayor survives recount

Unfortunately, the challenger suffered from a fatal naginata wound from the Once and Future Mayor, all hail!

Monday, May 22, 2006
Big Fonts Please

FTC sees no illegal gas price manipulation

Because you're not going to hear that particular rest in the grand anti-free market symphony conducted by our revered leaders in the media and legislatures.

Slow Reader Mooching
Geez, gentle reader, I know it's been a while since I've reviewed a book for you to ignore. To make sure you have plenty of book reviews for you to pass over completely, check out Ace's review of The da Vinci Code.

And since I said it, I must link to the Amazon page for it. In case you accidentally click through and buy it so I can make another eight cents.

Books mentioned in this review post about a review:

In Some Cultures, It's a Gift From The Gods
Piece of plane nearly lands on 9-year-old

I mean, come on, at the very least, it's free scrap metal. You can do so many things with scrap metal, not the least of which is trade.

Nowhere To Go But Up
Baby placed in trash bin is improving

You know, if you're dumped in the trash as a newborn, I'd say that you have nowhere to go in life but up.

Sunday, May 21, 2006
Short Story: "The Brooch"
     I was walking down Commonwealth towards Berkeley with a spring in my step. I was wearing my nice clothes, the slacks with no holes in them, and a white shirt with a string tie, and my hair was combed. I had things to do. The day after tomorrow was Megan's birthday, and I had seventeen dollars in my pocket. The weeks of working at Mr. Roy's grocery store had paid off, and I knew just what I was going to get Megan.

     When I had been walking her home last Wednesday, we had walked past the jewelry shop in the Park Square Building. She stopped to look inside, like all girls do. She asked me what kind of ring I was going to get her when we got married. I didn't know, and I don't even know if we're going to get married. But she likes to think so. After she looked at the rings in the bottom of the window, she looked up at another glass case, and ooohed at a brooch.

     I didn't think it was anything special, but I'm a guy. It was gold and silver, and there was a big M in the middle. It was cursive writing and fancy, and Megan liked it a lot. I wondered how much she would like it when she saw it in a box in her hands the day after tomorrow.

     "Hey Kevin," Sid Leary called. He was sitting on his front porch with his brother Ronald and the rest of the Dunston Boys. "Where've you been the last month? We haven't seen you around."

     "I've been busy," I said without stopping. I didn't want to stop. Sid might find out I have money, and if he did, it'd probably get spent on pool or whiskey, neither of which would do Megan any good the day after tomorrow.

     Sid called out after me as I walked past, and as I turned the corner he shouted again. I hoped he wouldn't be too mad at me, but I had things to do.

     I imagined how Megan would look opening the box, how the brooch would look on her favorite red sweater, how her friends in school would like it, too.

     Officer Mulready was out walking his beat along Berkeley, his hands behind his back. He looked me over, but I wasn't doing anything wrong today, so I looked back at him. "Well, Mr. Murphy, out and about this afternoon?"

     "Yes sir," I replied. He stopped in front of me, and I had to stop, too.

     "Where you going?"

     "I'm going to my girlfriend's house, sir," I said. It was just habit not to tell the truth to him.

     "Isn't she in school?"

     "Yes, sir, but I'm going to wait for her."

     He cast a disbelieving eye over me, but nodded and continued on his way. He turned the corner and I could hear faint notes on the wind as he started to whistle. It ended abruptly, and I heard his booming voice questioning some other innocent person.

     And then I was at the Park Square Building, outside the jewelry store. I fingered the rolled money in my pocket and went in.

     A bell jingled and a man appeared from another room. "May I help you?" he asked.

     It was warmer inside and it smelled nice. There were glass cases with all kinds of necklaces and things, but I looked at the case in the window. I could see the back of the brooch. I could very plainly see the little white sticker with the number 21.00 written on it. I felt my stomach drop and my throat got tight.

     "I, ah, want to see something in that case," I said.

     "Come around," he said, waving his hand around the display in front of it. He pulled a big ring of keys from his pocket and unlocked the display.

     Then the bell over the door jingled, and Sid Leary and the Dunston Boys came in. "Look at that," Sid said, pointing at one of the rings in another case.

     The jeweller stepped around the glass case. "Can I help you boys?" he asked coldly.

     The case was open, and the brooch was hanging on velvet. I snuck a glance at the jeweller. He was watching the Dunston Boys and paying no attention to me. I could just reach in and take it.

     It was just like the sham we would pull in Wheeler's drug store. One guy would go in and look around and then the rest would be rowdy and while old man Wheeler was throwing them out, the first guy would be loading his pockets. He'd then buy something cheap and split. It was usually good for a few packs of cigarettes and gum. It was my turn to be the pigeon.

     Megan wouldn't like something that was stolen. Some of the girls didn't care, but Megan wouldn't wear it if she knew it was stolen. She'd probably get mad at me too.

     "If you're not buying anything, you should go somewhere else," the jeweller said, and I thought he was talking to me. I turned and he was pushing the last of the Dunston Boys out the door. Reggie appeared in the window and made faces at the jeweller, but then Sid called and Reggie disappeared from sight.

     "Now what was it that you were looking at?" the jeweller asked after brushing his hands together.

     "Well, sir, this brooch," I said softly.

     "The lacework is silver. The letter is inlaid with gold. It'd make a fine gift," he said.

     "It costs twenty-one dollars?" I asked.

     "Yes, son, it does. It is a good deal for the piece. It was hand-worked, you know. Imported from Peru."

     "I only have seventeen dollars. Could I work here for you for the rest?"

     "For your mother?"

     "My girlfriend. It's her birthday tomorrow. She really likes this brooch."

     He looked at me for a moment, probably to see if I was lying. "Tomorrow's her birthday?"

     "Yes sir."

     "How old will she be?"

     "Seventeen, sir."

     "I tell you what. Seventeen dollars for seventeen years sounds about right to me."

     I breathed again. "Thank you, sir," I said. He took the brooch from the velvet and punched numbers in the cash register. It chinged and the number seventeen appeared in the windows on the top. I pulled out my two five dollar bills and seven ones. He put the brooch in a little white box and gave it to me.

     "The other condition is if you marry this girl, you have to buy the ring here." He smiled. "Would you like a receipt?"

     "No, thank you, sir," I said, and I took the box in both hands and left.

     Megan was going to be so happy. I opened the box as I walked. The gold and silver didn't look as good against the cotton as they had against the black velvet. Megan was going to love it.

     Sid and the Dunston boys were standing on the corner of Commonwealth waiting for me. "What'd you get, Kevin?" Sid asked, uncrossing his arms and standing up from the lamp post he had been leaning on.

     "Nothing." I walked wide around the group.

     "Hey," Sid said, grabbing my right arm and half turning me. "What's in the box?"

     "Buzz off, Sid," I said, shaking my arm out of his hands. I hurried up, and the Dunston boys stood, staring at me from the corner. Sid called my name again, but I ignored it. I went home and spent most of the night looking at the brooch and thinking of Megan.

     Megan smiled when I held the box out. "You remembered," she said with fake surprise. She opened the top and gasped. "Oh, Kevin," she said softly. Her green eyes looked at me. I thought she was going to cry. "It's beautiful," she whispered.

     "Do you like it?" I asked.

     "I love it." She stopped. "Can you put it on me?"

     I stopped. "Sure," I said, swallowing. I put her books down on the sidewalk and took the brooch. I unfastened it and tried to hide my trembling hands. I put it on the right side, right over her heart. I didn't stick her, either.

     "Wait till Judy sees this," she said after we started walking again. "Thank you, Kevin," she said when we got to the fence around her high school. She kissed me lightly and went in.

     I watched her walk proudly into the building. Halfway up the steps, her friends Judy and Sandy met her. She gestured at the brooch and pointed at me. They smiled and looked wistfully at me. I felt good.

     I got home from Mr. Roy's store at eight thirty. My father and mother were screaming at each other in their bedroom. My little sister was in the living room and the radio was turned up to try and cover their disagreement. She ignored me as I came in, and I went up to my bedroom to change clothes. I got my tie off and the top button on my shirt open when Catherine called me from the living room.

     Megan was pacing on the front porch. I closed the door behind me. "Hi," I said.

     She turned, eyes blazing. "Don't 'hi' me, Kevin," she said. She was still wearing the red sweater, but the brooch wasn't on it.

     "What's wrong?"

     "Where did you get this brooch?" She stuck it in front of me like it was a cross and I was a vampire.

     "I bought it at Taylor's Jewelry Shop. It's the one we pass going to your house."

     "Did you buy it, Kevin? Or did you steal it?"

     "I bought it."

     "Sid Leary told Sandy that he helped you steal it for me. That they made a distraction and you stole it while the jeweller was throwing them out."

     "That's not true," I said. "I...."

     "Tell me they weren't in there with you, Kevin. Tell me you were at the jewelry store alone."

     They were there, though, and I couldn't lie to Megan. "They were, but...."

     "Kevin! I thought you were done with the Dunston Boys. I really did. I thought I meant more to you then those hoodlums. If I don't, then you can take your stupid brooch and find another girl."

     I didn't want another girl, it wasn't like that at all, I did buy the brooch, but none of these words came out. She looked at me for a moment as I stood there with my mouth half open. She then threw the brooch onto the porch and ran down the steps and into the night. The big cursive M glared at me.

     I picked it up, and wondered what I'd do now. I went inside, drank a couple glasses of water, and went into my bedroom. Girls are crazy anyway, I thought.

Another Helpful Hint From Industry
Whereas the Chicago Tribune quotes a helpful, neutral expert (registration required) who suggests improvements for workplace productivity:
    "If you're watching video, you're probably not working," said Vimal Solanki, director of product marketing at McAfee Inc., a software vendor whose products to block Web access are selling briskly.
Not to be outdone, the makers of Stadium Pal not that if employees are going to the bathroom, they're probably not working, either.

(Link seen on this little blog out of Tennessee run by an obscure academic. Click through! He could use 1/10th of my traffic.)

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