Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Maybe Newborns Just Shouldn't Be Welding
Odd warning of the day:

Not fire resistant

Catching Up On Book Reports and Tabulating
As you'll note in the posts below, I've had a couple of books on my desk for review for a bit. Before you get into skipping those book reports, allow me to taunt you with a bit of "nyah nyah" as I enumerate the books I've read in this NGY (Noggle Goal Year, which runs December 27, 2005, through December 27, 2006):
  • The Empty Trap John D. MacDonald
  • The Executioners John D. MacDonald
  • Mine the Harvest Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • Johnny Mnemonic Terry Bisson
  • The Museum of Hoaxes Alex Boese
  • Suspects William J. Cannitz
  • Wild Pitch Mike Lupica
  • The Olympics' Most Wanted Floyd Conner
  • Peking Duck Roger L. Simon
  • 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America Bernard Goldberg
  • The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction David Geherin
  • Sea Change Robert B. Parker
  • Pet Sematary Stephen King
  • Collected Stories Franz Kafka
  • Under the Grammar Hammer Douglas Cazort
  • The Wealthy Writer Michael Meanwell
  • Planning and Remodeling Family Rooms, Dens & Studios Sunset Books
  • The Brass Cupcake John D. MacDonald
  • The Substance of Style Virginia Postrel
  • Blood Relatives Ed McBain
  • The Hanged Man's Song John Sandford
  • Servant of the Shard R.A. Salvatore
  • Gerald's Game Stephen King
  • How to Break Software James A. Whittaker
  • Slightly Chipped Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
  • Warmly Inscribed Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
  • The Case Against Hillary Clinton Peggy Noonan
  • The Stainless Steel Rat for President Harry Harrison
  • Bosstrology Adele Lang and Andrew Masterson
  • Bump & Run Mike Lupica
  • Blowback Bill Pronzini
  • Everybody's Guide to Book Collecting Charlie Lovett
  • His Affair Jo Fleming
  • Sharky's Machine William Diehl
  • The Baby in the Icebox James M. Cain
  • Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction Tom Raabe
  • Aftermath LeVar Burton
  • Expecting Gordon Churchwell
  • Poison Ed McBain
  • The Life of Charlemagne Einhard
I won't bother you with a set of links, gentle reader, nor a tile of Amazon come ons. However, do note that unless you're keeping pace for 100+ books this year, I am better than you, nyah nyah.

Thank you, that is all.

Book Report: The Life of Charlemagne by Einhard (1960, 1972)
This is what happens on the last day of a book fair. It's a couple dollars for a bag, so suddenly, you're not justifying the purchase of a book, you're looking for an excuse. So when I'd put down $3 at the Webster Groves Book Fair this year, I had only to acknowledge that I didn't actually have a biography of Charlemagne. Suddenly, I had one on my to-read shelf.

Fortunately, this is a brief book. At seventy some pages, it took me a little under an hour to read. Written by a contemporary of Charlemagne who was in the court of Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious, this book doesn't interpret the Frank leader in some sort of modernistic mechanism. Einhard didn't come to bury Charlemagne, Einhard came to praise him. The author, a member of the ninth century court, praises Charles the Great for his marital exploits, but also for his love of learning and his role in the Carolingian Renaissance. Although he couldn't write, Charles I liked to read and to hear readings and encourage scholarship throughout his expanding realm.

Although I've read my Cantor a decade ago, it's good to touch base with some medieval history--even if it's French. So if I'm asked whom the line of kings Charlemagne replaced (the Merovignian, like that dude from The Matrix) or who succeeded him (his son Louis, the Pious), I'm set. I'd better hie to a Trivia Night hence.

However, before I go, I'd like to note, briefly, some of the things which struck me as I read this book:
  • Man, the "great" leaders from history ruled a long time, ainna? Charlemagne ruled for 45 years in a time where that exceeded the life expectancy by a factor of 2. He was ruling his original subjects' grandchildren. Think of Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower as our president.

  • Charlemagne carried on a war, hot and cold, against the Saxons for 33 years. Obviously, he didn't have a mainstream media complaining the whole way.

  • Man, these old-style books are short. I mean, this weighs in at under 75 pages, The Prince weighs in at under 100.... The unfortunate rising tide of science and the standard of living has propelled modern books into the 300-400 page range and beyond, which slows down a "scholar" like me who reads any old thing I can stuff in a bag at a book fair.

  • Sometimes, footnotes are less than worthless. In the edition I have, I started following the endnotes (which meant I was flipping back and forth, not only looking down), but many of the notes were only the names of other Frank rulers I should know if I were using this as a primary source in a college class or a reference to another freaking end note (see 93). I mean, unless you're going to shed some light outside the translator's/editor's particular section of a college class, why bother?
Hey, all silliness aside, I'd recommend this book if you can grab it cheaply. If you click the link below, you'll find a number of options, including the latest version available as a college textbook. This was the sort of textbook I loved in school: something I could borrow from the library and Xerox cheaply. Still, gentle reader, please take a moment to look for this book or similar material for low prices on eBay, Amazon, or your local book fair or garage sale. They give one such perspective into human history and the modern day.
Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Poison by Ed McBain (1987)
I got this copy of Poison from the Greater St. Louis Book Fair for $1.00. I know I've read it before because my Aunt Dale owned a copy of it; I remember the hot blonde on the cover. For all I know, I own that copy, too, since Aunt Dale is the aunt who passed away a year and a half ago and bequeathed me many of her books. This one, though, still has the price sticker on it and was on the floor in my stacks instead of in boxes or on my completed reading shelves. Well, there, you have my history with the copy I read most recently.

This book represents a mid-career Ed McBain 87th precinct novel, where the 1960s era is early and the 2000-esque books are late. As I've mentioned, McBain wrote a long series of books which hold up very well. The back cover offers a quote comparing McBain to Georges Simenon. Peh. He's a modern Erle Stanley Gardner, and beyond; the books hold up beyond the time in which the author wrote them.

This installment deals with a murder by nicotine poisoning that Carella and Willis catch. Willis starts falling for the lover of the victim. She's hot, blonde (hence the cover), and emancipated in that 1980s, I sleep with a lot of men way. When her other lovers start dying, the detectives of the 87th Precinct--well, except for Willis--start suspecting she's the killer.

McBain was a master. I lament the knowledge that there won't be any more of the 87th Precinct novels, but I know I can reread the ones I've read previously again as I acquire them or as the mood strikes me.
Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Expecting by Gordon Churchwell (2000)
For some reason, my mother-in-law gave me this book for Christmas. So I read it, disinterestedly, as you might expect. Who am I kidding? I was hoping for a deeper understanding of what I was supposed to be going through than my friends intoning that I was going to lose some sleep circa the end of this very month. This book provided me some of that.

At turns, this book: touched my own anxiety and fear (singular, gentle reader; I have but one of each); made me cringe at the differeces between a pregnancy experienced by a native New Yorker and, well, anyone in the rest of the country; made me snigger at the Roberyt Blyian concept of manhood and its attendant rituals; and made me skim the scientificism of some of the speculated parent-child-father hormonal responses.

Also, the book made me assure Heather, unnecessarily (I hope), that just because I was not puking in the mornings or cooing at other people's babies in the supermarket, I would be a good enough father to not warrant divorce or murdering while I slept but she fed the baby. The book spends a lot of time talking about couvade, which is either ritualistic or physiological symptoms that the husband has which the author indicates is a subconcious, hormonal way of signalling he's going to be a good father to the wife. Meanwhile, I'm working for a living, leaving my beautiful wife to gestate on her own.

The writing style is hip. By "hip," I mean it's readable and contemporary, but uses the word "shit" far too much for non-fiction. Also, the author is intelligent and makes a number of classical allusions that made me feel smart for recognizing them, but unfortunately he also alluded to the classic Roddy Piper film They Live as Them, which really makes me wonder if all of his other allusions are mistaken, and whether I am a fool for thinking those other allusions were right.

An interesting enough read, and worth the price I paid. (Sorry, Ms. Igert, I mean, it's a good book, and thanks!)

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Aftermath by Levar Burton (1997)
When I saw this book for $.33 in the new secret cheap books back room at Hooked on Books in Springfield, I had to have it. After all, Levar Burton is the former host of Reading Rainbow and star of The Midnight Hour. As I have mentioned before, I think one of my collecting niches is books based on movies, books upon which movies are based, and books by movie and television stars. Hence, I thought this book by a relatively obscure actor would be worth the cold, hard coinage. Plus, I had two other books, no doubt.

This book takes place in the coming decades, after the following has occurred:
  1. The United States spends too much on a space station, foreign aid, and small wars so that it's nearly bankrupt.
  2. A black man is elected president and is subsequently assassinated by those damn white supremecist militias.
  3. The New Madrid fault goes.
  4. Climate change stresses the world. Not just makes uncomfortable, but drives down agricultural yields and so on.
  5. A 3 year race war occurs, representing a second coming of the Civil War. Fought on American soil, it pits whites against everyone else in set piece sorts of battles leading to bombings of corn fields. Oddly enough, though, the rest of the world doesn't intervene, and at the end, no one is bowing to Mecca or speaking Mandarin.
Remember, this book bears a 1997 publication date, so it was probably written ca 1996. Bill Clinton is running for re-election. It's one year since the Oklahoma City bombing and three years after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Perhaps in this era, the books concerns were plausible; however, to me they seem very dated given the way the world has turned. On the other hand, just last week, I had a Jewish friend express rather earnest concern that George W. Bush was going to outlaw Judaism and round up the Jews. Perhaps some people see a racial/creedist civil war still possible in our cards rather than the red state/blue state divide which I think separates us more.

But I digress; this book has a plot. A scientist comes up with an electromagnetic brain stimulator which not only affords healing properties for the human body, but also can sometimes produce, as a side effect, telepathic and precognitive ability. Which comes in handy when some corrupt members of what passes for the post-apocalyptic medical establishment kidnap her for her secret.

The scientist reaches out and touches an Indian medicine man, a now-homeless former meterologist, and a now-homeless young woman to come to her aid. The bulk of the book comprises their individual stories and their eventual coming together for her rescue. And then, suddenly, in the last moments of the book, they resolve the situation with a climactic Hollywoodesque ending. Something out of Star Trek: The Next Generation, almost.

Still, it's a fairly compelling book. The shifting points-of-view among the major characters and interactive, not overly expository histories make the first portion of the book easy to read and drive toward a conclusion. Unfortunately, again (like in Sharky's Machine) I can almost sense when a movie option is signed or an author is ready to be done with the book, so the sudden career into a slam-bang finish occurs.

So it's a good enough genre piece, even if it's somewhat dated. It reminds me of the 1960s-era topical science fiction I read, so it will live on in that vein at least. If Mr. Burton wrote this himself, he's not a bad writer, but then again, I would expect nothing less from the well-read public television evangelist of childhood reading and bona-fide star of television and screen.

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, June 02, 2006
If Only He Had Been A Year Earlier
It's been covered widely, but apparently some muckety-muck real journalist for the Washington Post said, to a graduating journalism class:
    . Good jobs in journalism have become scarce as newspapers shrink and die, broadcast media fragment to smaller niche audiences and the public appears more and more willing to receive its "news" online from nincompoops ranting in their underpants.
Oh, if only he would have quipped thus a year earlier! We would have had Underpants Media!

(Other reactions from actual Pajamas Mediatricians Michelle Malkin and Ace.)

Now That's a Phrightening Phish
In the inbox:
    U.S Consulate General
    387 Wichayanond Road
    Chiang Mai 50300,Thailand

    Dear client,

    Congratulations,you have been selected as one of the lucky winners of the US VISA through our internet email extracting and screening machine,your application was applied and processed by our internet email extracting and screening machine which randomly extracts and scans millions of email adresses across the world.

    This Special visa programme is new and was innovated by the US embassy in Kuala lumpur Malaysia last year november.The US Consulate in Chiang Mai launched the programme this year november,the programme is designed to be held every year ending.The aim and objectives of the programme is to give free visas to citizens of developing countries around the world to enable them travel to the US and start a new life and work.The Chiang Mai consulate released 12 visas in this regards and hopes to increase the visa number to 24 by late next year,you are among the 12 lucky people that won the visa and among the 5 foreigners that won the visa,7 visas were won by Thai nationals.

    Your visa winner's identity is:MM-52047 and your serial net visa passport with us is:JM-102648,your visa type permits you to travel with your family.Your visa duration is 10 years multiple entry to the U.S,it is renewable upon expiration and it permits you to work,study and own properties in the US.

    In this respect you are directed to forward the following requirements for the immediate processing of your visa certificate and acknowledgement card:

    1.Write in full your office and residential adress.

    2.Scanned copies of your recent passport photograph,members of your family passport photograph should be included if you have family members that wants to travel with you.

    3.Scanned copies of your/members of your family international passport and i.d card,your family members above the age of 16 requires seperate international passports for travel.

    4.Clearance and acceptance fee:U.S$355(Three hundred and fifty five dollars)only.This fee should be paid through an account of the designated agent and NOT by western union money transfer.

    Providing the above requirements will assure you your visa certificate/acknowledgement card and visa security pin code which we shall scan to your email adress.With the visa certificate/acknowledgement card and pincode we shall send to you,the U.S embassy in your home country or your country of residence will stamp the 10 years multiple entry visa on your/members of your family international passport within 3 working days immediately you present these documents to them because the Chiang mai Cosulate has confirmed your visa,all they will do is to log in to the U.S Immigration network database and key in your visa pincode there they will find your visa winning details.

    Important notice:

    According to the united states code of conduct in the constitution Vol:189/965:Act 220Sl guiding all immigrations,green cards,visas and permit agencies:if non-response after 31 days you receive this message,your winners status shall reveal no interest and we would in response refer your visa certificate/code and acknowledgement card back to the U.S government/immigrations service center.

    We shall be anticipating your reply soon.


    Ray Murphy
    U.S Consulate Chiang Mai

Probably just some generic, send us your money type scam. But any time they want passports, I get a little more nervous than normal.

Ordinary Headway Apparently Takes 20 Years
Diana crash probe makes 'extraordinary' headway: investigator:
    The probe into the Paris car crash that killed Princess Diana is benefiting from a computer-generated reconstruction and is making "extraordinary" headway, the top investigator said in remarks.

    Sir John Stevens told the Daily Express that revolutionary technology has allowed police to construct a virtual reality film of what happened when Diana left her hotel in Paris in August 1997 until the time the car crashed.
Maybe we have higher standards here, but I should think some headway ought to be made in the first, oh, five to seven years after an automobile accident investigation begins.

Proposal to Test and Produce Manuals on Immigrants
Good idea!
    Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has proposed implanting the company's RFID tracking tags in immigrant and guest workers. He made the statement on national television on May 16.

    Silverman was being interviewed on "Fox & Friends." Responding to the Bush administration's call to know "who is in our country and why they are here," he proposed using VeriChip RFID implants to register workers at the border, and then verify their identities in the workplace. He added, "We have talked to many people in Washington about using it...."
    [Emphasis added.]
So pardon me if I don't immediately begin my natural libertarian hyperventilation based on this non-story. You've got the evangelist for a company saying that its product is the solution for whatever problem you have. That's what evangelists do, often preposterously.

I, on the other hand, as head of Jeracor, LLC., think what we really need to do, with copious buckets of federal money with little accountability attached, is Rapid Interface Testing and Documentation on immigrants.

Don't know what it means? Well, first we'll need a federal grant to explore that.

Thank you. And don't forget me, Senators Bond and Talent. I'm in your state!

Thursday, June 01, 2006
Other Children's Book Recommendations
Since Instapundit sees fit to make children's book recommendations, we here at MfBJN offer the following:

Harry Reid's Babysitting Service  Harry Reid's Journey  Harry Reid, Inc. 
Oldies, but, well, oldies.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Has anyone ever noticed that tends to have a post describing a problem after they've fixed the problem?

Thought for the Day
Sometimes you shoot grainy, out-of-focus photos of the sasquatch, and sometimes the sasquatch shoots grainy, out-of-focus photos of you, in which case it's probably not a true sasquatch.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Sanity Returning to Wisconsin Government?
Lessons in tax and spend?: MATC's levy plan could bolster case for elected board:
    Two area state senators suspect their summer homework will be easier thanks to the Milwaukee Area Technical College and its proposal to raise its property tax levy 5%.

    Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) had planned to spend a little free time building support for their proposal to require elections for all boards that have the authority to tax.

    The proposal went virtually nowhere in the last legislative session, but they figure tax increases proposed by MATC and the other technical colleges in the state will bring some momentum. And it will help that those increases will appear on tax bills mailed in December, just a month before the next session.

    "I believe it's best to have representation that's accountable, and that means being elected and having people know who's making the decision; and to give people the opportunity to make changes," Darling said. "People have to be accountable for spending and taxing."
I'll believe it when I see it.

Stop: Bubble Time
The latest sign that a bubblegeddon might be upon our markets: The Segway IPO:
    And Segway Inc. President and Chief Executive James Norrod, hoping to parlay the growth into a payday for the original investors in the scooter, has made grooming the company for an initial public offering in the next few years a top priority. Gauging Segway's prospects in an IPO is difficult, as the company will not reveal its yearly revenue or whether it is profitable. Norrod will only say that "tens of thousands" of Segways have been sold around the world, and that the company's revenue has been growing by at least 50 percent over each of the last few years.
Time to adjust the portfolio away from equities and back into guns and liquor.

Monday, May 29, 2006
Preach It, Sister
Oracle security sister preaches:
    Oracle's security chief says the software industry is so riddled with buggy product makers that "you wouldn't get on a plane built by software developers."
    "What if civil engineers built bridges the way developers write code?" she asked. "What would happen is that you would get the blue bridge of death appearing on your highway in the morning."
Remember, gentle reader, MfBJN thought about that in 2004.

Tax Shell Game in Milwaukee
The Milwaukee County Transit System has budget problems, as described in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story Transit system at 'critical point': Transit funding options skidding into pressures on tax dollars. Setting the dire scene:
    It is a route that never seems to change.

    Every weekday, more than 150,000 times a day, someone boards a Milwaukee County Transit System bus to reach a job, a class, a store, a doctor or a home.

    And every year, for six years straight, the Milwaukee County Board has cut bus service, raised fares or both.

    With one of every 12 county residents riding a bus to work or school, transit supporters believe the county must find a new route to keep the buses and the local economy driving forward.
As a matter of fact, while I was in college, I rode the white and green limousine several times a day as I shuttled between home, work, school, work again or home, school, work, school again. So I got plenty of benefit from the robust transit system, and any cuts would have inconvenienced me.

So I'm not arguing that cuts wouldn't hurt or adversely affect a number of people. But the leaders and their cheerleaders in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel face finitude with great pluck, as they perhaps would prefer to merely posit infinity and act accordingly. When referring to tax money, of course:
    But that new route could lead into the politically dangerous neighborhood of new taxes. The transit system is one of the few its size that compete with other agencies for limited property tax dollars.
Limited property tax dollars are a bad thing in this scenario, and special interests--and understand, every government body and agency is its own special interest when it comes to feeding at the public trough. But since property tax dollars are limited, those official special interests have other solutions in mind:
    And long before the recent push to create a sales tax for parks, recreation and cultural programs, transit backers were seeking a new revenue source to wean the bus system off the property tax levy.
So instead of the trough marked property tax dollars, they want to feed a little from the trough marked sales tax. Especially given this horror:
    Further down the road, officials also are concerned about exhausting federal funding that now helps balance the transit budget. From 1993 to 1998, the federal government gave the transit system more money than it needed to buy buses, building up a reserve of more than $30 million. Starting in 1998, federal rules allowed the transit system to use that money for major maintenance, and officials started to gradually use up the reserve.
The buffet pan marked federal dollars is running dry.

Instead of making hard decisions, the mass transit special interest has thoughts on levying automobile fees, sales taxes, and all sorts of other creative mechanisms for increasing the overall tax burden on the people upon whom it serves itself.

By creating various and sundry unelected Authorities and Boards and Committees with their own focuses and their own ability to request or raise taxes, our elected officials get to abstract and insulate themselves from these actions and can avoid making the hard choices that balance the needs of some of the population. Instead, they can churn new programs, boards, and authorities to do the hard work for them, without direct accountability to the voters, and every time some special governmental interest, they'll have a new, creative revenue source and the taxpayer to tap out.

Sunday, May 28, 2006
Nugent 2012
One more reason to vote Nugent for president in 2012: he scares the lesser Brits.

Although somehow, my choice of post titles and election years belies a certain dismay with the Republican Party's prospects in 2008.

A McGehee Saturday Night
Kevin McGehee: Karaoke Superstar!

McGehee On Stage

No one does a better version of Dido's "White Flag". He sings it with such emotion that one thinks that perhaps he's experienced profound loss, such as the lack of a recent Instalanche to bolster his traffic numbers. Unlike some of us.

Your Column Says No, But Your Column Inches Say Yes
A "feud" exists between former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa stemming from the latter's platooning of the hall-of-famer and St. Louis icon with Royce Clayton in 1996. Starting last week, the "feud" has flared again as Smith let the world know he was happy with the decision, and LaRussa said he was.

Here's baseball writer Dan O'Neill in a column entitled 10 years later, it's time for Ozzie to get over it:
    To be fair, Smith was responding to questions, not preaching from a pulpit. The interview had a lot of positive information about his work with the Hall of Fame. He said all the right things as he indicated the past was behind and he had moved on.

    But then he didn't move on. He had to pick at the scab one more time with comments about management. A guy who has been paid $2 million by the Cardinals for "personal services" over the past 10 years can't find it in himself to embrace that same organization as long as La Russa is around. That is almost as petty as it is absurd.
A nice sentiment, to be sure, but the current "feud" is nothing more than a soap operaesque crashing chord provided by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Let's look over what the Post-Dispatch has provided: The Post-Dispatch certainly can flex its floodus zonei muscles effectively for the most inconsequential topics. Although, honestly, I'd prefer the paper do it on a silly topic that will sell papers to the impassioned Cardinals fans than for something designed to make our lives better by enabling more governmental rule.

(Full disclosure: The author booed when Royce Clayton appeared onscreen in the film The Rookie.)

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