Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, October 07, 2006
The Government Organism Learns
About twenty-five years ago, stoplights with crosswalks had two signals specifically for pedestrians. These signals were a red DONT WALK [sic] which displayed solid when the light was read, indicating that the pedestrian should not cross the street and a green WALK that indicated the pedestrian could enter the intersection and probably make it across before the light turned red and cross traffic ground the pedestrian to lunch meat. A third state, akin to the yellow light, involved the DONT WALK symbol flashing, which meant that the light was going to change soon and you probably shouldn't enter the intersection.

This system, imperfect as though it was, lasted decades. However, some bureaucrat wanted to do something to improve it since people were still dying occasionally in the streets.

So in the 1980s, the conversion from the DONT WALK and WALK paradigm began its shift to the current iconography. The hand replaced DONT WALK and a person walking right to left replaced WALK. This new system would save untold children, the illiterate, and the non-English speaking people who couldn't understand the DONT WALK and WALK on the signs and who couldn't puzzle out that crossing with the red light was inherently bad and crossing with the green light was probably safe.

No, our governments enacted expensive changes which required replacement of all crosswalk lights and retraining the young, yet-unnamed Generation X to the new system. To protect the children, the illiterate, and the non-English speaking, you see.

I guess this system isn't working, either, and that the new iconography doesn't immediately, universally connect with people and tell them what to do. So now, to protect children, the illiterate, and the non-English speaking who couldn't handle the old DONT WALK/WALK system--or perhaps adults who can read English but not symbols, the government has come up with this solution:

New crosswalk instructions

After 25 years in which, I assume, pedestrians have continued to occasionally die in crosswalks, the government has added an instruction manual for the new symbols which, apparently, dead pedestrians couldn't understand. Now the children, illiterate, and non-English speakers get 21 English words explaining the symbols and what they mean. Because the children, illiterate, and non-English speakers couldn't, apparently, understand 3 English words or 2 symbols without the combination thereof.

It makes me wonder what lesson the governments will learn about pedestrians even after this program does not completely eliminate pedestrian deaths. Perhaps that these instructions are not clear and they need more elaborate details? A manual for understanding the helpful signs at the crosswalks? The sky is the limit, since apparently common sense and budget never will be.

Friday, October 06, 2006
An Effective Song
Epic by Faith No More.

Because let's face it, it's been 17 years, and I'm still saying, "What is it?"

But perhaps it's not an effective song; perhaps it's merely a poor metaphor, or I am not that bright.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Schrodinger's Lotto Ticket
The lottery numbers have been drawn in a city far from here, and I do not know the results. With these tickets I hold in my hand, I am simultaneously a millionaire and myself, the superposition of states, and I will only become one or the other when I check the numbers.

Be that as it may, I'm refraining from clicking the Place Bid link on eBay until I make the observation.

Book Report: An Alien Heat by Michael Moorcock (1972)
In stark contrast to the long, well thought out and meticulous Gor books I've been reading, here's a short (140ish) paged book that's the start of a trilogy. Set in the far future in a Utopia where man can bend matter and time to his whims, an indulgent and decadent playboy decides he's going to court a recent arrival from 19th century England. As he tries to woo her with poorly-remembered and rendered gifts and all the luxuries the id can provide, she tries, as a Christian, to teach him virtue.

Then he goes back in time to retrieve her after one of his contemporary friends sends her back, and he meets his friend there as a judge who sentences him to death in 1896, but he's spared and returned to the future for some purpose to be revealed in the next book. Good luck with that, protagonist. You're on your own as far as I'm concerned.

Certainly, there's some allegory in this remnant of 60s sensibility. I don't think I'll bother with it when I can pick up another Gor book instead. Perhaps I could spin some allegory of my own, where I generalize that certain segments of the population envisage a world of self-indulgence, lax moral standards, and whims catered to by forces whose details are so forgotten they might be magic, and that some segments of the population read books where evil exists and sometimes a man has to pick up a sword and chop at evil. But that's too hasty a generalization for me, and besides that, no one cares thirty four years after these books might have met head-to-head for the soul of science fictiondom. Man, who would have expected me to read another Moorcock two and a half years after I read The Black Corridor? Well, anyone who knows how books get off of my to-read shelves, I reckon.

And in closing, non sequitir, this is the 67th book I've read this year. Boo-ya!

Books mentioned in this review:


The Singularity Is Near
If Face is trademarked by Facebook and pod is trademarked by Apple, if I created something called FacePod, would Apple and Facebook collide cataclysmically in their haste to sue me?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Those Generic Marauding Political Activists
The story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a headline that describes the hooliganism at a political event: Madison County political fundraiser leads to brawl.

The lead describes some of the mayhem:
    A brawl erupted hours after a political fundraiser ended for Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon when his son punched a prominent funeral home director, police said.

    Jacob Bathon punched Mike Weber, owner of Weber Funeral Home, several times in the face at Rusty’s in Edwardsville, said Police Chief David Bopp.

    The fight was sparked by Weber’s refusal to place a political sign supporting Fred Bathon outside his business, sources said today.
Never mind, gentle reader, this is a generic young political activist. It could have happened to anyone, much like the political activist adult children who slash tires on election day.

But if you must know, gentle reader, the last line of the Post-Dispatch story identifies, for trivia's sake:
    Fred Bathon is seeking re-election as county treasurer. He is being opposed by Republican Kurt Prenzler.
All indirectly-like, see? The parent of this political activist is opposed by a Republican.

Could be a Libertarian.

I Didn't Sign That Paperwork
A friend e-mailed me from his new job, and I saw his signature block was doubtlessly a company recommendation:
    CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT: This e-mail and any attachments are intended only for those to which it is addressed and may contain information which is privileged, confidential, and prohibited from disclosure and unauthorized use under applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail, you are hereby notified that any use, dissemination, or copying of this e-mail or the information herein is strictly prohibited by the sender. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify us immediately by replying to this message and deleting all copies from your system.
Dear unnamed company functionary, please note that my receipt and opening a message that came from your servers does not constitute a legally binding agreement on my part. Come and get me if you must, but please spare me the ill-informed bluster.

Ineptitude Should Be Its Own Reward
Workers' job skills criticized in report: Those hired at entry level found to be unprepared:
    Written communications ranked highest of all deficiencies among new employees. More than 80% of the respondents said the high school graduates they hired had insufficient writing skills, compared with 47% for two-year and technical college graduates and 28% for four-year college grads.

    About 70% of the employers found recently hired high school graduates lacking in personal accountability and effective work habits, including punctuality, time management and being able to work productively with others. At the same time, the HR executives said they're seeking higher skills in foreign languages, creativity and problem solving.
It's imperative that we raise the minimum wage because it's inhumane to.... aw, I cannot even fake a good snarky rejoinder. Somehow, though, it always comes out sounding From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Sunday, October 01, 2006
Perspective Ain't Just a River in Egypt
Titans tackle kicks helmetless Cowboy, is ejected, and is probably going to be suspended. But let's go to the Titans coach Jeff Fisher for perspective:
    "It's ridiculous to get to that point. Two back-to-back penalties like that, there's no place for it," Fisher said.
Thank you, sir, for that bit of perspective on flagrantly unsportsmanlike behavior and wanton, senseless violence in sports.

As Cos Intended It
You have not played TI Invaders until you've played TI Invaders on the big screen:

TI Invaders on the big screen

On a side note, happy 25th birthday to the Texas Instruments TI 99/4a!

Ajax Wants To Be A Star
Ajax doesn't think it's hard to get on TV:

Ajax on TV

Sure, that top is 1 15/16 wide, but to Ajax, that's comfortable.

Book Report: Nomads of Gor by John Norman (1969, 1973)
This is Book IV in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth saga. In this book, Tarl Cabot (formerly of Earth) goes south to the land of the vicious Wagon People to seek the egg of the Priest-Kings. While there, he meets and impresses the Ubar of the Tuchuks (leader of one of the wagon people), participates in the siege of an unconquered city on the Southern plains, and saves a recent arrival from Earth who was destined to become a slave girl.

This book, unlike the preceding one, goes on a bit more about the slave nature of women and takes place over a longer period and amongst mere men, so it went more slowly than the preceding book. These paperbacks clock in at 350 pages of small print, so they're longer than the average paperback of the era, but as I mentioned in the review of Priest-Kings of Gor, they're deep, richly-textured books with a lot of expository information to impart. The exposition doesn't get in the way of the voice too much as it's an educational, study-like narrative of the events on Gor, but it does make for some long reads.

The voice of these books, by the way, is very satisfying and fitting for the study they provide. Although Cabot is a storied warrior, he spends much of the time watching the natives in action and occasionally participating to slay a dozen men or something. As such, Cabot retains his link to normal men, making the character approachable and contextual to readers that he would lack if we were a native of Gor or if he were quite the centerpiece of the stories. Instead, the centerpieces tend to be the titular characters and the world they know.

I've two more Gor books, number V and VIII; I'm going to shelf them for a while and get on with other things.

As an interesting side note, I tend to leave books out on the end table by the sofa where I read most nights. A couple of times I noticed that I had to dig through magazines and other books to get the book I'd laid down atop the stack the night before. I challenged my wife on it, and my suspicions were confirmed: she was actively hiding the Gor books so people in our homes wouldn't get the wrong idea about us.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wrong Number
If you feel you have reached this message in error, please check your number and dial again:
    Since June, area Muslims have become increasingly uncomfortable and even fearful not because of overt attacks or threats against them, but because a sequence of incidents have built upon each other to form an intense, low-grade foreboding.

    Beginning with the monthlong Israel-Hezbollah conflict through Pope Benedict XVI's inflammatory lecture last month, American Muslims say they feel more uneasy in their own country. Local incidents, including the August screening of a controversial anti-terrorism movie and an FBI raid on the home of a Muslim in Columbia, Mo., have heightened the anxiety, according to dozens of St. Louis Muslims interviewed over the last few weeks.

    "Muslims are feeling like the world is closing in on them," said Orvin T. Kimbrough, executive director of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis. "They feel like they're being targeted."
When our leaders call for your extermination and members of the population start killing you for being Muslims, call us back.

Until then, forebode quietly like the rest of us.

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