Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 06, 2003
A Hole in the Magnetic Layer

Drudge links to a story that Cracks in Earth's Defenses Let Space Storms In.

Time to start a pool: what industry will the environmentalists target for this one?

The obvious answer, all, is not allowed, since that represents kind of a metaopponent for environmentalists. No fair choosing civilization, either.

That's My Kitty!

Kelley at Suburban Blight has a kitty cat. It looks a lot like my kitty Dominique.

It takes a lot of investment in time and effort to make a cat that mean. It's good that someone's been recognized.

Oh no, I am cat blogging, aren't I?


The Meatriarchy Guy leads me to question my relationship to my fellow man, whereupon I discover:

You are Gambit!

You are a fierce fighter and a good friend to have.
Your preference for solitude and your
attractiveness make you very intriguing to
those you meet. Unfortunately, close
relationships are few and far between for you
because you often have trouble opening up to

Which X-Men character are you most like?
brought to you by Quizilla

The Volokh Conspirators and Pejman made me question my fitness to rule, wherein I discovered:

Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

Fools! I shall exact retribution!

Now That I Will See

Now playing at Cold Fury:

Dirty Harry Potter: Who needs magic when you carry a magnum?

Make Your Nomination!

Michele at A Small Victory is taking nominations for Video Hall of Fame, Category 1: Coin-Op Games.

Go there and vote for the games I own.

Thank you, that is all.

Thursday, December 04, 2003
Donating to the Unattended Kettle

The holidays present a quick and convenient way to donate to charitable causes, particularly the Salvation Army. Outside every retail outlet, it seems, a volunteer has set up shop with a bell and a kettle. I usually pitch the change from my transaction into the kettle (as if you didn't know I use cash!) when I encounter one of these bell ringers. I know it's a little bit, but cumulatively a lot of little bits add up.

However, I don't care to put the money in an unattended kettle. I don't know where the bell ringers go, but I find a lot of kettles that had previously featured the melody of unenthusiastic and sometimes almost-frostbitten bellringing accompanied by a rousing rendition of John Cage's 4'33". I don't know what NLRB regulations dictate for professional bell ringers, or what union benefits they enjoy, but they get a lot of warm-up, cigarette, coffee, and/or lunch breaks.

Now, it's not that I want to be any less a nice guy when this happens, but I don't want to throw change into an unguarded repository. Partly, it's because I don't want it to get stolen. Also, partly it's because I don't want to just be a Pavlovian dog. I refuse to respond to the stimulus of the red kettle unless I hear the bell ringing.

Audiobook Review: Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis (2003)

As you might know, I spent a lot of time on the road this weekend, and I like to take a couple of audiobooks on the road with me. This time, I chose a piece of nonfiction and a piece of fiction. This audiobook was the nonfiction. The title and premise seems to lend itself to a rather conservatarian premise--that public schools suck--so I thought this would be a nice round-up of history to pass the time. Something with which I could build my stock of trivia and with which I could comfortably agree about the way public schools are failing our students. However, to quote a famous military strategist and analyst who frequently appears at the news site, "It's a trap!"

Davis, read by Jeff Woodman with Jonathan Davis, starts out by saying that students overlook history because the classes are boring, and that the narratives don't display the historical figures as men and sometimes women with foibles. Personally, I disagree with that. I think kids don't get into history because modern textbooks have been boiled down to a bland lowest common denominator with the highest possible message woven into the narrative, even if coloring had to be added to make the pattern fit. That, and kids are kids and don't want to read books anyway. So I subtly disagreed with Davis from about two minutes into the drive. I can agree to disagree.

I should mention that this particular version is an abridgement, so it's possible the wrath I am about to recount should strike the abridger and not the author--but the author approved the abridgement, so he's as responsible for the bastardization of history as much as the, uh, mother? Okay, this metaphor broke down early, but there's what passes for a disclaimer.

The audiobook is 3 CDs. About three hours. The first vignettes--it's a set of brief stories from history, relayed in a question and answer format--dealt with settling the continent and the revolution, so its on track for a good pacing of history. Hey, passable narratives and foibles for everyone--a lot of our founding fathers were womanizers and alcoholics. Kinda like contemporary citizens. And I got my dose of trivia--Remember "One if by land, two if by sea"? Know which one it was? I do.

However, by the middle of the second CD, halfway through the piece, the damn thing was already past World War II--the part of history with which the author had direct experience and hatchets to directly grind, so he got to rubbing the whetstone. Civil rights! Camelot! The Saint Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior--no foibles like those promised in the introduction, just angelism.

And for the last CD, let's recap the post Kennedy world: Vietnam was BAD! Republican President Nixon, Liar. Nothing about Carter except that he beat Ford. In the years between 1980-1988, Republican President Reagan, or the people covering for his incapacitation, do Iran-Contra. In 1991, Republican President George Bush leads the nation to war for oiiiiiil. In the years 1992-2000, the media and the evil Republicans attack Bill Clinton. In 2000 (it's a revised and expanded edition, don't you know?) a damn Republican steals the election.

The CDs run three hours. It took me almost six hours of interstate to finish them. Once I got to the last CD, I had to rinse every couple of seconds with some country music. Fortunately, the middle of Illinois has three things: corn, classic rock, and country. I was hoarse soon after the Wisconsin border from fusking the text. But I listened to the whole damn thing because I am a glutton for punishment. Or stupid. I prefer to think I am a glutton because (1) it's a deadly sin and (2) because it sounds cool when pronounced, accusingly, with a faux French accent.

I cannot attribute the general population's lack of knowledge of history to the condescension inherent in these "educational" books which warp the facts of history--call it spin, call it whatever you want, but textbooks and even popular bits like this contain more "narrative" and inferred meaning than are really necessary to convey the facts. In many cases, these "special features" can turn readers and students off to the content or to the actual history behind the content. Don't know much about history? You'll only know a little more after you finish this book, but you'll certainly get a particular story that--the author hopes--will make you think and vote "intelligently" and "appropriately," citizen.


Angie Everhart's going to be the captain of one of the teams in the first annual Lingerie Bowl that will be played during the Superbowl.

Well, Would Kim Watch?

Vegas says 12 to 1 he will.

Fisking Robert Cohen

I was going to fisk Robert Cohen's latest column, but it's too time consuming to refute this bad Santa's columns for no pay. However, I do want to snark about this bit:
    The use of George W. Bush as a role model for a Democratic presidential aspirant is both novel and troubling. Bush, after all, is Mr. Secrecy. His White House -- actually, it's ours -- is virtually hermetically sealed. We still do not know who Vice President Cheney consulted in drawing up the administration's leave-no-energy-company-behind energy bill, and there is the little matter of our still not knowing why the administration went to war to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons he did not have. It is -- shhh -- a secret.
My snarkage:
  • Leave-no-energy-company-behind energy bill? Come on, Dicky, this administration left their oil buddies at Enron behind, didn't they? Oh, never mind. I cannot talk sense into you. I better just call you Dicky again to elevate this conversation to its proper depth.

  • not knowing why the administration went to war to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons he did not have? Come on, that's so cliché, and a lying cliché at that. Are you (a) really that simplistic in your analysis of foreign policy, or (b) dumbing it down because you think your readers are that simplistic about foreign policy? Which is worse?

    Actually, I'd like to point out that "administration" and "weapons" still have more than one syllable. Just in case you think the American public disagrees with you and yours because they just don't understand! You can still make it dumberer for them.
I keep asking myself why I bother to try to read things with which I disagree since they make me so angry. Life's too short. I should stick to pulp fiction.

Reasons I am a Paul Bettany Fan

Let me count the reasons:
  1. He is the second most sexy man in the universe. Just look at the man.

  2. He lives with Jennifer Connelly, and while she's not the sexiest woman in the world, she's quite up there.

  3. As Blackfive reports, Bettany knows how to handle French reporters.

What's Wrong with That?

I think Die Hard is a perfectly good answer to the question What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Yes, Ms. Postrel, There Is a Santa Claus

Virginia Postrel, commenting on David Brooks' recent New York Times column (registration required), asks and then answers her own question:
    The column, which deserves reading in full, leaves unanswered a rather important question: What's the point of Republican political power? Nothing more than job security for a different clique?
Well, yes.

Glad I Got It For Free

In his latest six-columns-for-the-price-of-one, which would also seem to be six-columns-with-the-forethought-of-one, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times spends a little time between the asterisks to ding Bush for not attending soldier funerals:
    In the meantime, our current president Punk'd the world with his stealth visit to Baghdad last week -- proving that even in this day and age, it's possible for POTUS to make a safe, quick visit to almost any event in the world.

    Sure would like to see President Bush try a similar mission and show up at a memorial service for one of those American soldiers who keep getting killed in Iraq, even though the war is over.
Hey, Rick. You pick one. The single soldier to be so honored. The one who's more important than the others.

Pretty easy for a newspaper columnist, wot?

Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeee! My Ears!

Roger Freeman, gossip reporter, does the previously unthinkable and always the unpalatable:

He suggests a Billy Joel duet with Dido.

Noooooooo! The Piano Man with the....the founder of Carthage? Whatever will this trollop be known as in thirty years other than the Trivial Pursuit answer to the question about Stan?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Helping the Brother Move

This weekend, I didn't get to post because I went home (Wisconsin, that beautiful northern state that's also home to Harvey, Owen, and DC) to help my brother move from Milwaukee to LaCrosse. It's the other side of the state, but fortunately the short way.

It was good to be home. It's easy to forget the experience of being in Milwaukee during winter football season, wherein a full fifteen percent of the population wears apparel bearing the Green Bay Packers logo. I am not kidding. It's one thing to remember it abstractly, but to see it firsthand is always somewhat shocking.

And they think they have football fans in St. Louis.

Outside, on Monday Morning, in LaCrosse

I saw children standing on the corner waiting for the bus. By themselves. In 20 degree weather.

Here in tropical Casinoport, Missouri, children don't wait on the corner for the bus. They wait in running SUVs that crowd about the corner. When it's sixty degrees.

Must be the small town life, or hardy Northern stock.

Passing Through Madison

On the way home from LaCrosse, I passed through Madison, Wisconsin, and I had the urge to stop to Ann Packer's house. It would be the proper way to express my appreciation for her book, and if she had her Christmas lights up already, it might lend a spooky ethereal effect if they blinked through streamers of Charmin.

Silly me! I remembered then that she lives in Northern California and only writes "authentic" novels about Wisconsinites who only come alive when they leave Wisconsin for cosmopolitan locales. Maybe I could have thrown a perfect Brett Favre spiral and one-hopped a roll to northern California if I bounced it just right in Colorado, but odds were it'd hit the eastern side of the Rockies and flutter hopelessly down, leaving her home unscathed.

It was a long drive home. I had a lot of time to think.

And the Next Day

My brother moves to LaCrosse, and the God-fearing people begin their flight.

Jeepers Creepers

Oh, yeah, secure your gear. Office creepers aren't something from a horror movie crossed with Dilbert. They're thieves who prowl office buildings, often during work hours, who hoover up unsecured wallets, purses, and electronics. I have warned you time and again.

(Link seen on Techdirt.)

Today's Object Lessons

Courtesy of the Everquest players who killed Kerafyrm, The Sleeper, an "unkillable" monster designed to be the end of the EverQuest world or something. Players should not have been able to kill it, you see. Seems that the Sony development team gave the beast 10 billion hit points, a bunch of invulnerabilities, and an unbelieveable regeneration rate, and 200 players teamed up to do the impossible. Much to Sony's chagrin.

Lessons to be learned:
  • Developers:
    Don't even tell me about "Functions As Designed." Just because you think that no user would do what you believe is improbable doesn't mean he or she will not. If you need something to be impossible to kill, make it impossible to kill. If I tell you it's possible to enter bad data into the database, don't tell me that a user wouldn't enter bad data. He or she will, and your faulty application allowed it.

  • Everyone:
    Out there on the Internet, there are a lot of patient people with lots of time that they can spend probing, prodding, and investigating vulnerabilities. They have more infinity than you do. Close your ports, and good luck to you.

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