I Voted

An advertisement from Fortune magazine, complete with my official vote added:

I choose nothing

You know what’s sadder than wasting money in a national publication to encourage people to visit a freaking Web site to fight global warming?

That Fortune magazine of all things dedicates a large number of pages each issue in the service of the Holy Gaia Empire. I mean, the design magazines are rife with it, the homemaker magazines are full of it (take these frugal steps not to save your money, but to serve the Earth Mother through your own self-sacrifice and denial), and the news magazines are affixed to the leg of the fundaenvironmentalist church, but a magazine for the capitalists? That is the sign that our civilization is rotting to the core.

Book Report: Space Wars: Worlds & Weapons by Steven Eisler (1979)

In retrospect, Tamara K. was not recommending this book at all. She mistook it for something else. This is not a Stewart Cowley book, this is a Steven Eisler book. I didn’t expect Tam would remember fondly a book that called Robert A. Heinlein a fascist.

Okay, here’s what we have: a book of unrelated space paintings with essays about the evolution of science fiction stories. Within these texts, we discuss how some science fiction is juvenile (that is, the right-winged stuff). Also, the first half of the Fantasy chapter is about sex, not, you know, fantasy fiction. It’s hard to square elitist academic posturing with space paintings, but even demigeeks can get tenure, I guess.

Then, within the captions, we have the schtick that this is some historical document from millenia hence with a history of mankind’s space travel. Each disparate painting is worked into this timeline, including the images from obvious fantasy novels.

It was meh. Coffeetable art book for science fiction geeks from the 1970s. Even though I’ve read some of the novels the book refers to (mostly in a derogatory light, since if they were enjoyable, they were right-winged Power-Is-Truth stuff, unlike Solaris which was mind-broadening, man).

But it counts as a book that I’ve read this year, and I did it during a baseball game. Woo.

Books mentioned in this review:

Point of Order

In this piece about Obamalove in the media, the professional journalist/writer fumbles:

If the wellborn New England Wasp George W. Bush (Andover ’64, Yale ’68, Harvard ’75) could be successfully refashioned as a down-home rustic, why shouldn’t Hillary Clinton (Wellesley ’69, Yale ’73) be talkin’ guns and drinkin’ Crown Royal shots and droppin’ all the g’s from her gerunds whenever she speaks extemporaneously these days?[Emphasis added]

The examples cited, as you well know, gentle reader, are not gerunds at all, but rather are examples of the present progressive tense (often with the form of to be omitted).

Unless, of course, the author truly means that Hillary becomes talkin’ with guns and drinkin’ Crown Royal and that these gerunds are supposed to be used in the predicate nominative sense. However, that does not appear to be the case. But I just wanted to throw in another esoteric grammar term to show that I know what a gerund is.

But we cannot expect our snobbish elites to know their grammar, can we?

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Book Report: Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854, 1995)

I liked this book the most out of the Dickens I’ve read recently (notably, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations). Within it, adults do things, and there’s something at stake. This book tells a number of stories: A daughter of a Utilitarian, raised on Facts, marries a wealthy capitalist; the brother of said woman escapes his Utilitarian upbringing by becoming a ne’er-do-well; a worker refuses to join the union and is accused of a bank robbery; and a circusman abandons his daughter, who will be raised by the Utilitarian.

In short, it’s not about waifs, which is a boon.

The book is short and has some messaging going on, but it’s not a straight ahead book bespeaking the glory of the masses. Instead, it’s more of an individualist/Romantic bit, so I didn’t find the themes odious. However, the shortness makes some of the storylines truncated, and it seems like Dickens was making it up as he went without an idea of how he was going to resolve things. So when the book came time to end, so did some of the storylines in offhand ways. Also, one of the more speechifying characters, who reveals a lot of the message and philosophy book, speaks with a lisp which was very distracting.

But Dickens was Hemingway to Austen’s Faulkner, relatively speaking, and I’d rather pick up another Dickens than an Austen at this point.

Books mentioned in this review:


Good Book Hunting: May 3, 2008

Even after our run on the Friends of the Old Trees Library book sale on Thursday, we decided to go out on Saturday to a couple of yard sales even though my beautiful wife used the “I’m going to have a baby any minute” excuse to limit our excursion. I mean, come on, how else will you know if the fifty cent baby clothes are going to fit?

So we only went to four garage sales, and I bought only two books at fifty cents each (since we didn’t discover if the baby clothes would fit).


A couple books from a garage sale
Click for full size

This includes:

  • Master and Commander, the historical novel by Patrick O’Brian.
  • Dot Calm, a book about relaxing in the modern world, I guess. Want my hint? Quit your job and work in your yard more often. That’s what I did, and so far so good.

Amount spent: $1.00. Number of books: 2.

It marks a rare Saturday where I bought fewer books than I read over the course of the week.

Great Moments in the Command Economy

Let me know if you’ve heard this before: Government meddles in free market because it can. Prices rise. Government investigates price gouging:

St. Louis County officials plan to ask the state attorney general to investigate whether some trash haulers have gouged residents by drastically raising rates in recent weeks.

The county’s chief operating officer, Garry Earls, said some residents in the county’s unincorporated areas have received bills that are almost double their previous rates.

“This price gouging is tantamount to unscrupulous contractors ripping people off after a major storm,” he said.

The county is moving ahead with plans to divide its unincorporated areas into eight trash collection districts. Through competitive bidding, it would hire a single hauler for each district, except in subdivisions that opt out of the program.

The government’s action leads to a rise in prices that justifies, in the government’s mind, more government action.

Missouri State Legislature Would Eliminate Middle Man, Pass Savings On To Voters

The commanders of the economy are at it again:

A bill before the Missouri House would prohibit doctors from marking up the cost of certain anatomical laboratory work — such as skin biopsies and Pap tests — that are performed by outside laboratories.

The bill, which has been approved by the Senate and is awaiting floor debate in the House, would prohibit what’s known as “pass-through” billing.

That’s when a doctor sends a patient’s test sample to an outside laboratory for analysis. The lab charges the doctor a discounted price for the work, but the doctor bills the patient’s insurance or the patient a higher amount.

No word on whether the Missouri state legislature will go after mechanics, computer repair shops, construction people, and every other business that uses subcontracting. It’s doubtful, though, because these people are not the current boogeyman that the medical industry is.

However, once that particular Gulliver is bound to earth, watch out.

UPDATE: Legislator corrected to legislature in title and body. Now that someone’s reading it, I suppose I should make it correcter.

Who Wants To Be The Last Memorialized For A Mistake?

A “memorial” park in Lake St. Louis is surprised by criticism that its memorial plaques include sections on “mistakes” and “consequences” of the wars in which the dead fought:

Plaques citing “mistakes” in U.S.-fought wars have been removed from a new Veterans Memorial Park after veterans complained.

Ralph Barrale, head of the veterans group behind the park, said he’s sorry if the plaques upset anyone.

“We don’t want to disgrace the city or anyone else,” he said. “If we offended anyone, I am personally sorry.”

At issue is information on small metal plaques that had been glued atop stone pedestals. The plaques summarized the nation’s wars, with the information divided into sections, including “mistakes” and “consequences.”

In another story, Barrale is quoted as saying:

World War II veteran Ralph Barrale, who is 84, says it upsets him that some in his St. Louis suburb don’t want to read “the good and the bad” of America’s wars. He says they are historically accurate.

However, here’s some of the meat on the plaques:

For example, the “mistakes” portion of the plaque titled “Global War on Terror, 1997-Present” read, in part: “As of 2007, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars failed to enable viable governments leading to continued guerrilla fighting. The Iraqi Army was quickly crushed but the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi Army and removed civilian government employees belonging to the ruling political party leaving no one to help maintain security or run the country, which was contrary to policy used after WWII in Germany and Japan.”

Under “consequences,” it stated: “U.S. was accused of a Crusade against Muslims which caused riots all over the Muslim world. Pakistan became an opportunistic ally of the U.S. in its Afghanistan war. U.S. lost prestige around the world.”

That’s not historically accurate, that’s historical interpretation. The sort of thing that’s up for discussion and controversy. If Mr. Barrale wants to put those interpretation into government-sanctioned metal in a park, he wants them to be known as fact instead of what he and his other elegy composers think.

Good Book Hunting: May 1, 2008

On Thursday evening, we got into the Friends of the Old Trees Book Sale on preview night for free because we’re Friends of the Old Trees library. Uncrowded and in a much better space this year (a recently vacated former video store), we had a good time, but unfortunately I suspended shopping a bit early because I thought we were running out of cash and we didn’t bring the checkbook.

Still, here’s what I got:

Friends of Old Trees Library results
Click for full size

This includes:

  • Three local history books that I read last year: Webster Park 1896-1996, Webster Groves, North Webster, and the first three editions of the In Retrospect series. Given that they’re expensive if you find them online or in local book stores, I feel very fortunate indeed. I guess I can remove them from my Amazon wish list, you know, the one you ingrates never visit.
  • Several pamphlets about Missouri trees and Missouri birds.
  • The Happy Gardener by Clarissa Start; I think this marks the fourth book of hers I now own.
  • Basic Writings by Martin Heidegger. This is probably the only time in history Heidegger and Start have appeared together.
  • Viets Guide to Sex, Travel & Anything Else that Will Sell this Book by Elaine Viets, a former local columnist.
  • The Naked Society, a book about the forthcoming lack of privacy as government and corporations consolidate data. This book was written in the 1960s.
  • A History of the English Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill, in a box set. For $8.
  • The Elizabethan World, a history summary, I assume.
  • The Battle of New Orleans, which details that battle from the War of 1812.
  • All My Best Friends by George Burns, a memoir of life in the entertainment industry. But it’s by George Burns, whom I expect to be very funny.
  • Three Essays by J.S. Mill.
  • Red Zone by Mike Lupica. It appears to be a sequel to Bump and Run; regardless, it’s Lupica fiction that’s new to me.
  • Lafitte the Pirate, a book about a pirate in New Orleans. Nonfiction, I think. It was on the history table, but so was Harry Turtledove.
  • The WPA Guide to 1930s Missouri. Why not?
  • An issue of the Webster Review, Webster University’s literay magazine, from 1993. I checked to see if any of the alumni I know were associated with it (apparently not), but it has a poem by Lyn Lifshin.
  • Book IV of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I bought 5-7 at the Kirkwood Book Fair in hardback; this is a trade paperback. As a result, I own all of them now, so I guess I can read them sometime. I’ll probably have to reread the first three since it’s been probably a decade since I read them. Probably 15 years by the time I get to them again.
  • History of Columbia, Illinois, a short treatise on the first hundred years of that town. From the 1950s, I think.
  • Around the World in 99 Beds. I’d flirted with purchasing this before. This one had the title page intact, but was not signed. Which might make it the only copy in existence not signed, increasing its worth.
  • A short treatise on St. Louis.
  • Livings II: A Guide to the Other St. Louis, a resource guide for people who are newly moving to the revitalizing city of St. Louis. Written in 1972. It would give pause to the current crop of The-city-is-backsters, but they’re too busy humping the legs of the developers and public/private profiteers to bother gaining any perspective on just how long the city of St. Louis has been on the cusp of revitalization that fails.

Yeah, I hit the local interest table pretty hard.

The beautiful wife gathered a collection in her interest areas, God, food, and UNIX. Not pictured: A Babar board book for the urchin(s); urchin1 was looking at it at the time of the photo.

Things You Didn’t Know I Collect: Goblets

Sometime just before the turn of the century, back when I spent Saturday mornings and part of the afternoons scouring garage sales and estate sales for stuff to list on eBay, I encountered a single goblet at a garage sale marked a quarter. Hey, a goblet! I could drink my soda/wine/beer like a king! So I bought it.

Then I found that a yard sale or two each week that had a goblet, sometimes two, and rarely three. So I’d buy those, too. So I could drink like a king in different colors each night or without having to wash the dishes between drink like a king sessions. Suddenly, I was collecting goblets:

The Noggle Goblet Collection
Click for full size

Since filling the tops of my cabinets a couple years ago, I haven’t acquired anything new in a while. I haven’t seen them as often of late at the garage sales we attend; I don’t know if this means that I’ve bought them all, or if our change in suburbs has caused a change in garage sale vendor demographics to people who wouldn’t own goblets in the first place, but there you have it.

I took them all down this weekend and washed them for the first time in two years (!), and I’ve discovered I do have a little room up there for a couple more goblets….

Also note that my goblet collection includes a stein; this was a gift from my mother in law, who misremembered the beer consumption vessels I collected.

If You’re Going To Be On The Society Page, Put Down The Beer

As someone who peruses the society page of a couple of different magazines here in town, I’ve got a bit of a pet peeve. You have a guy that is dressed nicely, at a high class function, stone cold munchin’, and standing next to an attractive woman who’s a date/spouse/person whom he’d like to impress enough into one or the other, and he’s got a beer bottle in his hand. Worse, given that this is St. Louis, it’s usually an Anheuser-Busch product of some sort. Some examples:

Man with best friend and a woman The bottle doesn't go with his tie
Hiding it with a napkin doesn't work Camouflaging it against your shirt only works if you're wearing a Budweiser shirt

Jeez, boys, show a little class. Put it down for the photo. I know you don’t want someone else to get your precious beer, but even if someone else grabs it, it’s only a Budweiser. Look at it as a sign from providence, and get something real to drink.

Notice those people amongst you, your betters, who understand that a cocktail glass doesn’t make you look like a frat boy. Take the hint.

Also, a quick note to recruiters: if you find my name on LinkedIn, Google my name, visit this blog to get my e-mail address, and then try to tempt me into an entry-level position at Anheuser-Busch for which you think I’m suited, please, take a moment to search this blog for what I say about Anheuser-Busch and its products. Rest assured, someone there will, and you’ll find they don’t think I’m suitable at all. Thank you, that is all.

Book Report: Pogo: We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us Walter Kelly (1972)

As I mentioned when I bought this book, it would probably be a good book to read during a ball game. It was.

I admit I wasn’t that familiar with the Pogo comic strip. Of course, one book doesn’t make me a knowledgeable fan by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t get into it in high school, when I had access to a daily paper carrying it. The humor is sort of dry and carries over between the different days into storylines. That’s the way they did it in the old days, before the strips became mostly episodic and didn’t rely on daily readers to keep up.

Funny how television has reversed that as consumers rely more on DVDs and timeshifting to keep up. I wonder if Web comics will do the same, or if they’re doing it already.

The comic tends to skewer a right and a bit of left, poking at the powerful regardless of their persuasion or means to power. Good enough. Even when it skewers my particular oxen, it doesn’t do it hatefully, so I’m not offended. Maybe I’m layering on the sepia, but political opponents and humorists who were politically different didn’t always acutely offend, apparently.

On the plus side, I got this book at a book sale for under a buck; you can get it from Amazon for as little as $35 and change.

Books mentioned in this review:


That Sounds Like An Imminent Threat

A co-worker complains about threats made by another:

A 54-year-old doctor at St. Anthony’s Medical Center was arrested after being accused of threatening people during preparation for surgery by allegedly saying he would shoot up the hospital, police said.

Luckily, the SWAT team swooped in and got him before he could get his arsenal from his Lexus:

The doctor allegedly made the threat April 11 and it was reported to police April 23, officials said.

An almost two week lag time before the arrest? It sounds like someone got cheesed off later at the doctor and called the buttons on him.

There’s probably more to the story than the paper lets on, but each of these ill-described incidents leads me to believe that the police might come for me someday on some wisecrack gone awry.

Samuelson Said What?

Robert J. Samuelson, economic columnist for the Washington Post, usually offers sensible advice on economics. However, in this column about oil prices, he proffers the following dangerous aside:

(And yes, we need a gradually rising fuel tax to create a strong market for more-efficient vehicles.)

You know, I find it terribly inconsistent that so many people who lament the high price of gas are the same people who, only a couple short years or months ago, were clamoring for a high fuel tax to alter people’s behavior are now up in arms about the market-dictated rising prices of fuel. Just think where the price of gas would be if the East Coast “Conservatives” had had their way.

The behavior we alter with any new revenue stream is the government’s: it spends the money, and when the citizen behavior is effectively altered, the government will have to come up with alternative behaviors to modify or raise general revenue streams. We know that the only painful cuts the government tends to make are slower increases in spending.

Which is why I’m surprised at Samuelson’s advice here, coming as it is in the middle of a column on high fuel prices.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

An Obvious Sign, If You’re A Bureaucrat

Headline: Texas polygamist kids abused, officials say. Evidence offered in the brief story?

Commissioner Carey Cockerell, who oversees the state agency now caring for the children, said medical examinations have revealed numerous physical injuries, including broken bones in “very young children.”

How many hundreds of kids did they take to find “numerous physical injuries” including broken bones in “very young children”?

Nearly 500.

Go to any elementary school. If you see a cast, that child has been abused, right?

How Popular Is It Then?

St. Charles art center seeks more city aid:

A former industrial site that has become a hub for the local arts scene and a popular event venue is seeking more city money to plug a budget gap.

One would ask how popular it is, then, if it cannot sustain itself. Very popular, no doubt; ask anyone who’s there or who runs it.

Best quote of the day, though, for its galling honesty:

“The obvious thing is to go to your daddy” before seeking additional private money, said Dick Sacks, who heads the foundry’s board.

Who’s your daddy?

Candyman: The Return Preview

After Matt Blunt’s term as Missouri governor, with its semi-austerity in cutting government programs unpopularly (some of which I chronicled on my old Draft Matt Blunt blog), it looks like 2009 will return to government business as usual. Jay Nixon will be your candyman:

On a gubernatorial campaign stop Monday at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon unveiled a plan that would allow Missouri students who start out at a community college to get a four-year degree without having to pay tuition along the way.

Of course, economics dictates that once everyone has a bachelor’s degree, the starting salaries for people with college degrees will diminish, squeezing the middle class in another fashion. But this is government/politics, not reality/economics.