Book Report: Dr. Kookie, You’re Right by Mike Royko (1989)

I bought this book for a buck at some book fair this year. I don’t think I’ve read any Mike Royko since high school. Many people of Internet age won’t know who Royko is, as they’re steeped in Internet stars like James Lileks, Mark Steyn, Andrew Sullivan, and whatnot. The era of the mega columnist, with a string of syndication papers and inane commentary, left behind those like Royko, who seemed more of a Metro columnist than a humorist or a commentariat.

I mean, who does this any more? Here in St. Louis, there’s Bill McClellan and the black guy. I don’t know if either of them has written a book, but I tell you something, in 20 years, I won’t have ever gotten a copy and I won’t read it with pleasure.

Sure, Royko is what some would call a bleeding heart. But it’s a very communitarian liberalism. He came from humble origins and kept the blue collar edge in his writing. I can sympathize with blue collar origins in a rust belt city. So although he obviously doesn’t like Ronald Reagan, he doesn’t alienate readers who perhaps don’t.

This was Royko’s last collection published in his lifetime. Man, if I had known that would have read this with a sad, sepia overtone.

Recommend it? Yes. Read more Royko. He’s amusing, short, and often right even when he’s left.

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Slippery Slope?

Compare and contrast:

  • Illinois House votes for electricity rate freeze

    In response to sharp increases in Illinois electric rates this month, the Illinois House voted Sunday to freeze rates at their previous levels.

  • Chavez to nationalize companies in move toward ‘socialist republic of Venezuela’:

    President Hugo Chavez announced plans Monday to nationalize Venezuela’s electrical and telecommunications companies, pledging to set up a socialist state in a move with echoes of Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution.

    “We’re moving toward a socialist republic of Venezuela, and that requires a deep reform of our national constitution,” Chavez said in a televised address after swearing in his Cabinet. “We are in an existential moment of Venezuelan life. We’re heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it.”

Very different, no? One is a national entity that is controlling electrical rates for the benefit of its citizens and the power-mad people who want the control, and the other is a state government. Also, the national entity will ultimately be responsible for production of the electricity or its decline, whereas the state entity will merely be responsible for holding hearings on why companies go bankrupt when pressed for increasing service for no increased revenue.

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Sometimes Protocol Is Really Just An Obscure Goldie Hawn Movie

Buried in the story of another US submarine colliding with another Japanese merchant vessel (man, those Navy guys are still pissed about Pearl Harbor, ainna?), we get this nugget:

The Mogamigawa was traveling from the Gulf to Singapore and was carrying a crew of eight Japanese and 16 Filipinos. It is expected to arrive in the port of Khor Fakkan later Tuesday, company spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

Apparently, it’s protocol in some companies that if you leak information about where your valuable ships and their valuable cargo are going and when, you must do so anonymously.

Odd the things those Japanese write into their employee handbooks.

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Taser International Sets Its Scamming On Stunning

Hidden within the story that Taser, International will offer models of its patented drunk killing device to the general public, we see what kind of superscam this really is:

Taser has however said that it will be sold inert, and activated after the purchaser takes part in an online background check.

That is, you, gentle reader, would spend your filthy lucre on a device that won’t work until Taser, International, says you’re okay to have a working Taser.

The next step, of course, is a Taser-As-Service model, where the self-defense tool only works if you keep up on the monthly subscription fee. Forget to tell Taser, International, that your credit card expiration date changed, and you’re in for a big surprise on that underlit street where you encounter a couple ruffians.

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Book Report: Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen (2006)

Heather gave me this book for Christmas along with a number of earlier Hiaasen novels because she knew that I enjoyed (see also Strip Tease, Skinny Dip, and Basket Case).

This book, however, suffers from the same slow start that stifled Strip Tease. Unfortunately, it has a slow middle and a slow end, too. Whereas the normal whacky Hiaasen characters come out of the Florida backwoods to amuse, ultimately, interact. We have a half Seminole on the run from his own demons and the ghost of an unfortunate tourist whose body he sunk in the swamp; a philandering ne’er-do-well telemarketing salesman and the mistress who’s above him; an activist and off-kilter single mother seeking revenge against the telemarketer for interrupting her dinner; a lecherous man lusting for the single mother; the ex-husband of the single mother; a private detective trailing the telemarketer; and so on.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t have a real central plot; instead, we’re following along a set of subplots that will intersect on a small Florida key. When we finally got the whole crew onto the key, I thought it would be a quick resolution, but I still had 100 pages left, and I was disappointed.

The book isn’t Hiaasen’s best, and it’s definitely the weakest of the four books I’ve read so far. Heather was disappointed at my disappointment, but I tried to reassure her that one book had to be the worst. I hope this one was.

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Earthquake Drill

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so Tristan practices what he would do in the event of an earthquake:

Earthquake Drill

When the other cats are flying through the air like extras on the bridge of the Enterprise, won’t he be laughing?

Until the gas line goes, I suppose.

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American Dream Alive And Well In Florida

This American Dream?

Briny Breezes is a down-market relic of old Florida, surrounded by glamorous multimillion-dollar homes and splashy high-rise condos.

The Briny Breezes brochure calls it a “self-governed mobile home community of kindred souls.” Residents of the Palm Beach County town cruise the narrow streets on golf carts, passing palm trees and tiny, neatly manicured yards. They wave to each other and chat about the next neighborhood outing — water aerobics at the community pool, shuffleboard near the clubhouse, bowling night.

An idyllic place where a hundred thousand dollars or so buys you a trailer on the ocean in paradise, where you can live almost inexpensively through your golden years (whenever you make them)?

That’s so 1959. This American Dream:

Briny Breezes’ board recently approved the sale for $510 million. The owners of the 488 trailers have until Jan. 10 to ratify or reject the deal. A two-thirds majority is needed to sell. The amount each person would get depends on how many shares the resident owns. Each share is worth roughly $32,000 under the developer’s offer. Owners would not get any money — and wouldn’t have to move out — until 2009.

Kevin Dwyer, 47, is all for the deal. Dwyer, who paid $37,500 for his trailer nine years ago, would make about $800,000.

“See these pockets? They’re empty,” Dwyer said, a stack of unpaid bills sitting on a table in his single-wide trailer less than 100 yards from the ocean. “I’ve nickeled and dimed my whole life. I hit the lottery.”

The American Dream of 2007, shared by many individuals and their elected officials, where you can get rich through a small investment and the forced relocation of your neighbors.

Suddenly, I don’t think we’ve learned so much as a nation since the founding days.

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Noggle: 2007 May Be Worst Smelling Year Ever

Scientists predict 2007 May Be Warmest Yet. Well, in that spirit, I’d like to say a few things about 2007:

  • It may be the worst smelling year ever if everyone forgets to shower and the dogs run amok and defecate everywhere, leading people to track it into buildings.
  • It may be the coldest year ever if El Padre locks El Nino in his room for not doing his homework.
  • It may be the worst hurricane season ever, or the best, or somewhere in between.
  • It may be the year Prince Charles ascends the throne and orders an invasion of the United States and Canada to restore them to British hands, if he goes completely mad.

I mean, come on, they’re scientists. They make predictions that may come true, but they’re working off of slightly less incomplete sets of data than Pat Robertson. How come these fellows get a headline more sympathetic than scientists who say man might have actually lived concurrently with dinosaurs? How about those who say the natural world has a greater tolerance than mankind could overcome even if it tried?

Because one might move public policy in a more progressive direction, you think?

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Good News: Iraq Is No Worse Than Oakland

The Bush administration and its Iraqi policy gets a boost from an Oakland resident, who realizes that the violence in Iraq is no worse than that of a typical American city:

“There have been three drive-by shootings in the past two months on my street,” said Miltiades Mandros, whose North Oakland neighborhood was the scene of a feud between rival drug dealers in 2006. “There are bullet holes all over my building from automatic weapons. It looks like it’s Baghdad or Beirut.”

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Book Report: Home Improvement: 52 Weekend Projects by Dan Ramsey (1989)

This oversized book offers 52 individual projects that it claims you can do over a weekend and groups them by season. The difficulty of the projects ranges just about from sweeping your basement to building a summer cottage, but they all run about 3-5 pages, some with illustrations. Most of the projects offer only a high level overview, really, of what you’d do, and most offer pointers to others in the series (also by Dan Ramsey) for further details.

Still, this book is supposed to be an inspirer; you’re supposed to get ideas about what’s possible and then either try something or get a more detailed set of instructions and then try something. Although I didn’t find any projects that fit for my house, the very brevity of the chapters reminds one that it’s not that hard to do most of these things. It takes a bit of planning and a bit of time, but it’s not surgery.

Recommend the book? If you can pick it up for a couple of silver pieces at a book sale, sure, or if you can borrow it from the library. I don’t know that it’s worth the shipping and handling for an Internet buy, though, but in case you feel differently, here’s a handy link to Amazon:

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Red on Red

Missouri school districts going to court for more state money:

In a massive case that could put hundreds of millions of state tax dollars on the line, about half of the state’s 524 school districts will go to court this week demanding more state education money.

The school districts will attempt to establish that the more than $2.7 billion Missouri spends on its public schools is inadequate to give children a chance at a decent education.

You know, I briefly considered getting an education degree. I’m sure that turning to English and Philosophy instead has left me with inadequate steeping in the esoteric knowledge that transmutes squandering the people’s tax money on suing to get more of the people’s tax money into a positive value.

But fortunately, I have unelected bureaucrats with more knowledge than me to squander my tax money trying to get more tax money. Heck, I play the lottery; why shouldn’t my betters in the government?

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Microsoft Offers Assistance

Clicking through a link on my MSN Messager, I got the following helpful error message:

MSN Error

Note Microsoft’s tips:

  1. In your browser, click refresh. But the URL is for a unique landing page, toobusy.html. So refreshing will only reload the error page.
  2. In your browser, click Back, and try again. But since I reached this page without navigation in the browser, the Back button is not enabled.
  3. Wait a few minutes and try again. Bingo.

The screen offers me three options, only one of which I can actually try. In that case, the screen should only offer me a single option.

Such things lead a user to believe that maybe the application, or at least the copywriters behind the interface, are out of touch or incorrect sometimes. That blows a user’s trust in an application, or it should.

But me, I am in QA; I don’t trust my watch without checking it against my cell phone, the clock on the computer, and the clock on the phone.

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The Controversy That Wasn’t

Instapundit links to a post at NewsBusters about ABC News’s use of [sic] that might indicate media bias or lack of belief in an afterlife.

NewsBusters says:

Adding religious insult to mortal injury in its coverage of the 3000th US service-person to die in Iraq, ABC seemed to suggest that there was something odd or erroneous in the expression of a traditional belief in the afterlife.

The quote to which ABC News applied the [sic] is:

“You were one of my best friends and I’ll never forget you. All my prayers go to your family and I’ll see you again.” (sic)

Come on, people. There is a grammar error in the sentence, so use of [sic] is appropriate. The second sentence is a compound sentence, which means there should be a comma before the conjunction between the clauses. It should be: All my prayers go to your family, and I’ll see you again.

Here’s a story on that uses the comma appropriately:

Rumsfeld was supposed to be an honorary pall bearer at Saturday night’s ceremony, but bad weather in New Mexico apparently prevented him from making the earlier service.

See? ABC News was noting that the comma was missing in the source material. Not that it’s a bunch of godless heathen mocking Christians.

People ought to save their outrage for outrageous things, not inventions based on faulty understanding of grammar.

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