Sunday, August 31, 2008

MM in the Kitchen: Carnitas with Salsa Verde + Nerd Journal

This recipe is actually simmering in the kitchen as I type.

I'm very fond of the Mexican/Tex-Mex dish called carnitas, but I just can't find the real stuff up here in Nerdworld Yankeeland. Go figure. So I'm attempting this recipe for the first time. I feel like a mad scientist. I'm also expecting the Cultural Authenticity Police to barge into my apartment and whine that an Asian-American chick has no business cooking up la comida mexicana. If they do, I'll happily embrace my cultural roots and smack 'em over the head with my big wok (authentic enough for ya? huh, punk?). Meanwhile, the smell of pork simmering in salsa verde and chicken stock is just . . . heavenly! There's nothing like dead animal cooking with dead vegetables in dead-animal broth! Mmmmmmm! I guess PETA isn't coming for dinner. More for me!

Meanwhile, I have a DVD of "Burn Notice" on for background noise (thanks, Cine-Sib!), I've been chatting with friends on the phone, and I'm almost done with my latest nerd-paper! Once I'm done, I'll work on my summer movie retrospective for tomorrow as my little Labor Day gift to you. Nerd Lords seem to be worlds away. No Nerd Lords until Tuesday. Ah, life on this holiday weekend is GOOD.

Mad Minerva, out.

UPDATE: The carnitas turned out to be a smashing success. Try that recipe at once! YUM.

Taiwan: The Stakes Have Never Been Higher

Do take a look at blogfriend Dignified Rant's latest analysis of the China-Taiwan situation. It is quite critical of Ma's policies, and it should be, IMHO. Blurb:
And Taiwan's detente is weakening Taiwanese military strength even as China strengthens its ability to capture Taiwan. And China gives nothing to Taiwan.

This is bad. Taiwan will pay for this policy with their freedom if they don't match their new warmth with a greater ability to keep the Chinese at bay.

Precisely. Read this also in conjunction with the recent post on the opposition protest rally. The struggle OVER Taiwan now cannot be separated from the struggle IN Taiwan.

The stakes have never been higher in the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty. I'm no alarmist, but I think alarm is appropriate this time. Even if Ma himself seems oblivious.

UK: "No Excuses For Fat Children"

Apparently inflicting celebri-chef Jamie Oliver on the poor innocent schoolchildren of Great Britain is not enough torment for the little ones. Note the expression on that wretched kid's face as he's forced to eat one of Oliver's "new and improved healthy" school lunches. I'm sure he'd escape if he could -- but he's injured! Look at his bandaged wrist. Maybe that's why he's the only kid in the lunchroom. As for Oliver, culinary annoyance extraordinaire . . . Gee, I feel the need to run out and get some fish and chips just to spite him, don't you? As in, RIGHT NOW.

Some genius politician (a Tory, BTW) has stated that there should be "no excuses for fat children" and he also thinks that kids should face peer pressure to be healthy and thin. Oh, sir, there is already plenty of peer pressure. Have you ever BEEN to a schoolyard at playtime? Kids can be viciously creative in their name-calling. "Fatso" is a name that is hoary with history and tradition.

Besides, peer pressure is a ludicrous motivator. Personally, I'm a contrarian who will automatically balk at doing something just because everybody else is doing it and pressuring me to do likewise.

So in answer to the idea that there should be no excuses for fat children, I humbly submit that there should be no excuses for stupid politicians. Hopeless dream, I know. (Will I have more luck with no excuses for Jamie Oliver? Oh, please, please, can I have a cage match between Oliver and Gordon Ramsay? I can haz shef smakdoun? It's ALL I want for Christmas!)

Also: I wonder how the school obesity campaign will mesh with the school self-esteem campaign. "Oh, Sally/Tommy, you're perfectly OK just as you are . . . except that you're a shameful lardbutt who will eventually become an unbearable strain on the NHS, so you better lose those extra kilos *NOW* or face the wrath and ostracism of your more enlightened and superior peers. This message has been approved by the Nanny Government of Great Britain, where school bullying is OK if it's done for your own good." Ummm, yeah.

Hey, where are the PARENTS in all this?

UPDATE: Observation from La Parisienne: "There's already enough peer pressure! Why do you think there are so many eating disorders???"

Movie Fun: Gremlins Invade the Cinema

You simply must take a look at what one tech-savvy and dedicated film fan has done. Link via Rope of Silicon. Remember that 1984 flick "Gremlins" ? Now the little troublemakers are running amok not only in their own flick, but in others too. Look for Batman and Indiana Jones. Enjoy:

If you're curious how this video was made, see the explanation on its YouTube page.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty Postage Stamp Set

Click to enlarge. I know you want to see every terrifying detail.

Howdy, folks! We have a special bit of Hello Kittiana for you this time! The image above was sent to me from Kyoto by gentle reader and Japan correspondent, Rambin' Ronin (domo arigato!).

What you see is a current issue of Japanese postage stamps that features Hello Kitty and her friend Dear Daniel. Both are dressed in Heian period (794-1185) court dress as part of a larger celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the classic Japanese novel "Tale of the Genji."

I spend a lot of time bashing the ever-expanding, horrifically cute empire of Hello Kitty, but I have to hand it to the saccharine feline this time: the stamp set is a fascinating snapshot of old and new, classical culture and pop culture, literature and practical usage. It's almost . . . errr . . . quasi-awesome? I can't believe I just said that.

David Brooks, Comedian! A Fictional Speech to the DNC

This came out in yesterday, but I missed it because -- well, honestly -- I was too busy with Palin-apalooza.

But this piece by David Brooks is brilliantly funny, and it's far too good to pass up. Who knew Brooks could be a comedian too? Enjoy his fictional speech to the DNC, and it pokes fun at everything political and rhetorical -- here's a taste of it:
We must close the book on the bleeding wounds of the old politics of division and sail our ship up a mountain of hope and plant our flag on the sunrise of a thousand tomorrows with an American promise that will never die! For this election isn’t about the past or the present, or even the pluperfect conditional. It’s about the future, and Barack Obama loves the future because that’s where all his accomplishments are.

*Giggle!* Bravo, David. Gladly now do I forget your previous mess about "harmonious collectives"!

Christian Bale = Kermit the Frog

Seriously funny! Link via Neatorama.

(For La Parisienne, Alessandra, and every other reader who appreciates the talented and delectable Mr. Bale.)

Taiwan: Massive Rally Against President Ma -- UPDATED with Eyewitness Coverage

Ma just finished his first 100 days in office. Usually the first few months of any leader's time in office is a "honeymoon" period. Well, Ma woke up to realize that the honeymoon is OVER as thousands of opposition folks rallied in protest. News link includes video.

More here from IHT, reporting some 40,000 protesters unhappy about Ma's pro-China policy. Here are 2 quotes from two ordinary people out at the rally:

Protesters said they are worried that Ma is leaning toward China too quickly and that it might bring disastrous political consequences.

"Ma's unconditional embrace of the Chinese market is not good for Taiwanese people," said protester Kuo Wen-hung, 38. "If we are over dependent on China economically, eventually we will be forced to unite with China politically."

. . . Protesters, however, expressed doubts about Ma's efforts to offer peace to the mainland, saying Beijing remains hostile toward Taiwan.

"The fact that China has not withdrawn its missiles aimed at Taiwan shows its lack of friendliness toward us," 46-year-old housewife Tseng Hsin-yi said.

Hmmm. Hooray for the housewife! My thoughts exactly.

You'll recall that Ma's approval rating has plummeted by some 30 percentage points since the time he first took office.

Xie-xie to Il Barista for reminding me of this story.

PS: Ludicrous media bias alert for the IHT story. It refers to former President Chen's policy as an "aggressive anti-China stance." That's right: Taiwan's the aggressor and China the more victim! Chen the warmonger! I half-expected the reporter to shriek "Halliburton!" -- but I digress. On top of that, the report doesn't even give Chen the bare courtesy of calling him by name. In the article, he is only Ma's "predecessor." I know Chen's reputation is currently in the ditch, but come on, people. Pfffft.

TOTALLY FABULOUS UPDATE 1: Michael Turton was personally at the rally and has full blog-coverage, including many, many photos. He reports 150,000 protesters and says the "40,000" is from pan-blue media sources and is "laughable." What are you still doing here? GO TO MICHAEL'S BLOG!

Consider, if you will, how lovely it is that a bunch of citizens can go express themselves peacefully and publicly -- even express anti-government sentiment -- without being arrested, detained, intimidated, crushed, or sent to a labor re-education camp. This is what's at stake: Taiwanese democracy.

UPDATE 2: Michael has some interesting thoughts about estimating the size of crowds, since numbers for the Taiwan rally have ranged wildly from as little as 40,000 to as many as 300,000. His new post has more photos and also (joy!) video that he shot.

Sarah Palin on Energy Policy

I like her more and more. She's saying everything that I'm thinking -- complete with a jab at the lack of a national energy policy. PREACH IT, GIRL.

And the really brilliant thing? She's governor of Alaska. If anyone is qualified to speak knowledgeably about that state and its energy potential, ANWR, wildlife concerns, and environmental impact there, it's her.

Listen and learn, grasshopper. Meanwhile, I'm amused by all the frothing far-leftist cranks who are diving into the depths of the ugliest sorts of sexism in their attempt to attack Palin with ad hominem (or should I say, ad feminam) assaults that have nearly nothing to do with policy differences. Obama could find that his own rabid supporters are his biggest liability. Meanwhile, Palin will go on being calm, cool, and collected. The contrast will be startling. Dirty Harry, after watching the Palin energy interview, is now practically daring the Dems to call Palin dumb and inexperienced. Clearly she is neither.

Satire Alert: The Epic Poem, "The Idiossey"

Iowahawk does have a brilliant literary wit. He follows up his delightful Chaucerian takedown of Rowan Williams with a hilarious Homeric potshot at Obama.

Really, the Obama "temple" at the DNC was practically begging to be mocked. I was going to write a satire of my own, but there's no way I could even come close to Iowahawk's latest, so please enjoy his:

The Idiossey
The Not-Really-That-Epic Poem of Obamacles

(with Apologies to Homer)

Book the First: A question for the Muse
Speak to me, O Muse, of this resourceful man
who strides so boldly upon the golden shrine at Invescos,
Between Ionic plywood columns, to the kleig light altar.
Fair Obamacles, favored of the gods, ascends to Olympus
Amidst lusty tributes and the strumming lyres of Media;
Their mounted skyboxes echo with the singing of his name
While Olbermos and Mattheus in their greasy togas wrassle
For first honor of basking in their hero's reflected glory.
Who is this man, so bronzed in countenance,
So skilled of TelePropter, clean and articulate
whose ears like a stately urn's protrude?
So now, daughter of Zeus, tell us his story.
And just the Cliff Notes if you don't mind,
We don't have all day.

Said the Muse:
I will tell the story of Obamacles through my scribe Iowahawk.
But this (stuff) is copyrighted, so reproduce at your peril.

Nerd Fun: Good Ideas for Bad Shakespeare Sequels

This is hilarious! It's a jolly romp through pop culture, movies, and Shakespeare all at once. My favorite is the "Macbeth" sequel:
There Can Be Only One: A sequel to "the Scottish play" is just dying to be fused with a certain sci-fi franchise. After cutting off Macbeth's head, MacDuff experiences "the quickening" and finds his immortality at odds with the beliefs of medieval Scotland. Obviously, he can't remain king without arousing suspicion, so he hands the throne over to Fleance, is schooled by Sean Connery, and wanders Scotland until the present day. Running a tourist shop on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, he is forced to confront a great evil of the past – the witches from the play, who want to bring about the final Gathering of the Immortals for their own ends.

Kevin McKidd, call your office!

MM in the Kitchen: Ployes

The name is "ployes," and it rhymes with "boys." I recently discovered these French-Canadian pancakes, and I love them! They're quick and easy to make, and they're delicious with a bit of butter and maple syrup or fruit preserves. Here's an easy, easy recipe or you can get a ready-made ploye mix (I've tried this one, and it worked pretty well).

Ployes for breakfast! Serve with coffee, some fresh fruit, and a side order of Longfellow's "Evangeline."

Friday, August 29, 2008


Congratulations. And welcome to the political campaigning snake pit!

McCain picks Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his VP! This choice does everything that Obama's pick of boring Biden did NOT. It shakes up the entire election, energizes the atmosphere, and brings something fresh and different. McCain-Palin is now the GOP ticket.

I already knew who Sarah Palin is, so I'm excited. So are a few others like the Draft Palin blog and other Palin supporters. Here's a hint of why I like her and her views on energy. Also, NPR calls her a "maverick" too.

The first reaction from my cabal of fellow gender-traitors and capitalist oppressors Alessandra and Thalia can be summed up in Alessandra's words: "That's (expletive) GENIUS." (Me: "Dude, that's awesomely awesome.") All of us: We didn't really like McCain much, but on this VP pick, we're impressed. All of us wicked ladies have been texting and calling each other! And we're in 3 different states!

LADIES' UPDATE 1: the delightful Dr. Helen, aka the Insta-Wife, is ecstatic too. Perhaps this bodes well for McCain winning the crucial "sassy, smart, self-reliant independent/libertarian/conservative women" demographic...We do exist, and I'm delighted that we finally have some acknowledgment and a FACE too now in Sarah Palin.

LADIES' UPDATE 2: Law prof/blogress Ann Althouse is blogging like mad. Keep scrolling! Her live-blog part 1 and live-blog part 2 of the announcement are good, too. Althouse approves! As does the other sassy conservative female Asian-American blogging MM, Michelle Malkin. Jennifer Rubin joins in.

LADIES' UPDATE 3: So does the great and powerful Rachel Lucas: "I'm simply delirious about Palin." Ditto Meryl Yourish: "Awesome" even if Palin's more conservative than Meryl would like. More here: actual enthuasiasm for McCain!

Also, the Obama campaign's first response was to criticize Palin's small-town origins. The press release called her the former mayor of a town of 9000 who had no foreign policy experience. This, to me, highlighted the very worse tendencies of the Dem campaign: it simultaneously was dishonest (it doesn't criticize her as GOVERNOR) and condescending (it sneers at her rural origins...a move that dripped with urban elitist snobbery and forgets that Middle America is full of suburbs and small towns). Plus, blanket accusations of inexperience can only rebound onto Obamessiah himself. Anyway, what a total lack of class. Camp Obama's spokemen can't even say something like "congratulations" first -- something McCain himself said to Obama on being nomination. Obamessiah himself has to do some damage control by now issuing a nice statement of welcome to Governor Palin. Nice save -- not really.

Oh, boy. I can predict the Total Reductionist Campaign right now (as reported by MSNBC):

  • Obama camp: If you don't vote for us, you're racist!
  • McCain camp: If you don't vote for us, you're sexist!


But, seriously now, the choice of Palin is certainly a bold, surprising one that breaks with the predictable Washington "Same Old Thing." It's the most maverick thing McCain's done in a really long time. I confess, I'm excited. WAY more excited than if he had picked Romney or Pawlenty or any of those guys. Nobody expected this -- least of all, the Dems, who are now scrambling to assemble their attack.

Plus, I wonder what some disaffected Hillaristas are going to do now! See what Geraldine Ferraro has to say. It's a total estrogen bomb! I'm gleefully looking at Obamessiah being dogged until November with the ghost of Hillary's furious feminist phalanxes. Well, Dems: live by identity politics, die by identity politics.

And so it's on to November, with both major parties running now bona fide historic campaigns. This is going to be worth watching. (UPDATE: Will Camp Obama now be walking on eggshells? Tee-hee!)

PS: I have to hand it to Camp McCain. Those folks made the VP announcement in a splendid fashion. It does stand in stark contrast to the muddled, messy Obama text message in the middle of the night! And it played the MSM and the news cycle just SO. Everybody's going nuts! Heck, even your jaded, tired, cynical old blog hostess, watching the announcement at lunctime, is all enthused. And I'm never enthused about politics. I'm almost giddy. Who knew it was possible? Well done, Maverick. Plus, the announcement has made everybody forget about the Invesco Field apotheosis and made a huge splash. The news media is going to obsess about Palin ALL DAY LONG. I think I'd grossly underestimated the McCain campaign.

That does it. I shall now tag the Palin pick with "Awesomeness." I could be wrong. In November, I might look back and wonder what I was thinking. But as for right now, the masterful way in which Camp McCain outflanked Obamessiah -- and on the very heels of his deification -- qualifies as awesome to behold. Plus the fabulous thought that this election cycle, people might actually watch the vice-presidential debates! Icing on the cake: Palin's savvy shout-out to Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton. Classy and smart.

Public Service Announcement: Free Fun as "Rain of Madness" Now Gratis on iTunes

Go and get it! This fake documentary is just a HOOT. It's a 30-minute-long delight of deadpan humor. And it's FREE.

Also, "Rain of Madness" is supposed to be shot by a fake German filmmaker. I have to say, the entire "Tropic Thunder" production, with its inspired fakery of everything from trailers to this latest offering, is one of the best exercises in sustained, creative comedy that I've ever seen.

Satire Alert: We Need a Superficial Conversation About Race

The Onion hits the nail on the head yet again! Blurb:
Black, white, yellow, green, or brown— we can all be callously summed up in a trite statement of unity.

Like it or not, the U.S. needs a stupid conversation on the issue of race relations. Perhaps more importantly, we need this stupid dialogue to be couched in the most self-righteous, know-it-all attitudes on the part of those involved, as if they have no idea whatsoever of how much more complicated the issue is, and how little their one-dimensional approach to it brings to the table.


Political Deification: Obama the Nominee!

It's an apotheosis at Invesco Field! The McCain campaign responded with a touch of class and grace. Mad Minerva, though, responds with a giggle because all the relentless media hype, ugly DNC logos, Hillary pantsuits, and overcooked yet banal, sloganeering, goofy political oratory have activated her sense of the ridiculous.

So, yes, Obama is the Democratic nominee for president, and that's a historical milestone. Really, it is. Let me offer that acknowledgment to Obama, along with a blog tag (all political messiahs need a category of their own, no?). On the other hand, the sheer force of HYPE and media silliness has been overwhelming. Plus Obamessiah's stage setup looked like . . . a Greek temple. I can't make this stuff up if I tried.

OMG! It's the Obamacropolis!

Hmmm. There's a cool little ancient Greek word that might be fitting. Hubris. Look it up. Also, I'm sorry, but I just can't help myself -- hubris provokes humor! Here's a great visual satire done by a better Photoshopper than I am:

"Hope or change or whatever."

Add a rousing anthem, and we are all set to go! HOPECHANGE, here we come! YES, WE CAN!

Public Service Announcement: Pat Buchanan is an Idiot

Buchanan's an idiot. The man who argued that World War II was unnecessary (!) has produced his latest bit of rubbish disguised as analysis. In it, he depicts Mussolini as a sympathetic victim, for goodness sake! The rest of it depicts Putin as victim in the current Caucasus crisis. Oh, come on!

I thought I would simply put the announcement out: Buchanan's an idiot, an isolationist, and a cantankerous dilettante of history, and he represents a part of the far Right that I find not only wrong but stupid and pernicious.

That is all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nerd Notes: Amusing Student Errors on Exams

Some of the exam mistakes are simply comedy gold. My personal favorite:

"Control of infectious diseases is very important in case an academic breaks out."

Truer than the kid intended, actually! There really ARE some toxic academics out in the world!

Nerd Notes Thought of the Day: Teaching and Teachers

"Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher."

Ain't that the truth? I've been in (more or less) diligent study for YEARS, but I can count on my fingers all the truly great teachers I've ever had.

The proverb is, I've been told, Japanese. (Can MM Blog's roving Japanese correspondent Ramblin' Ronin confirm or deny?)

What 15,000 Journalists Are Doing at the DNC

The Columbia Journalism Review has an amusing "report."

MSNBC Implodes; Jon Stewart Comments

Oh, my! And yet . . . the train wreck that is MSNBC's internal bickering among catty, snarky reporters who seem to hate each other is strangely amusing to watch.

Jon Stewart, one of my favorite comedians, has commentary -- along with a hilarious, satirical potshot at Hillary and Obama. Plus, bonus points to Stewart for a "Lord of the Flies" reference!

Movie Review: The Cine-Sib Reviews "Death Race"

As far as I'm concerned, the summer movie season is OVER. (I'll have a summer retrospective soon -- probably on Labor Day, the unofficial last hurrah of the American summer.)

The Cinema-Mad Sibling, though,is still happy to go to the cinema for all those late-summer B-flicks, those last desperate attempts to squeeze a few last pennies out of a now-weary and visually saturated bunch of movie fans.

So the Sib was off to see "Death Race" with Jason Statham (who, by the way, seems permanently typecast as The Bald Guy Who Likes to Drive -- see "The Italian Job," all the "Transporter" flicks . . . ) Me? I'm not going to waste my pennies. Namely because I'm all out of pennies. Since I just went and pre-ordered the super-duper deluxe "Iron Man" DVD.

Here is the haiku movie review that the Sib turned in:

A video game
Nothing more, nothing less, but
It was fun to watch!

My reply:

Gas is so pricey
Driving's a sad fantasy
Take mass transit, pal

Full Cine-Sib movie review here:

Medium spoilers (as if a movie like this can be spoiled)

You know it's nice to walk into to a movie knowing exactly what to expect - a mindless exercise in action and violence, glorified car carnage and nothing much else. But you know what? That's quite alright because I really didn't require anything else last night. After a day's work, I just wanted to unwind and enjoy 89 minutes of nothing. That's what I found Death Race, a remake of 1975 Death Race 2000, an hour and a half of fun.The ubiqitous Jason Statham is Jensen Ames, a former racecar driver who is framed for his wife's murder and sent to Terminal Island, where the baddest of the bad get out their frustrations by taking part in Death Race, a for-profit web show orchestrated by Joan Allen, head of the prison run by a private company for profit in a broken down U.S. economy of the near future. Ames is recruited by Allen to be her driver and if he successfully wins the next race, he goes free.

There's the rogue's gallery headlined by Tyrese Gibson as rival Machine Gun Joe, who at all costs is determined to win the race and his eventual freedom. Ian McShane is Coach, the amiable head of the crew that works on Ame's racecar, a modified Mustang with tons of cool stuff James Bond and Michael Knight would be proud of. Each racer is paired with a female navigator, for ratings sakes, and Ames' right hand girl played by Natalie Martinez, new comer Cuban eye candy.The race track is littered with power-ups which are activated when the car drives over it. Essentially this plays out like a real-life Mario Kart, but without turtle shells, but rather a sword symbol activates the weapons on each car (which by default are deactivated), a shield activates defensive, and so forth. I won't spoil the fun here, as everything plays out as expected, straight-forward...until the end...

All in all I had a grand ol' time with Death Race. There were cool previews too, for Transporter 3 and Fast & Furious, more action-packed car movies, who would have figured? Another one to check your brain at the door. I'm gonna go rent the original Death Race 2000 now. 4 napalms out of 5.

MSNBC Schooled by 11-Year-Old Reporter

Out of the mouths of babes . . . An 11-year-old reporter reminds MSNBC that objectivity is the heart of honest journalism. Quote:
I try to stay objective through all my work. I try to do my best not to keep a political opinion, because as a journalist I always try to balance it out with what is on the other side.

AWESOME. That means that a smart 11-year-old has a better grasp of journalistic standards than half the clowns currently yapping on the MSM. (OK, admittedly, putting the beatdown on a shabby, half-disreputable outfit like MSNBC isn't that hard -- a child could do it! -- but still, I'm grinning with malevolent glee.)

More here. Buy that kid a cupcake!

Geek Fun: the Teddy Bear USB Drive

Oh, my!

I have GOT to get me one of these! (Besides, along with the delightfully demented humor, you get 1 GB of portable memory! How much nerd-work can you fit on that? A lot, actually.) More amusing/disturbing photos here from the vendor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Geek News: "Perceptive Pixel" and Advanced Multi-Touch Technology

I got this awesome link from my fellow nerd, geek, and tech-addict, my own genetic variant, the Cinema-Mad Sibling.

Just HOW awesome is it? The Cine-Sib's email consisted only of the link and his breathlessly excited comment: "OMG GEEKGASM."

You can call it a geekgasm, nerdgasm, techgasm, joygasm, whatever -- this multi-touch technology is eye-popping, jaw-dropping stuff that will make any geek's heart beat faster. Go there, watch the video, and get ready to faint.


Seriously, I haven't seen this much Geek Joy and Tech Lust since "Iron Man." *swoon*

Fortune Cookies in China

You DO know that fortune cookies are not actually Chinese, yes? They're mainly an American thing.

Take a look at this awesome video of people in China reacting to fortune cookies. Here's the accompanying New York Times article. Ah, food culture. It's such fun.

What was the last fortune cookie I got, you ask? Confucius say: "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Ha! And I surely don't need to tell you about the game of adding "in bed" to the end of cookie fortunes.

Quirky Asia Files + Video: Chinese Water Calligraphy

Quote of the Day on Gender and Politics

Rather fluffy op-ed with a stupid, over-generalizing headline ("What Do Women Want?" -- heck , isn't that a movie?), but it ends with a decent quote:

In the end, women, like all voters, need to choose a president based not on the lens of gender or other identity but on the real policy differences between two candidates who happen to be men.

Hm, YEAH. Absolutely!

And if you ask me, sure, I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want . . .

(I guess I should apologize for inflicting that on you! *giggle*)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Video Visit to Taiwan: Tea and Taipei 101!

I was delighted to see this episode of the "Bizarre Foods" series on the Travel Channel -- it's all about Taiwan! I talk about Taiwan A LOT on this blog, but seeing is better than reading or hearing, so here you go!

The first video excerpt is all about Taipei 101, that gorgeous skyscraper in the middle of Taipei. The Sibling and I also love it because it's full of shops and restaurants. The entire bottom floor is a vast food court with a huge variety of different eating options. There's also a cool supermarket. (I found Mozartkugeln there last time I went!)

Take a look. Oh, I'm hungry just thinking about it. I haven't been back there in far too long!

And after Taipei 101, do look look at the second video. It's a trip out of the mega-city Taipei to see some of Taiwan's famous tea fields, where some of the best tea in the world grows. The video shows you a bit about the well-known pouchong tea (it's very good if you've never tried it -- clear, delicate, fragrant). FYI, a pretty good company is Ten Ren, which sells Taiwanese tea in the US. Yep, I'm a tea chauvinist; I only want Taiwanese tea! (I must confess, though, that if you want dance-like artistry and serious cultural ritual along with your tea, you need to go to Japan. Taiwanese tea culture is less about elegance and refinement than about drinking some great tea.) PS: green tea ice cream ROCKS!

Kitchen Notes: the Wall-E Cake Pan

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes; decorate; eat with spork.

This is just ridiculously cute. Full decorating instructions here in PDF format! And go see Pixar's "Wall-E" if you haven't.

Georgia: Is Conventional Wisdom Wrong?

Independent journalist Michael Totten is in Georgia, and he thinks that conventional wisdom is wrong about the start of the Caucasus crisis. Blurb, but read the whole thing:

Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

This all certainly needs looking into.

Nerd Journal: I Am A Crass Musical Yahoo

Oh, I simply have to share this slice of nerd life. I was just talking to fellow nerdette Opera Diva, and we were talking about music we listen to while working.

She said her latest preference was 18th-century German concertos. Now, doesn't that sound all nice and cultured and refined and elegant and intelligent?

So did I say? What am I listening to, right this minute, while I'm working in one window and blogging in another? AC/DC, Alice Cooper, and Audioslave. With a dash of Linkin Park. Yeah! Crank up the volume!

Opera Diva politely didn't say anything, but I could tell she wasn't too impressed. At all. It was as if she asked whether I preferred filet mignon or beef Wellington, and I said, "I want a Big Mac." A slightly uncomfortable silence fell on the conversation. It lasted only a moment, but it was there! I tried very hard not to laugh. The Diva is a classically trained singer. I failed my piano lessons when I was a kid. Really!

I confess: I am a crass, crude, uncivilized musical yahoo! But in my defense, I'll have to say that my musical playlist this morning is like coffee for the ears -- it'll wake you right up! *wink*

Geek Fun: Exploding the Cellphone-Popcorn Hoax

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the entire "cellphone popcorn" video was a hoax. Still, some witty folks have a hilarious response. Enjoy!

Behold the awesome power of HOPECHANGE:

Obama! YES, HE CAN!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Media Madness and Jon Stewart

Lately Jon Stewart has been on a steady trajectory from "occasionally annoying" to "downright adorable." He might be a liberal, but he dared to rip into pretentious Hollywood when he hosted the Oscars, and now he's ripping into the self-focused media.

As Comedy Central's "Daily Show" descends on Denver for four days of coverage, Jon Stewart took after the "established" media for getting too cozy with candidates and regurgitating campaign spin when it comes to political coverage.

In a breakfast with reporters, Stewart directed most of his ire at the 24-hour cable news networks, which he called "gerbil wheels" . . . He said the never-ending television news cycle creates a "false sense of urgency" and forces reporters to "follow the veins that have been mined," instead of pursuing serious and in-depth reporting.

I'm just thrilled. Plus, he's delightfully funny -- remember this?

Yushchenko: Georgia and Ukraine

The president of Ukraine has a piece in the WaPo about the stakes for his nation in the midst of the ongoing Georgia-Russia crisis.

Ukraine had been involved in a sense nearly from the beginning because of its proximity to Russian action. Oh, geography. You are the ultimate tyrant.

Geek Fun: The Bacon-Flavored Alarm Clock

I can't stop laughing at the Wake-n-Bacon contraption. This is AWESOME!

Nerd News: Group of US Professors Oppose Canadian Speech Restrictions

I'm no fan of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions with their loopy hate-crime prosecutions and attempts to put limits on free speech (I was squarely in Mark Steyn's corner recently), so I am tickled pink to read this in a Canadian paper:
A group of U. S. professors launched a campaign this week protesting plans by a prominent political science organization to hold its annual conference in Toronto next year, claiming that Canada's restrictions on certain forms of speech puts controversial academics at risk of being prosecuted.

Bradley Watson, professor of American and Western political thought at Pennsylvania's St. Vincent College, said he will present a petition calling for the American Political Science Association (APSA) to re-evaluate its selection of Toronto for its 2009 conference at this year's annual meeting, taking place over the Labour Day weekend in Boston.

His protest has garnered support from dozens of professors across the United States, including prominent scholars such as Princeton University legal philosopher Robert P. George and Harvard University's Harvey Mansfield.

. . . Mr. Watson said that professors signing the petition are concerned that recent human rights commission investigations into Maclean's and Western Standard magazines over articles concerning Islam, and the conviction of pastor Stephen Boisson, who was ordered by Alberta's human rights tribunal in May to cease publicizing criticisms of homosexuality, suggest that professors risk being chilled from discussing important academic subjects, or ending up in legal trouble.

I'm also tickled to see some profs doing something newsworthy that's actually GOOD. Well, pigs do fly on occasion. Of course, there's a healthy dose of self-interest in the Toronto opposition -- the profs don't want to be constrained themselves or, I suppose, find themselves hauled off to the Human Rights Commissions -- but at least they recognize that there's something rotten in the state of Canadian speech freedom.

Quirky Euro Files: Italy's Berlusconi Working on Love Songs For New Music CD

"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amoreeeeeeeeeeee!!"

Oh, Silvio. You are so much fun to watch!

Now the colorful Italian PM is working on a music CD. More from IHT and entertainment news giant Variety. Silvio's CD's supposed to be full of love songs that he's written. Can we say, "cheesefest"? I can't make this stuff up if I tried. You'll remember, of course, that Silvio was a cruise-ship singer in his youth. That explains a lot about the pazzo, doesn't it? Link xie-xie to blogfriend Pursuit of Serenity, who observes -- very astutely -- that this news story was practically made for me.

Anyway, I don't think Italian pop star Gianluca Grignani has much to worry about. And I somehow don't think Silvio's going to be on Italian MTV anytime soon.

RELATED POST: Remember Carla Bruni's silly CD of love songs?

Movie Fun: Top 10 Movie Sequels Better Than the Original

Now here's an interesting list! All too often, sequels fall short, but every once in a while you find a real gem that's as good as -- or even better than -- the original film.

A few thoughts:
~"Star Trek 2" was far and away better than "Star Trek: the Motion Picture." KHAAAAAAN!
~I liked "Toy Story 2" better than the first "Toy Story."
~"Shrek" was fun, but "Shrek 2" was delightfully superior. Three words: Puss in Boots.
~Much as I love "Raiders of the Lost Ark," I love "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" even more.

Any thoughts?

Quirky Euro Files: Italy's Beauty Contest for Nuns

Oh, my! Only in Italy!

And what's even goofier? It was a priest's idea.

(Also, I cannot tell you how much self-control and restraint I'm using right now not to make snarky comments! I think I've used up my entire quota for the day.)

UPDATE: It's been canceled.

Beijing Olympics Watch: Thousands of Peasants Face Man-Made Drought

SURPRISE. Not really:

THOUSANDS of Chinese farmers face ruin because their water has been cut off to guarantee supplies to the Olympics in Beijing, and officials are now trying to cover up a grotesque scandal of blunders, lies and repression.

In the capital, foreign dignitaries have admired millions of flowers in bloom and lush, well-watered greens around its famous sights. But just 90 minutes south by train, peasants are hacking at the dry earth as their crops wilt, their money runs out and the work of generations gives way to despair, debt and, in a few cases, suicide.

In between these two Chinas stands a cordon of roadblocks and hundreds of security agents deployed to make sure that the one never sees the other.

The water scandal is a parable of what can happen when a demanding global event is awarded to a poor agricultural nation run by a dictatorship; and the irony is that none of it has turned out to be necessary.

. . . About 31,000 people around Baoding are said to have lost their homes or land.

Disgusting. Read the whole thing. More here with a slideshow that should make you cringe.

But haven't I been telling you forever that the shiny face of Olympics-ready Beijing conceals an entire underworld of misery that the CCP big shots don't want you to see? that they feel no qualms about steamrolling over their own people? that the vast populations of invisible peasants are the ones who suffer the most? Besides, man-made disasters are a fine old tradition in Communist China, doncha know?

PS: Hey, Obama, do you still want the US to emulate China in our infrastructure? Wise up.

Dalrymple on Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Exposing Soviet Evil

Via Samizdata, here is a Theodore Dalrymple piece that I somehow missed when it came out on two weeks ago. Take a look:

Gorgeous blurb:

Contrary to popular belief, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died last week at 89, told the world nothing that it did not already know, or could not already have known, about the Soviet Union and the Communist system. Information about their true nature was available from the very first, including photographic evidence of massacre and famine. Bertrand Russell, no apologist of conservatism, spotted Lenin’s appalling inhumanity and its consequences for Russia and humanity as early as 1920. The problem was that this information was not believed; or if believed, it was explained away and rendered innocuous by various mental subterfuges, such as false comparison with others’ misdeeds, historical rationalizations, reference to the supposed grandeur of the social ideals behind the apparent horrors, and so forth. Anything other than admission of the obvious.

Solzhenitsyn’s achievement was to render such illusion about the Soviet Union impossible, even for its most die-hard defenders: he made illusion not merely stupid but wicked. With a mixture of literary talent, iron integrity, bravery, and determination of a kind very rarely encountered, he made it impossible to deny the world-historical scale of the Soviet evil.

. . . And when he reminded us that the line dividing good from evil passes through every human heart, he said something that no human being should ever forget.

We need more Solzhenitsyns, more than ever in this illusion-obsessed age of the willingly, willfully self-deluded. "He made illusion not merely stupid but wicked." Indeed. Illusion isn't that far from collusion, after all.

And here I am in Nerdworld, watching "useful idiots" blithely march around wearing Communist-chic T-shirts as if millions of people hadn't suffered and died under those same images.

UPDATE: On the way home from campus today, I ran right into somebody wearing a CCCP jacket. It was unmistakable. And nothing drives me mad quite like Commie-chic. Ignorant young puppy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fun Video of the Day + Satire Alert: Usain Bolt Celebrates!

Yes, yes, IOC big shot Jacques Rogge wasn't impressed with the Lightning Bolt of Jamaica's post-race antics, but plenty of other people were . . . including the wits who produced this amusing video. Enjoy, as my humorous farewell to the Beijing Games:

Beijing Olympics Watch: What's In a Name?

Here's a great little piece about turning English names into their Chinese versions at the Beijing Games. Check it out: it has audio files too so you can actually hear what you're reading about.

FYI: "Michael Phelps" turns into "Maikeer Feierpusi." Really!

Tax Hero: One Man Takes On the IRS -- and Wins

One accountant's winning argument could lead to refunds for tens of thousands of people. Buy that man a beer!

For this, I think I shall create a new tag: "awesomeness." Oh, yes. Oh, yes, Po the Panda, sheer breathtaking awesomeness.

Quirky Asia Files: Australia Wants Sheep-Shearing Event at London Olympics

No, seriously!

Beijing Olympic Watch: Sports Reporter Vulture! Plus a Rant

This sports writer is apparently grinning with malicious glee at the idea of the US being toppled from its Olympic dominance.

While trumpeting about Team China, he goes on and on in this vein about Team USA:

Although the USA achieved more medals than in Athens four years ago, the American public were growing increasingly restive by the comedy of errors and big-name drop-outs: a softball team that flunked taking a fourth successive Olympic title; Tyson Gay, the world champion, not even getting to contest a sprint final; Daniel Cormer, captain of the US wrestling team down before he even got out onto the mat, embarrassingly carted off to hospital because he became dehydrated trying to make the weigh-in.

. . .The USA might be pretending not to have noticed, but there is a new Olympic order of priority led by China, whichever league table you want to read.

Well, OK, I grant that mentioned athletes, all of whom were carrying heavy expectations, did not do well. I grant that two US track-and-field relay teams crashed out in the qualifying heats because they failed to pass the baton successfully. I grant that US sprinters got outpaced by the amazing Lightning Bolt of Jamaica. I grant that American divers got massacred by the Chinese. I grant all that and more.

But. BUT. BUT.

DESPITE ALL THAT, despite all the supposed and actual failures, Team USA still won 110 medals -- the highest number of medals of any nation in the Games. I wouldn't start playing the funeral dirge for American sport yet! The writer even concedes that Team USA won more medals in Beijing than in Athens. Yet for him this isn't good enough at all. We're failures, don't you get it! FAILURES!

Only a sour Brit could make an achievement like 110 medals sound like total, abject, prostrate failure. I really find the title of his piece revelatory: "America refuses to accept defeat in Olympic medal count." Why should we "accept defeat"? We weren't defeated! We won 110 medals, of which 36 were gold. Oh, sure, you can retort that China won more golds (51 out of a medal total of 100), but I think it's ludicrous to start crowing that America is doomed in international sports. Oh, please. This sports writer, and people like him, are vultures.

Of course, I've been hearing a lot of whining (or should I say, "whinging") from British journalists about winners at the Beijing Games. Here's an example. Perhaps success really does breed carping envy. Pfft. Apparently now, when you lose, you win. But when you win, you lose. And there are some people so sour, petty, and bitter that they really seem to root for, thirst for, dream of, and lust after the failure of others.

So what do you want me to do? Do you want me to apologize for the glorious successes of Kobe Bryant and the Redeem Team of basketball? For the utterly amazing Michael Phelps? For the American relay swimmers who won gold in the most exciting relay to ever hit an Olympic pool? For Russian-American gymnast Nastia Liukin?

Call me just another ugly American yahoo, but I've still got my foam "We're Number One!" finger and I'm waving it while celebrating the achievements of a great Olympic team that boasted members from all kinds of backgrounds, nationalities, races, colors, ethnic groups, etc.

I'm not denigrating in any way the achievements of Team China, which had some truly splendid athletes. But I'm not about to let this British writer unjustly trash Team USA.

While I'm at it, let me offer my congratulations and best wishes to ALL the athletes who took part.

Movie Rumor News: A New "Highlander"?

This post is especially for La Parisienne and Alessandra -- well, and for me, too, since we all love Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Apparently the ladies just adore sword-wielding immortal Scottish warriors. (In TV, though; the movies largely reeked - though the Cine-Sib and I do love quoting Sean Connery's riff on haggis in the first flick.)

Here's a movie rumor that the original "Highlander" flick is being rebooted, possibly with rather delicious Scottish actor Kevin McKidd as the new MacLeod. McKidd was quite good in HBO's "Rome" and the TV series "Journeyman," so I'm hopeful. Still, Englishman Sean Bean might be nice too.

(No word on Methos, though. Sorry, La Parisienne!)

Obama Momentum Slows Down: Two Political Commentaries, Plus a Mini-Rant

Obama and McCain are basically even in the latest polls. Why isn't Obamessiah way ahead? There are plenty of commentaries about this, but I picked two to share.

Here's a delightfully snarky commentary by a Brit. Blurb:
There's trouble in paradise. Cancel the coronation. Send back the commemorative medals. Put those “Yes We Can” T-shirts up on eBay. Keep the Change.

Barack Obama's historic procession to the American presidency has been rudely interrupted. The global healing he promised is in jeopardy. If you're prone to emotional breakdown, you might want to take a seat before I say this. He might not win.

How can it be, you ask? Didn't we see him just last month speaking to 200,000 adoring Germans in Berlin? Didn't he get the red carpet treatment in France - France of all places? Doesn't every British politician want to be seen clutching the hem of his garment?

All true. But as cruel geography and the selfish designs of the American Founding Fathers would have it, Europeans don't get to choose the US president. Somewhere along the way to the Obama presidency, somebody forgot to ask the American people.

And wouldn't you know it, they insist on looking this gift thoroughbred in the mouth. Who'd have thought it? You present them with the man who deigns to deliver them from their plight and they want to sit around and ask hard questions about who he is and what he believes and where he might actually take the country. The ingrates!


And then there is this, the stupidest and most reductive, desperate-sounding tripe I've read yet about Obama's loss of momentum. Just look at the title: "If Obama Loses: Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him."

Got that? Obama's numbers are dropping because (and only because) we're all a bunch of grunting Neanderthal racists! Excuse me while I bang my low sloping forehead on my desk.

This little bit of whining just proved that the conservative wits at the National Review were very astute indeed with their recent tongue-in-cheek list of 25 reasons that you might be a racist. (Do take a look -- it's quite funny.)

Here's my personal take (a mini-rant), and I've got some shocking news. I don't care at all what Obama is or is not in terms of identity politics. You know that I think ID politics are stupid. I've decided that I'm not voting for Obamessiah because his policies are statist, he's in love with tax-and-spend, he has virtually no experience in governance, and his wishy-washy response to the Caucasus crisis was an indicator that he's not ready to lead in a dangerous world where it's not always enough to deify dialogue and run crying to the feckless UN. If all this makes me a racist, well, whatever.

(By the way, does it even matter that nobody cried "racism!" when conservative black candidate Michael Steele (whom I quite like) lost his campaign for the US Senate in 2006? Oh, and before that he was lieutenant governor of Maryland, FYI a state that before the American Civil War was a slave state. Why does nobody on the left hold up Indian-American conservative Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal as a great example of how the American Dream is alive and well, of how non-white people can indeed succeed in American public life? Are cries of "racist!" orchestrated in part along partisan lines? Also, I am not going to be bullied into voting for somebody whose policies I don't like just to "prove" I'm not a racist. And prove TO WHOM, eh? By the way, is this not the richest of ironies if a lot of white -- and otherwise -- Obama supporters are basically browbeating me, an Asian woman, into voting for their guy? Do these idea-bullies get a free pass because their guy happens to be black? So much for being post-racial, you rabid Obamaniacs!)

Anyway, a brief digression on the nature of my apparently rampant political "racism." McCain is an old, crotchety, irritating thorn in the conservative side; he's a plodding figure who has about zero eloquence and even less charisma. But he's the devil we know: the long-time veteran both of war and government. Obama was "new and improved," but now that the novelty's worn off, he, for all his beauty and coolness, is now beginning to make me wonder if he's also mainly a slick charlatan with a huge cult of personality. Is there anything really substantive behind that gorgeous smile and hordes of swooning young disciples? Is this guy the Joel Osteen of American politics? The eloquence is beginning to sound like facile glibness. The fact that he's also a big blank is beginning to bother me too. He's like a Rorschach test: his followers seem to project onto him all their own personal wishes and hopes. They want to believe, and nothing's as sweet as a little youthful self-delusion about sweeping utopian fantasies and messianic leadership. It's certainly more appealing than grim old reality, a crusty bald codger, and the McCain assurance not of "hope! change! hope! change!" but of living and working day in, day out in a complex and perilous world where life is hard. You know, the real world.

In this election, the voting public gets two choices, really: two people who might actually win. So pick one: McCain or Obama. It doesn't mean that you have to love or even like your choice, as much as one choice is less bad than the other one. Not choosing here means you're giving up your say to the vagaries of other people. (Golly, I'm cynical today! But my coffee has not kicked in yet, and I'm grumpy.) I guess McCain's like a big bowl of boring, tasteless, fibrous All-Bran and Obama's like a great big cloud of colorful cotton candy. One is ultimately better for you even if it won't win any taste tests or popularity contests. Maybe you'd rather have something else; I personally would rather have a nice big juicy prime rib (oh, so good!). But prime rib's not on the menu. The choices are All-Bran or cotton candy. End of my rant. OK. You may now proceed to call me a racist, etc.

UPDATE 1: Or maybe we're all not racists, but colorists, according to a nutty piece in the New York Times. "Colorist"? Well, color me unimpressed.

UPDATE 2: I didn't say this in my initial post, but maybe I should have: picking Joe Biden for VP does absolutely nothing to convince people to vote for this. Obama-Biden? Come on.

UPDATE 3: You know, I re-read the post and the bits about swooning young naive idealists, and now I'm thinking, when did I become a cranky old lady realist? Ah, well. Of course, I have a sneaking suspicion that I was (a) never young, and (b) never a naive idealist, either. Are some people simply born already cranky realists?

Also, I guess I've now declared for McCain, though I hadn't quite realized I'd actually done this -- but I guess it's inevitable if I cross out Obamessiah's name. Oh, dear.

Goofy Political Gaffe of the Day: Obama -- US Should Be More Like China


Riehl World View has the video clip and the ranting analysis, so he saves me a lot of work. (Thanks!)

Here is a blurb from the Obama speech about China:

"Their ports, their train systems, their airports are vastly superior to us now, which means if you are a corporation deciding where to do business you’re starting to think, “Beijing looks like a pretty good option. Why aren't we doing the same thing?”

Here is Riehl's response:

"Obama is either incredibly naive, terribly misinformed, a communist, just flat out dumb or all of the above to be caught on tape making a statement like that."

And/or Obamessiah is an even bigger China fanboy than Matt Lauer!

It's one thing for a journalist to be easily impressed and overawed by the shiny side of the new China and then turn into a China cheerleader without realizing what he's actually doing. But for a potential president of the US? Shameful. Does he really not know that behind the gleaming public face of China, the side it's shown to the world at the Games, there is a vast hidden side? Come on. Perhaps we should send Obamessiah to visit a few "cancer villages" or the ever-increasing crowds of poor rural Chinese who were displaced to make way for the shiny new infrastructure and hydroelectric projects.

UPDATE: TigerHawk piles on with a piquant post title.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hilarious Spoof Video of the Day: the "Satan's Alley" Trailer

Don't watch this if you haven't seen "Tropic Thunder" yet. If you have (and I do recommend it), then here's the "Satan's Alley" trailer again, because I just had to see it again. This fake ad for an equally fake upcoming Kirk Lazarus film had me laughing in the theater until my stomach hurt. Plus, music from Enigma! Enjoy -- and watch the eyes:

UPDATE: An enterprising YouTuber plays with the spoof with some "proof" to his hypothesis that "the trailer for Satan's Alley will sync up to every song in the universe."

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Ages: Meet Kitty Designer Yuko Yamaguchi

Time magazine recently interviewed the Antichrist -- um, I mean, Public Enemy Number One -- um, I mean, Yuko Yamaguchi, the woman who created and designed Hello Kitty.

Yuko Yamaguchi poses with her horrid brain-spawn

I think we can all safely shriek, "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT, YUKO!" with perfect justification.

Plus, if you had any lingering doubts that Yuko is completely evil, take a look at this quote from the interview. Any more doubt that she's determined to take over the world and subject us all to a horrifying global tyranny of cuteness?

Q: What will Hello Kitty be doing in 10 years?

A: In 10 years' time, everybody around the world will know her. Also, the number of male and female fans will be the same. Men who are still reluctant to be seen with Kitty in public today might be wearing Hello Kitty boxers. But they will eventually stop being shy and will show off Kitty proudly.

And here am I half-expecting Yuko to add, "Everybody around the world will know her...and love her...and worship her...OR ELSE. We are working on our legions of Hello Kitty storm troopers who will, with total charm, frog-march you to Kitty re-education camp where you will watch musical cartoons in pink painted rooms until you acknowledge the Rule of Cute. Or until your brain melts in a welter of blood and fire. Whichever comes first."

Plus -- Hello Kitty boxers?? OMG.

Euro Notes: French Wine Endangered by Plague of Bureaucrats

Not that you needed any more argument that too much bureaucracy ruins business (and everything else), but here you go. What a headline: "How bureaucrats are wrecking French wine."

I had recently posted about the desperate French wine terrorists.

Hm, all this talk about French wine (and its ups and downs) makes me want to go see "Bottle Shock."

Movie News: Yakuza-Flavored Brazil Nuts

And by Brazil nuts, I don't mean the tasty snacks.

I'm taking about this goofy premise for a new movie project: a Brazilian company wants to make an English-language movie set in Tokyo, with a story about the Yakuza, a Brazilian girl, and an American boy. Confused yet? The kitchen sink makes a cameo appearance.

The Obama-Biden Ticket: Quoting Joe

Obama-Biden's the ticket? Well, whatever. BIDEN's supposed to energize everybody and balance out Obamessiah? Meh. I shall also expect plenty of unhappiness from the Hillaristas at the Denver convention.

I was terribly amused, though, by this immediate response from the McCain campaign, which has cheerfully taken Biden's own words about Obama from a few months ago and reminded everybody that old Joe actually said them.

Maybe diamonds are forever, but in this age of YouTube and digital media, so are soundbytes.

UPDATE 1: More interesting Biden-isms here.

Remember, kids, it's time for some campaignin'! All we need now is McCain's VP pick, and we are really off to the races.

UPDATE 2: Awesomely hilarious video memory from Pursuit of Serenity, with Biden a while ago saying he's not interested in being VP.

Nerd Fun: A Vending Machine for Books!

I found this at Flickr. How fun! Location: Gatwick Airport in London.
Note the playful pun in the name: "Novel Idea."

MM in the Kitchen: Raspberry Scones

Saturday mornings are WONDERFUL!

Try these raspberry scones and see if they add a little more delicious fun to your weekend morning. They aren't shaped like the usual scones, and the addition of raspberry preserves (or any other kind of fruit jam you want, really), is a nice touch.

Add a good pot of coffee, perhaps some fresh fruit and yogurt, and you are ready for the day ahead!

Friday, August 22, 2008

MM in the Kitchen: Real Italian Pesto

Splendidly flavorful basil sauce from northern Italy . . . or bloggy declaration of food war?

This really wasn't my idea, but by golly, that darn Il Barista started it!

He called me up to gloat about how he made a gorgeously delicious homemade pesto sauce -- one that I couldn't enjoy because I was halfway across the country. What an evil thing to do! And he meant to do it, too. It was a deliberate act of premeditated food-taunting. And taunting hungry academics who are stuck writing papers in Nerdworld far from home . . .Well, that's just CRUEL.

Well, never let it be said that I take such challenges lightly. I went looking for a good pesto recipe to try on my own, and I think I have it. Take a look at this!!

*MM melodramatically flings down the recipe like a gauntlet.*

It's ON. Ladies do not start fights. But ladies can finish them. OK, Il Barista: when I've fled Nerdworld at the next break (probably Christmas, alas), I call a pesto-off! Who wants to be judges? La Parisienne? Noli Me Tangere? Cine-Sib? Foxtrot, Ladybird, Alessandra, Opera Diva, Zorba?



And we can even make Flying Shrapnel Death Pie for dessert.

Nerd News: Harvard #1 in New University Ranking

It sounds good, doesn't it? Hahvahd reigns supreme at #1 on the latest university ranking by US News and World Report.

Well, this is the first time in 12 years that Harvard has been #1 by itself (it has tied for the spot before). For the last 8 years in a row, another Ivy has been #1 -- and that's been Princeton.

Princeton's #2 this year, so the Kremlin-on-the-Charles is happy, I'm sure.

#3 is Yale, with MIT and Stanford tied at #4, followed in rapid succession by Caltech, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Duke, and Chicago to round out the top 10. The complete ranking is here.

I give you the usual caveat that all school rankings are subjective and imperfect, the methodology is always debatable, etc. etc.

Which Comic Book Superhero / Supervillain Are You?

Superhero: I'm Green Lantern! Description: "You are hot-headed, have strong willpower and a good imagination." O RLY? Hot-headed? Whatever gave you that idea? The numerous rants? The viciously verbal assaults on things I think are stupid? The name Mad Minerva? Hmmm. The funny little quiz is here. At least it didn't cop out and label me "Wonder Woman" on gender lines alone. It might be interesting to be the Huntress, though . . . And frankly, I'd love to be the Flash!

Supervillain: I'm Dr. Doom, "blessed with smarts and power, but burdened with vanity." What, me vain? Aw, come on, just because I run a blog that's all about me inflicting my opinions on the world . . . Errrr . . . OK . . . At least it wasn't Catwoman, all tainted by Halle Berry. Lady Deathstrike wouldn't have been soooooooo bad, I guess -- she's even Asian -- or the first literary supervillain of all, the pre-comic icon Professor Moriarty. What about you, O villainous reader?

UPDATE: Oh, but I like this superhero quiz even better, since the quiz itself is brimming with snappy, snarky attitude. This one told me that I was Superman and that I was "a wee bit boring" to be such a goody two-shoes! That quiz can't be right to call me a righteous, upright do-gooder. I thought everyone knew I was a cold, heartless warmongering capitalist oppressor and gender/race traitor, no?

Friday Fun + Quirky Asia Files: the Lego Olympics

Look at this cute Lego lunacy, created by some Hong Kong fans! The entire project required 300,000 Lego bricks and 4,500 people who had nothing better to do than play with 300,000 Lego bricks.

I still don't like the Bird's Nest stadium, whether it's the real version or the Lego one. The Lego Water Cube is rather cool-looking, though!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Satire Alert: Michael Phelps Returns to His Tank at SeaWorld

The Onion is hilarious.

Nerd Notes: Meet Mr. and Mrs. Nerd Lord

Professors marrying other professors? This happens a lot, apparently. Is this really "news"?

Look, I know of several cases where profs married their own students. Yuck! I'm not even going to talk about married profs having affairs with various and sundry campus people, graduate students, other married academics, etc.

Profs legitimately marrying other profs is an improvement on that, surely. Still, I am wicked and sarcastic, so I have a suggestion for what to call such pairings. You remember the yuppie term "DINK"s (Dual Income, No Kids)? For academic couples, perhaps we can have "TWIT"s (Two Wanting Influence and Tenure).

By the way, if you want an amusing nerd-movie that kind of, sort of has neurotic, dysfunctional prof-love in the plot, check out "Wonder Boys" (2000). Funny because it's too close to reality.

Beijing Olympic Watch: Fourth Medal for Taiwan

Congratulations to Sung Yu-chi, who won the bronze in tae kwon do in the men's "under 68 kg" category.

This is Taiwan's fourth medal (they've all been bronzes) for these Games. You'll remember the other medalists.

Can You Identify These Accents?

(Metrolingua, this one's for you!)

This is a really cool interactive feature! Can you identify the accents?

BONUS: You get your daily quota of Rudyard Kipling poetry!

Oh, for the next version of the accent game, it'd be fun to include Asian speakers of English too. There are more accents than just the stereotypical ones (even if I do loooove saying "flied lice"). Or a version purely of American regional accents. There are tons of different accents just on the East Coast.

Beijing Olympic Watch: Even the Horses Are Doping

Oh, my!

Nerd Analysis: Obama's Fiscal Plans are "Statist"

R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University Business School, looks at Obama's tax-and-spend ideas and finds them lacking in his analysis: "We Can't Tax Our Way Out of the Entitlement Crisis."

My favorite bits out of the whole piece? Hubbard's criticism of the European socialistic economic model and this ending quote:
The problem with Mr. Obama's fiscal plans is not that that they lack vision. On the contrary, the vision is plain enough: a larger welfare state paid for by higher taxes. The problem is not even that they imply change. The problem is that his plans are statist.
Precisely. You know how I feel about tax-and-spend -- and about statism too.

Also, hmmm, what to do, what to do about the money crunch? May I suggest the completely obvious starting points of:
  • Reduce entitlement spending. Heck, reduce government spending, period.
  • Promote economic growth. This includes cutting business taxes too, you know.

Bagels in Beijing

Looking for bagels in Beijing? It's a fascinating example of "East meets West." I have only 3 words for you: Stir-fried bagels. I kid you not!

Oh, and poppy seed bagels? Illegal in China. Yes, really.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beijing Olympic Watch: Third Medal for Taiwan

Congratulations to Chu Mu-yen, the defending Olympic champion, who took bronze this time in the men's tae kwon do competition (category: under 58 kg).

Folks were hoping he would repeat his golden moment from Athens, but a bronze is nothing to laugh at! This is Taiwan's third medal (and third bronze) in these games; the other medalists are women weightlifters Lu Ying-chi and Chen Wei-ling.

Beijing Olympic Watch: Turn In Your Application to Protest and Get a Free Trip to a Labor Camp!

Last time I had complained that no applications for licensed protest had been approved by Chinese authorities.

Now the whole mess of free expression takes a turn. Two elderly women applied to protest, and not only did they not get approval -- they get sentenced to a labor camp too. What a bargain. Blurb:
Two women in their late 70s have been sentenced to a year of "re-education through labor" after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.

The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to obtain permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing. During their final visit, on Monday, Public Security officials informed them that they had been given administrative sentences for "disturbing the public order," according to Li Xuehui, Wu's son.

. . . The repeat arrests and detentions of aspiring protesters who appeared to follow official procedures for registering their complaints are perhaps the most striking example of how the Olympics have so far failed to force China to relax political controls, even for the short duration of the games.

Quirky Euro Files: Italian Mayor Bans Sand Castles

No sand castles for you! What happened to that famous Italian sense of la dolce vita? Il dolce far niente seems to have disappeared too, replaced by il dolce banning dang near everything.

I can't make this stuff up if I tried. Link xie-xie to blogfriend Pursuit of Serenity.

MM in the Kitchen: My Next Baking Project?

I am actually thinking about trying to make these cookies. Or maybe these cupcakes. Thoughts?

Yes, I am insane. Yes, it's fun to be insane in the kitchen! Yes, kitchen-madness is a fine way of avoiding academic research and the perils of footnoting. And yes, I'm also looking for a cool new baking trick so I can impress people when I have company. Which is rare these days. Because I am insane.

Movie News: Jon Favreau on Tax Breaks and Business Incentives

Well, whaddya know? Somebody's figured out that tax breaks might be good for staying competitive and for keeping businesses from running away. More here, with blurb:
"Iron Man" director Jon Favreau and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have become unexpected partners in a push to create tax breaks for film and television shows in an effort to keep their production in California, a political cause that has very little traction with state lawmakers and, to the governor's chagrin, even less footing in celebrity fundraising circles.

There's been a 40% decline in the number of film production days shot on location in Los Angeles since 1997, and the stampede east by the makers of high-profile projects is intensifying after New York Gov. David Paterson signed a bill in April delivering a lush new package of incentives.

There are about 40 states that covet Hollywood business enough to offer tax breaks and rebates that can significantly reduce overall production costs for a movie or TV show. The local economy in these states benefits by hosting the productions, which spend money on labor and materials, hotels and restaurants, and a host of other things. Michigan, Mississippi and Georgia have recently put incentives into place, and New York's new program give a 30% tax rebate on a production's "below-the-line" costs -- generally, expenses not related to the cast, writer, producer, director, stunts and story rights.
The whole thing is capitalism, free markets, and the entrepreneurial impulse at their most vibrant -- plus the result is a boost to the local economy. I guess, then, that I shouldn't be too surprised that Cali state lawmakers and the entrenched, committed-to-the-left elite don't want any part of it. They're living in their own little ideological bubble.

Anyway, aside from my delight with Jon Favreau and his work on the "Iron Man" franchise, I'm also posting this so I can declare my new delight at his sensible view on real-world economic policy. Oh, plus I really want to say, with a lingering, loving, purring sigh, the words TAX BREAKS. And INCENTIVES.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm . . . TAX BREAKS. Better than donuts.

UPDATE: A bit more here on Favreau and keeping "Iron Man" production in Cali - or, in Ahnoldspeak, Cah-lee-fohr-nee-yah.

A Fan in Despair: Star Wars Is Now Dead To Me

Hear that, Star Wars? You're dead to me! So says long-time fan John of The Movie Blog. I can fully appreciate and concur with his words when he proceeds to say:
. . . a beloved movie franchise turns itself into a laughing stock, loses all touch with its true fan base and finally becomes so bad that even the most die hard and loyal supporters of the franchise are forced to look in the mirror and acknowledge that the glory is gone, and accept the beloved object of their fandom is dead.

As a life long Star Wars fanatic I had to face the facts and finally say the words. STAR WARS IS DEAD, AND MY OBSESSION HAS DIED WITH IT.

John also looks back and points to Jar Jar Binks as the beginning of the end. True dat.

UPDATE: Star Wars fan Harry from Ain't It Cool is saying something similar with a profanity-laced rant. George Lucas seems to be actively trying to drive away the dedicated fans as quickly as possible. He lost me years ago.