Good Book Hunting: August 30, 2008

We walked to a yard sale yesterday; unfortunately, it was one of those where the sale items are jumbled into boxes for you to paw through. Even the four or five boxes of books. I got through two of them, but gave up in disgust. One cannot maintain control of one to two children while pawing through unsorted books whose vendor cannot even bother to put the spines facing up.

So I only bought three books and a DVD; that will teach them.

Garage sale books on August 30, 2008
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I got:

  • The Deal, a novel of Hollywood. Don’t know why.
  • Heat, a novel by Mike Lupica that I didn’t recognize.
  • A collection of short stories by Flannery O’Connor. I read the title story in college and remember it, but didn’t care for it. Maybe I will appreciate it now that I’m older. Or maybe it just sucks.
  • The Fast and the Furious on DVD. It was fifty cents. I’ve never seen it. Now, I will see it someday, but probably not soon.

Mrs. Noggle got a record which she can rip to MP3 format, probably sometime when they’re up to MP12 format.

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Poverty and Doomsday

In a four color insert into the Suburban Journals (online here), Metro continues its apocalypse now threats should it not receive a new tax-backed slush fund.

No service west of 270! No Metrolink trains after 8pm (spooking the suburbanites who would go to a ballgame, I suppose)!

Take heart, citizens! Even if you don’t pass the taxes, not one executive phony-baloney job will be lost and no budget will be spared on preparing promotional items for future tax increases!

Metro has its priorities, after all.

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Marsh Brings the Me-owr! To Political Argumentation

Perhaps Taylor Marsh is more qualified to be vice-president than Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin and I have one thing in common. We both did the beauty queen circuit. I won, she didn’t…

Well, then, Marsh is arguing from authority when she says Palin is a poor choice, but a good choice ultimately since it will keep teh Rethuglicans from winning another presidency.

But I oversimplify.

(Link on Instapundit.)

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Great Moments in Map Reading

Courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in this article:

As police investigated at the scene Friday night, groups of neighbors and teenagers gathered in the neighborhood of winding streets and newer homes northwest of Interstate 55 and Lindbergh Boulevard.


View Larger Map

That looks to be due north to me, not northwest. Green Park does not even extend west of Lindbergh, but given that I’m a county resident who traverses these small communities daily and not an insular Post-Dispatch The-City-Is-Back intern, I know these things enough to check them out.

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Book Report: The Careless Corpse by Brett Halliday (1961)

Funny how the periods overlap; this book, written within a year of The End of the Night, is definitely a throwback to earlier detective fiction and the MacDonald book foreruns the more modern mystery (as does all of MacDonald’s work). Sure, this book is one in a series with a two-fisted action hero whose name graced a mystery magazine (Michael Shayne), but MacDonald covered that series thing with Travis McGee, and the latter more closely resembles the work of the other MacDonald (Ross) than the hardboiled school (Chandler, Hammett, et cetera).

This book details with the theft of an emerald necklace from a rich man with a boozing, thrill seeking wife; after time, he gets a letter blackmailing him about his fraudulently placing an insurance claim on a replica necklace. Shayne comes in to wreck many plans, including some to arm counterrevolutionaries in Cuba.

The last bit is the most amusing of all: written right after the revolution, the two-fisted American PI is pro-Castro and some tough speechifying defends the revolution and says that Castro’s not necessarily a communist. Of course, a year later, this book would be proven wrong. However, the political framework doesn’t take away from the two-fisted action, so it was forgiveable. And amusing.

I don’t know if I’ve read a Michael Shayne novel since high school; it seems to me I might have, and I really ought to get more. The problem with these books is that the early 1960s cheap paperbacks are deteriorating for the most part in the wild; this one had several pages loose from the spine, including one that the previous owner had put back in backwards (so I read the even page before I read the odd page–it made more sense when I flipped them to the proper position). It would be nice if someone were to bring out reprints or collections, but I suppose Shayne is too old school for that. So I’ll continue to be very careful, only opening the book 25 degrees, and keeping cats off the lap while reading.

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Book Report: Nobody’s Safe by Richard Steinberg (2000)

When I picked up this book, I figured it was going to be a go-go-go suspense thriller like something Heller or Ludlum would write. An uncommonly good cat burglar with a past in shadowy government service knocks over a luxury penthouse and is surprised by the occupant returning. And more surprised when the occupant is hit by shadowy government types. The cat burglar finds the goods that the bad guys wanted, but they’re onto him, and he’s on the run trying to figure out what they want and whatnot.

But he opens the contents of the safe, and it’s the Majic-12 papers. Maybe some readers won’t know what they are, but brothers and sisters, I got the papers off of the BBSes before the Internet existed and read them. Back in my youth, I was more speculative, and the thought of aliens coming to get you in the middle of the night was kinda spooky (this is before I became more realistic and focused on the government coming to get you in the middle of the night, which is not so much spooky as frightening since it’s a possibility). So when I found that, I knew this was an X-Files sort of thriller, not a realistic thriller. It’s speculative fiction or fantasy, not suspense. So I was disappointed and knocked right into reinvoking my disbelief.

I hung with it, though, and made it through the cat burglary of Area 51, the rescue of the aliens (Joe and Max Gray–Hah! I snorted when I read their cover names!), the flashback of dubious merit except that it would please Majic-12 believers, the dubious deal to set everything right, and then the discovery that the deal won’t hold and the sequel is on.

It wasn’t a bad book, but that didn’t make it a good book. Maybe I would have been more tolerant if the book had been packaged as what it is instead of a straightforward suspense book.

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Book Report: End of the Night by John D. MacDonald (1960)

This is probably the darkest John D. MacDonald book I’ve ever read.

The story details, sort of, a cross-country crime spree by four drugged-out kids in the late 1950s. The action focuses really on their last murder (of 4, I think) in a small town and the events that lead up to their capture as well as bits from the trial. MacDonald does not go into a straight narrative, instead starting out with a letter from one of their executioners to a former employee at the prison where the bad guys died. MacDonald then weaves in an out of the in-over-his-head defense attorney’s blustery memos during the trial, the death row diary of the college-kid-gone-bad in the quarter, some “live” actions of the final victim, her fiance, and law enforcement on the trail of the criminals. It’s a bit jumbled, but you get a decent picture.

In most of MacDonald’s book, we get a protagonist of sorts, in some cases a shopworn hero and in others a pretty ruthless, efficient sort of character, but in this book, the protagonist ultimately is circumstances and dogged law enforcement that leads to their arrest. You get a couple scenes with the functionaries in law enforcement, not one guy doggedly stepping forward. Just the professional grouping and how they come together to catch crooks hell-bent on being caught.

MacDonald spends a lot of time on the college-kid-gone-wrong, a kid from a good home who one day decides he’s done with common life, so he walks out in the last semester of college and gets into a tawdry adventure and then falls into the group of drug-addled ne’er-do-wells. He has some conscience, sort of, and serves as a reminder that but for the grace of God go we.

The final scene of the book occurs after the fiance of the last victim, an architect, sells the property where he was going to build their dream house along with the plans he’d drawn up for them. As he drives away, he suddenly swerves to hit a dog but misses and then feels bad for the attempt and relief that he missed. This is the message of the book: one small swerve, maybe even only on whim, can lead one to great evil.

MacDonald’s characterization talents are up to snuff, but overall the book isn’t among his best because of the choppy pacing and lack of a protagonist. Also, did I mention its bleak outlook?

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Good Book Hunting: August 22, 2008

The final book fair of the season, the Carondolet YMCA book fair, no longer takes place at the Carondolet YMCA. As a matter of fact, I overheard at the new venue that the Loughborough YMCA is closing down since there’s a new, more modern facility available. A shame, really, since the old building was historic in nature. Also, because the books were spread over a number of rooms, they didn’t overwhelm one, unlike the hockey rink in a South County park that had a checkout line wrapping into the bleachers when we came in.

I didn’t even hit the fiction section before calling it a day, as I’d carried my fifty pounds (eventually) of books for part of or most of an hour and a half just getting through four of the six rows of tables. I’ve got so many books and read so few these days that I get little joy from my compulsive acquisition these days.

So here’s what I got:

Carondolet Y purchases 2008

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I bought:

  • Rush!, a biography of Rush Limbaugh.
  • Playwriting, a book about writing plays. Duh! Probably not as good as Backwards and Forwards, but I already have that.
  • How to Study History by Norman Cantor and an extra. I’ve read a couple of Cantor’s history books and enjoyed them. Maybe he’ll tell me I’m doing it right.
  • Five Women I Love by Bob Hope about touring with the USO in Vietnam. I think.
  • Interview with History by Oriana Fallaci.
  • A biography of Carl Sandburg.
  • The Kama Sutra, which is a game like Mah Jong.
  • A hardback copy of The Return of the Native, which is good because my unread paperback copy has a front cover that’s torn off and taped on, badly. Something more durable will lend itself more easily to reading.
  • The Broken Spears, history of the conquest of Mexico from Aztec sources.
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
  • The Rush Limbaugh Story, another Rush Limbaugh bio. Which means I own three now (the other is Rush To Us, which was also available amongst the multitudes at the Y).
  • Before Jane Austen, a scholarly book about the rise of the novel in England.
  • I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore, a second copy of Clarissa Start’s memoir to give as a gift to my mother-in-law.
  • Platoon, the book or novelization of the movie.
  • Churchill, a collection about Winston Churchill.
  • Urban Affairs, a collection of pieces by Elaine Viets. The cover photo was taken at the Coral Court motel, if I remember correctly.
  • The Fifty Year Dash by Bob Greene.
  • The Dragon and the Gnarly King by Gordon Dickson, because I don’t have any unread Dickson, I think.
  • Thunder on the Left, a political bit.
  • Guns, Crime, and Freedom by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
  • Bob Geldof, a biography. Listen, because the guy played Pink in The Wall, I’ve bought an album of his (Deep In the Heart of Nowhere) and a bio. That’s carrying it a little far just because I liked the movie.
  • Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell. My friend Glenn would be proud, if I ever talk to him again and let him know I got a book by his favorite columnist.
  • Warriors of the Way, an alternate history bit by Harry Harrison. The Vikings conquered England.
  • The Virginian in the Reader’s Digest Classics edition. I actually bought this at an antique store we stopped in to kill some time between the book fair and dinner, so I paid a whole $3 for it, which is still only 10% of its original cost.
  • Cocoon, the movie paperback.
  • The Age of Reason, some small paperback summary history of the Enlightenment.
  • Old Yeller. Never read it. Nobody tell me it ends sadly. Actually, in 8th grade, I was kidding around with someone who read it and I blurted out an ending to ruin it for him. Someone told me the ending I made up (having not read the book) was the actual ending. What a waste of precognitive skills.
  • The Peter Principle. The book that coined the term, I think.
  • Event Horizon, the movie’s paperback, which will be less gory than the movie since it won’t have the special effects. Never saw the movie. Heard it was gory.
  • Smarter by the Dozen, a book about two families here in Old Trees.
  • The Study of American Folklore, the textbook about American Folklore by Jan Brunvand.
  • William the Conqueror. A biography.
  • England in Elizabeth’s Time. A summary history book.
  • The Wizard and the Glass, which means I have the complete set now of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. I’ll need to reread the first three, though, so this project will be in the future sometime.
  • The Aztecs, a book about the Aztecs.
  • A stray issue of the Missouri Historical Review from last year.
  • The Mysterious Maya. Not about the poet.
  • Mysteries of the Past, a book by American Heritage, so it’s probably more credible than what the Reader’s Digest people put out in this vein.
  • Appliance Service Handbook.

As you can see, Mrs. Noggle bought a couple cookbooks, a couple books, a stack of magazines, and dozens of cassettes. The children got a couple of books.

Loading these onto the to read shelves, I note I have just a litle space left. No doubt I’ll accidentally fill this in the coming months. Then I’ll have to start determining what furniture we sacrifice for more bookshelves. But that’s not really a sacrifice, is it? Or perhaps I can somehow justify renting storage somewhere….

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Good Book Hunting: August 16, 2008

Last Saturday, we stumbled across a couple of yard sales, reminding ourselves why we’ve stopped going to yard sales. However, I picked up a couple buck’s worth of books:

August 16, 2008, books

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I got:

  • A collection of sportscaster Jack Buck’s poems. I mean, they cannot be worse than the complete works of Rod McKuen, can they?
  • A book applying Machiavelli to business. One of many, no doubt.
  • A biography of Vermeer. Because I don’t have any so far, that I know of. But given how many books I’ve got these days, who can tell?
  • Crossword Poems Volume One. Oddly enough, this weekend, I saw this book and its companion volume and had no interest in them. Fortunately, as I would have bought duplicates only a week apart, and that’s just embarrassing.

Yesterday’s haul will be forthcoming, and a haul it was.

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Taxes on the Ballot

Charlie Dooley burns the midnight oil to get a tax increase proposal on the ballot:

St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley submitted a last-minute request to the County Council on Tuesday to put a proposal for a 1.85 percent tax on out-of-state purchases on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Article goes on to describe all the good things the money would do and how the municipalities in the county want the extra money. No space, as expected, is wasted on all the tax money already collected by the municipalities and the county and what they’re spending it on instead of the good, necessary things.

Additionally, Metro is telling us about the coming skyfall if its proposed tax increase does not pass:

The Metro public transportation system has warned that service would be slashed on the Missouri side of the region without a new source of money.

Now the transit agency is offering a worst-case scenario: No MetroLink trains after 8 p.m. Bus service in effect nonexistent outside Interstate 270. Twenty-eight of 60 current bus routes disappearing.

“This is going to be shocking,” Metro President Robert Baer said Friday. “We pray that doesn’t happen.”

Metro is preparing for the outcome of a Nov. 4 vote in St. Louis County on a half-cent increase in the transit sales tax. If the tax passes, the service cuts would be unnecessary.

As you recall, Dooley moved this particular tax proposal from a spring ballot since that ballot was too close to revelations about Metro spending profligately on a lawsuit against consultants that built or managed its recent extension.

Half of the money would be spent on maintenance:

County Executive Charlie Dooley has told county residents that if Proposition M passes, half of the $80 million in revenue that is projected to be raised each year would go toward transit operation and maintenance costs, while the other half would go toward a MetroLink expansion from Clayton to Westport Plaza.

Awesome logic no doubt gleaned from public policy courses at the university. You cannot afford to run what you have, so raise taxes and then spend the money to not only run what you have, but to build more. Which you then won’t have enough money to run in an ongoing basis. Rinse. Repeat.

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Book Report: The Private Dining Room by Ogden Nash (1953)

It took me some time to read this book, because I’m reading poetry volumes aloud these days and although one child cannot flee from the poetry, the other one can, so it has been slow going. Still, they like Ogden Nash. Or perhaps I like reading Ogden Nash to them.

Nash’s silly verses are laden with classical education allusions amid the crazy goofing with the language to get a rhyme. Also, a number of the verses are essentially 18 line setups for a pun Nash needed to work in. Still, some of the lines and quips bear repeating and sometimes get it, although most people who quote Nash probably don’t know it.

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I See CB and Raise Him

CB, because some of the people we know in common read this blog daily, thinks I have pull, so he keeps sending me tips like this:

my buddy’s blog he just created

As though a mention on this blog will send torrents of readers his way.

Brother, I see your antiobamassiah and raise you Michelle Obama Suicide Watch.

(My link stolen from Ace, who, in his defense, is not my friend.)

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Government To Hinder Conversation On My Front Porch In 2025

We live next to an interstate highway, and the front yard is pretty loud; you need to speak up to be heard. However, I used to say that in 20 years, we wouldn’t hear that highway because the internal combustion engine would be out of style.

Fortunately, the government is working to save the endangered Noise Pollution:

Electric and hybrid vehicles may be better for the environment, but the California Legislature says they’re bad for the blind.

It has passed a bill to ensure that the vehicles make enough noise to be heard by visually impaired people about to cross a street.

Thanks, guys.

(Link seen at Porch Girl‘s.)

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Noggle’s In The Driveway Again

Government making life more expensive for us in today’s Kirkwood-Webster Journal.

UPDATE: The link above is stale, so here’s the article for your reading pleasure:

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. If you heard about this bill at all, a televised news bit might have said that it would help end American dependence on foreign oil. Maybe you read about the bill in the newspaper’s political sports pages as a box score in the perpetual pennant race between the Republicans and Democrats. Somehow, as it often happens with 300 page omnibus bills, you probably missed some costs that Congress has passed onto us without our notice.

In 2012, instead of going into your local store and picking up four 100-watt incandescent bulbs for $1.00 or $1.50, you will spend $4.00 for a single compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb, $16.00 for four. The Energy Independence and Security Act bans the common incandescent bulb. With that simple action, Congress effectively raises the price of a light bulb from $.25 to $4.00 or more for every light, lamp, and ceiling fan in your home. The cost of replacing the 53 bulbs scattered around my home will go from $13.25 to $212.00 or more.

To be accurate, the Energy Independence and Security Act doesn’t explicitly ban incandescent bulbs. It only bans bulbs that use as much electricity as incandescent bulbs and allows only bulbs that are as energy efficient as CFL bulbs. If Congress outlawed cars with MPG ratings of lower than 30, it wouldn’t explicitly outlaw SUVs, trucks, and luxury sedans, but that would be the result.

I don’t oppose CFL bulbs; as a matter of fact, I use a couple for exterior lights that are on for long periods of time. However, CFL bulbs have additional costs and risks over incandescent bulbs. Since they contain mercury, breaking them can lead to toxic spills and death. Disposal is problematic, as you shouldn’t throw them away. Instead you should recycle them, but not with your recycling bin. To be responsible, you have to look for somewhere to drop them off or to send them. Some people probably won’t be responsible, dumping CFL bulbs and their mercury into landfills. CFL bulbs promise long lives and energy savings over several years, but you’re supposed to leave them on for more than five minutes at a time or risk shortening that lifespan. I don’t leave bathroom lights on for five minutes every time or spend five minutes minimum in my store room. Each short visit reduces the longevity of a CFL bulb and its value over its incandescent counterparts.

Congress often passes laws that provide immeasurable and possibly negligible benefit for the environment. With many of them, the costs to us remain indirect and somewhat obscured since they don’t impact sale prices. In 1995, the National Energy Policy Act mandated that toilets could only use 1.6 gallons per flush instead of the 3 to 7 gallons used previously. While that saves water, it also can lead to more drain blockage and quicker corrosion in household pipes since the lower flow of water doesn’t carry waste or sediments away as effectively. The Energy Independence and Security Act mandates that new washing machines and dishwashers use less water per washing cycle which also means less water carrying away the dirt and food particles and, potentially, leaving clothes or dishes dirty. Congress is not alone in making costly rules for us. In July, the Environmental Protection Agency released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that calls for emissions regulation on lawnmowers. Catalytic converters and other emissions equipment will make lawnmowers more expensive, will increase maintenance costs, and cause the more complex machines to break down more easily.

The federal government has put most of these regulations into effect without attracting much attention. Since we consumers don’t see the costs directly, we’ve let this pattern continue without asking or debating whether the rules most effectively protect the environment and whether the total costs of the laws or regulations outweigh the anticipated, and sometimes measurable, benefits. Hopefully the coming light bulb shock of 2012 will draw some attention to the practice and spur debate in addition to sticking us with higher costs and prices.

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Book Report: Love Sonnets selected by Louis Untermeyer (1964)

This is a small collection of sonnet’s greatest hits, sort of. About 25 of them, from Browning to Shakespeare and Petrarch.

Unfortunately, the poems appear in a handwritten font (calligraphy, the credits call it) and they have “illustrations” on the left page of each. The font hurt my eyes, and I ignored the illustrations totally.

Still, I enjoyed some of the poems (again, in many cases, as the major ones are anthologized everywhere else). A couple points:

  • Translated poems, especially those in tight forms like sonnets, probably come through very garbled from the original.
  • Based on these sonnets, I might have been one of the best sonneteers of the late 20th century before I retired. If I could get my two year old to illustrate the book, I could probably match this volume.

Overall, the volume probably isn’t worth your time unless you really dig eye-crossing simulated handwriting.

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Journalist Says Your Bedroom Is Not The Right Place For You

In a story about a home invasion of Noah Herron, running back for the Packers, the journalist gives in to cliche and renders a judgement on whether the bedroom is actually the right place for you to be:

No, there was no message in this, only the fact that anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For Herron, it was innocently enough in his own bedroom one May evening while two burglars ended up pushing Herron into a corner, giving him no option but to fight back for his own life.

Brothers and sisters, the bedroom in your own home is not the wrong place at the wrong time.

The absolute right place to be in this situation is where your home defense weapon is. Unfortunately for Herron, this ended up being a bedpost, but fortunately it was enough.

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Here’s One Negative Impact Of AB-InBev, So I’ll Provide Another

James Durbin gives perspective on what the AB-InBev merger means to St. Louis IT in a post entitled The Effect Of The Anheuser-Busch Merger On The St Louis Staffing Market. He takes it from a macro approach, but let me tell you what it means to you, the individual IT drone: There are going to be a lot of former AB contractors chasing a smaller number of IT jobs in St. Louis.

But never mind that, let’s talk about the real impact on the rest of us: The commercials are going to suck. I mean, I’m not a fan of Budweiser, having only drunk a single Bud Light in my lifetime and only as part of Mardi Gras in Soulard where that’s all that was available from Red, the bartender from the Venice Cafe who was moonlighting on some balcony in Soulard proper. My dislike of the product aside, the commercials were often funny. I mean, almost ten years later, I say, “Willie, it’s go time,” and that’s from a non-campaign spot:

I watch a lot of sports, and this means I watch a lot of Bud and Bud Light commercials.

Have you ever seen a funny European beer commercial? Ever? They’re all so earnest at best, at worst they creep me out. Dudes, I have nightmares about this one:

Forget the local economy tanking. This is really where it’s going to hurt.

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