Two By Two, Pats For You

My Twitter feed associated with QA Hates You is chock full of geeks, and I don’t mind telling you, the recent upgrades to TSA security protocols have really caused quite a stir. Why on earth did this particular affront so capture geek imagination and indignation?

Then it hit me. To a geek steeped in the culture, this guy:

TSA's hands of blue

Looks a lot like these guys:

Firefly's villians with the hands of blue

The latter, of course, are the bad guys in the television series Firefly and the film Serenity.

I wonder how much that affected the geeks.

Dog Bites Man

Headline of the day, or at least the morning before 7am: Music business leads to a career in retail industry.

Wait, I’m being handed a late-breaking bulletin!

  • Theatre business leads to career in food service industry!
  • Writing business leads to career in caffeine dispensation industry!
  • College degree in [strSensitiveCauseDuJour] Studies leads to career in cleaning Mom’s house, reluctantly and occasionally, in return for bunk and a couple bucks for gas!

(Yes, I realize the headline links to a story about a public relations person in the retail industry, not someone greeting people at Wal-mart. But what’s the fun in going off on a tear if you have to stick to reality?)

The Choice Was Clear: Reckless vs. Feckless

Back in 2008, the choice of future foreign policies was clear: An old prisoner of war known to have a temper who joked about bombing regional superpowers for fun and who might actually have been just a little crazy and a professor.

Well, we know what we elected.

Our enemies might not have respected McCain, but they probably would have feared him a little bit. And let’s just cut the crap about multipartitism or international organization and treaties and soft power. At the very root level, the least lawabiding regimes in the world and those who would twist international cooperation to their own ends don’t care about the kabuki of the United Nations or the Hague or anything. They care about their well-being, and if the United States makes it perfectly clear that it’s not going to revoke diplomatic impunity, they’re going to do what they want regardless of international harrumphing.

Would North Korea still have shelled South Korea with McCain as president? Probably. The Chinese still played bumper cars with our electronic surveillance plane when Bush was President (albeit before he toppled a couple regimes).

But I would feel better if I didn’t suspect President Obama’s response to a dirty bomb in Topeka or a nuclear explosion in the port of Long Beach (or even a truck bomb at a holiday ceremony in small town Oregon) would be very similar to this dissembling response, albeit slightly less dissembling because he’d have his teleprompter contrast set as high as he could.

(Video seen at A Trainwreck in Maxwell.)

He Came Bearing A Plastique Turkey

T.S.A. Chief Visits Airport to Buck Up Employees and Defend Tactics:

As John Pistole strode through Concourse B of Ronald Reagan National Airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year, flanked by airport employees, a news media handler and a reporter, a bewildered traveler looked up and wondered aloud: Is a celebrity flying through?

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, he was greeted in the airport by T.S.A. employees, whom he fist-bumped and thanked for their hard work, and who beamed and thanked him back. “Thank you for standing behind us,” said the woman checking IDs. Later, two young T.S.A. officers approached him to say, “Thanks for everything you’re doing for us, dealing with all this media stuff.”

George W. Bush went to Iraq for Thanksgiving to inspire the troops and (part of) the nation. This guy goes to the Washington airport and inspires his troops. You can see the difference, can’t you?

Not if you’re the New York Times. Or in the TSA.

Book Report: Fantastic Four The Universal Guide by Marvel (2007?)

Apparently, this book came along with one of the films when it was released on DVD. As such, it’s marked NOT FOR RESALE. Note that I am personally not in violation of the law here, I hope, since I merely bought this little book at some book fair or garage sale. Hopefully, I can avoid the affection of the TSA, the BATFE, and the other secretly abbreviated agencies with that disclaimer.

What is the book? It’s a little Marvel Universe lite that focuses on the Fantastic Four. It talks about the members, their enemies, the different eras in the comic books, and the different plot arcs the comics have followed. Unfortunately, since it was bundled with a DVD, it did so in a very small book with freaking tiny print and a lot of italics on a lot of colored backgrounds. That made it very hard to read in places. By “in places,” I mean “on pages.”

That said, when I squinted enough, I got a good flavor of the remembered history eras of the 1960s and early 1970s, the remembered present era of the 1970s and 1980s, and that weird future era of the 1990s and the 2000s. Of course, all references therein are to my contemporaneous reading of comic books. The wild story arcs were much more tolerable and comprehensible when you were reading them issue-by-issue. Of course, in the time I was reading comic books, a lot of the stories stretched two issues. Then they started the longer story arcs over a number of different titles, so you had to buy three or four magazines a month to keep up, and if you missed one, you were lost. And the stories got daft. For example, the Spider-Man Mark of Kane series really turned me off to the Spider-Man titles. I haven’t really read comics since.

But this book makes me think about dipping back in. I have a half long box of comic books I bought in 2007 and a small stack of comics my brother gave me at some time or another. As well as several boxes that my mom didn’t throw out.

Given that I haven’t read any of the other books I bought on September 22, 2007, maybe I will stick to real books for a while yet.

Books mentioned in this review:

I Was Distracted

An ESPN columnist asks:

Has anyone else noticed all the drama surrounding black quarterbacks during this NFL season?

Jason Campbell, who has been fighting for his job all season in Oakland, was benched for the second time this year against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

• Six-time Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb was replaced by Rex Grossman during the final 1:50 of a close game against the Detroit Lions earlier this month because Redskins coach Mike Shanahan claimed Grossman was better suited to run the team’s two-minute offense. Shanahan questioned McNabb’s “cardiovascular endurance.”

• And on Sunday, Titans coach Jeff Fisher demoted Vince Young to benchwarmer after Young threw a tantrum following Tennessee’s 19-16 loss to Washington. Although thumb surgery is the official reason Young’s season is over, Fisher made it clear before he knew the severity of Young’s injury that his 27-year-old quarterback was being removed as the starter.

No, sorry, I didn’t notice. I was too wrapped up in the Brett Favre/Brad Childress drama and the Little Brett/Hot Sideline Reporter drama.

Next question?

In Real Life, She Would Have Been Arrested

Bookworm dreams about getting a pat-down from the TSA.

As they started to pat me down, I started to sing The Star-Spangled Banner. The more they patted, the louder I sang. And since this was a dream, I was singing in tune. Gradually, all airport noise around me stopped, and everyone started singing The Star-Spangled Banner with me.

In real life, that sort of thing would get you arrested. There are bombs explicitly mentioned in that song, and that’s the sort of music that the TSA cannot let stand.

See also this.

It Can’t Miss

I’m working on a can’t-miss novel: Cowboys, Aliens, Ninjas, Pirates, Zombies, Jane Austin, and A Couple Brontes.

It’s not about having a good new idea. It’s about camping up what’s come before.

Do you think I need a comic book character in it?

Book Report: Missouri Trivia by Ernie Couch (1992)

This book is a collection of questions and answers loosely grouped into categories where the questions are about people, places, and things in the state of Missouri. I browsed it during a couple of football games and in advance of our recent trivia night triumph. The book didn’t help in that regard, however, as there were no Missouri-centric questions at the trivia night.

Unfortunately, the format of the book as questions and answers grouped loosely at the chapter level means this book is better for, say, quizzing someone during a long drive rather than reading it straight through to pick up knowledge about the state of Missouri. I might retain a couple of nuggets, but the loose grouping and the format make for poor retention. For retention, organization by title, region, or something might have helped.

Although for the sheer quizzing of a companion, some of the answers are going to be marvelously trivial. What was the corn production in 1870? I don’t remember if that actual question is in there, but there are some looking for particularly specific numbers that you’d get from an old almanac and nowhere else.

Oh, and the final little asterisk? The answer given in this book to the question Who won the 1981 World Series? is The St. Louis Cardinals. So any answer you don’t know for sure is suspect anyway. Maybe it’s better if you not retain them.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Copp on Fire by Don Pendleton (1988)

This is the third book in the previously mentioned Copp series, and it focuses on the seamy side of Hollywood. Copp is hired by a studio head to take some quick pictures of people entering and leaving a business. Immediately after he turns over the film, Copp sees the aftermath of a car bomb in a limosuine–the one the studio head drove. Suddenly, Copp is wanted in connection with the explosion and with a string of deaths of the people depicted in the photographs. Before long, he’s embroiled in a twisting journey through the sleazy underbelly of Hollywood including faked deaths, hidden deaths, marriages of convenience, sexy starlets, and enforcers from the syndicate back east who are bankrolling studios.

The book is a little longer than the first in the series, and it has a lot of characters to keep track of. Unfortunately, Copp works in the dark a lot here and things just seem to happen to him, but it’s a good enough book nevertheless. I’m still keeping my eye out for others in the series.

Books mentioned in this review:

Proper Disney Thinking

As some of you know, I’m trying to get an orchard growing here at Nogglestead. This year, I planted 3 apple trees, a pear tree, and when they got really cheap, 2 peach trees. Of course, I know this is a very deer heavy area, as the trees in the front are all buck rubbed and the trees in the back tend to get bark removed.

So I bought some fencing to put around the trees, and I procrastinated until such time as the apple trees were pretty chewed. Let’s face it, there’s more tar on those sticks now than on my driveway.

So I posted on Facebook, because I fancy myself a funny guy:

Brian J. Noggle would like to remind the fruit-eating deer in the neighborhood that they might survive gun season, but it’s always baseball bat season in Noggle’s orchard.

Haw, haw.

Except a slight acquaintance, a friend of the family from 20 years back, responded:

No animal does not need to die becuase there are hungry..You need to think twice before anything else.

I expect he’s just asking me not to club any fawns for the fun of it, but deep down, there’s some right Disney thinking in that.

I’ve planted an orchard because I’d like to have food in a couple years. I have a right to the fruits of my labor, which means no one and nothing else has the rights to that, okay?

The idea that deer–wild animals–have some claim to my orchard rankles me quite a bit. Any assertion to that effect is based on Disney, probably made by a city person who get his or her food magically at the supermarket, and doesn’t have to deal with nature trying to prevent a man from growing it in the first place (much less harvesting a living beast for food).

Gah. Just gah.

Book Report: Copp for Hire by Don Pendleton (1987)

In my forthcoming novel, I use the word fuck in a couple of different forms on the first page (and seventeen times throughout the novel according to my aunt and godmother–or maybe that was my first one). This book uses the word tits on the first page. That’s definitely more directly evocative. I think I’ve learned an important writing lesson in it.

As you might now (especially if you at least scan the headlines for the book reports if you don’t outright read them), Don Pendleton started the Executioner series and wrote 38 books in it throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. This book is a departure from it, the beginning of a new series focusing on an ex-cop private eye named Joe Copp. Since he’s free from the constraints, such as they were, of the Harlequin publishing empire and is into the big time, he can talk in more gritty terms. So the book has a different flavor, more akin to the more modern styles of novels. It’s quite a jump, really, like going directly from old John D. MacDonald to Robert Crais, for example. I’d imagine Ed McBain made a similar transition, but it wouldn’t have been as jarring and would have been more graduated.

The book uses the first person narrator as opposed to the third person of the Executioner series, and it works better for the occasional philosophical asides that appear here as well as in the Executioner books. The book is thicker, too, but for the most part the first person narration carries it along.

The plot? Oh, I don’t know, something to do with a dead stripper and a politician who likes strippers and a party palace in Hawaii and connections with the Hawaiian underworld. Pretty standard stuff, but done better than the standard pulp crime fiction novelist.

I was pleased to note that this is part of a series, and I was even more pleased to discover I had bought more than one of these books (at the St. Charles Book Fair? That might be it). I think the series came out in hardcover first. I like it and have grown to like Don Pendleton so much that I’ll snap up his work when I find them, and I will seek out these titles in hardcover just because I want them for my collection. How’s that for an endorsement?

Books mentioned in this review:

Suggested Slogans for the TSA

Real Debate Wisconsin has some suggested slogans for the new TSA, including the precious “It’s not a grope. It’s a freedom pat.”

(Link seen courtesy Grandpa John’s.)

Funny thing about this TSA thing and some orthodox thinking from some liberals I encounter:

  • Sure, it’s an inconvenience, but it’s not Obama’s fault.
  • The TSA came from the Bush administration.
  • Ergo, any Republican/conservative who is against it is a hypocrite for not opposing it under Bush.

It’s a very specific funhouse mirror they see us in, wherein intra-Republican debates and dissent are unknown or ignored and policies are supported unconditionally because our team throws them up.

As if all (I dare say any) conservatives were eager for the creation of a new Federal department and its jackbooted minions. Somehow, when conservatives reflect in that particular mirror, the liberals don’t see the whacko conservatives hate Federal agents reflection because it’s from a different mirror, and some people cannot or will not look beyond some silly single image.

Government Announces Deficit Reduction Measure

$11,000 fine, arrest possible for some who refuse airport scans and pat downs

If you don’t want to pass through an airport scanner that allows security agents to see an image of your naked body or to undergo the alternative, a thorough manual search, you may have to find another way to travel this holiday season.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is warning that any would-be commercial airline passenger who enters an airport checkpoint and then refuses to undergo the method of inspection designated by TSA will not be allowed to fly and also will not be permitted to simply leave the airport.

That person will have to remain on the premises to be questioned by the TSA and possibly by local law enforcement. Anyone refusing faces fines up to $11,000 and possible arrest.

There is no opting out, citizen. Get your junk touched or pay the price.

We Need To Secure The Border NOW!

Planet found from outside Milky Way:

Now one has been discovered orbiting a star called HIP 13044, located about 2,000 light years away. While this star is now in the Milky Way, researchers report in Thursday’s online edition of the journal Science that it originated in a separate galaxy that was later cannibalized by ours.

That makes the new planet, which is about 20 percent larger than Jupiter, the first found to have originated in another galaxy.

Extragalactic planets, coming to the Milky Way to do the jobs that Milky Wayan planets won’t do.

I call upon the Attorney General to take action now and to sue Minnesota for this.