Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fugly or Fabulous? MM Dreams of Cute Springtime Sandals

What do you think, gentle reader?

Will spring never come to Nerdworld? I haven't seen a single snowdrop or crocus dare to appear yet. But even in the snow, I am dreaming of warmer weather. OK, what do you think of these sandals? Imagine them with a knee-length skirt, a cute colorful top, sunglasses, a new pedicure, and warm, warm sunshine falling on flowers.

Nerd News: Student Protests at Berkeley Turn Violent

The widespread money problems across college campuses all over the country stink as a general rule, but this kind of hooliganism is unacceptable. On the other hand, I can't help a tiny evil smirk to see that the loopy radical campus culture of Berkeley has come home to roost.

Quote of the Day: George Orwell on Language

From Orwell's 1946 Politics and the English Language:

Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’.

All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought . . .

This is still true today, when the idea of "say what you mean and mean what you say" is sadly out of fashion, and BS is a perverse art form, notably among the governing and "elite" classes. Orwell quote via the lovely Brits At Their Best.

Obama, Argentina, the Falklands, and the UK: A Rant By Nile Gardiner

It is a magnificent rant, too. Here's a teaser:
Even by the relentlessly poor standards of the Obama administration, whose doctrine unfailingly appears to be “kiss your enemies and kick your allies”, this is a new low.
A related note: thoughts by Daniel Hannan and ChicagoBoyz. Obama does seem bound and determined to alienate all our allies, especially Great Britain -- a fact that I find both depressing and infuriating.

MM in the Kitchen: Arancini

Mangia, mangia! I remember the Cine-Sib and I having some the last time we were lucky enough to be in Euroland!

Disgustingly Cute (And Fascinating): Baby Jellyfish

I had never really thought about baby jellyfish, but now I know they have a fascinating life cycle. Check it out!

Forgotten History: Prohibition Somehow Even Worse Than I Had Thought

Unbelievably bad. Blurb:

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

Although mostly forgotten today, the "chemist's war of Prohibition" remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history.
But then again, as I've said before, whenever (a) government decides to engage in social engineering, and (b) other people are doing things to you "for your own good," the result is always abysmal. I swear, more immoral things are done in the name of morality than not.

Here's a great quote from a Chicago Tribune editorial of 1927:
"It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified."
Hmmm. That "curious fanaticism" seems to have plenty of modern cousins.

Book Review: "1688" By Steve Pincus

Jules Crittenden is putting this new book about England's Glorious Revolution (Yale University Press, 2009) on his reading list, so that's a pretty good recommendation! I'm putting it on my own to-read list, which seems to growing exponentially these days. Pincus, FYI, is a history professor at Yale (and also DGS there -- an Uber Nerd Lord! DGS = "Director of Graduate Studies," aka lord and master of all grad student peons in that department).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Quirky Asian Friday Fun Video: the Ramen Master

From the 1987 Japanese movie "Tampopo" -- a visual ode to ramen!

Nerd News: On Being the President of Berkeley

Here's a bon mot from Mark Yudoff, the current holder of that poison chalice:
"Being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: There are many people under you, but no one is listening."

Grad School Metaphor: A Cell Made of Books

Quote of the Day: George Will on Leftist Views of the Constitution

I meant to do this yesterday, what with the "health care summit" 6-hour-long posefest and photo op, but I forgot. Here it is now:
Some liberals argue that the Constitution is unconstitutional.
Ha! Of course, anything is "unconstitutional" if it keeps the big-government crowd from getting its way!

The Constitution is strictly a limited-government sort of charter. The Founders knew what overweening government power looked and acted like (remember, theirs was an age of monarchs), and they didn't want or trust it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Somewhere Between Vegetarians and Carnivores, There Is the Kangatarian

REALLY? Apparently these folks are also called "vegeroos."

Huh. It sounds a lot to me like some veggie-phages got sick of salads and wanted lovely, juicy, bloody animal carcass smelling of heavenly smoke on the grill, but also wanted to keep the moral superiority and therapeutic self-soothing preening of being veggie-phages. So! Kangaroo -- it's the ethical meat if (in the argument of really hard-core militant veggies) you're still a heartless degenerate Neanderthal who wants to murder and ingest cute little furry critters.

And no, I've never had 'roo meat. And yes, I'd try it if I had a chance!

Euro-Skepticism: You're Doing It Wrong, Nigel Farage!

It's some kind of breathtaking verbal venom, though even I'm thinking, this doesn't do anything really positive. It's not that I don't think some of his points are valid (the EU superstructure is undemocratic and populated with bureaucratic mandarins), but there's no reason to be offensively nasty about expressing yourself. There's no need to gratuitously insult the other guy's country either if you're arguing that the EU is bad because it steamrollers over the idea of individual nation-state sovereignty. Anyhoo, take a look and listen as UK MEP Nigel Faragely rips EU President Herman van Rompuy to the guy's face. I half expected Faragely to make a Yo Mama joke while he was at it!

How Would You Like Your Government Health Care Described as Causing "Unimaginable Suffering"?

Oh, these poor people. This is a horrible news story from the UK:

Patients were routinely neglected or left “sobbing and humiliated” by staff at an NHS trust where at least 400 deaths have been linked to appalling care.

An independent inquiry found that managers at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust stopped providing safe care because they were preoccupied with government targets and cutting costs.

. . . The report, which follows reviews by the Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health, said that “unimaginable” suffering had been caused. Regulators said last year that between 400 and 1,200 more patients than expected may have died at the hospital from 2005 to 2008.
Good grief.

Nerd News: The College Debt Bomb and the Uncertain Future of the Traditional Campus

Here's an interesting article. I don't agree with all of it, but it makes some very good points.

Public Servants More Like Public Overlords

Alas, truer than ever on both sides of the pond. US version here, UK version here.

I've never bought the entire Marxist "class war" business, but I'll say this: in the current political morass, there are class problems -- in the form of the political class running roughshod over everybody else.

No wonder a huge swathe of the populace (71% in a recent Rasmussen poll) thinks that the government itself is a special interest group!

Was Milton Friedman Right About the Euro?

Back in 1999, Friedman famously predicted that the euro currency would not survive the first major European recession. Is he right?

The current convulsions on the continent, seen most spectacularly with the debt bomb in Greece, seem to hint yes, economics' Uncle Miltie was onto something.

World War II History + Iconic Photo + Internet Culture + Fashion = ?

Together they all equal something awesome. I must get this T-shirt! (Dignified Rant and Roamin' Ronin, this one's for you!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nerd Journal: Massive Snow At Nerdworld

If DC, Maryland, and Philly recently got Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse, then the entire East Coast and Nerdworld are now getting a snowicane. Yep, snowstorm + hurricane -- a massive Nor'easter complete with winds over 70 mph. Yikes! The meteorologists are all talking about paralyzing conditions and blinding snowfall. Here's more on the snowicane.

"That's not a snowpocalypse; this is a snowpocalypse."

Will Nerdworld cancel classes? I HOPE SO!! I already went out to the grocery store yesterday and stocked up, so my cupboard and fridge are nice and full in case I get "snowed in." Basically in the middle of this crazy weather, I am not venturing out of my apartment if I can possibly help it! (Who knows? I might actually get some work done! Or, maybe, I'll just watch the disgustingly cute Shiba Inu puppy cam and watch more weird winter sports!)

The snow is beginning to fall -- and FAST too.

As long as the electricity and the heat and the Internet stay on, I'll be OK!

Nerd Fun: Thesis LOLCat

Kitchen Notes: A Taiwanese Eatery in New York

The New York Times isn't worth reading for its silly "news" coverage, but it still has some good restaurant profiles. Here's a place I didn't know about -- it serves Taiwanese goodies, including pork belly in a bao -- so good.

Quirky Euro Files: Send Your Toy On a Vacation

Here's something cute from the Czech Republic. Well, why not send your teddy bear abroad? It's too expensive to send yourself these days! Do check out some of the adorable photos.

The Politician's Will to Autocracy

Well, well, well. As law prof Ann Althouse says, read the Federalist Papers and remember what separation of powers is!

Cuban Immigrant Emilio Estefan's American Dream

Add this to your reading list.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Satire Alert: Weird Winter Olympic Sports

The British wags at the Daily Mash take aim at all those wonderfully weird winter Olympic sports and the Nordic athletes who love them.

(Be careful out there when you're trying all this, folks. Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti!)

A (Hacked) Sign of the Times Down Under

Awesome Aussie Tim Blair has this hilarious link.

It certainly follows in a recent and illustrious habit of people hacking electronic traffic signs (see here and here).

Fortune Cookie Facepalm in Seattle

Oh, brother. I can't make up this stuff if I tried. Link xie-xie to Bread upon the Waters.

I mean, SRSLY? A person possibly can't even get some Chinese food without having some stupid government propaganda shoved in his face? At least I don't live in Seattle.

For this report I make a new blog tag, *eye roll.* I think we'll be seeing this tag used a lot.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nerd Fun: A Joke That's All Too Close To The Truth

See that? POSTDOCS. That means he's a science PhD.
Now think of how much worse off humanities/liberal arts PhDs are.

(OMG, I am so screwed.)

Quirky Euro Files: Euro-crat Comic Heroes

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I'm sorry, I can't stop laughing!

Here's a blurb:

The graphic novel follows the 'adventures' of Zana, Max et al at the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department – known as ECHO – as they struggle to secure funding for the fictional sate of Borduvia, which has been devastated by an earthquake.

Written by a Belgian graphic novelist Erik Bongers, Hidden Disasters – a cross between Tintin and Thunderbirds: International Rescue – contains such immortal dialogue as: "We must inform the Commissioner! She's briefing the European Parliament on the earthquake tomorrow."
Um .... riveting.

OK, you must tell me if you think this story is more mock-able than Captain Euro, which I laughed at years ago.

Then again, isn't it just typical of government bureaucrats that they think they're so much more awesome than they are? so much more ... messianic?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life Imitates "The Onion": The National Enquirer Is Officially In Pulitzer Prize Contention

This is NOT a satire, apparently.

That's right, kids. That gossip rag is now officially a contender for journalism's palm of honor. Its investigation into the sordid John Edwards-Rielle Hunter scandal is its reason for inclusion.

OK, OK, I laugh, but it just might be that the tabloid Enquirer did us all a favor by uncovering and publicizing what a total unbelievable scumbag Edwards is so we can hound him out of public life.

Cool Video of the Day: Papierkrieg / Paper War

Via Geeks Are Sexy comes the link to this delightful little video:

Papierkrieg from Makaio Tisu on Vimeo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Euro Notes: Greece Imploding

Things are bad in Greece. But someone must have asked "What else could possibly go wrong?" because now it's gotten itself humiliated by the EU-rocrats.

Oh, Hellas. How far you've fallen. It's like you're living your own Greek tragedy.

Schadenfreude Alert: Global Warming? LOL!


Diagnosing a Political Disorder?

Hilariously on-target:
... this may be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for right thinking people to confront a specific, widespread mental disorder that has long driven us crazy: what I call Airhead Liberalism Political Disorder or ALPD for short. This is not a coherent ideology like Socialism or Marxism. Rather, it is a style of political engagement whose purpose is psychological satisfaction independent of actual of costs or benefits. In a nutshell: if advocating a policy makes me feel good about myself, it’s a good policy.
Well, DUH! Thanks, Captain Obvious. Have you noticed that nowadays everyone cares about meaning well? Consequences be damned! If you engage in a policy that makes you feel good (such as dumping billions of dollars into African aid or driving the entire country into unprecedented debt-helotry), who cares if the actual result is failure and misery on a massive scale? You meant well. That's all that matters, sweetie pie. Who cares about REALITY? Good intentions, good intentions. They're paramount. But hasn't anybody recalled that "good intentions" show up in an axiom that's too often true?

Killjoy Thermomaniac Watermelons Versus ... Wait For It ... TOFU


Give me some STEAK, baby. I feel like celebrating. There are few things that give me more evil pleasure than watching different groups of hand-wringing, finger-pointing, nagging, self-righteous do-gooders and Gaea-lovers clash.

Steak. Medium. NOW.

Friday Fun Video: Adobe Photoshop + Cookies

Brilliant. Via Miss Cellania.

Adobe Photoshop Cook from Lait Noir on Vimeo.

Mangled History: Psalmanazar and an 18th-Century Fantasy Formosa

A total fraud and charlatan, but certainly interesting!

And kind of amusing in the sheer outrageousness of some of his claims, such as "at one festival it was commanded that every day for nine days 2,000 boys should have their hearts burned out upon an altar."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Movie Review Preview: "Daybreakers" and "Percy Jackson"

I've been busy on campus, but here is the short version of 2 movie reviews:

Fun little vampire flick that has a creative twist on the genre -- that doesn't involve sparkly epidermis and mopey emo teenagers. It has elements of "The Matrix" and zombie apocalypse, and it presents a fascinating vision of a world filled with vampires as the dominant species. I give the flick a good solid B, though if you don't like lots of theatrical blood, you won't like this. I, on the other hand, tend to laugh rather than scream. Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe star, along with Sam Neill as the villain. Come on, Sam Neill is an evil corporate vampire. That alone should be reason to see this thing! Plus 3 words: Vampire. Feeding. Frenzy.

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief"
An amusing little flick with a ponderous title, "Percy Jackson" isn't great, but it's colorful entertainment for a gloomy wintry February. I liked it despite its flaws, of which it has plenty, but what it does right is pretty diverting. I'm talking about Uma Thurman as a fabulous Medusa, some fun twists and mythological references, and Pierce Brosnan as Chiron the teacher-centaur. Come on, Pierce Brosnan is a centaur. That alone should be reason to see this thing! Plus the always excellent Sean Bean as Zeus and the delicious Kevin McKidd as Poseidon. (In all honesty, I went to see these guys, not Logan Lerman and his teenaged posse on a quest.) There's a vibe of "National Treasure" meets Greek mythology, though clearly someone hasn't figured out that Athena is famously a virgin goddess. B- overall.

(Oh, and one more thing: the movie makes one laugh-out-loud stupid line of dialogue that hints Obama is a demigod. HA! Really? Who's his divine parent? The god of deficits?)

Bad hair day.

Nerd News: College Tuition as a Cartel?

Hmmmm. Costs are skyrocketing, and people are frustrated, though I repeat for the millionth time, GOVERNMENT MEDDLING IS NOT THE ANSWER.

Nerd News: College Admissions and Short-Changing High-Performing Asian American Students

Here is the latest salvo. I've been going on and on about this for a while now. Remember how Asians don't count as a minority because we actually ... um, do WELL? And are you going to make me rehash all those lawsuits in California? It's the flip side of "affirmative action."

UPDATE: Here is some commentary about race and "fairness," that pernicious term.

Quote of the Day: Spengler on US Middle East Foreign Policy

Pricelessly piquant and unfortunately true. Bonus: "Alice in Wonderland" reference.
To the extent Washington has a Middle East policy, it seems to involve playing balance-of-power games on the scale of the Mad Hatter's tea party.
Heh, DC has a Middle East policy?

Nerd News: Best Blog Post About Epistemology EVER -- "No One Knows What They're Doing"

FABULOUS. No, really. I mean it. It's both astute and funny. Click. Read. Now. It's entitled "No One Knows What The F*** They're Doing."

It adds, in a twist worthy of Socrates, that people who realize they don't know things aren't anywhere near as dangerous as people who don't realize that. And so the truly wise man understands how ignorant he is, and the hubristic fool thinks he knows everything. Well, AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH, especially on campus. (And in government -- oops, did I say that out loud?)

It kind of makes me feel better about feeling that I'm a fraud and that sooner or later someone's going to figure out that I'M NOT A REAL SCHOLAR and toss me off campus. I'll also give you a related quote by Alessandra about the whole issue of knowing/performing/being praised when you know too well your own limitations: "It's not always that some people really are THAT good. It's also that a lot of other people suck. So you look really good in comparison." Hmmm, true dat?

Nerd Analysis + Book Review: Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" Flying Off the Bookshelves

Duke University professor of economics Bruce Caldwell has an analysis of why free-market economist F.A. Hayek's classic book "The Road to Serfdom" is currently enjoying a massive reader renaissance. It is selling very well. No wonder, given the zeitgeist.

I'll say this for the current recession and the concomitant government follies that are going on in the name of "fixing it": it has unexpectedly lit a fire under the chairs of people all over -- a fire that drives them to educate themselves and think for themselves and READ ... and engage in a debate of ACTUAL IDEAS. That is the silver lining to a gloomy cloud.

You'll recall too how Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is also selling well.

RELATED POST: Satire Alert: DHS issues No-Read List.

Fugly or Fabulous? The Fashionistas of Olympic Norwegian Curling

Apparently the Norwegian men's curling team in Vancouver is attracting a lot of attention -- and not for their talent at the sport. Take a look!

Hot pants, cool sport.

So tell me, are the colorful patterned pants fugly or fabulous? I can't decide. But I can't stop looking at them either!

Link via John Scalzi, who comments, "You know, I haven’t been following the Olympics at all, because I don’t much actually care, but I have to say the Norwegian Olympic Curling Team’s pants deserve a medal. For something."

Heh, how about a medal for "Most Epic Display of Masculine Sartorial Self-Confidence at an International Sporting Event"? Of course, these guys are the descendants of Vikings, right?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Hell Beast of Snow-mageddon!

In the spirit of recent weather-related amusement like this and this, I give you THIS:

Nerd News: Rhode Island Superintendent Fires Entire Staff of Failing High School


The American Presidents In Song

Since I forgot to post anything about Presidents Day, here is a belated bit of fun. Yes, yes, it's a bit of retro amusement and a bit dated now, but "The Animaniacs" was always great cartoon fun.

Nerd News: Campus Invasion of the European Free-Market Economists

Welcome! Come on in; sit a spell.

I think I've mentioned before how the nerd scuttlebutt says that European universities are increasingly not a great place to work if you have any new ideas.

Nerd News: Tim Blair, Iowahawk, and the Single PhD Candidate Female

HA! Awesome Aussie Tim Blair has something fun on his blog. Be sure to read the comments too because the glorious Iowahawk is there. I'm SO tempted to quote him here, but I don't want to spoil the fun of discovery. Go!
Dear Iowahawk,

I think I love you.

Sincerely yours,
Mad Minerva
By the way, the "felony stupidity" tag is for Kevin Rudd. Rude much, Prime Minister?

How Do You Spell "Chile"?

This news story made me laugh out loud. There's photographic evidence of the spelling fail too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nerd News: Baylor University Beclowns Itself (Yet Again)

When you're a constant source of mingled giggles and eye rolls even in the ludicrous world of academia, you know you've achieved some kind of poisonous notoriety. Baylor University has reached this point.

Specifically, it has done this with its endless stupid nerd soap opera involving its leadership. In a nutshell, this university has, amid widespread bitterness and the equivalent of civil war on campus, fired 2 presidents within the last 5 years (one in 2005, the other in 2008). It's been making do with interim leaders for a while. The whole thing's been a shambles. I've never heard of any school having so much trouble in the leadership (3 presidents in 10 years?), combined with flat-out war with factions among the regents, alumni, and faculty.

Now this once-respectable university has "chosen" a new president. You'll never guess who it is. OK, Baylor! You know you need to rehabilitate your reputation and keep your alienated, angry, embarrassed alums from burning their diplomas and refusing ever to be associated with the Baylor brand (to say nothing of them deciding never to make any donations). So what do you do?

If you're a semi-reasonable school, you choose a reliable, sensible person who doesn't bring a lot of emotional or political baggage with him, someone who can offer the sense of a fresh start without the burden of the past.

If you're Baylor, you choose Ken Starr.

Ken Starr, who had investigated Bill Clinton during the entire Monica Lewinsky and impeachment circus. Baylor. It's where dignity goes to die.

I got this news from some bona fide Baylor alums, too. I feel like sending out condolence cards.

Anyhoo, I should clarify that this mess is about the university, not Baylor Law or Baylor Med, both of which are still respectable.

Oh ... Now the thought occurs to me that Starr, with his Clinton-era brush with venal, corrupt, sordid underhanded behavior, sex, lies, and scandal, just be perfect for academia. Baylor, you will remember, first attracted this blog's wrath here. Somehow a misdeed by ONE campus always makes ALL academics look bad and feeds into every negative stereotype about universities. And I said before, Baylor seems determined to brand itself as not only evil but incompetent.

Nerd News: Princeton Gives Charity to Harvard

Via proud Princeton man Tigerhawk comes this little tale:

Poor, poor downtrodden, deprived Harvard students get some free hot breakfast from magnanimous Princeton angels of mercy on a mission of compassion.

Poor, poor Harvard, where under the new budget cuts, the miserable residents have to go to faculty meetings without free cookies! OH, THE HUMANITY!

Seriously, go read the entire news story. It contains little gems like this glorious "explanation" by one Princetonian:
On Friday, November 6, The Princeton Tiger led a humanitarian aid mission to bring hot breakfast – oatmeal – to Harvard students. “Everyone’s hurting in this economy,” said Steven Liss, Chairman of The Tiger. “But Harvard’s endowment shrunk from $37 billion to scarcely $26 billion– they’ve lost more than anyone in these tough times.” A Massachusetts native, Liss cited concern over the coming winter. “Harvard’s our rival, but we hate to think of them having to get by on only continental breakfasts. How can we enjoy our omelettes when they have to clutch croissants in shivering hands, too weak to lift the cantaloupe from their plates? It’s just not decent!”
Be sure to read the ENTIRE THING. The end is fabulous.


(And, yes, I love seeing people stick it to Hahvahd, that Kremlin-on-the-Charles.)

Public Service Announcement: Spray-On Neosporin Is Awesome

Spray-on Neosporin = awesome!

Having to use it because you were a klutz, tripped on a curb, and banged up your knee = not so awesome.

Still, you totally need to get some spray-on Neosporin antiseptic for your first aid kit at home! Especially if you have kids running around. It's much easier to use than the usual ointment type -- less messy and you don't end up touching your wound.

Oh, OK, I admit it. I was wearing my favorite pair of high-heeled tall black boots when I faceplanted. Fashion comes with its price, I suppose!

Euro Notes: MM, the Undergrad, and The Greek Debt Bomb

A confused undergrad recently asked me what was going on with Greece's astronomical debt and bankruptcy issues (along with the political fallout).

I said, "The problem is that it's about to destroy the eurozone."

Am I oversimplifying? What's an "easy" way to explain the mess? Help me out here, people.

(Interestingly, this was in a class that had nothing to do with modern Europe. But it was definitely a teachable moment. Besides, the kid asked me first, so I felt perfectly OK to tell the whole class about how DEBT IS BAD and how UNRESTRAINED NATIONAL DEBT WILL TURN AROUND AND BITE YOU-- while hoping that the bright ones would understand I meant all debt, not just Greece's.)

Meanwhile, Euroskeptic Brits are feeling, understandably, rather justified in their doubts about joining the euro currency.

MM in the Kitchen: Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

HECK YEAH. In honor of California Dreamer, too. Here's to you, girl.

ClimateGate: Game Over?

The wheels are falling off fast:
“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

The doubts of Christy and a number of other researchers focus on the thousands of weather stations around the world, which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama.

“The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

The IPCC faces similar criticisms from Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph, Canada, who was invited by the panel to review its last report.

The experience turned him into a strong critic and he has since published a research paper questioning its methods.

“We concluded, with overwhelming statistical significance, that the IPCC’s climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialisation and data quality problems. These add up to a large warming bias,” he said.
Apparently some scientists have remembered that science means not forcing data to match an agenda.

The killjoy thermomaniac watermelons' increasing panic and dismay is just ... DELICIOUS. Meanwhile I want my incandescent light bulbs back!

The IPCC is going down in history as a collection of scientifically illiterate scoundrels who feathered their own nests with the lucrative benefits of being global warming alarmists.

I want to grab a stake and stab it right into the slimy green heart of cap-and-trade.

UPDATE 2: Skulduggery-mania! Here's a handy summary. The wheels are coming off so fast that I can't even keep count. Meanwhile, I bask in sweet, sweet vindication of my rejection of all the alarmism and its calls for "Give us all your money and freedoms or Gaia's going to burn." It sounded like bad science and corrupt politics. I was called evil. Turns out I was RIGHT. So there!

American Versus European Unemployment

Some numbers.

Nerd News: The Student Loan Burden -- "Just Outrageous Now"?

More miserable thoughts on the widespread student loan mess.

You can see my previous links, rants, and analyses if you click on the "cost of education" tag.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quirky Asia Files: Rent a Boyfriend in China


Kitchen Notes: Happy Lunar New Year/Spring Festival/Year of the Tiger. Now Eat Until You Explode!

It's Pan-Asian holiday madness. I could not care less about food-related superstitions, but the food itself is fabulous. I'd be happy with just mountains and mountains of dumplings. EAT UP, PEOPLE!

(And, even more importantly for impecunious nerds, bring on the ang pao! Look, some enterprising person has even come up with a way to make heart-shaped ang pao, all too fitting for the double-whammy holiday this year!)

Nerd Love: A Valentine's Equation

Happy Valentine's Day: Winter Olympics Edition

Oh, you knew this was coming. What other movie could possibly combine romantic comedy and the Winter Olympics? Here's a perennial favorite that first hit the big screen in 1992:


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: Silence of the Hello Kitties

From Neatorama comes this ... visual atrocity. I have to ask, though, why Hello Kitty needs a muzzle if she doesn't have a mouth? Oh, well. Go get yourself some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Hello, Clarice.

Vancouver 2010: Olympic Snowball Fighting

Here's the most charming commercial I've seen yet from the Vancouver Games:

See, I *told* you snowball fighting should be an Olympic sport!

Public Service Announcement: Truthers and Birthers Are Not Welcome

I shouldn't even have to say this, but I will: I think 9/11 Truthers are a lunatic fringe, and I likewise think that the Birthers are too. Hailing from opposite sides of the political spectrum, neither group of nuts has any legitimate place in serious political debate and should frankly be shunned as fundamentally unserious kooks and cranks. End of story.

My PSA follows this one.

Nerd News: Follow-Up on Alabama Tenure-Denial Shooting

More information is emerging about yesterday's shooting rampage at a biology faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntville. Inside Higher Ed has a writeup about Amy Bishop, the biology professor who went postal. Note this too:
The three professors who were fatally shot at a meeting of the biology faculty were Gopi K. Podila, chairman of the biology department, and Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson, both associate professors in the department.

Joseph Leahy, an associate biology professor, and Stephanie Monticciolo, a staff member in the biology department. were wounded and in critical condition as of Saturday morning, and Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera, an assistant professor of biology, was wounded but released from the hospital Saturday.
Yikes. Here is the news at the UAH website. The shooter, 42-year-old Amy Bishop, was a Harvard-educated researcher.

Michael Yon Reports From Afghanistan

Here is independent journalist Michael Yon's latest report. It's fascinating stuff with a kind of detail and eye for the human side that you really never see in the MSM.

Plus puppies.

Here is his official website.

The Fairness Fallacy?

Read this. It's the whole "equality of outcome" mess all over again.

Nerd Fun: Wordplay of the Day - SnoopSpeak Meets English

Friday, February 12, 2010

Live-Blogging the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies

The Vancouver Games are starting soon!!

OK, the ceremonies haven't even begun yet, and I'm already annoyed by NBC reporters. So far the worst offender is Matt Lauer, who might as well be called the Beijing Poodle (remember this?). Bob Costas was asking Lauer about the opening ceremonies, and Lauer launches into a drooling fanboy reminiscence about how awesome Beijing's were, how they "rocked the world," and how they "set the bar impossibly high" for all other possible Olympics. WHAT?

Matt, sweetie, this is 2010, not 2008, and you are sitting in VANCOUVER. Do you even realize that you've just insulted your Canadian hosts? You just said that Beijing was so ZOMG FRICKING AWESOME that no one else could possibly be anywhere near as good. HELLO, MATT. In about an hour, the Canadians are going to open their Games, and they are going to do it with a huge effort that they've worked hard to put together. How about focusing on the CANADIANS in the here-and-now instead of blabbering on and on about Beijing from 2 years ago? GEEZ.

Thank goodness for Costas, who simply said that the Canadians were planning a different kind of show, something more intimate and comfy, something to make Canadian hearts swell with pride and make everyone else say, "I can't wait to visit Canada!"

(I have visited Canada, and I loved it! I plan actually on getting back later this year.)

8:48 PM: "We Are The World" is 25 years old??? I remember it when I was tiny. Time to play "Name That Celebrity." LL Cool J?

8:57 PM: Oh, for crap's sake. A pro-census commercial. Really? Really?

8:59 PM: The ceremonies are dedicated to
Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21-year-old Georgian luger who died today in a crash. RIP, poor Nodar.

9:00 PM: FINALLY. Let's get started, EH?

9:02 PM: Prerequisite video montage of pretty scenery.

9:04 PM: Snowboarding through the Olympic Rings. Nice!

9:07 PM: Ooooh, Mounties!

9:08 PM: The total population of Canada is really only 33 million? Their land mass is VAST.

9:09 PM: "O Canadaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"! The singer's doing a fine job, but all I'm really thinking about is: "I want that red dress. And those shoes." She's almost making this sound like a sultry lounge act, isn't she?

9:14 PM: Massive shout-out to/by indigenous/First Nations groups. The huge blue-lit totems are COOL. Different aboriginal nations of the Pacific Northwest have such colorful outfits!

9:20 PM: I admit it, I have a short attention span. Where is the Parade of Nations?

9:22 PM: Greece! And who is that adorable Albanian flagbearer?

9:25 PM: The Austrians look so FORMAL! They're all wearing SUITS!

Azerbaijan: Dude, I love your pants!

9:27 PM: I am LOVING how the Bermuda contingent is wearing red Bermuda shorts.

Brazil. The NBC reporters can't resist mentioning how Rio won the Summer Games and beat out Chicago to do it.

9:30 PM: The Cayman Islanders are wearing big floppy straw hats. Fugly or fabulous? You tell me.

China's 90-person-strong contingent enters.

9:39 PM: Had to go get my laundry out of the dryer. Did I miss anything?

The Georgian team with black arm bands. The Georgians receive a standing ovation from the sympathetic crowd.

9:40 PM: Here come the Germans. Winter powerhouse, but ... PINK-AND-YELLOW VESTS??? Definitely fugly.

9:42 PM: The Brits look smashing! Crisp white jackets. LOVE the berets.

Those aboriginal dancers have been dancing for a while now. Tired yet?

9:47 PM: The 100+ Italians somehow manage to look like fashion plates. Again. It doesn't seem fair, does it?

9:50 PM: That Kazakh headdress is INTENSE, man.

9:51 PM: The South Koreans are here. This time they are NOT marching together with the North Koreans. Relations are bad -- well, DUH.

9:59 PM: Norway's in the house. They're gonna be HUGE.

There are so many tiny contingents. It's really kind of charming. They're here to have a good time and take part. Isn't that the whole point?

Russia: There are 178 athletes?! They're waving ... what? fuzzy blue teddy bears?

10:06 PM: Taking a fashion tip from the Slovakians: black coat, red scarf.

OK, I'm starting to get tired here. Are we almost done?

10:09 PM: 146 Swiss athletes?! Tiny nation, GINORMOUS contingent.

10:10 PM: Here's "Chinese Taipei" with that STUPID FAKE FLAG. I hate that thing.

Come on, come on, Team USA.

10:12 PM: YAY! 216 Team USA athletes stroll in -- with awesome knit hats that have moose on them!

10:14 PM: Team Canada! It brings down the house with 206 athletes in some eye-popping red outfits. I am loving the red-and-black plaid scarves too. There's a shot to the stands of Canadian PM Stephen Harper.

10:18 PM: OK, OK, on to the cultural bit of the ceremonies, please. MM is getting tired. I had a full day on campus today and really want to hit the hay. But I really want to see the lighting of the flame. Unfortunately, I'll have to listen to a bunch of IOC blowhards yap first, though. Errrrgh.

10:20 PM: Nelly Furtado is CANADIAN? I knew Bryan Adams is. Then again, a lot of entertainers in the US turn out to be actually Canadian. Including Captain Kirk! Nelly's platform heels, though, just look painful. Hey, I'll do all sorts of crazy stuff in the name of looking good, but not those platform heels.

10:27 PM: Snowing indoors! Oh, and here is some fringe-wearing guy who's supposed to be the protagonist of the cultural bit, of swooping around different regions of the Great White North.


The artificial Northern Lights are awesome!

10:30 PM: A gigantic lighted bear! I'M IN LOVE.

10:33 PM: A faux natural disaster. Now if someone tries to make some comment about global warming, I am going to scream and mute the TV.

Orcas and aboriginal patterns and salmon, oh my!

10:36 PM: Cool lighted totem poles. But I feel a cheesy dance number coming on.

10:37 PM: Sarah McLachlan, wearing a ludicrous necklace that looks like something a 3-year-old made with paste and sequins. I actually like Sarah's music, even if it's so ... calming. The Cine-Sib used to call Alessandra "She Who Interprets Sarah McLachlan Videos."

10:38 PM: I knew it. Cheesy dance number. Boooooooo!

10:44 PM: A bewitched canoe? With a fiddler in it? I think I prefer the Fiddler on the Roof.

OK, punk fiddling. It looks like FUN. I have no musical talent at all, but if I did, I'd want to learn to fiddle. But you want fiddle virtuoso madness? 2 words: Natalie MacMaster. She's from Nova Scotia.

10:51 PM: DANCE FEVER. OK, people with sparklers on their heels -- fun effect.

10:57 PM: Am bored now and surfing recipe websites. What do you think of this?

10:58 PM: It's not an Olympic opening ceremony until you have someone dangling on wires and floating through the air. Maybe we should make wire-dangling a Summer Games sport.

11:05 PM: OK, totally awesome mountains and skiers/snowboarders on wires.

11:09 PM: WHY DO PEOPLE ALWAYS HAVE TO PUT LIGHTS ON THEMSELVES? They look like they have smallpox that lights up with glow-in-the-dark pus.

11:11 PM: Poetry?! About Canada? No, no, no! "We are an experiment gone right for a change"?!


11:12 PM: Muting the TV. Ugh. This "poet" (and I use the term loosely) belongs in some dingy coffeehouse during a poetry slam, not on stage at the Games. Beat poet? Yeah, I'd like to beat the poet, all right.

11:16 PM: Oh, great. IOC big shots are taking their turn at the mike. Groan. Did that windbag just use the words "through the magic of television"?! *gag*

11:18 PM: "the greatest winter athletes of all time." Shut up, you Kanye wannabe.

"You are the beacon of hope." He actually said that. This guy's incredible banality is putting me to sleep FAST.

11:21 PM: Hurry up and light the flame so we get on with competing already! MM wants some ski jumping tomorrow, dang it.

11:22 PM: I am SO TEMPTED to mute the TV and just listen to my "Glee" soundtrack CD until I see the Olympic flame enter the stadium.

11:24 PM: Listening now to the "Glee" cast sing "Jump." I listen to enough blowhards in my school life. I don't need to hear yet another blowhard in my off hours!

11:26 PM: Jacques Rogge's turn to flap his gums at the podium. YAWN. In an act of subversive sarcasm, I now listen to "My Life Would Suck Without You."

11:30 PM: Light the flame. Light the flame. Light the flame.

11:31 PM: FINALLY. The Governor-General declares the Games open. The lights dim, and we get ... a dopey song by k.d. lang. UGH.

Well, OK, no matter how much the song sucks, at least it's not "Imagine." Yeah, I know that tune is a pop culture favorite, but I hate it.

11:39 PM: Finally, here's the Olympic flag. Carried by Donald Sutherland! Among others. Can we please hurry up and set something on fire? Mamma wants to go to bed!

11:42 PM: Can that girl actually fit through doorways with that hair???

11:45 PM: This song is going on forever, and it's done in full opera style. It's unbearable. I don't care if it IS the Olympic hymn. Hello, mute button. Oh, how I love you.

11:46: A moment of silence for
Nodar Kumaritashvili. 21 is far too young.

11:47 PM: Oooh, the athletes' oath. We'll see how many days go by until the first doping scandal hits. I will wager ... 4 days.

11:50 PM: La Parisienne texts: "Burninate already." Amen, sister. SET SOMETHING ON FIRE. IT'S NOT THAT HARD.

11:53 PM: FINALLY!!!!! THE FLAME! *MM weeps with joy.*


Finally, Wayne Gretzky.

11:58 PM: Newscasters are wondering if there's a technical glitch. Where's the cauldron?

12:00 AM: THAT's the cauldron?

12:01 AM: FIRE!!! YAY!!!!!

12:02 AM: Fireworks make me happy.

12:03 AM: Gretzky to light the exterior cauldron. There's something deliciously pagan about this whole fire business.

12:06 AM: How long, do you think, before some stupid Greenie complains that the Olympic Flame contributes to global warming?

Joe Biden?! As long as Crazy Uncle Joe keeps his trap shut and doesn't embarrass the whole country with another of his nutty utterances, fine. I guess.

"It takes a lot of guts to risk failure in front of everybody." REALLY, Joe? You risk and do it all the time yourself, pal.

12:13 AM: The newscasters are getting on my nerves. Costas is OK, but Lauer? Let's set Matt on fire too.

I can't help hitting back at Matt. It wasn't Beijing 2008 that set an impossibly high standard. In terms of torch lighting, it was Barcelona 1992. Nobody has even come close to this sheer awesomeness.

12:19 AM: "Good night from Vancouver." Well, it was fun and all. Now let's get to the REAL fun, shall we? Tomorrow we get to ski jumping!

MM, signing off.

Awesome: Shot Down in a Blaze of Glory!

This just made my entire day. I might be a history nerd and teacher, but at heart, I'm a technophiliac who loves it when things go BOOM. Blurb:
WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A U.S. high-powered airborne laser weapon shot down a ballistic missile in the first successful test of a futuristic directed energy weapon, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Friday.
Dude, read that again. A laser mounted on a special military 747 jumbo jet shot down a ballistic missile while both were in mid-flight. The missile was flying at a speed of about 4000 miles an hour. It happened off the coast of California.


Nerd News: Free Speech Issues at UC Irvine

Oh, brother. It's another instance of the "free speech for me but not for thee" syndrome that runs amok on college campuses.

This time the victim is Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who was invited to speak by the political science department and law school of UC Irvine. His speech was systematically and rudely interrupted. 11 disruptive students have been arrested. I have no sympathy for them AT ALL.

UPDATE: In a nutshell: "So, we are back to the foundational belief that free speech ought not to apply to anybody who expresses views the campus left dislikes."

Nerd News: University of Alabama Faculty Member Is Denied Tenure, Goes Postal

Police said a female member of the UA-Huntsville faculty shot and killed three co-workers on campus.

Huntsville Police, Madison County Sheriff's department and HEMSI responded to a shooting at the UAH campus at 4:00 Friday afternoon.

The shooting happened in the Shelby Center, a math and science classroom building.

Authorities said a female faculty member during a Biology faculty meeting learned she would not receive tenure. She then pulled out a gun and started shooting.

Vancouver 2010: Let the Games Begin -- and Meet Taiwan's Sole Winter Olympian

The Vancouver Games begin today! Here is a great collection of photos from the torch relay.

Foxtrot and I love the Winter Games -- quite possibly even more than the Summer Games. To quote Foxtrot, "There's more stuff to do in the winter! In the summer, there are only so many ways you can run and swim and jump." Then again, that girl does love skiing.

Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to my 4-yearly indulgence in goofy sports that I hardly ever see outside the Olympics. I want some ski jumping and some curling! (I actually tried curling once, and it is SO MUCH HARDER than it looks.)

On a related note, some friends and I were talking about sports that SHOULD be in the Winter Games. How about snowmobile racing, dogsledding, ice sculpture making, and competitive snowball throwing? Come on, that would be pretty awesome.

Check out this cool photo essay of "unlikely" winter Olympians, including Taiwan's only representative in Vancouver, 24-year-old Chih-Hung Ma of Pingtung (my dad's hometown!) Ma will be competing in the luge. Good luck!

I'll save you my usual rant about "Chinese Taipei." You've already heard it plenty of times.

I'll tell you something else too. I'm so glad the Games are in Canada, a free society and open democracy. Oh, there will be the usual host-country displays of pride, but there won't be the ridiculous shenanigans of the type we saw in Beijing. Along with the the lapdog media that swallowed all the propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Geez, who else is glad that the "Beijingoism" is a memory?

Now we can get on with more important things, like watching people hurl themselves down mountains, perform triple axels, and club each other in the pursuit of a slippery puck. YES!

Friday Fun Video: Beaker's Ballad

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Whopper of the Day: "There Are No Dissidents in China"

Thus spake a member of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, apparently.

To which I can only quote from a favorite movie:

Or perhaps the "no dissidents" comment actually means "we're doing our best to get rid of all the dissidents."

Nerd Fun: Kittens + Neuroscience = ?

Disgustingly cute.

Mamma Mia! NO, Silvio!

This time it's not funny, capisce? I'm all for Silvio shooting his mouth off, but I'm NOT for him trying to tell other people not to shoot off theirs.

Euro Notes: Greek Fire

Not that other Greek fire. The one going on right now. Debt contagion in the Eurozone. Uh-oh. The euro is falling.

Grad School Metaphor! The Wolf and the Vole

Yep, pretty much.

Life Imitates the Movies: Giant Rodents? Inconceivable!

"Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

Awesome Photo of the Day: a Nighttime Rainbow in Hawaii

Click here (or here) and be amazed. The "star" you see is actually Mars. Via Neatorama.

Here comes the science as noted in the news story:
... that band of colours is, in reality, a moonbow. Like a rainbow, its daylight equivalent, a moonbow is produced when light is broken up into its constituent colours as it passes through water droplets. In both cases, the source of light is the same: the Sun. In the case of the rainbow, sunlight produces its effect directly. In the case of the moonbow, however, that sunlight is first reflected off the surface of the moon and then shines back down to Earth.

RELATED POST: Previous rainbow awesomeness here.

Kitchen Notes: Green Tea Almond Genoise Layer Cake

WOW. East meets West ... deliciously.

PS: Are you ready for green tea biscotti with crystallized ginger?

Winter Geek Fun: the Fire-Breathing Snowman


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cool Video of the Day: DC Snowpocalypse

Check out this bit of time-lapse videography from this past weekend's snowfall in Washington, DC. One more thing: TEDDY BEAR CRUELTY!!!

RELATED POST: Weather Apocalypse Now! from Baltimore, Maryland.

Winter totally stinks.

UPDATE: Some more cool snow photos from DC. I love the snow sculpture of the Capitol building!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Best Blogger Self-Identification Yet

From the humorous crew at Samizdata (great blog name too) comes this "Who Are We" blurb:
[We] are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Amongst our many crimes is a sense of humour and the intermittent use of British spelling.

We are also a varied group made up of social individualists, classical liberals, whigs, libertarians, extropians, futurists, 'Porcupines', Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe.

Maybe I'll be inspired to "improve" my bloggy self-ID! Help me out here, people.

Nerd News + What Fresh Hell Is This?: North Carolina Public High School History Classes Won't Teach the American Revolution?

WHAT???? The curriculum will begin at 1877. WHAT????

1877?! Do you have ANY IDEA AT ALL how much important American history happened before 1877? The American Revolution? The Civil War? Hello?????

As if I needed any more evidence that edu-crats are (a) abymally stupid, and (b) apparently bent on the mass idiotification of the classroom.

I am so hoping that this report is wrong. But when it comes to edu-crats, I am a gloomy pessimist.

Now go here immediately and have some fun with the Declaration of Independence.

Schadenfreude Alert: the Netherlands Versus IPCC

For the IPCC, it's all gone horribly pear-shaped as the Dutch call them out:
The Netherlands has asked the UN climate change panel to explain an inaccurate claim in a landmark 2007 report that more than half the country was below sea level, the Dutch government said Friday.

According to the Dutch authorities, only 26 percent of the country is below sea level, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be asked to account for its figures, environment ministry spokesman Trimo Vallaart told AFP.

. . . The Dutch environment ministry will order a review of the report to see if it contains any more errors, Vallaart said.

SERIOUSLY, if these people can't get their numbers right on something that can be verified, do they really expect me to trust their fantasy numbers spun out of thin air, computer models, and ever-increasingly discredited pseudo-research?

Steyn on the Aftermath of ClimateGate

The oh-so-quotable-Mark Steyn has this observation:
“Climate change” is not a story of climate change, which has been a fact of life throughout our planet’s history. It is a far more contemporary story about the corruption of science and “peer review” by hucksters, opportunists and global-government control-freaks. I can see what’s in it for Dr. Pachauri and professor Hasnain, and even for the lowly Environmental Correspondent enjoying a cozy sinecure at a time of newspaper cutbacks in everything from foreign bureaus to arts coverage.
It is indeed a "far more contemporary story," just as it is consistent with the age-old story of self-interest, messianic delusions, and the corrosive desire for corrupting power. Here's my most recent post on the topic.

Beijing Threatens Sanctions Over Taiwan Arms Sale

Here's a follow-up to the approval of arms sales to Taipei. Beijing is threatening sanctions against US arms contractors selling to Taiwan. Well, we'll see about that, won't we? The other part of the usual temper flareup, the threat to suspend security exchanges with the US, doesn't bother me at all.

I am so NOT seeing how Beijing's brand of bullying is in any way supposed to make the Taiwanese want to be under Beijing's thumb.

Now sell Taipei those F-16s.

Nerd Analysis: Why Are Liberals So Condescending?

Gerard Alexander, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia, has an interesting analysis. Read it all.

Here is a teaser:
... an extraordinary range of liberal writers, commentators and leaders -- from Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" to Obama's White House, with many stops in between -- have developed or articulated narratives that apply to virtually all conservatives at all times. To many liberals, this worldview may be appealing, but it severely limits our national conversation on critical policy issues. Perhaps most painfully, liberal condescension has distorted debates over American poverty for nearly two generations.
He's right.

If I can add my two cents, the truly pernicious part of this is the liberal assumption that all intelligent people will agree with their policy ideas and that if you don't, you either (a) don't understand, or (b) are evil. There seems to be little or no room for even grasping the concept that I can both understand their policy ideas and DISAGREE because I don't believe they are in the best interest of the country.

(Oh, all right, I actually do happen to BE evil -- just ask any lazy undergrad who's been on the receiving end of my gradebook -- but that's not the point nor is that the reason for my policy beliefs.)

Weather Apocalypse Now!

So by now everybody's heard about the massive snowstorm that's slamming into the East Coast. I'm amused, though, by this Baltimore weatherman who has clearly lost his mind:

Dude! It's SNOW. We've all had snow before here, all right? It's not the apocalypse. Just make sure you have a lot of food and stay home with your cable TV and Internet access.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nerd Journal: Metallic Manicures -- Fugly or Fabulous?

Lately I've posted about science, academics, politics ... a lot of serious stuff. Now for something completely different ... and frivolous!

I was just looking at this new type of manicure. It's metallic and more than a little eye-catching. So I wonder and I ask you, gentle reader, is it fugly or fabulous?

No fancypants manicures for me, though. They're (a) expensive, and (b) guaranteed to be ruined almost immediately by all the work I do on the computer (writing nerd papers, boooooooooo!).

Howard Zinn's Mangled History

Well, OBVIOUSLY. It's so mangled that even other leftists recognize it as such:
Much of the criticism of Zinn has come from dissenters on the left. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once remarked that "I don't take him very seriously. He's a polemicist, not a historian."

Last year, the liberal historian Sean Wilentz referred to the "balefully influential works of Howard Zinn."

Reviewing A People's History in The American Scholar, Harvard University professor Oscar Handlin denounced "the deranged quality of his fairy tale, in which the incidents are made to fit the legend, no matter how intractable the evidence of American history."

Socialist historian Michael Kazin judged Zinn's most famous work "bad history, albeit gilded with virtuous intentions."

Dissecting the Motivations Behind ClimateGate

Take a look at this analysis of the factors leading to the global warming alarmism, the scandals it has spawned, and the utterly pernicious interconnection of politicians, media outlets, and scientists:
For the researchers, grant dollars and reputations are on the line. For reporters, global warming offers the thrill of covering The Biggest Story Ever Told, an appeal I could not resist. For politicians, it has offered an endless opportunity for grandstanding and power grabs. Convinced they are saving the earth—what could be more rewarding or important?—all three groups helped each other lose their minds.
Alas, all too true!

A nerd friend of mine who works in the sciences confirmed part of this. To get an advantage in any grant proposal if you are working in biology, ecology, etc., you should somehow include "global warming." Suppose, she said, that you are a mammal expert and want funding for research about squirrels. Your application will have a better chance if you say you're looking at "squirrel behavior as it is influenced by global warming" than if you don't.

China's Disappeared: Gao Zhisheng

The Chinese human-rights lawyer disappeared a year ago today.

Nerd News: the Devalued College Degree

Read it and weep.

This is the obvious outcome of trying to "give" a college degree to everybody whether they're capable of earning one or not, the obvious outcome of "racing to the bottom" and lowering standards. Social engineering by edu-crats demands it! The entitlement mentality and the fixation on "equality of outcome" demand it. Who cares about the actual substantive meaning of things? Or the fact that grossly overselling higher education is creating a massive student loan bubble that's going to burst just like the housing bubble? Don't even get me started on ever-increasing government meddling. You think Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were bad? Wait 'til you get an eyeful of Sallie Mae.

The bachelor's degree already means almost nothing, similar to how a high school degree now basically isn't worth the paper it's printed on (and that's the brutal honest truth especially in terms of public schools). A few decades of edu-crats and teachers' unions run amok have all but destroyed the public school system (just look at California schools) and utterly eviscerated the curriculum. Now we're all more concerned about trendy buzzwords, edu-theory, and PC approaches to everything than we're concerned that kids know basic life skills like reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. Then they end up in a college classroom and turn into my problem. They think college is just a glorified version of high school. And if they run into loopy campus ideologues and actually buy that nonsense, they might as well kiss goodbye to any chance they'll learn anything useful. College will be a four-year-long, debt-accumulating binge of waste in every sense of the word. WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES WITH THAT?

There is a poisonous, perilous nexus between high school and college.

Anyway, a college degree SHOULD be hard and substantive in order to mean something. You SHOULD have to bust your butt to get one, and not everyone's going to have one if you do it right. It's not being discriminatory to say that people who can't hack it won't have it. In fact, the whole thing reminds me of a great scene from "A League of Their Own." The good stuff begins at the 2:00 mark.

Grad School Metaphor!

You're minding your own business, you think that you're OK and that everything's going well, and then ... WHAMMO!

Disgustingly Cute: The Shiba Inu Puppy-Cam Returns

There is a new litter of adorable shiba inu puppies to watch!

North Korea: Currency Chaos = New Misery in Asia's Communist Cesspool

Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse in the basket-case nation known as North Korea, they did. Take a look:
A recent move by North Korean officials to rejigger the nation's economic system has introduced a new level of misery to everyday life.

In the last month, the price of rice rose tenfold at private markets, and residents often had to wait in line for hours in subzero temperatures to buy food.

. . . At the heart of the turmoil is a series of dictates imposed late last year by Kim Jong Il's regime: revaluing the currency, closing down privately run markets in favor of state-owned shops and banning the use of foreign currency and the sale of many imports from China.

Recent visitors to North Korea, aid agencies and defectors say the changes have sent the already-troubled economy into a tailspin.

. . . The new dictates appear designed not only to put the entrepreneurs out of business but to confiscate any accumulated wealth.

"We need to strengthen the principle and order of socialist economic management," Cho Song Hyun, an official with North Korea's central bank, said in December to a pro-regime newspaper in Japan.
The result has been chaos and panic. Here's some awesomely direct analysis from the news story. Pay attention, kids:
"Was it incompetence or callousness that led them to do this? You take your pick," he [Marcus Noland, a North Korea specialist and deputy director of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics] said. "There is so little accountability in the system, the regime has considerable capacity to inflict misery on the population without any significant political risk."
And that is why that entire form of government is rotten and has always produced mass human misery.

RELATED POSTS: Pushback Against Kim's Money Grab. Also, NK is the world's worst nation in terms of economic freedom.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Nerd News: Meet Australia's Brainiest Student

G'day, young nerd!

Geek News: Human Space Flight and the Private Sector

Hmmmmm. I must admit, I'm liking the idea. You'll recall how I geeked out over the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.

Oh, and here's some news about NASA's newest plans, a mishmash of private and public.

Random note: I am just LOVING how there's a spacecraft named "Dream Chaser."

Either Help or Shut Up and Get Out of the Way

Seriously, don't you people have anything better to do? Like actually helping the Haitian disaster victims yourselves instead of bashing someone else's effort to help them? SHEESH, PEOPLE.

If we all sat on our hands and waited around for the feckless UN to do anything, even more people would be dead or in horrible straits. In the meantime, while the diplo-dorks are squabbling, the bloodthirsty myrmidons of the imperialistic Great Satan are busy carrying out medical evacuation flights for injured Haitians to Florida and other states. Talk is cheap, diplo-dorks. Action matters.

RELATED POST: Haiti aid explained visually.

Quirky Asia Files: Dogs and Cats Off the Menu in China

Fido and Fluffy are now off the menu in China. And you can get a hefty fine if you don't comply.

Well, OK, we can argue about diet and animal rights and whatever, but I'm really not liking government (a) telling individuals what they can and cannot eat, and (b) punishing those people.

Yeah, this is authoritarian China, where the government runs roughshod over people all the time, but is the idea of banning certain kinds of foods THAT different from some of the stuff happening right here in the name of nanny government? *cough* Michael Bloomberg! *cough*

OK, for the record. I've never eaten cat or dog. Nobody in the MM clan really eats that stuff either. In all honesty, the feeling is something like, "Well, people in southern China eat that kind of thing. Those people will eat anything." (When the news story broke a few years ago about people in Guangdong eating civet cats and getting sick with SARS, we all just looked at each other knowingly.)

Anyway, are there regional biases and stereotypes running wild all over the Far East? YOU BETCHA. Offended yet?

Besides, it's the Koreans who are really, REALLY famous for eating dog (that's supposed to be illegal now, though you must be joking if you think a mere law can stamp out centuries of culinary habit). Hey, what's going to happen to the dinner plans of all those Korean minorities living in China now?

MM, for the record, prefers duck. Lots and lots of crispy, juicy roasted duck, glistening lusciously as it hangs in a Chinatown restaurant window. (Oh, man! Now I'm starving!)