Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quirky Euro Files: Sarkozy Wants UNESCO Recognition for French cuisine

I found this news piece to be really interesting . . . and just a little bit amusing too.

I mean, really, we all knew that the French take their food seriously, but demanding UNESCO recognition?

As for Sarko, he certainly keeps finding ways to stay in the news, doesn't he? Educational reforms, Carla Bruni, and now French cuisine.

OK, I now feel the need to rush home and watch "Ratatouille." Heck, maybe I'll go and cook some ratatouille!

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon"

Here is the latest from the Cinema-Mad Sibling, who is nothing if not reliable in his obsession with Asian cinema!

"Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon" is set to premiere in Asia on April 3. Actors in this film include such well-known names as Andy Lau, Sammo Hung, and Maggie Q.

It's a period piece with plenty of martial action.

Click for the trailer video. It looks good!

Forget Fair Trade coffee -- choose Free Trade Coffee!

This post is dedicated to Il Barista, aka Coffee Pot Dictator, who long ago had told me this about "fair trade" coffee. Well, perhaps some people will dismiss his words because he works for Satan Coffee, but as an industry insider, he ought to know -- and does.

"Fair trade" coffee doesn't do much for the poorest of the coffee farmers. I've told you before: if you want to combat poverty, support free trade. "Fair trade" won't tackle poverty.

It might, though, make you feel virtuous about yourself as you pay top dollar for mediocre coffee. Frankly, I'll even argue that "fair trade" and all its ilk are really selling virtuous self-image, not coffee or any other real product.

Nerd News: Some Muslims Students Ask Australian Universities to Change Class Schedules

Here it is:
International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers. They also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax.

But at least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.

I wholeheartedly agree with this Aussie school head's reply:
La Trobe University International College director Martin Van Run said that although it was involved in discussions with the Muslim students who had made the requests, the university was not planning to change any timetables.

"That would seriously inconvenience other people at the college and it is not institutionally viable," he told The Australian. "We are a secular institution ... and we need to have a structured timetable."

Mr Van Run said that Saudi students were fully aware that the university was secular before coming to study there. "They know well in advance the class times," he said.

Hear, hear.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "Kung Fu Panda"

For your viewing pleasure, the Cinema-Mad Sibling recommends this preview of the upcoming summer film, "Kung Fu Panda"!

Enjoy, grasshopper.

Quirky Euro Files: The Italian Robot That Can Make Coffee

A coffee-making robot?

This sounds awesome, but how good is the coffee?

(This post is dedicated to Il Barista, aka Coffee Pot Dictator. You know who you are, CPD.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Africa, the US, and China

Interesting piece here for you to read.

Blurb here:
As things stand, the United States, with its emphasis on good government, democracy and rights has positioned itself to be the friend of African peoples, while China positions itself as a friend of African governments.
Interesting indeed.

It's a little odd how the media hasn't been covering Bush's visit to Africa very well -- or talking much at all about his policies in Africa either that have been beneficial.

Must rush off to the library -- sorry for the lapse in blogging!

US Olympic Athletes Will Pack Their Own Lunches in Beijing

This may be rude, but it's one way to make sure that nobody ends contaminated food . . . The US Olympic team now says that it will take its own food to Beijing this summer.

The discourtesy is overridden, I think, by the endless reports of unsafe Chinese food products. Heck, I don't blame the athletes one bit. In fact, I will also suggest that maybe they should consider wearing surgical masks when competing outside in Beijing's deplorably bad air pollution.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Taiwan Recognizes Independent Kosovo

Kosovo's declaration of independence has opened a gigantic international can of worms.

I've read various commentators who have wondered aloud if Kosovo's action will have ramifications for Taiwan. These have included my usual reads, Samizdata and Dignified Rant.

This is going to be a troublesome issue, but I can tell you a couple things even at this early date:
  1. Taiwan has recognized independent Kosovo. UPDATE: DPP vice-presidential candidate Su Tseng-chang congratulated Kosovo and called it a model for Taiwan.
  2. China is unhappy about Kosovo's unilateral declaration.
  3. China is also unhappy about Taiwan's recognition of Kosovo. Beijing is saying that Taiwan has no right to issue such a recognition.
  4. President Bush has now recognized Kosovar independence.

There's something else to think about. China, like Russia, is angry about Kosovar independence. BUT -- if China doesn't recognize Kosovo and establish ties with it, Kosovo might go ahead and establish ties with Taiwan, which has already said this: “Of course, we would like to develop further relations with countries which cherish democracy and freedom.” (from Phoebe Yeh, Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman, commenting on Kosovo)

As a student of history, I can't help fighting a feeling of weird deja-vu. The Balkans have always been a tinder box -- and all out of proportion to its geographical size, as most tinder boxes are.

Funny Video of the Day: Michael Bay's Awesome Advertisement

This post is dedicated to the Cinema-Mad Sibling (a big Michael Bay fan!) and to everybody who likes "awesome" summer blockbuster movies full of eye-candy action.

Oh, and kudos to Michael Bay for having a sense of humor that can laugh at himself, too.


Nerd Notes: Sarkozy Proposes New Holocaust Remembrance in French Schools

I'm not sure how French president Sarkozy's new proposal will (or can) work, but I have to give Sarko credit for having the nerve to propose it. He's already caught a great deal of criticism for doing so.

Here is an interesting personal commentary on the idea of teaching children about the Holocaust.

In fact, this may be a good time to talk about the idea of educating anybody about the Holocaust. Critics of the Sarko idea have said, among other things, that such close learning about the Holocaust is too traumatic for children. Maybe. But then again, learning about the Holocaust is traumatic for everybody who learns it properly. And you must learn it properly -- you must look evil squarely in the eye. I don't like doing it. I don't like looking at the horrifying images or the artifacts or any of it. Reading Anne Frank's diary, knowing what happens to her, makes my heart hurt. (And yes, I first read it when I was a little girl in the fifth grade.) Pain is part of remembering a complete history -- and it's a necessary pain. The alternative is the comfortable forgetting of the past -- and that is far worse.

Courage, Complaint, and Wikipedia's Medieval Images

Who ever thought that Wikipedia would in some small way come to represent a bulwark of preserving history? Wiki's a convenient source for quick access to information, though not all the info is correct all the time.

Now it's become embroiled in the latest flap over offending a certain easily-offended group. Here is the blurb:
Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, is refusing to remove medieval artistic depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, despite being flooded with complaints from Muslims demanding the images be deleted.

More than 180,000 worldwide have joined an online protest claiming the images, shown on European-language pages and taken from Persian and Ottoman miniatures dating from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, are offensive to Islam, which prohibits any representation of Muhammad. But the defiant editors of the encyclopaedia insist they will not bow to pressure and say anyone objecting to the controversial images can simply adjust their computers so they do not have to look at them.

Well, good on Wikipedia!

Yes, the medieval images are examples of history and should be preserved as such. Anyway, for an impartial encyclopedia to edit itself based on somebody else's offense is basically censorship of information, and that's the first step toward intellectual destruction. Free exchange of ideas and information is the foundation of meaningful research. Also, I am totally unsympathetic to the ideologically-driven destruction of cultural and historical objects during the Cultural Revolution in China; I am equally unsympathetic to the new Islamist equivalent.

Besides, here is an interesting thought. The supposedly offensive images come from Persian and Ottoman sources. You know, the current intolerant attitude toward images of Muhammad was not the only approach through the long history of Muslim culture, and it's useful to recall that.

Stanley Fish Supports Identity Politics

Well, of course he does. Fish does at least attempt to argue that not all identity politicking is good. Here is a blurb below.

The first bit about the evil of tribalistic identity politics is actually a pretty good point...until he undercuts himself by making a ludicrous comment about how we should elect a woman or a black president no matter what his or her positions happen to be (I am quoting Fish here!) just to "prove" that we're not sexist or racist -- which is a completely stupid reason to elect anybody. Take a look:

We should distinguish, I think, between two forms of identity politics. The first I have already named “tribal”; it is the politics based on who a candidate is rather than on what he or she believes or argues for. And that, I agree, is usually a bad idea. (I say “usually” because it is possible to argue that the election of a black or female president, no matter what his or positions happen to be, will be more than a symbolic correction of the errors that have marred the country’s history, and an important international statement as well.)

The second form of identity politics is what I call “interest” identity politics. It is based on the assumption (itself resting on history and observation) that because of his or her race or ethnicity or gender a candidate might pursue an agenda that would advance the interests a voter is committed to. Not only is there nothing wrong with such a calculation – it is both rational and considered – I don’t see that there is an alternative to voting on the basis of interest.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nerd News: British Exams for Foreign Language May Drop Oral Component -- plus a rant!

Well, I see that the Idiotification of British Education continues apace.

Some edu-crats now want to drop the oral component of foreign language exams because this kind of testing is (here it comes) "too stressful" for students.


Look at this!

Oral tests could be dropped from language GCSEs because they are "too stressful", according to a report.

. . . Lord Dearing emphasised that any change should not weaken the "validity of the assessment". But he said: "That has to be balanced against the risk that a test that is often highly stressful and over a short period, whilst accurate in its awards against performance on the day, is not a reliable test of the candidates' capability."

The report was accepted by the then-Education Secretary Alan Johnson in March 2007. A sharp fall in students taking language GCSEs had prompted the review.

The drop came after the government ended compulsory modern languages up to the age of 16 in 2004.

This makes no sense to me at all: if you study a modern foreign language, you should be able to understand that language both in a written and in a spoken form. This kind of practical proficiency is the heart of any foreign language education. This seems obvious.

In fact, this is so obvious that it utterly escapes today's misty-minded edu-crats. To paraphrase Orwell, nothing is so stupid that academics won't believe it. And try to implement it.

About the "stress" issue. Give me a break!

Pretty soon, some edu-crat somewhere will propose cancelling all exams because exams are "stressful." Everybody will automatically receive top marks for everything...which means that nobody learns anything at all and that marks are meaningless in the morass of mediocrity and mass ignorance. Oh, but the bubble-headed idiots wandering will be free from exam-stress!

I'll let you ponder this: if you want exam stress, I'll GIVE you exam stress. Be happy you're not taking the medieval Chinese civil service administrative exams, you modern British educational milquetoasts. You should be ashamed of yourselves. The nation that birthed Cambridge and Oxford during the depths of the Middle Ages, that produced intellectual giants of all fields, is now pewling about a little exam stress.

Get over it. I've had plenty of "stressful" exams (foreign language and otherwise) in my life, and I'm still alive and kicking -- and better because of those exams.

And here's a final idea. LIFE ITSELF IS STRESSFUL. To be alive is to be faced daily with stress of all kinds. The only way you'll ever be totally free from stress is IF YOU ARE STONE COLD DEAD.

Of course, it seems that edu-elites are trying to achieve the closest version of death without actually extinguishing lives -- they're trying to extinguish brains. Brain-dead is next to real dead.

Nerd Journal: Weekend Bliss

No school.
Hazelnut coffee.
Cake for breakfast.
The happy thought that tomorrow is a holiday.
Life is GOOD.

That is all. You may return to your own coffee, newspapers, and lazy Sunday plans!

(And yes, I *know* cake for breakfast is unhealthy. But it's sinful deliciousness. In fact, I did think briefly, very briefly, about making oatmeal for breakfast instead. Nope. As for the Food Fascist Health Police, I give them a big fat raspberry.)

Oh, and I'm also cheerfully reading something that has nothing to do with school. Perhaps I'll post a book review later.

Euro Notes: Danish lawmakers cancel visit to Iran

Danish lawmakers have canceled a visit to Iran after the mullahs demanded an apology for the now-infamous Mohammed cartoons. Plus the Danes refused to apologize.

Good on the Danes.

Besides, I don't think they have any actual right to apologize anyway, since that is the place of the cartoonists. The last thing we need now is more blame-spreading and blame-sharing and yes, group-blame.

More fallout from Spielberg's Pullout of Beijing Games

I had initially noted this here.

Now the fallout is continuing, while Beijing reacts predictably.

Will the Beijing Games now turn into the "protest games"? Spielberg seems to have opened the floodgates.

As for me, I'm happy for an opportunity to blow the lid off Beijing's propaganda.

Nerd News: Top UK Students Choose Ivy League Over Oxbridge

I've told you before about this increasingly common phenomenon of top European (not only British) students -- and faculty too -- who are choosing to come to the U.S.

Here is th latest from the UK, where top students are choosing the Ivy League and other US institutions instead of venerable old Oxbridge.

Interesting, interesting! It looks like people are -- what is that wonderful phrase? -- voting with their feet. All the Euro-twittering about the decline of the US doesn't seem so sincere when the brain drain is going straight to America, proud home of most of the top 10 universities in the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty MMORPG Online Game

Believe it!

Click on the link and tremble in terror!

Nerd Notes: The 20 Ugliest College Campuses in America

Here's a list of the 20 ugliest college campuses in the US, and I must say, some are U-G-L-Y!

OK, well, there are some ugly buildings here in Nerdworld too, but they're hidden away, and I confess: ivy can cover a multitude of architectural sins.

Quirky Asia Files: Korean Phones Detect Love!


Some new cellphones in South Korea claim to detect the level of love in the caller's voice.

Valentines Day in South Korea means chocolates, romantic dinners and a high-tech mobile phone device that can secretly check the passion in the voice of a lover.

The "Love Detector" service from mobile operator KTF uses technology that is supposed to analyse voice patterns to see if a lover is speaking honestly and with affection.

"We created this service because we thought people would want to know what others were feeling about them," said Ahn Hee-jung, a KTF official.

(Meanwhile, new cellphones in North Korea claim to detect the level of treason in the caller's voice. JUST KIDDING.)

Obligatory Valentine's Day Post About Relationships

Well, I lied. This isn't really about relationships per se as much it's about people saying extremely idiotic things about other people and relationships.

Take a look at this abysmally ludicrous piece. On second thought, don't. Why would you want to clutter up your perfectly lucid brain with this tripe? One blurb should be enough to give you a taste:
. . . every woman I know — no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure — feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.

Oh, I know — I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re not worried, because you’ll see how silly your face looks when you’re being disingenuous.

Oh, yeah? Sorry, but I'm unmarried and I'm looking at the big 3-0, and I'm not panicking or depressed or any of that. I'm also not in denial. The writer of this article is acting like an idiot (and an arrogant one too) if she thinks she can speak for all unmarried women everywhere. Just who does she think she is? Pffffft. I don't need some moron speaking for me, no matter how she thinks she can be the all-knowing mouthpiece of Woman. I will speak for myself, thanks. Isn't this kind of individual freedom the real point for "women's liberation"?

Now I thought about posting a rant in response, but then I found that the lovely Rachel Lucas has already done so, and she is in fine form.


I'll tell you what: things like that stupid MSNBC piece are all the proof you need that some women can be completely asinine too.

UPDATE: A new survey says that 55% of single people are not actively looking for a partner. You know, some single people are happy being single. Some of us are happy as we are and don't feel the need to hunt for a mate as though our entire existence depends on not being single. Chew on THAT, Lori Gottlieb of MSNBC!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spielberg Quits as Artistic Advisor of Beijing Olympics

Mr. Spielberg is citing reasons of conscience, saying that China has not done enough to stop the suffering in Darfur.

Well, good. I'm glad to see somebody famous say so -- maybe the media will actually listen for a second or two. One news story wonders if now, with Spielberg's decision, other people will pull out of the Games. At least let people talk openly about China's misdeeds! (Though apparently it helps if you're a celebrity!)

Libertas notes that actress Mia Farrow had been advocating this also. More here.

As for the Beijing Games, Spielberg's departure as artistic adviser is said to be a rather a large setback.

FINE. If Beijing wants to use the Games as a chance to throw propaganda at the world and whitewash its behavior, then let others use the chance to talk some truth about China. Turnabout is fair play.

Hitchens versus Williams on UK Sharia

Christopher Hitchens versus Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Hitchens can be an abrasive, self-important lout, but -- in all honesty -- Williams' recent fatuous (and dangerous) comments about sharia law probably deserve a heaping helping of Hitchens' verbal hell.

I haven't had time to blog and link about this latest flap in the UK, but suffice it to say, even the Queen is now involved.

My quick comment: one of the fundamental features of a truly free society is one law for all.

UPDATE: The humorists at Iowahawk have created something that Chaucer would love, I think! And of course, remember that Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, for all you fans of the brilliant and humorous 14th-century English poet.

Photoblogging: Singapore Cuisine!

A very lucky member of Samizdata had a chance to go to Singapore and sample the lovely food.

He has blogged and photoblogged the entire experience.

Oh, I am envious of his good fortune! I don't know when I'll have the chance to go to the Far East -- maybe not this year at all. *whine*

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quirky Asia Files: "Smoke on the Water" -- Japanese Style!

Awesome! You've never seen or heard "Smoke on the Water" quite like this! East meets West in a darn interesting way.

Link shamelessly stolen from Samizdata.

Arrested: Spies Giving US Defense Secrets to China

Several men have been arrested, but who knows how many more are still operating?

Nerd Notes: How Should Professors Dress?

How should professors dress for success?

And what about the dress code for graduate students? Rags. Sackcloth. Ashes. Anything else?

Nerd Notes: Time to Argue -- "What is the Worst Mistake in British History?"

What was the worst mistake ever made in British history?

The Times newspaper is asking for your opinion, and plenty of people are piping up!

I have to say, though, that "greatest mistake" is not necessarily the same thing as "greatest disaster."

So! What do you think?

I also have to point out the most utterly stupid response yet:

". . . the worst mistake in the history of the human race, let alone Britain, was the replacement of hunter-gathering by agriculture, which fuelled rapid population growth, urbanisation and disease."

Sheer idiocy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

It doesn't matter if you call it the Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, or whatever.


Have a great time with friends, family, ,food, and fun!

I can't help but comment: since this year is going to be full of politicians everywhere, the Year of the RAT seems to be a rather...appropriate name! (Interesting elections are going on not only in the US but elsewhere too, such as Taiwan and Italy.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Your Life in 6 Words

Can you describe your entire life in only 6 words?

Take a look at some folks who have.

My favorites include the following:
  1. Not quite finished, tell you later.
  2. Bored, so bored, so very bored.
  3. Any chance I could start over?

Food Fest: the UK's Top 20 Chinese Restaurants

Chinese New Year is fast approaching with the Year of the Rat!

(And no, I don't plan on eating any rat, though other people might.)

Anyway, amid the snow and cold and homework and research, I'm beginning to dream of lovely food. I will be making dumplings. Lots and lots and lots of dumplings.

For those of you who would rather go out to eat, I have an interesting news link for you if you happen to live in Great Britain: the UK's top 20 Chinese restaurants.

Taiwan: UN Referenda Scheduled

The Taiwanese electorate will vote on March 22 on 2 referenda on using the name "Taiwan" in the island's next attempt to join the United Nations.

Beijing is having its usual apoplectic reaction.

I have posted previously on the referendum issue here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hillary Health Care: Whether You Want It or Not

And this is why I remain stubbornly in opposition. Mandatory anything makes me furious.

Look at this rotten quote:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC's "This Week," she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment."


Plus did you see what else? Hillary criticized Obama because Obama's plan would be voluntary. Hillary obviously thinks her mandatory plan is better. I repeat: mandatory anything makes me furious. And what does this say? Criticizing freedom of choice?? Criticizing Obama because his plan is VOLUNTARY?

I find it deeply ironic that Hillary can support the right of a woman to choose abortion, but she won't let a far larger group of Americans choose how to deal with their health via medical plans.
Plus, I absolutely hate Clinton's idea of rule-by-fiat on this issue!

PS: the government already drains too much money from me in the form of taxes! So Hillary wants to raise taxes AND pull more money from unwilling Americans who don't want her health plan? I didn't need a reminder of why this cold-eyed socialist makes me ill.

(Law) Nerd Analysis: Self-Defense as a Human Right

Yes, it is, even if the UN doesn't think so. If I am threatened in any way, you better believe I will defend myself by any means necessary and -- yes -- with force if there is no other viable option.

Check out this PDF of a law article on the subject of self-defense as a human right.

Actually, given the way things are going in international circles, pretty soon the only things that aren't human rights will be robust self-defense, self-determination, and freedom of choice in living my life (including eating whatever I darn well please).

Quirky Euro Files: EU as Benevolent Despot

I file this link under "Quirky Euro Files" namely because the "analysis" inside it is so...well, quirky.

This quote from a recent article in the Guardian made me laugh out loud:

"The EU is easily the most popular and successful empire in history . . ."

Are you kidding me? Oh, yeah, the EU really eclipses those pitiful little past excuses for empire -- like Rome or Great Britain. Pffffffft.

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "An Empress and the Warriors"

The Cinema-Mad Sibling recommends the upcoming film "An Empress and the Warriors."

Here is the website, and do take a look at the trailer via YouTube. Here are a large number of cool posters and images from the film.

The Sibling is all excited that Donnie Yen will be starring! Plus, it's a period film with lots of action. And a cute Asian girl wearing armor. Time to get ready for an epidemic of yellow fever, I guess.

Ian Buruma: Culture is no excuse for China to deny democracy

Ian Buruma says something worthwhile. Of course, it's the same thing that I've been saying for a really long time!

Anyway, the gist of it is: stop saying that Asian culture is incompatible with democracy, and stop using "cultural sensitivity" as an excuse to let repressive Asian regimes get away with tyranny, oppression, and murder.

Here is a quote worth looking at:
. . . culture is often a poor excuse for inhumanity. Slavery, female circumcision or stoning of adulterous women are undoubtedly part of certain cultures, in that they are traditional practices. So is widow burning in India. This is not a good argument, however, for continuing such practices.
Well, now that's not at all politically correct. But that doesn't mean the statement is false. As for the argument from tradition, I am reminded of this lovely and sardonic visual reply.

Also, look at this:

A few decades ago, it was fashionable, especially in Singapore and Malaysia, to talk about 'Asian values'. Obedience to authority, sacrificing self-interest to what governments defined as national interests, accepting curbs on free speech, all these things were claimed to be specifically Asian, part of ancient traditions, something all Asians had in their cultural DNA. In fact, it was a justification of authoritarian politics inherited by the likes of Prime Ministers Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew from the British empire.

Even as the Asian values were being touted, South Koreans, Taiwanese, Thais, Chinese and Filipinos were demonstrating in huge numbers against their authoritarian rulers. In South Korea, Taiwan and, more fitfully, Thailand and the Philippines, they succeeded. And what was it that the Burmese were risking their lives for recently . . .

One reason why Taiwan is such a tricky problem for the Chinese government is precisely its politics. If Chinese culture demands authoritarian politics, or what Ambassador Wu would call 'Chinese democracy', then what about Taiwan? Are the Taiwanese any less Chinese?

Most of this is fine, though I don't really think the last bit (Taiwanese = Chinese) is really entirely accurate. Remember that old saying that China is a culture masquerading as a state? As for Taiwan, whether you want to believe it or not, there is such a thing as Taiwanese identity.

The point remains, though: statements about Asian culture being antithetical to democracy and the values of a free society can be, at their worst, the tacit condoning of Asian tyrannies -- not to mention deeply offensive to freedom-loving Asians everywhere. Also, do I really have to remind you about Tiananmen Square?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Quirky Euro Files: Was Winston Churchill a Real Person? 25% of Britons Don't Know

You must be joking! And the idiotification of the masses continues apace.

Oh, surely it's not THAT bad . . . is it?

Nerd Journal: Best. Super. Bowl. Ever! Plus Cool Video Link

As my brother said, when he gave me thrilled phone call from across the country, "Now that's what a Super Bowl should be like!"

Yes, I was one of the record-breaking number of 97.5 million people who watched the Giants' amazing victory over the Patriots last night.

Here it is again, sports fans, the Manning Miracle: fantastic video of Giants quarterback Eli Manning's laser-like throw to teammate David Tyree, who makes a heart-stopping, spectacular catch in mid-air.

On other related matters -- the Super Bowl commercials. I've linked to my favorite of the night -- for your amusement (especially for all you children of the 1980s!):

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More Finger-wagging Guilt for "Meat Guzzlers" like Me

Another day, another stupidly superior-sounding and patently offensive attempt by the pseudo-moralistic do-gooder killjoys trying to regulate MY life and choices.

This time, I give you the New York Times, trying to tell me that I shouldn't eat meat because of *insert endless list of pietistic reasons, including the inevitable "meat causes global warming" argument.*

The news story actually uses the word "meat-guzzler"! And it does this with the same unbridled condescension and contempt it uses for talking about large cars as "gas-guzzlers." Apparently I, your humble blog hostess, am a monster of multiple perversions because I love a good steak. Not only am I a murderer of animals (see PETA, naturally), but I am also heartlessly destroying the world in my pursuit of the perfect prime rib or yummy pork chop. Oh, yes, the eco-acolytes of Gaia and the Goracle will come and haul me away, forcing me to eat nothing but locally grown, organically planted alfalfa sprouts until I'm cured of my carnivorous sinning ways.

I cannot TELL you how much I absolutely hate, despise, and abominate these culinary crusades that are being mounted by the ever-increasing phalanxes of the prowling food fascist police!

You just wait: in a dystopian vision of the future, there will be entire squads of food police patrolling the streets and bursting into people's homes to look for contraband, forbidden food items. Some bloated nanny government will be watching...and somewhere some really bad nanny state may well ban all meat and meat production in its borders in the name of the "greater good" of "saving the world." I won't be surprised if laws get passed to FINE me for possession of *insert food item.*

In the name of eco-morality and whatnot, these petty tyrants have been trying to tell me what to do on every conceivable level of personal choice and action -- including, lest we all forget, the spectacle of eco-singer Sheryl Crow trying to tell me (and you too) that we should only use 1 square of toilet paper per visit to the W.C.

God save us from people on moral crusades!

Meanwhile, my reply to the meat-preachers is the same as my reply to the people who want to ban cupcakes, the people who want to restrict ice cream, and certainly to the same people who want to dump guilt on me because I like buying imported food items.


Now, please pass the steak sauce.

China and its "obsessive-compulsive approach to Taiwan"

I found this little blurb in a HK paper to be rather interesting in various ways. Anyway, here's a bit and a quote:

The One China policy is less to do with geostrategic necessity and more about domestic political chest baring.

Susan Shirk has noted in her book China: Fragile Superpower: "The roots of the Chinese fixation on Taiwan are purely domestic, related to regime security, not national security. The [Chinese] public cares about Taiwan because they have been taught to care," by the party.

Oh, one more comment from me: it seems pretty clear to me that China's obsession with Taiwan isn't about national security. It's about China's own self-image. It's about "face" on a wide scale -- and also about its own domestic insecurities and desire to throw its weight around.

Of course, China's going to obsess about Taiwan in unhealthy ways, and of course it's going to whip up Taiwan-centric emotional garbage among its populace whenever it can. The result is, on a personal social level, the creation of insulting yet defensive discomfort and a total inability to depart from state propaganda. Oh, I could tell you stories. In fact, so can some of my relatives. The short version of a phenomenon that repeats endlessly:

~Happy polite Taiwanese-American meets someone from mainland China.
~Introductions and pleasantries are exchanged. "Hello, nice to meet you, etc."
~Chinese native then asks, "Are you from China?"
~Answer, given cheerfully with a smile: "No, from Taiwan."
~Chinese native immediately becomes emotional, hostile, and angry and begins to shout: "TAIWAN BELONGS TO CHINA! TAIWAN IS PART OF CHINA!!!"
~Well, this is no way to foster better understanding!

I add a moment that happened to me at school some years ago, after the standard exchange outlined above:

~Chinese native: "Do you speak Chinese?"
~MM: "I speak Taiwanese at home."
~Chinese native: "That's not a real language!"
~MM, feeling insulted: *turns around and leaves before she says something rude*

Op-Ed Surprise: Europe Should Oppose China's Excesses

Well, well, well! Take a look at this interesting little op-ed piece.

Take a look:
China is run by a brutal, authoritarian government that lends active support to some of the world's most odious regimes. It is also the fourth biggest - and fastest-growing - economy on earth. Its spectacular commercial success will be paraded before the world when Beijing hosts the Olympic Games this summer.

Given China's economic clout, it is not surprising that Western governments tread carefully when dealing with the question of political freedom. It is not that they ignore the human rights issue, it is that they downgrade it in their diplomacy, for fear of giving offence and being singled out for economic reprisal. So Beijing feels secure in the belief that domestic repression bears no relationship to successful global economic integration.

. . . In the long run, that is bad for China. Enforced political conformity will eventually show up in a less-innovative, less-efficient economy and a more brittle state, prone to unrest in the event of a downturn.

But Chinese authoritarianism is also bad for the world.

China is now the planet's largest emitter of carbon dioxide thanks to a poisonous power-generation programme. Censorship also makes it harder to check the spread of contagious disease and harder to expose the regulatory corruption that means unsafe goods find their way on to global markets.

Last week, the official Communist party organ, the Peoples' Daily, anticipating increased scrutiny ahead of the Olympics, attacked China's critics on the now familiar grounds that the country has the right to pursue economic progress on its own terms. But as China's power goes global, its methods become ever more the legitimate business of the international community. Besides, China needs global economic partnership.

Alone, Britain has little leverage over Beijing, but as part of the European Union, the world's largest single market, London has a powerful voice. Co-ordinated European action could force China to modify its stance as, indeed, it has done to a degree by cooling its support for the governments of Sudan and Burma. The Chinese government is not immune to pressure. It respects economic power. It does not heed its internal critics because they are commercially irrelevant. The EU is not. It must use the power that wealth brings to speak up for those in China who have been silenced.

OK, so I'm not personally that convinced about the EU being able or even willing to do anything. I still remember voices in the EU wanting to lift the ban on selling arms to Beijing (*MM still mad about that, BTW*) . Still, at least somebody out there in Euroland has sense enough to say that China's autocratic nature and behavior is bad for everyone and that the free West should do more.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Football and Politics: Clash of the Titans

It's Super Bowl football madness weekend!

And politics.

On both fronts, we're going to get a clash of the Titans.

Super Bowl Football: Patriots versus Giants!

Presidential Politics:
  • Dems: Hillary versus Obama!
  • GOP: McCain versus Romney!
I knew that the number of candidates will drop quickly, but I really liked the entire chaotic mess of all those crazy politicians running to the first primaries. Now we're left only with the 2 real possibilities for both sides.

(Besides, I'm now sick and tired of the Billary 2-headed Clinton monster -- and more sick of Bill being an attack dog who can neither control himself nor stop hogging the spotlight for himself. He seems to think this election is all about him. He's also lost all his charm; his vitriol and poisonous attacks sound increasingly shrill, desperate, and divisive to his own party. His attack on Kennedy for the Kennedy endorsement of Obama was ugly -- and I found it amusing to see two old Washington power-elite establishment camps fighting over Obama the "new guy." You can't get a more old-power, Washington-aristocrat, insider establishment name than Clinton or Kennedy. As for Hillary the Feminist -- wait, feminist? Some kind of feminist! She's depending on her husband to do the dirty work of attacking Obama, while she's using the Clinton brand and clout to push herself on. On this campaign, she's depending on . . . her man!)

I think I'll have more fun watching the football, actually. The Super Bowl commercials, I hope, will be good. And if not, well, Super Bowl watching is really about food and friends. Better than politics! Besides, delicious hot wings!

Besides, I'd MUCH rather watch the Patriots and the Giants play the game than watch the venom-spouting 2-headed Clinton monster attempt to eat cheerful Obama in the name of "progress." Besides, Eli Manning and Tom Brady are easy on the eyes . . . especially eyes sore from too much nerd-reading. *attempt at schoolgirl giggle*

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Geek News: the Quiet Death of Netscape Navigator

It's the end of Netscape Navigator, the first real Internet browser that I ever used, all those years ago.

Requiescat in pace!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Geek News: Microsoft + Yahoo = Microhoo?

Here is some tech news right from my email, as the computer-wizard Sibling sent this news link.

Microsoft has made a $44 billion bid for Yahoo. As the Sibling asked, does this mean "Microsoft + Yahoo = Microhoo"?

I now ask: what if Google decides to join in? Will we then have "Microhoogle"?

Book Review: 3 books on China

The Times Literary Supplement has a book review -- well, book overview, really, of 3 new books on China.

Do take a look. They look interesting! Not, of course, that I need to add any more books to my neverending list of books I should read.