Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, February 24, 2007
A Boy, A Camera, A Dog
It's 1985, and you've just moved to Missouri from the great state of Wisconsin (Snow Be Upon It). You've spent a year in your rich relatives' basement before your poor sainted mother could work her way off of the frozen onion assembly line into a typist (with typewriters!) position with the government and could afford to shelter you and your brother in a 12' x 60' trailer in a semi-rural Missouri trailer park. You're not supposed to leave the trailer as a "latchkey kid," and all you've got for amusement is the Polaroid Instant Camera you got for selling cards adverised on the back of comic books (thank you, Captain Olympic!), a film cartridge you might have earned with some months' worth of fifty-cents-a-week allowance for cleaning the said trailer and cooking dinner every night, a stray dog herded from traffic into your household, and a kid brother. What do you do for fun?

You stage a set of photos illustrating how your dog is a genius. Just like she told you to.


Cricket, The Genius

Cricket reading Omni
Cricket reading Omni on the sofa of our 1968 Star mobile home.

Cricket reading the financial pages
Cricket reading the financial pages at the table. The cookie there is for later, not to draw and hold the dog's attention while the photograph was taken. It's a real shame we didn't take her advice and short everything in October 1987.

Cricket playing cards
Cricket playing my brother at cards, looking for her stake to short sell everything in October 1987. Unfortunately, preteen children from trailer parks rarely have the scratch needed to impress brokers.

Cricket doing Kevin's homework
Cricket did my brother's homework. Although she was smart for a dog, apparently she didn't care much for elementary school social studies.

Cricket doing a crossword puzzle
Cricket loved crossword puzzles, but the ones in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch didn't challenge her much.

One of my first short stories, written in middle school, was a little two page bit written from Cricket's point of view. The short story was fittingly rejected by McCall's in my first magazine submission. I've lost that rejection letter, which would otherwise be the pride of my extensive collection.

As a hare-brained money making scheme, I created the official fan club for that dog. For some princely annual sum, you would get a membership card printed on dot matrix, cut crookedly, and laminated with some sheets I bought at the flea market:

Cricket fan club membership

Wonder of wonder, I think I actually sold one of these to the kid across the street for a quarter. I even produced the first monthly Cricket fan club newsletter, but then it tailed off to some other projects.

This is where I add a snappy conclusion that leaves you with some bon mot to mull over. I don't got one. All I have is a handful of cutesy dog pictures and a couple of memories to share. Make your own bon mot.

Friday, February 23, 2007
Google Artificially Assists Divorce Attorneys
Number 19 on Google for republican womanizers?

Damn, how many copies of Google Apps Premier Edition do I have to buy to keep this quiet?

Book Report: Great Tales of Mystery & Suspense compiled by Bill Pronzini, Barry N. Salzberg, & Martin H. Greenberg (1994)
I can't believe I read the whole thing.

Sorry to be summoning forth the memory of old Alka Seltzer commercials, but zowie, this is a 601 page book. It's an Anna Karenina-sized collection of mystery short stories.

It's a large collection of short stories, to be sure, but it's a very good collection of short stories, so don't get me wrong. It took me a couple of weeks to read it, but that's because even the best book of short stories might be hard to put down, but sometimes they can be hard to pick up again, particularly when they're 600 page books of short stories and you're a fellow who likes to read a couple of books a week.

This collection, though, is definitely of higher quality than some of the collections of short stories I've picked up in the recent past (even better than The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction Fourteenth Series). This book runs a gamut, from serious literary writers like Pearl S. Buck and Bernard Malamud to science fiction luminaries like Robert Silverberg (see my review for Three Survived) to my mystery standards (John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, Ross MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, Mickey Spillaine, and Ellery Queen).

The styles vary, but the quality is definitely high, and it's worth the buck I paid for it at St. Michael's book fair this winter. Heck, for the dollar, I got a lot of nights' reading from it, which is both good (efficient spending for prolonged reading) and bad (prolonged reading means less clearance of the to-read shelf and too little blog fodder).

The link below lists it as low as $.34 currently (plus shipping). Worth all of those pennies and more.

And when you've read it, explain the Bernard Malamud story ("My Son The Murderer") to me, because I didn't get it. Since it was the last story in the book and the only thing standing between me and logging the book as my 15th trophy of the year, I didn't mind. But I didn't get it, either. Blending multiple 1st person points of view across multiple paragraphs? The intro said there was a crime in it, but I didn't see it.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Single Greatest Current Mystery From Lost
What do the numbers mean? Why were those guys at the ice station? What's the deal with Desmond? Why did Locke become paraplegic? Those are all simple, pedestrian mysteries on Lost. No, sir, there's one mystery that surpasses them all given what we've seen or not seen in the last portion of Season 2 and the first half of Season 3:

Who ate the dog Vincent?

Here are the data points:
  • We haven't seen him since a late episode in Season 2.

  • His two main contacts (protectors) from the survivors (Walt and that chick) are gone.

  • We haven't seen the survivors hunting boars lately.
The inescapable conclusion is that the either Vincent dog-paddled to Asia or someone has killed and eaten that yellow lab.

Let's run down the possible suspects:
  • Jin and Sun: Come on, they're Korean, but that's too obvious and the writers of the television show would not play to the stereotype. No.

  • Charlie: Sure, in a fit of heroin pitique, perhaps he was jonesing for some meat. Maybe.

  • Hurley: Dude needs some calories, but he's more the sort to raid the stash from the hatch. Probably not.

  • Desmond: Dude crazy. Maybe.

  • A polar bear: Hey, why not? Walt got attacked by a polar bear; the recurrence of a polar bear would tie back to other appearances by polar bears and could probably amount to nothing. Maybe.

  • An tribe of native Pacific Islanders: Sure, we've never seen nor heard from them, but why would that stop them from appearing? Maybe.

  • The ghost of Jack's father: Well, ghosts don't eay, but perhaps Jack's father must consume flesh to reincorporate. Maybe.

  • The shark: Sharks eat things in the ocean. Hasn't the dog been known to go into the ocean? Maybe.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. But you can rest assured, I'll be watching for the clues, such as someone in the background of a shot sucking marrow from dog bones or a character suddenly sporting an Australian rabies tag on a chain around his or her neck. Because I must know.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
That's No Phish; That's An Amphibian
Today, I received this message:

The phish e-mail

Oh, no, I thought like good little phishbait. I didn't even bid on that.

But instead of clicking through on the e-mail, I go to and search for the item.

Well, low and behold, the item number in question was an actual item and it was offered by the seller mentioned in the phish e-mail:

The phish e-mail

Of course, it's still obviously a phish because:
  1. That's not the e-mail address tied to my eBay account.

  2. The e-mail lacks most eBay header/footer details.

  3. The message headers indicate it came from somewhere besides eBay.

  4. The auction that I was "delinquent" for hadn't ended by the time I received an e-mail.
But still, the sophistication of this particular phish is remarkable. It scrapes an actual auction off of the eBay site before or at the time of mailing to make it seem more authentic.

I'm almost afraid enough to vow to never click a link in an e-mail again, but I'd probably get fired.

New Urbanist Development Not Very New, Not Very Urban
Will city planners and those who've mistaken government service for a real-life game of Sim City take note about this development that, after a number of years, lacks the foot-traffic sorts of business it promised?
    At first glance, a trip to the New Urbanist community taking shape on Hercules' bayfront is reminiscent of the neighborhood depicted in the Jim Carrey movie "The Truman Show." Each Craftsman, Victorian and Italianate home couldn't be more perfect, glistening in an array of tasteful pastels.

    But at least Carrey's character, trapped in a seemingly idyllic seaside community, could walk to the local cafe for a cup of coffee. Three years after moving into the Promenade section of Hercules' New Urbanist Waterfront Redevelopment District west of Interstate 80, residents still have to drive or take a long walk for items as mundane as a cup of coffee. The bustling just-walk-to-it village, touted as a model of the New Urbanist movement, has yet to materialize.

    One of the tenets of the movement is that residents should be able to access essential services without having to drive to a strip mall on the outskirts of town. The idea is to locate retail hubs within walking distance of neighborhoods, or within easy access to mass transit. Currently, the mixed-use, live-work spaces on Railroad Avenue, which are meant to house these shops and services for Promenade district residents, contain real estate offices, finance firms and, of course, a company that specializes in staging homes for sale.
No, of course not; your community leaders know they're smarter than those saps in California, and that their misunderstanding of how urban areas grow from central planning instead of organically based on industry/employment won't make the same mistakes.

Of course, they will. They'll drive out stinky heavy industry to beam down a Star Cups (an off brand coffee shop, because a profitable corporation knows that light residential areas are risky for sustained business operations). Meanwhile, the affluent types who can live in New Urban areas because they commute to higher paid jobs elsewhere or because they're on a trust fund/retirement will continue to draw the sorts of businesses they can support--expensive places that can survive when the customers aren't frequent. Like real estate offices, financial firms, a company that specializes in staging homes for sale, and expensive beauty salons.

Bill McClennan, Proud His Paper Sucks
Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch proud his paper is hated:
    We are not liked. We are a liberal paper, and these are conservative times. What's more, many of the people who you might think would normally like a liberal newspaper don't particularly like us.
It bothers the new owners from Lee Enterprises because they have to keep a business afloat. Apparently, it doesn't bother the actual employees of the Post-Dispatch, though, because they're on a mission.

Monday, February 19, 2007
Whitney Gould on The Nohl House
Remember when I wrote about the Milwaukee Witch's House? Whitney Gould of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an update.

Personal Relics: The Pink Clipboard
I used my translucent pink clipboard the other day. I had an essay I wanted to proofread, so I detached the clipboard from its underused lined pad and clipped the essay onto it. The lined pad, with its years’ old plans and next big thing ideas, I put back into the organizer on my desk. I have things so well organized in that rudiment of civilization that I hate to take them out. But I needed the clipboard, so it came out.

I am reaching the age where every little trinket in my life has an origin in the mists of my time, and the clipboard originates from my college days. Not so much my college days, but the weekends in between my college days. For a brief period, I gamed with a couple of friends in B—’s basement on Sunday nights. Sunday afternoons, I could use my father’s car, so I would round up the gang and we would spend Sunday afternoon and evening in the basement of the townhouse where B— and his mother lived. The basement had the décor of a middle 20th century rec room, with a tile floor, the old couch, and a card table. On the off-hand weeknights, we’d gather to game or to pretend we could play musical instruments together. But on Sunday nights, we’d game.

A couple of late adolescents, dice, pencils, and paper called for something more, but we didn’t know what. Until B— discovered it. One weekend, he presented each of us with a clipboard to make it easier for us to maintain our personal character score sheets. As he produced them from somewhere offstage, he said he’d been to an office supply store and found a sale. Considering that we all earned a minimum wagesque paycheck at the time, his bounty probably represented a not insignificant portion of his disposable income. Much to our chagrin (and, no doubt, to the office supply store manager who eventually put them on sale), the clipboards were pink. No right-minded young man would use a pink clipboard.

But they were free enough at the time, and no right-minded minimum wage earner overlooks the generous excess of a friend. Particularly when that gaudy and potentially effeminate excess can be enjoyed in a basement where overlooked New Year’s parties, games of strategy, and Ghostriders’ band practices occurred. We accepted the plastic clipboards, no doubt edgy statements at a time where clipboards were still made of laminated chipboard, and we used them throughout those Sunday evenings in our youth.

As I proofread whatever it was I wanted to revise, my attention was split to include the history of the device upon which I was working and those nights long ago. I’ve had the clipboard longer than I’ve had my degree, my wife, my career, my Web log, and my son. Whenever I need a place upon which I want to correct my printed scribblings or, for some reason, to attach tablets which already feature their own hard cardboard surfaces, I turn to this single pink, semi-transparent piece of plastic.

Of all the things I’ve mentioned, it will survive. When these words are forgotten, when my marriage and my line have faded into even greater obscurity than from which they have sprung, when my Internet postings have finally emanated into the ether, when the library has given me much pleasure has moldered into fertilizer for future weeds, some archeologist aeons hence will dust off this pink clipboard from the remnants of this homestead or some landfill. With some thought and study, future historians might regard this one possession of mine and will find it reflective of its owner and his civilization.

A plate upon which this primitive dined, no doubt, with a metal clip to hold upon it the wriggling prey.

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