Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Meterologists Predict 80% Chance of Government Payout to Fools
Spring flooding possible after heavy snow in upper Midwest:
    There's a good chance of flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers this spring because of soggy landscapes and a heavy snowpack in the upper Midwest, according to the National Weather Service.
So I guess that means I'd better plan on having my tax dollars spent to fix the leaky basements of recent development on flood plains, eh?

Which is worse, the fool who builds multi-million dollar mixed use developments on land that gets submerged, or the fools who suffer a government that feels compelled to bail that fellow out with buckets of cash?

Book Report: The Wrecking Crew by Donald Hamilton (1960)
Ah, now that's better. This is a nice, serviceable bit of pulp paperback reading. The second book in the Matt Helm series, The Wrecking Crew shares the name of one of the Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin, but they're not that similar. Whereas the movies are sort of Austin Powers, winking and nudging at the motif, the books are more earnest and straightforward.

Matt returns to service as an assassin, and his first real mission sends him to Sweden under the cover of a freelance photographer. After writing a telling article about a master spy, a writer is apparenty killed in an ambush. The widow has an article of her own and commissions Matt to take photos of northern Sweden. But Matt's real purpose doesn't seem too secret. So why does the superspy leave Helm in place?

The writing's better than things I've read lately; it's not John D. MacDonald, but only John D. MacDonald is. The plot twists a bit, and it tends to take you on a bit of a ride, but it's enough fun for a paperback.

(My first review of a Matt Helm book here.)

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, February 29, 2008
How to Beat 30 Year Old Video Games
A YouTube playlist of retro games, mostly taken from an old videocassette series on how to beat them.

Tragic Writing Flaw
Many times, I go all When in the course of human events when I should be like Sometimes.

The Business of Government Is Business
Two things from the SunCrest Call, a local free paper I pick up whenever the OB pats my beautiful wife on the belly and says, "Good job." The first, an insert by the mayor of Sunset Hills:

Letter from the Mayor
Click for full size

The mayor took office in Sunset Hills after the previous administration approved a redevelopment proposal that would have depopulated a subdivision. Many of the residents bought new houses before the actual buyout occurred, and when the funding for the project collapsed, ended up with double mortgages. They were not pleased and threw that bunch out, but now the new bunch wants to redevelop a different area using all of its coercive government powers, and the mayor wants to let you know he's a better big Keynesian wheel than the last guy.

Meanwhile, a columnist in the paper lauds another mayor for using coercive government power--the power to tax some, but to not tax others--on something the columnist likes:
    "There comes a time when you have to back off on your principles and do what's best for this community."

    We commend Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson for putting aside his former blind hatred of TIF and trying to ensure that the city has all of its economic-development tools available.

    When Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson made this statement in January 2006, some of us held back laughter, wondering how this was possible.

    But two years later, Robinson has shockingly lived up to this creed.

    On Feb. 12, the mayor who once ran for office opposing tax-increment financing broke a tie vote among aldermen to protect the use of TIF and, in our opinion, also protect the city's best interests.
That is, the government can give unfair advantage to new businesses in the region and can soak existing, loyal businesses who have been part of the community for years. And principles get in the way of doing what a select set of businessmen and newspapermen want.

Because those new businesses would buy ads in that same paper, don't you know? Well, hopefully, anyway.

Lazy fare capitalism, it's called. And it's close enough for the Call Newspapers.

See also Krauthammer's bit on rent seeking at the Federal level.

A Simple Mistake by a Travelling Ricin Salesman
Not jumping to what would probably be good suspicions, police again prefer to calm the sheep instead of alerting the citizens (Police: Deadly toxin found at Las Vegas hotel):
    FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said Friday there does not appear to be a link to terrorists.
(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Making the Bad Part of Human Nature Easy
One of the arguments against massive government databases is that the rank and file government bureaucrats will have the opportunity for personal mischief. Aside from the slippery slope argument that the presence of these databases will make it easier for future tyrants. But don't underplay how much simple human curiosity will lead to systemic abuse:
    A landlord snooped on tenants to find out information about their finances. A woman repeatedly accessed her ex-boyfriend's account after a difficult breakup. Another obtained her child's father's address so she could serve him court papers.

    All worked for Wisconsin's largest utility, where employees routinely accessed confidential information about acquaintances, local celebrities and others from its massive customer database.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press in an employment case involving Milwaukee-based WE Energies shine a light on a common practice in the utilities, telecommunications and accounting industries, privacy experts say.
You think?

Refuting Ehrenreich
A long time ago, I promised my wife I would do a bit on Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America, her treatise on how poor Americans cannot make it. She built her treatise up on a flawed experiment, where she beamed herself into areas for a couple of months of trying to make it on a meager salary by herself.

Well, although I have not yet filled that promise, a kid out of school put the American dream to the test:
    Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor's degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in CharlesĀ­ton, S.C.

    But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.
Here's an interview with the kid.

I can imagine reading this book in hardback, unlike the Ehrenreich tome, which I read in paperback so that it would do less damage when I threw it across the room. Which I did more than once.

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Meanwhile, Elsewhere
Hey, don't forget the other blog: QA Hates

Someone Leak It To His Nanny State Supporters
Buried in this story, an often overlooked nugget about Barack Obama:
    is delivery is interesting and pleasantly cadenced, and his cigarette habit helps keep his vocal register commandingly, almost seductively, low.
Oh, yeah, Barack Obama smokes!

How do you like him now, granola munchers?

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Getting Wasted Together
Kim du Toit joins me in voting for Fred Thompson.

Object Lesson About Online Services
EMC offers an object lesson to people who would become dependent upon online services:
    EMC Corp. this week confirmed that it has notified customers that a massive price increase is about to kick in for users of its hosted MozyPro backup and recovery service.
Call me a little less than Web 2.0 enthusiastic, but I'm not a fan of paying every month for software (Software as a Service, or SaaS) or relegating functions I can do locally to services that can go dark with no warning or raise fees at a whim.

Of course, I'm not a fan, either, of taking prescription drugs for indefinite periods, either.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
How Many Times I Have Said It Myself
Check out the books on her.

The Essence of Packrattery, Distilled
Because our bathrooms lack certain amenities, like storage, my sainted mother bought us a pressboard over-the-toilet storage cabinet that has a two-door cabinet, a shelf, and then a cubby with a drop-down door that was supposed to be held in place by a magnet on the cabinet and a metal disk affixed to the drop-down door. However, the adhesion between the magnet and the disk exceeded that between the disk and the door. Several times. It outlasted the original adhesive, it outlasted double-sided tape, and it would probably have outlasted the next glue I used to bond it.

Except I hit it with a laundry basket, breaking the chipboard at the two screws that acted as hinges. Irreperable enough, but now as another shelf, it will not be a problem. So I threw the pressboard door out, but, wait a minute, it has a plastic knob in it. And you never know when you might need a ten cent plastic knob. I mean, it wouldn't be worth it to run out to the hardware store for it.

So I took it out of the pressboard door.

The knob

And I threw it in a drawer in my work area where I can amply forget about it, not that I'll ever need a knob like that in the future. But I have one.

On the plus side, I did actually throw out the pressboard door, so I'm not that much of a packrat.

There's Always Pennsylvania Sneaking Up On You
I got 49 of 50 on the 50 States in 10 Minutes quiz, which asks you to name all fifty states of of the top of your head (and type them) in 10 minutes.

I knew those tiny "states" back east would be my problem. I got my first 46 in the first four minutes, remembered Delaware and Maryland at about six minutes, and then West Virginia at eight minutes and thirty seconds. But Pennsylvania? Slipped my mind entirely, even though I thought it was very pretty when I drove through it.

Which, I guess, gives you a four state head start on me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monkey Love
Dominique with Romo

Reduced again to cat pictures. I wish I had more for you, gentle reader.

Everybody Play
Guess My Crime

Monday, February 25, 2008
Ditching It All To Be A Stockbroker
Alicia Keys and Jordin Sparks coming to Scottrade

Book Report: COBRA #2: Paris Kill-Ground by Joseph R. Rosenberger (1987)
Wow, I've never actually wondered what pulp fiction would read if it were written by an actual 12 year old gamemaster, sitting behind a screen and rolling a couple of d20s, but this book is it.

I mean, we've identify people who engage in non-traditional sex as perverts or nymphos (nontraditional includes oral sex, multiple partners, and whatnot). We have exclamation points throughout! We have descriptions of rooms wherein you can imagine the pauses so you can put the furniture on the graph paper and know that the door is on the north wall, about 10 feet from the west wall. These descriptions indicate An Encounter is going to happen, wherein the good guys' guns come out, and the words caress each Browning Hi-Power pistol and Uzi SMG. When the lead flies, the author goes into great detail describing the trajectories and major organs each round hits coupled with names and details about the deceased as if to ensure the reader that the gamemaster, er, author had information and details on index cards, and dang it, he's going to use them.

Unfortunately, the author didn't share the index cards with whatever sort of editing staff might have existed at Critic's Choice paperbacks, because the typos abound, including misspelling the main character's name once. After enough of the sequences, the author decided one was the climax, and the book ends.

The end result, sadly, is an actual poorly-written, poorly-paced paperback that is endured rather than enjoyed.

Books mentioned in this review:

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