Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Good Book Hunting: September 22, 2007
Good Book Hunting: September 22, 2007 This week, we went exclusively to yard sales and the local elementary school PTO rummage sale. Here's what we got:
Old Trees Garage Sale books
Click for full size

  • A box of 94 comic books, including a number of Marvel mutant titles and GI Joe issues from the middle 1980s. They were marked a dime each or fifteen for a buck; how could I choose? I didn't; I took the whole box, including the duplicates. I blame it on the fact that I watched Mallrats last night.

  • Zobmondo!, a collection of those silly question things to share with your partner.

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, because I am on a sudden 19th century British lit kick.

  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, because I am on a sudden 19th century British lit kick. Honestly, I'd rather have handsome hardbound editions of both of these books, but if I need to read them first in paperback, so be it.

  • Test Your Lateral Thinking IQ; a quiz book for a quarter. Maybe it will feed my ego, maybe it will teach me something, but at worst it will only have cost a quarter.

  • A Guide to the Star Wars Universe; sure, it's not the Star Wars portal on Wikipedia, but it's a book, so I'll be able to geek out after the apocalypse.

  • Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows; I have seen like five minutes of Babylon 5 in my life, and I'm buying a book tie-in? I blame it on book-acquisition-drunkeness.

  • Stealing From The Rich; apparently, a true story of some financial skullduggery in the oil industry. I'll learn something, surely.

  • Fabricated Man, a textbook on the ethics in creating life/genetic engineering and whatnot.

  • The Most of George Burns, a collection of several of George Burns's books. I've not read any of his work, oddly, but I found his television show to be riotously funny half a century after it appeared on television.

  • Manhunt, the story of the twelve day hunt for Abraham Lincoln's killers. I think I read an article, excerpt, or review of this book in a history magazine this year.

  • Winston & Clementine, Winston Churchill's letters to his wife. Given his life, these must be very interesting. Still, I should probably read some of his formal writing that I have lying around here first.

Additionally I picked up a VHS copy of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame to satisfy my own morbid curiosity, DVD copies of Independence Day and Stargate (at $2 each, but for charity), and a CD collection of Sarah Vaughan. Heather got some CDs (at a quarter each, we probably should have bought them all and just tried the other stuff out) and some cassettes. The boy got, through our agency, a number of Choose Your Own Adventures.

Well, that should hold me for a couple weeks scattered across the next couple of decades.

Book Report: The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy (1991)
Wow, this book is 16 years old now and its subject matter is as relevant as it was then. The plot, as you know, deals with a set of terrorists who get their hands on a lost nuclear weapon and smuggle it into the United States. That's the first half. And if you didn't know the rest of it, stop reading now.

Then they blow it up at the Superbowl in Denver, and the United States president thinks it's the Russians, so the thing escalates into the brink of a nuclear war. Meanwhile, Jack Ryan struggles with the bureaucracy in the CIA and at the top levels of the government. Those struggles, and the inside baseball that goes with it, comprise much of the weight of this book.

The book compares with some of the classical literature I've read this year (The Three Musketeers particularly and somewhat with Anna Karenina) in that its cut scenes deal with a war and with a large cast working within and without of the government using intrigue and whatnot. However, this book is frightening in its possibility. Brother, after September 11, 2001, I had trouble watching the movie True Lies because it dealt with nuclear weapons smuggled into the US, and it's not entertainment if it plays to my deepest fears.

But the book moves along well, and Clancy is a master at torquing up the tension, although the ultimate climax really goes on too long with the heated exchanges between the US and Russian presidents. Also, the book refers quite a bit to A Clear and Present Danger, which I have yet to read, so many of these allusions were lost on me. But a good thriller if you're into that, and if you want to have nightmares about it.

I italicised Denver above, because the movie version set the Superbowl and the detonation in Baltimore, which holds with my thesis that terrorists could take liberty with pretty much anything between the Rockies and the Appalachians and nobody would care; obviously, Hollywood thought Denver was bucolic and backward enough that audiences wouldn't feel the tension and the shocking sense of loss that Baltimore, on the east coast, inspires. Also, apparently, the movie changed the terrorists to Nazis or something. Although there's an element of freelance non-Middle Easterners in the plot, make no mistake, it's Palestinians who blow up the Superbowl. But I've only seen Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October as movies and I'm not in a hurry to rectify that "oversight."

I do have more Clancy on my shelves, comprising many shelf inches, so I'll get to them sooner or later, and I don't dread the prospect.

Books mentioned in this review:

In Unrelated News
Now that New York, the state, is planning to issue driver's licenses without proof of residency:
    They were celebrating outside the governor's office Friday as Eliot Spitzer handed a landmark victory to a half-million illegal immigrants.

    The state will no longer require proof of citizenship for driver's licenses.

    "We're changing our policy with respect to getting more people out of shadows and into the system so people don't hide they're here," Spitzer said.
Can New York be far off from requiring drivers' licenses to vote?

Seriously, Spitzer is obviously in favor of the national ID card and passing off the costs the state should fund to the federal government.

Worse, states across the country tend to recognize other states' documents, but as we're seeing with this and with the gay marriage thing, states are starting to make infantile decisions that will eventually require national initiatives (like national ID cards) to cover things that states could handle. Some decisions by individual states are completely incompatible with federalist principles.

The good news, if there is any, is that Eliot Spitzer will, like Mike Bloomberg, never rise above a city or statewide office in that lunatic asylum on the Eastern seaboard.

Advice to Police Officers in St. George Found Lacking
St. George officers get polite reminder:
    Police Chief Scott Uhrig has given his eight officers a reminder about courtesy — and some words of warning — after one of his sergeants got fired for berating a motorist on tape.

    "They know to be polite and courteous," the chief said, "and they've been advised, 'Stay on your toes. We don't know how many other Brett Darrows there are out there.'"
Not, "Don't be bombastic, treat citizens of other municipalities passing through our tiny one-stop light, city hall is just another house in the subdivision municipality-of-convenience as though they're the people you're supposed to serve and protect."

Just, "Don't get caught when being bombastic and not treating citizens of other municipalities passing through our tiny one-stop light, city hall is just another house in the subdivision municipality-of-convenience as though they're the people you're supposed to serve and protect instead of the mainstay of our city budget and outlets for your own egos."

Good work, Chief.

Friday, September 21, 2007
Good Book Hunting: September 15, 2007
This weekend, we hit a couple of garage sales around our municipality, and we had a better result. For starters, it was less annoying; even though our occasional neighbors in Old Trees have signs proclaiming support for drawing and quartering the head of the nation, they're less frequent than the "we control the horizontal; we control the vertical" nature of the signs in Kirkwood. Also, I found more books, including:

Old Trees Garage Sale books
Click for full size

  • The Warden/Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. Because it was an old edition, and I remember the name Trollope from something. Maybe I was thinking of Lionel Trilling, come to think of it. Oh, well, what will it hurt? I mean, other than these are the first two in a series of books set in Britain in the 19th century.

  • Finch's Fortune and Wakefield's Course, two novels in a series about life at the Jalna homestead, home of the Whiteoak family, which take place in Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • Mazo de la Roche of Jalna, a book about the author of the preceding books. Apparently, I have the fruits of one of de la Roche's two American fans.

  • How to Read a Poem, in case I have been doing it wrong. I suspect most academics would tell me I have.

  • London in Dickens' Day, a book that should help ground the Dickens books I'll be reading. As you remember, in my report for Oliver Twist, I lamented that all pre-20th century books' historical details kind of blurred.

  • The Sociopath Next Door, so I can learn if I am tipping my pitches.

  • Spanish Step by Step, so when I go on a refresher kick, I'll have one more textbook to read.

  • Rhineland: Winter in a Missouri River Town, a low print run, very local history sort of book just because I could.
Additionally, I bought three VHS tapes to watch on a tiny 25" screen where the quality won't suffer (yeah, verily, I said 25" was tiny, because in the 21st century friends, it's iPod screens or what we used to call "Big Screen" televisions). These include:
  • Mallrats, which I think is probably Smith's second best work (after Chasing Amy); reviewing this will help firm up or reject that thesis.

  • Dirty Work, Norm MacDonald's finest work excluding the Hardee's star voiceover work.

  • Kentucky Fried Movie, which I have never seen even though it's Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker film.
Also, I got two record albums of jazz and big band sort of music and two CDs of the University City (Missouri) Symphony Orchestra. I didn't even know U City had a symphony orchestra.

Tomorrow is another Saturday, so no doubt I'll be trolling for a couple more books.

Excellent News for Canadian Hockey Teams
Canadian Dollar Trades Equal to U.S. for First Time Since 1976:
    Canada's dollar traded equal to the U.S. currency for the first time in three decades, capping a five-year run on the back of booming demand for the nation's commodities.

    The Canadian dollar rose as high as $1.0008, before retreating to 99.87 U.S. cents at 4:16 p.m. in New York. It has soared 62 percent from a record low of 61.76 U.S. cents in 2002. The U.S. dollar fell as low as 99.93 Canadian cents today. The Canadian currency last closed above $1 on Nov. 25, 1976, when Pierre Trudeau was Canada's prime minister.
Because as we all know, the Canadian teams sell tickets in Canadian dollars but overpay their stars with American dollars. If this trend continues, the Stanley Cup will return to Canada where it belongs instead of states like Florida and California.

All economic news is good news for somebody. Funny how half-empty the press is with economic stories where it's half-full with stories about how criminals and other mal-intentioned people are really just like you and me.

So Which Animals Are More Equal Than Others?
Leonard Little, defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, kills a woman while admittedly driving under the influence (BAC .19) and is sentenced to 90 days in jail for involuntary homicide.

William Anderson, nobody in particular, kills a police officer while allegedly driving under the influence (BAC .154) and is sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for aggravated DUI.

Just so we plebes are clear, did Leonard Little get a lighter sentence because he was a football player, or did William Anderson get a heavier sentence because the victim was a police officer instead of a suburban mother?

Because these "nuances" of the law kind of look like special treatment for someone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Will No One Rid Me Of These Turbulent Property Owners?
    But Conrad wasn't able to acquire the properties targeted for development.

    "The city put out the request without having control of any of the land,"
    [Conrad Properties President Craig] Saur said. "We couldn't get key parcels under contract at a reasonable price. Sellers wanted higher prices than was economically feasible for us to develop the project."

    He didn't want to use eminent domain to acquire the land, Saur said.

    "We want to be in places we are wanted," he said. "If the city could get control of the land, they would probably have a lot more developers interested in the project."
Surely Saur doesn't think the city can make a better cash offer for the land. What does he expect them to do, use the Scooby Doo method? No, he's saying that he won't call for eminent domain, it would just be nice if eminent domain just happened.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The Blink Tag in the Wild
Use Firefox and marvel at the wonder that is the <blink> tag!

Too Important Not Too Use For Cheap Political Maneuvering
The headline on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial? Editorial: Too important a job.

The lede?

    Retired federal judge Michael Mukasey's credentials seem to make him ideally suited to be the next U.S. attorney general.
The but:
    Mukasey reputedly has an independent streak, but administration officials probably liked what they read in an August op-ed article he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

    In it, he seemed to sympathize with the need for broader investigative detention of suspects (beyond holding them as material witnesses) and the unlawful combatant designation and wrote that a separate national security court deserved scrutiny.

    That responsibility for scrutiny now falls to the Senate. It should determine precisely what Mukasey had in mind in that op-ed but mostly whether he is the independent-minded attorney general this country so desperately needs at the moment to guard against excesses from any quarter.
That's right; it's an important job, the nominee has the credentials, but the Senate should conduct its regularly scheduled witch hunt to tar or feather this nominee because he thinks differently than the Senate majority party and the editors of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

After all, the associative property would seem to indicate that when the political is the personal, then verily the personal is political, and man cannot hold private (or publicly expressed) opinions and still do a job objectively according to the law of the land. Because the personal conscience or lack thereof is the highest law that some people can imagine.

Monday, September 17, 2007
So Much for Doing It for The Children
Well, when it comes down to The Children or the uptight property owners in a "historic" area, we know the "grown ups" favor:
    It might seem strange that a new playground would cause controversy, but this one is in the middle of Lafayette Park, a 170-year-old park that's the heart of a well-organized and active historic neighborhood south of downtown.

    To some, the brightly colored plastic structure with a big red fish-shaped tunnel as its centerpiece doesn't seem to fit in one of the oldest parks west of the Mississippi, surrounded on all sides by Victorian homes and a restored wrought-iron fence.

    "It looks like a McDonald's Playland," said Larry Dodd, 51, who has lived in Lafayette Square for 25 years and is a member of the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee.
Children must not be exposed to bright, fun colors if it doesn't fit in with the aesthetic sense of prigs. Right, then.

Coming soon, we shall also take away their smiles because their gleaming teeth hurt our eyes and shrieks of joy hurtses our precious ears.

A Priori
Art review, St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
    Unless, like Rip van Winkle, you've just awakened from a 20-year nap, you know that the planet is ailing. Even deniers, such as those who put profits before people, have come around to admitting that human activity is responsible for most of the decline in planetary well-being.
Sometimes, it just takes an art critic to settle scientific debates once and for all.

A real shame, though, that the first paragraph put me into a 20 year fit of apoplexy and made me unable to read the rest of the review.

Sunday, September 16, 2007
Fred Thompson Vaults Wall of Death, Fights Mutants
It's kinda dry reading, but this summary of a study indicates that older men who procreate are serving the interests of the human race, not themselves:
    Evolutionary theory says that individuals should die of old age when their reproductive lives are complete, generally by age 55 in humans, according to demographer Cedric Puleston, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences at Stanford. But the fatherhood of a small number of older men is enough to postpone the date with death because natural selection fights life-shortening mutations until the species is finished reproducing.

    "Rod Stewart and David Letterman having babies in their 50s and 60s provide no benefit for their personal survival, but the pattern [of reproducing at a later age] has an effect on the population as a whole," Puleston said. "It's advantageous to the species if these people stick around. By increasing the survival of men you have a spillover effect on women because men pass their genes to children of both sexes."

    . . . .
    Human ability to scale the so-called "wall of death" -- surviving beyond the reproductive years -- has been a center of scientific controversy for more than 50 years, Puleston said.
Only one of our presidential candidates fits that description. Fred Thompson: selflessly vaulting the wall of death to ensure longevity for the children and our children's children.

(Link seen on Dustbury.)

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