Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nerd Analysis: Doom and Gloom and the Pax Americana

This professor has a gloomy prediction. Then again, academics have more or less made an entire cottage industry out of predicting doom and gloom and the end of America and the rise of everything not-America. (I remember a few years ago, an academic said with a straight face that the EU would soon rise to awesome power and throw the US down into the shadows. Yeah, right.)

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."

My Only Comment on the Roman Polanski Arrest

I shouldn't even be wasting space on the matter, but do read this. Polanski's behavior was and is utterly indefensible.

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

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty Bento Box



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?

Haiku Movie Review: the Cine-Sib on "Blood: the Last Vampire"

The Cinema-Mad Sibling has just seen the Japanese vampire flick, "Blood: the Last Vampire." Here is the haiku review:

CGI, acting
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 iconic Empire State Building apparently joins Tom Friedman in welcoming our new Chinese creditor overlords.

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.

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- Corrupt Officials and Chinese Adoptions

ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING, if this Los Angeles Times story is accurate.

Overexposed: The Limits of Presidential Charisma

My thoughts EXACTLY. Bonus: Newsweek is not a "right-friendly" publication!

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

Demotivator Humor with Famous Historical Figures

These are simply glorious. See these demotivator posters made with quotations from Theodore Roosevelt or Winston Churchill.

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."

Nerd News: In the UK, Computer to Grade Essays

Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Blurb:

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".

Pop Culture Commentary: Joss Whedon's Best

Here is one collection of highlights, and here is another.

All hail The Whedon!

Nerd Fun: What If Author Biographies Were Brutally Honest?

Hilarious! And written by a professor to boot.

Monday Therapy: Pooch Plays Pool

From Barcepundit comes this amusing link:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quirky Euro Files: London's Heathrow Airport Has a Writer-in-Residence

Heathrow's Terminal 5 has a writer-in-residence! It's Alain de Botton! This should be interesting indeed! Mr. de Botton's website is here, and you may read excerpts from his airport experience.

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.

The Trials and Tribulations of a UN Translator

This is simply hilarious. Be sure to notice the photo.

UPDATE: Translator, interpreter, to-may-to, to-mah-to. Here's some background info.

France's Sarkozy on Iran and North Korea

France's president has some home truths to deliver to Obama about rogue states with nuclear ambitions. Here is a piece of it (my emphasis in bold italics):
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.

What are we doing? What conclusions are we drawing? There comes a time when facts are stubborn and decisions must be made.
"Facts are stubborn"! The man is paraphrasing John Adams. I'm beginning to like Sarko ... a LOT. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Camouflage Art as Political Protest: Meet China's Lin Bolin

This is very interesting indeed (scroll down, as the post discusses several artists before Lin). A bit about the artist:
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.

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.
And now, take a look at a sample of Lin Bolin's political art:



Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bulletin Board
(with apologies to James Joyce)

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.

Geek Fun: Making a Dead Pixel for Google Earth

OK, I thought this was hilarious.

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Pink Hello Kitty Coffeemaker

Consider this a fond wave farewell to Il Barista! *blows a kiss*




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

Disgustingly Cute: the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Baby Red Panda

This is so cute that I think I'm going to pass out. BONUS: her name is Mei-Mei. No, really!


Nerd News: Government Botches Tuition for Veterans in New GI Bill

This is PATHETICALLY bad. It is incompetence on stilts. Blurb:
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 . . . "

Satire Alert and Apocalypse Now: Nadir of Western Civilization Occurs Today

From the Onion comes this hilarious prediction of full-blown cultural apocalypse: "Nadir of Western Civilization to Be Reached This Friday at 3:32 PM."

Friday Fun Video: the H1N1 Swine Flu Rap

Via Geeks Are Sexy (it's just a funny tech blog, so get your mind out of the gutter, please) comes this hilarious video:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: Hello Kitty Scrubs and Nursing Uniforms

Why, oh why would any nurse or medical personnel actually wear these scrubs? Or these? Aren't you supposed to help people feel better?

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?!

Canada on Iran at the UN: These Maple Leaves Don't Wilt

Canadian PM Stephen Harper speaks plainly "aboot" how he feels about Iran's dreadful leader Ahmadinejad. Good on you, sir! Too bad our own leadership can't see half so clearly or speak half so forthrightly.

The Canadian delegation walked out on Ahmadinejad. (UPDATE: Ten other national delegations followed, including the US.)

Most Horrifying Criticism of Obama That I've Yet Heard

Aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

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?)

Satire Alert: How To Tell If Your Political Dissent is Racist

This is uproariously funny ... in part because it comes so close to the reality of the political scene nowadays! (Via Ninme.)

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?

Quirky Euro Files: The London Tube Map and the River Thames

First this, and now this (with amusing Twitter comment by the flamboyantly eccentric London mayor).

FYI, here is the London transport website.

Quote of the Day: Human Potential and Society

Now here is something interesting -- and TRUE:
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.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nerd Fun: A Necklace Made of Tiny Books

Fun? Crazy? Both? All I'm saying is, for $325, I can buy a whole lot of real books...

Quote of the Day: Greg Gutfeld on Being Libertarian

This strikes me as pretty darn insightful:
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.

From the right, you’ve got free markets. From the left, you have free minds. To me, that’s the only sensible direction.
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.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fun: Kanye West Will Let You Finish...

From the Cinema-Mad Sibling comes this hilarious website riffing on Kanye West's moment of incredibly offensive behavior. Ah, Internet culture!

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.




UPDATE 3:
Yay! The history nerds have arrived! Check out this medieval tapestry version:



Thursday, September 17, 2009

The HopeChange Chronicles: Bailing on Missile Defense and Eastern European Allies

UGH! I was all set to rant, but I see that Dignified Rant has the best analysis yet (and best use of Monty Python on the topic) of our utterly feckless and miserably gutless and stupid foreign policy that can't seem to tell friend from foe.

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.

The Day in History: September 17, 1939 -- Soviet Russia and Poland

Polish-Aussie Arthur Chrenkoff (how I miss his blog!) returns with a history lesson. Do read.

The Day in History: September 17, 1787 and the Signing of the U.S. Constitution

What a momentous day indeed -- and more so in retrospect day by day. 222 years ago today in Philadelphia, 39 patriots signed the U.S. Constitution and changed history. It's Constitution Day!

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!


Kitchen Notes: Per Capita Meat Consumption Around the World

MEAT MADNESS! Oh, man, it's lunchtime in Nerdworld, and I am now suddenly thinking of every possible kind of yummy meat dish.

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."

Haiku Movie Review: the Cine-Sib on "Gamer" and "Final Destination 3D"

The Cinema-Mad Sibling gave us his prose movie review earlier, and now he's back with the poetic versions.
For "Gamer":

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.

How to Create an Whole New Generation of Young Fiscal Conservatives and Libertarians

Can you think of a better way to do it than THIS?

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty House in Shanghai

As Dorothy did say, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home..." -- which here should be "There's no place like home -- for scaring the living daylights out of your guests with Hello Kitty lunacy!"

Look at this madness from Shanghai. (Be sure to click on the link to see photos from inside the house. If you dare!)



Plummeting real estate values.

Satire Alert: Redefining Desirable Outcomes in Health Care Reform

This bit of fun from the humor site Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine made me laugh. Take a look! (Click to enlarge, as usual.)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Paging Dr. John Galt, MD

Hmmmmmmm.

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- The Real Cost of Cap-and-Trade

The latest numbers are enough to make you scream:
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.

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.
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!

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.

Quirky Asia Files: In China, Using Butter to Prevent Suicide

I can't make this stuff up if I tried.

Kitchen Notes: Taiwanese Shaved Ice

DANG! I've rarely seen it this . . . extreme! Weirdly (or not), I don't really like the stuff very much. I'd rather have a nice cold fruity bubble tea.

Nerd News: Graduate Student Murdered at Yale

Here is the latest update. Poor graduate student Annie Le. When we nerds say that grad school is murder, we don't mean LITERALLY.

Movie Review: the Cine-Sib on "Gamer" and "Final Destination 3D"

The intrepid sibling went to see two flicks that I wasn't going to waste my money on (sorry, Gerard Butler), and his mini-reviews are in:
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.)

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 Cinema-Mad Sibling, by the way, laughingly told me that he tried to make the mini-reviews sound like Nerdspeak.

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

Nerd News: Film Studies -- For Free!

Via the Rhetorican comes this lovely resource for film fans and movie mavens. It links to published, freely accessible, scholarly studies on film. Yay!

(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.)

Quote of the Day: Capitalist Coffee on the 9/12 Rally in DC

The humorous title of his blog post is my pick for quote of the day:
"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.

Nerd Journal: Hey, the President and MM Finally Agree on Something!

And this is it. (Context and inevitable apology.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kitchen Notes: National Flags Made of Food

And not just any food -- food appropriate to the nation in question. Take a look at these delicious flags created for the Sydney International Food Festival! I think the Japanese sashimi flag is my favorite. Give me some wasabi, and I'll eat my laptop.

Requiescat in Pace: Norman Borlaug, 1914-2009

By his work in agriculture, he saved the lives of hundreds of millions (particularly in poor nations) from hunger and starvation -- effectively saving the lives of more people than any other individual in history. And you've probably never even heard of him.

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:

Nerd News: Highs and Lows of Oddball University Degrees

Here is an interesting look at unusual degree plans in the UK. Some have merit (of various sorts), while others clearly deserve this blog's sarcastic "Great Moments in Higher Education" label.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

MM in the Kitchen: Making Bao

Oh, screw it. I have a PILE of research and writing to do, but I can't stand it anymore.

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!)

Citizens Rally Against Crazy Government Spending

As many as 2 million Americans marched in DC today to protest government spending. Check out cool photos from Capitalist Coffee (what a great name for a blog!) and the Rhetorican (now with a cool time-lapse video).

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.

Kitchen Notes: Bacon Caramels

Delicious or disgusting?

Nerd Journal: Dickens on a Saturday Afternoon

I'm currently watching BBC's "Little Dorrit" miniseries on DVD. It's pretty good! And it's also faster than reading the Charles Dickens novel, since I can't very well work on my laptop and read a book at the same time, but a little TV/DVD is fine!

(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

Quote of the Day: John McWhorter on the Individual

Professor McWhorter (a linguist) has an interesting new editorial that, among other things, contains this piquant line:

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."

Nerd Journal: The "Gallic Shrug" Has Officially Been Deployed for the Fall 2009 School Term

There's no recovery from the "Gallic Shrug," you know! Plus, I absolutely hate the way some students think that if they whine and wail and complain enough, the teacher will cave in to their demands. I don't know what kinds of teachers they've had in the past, but they've never had ME. I take cr*p from NOBODY. On a related note, female students usually don't try to give me cr*p, but every once in a while some fool of a boy will think that he can get away with cr*p. Is it because I'm a girl? I don't know, and I don't care.

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,

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.

Sincerely,
Miss Minerva
*MEEEEEEEEE-OW, hiss, scratch*

MM in the Kitchen: Parmesan Crusted Baked Zucchini

It's late summer -- when fresh zucchini is flooding every farmers market for miles around! I love zucchini, and they are wonderfully versatile. Here's a new recipe that I'll try this weekend maybe ... It looks easy and delicious. Plus, what a great way to eat one's vegetables.

9/11 and Why We Fight

Read Dignified Rant. He hasn't forgotten, and neither have I -- nor you, I'm sure.

Friday Fun Video: Beethoven's 5th Visualized

Via Neatorama, this is just too darn cool. I've always loved Beethoven, but I've never seen him like this! Here's an explanation of what each color represents (for example, light blue is flute and darker blue is oboe) in Beethoven's 5th:



Music hath charms to soothe the savage nerd!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nerd News: More NY Times Op-Ed Tripe About University Graduates

This isn't a sensible article about higher education. Nope, it's the attempt to create a crisis-panic, and it's a pretty bad attempt too. Meh. Take a look at this whopper of a line:
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?

Looking at Health Care Proposals

Read this. Interesting. Bonus: It's not couched in the histrionic language of the Washington crowd!

Disgustingly Cute: a Baby Snow Leopard in Japan

Nerd Journal: "Supernatural" Season 5 Premieres Tonight

What else do I need to say? La Parisienne and I have been waiting for this for a long time! More here on the premiere from show creator Eric Kripke.

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!

Anatomy of an Economic Ignoramus

Worth a read! Watch a silly blogger get schooled (by a Columbia PhD scholar, no less). Some of the "arguments" (and I use that word very loosely) by the clueless economic ignoramus are unintentionally hilarious. Oh, my!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Today's Fun Date: 09/09/09

Oh, I almost to mention today's calendar fun! Even more fun than Pi Day, March Forth, and Square Root Day?

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- Tom Friedman Cheerleads for Chinese Autocracy

Well, I never was a fan of NY Times columnist Friedman, but you've got to read this total drivel in order to believe it! Here is a blurb:
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

Gender Cliché Fun: "Husbands Just Can't Do Stuff"

This hilarious clip from Pursuit of Serenity uses some ads to have some gender cliché fun:



(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?

Geek Fun: Fire-Breathing Dieselpunk Dragoncycle Robo-Beast

I admit it. I just wanted to say the words "fire-breathing dieselpunk dragoncycle robo-beast." Yes, this definitely counts as "weird with crazy on top." More here! Appropriately enough, the thing has no brakes.

A fitting chaser to this, actually.

Quote of the Day: Milton Friedman on Citizen and Government

The always-fabulous Dr. Helen has a great post that includes a quote from Friedman, which I re-post for you here:
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.

Debt Be Not Proud: the Sorry Tale of America's Out-of-Control Spending

Here, read this. It also wins some MM love for having the best literary title I've seen lately for a piece about our financial woes -- Debt Be Not Proud!

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.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Nerd Fun: Top Schools for Supervillains

Here's a delightfully nerdy take on the world of comic books and sci fi-fantasy. Some of these schools have some pretty wicked alumni ... Homecoming every year must be a nightmare and a half!

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.

Quirky Asia Files: China and Baby-Shaped Pears

Ummm ... Are these cute or creepy? You tell me.

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

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the "Hello Thirty" Cake

Stuff like this is why we should all stop counting at 29.

Pop Culture Commentary: Joss Whedon the Phenomenon

It's Joss Whedon's world; we merely live in it!

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

Great Moments in Research: a New Study is Full of Gender Cliché Fun

Check out the results of a new study done by some psychologists at Radboud University in the Netherlands. *giggle*

Quirky Asia Files: Kissing Robots from Taiwan

Hey, for once the freaky robots aren't Japanese! From Pursuit of Serenity comes this video of robots from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. Ummmm ... have we gotten to uncanny valley yet?

Friday Nerd Fun: Real Archaeologists Vs. Indiana Jones -- Methodology Madness

I thought this one was fall-down funny. Indy is a great character, even if his last movie completely nuked the fridge. Oh, and don't forget this golden oldie from the Onion.

As usual, click to enlarge:


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Public Service Announcement: Felony Stupidity, Thy Name Is Pat Buchanan

You probably remember my previous Buchanan PSA.

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.)

Beijing Olympics Rewind: IOC Now Investigating Chinese Women Gymnasts

As reported by the New York Times. Better late than never? Also did anybody actually believe for a moment that the gymnasts weren't underage?

Nerd Journal: School and "Supernatural"

Well, hey! The season premiere of that guilty pleasure, "Supernatural," is a week from tonight, and thank goodness for something to look forward to as summer ends and school starts for nerds all over the country! (You'll remember the inglorious start of the TV addiction and its ongoing corruption, thanks to the evil enablers known as La Parisienne and the Cinema-Mad Sibling.)

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:



Can I join your study group?
or,
Welcome to Apocalypse Studies 101

Nerd News: Stanley Fish on "What Should Colleges Teach?"

Love him or loathe him, Stanley Fish is (pardon the wordplay) a big fish in the pond of academia.

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.

Movie Madness: More "Iron Man 2" Preview Eye Candy

This is for La Parisienne who, while enjoying the fun of "Pony Stark," opined that the toy equine cuteness just isn't the same thing as the real thing.

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.)



"Mr. Stark, you are charged with grand theft cardiac."

Geek Fun and Kitchen Notes: Sci-Fi + Cooking?



Allez cuisine!

Well, this is an interesting idea. Depending on your sci fi, it can have a lot of food in it. Not, of course, that I want to try Klingon blood worms!

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.

Nerd News: Ranking Universities by "Contributions to Society"

From TaxProfBlog, see this. Methinks the methodology might be . . . problematic.

Quirky Asia Files: the Politician's Wife and the Trip to Venus

This is just hilarious -- and crazy. Where's this from? Did you have to ask? Japan!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Geek Fun: Picard Sings the Alphabet Love Song

Hilarious:

Geek News + Awesomely Weird Astronomy Headline

Here is the headline (and I am not making this up!): "Giant Suicidal Exoplanet Discovered." Seriously! (via Stones Cry Out.)

The Free Market is not the Same as Rationing

How many times do we have to explain? At least one more time, apparently. This time Paul Hsieh gives the lesson.

History: September 1, 1939

Your history lesson of the day: World War II began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Some 50 million perished over the course of the war.

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.