Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Book Report: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (?)
This book collects five novellas from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, Cricket on the Hearth, the Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man. Unfortunately, a collection of five Dickens novellas is harder to read than a single, thick volume of Dickens because one of the weaknesses of Dickens's writing is the narrative voice setting up the story. In each case, each narrative takes something like five to ten pages to talk to you about the setting, in many cases before introducing a single human character that you can identify with and get into. Once you get over that threshold, you're in pretty good shape.

I like Dickens stories, as one can surmise with my recent spate of them (Hard Times this year, and Great Expectations and Oliver Twist last year). In most cases, the stories are pretty optimistic and offer chances for redemption for most of the characters and a comfortable sentimentality as well as encouragment that man can thrive in a pre-electrified society that the Obama economy might bring us.

That said, of the five in this book, I enjoyed A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth the most. The first is very familiar, of course, so I didn't need the Cliff Notes to know where it was going. The second offered a very understandable and accessible dilemma, as a middle-aged man who characterizes himself as slow has reason to suspect his attractive younger wife is having an affair.

The Chimes and The Battle of Life both offer stories, but the characters didn't involve me as much. In the first, a runner, that is, a courier, envisions life without him or something. In the second, a pair of sisters, a good man, and a wastrel are involved in love, loss, and a melodrama.

I didn't really care for The Haunted Man because I was not invested in the characters and only sort of got where Dickens was going with the gimmick. A successful professor can be freed from a very painful memory, but loses the capacity for joy, too, but also acts as a carrier for the same effect and alters the lives of those whom he appreciates and for whom he feels affection.

I have this book in the Walter J. Black classics edition; of all the Classics Club I have, I've only so far read the Dickens books I have from them. I guess that indicates my predilection for Dickens, or at least my present preoccupation with classic fiction.

Final assessment: Worth a couple days/weeks of your time if you're into that sort of thing. I am, it was to me.

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, December 12, 2008
What The Voices In My Head Are Saying Right Now
In Johnny Gilbert's voice: "This... is.... GĂ©rard Depardieu!"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008
The Constitution Is Unenforceable
Read this piece at Ace of Spades HQ about how nobody can make Obama prove he's an American citizen and thus eligible for the presidency and about how no one seems to care that Hillary Clinton is textually barred from serving as Secretary of State (because she, as a legislator, voted to increase pay for that position).

Once the incoming administration has finished rendering those obscure bits of the Constitution obsolete, wait until they get into the choice bits. If we're going to start the pool, I think they'll nullify portions of the first amendment first, because if they reinstate the Fairness Doctrine or otherwise impede freedom of the press, religion, and assembly, they won't trigger an uprising.

The Undead Rise Again II
Consider it a sequel of sorts to this post, but KSDK reports, with a basic understanding of the possessive form of it:
    Metro could eliminate 28 of it's 60 existing MetroBus routes. The transit company has listed 22 routes on it's website that may be eliminated next spring.

    The second phase of likely cuts, including all service outside Interstate 270, will take place in the summer of 2010.
What does that really mean?

We'll have to vote down the tax increase that we already voted down in November on the Spring ballot and maybe one more time before Metro does whatever it deems necessary, noting that cutting highly paid consultants or senior admin staff won't be necessary.

Monday, December 08, 2008
Jingle of the Day
Everyone sing:

"Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center. Don't suffer in silence."

Put it into your head-based jingle rotation along with Frederic Roofing for more fun.

Sunday, December 07, 2008
The Collision of English Students and The Workplace
Instapundit links to a piece from a book about higher education or something, and the author relates a story about a faculty member teaching a graduate level course on technical writing wherein the faculty member gets in trouble for having a potty mouth:
    "I will no longer tolerate," the chair writes in his letter to my friend, "what can only be described as your insensitive, vulgar, and obscene language in the classroom."

    The colleague's intent in a graduate-level, academic tech writing class (i.e., not a vocational training workshop) is not just to teach students how to type memos, but rather to challenge students to consider how they know what they know as tech writers. This can be achieved while they expand their knowledge of their field, which exists right in the oily hinge, right in the fishy craw of the intersection of higher education and the corporation. Given the mess such a collision must be, he and I agree, some form of institutional critique is vital, and this sort of three-dimensional, reflexive analysis can, over time, only make students better tech writers. To know your context is to know your work.

    Like many of his grad students, the complainant is his age, and already works as a tech writer. For much more than his salary.
Oh, give me a break. The "ends" of which academic types, particularly in soft sciences, of technical writing is to deliver correct and useful information to people who need it. Take it from a technical writer. Any time spent on institutional critique and three-dimensional, reflexive analysis is a waste of time unless you want to become a professor of technical writing somewhere since the whole expertise on Dickens' view of male/female relationships isn't working out.

You want to teach a technical writer something, teach him or her how to suss out information from the misanthropes on the development team, how to actually freaking open the software or somewhat understand the thing they're writing about, and how to make a good business case that documentation isn't a waste of time and saves money on help desk calls and whatnot. But teaching them how to approach their jobs as though they're academics ain't it.

Nor is teaching them that swearing is professional in any way shape or form. The tech industry already skews to younger people who have already developed the habit of f-bombing everything in sight to show their intensity and passion instead of, I don't know, showing quiet competence. I hate to see that taught in the universities as good institutional technique.

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