Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Congressional Hearings To Follow
Milk price to take jump:
    It costs more to drive to the store these days - and once you get there, you can expect to pay more for milk.

    Driven up by high transportation costs, an increase in feed prices and even a drought in Australia, the price of milk is likely to rise by up to 40 cents a gallon over the next few months, dairy market forecasters say. Cheese prices could go up by 60 cents a pound.

    If the increases occur, a gallon of whole milk would cost an average of $3.78 nationwide, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly survey of milk prices in 30 metro areas.
Sure, the milk industry says it's rising costs, but is it really....
  • Record profits in the milk industry?
  • Collusion with the soft drink industry to sell more soda to children and their parents?
  • Government meddling to make children more unhealthy so unelected and "merit"-based government employees can further erode parental authority ?
Because once we go off the rails of believing people who actually know and study the industry, we open ourselves to the infinite possibilities our uninformed minds can confect. That, my friends, is the essence of freedom.

That's My House
That's how we used to call it, back in the housing projects in my youth. We'd say, "That's my car" or "That's my house" when we saw something particularly snappy.

Like this house, whose description in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says:
    Secret passages: One, from the media room to the master bedroom

    How it works: A section of a built-in bookcase is a door set on vertical piano hinges, which keep it upright as it rolls open on casters. The media room sees a bookcase, and the bedroom sees a door.
The next section is "Why?" but I think anyone in Generation X or later comes with an implied because it's cool.

Image here.

Unnecessary Program Must Continue, Program's Budget Recipients Say
Few Francis Howell high schoolers test positive for drugs:
    A year of mandatory random drug testing in the Francis Howell School District produced few positive tests, according to district leaders who say they want to continue the program next school year.

    A little more than 2 percent of mandatory random tests of Francis Howell District high school students were positive for drugs, administrators said Thursday.

    Jim Joyce, the district's director of communications, said 16 of the 660 random drug tests came back positive, finding marijuana, amphetamines or cocaine.
For those of us keeping track at home, that's a program that was projected to cost $60,000 per year. Or $3750 for each positive result.

But obviously, the program must continue because parents are clamoring for it:
    The district originally had planned a voluntary testing program for middle school students, too. Joyce said the district decided to focus on perfecting the high school program after only a small percentage of parents signed their children up for the program.
No, this is about getting budget and getting power over students. Regardless of its actual results, it must continue, for the state knows better than you peasant parents.

Coming soon, a Rapid Response Counseling Team equipped with surplus military gear and no-knock warrants to make you understand drugs are bad!

Friday, June 08, 2007
Can't Get Enough Book Reports?
Well, if you can't get enough book reports from this blog, you could always go to Tiny Little Reading Room, which is Tiny Little Librarian's book review blog.

Thursday, June 07, 2007
History Made, Old School Hockey Fans Weep
For the first time in history, a hockey team named after a Disney children's movie has won the Stanley Cup.

Hoping for a comparable result, Art Davis has changed his team's name to the Oakland Little Mermaids.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Book Report: Dirty Linen by Tom Stoppard (1976)
Perhaps this was a funnier play in 1976 in London. Maybe it was written specifically to get Luan Peters into lingerie onstage. But it's about dalliances of Members of Parliament that are threatening to diminish the public's respect for them and a select committee designed to deal with it. Except all the members of the committee have dallied with the clerk who's supposed to take notes for them.

There's an interlude that's called a second play (New-Found-Land) designed to shout out to a London theatre luminary at the time.

Overall, to British and sort of dated. Which is why I wouldn't expect to see it as is onstage any time soon. But no doubt someone in America would be able to adapt the theme and ride Stoppard's name for a production of it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz (2000)
I cannot believe I read the whole thing.

This book clocks in at almost 600 pages, overwritten the whole time as though Dean Koontz single handedly has to support a struggling simile factory in southern Georgia. He layers his similes like an onion; even when you peel away all the layers of the metaphor, it's still an onion. To Stephen King's Shakespeare, Dean Koontz is not even Ben Jonson; he's that other guy they don't even offer survey courses for.

Let's see here, there's a plot: a guy murders his wife for no reason (no, it's because he's a psychopath trying to broaden himself by killing the woman he loves); he becomes obsessed with the name Bartholemew. Also, he raped this one underage girl, who has a baby girl. A woman who's pregnant has an auto accident on the way to the hospital that kills her husband; his last request is that she name the boy Bartholemew. The underage girl dies giving birth, so an aunt raises the girl. The children are prodigies who can also go other places. The boy goes blind. A cop chasing the psychopath gets left for dead by said psychopath instigates psychological warfare against the psycho. And the psycho kills people.

Meanwhile, Koontz dedicates many pages to similes, many paragraphs to minor characters with only roles as extras, and we navigate through several plot lines ultimately related but whose relationships are not too compelling. Then, after 500 pages, we get a three page sudden climax, and then we can roll over and go to sleep for the 40 page denouement that is supposed to tell the rest of the story about the kids and their powers. But come on. I could have almost read Anna Karenina by the time I was done with this book.

I liked Odd Thomas well enough, tolerated Mr. Murder passingly, and just read Forever Odd. However, this book really has me dreading reading any of the other Koontz volumes on my shelves, and that's not a good kind of dread for a horror/thriller writer. It spills over to the unread John Saul books who are painted by being too close to the Koontz books.

Don't bother with this book. Let me be a lesson to you.

Books mentioned in this review:


Also, Your Dogs Must Now Be Trained To Sniff Explosives
Everything you own, citizen, is at the government's leisure and at its disposal. Or some government officials think:
    American cell phones can already check e-mail, surf the Internet and store music, but they could have a new set of features in coming years: the Department of Homeland Security wants them to sense biological, chemical and radioactive material.

    Putting hazardous material sensors in commercial cell phones has been discussed in scientific circles for years, according to researchers in the field. More recently, the idea gained support among government agencies, and DHS said publicly in May that it wants businesses to start coming up with proposals.
No doubt the wireless carriers are all behind this proposal because they'll have an excuse to make everyone upgrade to new, more expensive phones and to charge all customers new monthly fees to support the mandatory program.

Not to worry:
    Like the built-in GPS function many cell phones now offer, customers would have the option of turning the sensors off, McGinnis said.
Got that, citizen? For marketing e-mail, you have to expressly opt-in, but for intrusive government surveillance programs, you have to expressly opt-out, with that opt-out no doubt going to a database of people who suspiciously opted out.

I have no problem if this becomes a netcentric program like SETI At Home, but the government and its cronies in corporations don't play like that. Because the government knows what's best for you!

Don't Forget To Cut the State-Funded Violins Announcing Each Program Cut
The San Francisco Chronicle laments the death of a wasteful tax-funded project:
    For just 10 cents a day per child, California public school kids are getting to eat fresh apples, oranges and strawberries along with their Pop-Tarts and doughnuts at school breakfast.

    At least, that's been true for the last two years under the pilot Fresh Start program, designed to steer kids away from obesity and diabetes and toward healthy foods.

    But Fresh Start is in jeopardy just as preliminary reports are showing its initial success. In an effort to cover a $366 million funding gap in the education part of the state budget, the Legislature recently cut the $11.1 million that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to keep Fresh Start going in the next school year and make it permanent.

    The cut incensed child nutrition specialists and advocates.
California has accidentally done the fiscally responsible thing and eliminated a goofball project that steps outside the bounds of the government's responsibilities. Notably, those who received the largesse are upset.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Put An Ad On Craigslist, Someone Will Apply
Police Seek Naked Peeping Tom

Passing On Left Parking Lane Apparently Okay
With complicated rules expressed on road signs lacking punctuation like this one:

Do Not Pass On Right Parking Lane Only

Deconstruct and do what you want.

Monday, June 04, 2007
Free E-mail Marketing Campaign QA
Spam subject line

Dude, your variable name is showing up in the subject line.

If your replica watches are of the same quality as your QA, I'll pass. Besides, I have a real watch, I don't need a bracelet with numbers and hands painted on, thanks.

Things I Can Do That My Father Cannot
Blogs are getting a lot of pixel inches out of an essay entitled I Can't Do One-Quarter of the Things My Father Can, which plays into an Instapundit narrative about the loss of traditional male skills. In my defense, I'd like to point out that I know how to do a number of things that my father can't do. These include:
  • Order a Starbucks drink just the way I want it.
    Face it, it's only a triple venti cap, but I not only know the sizes of the cups, but I know the order in which the barristas call it. My generation knows how to express its drink preferences in ways the Greatest Generation or Baby Boomers can only dream of, which is probably why they mostly still drink coffee.

  • Hook up any game console to any television or entertainment center.
    What, you don't have the cables? Brother, I have all sorts of cables and transformers so I can still hook that old Nintendo Entertainment System to your Yamaha receiver.

  • Operate video game controllers.
    Let's face it, when confronted with keys marked with triangles, squares, and Xs, my father would totally be lost.

  • Time shift my television viewing.
    I'm no longer bound to watching Lost on Wednesday nights, which means I can watch something else, probably something I had to record because I was watching a recorded episode of Lost.

  • Insightfully quote culturally meaningful films.
    Because a proper quip from Office Space or catchphrase from Napoleon Dynamite identifies the user as intelligent and witty enough to use canned touchstones instead of uttering original thoughts or keeping my mouth shut and sounding smarter.

  • Blithely ignore the implications of my dependence.
    Mommy State and Daddy Professionals are only a phone call away if I'm not afraid of ceding my rights to free thought and using all of my revolving credit on lifestyle maintenance.
So there you go. Maybe I do lack some basic skills required at the root level for survival, but I have mad skillz to mindlessly enjoy the fruits of an increasingly fragile modern civilization.

Fighting Words Threshold Lowered
China says U.S. warning on toothpaste irresponsible:
    China has branded a U.S. warning against using its toothpaste as irresponsible, saying low levels of diethylene glycol (DEG) were not harmful.

    "So far we have not received any report of death resulting from using the toothpaste. The U.S. handling (of this case) is neither scientific nor responsible," China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement posted on its Web site over the weekend.
This from a government who thinks bumping an electronics surveillance plane is responsible piloting.

In some quantum universe, this is one of the beginning shots in a war between China and the United States. When its exports collapse because the Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision (motto: Good Enough For Government Work Is Good Enough For Everything) doesn't actually stop the country from exporting poisonous substances as consumables and customers die, China's economy collapses. To save face amongst its preening ruling elite, the country makes its desperate gamble for Taiwan and thar she blows.

Part of my gift as a writer and a paranoia shidoshi is the joy of extrapolating the worst possible scenario from a bad press release.

Fun With No Parking Signs (II)
If you're driving around looking for something, it's good to have a marker to know where to turn:

No Parking Turn Right

Since this sign is in Old Trees, the historic suburb in which I live, it's possible that we're looking at an historic no parking zone that tourists might want to visit.

Fun With No Parking Signs (I)
Here's a little personality test for you:

No Parking personality test

If you look at that and think, "Wow, couldn't they have said that with a single no parking any time sign?", you obviously are one of those people who see the world in black and white, in parking and no parking. You cannot wrap your mind around the shades of grey, the layers of nuance between No Parking Any Time and No Parking Here To Corner.

But then again, not everyone can go to college and get a ::sniff:: humanities degree.

Sunday, June 03, 2007
Coming Next Weekend
If you want a preview of next weekend's Good Book Hunting segment, John Sonderegger identifies the primary target.

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