Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chinese Cyber-Aggression, UK Edition

Here is an overview. Now the Times of London reports,

THE security service MI5 has accused China of bugging and burgling UK business executives and setting up “honeytraps” in a bid to blackmail them into betraying sensitive commercial secrets.

A leaked MI5 document says that undercover intelligence officers from the People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of Public Security have also approached UK businessmen at trade fairs and exhibitions with the offer of “gifts” and “lavish hospitality”.

The gifts — cameras and memory sticks — have been found to contain electronic Trojan bugs which provide the Chinese with remote access to users’ computers.

MI5 says the Chinese government “represents one of the most significant espionage threats to the UK” because of its use of these methods, as well as widespread electronic hacking.
Oh, my.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nerd Fun: The Chaotic Joys of the English Language

Especially for those wordsmiths and philologists Metrolingua, the Kamikaze Editor, and La Parisienne! Really, though, this poem is for everyone who enjoys the quirks of English spelling and pronunciation!

Scroll past the explanation to the poem itself, and be sure to READ IT OUT LOUD.

US Approves $6 Billion Arms Sales to Taiwan; Beijing Responds Predictably

The green light came yesterday for a $6.5 billion arms package for Taiwan. The contents include 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, communications equipment for Taiwan’s F-16s, Harpoon missiles, and mine-hunting ships.

Good. More, please. Faster, please. I absolutely want Taiwan armed with the best equipment possible, because you can bet your sweet char sui buns that China's not giving up (a) the idea of grabbing the island, or (b) trying to push ahead with modernizing its military.

I've consistently criticized Obama's foreign policy, but I must give some credit here.

Oh, and Beijing responds predictably. Here's a hilarious word-bomb quoted by the NY Times:
The Chinese reaction was swift, and negative. China’s vice foreign minister, He Yafei, issued a diplomatic message to the State Department expressing his “indignation” over the pending sale, said Wang Baoding, the spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

“We believe this move endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts,” Mr. Wang said in an interview. “It will harm China-U.S. relations and bring about a serious and active impact on bilateral communication and cooperation.”

That's right! "Peaceful reunification"! Aided and abetted by 1000+ missiles on the Chinese coastline pointed at Taiwan! Pffffffffffft!

UPDATE: Read this: "Fine, Now Sell Taiwan the F-16s." Yes. Especially since we can't sell them these beauties.

Great Moments in Education: the "Twilight" Lesson Plan

Oh, brother. Apparently kids these days can't read, write, or do math, so here's a lesson plan that includes the following (after the teacher divides the classes into 3 groups -- Team Edward and Team Jacob, natch, and 1 Team Bella):

Ask the Team Edward and Team Jacob groups to come up with a short presentation about why Bella would be better off with their character. They should provide clear evidence and consider the following questions, among others (feel free to add your own prompts):

1. How did your character treat Bella?
2. What impact did your character have on Bella’s emotions and on her life in general?

Team Bella can prepare an argument about why they believe neither guy is worth Bella’s time. Like the other groups, they should be ready to provide evidence.

After each group makes its presentation, allow the opposing group to challenge with questions and debate.
Are you serious?!

Schadenfreude Alert: IPCC Credibility Melting Like a Snow Cone in August in Arizona

Well, well, well, what have we here? (Besides the new tag labeled "Scandal and skulduggery," which I dare say will find much use.) Here is a blurb:

The chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit, The Times has learnt.

Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists.

The IPCC’s report underpinned the proposals at Copenhagen for drastic cuts in global emissions.
Was he afraid that the truth would torpedo Copenhagen? Sins of omission are still sins. So here we have a personal sin of omission meant to combat the global Greenie sin of emission? Heh. It certainly displays a disturbingly Machiavellian streak in the Greenie cause.

And for your Schadenfreude bonus, Copenhagen was STILL a wreck, its only prominent feature being its mass hypocrisy.

Remember ClimateGate too. Hide the decline!

RELATED POSTS on Copenhagen here and here, with the "dictionary" here.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chinese Cyber-Aggression

We all know about the Great Firewall of China and its government's attempts to censor the Internet (I most recently blogged about it here.)

Now read this about active Chinese cyber-assaults on American and foreign companies, governments, human rights groups, and even individuals. Then read this from Dignified Rant on India's assertion that we all need to increase cyber-security.

By the way, both pieces have great titles -- "Google in the Coal Mine" and "The Smell of DOS in the Morning." Well played, gentlemen.

MM in the Kitchen: Potato Gnocchi with a Butter-and-Sage Sauce

So simple. So good. (And not expensive!)

And, serendipitously, it's Thursday! In Rome, Thursday is traditionally the day for gnocchi!

The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom

The new rankings are now available. (Insert here my usual caveat that all rankings are a bit subjective and methodologies open to scrutiny and debate, but this is a useful rough sketch of different nations' economic freedom status.)

The US is still in the top 10, but we've slipped in the rankings. (Technically the US ranking is no longer fully "Free" but "Mostly Free," and Canada's ahead of us now. Really?! HopeChange!)

Number 1 in the world for economic freedom? Hong Kong.

In fact, Asian/Pacific nations rule supreme: HK, followed by Singapore, then Australia and New Zealand.

Dead last in the list is also an Asian nation. North Korea, natch. I do mean DEAD last. It's even worse than Zimbabwe.

The survey has this useful little definition of "economic freedom":
Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.
Oh, yes.

Nerd Analysis: More Bad Education Policy in the SOTU Address

I'm not even going to start on the entire speech. In fact, I ended up watching my beloved show "Psych" on USA Network instead. As I've said before, I can't bear any longer to listen to Obama's increasingly vapid and overpolished yet inherently disingenous and weirdly egotistical utterances. I'm increasingly convinced that he hasn't the inner grit for this job -- or the necessary ability to deal with the cold hard reality of actual life. Far too much of his administration has been fundamentally unserious, and that's why his approval ratings have dropped so precipitously. Hillary would have made a better president. And -- hm -- she wasn't at the speech last night.

Going on! I feel the need to say something about educational policy. Happily, someone else has come up with an analysis very close to my thoughts, thus saving me the work. Read on:
President Obama was right to speak tonight about the urgent need to reform and improve American education. But the President is choosing the wrong responses, following failed paths that will put our country deeper in debt, expand dependence on government, and increase burdens on taxpayers — all while rejecting some of the most promising reforms.

A year ago, President Obama stated that his administration would use only one test to decide which programs to fund — whether or not they worked. But his administration has consistently broken that promise. For starters, President Obama allowed Congress to end the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, which has proven to be one of the most effective federal education initiatives in history, improving low-income students’ academic achievement. And he pushed Congress to create a new $8 billion preschool program, while his administration buried a report showing that the federal Head Start program was a colossal failure.

If the President is serious about his commitment to education reform and fiscal discipline, he should press Congress to completely overall the federal role in K-12 and early childhood education by terminating ineffective programs and reforming remaining ones to empower parents and local leaders use our precious tax dollars to best meet children’s needs.

The President also talked about the need to address the important problem of college affordability. But decades of experience have shown that his costly solution — increasing federal subsidies and placing more of the burden for paying college on taxpayers — hasn’t addressed the root problem of out-of-control college costs. Rather than increasing the burden on taxpayers and growing the deficit, federal and state policymakers should focus on reforming higher education to improve efficiency to lower costs.

That’s the right way to improve college access while reducing the burden on taxpayers.
To which I can only add, "Well, DUH." Of course, we can argue about the entire "access to college" business in another post.

During Obama's first "SOTU" speech when he was first elected, he also spoke about his (OK, let's be honest here, stupid) educational policies. As soon as he finished, my phone rang. It was a dear friend and fellow nerd, who was surprised and absolutely horrified by Obama's words. The first thing I heard on the phone was: "Did you hear what he said? OMG. OMG!"

Last night there was no call. This time there was no surprise. Just the dull thud of weary nerds slowly beating their heads against the wall in continued frustration.

RELATED POST: Obama's Classroom Teleprompters Get Schooled By Jon Stewart.

Quirky Asia Files: Sumo Smackdown in Japan

Oh, my!

Nerd News: Howard Zinn Has Died

Since it is not polite to speak ill of the dead, all I shall say now is that he was quite influential in academia. Whether his influence was positive or not is a matter for debate. If we may safely say that we can tell a lot about a person by his friends and enemies, then I remind you that Zinn was a friend of Noam Chomsky.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In a Culture of Victimhood, Losers = Winners

This is basically the deplorably dichotomous idea that the world only has oppressors and the oppressed, and if you're not one, then you're automatically the other. It's identity politics reduced to its pernicious fundamentals.

Add also the utterly stupid habit (so common on campus especially) of holding Whine-Offs or Misery Contests, where the person who has the most things to complain about "wins." I confess, grad students fall into this pit a lot.

Nerd 1, self-righteously: "You don't understand. I have to do X, Y, and Z."
Nerd 2, triumphantly: "Oh, yeah? That's nothing. I have to do all that PLUS ... "

What usually makes me smirk is the fact that the nerds are often standing there holding Starbucks lattes, listening to their iPods, and carrying laptop computers. Things could be a lot harder. They could be stuck in the Third World trying to stave off starvation and disease while being exploited by everybody including their own corrupt governments.

Read it all.

Oh, and be a countercultural rebel. Refuse to claim victimhood. Take responsibility for yourself. Work more than you complain. Above all, dare to defy the odds and dare to be happy (*gasp!*). Oh, and don't apologize for being successful!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogging Oppressor

Awesome: Haiti Aid Explained Visually

Take a look at this cool interactive graphic! The dollar figures indicate millions of dollars.

It's awesome -- both in terms of visual effectiveness and in the amount of generosity that it represents. The figures will increase as time goes on.

Look at the absolutely mind-boggling amount of earthquake relief and recovery aid given by the collected number of anonymous private donors and also by everybody's favorite punching bag and whipping boy, "the Great Satan" -- that somehow always rides fastest to help whenever some horrible natural disaster happens abroad. The various "Little Satans," including some corporations, are also very generous. (I hardly need to tell you that if these Satans were as evil was they're reputed to be, they wouldn't do this.)

On a related note, however much I criticize the excesses and silliness of Hollywood, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to its "Hope for Haiti" telethon that has thus far raised $57 million.

Oh, and if you haven't already, think about giving a little something to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund or, if you have Verizon Wireless service, texting "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross. It's easy. Verizon has raised $8 million already and counting.

Satire Alert: Iowahawk 1, "Ellie Light" 0

Iowahawk takes deliciously hilarious aim at the "Ellie Light" scandal.

The HopeChange Chronicles: A Statue in Indonesia

Hmmmmmmm. Another grassroots movement unhappy with Obama, and this one's not even American.

Film Culture Commentary: Pining for Pandora

First there was "Avatar" the movie. Then there was this.

Then comedian Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at it.

Now here are some observations by none other than Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. Blurb:

. . . The eco-conscience of Avatar is an example of how a dominant consumerist society [or, really, James Cameron and his Hollywood ilk. -- MM] is able to exhibit its better nature, to parade its guilt, to feel good about feeling bad.

And I can't believe that many of these gloomy post-Avatar Westerners, when they really think about it, would want to up sticks to Pandora and take part in Na'vi society, with its obstinate illiteracy, undemocratic adherence to a monarchy based on male primogeniture and complete absence of restaurants. The final irony, of course, is that this entrancing vision of prelapsarian innocence is the product of the most ruthless and sophisticated money-machine the world has ever seen. With a budget of $237 million and with takings already at £1 billion, this exquisite capitalist guilt trip represents one of the great triumphs of capitalism.
Heh! "Complete lack of restaurants"!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obama's Classroom Teleprompters Get Schooled By Jon Stewart

Hilarious! Jon is back in top form, which always is the case when he goes after the patently silly and does so with gusto.

(Oh, and sorry about the ad that automatically pop up in front of the video clip. Just close it and go to the Stewart video.)

RELATED POST: Life Imitates the Onion. Again.

Quirky Asia Files: Chinese City Renames Local Mountain After "Avatar"

Oh, my! On a related note, some people do see some parallels between the fictional flick and the current real-life occurrence of Chinese peasants being forced off their land.

Quirky Asia Files: 20 Strange Japanese Candies

Hmmmmmmm. Yummy or yucky?

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day!

Barbecue and fireworks are involved. I'm in! (Ohhh, and it's summer down there. *MM looks out the window at the Nerdworld snow and sighs.*)

So! Lots of Australia barbecue recipes HERE, plus a whole collection of Australia Day food suggestions. I must admit, this particular recipe caught my eye. It's a salad, but it isn't some lame rabbit-food salad for people who are afraid of real food.

Someday I will go visit the land Down Under! Oh, and as Barcepundit reminds us, Australia is enormous. You may recall my previously linked favorite bit of Aussie humor.

Check out the cutesypoo Google graphic that's online today at Google Australia.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oceans of Liquid Diamond on Outer Planets?

Cool astronomical speculation. Though I'd be more interested in oceans of bigscreen TVs.

Satire Alert: Satan Responds to Pat Robertson Claim

OK, I hadn't bothered to criticize Robertson's ludicrous utterance about Haiti when he said it, because plenty of other people had, and we all know that loopy Pat is talking rot anyway.

But THIS is a the best response I've seen yet, and it has the glorious addition of wit and humor. The letter was originally printed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune newspaper. I copy and paste for your convenience:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher.

The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake.

Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan


Maple Leaf Madness: "American Idol" + Canadian Politics = Hilarity

Funniest bit of politicking since these New Zealanders. Check out this amusing tale from the Great White North:

For those of you might be a bit fuzzy on what's going on in pop culture-dom, see this.

Awesome Monday Therapy: The Best Wedding Invitation Ever!

Via Miss Cellania comes this jaw-droppingly awesome wedding announcement/invitation! (Oh, and congratulations to the happy couple.)

RELATED POST: A Wedding Video Worth Watching!

What's Melting Faster? Glaciers, the Wicked Witch of the West, or the UN's Climate Change Credibility?


The United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report's own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

What Does China Censor Online?

Take a look at this informative graphic. And think about this the next time some idiot (*cough* Tom Friedman! *cough*) tells you that China's got such a great government.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nerd Journal: Gleefully Addicted to TV

Apparently unsatisfied with her complicity in getting me hooked on "Supernatural," the evil enabler known as La Parisienne has made silly pop-culture TV lightning strike me twice by getting me hooked on "Glee."

It happened yesterday via Hulu. I had marathonned through 3 episodes before I even realized what was going on. It's addictively fun. Try it! It's like "High School Musical" -- only it's actually good. And it's contributing to this semester's Nerdworld Soundtrack.

Oh, my. I'm suddenly reminded of a brief, long-ago involvement with the high school choir when I was just a young soprano-singing schoolgirl and not the over-educated venomous harridan that I am today! (I didn't last too long in choir, though. I ended up in speech-and-debate instead, which I have to admit did suit me a bit better for my current -- and Sue Sylvester-ish --station in life, ha!)

Oh, and for La Parisienne, here is a song that's relevant both for "Supernatural" and "Glee." Savor your victory for now. I shall live to plot my revenge another day! (Oh, and Count Chocula? I'm gonna get you too, honey, don't you worry.)

John Yoo 1, Jon Stewart 0

I finally had time this afternoon to watch this interview from last week. You know I usually love Stewart even if he is a liberal, but take a look at this interview, complete with links to commentary thereon. Stewart went in thinking he would shred Yoo and make him squirm, but Yoo stood his ground and even landed some haymakers in the most polite, patient way.

I love this bit of post-interview analysis (my emphasis):
How did he do it? It's a question John Yoo has been getting a lot lately. How did he manage to outwit Jon Stewart? ("He slipped through my fingers," Stewart recalled after Yoo's recent appearance on The Daily Show. "It was like interviewing sand.") Easy, says Yoo. "I've spent my whole career learning to settle down unruly college students who have not done the reading."
As a teacher, I say, OHHH, YES.

More on John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general during the Bush Administration and current professor of law at Berkeley, here.

Disgustingly Cute: the Boerboel South African Mastiff Puppy Webcam

Click if you dare.

The Facial Recognition Racist Camera

Take a look at this and then at the Time magazine article. Hilarious!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Good Irish Wake for "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien"

For the Cine-Sib and everyone else who missed Conan O'Brien's last night as host of "The Tonight Show." Here's the video; it was a great hour. So this is how it ends, not with a whimper but a bang -- and a hilarious performance of (yes) "Freebird."

I have to say, though,that my favorite riff on the late-night war is by the underappreciated Jimmy Kimmel, who presented the mess as a mock documentary in the same style as the famous Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War. Check out this glorious parody:

Meanwhile, David Letterman (who had his own late-night war with Leno and "The Tonight Show" some years ago) continues to ladle mockery.

It's Independents' Day in American Politics (Plus a Rant)

One thing seems clear in current American politics: you alienate independents to your peril. First the GOP did it, and now the Dems are busy apparently trying to alienate independents as quickly as possible. See the political turnarounds in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts with Scott Brown. (See this too.)

After all, what do independents seem to want most? Limited government and the protection of individual rights. PREACH IT! Related to this are the ongoing tea party protests and the frustration of the middle class. We do NOT like an ever-increasing tax-sucking intrusive federal juggernaut run by a "let-zem-eat-unpopular-policy" lot of mealy-mouthed, sticky-fingered, statist corruptocrats and ideologues bent on reducing every productive citizen to indentured tax servitude.

Oh, and here's some free MM advice to the unbelievably feckless and ineffective leadership of the RNC and GOP. Pay attention, people! Stop banging on about social agendas. We don't like the left pushing social agendas, so what makes you think we'll like the right doing it too? Get down to brass tacks here: Limited government. Lower taxes. Less government intrusion. More individual freedom. No nanny government. Stop penalizing the productive in order to bail out the failed and failing. Or, to put it most simply, I'll vote for the people who promise to first (a) LEAVE ME (AND MY WALLET) ALONE, and (b) prevent others from messing with my Constitutionally-protected rights and liberties. (And, yes, for me, this encompasses going after terrorists.)

For the record, this nanny-government idea and the nanny-statists' attempt to infantilize everybody. I don't want or like my own biological parents telling me what to do. Why would I want a government doing that? A government with the power to tax (always the power to destroy) and to compel? I mean, seriously, if my mom nags me to change my behavior or do something that I don't want to do, I can just go away or ignore the directive. If the nanny state nags, it can outlaw things and impose fines and resort to all sorts of nastiness. Why would any intelligent, freedom-loving person assent to such a thing? The only reason I can think of is the temptation to suck forever at the government teat, depend on the Mommy State cradle-to-grave, and refuse to take any responsibility for oneself. Pathetic. Give me spirited, self-reliant rugged individualism any day. Maybe the question boils down to, do you want opportunities or guarantees?

Oh, and to be fair, here's some free advice for the Dems in power in DC. Pay attention! The voter revolts do NOT mean that you should push on even harder with your craptastic policy ideas that every single poll reveals to be wildly unpopular with just about EVERYBODY, left, right, and center! Are you really so far into your own echo chamber that you don't realize that you are utterly out of step with THE COUNTRY? Stop trying to cram stuff down our throats as if we were geese being force-fed to make foie gras. (Then again, maybe that's exactly the point, so eventually they can eat our livers -- I mean, bank accounts.)

Oh, and you might want to dial back the overweening aristocratic arrogance, elitist self-absorption, and open contempt for dissenting citizens or, in the words of one of your DC peeps, "evil-mongers." Your Marie Antoinette is showing. Lucky for you, in this country we don't have the guillotine. We do, however, have something even better. They're called elections, and if I'm not mistaken there are a whole boatload of midterm elections coming this very year. Remember, you are in office to serve the citizens, not the other way around. Pelosi, your "most ethical Congress ever" is now the most despised train wreck of a Congress ever. A wise person learns from his own mistakes. A REALLY wise person learns from someone else's mistakes. Only a total moron learns nothing at all from his own mistakes. Wake up and smell the political mortality. In good Greek-tragic fashion, hubris soon practically begs for nemesis to come and squash it like an cockroach.

Now I could go on lambasting politicians left and right, but I have better things to do! MM is going to procrastinate on her latest nerd paper; she's off to the mall and to Borders (to look at books that have nothing to do with her studies!).

Jon Stewart 1, Olbermann 0

The hilarious Jon Stewart takes some potshots at MSNBC's reliably ridiculous pseudo-journalist Keith Olbermann, whose utterly insane rants about new Massachusetts senator Scott Brown deserve the withering contempt of any thinking, serious, civil grown-up who lives in reality.

Kudos to Jon for making contempt so funny. The frothing, unhinged far Left seems to be now busy alienating non-frothing liberals. To which I say, we here on the center-right libertarian/independent/conservative side of things have been saying this for a long time now -- those far Left folks are crazy. Oh, and MSNBC is a media cesspool where objectivity goes to die a grisly death.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Special Comment - Keith Olbermann's Name-Calling
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Nerd Journal: MM Fascinated By The Picture Table for Small Spaces

This seems like an ingenious idea! Perfect for tiny little nerd-apartments? It's probably too expensive, though!

Here's more from the Austrian designer. Oooh, I like the mirror option too.

Right now, actually, I have a yen to do something -- anything! -- to my apartment, the Nerdcave. It's probably off to IKEA for me! As a grad student friend once told me, "If it weren't for IKEA, none of us would have any furniture at all! We'd all be living on the floor."

Geek Fun: Tree + Rocket Science = ?

I know, I know . . . You've all gotten rid of your Christmas trees by now. But this video is too funny to keep to myself. It's GEEKTASTIC.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Fun Video: A Classic "Tonight Show" Moment

It's Conan O'Brien's last day on the show, so I thought I'd give him a shout-out for the Friday Fun Video:


I am, though, sorry to see an end to the NBC-bashing late-night circus ... because circuses are FUN! Late-night comedy hadn't been this awesome and full of zingers in years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kitchen Notes: Durian's (Slightly) Less Disgusting Cousin, Borneo's Buah Tarap

The Cinema-Mad Sibling and I hate durian. I mean, seriously and passionately HATE it. The bizarre spiny fruit has a lot of fans, but we can't stand it -- not the nauseating stench, the sharp shell, or the slimy lobes of the actual fruit if you somehow manage to open it. As the Cine-Sib says, the fruit in the shell looks disturbingly like some kind of alien embryo in a viscous sac. GROSS!

But, hey! I just found a blog post waxing rhapsodic over something called buah tarap. This fruit from Borneo resembles a durian, but it's a whole different thing -- and apparently it smells a little less horrible. Instead of reeking like decomposing roadkill skunk buried in garbage during August, it "only" smells like a burning tire.

Um ... yeah. I'm still in no rush to try it! I *do* have an idea, though! Since I'm sure that actually burning tires is bad for the environment, let European protesters throw around buah tarap instead. At least the stuff is biodegradable!

"Star Wars" as Adorably Cute Cartoon

I was surfing through Neatorama when I found this link!

Quirky Euro Files: Spain's EU Presidency Website Hacked By ... Mr. Bean

OK, I laughed! Link via Barcepundit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quirky Asia Files: TV's "Glee" in Japan

Via Miss Cellania comes this weirdly amusing Japanese advertisement (complete with sumo!) for the TV show "Glee."

(History) Nerd Fun: the Bayeux Tapestry Generator

Nerdy, geeky fun!

Quote of the Day: Obama's Foreign Policy

Ouch, baby, very ouch:
“We are convinced that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned that he is not strong to support his friends.”
The quote is only one of many painful shots taken in this editorial. The rant, by the way, is not by some bitter, Bible-thumping, gun-clinging, reactionary racist Republican obstructionist. It's by an Obama voter now cruelly disillusioned.

Asia's Largest Airline Files Bankruptcy

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, haven't they, Japan Airlines? Sad, really. I always fly EVA Air, though.

We've Done the Impossible, and That Makes Us Mighty: I Got Some Real HopeChange For Ya!

Oh, yeah!

Now THAT's some Hope and Change for you! And in the bluest of the blue states, Massachusetts. Unbelievable. Unbelievably awesome, that is. East Coast residents can attest to the blue in the state. And yet Scott Brown is the new senator. This election result could well mark a sea change. There will be other elections in 2010, and I am pretty sure that the Congressional Pelosicrats are feeling their political mortality right now. (And will Dems start fleeing poisonously unpopular ObamaCare like rats from a sinking ship?)

So to riff on the old ad, "What Can Brown Do For You?" Keep building a vibrant center-right-independent coalition to push back against the overweening and increasingly heavy-handed bunch of entrenched statists in DC who feel no obligation to the citizenry.

Now to quote my beloved "Firefly" -- "We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."

I'm going to bed happy in the knowledge we all can indeed do something about the political mess that Washington has got us into (i.e., say No). I confess too to being wickedly amused that leftists all over are frothing with rage and that tomorrow some of my more rabidly partisan nerdy campus dwellers will be glum, gloomy, and predicting the end of days because a Republican (! ... or, really, someone closer to the grass-roots tea parties and not so much tied to the ossified RNC) is now liberal icon Ted Kennedy's successor, freely and officially elected by the people of that state. Ain't democracy grand? Well, all politics are local, but this election has some major ramifications well beyond Massachusetts. (Now to quote the delightful Jane Lynch in "Glee," "Your resentment is ... delicious.")

Congratulations, Senator Brown, as you go to the people's seat.

And it all seems poetically fitting too, doesn't it, that it all happened in Massachusetts, in Boston, so steeped with the history of the American Revolution, from the original Tea Party to "the shot heard 'round the world."

PS: Here is Brown's very nicely done victory speech. Do read. I think you all know me well enough by now to know which parts of it made my heart flutter (or would have, if I actually possessed a heart)!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Movie Madness: Hilariously Snarky Total Reductionist "Avatar"

Awesome. (Slight language alert.)

More Cine-Sib Haiku for "The Book of Eli"

The haiku keep coming! Oh, and one poem clearly betrays the Cinema-Mad Sibling's fascination with a certain young Ukraine-born actress.

Movie Madness: The Only Bright Spot in the Golden Globes Slow-Motion Train Wreck

For La Parisienne:

This award show is just catastrophically bad (see Nikki Finke's hilarious liveblogging of it ... and I couldn't be bothered even to make fun of stupid outfits on the red carpet -- though I have to ask why sequinned globs of tree fungus were growing on Drew Barrymore ... or were they coral? did she make her dress out of the Great Barrier Reef?). I was really watching Jack Bauer on another channel, but I did hear this morning that the awesomely talented (and dashingly dressed) Robert Downey, Jr. won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his turn in "Sherlock Holmes." Well, that's nice. Loved it, loved him in it, love any opportunity to see his charisma run all over the stage.

Here's his delightfully unpretentious and amusing acceptance speech (which was, by the way, worlds better than the horrible performance of host Ricky Gervais. Boooooooooooo!):

"If you start playing violins, I will tear this joint apart."

(It seems hardly fair that he just keeps getting more quippy and adorable with time.)

Nerd News: "New York Times" Asks Why So Many Professors Are Liberals

Heh. You can also apply this to grad students too in some degree?

OK, well, maybe the increasingly-moribund paper should also wonder why conservative or libertarian academics go underground too. (Um, HELLO, we're here, and we exist, but nobody seems to care except to use it as some kind of silly talking point -- and I'm talking about conservative as well as liberal talking heads here.) Have you seen how leftist academic ideologues treat anybody they don't like? I mean, seriously, if I declare myself to be what I actually am, I might as well be painting a target on my forehead.

To answer the NYT's question: Why did I go into academia? Because I think education is important, and I want to teach the subjects that I love. I had NO IDEA that higher education was such a cesspool. Apparently the only thing that doesn't occur here is actual teaching of things that matter.

UPDATE: The snarky Greg Gutfeld chimes in.

Monday Therapy: Real Life Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen

Today is a holiday (no school, yay!), but it's still a Monday, so here is something fun: Calvin and Hobbes snowman scenarios rendered in real life.

Here's an entire collection of snow-specific Calvin and Hobbes comics.


Movie Review: the Cine-Sib On "The Book of Eli"

I'm back in Nerdworld (sigh). I haven't seen new post-apocalyptic flick "The Book of Eli" yet, but I want to (it stars the awesome Denzel Washington and the also awesome Gary Oldman).

The Cinema-Mad Sibling, back home, went to see the flick on opening night, January 15, and I got two pithy responses from him. Here they are, and they seem kind of contradictory:

The text message as he left the theater:
"Hmm, OK, uneven but unique. Go watch . . . People will either love or hate it. Don't wanna give anything away; don't read any spoilers."

The now-standard haiku-review:
Had high hopes for this
Martial arts were really hyped
Kind of a letdown
Hmmm. Well, AICN's Massawyrm apparently LOVED the flick. I'll go see it! Come on, it has DENZEL. I've been a fan of the great actor ever since "Glory."

UPDATE: More Cine-Sib haiku!
Mila Mila Mi
La Mila Mila Mila
Mila Mila Mi

11th hour plot twist

Fighting the good fight
The killing is symbolic here
Staying on the path

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie Madness: 30 Most Anticipated Flicks of 2010

Here's a list. Guess, just guess, what #1 is. It's the movie that I'm most eagerly awaiting. Some of the other movies I couldn't care less about. ("Piranha 3D"???)

Nerd News: Government Interference in Student Loans = Predictable Mess

I've been going on and on about this for a long time. Here are someone else's piquant observations. Note especially the object lessons you can take from this in terms of the current health care "reform" debacle:
This is a perfect example of what the government will wind up doing to health care, either in the near term or somewhat down the road. They intervene to promote a social agenda, and eventually decide that total government control is “more efficient” than the private sector. We need to stop the nationalization of student loans, but more importantly, we need to learn the right lesson of what happens when we allow the federal government to compete with the private sector. Eventually, the private sector gets eliminated, and we’re seeing that unfold in real time with student loans.
Look, even without bringing in the health care bill mess, in terms of student loans alone, the more the government interferes, the worse the situation becomes, and the bubble is looking terribly like the housing bubble (and we all know how well THAT turned out).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NBC's Late-Night TV Programming Fiasco

The whole mess is just deliciously silly as Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien mix it up, while Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman take potshots from the sidelines and NBC execs flail. The resulting comedy is waaaaaay more fun than anything that's been on the late-night air in forever. Who cares about "Team Edward" versus "Team Jacob"? Now we've got "Team Comedian-with-Big-Chin" versus "Team Comedian-with-Weird-Hair."

The Cine-Sib recommends this jab from O'Brien -- he put "The Tonight Show" on Craigslist. (The Sib, by the way, would like to say "I'm With Coco!")

I recommend this clip from Leno's monologue last night:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Geek Fun: The Trekkie License Plate

From Geeks Are Sexy comes this photo of a gloriously geeky license plate. Honk if you have a superior intellect!

Movie Madness: "Iron Man 2" in IMAX

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

Now I want credit for mashing up Jane Austen with Tony Stark.

Film Culture Commentary: "Avatar" as Eden?

Well, this little look at "Avatar" by a grad student has something I haven't seen any other review have: references to C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy (an excellent set of sci-fi books, by the way).

The Cine-Sib, you'll recall, liked the film, and I thought the special effects were far better than the limp, predictable, caricature-filled plot.

Geek News: Google and Chinese Cyberattacks

Was anybody surprised? Really? Blurb:
Google, which disclosed on Tuesday that hackers had penetrated the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights advocates in the United States, Europe and China, threatened to shutter its operations in the country as a result.

I should clarify: was anybody really surprised that China would do something squirrelly? Anyway, at least Google finally remembered its own "Don't Be Evil" motto after initially going into China with all the moral fiber of a limp strand of spaghetti. More here. Hey, is Google now showing more nerve than our State Dept.?

Nerd Analysis: Thoughts on History and Ideologies

Here's an interesting piece by Michael Zantovsky, colleague of Vaclav Havel and the Czech ambassador to the UK (and previously to the US and Israel). Here is a blurb:
There is no manifest destiny for mankind, no end point, no true ideology, and no salvation on this earth. Civilizations come and go, idols rise and fall, people are born and they die only to make room for later generations. Freedom, for which liberal democracy is a conduit rather than the other way round, can never be assured of its final victory, can never be taken for granted. Its enemies, among which the most insidious reside inside rather than outside us, will always threaten it. Ideologies are the props of history, not the moving forces behind it and certainly not the actors. These are the people. In fact, by trying to channel history into the boundaries of their dogmas and prejudices, ideologies more often hinder history than propel it forward. It is simply not the case, as Hegel thought, that “spirit . . . determines history absolutely, and it stands firm against the chance occurrences which it dominates and exploits for its own purpose.” History, to borrow a phrase from Adam Ferguson, is not a product of human design but of human action. The end of history is the death of the last man.
Um ... Take that, Francis Fukuyama!

Free Market Capitalism Versus Crony Capitalism

There is a big difference.

Fish Pedicures and the Ever-Increasing Nanny State

Interesting! As always, John Stossel and Nick Gillespie discuss topics with their deft touch and good cheer. Come on, there they are, talking about the nanny state while sitting up to their ankles in fish. It's making a humorous point.

I add also the usual caveat that freedom comes with responsibility, especially personal responsibility.

Oh, and would YOU ever try a fish pedicure? I'm not sure about me, though I am sure that it's a decision I want to make for myself. I do love traditional pedicures, though!

Nerd Journal: I Apparently Have No Taste in Music. Or Opera. Whatever.

Not, you understand, that I'm either ashamed of the fact or apologizing!

The Opera Diva emailed me some lovely music files of herself singing parts of arias from some German and Italian operas. She's got a lovely voice. But I just wasn't in the mood. To be perfectly honest, I'm never in the mood for opera. In fact (and don't ever tell her this), I kinda hate opera. I went right back to what I was listening to at the time. Van Halen. Yup. The Opera Diva might want Wagner, but I want Van Halen. The music is hilarious! Plus it keeps you energized.

Maybe I should feel something, some shred or tinge of embarrassment, but I got nothin'. And why should anybody ever be ashamed of what they honestly like or don't like? There's too much pretentious posing as it is. Crank up the volume, gentle readers, and let the big-hair rock-n-roll play on!

(And, yes, I still like some awesome Pat Benatar.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Reviews "Daybreakers"

The Cine-Sib and I recently went to see the new vampire movie "Daybreakers" with some of our friends. Here is the latest Cine-Sib haiku review:
The world is undead.
Humans are farmed for their blood.
But is there a cure?
My own review will be online later. Caveat: there is a lot of gore in this flick! It's of a video-game, horror-flick schtick ludicrous sort of gore, though, so my buddies and I were laughing uproariously in our seats.

Short version of my review: I liked it. Come on, just think -- Sam Neill as a vampire villain! Besides, this flick is an anti-"Twilight." You can read this until I get my own review done.

Public Service Announcement: Oliver Stone is NOT A HISTORIAN

Well, read this historical-mangling-in-the-making and fresh hell to come, but I'm only going to quote Hollywood movie director Oliver Stone's own words:
"You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate."
Um, really? I thought history was in great part about the investigation of facts, not the mushy indulging of therapeutic feelings and revisionistic garbage that purports to be "edgy" and "avant-garde" by turning good guys into bad guys and/or bad guys into "just folks who were misunderstood."

UPDATE: Read this via Samizdata.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Movie Review: First Impressions of "Avatar" + Cine-Sib Haiku (Updated with More Haiku!)

Pretty much, yeah. (Via Geeks Are Sexy.)

Two nights ago, the Cinema-Mad Sibling and I went to see "Avatar" in 3D IMAX.

Initial impressions with full review to come:
  • Visual sensory supersaturation overload. I literally got a pounding physical headache by the end of it.
  • Special effects were grand and grandiose, but after a while, they actually began to distract and even to bore. I could go on, but see the end of Part 6 here for the basic idea.
  • The plot is basically both completely derivative and completely asinine. Everyone and their grandma's been saying how it's a total ripoff of "Dances With Wolves" (which is itself not that original either, but it's probably the best-known recent-ish flick that has the white-man-goes-native idea), and it's true. The flick is "Dances With Space Smurfs in psychedelic Ferngully." Plus "The Last Samurai."
  • James Cameron rips off plenty of movies, and he also rips off himself.
  • The flick is definitely worth seeing once in full 3D IMAX big-screen glory for full appreciation of its visual splendor, but the narrative is idiotic and a mishmash of just about every other kind of soggy sentiment about White Guilt, the Exotic Other, and the Noble Savage.
  • Sam Worthington does a fine job as Jake Sully. Well, in as far as he can do a good job in his role. The Aussie actor's personal charisma manages to make Sully not completely stupid (just as it managed to make his Marcus Wright character in the disappointing "Terminator: Salvation" virtually that movie's only bright spot besides Anton Yelchin).
  • You'll never look at USB connections in the same way again.
  • In terms of CGI that "looks real," this is good, but it comes in the aftermath of Gollum of "Lord of the Rings" and the flick that for me really did break ground in special effects, 1993's "Jurassic Park." Those darn dinosaurs looked believable. "Avatar" and Pandora looked like we'd suddenly been sucked into a massive (though beautiful) video game. OK, I can't help myself: floating mountains? Puh-leeez.
I have to go now, but you can read these reviews until I post my full review:

Yes, the Sib loved "Avatar." He says that the special effects are awesome even though the story is weak and cliched. This prompted (natch) an argument about spectacle versus substance. Pretty images just aren't enough to merit the praise of greatness.

Anyway, here are his haiku reviews:
Story seen before
Sensory overload, CRASH!
A big Blue Man Group.

White man v. natives
White man becomes a native
White man kills his own

Hometree is massive
Really big ethernet hub
Hey girl, plug me in

Final battle, wow!
Inorganic, organic
Metal versus flesh

Friday, January 01, 2010

Poetry for the New Year

I won't quite admit to feeling remorseful for starting off the new year with the mouthless feline horror, but I will amend it with something more literary. Here is some lovely poetry from the UK, fitting for the end of the old and the start of the new. From Brits at Their Best, here is a bit of Tennyson:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2010!