Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Book Report: Assassin of Gor by John Norman (1970,1973)
Now I remember where I got these books; I bought them at Patten Books for a couple dollars each after I discovered how well they sold on eBay. Unfortunately, I would also later discover that the books available in bookstores tended toward the later, less salable editions. In a final stroke of ill luck, I started reading the ones I couldn't sell and found they were okay. So now I go into bookstores looking to buy them and might, someday, float ludicrous sums of money to buy back the very books I once bought for fifty cents and sold at great profit.

But I digress. This, the fifth book in the series, finds Tarl Cabot disguised as an assassin hunting someone who wanted to kill him in his rebuilding home city of Ko-Ro-Ba. He travels to Ar and enters the employ of a slaver to find out what he can about his adversaries. In the course of having his vengeance, he aids a plot to overthrow the leaders of that city.

Again, the main character is strong, assertive, and still a pawn of things he only half-understands. The book continues some of the serial story alluding to a bigger payoff and bigger plots to come in the series.

I remembered where I got these books because I returned to Patten Books to fill in the gaps in my set. I picked up 1, 2, 6, 7, and 10, which means I now only lack 9 of the first 10. Although Patten had a number of the later books, I held off on spending the sums to which I alluded (over $20 for at least one of the paperbacks) until I get a better sense of whether I'll enjoy the books that late in the series. The earlier books remained in print for a long time, making them cheap and plentiful, whereas the later books are expensive because they had fewer printings. Whether this is due to quality drop-off or the backlash against the books that arose in the 1980s, I'm unsure, but I'm certainly not spending good liquor money on those books yet.

But all signs indicate that I'll buy 11 sometime in the next year or so.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Spy Who Never Was & Other True Spy Stories by David C. Knight (1978)
I bought this book this year at the Carondolet Y Book Fair, I think. It's back when I thought I might write for Damn Interesting, so I purposefully sought out compendia like this that would give me inspiration for stories I could write. I never got the gig, but I do have a number of interesting books to read.

It's only after I cracked this book open that the brevity coupled with the large print size indicated that this might be a juvenile book. That's okay, though, as I am often juvenile.

The book contains a number of short chapters on famous spies through history, including Mata Hari, Nathaniel Hale, Gary Powers, and Rudolf Abel. Aside from these well-known figures, the book also covers Major William Martin (see, it is Damn Interesting sort of material); Velvalee Dickinson, spy for Japan in World War II; Peter Ortiz, Marine reserve and leader of the French resistance in WWII; and others. The brief chapters and simple language make it a very quick read and serves as trivia fodder or a source for further investigation.

So it was worth my time, even if I'm three times the age of its target audience. Plus, it's the 76th book I read this year. So there.
Books mentioned in this review:

Hollywood Salutes Veterans
Hey, it's opening weekend for Harsh Times, a movie about a violent ex-Army Ranger shooting the hell out of Los Angeles because he likes killing.

Thank you for your disservice, Hollywood.

Friday, November 10, 2006
Worst Storm Season Ever Thanks To Man-Made Global Warming
Well, why aren't the climate experts making that claim? Because the bad storms are happening on Saturn:
    NASA says its Cassini spacecraft has found a hurricane-like storm at Saturn's South Pole, nearly 5,000 miles across -- or two-thirds Earth's diameter.

    "It looks like a hurricane, but it doesn't behave like a hurricane," said Andrew Ingersoll, a member of Cassini's imaging team at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "Whatever it is, we're going to focus on the eye of this storm and find out why it's there."
Maybe it's an ozone hole or something on account of all the CFCs.

A Startling Turn of Events
In a startling turn of events, when the price of something goes up, consumers buy less of it. This holds true of labor, where the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has performed some hard-hitting post-election journalism to discover that businesses will hire fewer employees at minimum wage now that the state's citizens have ordered businesses to do so:
    26 percent increase in Missouri's minimum wage to $6.50 an hour will hit urban and rural workers hardest because some may lose their jobs or not be hired as businesses adjust to hold down costs, some business owners and analysts say.
So Missourians have elected to lessen customer service to themselves and to promote the use of illegal immigrants whereever possible (it's not that they do jobs Americans don't want, but they do take pay that Americans cannot).

Meanwhile, in Illinois, the re-elected Governor Rod Blagojevich cannot wait to impose an additional hiring freeze in his state:
    Two days after his re-election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich wasted no time spending some political capital on what had been one of his biggest campaign promises: raising the minimum wage, again.

    Such a campaign pledge had helped Blagojevich win his first term in 2002 and it became a pledge he made good on when he signed a $1.35-an-hour hike above the federal level in the summer of 2003.

    On Thursday, he called his proposed $1 hike, which would raise the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour, his "first order of business" as the legislature returns for its fall session next week.
Meanwhile, in the bowels of the Power-to-the-People headquarters in Missouri, the master tacticians have begun their planning for agitation for the next attempt to raise the minimum wage in Missouri or select parts thereof to a "living wage" because the electoral victory on Tuesday was only the latest victory in a struggle to make the job market equal. In which half the people make a living wage of some sort or another, and the other half are unemployed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006
Not A Lot Of Snark To Be Found
The return of the Electric Venom Snark Hunt (now called the "Carnival of Snark") looks to be a little light.

No doubt next week will be more chock full of pith once everyone sees she really means it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Election Results!
Preposition 1: Will Brian go to work today?

   Yes 111,110     No: 85,109     Passing

Amendment A: Will Brian take the trash to the curb on Wednesday night, as in past Wednesday night?

   Yes 191,688     No: 4,531     Passing

Proposition B: Will Brian J. read a portion of one or more books as recreation this evening, whose summaries he will report on his blog to the great acclaim of Just D?

   Yes 8     No: 1     Passing

Household Leader: Who will run the household?

Brian (Daddy): 1
Heather (Mommy): 781
Jimmy Ray (Dep.): 2,548,159

In other words, more of the same.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Election Update!
I voted. Now, I am going to drink a little wine and read a bit of classical literature.

Because, gentle reader, this Republic will go on beyond tonight, beyond the tallies, beyond tomorrow.

Regardless of what the panting pamphleteers of pixels say tonight.

Greenland Tourist, Agriculture Industries Salivate
Greenland ice sheet shrinking fast: NASA:
    The vast sheet of ice that covers Greenland is shrinking fast, but still not as fast as previous research indicated, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

    Greenland's low coastal regions lost 155 gigatons (41 cubic miles) of ice each year between 2003 and 2005 from excess melting and icebergs, the scientists said in a statement.
Well, it's about time it lived up to its name.

Long live the Greenland banana plantations!

AP Disses Columbia, Missouri
Town cracks down on rowdy Mizzou parties:
    Tired of off-campus parties that are anything but fun for nearby homeowners, officials in this university community have unanimously approved a new crackdown on rowdy party hosts -- and the hosts' landlords.

    The ordinances were approved Monday. They include tougher punishments for loud or rowdy social gatherings of 10 or more people and define 16 different nuisance activities, from drug dealing and prostitution to littering and blocking traffic.

    Violations can result in fines ranging from $500 to $4,000. In the case of repeated nuisance parties, the city could close the property for up to one year, the Columbia Missourian reported today.
100,000+ tends to rate as a city, unless you're an AP headline writer confronting a location in the Midwest. No doubt, this bucolic little community has indoor plumbing, mostly, too.

Natural Gas Prices Fall; Will Anyone Blame Bush?
Laclede asks to reduce rate:
    Overwhelmed by higher prices to heat their homes and fill their gas tanks over the last few years, some area residents may get a reprieve.

    Laclede Gas Co., which serves St. Louis and surrounding Missouri counties, has filed for a 13 percent reduction in fuel costs, reflecting lower wholesale prices for natural gas, which is used to heat most homes. Gas rates for Ameren Corp. customers in Missouri and Illinois already have been cut.
Who will be the first to blame the failed economic policies of the President? Hah, trick question, no one, because this is a transparent ploy on the part of Big Rotten Dinosaur to influence the election!

Also, it's funny to note the following misprinting that's probably due to a failure in the filling in of the Mad Libs template for utility stories:
    Bills for Laclede residential customers would fall an average of almost $14 a month under the filings last week with the Missouri Public Service Commission. The increase is based on monthly usage of about 93 therms and "normal" temperatures, according to St. Louis-based Laclede.
Sticking it to the poor and using cheap prices to make them dependent on the heat. Or something.

Chuck Norris In Iraq
I bet this made some troops' days:
    Corporals John W. Wright and Lazaro A. Castillo, intelligence specialists with Headquarters Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), and Cpl. Romel M. Estremadura, a member of the 1st MLG Personal Security Detachment, earned these bragging rights and their present rank during a special promotion ceremony here Nov. 2.

    Gen. Robert Magnus, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, along with action stars Marshall Teague and Chuck Norris, joined a military formation of 20 service members to promote the three Marines.
How cool would that be? I mean, I'm just a QA guy, and I guess the equivalent would be for Loki to tell me, "Nice job."

(Link seen on Ace of Spades HQ.)

The City Is Back....In The Stone Age
When we looked for a new home last winter, our real estate agent mentioned that there were some really nice houses in the city of St. Louis. No thanks, I said; I already have to pay a city income tax for the luxury of getting to work there. I don't need to suffer through what I pay for.

Unfortunately, this fellow cannot say the same:
    I live and work in the City of St. Louis. There is no greater advocate for this community than I. St. Louis is a place blessed with a rich history and noble heritage, with beautiful buildings and vibrant communities, with art and science and a wonderful mix of small town charm and big city style.

    However, the City of St. Louis itself is dying, thanks primarily to decades of liberal/Democrat control, which has done everything possible to drive out the upper and middle class citizens and ruined many blessings with which this once great city had been endowed. St. Louis is a classic example of what happens when Democrats and Liberals hold dominion unopposed over a community for a long period of time. It is a Democrat utopia.
It sucks, for sure. But it's nothing a new soccer stadium for Dave Checketts wouldn't cure.

Monday, November 06, 2006
Altria Takes Note
Back when I was a kid, these were called "candy cigarettes":

Candy Sticks

Of course, back when I was a kid, you could buy dried tobacco products ready-made. But that was before eager taxation proponents passed continual waves of legislation designed to raise money on a socially-unaccepted product. Waves of legislation that had unintended consequences.

Which is why we'll buy dried tobacco in the produce section someday soon. Because dried tobacco isn't cigarettes, you see.

Neither are "candy sticks", but it's good to see that all the candy cigarette machinery didn't get rusty.

Another True Internet Fact from MfBJN
Originally, Sudoku was named Countdoku, but then the Lucasfilm attorneys sent a letter. The rest, they say, is numerology. Or history. Or what have you.

No Relation (I Hope)
Not that you were asking, but this is no relation of mine:
    A man from Illinois is accused of killing a man from Bland this week. The Phelps County Sheriff’s Department says Michael Noggle of Cahokia is charged with first-degree murder after the body of James Gaylord was found under a bridge northwest of Rolla Wednesday.
At least, I don't think so.

Power to the Prosecutors!
Well, not exactly, but "backers" want to give police more excuses to stop people in cars: Missouri wants what Illinois has: a tougher seat belt law:
    Backers of a tougher seat belt law in Missouri are holding a pep rally next week to get psyched up for the upcoming legislative battle in Jefferson City. They're about to take another crack at a primary seat belt law.

    Police in Missouri can write a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only if the motorist was pulled over for another violation. A primary seat belt law, which has failed in the legislature every year since 2000, gives police authority to pull people over solely for not buckling up.
As a former young man who rode in motor vehicles, I understand this really isn't about giving police a pretext to stop you and check your story, since they'll do that for license plate light infractions that aren't, wow, look at that, infractious. This will, however, give them a reason to stop people and part them from some of their money.

To save a projected 90 lives a year. But that's projected, whereas the loss of freedom and the loss of citizens' money, will be real.

From the Continent That Invented Totalitarianism
A centralized power grid with a single failure that affects numerous cities in numerous countries shows itself as an example of a needed solution. That solution, of course: more centralization.

    One of the worst and most dramatic power failures in three decades plunged millions of Europeans into darkness over the weekend, halting trains, trapping dozens in lifts and prompting calls for a central European power authority.

    The blackout, which originated in north-western Germany, also struck Paris and 15 French regions, and its effects were felt in Austria, Belgium, Italy and Spain. In Germany, around 100 trains were delayed, and in the French capital firemen responded to 40 calls from those trapped in lifts late on Saturday night.
The only thing that more centralization cannot solve, to some people, is the hunger for more consolidation of power into their hands.

Sunday, November 05, 2006
Bill McClellan Opposes Medical Research As Its Discoveries Would Be Expensive
At least, I think that's the point he meanders to in his column today:
    Medical care is already expensive. Without health insurance, the most expensive treatments are beyond the reach of even an affluent citizen. Consider bone marrow transplants. This is the most common adult stem cell therapy, and technology-wise, it's horse-and-buggy stuff compared with what might be coming in the not-distant future. And what does this horse-and-buggy stuff cost? Approximately $100,000.

    So what would we do? If the insurance companies have to foot the bill for the new technology, rates would have to rise, and maybe rise steeply.

    This would compound the problem we already can barely ignore about health insurance. Millions of Americans don't have any. We're able to ignore this only because most middle-class people have at least some semblance of health insurance, but if rates go up, what then? Could we become a society in which some people — the most affluent — are able to get new organs while many go without even basic treatment?

    More likely, we will have to make some very difficult decisions. Who will get the cutting-edge treatment and be allowed to cheat death? I think about a spiritual man in his mid-60s, a man who used to dress as a horse for Shakespeare in the Park. Would he make the cut?
Never mind how the free market would eventually balance this out by finding more cost-effective solutions so health care providers could make money by applying the cures to new people with smaller budgets. Nah, let's just grab that precise moment of maximum suck, where it's no longer impossible but remains prohibitively expensive, and extrapolate to indict.... I don't know who McClellan's trying to indict here. Health care? Researchers? Opponents of Amendment 2? All of the above?

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