Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Friday, January 04, 2008
Book Report: The Best Cartoons from the Saturday Evening Post edited by Steven Cornelius Pettinga (1998)
This thin volume, my free gift for subscribing or resubscribing, doesn't count for much on the intellectual scale, but you know, gentle reader, that I don't always go for the heavy stuff. As a matter of fact, I avoid it a lot of the time. So maybe some cartoons fit right in.

They're amusing. I don't think I've even chuckled at a one panel cartoon in decades, but I give some of them a wry internal smile, including some within this collection. Some almost venture to Far Side territory, something you wouldn't expect from a staid publication.

Worth a look, I guess, if you subscribe or find it at the book sales.
Books mentioned in this review:

That's Not What I See
In the book Busy Penguins, the authors have a photo that they have captioned incorrectly:

Penguin martial arts

The authors of the book are apparently unfamiliar with the penguin martial art spheniscinatasu. Instead of putting a wing around the other penguin to comfort his compatriot, the penguin on the right is in the process of employing the dreaded aptenodytesu forsterika death strike, a move that crushes the opponent's arteries to the head and leads to death within agonizing seconds.

Penguins caring, indeed.

The Sheep, Apparently, Are Outsourcing
Man rammed by bull dies of injuries

Can't the rams do the ramming, or are the bulls offering to do it less expensively? Or are St. Louis Post-Dispatch writers just that clueless to their own absurd turns of phrase?

Abrogation of Freedom Comes Easy to Some
You know why I don't tend to read the letters to the editor in the local papers? Because many of them read like this thoughtless screed, summed up with the pithy:
    Your freedom to choose ends when it impinges on my right to a clean planet.
Oh, revel, revel, gentle reader, in that principle. Your basic freedom ends where it impinges upon my freedom to an arbitrary, aesthetically determined freedom.

And don't think that your freedoms would not continue being abrogated until such time as everyone achieves the same level of misery.

Thursday, January 03, 2008
Space Invaders
Some people have too much time on their hands. I remember, because when I had that time, I was skipping college classes, too.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008
When Darwin Awards and Department of Righteous Shootings Collide
Practical joke leads to cop's shooting:
    Police believe a practical joke led to the shooting Tuesday of a 23-year-old Ste. Genevieve police officer.

    The rookie deputy allegedly faked a break-in around 9:45 p.m. at his brother-in-law’s home in Festus, said Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis. The brother-in-law thought an intruder was about to enter his house and reacted by shooting him.

    A short time later, Festus police noticed a car speeding along Veterans Boulevard and realized the vehicle was racing to Jefferson Memorial Hospital. Once there, they recognized the shooter as an on-call minister for the police department.

That's Just Crass
Mass disaster survivor's guide to lawyerin' up The Missouri Bar has a handy guide to keep on hand in case of nuclear detonation, river-shifting earthquake, tsunami, devastating hurricane, or apartment complex fire so that you can be sure to protect your legal rights and pay legal fees with whatever survives the looting, roving gangs, and roaming vigilantes or protection-confiscating police.

There's no point in merely surviving if you cannot sue someone, I guess.

Compare and contrast with this wisdom (link seen on Dustbury; these bits correctly inject perspective into the concept of "mass disaster," but one suspects that the light versions of mass disasters are the ones the Missouri Attorneys' special interest group / lobbying organization is most willing to help the victim through.

Meet Your New Project Manager, Clippy
Remember Clippy? Remember how you could turn him off? Well, get ready for Microsoft's Clippy the Project Manager:
    A unique monitoring system and method is provided that involves monitoring user activity in order to facilitate managing and optimizing the utilization of various system resources. In particular, the system can monitor user activity, detect when users need assistance with their specific activities, and identify at least one other user that can assist them. Assistance can be in the form of answering questions, providing guidance to the user as the user completes the activity, or completing the activity such as in the case of taking on an assigned activity. In addition, the system can aggregate activity data across users and/or devices. As a result, problems with activity templates or activities themselves can be more readily identified, user performance can be readily compared, and users can communicate and exchange information regarding similar activity experiences. Furthermore, synchronicity and time-sensitive scheduling of activities between users can be facilitated and improved overall.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Book Report: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein (1979)
This book is a bit unlike most genre fiction, where you have an obvious sort of plot problem that, once it's overcome, the book is done. Instead, we have a character (Friday), an elite "courier" who happens to be an Artificial Person looking for an identity in a world of humans who don't view AP or the lesser petri dish Living Artifacts as human, and we have her situation: in a post-breakup world run by batteries and without internal combustion engines, intrigue amid the nation-states, and a wave of assassinations. When Friday is rejected by an open family and is cut off from her corporate benefactors, she has to rely on her wits and her augmented reflexes to survive and find her way home.

The book is a later Heinlein; I have only the barest memory of reading anything but Stranger in a Strange Land in high school (the other stuff came in middle school) and Farnham's Freehold last year. This book is more like the former, with its reliance on free-and-breezy sexuality, than the latter, a more straight ahead science fiction story. I mean, the Heinlein moral code is there in both, but not so vigorous in the earlier work. I'm not going to spend a lot of time pooh-poohing it because I'm not a prude, but I am a family guy. So I prefer the old school Heinlein.

The book doesn't answer many questions the reader will have about what's happened between now and the time the book takes place to break up the US, for one thing, and eliminate internal combustion engines. Nor does it really draw to a close the questions it brings up nor conclude the macro-background big deals and big events in which the story is set; instead, we have Friday removing herself from the situation as a resolution.

Perhaps consistent, perhaps on message, but ultimately it weakens the book.

On the plus side, this book is fairly common at book fairs, so you can get yours cheaply if you don't want the ease and convenience of enriching me by clicking the link below.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan by Vonda N. McIntyre (1982)
All right, I think this author took slightly more liberty with this novelization than "Gene Roddenberry" did with the first one; a lot of the scenes that I don't remember from the movie are a little disparate (but nobody got implants that disappear). Given what I've seen of the novelization of The Search for Spock, though, this one is relatively bang-on the novelization.

To recap: While the Enterprise is on a training mission, it investigates a scientific lab outpost that sends a garbled message to Kirk. Meanwhile, an enemy from Kirk's past has put events in motion to steal that lab's discovery and to kill Kirk in revenge.

These books clock in under 200 pages, even with the additional emoting scenes and scientific mumbo-jumbo added. If you're into Star Trek, you will probably get a kick out of them.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry (1979)
As you might know, gentle reader, I picked up a number of Star Trek movie novelizations last autumn along with a copy of My Enemy, My Ally. I also later bought VHS copies of all of the movies but The Voyage Home. So I'll be able to do a comparison of the films to the novels as well, once I get around to watching the movies.

The book follows the movie, mostly, with some variations (as I recall). For example, I don't remember an implant that gives Kirk direct access to the Starfleet emergency channel. But it's in the book and, as I know of the Star Trek universe, nowhere else. However, my reading in the canon is a little light, but that's changing.

The book also looks at some of the behind-the-scenes politicking that made Kirk an admiral and some of the history of the Enterprise era, but it looks as though this, too, never made official canon. I have to wonder if they really paid attention to the books when building the movies and other series. Actually, I don't have to wonder; I can infer by what Ms. Duane said when she commented on her book.

A quick enough read, and it was fun enough. If it doesn't line completely up, I won't notice in most places and won't mind too much when it does. Which is why Paramount can do it so sloppily.

Oh, yeah, the plot: A big probe comes to earth to destroy it. No, not because of the whales, because it's Voyager coming to meet its creator and disinfect the planet of the irrational carbon units. Then, a hot bald chick acts as its emissary and the dad from 7th Heaven unites with the hot bald chick and the machine. Credits roll.

Sure, it's thin, but audiences waited through the whole 1970s, almost, to get that, and they were ecstatic. Once the geeks were happy again, the fog of the 1970s lifted, the moribund economy rebounded, and we're still seeing the effects of that national optimism today. Reagan revolution? No, the Roddenberry Revolution.

Books mentioned in this review:

Put In My Place
Man, there's nothing better than a smuggle who visits this site through a Web search and leaves a condescending comment on a post that's several years old.

Like this one.

I mean, brother, it must be hard trying to express your biting, insightful wit on a backwater blog in a post that hardly anyone read in 2005, much less 2008.

But I publish them, oh yes, I do. Because I'm not a hater.

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