Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 02, 2007
MfBJN's Water Conserving Tips
Instapundit linked to a list of Top 10 Great Ways to Save Water. This list was useless to me for the most part because it was geared to water wastrels in the first place. Criminey, here's the list:
  • Apply no more than 1 in. of water per week to your lawn in two applications.
    For Pete's sake, if I water the lawn, I will have to mow the lawn. If Mother Nature wants me to have a pristine lawn, it will rain nicely to support it, and Mother Nature will make sure that the poison ivy that invades the yet-unnamed Noggle homestead in Old Trees needs the disappearing honeybees for pollination.

  • Use a sprinkler timer to avoid over watering.
    I have never owned a sprinkler in my life.

  • Use drip irrigation hoses in flower beds, covered by a thick layer of mulch.
    Great Caesar's ghost! How does one get a thick layer of mulch to adhere to drip irrigation hoses in the first place?

  • Replace deteriorated flapper valves in toilets.
    I could do this because I actually have toilets, but I also have a poorly-constructed drain system in my house that could use an extra goosing from some additional clean water flow from time to time. Also, I'm lazy and don't want to get into it.

  • Use a solar cover on the swimming pool when it's not in use.
    A swimming pool? Lords of London, I don't have a swimming pool. Who does in these days where you're liable not only for drowning, but for the cases of West Nile disease that could have been borne by mosquitos bred in your pool?

  • Repair dripping faucets.
    Always a good plan, but my relatively new faucets don't drip.

  • When possible, relocate indoor potted plants outside on a deck if a gentle rain is expected.
    A deck? Brother, I moved to a neighborhood that has traffic and have put a front porch swing on my home to ensure I wouldn't become one of those deck-dwelling creatures segregated to their own family units in the suburban zoo, so I don't have a deck, thank you very much, and I am not going to construct one because Gaia whispered it in your ear. Also, a number of semi-feral cats have taken residence here, and they look at indoor plants as a salad bar whose contents should be retched upon the rug. So we don't have indoor plants, either. If we want to talk to flora, we engage the poison ivy in witty banter.

  • Cover vegetable gardens with a layer of straw mulch to reduce soil evaporation.
    A good idea. I'll keep this in mind when President Bush encourages victory gardens. Until then, I'll get my fresh produce the normal way: putting on a bunny costume and raiding the neighbor's yard.

  • Replace shower heads with low-flow types.
    That's easy advice for office-job types, but some people need the flow to get real grime off of themselves. Not that I'm speaking for myself here, but I'm too lazy to do that myself and too cheap to hire a plumber.

  • Conserve water while car washing.
    I don't have a car, thankyouverymuch, I have a truck. Also, I don't wash it, for crying out loud; the dirt is an extra buffer between me and that BMW whose driver is arguing on a cell phone with a soon-to-be ex-husband.
Holy cannoli, that's a lot of advice for the hoity-toity types with swimming pools and landscaping and/or water features on their grounds.

You want to conserve water? Here's the MfBJN list for you, short form:
  • Drink more beer.
    Sure, you'll flush the toilet more, but you're adding water to the local system. Yeah, far away someone wasted water brewing it, but that's not your fault. You're only trying to rectify the mistake.

  • Stop bathing.
    Personal hygiene uses a lot of water. Stop shaving and brushing, too.

  • Club a baby seal.
    Do you know how much those things drink? Also, the pelt makes a nice mulch for your vegetable garden or flower bed, preventing premature evaporation.

  • Creative car maintenance.
    To quote the ever wise Jed Eckhart: "Well, when you grow up... then you'll know these things, Danny. Now get up here and piss in the radiator."
Now that's advice the rest of us can effectively ignore.

But I Am Not Fully Adjusted To The Life-Altering Segway Human Transporter Yet
Reader's Digest hyperbolically identifies 25 Products That Will Change Your Life.

The list includes:
  • The Oregon Scientific Wireless BBQ Thermometer, a thing you can stick into your meat while it's on the barbecue that has a wireless pager you can wear on your belt that will let you know when the food is done.
  • The Anycom HCC-210 Bluetooth Car Kit, a quick and easy speakerphone kit for cars.
  • Tech-Ezz Wackerchaps, some sort of overshoes for lawnmowing chores.
  • The InnoDesk Thermo-Cut Tape Gun, a packing tape dispenser with some cutting edge cutting edge.
And twenty-one more such things which will alter the very fabric of our existence and cause city planners to redesign their New Urbanist projects.

Unfortunately, they've only changed my life by removing the couple minutes I spent skimming the article. At least I got a blog post out of it.

Overheard In Old Trees Coffee Shop, Saturday Morning
This morning, while out taking the morning constitutional with my boy, we stopped at an Old Trees coffeeshop for a pastry and caffeinated beverage. In the sofas by the window, four of the eight Republicans in Old Trees had gathered, even though we know we should avoid grouping in one place because we're easier targets.

Because let's face it, Old Trees is not a Republican enclave. The upper six figure and lower seven figure houses often sprout INSTEAD OF WAR, INVEST IN PEOPLE and NOT IN OUR NAME signs more frequently than dandelions in the lawns and many cars still bear Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers or the resulting sour grapes quotes like "So Many Republicans / So Few Jail Cells." But the group was out in force, speaking loudly and excitedly. A partial transcript follows:
    Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson. Fred Thompson. Rudy Guiliani or Fred Thompson. Front runner in 30 days. Fred Thompson. Ronald Reagan. Fred Thompson.
As I predicted. A candidate Republicans can embrace without asterisks.

Friday, June 01, 2007
Someone Would Hit It
This post is getting a lot of hits for Jessica Cutler today, apparently because she just filed for bankruptcy.

Which helps traffic since I'm not posting anything much this week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Book Report: The Use and Abuse of Books by Leon Battista Alberti (1999)
Of course, this work was originally entitled De Commodis litterarum atque incommodis before Renée Neu Watkins translated it for us. I picked this book up over a year ago at the Carondolet YMCA Book Fair for fifty cents. Even though it's only 54 pages, it has taken me this long to power through it.

Apparently (the introduction tells us), Alberti wrote this tract early in his Renaissance career as a scholar because his wealthy family was begging for him to produce something to justify his existence as a freeloading scholar. This is his defense of freeloading: in it, he outlines that someone dedicated to books should seek only the higher knowledge and truth within and should not expect to get chicks, money, power, or reknown. Let's face it, a real scholar hits the books for 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, in ill-heated Renaissance apartments wearing rags--because all of the scholars meager moneys go into books.

The book reads as though it was written by any stereotypical scribe from a fantasy novel, but it was written by a young man romanticizing the hair shirt he'd chosen for his wardrobe and trying to lower his family's expectations. The prose is flowery and meandering, even where the text continues to say that the author is glossing over many things and is getting back to the point.

Still, the rhetoric comes from a different time, where arguments are advanced by reason without the intrusion of actual data points (although Alberti offers anecdotes, often at hearsay distance, to illustrate) or invective (which is the contemporary practice).

The book did not give me any advice on how to wean myself from book abuse, and it was my 50th book completed this year. I obviously need help.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
He Must Have Had a Heart Attack
Skydiver killed when parachute fails

I mean, if the death was immediate.

Monday, May 28, 2007
Man Wastes Valuable Fuel
Mo. Man Burns Books as Act of Protest:
    Tom Wayne amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books. His collection ranges from best sellers like Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October" and Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," to obscure titles like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But wanting to thin out his collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops, which said they were full. So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books protest what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word.
He certainly drew attention to his store, which probably boosted traffic, and that, ultimately, was his point. But Wayne is a foolish wastrel.

Not that I am paranoid, gentle reader, but I do have a plan B for my extensive library. Not only do the books have excellent insulation properties, but they are a handy fuel source for fires should civilization collapse.

It's not that I expect civilization to collapse that abruptly, but should it do so, I've got the books.

You can probably guess what Plan B is for the cats.

Thousands Protest Unequal Proportion Of Women
Oh, sorry, no; since it's a bad thing for a particular woman, society should perhaps take extra steps to not do it: Texas woman on death row still represents rarity:
    A neighbor in a suburban Austin neighborhood appeared to be the perfect babysitter for Eryn Baugh's infant son and his 2-year-old sister.

    "She's the most sweet, endearing person in the world and put forward this good Christian front," Baugh said of Cathy Lynn Henderson, who lived two blocks away. "She could sell snow to an Eskimo."

    But just weeks after Henderson started working for the Baughs, 3-month-old Brandon was dead and Henderson had fled the state. The infant's body was found buried 60 miles away with his skull crushed, wrapped in his yellow-trimmed white blanket and stuffed into a box that previously held Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers.

    Henderson, 50, is set to die in less than three weeks for the 1994 slaying that made her one of the most hated women in Texas. She would be just the 12th woman among the nearly 1,100 convicted killers executed since capital punishment resumed in the United States in 1977.
Where are the people who complain about the fact that most corporate structures at the top favor men? For consistency, shouldn't the underrepresentation of women on death row also be protested?

Silly boy; those who protest in their hearts of hearts often misquote Emerson: A consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Bring Back "Finders Keepers"
Oh, no; a dispute over a sizeable sunken treasure find could derail the EU and cause Spain to send a vast armada--both of its remaining warships--up the Thames in an all-out war to break the backs of the English sea dogs: Deep sea treasure trove launches trans-Atlantic dispute:
    Odyssey has insisted it found the wreck in international waters in the Atlantic but has kept the exact site secret, but Madrid suspects the ship was discovered in Spanish territorial waters and a Spanish newspaper reported the vessel itself belonged to Spain.

    "What we're seeing here is a presumed incidence of plundering," First Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday.

    Spain opened a probe into the exact location of the wreck last week after the culture ministry became suspicious of the circumstances in which the cargo, worth an estimated 400 million dollars, was found.
Yeah, Spain, who probably minted the coins from stolen Incan or Aztec gold, is on record accusing the American treasure hunting company of plundering. But that's apparently how it goes in 2007; any possession that was previously owned by someone from another country belongs to the previous owner as long as it's old.

Bonus additional snark: Iranian officials also claim that the Odyssey was in Iranian national waters and regrets missing the opportunity to seize it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007
Book Report: The Watchman by Robert Crais (2007)
This book is another Joe Pike book (like L.A. Reqiuem, I think). As you know, gentle reader, I have read and reported upon all of Robert Crais's work on this blog. I started out liking him with his early stuff, but later got a little bored with the "World's Greatest Detective" schtick of Elvis Cole. Crais must have, too, since he's veered off series, mostly, with some of his other books, but many of them set in LA return to Cole and Pike.

This book centers on a bodyguard gig that Joe Pike, the Hawk to Cole's Spenser, gets. He brings Elvis Cole into it, of course, but most of the book is from Pike's point of view, with flashbacks interspersed and other characters getting their chapters to show their emotional evolution.

Pike has to guard a Paris Hilton knock off who's in danger of getting knocked off after accidentally hitting a Mercedes on an after-club drive. The Mercedes contained two local real estate developers and a gopher for a South American cartel. The girl goes into protection, but someone inside is tipping off the bad guys, so a consultant goes way outside and gets Pike. Pike determines the best way to prevent anyone from harming the girl is to kill those persons first.

As a matter of course, lies are told to the protagonists and are investigated. The layers of the onion are peeled back, resulting in a climax that explains why I keep getting Google hits for robert crais republican.

A decent book, but Crais relies on a certain familiarity with Cole and Pike and might just play too much with shifting point of view.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad (1969)
I must have bought this paperback more than a decade ago, probably during college or immediately thereafter. It's been hanging around, and I've even tried to start it once or twice before, but I stalled out before passing through the narrative frame (introduction of Marlow relating the story while on a boat in the Thames). This time, though, it was the time to read it, and I made it through both the novelette ("Heart of Darkness"), the short story ("The Secret Sharer"), and the introduction/critical materials (and in that order).

"Heart of Darkness" is only 120 pages, but it's dense Victorian English. As some of you know, the movie Apocalypse Now was based on this work, and the three or four nights I spent reading it seem shorter than watching the movie. The plot varies in that Marlow is going to meet Kurtz, and Martin Sheen is going to kill Marlon Brando. So one almost wants to comment on the differences in the plot and how, thematically, the producers of the two works were talking differently and speculate as to why. But I have a real job, almost, so I won't waste too much time on it. I did get some of the thematic points of man versus himself at the same time as man versus nature and man versus primitive man. More than half the story spends its time getting up river, and the appearance, retrieval, and death of Kurtz happen very quickly, so if I find a hardback copy of Conrad's work, I would welcome an excuse to read it again.

"The Secret Sharer" is shorter and more straight forward, although the first pages set the scene and don't jump right into the action. However, I kind of got the point here, too.

Then I read the critical essays and the introduction to learn a little more about Conrad and such. Wow, I hearkened back to my university days with the critical essays, which were people saying in nonfiction what the author meant in his fiction. The essays confirmed some of my takes on the stories, but my goodness. Somewhere in the world, people make a living explaining largely underread literature to each other and to their students. I am glad I didn't stick in the academy.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: May 26, 2007
This weekend didn't really yield any good book fairs, but I got some books anyway. We started the day by hitting some garage sales that boasted books. In 2007, a garage sale apparently boasts books if it has two books, one of which is a self-help book and the other is a microwave cookbook from 1987. However, Christ the King church was boasting a deal that you could get anything you could fit into a grocery bag for $1.00. I couldn't find a bag full of books I wanted, but I found three that looked interesting, which left room in the bag for a Kodak Brownie movie camera circa 1966 and a Molecular Visions Organic Model Kit.

We did survey a "book fair" at the Book House, a used book store I vowed some time ago to avoid since it was pricey and smelled of incontinent cat. Since, it was a book fair, though....

Well, it looked as though the "book fair" was regular Book House stock with a tarp tent outside. I guess some bit of it went to charity. I actually had three books in my hands before realizing that the books were priced as marked, and that roughly-used Dilbert book really was supposed to cost $7.50. I looked around a bit, but didn't get anything; Heather picked up one book. We decided to go to Patten Books up Manchester and tell Mr. Patten we were there buying because we had been to the Book House looking. But he wasn't in; however, five John D. MacDonald paperback originals that I didn't own were, so I dropped $15.00 and change on them. Patten also had some later Gor books, as he often does, but I'm not far along enough to drop $20 on a paperback just yet. Maybe in a couple years.

So here's our take:

May 26, 2007 acquisitions

Titles include:
  • The End of the Night by John D. MacDonald
  • April Evil by John D. MacDonald
  • Deadly Welcome by John D. MacDonald
  • On Monday We Killed Them All by John D. MacDonald
  • S*E*V*E*N by John D. MacDonald
  • A collection of columns from the Lake Superior Journal
  • Around Africa in 99 Beds by Dottie Miller, a sequel to the book I almost bought in March entitled Around the World in 99 Beds. This book had its title page and inscription intact.
  • Two Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, a scholarly-looking thing about how paperbacks influenced America
Heather got a book entitled The Great Compromise. Brownie and model kit not depicted.

So I was a bad boy by price ($16 for 8 books!) but a good boy by number, as I only increased my backlog by 8.

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