Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, November 25, 2006
AP Headline Misses Critical Word
Headline: Honduras fines U.S. subsidiary over alleged mercenary training.

That's odd, I didn't realize that the United States of America had subsidiaries.

Oh, wait:
    The Honduran government said Friday it has fined the local subsidiary of a U.S. company $25,000 for allegedly training more than 300 Hondurans and foreigners last year to work as mercenaries in Iraq.
Well, brevity is the soul of wit, headline writing, and negatively painting the big bad superpower inaccurately.

Reading the story, apparently the company was training people to work as security guards in Iraq, which means that I'll have to start calling Rose, the desk guard at the building in which I work, a mercenary since that's what the Honduran government would call her. But hey, free $25,000!

Just Helping Out
I have no idea what ex-girlfriend on Bothwell Glasgow means, but if there's one source for it in the world, it should be Boondoggled.

Backers and Leaders Want Gravy Train
In Milwaukee, another unelected authority has revived another way to spend the public's money: commuter rail:
    As soon as next month, regional leaders could start discussing whether to get aboard a $237 million plan to link Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and the southern suburbs with commuter trains.
This is no doubt in addition to the light rail initiatives. Normally, this would be a problem with a plan, but since it's a government authority, it's no reason to pause:
    Rail backers are touting the plan's expected economic benefits, while the new Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority is wrestling with how to pay for the service.
If people wanted it, there would be a market for it, and perhaps a free market enterprise of some sort could provide it. But, nah, it's all about featherbedding authority positions and salaries for the participants.

Kudos, though, to the plan's originators. With full knowledge that there's no funding in place, they've come up with a plan that's even more expensive than the last one:
    In its latest form, the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line, or KRM Commuter Link, would offer more frequent service and more stops - but at a higher cost - than the version that emerged from a previous study in 2003.
Man, I wish I were a quasi-government functionary, shuffling papers and preparing plan documents for an exhorbitant salary. Unfortunately, I am cursed with self-respect.

UPDATE: Owen of Boots and Sabers, more proximate to the impending fiscal train wreck than I am, weighs in.

Britain To Reward Silent Killers
'Big Brother' cameras listen for fights:
    The system works by putting microphones in CCTV cameras to continually analyze the sound in the surrounding area. If aggressive tones are picked up, an alarm signal is automatically sent to the police, who can zoom in the camera to the location of the suspect sound and investigate the situation.

    "Ninety percent of violent cases start with verbal aggression," Van der Vorst said. "With our system, the police can respond a lot quicker to a violent situation."
Aggressive foreign powers can continue quietly poisoning dissidents, though.

I Call It My Personal Safety Zone
Recliner Saves Man Who Was Shot in Head:
    Now comes another reason to stay put in the La-Z-Boy: A man sitting in his easy chair was shot in the head by his wife, but the sturdy recliner absorbed most of the bullet's force and left him virtually unscathed.
The deep, plush padding will also offer excellent protection should the Earth stop spinning.

Friday, November 24, 2006
Pleasant Dreams
Yeah, I've had a lot of nothing to say lately. How could I, knowing that the killer bees coming is nothing compared to the unchecked northward march of the giant carnivorous centipedes?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Not What I Bargained For
CNN Headline: Seeing love in green and gold

Is it some article about new women's lingerie with the Packers logo, like these H-O-T-T! Packer panties?

No, it's some dumb writer or something.

Man, my heart started racing for a moment there.

Advocacy Group Releases Poll Results Which Reinforce Group's Position
Poll results that promote the point-of-view of the commissioning group as news? Sure, if the poll knocks America:
    Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country's already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.

    To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world's worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.
Unfriendly ain't the worst that can happen to travellers to a foreign country, but it's awfully important to the make-feel-nice industries.

UPDATE: Once again, someone else discovers that I am dumb as a stump:
    - Musings from Brian J. Noggle, who misses the point. The poll isn't news because it "knocks America," it is news because how people around the world view America impacts America in a variety of very important ways.
Well, I didn't review the actual survey because I was not so inclined to delve into the material; instead, I wanted to point out, in my glib minimalist way:
  • The report is probably getting more media play because it reflects badly on America, albeit in a trivial way. Of course, I've got nothing to prove this, which is the beauty of glib minimalism. I just have to assert and rage against the machine. Take it for what it's worth, which is not much, but hey, it's a free site.

  • "Unfriendliness" in government officials is a relatively minor inconvenience compared to running into the religious police, getting shot during a civil uprising, or getting thrown in a foreign jail. But everyone has different priorities, I guess.

  • Regardless of its methodology, the survey's findings are trivial and ultimately unimportant. After all, it's measuring perceived unfriendliness of immigration officials. They're government bureaucrats. Ask anyone about any government official and you're likely to come up with an unfavorable reading on the old tricorder.

  • Finally, that a group of tourist-oriented companies would band together and find that tourism could be made better through some action of the government on their behalf is hardly shocking.
Still, I missed the point, which is changes to our immigration and visa policy to suit the needs of the study producers is good. No, I got that. Simple changes would benefit you. I got it.

But let's look at the study's other details (summary PDF) which can be spun otherwise than "U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors." For example, once you get past the unfriendly, apparently they're not afraid of the things that frighten Americans:
    Immigration officials far outpace the threat of crime or terrorism as something international travelers worry about when considering coming to the US.
In spite of the raging unfriendliness, the visitors like the United States:
    • 63% of travelers feel more favorable towards the U.S. as a result of their visit.
    • 61% agree that, once a person visits the U.S., they become friendlier towards the country and its policies.
    • 72% report that once they get past government officials at the airport, the U.S. travel experience is "great."
    • Nearly 9 in 10 travelers tell their friends, relatives about their travel experiences most or all of the time.
    • In every travel category but the point of entry experience, America ranks in the top three: travelers want to come to the U.S.
    • Travelers are willing to wait an average of 46.5 days to get a visa to visit the U.S.
    • More than 7 out of 10 travelers say that U.S. policies in the world would not stop them from visiting the U.S.
Yeah, it sounds a hell of a lot like the tourist street is rising up at our unfriendliness.

Meanwhile, since I am feeling minimalistly glib, allow me to mock some of the survey itself (survey results PDF). For starters, 100% of the survey respondents had travelled off of their continent in the preceding year and a half, so we're not talking about first time travellers. 65% are college graduates, compared to a thumbnail where college graduation rates by country top out at 40% (gathered here). The survey was taken on the Internet (or so I assume based on this question: "What regions have you traveled to? Just click on a region to indicate you have traveled there in the past 18 months."

So the survey looks at well-travelled, well-educated, well-connected people. The sort who might easily look down on stupid foreign government officials, maybe. But that's only what I assume based on my firsthand knowledge with frequent travellers abroad. Maybe I need to hang out with more down-to-earth jetsetters.

Now, here is our respondents' breakdown by country: What is your country of citizenship—that is, what country are you a citizen of?
United Kingdom 10
China 8
Russia 8
Venezuela 7
Brazil 7
Japan 6
Argentina 6
Korea 6
India 6
France 6
Germany 6
Australia 6
Colombia 6
Italy 5
Turkey 5
United Arab Emirates -
Other 4
Refused/not sure -
Now, let's look at the questions:
    Which ONE location on the map indicated BEST meets the requirement? Offers good value for the money/Has convenient air service from [respondent's country] and reasonable travel time
Let's look again at that list, broken out differently:
Respondents from Europe35
Respondents from Asia/Australia35
Respondents from South America26
To put that in perspective:
Respondents from a different hemisphere96 (minimum)
So tell me again how any of the responses about the US being a good value or being reachable in a "reasonable" amount of travel time might be hampered by the fact that we're a large ocean, a small ocean, or a pretty good sea away from the respondents? What, aren't the Canadians, the Mexicans, and the Caribbean people not worthy of an opinion?

I mean, heck's pecs, I think Illinois is a heckuva bargain for the travel dollar and is very convenient for travelling to. Because I can freaking walk there.

But I am belaboring my point when I could berecreate some other point which probably won't be blogged.

So let me make sure I am missing the point completely, because I rather hate to nick the point, or rather to merely backboard-rim the point instead of a complete air ball:

    A study commissioned by a group representing the tourism industry (neverminding projections that international travel to the United States will grow this year by 5.5% (source) has discovered that a number of well-travelled, well-educated, Internet-survey-taking foreign travellers think that U.S. immigration and customs officials are rude, and Reuters ran the story because of its ability to cast ill on America.
Because frankly, that is my point.

Regardless of whether the travel procedures are onerous, which I have no doubt they are, the proper way to encourage a meaningful reflection on the process is not to shout from the rooftops FOREIGNERS SAY AMERICA IS UNFRIENDLY, but particularly if you're trying to sell a solution to Americans.

Instead, perhaps an appeal to the generosity of Americans who want to share the experience of this beautiful nation and its myriad landscapes and culturescapes with other people who obviously view America favorably.

Oh, but no, I miss the point of a public policy initiative coming from a trade group based in Washington, D.C., who thinks the best mechanism to initiate American public policy reflection is the reproach of foreign opinion. Because I am a dumb, ugly, and unfriendly American, no doubt.

Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Press Pounces
You know why the Bush administration has chosen to provide a ludicrously self-confident front on its approach to the war on terror, when any reasonable person recognizes mistakes and setbacks that the president and his team seem loath to admit?

Because any crack in the unity plays like this: White House scrambles for exit strategy:
    A "stay-the-course" U.S. policy in Iraq has suddenly veered toward a "change-the-course" posture, but with little certainty about what it will be changed to.

    After three years of repeated insistences by President George W. Bush that he would accept nothing short of victory in Iraq and that the proper policy was in place to achieve that end, everything appears up in the air amid an intense flurry of new studies and proposals about the war.

    Which of the recommendations the White House will adopt is unclear, but rising public anger over the war reflected in the congressional elections has most observers believing the administration has little choice but to shift gears.

    "They're looking for a way out," Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said of the administration.
To its opponents in the other party and to the press, any reflection or re-evaluation is weakness.

Were this a less-than-family blog, I would express through creative invective my immediate, visceral reactions to this article, laden with a vocabulary designed to present through a funhouse mirror any thought of change into a desire to cut-and-run, hypocritically, from a fight we can win.

Personally, I regret that I have but one subscription to cancel to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and that I did that long ago.

Book Report: The Mystery Reader's Quiz Book by Aneta Corsaut, Muff Singer, and Robert Wagner (1981)
Well. I bought this book cheaply at a book fair because I was already buying dozens of other books, so what could this one hurt? My pride, my friends, my pride.

For this book offers a hundred some pages of quizzes that cover the field of crime fiction mostly of the twentieth century, and as a trivia-lover, I fell very, very short.

I thought I was doing all right on the authors I know well. A couple of questions touched on the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain. A couple on the Lew Archer books by Ross MacDonald. I even answered correctly a number of questions about Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series, some of which I read in high school. But there's a great number of books, authors, and series in classical and frankly just 20th century fiction that I didn't get around to reading yet, although there's plenty of it to be read in the Noggle Library.

My final humbling came at the hands of a simple quiz that just wanted me to get the colors right in the titles of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series. It's been a year since I last touched one of these books, and some many more for most. I got a couple right--I can even see the cover for Free Fall in Crimson in my mind's eye since I just organized some of the read shelves this year, but ultimately, I fell very short. For an author whose books I really enjoyed and have, in several instances, read more than once.

Forget it, the Northside Mind Flayers trivia night team is no more, for I cannot even respect myself for my performance with this book.

But it was a quick browse, like a phone book. Only occasionally did my eyes fall upon a familiar name. The rest of the time I was turning pages without comprehension.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Nice Girls Do - And Now You Can Too! by Dr. Irene Kassorla (1980)
When you've got a self-help sex book with the dedication TO MY FATHER - Who taught me the meaning of tenderness with his soft cheeks and gentle hands, you know you're getting into some downright creepy psychoanalysis territory. To help women of the baby boom generation cope with their sexual hang-ups, Dr. Irene Kassorla has devised the PLEASURE PROCESS, a set of steps not actually recognized by ANSI or ISO. This process involves the usual good advice about sex:
  • Care about your partner.
  • Communicate with your partner.
  • Have sex with your partner.
However, it's wrapped in psychoanalysis that obviously traces all sexual hangups to interaction with the parents as a baby. Ergo, Dr. Kassorla invites you to free-associate while going at it, particularly if you're able to free-associate yourself to a repressed memory and its attendant guilt of a moment where your daddy was changing you and you were gloriously naked in the bassinet. If you're able to talk about that with your partner while you're both, um, busy, you'll get over the guilt that's held you back and will finally achieve orgasm.

I mean, ew. Please. No. That's not a test of whether your partner loves you, ladies; that's a test of whether your partner is listening to you. For his sake and for the sake of your relationship, I hope he's not.

Frankly, Irene Kassorla is no Marabel Morgan, and I'm glad Ruth Westheimer had Dr. Kassorla "disappeared" in the great sex therapist turf battles of the end of the disco era. Because frankly, I'm more hung up than when I started the book.

Books mentioned in this review:

Microsoft Helps Out
Error message from Hotmail:

Error message

Please note the steps to remedy the situation:
  • In your browser, click Refresh.
    As it's an HTML error page, refreshing the error page will simply redisplay the error page.

  • In your browser, click Back, and try again.
    The application redirected me immediately to this page when I tried to reach; ergo, clicking back would take me back to the unrelated previous Web site I would have visited. In this case, since I went directly to Hotmail when I opened the browser, the Back button was not enabled at all.

  • Wait a few minutes and try again.
    I guess that's the only choice, really, and since it's the only choice, it should be the only hint.
Microsoft: It's some language for placebo.

Focusing on the Positive
At least the Bears game wasn't the most lopsided Packers loss this season.

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