Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Void Where Jim Talent Has Legislated
Here's a handy coupon:

Claritin Coupon

Save money on 2 boxes? You can't buy two boxes of the good stuff any more in these here United States thanks to former Senator Jim Talent.

Book Report: Fiddlers by Ed McBain (2005)
This book represents one of Ed McBain's last books, and it was published posthumously; the About the Author bit on the back flap is in the past tense, which startles me. Cotton Hawes gives his age as 34 in this book, too, which bothered me a little, too. For most of my life, he's been older than I am, and suddenly I'm older than many of the detectives in the 87th Precinct. That's the meta about this book. Also, let it be known that Ed McBain did not support the war in Iraq. I don't have a vivid impression of whether his contemporaneous books from the Vietnam era were as down on it, or even his Korean War-era books were as down on it, but it's noticeable in these last books (see also Hark!). Now, onto the story.

Someone is shooting seemingly-unrelated late middle-aged people very quickly, and the 87th Precinct has to find the perp before he can do another vic. Meanwhile, Kling's broken up with the black doctor following Hark!, Cotton Hawes finds himself falling for an older woman, and Carella's daughter (now 14 after 30 years) is hanging out with a bad seed. That's all it takes to craft a good, readable book. Like Perry Mason, McBain's books age well, so this will be a fine read decades from now.

I was a little disappointed with how long it took the police to figure out what was going on, but I guess McBain had a minimum length to meet.

Books mentioned in this review:

Missed Their Panic-Induction Target
Silly UN people and their media mouthpieces, tinkling the dinner bell of doom with prognostications like this: Global warming: hotter summers, more flooding:
    The St. Louis region should brace for more frequent and intense heat waves, an increased risk of flooding from big rivers and a surge in air pollution by 2050, some of the authors of a report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said at a news conference Friday.
Silly Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. He should have known to get the home crowd in an uproar, he should have aimed for more direct traumas that would appeal to the baser instincts of St. Louisians. Something like:

Global warming: More blackouts, higher electricity bills

That would tear up the people addicted to 70 degree interiors maintained at a government-limited few pennies per kilowatt hour and make them demand that their government do something to limit other people's lifestyles to protect their own.

Friday, April 06, 2007
Once In A Lifetime, The Faithful Should Go
Mary Bufe writes some travel tips for married couples, but it's clear she doesn't understand the power of the one true chosen one:
    A: Imagine this couple's life 20-something years later when they are driving back from spring break with a van full of kids. Suddenly the husband suggests a "slight detour" to visit the hometown of another important figure in American history.

    Q: And that would be?

    A: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
Although the scenario she describes could occur, it's just as likely that Heather's husband would want to go directly from Robert Frost's farm to Camden, Maine.

But I won't rule out a trip to Kiln, Mississippi.

Good Sports
This is just good sportsmanship:
    Five people were hurt last night when a car struck the rear of an ambulance, pushing it on its nose and onto the front of an apartment building in Kirkwood.

    The incident happened shortly after 11 p.m. on Manchester Road near Dickson Street when a Chevrolet Camaro struck the eastbound Abbott ambulance from the rear, said Larry Stone, an Abbott vice president.

    [. . . . ]

    Another Abbott ambulance took the Camaro's occupants -- a man and a woman -- to St. Anthony's Medical Center, said Stone, adding that police told him the woman had been driving.
Not to mention good business.

Wooing With Insect-Based Love Poetry
John Donne, "The Flea":

    MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
    How little that which thou deniest me is;
    It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee,
    And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
    Thou know'st that this cannot be said
    A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;
        Yet this enjoys before it woo,
        And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two;
        And this, alas! is more than we would do.

    O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
    Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
    This flea is you and I, and this
    Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
    Though parents grudge, and you, we're met,
    And cloister'd in these living walls of jet.
        Though use make you apt to kill me,
        Let not to that self-murder added be,
        And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

    Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
    Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
    Wherein could this flea guilty be,
    Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee?
    Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
    Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
    'Tis true ; then learn how false fears be;
    Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me,
    Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
Yeah, calling a woman flea-bitten has always worked for me.

(More John Donne here.)

The Downside of Digital Photography
Instead of having to look through two or three rolls' worth--maybe 100 pictures total--of someone's ill-focused, underlit, and same-three-people-smiling-in-different-places photographs from vacations, now we have hundreds.

You think George Eastman wasn't thinking ahead?

Thursday, April 05, 2007
Response Mandatory; Opt Out, Not So Much
Students at Mehlville schools received negative campaign materials relating to a fire protection district election recently. The firemen's union were running a campaign for a write-in candidate and hired a mailing company to send the missives, and the mailing company got the addresses from the school district and sent the campaign materials, marked "You're Invited," to the students instead of the parents.

A Mehlville School District spokesman obliquely blames the parents:
    Patrick Wallace, a spokesman for the Mehlville School District, said that per federal public records law, the district provided data with names and addresses of students to the union. He said the district did not include information on students whose parents signed a "media exclusion form" at the beginning of the school year.
That's right, Federal law mandates that school districts sell or release your children's data, and if you didn't opt out at the beginning of the school year, well, his job is secure anyway, so squawk if you want.

Book Report: The King's Henchman by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1927)
This is a three act play retelling an Arthurian legend (particularly the Lancelot and Guinevere thing). Published in 1927, this piece is now 80 years old, but it reads older than that. Set in the 10th century in England, the characters all speak Middle Englishesque, which is not historically accurate (Middle English started in the next century, and it certainly wasn't spoken in 1927 on the east coast of America). As it's not a direct retelling of the legend of Lancelot, the suspense kept me moving even through the stilted prose.

I read most of my Millay in early college, and my structured poetry of the time reflects her influence. Casting love poetry and whatnot into Middle English turns of phrase and relying upon iconic imagery of the period. I later moved a bit beyond it, but I still appreciate it enough that I enjoy Millay more than McKuen.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Case of the Cautious Coquette by Erle Stanley Gardner (1949)
This book contains not only the titular Perry Mason novel, but two other novellas featuring the sleuth. Theses stories are almost sixty years old, but Perry Mason stories are almost timeless. As a matter of fact, I used them as an example in the the March/April issue of The Writer's Journal:
    Are you writing a story with a short shelf life, or an allegory on human nature for all time? Regardless of what you intend to write, the details you include might inadvertently determine whether you're an Erle Stanley Gardner; whose Perry Mason novels remain accessible and relevant decades after he wrote them, or a Justin Thyme, whose works connect with this year's audience but will seem as dated as a Baltimore Orioles world championship in ten years....
How timeless are they? One of the suspects is an inventor:
    "What does he invent?"
    "Oh, lots of little gadgets. He's made money out of some them."
    "What sorts of gadgets?"
    "Well, right now he's working on something in connection with infra-red rays. Before that, he worked out a device that opens and closes doors and does things like that."
    "What do you mean?"
    "It works with invisible light, what I think they call black light. A beam runs across the room and as soon as some object corsses that beam it closes a circuit and does things--oh, for instance, like making electrical contacts so that the minute you walk into the house the elextric stove clicks on and starts cooking, the radio turns on, and lights come on, and ... I don't know, Mr. Mason, I think it's just a gadget. So many of his things are scientifically fine, but impractical when you want to work on them."
That's not so far-fetched now, is it? We still don't have those things commonly in homes, but they're available and feasible. The language itself is more archaic than the plots or the characters, with all the talk of infra-red rays, black light, and lots of Gosh!

The stories are more whodunit than the most whodunit of the Lucas Davenport novels (recently reviewed here and here), but sometimes the plots have to be a bit contrived to get there. Within the brevity of these stories, it's good.

A quick rundown of plots:
  • "The Case of the Cautious Coquette": A simple hit and run tort case turns dangerous when two people "come clean" as the hit and run driver, and a woman named as a witness has her first husband inconveniently die of a gunshot wound in her garage.

  • "The Crimson Kiss": A friend from Della's hometown is going to be married, but is implicated in a murder of another Lothario.

  • "The Crimson Swallow": A wealthy client comes to Mason to hire him to protect his new wife from whatever made her flee. A jewelry theft muddies the waters, as does the death of a potential blackmailer.
One thing these novels seem to indicate is divorce is bad for you. Ex-husbands die a lot.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Singing The Skip
Sometimes, when I’m singing along with my favorite songs on the radio in front of friends—good friends, mind you, the sort who don’t mind that I miss one note out of every three or two—I will further embarrass myself by not only missing the interval, or octave, but by missing a line or a lyric. Sometimes, a bridge or solo is shortened and the renewed vocalization catches me by surprise. After the song is over, I try to justify that portion of my pathological performance by saying that I am “singing the skip.”

Back in my formative middle 1980s, the cassette single was a novelty even as the era of the 45 record was fading. My mother owned a large number from her youth some twenty years previously, so my brother and I had plenty of oldies to load onto the console stereo in the living room. We cut our teeth on those, and when I went onto college, my endearment with the cheapening media form grew.

I found a music store in Milwaukee that offered juke box packs of records, a ten platter grab bag, for $1.99. I bought as many as I could, uncovering a large number of singles of dubious merit, but some I recognized. I also bought singles of contemporary or past hits for $2.49 each, and a number of used LPs to play on my shelf turntable.

There shall come a time when we’ll have to explain the oddities of records to children and young folk. You see, it was a disc like a compact disc, but it had these long grooves on each side. A needle rode in these grooves and the minute variation in the groove depth provided the sound. However, sometimes the records became scratched or damaged, and the needle would jump the edge of the groove. This skipping would advance the song a couple seconds, sort of like touching fast forward for a nanosecond.

Some of the inexpensive or used records I bought were imperfect, and even with the penny taped to the record needle, the songs sometimes skipped. Due to the nature of the imperfections, the songs skipped consistently; that is, the same line morphed into the second following line every time I played a particular song. So as I sang along in the darkness of my apartment, I began to skip, too.

The years of conditioning has paid off; I could sing to those songs and correctly account for the errata. Unfortunately, that special talent only works when I listen and sing along to the records I owned as a teenager and twentyager. When I’m confronted with the songs on the radio, on cassette, on CD, or in any of the current digital flavors of the month, I find myself a couple measures ahead at least once in the song.

So that’s my excuse, gentle reader and tolerant listener, for those odd moments where I run ahead of whatever I’m listening to and interpreting through my own rendition. It’s not a sign of my senility, but it is a sign of how we did things back in the old days when we flipped the discs or stacked them to play single-sides of albums in succession. We had to walk 2 mi—record store in the—we liked it!

In Other Campaign 2008 News
Gore's plan: Run harder, do better

Oops, sorry. Wrong Gore.

Bicyclists = Hooligans
Sure, at the same time as they loudly protest that motorists don't treat them with equal respect even though they're pedalling vehicles as entitled to the road as actual internally combusted or hybrid cars and trucks, they're blowing through traffic control devices at their convenience. I could have told you that bicyclism breeds hooliganism, as became obvious in the cradle of loving-your-neighbor known as San Francisco when a mob of the two-wheeling thugs attacked a minivan containing a mother and two children:
    Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

    Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

    A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

    "It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons," Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.
A mob, but a green-thinking mob lashing out against the global warming suburban mindset. Because that's okay.

Monday, April 02, 2007
The Real Jerky Boys
Corporate dischord, family infighting, and courtroom drama. Another nighttime soap? I wish. It's my favorite dried meat manufacturer:
    When Jack Link started his beef jerky business in the 1980s, it was his plan that his boys, then in their teens, would someday take over the company.

    Unfortunately, that dream has turned into a nightmare that is being played out in Washburn County Circuit Court, in a lawsuit that pits Jack Link and son Troy against his elder son, Jay. The Links are battling over the ownership of Links Snacks Inc. in Minong, now one of the largest producers of beef jerky in the United States.

    It's a dispute that has ripped the family apart, with accusations of greed, jealousy, harassment of company officers, bullying of employees and a long list of bad business behavior.
If only there were some way I could stock up a dried meat product sold cheaply at Sam's Club in case this battle destroys the company.

But my luck isn't that good.

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means
From the mouths of assistant university police chiefs:
    A man and a woman were shot to death in the University of Washington's architecture building Monday morning in what may have been a murder-suicide, university police said.

    Officers responded to reports of gunfire found the two in an office on the fourth floor of Gould Hall, Assistant University Police Chief Ray Wittmier said. He said a weapon was also found in the room.

    "It's quite possible that the suspect is one of the deceased," Wittmier said.
    [Emphasis added.]
Is he confusing suspect with perpetrator, or is he being coy?

It Wasn't Supposed To Be A Punchline
Michelle Malkin is right, this is funny, unintentionally:
    KIMBERLY SHRUM grips a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver and aims at a target 25 yards away.


    A hot shell casing hits the floor, joining hundreds of others littering the concrete at Jackson Arms Indoor Shooting Range in South San Francisco.
Update: Who am I to snicker? I once refered to the Springfield XD as the Springfield XP. So I am as ignorant as a journalist who either didn't pay attention to or even attend the event she was covering or who decided to Hollywood up the experience.

Sunday, April 01, 2007
The Noggle Library: Update
In September 2003, I posted pictures of the Noggle library. As some time has elapsed since then and we have found a replacement for Honormoor that allows us to house more books without displacing any cats, let me boast upon the bookshelves we have now.

Brian's read books

A long view of the hardbacks I have read. Good readers will spot books recently reviewed (Forever Odd by Dean Koontz and Come To Me In Silence by Rod McKuen). Yes, I have read those books, and they are a large portion of my 1200+ strong library of read volumes.

Brian's read hardbacks, shelves 1 and 2

Note that the first set of shelves are doublestacked with a miscellany of fiction and nonfiction, unsorted and shelved by maximizing the number I can fit onto the shelves.

Brian's read books, shelves 3 and 4

These shelves contain the recent fiction I've read and also represent the only segregation I have going on in my library. The top shelf on the left contains my Ayn Rand books, including early printings of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead (as well as the copy of The Fountainhead I bought when I reread the book in 2005). On the second shelf of that bookshelf, I have all my poetry, from Edna St. Vincent Millay and Wordsworth to my mid-1990s chapbooks from local authors.

The left bookshelf contains my Robert B. Parker collection (first 3 shelves), my books about being a writer (4th shelf), and home improvement (bottom shelf).

Brian's unread books

These three shelves contain the volumes I have not read yet. Most shelves are doublestacked. You can see in the center bookcase how my collection of Classics Club books has grown (compared to the picture from 2003); I still haven't read a single volume from the set. I don't know how many books I have in here, but I hope it's enough to tip my personal library to 2000. Jeez, I suck.

Some computer books

Here's a shelf of computer books that I haven't read, for the most part, but they will be handy reference guides when Windows 95 comes back into fashion. These shelves also contain some writing reference guides and some music reference guides.

Paperbacks and such

To the left, we have many of my paperbacks, some of which I've owned for 20 years now and many of which are older than that. I don't know that I ever went through a stage where I bought a lot of new paperbacks, although I have picked them up from time to time. Now that they're ten bucks each, forget it.

This concludes my section of the tour.

A shelf of Heather's books

Some of Heather's books.

More of Heather's Books

Another bookshelf whose contents belong to Heather.

Most of Heather's books

The bulk of Heather's hardbacks. I don't know her system or how she keeps track of what she's read. I rely on my wrote system of "On the read shelves, I read; on the to-read shelves, I must read," which has bitten me in the past. Maybe she just remembers.

Heather's cookbooks and textbooks

In our dining room, we have Heather's cookbooks, textbooks, and volumes of poetry. As you can see, the shelves are no longer full, as Heather is on a spartanization binge. What happened to the woman I married?

An interesting note, the bottom shelf of the bookshelf to the right contains my Time-Life Old West series that I inherited from my aunt. This bookshelf is the only one in the house that contains books that belong to both Heather and I. I'm very obstinate in not conmingling our books.

Heather's music books on the piano

Heather has also removed quite a few of her music books from the piano.

The guest room bookshelves

The guest room contains some of Heather's paperbacks and sewing books. The sewing machine is also in the guest room. We keep hoping the guests will make themselves useful, but no. They just come and sponge off of us during the holidays (I am talking to you, Butler!).

Jimmy's room

Finally, we have the boy's collection. With this many amassed in only nine months, it's obvious who will eventually have the biggest library amongst us.

How many bookshelves is that? I've lost count.

Book Report: The Prize Winner's Handbook by Jeffrey Feinman (1980)
As some of you know, I consider myself something of a Sweepstakes Bodhisattva. I've seen this book in different places since its inception, and when I saw it again on the table at one of last week's book fairs, I knew I had to have it, if only to compare my knowledge to its.

This book was written in 1980 by the head of one of the independent judging organizations. He doesn't hide it, but he does want to offer some insight into the fundamental honesty of the process as well as offering tips on how that sweepstakes contestants can take advantage of that process to have a slightly better shot at winning.

The book takes on sweepstakes, contests, lotteries, and bingo, with about half the book (it seemed) going to lotteries and bingo. There aren't many ways to shade winning the latter, so there's a bunch of history to pad the book out from pamphlet size.

Essentially, the tips are enter often and follow the rules. But if you're interested in contests and sweepstakes, it's worth a quick glance. It weighs in at 128 paperback pages, and I read the book in about an hour or so.

Books mentioned in this review:

Feds Get Their Man
A reader (and by reader, I mean someone who found this site while googling Lou Sengheiser) sends along a helpful link to his federal indictment press release.

As you know, I've previously been sympathetic to Sengheiser (here and here). I'll still stand on innocent until proven guilty, but it's not looking good for him.

Least I can do, since his brother seemed like a nice guy and gave us a good rate on our wedding reception hall. The Shania Twain CD thing notwithstanding.

Book Report: Forever Odd by Dean Koontz (2005)
My wife bought this book for Christmas last year (that is, Christmas 2005) because I'd liked Odd Thomas. As with the preceding book, the narrative voice of Thomas is exceedingly conversational, but this book at this time struck me as too much so. Odd Thomas, who sees silent dead people, gets a visit from the recently dead father of a friend. Someone has killed the father and has taken the son. Although early signs point to the first husband of the boy's mother (and his birth father), it looks as though the boy is actually bait for the one person who can find him... Odd Thomas.

The book was a quick enough read and pretty engaging; however, some of the narrative voice seems like fluff, and I have to wonder whether this and its 2006 counterpart Brother Odd are merely one story stretched over two books; the ending of the book sure seems like a setup. That's poor form.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Broken Prey by John Sandford (2005)
After reading Winter Prey, I flashed forward 12 years in Lucas Davenport's future. He's married to the woman he met in Winter Prey, and their children and she are in London, leaving Davenport a psuedobachelor. Instead of watching movies all night, he has to deal with a serial killer who appears to mock the MOs of three serial killers institionalized in a single Minnesota hospital. Early indicators point to a recently-released inmate, but that wouldn't have made a 300 page novel, would it?

I figured out whodunit pretty early, but I rode along with Davenport and his team as they went down one blind alley after another. But it's the journey, not the destination, for the most part. I've got a couple more prey books on the shelves, and I should get through them and get my complete list together since Prey books are plentiful at book fairs.

Books mentioned in this review:

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