Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Friday, February 22, 2008
Unofficial Supporter
You can guess who's sort of unofficially rooting for a Mike Huckabee presidency.

Mike Huckabee

This guy.

Starring Kevin Spacey as Mike Huckabee

Although the film will probably get more arthouse cred if Huckabee doesn't make the presidency. There's gold in portraying obscurity.

Your One And Only Source
MfBJN is the only hit on Google for
Monitoring the monitors "Macho man is dead!"

I can only guess what that person was looking for.

Thursday, February 21, 2008
Aren't They All?
A photographer or editor with an apparent lack of astronomy experience titles a photo of last night's eclipse The Moon In An Otherworldly Moment.

Good job, fellows. Good job.

I'm Popping My Cork For It
The Anchoress celebrates the semicolon.

As regular readers and any users of documentation I've written know, I use it because I can. Also, it shows readers that I am one of the Haves when it comes to grammar sophistication and wealth.

Kinda like my relationship with the blink tag.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Book Report: Secret Prey by John Sandford (1998)
I am reading the series so out of order. This book falls sometime after the earlier books, but before the later books. That being said, the quality of the books and their lack of dependence on the storylines across the books for fluff. Sure, the books contain some of that, but the books build the overarching storylines, not the other way around. And each of the books is compelling enough in its own right.

This one tracks Lucas Davenport, who has just broken up with Weather (but you know what happens later if you read these out of order, to which this is past and prologue). Someone kills the CEO of a bank undergoing a merger while the CEO is deer hunting with various other executives of the bank, most of whom would lose their jobs if the merger went through. So there are plenty of suspects and opportunity. As the novel progresses, the novel looks into the dealings to see who will suceed the deceased as CEO, and the business dealings reminded me a bit of some of John D. MacDonald's paperbacks. Like MacDonald, you get enough difference in tone and subject to keep the books fresh.

Definitely a welcome rinse for my last mystery reading experience.
Books mentioned in this review:

Robin Carnahan's Ghostwriting Efforts Panned
Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, whom I have already noted (here and here) likes to put her own particular donkey stamp on what Missouri voters can and cannot vote on as the result of ballot initiatives, gets her work panned by the court:
    A judge has rewritten the ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment banning certain embryonic stem cell research.

    Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce says the language written by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was insufficient and unfair.
Carnahan had gone the old Soviets one better; it's not who counts the votes, it's who determines what the voters vote on.

Monday, February 18, 2008
Group Pushes St. Louis County Sales Tax To Benefit Selves
Come on, who are they trying to fool with this gambit?
    A quarter-cent sales tax that would provide $40 million a year for children's crisis and wellness programs will probably make the county ballot next fall.

    A regional consortium of 20 providers of mental health and other support services for children says St. Louis County children are suffering because they lack critical funding for services geared toward mental illness, physical abuse, substance abuse, pregnancy and homelessness.

    The county, despite having more than three times the youth population of any other county in the state, is lagging behind its smaller neighbors, including the city of St. Louis and St. Charles, Lincoln and Jefferson counties, say members of the group called Putting Kids First. All of those counties have established a sales tax to fund mental health services, substance abuse and child abuse prevention programs. The most recent was Lincoln County, which approved a quarter-cent sales tax in November 2006.
The money raised by the sales tax is going to get spent with the very people pushing it, hey? So aren't they a special interest group doing a little rent-seeking? Oh, I forget, they're doing it for the children, for whose benefit everyone should bleed and sacrifice, except of course those who Serve them. They should get tax money.

And phooey, again, on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for supporting it and continuing to identify sales tax rates in the terms of a horse race or the arms race. What, are we in the county afraid that the city will break the beautiful, wonderful, happy 10% sales tax barrier first?

Book Report: Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker (2008)
All right, this book offended me.

Of course, as you probably know, I read the early Spenser novels in my formative years, and the books led me to Thoreau and Chandler and whatnot and provided me with a basic set of dictates for manliness. Intelligence, strength, and sarcasm. But then the thing happened, the Spenser Valediction/Catskill Eagle bit, and the Spenser books declined. Slowly, I suppose, but still, they're now just collections of television scenes, many of which could be excised if anyone dared to incense a best-seller.

Then came the Sunny Randall books and Jesse Stone books (of which this is one) so that Parker could continue to revisit the themes sewn up pretty much in the Spenser books: namely, that strong, decent people can be in messed up relationships for decades, and that's okay. It takes a strong man to bear the cuckold horns. Also, let us not forget the autonomy thing (lectures provided handily in each book in case it's your first Parker read); let us remember the tough guys of all races (with "honorable" representatives from African Americans, Italian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and white guys); let us remember the positive homosexual characters (minimum one per book, and many of them are tough guys, too).

I read the books out of a sense of duty, but as I said, this one offended me.

It has all the normal flaws, some of which I allude to above. An ethnic tough guy (Apache) comes back to Paradise. He, like the other main characters in Parker books, are Sex Gods, right? Attractive women want Crow (not Hawk!)/Jesse Stone/Spenser/Sunny Randall (a Sex God in female form). There can be no conversation between attractive women and the Sex Gods without the undercurrent of sex. Then, we have the scenes with the shrink, wherein Stone and his therapist go over why he's stuck on stupid. Then, finally, we have a minor sympathetic character who's married but cannot resist the Sex God, so she commits adultery and then confesses she feels no guilt for it, and another adulterer confides that sex between adults is a good thing if it makes you feel good, husband and four kids be damned. Just don't tell him.

Oh, for Pete's sake. That goes beyond promiscuity, which I don't have a problem with. But justifying and rationalizing adultery? Give me a break. With that blow, the series has a total of zero recurring characters that I respect. None. No one for me to identify with. No reason to read.

I'm probably overreacting, but I traced some influence of my personal code of ethics to Parker's earlier work. I am beyond disappointed with this outing and don't know if I'll bother with the other Sunny Randall/Jesse Stone books from here on out. I just picked up the movie Stone Cold just last week, and if I get the others, it will be because I like Tom Selleck, not because I like Robert B. Parker.

Even aside from my moral high-horsing, the book is flawed. Contrary to the oft-reprinted AP review, the dialogue in this book is not crackling, wry, sparkling, or whatever the thesaurus wanted to stick in there for this Parker book. The plot is forced, the resolution relies on the now-frequent shootout trap for organized crimesters, and....

Jeez, can you tell how I feel about this book? I'm so spitting mad about it, it's like my review wanders out of the room and comes back to add just one more bit of venom? For the sake of consistency, I've put the Amazon link to the book below, but jeez, save your time and money.

I cannot believe I pay full price for these things any more.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Infinite Possibilities by Robert A. Heinlein (2002)
After the Niven, I wanted something with a little more zing to it. I've had this book on my shelves for a bit, so I took it out. I misremembered it as a collection of short stories; instead, it is a Science Fiction Book Club collection of three of Heinlein's juvenile novels from the 1950s: Tunnel in the Sky, Time for the Stars, and Citizen of the Galaxy.

Back when I was in middle school, M. Gene Henderson had a collection of Del Rey imprinted paperbacks in the hard library binding which I tore through in the sixth grade and the first part of the seventh grade. Hence, once I knew the nature of this book, I'd expected I'd find something familiar in it, that I'd read one or more. Actually, although one was familiar, I hadn't actually finished it. More on that by-and-by.

Tunnel in the Sky deals with students in high school participating in an off-world survival class. Their final exam is to go onto an unknown planet and survive for a couple of days or a week and finding the rescue point. A teleporter device sends them off, but as time passes and the students fight amongst themselves, they realize they're on their own. Then Johnny Rico a young man has to help them form a society in the wilderness. Suddenly, they're rescued.

I almost read Time for the Stars at M. Gene Henderson; however, the subject matter deals with a subject that was touchy. I was at M. Gene Henderson for the year and a half immediately following my parents' divorce and our subsequent move from the friendly environment of the Milwaukee housing projects to the wild suburban world of St. Charles, Missouri. During the course of the divorce, my mother took us on a two-bus transfer excursion to see an attorney who was going to evaluate the children's interests in the case and act as an advocate for my brother and I. During our meeting, he suggested a crazy custody arrangement: my brother and I spend six months with our mother and then six months with our father, a complete split down the middle of the year. However, in addition to the semiannual jerking us from school to school, the attorney also proposed that my brother and I actually split up so that one of us was each with a parent during those six months. Boys and girls, this was before the crack epidemic, okay?

So Time for the Stars deals with a deep-space probe program using identical twins with telepathy as the communication mechanism. One goes on a deep space probe traveling at near light speeds, and the other remains on earth to receive instant messages from psi. Well, at age 11 and fresh from the divorce, I couldn't handle that topic, so I didn't read the book. I read up until I got the conceit, and then I read the last chapter where the old brother and the young brother (travel at light speed will do that to you, or so Einstein tells me) meet again.

Now, 20 years have passed and my brother and I are naturally estranged, so I could get through it, but not without some meloncholy about my brother and my estrangement. So one twin goes in the ship, has some adventures, and gets in touch with his real relationship with his brother. While dozens of light years away, the ship's excursion runs into disaster. Suddenly, they're rescued.

Citizen of the Galaxy deals with a young slave sold to a beggar on a distant outpost. Neither is what he seems, and as the beggar-slash-spy is captured, the young slave follows instructions left by his adopted father to discover his past. It's a big one. Suddenly, the book ends.

That's a knock I'll throw on Heinlein: Man, the books just kinda end out of nowhere, with little resolution to the main problems in the book or with pat resolutions. Maybe I just don't grok Heinlein to that level. But they're quick, engaging books that carry you along and don't have the flaws that Niven's books do.
Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: February 17, 2008
On Saturday, we traveled to St. Peters, Missouri, all the way across the Missouri River and everything, to the Adult Hardbacks portion of the Friends of the St. Charles Library book fair. It had hardback mainstream fiction and mysteries for $2 each and videocassettes for a dollar or under. We bought:

Friends of the St. Charles Library book fair
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I got:
  • Alice in Jeopardy, a non-87th precinct book by Ed McBain.

  • Transgressions, an anthology of novellas edited by Ed McBain.

  • Secret Prey, a Davenport mystery by John Sandford.

  • Paradise Alley, a novel from Sylvester Stallone, fresh from his Rocky triumph.

  • From Here to Infinity, an astronomy bit narrated by Patrick Stewart and advertised heavily on ST:TNG movie videocassettes.

  • Earth Versus The Flying Saucers.

  • A Howie Mandel tour videocassette.

  • A video about the history of St. Louis.

I guess Heather got a couple books, too. However, my total new count is 4, and our total spent was $15.25.

I did note, though, that mixed in among the videocassettes were some jiggly direct-to-video or late night cable movies including at least one soft core porn film available for $1. I assume that these were donations that the librarians didn't know the nature of. Or the library in St. Charles is more liberal than even the Old Trees one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Birthday Card He Should Have Gotten
I attended friend gimlet's birthday party and provided him with a rather pedestrian birthday card.

Here is the card he should have gotten, arrayed so you, gentle reader, can download it and print it for your own friends:

When PETA gives you lemons, make lemonade!
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To save it, right click and save the image to your local drive. Print it centered on your page and fold. Wah-lah!

The Noggle Library 2008 Update
In response to comments in this post, I hereby present the state of the Noggle Library 2008 post.

Back in the day, Kim du Toit posted a picture of his home library (on his old blog, obliterated at some point before he resurfaced with his current blog. I posted the first Noggle Library post in 2003. Man, five years ago, we had nothing. In response to my post, du Toit posted on his blog that some wanker had one bigger than his; hence the sidebar endorsement. However, that actual post, too, was lost when Mr. du Toit ended his original blog, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Last year, I posted an update which showed my then office and the rest of the Noggle Library. The volume has continued to grow, though, since last year's picture did not take into account the 2007 Book Fair Season. Here's what we have now.

Brian's office, read books
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These are most of the books I have read, hardbacks and trade paperbacks here mostly. To the left, you can see the Robert B. Parker shelf with some space to accommodate future books. The second to the left has the Ayn Rand books and the poetry and drama and the writing books. I have some room for growth, as these are not double-stacked yet.

Brian's office, unread side 1
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These two shelves include unread books, some dating back a decade or two. Most shelves are double-stacked. Two shelves contain oversized books which are only 1-up. The top shelf on the right contains the Classics Club editions of which I have become fond as well as some other material in front.

Brian's office, unread side 2
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This is the other side of the unread shelves. The two bookshelves to the left are unread books, the one to the right is reference material in home repair and whatnot.

Brian's office, paperbacks and computer reference material
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The top bookshelf is mass market paperbacks I have read; the bottom shelf is computer reference works and some music list books.

Brian's office, effluvia
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This bookcase contains "effluvia"; gaming books, binders full of process documentation or manuals, magazines, and so on.

Shelf in the hutch includes more computer books and writing reference/dictionaries.<

Basement reference
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Two small bookshelves in the basement contain reference sets, sewing books, and young adult series (Nancy Drew, etc.)

Basement paperbacks
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This small book case includes Heather's mass market paperbacks and some religious books and hymnals I picked up for her in November.

The boy's books
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The boy's books, reshuffled a bit since last year with his Christmas gifts mixed in.

Dining room books
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The dining room cookbooks, Heather's textbooks, the Time-Life Old West series, and some pet care reference. Not much new here since last year.

Heather's books 1
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Heather's books 2
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Heather's books 3
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Heather's office books. No changes in layout in the last year; only the density has increased.

Well, there's where we are going into Book Fair Season this year. I estimate this year I will hit my event horizon, wherein I will actually own more books than I can possibly read in my lifetime given current life projections. However, ever the optimist, I will probably buy a pile more so that I will have plenty of reading choice and so I don't actually come to the end of my life and have to read Ulysses just because I own it.

Check back next year for the next exciting installment!

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