Monday, November 30, 2009

Movie Madness: Teaser for "Iron Man 2."

Here's a hint of next summer's movie madness to give us all something to look forward to during the long winter -- the teaser poster for "Iron Man 2"!

"You see, my old man had a philosophy.
Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy."

Satire Alert: Iowahawk Geographic Investigates the Secret Life of Climate Researchers

In a magnificent satire that riffs on National Geographic and just about every wildlife documentary ever made, the glorious Iowahawk has struck comedy gold once more. Who knew the ClimateGate science scandal could be so funny?

Geek/Nerd News: the Royal Society Celebrates 350 Years of Scientific Inquiry

Happy (early) 350th birthday to the Royal Society! Do check out its new website focusing on its highlights, Trailblazing. More Royal Society journals are online here.

Kitchen Notes: Michelin Star Goes To ... Hong Kong Hole-in-the-Wall!


Monday Therapy: the Adventures of Lil Cthulhu

"Monday Therapy" posts are designed to take something horrible (Mondays) and turn them into something less terrible (at least for a little while). In the spirit of this, I give you . . . H.P. Lovecraft's iconic creature of sci-fi horror, Cthulhu, turned into a cutesy-pie cartoon. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Twilight" Meets "Mystery Science Theater"

This doesn't quite qualify for "Monday Therapy" tomorrow, but I'll post it anyway now for La Parisienne. How we do love to hate and mock "Twilight":

"Ow, my retina detached!"
-- a fitting one-line review for the whole flick, actually.

Ban Fox Hunting Now!

From Maggie's Farm via Alessandra, who thought this photo was uproariously funny:


Magnificent Verbal Venom: Simon Heffer on the UK's NHS

Here's the full article (arguing for privatization of the National Health Service), but I wanted to share its opening salvo:
One of Labour's great triumphs with the National Health Service is that people now go into hospital to die rather than to be cured. It seems to render the whole debate about assisted suicide utterly pointless. Who needs a Dignitas clinic when you can check into a hospital in Basildon and be relatively certain to be taken out in a box?

Disgustingly Cute: the Tickle-Me Kitty

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nerd Analysis: Identity Politics, Race, and Gay Marriage

Identity politics-a-palooza! Here is a blurb by a grad student whom academia has apparently failed to re-program (hail, fellow rebel!):
All too often, white liberal classmates at the University of Virginia would ask, "Shouldn't blacks, more than any other group, support gay rights?"

I never understood my classmates' need to align the historical struggles of blacks with those of homosexuals and then push their quadratic equation of oppression on me. Was not one point of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," a classic text for college seminars, that blacks deserve an existence free from an assigned role? That they should not be pawns in any social movement? And even if they hadn't read the book, wasn't it clear that stereotypical assumptions based on race are regressive?

Hear, hear. Well, there's always this sort of thing too.

MM in the Kitchen: Turkey Stroganoff

This isn't classic stroganoff, but it's still delicious.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Stick a Fork In It: Cap-and-Trade is Done

Oh, I do hope so.

UPDATE: Hilariously snarky comment on the whole Greenie enterprise/scam/confidence trick:
"Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t, and can’t teach, create a fake ecological disaster so that they can get grant money."

Here's more hoping. Of course, the climate change gang has so much invested in this enterprise that they will not go quietly into the night, probably.

Nerd News Update: The best thing to do is to FREE THE DATA! The University of East Anglia has ordered the immediate release of all data files, but at this point the university is basically in full CYA/damage control mode.

Then take a look at this: they've dumped their data. Basically, this wrecks their credibility. If your conclusions cannot be checked independently against the raw data, then you haven't got a leg to stand on, because your "conclusions" then fall into the category of "stuff you just made up."

Oh, and check out the inimitable quote-maker Mark Steyn on this: "Who peer-reviews the peer-reviewers?" amid this "climate change tree-ring circus."

MM in the Kitchen: Turkey Tetrazzini

Here's a yummy recipe for all your turkey leftovers: turkey tetrazzini. It's what's for dinner, along with a crisp green salad and leftover pumpkin pie!

Or here's a version that includes porcini mushrooms and cognac. Too rich for my blood?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy National Day of Gluttony!

Carving a turkey is a skill that any good host or hostess should possess. Anyway, practically, what you do is bring the whole turkey into the dining room on a big platter so everyone can admire it (that Norman Rockwell moment!), and then you take it back into the kitchen and carve it up. Then bring the laden platter back to the table and watch your guests jump on it like lions on an wounded antelope. But I admit there's a certain flair and showmanship about carving the turkey in front of a drooling audience! If you need a little help today, take a look here first:

Roast Dinners:
How To Carve A Turkey

It's actually not THAT hard, but you need some basic know-how, a big sharp knife, and some confidence. Even if you do mangle the turkey, it'll still taste fantastic . . . and gravy covers up a multitude of errors.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nerd Journal: Gone For Turkey Day!

Food coma with the Cine-Sib, here I come! See ya later, Nerdworld! Blogging will, need I say more, be very light if existent at all. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The HopeChange Chronicles: The Presidential Asia Trip Was a Flop

It's a big goose egg. HOPECHANGE! Even the leftist New York Times is critical:

It was also dispiriting that Mr. Obama agreed to allow China to limit his public appearances so markedly. Questions were not permitted at the so-called press conference with Mr. Hu, and his town hall meeting with future Chinese leaders in Shanghai not only had a Potemkin air, it was not even broadcast live in China. It’s obvious that the last thing Mr. Hu wanted was to get questions about issues like his brutal repression in Tibet and Xinjiang. That doesn’t explain Mr. Obama’s acquiescence in such restrictions.

Mr. Obama did not meet with Chinese liberals. In Shanghai, he spoke of the need for an uncensored Internet and universal rights for all people, including Chinese, and at the press conference he called for dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama. He delayed a meeting with the Dalai Lama until after the China summit and should schedule it soon.

President Obama was elected in part because he promised a more cooperative and pragmatic leadership in world affairs. We support that. The measure of the success (or failure) of his approach won’t be known for months, and we hope it bears fruit. But the American president must always be willing to stand up to Beijing in defense of core American interests and values.
Well, DUH! And what about the hopes and aspirations of Asian democrats? We've nothing much to be happy about.

You'll notice that I by and large didn't post much about the president's Asia trip. That's because I was too busy pounding my head against the wall. Ai-ya!

MM in the Kitchen: Alton Brown's Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

This tried-and-true recipe has never let me down. It's fabulous and has given many a gluttonous guest (and me) a memorable tryphophan-laced holiday food coma!

Besides, it's by the splendid Alton Brown, who qualifies as a kitchen god and is basically the only reason to watch Food Network anymore.

The HopeChange Chronicles: Obama Towards the UK -- "The Worst Kind of Ally"

Some Brits have noticed that the Obama Administration is hardly a good friend to its own allies. Well, I've been, as the Brits say, "banging on about" this for a while now, along with a lot of other concerned folks. What utter folly it is in this dangerous world to be both a feckless, arrogant, treacherous ally and a toothless, obsequious, fawning enemy ... and yet that's exactly what's happening.

Check out what one British observer calls Obama's "special form of disrespect" towards the UK. It does seem that from almost Day One he's been actively and passively dissing the Brits. Note also the issue of Afghanistan, where British troops are fighting too:

What really troubles British policymakers is that the collapse in the relationship is institutional, not personal, and that the president has little interest in listening to what Britain has to say on many world issues, even at a time when British servicemen and women are sacrificing their lives in what is supposed to be a common cause.

The astonishing disregard with which Mr Obama treats Britain has been made clear by his deliberations over the Afghan issue. As he decides how many more troops to send to Afghanistan — a decision which will fundamentally affect the scope of the mission — Britain is reduced to guesswork. The White House does not even pretend to portray this as a joint decision. It is a diplomatic cold-shouldering that stands in contrast not just to the Blair–Bush era, but to the togetherness of the soldiers on the ground.

. . . Why is it that the Foreign Office and our senior military commanders are as much in the dark as anyone else as to what the strategy for Afghanistan is to be? We don’t know, because Mr Obama is too busy cosying up to his new chums in Moscow and Beijing to tell us.

HOPECHANGE! This administration's foreign policy is a pathetic joke.

Monday Therapy + Satire Alert: "Americans For Universal Health"

Here's a laugh from the ever-humorous Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine:

Previous Boli fun with health care reform here and here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nerd News and Fresh Hell on Campus: Pittsburgh Mayor Wants to Tax College Tuition

WHAT FRESH NERD HELL IS THIS? Blurb from Inside Higher Ed:
Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl, just seven years out of college, is igniting ire with his plan to levy a 1 percent tax on tuition collected by the city’s 10 nonprofit colleges and universities.

Introduced as part of Ravenstahl’s 2010 budget less than a week after he won reelection on Nov. 3, the so-called “Fair Share Tax” would raise $16.2 million in annual revenue for the city, his estimates claim. “We value Pittsburgh’s nonprofit community,” he said as he announced the tax. “They are our major employers, and a big part of why our economy continues to be strong. However, we can no longer afford to provide city services to those who are not paying their fair share.”

Students would have to pay between $27 and $409 annually, depending on tuition, to their colleges and universities, which would then remit the money to the city. Students at the Community College of Allegheny County would pay the least and students at Carnegie Mellon University would pay the most.

Are you kidding me? This reminds me of a Rhode Island desire to tax students for being students.

I give you my archived satire: "Government introduces new tax on taxes."

Note also the almost Orwellian semantics of this scheme. A "Fair Share Tax." Listen up, people. Whenever some government bigshot uses the word "fair," you better hang onto your wallets. Ultimately under crushing government meddling, the only way to achieve "fairness" is for everyone to be equally poor and miserable. I am also curious how you're supposed to explain that the tuition tax is "fair" if, as the story itself admits, students at some schools would PAY MORE TUITION TAX than students at other schools. How is this not another form of the same tired old "eat the rich"/"progressive tax" idea?

Geek News: On Hacked Emails and Potential Scientific Fraud on Global Warming

Liar, liar, pants globe on fire?

This is a nicely reasonable observation on the potentially enormous scientific scandal regarding the hacked email accounts of global warming enthusiasts. Do read. It's also got links to the news story as it's being covered by everyone from NPR to the BBC. Inevitably, someone's already called it "Climategate" and "Global WarmingGate."

The tone of the emails is very indicative, because people in emails tend to speak their minds and not sugar-coat or whitewash or wrap everything in careful diplo-speak. (So out of all this is a life lesson and a piece of advice, dear reader: in email or in any form of written communication done in a work/study/research environment, don't write anything you don't want to be publicly read. There. That's your Public Service Announcement for the day.)

Anyhoo, this whole situation reminds me of one name I've heard given to enviro-fanatics. The word is "watermelon" -- green on the outside, but red on the inside. As in Commie, Commie agitprop, propaganda, crush-the-dissent shade of RED.

Also for the record: the sciences are NOT immune from scandal and skulduggery, as any nerd can tell you. Heck, academia and research are shot through with that sort of thing.

UPDATE 1: More here.

UPDATE 2: Three scandals altogether?
  • First, a real attempt by a small group of scientists to subvert the peer-review process and suppress dissenting voices. This is at best massively unethical.
  • Second, a willingness to manipulate the data to make a political case. This is certainly misconduct and possibly scientific fraud. This, if it proves true, should make these scientists subject to strong disciplinary action, even termination of their tenured positions.
  • Third, what gives every appearance of an actual conspiracy to prevent data from being released as required by the Freedom of Information Acts in the US and UK. If this is proven true, that is a federal crime.

Satire Alert: SNL and the Obama-Hu Jintao Press Conference

Via Ms.Underestimated is the link of Saturday Night Live's hilarious potshot at Obama's visit to China. Oh, it's funny. It's funny because the critique is true.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Best Blog Post Title of the Day: "IT'S RAINING BEARS! HALLELUJAH!"

Today awesome Aussie Tim Blair gets the nod for his humorous riff on a bit of silly enviro-fanatic video propaganda.

OK, now I have the Weather Girls song stuck in my head! The tune's from 1982, and its music video is laugh-out-loud hysterically awful.

Sign of the Apocalypse: "New Moon" Breaks "Dark Knight" Opening Day Box Office Record

$72.2 million. SERIOUSLY??? Well, there's no accounting for taste!

My rant about "New Moon" versus my mostly positive review of "The Dark Knight."

Errrrgh. ARGH.

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- Holder, KSM, and Incentivizing Terror at Home

I haven't blogged about Holder's dangerously idiotic approach to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed since so many other people have been doing a good job of it. Among the critiques, though, is this very good piece from the Wall Street Journal (via Wheat and Weeds). A blurb:

When it comes to terrorists, you would think that an al Qaeda operative who targets an American mom sitting in her office or a child on a flight back home is many degrees worse than a Taliban soldier picked up after a firefight with U.S. Army troops.

Your instinct would be correct, because at the heart of terrorism is the monstrous idea that the former is as legitimate a target as the latter. Unfortunately, by dispatching Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda leaders to federal criminal court for trial, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be undermining this distinction. And the perverse message that decision will send to terrorists all over this dangerous world is this: If you kill civilians on American soil you will have greater protections than if you attack our military overseas.

Do read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Blogging law professor Instapundit has this link making a point about due process:
"Obama’s and Holder’s assurances that KSM will be convicted (and, according to the president, “put to death”) make a mockery of due process. Nothing is more fundamental to America’s criminal justice system than the presumption of innocence, and if terrorist detainees are to be treated as criminal defendants, they are entitled to that presumption. For the sake of political expediency, Obama and Holder are refusing even to make a pretense of respect for due process. If KSM & Co. are convicted and put to death, America’s critics and enemies will point to Obama and Holder’s assurances in arguing that the defendants were subjected to sham justice. Nice work restoring America’s moral standing, Mr. President."
So basically Holder and his boss Obama are going to stage -- what? A show trial in America? There's virtually no up side to this entire mess. We might end up even worse than we were before, legally speaking.

Euro Notes: The New EU President and Return of Courtiers and Mandarins?

The Belgian politician Herman Van Rompuy is the new (and unanimously selected) President of the EU, but some Euroskeptics aren't too happy with the process that put him into that office. Blurb from one critic:
A modern parody of absolute monarchy and the divine right of kings is being staged in Europe right now. The 27 heads of the executive — some of them presidents, others prime ministers — in the countries of the EU are in the process of choosing the president or fixed term head of state in the EU, as mandated by the new constitution that has just been ratified.

We have lately witnessed the primaries, television debates and nation-wide electioneering to which candidates for the American presidency have to submit. This reveals the character of those standing for high office. In Europe, by contrast, the 27 heads of state form an exclusive electoral roll of their own. At this very moment, each one of them is wholly employed telephoning the other 26, trying to find out who is going to vote for whom, to canvass for their candidate, and to discover some means of influencing or discreetly buying votes. The people of Europe will never know the true ins and outs of this horse-dealing, but tomorrow or within a few days if more time is needed, they will be presented with the winner. The Bourbon-Parmas and the Hohenzollerns would thoroughly appreciate the closed-doors intimacy of the selection, especially the total elimination of any participation by their hapless subjects.
Well, that doesn't sound too appetizing, does it? Still, I don't envy Herman Van Rompuy his job. It'll be like herding cats. In over 20 different languages.

The Voice of Jarvis in "Iron Man 2"

Please, please, let it be Paul Bettany again, reprising his vocal role from the first flick. Jarvis was one of my favorite details of that entire glorious enterprise.

Magnificent Verbal Venom + Movie Reviews as Film Critics Shred "New Moon"

The reviews are more entertaining than this craptastic movie could possibly hope to be! There are few things in this world as enjoyable as a truly angry movie review, and I have an entire collection of fabulous takedowns for you. "Twilight" Derangement Syndrome has now reached pandemic proportions, along with MM Blog's unbridled savage glee.

~"This is not a review. It's a cautionary tale." And:
New Moon is a juvenile, overly dramatic love story that takes the Romeo and Juliet theme, duct tapes it around a giant, cartoonish hammer, and slams it into your head for 130 minutes to the point where you expect zombie Shakespeare to burst into the back of the theater screaming, "ENOUGH ALREADY!!" This movie is pain. Save yourself, if you can.
~"This movie moves like the line at the post office."

~"There is one thing to be said about the way [director Chris] Weitz handles time travel. He can make two hours and 10 minutes seem like a thousand years." This is from the same review that had this to say about Michael Sheen's appearance as a vampire noble: "He looks like a hung-over pixie who's spent too long at the bottom of the garden." *snort-giggle* (Oh, Michael -- how far you've fallen from the grace you got in "Frost/Nixon." How much did they pay you for this vampire gig? How pressed for cash were you? Take the money and run, pal.)

~Apparently the flick is so awful that it can drive critics to overt violence, as Flick Filosopher has found the outermost limit of her patience: "There’s a movie within the movie that is New Moon, and it’s an action flick called Face Punch. Its tagline is: “Let’s do this!” Now I just need a face to punch."

~"I don't know that I've ever seen a fantasy world filled with less imagination or ambition. It's like Stephenie Meyer had one original idea - the truly ludicrous concept that vampires sparkle in the sun - and then just gave up." And then there's this zinger:
Bella is a retrograde nightmare. If the Twilight books had been written by a man many of the grown women I know who love the series would have been disgusted by the appalling misogyny on display. Other, better writers have covered the series' Cro-Magnon take on sexual politics better than I could, but I will say that as it relates to New Moon these sexual politics essentially sink the movie. Bella's only emotional modes are horribly needy and annoyingly depressed; spending time with this character is torture. That anyone could relate to her on any level frightens me; I have to assume that it's Bella's utter blankness and emptiness as a character that allows girls to project themselves into her hollow shell.

And my favorite:
~"I can't comment on the acting because I didn't catch Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner doing any."

If you want more film critic savagery, you can go to RottenTomatoes, where "New Moon" is currently rated at 29%, a number that should have any half-thinking person fleeing the theater.

Golly, I've hated that creepy undead stalker Edward Cullen from the moment I met him in the book, and I've hated Bella too whenever I'm not wanting to knock some sense into her vapid, self-obsessed pea brain. How can anybody want to be like Bella? How anybody possibly think that Edward is a romantic hero? The fact that the series has so many fans is just SCARY. The excuse that it's escapist fantasy doesn't convince me in the slightest. My idea of escapist fantasy right now is doing some serious violence, preferably in the form of reducing Edward to a smoldering pile of ashes -- the only kind of "smoldering" that should ever be applied to him. And Bella needs to spend some time with my friends and me so we can teach her how to be an awesome chick ... though probably La Parisienne and company would first have to (metaphorically) kick her whiny butt. Anyway, someday maybe I'll write about how the whole "Twilight" series is a pile of psychologically screwed up, borderline-misogynistic garbage that gives its silly adolescent fangirls a horrible picture of relationships, but right now I'll just say this: Oh, Buffy, Buffy. Where are you when we need you?

I am SO rehashing an old fantasy:
sticking Edward Cullen in an empty warehouse and then throwing in Buffy Summers, Faith Lehane, Van Helsing, Blade, Sam and Dean Winchester, and all the weapons these delightful vampire-hunters could possibly desire or imagine. Add too La Parisienne, Kamikaze Editor, and myself sitting in box seats for the best view. POPCORN TIME! (Scornful catcalls, boos, and hisses optional.)
Will I actually SEE "New Moon" like I actually SAW "Twilight" and defiled my eyeballs with it (and bitterly regretted the deed afterwards)? It depends on how much more pain La Parisienne and I decide we can take from the whole Meyer mess when we re-convene at Christmas. But as pop culture mavens, film fans, and more-or-less cultural critics, I guess we just might have to at some point. (Maybe on DVD so we can fast-forward just about everything?)

UPDATE: OK, this is the best angry review I've seen yet (slight language warning). Here's just the beginning of it: "Bella Swan is one of the most detestable, obnoxious, mentally unstable characters in modern American literature." TRUE DAT.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nerdworld Soundtrack: Taylor Swift

Hey, it's a fun, fluffy combination of campus scenery and fictional student life, a dash of Jane Austen, a few references to Shakespeare, pretty outfits, and a catchy tune by a cute country music star (oh, to be that young! *sigh*). What's not to like? It's perfect for a cold rainy Friday evening.

Extreme Makeover: Navy Edition

Here's a cool story (with nice photo):
DANANG, Vietnam – On the day his side lost the Vietnam War, Hung Ba Le fled his homeland at the age of 5 in a fishing trawler crammed with 400 refugees. Thirty-four years later, he made an unlikely homecoming — as the commander of a U.S. Navy destroyer.
It's called the American Dream, to start literally from nothing and then to make something of yourself through dedication and hard work. I been there!

Here's a nice little detail too: Le's father had been a commander in the South Vietnamese Navy.

Friday Fun Video: Buffy Summers vs. Edward Cullen

Today's little vampire-themed bit of pop culture mashup fun was brought to you by La Parisienne. Enjoy. After all, "New Moon," the sure-to-be horrible sequel to "Twilight" the movie (previously reviewed by the same lovely mademoiselle), opens in theaters nationwide today.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nerd Journal: One Note on "Supernatural"

My "Supernatural" addiction is a matter of public record on this blog. After tonight's episode, all I have to say, in accordance with my evil enablers La Parisienne and the Kamikaze Editor, is: OUR SHOW ROCKS SO HARD. One episode can make you laugh, break your heart, fill you with horror, and make you want to kick butt too. This season has been good; tonight was amazing. Plus, best kiss of the whole darn series ... only it's not what you think.

OK. We return to our regularly scheduled programming of snarky remarks on foreign and domestic politics, academia, and more or less "serious" matters.

Nerd Analysis: The Dean of Harvard Medical Looks at Health Care Reform

Dr. Jeffrey Flier is the dean of Harvard Medical School, and he has some interesting things to say. Short version: he gives current health care reform debate a failing grade. Here is a piece of it:
Speeches and news reports can lead you to believe that proposed congressional legislation would tackle the problems of cost, access and quality. But that's not true. The various bills do deal with access by expanding Medicaid and mandating subsidized insurance at substantial cost—and thus addresses an important social goal. However, there are no provisions to substantively control the growth of costs or raise the quality of care. So the overall effort will fail to qualify as reform.

In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care's dysfunctional delivery system.

. . . Worse, currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by overregulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern.

In effect, while the legislation would enhance access to insurance, the trade-off would be an accelerated crisis of health-care costs and perpetuation of the current dysfunctional system—now with many more participants. This will make an eventual solution even more difficult. Ultimately, our capacity to innovate and develop new therapies would suffer most of all.

Read the whole thing.

Disgustingly Cute: The Cat and the Policeman

Hilarious too.

Quote of the Day: On Expert Opinion About Chinese Affairs

See this comment by US ambassador John Huntsman:
"I've come to the conclusion that 'China expert' is kind of an oxymoron," he said. "And those who consider themselves to be China experts are kind of morons."

Nerd News: University of California Raises Tuition By 32%; Student Strikes Continue

Oh, my!

I have to say, though, that even in the midst of justifiable anger, some of the student protesters are exhibiting a form of empty-headed silliness that only far-left campuses can produce. Look at this blurb from the news story:
At Berkeley, students at Sproul Plaza at noon were greeted by feisty pickets chanting, "No cuts, no fees, education should be free" ...
O RLY? Public high school education is free. Look at what a mass morass of miserable morons THAT's turned out to be, all too often.

Kitchen Notes: 15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee

Ah, coffee, the Elixir of Life! Take a look at this. The bright, colorful, cartoony graphics alone would be fun.

Nerd Journal: Bad Omen? Bad Taste? Both?

MM is currently listening to ... Pat Benatar. OMG. Thatisall.

Hey, Nerdworld, hit me with your best shot! Fire away! . . . Higher education is a battlefield!

Best Blog Post Title of the Day: "A Fistful of Dullards."

The nod goes to Dignified Rant!

Very nice wordplay with a classic Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood flick. If the rest of you gentle readers aren't heading over to the DR regularly, you should -- if not for the security analyses, then for the wordsmithing!

(The previous honoree of the Best Blog Post Title Award was "Don't Bring a Knife to a Coffee Fight.")

Quirky Euro Files: The French Hamster-Themed Hotel

Here's the news story from Nantes. The photo itself is worth your time. The blurb:
It's a unique concept according to its creators, a hotel in the French town of Nantes is offering the chance for people to become a hamster.

For 99 euros ($148.10) a night, you can eat hamster grain, run in a giant wheel and sleep in hay stacks in what is called the "Hamster Villa."

The whole thing does remind me of this archived post. But really, 99 euros to live like a graduate student? That's overpriced, man!

Of course, maybe there's a French fixation with the little rodents. Remember the Great Hamster of Alsace?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

History Remembered: France to Honor the Bagpiper of D-Day

You know, so often on this blog I'm railing about the ignorance of history, so I'm delighted in this post to note that someone remembers something significant. From Brits at Their Best comes this excellent link. News blurb:

Second World War veteran who played the bagpipes on the Normandy beach during the D-Day landings 65 years ago is to be honoured by French officials for his role in liberating them from Nazi Germany.

Bill Millin, now 86, tried to raise the morale of incoming troops with his tunes, as shells exploded overhead and machine gun fire raked Sword Beach.

The picture of the 21-year-old commando became one of the enduring images of the landings which paved the way to Hitler's defeat in the Second World War.

Now he is to be immortalised in a life-sized statue by the people of Colleville Montgomery, which he helped to liberate in 1944.
That is just all kinds of awesome. Do go to the Brits at Their Best post on the subject, as it links to a clip from the film "The Longest Day" which has a depiction of this famous incident. If your eyes are sharp, you may see a little bonus -- a certain now-famous actor who is playing only a tiny part in that film.

I'll leave you, though, with this archival photo:

Highland laddie.

Today in History: the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia

Your history lesson of the day, kids! The Velvet Revolution began on November 17, 1989, in Prague and led to the overthrow of the Communist regime a month later. Out of it would come Slovakia and the Czech Republic. 1989 was a good year for liberty in Europe as Communism collapsed and the Cold War followed.

Magnificent Verbal Venom: Gerald Warner on the Archbishop of Canterbury

I've said it before and I'll say it again: nobody but nobody can indulge in elegantly expressed rage like the Brits. Torygraph columnist Gerald Warner is on a roll here. Check out his takedowns first of the woolly-brained Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams:
There is something impressive about the capacity of Dr Rowan Williams, “Archbishop of Canterbury” of the Henrician usurpation tradition, to get everything wrong on all possible fronts, secular as well as religious. His latest extravagance, however, in a sermon delivered to the true believers at the TUC Economics Conference, claiming that higher taxes would make the world a better place, is in a class by itself.
Ooooh, MEEEEEEE-OW! And his characterization of the vast British state welfare system:
“Taxation builds a habitat,” drivels Williams, “already, quite properly, through state welfare provision, but potentially in other less familiar ways.” Discuss. On second thoughts, why bother? There is nothing “proper” about a state welfare provision that this year has reached £96 billion, and rising. This juggernaut of state helotry has destroyed marriage, families and personal responsibility.
"Juggernaut of state helotry"! I would absolutely use that phrase in conversation if I thought I could get away with it. As things stand, though, I shall endeavour to use the word "drivel" as often as I can.

History: The Ukrainian Famine Under Stalin

Via Ninme comes this news link both to a reminder of the horrific misery caused by Stalin and to the courage of a British journalist who documented it. Journalist Gareth Jones' diaries went on display at the University of Cambridge on November 13. He had illegally sneaked into Ukraine from Russia in 1933. The estimated number of Ukrainians who died in the famine of the 1930s is 4 million.

Here is one scholar's assessment of the Jones diaries:
Rory Finnin, lecturer in Ukranian studies at Cambridge, said that Jones’s diaries finally give a voice to the peasants who died as a result of Stalin’s collectivisation policies. Grain was requisitioned for urban areas and for export to countries including Britain.

Historians continue to debate whether Stalin was deliberately punishing Ukranian nationalists, but it is clear that he allowed the famine to occur. He sealed the border between Russia and Ukraine and punished peasants accused of “hoarding grain”.

Mr Finnin said: “There were a smattering of stories here and there [but] but I don’t know if Western historians gave [the famine] the serious attention that it receives today.”

Alas, the Ukrainian famine is largely forgotten history here. On a related matter, you'll recall how many millions, largely peasants, starved in China because of Mao's policies.

Geek News: "Farscape" On DVD Today


This post is especially for fellow evildoer and diehard "Farscape" fan La Parisienne (who, incidentally does love to refer to the wisecracking lead character, Ben Browder playing astronaut John Crichton, as "Big Ben"). The sci-fi series is finally out on DVD, and it's on sale at Amazon. W00t! It was an imaginative, lively show, and it combined action and humor along with some fascinating character development and fun cast members (although I never did like "Granny") that included Moya, a spaceship that was actually alive.

This DVD set just might see me through the coming Valley of the Shadow of Death known as end-of-term papers and exams ...

So, for La Parisienne and all you other sci fi fans, here is a cast photo, with Big Ben front and center.

Frell yeah!

OK, the awesomely entertaining JJ Abrams' revamped "Star Trek" is also out on DVD and Blu-Ray today, and I'm all enthused about that too, but it was a mega-hit and bound to out on DVD for its adoring fans. "Farscape," though, was much smaller phenomenon, and for a long, long while, it was almost impossible to get any of it on DVD.

So, given the nerd-tastic combination of all this sci fi fun on DVD today? NERDGASM. Now I have to go to a seminar, bleagh.

Satire Alert: Obama's Home Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner

Oh, bless those Onionistas! I should probably thank them officially for getting me through Nerdworld, but I daresay the Nerd Lords will not appreciate a line in my diss/book/nerd trash that says "Finally, grateful acknowledgment is due to the Onion for helping me not go completely stark raving mad during this entire process."

Anyway, here is the latest from those wits, wags, and satirists:

Obama's Home Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner

On a related note, there's always this.

MM in the Kitchen: Pork Belly Buns

Oh boy, the last time I had these, I was in Taipei. Such yummy memories!

OK, I'm not actually making this recipe because SCHOOL IS INSANE RIGHT NOW, but in a perfect world, I'd have lots of leisure time so I can make these for my friends and me. For now, though, we'll all just have to make do with the pretty, pretty photos. *drool*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: "A Genius For Deception" by Nicholas Rankin

Here's a nice review of a new book from Oxford University Press! I'm adding it to my ever-growing list of books to read, and I think you may want to do likewise. The subject: how the Brits used all kinds of creative deception to win WWI and WWII. Odysseus would be PROUD.

I can't resist quoting from the review (quoting from the book):

There is much to savor, as in this anecdote (which the author admits "seems almost too good to be true") about an incident during the Battle of Britain: During one of the nightly Luftwaffe attacks, an urgent call went out from a British camoufleur in charge of an elaborate fake airfield, complete with dummy planes, to an RAF fighter pilot.

Camoufleur: "Sir! We're being attacked!"

Pilot: "Splendid, Sergeant. Good show."

Camoufleur: "They're smashing the place to bits!"

Pilot: "Yes, excellent. Carry on."

Camoufleur: "But, sir—we need fighter cover! They're wrecking my best decoys."

I've got to read this book!

The HopeChange Chronicles: Europe Feels a Cold Draft From Washington

HOPECHANGE! Argh. Here's a quote for you:
“There’s a growing worry everywhere in Europe that we have the first U.S. president since 1945 to show no interest in what’s happening on this side of the relationship.”
Admit it, much as you might hate to: in a cold-eyed analysis, the much-maligned Dubya treated Europe better than Obama is currently doing -- a fact that French president Sarkozy was recently quoted as noting. Oh, my!

UPDATE: Amusing comment: "Well, they sure hated the hip-shootin' cowboy from Texas, didn't they? They got what they said they wanted and they hate that even more." Hm, be careful what you wish for?

Monday Therapy: Smiley Faces in Everyday Life

This is absolutely adorable. :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Most Relevant Question For Obama's Afghanistan Indecision

Here it is. Plus, of course, WWTRD? Not sit at home and mope, that's for darn sure.

Nerd News: Edu-Crats Have Ruined Math Education

Surprise! OK, not really. You can now drive yourself mad by thinking about how edu-crats have ruined just about every other school subject too. Golly, it is time and past time to get rid of edu-crats and let real teachers -- oh, I don't know -- maybe TEACH.

Quirky Asia Files: Craziest Chinese Political Analysis I've Seen (Today)

I don't even know where to start.

History: On Defeating Japan in World War II, the Answer Is "Yes."

Look at this mess. Maybe I should have a new blog tag called "flunking history." FOR PETE'S SAKE, PEOPLE. (Buckle in -- a history nerd rant is coming.)

President Truman made an unbelievably tough call in unbelievably tough circumstances, and I remain convinced that it was the right call. (You can see some related documents, courtesy of the Truman Presidential Library, including the warning letter dropped on Japan.)

The answer was and is "yes" in order to end the Pacific war once and for all against an implacable foe willing to fight tooth and claw to the bitter end and beyond, a fiercely aggressive enemy that struck first (lest we all forget) at Pearl Harbor. Hello, "date which shall live in infamy"? How easily some people gloss over that inconvenient fact.

The alternative to the bomb was a full-scale invasion of Japan that would have cost countless American/Allied (and Japanese too, let's not forget, both military and civilian) lives. A common speculative guess is half a million lives, a number that I think is much too conservative. Double it. You only have to look at the appalling carnage at Okinawa (an amphibious invasion that had a butcher's bill of some 150,000 dead and wounded on both sides, plus another 100,000 civilian casualties) for a hint of what would have happened in Japan proper. Alternatively, you can look at the liberation of the Philippines.

OK, for my unpopular stance on the atomic option against imperial Japan, you can now have fun calling me all kinds of nasty names. But facts are stubborn things, and the fact remains that Truman's call ended the war. Do I wish the war had ended another way? Absolutely. Do I as a historian see some other possible option to force Japan's capitulation? No. (Aside from the invasion option, which would have been even more cringe-inducing in its human cost.) There were no "good" choices open to Truman, only "bad" and "worse." Often I think that today's armchair historians and pie-eyed ignorant young utopia-dreamers just don't realize this. Half the time they're busy making the US the "bad guy" and Japan the "victim" and rewriting history into unrecognizable tripe.

And for the record: I have no animus against contemporary Japan (in fact, I long to go visit if I ever have the money). But it is not the same as imperial Japan, and it's foolish to blur the two in discussions of history. And it's completely foolish to make moral equivalence between the Allies and imperial Japan. In the light of history, the good guys won in the Pacific. If you have more doubts, ask me about Japanese POW camps, "comfort women," the invasion of Manchuria, the treatment of Nanking, the rape of the Philippines, the Bataan Death March, and so on. (I'm not even going to open the misery-filled can of worms about WW II-era, Japanese-held Taiwan.) There's your history-nerd advice of the day, plus this: in the same vein, I don't believe in tarring modern Japan with the brush of "yellow guilt" of its history, just as I don't believe in tarring modern Germany with "Nazi guilt." At the same time, it's perilous to refuse to look at history with a clear and critical (even self-critical) eye.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nerd News: Sympathy Violin for Whining Students at Top Schools

Boo freaking hoo?

You'll remember that I previously played the snarky sympathy violin for Harvard profs who now have no free cookies. Oh, the humanity!

Nerd News: British Academic Bureaucracy Run Amok?

Academia is dreadful enough on its own. So is bureaucracy. Now combine the two. Add the element of funding allocation and ...

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- Has Anyone in the State Dept. Even Heard of Protocol?

Apparently the only person the president won't bow to is the American citizen-taxpayer.

Here's the latest protocol/foreign policy debacle from Japan.

Other comments here, here, and especially here from PowerLine. A British news story even points out that Obama wanted to talk about his personal fondness for green tea ice cream. Really?

A thought: There is something fundamentally unserious about this administration's foreign policy. I suppose this time the protocol flop is very slightly less dreadful since Japan is an ally, but come ON -- the whole point to the American Revolution was that free Americans would no longer bow to any sovereign or suzerain anywhere.

Another thought: Is the president really so naive -- or so narcissistic -- as to think that he, personally, is the center of foreign policy and his gleaming popularity the lynchpin of actual diplomacy? His fawning, spaniel-like approach to foreign leaders (any foreign leader) is beginning to make me cringe. Who really thinks this Sally Field "You like me" approach will accomplish anything positive? Our enemies will laugh and our allies will roll their eyes.

Don't you remember the fallout when President Clinton almost bowed to the Japanese emperor?

UPDATE: Check this out!

Nerd/Geek Fun: Schrödinger's LOLCats

For La Parisienne, Opera Diva, California Dreamer, and all who love their kitties! From Samizdata comes this bit of nerd humor:

Quote of the Day: G.K. Chesterton on History and Politicians

So often I am ranting about politicians' penchants to engage in the mangling of history. Check out this great observation by Chesterton:
"In most modern politics, unfortunately, it may truly be said that those who make history never know history."
Alas, too true.

Forgotten History: 2 Sunken WWII-Era Japanese Submarines Found Off Hawaii

Military history nerds rejoice!

The HopeChange Chronicles: Wishy-Washy US = Taiwan Insecurity

This is OBVIOUS, but I am always surprised at how so many people do not understand the OBVIOUS.

Perhaps one day when I have some time I'll write up a big post about the American security umbrella and how the Pax Americana means, ultimately, a safer world. Right now we're seeing some government morons try to disassemble that umbrella. And Asian democracies are going to feel it. Along with Eastern Europe and everywhere else that looks to a strong US for backup.

Meanwhile, remember the whole idea of "peace through strength"? Or even the schoolyard idea that bullies pick on the weakest kids, not the ones who can defend themselves? (Once one of those playground delinquents told me that he never picked on me because "You'd beat me up!" I've never thrown a punch in anger. But then again, I've never had to. Though apparently it helps to look as though I could and would. What other basic defense/security lessons appear in the schoolyard? Hmmm.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fun Video: Dancing Weathermen

TGIF! Here's some entertainment, courtesy of some other folks who need a good weekend too.

So, gentle reader, it's time to brush up your dance moves! How many can we name? The Canoe, the Sprinkler, the Lawnmower, the Robot ... I personally like the Shopping Cart! The Lasso is fun, but it requires 2 participants.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coffee Art!

It's fun to see some famous paintings re-created in coffee by artist Karen Eland (her official website). I kind of want to see a coffee version of Munch's "Scream," though! I do give you my favorite selection from the online gallery:

OMG, fresh coffee!

Becoming a Free Marketeer in a Communist State: Vaclav Klaus Remembers

Here is an interesting interview with Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic (and holder of a doctorate in economics). Do see.

Bonus: it's an example of grad school and higher education actually having a great result!

Also see Klaus' comment on the current state of things in the relationship between Brussels and the Czech Republic: "We are importing socialism from the EU." Uh-oh. He doesn't sound at all happy with this, as well he shouldn't.

Nerd Fun: A Theorem of Time, Money, and Knowledge

Check out Miss Cellania's lesson:
Knowledge is Power.
Time is Money.

As every physicist knows, Power = Work/Time.

Therefore, Knowledge = Power = Work / Time = Work / Money, or Money = Work / Knowledge

Thus for any given amount of work, as Knowledge approaches zero, Money goes to infinity (the executives).

Conversely, as Knowledge gets larger, Money gets smaller (scientists and academics).


RELATED POST: Girls = evil.

Quirky Asia Files: Horrible Hamburgers in Taiwan

Well, you're not supposed to go to Taiwan for hamburgers, silly! Here is a reminder why. Nope, you go for awesome Asian cuisine of all types, duh!

Nerd News + Life Imitates the Onion: Eliot Spitzer to Speak At Harvard About Ethics

I can't make this stuff up if I tried. That's right, disgraced New York pol Eliot Spitzer is talking about ethics to a Harvard audience today. Yes, Spitzer, who was forced to resign as governor of New York after that huge adulterous sex scandal!

Bonus: the madam who supplied him with prostitutes thinks this is crazy. How bad are things if you get scolded by a madam?

On all fronts, the hypocrisy is hilarious, but Spitzer takes the cake.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nerd News: Columbia Professor Punches University Employee During Argument

Here is the latest example of nerd crazy, via the Insta-Prof. In a nutcase -- I mean, NUTSHELL?
  1. Prof and university employee get into a heated discussion.
  2. Prof punches employee. In the face.
  3. Employee files charges of assault.
  4. Police come and bust the professor.
This seems more or less clear, no? Oh, but grasshopper, now add in race and gender. Yowzers! Watch the vicious identity politics begin in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

UPDATE 1: For an amusing thought-experiment, speculate on what kind of media and commentator reaction you might predict with various permutations of who in the situation is victim, aggressor, black, white, male, and female.

UPDATE 2: Here's an interesting comment.

Monday, November 09, 2009

History: A Retrospective on the Fall of the Berlin Wall 20 Years Ago

Go here! 20 years ago, freedom won.

Here is the quote of the day about that historical moment:
There will be speeches and celebrations to mark this anniversary, but not as many as the day deserves. (Barack Obama couldn’t even fit a visit to Berlin into his schedule.) By rights, the Ninth of November should be a holiday across the Western world, celebrated with the kind of pomp and spectacle reserved for our own Independence Day.

Never has liberation come to so many people all at once — to Eastern Europe’s millions, released from decades of bondage; to the world, freed from the shadow of nuclear Armageddon; and to the democratic West, victorious after a century of ideological struggle.

Never has so great a revolution been accomplished so swiftly and so peacefully, by ordinary men and women rather than utopians with guns.
Hear, hear. See this too.

From Pursuit of Serenity comes this cool link to the Berlin Twitter Wall. Check it out!

Disgustingly Cute Monday Therapy: Red Panda Babies

From Zooborns comes this latest bit of bouncing, pouncing baby panda pandemonium. The music from "Kill Bill" is just too funny.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Annie Get Your Gun: Girls and Firearms

Here is an interesting take.

OK, during the summer, I found myself at a dinner party with a bunch of nerds. The hostess, much older than I am, had a house full of nice antiques, and she was pleased to show them off. Finally, she brought out a prized possession, a 1906 Winchester rifle. Then something funny happened: all the leftist boys cringed and refused to go near it. Meanwhile, all the GIRLS went straight for it, regardless of political leaning. And I have to say, it was a beautiful rifle. Besides, it was fun to have a Winchester, the gun that won the West, as the saying goes!

Maybe there really is something to be said for girls and firearms. Besides, in a bad situation, a firearm isn't just a Constitutionally protected right: it's an equalizer and it could save your life and the lives of others. For the record, I don't think firearms are "yucky." I kind of think they're ... cool. Or as La Parisienne might say, "Nothing turns a woman on more than when something goes BOOM." Heehee!

And, since I referred to the musical in the title, I simply must give you more of it:

Unemployment Stimulated! Now Up to 10.2%

What fresh hell is this? It's the worst unemployment rate in the US since 1983.

Now perhaps I misremembered, but didn't the government previously scream that if we didn't pass that utterly execrable stimulus bill, we would have unemployment at almost 9%? and that by golly, we'd stop at 8%?

So we have a horrible stimulus bill (that I opposed), and our current unemployment rate is at double digits.

Well, well, well. Take a look at this graphic. Or this one.

Meanwhile, Megan McArdle has found the worst Democratic Party talking point ever about unemployment. I swear those apparatchiks are living in utter denial and defiance of reality. So here we go, as in the middle of a job-slaying recession that lunatic party insists on spending trillions, terrifying the private sector and small business, running up the already-crazy deficit, demonizing everyone who has contrary opinions or full piggy banks, and wanting to raise taxes. OH, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, PEOPLE. Someday historians will look back and sum up the situation with the line "the inmates have taken over the asylum."

One more thing: I do NOT want to hear any more whining and pewling about how the financial mess was "inherited" from the Bush Administration. As another president said, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Besides, the buck stops here, at the president's desk. You wanted the job, and now you have it. You've been in the big chair since January. OWN IT. And grow up. Whining and making excuses is still whining and making excuses no matter how graceful and modulated the rhetorical tones and tropes. As I often want to tell my whining students, "Shut up and get back to work." Ditto for all the deplorable clownish lot on Capitol Hill. Then again, seeing as how all ham-fisted efforts by government at stimulating the economy have done nothing or -- more likely -- backfired and produced the exact opposite effect, maybe it'd be better for all of us if you just sit and whine instead of meddling still more and making everything worse.

Anyway, click on the "stimulus bill" tag for other stimulating (ha ha) posts. The only things that the stimulus bill has clearly stimulated are satire, rage, cynicism, and unemployment.

I have a huge headache now. I'm going to go listen to the Financial Apocalypse Soundtrack.

Quote of the Day + Your History Lesson of the Day: General Casimir Pulaski

The quote:
"I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it." -- Pulaski in a letter to George Washington
The nobleman from Poland was recommended to Washington by Ben Franklin himself, and he subsequently fought and died in the American Revolution. He has now been made an honorary citizen of the nation he helped to create. (Honoring Pulaski is, I dare say, probably the only decent thing that this Congress has done recently. But I digress.)

Did you know that Pulaski's also called "the father of the American cavalry"? He died at the age of 34 in 1779 from wounds received in action in Savannah, Georgia. Before he came to the New World, he fought for Polish freedom against Russia and Prussia.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Fun Video: Pop Culture Hilarity on "Supernatural"

This is for fellow "Supernatural" fan ladies La Parisienne and the Kamikaze Editor. Anyway, stuff like this is why we love this TV show. Here's a clip from last night's episode -- itself a confection of pop culture references and parodies of TV shows.

The following clip is also for the Cinema-Mad Sibling who LOVED "Knight Rider" when he was little -- and still does. Kitschy fun! Oh, slight language warning.

Just when you thought Metallicar couldn't get any cooler.

For another Friday Fun Video with "Supernatural," you can go here or directly here. Oh, this show!

UPDATE: The Cine-Sib has seen the clip and given it his seal of approval: "LMAO. That was great!"

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Guy Fawkes Day in England

For our readers in the sceptred isle. "Remember, remember, the fifth of November ... " It's time for bonfires and fireworks!

Medicinal Eye Candy for La Parisienne

La Parisienne had a really tough day at work today, so I'm posting some medicinal eye candy for the good lady. Here is Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon the Duke of Suffolk from the Showtime TV series "The Tudors." (Well, La Parisienne DID get me hooked on it in the first place. It's basically a soap opera wearing Tudor-era costumes. But it's such guilty fun!)

Need a Fireplace for The Winter Weather?

These 15 fireplaces look more like art than just sources of heat.

Quirky Asia Files: More on Japan's "Grass-Eating Girly Men"

I had first noted this social phenomenon back in June, but here's a fresh article from the UK that contains this mind-boggling blurb:

Two phrases have been coined to describe them: soshokukei danshi or “herbivorous males”, and Ojo-man – or “girly men”.

Definitions vary, but the new herbivores could be described as metrosexuals without the testosterone. Although most of them are not homosexual they have in common a disdain for the traditional accoutrements of Japanese manhood, and a taste for things formerly regarded as exclusively female. Girly men have no interest in fast cars, career success, designer labels and trophy women. Instead, they hold down humble jobs, cultivate women as friends rather than conquests and spend their free time shopping at small boutiques and pursuing in Japan what is regarded as a profoundly feminine pastime: eating cakes.
There seems to be not just a little gender stereotyping in this article, eh?

And hey, is eating cake REALLY that "profoundly feminine"? I do love me some cake, but I also love me some steak. How do you figure that? What about you?

Nerd News: More Identity Politics on Campus

The TaxProf Blog has the link.

Nerd Journal: Going Retro at the Next Nerdmoot

Just how far can I push the envelope of attire at Nerdmoots -- I mean, academic conferences and conventions? Every time I go to a Nerdmoot, I see mobs of dowdy she-nerds in boring gray/brown/black/navy blue suits and skirts -- which are too often paired with boring flat shoes or, even worse, "grandma"-type shoes (you know what I'm talking about, don't you?)

Anyway, I think I told you about the time I showed up to give a paper at Nerdmoot -- wearing the only red suit in a roomful of gray, black, and brown. That in itself was pretty awesome, even if the paper itself was only OK.

I'll be off to a Nerdmoot in the spring, so I'm thinking ahead because I don't want to think about how, right now, outside, the weather is FREEZING. So! I'm thinking about going retro at the next Nerdmoot. I'm thinking about THIS:

Ignore the silly blonde's equally silly pose. Imagine how fun this 1950s-inspired outfit could be. Navy blue with that crisp white trim! Now, navy blue IS a "professional" color, but the the little bit of white, especially at the double neckline, makes this dress worth looking at. And maybe even worth looking at twice.

As for what else, I'm thinking white Mary Jane or T-strap high heels and classic retro Hollywood red lipstick and maybe even nail polish (I almost never bother with the stuff, though, because I type so much on my laptop that it chips almost immediately). Finally, as the song says, you're never fully dressed without a smile. (Or a sassy attitude.) Oh, and add a stupid conference name tag too, hahaha. Anyway, I refuse to be a venomous harridan at Nerdmoots. (During the work week on campus, in the Classrooms of Whiny Undergrads, and in the Library of Doom, though . . . That's a different story. Today I am actually VERY harridan-y.)

California Dreamer and I have been cheerily pushing the envelope of Nerdmoot attire for quite a while now -- and it has been FUN. Last time I wore tall black high-heeled boots and she wore peep-toe black pumps with tiny white polka dots. The shoes totally made our otherwise "normal" outfits stand out from the crowd. If clothes make the man, then shoes make the woman!

It reminds me of some very cool professional-fashion advice that California Dreamer and I got at a Nerdmoot long, long ago from a Greek woman professor who was dressed in a way that was both professional and very beautiful. She turned heads, seriously. Dreamer and I were thinking, how does she *DO* that? Then we happened to be all in the elevator together, and she turned to us and said you're both so lovely, but why don't you dress to show that off? That business outfit doesn't do much for you. OK, I admit, I was a little taken aback by this! We replied rather lamely that we had tried to dress like professionals (in our standard, boring businesswear). Oh, no, NO, she said, smiling. Remember, you are a woman first and then you are a professional. Never forget that you're a woman. And that it's a glorious thing too.

It was the best piece of advice we'd gotten in along time, actually. Even since then, it's been much more enjoyable to dress for Nerdmoots! It was a revelation: We DON'T have to dress in boring androgynous dark suits to be professionals! We can have some fashion fun too! I think, though, I'll be setting some new standard for attempting to wear a wiggle dress to a Nerdmoot, but what the hey! Life is short, and as you've all figured out by now, I totally don't believe in conventional wisdom.

UPDATE: The voluptuous Opera Diva has joined the happy fashion revolt, and she goes even farther. The Opera Diva insists on adding ... seamed stockings. Yowzers! She then commented that all of us together just might cause little old nerds to have heart attacks and keel over. And then we can take their teaching jobs, hahaha!

Nerd News: Professors Comment on "the Suicide of the Social Sciences"

I didn't make up the phrase "suicide of the social sciences." Professor Elizabeth Sundin, professor in business administration and management at Linkoping University, Sweden, did -- and she's absolutely right.

Take a look at this article about the sad state of academia that was sent to be me by Thalia, aka California Dreamer. It's a summary of a recent conference of nerds in Brussels to discuss the mess that is higher education -- especially in Europe (though, of course, it's a big mess here in the States too).

One point that struck me especially -- the constant search for novelty in research. It makes professional nerds look like a bunch of trend-seeking, fad-obsessed adolescents with no attention spans. Notice too the almost total lack of emphasis placed on good teaching.

Bonus: the article actually uses the words "academic narcissism" to lambast the current self-inflicted bonfire of the humanities.

History Lesson: How to Remember the Berlin Wall and East Germany

Listen up, class! As the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall approaches, Claudia Rosett has your history lesson of the day:

When the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago, it did not fall from sheer wear and tear of tyranny. People actively chose to destroy it. They tore down that iconic wall not only with pickaxes, hammers and bare hands, but as a culminating act of decades of sacrifice, courage, determination and a complex, globally contested war of ideas.

Many of the vital battles were fought by people living far from Berlin. They were fought by people who persisted in the face of everything from ridicule to misguided Utopianism to violence, imprisonment and the hot wars that flared along the front lines of the Cold War.

The wall itself, built in 1961, stood for 28 years, and was just a small part of the massive iron curtain with which the Soviet empire penned in the people of Eastern Europe. But the wall became a symbol of the far larger divide that split the world for much of the 20th century, partitioning great swathes of the globe into spheres of influence in which the basic trajectories were free vs. unfree, capitalist democracy vs. command-and-control Communism.

Yes. This seems obvious, but it's unfortunately not. Read the whole thing.

The Wall did NOT fall because of the current (stupid) tropes floating around some circles, such as (a) it just kind of happened, (b) Saint Gorbachev ended the Cold War because he was just such a nice guy, or (c) everyone oppressed by totalitarian Communism one day woke up, wished really hard, and *poof!* suddenly freedom happened.

The revisionists who are mangling history (out of a combination of willful cussedness and cloudy-eyed ignorance) are out in full force about the Cold War, and I am sorry and angry to say that Obama's just as bad about it as the worst of the closeted academic so-not-crypto-Marxist egghead Communist sympathizers yearning to engage in social engineering, the would-be puppetmasters (with us as the puppets, of course) constrained only by lack of means and opportunity.

Previous rants here and here.

Related news story on the East German aftermath here:
Now, the battle over how the GDR is to be remembered — or not — is raging hot. The former cadres would like the GDR to be remembered as some kind of benign leftist social-welfare experiment, idealistic and well-intentioned in looking after people from cradle to grave, if perhaps a tad over-zealous.

Former human rights activists, political prisoners and historians — of left and right — would have it remembered as it was. Then it might serve as a warning to future generations about the dual seductions of belief and obedience.

A growing degree of Ostalgie — toxic, rose-coloured fantasy — infects misrepresentations of the late state.
Memory IS a battleground . . . which means you better go armed with hard facts and evidence, along with a big dose of skepticism for pretty words and shiny rhetoric.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Nerd Journal: After a Tough Day on Campus, Everyone Needs (A) a Cute Pink Bunny and (B) a Zombie Apocalypse

I'm just sayin'! Did I mention that the cute pink bunny is wielding a bloody chainsaw and fending off the undead hordes?

The cause of my nerd rage? Three words: annoying, whining undergraduates. Sarcastic sympathy violin for them . . . and a weapon-wielding angry zombie warrior for me.

MM in the Kitchen: Roasted Root Vegetables with Garlic and Rosemary

I had a lot of carrots and potatoes and, oddly enough, fresh rosemary, so I tried this new recipe. My entire apartment now smells FANTASTIC.

Pop Culture Commentary: 11 Mediocre TV Shows with Awesome Theme Songs

When the theme music is better than the show itself . . . Pop culture heaven! The themes from "Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?" and "The Fall Guy" are classic examples, and the Cine-Sib loves the "Knight Rider" kitsch. All you fellow children of the 80s are going to LOVE this.

I'd also add "The Dukes of Hazzard" to the list. The theme song by country music legend Waylon Jennings rocks, even if the show itself was -- let's be honest here -- pretty silly most of the time. (But silly fun.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Life Imitates the Movies: Giant Jellyfish Sinks Japanese Fishing Boat

Michael Bay, call your office! (And it's Japan again. Why is it almost always Japan when weird news happens?)

Now you can add giant jellyfish to Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, and all their cinematic movie monster buddies.

RELATED POST: The Japanese Homeland Security Advisory System.

High-Tax Versus Low-Tax States: California Versus Texas

And this piquant piece of reality was in the Los Angeles Times! Here's commentary from PowerLine too. California is a financial basket case, and people are voting with their feet. More here. Seriously, look at this latest round of California schemin' from the pols in office.

The Godmother: Women in Italian Organized Crime

Welcome to the distaff side of the Camorra and Cosa Nostra . . . which is no less violent than the boys' side. I even have the perfect quotation from "The Godfather" film . . . Can you guess?

"In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns."

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty Winter Coat

My (alleged) friend Smoothie King just emailed this horrifying photo to me. Dude, friends don't let friends be visually bludgeoned by Hello Kitty doom!

Now is the winter of our discontent . . .

Forgotten History: Chinese Jews

Here is a fascinating post. See too this story in the Jerusalem Post.

Tax Rates Needed to Close the Deficit

TaxProf Blog has some terrifying numbers.

Nerd News: Top 500 Universities Worldwide

A new set of rankings to argue about -- YAY!

Take a look at the world's top 20 universities. With the exception of the UK schools Cambridge and Oxford and Japan's University of Tokyo, total nerd domination belongs to the US of A. Yet again. W00t!

Now go look for your alma mater.

Monday Therapy: Work Smarter, Not Harder (Star Wars Edition)