Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Book Report: Barrier Island by John D. MacDonald (1986)
This book provides an interesting amalgamation of some of MacDonald's earlier work, the business-oriented novels, with some of the maudlin sentimentality found in the Travis McGee novels. As it was released as a heavy hardback, with nice paper, it aims to weightiness instead of brisk paperback sensibility. Unfortunately, it's unsatisfying.

The story opens on Tucker Loomis after a night with an old flame. He's brought her out to a romantic rendezvous off of Barrier Island, a, well, barrier island off of Mississippi or Florida. He not only wanted to rekindle a little good lovin', but he wanted his flame, a real estate agent, to witness a payoff to an assistant federal prosecutor. In case the fed fails to carry out his part of the deal, you see.

The book then explores several of the players as the land scheme for which ol' Tuck is being prosecuted unravels. An idealistic partner in a real estate firm tries to hold his marriage together while investigating the scheme. It seems that Tuck bought the land, envisioned a tropical paradise for millionaires, and sold its lots before the federal government condemned it and seized it for park land. Loomis wants a big settlement based upon the big profits he would have realized, but the idealist real estate man discovers some of the land sales Tuck had made were fraudulent. In addition to his marriage, the partner has to worry about maintaining his real estate firm with the wheeler-dealer who got involved with Tuck in the first place. Meanwhile, Tuck's dealing with a wife in a vegatative state and an attractive nurse who imagines herself as the new Mrs. Loomis--after the current Mrs. Loomis dies.

With this set of characters and framework, perhaps MacDonald could have done better. Unfortunately, the book suffers from two flaws:
  • The point of view is skewed. We're introduced to Tucker Loomis in the beginning, so I wanted to root for him. However, he's not the protagonist. He's sort of the antagonist. The protagonist, as I can tell, is the idealistic real estate agent. Unfortunately, his voice isn't very consistent throughout the book. When we get the maudlin asides about the pillaging of the environment by the newcomers to the Gulf Coast, it's almost expository. It's acceptable in the McGee novels because it's a part of the character of Travis McGee; but here, it's hanging out there on its own.

  • The end is abrupt. Tucker Loomis is laid low pretty quickly, and the masterful subplots and characterizations end up wasted.
I think the book mixes, unsuccessfully, elements of his early work, elements of the Travis McGee novels, and elements of his later, longer, hardback work (such as Condominium and One More Sunday). As one of his last works, if not the last, it's not a capstone of his career. But my copy is a first edition, nyah nyah.

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, August 18, 2006
Almost A Punchline
Man falls into vat of chocolate, lives:
    An ordinary night's work at the chocolate company turned dangerous for Darmin Garcia early Friday after he fell into a vat of the molten goo and was trapped for more than two hours.

    "I was pushing the chocolate down into the vat because it was stuck," said Garcia, 21. "It came loose, and I just slid down the hopper into the chocolate."
With a picture that shows a dark-haired, bare-chested, 21-year-old muscular man more than waist deep in chocolate. Did I say Almost a punchline? I mean Every woman's fantasy.

Thursday, August 17, 2006
Leave No Hamster Behind Act
Measure could force pet shops to keep better records; Bill also calls for stricter rules on exercise and care:
    Lawmakers will vote today on a bill that could require pet shops to abide by stricter regulations like keeping detailed records on the animals they sell and providing toys and exercise wheels for small animals like rats, hamsters, mice and guinea pigs.
Face it, citizens, our civilization has peaked. The amount of civil liberties that citizens enjoy has reached its high water mark and is ebbing. Our government is now taking rights from us and giving them to animals.

Say what you will about the totalitarian nature of the Chinese regime, but at least it's using its totalitarianism to the ends of a human society and not the gerbil society.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Real Men of Criminal Genius
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch lowers the bar on criminal masterminds in this story:
    A cigarette thief is taking great pains not to get caught as he makes his getaway from Madison County stores, authorities said Tuesday.
Those great pains?
    He uses duct tape to cover the registration number on the temporary Illinois tag on the back of his black Saturn, which has no front plate.
Because apparently the great pains don't include obscuring his face, since there's a full facial shot of him accompanying the story.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
St. Louis Public Schools: Past Farce
I felt a great disturbance in the language, as if millions of grammarians suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Back 2 School
I don't know what's worse: that the St. Louis City public schools have to advertise so heavily to remind their apathetic student body to please, return at least the first couple of days so we can count you as enrolled when it comes time to get the state and federal funding.

No, what's worse is that the city schools in St. Louis have officially elevated 2 to preposition status. I mean, for cryssake, if the schools are going to write like that, how do they expect their students to do better?

Maybe they just don't.

Good luck continuing to pretend to be a viable, meaningful institution. See also reason #8922 why Brian never considered moving to the city when looking for a new home.

Monday, August 14, 2006
Psycho Hitchhikers Go Berserk
    Hitchhiker: You heard of this thing, the 8-Minute Abs?
    Ted: Yeah, sure, 8-Minute Abs. Yeah, the excercise video.
    Hitchhiker: Yeah, this is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this: 7... Minute... Abs.
    Ted: Right. Yes. OK, all right. I see where you're going.
    Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin' there, there's 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?
    Ted: I would go for the 7.
    Hitchhiker: Bingo, man, bingo. 7-Minute Abs. And we guarantee just as good a workout as the 8-minute folk.
    Ted: You guarantee it? That's - how do you do that?
    Hitchhiker: If you're not happy with the first 7 minutes, we're gonna send you the extra minute free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from "A" to "B".
    Ted: That's right. That's - that's good. That's good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you're in trouble, huh?
    [Hitchhiker convulses]
    Hitchhiker: No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody's comin' up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won't even get your heart goin, not even a mouse on a wheel.
    Ted: That - good point.
    Hitchhiker: 7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 doors. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby.
Well, it's close.

Earnesty, If Not Honesty
The funniest part of this Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad? That they expect someone to believe that they'd be more hawkish and more law-and-orderly than the Republicans.

Man, it's probably the funniest thing running on YouTube right now.

Sunday, August 13, 2006
Book Report: How to Break Software Security by James A. Whittaker and Herbert H. Thompson (2003)
After I read How to Break Software (which a quick Google check indicates I have not reviewed, gentle reader, but most of you wouldn't have read it anyway), I bought the companion volumes. This book, which I bought off of at its retail price, disappointed me where How to Break Software did not.

Both books run off of a quick list of fault-model testing (a term I learned from the first book). I had a ball with the first book, laughing at seeing some of my favorite dirty tricks encapsulated in someone definitive's book. This book, however, didn't hold the same glee for me.

The first book dealt with a broad subject and offered some very concrete things to try to attack software. This second book deals with a similarly broad subject (security testing), but is more abstract. The attacks it discusses aren't as narrow and easy to recreate; they're more methods and abstract ideas to try rather than concrete shortcuts to finding issues. I know, there's something to be said for a broad, ranging methodology, but the first book wasn't that way, and I didn't expect this one to be that way. Additionally, the book is sized similarly to the first, which doesn't allow it to go into a lot of detail for each of the abstract things it talks about.

Finally, I don't know that the book focuses enough on actual security attacks; rather, it focuses on attacks that could be construed as security breaches. However, in many cases, they're not specifically security attacks, but rather regular tests that could, if applied to applications needing security, be security attacks.

Maybe that's all security testing is, but this book wasn't different enough from the first book to make me wonder if it wasn't really a sequel given a better title.

On the other hand, it does come with a CD and a tool which looks to be pretty cool, if I could get some professional time to play with it.

So buy the first book, How to Break Software, and apply its attacks to secure software. Buy this book if you're really into it or if the company is buying it for you.

Books mentioned in this review:


I Cannot Be The Only One
I mean, who hasn't seen the stray drops fall from the nipple as you try to align the bottle with the mouth of a squalling, squirming baby, striking his or her cheeks, chin, and lips....who hasn't seen that and thought of tracer rounds?

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