Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Rhetorical Question
If pro-life advocates assert that life begins at conception, how come they never include that period when discussing someone's age?

Book Report: Armageddon 2419: The Seminal "Buck Rogers" Novel by Philip Francis Nowlan (1962, 1978)
In 2004, I read Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future, a Buck Rogers recasting that hyped TSR's new roleplaying game of that name. It reprinted the first part of the two short stories that led to the Buck Rogers comic strip, which led to the film serials, which led to the Gil Gerard television series, and so on, and so on.

This book collects the first two short stories that led to the whole shebang in their almost pure 1928/1929 glory (Spider Robinson "updated" this edition, which explains why characters written before the Great Depression talk directly about nuclear weapons and television). As such, World War I veteran Anthony (not William or "Buck" in the stories themselves) Rogers falls into a cavern with suspension gases in them, and he's awakened in 2419, when the wars involving Europe and America have left them spent and let the Asians, particularly the Mongolian Chinese known as the Han, take over the planet and send the natives running for cover. Five hundred years later, about the time Rogers wakes up, the Americans are rising up in clan-like units to stand up to the evil Hans, as they are known in this book.

Americans live in the woods, close to the land, and have communal property. The Hans rule the skies and use technologies to keep the natives scattered, but are decadent and cushy. So you could really read into it different sorts of characterizations and messages depending upon whether you think America works best when America says, "Communism, yes!" or whatnot.

Regardless, the book is a simple romp typical of magazine-based pulp fiction of the era and perhaps even of today. A quick read that was fun. Probably better than Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future.

Also, those Hans? Not really Chinese. Instead, an epilogue informs us that they were actually aliens who landed in China and adapted themselves to look like the Chinese. I have to wonder if this is more of Spider Robinson's "updating," since in 1928 it was still cool to publicly fear and malign the Other.

Books mentioned in this review:


No Stunning Revelations on Grocery Store Checkout Scales, Either
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gets its outrage on when it finds that sometimes complex weighing mechanisms falter and don't weigh precisely, and when these fail between inspections, they deliver faulty measurements to the benefit or detriment of consumers. But the Journal-Sentinel goes nuts on it since it can get a WATCHDOG REPORT out of a hot-button contemporary issue like gas:
    When it comes to buying gas in Wisconsin, you don't always get what you pay for.

    A Journal Sentinel
    [sic] analysis of nearly 60,000 gas pump inspections shows that more than 2,000 pumps delivered a different amount of fuel than the meter registered in the past two years.
Yeah, well. That's about a 3.3% failure rate. Thanks, Journal-Sentinel, for your analysis that probably meant you read a department of weights and measures report.

The Journal-Sentinel piece is long on its own flabbergasted outrage, but doesn't really have anything but that. What's the solution? Twice a year inspections by the official standards keepers? Mandating the gas stations and their evil overlords Big Oil invent failure-proof pumps? No answer needed--only interviews with outraged consumers.

A more compelling story would be an indictment of how differences in air pressure and temperature affect the actual gas in a gallon. However, understanding Boyle's Law and explaining it to daily newspaper readers is beyond the ken of contemporary journalists; reading summary tables in government reports and conducting man-on-the-street interviews, however, remains in the sweet spot of the modern journalist skill set.

No word yet on whether Journal-Sentinel WATCHDOGS will figure out that most times when you buy meat at the grocery store, you're paying for the tray and the cellophane wrap if the meat clerk forgets to or out of haste omits to use the pricing scale's tare feature. But that's not an attack on BIG OIL, and those grocery stores still advertise with the local daily.

Deanna Vinson Rethinks Her Assertions
In their divorce proceedings, in which Deanna Vinson got custody of American Equity Mortgage and Ray Vinson retained rights to his, erm, unique radio voice ("Ninety-nine, ninety nine!"), the former Mrs. Vinson and her attorneys asserted that her stewardship of the company, not the, erm, uniqueness of the ubiquitous pitchman, were responsible for the company's success and millions of dollars in income.

Maybe hindsight is 20/20:
    American Equity Mortgage is closing its offices in seven markets due to a slowing in the home mortgage business, President Deanna Daughhetee confirmed Friday.
Meanwhile ex-husband Ray has set up shop with his own mortgage group and his curtain-of-fire radio commercials with a similar phone number that ends in 9999.

Maybe Ms. Daughhetee can halt the decline by snapping up Granny from Homestead Financial when she becomes an unrestricted free agent and putting her onto the air on American Equity Mortgage's behalf. If Garth Snow doesn't snap her up to shore up the Islanders' blueline first.

Developers Lose Some, Lose Some
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is beside itself as land developers lose some in Centene's giving up its attempt to build a new company headquarters by condemning properties in that slum of Clayton. In this case, the Post-Dispatch quotes those who worry about the impact the rule of law and right to private property will have on the region:
    Jim Koman, president of Koman Properties, a Clayton-based development company, said developers are watching the situation closely "to figure out if Centene was still interested in Clayton or would pursue other markets.

    "My personal hope and wish is that Centene stays within the metro area so at least the region will retain the jobs," Koman said. "All businesses and developers look towards pro-development communities and municipalities, no matter where they are located."
That implies that the region might lose jobs because the government wouldn't let the company strongarm other property owners out of their rightful property at Centene's behest.

On the other hand, the Post-Dispatch highlights a development setback for a property owner that acquired properties by buying them from their owners:
    Only one developer would have qualified for the tax credit: Paul McKee, who has amassed large parcels of vacant property in north St. Louis.
Remember McKee? The Post-Dispatch apparently decided it couldn't abide this Republican land accumulator in the city. Hey, I think Blunt did the right thing in vetoing tax credits for developers who probably have good enough cash flow and credit to start with (or they should be in another business).

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn't have a consistent opinion on land development companies in their quest for government handouts; it seems as though it prefers those developers who forcibly seize lands through eminent domain "for the public good" over those developers who buy lands secretively for their own profit.

And that makes me see red, if you know what I'm saying.

Friday, July 06, 2007
Bringing Back Memories, Therapy Sessions
A short video from Summerfest shows people dancing; my goodness, I remember cutting a picnic table or two in my time. My friend Doug and I were unabashed in our appreciation of the music, much to the amusement of passersby and chagrin of those with whom we came. It probably also explains why we were unable to impress women we saw at Summerfest.

Why, I once went to Summerfest alone and danced on a table by myself. That shows the depths of....well, something.

I haven't been to Summerfest in a decade, but watching the video takes me there again.

Prosecutors Decide Alleged Murdered Didn't Kill Victims Twice
Good news of a sort for this fellow; prosecutors are dropping half of the charges:
    Prosecutors on Thursday dropped four of eight first-degree murder counts against a suburban Chicago man accused of killing his wife and three children, saying they were focusing their case.
So now the first degree murder counts line up with the actual number of victims. Some common sense prevails at the D.A.'s office.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Mention Pretention
You know, I don't call it Fourth of July; I call it Independence Day as diligently as I call Autumn what others term Fall.

In my own mind, it makes me sound more formal.

Those In The Software Quality Industry Snicker At Headline
Disapppointing quality results can spur real change:

Disapppointing quality results can spur real change headline

Yes, do tell us about quality.

Monday, July 02, 2007
Book Report: Candyland by Evan Hunter/Ed McBain (2001)
Okay, it's a gimmick book; the first half is written by Evan Hunter in a more literary, explore the character style, and the second half is a police procedural in the Ed McBain style. That's the most notable thing about this book's universe; the second most notable thing is that the book is set in New York in late July, 1999 (the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., places the dates exactly), so the book makes no reference to the events of two years later (and books set since make reference surely). Thirdly, the book is told in the present tense, a bit of a departure. There, the gimmicks and unusual things are noted duly early.

Of course, I don't have to explain the first gimmick to you, gentle reader, because you know that Evan Hunter and Ed McBain are the same fellow. Regardless of the authors' photograph on the back that depicts the two fellows standing side by side.

The first half of the book depicts a rather randy architect in New York who's scheduled to return to a drab, sexless life with his long-term wife in Los Angeles in the morning. On his last night in New York, the, hem, gentleman tries to call an architecture student with whom he's dallied and has had phone sex, tries to pick up a woman (an attempted recovering rape victim) in the hotel bar, tries to call a phone sex line, and then tries to achieve satisfaction at a "massage parlor" to ill results. Brothers and sisters, although certain people (my mother-in-law particularly, whom I impressed upon first meeting by reciting Eliot and not McBain) have called this author "smutty," but I've disagreed--but after reading the Evan Hunter part of the book, I felt like I needed a shower. The only other Evan Hunter book I've read is Last Summer, which had me feeling for the protagonist until such time as I said, "Ew."

But then the second half of the book starts with detectives in NYC investigating the homicide of a hooker, and I hoped it wouldn't be the sad sack from the first half of the book. The second half follows a trio of detectives from Homicide, Vice, and the Special Victims unit looking into the murder. The main character is a woman on the Special Victims unit (the Rape squad), and the section follows her one day crusade to find this perp while she handles her divorce and relates to her co-workers. McBain takes a leap in using a female point-of-view, but he does well as far as I can tell (after all, I'm a male).

An interesting exercise; of course, we all bought it because it's McBain. And not a bad departure from his norm (like Another Part of the City). McBain is like John D. MacDonald on my pantheon of writers; regardless of what they wrote, I will read it, for I expect it to be good.

Books mentioned in this review:


If I'd Known the Lieutenant Governor Was Coming, I Would Have Straightened Up
MfBJN is on the blogroll at Team Kinder, named for the Missouri Lieutenant Governor.

To be frank, I've never heard of him, which I assume means he's a more efficient version of Dick Cheney, the older statesman who controls the diminutive, younger figurehead in the executive office.

Because modern commentary would have me know that government works in the hands of Republicans.

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