Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Forget Hussein
Is America ready for President Barry?

President Barry Obama

In related news, how did the New York Times photographer Max Whittaker know to go to Hawaii in 1978 to photograph a high schooler in case he ran for president 30 years later?

I smell a conspiracy theory cooking.

Good Book Hunting: February 9, 2008
Ah, finally, that time again, my friends. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the snows that came on Friday have receded by Monday, and it's book sale season again! Well, not quite full on book sale season, but Heather found something in the city claiming to be a sale of 1000 books, so off we went.

The sale was in a nice section of the city, St. Louis Hills or thereabouts, and it did indeed feature a number of books. A lot of books. Dollar hardcovers and old hardcovers at that. I never did ask the source of the books--the sale was in a single family home--but I did partake. I would have partooken of more were I building a reference library, gentle readers, but recent bookshelf acquisitions have shown me how space-consuming a reference library really is. So I only bought a couple of books (noted below, of course). The sale also offered old bottles at $3.00, collector sorts of bottles from various liquors around the world. Which leads to the funniest thing I saw today (so far): a rather South City Hoosierish looking fellow followed me in the pay money line, and he carried an esoteric and exotic bottle. Full. He spoke with the woman and they agreed that the vodka would still be good. Also, he had a Shooter's Handbook gun reference guide that he wanted, but he didn't want to pay a dollar for it; fifty cents, he offered, even though large reference books were $2.00. The woman offered it to him for the buck, but he wouldn't pay more than fifty cents for it. I can guess why not; that fifty cents was a whole sixth of a bottle of ancient vodka.

We also made a couple of other stops: one, a garage sale in the tiny municipality of Grantwood Village that had record albums for $3.00. I asked her if she'd take a dollar, and she would. Jeez, you record and cassette sellers, you need to know your price point here. Individual songs are a buck on the Internet. If someone wants to buy your old record or cassette, that person probably wants one song for sure and perhaps the rest as "maybe I'll like it, too." So you need to beat that dollar price point. You cannot hope that the stuff you liked back in the day along with millions of other teenagers in your generation will somehow prove to be a "collector's item." Keep it under a buck, or you'll keep it, period.

Our third stop was the local rec center for the community garage sale. People, and not a lot of them, ponied up $18 for a table. Given the selection scattered across the dozen tables, either the rush came right when it opened and cleaned it out, or people were foolish to expect to sell that stuff and make $18 back. Never the less, I bought some baseball cards and cassettes.

Here's our first noted score for the year:

First books of the year!
Click for full size

Here's what I got:
  • The Civilization of The Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt. Not pictured because it was floating around the back of the truck until after the photo was taken.

  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I realized when I told Heather about the book that I'd borrowed it from a friend to read. Now, I have it, so she can read it. Which is good, since the friend went from my best man to not talking to me in about 1 year. Which, oddly enough, is longer than it took the fellow who was supposed to be my best man.

  • Chivalry by a fellow named Cornish. Not actually a book about Cornish Chivalry.

  • The Danger of Peace by J.W. Allen. A lecture given at King's College in London in 1915, so I think it will have an interesting perspective.

  • Armor and Arms, a catalog of arms in the City Art Museum of St. Louis in 1954.

  • Armor in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) in 1951.

  • The Book of Buried Treasure, a nonfiction book about buried treasure.

  • At The Hemingways, a nonfiction account of life with Ernest Hemingway and family by someone with Hemingway in the name.

  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

  • The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming because I haven't read a Bond book in a while. Of course, I already had a couple to read, but now I have this one, too.

  • First Blood by David Morrell. I bought Rambo: First Blood Part II in August last year, but I should read this book first. Side note: of the 23 books I bought on August 27, 2007, I have already read 5. Yay, me.

  • 1066, a book about the Norman Conquest. Because one cannot have enough about that pivotal moment in history in one's house.
Additionally, I bought the following musical stylings:
  • Four audio cassettes with names like Quiet Moments and Ocean Waves: Interludes. BECAUSE I NEED THE SOOTHING!

  • Street Talk by Steve Perry on vinyl. "Oh, Sherrie" plus.

  • Songs in the Attic by Billy Joel on vinyl. Sure, I already have it on cassette. But I am a collector! Come to think of it, I might already have this on vinyl. If so, it's still good. BECAUSE I NEED THE COLLECTING!

  • Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply by Slade. "Run Runaway" plus. Man, I cannot wait to blare that one.
Also, I bought a stack of baseball cards, three packs for like a quarter each. How could I not, with Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor, and Ozzie Smith looking out at me?

Also, we got a game for the boys, and my wife bought a couple of cookbooks.

A couple weeks ago, I bought a couple new five shelf bookcases to spread out my to read stack. This means that on two bookcases, my books are not double-stacked. This spring and summer will alleviate that, no doubt.

Total purchased:12 books, 3 records, 4 cassettes.

Total spent:$20.90

Friday, February 08, 2008
Drive Shaft: The Early Years
Rachel Lucas is right; anything with a British accent is funnier.

Any Civilization Player Knows Differently
AP overstates its poll results when it says Bush, Congress hit bottom in AP poll:
    It's almost as if people can barely stand the thought of President Bush and Congress anymore. Bush reached his lowest approval rating in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll on Friday as only 30 percent said they like the job he is doing, including an all-time low in his support by Republicans. Congress' approval fell to just 22 percent, equaling its poorest grade in the survey. Both marks dropped by 4 percentage points since early January.
Actually, I would expect the absolute bottom to be armed insurrection or at least some sort of lynching. Disgust with one's government and party, pithy remarks made amongst the like minded, and/or staying home on election day after filing one's taxes in a timely fashion but answering negatively to a pollster doesn't strike me as the bottom.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008
Book Report: Playgrounds of the Mind by Larry Niven (1991)
Wow, it's been almost three years since I read N-Space, the collection to which this book is billed the sequel. How do you get a sequel to a collection of short stories, snippets, and novel excerpts? Beats me, I am not a marketing flack for a publisher.

Like that book, I didn't care for this book too much. For starters, it pads the nearly 500 pages with excerpts and scenes from novels (a disturbing number of which I have already read). It offers a number from his Warlock series, which I haven't read and might have to look into. Other than that, it dabbles mostly in the Known Space arena.

It did, however, allow me to put my finger on one of Niven's flaws: his books are best when the science isn't actually a freaking character within it, particularly the one that speaks most. The later Ringworld novels fell into this trap, as did one of the stories in this book ("The Borderland of Sol") whose only purpose was for Niven to noodle about the conceit of a quantum blackhole. The narrator is a space adventurer who follows along with Carlos Wu, father of Ringworld's Louis Wu, as they uncover a scientist engaged in piracy. The bulk of the story is Wu knowing the science of what's going on and not spilling it until they're in the pirate's lair, where the pirate scientist gives a lecture on quantum black holes.

The nonfiction bits talk about how much Niven likes to deal with the hard sciences and that, in one of the many science fiction convention memories he treats us to, he and a group of artists and writers got a conference room set aside so they could create a world, including the topography, the aliens on it, and their culture. They worked in the room for the whole convention, and that was it: people putting together a world. Niven was surprised that more fans didn't stop by to see this riveting action as artists created the images, writers wrote up the prose, and everyone brainstormed without a freaking story.

Niven, apparently, lives for this stuff, but readers don't necessarily. Ergo, this book is okay for real Niven fans, but casual science fiction fans should probably stick to the real novels or the real collections.

Books mentioned in this review:


ABC News Corrects Coyote's Spelling
From the story Fake FedEx Trucks; When the Drugs Absolutely Have to Get There:
    A fake U.S. Border Patrol van was found to be carrying 31 illegal aliens in Casa Grande, Ariz.

    An alert agent recognized that the "H" in the van's serial number is a letter used only on U.S. Border Patrol Jeep Wranglers. It should have been a "P."
One suspects that the story would have been almost as informative without the clarity that's only useful to smugglers.

Now, how about some Pantone colors for the fake logos, ABC? What, are you holding something back because the Bush administration censored you?

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Those Poor, Poor Donkeys
Southern Residents Asses Tornado Damage

(Link courtesy of William Squire.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Regardless of the Adjective, More Money Needed
MoDOT: Roads safer, more money needed

Do you get the sense that if the roads were less safe, more money would be needed anyway?

Roads remain the same....more money needed!

Flying cars invented, more money needed to convert the roads to bike paths!

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads? More money needed to subsidize production of organic garbage for the Mr. Fusion.

Come on, everybody play "Think Inside The Bureaucratic Box"!

Me and 3105
Total Missouri vote count for Fred Thompson: 3106.

That might include me, but on further reflection, I somehow was filling out a St. Louis City paper ballot; I know because I voted against its half cent tax increase for practice.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008
I Was Going To Write In Thompson
I voted this morning, about 9:30, about the 98th person at my polling place to use the scanned paper ballots instead of the touch-screen voting machines. I took the piece of paper because I'd planned to write in the name of my favored candidate, a man who has since left the race, Fred Thompson.

The current front runners of the party, Romney and McCain, are not my first choice. Nor my second choice. Nor, really, men I would choose at all if given any good field. Romney signed MassCare (Google asks, "Did you mean Massacre?"). Romney promised auto workers that he would save the auto industry. I mean, Romney isn't what I'd call a conservative.

McCain, now, I liked him well enough in 2000, before I knew much about him. I even forgave him for earnestly supporting McCain-Feingold because I thought his heart was in the right place with his intentions, but I didn't think the law would prove "Constitutional" (the difference between Constitutional and "Constitutional" lies in the difference between my opinion and that of the swing vote of the Supreme Court). However, it did, and ultimately the better I got to know McCain, the less I liked him.

I would have voted for somebody else, anyone else, when I got to the polling place. Instead, I hoped to write in the name of Fred Thompson to indicate my displeasure with the ruling mass of the Republican party that its calculus that weights "electability" (that is, how positively enamored the media coverage of a candidate is) over substance (that is, reason, individualism, and capitalism tempered with individually-motivated charity that make up the American psyche, or what I always hope is ultimately would prove to be the American psyche).

I wanted to let the Party and its new ruling locus back east understand that they weren't speaking for me, that I would go outside the established paths they chose for me and would actually write in the name of a Federalist, a man laden with gravitas, and someone who I think exuded sincerity and down-to-earth belief in himself and the aforementioned tenets of American society.

Of course, between the two evils vying to be the lesser of the two evils on the ballot in November, the current leader McCain varies from all that I think is good in politics more than the other guy, and a vote for a who has no chance is really a vote for the front runner. That is, any vote for anyone other than the guy in second place is irrelevant. And I didn't want McCain to win, did I?

Brother, that argument that my opinion is irrelevant doesn't work if you're trying to bring me to inflate your relevance. I know that I differ from the bulk of the party, and this primary offers me the opportunity to remind you just how much.

I was going to write in Fred Thompson, but his name was on the ballot. Good, that means that people who feel almost as fervent as I do but are lazy might take the opportunity to send the same message that I did. I filled in the circle and scanned it in, leaving a paper trail in case of voting irregularities or whatnot and a record that I stand apart from the direction this party is going, down the slippery slope into disconnection from me, if not its base.

Monday, February 04, 2008
Another Juxtaposition
On Friday, I shoveled nine inches of snow off of my walk and driveway.

Today, it was seventy-five degrees and the snow is all gone.

You cannot really explain that to someone who hasn't lived in St. Louis.

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