Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Apoplexy Rose Now
Scene from my cassette rack:

Apoplexy Rose Now
Click for full size

Axl Rose had nightmares like this.

Friday, June 03, 2005
Two Things That Do Not Belong Together
A Dalek's voice saying "Ex-fol-i-ate! Ex-fol-i-ate!"

Old school geeks are now cursing me because that's going to stick in their heads.

Only So Many Picket Signs to Go Around
That must be the reason that supporters of Michael Jackson had a number of anti-Bush signs outside the courtroom in California where Michael Jackson's trial is occurring.

The Littlest State
Wow, this makes West Virginia sound small:
    An RMS Strategies Poll released today reports that 46 percent of 401 registered voters in West Virginia would vote for Byrd if the election were held now.
Or apathetic. But I guess they mean a sample of registered voters, not that there are only 401 actual registered voters in the entire state.

(Link seen on Captain's Quarters.)

Conundrum for the Left
Hero or villain? A gun enthusiast who was jailed for performing abortions when they were illegal.

Thursday, June 02, 2005
Night Vision Goggles An Investment
Seat Belt Violators Caught By Cops Wearing Night Vision Goggles:
    Maryland State Police say they issued 111 tickets last night in a seat belt enforcement operation in Rockville.
111 x
    The fine for not wearing a seat belt in Maryland is 25 dollars.
111 x 25 = 2775!

Three thousand bucks per night in a small enforcement operation in a single town. Those night vision goggles not only pay for themselves, but they pay for the cops who wear them, and probably a couple days of meals on wheels to boot.

Thank you for making seatbelt offenses a primary offense, giving incentive to law enforcement to pull over people who aren't wearing their seatbelts after dark instead of chasing hardened criminals who might shoot back.

Journalistic Forgery?
Unfortunate headline, or passive-aggressive editor knocking new ownership of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch?

Lee forges name for autonomy at papers

Government Driving Private Businesses Out of Business
Now that Wisconsin taxpayers, through a special "district," have built a new theatre, an existing theatre group is closing up shop:
    A representative of New Riverside said last month that the arrival of the new Milwaukee Theatre, the taxpayer-supported venue under the control of the Wisconsin Center District, was "driving us out of business." The Milwaukee Theatre opened in November 2003.

    The managers of both venues generally compete for the same artists. In one case, comedian Jerry Seinfeld opted to go with the new Milwaukee Theatre instead of the Riverside. New Riverside officials said last month that Seinfeld rejected the Riverside even though the rental fee was waived.
I hate to see government-benefitted enterprises drive out private enterprises, as they will eventually lead to dependence on the government to provide those services.

Yes, this is contrary to what I wrote in November 2003, when I mocked the Riverside for predicting its own demise because of the competition. But you, gentle reader, understand that I am a finger-in-the-wind sort of guy and not the sort who can find fault in government funding of this sort and in entrepreneurs who claim that competition (government funded or not) will drive them out of business.

The Shape of Things to Come
Microsoft Will Drop 'My' Prefix for Longhorn:
    If you are a Microsoft user, there's a big change coming in Longhorn -- the code name for the next MS operating system: the "My" prefix is disappearing.

    Microsoft users have become used to the "My Music," "My Pictures," and other "My" folders, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reported. Those Windows folders will still be yours -- but they won't keep hitting you over the head with that terminology.

    Ending a longstanding tradition, Microsoft says, starting in the next Windows version due out next year, folders will be known simply as "Documents," "Music," and so on.
It's a precursor to renaming all folders and whatnot as Our Computer, Our Music, Our Documents, and so on.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Today at Draft Matt Blunt....
William Squire (not to be confused with Billy Squier) opines about those who think all charity starts at the state capital:
    Bible teachings, much like the lessons from any religion, are designed as a guide for your personal life. The Bible is not a behavioral guide for state and federal governments. Governments have limited jurisdictions and powers. By reducing state overhead, and avoiding tax increases, Matt Blunt leaves money in your pocket to contribute to charity in any way you, or your religion deem appropriate.
Preach on, brother. But would it kill you to throw in a guitar solo?

Advance in Robotic Upskirt Photography Technology
Oh, sure, the Roborior is designed to be a home security device, but listen to what it does:
    The $2,600 (280,000 yen) contraption by Japanese robot maker Tmsuk Co. and electronics company Sanyo Electric Co. (SANYY) can connect with the owner's mobile phone to relay streaming video taken on the robot's digital camera.

    It can be remote-controlled with a handset to go forward, backward, left or right. The buttons also adjust the angle of the digital camera to look up or down.
Were I to submit this to Fark, I'd use the headline New home security robot will protect your home, shoot Sarah Connor.

BOHICA, St. Louis: The New Forest Park Tax is Coming
I spent a half hour on the phone with a research firm last night, hopefully helping to squelch a bad idea. The research firm wanted to gauge my support for a tax increase in St. Louis City and St. Louis County to fund Forest Park.

Hey, the questions really offered me all the options: A sales tax increase or a property tax increase; controlled by St. Louis City, one of the existing tax-spending unelected district bodies, or a new independent body designed to suck tax money; used specifically to improve Forest Park, used for Forest Park and St. Louis City parks, or used for Forest Park and parks in your neighborhood.

Of course, I said I would not approve any increase in taxes. I recognize that any increase in taxes earmarked for some specific project means that the government will spend the savings on other continuing, expanding programs that could, sometime in the future, exceed current revenue, requiring the government to float the idea of a targeted tax that sits atop all other general taxes.

Plus, it gives visionary leaders like Rod Blagojevich funds to raid for ongoing expenses. (h/t Free Will.)

The very nature of the questioning on the survey indicates that the very best bureaucratic minds are working and spending money they cannot allocate to actually improving Forest Park on getting some sort of tax increase on the ballot. Hey, it's only one fifth of one percent, is that too much?

It's not a lot in its own, but each ballot initiative accumulates, and each one represents a double tax increase: not only are we paying for whatever the tax targets, but the money left over in the general funds will instead purchase a new program with ongoing and growing expenses.

Call Arnold Schwarzeneggar!
It sounds like another sequel is needed:
    More than a fifth of the planet's bird species face extinction as humans venture further into their habitats and introduce alien predators, an environmental group said on Wednesday. [Emphasis added]
Slather on some mud, Mr. Governor. Aliens threaten our birds.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Book Report: N-Space by Larry Niven (1990)
I bought this book last summer for $4.95 because I didn't think I was getting enough science fiction in my diet and because I think Ringworld was one of the best science fiction novels I've read (and Lucifer's Hammer/Footfall wasn't a bad novel, either). So I felt safe buying a collection of Larry Niven short stories. So comfortable, I bought the follow-up collection, Playgrounds of the Mind, at the same time. At $10 for the pair, it was like a penny a page.

The book begins with an introduction by Tom Clancy, who was quite the hot writer at the time. The book collects not only short stories, but also: novel excerpts (which I skipped); introductions to the short stories that provided insight into the science fiction writer's life of conventions, collabaration, and research; and nonfiction detritus including reminisces about colloquia and assorted musings. In short, it's a book I'd like to collect someday.

Unfortunately, I found the collection long and daunting. The nonfiction bits really didn't add much to the stories, and since I bought the book because I am a fan of Larry Niven's writing and not Larry Niven, I thought they watered the pieces down quite a bit. Some of the stories run fairly long, too, so it wasn't like a normal collection of stories which allow for quick bits of reading in short time frames. Granted, that flaw simply fits into what I was looking for and is not inherent within the book.

It's a good enough collection, with evocative, imaginitive riffs with enough hard science to back them up. But I won't read Playgrounds of the Mind immediately.

One interesting note about the colloquium I mentioned above: it took place in 1980-1981, and it involved a number of scientists, space-thinkers, and science fiction writers putting together a policy paper to submit to the Reagan administration. 1980. The Shuttle program was coming online, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica (okay, BSG1980, which never happened as far as I am concerned) were just going off the air, and man had walked on the moon less than ten years before. It pains me how little we've progressed since then, and if I could go back in time to tell them how little the space program and space exploration would progress in the next quarter century, they would probably think I was an agent of an increasingly desperate Soviet Union determined to sap their morale.

Where has that societal optimism gone?

The Zzzzz Word
Ralph Nader (or is it Nadir? I forget) and a henchman looking for fundraising want to impeach Bush and Cheney:
    THE IMPEACHMENT of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse.

    Minutes from a summer 2002 meeting involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveal that the Bush administration was "fixing" the intelligence to justify invading Iraq. US intelligence used to justify the war demonstrates repeatedly the truth of the meeting minutes -- evidence was thin and needed fixing.

    President Clinton was impeached for perjury about his sexual relationships. Comparing Clinton's misbehavior to a destructive and costly war occupation launched in March 2003 under false pretenses in violation of domestic and international law certainly merits introduction of an impeachment resolution.
Oh, boy. I don't know how far down the line of succession one must impeach to make a distant presidential candidate president, but we'll never get to the nadir.

Leaving aside Clinton's military actions which coincided an awful lot with disclosures and revelations in the Whitewater investigation, we've got some meeting minutes which offer a secretary's interpretations of a meeting. That, with exit polls showing a different results from the election tallies, is what the left has lef, er, remaining. Perhaps we should call them the left behind.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Lauds Forgivable Loans to Executives
So let me get out my conceptual transmogrifier:
  • Forgivable loans to executives to buy stock, houses, and so on, bad.

  • Forgivable loans to executives to buy condos in the city of St. Louis? Good!
    Mandy and Kevin Kozminske wrote out a hefty check recently as a down payment on a loft condominium in downtown St. Louis. But her employer covered their closing costs - $5,000.

    Mandy Kozminske, an assistant vice president for U.S. Bank, qualified for the money through the bank's employer-assisted housing program. The $5,000 is a loan; it's forgivable as long as she stays on the job - and in the home - for five years.
Hey, U.S. Bank can do what it wants to retain its employees; however, I hope it offers $5,000 in free cash to every teller, janitor, and maintenance man in its direct employ. Otherwise, the Post-Dispatch displays that its commitment to the Little Man ends where its commitment to championing the movers and shakers in the city of St. Louis government/developer cabal begins.

Monday, May 30, 2005
Musical Interlude
I don't know if Hillary! has a theme song for her presidential campaign or not (but who could top Bill Clinton's use of "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" with its prescient lines "I know you don't believe that it's true/I never meant any harm to you"), but I proffer the following (with apologies to Herman's Hermits)

    I'm Hillary '08, I am
    Hillary '08 I am, I am
    I got married to the fellow named Bill
    He's been president, now I'm on the Hill.
    All the Dems shout Hillary! (Hillary!)
    They don't want a Kerry or a Dean (no Dean)
    I'm their only hope, I`m Hillary!
    Hillary '08 I am

    Second term same as the first

    I'm Hillary '08, I am
    Hillary '08 I am, I am
    I got married to the fellow named Bill
    He's been president, now I'm on the Hill.
    All the Dems shout Hillary! (Hillary!)
    They don't want a Kerry or a Dean (no Dean)
    I'm their only hope, I`m Hillary!
    Hillary '08 I am

    ------ lead guitar ------

    I'm Hillary '08, I am
    Hillary '08 I am, I am
    I got married to the fellow named Bill
    He's been president, now I'm on the Hill.
    All the Dems shout Hillary! (Hillary!)
    They don't want a Kerry or a Dean (no Dean)
    I'm their only hope, I`m Hillary!
    Hillary '08 I am

    Hillary! (Hillary!)
    Hillary! (Hillary!)
    Hillary '08 I am, I am
    Hillary '08 I am

Illinois Balances Budgets on Future Pensioners
The state of Illinois is going to stop paying into pension funds because it's strapped for cash:
    The Illinois Legislature on Sunday approved Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plan to withhold about $2 billion in payments over the next two years from the state's public-employee pension systems to balance the state budget.
Can bankruptcy be far behind?

Let this stand as a contrast to our own governor, Matt Blunt, who has not raised taxes by shuffling budget priorities. Rod Blagjavinachek has raised taxes and cut pension funding, but he's managing to continue spending like a drunken sailor with the captain's credit card.

Undoubtedly, there are some people who would only knock the Illinois governor for cutting the pension payments to spend the money on fluff; undoubtedly, those people think that tax money is a renewable resource, and that there'll always be more next year.

Come On, Right Wingers
Admit that this photo from a Yahoo! slideshow fulfills a fantasy of ours:

Bill Clinton led from the courtroom after sentencing.

However, it's not a jail jumpsuit, just a vivid shirt.

Sunday, May 29, 2005
True and False Still Partisan
The headline identifies how the St. Louis Post-Dispatch leans: Illinois lawmakers pass bill that could add voters:
    The Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature approved a measure Saturday that could spur higher voter registration and turnout - a move that Republicans angrily asserted was designed to stack the deck in future elections.


    The voting registration bill, sent to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, on a House vote, would require that information about registering to vote be put in college registration documents that incoming college students receive. It would also allow online voter registration and would allow time off work in some circumstances to vote.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrats, picked at a traditionally partisan sore spot. Efforts to increase voting registration are generally believed to help Democrats more than Republicans, because many of those who don't currently vote are young, poor or members of a minority group. Republicans historically have claimed that such measures expand the opportunities for voter fraud.
Of course, those of us steeped in logic understand this is a false dilemma, as it will undoubtedly do both. It will add a small number of actual voters to the rolls who will participate in the republican democracy (who will undoubtedly vote Democrat, as do most voters who need to be coaxed out of their stupors into voting booths), but it will also allow for greater and easier fraud (who also will undoubtedly vote Democrat, as do most dead people, dogs, children, and clones).

So the Republicans want to disenfranchise the lazy, the apathetic, and the incompetent?

Well, some do. Those who favor a meritocracy.

San Francisco Hires 55-Year-Old Columnist Who Writes Like Freshman
Wow, I wrote prose like this when I was a freshman and sophomore in college:
    After a lifetime voting for and working for Democratic candidates and independents, I'm finally going to make the switch and become a Republican.

    The reasons are many, not the least of which is age. I turned 55 recently and, having lived more than half my life, I can't afford to worry anymore about the other guy. It's time for me.

    As a Republican, I can now proudly -- indeed, defiantly -- pledge to never again vote for anyone who raises taxes for any reason. To hell with roads, bridges, schools, police and fire protection, Medicare, Social Security and regulation of the airwaves.

    President Bush has promised to give me more tax cuts even though our federal government owes trillions of dollars to its creditors. But that's someone else's problem, not mine. Republicans are about the here and now, and I'm here now.
You might think, gentle reader, that I write prose like that some decades after college, and I wouldn't argue with you; however, I'm not a writer paid for my commentary. Which means although we write about the same, I'm not as smart or connected as the new columnist.

He's going in with a bang that's determined to draw attention to his new column by pretending to be a principled reflection upons one political views. Perhaps he can immediately draw notoriety by summoning the wrath of the rightward-leaning blogosphere by mischaracterizing the Republican party and its beliefs. Ha! The joke's on him! I am the only blogger who reads the San Francisco Chronicle, and I cannot summon a blogstorm.

UPDATE: Commenter William Squire points out that this guy has written for the San Francisco Chronicle before.

Minnows More Content, But Some Kill Selves
In a study that will have no impact on human wellness, researchers have discovered....well, regardless of what they'll actually find at the end of numerous, peer-reviewed studies, we need a headline now! Induce panic with this one: WARNING: Side effects can be severe: Common drugs are seeping into our lakes, fish and water supply.

Start the lead with an anecdote to which all of our readers can relate:
    It was barely a drop, but the effect of the drug was astonishing.

    Pointing to a digital recording of fathead minnows gasping for breath in a milky, murky stew, researcher Rebecca Klaper said: "We had planned to keep them in there for a week, but we had to pull them the next day. They were going to die."
Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (that is, conceptually, someone who guards diaries) feels its readers will identify with tiny, gasping fish. But if you don't have someone poor or disinfranchised with which you can start an article-as-call-to-action, you must make do.

Brian J. notes that you should probably question any news story about endangered wildlife whose first source had to pull minnows out of an experiment to save their lives, but Brian J. is the callous sort who thought of his own pet cats as an insurance policy against the Y2K bug.

Let's review the experiment:
    Klaper, of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Great Lakes WATER Institute, is investigating the effects of common drugs, such as pain relievers, anti-depressants and lipid regulators, on lake fish and invertebrates. Many of these medications pass through the body, into the sewer system and out to the environment largely unaltered. And because they are designed to affect the biology of a living organism - to reduce headaches, control seizures or suppress coughs - she and other researchers think they could have an impact on fish and other wildlife.

    Standing in her lab at the WATER Institute, an old tile warehouse on the banks of the Kinnickinnic River, Klaper reviewed the minnow experiment. She pointed to the fishes' gills, which were straining open and shut in a desperate attempt to filter oxygen in the deadly murk surrounding them.

    "The water was cloudy by the time we got in the next morning," said Chris Rees, a research assistant, recalling the day after a lipid regulator was introduced into their tank.

    But the milkiness wasn't from the drug itself, Klaper said. It was the physical manifestation of the stressed and dying fish - a cloudy stew of mucous and other piscine secretions.
Minnows exposed to common pharmaceuticals within a small, closed system overwhelmed their environment with mucuous. Instead of publishing the results in a reputable journal, this story breaks in the Journal-Sentinel.

Give me a drop of Lipitor and let me cloud my office with skepticism. Even if the study bears snotty fruit, I'm of the mindset all the minnows in the world can perish if it means saving a number of human lives.

But I have priorities, anthrocentric priorities.

The Makings of a Trivia Champion
Jeez, Louise, ten years later, and I can still name all five original Spice Girls by their spice names and their real names.

Even though I only just today listened all the way through to my first Spice Girls song.

Is it a blessing or a curse?

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