Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Making These People Government Employees Would Help (Themselves)
Kaiser fires 15 workers for snooping in octuplet mom's medical records:
    A Kaiser Permanente hospital located in a Los Angeles suburb has fired 15 employees and reprimanded eight others for improperly accessing the personal medical records of Nadya Suleman, the California woman who gave birth to octuplets in January.

    The unauthorized accessing of Suleman's electronic records at the medical center in Bellflower, Calif., violated a California law designed to safeguard the privacy of health care data, according to Kaiser spokesman Jim Anderson, who said the snooping incidents have been reported to the California Department of Public Health.
Ah, yes, practices, procedures, and laws. They don't prevent this sort of petty violations of privacy. And they won't when the data is stored in a very large government database to which every petty bureaucrat will have access.

But they give the legislators a nice, warm cover when they make it all possible.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Book Report: The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw (2002)
I bought this book some years ago from the Quality Paperback Club, undoubtedly as one of the four or six books for a dollar deal. I was looking to branch out, and the write up of this book piqued my interest.

It's about a woman, obviously someone with an English degree, who gives up her current life to return home to a small island off of Maine where the main industries are lobster fishing and working for the summertime residents. The life she gave up was not some sort of Assistant Professor (non-tenure track) position, but that of deep sea fishing boat captain. As a matter of fact, a character based on her appeared in A Perfect Storm played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Looking at the cover photographs, that casting choice might have been flattering.

So I started to read it, and her writing style is choppier than the sea in a Nor'easter. The book has no real narrative flow other than being her thoughts and asides over the course of a bad lobster season. She muses on the life on the island, some of the local characters, and the basics of lobster fishing. Then her mother gets cancer. Then the book ends.

Even though I started out thinking about how choppy the writing was, somewhere into the book I really overlooked it. I really enjoyed visiting a lifestyle so different from mine in a remote location. Also, I decided that the author looks less like Martin Short and more like she could be one of my relatives on the Noggle side, so she became like family. I also bought another of her books at a book fair this weekend, a later book which depicted an older Linda Greenlaw with all her limbs, which indicated that the book didn't have a "I got caught in a lobster trap, lost an arm, but triumphed!" resolution.

I picked this book up immediately after reading The Tommyknockers, also set in Maine. Like A Salty Piece of Land, the cover of this book depicts the author by the sea. Sometimes I find similarities and threads among the books I read where they aren't, really, but I mention them anyway.

Books mentioned in this review:

Controlling the Horizontal, Government Goes For The Vertical
Beyond AIG: A bill to let Big Government set your salary:
    It was nearly two weeks ago that the House of Representatives, acting in a near-frenzy after the disclosure of bonuses paid to executives of AIG, passed a bill that would impose a 90 percent retroactive tax on those bonuses. Despite the overwhelming 328-93 vote, support for the measure began to collapse almost immediately. Within days, the Obama White House backed away from it, as did the Senate Democratic leadership. The bill stalled, and the populist storm that spawned it seemed to pass.

    But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees -- not just top executives -- of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.
So what do you think happens when Congress starts cutting salaries and then realizes that it's cutting the revenue from income taxes? Higher taxes for everyone, duh!

You know, the unintended consequences are so obvious sometimes that I think our oligarchs call them hidden-from-the-mindless-masses benefits.

Monday, March 30, 2009
Book Report: A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett (2004)
I was in the mood for a Florida story after my recent fiction meanderings, and I had this recent acquisition on the outside of my double-stacked to-read shelves. Also, I remembered that Jimmy Buffett novels were supposed to be pretty good. After all, the Author's Note points out that he is one of six authors to make it to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in both fiction and nonfiction. So I gave it a go.

Sadly, I was disappointed.

The book started out with a tolerable, although Kenny Chesney song, sort of story. A cowboy on the run from a rich, vindictive ranch owner in Wyoming hides out in the Caribbean with his horse, ultimately settling into a fisherman's guide job in the Yucatan. No, wait, let me back up: There's a frame story, said cowboy at the behest of a very wealthy 102-year-old sailor woman, lands on a Cayo with a lighthouse and is tasked with restoring it. Meanwhile, the woman is on the hunt for an authentic replacement for the Fresnel lens that powered the lighthouse. Then we go into the flashback about the cowboy on the run, who meets his folk-singer hero, who lands the job as a fishing guide and runs into an ex-lover upon which he left on sudden terms, who goes to Belize to buy a jeep and has epic sex with a college girl who happens to be the rancher's stepdaughter and who happens to turn him over to the bounty hunters looking for him, and who smokes a lot of spliffs on the way.

Then we get back to the real time, exposition and a panthenon of deus ex maquina occur as the folksinger hero, on a trip around the world in a restored amphibious plane, finds a Fresnel lens for him and as the rancher dies after a S&M video of her surfaces. The hero meets the grand-niece or something of the rich sailor woman (spoiler alert: rich sailor woman dies), inherits a mansion, and the book ends.

The book starts out in a rambly story telling fashion, then we start getting odder sidebar stories and letters from the folk singing hero telling about his travels, and then the main conflicts are resolved offstage, and the news from England that the rich rancher woman is dead and so on. The book is semi-enjoyable, but ultimately disappoints that the enjoyment that melts into semi-enjoyment goes nowhere.

Also, it gave me the freaking munchies.

Books mentioned in this review:

Sunday, March 29, 2009
On The Plus Side, It Cuts Down On Light Pollution
Say it ain't so! The government based legislation lobbied by industrialists on the industrialists' marketing brochures and not on reality? Be still my beating heart (as soon as its beating is too expensive for Washington)!
    It sounds like such a simple thing to do: buy some new light bulbs, screw them in, save the planet.

    But a lot of people these days are finding the new compact fluorescent bulbs anything but simple. Consumers who are trying them say they sometimes fail to work, or wear out early. At best, people discover that using the bulbs requires learning a long list of dos and don'ts.
On the dark side (which is the optimistic side for some people today), this will cut down on light pollution. And a bulb that does not illuminate is more energy efficient that the most energy efficient bulb that does.

In the meantime, remember, you have no choice come 2012!

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