Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, March 05, 2005
St. Louis County Excited to Seize Tax Money from Employees

Well, that' how I would have titled this story, which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch entitled "St. Louis County lures 300 jobs from Alton":
    Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. will move 300 jobs from Alton to Creve Coeur as part of a deal with St. Louis County that could net the company up to $4.2 million in tax breaks.

    Those workers will move into a new 10-story headquarters building just off Interstate 270 and Olive Boulevard, where they'll be joined by 200 employees from Clayton and a dozen or so from Chesterfield, under the deal unveiled Friday.
You see, the corporation is getting $4,200,000 in tax breaks, but the St. Louis County Executive says:
    "Of course I'm excited," said County Executive Charlie Dooley. "When someone tells you they're going to move jobs someplace else, you take it very seriously. We need to do this to expand our tax base and keep our tax burden low."
That expanded tax base isn't coming from the company, dear friends. It's coming from the employees who will have to travel further to work but will have to buy lunch in Missouri instead of Illinois, expanding the St. Louis County sales tax base. It will help, too, when they gas up here, since they can pay for our roads more cheaply than they can pay for Illinois roads.

Remember, St. Louis County government serves itself and its corporate juicers, not the residents. If you don't believe it, buy a house where developers will want to build a strip mall in 2014.

Book Report: A Century of Enterprise: St. Louis 1894-1994 by Rockwell Gray (1994)

This book represents another picture book I inherited from my aunt, and if the used price on Amazon is any guide, it might have been her biggest eBay score. But she lacked a certain follow through on the whole online auction thing. So I've got it now, and I thumbed through it, looking at the historical photos of business in St. Louis and reading the flattering paragraphs accompanying the photos. The book was, as a matter of fact, underwritten by one of the enterprises whose start is depicted in the book. Of course that company and all others in St. Louis are praised. Lavishly.

So the book provides interesting photographs, and some trivia and insights, including:
  • The smile was invented in 1948.

  • It's a wonder turn of the century families were so large considering how ugly the women were.

  • The years since 1994 have been harsh for St. Louis business, since most of the grand corporations lauded in the book--Edison Brothers, May Company, McDonnell Douglas, Pet, Inc., Sherwood Medical, and so on have been bought out or have otherwise left the area.

  • Those who have the juice now in the city of St. Louis have always had the juice in St. Louis.
Still, an enjoyable experience, once again a short one since it was mostly photos, and something I'll share with the more historical members of my family. And, dear readers, if you offer me what they're asking for it on Amazon, I'll share it with you, too.

The End is Nigh

On September 30, 2005, Teddy Ruxpin became self-aware:
    The teddy bear sitting in the corner of the child's room might look normal, until his head starts following the kid around using a face recognition program, perhaps also allowing a parent talk to the child through a special phone, or monitor the child via a camera and wireless Internet connection.
Therapists from the future undoubtedly provided the venture capital for this innovation.

Friday, March 04, 2005
Book Report: The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time by Ty Burr (1999)

This book represents another picture book I inherited from my aunt. Not that it meant much to her; she probably bought it at a yard sale to sell on eBay, and I might well have been at the yard sale with her, egging her on.

It's a compendium of 100 of the best movies from 1894-1994, as determined by Entertainment Weekly and Ty Burr. It contains the requisite mixture of classics and foreign films. Man, you know, the last foreign film I saw was El Mariachi, and prior to that it's limited to Jackie Chan and kung fu flicks. I didn't even see Crouching Estrogen, Hidden Misandry even though my wise and benevolent mother-in-law recommended it.

But books of this stripe are good browsing material, even if you're not a tabloid fan or if you don't care for anything lighter than The Atlantic Monthly for your magazine reading. Books like this are quick espresso shots of trivia information, information I hope to put to use at the next North Side Mindflayers Trivia Night victory.

Plus, if you're a trivia smart aleck like me, you'll look for flaws in the book. Like that the cover contains a still from Rebel without a Cause, which didn't make the book. Or that the still of Han Solo confronting Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars was not from the original, but from the 25th anniversary re-release (in 1997, which was beyond the five year cutoff of the book).

So it's a good enough book, a quick one-night flip through, and it won't kill as many brain cells as, say, watching the French language liberated sexuality movies.

Book Report: Treachery by Bill Gertz (2004)

My beautiful wife bought me this book, whose full title is Treachery : How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies, for Christmas, because the message of the season is Peace on Earth and this book details, in part, why that ain't happening.

Gertz compiles the evidence that other countries, including Germany, France, Russia, and China, are arming rogue countries. I don't know that I would have ever called these nations our friends, contrary to what Tom Clancy would have had us believe, so I'm not plussed by this information. It's all pretty damning, and it's the stuff I get daily on the blogs I tend to read. But to the uninitiated, and to those who don't get their daily dose of human nature writ large on the international scale on the Internet, I'm sure the book was an eye-opener.

Gertz is a good, methodical writer and has a lot of access to insights and insiders to tease out information about national security and to present compelling calls to action with that information. So if you've got a hot and sexy wife who buys you things, I cannot emphasize enough that this is a good book to receive.

Still Learning

My wife likes musicals.

Top Secret, while it includes singing, is apparently not a musical.

Great Minds Think Alike....And Sometimes I Think That Way, Too

I just ordered this book after Instapundit flogged it:

Go Directly to Jail : the Criminalization of Almost Everything.

That's a live horse this blog continues to beat, hopefully unto death, after which I will continue to strike just so it doesn't arise as some undead nightmare. No pun intended, but I'll take it.

Forget the Articles, Send Me More Naked Women E-Mail

Playboy sends me this junk mail teaser:
    On the eve of the re-issue of R.E.M.’s last eight albums on special-edition CD and DVD, front man Michael Stipe spoke openly with about the band's early days, his disappointment over last November’s elections and why R.E.M. never called it quits.
Which is different from his other interviews, where he had to speak guardedly in case the editorial staff at Rolling Stone, Esquire, Spin or Gentleman's Quarterly were members of the Bushtapo.

End of Week Snark

Another coming of age story for young men results in charges: Teacher Accused of Sex Abuse:
    A Braxton County middle school teacher is in police custody after allegedly confessing to sexual misconduct with five of her students.
The number could increase, as she could not be sure of an exact number because she was wearing a bag at the time.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Rolled a 1 on a d6

Archaelogists uncover three coffins, mummies behind a secret door:
    Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered three coffins containing mummies behind a secret door that was hidden behind 42-hundred-year-old statues.
They didn't even need an elf with them, werd.

Book Report: The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais (2005)

This book is the latest in the Elvis Cole novels by Robert Crais; he released it just last month. As a later Elvis Cole novel, it features all the hallmarks of the Cole novels:
  • A woman character who falls madly in love with Cole, who is oblivious because
  • Cole is pining for Lucy Chenier, and that's going badly, meanwhile
  • He takes a case for personal interest instead of for, you know, pay, because this time it's personal! which leads to
  • A major character getting shot and dying, and another surviving but weakened by the aftermath.
So the book covers all of those bases. It's readable, and one can overlook certain consistencies with plot amongst the novels and certain, um, non sequitors with the plot of this book. Crais does dial back his use of the third person narrator so that more than half of the book uses the first person voice of Elvis Cole.

When a strange, tattooed man is murdered, his dying words claim that Elvis Cole is his son. Cole, who never knew father, wonders if this is the man and if not, why the dying man would make the claim. So Cole investigates, dredges up some long fallow crimes, and pines for Lucy Chenier.

I am finally done with the series, which is a blessing and a curse; now I have to stand before my bookshelves when I finish a book and pick another one from the hundreds of volumes on my to-read shelves. It was so easy to just resignedly pick up the next Crais novel, and now I am stuck with my indecision.

Officer, It's Not What You Think

Fark links to the story Teacher Has Sex with Pupil While Baby in Car: Cops with the unfortunate summary:

Teacher arrested for having sex with a two-year old in back seat

That's preposition abuse if I ever saw it.

Automotive Shopping Advice

A review of the Lincoln Town Car BPS, courtesy of Business 2.0:
    When choosing an armored vehicle, it's important to keep in mind how badly someone wants you dead. This will affect your purchase. If your assassin is an amateur -- perhaps some punk with a .38, which fires a 158-grain, round-nose lead bullet at a velocity of 850 feet per second -- you'll probably be just fine in an aftermarket armored sedan or the one offered by Cadillac. In fact, even if your enemy comes at you with a .357 Magnum -- a serious weapon capable of spitting metal-ripping charges at up to 1,395 feet per second -- you'll probably escape without a scratch in one of those sedans. But if someone really wants to kill you, you'd better be riding in the 2005 Lincoln Town Car Ballistic Protection Series.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sides Against Seniors

In a story entitled "Between a rock and a hard place", the St. Louis Post-Dispatch must choose between tax spending government bureaucrats and senior citizens. And it chooses the government spenders:
    Two changes in tax exemptions offered to Illinois taxpayers will mean a decrease in local funding for school districts.

    Districts rely on property taxes for a significant part of their budgets.

    For the Collinsville School District, that decrease is expected to total close to a $800,000 revenue shortfall for next year.

    "We're not alone with this. All school districts are affected - some more and some less," said Superintendent Dennis Craft. "But we did not expect this (cut in funding) to this extent."

    The decrease stems from two exemptions. One, called the Homestead Exemption, is offered to senior citizens. The program increased the reduction amount from $2,500 to $3,000 on property assessments.

    Another program, called Senate bill 1790, or owner-occupied exemption, increases what can be omitted from property assessments by as much as $1,500 from what was originally set at $3,500. This means that homeowners can potentially pay less in taxes because their property assessments are decreased. Seniors who own a home can take advantage of both exemption programs, saving as much as $8,000 from their home's assessed value.

Poetry Hint of the Day

Ichor and vicar do, in fact, rhyme; feel free to use them in your next sonnet.

Monday, February 28, 2005
Book Report Second Opinion

Well, some of you might have read my book report on John Stossel's Give Me a Break. Most of you, gentle readers, were doing something else that day, but you can read it know if ye liste.

You can find a Chris Lawrence's second opinion at Signifying Nothing.

Sunday, February 27, 2005
The St. Louis Passive-Dispatch Weighs In

Crash kills suspect after two are shot to death

Notice how the actor in this headline is only the direct object. That's just bad epistemology on the part of the Post-Dispatch.

Book Report: The Last Detective by Robert Crais (2003)

I would have better enjoyed this book, like the others later in the Elvis Cole series, had I not read the first ones in the series. That is, if I had not immediately read the books and thought I'd find a series in the tradition of Chandler/MacDonald/Parker. Instead, the books have petered into a rather mainstreamish detective series with writing ticks designed not so much to be true to the character, but to ratchet up the suspense with devices.

The devices, again: Multiple points of view in a book that features a first person narrator. That way, you see, we get into the heads of the character. The same stop-and-restart changing of the timeline that Crais used in Hostage. The personal-as-plot-filler with the relationship with Lucy Chenier and their continuing breakdown. Geez, some Spenser fans have wanted Susan dead for 20 years, but she's a foil for introversion with Spenser. Chenier? Nothing but a foil for Cole's fear of losing her, which is how he's spent the last couple of books.

At least none of the characters, if memory serves, says "There you go." Instead, Cole says Panic kills, which is what the Rangers taught him and what the LA SWAT taught Talley in Hostage. Crais blends these sayings and verbal tics across multiple characters, which I think is sloppy. I don't like when Parker does it, either.

The plot: Lucy's son Ben is kidnapped while Cole's watching him by people who claim to want revenge for something he did in the War in Viet shnucking Nam, man. Point of order, Mr. Chairman. The entire duration of the Elvis Cole novel cycle seems to be a couple of years from The Monkey's Raincoat to the latest novel, but Crais has written the books over the course of almost twenty years now. Cole's not aging, though. Perhaps Crais should have just done the McBain thing and had Cole as a veteran of the war which seems to occur every decade or so (or every two years in George W. Bush's term), because although a young and vital man would have been a veteran of Vietnam, by 2005 those fellows are getting into their fifties and are running unsuccessfully for President.

But by page 74, I had figured out what was going on--mainly because of the multiple points of view. Although the writing style's quick and enjoyable to read, the macro writing things--the devices enumerated numerous times on this blog and in this very book report--keep me from giving an unreserved endorsement of the series. I've got one until I'm caught up with Crais, and after I am done with it, I probably won't seek out others--although I might just be stuck reading them if my beautiful wife keeps giving them to me and putting them on my to-read shelves.

It's Easier to Ask Forgiveness than Permission

Use your head, Chester:
    A day after opting out of the U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin reiterated Friday that Washington must get permission from Ottawa before firing on any incoming missiles over Canada. "This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation, and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said.
Funny that Martin doesn't chastise nations who would dare conceive of firing nuclear missiles over the sovereign nation of Canada to attack the United States.

I trust our government will do the right thing and destroy such missiles if possible and risking a Canadian retaliation of combustible submarines blockading the St. Lawerence Seaway.

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