Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Geek Fun: Hacking Road Signs + Zombies

From the Cinema-Mad Sibling, himself  a computer geek by profession, comes this hilarious tale of computer hackers wreaking havoc on road signs.

The result?  Awesome:

Road rage.

I guess I better be careful, since my chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse are low!

Political Humor of the Day: the New Obama Tax Calculator

Well, it is tax season now.  Have fun with the new Obama Tax Calculator!

Scary Trend of 2009: Knife-Wielding Asian Maniacs

All right, this is now becoming ridiculous, as three news stories have emerged in as many weeks.  Three instances of anything makes a pattern, and right now we're seeing a trend of knife-wielding Asian maniacs.

Here's the trifecta of slasherrific news:

1.  The sushi restaurant waiters who took up sashimi knives against robbers.  OK, of the trifecta, this part is the only one that's even remotely justifiable (self-defense), even if it is (a) Tarantino-esque and (b) just plain crazy.

2.  Next: the sushi chef road rage incident in New York City.  It's one thing to yell obscenities or make rude gestures while driving, but hauling out a knife and assaulting  another driver?  The sushi chef got arrested.  The other guy got 100 stitches to close up his wounds.  Ouch.

3.  This is an unspeakably terrible news story from Virginia Tech, where one Chinese grad student murdered another with a kitchen knife.  Even worse: he then beheaded her corpse. 

Nerd Notes: Branford Marsalis on Students

Renowned saxophonist Branford Marsalis talks about teaching and about students.  He's got some politically incorrect but factually correct things to say about a wide segment of the current student culture.  Bring on the home truths, sir!

Caveat: obviously, not all students are like the ones whom Marsalis describes.  Still, as a teacher, I've run into far too many who are.   Listen to what Marsalis has to say about overinflated self-esteem, self-absorption, and the refusal to do any honest, real, hard work.

Slight language warning:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Nerd News: University Chancellor Delivers Home Truths to Parents

Check this out -- some fiery words from Jim Rogers, university chancellor of the University of Nevada system, as he took aim at apathetic parents:

"Your only relationship with the education system is to ship your unprepared kids to school, not with the expectation of success, but with the demand that an education system, inadequately funded, develop and/or repair children that you as a parent did not prepare for school or support while your children attended school," Rogers said.

. . . "You have to take part in your child's education," Rogers said. "Your responsibility does not stop as they walk out the door to catch the bus."

HOO BOY! I don't know about you, but I'm kinda LIKING this. OK, OK, parents alone aren't the whole problem, but some parents are part of the problem, and that's just the truth.

Cute Video of the Day: Baby Elephant Play Time

From Ninme comes this link to the cutest video you'll see all day:

Happy Chinese New Year -- It's the Year of the Ox!

In a way, it's not really fair to call it "Chinese New Year," since all Asia celebrates the Lunar New Year/Spring Festival, along with just about every overseas Asian community there is. If your city has a Chinatown, it will be celebrating with firecrackers, parades, lion dances, and all the festivity it can muster -- even if the weather's cold.

This year is the Year of the Ox! Bring on the food, firecrackers, and ang pao -- especially the ang pao!

Try some of these recipes too. Fish, sweets, and dumplings are among the traditional goodies on the Chinese New Year table.

PS: Australian Asians get a double dose of fun and festivity -- Today is Australia Day too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nerd Notes: The Humanities in a Time of Budget Crisis

The lastest go-round in an endless debate/discussion/throwdown. It's the Bonfire of the Humanities.

Honestly, I'm tired of having to justify my own existence all the time. Anyway, how stupid would you have to be in order to discount the value of history? OK, that sounded elitist and snotty. Sorry. But, really, the person who doesn't know any history is forever a child.

Mark Steyn Reflects on the Obamapotheosis -- I Mean, Inauguration

Mark Steyn takes a humorous look at the Obamapotheosis and the Obamacolytes who gushed over it: "Oh, yes, yes, yessssssss, we can!"


Nerd News: 4000 Students and the Epic Snowball Fight at Wisconsin-Madison

Today, 4000 students of the University of Wisconsin at Madison will attempt to stage a Guinness world record-size snowball fight. The record currently belongs to 3700 students at Michigan Tech from 2006 (photo here).

Local police and medical crews are standing by in Madison. If I were there, I would SO be at the epic snowball fight with all my friends. You're never too old and grown-up to grab some snow and smack a buddy with a flying snowball.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Horrific Lisa Loeb Music Video

Well, it was only a matter of time before I sully this blog with the first Hello Kitty Monstrosity post of 2009, and here it is.

There's so much that's wrong with the following music video that I don't even know where to begin . . . but I'll just post it and leave you to it.

See if you, like me, at some point in the video start screaming, "It's alive, it's alive! Kill it! Kill it now! KILL IT WITH FIRE!"

UPDATE: I've just heard from Alessandra. She recommends first decapitating Hello Kitty and then setting her on fire, just to be sure. OK, note to self.

Friday Fun: Simpsons Art

What happens when famous paintings meet the Simpsons? Hilarity ensues.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kitchen Notes: Awesome Video of the Day -- Let Them Animate Cake

I hope this puts the icing on the cake where your day is concerned.  The music is from "La Traviata."  The animation is sheer delight.  Wait for the colorful climax at the very end!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Demotivator Commentary: Inaugural Post on the Errr...Inauguration

I've always enjoyed the playfully satiric images known as "demotivators," which were first created by Despair, Inc. On this blog, I've occasionally posted them, but the majority of them had been created by others.

It's time to stake my claim to demotivator creativity. I've started making my own, and I've been having such a great time that I think I'll start inflicting more of these on you. So here's the first attempt at social/political commentary via demotivator. As usual, click to enlarge.

The buck stops here.

When he was elected, I said it's time to give him a chance. So I am. So let's. Now on to the good stuff -- as apparently I'm amusing largely when I'm ranting poisonously.


Well, that's basically my opinion. Guess where the vintage photo comes from. Hint: it's from across the pond.


That one's for the most extreme of the Obamacolytes of the Obamessiah.  Sorry, folks, but he can't magically give us each our very own pet baby unicorn, etc. 

Coffee Mania: the Western Regional Barista Competition

FYI, CPD and Noli Me Tangere!, the best baristas on the West Coast are soon to compete for bragging rights at the Western Regional Barista Competition, which will be held January 23-25 in Los Angeles.

Other gentle readers: if any of you are in the LA area, this contest is free and open to the public. I'd go if I could! Here's the flyer:

Performance art.

Political Humor of the Day: Jon Stewart on Obama's Inauguration Speech

Ah, the delightful Jon Stewart is right on schedule with a humorous look at Inauguration-a-palooza and presidential speeches.

My own take: Obama's delivery was excellent, but the content of the speech was kind of . . . boilerplate and vanilla. Some of it sounded really familiar -- and apparently I wasn't the only one to think so! Take it away, Jon!

OK, Exhibit A of media hype. Take a look at this CNN piece about the speech. It says, and I quote (my emphasis on one egregiously drool-y moment):

President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural address is one of the most anticipated speeches in decades, with many expecting his words to be chiseled into marble some day.

That's how the news piece begins. Oh, for goodness sake.

Nerdworld Soundtrack, Post-Inaugural Edition: Van Halen

After yesterday's all-day, all-night media orgy of staggering fawning and triumphalism, not to mention unbelievable levels of hype (was it me, or was it the media version of teenage girls fainting and shrieking over Edward Cullen?), I have chosen a musical selection to match.

Look, I'm not directing this at the new president. No, this is dedicated to the "news" media and their nausea-inducing swoonfest and total abandonment of any pretense of objectivity. Some members of the press did everything but fling their undies at the president. Hm, that puts me in mind of crazy rock concerts, which brings me to today's Nerdworld Soundtrack pick.

I give you . . .

"Can't Stop Loving You" by Van Halen.

Turn up your speakers!

Nerd Notes: Budget Crises and Fallout on Campus -- a Hypothetical Fable

Hmmm, a little too close to what would probably happen in real life in the same circumstances!

Nerd News: Is the Law Professor Gravy Train Over?

The TaxProf blog has an interesting post (with links too). Do read -- and click -- and read some more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obamania: The Obama Inauguration Speech Generator

OK, so this is really just Mad Libs, but it's still amusing. I give you the Obama Inauguration Speech Generator!

The real Obama's quite a gifted orator, so I am expecting a good speech from him today. I'm just refusing to listen to any of the pundits, reporters, and commentators all day long today, because the hype has reached official ludicrous levels.

RELATED POST: Make your own Obama poster!

UPDATE: Yes, in case you were wondering, I'm watching the Inauguration Parade with the sound turned off. Really.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nerd Journal: 1 Paper Done, Taking a TV Break

*cue the Hallelujah Chorus!*

I finished one paper today! It's 32 pages long, including footnotes but not including the bibliography (which I'm still finishing). Still, the hard part -- the writing -- is done!

I'm feeling celebratory, so I've been playing on the blog a little more today than my 3-posts-per-day limit, and I'm about to take a big break to watch tonight's new episode of "24."

The Cine-Sib will be watching it too, halfway across the country. Monday nights are Sibling Nights, shared with phone calls during and after "24," while Thursday nights are Girls Night Out with "Supernatural," the Evil Enablers, and text messages. See, TV can be interactive and sociable!

So, since I rule the TV, I give you my latest homemade demotivator poster. As usual, click to enlarge.

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "Chandni Chowk To China"

The Cine-Sib's latest recommendation is "Chandni Chowk To China," which he describes in his email as the "first ever Indian Bollywood kung fu comedy."

It sounds like quite a mashup of two very different genres of Asian cinema! I've got to see this thing.

Here is the movie's official website. Turn up your speakers! Be sure to see the theatrical trailer.

Satire Alert: The UN Acquires Nuclear Weapons

The Onion strikes comedy gold yet again with this fake news story. Blurb:
NEW YORK—The United Nations, a highly organized governing body bent on world peace, has obtained a nuclear warhead and intends to use the dangerous device to pursue its radical human rights agenda, sources reported Monday.

News of the nuclear weapon first surfaced late last week when the United Nation's own watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency, released startling new satellite photos of the uranium-based device. Shortly thereafter, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a short and brazen list of demands, calling on all nations to "bow down at once to social progress."

Obamania: Make Your Own Obama Poster

The Presidential Inauguration is fast approaching. As much as I appreciate the pageantry and history of it all, I can only tolerate a certain amount of media madness and pie-eyed silly fawning before I feel the irresistible compulsion to make fun of the whole thing.

So, here is the first installment of Inauguration-inspired humor. Now, I'm sure you all recognize this famous Obama image:

This thing is practically begging to be spoofed and parodied, and indeed now you can make your own Obama poster! Upload your own photo, type in a slogan, and you're done!

I went and made my first Obamicon spoof, and I post it here for your amusement. It's dedicated to my Evil Enablers, La Parisienne, the Kamikaze Editor, and the Cinema-Mad Sibling, all of whom banded together and got me addicted to . . . well, you know.

So! Fellow "Supernatural" fans, is it Hope and Change that we want, or is it . . .

Taiwan + Nerd News: President Ma's Harvard Mentor Offers Advice

I've been too busy to post much about the ongoing mess in Taiwan (go see various posts and links at Turton's blog), but I can't resist posting this one particular news story.

Most of you probably know by now that Ma Ying-jeou studied at Hahvahd in his student days. Now, in the middle of the political and legal circus surrounding the indictment of former president Chen Shui-bian, Ma's Hahvahd mentor and Nerd Lord has gone public with criticism and advice for his former student. Here is a piece of it:
The Harvard Law School mentor of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou said Saturday that his former student needs to urgently act to prevent an "increasingly disturbing circus atmosphere" from prejudicing his predecessor's right to a fair trial.

. . . "It is as if there are people trying to repudiate all the progress that Taiwan has made over the past 15 years," he said, referring to the island's gradual transition from dictatorship to multiparty democracy.

. . . Cohen said Ma's handling of the Chen case revealed an apparent choice to placate the extremist wing of his ruling Nationalist Party rather than reaching out to Taiwan's broad political middle.

Ma, I hope you're paying attention. You still have a lot to learn, grasshopper.

Cohen's comments follow an unspeakably disgraceful episode involving various lawyers, prosecutors involved in the Chen case, and the Justice Minister himself (details here).

MM in the Kitchen: Baby Bok Choy

I love baby bok choy. LOVE it. It's probably my favorite Asian vegetable. In Taiwanese, it has a funny, evocative name. It translates literally into English as "spoon vegetables" because if you look at one of the leaves, it resembles a Chinese ceramic soup spoon. Clever, no?

Here's a great photographic lesson in my favorite way to cook these lovely leaves. Sesame oil optional, and you don't have to use both garlic and ginger. One or the other will do just fine. Baby bok choy is easy and delicious! Serve with anything.

By the way, there are several sorts of vegetables that are called "baby bok choy" by Western grocers. I prefer the ones with the green stems, not those with the white stems, which are a miniature version of bok choy proper.

Oh, and I found this little piece about baby bok choy in the WaPo from a while back. WTTPWS!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Euro Notes: Dutch Skating Pandemonium as Canals Freeze

Ice Landscape by Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634)
Oil on canvas; Staatliches Museum Schwerin

The canals freeze in the Netherlands, and the Dutch are flocking out there.  The result is ice skating pandemonium, though folks seem to be having fun (see the cool news photo of skaters, canals, and the iconic windmills).  Blurb:

NIEUWERKERK AAN DEN IJSSEL, Netherlands: For the first time in 12 years, the Netherlands' canals froze this month, bringing the Dutch, who like their tulips in neat rows, a heady mix of pandemonium and euphoria.

Hundreds of thousands of skaters, their cheeks as red as apples in the freezing temperatures, took to the ice, and hospital wards were filled with dozens of people with fractured arms, sprained ankles and broken legs.

Train engineers were ordered to go slowly to avoid hitting skaters who clambered across railway tracks to get from one frozen canal to another. Even the minister of defense, an avid skater, fell and broke his wrist. His ministry announced that the national defense remained in safe hands, even if one of them was in a cast.

OK, I'm now waiting for some nanny government bureaucrat to ban ice skating for being a health hazard.

PS: Now go read the classic 19th-century children's tale of Hans Brinker.  Also, check out how important ice skating is to Dutch culture and take a peek at the lovely winter landscapes of various Dutch masters, such as Amsterdam-born Hendrick Avercamp.  If you're crazy-athletic, you can look at the grueling Dutch ice skating marathon known as the Elfstedentoch (skate 200 kilometers through 11 cities in 1 day with 16,000 other crazy enthusiasts!).

Idiotic "News" of the Day: the Chopstick Diet

This news "story" explores the idea that eating with chopsticks will help you lose weight.


The brain trust who came up with this idea has clearly never seen real chopstick users eat with them.  Oh, yeah, it's easy enough to give chopsticks to amateurs and watch them muddle along.  But the whole "chopstick diet" idea is predicated almost entirely on technical expertise with the apparatus -- i.e., the lack of it.

People who really know how to use chopsticks (and I'm not saying Asians only -- I mean anybody, and I've seen this happen)  can shovel as much food as people using other utensils.  Whoever came up with the "chopstick diet" idea has never seen me eat with chopsticks.

As for those amateurs?  The better they get at using chopsticks, the less effective this preposterous "diet" will be.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Fun Video: "Star Wars" Retold

Note: this is "Star Wars" retold by somebody who has never seen all three original movies in their entirety. Hilarious! May the farce be with you, gentle reader.

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Quirky Euro Files: Czech Artist Pulls Off Magnificent Art Prank

I won't spoil it by trying to explain. Read all about it here, here (with some fabulous close-up photos of the art), and here, and then see humorist Mark Steyn's take on it here and here. Goofing around with national stereotypes is playing with fire in today's oppressively politically-correct atmosphere, but it can be uproariously funny. Add an elaborate and splendidly successful hoax, and this is sheer subversive, tweak-the-authority humor.

My instinct is to applaud David Cerny, the playful Czech artist-trickster. Hoodwinked, duped Euro-crats, predictably, are not amused. Yes, some people are offended. And yes, some people are calling for the art project to be banned. So much for artistic liberty, eh? Crushed under the heel of Brussels? How does one say "censorship" in each of the EU's gazillion official languages? Sometimes in terms of public relations, Europhiles are their own worst enemies. As this headline says, "Czech sculpture tests EU sense of humour" -- and found it sadly lacking . . . though plenty of other folks are giggling appreciatively.

Meanwhile enjoy the prankish art and notice that, amid all the nations, one is missing -- the Euroskeptic UK!

UPDATE: The Bulgaria part of the sculpture will be taken off. Aw, spoilsport Eurocrats.

Ave atque Vale: Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009)

The Cinema-Mad Sibling and I are mourning the death of Ricardo Montalban, who died yesterday at the age of 88.

His film and TV career spanned 60 years (you can look at the IMDB entry for that), and here is a fascinating film clip from his 1947 American film debut, dancing with Cyd Charisse in Fiesta. (What a handsome devil too, at 26.) Among other roles, he was later famous as the mysterious Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island," and his distinctive voice made commercials memorable. ("Corinthian leather"!)

Still, the Cine-Sib and I remember him most fondly as Khan Noonien Singh, absolutely the best Star Trek villain EVER from 1982's "Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan." (Check out the trailer.) No other Trek villain even comes close. That performance is iconic in pop culture. Besides, he managed to freak out Captain Kirk while wearing one of the most ludicrous outfits in Trek moviedom. And nobody but nobody did scenery-chewing rage and revenge better than Khan, and he did it with an articulate aplomb that one never sees anymore.

In fact, I give you this for fun:

Arguably, Montalban's Khan was more fun to watch than any other character in that flick, even Captain Kirk. So, in tribute to the late, great Ricardo Montalban, won't you join the Sibling and me? You know what to do.


UPDATE 1: From movie blog What Would Toto Watch comes news that TCM will be airing a Montalban movie marathon in tribute. Program your Tivos and DVRs!

UPDATE 2: The weather here in Nerdworld is horrifically cold, so I can't help linking to this charming musical number from 1949's "Neptune's Daughter." Yes, the first half of the clip features Montalban singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to Esther Williams. Enjoy this Oscar-winning tune!

UPDATE 3: Try this link to the video.

Nerd Fun: Winter Pranks with Snow and Pharmacy Students

Via Neatorama comes this great story of humorous pharmacy students who created their own "Calvin and Hobbes" world of snow-people. Be sure to look through the entire photo gallery. Here's one photo:

(apologies to Jonathan Swift)

The students attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center of Pharmacy, and they've clearly learned that laughter is the best medicine.

The snowpeople project was done in 2007, but it's still awesome.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Bailout Game!

Total Financial Apocalypse has never been so much fun! Go on, play the online Bailout Game, and good luck!

Have fun crashing the economy, kids! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Amusing opinion here: "There’s no way to win, and thus no strategy for playing. Whom you save and whom you don’t is almost entirely a matter of whim. Which makes it eerily realistic."

Anyway, the cartoony graphics are hilarious, and so are the fake news items in the news ticker at the bottom of the screen. Be sure too to click on the "Ask a Greenspan" button to get some amusingly silly "advice." The cheerful music is the icing on the cake; it reminds me of the "Sims" game (another of my many vices).

RELATED POST: Play the Budget Hero game and see if you can balance the federal budget!

UPDATE 1: I actually played the Bailout Game and didn't totally destroy the economy! In fact, I "won" and made it onto the leader board. If you get there, you can look for my blog name until someone with a higher score bumps me off. For now, though . . . Move over, Hank Paulson!

UPDATE 2: I just told Alessandra about my win, and she replied incredulously, "YOU . . . made it onto the leader board?!" Hmmm. Well, I'd like to see the federal government do any better!

Banzai Self-Defense: Japanese Waiters 1, French Robbers 0

I filched this Parisian news story from awesome Aussie Tim Blair, who punningly referred to the tale as "slashimi." Take a look:

Two men carrying a knife and an electronic stun gun stormed the Planet Sushi restaurant in the city's Latin Quarter on Sunday night, demanding money from the till.

But the team of Japanese staff turned on the men, stabbing one to death with a fish knife used for preparing sushi dishes, while the other was pinned to the ground outside the restaurant.

A witness said the restaurant was full when the men burst in.

"They pointed an stun gun at a waiter and demanded the cash from the till, but the staff grabbed kitchen knives and charged at the men," he said.

I don't know what else to say but, "Dude. Somebody tip those waiters!"

Didn't know that self-defense was the menu item du jour, did you? Oh, and hey . . . The scene, horrifying in real life, would make an absolutely awesome action scene for a movie. The Cinema-Mad Sibling would agree. (Hey, didn't Steven Segal once play a cook with kung-fu skills?)

UPDATE: Alessandra expresses no sympathy for the would-be robbers: "What kind of TOTAL (expletive) IDIOT tries to rob a sushi restaurant using a knife? A restaurant full of Japanese who are highly skilled in the use of . . . hello, knives? You'd be better off trying to rob a French bistro. Everybody in that sushi place is armed with (expletive) sashimi knives. I mean, I know that criminals are often stupid, but . . . What idiots."

I suggest that you don't get on the wrong side of a sushi chef. Or of Alessandra, for that matter!

By the way, sashimi knives are things of carefully crafted beauty and near-surgical precision. One of my friends is a sushi chef who trained for years to master his slicing skills. Those sushi chefs are kitchen samurai.

Nerd News: Financial Trouble and South Korean Students Going Abroad

Many South Korean students include time studying abroad as part of their educational plans, but the current money crunch is making that difficult. Take a look as the Korean economy and currency buckle:

In October, the Education Ministry said the number of elementary and secondary students going abroad fell in the first half of 2008 for the first time since the government started keeping count a decade ago. In a separate report, the central bank said spending on overseas education fell 5.8 percent in the same period from the year before, to $2.3 billion, the largest decline since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

While job security and the overall slowing of the economy play a role, the biggest factor has been the rapidly falling won, education experts and students say. The currency's drop from a peak of nearly 900 per dollar in mid-2008 to about 1,370 per dollar now translates to a 50 percent increase in the price of foreign goods - like tuition, room and board, and airfare - in just a few months.

To be sure, Choi and others say, many South Koreans seeking advanced degrees, especially at top American or European universities, are likely to go anyway.

But a larger number of students enroll in short-term, often one-year programs, to study English or other languages. Last year, about 150,000 South Koreans went abroad for this kind of study. This year, the number is likely to fall 30 percent to 40 percent, Choi said.

There are all sorts of other concerns involved too both in the short and the long term. Read the article.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nerd Journal: Papermania and an Attempt at Self-Control...Sort Of

I have two major papers due by the end of January, so I'll have to cut down on my computer playtime. (I know, I know. Less playtime? Noooooooooooooo!)

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to try to limit myself to no more than 3 blog posts per day until my papers are completed. 2 papers at about 30 pages each = 60 pages, and that's not counting footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, or abstracts. I've already started the research and writing process, at least, but it's still not going to be much fun.

Ugh! For the rest of today, though, I'll go back to the library (the Library of DOOOOOOOOM!), pick up some more books, finish a long-delayed movie review that I promised La Parisienne, come home to make dinner, and make a few phone calls after I read one last article. Then, predictably, I'll probably fall asleep in my books. It's the glamorous, exciting life of a campus nerd, all right.

Random Thought: I hope the article isn't totally written in Nerdish (you know what I'm talking about -- Nerdspeak, academic jargon jammed with buzzwords, obscurantist argumentation, and trendy phrases). Some folks recommended it, but I wonder if the article will be one of those things that I read and then say afterwards, "Why did I even bother reading that? What a waste of time! At least I can ransack the bibliography -- which I should have done first and saved myself the bother of reading this mess." *throws away her Nerdish-English dictionary*

Quirky Euro Files: Put Oktoberfest on the UNESCO World Heritage List!

Really? Well, one group of enthusiasts thinks so.

Cool Photos Everyday: NASA's Astronomy Photo Archive

You can see a new photo every day or browse through the archive. Some of the photographs are absolutely stunning (such as this eye-popping shot of the planet Saturn, photo of the day on January 11).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Geek Fun: the Microsoft Keynote Speech at CES

The Microsoft keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show had its own brand of geeky humor. Take a look at the "emails" that speaker Steve Ballmer has received. Click to enlarge:

PS: if you're unsure who Jerry Yang is, look here.

Geek Fun and Satire Alert: The New Mac Laptop!

The Consumer Electronics Show starts, and geeks galore are following it closely.

Take a look at some geek humor that's been amusing the Sibling and me this morning. From the humorists at the Onion comes this latest "report" from the Onion News Network:

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Amazing Art: Cityscapes!

All the photos here are really interesting, but you've simply got to see the San Francisco made out of pots and pans and the Shanghai made out of poker chips and dice.

Satire Alert: Tim Blair and Gaza Rockets

Tim Blair, tongue in cheek, proves he can be a spin doctor with the best of them when he writes:
"Every day, hard-working Gaza craftsmen lovingly create a new batch of their celebrated modest home-made rockets – which are then exported throughout the region."

Quirky Asia Files: Popular Chinese Blogger Is Named Mao

What's in a name? He isn't simply named Mao (Mao Xinyu, to be precise). He's also the grandson of THAT Mao, Mao Zedong. He even looks like his forebear, whom he idolizes. (Don't read his adoring opinion of his mass murdering grandfather unless you want to be sick.)

Anyway, Mao Xinyu is now a very popular blogger in China. Last year in a poll, it was voted the most popular blog. And who ran the survey, you ask? The CCP propaganda mill otherwise known as The People's Daily. Seriously. I can't make this stuff up if I tried!

Japanese Living History: Yabusame, Samurai Archery

Take a look at yabusame, the sport of Japan's samurai -- archery on horseback.

The competitions and exhibitions, done in full traditional clothing and gear, must be quite a sight! Or, to give you a quotation:
"There is nothing like this outside of Japan," said Ietaka Kaneko, who heads the Japan Equestrian Archery Association and the Takeda School of Horseback Archery, which traces its origins back more than 800 years.

Take a look at some cool photos from the Japan Equestrian Archery Association.

Quirky Asia Files: Japan's Bicycles That Deliver Soup

Here something new and intriguing from that bottomless source of Quirky Asia File posts, Japan!

This time: bicycles that have been specially equipped to help deliver soup. The solution to prevent soup spilling -- a weird contraption that makes sure the soup bowl is always perfectly balanced and horizontal, no matter how the bicycle itself is moving.

You really have to see it to believe it! Check out the last photo in particular. (Link via OhGizmo). That does it; I'm tagging this under "Awesomeness" too. What fabulous ingenuity!

Geek News: Tech Lust at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show

It's the annual festival of tech lust at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show!

Wired has full coverage, as does Gizmodo, OhGizmo, Engadget, and every other tech website.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Film Culture Commentary: the "Big Hollywood" Blog Launches

Breitbart's new project, a group blog effort named Big Hollywood, launches today.

Looks interesting. Roger L. Simon recommends it, so I'll have to take a look!

Also, what do you think of the Breitbart Thesis: that pop culture is more important than politics? Too bad that right now both areas are (for the most part) reeking swamps of appalling sewage.

Euro Notes: the New Mayor of Rotterdam

Meet the new boss, Moroccan-born Ahmed Aboutaleb, whose rise to power is being hailed as a groundbreaking victory for the integration of immigrants into Dutch politics.

Nerd Notes on Literary Lunacy -- the 100 Greatest English-Language Novels of the 20th Century

This list ranks Ulysses by James Joyce as #1. My response is: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Ulysses was an 800-page morass of incomprehensible word slush. I read it, yes I did, and I don't see what the big deal is. Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was much better.

Anyway, here are the top 20 supposedly greatest English-language novels of the 20th century. All rankings and selections are (naturally) up for fierce debate (the fiercer and more acrimonious, the better?). How many have you read?

1. (1922) Ulysses, James Joyce
2. (1925) The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. (1916) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
4. (1955) Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

5. (1932) Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
6. (1929) The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
7. (1961) Catch-22, Joseph Heller
8. (1940) Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler
9. (1913) Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
10. (1939) The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
11. (1947) Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
12. (1903) The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
13. (1949) Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
14. (1934) I, Claudius, Robert Graves
15. (1927) To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
16. (1925) An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
17. (1940) The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
18. (1969) Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
19. (1952) Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
20. (1940) Native Son, Richard Wright

Monday, January 05, 2009

Movie Preview: Stephen Chow's "CJ7"

This time, *I* am giving an Asian movie preview, not the Cinema-Mad Sibling. Hey, give me some credit, yes?

If you liked the Stephen Chow action-comedies "Shaolin Soccer" and "Kung Fu Hustle" (both are hilarious), you may like his new, upcoming effort: "CJ7."

Here's the official movie website and the trailer:

NYC Mayor Bloomberg on Proportionality

I've mentioned the idea of "proportionality" before in relation to military operations. Now New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg rips into the idea with no reservation. Here is the footage of his firecracker of an interview on CNN.

"There is no such thing as 'proportional response' to terrorism."

Yes, I'll have to give some props to Bloomberg for that.

Israel: The Two-State or Three-State Solution?

John Bolton has an interesting piece in the WaPo. Do take a look at his heretical idea.

Let's start by recognizing that trying to create a Palestinian Authority from the old PLO has failed and that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Hamas has killed the idea, and even the Holy Land is good for only one resurrection. Instead, we should look to a "three-state" approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Among many anomalies, today's conflict lies within the boundaries of three states nominally at peace.

East Meets West: Taiwan Says Hello to the Winchester Boys

This is for La Parisienne and the Kamikaze Editor. Take a look at two TV ads from Taiwan, promoting the American TV show "Supernatural." The ads are promoting season 3; the second one has more Mandarin Chinese in it.

Nerd Notes: Fouad Ajami on the Legacy of Samuel Huntington

Ajami on Huntington -- One well-known academic looks at the life and legacy of another.

If you are not familiar with Fouad Ajami or Samuel Huntington, you might want to Google them. Huntington's thesis of the clash of civilizations is especially timely, and he ranks as a rara avis indeed -- a famous academic who was a sober, insightful, accomplished scholar -- and one who dared to disagree with "elite, intellectual" culture and opinion.

Taiwan: Top Souvenirs for Visitors

So, you are going to visit lovely Taiwan. What should you bring home as souvenirs? A consortium of businesspeople held a massive competition that compiled a list of Taiwan's top 100 products to help you shop!

The top 3?
  1. Wenshan bauzhong tea (also spelled "pouchong")
  2. Traditional aboriginal Paiwan glazed beads
  3. Yilan cakes

(And, hm, it's no accident that 2 of the top 3 items are things you can EAT/DRINK.)

Real pouchong tea is produced only in the tea-growing regions outside Taipei. It's slightly fermented, and it is liquid heaven. (See the second video on this post.)

Nerd Journal: MM in the Kitchen and a Progressive Dinner, Part 3: A Devilishly Decadent Dessert

Here is the conclusion to the dinner that Il Barista, La Parisienne, the Cine-Sib, and I made together recently. I posted about the chicken-pancetta sausages and the fresh pasta and pesto. Now it's time for dessert! You have 3 guesses what we made, and the first 2 don't count.

Yes, gentle reader, we made . . . Flying Shrapnel Death Pie! This dessert has become a legend on MM Blog, so -- really -- what else could we possibly make for dessert?

(The actual name is Banoffee Pie, and here's the recipe we used. We substituted a graham cracker crust for the pie crust, though.)

First things first:

Take the 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, pour them into a pan and cover it with aluminum foil, and then put the pan into a bigger pan of water. Pop it into the oven and let it "bake" until the milk turns into a dark brown caramel sauce. Observe:

Let the molten sugar lava cool, and then pour it into your 9-inch graham cracker crust. The lava becomes a thick pudding-like toffee cream. Your dentist will have nightmares. Your taste buds will have parties.

Onto the next bit: slice up two bananas and arrange the slices on top of the toffee cream.

Then it is time to gild the lily and turn the dessert into a calorie storm of Old Testament proportions. Make some homemade whipped cream and sweeten it with brown sugar. Pile the delicious cloud on top of the bananas and toffee. Oh, man!

This dessert will make you a legend among your friends and family if you make it for them. That's an ironclad guarantee. It's easy, delicious, and beautiful. You do have to careful with the caramel napalm when it comes right out of the oven, surrounded with a moat of superheated water. Other than that, it's not quite as dangerous as the original recipe calling for boiling the cans of milk for 3 whole hours (!). Hmmm, maybe you can call yours Caramel Napalm Pie . . . Serve with some good coffee!

I leave you with a photo of Il Barista proudly displaying our homemade Flying Shrapnel Death Pie. Awesome. It looked lovely -- for about 5 seconds before all of us tore into it and turned it into crumbs.


Taiwan: $6 Billion Government Bailout for Computer Chip Manufacturers

Bailout-a-palooza finally hits Taiwan. Well, hey, everyone else is doing it, so why not the Taiwanese too?

The latest news: the government is working on a $6 billion bailout for computer chip makers. Blurb (my emphasis):

Taiwan’s government is moving closer to devising a bailout package for the country’s struggling memory chip makers, many of which face impending loan repayments amid mounting losses.

Shih Yeh-Shiang, vice minister of economic affairs, said on Monday the government had earmarked T$200bn ($6bn) in financial aid for ailing large companies, which includes producers of dynamic random access memory (D-Ram) who are the hardest hit globally among semiconductor makers.

Half of the $6bn earmarked by the government has been approved by the legislature, Mr Shih told reporters, while the other half is still under review. “All options are on the table” for how the government will use that money and what it would demand from chip companies in exchange.

Prices for D-Ram, the type of memory chip mostly used in computers, fell drastically last year as a result of chronic oversupply and falling demand due to the financial crisis.

In response Taiwan memory chip makers have slashed production but they continue to struggle because their products are still selling for below cost on the spot market.

Analysts estimate that Taiwan’s three big D-Ram companies – Powerchip, ProMos and Nanya Technology – would have to pay back about $500m in bank loans in the first quarter of this year, with a similar amount due in the second quarter. This means that a bailout would be needed soon unless banks could be persuaded to delay loan repayments.

Apparently, Bailout Fever is not only an American disease.

Also, FYI: Taiwan ranks in the top 3 chip makers in the world, along with the US and Japan.

The Italian government's bailout of the Parmesan cheese industry.

I repeat a sentiment that was bandied about last night over dinner with La Parisienne, Il Barista, and the Cine-Sib: "WHERE'S MY BAILOUT?"

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Nerd Fun: "Pride and Prejudice" + Facebook

What if Jane Austen's classic novel "Pride and Prejudice" took place via Facebook?

Check out this delightful mashup of pop Internet culture and British literature.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Nerd Analysis: A Primer on the Current Gaza Conflict

The folks from Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH)  have a short primer on the context of the current Gaza conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Nerd News: Math, Music, and the Mysterious Chord of "A Hard Day's Night"

Here's a bit of really fun nerd/geek news! Plus the Beatles.

The Inflation Calculator

Check out this little calculator to help you gauge inflation rates the relative buying power of the US dollar.  It's terrifying and fun all at the same time.  Link xie-xie to Princeton man TigerHawk.

Euro Notes: Meet New EU President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic

Welcome to the snake pit, sir!

His EU presidency should be interesting.  The man is, to say the least, a maverick.

Nerdworld Soundtrack: 3 Doors Down and "It's Not My Time"

The Cine-Sib and I like 3 Doors Down a LOT, so 2009's first selection for the Nerdworld Soundtrack is their rocking, defiant "It's Not My Time."

Why did I choose this? It embodies a sentiment that you've got to have if you're going to survive in academia: Never Say Die.

You can take a listen at 3 Doors Down's MySpace page. Lyrics here.

The Sibling is looking over my shoulder as I type, and he insists that I post the video for the song. The Cine-Sib recommends it because it's full of parkour (aka "free running"). Enjoy.

Historical Perspective: Years That Stank Worse Than 2008

That's the beauty of knowing some history: you have a better sense of perspective. Take a look at some 20th-century years that were worse -- sometimes much, much worse -- than 2008.

2008, with Bailout-a-palooza, GLOBALFINANCIALAPOCALYPSE!!!, the propaganda party of the Beijing Olympics, the erosion of Taiwanese democracy, the rise of a revanchist Russia, and other things, was definitely a mixed bag, but it's not -- say -- 1933 or 1979. Don't even get me started on years before the 20th century!

OK, granted, in terms of historical analysis, it's going to take a while before we realize the full ramifications of the events of 2008.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Fun Video: Beaker Performs "Ode to Joy"

Here is the first Friday Fun Video of the new year!  Muppets meet classical music, and the result is just hilarious.  MEEP!

Krauthammer Comments on Gaza Conflict and Moral Clarity

Take a look.  It's a bracingly refreshing change from the morass of moral equivalency that's swamping the media and global elites.


Israel has but a single objective in Gaza -- peace: the calm, open, normal relations it offered Gaza when it withdrew in 2005. Doing something never done by the Turkish, British, Egyptian and Jordanian rulers of Palestine, the Israelis gave the Palestinians their first sovereign territory ever in Gaza.

What ensued? This is not ancient history. Did the Palestinians begin building the state that is supposedly their great national aim? No. No roads, no industry, no courts, no civil society at all. The flourishing greenhouses that Israel left behind for the Palestinians were destroyed and abandoned. Instead, Gaza's Iranian-sponsored rulers have devoted all their resources to turning it into a terror base -- importing weapons, training terrorists, building tunnels with which to kidnap Israelis on the other side. And of course firing rockets unceasingly.

The grievance? It cannot be occupation, military control or settlers. They were all removed in September 2005. There's only one grievance and Hamas is open about it. Israel's very existence.

Have you seen any media figure mention this at all?

Nerd Journal: MM in the Kitchen and a Progressive Dinner, Part 2: Fresh Pasta with Homemade Pesto and Porcini Mushrooms

Part 1 consisted of Italian-inspired chicken-and-pancetta sausages. So what did the Cine-Sib, Il Barista, and La Parisienne serve with such meaterrific linky love? Pasta! Here's the tale:

That's the Cine-Sib, sorting out the fresh strands of pasta. The crew and I had made it from semolina flour, eggs, and a bit of water, and then we tried out a new kitchen tech-toy: the pasta extruder attachment of Il Barista's Kitchen-Aid. Handy!

Then we tried our hand at making our own pesto sauce. We had fresh basil, pine nuts, and a goofy-looking kitchen tool called a mezzaluna. It looks odd, but it worked fabulously! It chopped up the basil and nuts into bits, and then we turned into a gorgeous dark green sauce with some extra virgin olive oil. (Please, nbobody say "EVOO" -- we hate Rachael Ray with an unreasoning rage.)

Next on the agenda: chopping up porcini mushrooms into tiny dice and then sauteeing them with olive oil. The green stuff is a bit of baby spinach.

That's the finished product -- fresh pasta speckled with homemade pesto and porcini mushrooms. It was divine! Of course, in the cooking process, we managed to speckle the entire kitchen with porcini bits too, but oh, well!

We then outdid ourselves by making a sinfully delicious dessert (3 guesses what and the first 2 don't count), but that's for another post!