Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Friday, October 05, 2007
Mail Call
In yesterday's mail:

Marquette University branded credit card

Missouri State University branded credit card

Northern Michigan University branded credit card

The thing is, I have actually only attended one of these schools. Of the others, my wife has contributed money to one and we established a scholarship at the other.

Special thanks to the development departments at the last two for selling my name in vain and to Bank of America for its unsolicited and unwarranted come-ons.

In the mail for BOA the day after tomorrow: three post-paid envelopes containing nothing but the cardmember agreement.

Thursday, October 04, 2007
Almost Like A Geek, But Pays Less says I'm a Mega-Dorky Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!
(Link seen on The Anchoress.)

Book Report: Eight Black Horses by Ed McBain (1985)
I've read this book before, so I knew how it was going to end. I read it again anyway. That's what I like about McBain. That I like McBain. Or something.

This book is one of the Deaf Man books, which you know what that means if you know McBain. The 87th Precinct series are pretty straight ahead police procedurals, but a number of the books center on the heist designs of the arch criminal of the series, The Deaf Man. These books deal less with the investigation of a realistic crime than the heistalistic stylings and clues and eventual accidental collapse of the schemes. In this book, he begins sending clues to the 87th Precinct that usually indicates the heist he's going to pull. If he's playing fair. Oh, yeah, there's a dead body found in Grover Park, too.

The Deaf Man subseries aren't the best introduction to the series if you haven't read them before, but if you're familiar with the series, they're a understandable diversion. McBain must have had fun with them.

So I've read it more than once, and I'll probably read it again someday. The next time I find another copy on my to-read shelves. Which could be as early as December.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Book Report: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861, ?)
I got this book in the Reader's Digest purty edition instead of the Walter J. Black Classics Club/Classic Editions (as is Oliver Twist and some of the other Dickens I have). Hence, instead of $1 or $4.95 I would have paid for it, I paid $30 or so (plus shipping and handling). There was a phase I was going through when I thought it would be neat to have matching editions of books in my collection, before I came to my senses and started amassing matching editions that only cost $1.00.

At first, I thought I would like this book much better than Oliver Twist for two reasons: first, the book uses a double-effect first person narrator. Now, to those of you not up on those terms, it means that the voice telling the story is an I (I did, I said). The double-effect means that the voice is telling a story from the past, so the events of the past convey not only what happened and what the narrator thought of them as they happened, but the greater wisdom of interpretation from a later time. This allows some offhand foreshadowing as well as a certain wryness.

Secondly, with a first person narrator, I figured that flaw I found in Oliver Twist, that things happened to Oliver, a passive participant in his own story, wouldn't happen. Well, therein I was incorrect. For although things happened to Oliver, in Great Expectations, Pip spends a lot of time doing nothing.

For a quick synopsis: A young orphan, raised by his sister and her blacksmith husband, finds an escaped convict in the graveyard where his parents are buried (the child's, not the convict's). Forced to help the convict, the orphan brings him a file and some victuals. The convict is captured the next day, but the child never lets on he helped the convict. After time passes, the child (Pip) grows a bit and is selected to visit a reclusive wealthy woman who has stopped her clocks at the time she was jilted by a con man some years ago. Pip meets her ward as well, a young woman who is attractive but cold. Apparently, the woman is raising the child to be a man-eater to exact revenge on the gender. Suddenly, the woman's attorney--and a criminal defender of some reknown--comes forward to tell Pip he has "great expectations"--that is, someone has given him an allowance for education and he might come into some property when he turns 21. Pip turns from an earnest, lower class fellow into a shiftless upper class snob, continues to pursue the beautiful but cold Estella, and waits to learn the name and nature of his benefactor.

So, ultimately, while Oliver Twist had a lot of things just happen to Oliver, Great Expectations has a first person narrator who does little but kill time. Overall, the book was too long building with a lot of paragraphs spent on the things Pip did while passing the time, but the nut of the story could have been told in 200 pages. This is the nature of Victorian literature, I guess, filled with passages and "comic" moments that really aren't that funny to a modern audience.

Worth your time if you're into literature, but there are better things to read.

Books mentioned in this review:

Monday, October 01, 2007
Good Book Hunting: September 29, 2007
Another week, another set of yard sales. At the first one we visited, I carried the boy instead of putting him in the stroller, so I didn't browse too closely the inexpensive books or videocassettes. At the second one, we deployed the stroller, but I was being very selective--as in not looking too closely at all--until I saw the price: 50 cents for hardbacks, 25 cents for paperbacks. Then I went bonkers, because who knows when I might need several books covering Triumph automobiles?

Here's what we got:
Old Trees Garage Sale books
Click for full size

  • The Confessions of St. Augustine, because, um, it's learned to have it.

  • A Set of Six by Joseph Conrad, some novels and novellas that do not include Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer.

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen because I wasn't sure if I owned it or not.

  • Castles and Keeps of Scotland, a Barnes and Noble edition so the book must be pretty famous and out of copyright protection.

  • Missouri Trivia. It's questions and answers, but I'll learn something to astonish my friends and family.

  • The Global War on Guns, written by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. Has anyone told him how French his name sounds? Seriously, Wayne is probably his Americanized way of spelling Jacques. The book probably condenses the last year's worth of America's First Freedom, but it was only fifty cents.

  • It's Pat: My Life Exposed. A book based on an unfunny Saturday Night Live series of skits. At least I haven't seen the movie. That is to my credit, I believe. This was a quarter, though, with no additional royalties encouraging the participants.

  • The Illustrated Triumph Buyer's Guide. I told you so.

  • TR for Triumph. I meant more than one.

  • Sunset Best Home Plans. Back when I was eBaying, I found home plan books went surprising well. Now that I am not eBaying, I like to look at them and kind of dream. Plus, I think I will accidentally find myself collecting old Sunset books one of these days.

  • Disco Dancing. A book showing you how to disco. I shall use it to train my son.

  • Disco. I think this is some sort of coffee table book. I picked it up because I'd already picked up the disco book above, and when you get the chance to get more than one book on a topic in a week, you take it. See also "Triumph" in this blog entry.

  • New York at Night, a collection of photographs. Probably better than Detroit, but probably there isn't much that is not.

  • Ulysses by James Joyce. If there's ever a reason I want to punish myself, this is the method I will choose.

  • Momisms, a little greeting card sort of book. It was cheap, and I was in a frenzy; don't you know what that means yet?

  • Panati's Parade of Frauds, Follies, and Manias [sic]. As you should know by now, gentle reader, I like to grab these compendia to get ideas for essays. Sometimes, it pays off (watch this space!).

  • The Triumph TRs. I meant I got a bunch of books on Triumph cars. Just in case. I better start collecting them to make this book purchase meaningful.

  • Opening Nights by Janet Burroway. Some 15 years ago, my college fiction workshop used a textbook written by this author. This is the first I've seen one of her books in the wild. Let's see if she knows what she's talking about. Of course, in the 15 years since I took that class, I've forgotten anything I might have learned.

  • A Celebration of Poets. Another collection of poetry to read aloud, although I've sort of fallen out of the habit of doing that to with the boy.

  • Training African Grey Parrots. Once upon a time, I was going to get one. Well, I thought about it. Now I have a book that will teach me how to train one.

  • The Dead Zone by Stephen King. This will replace a book club edition already on my to-read shelf. And by "will replace," I mean will sit on my to-read shelf until I inadvertently read both of them.

  • Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook by Scott Adams. Now that I am not actively managing any more, this book won't do me as much good as it would have, but it will prove amusing nevertheless.

  • Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. Also a replacement. Also subject to doubling.
Additionally I picked up a VHS copy of Computer Warriors, a Mattel "cartoon" circa 1990 that was supposed to support a line of toys. Remember them? Me, either. Which is why this video will prove an even greater curiosity.

Heather bought her regular collection of books, cassettes, and records pictured, as usual, to the right.

So I bought 23 books when I started out uninterested in buying any. The worst part is that, although I bought 3 books about Triumph automobiles, I passed up 2 books on historic Mobile, Alabama. Given my recent drive to read this sort of historical material in my own neighborhood, I do regret, lightly, passing over them.

All told, the feast you see before you cost less than $40. I gloat a bit, but I also mourn that this much knowledge is worth so little in the contemporary marketplace.

UPDATE: Frequent commenter gimlet suggests I start my new collection with this.

Book Report: How To Research the History of Your Webster Groves Home by Ann Morris (1980)
This old book is more akin to a pamphlet as it weighs in at 20 typed-and-photocopied pages, but since the library counted it as a book, I will, too. Like Webster Park: 1892-1992, it provides insight into the history of the region in which I live, but it's not much. The book provides a little text describing how to look for information about your home from the city of St. Louis (if your home was built before the city threw out the county lo, those many years ago) or St. Louis County. Additionally, it provides a couple of maps showing some of the early subdivisions of the land, so I now know who owned the land my house was on from the time the Spanish crown deeded it to a fellow named Sarpy to the time it was parcelled into 40 acre lots. It's not far, really, for me to draw up a line of owners all the way to me if I were so inclined. Perhaps someday I might.

The book precedes the Internet, though, in that it includes a couple of forms that you can photocopy and fill out to take with you to the government. Of course, from what I know of the government, it still precedes the Internet, so perhaps those will come in handy.

Worth the hour I spent browsing it just for the maps.

Books mentioned in this review:

Beware of Neocon Foreign Policy Wonks You Meet in Bars at 1am
Columnist Don Corrigan in the Webster-Kirkwood Times invents "remembers" a foreign policy bullet point that none of the rest of us do:
    •Failure to pay for the war with Iraqi oil profits, as was promised.
Uhm, who promised that? I seem to recall some no war for oil chanting, but that wasn't a response to the administration's foreign policy establishment making a promise.

Land Developer Quotes St. Augustine
Is St. Louis building blocks or back breakers?:
    Fresh off cinching a blockbuster downtown deal that relies heavily on taxpayer support, developer John Steffen said he hoped there would come a time when projects like his wouldn't need tax breaks.
As St. Augustine said, "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet." To which John Steffen says, "Wait until it's my competition begging for free tax dollars." Well, that's implied.

When a "Sobriety Checkpoint" Is Just A Checkpoint
Searching for drunks triggers a backlash:
    Orange traffic cones. Police officers with flashlights. Tow trucks idling. The sight of a sobriety checkpoint is supposed to be — well — sobering. But frequent roadblocks on a short stretch of Natural Bridge Road and at least one of its major cross streets this summer have triggered complaints that police are more interested in writing tickets than catching drunks in that part of north St. Louis County. During one Pine Lawn checkpoint in August, for instance, officers wrote 133 tickets — none for drunken driving.
Coming soon: Armed home inspections looking for building violations. In the interest of public safety!

Sunday, September 30, 2007
Book Report: Webster Park: 1892-1992 by Wilda H. Swift and Cynthia S. Easterling (2003)
This book wasn't even on my to-read shelves; I went to the library and actually checked it out. Since we moved to Old Trees from our twenty-year-old incorporated-out-of-convenience suburban municipality to an older town, I grew interested in the history of the area and whatnot. It's an interesting set of neighborhoods with homes that don't all look the same, and so I borrowed a couple of books.

This particular one deals with a land development that's now a neighborhood not far from here and details the first 100 years of its existence with an essay about its origin and early years, an essay about the governor and the Nobel Prize winner who lived here, some early maps, and an inventory of the homes and when they were built.

I enjoyed the book, which was a quick enough read and lots of pretty pictures. It's given me some architectural insight (I know what a gambrel roof is) and some historical knowledge (I know how Big Bend got its name). These are the sorts of things that make people wonder how I learned the trivia I know, and these are the sorts of books I read to get that knowledge.

Books mentioned in this review:

Trash Talking While I Can
The Rams are so low in the football standings that, if they lose another game, they'll fall completely out of the football standings and be in first place in the NHL Eastern Conference.

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