Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Book Report: Ancient, My Enemy by Gordon R. Dickson (1974)
Through some strange quirk of fate or ill-done packing when we moved, this book ended up on my to read shelves even though it became clear when I started it that I'd read it before. That didn't stop me from reading it again, though, so that counts as a testament to my enjoyment of Gordon R. Dickson's short fiction.

This book collects some of Dickson's work from the 1950s and the 1960s, including:
  • "Ancient, My Enemy": A prospector on a distant planet who finds that one of the primitive members of the regressed native civilization has found him to be an ancient enemy.

  • "The Odd Ones": A pair of intergalactic observers and philosophers who try to glean the meaning and morality of a pair of humans they encounter.

  • "The Monkey Wrench": A Venutian ne'er do well hides from his socialite wife in a remote meteorological outpost and enters a risky bet with a former classmate.

  • "Tiger Green": A ship and its crew become ensnared by a jungle and confounded by the natives who live in it. The four who resist a strange madness struggle to understand its source and save themselves.

  • "The Friendly Man": A time traveller from the past reaches a distant future and finds a friendly man awaiting him. Suspiciously friendly.

  • "Love Me True": A soldier faces trouble when he brings back a ferret-like pet from a distant planet. As he should.

  • "Our First Death": The first death in a colony threatens to destroy it.

  • "To the Bone": A human explorer finds an extraterrestrial vehicle on an outlying planet, only to have that vehicle destroy his ship and survival gear. The extraterrestrial intelligence underestimates the nature and ability of man at his most primitive.

  • "The Bleak and Barren Land": A Colonial Representative, banished from earth and sent to a backwater planet, must handle the conflict between an advanced and inscrutable native race and the first shipload of authorized colonists on the planet.
A quick and interesting read, these stories remind me of my youth when I ate up simple science fiction stories like this. Again, like the last Andy Rooney book I read, this reminds me of the kinds of things that inspired me to become a writer. Perhaps if I spend more time with them, they'll inspire me to keep writing.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wine Marketers Targeting Children
BEYOND ANIMAL MAGNETISM: The lesson of critter labels: Drinkers judge wine by what's on the bottle:
    Three Blind Moose, Four Emus, Funky Llamas. A menagerie of critter labels on wines has emerged in the past three years, all hoping to emulate the success of a certain Yellow Tailed marsupial. In 2005, these wines locked up $605 million in sales, and average sales of 77 new animal labels launched since 2003 more than doubled those of their non-critter rivals, according to ACNielsen. So, it seems, what's on the label does make a difference.
Put a camel on a pack of cigarettes, and you're targeting children. So I got some bad news for the wine marketing crowd when the Round All Corners Society picks up on this tidbit of research.

Friday, December 15, 2006
Noggle Can Spoil A QA Party
When someone asks:
    Can anybody define the test cases on mobile.
so he/she can use the answers in a job interview, Brian J. steps up to the plate:
    Lynne, help a guy out!

    To test mobiles, you should ensure that:
    * Individual items move freely on their strings.
    * If automated, the wind up mechanisms stores kinetic energy and the start/stop controls work.
    * If musical, the correct notes play in a recognizable order.

    You might have to test the mounting equipment as well to ensure it handles the weight of the mobile apparatus.
Some "real" "QA" "professionals" seem unamused.

If You Want Me, I'll Be In My Backyard, Building A Big Boat
According to your various traditions, various deities have destroyed civilization for sins that fall far short of this:
    Would Mustang Sally drive a station wagon? Maybe she'll get the chance.

    The next generation of the Ford Mustang could include some previously unthinkable variants including a four-door sedan and a station wagon, according to a report in the magazine
That does it. Anyone know the name of a good tattoo artist removal cosmetic surgeon?

Border Guards Open Fire On Poor Oppressed Palestinians
Oh, wait, it was Palestinian border guards opening fire on rival Palestinians:
    Hamas militants, angry that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was prevented from returning to Gaza from Egypt, burst into the Rafah crossing Thursday, sparking a gunbattle with the guards at the border terminal.
Never mind, that interrupts the official narrative and higher truth, that it's the damn Israelis that are the source of all conflict in the Middle East. Best we not consider this bit of information then. Carry on.

Thursday, December 14, 2006
City of St. Louis: "Can We Hold Your Bag, Mr. Wealthy Developer, Sir?"
Developer asks city to foot risk on office tower, mall:
    A St. Louis developer is asking the city to back his purchase of the office tower that sits atop the St. Louis Centre downtown mall.

    While it's not unusual for the city to award tax breaks for downtown projects, what's different in this deal is that the city would be putting it's "full faith and credit" behind the development.

    Normally, if a project fails, it's the developer who's liable. In this proposal, taxpayers would be responsible.
The city of St. Louis can't afford to have decent schools or smooth roads, but it still feels the need to hump the leg of any developer that will contribute $1 private dollars against $10 public dollars for any cockamamie idea, like St. Louis Marketplace:
    [Plan opponent St. Louis Comptroller Darlene] Green says there has been only one similar arrangement in the city's history: the 1992 financing of the now desolate St. Louis Marketplace on Manchester Avenue. That agreement is still costing taxpayers more than $1 million a year.
Mayor Francis Slay regretfully endorses bullocks:
    Slay said he endorsed the plan reluctantly, calling it the only way to complete renovation of St. Louis Centre.

    "This particular piece of property is a cancer in downtown St. Louis," Slay said of the office tower.
Twenty and a couple years ago, it was a shot in the arm for downtown St. Louis.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Geisman says, "Boondoggle or boondoggle; there is no nonboondoggle."
    "Nobody wants to do this, but circumstances are such that we really have no choice," Geisman said.
The developer knows that downtown St. Louis is about at its saturation point for suckers, and that this development will only be a lottery ticket in case there's no honest money to be made. I guess to a certain type of entrepreneur, the tick type, you have to try to suck whatever blood you can from the government hound.

Still, maybe it's early, but here's my prediction: in 2030, the biggest landowner in the city of St. Louis will be the city of St. Louis as it's left with the derelict remains of its foolish and costly attempts to determine its own fate with sexy new sports teams and big, shiny, empty buildings at the expense of its infrastructure.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Book Report: Selections from Stars! by Daphne Davis (1984)
I bought this book cheaply, I expect, at a book fair this year. But how they blur together. I don't know what I am suddenly into books about the pop culture of my youth, but I suspect it's as much a reflection of sentimentality and nostalgia as I age as hope for trivia infusion.

This book is a subset from a larger work apparently entitled Stars! which focuses on glamorous photos and stills of the movie makers of the day. This book presents a number of pictures, including some full color, with some suitably laudatory text.

Profiled stars include:
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Robert Redford
  • Jane Fonda
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Warren Beatty
  • Jack Nicholson
  • Faye Dunaway
  • Al Pacino
  • Diane Keaton
  • Jill Clayburgh
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Meryl Streep
  • Robert De Niro
  • Brooke Shields
  • John Travolta
  • Sissy Spacek
  • Harrison Ford
Most of these could count 1984 as their pinnacle, although I'm sure many would lie to themselves about their continuing relevance (Streisand, Fonda, Beatty, Dunaway, Keaton, Streep, Shields, Spacek). One I don't even recognize (Clayburgh). Only a couple remain draws to this day (De Niro, Pacino, Ford, maybe Nicholson, maybe Travolta). So it's a timestamped piece of fluff.

Funny, though, and probably only coincidental that these actors starred in a lot of overlapping movies. Or maybe those movies are what Davis thought we'd carry of the Disco years into eternity. With the exception of The Godfather and Star Wars, I think she would have been mistaken. Kramer Vs Kramer? Common, 50% of the population is getting divorced now. The Black Death had a smaller chance of killing you in the Dark Ages. Saturday Night Fever? Take some NyQuil and go to bed early. Shampoo? We've stopped lathering and repeating.

On the plus side, I get to mark one book down and move it to my to read shelf and I didn't have to spend much time on it. Which makes just that much more time for me to avoid War and Peace.

Books mentioned in this review:

It's An Honor Just To Have Been Nominated
It's easy to take the high road since I won Best St. Louis Blog.

Now where's the cash prize?

Book Report: Word for Word by Andrew A. Rooney (1986)
I guess it's been two years since I've read an Andy Rooney book (see also Years of Minutes ca 2004). I've had a couple on my to-read shelf for about a year now, maybe a year and a half. Perhaps there's even an Rooneyesque essay in how long books remain on my to-read shelves. As a matter of fact, most have tenures far longer than the Andy Rooney books, even if it takes me another two years to read the (currently) remaining volume.

This book collects some of his paper columns instead of his 60 Minutes things, so it's (slightly) longer pieces and a period piece to some extent. Rooney's got his normal pecadilloes, and when he's griping about a United States president, it's Reagan. If you want to pigeonhole his politics, it's a bit Libertarian in its distrust of some institutions, but liberal in its desire to do something for the downtrodden. But the politics are so very simply presented that you can overlook them. As a matter of fact, Rooney lets on that his life is different from ours. He's a television/media personality with an office in Manhattan, a house in Connecticut, and a summer home. But his essays and musings focus so much on the minutiae of life that one focuses on them, too, and doesn't worry about the differences. Instead, we focus on our similarities.

Or we would. I imagine Rooney's falling out of fashion because he brings a WWII generation view on things that have left the WWII generation behind. Still, he's not a bad guy, and he shares a certain amount of worldview with me. Enough that I read his essays and I want to write some of my own, much like them. To share in the conversation and to make some normal guy nod his head in comprehension and understanding.

That's not how Joseph Epstein makes me feel.

Books mentioned in this review:

You know, I've put these links on my site for some time now, and I've only "made" 8 cents. I put quotation marks around made because Amazon doesn't cut no checks for 8 coppers and no doubt bleeds the pennies away in fees of some sort or another. You all are some of the cheapest gentle readers in the world, or the most illiterate.

Buy a book and show me you care.

Bloody heck, show Andy Rooney you care.

Some Might Call Him That
Former '24' prez turns covert operative

Sure, Dennis Haysbert played on 24, but to real fanboys, he'll always be "Crew Bridgeman" from the abysmal second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Monday, December 11, 2006
Glad They Got Something for Her
Nicole Ritchie, arrested and released on bail:
    According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Departmentexternal link report, Richie was set free on $15,000 bail. She was listed in her police report as being 5-foot-1 and 85 pounds.
There's no jail that could hold her, as she could slip between the bars if she wanted to. So it's good they got bail for her.

Peer Pressure
African Union peacekeepers kill 3 in Darfur

Everyone was doing it!

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