Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Europe's Biggest Problem Child"

Yet another public slapfest from the harmonious utopia known as Euroland.  By the way, the insult sounds way better in the original German: "Frankreich – Europas größtes Sorgenkind."

Politics Are a Joke

And the mayor of Reykjavik knows it.  You may recall my coverage of Hizzoner's campaign back in 2010.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

As it turns out, so do humpback whales.

Quote of the Day: A Doctor's Perspective

Oh, dear:
I am a general surgeon with more than three decades in private clinical practice. And I am fed up. Since the late 1970s, I have witnessed remarkable technological revolutions in medicine, from CT scans to robot-assisted surgery. But I have also watched as medicine slowly evolved into the domain of technicians, bookkeepers, and clerks.  
Government interventions over the past four decades have yielded a cascade of perverse incentives, bureaucratic diktats, and economic pressures that together are forcing doctors to sacrifice their independent professional medical judgment, and their integrity. The consequence is clear: Many doctors from my generation are exiting the field. Others are seeing their private practices threatened with bankruptcy, or are giving up their autonomy for the life of a shift-working hospital employee. Governments and hospital administrators hold all the power, while doctors—and worse still, patients—hold none.
You may recall this other doctor's lament.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Fun: One Dad's Lunch Bag Art

As the artistic dad David LaFerriere explains on his Flickr page, 
Since May 2008 I have been drawing on my kids' sandwich bags with a Sharpie marker. Each drawing is done just after I make the sandwich. I take a picture and post to flickr. My kids don't see the drawing until it is lunchtime. The challenges are coming up with an idea and then drawing quickly and directly on the bag, every line counts.
Take a look at this amazing gallery!

Quirky Asia Files: Giant Rubber Ducky in Hong Kong

Rubber ducky, you're the one!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nerd News: When College Admissions Essays Go Viral

Do you really want people reading stuff you wrote when you were 17 and clueless?

Clear As A Bell: A Voice From 1885


Ties That Bind: the Czech Republic and West, Texas

Here's a nice story of people helping people in the aftermath of the awful explosion in the little town of West, Texas.

A Few Thoughts on Manhunts and Lockdowns

Don't get me wrong: I am delighted that scumbag Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in custody.  As a precedent, though, the manhunt/lockdown is a little ... troubling, isn't it?  Here's some food for thought in the aftermath: see this, this, and this:
Of the many uncomfortable truths emerging from last week’s bombing and subsequent manhunt—including the fact that American cities are still vulnerable to Islamic terrorism—one of the most troubling but least talked-about is the fact that martial law may now become part of the municipal playbook.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NYC Fleet Week Canceled

WHAT?!  This is horrible, just horrible.  I love Fleet Week!  

Online Nerd News: Coursera Opens first Asian MOOC

From Hong Kong to the world:
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have largely been an American innovation thus far. Europe has one or two small programs, but in Asia there are none at all—until now, that is. 
University World News reports that the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is now offering a class through Coursera, making it the first Asian school to offer its own MOOC coursework. “Society, Technology and Culture in China” is taught in English, and the majority of its 17,000 students are located in the West. Two more Asian universities are planning to follow HKUST’s lead, and Coursera is looking to develop a Chinese-language platform linked to universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong as part of what appears to be a serious push to gain a foothold in the growing Chinese market.

Quote of the Day: On the Benghazi Debacle

From Dignified Rant's post:
With tens of thousands of troops in Europe, we really couldn't scrape up a platoon or a company to fly out to Benghazi without preparing them with a week of rehearsals and a PowerPoint briefing about what to expect? 

How Not To Combat A Stereotype

Protip: If you're angry about people thinking you're violent, then maybe you shouldn't express yourself by blowing people up.

Movie Madness: Reductionist Movie Plots

In a world in which Taken and Mrs. Doubtfire are equals.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy 449th Birthday, Will Shakespeare!

Join the fun with the third annual Happy Birthday, Shakespeare online project sponsored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and remember that it's also Talk Like Shakespeare Day!  You can join your fellow fans on Twitter all day long with the #happybirthdayshakespeare hashtag too.

Happy birthday indeed to the sweet swan of Avon, who has given me so much pleasure from the first moment I met him in a children's storybook to right now, when every re-reading of every play yields something fresh and new and wonderful.  The haters can hate all they want; Shakespeare is immortal.

For the quote of the day, I'll give you Ben Jonson's poem "To the Memory of My Beloved Master William Shakespeare, and What He Hath Left Us" and its peerless assessment that Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time.

The Mounties Always Get Their Man

Here's the report of the two terrorism arrests straight from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  More info from the CBC.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Couch Potato Chronicles: "Justified"

Television programming can be a fickle thing ... or maybe I'm a fickle viewer ... or both.  I've loved shows and hated shows, and sometimes they were the same shows.  (For those of you keeping track, I'm out of love with Doctor Who and Supernatural for now but hoping they get better writing.)  So what to do?  Look for something else to watch, of course, because sometimes the news is so terrible you just can't watch it anymore.  I'm not feeling too well anyway, so I'm basically passed out on the couch in front of the TV.

So!  There are actually a number of very watchable TV shows available streaming online via Netflix or Amazon Prime and such (and certainly available on physical media), so maybe I'll occasionally post a suggestion.  Right now I just want to talk about FX's Justified (2010-present), which I had heard good things about (it's been nominated for a basketful of awards and won some), but I had never made a point of sitting to see it for myself until now.  Here's what all the fuss is about, because it really is a good, often great, show.  Watch it from the start, though!

Disgustingly Cute Monday Therapy: Happy Pup

Oh, to be this happy!  May we all have such moments this week, no?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thank Goodness It's a New Week

Last week was almost unremittingly horrific: the Boston Marathon bombing, the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, the earthquake in China.  The admirable behavior of decent common folks who rushed to help in bad circumstances was almost (but NOT) outshouted by the incredibly awful behavior of some news media and partisan pundits looking to score cheap points.   Let's not give any more time to people behaving badly; instead let me encourage you to donate to one of the many charities who are working in the aftermath of these disasters.

The highlight of the entire week of dread is that the bombing suspects did not escape.  Add the funeral of Maggie Thatcher, not that it happened, but that it was a reminder of that great lady, the first woman to be head of a major Western nation.  We're all emotionally exhausted.  Here's looking forward to a new week, as I wish you all the very best.  I'm not feeling too well, so there might not be too much posting.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hang Onto Your Wallets ...

When the government thinks it can decide how much money you can save for a "reasonable" retirement.

Disgustingly Cute: Clouded Leopard Babies

I think we could all use a little pick-me-up:

More awwww-inducing images here.

Yep, We're Screwed on Social Security

Basically, I've kissed goodbye to all that money that gets sucked out of my paycheck in the name of Social Security.  I'm never going to see those sweet little greenbacks again.  Bye, darlings!  Look, we all know that Social Security has become an unsustainable Ponzi scheme.  I'm fully expecting the whole rickety structure to have collapsed by the time I get to retirement age.  You'd have to be an economically illiterate idiot if you're my age and still thinking that you won't get totally screwed by this.  

On a personal note, I got into an argument with some elderly relatives not too long ago when Social Security came up in the conversation.  I did not - did not! - want to talk about it, but they kept on and on until finally I couldn't help myself anymore.  There's not going to be anything by the time I retire, I said.  I am flat-out assuming that I won't get any Social Security at all.  But the government promised!  they insisted.  You paid into it, so you have to get something out of it!  I gave up at that point.  How can you be so naive?  How can you be so baffled by the ideas that (a) my generation's going to get the shaft, and (b) the only smart thing to do is to plan ahead as if there won't be any Social Security?  

I knew better than to say that what I'm paying into the thing now is going toward the checks going out now, as in their checks.  Mama didn't raise no fool.

Now my peers and I gloomily wait to see if our pessimistic predictions will come true of the government raiding IRAs and 401(k)s and every other kind of savings so it can pay for its profligate, irresponsibly managed joyride.  Heck, it's like in those old cartoons when a hungry character looks at another character, and that second figure morphs into the image of a delicious roast chicken or something.

Quote of the Day: Eurocalypse Now

The whole thing is worth a read, but here's a blurb:
... with the exception of communism itself, the euro has been the biggest economic catastrophe to befall the continent (and the world) since the 1930s.

The Only Op-Ed Headline You Need for the Boston Bombing


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quote of the Day: Credibility in the Gun Control Debate

Nothing is so obvious that you don't have to spell it out:
If you push legislation on a social issue with arguments that are demonstrably wrong (as in “provably non-factual”), obviously ignorant, and deliberately deceptive, how are people supposed to believe that your arguments are factual, informed, and objective in any other policy debate? 
If you think it’s no big deal to get your facts wrong, be ignorant about the issue at hand, and intentionally deceive people into voting your way when it comes to gun control, why should the fence-sitters and the opposition believe that you don’t play loose with the facts when it comes to climate change, energy policy, social justice, economic policies, or any of the other items on the progressive agenda? How can you be surprised when your efforts on, say, climate change are met with suspicion and outright hostility from the other side, and they accuse you of misrepresenting the data to push an agenda? After all, you’ve already set a precedent for that.

Nerd News: Academic Conference on Heavy Metal Music

Bang your head!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Boston Globe's Live Blog of the Marathon Bombing

I'm away for an afternoon and then come home to this when I check my news feeds.  Here's the Boston Globe for the news as it comes in.  A useful reminder from the Insta-Prof.  What kind of sick bastard would target the delightful Boston Marathon?  Horrible, horrible.

A Cartoon for Tax Day

Plunder?  I don't even know 'er!

Saturday Night Live on Thatcher

An SNL skit that's actually funny and timely.  Maybe these guys are on a roll!

A Song for Tax Day

Monday Therapy: Shelved

It's Monday and it's back to work for us all, so here's a brilliant video from Auckland's Media Design School. Slight language warning.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Knowledge Is Power ... and a Hackney Carriage License

Can you master the Knowledge like London cabbies?

North Korea as Kim Family Business

Here is a bit of the analysis:
A classic 1987 study of family firm succession by John Ward of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University concluded that only 30 percent of family businesses survive the third generation, and only 3 percent survive beyond that—no matter what the culture or country. The reasons are usually the same: With each generation the heirs grow more spoiled, fail to make the transition, possess less competence, and squabble more with shareholders, professional management, and among themselves. The ravages of nepotism and an uncreative desire to preserve the status quo make such businesses weaker and weaker. 
Kim seems to fit the pattern. He badly wants to emulate his grandpa—Kim Il Sung, whose birthday will be celebrated Monday in grand style—even adopting his haircut, but he doesn’t seem to have mastered the tradecraft he learned from his dad and granddad.

Quirky Asia Files: Vietnam's Fire-Breathing Dragon Bridge

I kind of love it:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Fun Video: Squirrel Mission Impossible

Via Alessandra:


Nut job.

Soundtrack for an Iron Lady

I found this little story to be very entertaining!  Thatcher fans and Thatcher haters are duking it out on the UK music charts with their respective songs of choice.

MM in the Kitchen: Strawberry Galette

Gorgeous (and easy) springtime dessert!

Nerd News: Political Correctness Claims Another Victim

Johns Hopkins does itself no favors:
Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson stepped down Wednesday as commencement speaker at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine after complaints from students about controversial comments concerning same-sex marriage. 
The withdrawal came less than a week after medical school Dean Paul B. Rothman chastised Carson for his comments and met with graduating students concerned that the famed physician was an inappropriate commencement speaker.
Pathetic.  So one of the most celebrated neurosurgeons in the country and the winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is "inappropriate" for the graduation of a medical school because of his opinions about an utterly unrelated topic?  (He has apologized.)  I assume his speech at graduation would have been about ... errr ... the practice of medicine?  

Haters gonna hate.  Keep being awesome, Dr. Carson!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

U.S. Passes Saudis In Oil Output

I had no idea.  Some of the action is in Texas and North Dakota.  And up through the ground came a-bubblin' crude.  Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea!

A Woman of Consequence

A historian looks at the legacy of the Iron Lady.  Oh, and she was right about the euro too.  How about this for our quote of the day:
The reaction to Margaret Thatcher’s death is painfully predictable. 
The right is honoring her service in standing up to socialism and communism at home and abroad, while the left is vilifying her for standing up to socialism and communism at home and abroad.
As someone else said, Maggie Thatcher p*ssed off all the right people, and I think that is a honorable epitaph indeed.  Anyway, look at this, this, this, and this:

Monday, April 08, 2013

March Madness Ends!

Championship game now between Louisville and Michigan.  I am LUDICROUSLY excited. I love me some college hoops!  I've been working hard on research and writing all day so I can watch without guilt!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Louisville for a thrilling, hard-fought victory against a spirited opponent.  This is what a championship game is supposed to look like!  And now, the traditional ending to March Madness:

I'm Sure It's a Gas Guzzler

The Russians now have a flamethrower tank.  

The Decline and Fall of the Philadelphia Accent

Say it ain't so?

Ave atque Vale: Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

The lady's not for turning.  Farewell to a remarkable woman and the UK's first female PM.  Love her or hate her, there was no ignoring her.  

UPDATE 1: Oh, and on social media, the haters are coming out of the woodwork now and literally rejoicing.  Stuff like that doesn't make you look good, haters.

UPDATE 2: Meryl Streep, stay classy!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Another Reason (or Two) to Love Jeremy Irons

Aside from being a fantastic actor with a gorgeous voice?  He's a libertarian who just dumped on Bloomberg and nanny statism.

Nerd News: the Atlanta Cheating Scandal

From earlier this week, which I missed because I was busy: SHAME:
Thirty-five Atlanta educators are expected to surrender Tuesday after being indicted in the biggest alleged cheating scandal involving standardized testing in American history. The list of suspects includes everyone from the former superintendent to principals and teachers. 
... Investigators say Atlanta's school district orchestrated a culture of cheating to benefit those at the top. 
Nearly 200 educators admitted to taking part in the massive scandal: they tampered with students' standardized tests and corrected answers to inflate scores. Some teachers had pizza parties to erase wrong answers and circle in the right ones. One principal allegedly handled altered tests wearing gloves to avoid leaving her fingerprints.

Friday Fun Video: The Videographer Cracks Up

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Great British Class Calculator

Take this with a grain of salt, but I found it really amusing.  It said I was a member of the "emergent service workers":
This class group is financially insecure, scoring low for savings and house value, but high for social and cultural factors. According to the Great British Class Survey results, lots of people in this group: 
Are young
Enjoy a cultured social life
Rent their home - almost 90%

Cultural Illiteracy at "the Newspaper of Record"

This is why I don't take "serious" newspapers seriously.  Besides, here is a quotable observation: "It’s difficult to take the Times' copious critiques of Catholicism and religion in general seriously when it is as illiterate as this on the most fundamental of Christian doctrines."  Well, DUH.  

The World's Oldest Surviving Aerial Photo

It's a photo taken from a hot air balloon over Boston in 1860.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

LOL: The Thomas Friedman Op/Ed Generator

I defy you to tell the difference between a genuine Friedman piece and something automatically generated by this hilarious website UPDATE: Better late than never?  ;-)

Wanderlust: the 25 Least Visited Countries in the World

Here is a fascinating write-up by a globetrotting Norwegian.  His commentary is very engaging.  Here's his take on Turkmenistan, #7 on the list with only 7000 tourists (in 2007 based on figures from the UN):

Why so few?
The country is reputed to be the second craziest in the world. After, of course, North Korea. 
Why you may still want to visit
Crazy is fun! And all the police officers make you feel very safe. 
What else
Do visit "The Door to Hell" which is the nickname of the burning crater in Darvaza, literally in the middle of Karakum desert. It is fantastic and well worth the 3-4 hours long drive. Just stock up on food and vodka before you go, because you will want to stay in a tent overnight near the flames. They make a comforting sound.