Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Of course, Professor Layne's current moping about the end of the Pax Americana (foreign policy apocalypse-o-mania!) might possibly have a bit more traction due to the Obama Administration's completely feckless and all-but-criminally clueless foreign policy (what there is of it other than snubbing all the right people and kissing up to all the wrong ones).
My personal opinion: when all is said and done, you'd be hard-pressed to argue that not having the Pax Americana is better than having it. Oh, sure, global elites whine and pewl about American power and "hegemony" and "empire" and all that, but when push comes to shove, it's been better to have it than not. Just wait for the next foreign natural disaster, for instance, and see who goes charging to the rescue with men and supplies. I could go on, but I have to get ready for school. Anyway, the president isn't called "the leader of the free world" for nothing, even if the current occupant of the Big Chair seems not to realize what this actually means (beyond making insubstantial but pretty speeches).
MM, unrepentant imperialist and warmongering hegemonster, signing off to go oppress some more hapless victims with the iron fist of her gradebook and standards that do not account for "self-esteem."
Furthermore, one's artistic talents do not exempt one from the demands of justice. I cannot believe how many Hollywood nitwits and other self-proclaimed "cultural elites" are rushing to defend this -- I'm going to say it -- pervert. Megan McArdle has comments.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Horrifying. (For more bloodcurdling bento horror, click here.) BUT, I have to admit that this related video (a how-to video for making a bento box lunch) is just as horrifying in another way! What's worse, really, the octopus-shaped sausage or the total misuse of Chopin?
Way bad, Hong Kong action cool
Better than Twilight
What Fresh Hell Is This? -- NY's Empire State Building to Celebrate 60 Years of Chinese Communist Autocracy
The building is going to light up in red and yellow to "celebrate" 60 years of the CCP regime. You of course remember Mao and 1949.
Pffffffffffffffft! 60 years of brutalizing your own countrymen is nothing to celebrate, people.
Plus this gem of a line:
The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.Hear, hear! I need not remind you, of course, that there is real peril when people start to believe their own hype!
Monday, September 28, 2009
One of my favorite quotations is included -- TR's line, "The worst thing that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings."
The owner of one of England's three major exam boards is to introduce artificial intelligence-based automated marking of English exam essays in the UK from next month.
Pearson, the American-based parent company of Edexcel, is to use computers to "read" and assess essays for international English tests in a move that has fuelled speculation that GCSEs and A-levels will be next.
All three exam boards are now investing heavily in e-assessment but none has yet perfected a form of marking essays using computers – or "robots" – that it is willing to use in mainstream exams. Academics and leaders in the teaching profession said that using machines to mark papers would create a "disaster waiting to happen".
Sunday, September 27, 2009
You may remember a previous post on de Botton's "School of Life" project.
UPDATE: I've now gone to read the extracts, and they're fascinating. Must buy the book! It's even put me in a better frame of mind regarding Heathrow in general -- and you know that I as a rule hate Heathrow with a passion. Still, Terminal 5 is an improvement over the dreary, drab rest of that transportational Tartarus. (Miraculously, the last time I went through Terminal 5, I had no delays and no trouble!) On a slightly sillier note, de Botton's "A Week at the Airport" reminds me a bit of that Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal" -- if only for the idea of getting to know a place (and its people) that you would normally never really notice because it's only a way-station.
And President Obama has even said, “I dream of a world without [nuclear weapons].” Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council resolutions. Since 2005, Secretary-General, the international community has called on Iran to engage in dialogue. An offer of dialogue was made in 2005, an offer of dialogue was made in 2006, an offer of dialogue was made in 2007, an offer of dialogue was made in 2008, and another one was made in 2009. President Obama, I support the Americans’ outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing. More enriched uranium, more centrifuges, and on top of that, a statement by Iranian leaders proposing to wipe a UN member State off the map."Facts are stubborn"! The man is paraphrasing John Adams. I'm beginning to like Sarko ... a LOT. Read the whole thing.
What are we doing? What conclusions are we drawing? There comes a time when facts are stubborn and decisions must be made.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Liu Bolin’s art is about camouflaging himself as a means of political protest in his own country. His political protest against the Chinese government is a statement against repression (the authorities shut down his studio in 2005). He has written that, in nature, many animals, insects and creatures have the ability to alter and adapt their physical appearance to their surroundings. This is a defensive measure to protect themselves from predators.And now, take a look at a sample of Lin Bolin's political art:
Chinese artist Liu Bolin desires to survive in a country that is a predator to him. Creatively, he is saying, “I must blend in to survive, I cannot be different.” His art is telling the western world about the repressive state in which he attempts to survive.
There's a lot of pro-China cheerleading going on (including some truly execrable nonsense from Western so-called "elites" like this outstanding idiot). But please spare a thought for the Chinese dissidents who long to be free.
The nickname "Satan Coffee" has never been more fitting.
You will remember this other monstrosity, no? For even more Hello Kitty coffee-related madness, you can go here.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The U.S. government failed to send promised college tuition checks to tens of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars before they returned to school this fall . . .
Out of more than 277,000 veterans who have filed for the college tuition benefits this semester, more than 200,000 claims have been processed and approved, but fewer than 11 percent of the veterans have received the funding, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
The group says it has been contacted by thousands of veterans who have not received their benefits and that they are forced to take out loans or pay the money out of their pockets.
"This is absolutely unacceptable," the group said. "The men and women who so courageously served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve better."
As Ed Morrissey piquantly comments, "Just imagine what these same people can do when they take over your health benefits! . . . There is no excuse that covers this performance. For those who believe that government can handle systems better than the private sector, let them first demand that government fix the systems it currently controls. They can start with the School for Soldiers program . . . "
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Then again, maybe they are de rigeur at Taiwan's Hello Kitty hospital. YUCK!
I have to say, though, that these scrubs are the most terrifying. They're covered with that demonically cute cat and the slogan "Nobody's Perfect." What?! OMG, that's just what I want to see when I go into the operating room! Nobody's Perfect?!
The Canadian delegation walked out on Ahmadinejad. (UPDATE: Ten other national delegations followed, including the US.)
As a nerd who knows all too much about how campus administration works, I can tell you that the comparison is utterly horrifying!
Even worse, today's abominable little "performance" at the UN fits right into the pattern. As Bernard Lewis once said, it's the idea of being "harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend." (Me, I'd rather it were more like the Marines -- no better friend, no worse enemy. A girl can dream, can't she?)
According to the handy little flow chart, I am -- guess what! -- raaaaaaaaaaaaaacist!
(Related thoughts here.)
Ooooh, so a thought occurs to me. If we were opposing a President Hillary Clinton's stupid policy initiatives, would we all automatically be sexist instead of racist?
FYI, here is the London transport website.
The most precious resource in the world economy is human genius, which we may define as the ability to devise significant inventions that enhance survival and prosperity. At any one time, genius is embodied in just a few score thousand people, a creative minority that accounts for most human accomplishment and wealth. Cities and nations rise and thrive when they welcome entrepreneurial and technical genius; when they overtax, criminalize, or ostracize it, they wither.Exactly.
This quotation actually comes from a piece about Israeli technology, R&D, and innovation.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By the way, you will notice that I absolutely refuse to grant Brown the blog tag "literature."
Monday, September 21, 2009
I became a conservative by being around liberals and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives. You realize that there’s something distinctly in common between the two groups, the left and the right; the worst part of each of them is the moralizing. On the left, you have people who want to dictate your behavior under the guise of tolerance. Unless you disagree with them. Then the tolerance goes out the window. Which kind of negates the whole idea of tolerance. That’s the politically correct moralizing. Then when you become a conservative, the other kind of moralizing comes from religion. But if you remove both of those from the equation, what you’re left with is libertarianism.I should add, though, that people do not do the obnoxious, annoying moral grandstanding only because they are "liberals" or "conservatives." The moralizing problem is one of degree: it becomes more and more prominent (and obnoxious) the farther one goes toward the edges, the far left and far right. Centrists and moderates don't preach nearly as much. Goodness knows I stay away from far right as much as I stay away from far left.
From the right, you’ve got free markets. From the left, you have free minds. To me, that’s the only sensible direction.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
(Do ye sprogs an' landlubbers need a wee bit o' help? Try the Pirate Translator! Arrrr!)
And for th' amusement o' me mateys:
Friday, September 18, 2009
UPDATE 1: The Cine-Sib sends along another Kanye website, KanyeGate.
UPDATE 2: Oh, I can't help myself. Here's one Internet phenomenon having fun with another. Actually, of another another too.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The Czechs and Poles are not happy, and they are quite right. Putin must be grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The timing of all this is simply too much. This administration's foreign policy antics are worse than the Keystone Cops, and they would be uproariously laughable if the stakes weren't so high. I'll even throw a bone to the Cine-Sib and quote Megatron: "This is bad comedy."
UPDATE: More here and here.
Come and let's read that landmark document (or at least its peerless Preamble): We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
UPDATE: Oh, "Schoolhouse Rock" from the misty days of our youth!
By the way, Denmark leads the world in meat consumption with the massive statistic of 321.7 pounds per capita annually! I salute you, carnivorous Denmark! The Danes are closely followed by New Zealand, Luxembourg, and Cyprus. The US comes in at #4 with 275.1 pounds of delicious dead animal per capita.
Oh, and do check out the completely awesome graphic. It's even got the title "LET THEM EAT MEAT." Golly, I am so hoping it gives some of those obnoxious PETA activists nightmares. Because I am evil and unrepentantly so!
PS: All this reminds me -- I'm supposed to post an excellent (and meat-based) recipe soon from a friend of mine. Tomorrow I'll give you the delectable secret of "Alessandra's Bowling Daisies Sauce."
Action junkies, yeah!
Leonidas versus Dexter.
Once you're fragged, you're dead.
For "Final Destination 3D":
In your face 3D
Shows gory deaths well
Gets old really quick.
Look at this madness from Shanghai. (Be sure to click on the link to see photos from inside the house. If you dare!)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Obama administration has privately concluded that a cap and trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.Cap-and-trade is basically a gigantic energy tax. And I don't know about you, but I do not have an extra $1,761 a year to throw away on some hare-brained enviro-fanatic scheme!
A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration's estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.
The sheer ideologically-driven foolishness of this is gobsmacking. In the middle of a recession, when people are losing jobs and folks all over the country are pinching every penny, let's raise the cost of living for everybody! And -- of course -- the poor will be hit the hardest of all.
I am tagging this "felony stupidity" too.
Gamer, while high-concept in premise of visualizing the zeitgeist of the gaming era, fails more than it succeeds, relying more on gratuitous excesses than its sharp social commentary on how massive multiplayer online gaming (MMOG) has affected pop culture, its obvious trappings, where in a future dystopia convicts vying for freedom are mind-controlled as players in real-life death matches a la Running Man & Death Race. (MM notes: the Cine-Sib did like Death Race.)The Cinema-Mad Sibling, by the way, laughingly told me that he tried to make the mini-reviews sound like Nerdspeak.
Final Destination 3D succeeds in taking advantage of the growing 3D medium, placing the viewer right in the middle of the action of Death's Rube Goldberg machine as chain reactions of events lead the characters one by one in sequence to their in...evitable grimly depicted demise, despite attempts to alter their fate, though ultimately becoming anti-climatic due to the very premise of the movie and its unoriginality.
The summer movie season is over, and now we're in the usual morass of mediocrity until the Christmas movie season of Oscar-bait. I kind of want to see Surrogates, though.
A footnote to the whole MMO/MMOG/MMORPG Internet gaming subculture thing. You're probably far better off enjoying the delightful web series The Guild (now in season 3).
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
(Caveat: some of the research will be jammed full of jargon and various ideological agendas, but you expect that from eggheads in academia. At least the biases are pretty obvious in most cases. Go and have fun with the good stuff.)
"History's largest gathering of fiscal conservatives bitterly clings to wallets, founding principles."That about sums it up! (I wish I had been there. And, oh yes, I am clinging most bitterly indeed.)
RELATED POST: Citizens rally against crazy government spending.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Take a look at the remarkable life and legacy of Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winner (who, unlike so many recipients, actually deserved it) and the "forgotten benefactor of humanity." Here is his obit in the New York Times.
Bonus: Read Reason magazine's interview with Borlaug from 2000. Read the whole thing. Here's a piece of it:
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I'm fleeing into the kitchen, hauling out my steamer set, and making bao! I don't think I'll fill them with anything (I don't have ingredients to make roast pork for char sui bao), but they'll still be good! Recipe here.
Bao, Dickens, nerd research, and Facebooking/texting/hanging out on the cellphone with old friends. It's another glamorous weekend in Nerdworld!
(Oh, and Il Barista and La Parisienne? I shall wear that apron you two gave me. You know the one!)
Because, frankly, government spending is already ridiculous, and the Obama Administration's plans to spend even more are insane. The latest estimate is that in 10 years, the national deficit will be $10 trillion.
So many a citizen is voicing his or her concern. The response from Pelosi and Reid and the other wretched scoundrels in DC has been to dump on everyone who doesn't agree with them. With the latest round of protests, I also await a fresh wave of petulant wailing, hateful accusations, and temper tantrums from the DC crowd and the White House. Hey, note to DC: You work for US, the citizens -- not the other way around.
UPDATE 1: This photo from the Corner made me laugh. Well, you're all well aware of my opinion of this current Congress.
UPDATE 2: These aren't your flaky run-of-the-mill professional protesters, mind you. These were 2 million people with jobs.
(See, I actually *can* watch something that's not campy pop culture silliness, OK?)
Besides, Matthew "Mr. Darcy" MacFadyen is kind of ... um, adorable.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Being part of a group can make us feel whole, sometimes so much so that logic alone becomes expendable . . . There's some of that kind of sentiment in all of us. Independent thought will always be the exception, regardless of levels of education.
Yikes! This seems more relevant now than ever! I second McWhorter's response: "It fascinates me, frustrates me and scares me all at the same time--but it no longer surprises me."
Anyway, the semester's first deployment of the Shrug came this week when a student moaned for about the fifth time that "it's not fair" that I docked some points off the kid's quiz. Yeah, apparently "it's not fair" that this person lost points for the same mistakes that other students lost points for. I even said so ("Everyone who did what you did lost points"), but this bit of logic did not penetrate the kid's cranium in the slightest. Apparently the spoiled-undergrad definition of "fair" means "I don't get penalized while other people do." So I finally got annoyed and deployed THE SHRUG. The kid was forced to slink away in defeat.
By the way:
Dear Whiny Student,*MEEEEEEEEE-OW, hiss, scratch*
Thank you for identifying yourself so early and so clearly as a troublemaker. This actually saves me a great deal of work when it comes to separating the sheep from the goats. You do realize, don't you, that I am STILL your academic overlord for the next three months or so, and that you have officially provoked my wrath and therefore painted a target on your own forehead? I really don't understand why you are so astonishingly foolish as to intentionally anger the one person who has the uncontestable power of the gradebook. Besides, teachers are like elephants: we never forget. By the way, you are not special. You will be treated the same as everybody else. The world and my class do not revolve around you. Did that burst your little self-esteem bubble? Grow up and get back to work.
Music hath charms to soothe the savage nerd!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
But high schools still produce many students who have the skills to complete college and yet fail to do so.O RLY? Oh, where to start? There's so much that's wrong with it.
Takedown here. A bachelor's degree already means less and less; the pie-eyed idea to make sure everybody has one would ensure that a bachelor's means nothing, just like a high school diploma now basically means nothing -- not even an assurance that a kid knows basic math and language skills. Also, why won't people debate the idea that higher education is in crisis partly because it's been oversold? that we've crated a horrible higher-ed bubble?
It's the end of the world (again), and the Winchester boys are going to have their work cut out for them. I am not, though, too thrilled about the prospect of Kripke's Lucifer being some kind of crazy, egotistical enviro-avenger who was once close to ultimate power and, now fallen from grace, hates humans for messing up the planet. Hey, wait! Al Gore is Lucifer? Just kidding!
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.WHAT???
"Drawbacks"? Political prisoners (see this from LAST WEEK), brutal repression (*cough* Tibet! Tiananmen Square! *cough*), threat of force (*cough* Taiwan! *cough*), widespread censorship, no press freedom, no religious freedom (*cough* Falun Gong! The underground Christian church! *cough*) . . . Are these just "drawbacks" and piffling downsides? Friedman is a FOOL. Worse, he's a useful idiot.
Now read this furious takedown, which ends with this: "What’s next for the New York Times? A tribute to Benito Mussolini and running the trains on time as a fair exchange for personal and political liberty?"
Just so. There isn't a dictator on earth, alive or dead, that the Left will not embrace.
More commentary, with the delightful title of "Tom Friedman, for one, welcomes our new Chinese creditor overlords."
See this and this, which calls Friedman's piece what it is: "despicable."
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
(And now we can add "doofy husband" to "venomous harridan" in our gallery of gender cliché fun stereotypes!)
Yes, yes, of course not all husbands are incompetent goofballs, OK?
A fitting chaser to this, actually.
The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors, and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served.Hear, hear! Bonus quote from Dr. Helen herself:
Government should be about helping us to protect our freedoms, not making us into wards who are to protect and serve our government.Preach it, girl!
I personally have ZERO desire to have the government "help" me in the sense that it thinks I need to have a nanny, and I have ZERO desire to do anything more for the government. Is it not enough that I pay my taxes? Heck, it's more than a whole pack of government weasels have done (*cough* Tim Geithner! *cough*). Besides, I'll quote Shepherd Book from "Firefly": "A government is a group of people usually notably ungoverned." And so its power should be as strictly limited as possible.
Now go read some lovely John Donne from the 17th century. Or John Gunther from 1949. Goodness knows either one is far better for the psyche than reading the latest apocalyptic numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, sheesh.
Monday, September 07, 2009
RELATED POST: China and Baby-Shaped Pears. Apparently the artificial mangling of innocent fruit is now all the rage in Asia!
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Which one of these schools do you like best? Sunnydale High probably holds the record for highest rate of teacher/student/staff casualties on campus, though Hogwarts has hands-down the Worst Alum Ever.
Maybe there really IS a reason why we have the gorgeous British expression "go pear-shaped" to mean "go horribly wrong."
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Seriously, the second season of "Buffy" is some gorgeous storytelling, and nothing but nothing makes me smile like the finale of season three. Plus, who doesn't love "Smile Time"from the last season of "Angel"? Or "Firefly"?
PS: the first 3 seasons of "Buffy" are available free, streaming online at Hulu until October 2.
Friday, September 04, 2009
As usual, click to enlarge:
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Well, the loon has spoken again about World War II (or, rather, about his completely ridiculous interpretation of it). My response is the same as that of the delightful Hyacinth Girl, who simply declares that Buchanan "done lost his mind."
I guess in terms of old codgers who represent in many ways the worst of the political spectrum, you have Pat Buchanan on one end and Jimmy Carter on the other. Age -- clearly -- does not always bring wisdom.
(Oh, and do read this.)
In fact, here's a very appropriate mix of the two: an image from the upcoming premiere for La Parisienne, the Kamikaze Editor, Alessandra, and all other fans of the Winchesters. Enjoy:
Check out what he has to say about what colleges should teach: Part 1 and Part 2. Thoughts? Comments?
I am happy, though, to see that Fish recognizes a problem that I see constantly. He observes:
A few years ago, when I was grading papers for a graduate literature course, I became alarmed at the inability of my students to write a clean English sentence. They could manage for about six words and then, almost invariably, the syntax (and everything else) fell apart. I became even more alarmed when I remembered that these same students were instructors in the college’s composition program.Boy howdy, it's TRUE. Then just think about the writing often produced by undergraduates if Fish's grad students are so awful.
So I went scrounging online and found this courtoom scene. Just mentally airbrush Gwyneth out and replace it with your own self, mademoiselle!
(Oh, and "eye candy" is now an official blog tag.)
Then again, the Trek universe by itself has created an entire imaginary world of food (and food obsessions) from Romulan ale to yamok sauce to tea, Earl Grey, hot.
Random thought: some of my favorite food-in-sci fi scenes include "Firefly" (They have bao in space! What's not to love?) and the dinner scene with Alan Rickman in "GalaxyQuest." Got any sci fi culinary preferences?
RELATED POST: Star Trek cakes!
UPDATE: Some enterprising sci fi fan just made a Klingon blood worm bento box. No, I'm not making this up.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Via io9, here is something that's even more adorable than the actual Tony Stark. (La Parisienne and Alessandra, this one's for you.)
Pony Stark by ~trillions on deviantART
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Meanwhile, Putin praises Polish heroism but doesn't mention Soviet involvement (so I am). The Russians, you'll recall, invaded Poland 2 weeks after the Germans did.