Some Problems Have Easy Solutions

Apparently, some New York public employees have misplaced some public property:

Officials have closed the Reptile House at New York’s Bronx Zoo after a poisonous Egyptian cobra disappeared from an enclosure that’s separate from the animal exhibits.

If they don’t find the cobra in the pocket of a dead man lying just outside the gates, you know what they need to do as well as I do: Open the honey badger cages. And get somewhere safe.

(Warning: salty language in the video below.)

You know what? If DARPA is not developing cybernetic assault honey badgers and is wasting its time on driverless tanks, it is doing the nation and national security a great disservice.

(Link seen on Ace’s sidebar.)

Racism, No Doubt, The Cause

AP offers a bit about “brain waste.” What is brain waste?

Montenegro [the Colombian-educated obstetrician who has not found work as a doctor from the Touching Anecdote Lede] is hardly unique, given the high U.S. unemployment rate these days. Her situation reflects a trend that some researchers call “brain waste” — a term applied to immigrants who were skilled professionals in their home countries, yet are stymied in their efforts to find work in the U.S. that makes full use of their education or training.

What contributes to brain drain? I mean, aside from the obvious xenophobia Americans-as-depicted-by-coastal-betters often imply (but this article does not inherently)?

Most of these immigrants wind up underemployed because of barriers like language, lack of access to job networks, or credentialing requirements that are different from those in other countries. Some are held back even further because they’re also in the U.S. illegally.

All right, then. If you don’t like the thought of a doctor who didn’t pass the United States credentialing system, who can’t speak English, and who entered or remains in the country illegally….

Well, you’re probably a racist.

Do I think some people in this country are underemployed. Yes. Do I think some credentialing systems are rent-seeking by the credentialed? Hell, yes. Do I think it’s a special problem for immigrants? No.

Welcome to the country. Now suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous connectionalism like the rest of us, and if it bothers you, help us work to change it.

Book Report: Where There’s Smoke by Ed McBain (1975)

Repeat month here at Nogglestead continues. I first read this book in middle school or high school, so it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but this is a repeat, albeit not a recent, unintentional repeat like Thunderball.

This was the first in his Benjamin Smoke series of books. The Smoke books didn’t go far; he would later go with another series character, Matthew Hope, and that would take off. Yes, I do have some of the Matt Hope books on my to-read shelves, and they will be reruns, too. But McBain was a writer who carried his quality on for more than 50 years, so I’m happy to reread many of them in a span of decades myself.

The schtick here is that Ben Smoke, a retired police lieutenant, does some freelance investigating because he wants to find a case he cannot solve. Most cases, he points out, are easily solved with dilligent police work and fall into the same ruts of criminal activity. Ergo, when he finds strange cases that might be impossible to solve, he gets involved and wants to be unable to solve it. Ultimately, though, he finds he can.

In this case (the first book, but not the first he has worked on; the book alludes to other capers preceding the printing), Smoke helps out a funeral director whose funeral home is broken into and a body stolen. Smoke investigates, even after the corpse is found abandoned in a vacant lot, because he uncovers the fact that many funeral homes in the area have been broken into without a loss of property except the one embalmed body. He works sort of with the police, many of whom remember him from his days on the force, but he gets shut out so they can don’t jeopardize the prosecution. In another funeral home burglary, a technician is killed, so the ante is upped to murder. Smoke beats the police to most of the witnesses and relevant people to question and, of course, solves the case.

It’s a quick read, a decent outing by McBain. I did pick up an additional thing this read that I would not have in my earlier run through it: Smoke hits a crow with his car and brings it into his home to nurse it back to health, which gives Smoke the opportunity to gripe several times about how he hates the Hitchcock film The Birds. Evan Hunter (Ed McBain) wrote that screenplay. It’s a bit of an injoke I would not have gotten in the middle 1980s.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Thunderball by Ian Fleming (1961) (II)

Well, it would appear that I have read this book in paperback form in 2006. I didn’t mean to re-read it, but I did sometime pick up a hardback copy of it, and so I have.

I think the things I said then apply, but I’d like to add that reading it in close proximity to American pulp fiction of only a decade later shows a stark contrast in the British versus the American thriller styles. This book is very slow to develop to action, and the set pieces are interspersed with character building and scenery. I’d expect that’s why they translate better to film than some American thrillers; a lot of the thickness of the book translates into the shots and the varied action bits from the book get included more directly, whereas a slam-bang American thriller has to be cut down to size.

At any rate, to summarize the plot: James Bond becomes a health food fanatic, briefly, and meets an enemy agent at a spa. The enemy agent tries to kill him, but Bond survives and gets some revenge on the fellow. SPECTRE has a plot to steal two nuclear weapons and does. Bond is sent to the Caribbean on what he thinks is a wild goose chase, but he finds the SPECTRE agents responsible and, with the help of Felix Leiter, thwarts the plan.

A good interlude. The film follows the book pretty well, as I mentioned; however, I’m not sure how the beginning section really adds to the book other than to fluff it up, as the enemy agent from the spa is only tangentally associated with the main plot. I think Fleming is a little guilty of padding here.

Books mentioned in this review:

In The Annals Of The Internet, I Cannot Believe This Has Yet To Be Done

Well, I can’t speak for the annals of the entire Internet, but a quick Google search shows I am the first.

Savor my Photoshop prowess (which, to be honest, ran smack into the fact that I spent a whole hour on it and didn’t want to waste more time on something that probably would not look much better with additional time):

Continue reading “In The Annals Of The Internet, I Cannot Believe This Has Yet To Be Done”

Things I Learned From St. Louis Magazine

Trivium about Jerry Berger, former gossip columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

He bought a Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol and began target shooting at the Bull’s Eye range on Manchester Road, taking aim at paper targets he imagined to be intruders or “a contemptible editor.” He fired straight into their hearts.

He bought a gun as a pick-me-up to fight depression after cancer.

As you might remember, I have been to Bull’s Eye. Has it been that long ago?

Book Report: Boston Blitz by Don Pendleton (1972, 1981)

Well, this is the next Executioner book. In the previous book, Mack Bolan receives word that his kid brother and his love-of-his-life are missing in Massachussetts, so Bolan goes to the East Coast to find them. He starts knocking off low end mob shops and leaves a survivor with a message: someone knows why Mack is back, and unless they want him to go really ballistic, they’d better make him happy. There is some mob dealing and wheeling, and Mack blows a lot of bad guys and their cars and/or homes up.

Note to self: I’m not going to be able to read 45 more of these contiguously; they are light snacks, for all their virtues as soul-searching, morality-affirming pulp fiction. I need something with a little more depth, or at least a little more variety, than a steady diet of these.

Which pretty much rules out an actual subscription to them. I’m not sure I could handle three of these a month, every month.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tu Kochue

Kudos to Dave Helling of the Midwest Democracy Project, who finds a way to bring up the Koch brothers in discussing Claire McCaskill’s airplane problems:

Sen. Claire McCaskill might want to think about calling David and Charles Koch for some financial advice.

The political world now knows McCaskill owes about $280,000 in back property taxes for an aircraft she used to travel around the state — a plane owned by a company tied to her and her husband.

As the Kochs know, though, McCaskill could have avoided this embarrassment had she simply chosen to keep the plane in Kansas. In Kansas, you see, business aircraft (but not personal aircraft) enjoy a property tax exemption.

Awesome. We witness the birth of a new logical fallacy, the Tu Kochue. It refutes Democratic misdeeds by pointing out that right now, somewhere, the Koch brothers are doing something.

But what about Rex Sinquefeld? How can analysts and commentators work him into the story, too, to make sure all the contemporary Missouri conservative boogeymen jump out and say, “Boo!”

Oh, Brave New World

Tam remarks on the UN resolutions on the Libyan government and says:

As a side note, I was completely unaware that whether a government is “legitimate” or not is up to the UN Security Council…

She says she’s going to have fun with this For some of us, the laughter represents actual hysterics.

Writing At The Coffee Shop

Marko Kloos, a science fiction writer with two munchkins of his own, links to a Wall Street Journal piece about writers looking for places to write that don’t have wi-fi:

The whole world is hankering for faster Internet access. Then there’s novelist Adam Langer, who does his writing in the low-tech Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights.

“Not only do they not have Wi-Fi,” said Langer, 43, author of “The Thieves of Manhattan.” “They don’t have any usable outlets, so I have to be incredibly focused because I don’t have a ton of time on my MacBook battery.”

Langer isn’t alone. The Hungarian Pastry Shop’s wall of framed book covers, each by authors who typed amid the cafe’s din, is testimony to the growing appeal of Internet-free spaces.

Gone are the days when a café with good enough coffee, a lax policy on lingering and an open Wi-Fi signal made it the perfect spot for writers to work. With infinite temptations just a mouse click away, many writers are seeking out an increasingly scarce amenity in a wired city: disconnected workspaces.

Frankly, the problem is one of self-discipline. Of course, as the pot, I call the kettle black, but just because I lack self-discipline does not mean I cannot recognize the same in others.

Actually, I have just started toting the laptop to the Bread Co. (which these strange people call “Panera Bread”) now that I have the youngest in a little school program that takes him for 2.3333 (repeating) hours a day, two days a week. Given that I live 20-30 minutes away from the school, it doesn’t make sense for me to come home, so some logic I used to trick my wife compels me to stop there to drink cappuccino, eat pastry, and tap out some words.

You might have noticed some longer pieces appearing here every now and again. That’s why.

I don’t need to look for a place that offers me no wi-fi. I just don’t connect to the network. I have my laptop set to not connect to any wireless network it finds automatically. Ergo, it will tell me the Panera Bread wireless network is klaxoning its SSID at a frequency that only alarums my laptop, but I dismiss the button and then get to clacking at the keyboard.

All right, it’s not so much self-discipline as it is a touch of low risk threshold. I don’t trust wireless networks I don’t control. So I wouldn’t touch it anyway. Also, note I sit with my back to the wall in the coffee shop. Okay, that’s less paranoia and more the realization that it reduces the glare on the screen from overhead lights. But some people who conduct their business on the laptops in the Bread Co. exasperate me. In full view of everyone, they’re typing away on corporate documents and then they go for a refill without password protecting their machine. I had the brief urge to change the Facebook status of a local here on Thursday, someone whose name is at the tip of my fingers because he’s the sales rep for a memorable company and he participates in the local group on LinkedIn. But I digress.

So far, the change of scenery and the compressed time frame has really focused my effort. I open a couple things in tabs on my Web browser before I leave since I will want to just read while I chomp on a cheese pastry and as an eyebreak from writing. Then, I have two pieces in mind I want to work on: a blog post of some sort and an essay/article. I can flip between the writing things and the dwindling number of browser tabs for about an hour and forty-five minutes.

This week, I’ve dropped about 1600 words each day on two blog posts and an article (about blogging). A couple weeks ago, I tapped out an article about software testing that I’ve already placed with a British magazine. I reminded that same magazine that it was holding onto another piece I submitted a year ago, and bam! Suddenly, I have two forthcoming publications. This writing thing seems so easy sometimes.

When I’m disciplined, which means when I am in an area with wi-fi that I don’t trust. And, more importantly, a time and a place where I’m focused on writing.

On A Japanese Diaspora

I’ve read an article on CNN.com about how Japanese residents are beginning to voluntarily absent from Tokyo, the largest city in Japan. The Tokyo metropolitan area is about 30,000,000 citizens, roughly one in four of Japan’s. I mention this because that rather blows my mind. Imagine if one in four Americans lived in New York City. That’s crazy dense.

But the article got me to thinking: What would a Japanese diaspora look like? Imagine that the nuclear problems that result from the earthquake/tsunami are worse than the authorities know or as bad as the most fevered anti-nuclear-power activist can nightmare up (some speculation from someone who might know). Suppose it renders part of Japan uninhabitable, and 40,000,000 or 60,000,000 people need to relocate, many of them outside the Japanese islands proper. What would that do to the world?

Personally, I would hope that the United States would throw open her doors to accommodate as many of the displaced as possible. It would be a great humanitarian gesture, and we would get some new citizen-track people with ingenuity, productivity, and excellent anime skills. Of course, it would cause a couple issues. It might weird the immigrants out completely to live in our heterogeneous society. They might be inclined to enclave up and make little Tokyos wherever they landed, but that happens enough now anyway. It would bump US population substantially, and we’d want to ease them into our population and society as we could. The illegal immigrants from Mexico and their advocates would raise holy kiri, of course, but a great natural disaster warrants one-time consideration that escaping from failed states and faltering economies does not. If we’re going to get cityscapes that match Blade Runner, great Japanese inflow would shortcut it. On the other hand, having all the anime companies stateside would probably make Steven Den Beste’s downloads faster, which might decrease his number of Hot Air Green Room posts further.

Where would they go elsewhere in the world if they did not come to the United States? Australia? China? Korea? Southeast Asia? South America? Europe? Africa? Any large, homogeneous influx like this will radically alter the composition of whatever nation or nations took them in. What would 500,000 Japanese do to the UK? What tensions would arise if 1,000,000 Japanese moved into the Pacific regions of Russia?

An American nuclear meltdown or whatnot would not cause great outflows. Our country is wide and not densely populated. Force everyone in New York City to move out of New York City, and you could spread them across New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Maine, and a lot of us would be none the wiser. But in Asia, blocking off a small portion of habitable land will displace a lot of people.

All speculation aside, I’m more sanguine than this as to what will happen when the Japanese get those nuclear plants cooled down. But I do like to speculate for speculation’s sake. There’s a novel or series of novels in these questions.

I Need To See The Venn Diagram

The term localvore is becoming big among the hippie-dippie set. Hey, I’m not knocking growing your own food–I recently uprooted my family to move to a locale where I have more room for my own gardens–and I’m not knocking supporting local farms and local gardeners who participate in farmers’ markets and roadside stands, but you’ve got a whole content industry providing books, Web sites, and even a newspaper column here in Springfield that does nothing but promote how much better local grown produce is than something grown somewhere else in the world and transported to your local grocery store.

I mean, hey, I support buying local produce when it’s fresh and cheap, but there’s no actual moral imperative to do so.

But for some people, it is a MORAL IMPERATIVE! because it’s good for the planet or something. Better for the planet than what the bourgeoisie is doing, anyway.

How many of those hectoring locovores drive Toyota Priia and listen to European techno on their Chinese-made iPhones? I’d like to see the Venn diagram on that.

Revisiting Cologne

Now that I am all Going Grant, I’ve also decided upon a personal scenting strategy. Well, no, that makes me sound more metrosexual than a man named Cary could stand. I’ve not started using body washes or gels; it’s still simple cake soaps sold at 36 for $5 at the warehouse store and $1 shampoo for me. I have started dabbing on a little cologne, though, since I have quite a chemistry lab of little vials of it as I recently discovered as I unpacked a little bin underneath the sink. And I wonder: has any man ever used a complete bottle of cologne?
Continue reading “Revisiting Cologne”

I Have A Suggestion

They’re putting another bridge over the Mississippi River to help Illinoisianitians escape. They want to call it:

Missouri legislators want to name the next Mississippi River Bridge the “Jerry F. Costello-William Lacy ‘Bill’ Clay Sr. Veterans Memorial Bridge.” The costs associated with naming the bridge after those two local congressmen would be paid for by private donations.

Hey, I have an idea: Let’s just call it the Pork Barrel Bridge.

Book Report: California Hit by Don Pendleton (1972)

I hope you like The Executioner series. As you might know from previous entries, I do. So my wife bought me 47 of them for my birthday, which means I’m probably going to read a lot of pulp paperbacks this year and next.

This is the 11th entry in the series. The long-running characters are getting established, and the history which will be referred to in the future happens now. The plot? Uh, Mack Bolan goes to San Francisco, meets an attractive woman who may be an ally or an enemy, shoots up some mafioso, and searches his soul.

That being said, that’s one aspect of the early Pendleton entries in the Mack Bolan series: Mack Bolan has a certain depth, in that he questions what he’s doing, his mortality, and his morality a bit. The books often start out with a juxtaposition of an epigraph from a known (at that time) poet and an epigram from one of Mack Bolan’s war journals. So they do try to include a little depth beyond just the gun porn and explosions. That really elevates pulp in my estimation.

A good, quick read that thematically embraces good versus evil, somewhat reflectively.

Books mentioned in this review:

I Remember It Differently

In a slug leading to a review of the film Battle: Los Angeles, someone talks about a film he or she has not seen:

Remember ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ‘District 9,’ Independence Day,’ and ‘Cloverfield?’ The war against aliens went better in those movies.

The Somali are from another planet? Really?

The review itself, written by someone who has presumably seen Black Hawk Down, does not make the mistake the slug does.