Saturday, December 31, 2011

Satire Alert: How to Celebrate New Year's Eve

Humorist Dr. Boli has this suggestion:

A Thought for Your New Year's Eve Party

Movie Madness: 20 Best Films of 2011

What do you think?  See too the Best and Worst Television Moments in 2011.

Nerd Analysis: A Professor of Psychology and the Moral Foundations of Occupy Wall Street

Interesting.

2011 In News Photographs

Here is a collection of striking images.  Be warned, though: a few are gruesome.

10 Words of 2011

Heh.  From "bunga bunga" to "Tebowing," these are the words that punctuated the news.  For me personally, there was "Nerdpocalypse Now" too.

Geek Fun: Best Spoof Twitter Accounts of 2011

Yes, these are all hilarious, but my favorite remains the glorious and incomparable Bronx Zoo's Cobra.

LOL: Ryan Gosling Meme + SOPA

The "Hey Girl" Ryan Gosling Internet meme has a humorous take on a serious matter:

A Look Back: 45 Memorable Images of 2011

A picture says a thousand words.

Friday, December 30, 2011

What If SOPA Opponents Haul Out the Heavy Artillery?

Do you want to tick off the entire Internet?

Nerd Fun: Famous Works of Art Re-Created

Enjoy!  Now I really want my friends and me to re-create something.  Here is an example of the awesomeness.  Can you ID the original painting?

Apparently I'm Gulag Fodder

John Derbyshire identifies a certain sort of person:
Those few all had a certain distinct type of personality: skeptical, contrarian, prickly, stubborn, and antisocial — the Awkward Squad. The first job for anyone serious about being a totalitarian dictator is to identify these people and hustle them off to the camps.
Well, CRAP.  Add the fact that usually academics, teachers, and nerds get hustled off to the camps too, and I am doubly screwed.

Friday Fun Video: The Quest for Cookies

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

LOL: "Girls Like Superheroes Too!"

I never liked Barbie dolls either!

Nerd Journal: What Geeky Siblings Do For Fun

We watch a ton of viral videos together while laughing uproariously.  Here's one example that you might enjoy (slight language warning):

Awesome: Dirtbag Gets Magnificent Comeuppance

Mwahahahaha!  Here's the headline: "Caught On Tape: Clerk Punches, Knocks Out Armed Robber; Clerk Then Makes Suspect Clean Up His Own Blood."  Somebody buy that clerk a beer!

Kitchen Notes: Beware Exploding Churros

Ouchie.

Nonsense on Stilts: the 5 Worst Op-Eds of 2011

The #1 bad op-ed is egregiously bad.  I also add this piece with follow-up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Overheard ...

The following just happened as the Cine-Sib and I were out running errands and driving through a neighborhood full of Christmas decorations all lit up.

Me, commenting: "I only like white lights.  I don't like all those colored lights that people put up.  I think they're ugly."

*a beat*

Cine-Sib, deadpan: "Racist."

Both:  LOL!

Movie Review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"


Elementary.

An uneven but nonetheless diverting romp, the sequel to 2009's "Sherlock Holmes" depends more than ever on the snappy friendship between Holmes and Watson.  The villain this time around is none other than Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), and 2009's Rachel McAdams appears only to be effaced by a much feistier Noomi Rapace (from the Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo").  Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is as frustrating and brilliant as ever as the manic detective, and Watson (Jude Law) is engaging as Holmes' exasperated but loyal friend.  (With friends like Holmes, who needs enemies?)  Jared Harris gives us an interesting take on the evil genius that is Moriarty, and even though I personally thought his role could have been richer, it is still worlds better than the bland villain from the first film.  In terms of supporting cast, Kelly Reilly gives a nice turn as Mary Watson, Geraldine James is a flustered Mrs. Hudson, and the British institution known as Stephen Fry graces the screen as Mycroft Holmes ... and let's just say that it's Stephen Fry as I'd never seen him before.

The plot is a bit better than the one in the first flick as Moriarty pursues a wicked and complicated scheme, though the Cine-Sib thinks that this movie has a few too many sight gags that add up to too much silliness.  I actually didn't mind so much, but YMMV.  One more comment, though: Jude Law as Watson is an energetic figure and a beautiful creature.  I'm now pretty sure that I only like Jude Law as Dr. Watson.

Mad Minerva gives this film a B. 

"Rotten Tomatoes" gives "Sherlock Holmes" a rating of 59%.

The official website is here.

"Sherlock Holmes" runs for 129 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: My Horror Knows No Bounds

DO NOT CLICK.

Movie Madness: the Cine-Sib on Opening Sequences of Action Flicks

Thus spake the Cinema-Mad Sibling: "There should at least be a shootout or a fight scene in the first two minutes!"

China Jails 2 More Dissidents

Repression never takes a holiday.

Nerd Fun: Grad Student Work Never Ends

I somehow missed this glorious comic yesterday, but it's too good not to share!  Ah, Nerd Lords!

Contingency Plans for Euro Collapse

Does this sound like a vote of no confidence to you too, or is it just me?

Quote of the Day: Daniel Craig on Politicians

Actor Daniel Craig pretty much nails it:
"Politicians are sh*theads. That's how they become politicians, even the good ones."
Indeed.  SO GIVE THEM AS LITTLE POWER AS POSSIBLE.

Monday, December 26, 2011

LOL: False Dichotomy Du Jour

Is it better to be hot or to have a college degree?   Why choose? What's wrong with being both hot and educated?  Isn't that what my buddies and I have been trying to promote?  Oh, and let me add this too: during job interviews, it might help to be hot and all, but it also helps to have good social skills -- something that a LOT of people, especially egghead academics, do not have!  

Publishers Vs. Libraries in E-Book Battle

Hmmm.  You also also borrow e-books on Amazon if you have Amazon Prime (and a Kindle).  It's darn spiffy!  I've got "Hunger Games" out right now.   (Yup, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I looooove it.)

Movie Madness: Pixar's "Brave"

Egypt and Extremism

Two disturbing thoughts here and here.

Nerd News: How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education

Here is a roundup of different ways, means, applications, and developments.

Monday Therapy: "The Artists"

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Brief History of Santa

7 Weird Christmas Traditions

Outstanding!  I still think the Krampus is delightfully scary-strange.

MM in the Kitchen: Christmas Dinner

Yummy!

Merry Christmas To All!

Does it get better than Handel's Messiah?  No, it doesn't.

LOL: Chinese Food on Christmas

It's time to re-post a comedy classic for all my delightful Jewish friends, many of whom have watched this, laughed, and said "YES, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE DO!"  (See this too.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Awesomely Hilarious Family Photo Xmas Card

KUDOS to a family with a sense of humor.

NORAD Tracks Santa 2011

The grand old tradition returns!

Dutch and Swiss Governments: the Anti-SOPA

The Dutch and Swiss governments' approach: downloading movies and music will stay legal.  Internet policy?  You're doing it right.

Satire Alert: Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained (A Very TSA Christmas)

Here's another gem from Remy:

"Apologists For Communist Totalitarianism: I Hate Those Guys"

Yes.  RELATED: Deplorable UN is deplorable.

Quote of the Day: On the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

A thought:
When Lord Sacks, chief rabbi in England, rose in the House of Lords to speak about the persecution of Christians, he quoted Martin Luther King. "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Read on.  UPDATE:  More here.

MM in the Kitchen: Loftkökur

Puffy chocolate Icelandic cookies!

The Cajun Night Before Christmas

Here's a delightful regional twist on the classic story!

Magi Market Issues: Frankincense Shortage

Oh, my!  

Hahvahd Eggheads Versus SOPA

Harvard Researchers Explain That SOPA Supporters Are Misusing Their Research To Support SOPA.  Read it from Harvard Law School with this at the end:
... our decade-long study of Internet filtering and circumvention has documented the many problems associated with Internet filtering, not its overall effectiveness.  DNS filtering is by necessity either overbroad or underbroad; it either blocks too much or too little.  Content on the Internet changes its place and nature rapidly, and DNS filtering is ineffective when it comes to keeping up with it.  Worse, especially from a First Amendment perspective, DNS filtering ends up blocking access to enormous amounts of perfectly lawful information.  We strongly resist the claim that our research, and that of our collaborators, makes the case in favor of DNS-based Internet filtering.

Christmas LOL: Santa Visits A Space Station

MM in the Kitchen: Glühwein (Mulled Wine)

Here's something warm and festive to drink!

Santa Wants Real Cookies!

Bwahahahaha!  I hate vegan cookies, so I totally understand!

Quote of the Day: "little choice but to root for Europe now"?

Some thoughts.  Some other thoughts.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quirky Asia Files: Best Christmas Tree EVER

This unspeakably glorious creation was apparently on display a couple Christmases ago in the Aqua City Odaiba shopping mall in (where else?) Tokyo, Japan.  Have you ever seen any tree this awesome?  The Santa hat is a nice touch.

The Search and Seizure of ... Cupcakes


Controlled substance.

In case you needed another reason to hate the TSA: Officious, inconvenient, useless petty tyrants are now confiscating your cupcakes.  No, really!  Of course, perhaps the guy just wanted a yummy red velvet cupcake-in-a-jar.  Dude, you could've friggin' asked

 I've ranted endlessly about the TSA and security theater.  I'm sure this ludicrous war on desserts is really going to protect us from terrorists.  Don't touch my junk?  DON'T TOUCH MY GORRAM CUPCAKES.  Where's my Fourth Amendment?!

Oh, wait!  Maybe this is the unholy marriage of TSA overreach with Michelle Obama's annoying preaching that we should all eat healthier things.  It's now the Food Police.  GEORGE ORWELL, CALL YOUR OFFICE.  

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

A moment of silence for Kim Jong Il at the UN?  How about a moment for all the people whom Kim silenced during his life?  Disgusting.

UPDATE: This obituary is far better:
Kim Jong-il, the North Korean dictator, who died on Saturday aged 69, presided over the systematic impoverishment and starvation of millions of his people, while enjoying the life of a spoiled playboy – fast cars, fast women, cellars of vintage French wines, and a passion for Rambo and Daffy Duck videos.

Disgustingly Cute: A Christmas Baby

No, that's not a snowball.  That's a newly hatched white kiwi chick.  White kiwis are rare, and this adorable ball of fluff hatched in New Zealand just in time for Christmas!

Best Buy Is On The Naughty List

Here's a headline that nobody wants to read right now: "Whoops! That Stuff You Ordered Weeks Ago from Best Buy? It’s Not Coming."  Yup, Best Buy is ruining Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Madness: JJ Abrams and "Star Trek 2"

WHAT?

China's Obnoxious 1% and Their Spoiled Brats

The end of the Chinese dream?  That's what today's cover of Foreign Policy says.  Well, it's certainly something about oligarchic misbehavior and crony capitalism (which is, do I need to say it for the millionth time, not the same thing as actual capitalism).

Awesome: Playable "Angry Birds" Xmas Lights


Some background info:
Help! The pigs are trying to ruin Christmas. Grab the sling shot and fire those birds! From the people who brought you the Guitar Hero Christmas Light game! Running on two computers and 10 Light-o-rama 16 channel controllers, uses more than 20,000 lights and less than one cent of electricity per game. Audio is broadcast on 99.1FM, and the controller has a long enough cord for people to play in their cars on the street. Easier than the iPhone version, and bigger too.
Awesome!

Naming Names: SOPA Supporters

Here's the list with contact information.  Tell 'em what you think ... and while you're at it, contact your Congresscritters!

3 More Thoughts on SOPA ... and a Cool Video

One, two, and three.  Do read.  See too this.  Plus evidence that SOPA will never work, because the geeks will fight back.

More SOPA Skulduggery: It Covers For China's Online Censorship

Well, DUH.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nerd Fun: Carol-Singing Flash Mob at the University of Minnesota

An Englishman's View of American Football

Read the whole thing, especially the glorious conclusion.  ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!

Movie Trailer: "The Dark Knight Rises"

I'm a bit behind on my movie madness since I've been preoccupied with other things, but a fresh trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises" has been released, and ... OH, YES.


Note the intimation that Catwoman believes the zero sum fallacy.  Note too that she's the villain.  Hmmmm.

UPDATE:  Oh, for crap's sake.  Then basically all my friends and I are headed to the slammer.  Kill SOPA now!  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Anti-Piracy Crusaders Caught ... Pirating

Um ... yeah.  Way to go, RIAA.  And Homeland Security!   Live by BitTorrent, die by BitTorrent.

Nerd News: "Professor claims NYU fired him after he gave James Franco a 'D'"

Hey, and I thought we were all supposed to be fighting grade inflation.  Cue the lawyers in 3... 2... 1...  UPDATE: Franco's Yale professor defends him.  

Vaclav Havel and the Politics of Common Decency

Predictably (and more or less understandably), North Korea is all over the news outlets because of the concern of what's going to happen in the aftermath of Kim Jong Il's demise.  Still, it has overshadowed the passing of Havel, a man who did far more good in life.  Two more different leaders could scarcely be imagined.  So I give you a nice write-up of Havel's life and career.  Hail and farewell, sir.  Keep on rockin' in the free world!

Hayek Vindicated (Again)

Surprise.  Or not.

There Really* IS* a Blog For Everything!

Behold Mondo Fruitcake, the fruitcake review blog.  No, really!  See its list of top-rated fruitcakes and never settle for awful fruitcake at Christmas again!  Oh, and it states that the gold standard for all fruitcake is this one.  Still, I just don't like the stuff.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Irony Mingled With Idiocy, Thy Name Is SOPA

Heh.  The entire SOPA proposal is a ... what's that word?  Oh, yes ... fustercluck.

Three Timely Books to Read

Since we've been inundated with news and and the analyses thereof ... and because as a professional nerd I always reflexively turn to books:
  • The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Chol-hwan Kang (Basic, 2005). A harrowing memoir of a childhood spent in a prison camp.
  • Open Letters: Selected Writings 1965-1990 by Vaclav Havel (Vintage, 1992). A collection of Havel's writing on his journey from dissident playwright to president.
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve, 2011).  A memoir that became a valediction.

Performing Public Grief in a Totalitarian State

Some thoughts.

MM in the Kitchen: Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Nutmeg Frosting

Some seasonal sweets for you!  Consider it a break from all the heavy-hitting news lately.

Nerd Analysis: Law Profs on SOPA

Here's a follow-up to my previous post about SOPA.  Law prof Instapundit links to this Stanford Law Review paper by three other law professors.  Here's a bit of it:
Two bills now pending in Congress—the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 (Protect IP) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House—represent the latest legislative attempts to address a serious global problem: large-scale online copyright and trademark infringement. Although the bills differ in certain respects, they share an underlying approach and an enforcement philosophy that pose grave constitutional problems and that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, for the principle of interconnectivity that has helped drive the Internet’s extraordinary growth, and for free expression. 
To begin with, the bills represent an unprecedented, legally sanctioned assault on the Internet’s critical technical infrastructure ...
It goes on from there.  Read the whole thing.  The SOPA mess is basically saying, "hey, let's cure the disease by killing the patient."  Part of the problem is that the Congresscritters behind SOPA and Protect IP apparently have absolutely no freaking idea how the Internet works.  Oh, and read this .... and this ... and this.  If you really want to combat piracy, then make better streaming services for legitimate access, DUH.

Idiocy of the Day: the AP on the Kim Dynasty

AP stands not for "Associated Press" but for "Asinine Puffery."  Look at this:
Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.
There is nothing to revere about the founder of that brutal totalitarian slave state.  Whoever wrote that word gets the "dipstick du jour" tag.  Disgusting.  Or maybe, just maybe, it's an autocorrect error and that word is really supposed to be "reviled"?

Hitchens on Kim's North Korea

Even in his absence Christopher Hitchens is still on point.  See this 2005 piece in which Hitchens visits North Korea and describes it as being worse than Orwell's dystopia from 1984.  Read the whole thing.


UPDATE: While we're at it, read Havel on North Korea too.

Euro Notes: Credit Rating Downgrades

Uh-oh -- some eurozone countries are getting coal in their stocking this Christmas.  Spain, Italy, Belgium ... you've been very naughty indeed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

China: Land Grabs, Social Unrest, and Wukan

The unrest is Wukan is not going away, particularly now that a local leader has died while in police custody.

Kim Jong-Il Dead at 69

I'm not going to say ave atque vale to this wicked individual who kept North Korea as his enslaved domain.

A related thought: so many high-profile exits lately ... Hitch, Havel, now Kim.  Was there a memo ...?

UPDATE 1: The Insta-Prof links to a bon mot for the occasion:  "I'd like to think God let Havel and Hitchens pick the third."

By the way, with the exits of both Qaddafi and Kim, this seems more fitting than ever.

UPDATE 2: The aftermath could get messy.  I'm reminded of this Atlantic piece from 2006.

Everybody Hates SOPA (Updated)

The current bill called the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) has achieved something that politicians dream of: it has created a massive consensus of all sorts of disparate people groups.  Unfortunately for the creators of the bill (though fortunately for folks who don't like the idea of online censorship, much less giving the government vaguely defined and overly broad powers to swoop all over cyberspace and shut down websites), the consensus is that, from engineers to journalists, everybody hates this thing.  


UPDATES: Boing Boing is taking no prisoners.  Absolutely none at all.  Irate mockery is something I believe in.  I didn't really need more evidence that plenty of people in Congress are as dim and toxic as CFL bulbs, but they always seem to offer more infuriating/terrifying proof.

OK, read this appeal from the actual inventors of the Internet and watch this:

On Missing Christopher Hitchens

La Parisienne and I had a conversation earlier today about the late Christopher Hitchens.  It's not that we're fawning fangirls -- not at all.  There were plenty of times when Hitchens frustrated, provoked, and even openly enraged us.  I remember one famous incident when we, along with the Kamikaze Editor, hated him for opining that women weren't funny -- that Dorothy Parker wasn't funny either.  (What, we're all humorless harridans?)  On another front, I found his aggressive atheism to be as much a turn-off as any pushy proselytizing by the religious zealots whom he decried and despised.

But the fact remains that Christopher Hitchens was always worth reading, whether you agreed with him or not.  As a writer, he was an artist -- relentless, eloquent, colorful, incisive,  and bracingly and even shockingly blunt in his opinions.  The man possessed a savage wit, and he could wield words as though they were scalpels.  But the beauty and the glory of it all was his unwillingness to hold back.  He called things as he saw them, political correctness be damned, and for that I raise a glass to his memory.  Slate just posted a collection of some of his greatest hits, to which I add his perspective on fundamentalist religious rage, his crime spree in New York City, and even his infamous assault on Mahatma Gandhi.  Hitchens was not afraid of taking on secular pieties and sacred cows of every type.  In this day and age of people self-censoring, beating around the bush, and fearing to give offense above all else, one reason I found Hitchens so engaging was that he didn't seem to care at all about that.  He lived and thought out loud, and if you took offense, then that was just too bad.  I wonder if you might forgive my language if, in the end, I salute him for being a magnificent bastard.

Hitchens leaves behind both legions of fans and legions of haters ... a fact that in itself means he must have done something right.  He will be sorely missed.

Public Service Announcement: Social Skills

Get some!

Nerd News: Short-Changing the Bright Students

Edu-pocalypse continues.

Meet Kepler-22b

Amid all the buzz about the discovery of a potential Earth-like exoplanet, let's take a look at what the Department of Physics at Oxford has to say about the intriguing Kepler-22b.

Ave atque Vale, Vaclav Havel

Havel, Czech dissident playwright and the first president of the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution, has died at the age of 75.  Reason magazine has a number of features on Havel.  Oh, and note that Noam Chomsky considers Havel "morally repugnant" -- which means Havel really is all that and a bag of chips.  Hail and farewell, sir, and thank you for your efforts to undo Communism in eastern Europe. 

MM in the Kitchen: Apple Galette

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Song For the End of Exams

Finals are over, and we're all hot messes who are completely out of our right minds.  So, in the aftermath of the bouts of  sleeplessness, procrastination, panic, toil, existential horror, maniacal giggles, despair, exhaustion, screaming like banshees, howling at the moon, and all other manifestations of general test-time insanity, let's have a song!  

This is from the hilariously awful 2007 British flick about bad girls run amok at a school with a horrible reputation, "St. Trinian's" (which somehow managed to cast people like Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry, Lena Headey, Fenella Woolgar, Mischa Barton, and Russell Brand).  It's a catchy tune, especially as done by Girls Aloud ... and right now I'm all in favor of the defiant chorus.  (Hey, La Parisienne, Alessandra, California Dreamer!  Maybe this should be our anthem!)


Defenders of Anarchy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

History in Photos: Prohibition

Here is a fascinating photo collection by Life magazine.  If you haven't had a chance yet to watch the fantastic Ken Burns documentary, please do soon!  Recall this too.

J'Accuse: French Leaders Versus Great Britain

Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow!  It seems all of a piece with this.

What Fresh Hell Is This? Higher Prices For E-Books

What?

A Rebuttal to Christoph Waltz

Here is a German response to Austrian Christoph Waltz's provocative accusation that Germans have no sense of humor.  Via gentle German reader Marian, here is the Berlin Laughter Project!

I Can Haz Lite Bulbz?

Get rid of that stupid ban on incandescent light bulbs.   Recall this.

LOL: Christoph Waltz on the Differences Between Germans and Austrians


"Like the difference between a battleship and a waltz."

Oscar-winning actor Waltz is, of course, Austrian (Viennese).  He's hilarious.  Oh, and if you haven't seen him in "Inglourious Basterds," you really must!  He is absolutely fantastic.

The Onion's Tribute to Hitchens

As a response to the sad news, the Onionistas have come up with an exquisite fake headline: "Fumbling, Inarticulate Obituary Writer Somehow Losing Debate To Christopher Hitchens."  Hail and farewell, sir.

Friday Fun Video: Dinner Guests

In this season of parties and guests, one should be sure to be a good host/ess:

Well, DUH

An economics professor opines that Europe needs country-by-country fiscal reforms, not a renewed push for political integration.  Thanks, Professor Obvious ... and yet nothing is so obvious that it doesn't need to be said often and well.

Ave atque Vale, Christopher Hitchens

Pugnacious but brilliant, Hitchens has died from esophageal cancer.  He was 62. I didn't always agree with him, but I shall miss reading his always thought-provoking writing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

China Lectures Canada On Environmental Policy

Whatever.  China's the world's biggest emitter.  Go lecture to the mirror, pal.

The Seal Who Came In From The Cold

... and curled up on the sofa.

2011 Retrospective in Lego

News stories reproduced in glorious Lego!

Euro Notes: Eurocrats Versus the UK?

*Sigh*   Are Eurocrats haters?  Well, some, maybe.  On the other hand, some of the Brits are pushing back.  There is something surreally amusing in watching a British MEP wordplaying with the term "FU" as something not meaning "fiscal union."  Oh, my.  


UPDATE: A defiant Nile Gardiner supports Great Britain standing "in splendid isolation" and accuses Merkel and Sarkozy of "digging Europe's grave."  Are things that bad?  Wow.  I remind you of Niall Ferguson's recent prediction that the collapse of the EU is more likely than the fall of the euro ... but neither will be pretty.  I've always been skeptical of the entire EU project, but watching this current slow-motion train wreck is horrifying.  Who can blame the Brits for not wanting to be part of it?

Tom Friedman, Call Your Office

Has the Chinese credit bubble burst?

Nerd News: An Extreme Case of "That Guy"

If you've ever taught, you know that just about every class has a student who is "That Guy."  Usually this is no more than a persistent classroom annoyance, but here is a troubling case of "That Guy" -- or rather, two of them -- and a professor who resigned.  Listen, no instructor should have to put up with deliberately disruptive, hostile behavior from students.  Students, if you have a problem with your professor or your class, you do NOT disrupt the class.  You go through accepted grievance-filing channels in the administration from the chair of that professor's department through the dean if necessary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Movie Reviews: Nordic Numbskullery!

OK, don't judge me (too much, anyway)!  It's exam time on campus, and I have to grade a mountain of tests and papers.  I can't work in silence, so usually I have a movie playing on the TV.  I might start off with respectable films (this time it was "Glory" for starters and then "The Conspirator" to go along with the Civil War vibe), but as exam time drags on and my brain begins to implode, I find that it's only a matter of time before I decide that watching absolute garbage is a great idea.  

Well, at least it's entertaining!  I mean, really, it's hilarious in the laugh-out-loud "Are you freaking kidding me?!"  kind of way.  So brace yourselves, my darlings, because I'm about to review two truly craptastic movies that nevertheless kept me awake as I graded and studied in the wee hours. Let's start with the lesser of two evils, shall we?

LOL: Idiotic Internet Comment Trolls

Bwahahahaha!

The Great Norwegian Butter Shortage of 2011

OH NOES!   And right during Christmas baking season too!  I can't resist quoting from the story:
Last Friday, customs officers stopped a Russian at the Norwegian-Swedish border and seized 90 kilos (198 pounds) of butter stashed in his car. 
Food safety authorities then warned people not to buy butter from strangers, Norway's TV2 reported.

Afghanistan: Better Off Now Than 10 Years Ago?

"Indisputably yes."

Photo Vacation: Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market

Here's a great photo essay.  Who's in the mood for sashimi now?

Geek Fun: Star Wars Fandom in Tel Aviv

Check out this escalator in Tel Aviv's City Hall.

Geek Fun: Google's Majel vs. Apple's Siri

Yes, MAJEL.  Rejoice, Trek fans!  You have compatriots working at Google.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quote of the Day: the Zero Sum Fallacy

Read this as P.J. O'Rourke takes a look at the latest iteration of an old falsehood:
But the Occupiers are wrong about something much more important. They believe in the Zero Sum Fallacy -- the idea that there is a fixed amount of the good things in life. Anything I get, I'm taking from you. If I have too many slices of pizza, you have to eat the Dominos box. The Zero Sum Fallacy is a bad idea -- dangerous to economics, politics, and world peace. It means any time we want good things we have to fight with each other to get them. We don't. We can make more good things. We can make more pizza -- or more tofu, windmills and solar panels, if you like. 
The Zero Sum Fallacy is just that, a fallacy. Economic history since the Industrial Revolution proves -- be the rich however stinking rich -- we ordinary people can make more of the good things in life. But we have to make them ourselves, with our knowledge, skills and hard work. Government can't give us good things. Government doesn't make things, it just redistributes them. This brings us back to fighting with each other.

O RLY?

Oh please.  I hate that type of snooty, cooler-than-thou, I-know-everything ideologically-driven professor clothed in brittle pride.  The best professors I've ever had were warm, informal, cheery folks who never appealed to their own authority, lectured as if delivering divine dicta from on high, or talked down to people.  Best line in the piece, though: "Let me be clear, I'm not trying to disparage professors."  Heh.

James Delingpole on the NHS

Oh, my!

Disgustingly Cute: Panda Faceplant

Geek Fun: 8-Bit Christmas Carols

What happens when Christmas carols meet video game soundtracks?  

Kaleidoscope!

Mesmerizing.  It's even weirder if you mouse over it.  Yup, this is what exam time is like.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Santa ...


ABSOLUTELY.

Activists & Taiwan's Presidential Election

Hmmm.

A Thought on Mandela's Legacy

The refusal to launch a cult of personality.

MM in the Kitchen: German Gingerbread

Delicious!

Wait, What Just Happened Across the Pond?

I've been frantically busy with exams for the last few days, and now that I have a couple minutes to read the papers over a Sunday morning coffee, I'm seeing an absolute flood of words about the EU, fiscal union plans, an attempt to amend the EU treaty, Britain's veto, and a heap of heated commentary all around.  I better catch up!  I think I'll start with Daniel Hannan.  

Oh, my ... Questions of legality are rife and everybody's lawyering up.  For an interesting perspective, see how British newspaper headlines are shrieking.  I think we can officially declare this a train wreck.  

UPDATE: Niall Ferguson weighs in.

Public Service Announcement: Correlation Is Not Causation

Here's a helpful reminder that the two are not the same.  The examples are hilarious. "Is Facebook driving the Greek debt crisis?"  "Would M. Night Shyamalan start making good movies again if people bought more newspapers?"

Dalrymple on the UK Riots

A few thoughts in retrospect.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Follies of Fenton: Sublimely Comic Despair

This is pretty much a perfect example of things spiraling out of your control and leaving you shaking your fists in impotent rage ... It's a perfect visual distillation of end-of-term exams!  In this case, though, it's about a misbehaving Labrador retriever named Fenton and his haplessly, hopelessly, hilariously exasperated owner and his increasingly desperate cries.  Take a look at what happened in Richmond Park near London (and why you should keep your dog on a leash):


Since we are living in the Internet age of magnificent meme-making, parodic mashups are inevitable.  These are my favorites:


Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday Fun Video: Merry Xmas from HMS Ocean

Apparently the heirs to Nelson's navy love Mariah Carey!  Here's a bit more info about these singing sailors returning from deployment just in time for the holidays.  Kudos and welcome home.  More from the BBC. UPDATE: Mariah loves the video!   Of course, now I have this song stuck in my head.  Problems.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

MM in the Kitchen: Bibimbap

A delicious Korean recipe.

Awesome: Biggest Black Holes Ever Discovered

That really sucks!

Nerd News: Research Rigmarole Rat Race

We're totally screwed?  Yeah, we're totally screwed.  A lot of contemporary scholarship is bunk too -- and badly written bunk at that.  (Of course, my research is awesomely awesome, natch!  Hahaha!  Nerdpocalypse Now, a juggernaut of footnotes, rolls on.)

Another Da Vinci Code Kerfuffle

Whatever?

Toy Story: Famous Battles in Miniature

"It's only a model."   "Shhhhh!"   Be sure to see the image gallery.

The World's 50 Most Delicious Foods

Let the debate begin!

Programming Note: Exam Season Starts Now

This means that I will be sleepless, exhausted, and wildly alternating among being absorbed in fury, disinterest, and/or snarky despair.  And now here is a lolcat for the occasion:

LOL: Recycling

Talk about repurposing -- use those empty beer cans as hair curlers!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Nerd News: Campus Salaries

So who's raking in the dough on campus?  Hint: it's not really the people who do the teaching.

Couch Potato Chronicles: The Doctor Who Christmas Special

More tantalizing hints from Steven Moffat.

People Who Live in Glass Houses ...

... shouldn't throw stones.  The saying might not apply to hermit crabs ...

The Curtain Falls on RAF Search and Rescue

See this.  A thought from the report:
“... Everyone who’s looked up and seen a big yellow helicopter with RAF Rescue written on it – you can’t get better than that.  It connects the armed forces with the society from which they are drawn.  Or rather, it did.”
Here is the official website for RAF Search and Rescue.  The end of the road after 60 years?  Some thoughts on possible implications.

Minifig Madness: the Love of LEGO

4 billion minifigs and counting!  (On a related note, look at this awesomeness.)

LOL: Dilbert on Clueless Protesters

Oh, delightful Dilbert.  Click to enlarge.

Nerd News: "Don't Identify Yourself as 'Asian' On College Apps"

Yet another depressing/infuriating story about stupid identity politics, academic stereotyping, and race-based bias in college admissions. It's always nice to be reminded that I'm just one of those "boring academic robots."  Yes, the story uses that actual phrase!

"He Said, She Said" Now "He Texted, She Texted"?

Occupy Practical Reality

I present this news story without further comment.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

MM in the Kitchen: Lancashire Hotpot

Lamb stew with potatoes.  Sounds like a good winter-weather comfort food to me!  (I never put in the kidneys, by the way.  Sorry, kidney fans.)

In Praise of the Incandescent Light Bulb

I remain devoted to incandescent light bulbs.  I tried the new morally superior ones, and I HATED THEM.  As musical satirist Remy does point out with lyrics in his new music video, “If that new light bulb is so amazing, then why don’t people just go buy that light bulb?” 

Don't Bring a Samurai Sword to a Beanbag Fight

Take a look at this crazy headline of the day.

The Least Corrupt Nation in the World Is ...?

The winner is New Zealand.  The most corrupt?  Take a wild guess, people.  Why, yes, Somalia and North Korea!

Movie Madness: Advice You Can Take?

Sometimes sci fi and fantasy flicks can give you words to live by.  Or not, teehee!  "What is best in life?"

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Life Imitates Satire: Occupy San Francisco Goes Into Banking

Bwahahahaha!  Is it the "inevitable culmination"?   If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!  And somehow I can't help thinking, "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Euro Notes: NOW He Tells Us

The architect of the euro currency, Jacques Delors, apparently now says that the thing was doomed from the start.  Well, Milton Friedman did say that the euro wouldn't survive its first major European recession.  I had my misgivings about the whole project, and I take no pleasure really in seeing the eurozone in flames now because it's wrecking the economic lives of millions.  But the fact remains that it's becoming increasingly clear that the euro is fatally flawed.

On a related and ironically timed note, here is a new propaganda video from the European Central Bank "celebrating the first ten years of the euro."  I rather doubt that euro will see another ten years.  Dude, doesn't the ECB have any better to do than churn out propaganda and make video games?  But I digress.  On to the video, which I find unintentionally hilarious, beginning with the choice of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as the opening music.  (LOL!)

Nerd News: the Long Island Exam Cheating Scandal

UGH.

Couch Potato Chronicles: "Doctor Who" Extras

Enjoy!  I'll embed the first one for you:

Nerd News: Cheating Is Big Business

I knew there were plenty of chances for undergrads to plagiarize and sponge off other people's work and all that, but this really struck me as a whole other level in shirking one's personal responsibilities and basically getting other people to do your learning for you.  Check out this blurb from the website:
Here you can easily hire a private writer in as early as 5 minutes. With 200+ writers available 24/7, we can help with any written assignment (from simple essays to dissertations).
SRSLY?  And another thing: oh, I'm sure it's easy enough to cough up a freshman essay on some banal old chestnut of an intro history or lit or whatever class, but you can really get someone to do a doctoral dissertation for you?  

Geek News: Stradivarius Violin Re-created from CAT Scan

Via Transterrestrial Musings (who comments, "I don’t think we’re that far from Star Trek replicators") comes this story of the intersection of history, music, and technology.

How Meta ... !

A new Twitter account makes fun of .... Twitter.

Awesome: Skies and Stars Over Oregon

Via the Bad Astronomy blog comes a link to some gorgeous time-lapse footage:

Friday, December 02, 2011

Quirky Euro Files: Arsonists Get Sweden's Goat

"It's a Swedish thing -- you wouldn't understand"?

Geek News: Element-ary, My Dear Watson

Meet the latest additions to the periodic table!

Disgustingly Cute: Kittens Watching Ice Skating

Check out these 6 Bengal kittens (and their mom) as they watch Japan's Daisuke Takahashi compete on TV:

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Hungary Outlaws Homelessness

When homelessness is outlawed, only outlaws will be homeless!  *facepalm*

Friday Fun Video: Parodying the "J. Edgar" Trailer


Thursday, December 01, 2011

'Tis The Season For Christmas Music Abuse

Yes, yes, I know that it's now officially December, so everyone has the technical right to play as many schmaltzy, cheesy versions of Christmas songs as they please.  I know that every shop and mall in the country is going to be blasting the stuff.  I do object, though, to Christmas music being played in restaurants.  

No, really!  I was just out for a nice meal with friends at a little Italian place, and the air was filled with that musical abuse.  It's a restaurant, people.  Can't I even have a meal in some peace?  Schmaltzy upbeat Christmas pop music is not "ambiance" or "atmosphere."  NOT IN AN ITALIAN PLACE.  NO WAY.  NOT EVER.  "Jingle Bell Rock" is an abomination.  I do NOT want to hear "All I Want for Christmas Is Yoooooooou" sung by some lame celebrity (and why does almost every quasi-celebrity in the entertainment business feel the compulsion to record Christmas songs?  STOP IT!) while I'm trying to eat.

Anyway, this isn't to say that I just Scroogerrifically hate all Christmas music.  I like good Christmas music.  Let me kick off the season with something nicer than craptastic versions of pop holiday ear-poison.   Try this instead -- the traditional first song of the annual Christmas Eve service at King's College, Cambridge



Once in Royal David's City

 (Come on, aren't these choir boys much better than Justin Bieber?  And, yes, in the name of fairness and objective research, I did actually attempt to listen to Bieber's Christmas effort.  I lasted about 1 minute.)  

Nerd News: Time for John Mearsheimer to Retire?

Hmmmm.  See this too from a former student of the poli sci prof at the University of Chicago.

Ave atque Vale, Tadeusz Sawicz

Hail and farewell to the Polish fighter pilot who engaged the Nazis over Poland, France, and England.

Nerd News: No Edu-Crat Left Behind

*Sigh.*
Two years after Pittsburgh Public Schools received $40 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to increase teachers' effectiveness, the district has spent or allocated nearly a third of it on consultants and contractors, mainly from outside the state. 
Administrators told board members that they need consultants to perform specialized work outside the expertise of district personnel. 
"We're on track right now to be able to provide teachers and support teachers in improving their practice, in a way that hasn't been done before," said Sam Franklin, executive director of the district's Office of Teacher Effectiveness, whose $110,000 annual salary [my emphasis -- MM] is paid with Gates money.