Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Friday, January 18, 2008
Book Report: Star Trek: The Return by William Shatner (1996)
Well, it surely comes as no surprise that I've been on a Star Trek kick lately. I've read a number of books in the last couple of months (see this, this, this, and this). Last week, on Tuesday through Friday nights, I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Insurrection. 80% of current Star Trek cinema (yeah, these videocassettes).

So what do you think I picked up after finishing Heat? This paperback, which I purchased in August.

Now, this is the first "modern" Star Trek book I've read. The others noted above come from the early 1980s, and they run about 200 pages give or take. This paperback, published among 27 that year, runs 370 pages and comes with all the jump cuts, red herrings, and multiple points of view you'd find in a more recent piece of genre fiction. I won't say that those characteristics make more modern novels better than the old school genre fiction, but they do make for richer reading.

This book centers on a plot by the Romulans to work with the Borg to defeat the Federation. Romulans, using Borg technology, reanimate Kirk after having found his grave on Veridian III (where he died in Star Trek: Generations. They brainwash him and send him to kill Picard, who's on a mission to do something to the Borg and, well, it's complicated. In a decent way. The best way would tie up loose ends and answer fundamental questions the books ask, but then again, I suppose that would prevent me from buying one of the 30 Star Trek novels that came out the next year to learn the truth, only to discover that the next ghostwriter for Shatner didn't bother to read the preceding book to answer the questions.

Still, a pretty decent bit of fiction, set comfortably in a defined universe where I understand the markers. Similar to the John Norman series I delve into from time to time, although not as richly presented.

Books mentioned in this review:

Not That You Asked
    I Am A: True Neutral Human Sorcerer (4th Level)

    Ability Scores:

    True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

    Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

    Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

    Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

(Link seen on Dustbury.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008
Nickeled and Dimed by Corporate America
Sorry if I draw your mind to Barbara Ehrenreich; have a little toke or two to clear your thoughts. It's what she would do.

Now, let's reflect for a moment on how big service-based corporations suck the small change out of you every month for "fees" they made up to add to your bill.

My mother recently switched to digital cable because she mistakenly thought that analog cable (instead of analog broadcast) would be out the window next year. When she spoke with a sales person about getting a couple of aw-cute channels like Hallmark, the sales person told her it was included in the basic tier of digital service.

The technician shows up several hours late (and back times his service log to show that he was on time), and my mother, now digitally cabled, discovers she does not have the channels she was promised. A call to the consumer inquiries line indicates that they're not really basic tier. But just because my mother took an extra effort, the company gave her what she was promised in the first place.

This anecdote led your humble narrator into a rather complete Leo Getz style They, erm, screw you with the customer service rant that touched on these fees.

Techdirt led me to this story that indicates that average consumers (according to a survey) spend almost $1000 a year paying little fees (regulatory cost recovery fees, number portability fees, and so on) that companies add on to their advertised prices.

If you're making $40,000 a year, that's 2.5% of your income, brah.

It irks the heck out of me that as the content and the Army of Davids thing makes the content cheaper and whatnot, that the people who control the infrastructure continue to combine and coalesce into large corporations that can levy these absurd and unethical surcharges leaving their customers, often contractually-bound customers, bound to pay the price since they have no alternative.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think that the corporations often have a legitimate beef with the increased costs of regulatory compliance and the added costs of government layering on a couple more taxes. But we consumers give them too much latitude to slather us with additional costs when the last quarter came in a little light on Wall Street, too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Not a Pledge Rams Fans Wanted To Hear
Best Buy makes a pledge that Rams fans might not like:

Best Buy threatens St. Louis football fans

We pledge to make even the away games seem like home games.

Best Buy threatens to make even the away games blacked out because they didn't sell out.

Of course, St. Louis would probably be better off with three hours of Cops instead of watching Marc Bulger doing his impression of a side of beef in a Rocky movie. There might be children watching.

Monday, January 14, 2008
Putting My Money Where My Blog Is
As you can tell by my sidebar, gentle reader, I support Fred Thompson's bid for the presidency and probably will far after he's either elected or withdrawn--I don't update the sidebar much these days.

However, today I sent a check to the campaign for the first time, putting my money where my blog is.

It's the first money I've sent since 2000, when I backed a candidate who was not nominated. I haven't sent much to the Republican Party or its committees in recent years, no matter how much of a gold-card member they would like me to be. But I've sent money to Fred, and if/when I can scrape up any more extraneous cash, I will send more.

You can, too, using the sidebar or going to the Contribute page which has a credit card form and a poor PDF for mailing checks.

It's more than this cross-dressing Klingon, apparently.

But let it be known my support has its threshold: I won't work the phone banks for Fred or any campaign.

Book Report: The Fred Factor by Steve Gill (2007)
You know, I don't think I've ever picked up a book about or by a candidate while the campaign was going on (although I did read Ross Perot's book some years after United We Stand was forgotten as a book and as a political force). Still, as part of the Christmas present for my two conservative uncles (mentioned here), I got them this book in addition to an anti-Clinton screed I knew would go over well (I forget which one I got them; there were so many from which to choose!).

I bought a copy of this book for myself so that I'd be familiar with it as well. I mean, you can tell by my sidebar that I support his run and all, so it's preaching to the choir, really.

The book breaks down into three sections, really:
  1. Fred Thompson's biography.
  2. Horserace handicapping ca last summer.
  3. A collection of Fred Thompson's writing.
Additionally, there's a bit thinking about whom Fred Thompson could select as a running mate. Both of the handicapping sections are weak, especially as time has rendered the possibilities impossible (that is, things didn't fall the way the author presents as a best case scenario). However, the biography and the political essays by Thompson himself are nice, but are available on the Internet.

Ergo, the book's best as a gift for someone whom you want to convince that Fred's the man and to whom you want to give something more than a collection of URLs.

Books mentioned in this review:

Sunday, January 13, 2008
Status Update
I'm here; I'm just trying to think of something clever to say.

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