Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, October 21, 2006
A Phrase Whose Time Has Gone
Attention all marketers, copywriters, and advertising folk:

Please, from this day forward, stop using the following phrase, because you obviously lack the logical skills required to infer the implication:

Second to None

I heard this phrase on the radio again today, and its earnest presenter assured me that a local grocery store's pharmacy offered customer service that is second to none.

Oh, really, I thought; so the customer service presented by the cut-rate employees of the discount chain are actually not as good as when the store offers no customer service at all? I mean, that's what none is; it's the lack of the very thing offered, and when you say you're second to none, that doesn't mean that you're first; it means that you're lower than nothing at all.

Oh, I know, you're going to try to convince me otherwise because you see the inherent logic in the clichés and catchphrases that you parrot in the pursuit of creativity, but really. Trust me, I have a degree in philosophy. You're just wrong, and you can just as easily parrot some cliché or catchphrase that annoys me slightly less.

Thank you, that is all.

Book Report: The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais (2006)
Well, it's been a year and a half since I read a Robert Crais novel (The Forgotten Man). I'd even forgotten this book existed, since it was behind a wall of unread books on my to read shelves. Now that I have a couple extra book cases, I have spread these books out, and it appeared.

I wasn't that pleased with Crais's later offerings leading up to this book, but I was very happy with this book. It centers on a convicted bank robber getting out and integrating into society. However, on the day before he gets out, his estranged son, an LAPD officer, is gunned down. The official story doesn't make sense, and the ex-con turns to the FBI agent who put him away, now retired, for help.

Together, they try to find out why four police officers allowed someone to come up to them in a secluded riverbed without suspicion. They determine that the officers were looking for sixteen million dollars in unrecovered bank heist loot. Once they found it, a fifth man eliminated his partners. Someone in the police force wants the ex-con to be re-con to protect himself and his retirement.

The pace moves along well, the characters are interesting, and I rather liked the book. I got it as a gift from my beautiful wife, and it's probably worth the money if you want to click the link below.

And based on this book, maybe I'll even read any new Elvis Cole novels.

Books mentioned in this review:


Friday, October 20, 2006
Inventive Scam We Might Have Seen
SJ woman accused of house burglaries:
    A 47-year-old unemployed San Jose woman allegedly has a broad definition of "open house."

    Police said today that they had arrested Susan Hjeltness on suspicion of stealing more than $200,000 worth of porcelain figurines, jewelry and other items after touring homes in the Silver Creek Valley Country Club area of San Jose during real-estate open houses and property showings.

    Hjeltness, along with her 13-year-old son and an adult male companion, would pose as prospective buyers and tour homes, police said. They would steal items during the walkthrough or would unlock a door or window and return later, Detective Corey Green said.
When we were looking for our new house, we viewed one house a couple of minutes after the open house closed, and we found the back door unlocked. Was it another burglar in the same vein?

In either case, it was a realtor with a lack of attention to detail. Jeez.

How Much Is Too Much?
Probably no such thing if it's on the public dime. To chase a niche market, Milwaukee "District" officials want to expand the convention center again:
    With Milwaukee's convention business in a holding pattern, the chairman of the Wisconsin Center District said Wednesday that it's time to revive the idea of expanding the Midwest Airlines Center.

    Franklyn Gimbel said the region's ability to attract what he called a "gangbuster" convention was diminished compared with recent years because of the lack of hotel rooms in the area and the size of the convention center.

    The center was last expanded at the end of 1999, when the building's exhibit hall was increased to 189,000 square feet. When the center first opened in 1998, its supporters said it would put Milwaukee in the big leagues.
It was built 8 years ago, when "district" officials said it would put Milwaukee in the big leagues. It wasexpanded 7 years ago when "district" officials were wrong. Now, those officials want to spend more public money to get it right this time.

Color me skeptical. However, on the plus side, "district" officials are unelected and ultimately unaccountable to the public, so they're in no jeopardy of consequences for being so wrong, so often, so expensively, so they'll be free to continue pursuing more no matter how much they get.

Thursday, October 19, 2006
Capitalist Wants To Be A Crony
Pabst owner to ask city for $28.6 million: Developer plans housing, hotel, offices:
    The new owner of downtown Milwaukee's former Pabst brewery site wants $28.6 million in city financial assistance to help redevelop the buildings into housing, a hotel, offices and other uses, city officials said Monday.
Capitalist In Name Only.

Get a freaking loan like the rest of us.

The Song Sounds Familiar
A former World of Warcrafter laments on how the game ruins lives. He enumerates the fundamental flaws:
    First off, let's go back to the time it takes to accomplish anything in the game. To really be successful, you need to at least invest 12 hours a week, and that is bare minimum. From a leadership perspective, that 12 hours would be laughed at... . The "good guildie" who plays about 10 hours a day and seven days a week.
    The game also provides people with a false sense of security, accomplishment, and purpose. Anyone can be a superhero here if they have the time to put in....

    And people put everything on the line for these accomplishments with which they associate much value. I know of children and spouses being forced to play and grind for their parents, threats of divorce, rampant neglect, failing grades in school, and thousands of dollars spent on "outsourcing" foreign help. For what, you ask? Honor. The desire to be the best for at least one week.... The accomplishment and sacrifice itself are meaningless a few days later. Then it's usually off to the races again.
    Finally, when you're a leader there is a call (or more appropriately a demand) for success. Usually those you represent want to keep progressing. They want to keep improving. They want more access to the best things. It is on you to provide it. In my experience, when you fail to progress fast enough, waves ripple throughout the guild and people become dissatisfied. It's your fault, no matter what.
All in all, it sounds like good training for the business world.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Drink a Beer, Own a Gun, Go to Jail?
New charges filed in father's shooting of 6-year-old:
    New criminal charges have been filed against the father of a 6-year-old eastern Missouri boy who was shot in the head inside his rural Cadet home a week ago, the Washington County prosecutor said Wednesday. Prosecutor John Rupp said he charged Ricky Lee Rulo Jr., 29, late Tuesday with one count each of endangering the welfare of a child and possessing a firearm while intoxicated.
Wow, is that true? Apparently so:
    571.030. 1. A person commits the crime of unlawful use of weapons if he or she knowingly:

    (1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use; or

    (2) Sets a spring gun; or

    (3) Discharges or shoots a firearm into a dwelling house, a railroad train, boat, aircraft, or motor vehicle as defined in section 302.010, RSMo, or any building or structure used for the assembling of people; or

    (4) Exhibits, in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner; or

    (5) Possesses or discharges a firearm or projectile weapon while intoxicated;
Perhaps somewhere else in the byzantine labyrinths (if they had labyrinths in Byzantium, I guess), it explains that possession means you've got it on your person, but we're only taking it on faith that it's elsewhere and that your prosecutor's not going to try to expand the law by throwing you in the pokey if you've got your old man's 45-70 on the wall and blow a .8 at your backyard barbecue.

Productivity... Declining....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Reminder For The Relocated
As a reminder to those who have recently relocated to the St. Louis area (Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Williams, I mean you), the local baseball team's name has only two syllables.

St. Louis Cardnals.

Pronounce that I, and people will know you're from somewhere else riding the bandwagon.

The Title Sounded Promising
Arms Without Borders.

I mean, it sounds like Doctors Without Borders or Reporters Without Borders; however, Arms Without Borders isn't about the free exchange of small arms. Quite the opposite.

(Link seen on The Volokh Conspiracy.)

Monday, October 16, 2006
Et Tu, Missouri?
No voter identification here:
    Missouri voters won't need to show a photo ID at the polls after all, after the state Supreme Court today struck down the new requirement.

    A lower judge ruled last month that the ID requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on the fundamental right to vote. The Supreme Court agreed in a 6-1 unsigned opinion.

    The law required voters to present a photo identification card issued by Missouri or the federal government to cast a ballot starting with the November election.

    Opponents argued people impersonating others when voting is rare, and that the ID requirement would especially harm the poor, elderly and disabled who may be less likely to have a driver's license.
The Democrat Party is thrilled with the result, as are the expected Democrat voters recently enfranchised by ACORN.

Coming Next: A Tax on Monopoly Transactions
Virtual economies attract real-world tax attention:
    Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day, and these virtual economies are beginning to draw the attention of real-world authorities.

    "Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise -- taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth," said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

    "You could argue that to a certain degree the law has fallen (behind) because you can have a virtual asset and virtual capital gains, but there's no mechanism by which you're taxed on this stuff," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Forget what you learned about how laws are made on Schoolhouse Rock; here's how they're really made:
  1. Some crackpotesque person or thoughtful person presents a whacked-out taxation proposal, just for discussion.

  2. A loud cacophony of jeering greets the proposal, and it's tabled.

  3. A slightly less crackpot person brings it up again, perhaps in a time of fiscal crisis.

  4. A smaller number of jeers greets the second person, and the proposal is tabled.

  5. An almost rational person brings up the proposal again, possibly with a cool acronym and certainly some promise for funding education with the proceeds.

  6. The mass of jeering crowd is silent, for it has already expressed its displeasure.

  7. Legislators take the relative silence as assent and bring the bill up.

  8. Suddenly startled citizens react negatively, firmly, and resolutely.

  9. Legislators table the bill.

  10. State legislators in California or New Jersey pass a similar bill.

  11. Your state legislators bring the bill up and pass it because they want to be cool like the big states.

  12. Congress determines that taxing the thing only in New Jersey, California, and your state impedes interstate commerce and attaches the bill at the last minute, in the middle of the night, to a joint house resolution honoring Mom, because who could vote against Mom?
So you better start saving up, because the IRS is going to find out you bought Illinois Avenue in 1982 without paying sales tax and is going to want interest and penalties.

Sunday, October 15, 2006
Wherein Heather Scores 100
I only got 2 of 16, but I bet my beautiful wife does better:

Guess That Hair Band

(Link seen on Ace of Spades HQ.)

Amendment .viv
Here's how Amendment I of the United States Constitution used to read:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Well, that was before the government began taking its normal vigorish off of the top. Latest evidence:
    Police officers arrested Earl Hogan, the president of the Venice-Tri City Lions Club, on Saturday as Hogan tried to lead a small procession of cars into the city for a parade.

    The Board of Aldermen had denied Hogan and the Lions Club a parade permit earlier this month, but Hogan said lack of a permit wouldn't stop the parade. Lions clubs are holding numerous events this weekend to raise money for charitable causes.

    Officers who handcuffed Hogan and took him to the station called the arrest "unfortunate" but said they had no choice.

    "We have to do our job," said Police Chief Shawn Tyler after the arrest.

    Hogan was cited for unlawful assembly and released after about 30 minutes. His fine could range from $100 to $1,000, Tyler said.
After the addition of the crime of unlawful assembly and Mark of McCain-Feingold, how's that amendment looking now?
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of the press; or the right of the people peaceably petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Much more economical. The fewer rights, the more the citizens can enjoy them, right?

Speaking From Personal Experience
Using a conditioner that labels itself a "volumizer" won't actually thicken your thinning hair nor cover your bald spots.

On the other hand, when I toss my hair flirtatiously, it makes a wooshy windswept sound.

Book Report: The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair MacLean (1973)
This is my second Alistair MacLean of the year (the first, as you remember, was The Golden Gate in August. Both stem from the 1970s, which based upon the evidence of these two texts might represent the phoning-it-in period for MacLean.

The book starts out with an race car crash in the European Grand Prix circuit. The reigning champion apparently has lost his nerve and become an alcoholic. However, he seems to have some hidden agenda, for while he's putting on the show, he's sneaking around and investigating something. MacLean doesn't really draw us into his investigations or quickly identify the real meat of the story--Harrow has gone underground or underdog to find out who's gambling on the races and fixing them by sabotauging cars while selling heroin.

The reader goes along mainly because it's an Alistair MacLean book and something's going to happen. It does, and then the book ends abruptly.

Not MacLean's best effort, and not even as good as Floodgate, which draws the user into the plot if not the characters. The Way to Dusty Death does neither, really.

Books mentioned in this review:

Where Metaphors Fail
We talk about making sacrifices in our lives and our working world, using figures of speech such as taking one for the team or jumping on the grenade. Some say this makes our language richer, to use metaphors to express concepts in a colorful way. Hey, as an writer, I'm all in favor of it. However, when those colorful metaphors become cliches bantered about too easily, we forget the powerful sacrifice of those who do it literally:
    A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said.

    Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.

    "He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."
I don't expect I could or would do that.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

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