Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fugly or Fabulous? Purple Satin Kitten Heels

(Idiotic) Quote of the Day: Kathleen Sebelius on ObamaCare

I can't make this stuff up if I tried.  Just what did Sebelius say about people who don't like ObamaCare?  This:
"So, we have a lot of re-education to do."
"Re-education"?  Hmmm ... why does the historian in me find this a very unfortunate choice of words?  

Best Blog Tag Yet: Daniel Hannan on EU Government Spending

This is the delightful tag: "We are being robbed blind -- robbed blind I tell you."  Kudos, sir!

Nerd News: Bad Form at the US Dept. of Education

Are you serious?  It's simply bad workplace behavior even it weren't at the US Department of Education, a thing which I am all for dumping for being worse than useless.

Awesome: Is This The Greatest Newspaper Apology Ever?

It's from the Australian paper Geelong Advertiser on December 30, 1848:

Awesome: Color Photos From Russia, Circa 1910

Via awesome Aussie Tim Blair comes this blast from the past -- color photos of pre-revolution Russia.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dignified Rant 1, Totally Idiotic Taiwan-China Military Assessment 0

Read this.

Movie Madness: John Woo + IMAX + WWII Action Flick = Awesome?

Oh, I hope so!

Nerd News: In Schoolyard Culture Wars, 'Tis Pity Both Sides Can't Lose

ARGH!  Or, as the lovely La Parisienne is wont to say, BLERG!  Here's a dismal analysis:
Students are returning to school this week. But they’re not heading back to class — they’re walking straight into a war zone. Our kids have become cannon fodder for two rival ideologies battling to control America’s future.
In one camp are conservative Christians and their champion, the Texas State Board of Education; in the other are politically radical multiculturalists and their de facto champion, President Barack Obama. The two competing visions couldn’t be more different. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Unfortunately, whichever side wins — your kid ends up losing.
That’s because this war is for the power to dictate what our children are taught — and, by extension, how future generations of Americans will view the world. Long gone are the days when classrooms were for learning: now each side sees the public school system as a vast indoctrination camp in which future culture-warriors are trained. The problem is, two diametrically opposed philosophies are struggling for supremacy, and neither is willing to give an inch, so the end result is extremism, no matter which side temporarily comes out on top.
Both visions are grotesque and unacceptable — and yet they are currently the only two choices on the national menu. Which shall it be, sir:  Brainwashing Fricassee, or a Fried Ignorance Sandwich?
Oh, A PLAGUE O' BOTH YOUR HOUSES!  As the Insta-Prof says, homeschooling is looking ever better!

Euro Notes: Nationalisms 1, EU 0?

Food for thought from a Georgetown professor of international affairs.  Blurb:
From London to Berlin to Warsaw, Europe is experiencing a renationalization of political life, with countries clawing back the sovereignty they once willingly sacrificed in pursuit of a collective ideal. For many Europeans, that greater good no longer seems to matter. They wonder what the union is delivering for them, and they ask whether it is worth the trouble.
So we're all Euro-skeptics now?  For the record, though, Alessandra called this a decade ago, just as Milton Friedman predicted that the euro would not survive the first serious recession it hit.  She said that the sheer artificiality of the EU project would eventually be its own undoing.

Nerdworld Soundtrack: Lady Antebellum

The Cine-Sib and I have lately been enjoying Lady Antebellum (NOT to be confused with Lady Gaga!), so now I'm inflicting their music on you too:

Decadent Western Pop Music 1, Chinese Communist Choir 0

This mashup is absolutely DEMENTED, so of course I have to share it.  The music is Michael Jackson's iconic "Beat It" edited together with a February 1976 production of the Long March Song Cycle.   The editing is gloriously hilarious, especially from 2:35 on and its "guitar solo."

The thought occurs to me that maybe some people might find this offensive, but you know, it's Monday and I'm tired, and if you're really the type to be easily offended, you wouldn't be reading this blog because your blog hostess, as you know, has the philosophy of "well, screw you if you can't take a joke."  So here it is, and turn up your speakers.  Besides, I hate the CCP and will pass up no opportunity to have some fun at their expense.  Why NOT take their horrible old Maoist propaganda and completely deflate it?

Quirky Euro Files: Quick, Hoard Lightbulbs!

Actually, I don't blame these folks one bit. I hate the new, eco-blah-blah "morally superior" lightbulbs. Their light is just plain awful and gives me eyestrain and headache.  OK, next up:  a thriving international black market in contraband lightbulbs.  I'm only half-joking.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Heroes and Villains of Imaginary Worlds: A Primer of Tropes

Here are 5 general kinds of heroes and 5 general kinds of villains.  The Cine-Sib just now informed me that he's the "everyman" type of hero.  As for me, guess ... No, too easy.  He said I was the "anti-hero" kind of hero.    He identifies with Peter Parker ("Crouching Moron, Hidden ..." or "Obfuscating Stupidity"), and apparently I'm the Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds type ("Loveable Rogue," "Jerk with a Heart of Gold").  O RLY?  He also just accused me of having this, which I admittedly don't deny. I might be horrible, but I try to be honest on this blog, ha!

Nerd Analysis: Free-Market Economists Consider The Financial Crisis

Free-marketeer scholars from Princeton, Columbia, Chicago, and Stanford weigh in.  Definitely worth a read.  Here's a blurb (my emphasis in boldface):

Every economist I interviewed agreed that ballooning American and European debt poses a huge threat to long-term prosperity. The debt will be paid either through inflation, which would make everyone poorer, or—a far better scenario—through economic growth that would increase both individual and government revenues. Unfortunately, by increasing taxes and imposing the wrong regulations, Western governments are hindering entrepreneurship and hence growth, Cochrane [that's John Cochrane of the University of Chicago -- MM] says.
As in the 1930s and 1970s, so today: crises are a serious problem, but misguided economic policy makes them worse. After the 1930s, only war production could overcome the negative economic consequences of the New Deal. After the stagflation of the 1970s, it took the bold leadership of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to reorient the West toward free markets and prosperity. How long will it take this time before governments understand that overreacting to the crisis and imposing disproved Keynesian remedies will dampen and delay economic recovery?

Friday, August 27, 2010

You Disagree with Me, So You Must Be A (Insert Insult Here)

Read this and this, you bitter racist hater you.  As La Parisienne and I have always maintained, in any argument or debate, the first party to say "racist!" (or any "-ist," really) automatically loses.  The first party to say "Nazi!" automatically loses TWICE.  (I suppose that in this ludicrous hyper-politicized environment, I should be happy that once I was called an "oppressor" by a white liberal male.)  But seriously, when people can't argue intelligently about policy and resort to questioning motive, then you know they're on extremely shaky logical ground.  It's like how "compassion" is used to club people into spending money they can't afford.  Still, as the delightful Jon Stewart has pointed out recently, the race card is maxed out.

UPDATE: Quote:
In reductionist terms, the public now accepts that when particular groups fail to win a 51 percent majority on a particular issue, they resort to invoking racism and prejudice ... In short, the bigot card has played itself out and is now not much more than a political ploy to win an argument through calumny when logic and persuasion have failed.
The actual haters often turn out to be the very people making accusations of hate and bigotry. So, since my usual response to these things is to deflate their egos by making fun of them, note the new blog tag, haters gonna hate.

Nerd Fun: Awesomely Glorious Prank at MIT -- The Doctor 1, Hahvahd 0

This is spreading like wildfire across the nerd interwebs -- and rightfully.  MIT is famous for its epic pranks, and those inspired nerds and geeks have struck again to kick off the 2010-11 academic year. This time the prank is so glorious that it is ongoing:

1. First, the TARDIS magically appeared on campus, on top of 77 Mass Ave (want a closeup?):

If there is something I love as much as or possibly even more than the Tenth Doctor, it's the TARDIS.

2.  Then it gets even better: the pranksters somehow stole a "Welcome Students" banner from Harvard and then displayed it as a trophy with the TARDIS, along with the boast "The Doctor 1, Hahvahd 0."   BOO-YAH!  Take that, Hahvahd snobs!  It's like the revenge of the nerds -- only better.

BONUS: The TARDIS lights up!  More gorgeous photos here.  I cannot even begin to try to tell you how much I love this.  I am ECSTATIC.  I am in freaking transports of joy. So, in tribute to the MIT hackers and to the Doctor, here you go:

Friday Fun Video + Quirky Asia Files: Hilarious Taiwanese News Cartoons Go Viral

I love these cheeky animators and am delighted to see that they're gaining an international audience!  I embed my  absolute favorite cartoon so far.  (All I'm going to say is: lightsaber smackdown between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs!)  Here's the original video, but I figured we could all use some subtitles:

The Miseries of Chavez's Venezuela: Beauty Queen Edition

I had mentioned this previously, but this time there is a bonus. Check out this lovely combination of beauty, heart, and nerve as the outgoing Venezuelan Miss Universe Stefania Fernandez holds her own protest.  Look carefully at the flag.  It has only seven stars, meaning it is a pre-Chavez configuration. I shall post the photo as (a) evidence, (b) fan service, (c) both? 

Protest babe.

Nerd News: 3 Things on Higher Education

Read these:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Disgustingly Cute: Tiny Cardboard Box People

Via Presurfer, this overwhelming tidal wave of cuteness.  Just look at this:

Today in History: August 24-25, 79 AD

Mount Vesuvius erupted in Campania, south-central Italy, covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with mud, thus preserving these two famous archaeological sites.  Note: neither city was covered with LAVA.  If they had been, we wouldn't be able to dig there today.

OK, callously amusing graphic (via a fellow history nerd) after the fold.

Nerd News: ObamaCare May End Student Health Insurance Policies at College

Quelle surprise.  Not.  Blurb:
Colleges and universities say that some rules in the new health law could keep them from offering low-cost, limited-benefit student insurance policies.
Who among you gentle readers is surprised?

Number-Crunching Government Price Tags

You might be surprised.

Film Culture Commentary: Is It Always a Bad Thing When An Actor's "Always the Same"?

Read this, please.  No, it's not always a bad thing, though sometimes being way too predictable is boring.  I've said that Meg Ryan is always Meg Ryan in her movies -- the charming neurotic in all those romantic comedies.  Having said that, though, I love to watch actors who are virtuoso chameleons, who can disappear into their characters, who are unpredictable and can turn on a dime from being a terrifying stalker to a nebbishy detective to a romantic lead.  I'm talking about people like David Tennant and Sam Rockwell and Russell Crowe and Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman.  I would usually add Christian Bale, but I'm still mad at him after "Terminator Salvation" and "Public Enemies."

Life Imitates "Doctor Who" Update: China's Epic Traffic Jam Vanishes?

First there was this.  Now comes this weird update. Umm ... Doctor?!

But look at these photos.

Watch This on DVD: "The Damned United" (2009)

Netflix is simply brilliant, and without it I would probably miss out on a lot of worthwhile films -- like the 2009 British biopic "The Damned United."  I put it on my Netflix queue to stream on my TV for no good reason other than I (a) like sports films for the most part, and (b) noticed that the lead was being played by Michael Sheen, and he had been very good in "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon" (both also worth your time).  Can I say, I watched it last night as I was editing some papers, and I was delighted.  It's a fantastic movie.

Ostensibly it's about British soccer/football history and one of its most famous figures, football manager Brian Clough.  The movie, though, is far more than that, and much more than your standard "road-to-glory" tale.  It is a fascinating story of success and failure on the soccer pitch, but above all it is an absolutely riveting character study of Clough (brilliantly portrayed by Sheen).  And you don't have to be a soccer fan to appreciate it, which is one of the great features of the film.

The rest of the the review and the trailer below the fold:

Nerd News: Did Dr. Seuss Coin the Word "Nerd"?

If this story isn't true, it certainly ought to be be:
The first documented use of the word Nerd is in the 1950 Dr. Seuss story, If I Ran the Zoo, in which a boy named Gerald McGrew made a large number of delightfully extravagant claims as to what he would do, if he were in charge at the zoo. Among these was that he would bring a creature known as a Nerd from the land of Ka-Troo.
... “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo. And Bring Back an IT-KUTCH, a PREEP and a PROO, a NERKLE, a NERD, and a SEERSUCKER, too!”
I must say, though, that how you pronounce the word has a lot to do with it.  The best version I've ever heard is a Scottish accent: "nerd" turns magnificently into "naaaaaiiiirrrrrrrd."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life Imitates "Doctor Who": China's Ten-Day-Long Traffic Jam Could Last Into Mid-September

Look at this and this.  Then look at the plotline for the episode "Gridlock" (which previously appeared here.)  That traffic jam went on for years until Ten showed up and cleared it (and had time to play with kittens along the way).  Okay, but I don't think a sprightly Time Lord from Gallifrey's going to show up and fix China's traffic jam nightmare.

Blast From the Past: C.S. Lewis BBC Address

Wheat and Weeds has what is said to be the only surviving address of a series that C.S. Lewis gave on BBC radio. The series eventually became the book Mere Christianity.  Cool!

Cartoon Commentary: The Egg Recall

MM in the Kitchen: Cinnamon Pecan Biscuits with Peaches and Cream

Since summer peaches are fabulous by themselves, is this glorious decadence gilding the lily?  Gild on, then!

Monday, August 23, 2010

MM in the Kitchen: Mussels in Tomato Sauce

This yummy recipe is for Alessandra ... and everyone else who loves some good mussels.  Serve over pasta or with some good crusty bread.  Add a crisp green salad, and you're done!

What Fresh Hell is This? -- Big Brother Is In Your Trash

Oh, for crying out loud!

The History of the Word "Dude"

Etymology and linguistics have never been so fun, dude.  By the way, do you know that the word "dude" can express just about every single emotion you want?


Awesome.  No, really.  And, yes, gentle reader, YOU ARE AWESOME!

Living in Venezuela Can Be Murder

Venezuela's homicide rate is worse than Iraq's.  I had no idea.

Nerd News: When Idiots Hold the Pursestrings

More madness of the same rancid type as before.  Arguably, though, these people are doing what they do not out of stupidity but out of something even worse -- cynical politics and special interests.  So, a pox on both your houses!  They've destroyed American education!  Time to go edupunk.

So what am I nerd-ranting about this time?  The prologue is the unforgivable cancellation of the inexpensive DC school voucher program even though it was working, the students were learning, and the parents wanted it.  Now we get this gem:
Head Start, which provides preschool programs to poor families, is a prime example of the Senate committee’s true attitude toward evidence-based decision-making. In January, the Health and Human Services Department released a study of Head Start’s overall impact. The conclusions were disturbing. By the end of first grade, the study found, Head Start graduates were doing no better than students who didn't attend Head Start. "No significant impacts were found for math skills, pre-writing, children’s promotion, or teacher report of children’s school accomplishments or abilities in any year," the report concluded.

And how did the Senate panel react to this dismal evidence? They set aside $8.2 billion for Head Start in 2011, almost a billion dollars more than in 2010.

Film Culture Commentary: Who Critiques the Critics?

Here are two interesting pieces.  Sure, they're opinionated and problematic, but that's part of the fun, isn't it? Go here and here.  One of the topics they bang on about is the idea that Roger Ebert has destroyed film criticism.  Really?  How influential IS Roger Ebert, anyway?  Who honestly cares (aside from other professional film critics)?  I don't remember the last time I read an Ebert review.  As for going or not going to a flick based on Ebert's opinion, I can tell you how often I've done that: precisely zero.  Anyway, I go to RottenTomatoes a lot, and you should too. But in the end, the only actual film critic that matters to you is ... well, YOU.

P.J. O'Rourke on Afghanistan

O'Rourke's newest piece manages to visit Afghanistan and still crack a few jokes along the way.  Actually, his opening is as insightful as it is funny:
If you spend 72 hours in a place you’ve never been, talking to people whose language you don’t speak about social, political, and economic complexities you don’t understand, and you come back as the world’s biggest know-it-all, you’re a reporter.

Monday Therapy: Awesome Michelangelo-Inspired Sidewalk Art

Here's some excellent time-lapse videography, taken over 3 days.  The finished chalk art measured roughly 12 feet X 6 feet.

The agony and the ecstasy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

2 Book Recommendations: Brussels and Narnia

The common thread?  Both are places filled with utter, unapologetic fantasy and bizarre residents who could never live in the real world.  

The delightful Daniel Hannan reviews and recommends the political analysis The Tower of Babel: Inspiration for the European Parliament by Derk Jan Eppink and also Planet Narnia, a work of imaginative literary criticism by Michael Ward.

Movie Madness: 5 Annoying Habits Hollywood Needs to Break

To these spot-on complaints and critiques, I simply say, "Ditto."  The Cine-Sib and I especially hate the 3D-that-isn't-really-3D.  (And, yes, "Clash of the Titans" looked awful in its fake 3D.)

Grad School Metaphor: Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of -- RUN!

OH, YES.  Grad school nerds running for our lives, pursued by deadlines, Nerd Lords, personal neuroses, academic requirements, back-stabby frenemies, and our own creeping mortality.  Oh, the thrill of the chase.  Tally-ho!

MM in the Kitchen: Devonshire Cream Tea

I admit it -- I make fun of British food a lot.  In fact, it's so easy that it's almost unsporting. But amid the various lunacies, there are a few things that the Brits (especially the English) do get right, and clotted cream is one of them. Oh, it's bad for you, of course, and could properly also be called "clotted arteries," but a little bit occasionally is pure heaven.

Check out this recipe for cream tea awesomeness.  Make those Devonshire splits and then fill them with clotted cream and something like jam or preserves.  Add a big pot of tea and some good company!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holden Caulfield Is a Loser: P.J. O'Rourke 1, J.D. Salinger 0

I had forgotten recently how hilarious O'Rourke can be.  I love O'Rourke and hate most "modern" literature, so this is just too good not to share:
It was a travesty of literary justice that we waited until J. D. Salinger finally hit the delete key at 91 before admitting that Catcher in the Rye stinks. The book’s only virtue is that it captures, with annoying accuracy, the maunderings of a twerp. The book’s only pleasure is in slamming the cover shut—simpler than slamming the door shut on a real Holden Caulfield, if less satisfying.
Meanwhile, don't even get La Parisienne and me started on how much we hate Kerouac.

UPDATE: I just found this.  Awesome.

 American Literature Smackdown: Flannery O'Connor 1, Harper Lee 0

Nerd News: Law Professors Argue About Tenure

Things are getting interesting!  Be sure to catch up on the smackdown by following the various links in the post.

Nerd News: 1 Campus Speech Code Down, A Gazillion Left to Go

Here is the happy news:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Wednesday rejected as unconstitutional several parts of the code of conduct for students at the University of the Virgin Islands. Specifically, the court rejected bans on "offensive" speech and on language that causes "emotional distress," finding that such regulations were far too broad, and could easily limit legitimate freedom of expression. The ruling was consistent with other federal appeals courts rulings, which have generally barred public universities from regulating similar categories of speech.
Yes.  More, please.  Faster, please.  The US Constitution guarantees your right to expression.  It does NOT guarantee a right to not to be offended.  I hate campus speech codes.  Also, as I have always believed, your constitutional rights do not stop when you get on campus.  *MM hugs her First Amendment.*

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Fun: Flower Power!

Simply go here and start clicking all over!

Nerd News: Campus Conservatives and a Counter-Culture

Yes, we are the conservative/libertarian campus underground!  Here are a few thoughts from Inside Higher Ed.  You know what's really amusing?  When two closet non-liberals figure out that the other person is a like-minded  thought criminal.  This has happened to me a few times, and the combination of surprise and shyness and pleasure and relief is as hard to describe as it is delightful. "You...?" "You too...?"  "Wow!"

(Political) Life Imitates T.S. Eliot

Here is a blurb from a recent bit of political commentary:
The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot, or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval -- it is the gap between aspiration and reality.
And here is a bit from T.S. Eliot's famous poem "The Hollow Men."
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow 
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
The innate and fatal flaw of the 2008 Obama campaign's glittering presentation of a utopian dream is the simple fact that it can't square with the reality of a dangerous and complicated world.  Anyway, you do remember, don't you, how that Eliot poem ends?  Is that how this administration will end up?  It currently looks discombobulated on all fronts and woefully lacking in real statesmanship.  (Of course, if Iran gets the bomb, we might end with a bang.  But I digress.)

Friday Fun Video: Pillow Fight at 30,000 Feet

Here is something amusing that happened on a Lufthansa flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt.  More details here, including an official statement from Lufthansa.  BONUS: the incident was started by a group of mischievous French tourists, prompting the traveler who uploaded the video to title it "the endless dispute between the French and the Germans."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chinese Politics Then and Now: Rule by the Emperor and His Top Minister

Here is an interesting link sent by gentle reader Pursuit of Serenity!  More here. The book, newly released in Hong Kong, is written by Chinese dissident Yu Jie.

Natural Libertarians and the Social Psychology of Freedom

This is an interesting piece.  Here's a bit of it:
We are in the midst not of a war of ideas, or even a cultural war, taken in its usual superficial sense. We are fighting an old battle all over again. On the one side stand the natural libertarians ... furiously insistent on defending their integrity as ethical agents. On the other side stand those in power who naturally find such people troublesome nuisances, and who would prefer to rule a society made up of individuals who have been properly educated to know they were really incompetent to manage their own affairs, and to regard themselves as the victims of circumstances.

Movie Madness: Take That, "Twilight"! It's the Trailer for "Vampires Suck"

The trailer's pretty funny, so let's hope the entire spoof is too.  You know, as the entire "Twilight" debacle rolls on, I have to wonder how much you can actually parody this thing.  I mean, it practically parodies itself.

Satire Alert: the Onion on Celebrities

Oh, Onion, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways!  Take a look at this fresh fake headline: 
Hollywood Rangers To Manage Overpopulation Problem By Killing Off 1,200 Celebrities

China: Not Very Neighborly?

Here's a thought:
A quick tour of China's borders suggests friction with the United States is a symptom, not a cause. China faces numerous troubles with its neighbors — many of the problems exacerbated by Beijing's muscle-flexing and claims of regional hegemony.

Kitchen Notes: the Best 50 Cookbooks Ever?

Here's the list.  Let the debate begin!  (Julia Child only at #21??)  Still, these kinds of lists are always subjective and overly dependent on the tastes of the people organizing them, so I would take the rankings ... with a grain of salt.  *rimshot!*

It's 2010 -- Where's My Hyperdrive Spaceship?


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Free Audiobook from Audible.Com

But you will have to remember to cancel your trial before the 2-week-long free trial period is over.  Still, audiobooks!  They're like bedtime stories for grown-ups!  Plus, they make lovely diversion when you are traveling or stuck in traffic.  And narrating is a skill and an art, and really talented narrators give you a tiny taste of why, back in the day, bards and minstrels and troubadours and professional storytellers had such an audience.  


Heh. My own personal policy is that once you call me Hitler and accuse me of being the Antichrist, I won't help you.  Perhaps Dubya has more class than I do.

UPDATE:  More here.  Plus this hilarious riff:


Forgotten History: Taiwanese Veterans of World War II

Read this!  You also have to consider, though, that Taiwan at the time was controlled by the Japanese.  Link xie-xie to View from Taiwan.  Here is a piece of it:
"There has been so little commemoration of the war in Taiwan in which millions of people were directly or indirectly involved. This is a strange society, " said TEPVA Secretary-General Chuang Sheng-huang [TEPVA is the Taiwan Extra-Patriot Veterans Association -- MM].  
Citing statistics from Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Chuang said that around 8,000 Taiwanese soldiers and more than 120,000 other service personnel were involved in the Pacific War, 15,000 of whom are listed as missing in action.  
Taiwan's society in the 1940's was known for its diversification, according to Chuang. "Some of the soldiers volunteered, while some were forced to fight for Japan. Some thought of themselves as Taiwanese while others regarded themselves as Japanese," he said.  "There were even some Taiwanese who volunteered to fight for the KMT in the Chinese civil war," he added.  
"Irrespective of the political ideology, the war memories and humanity are the same then and now. What we're trying to do is to reveal history and let history speak for itself," he said.

Nerd News: 4 Things Worth Reading

Thing the First: Administrative bloat is driving up the cost of higher ed.  Well, DUH!  Edu-crats are bad news for everyone except themselves. Blurb:
Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nerd Notes: British Accents Aren't Very E-rhotic

No, I don't apologize for the bad pun as a title for a good post about American and British accents.

Nerd News: the New "US News and World Report" College Rankings Are Out

Every year the rankings come out, and every year there's a flap about them.  Yes, yes, everybody complains that the methodology is dodgy (and it is) and that the criteria are subjective (and they are), but everybody still wants to be ranked higher than the next nerd.  Top dog in this year: Hahvahd, with Princeton at #2 and Yale at #3.  See the entire rankings list.  More here.

Quirky Euro Files: the EU Bureaucracy Online Role-Playing Game

Apparently, this is not a joke.  The link comes via Dignified Rant, who's come up with a fabulous pun of a blog post title, "World of BoreCraft."  I went to the game's official website, and according to the game itself, this is what it's all about:

Citzalia is democracy in action. It is role playing game and social networking forum wrapped in a virtual 3D world that captures the essence of the European Parliament. You may even recognise parts of the building.
Citzalia is a world you inhabit and help create. Using your avatar you can walk around, interact, network, debate the issues of today, propose legislation, vote and learn about how the European Parliament works for citizens. You can be a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), a journalist, a student or any role you want to create.
Others will be able to vote on the quality of your proposals and you will be able to vote on theirs. By earning experience points you will be able move up to new expert levels in Citzalia.
Current Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and European officials will be on hand to guide you through the procedures and provide background information.
Zzzzzzz... Oh, I'm sorry!  I think I fell asleep just reading that.  I doubt it could be anything as awesome as actual games that you play for actual fun.  Oh, I can't help it.  Here's something that's actually amusing:

Movie Madness: Missing Scene From "Return of the Jedi"

May the Force be with you!

Disgustingly Cute: Penguins Chasing a Butterfly

This scene recorded recently at the Philadelphia Zoo is stomach-churningly adorable:

Nerd News: Silly Starbucks Jargon Vs. Picky English Professor

It's hard to pick a "winner" in this smackdown of Who Is More Annoying.  I have to say, though, if you go into a Starbucks, you know that you'll have to use Starbucks jargon for ordering  ... so I have little sympathy for people who go into a Starbucks, refuse to speak Starbucks-ese, and then verbally abuse the barista.  If you don't want to speak the Starbucks lingo, then don't go to a Starbucks, for goodness sake.  Ugh, PEOPLE!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nerd News: LA Teachers' Union Vs. The LA Times

Because the newspaper ... sort of did its job as a journalistic, investigative outfit.

Nerd News: 2 Op-Eds About Higher Education

There is a tide in the affairs of nerds, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures ... 

Lately a LOT of people, different people, have been talking about the state of higher education.  Opinions vary wildly, but the common denominator is that everyone seems to think there's something wrong with the status quo.  Here, read two new op-eds about the state of nerddom:

Monday Therapy: British Crime Drama + "The Gambler" = Hilarity

This is the opening of part 2 of the quirky six-part musical crime drama "Blackpool" (2004).  Yes, you read that right.  A musical crime drama.  The sequence is a montage of the different members of the ensemble cast in their interwoven plotlines.  Now be sure to watch all the way to the end, where Elvis shows up and says ... Well, you'll find out.  As for Kenny Rogers's "The Gambler," well, that's applicable for life in general and especially for Mondays -- "the secret to survivin'!"  (I might as well add that to the Nerdworld Soundtrack.)  And YES, in "Blackpool" characters do randomly burst into song (and dance, sometimes).  The result is darn engaging.

Cop Rock.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Disgustingly Cute: Corgi Belly-Flops

"I only dog-paddle."

Game the System: Winning Strategies for Rock-Paper-Scissors

Wow, really?    Bonus: There's an annual world championship in this game?!

The Real Cost of Green Energy: An Honest Headline!

Somebody's come right out and said what every sensible person knows and what politicians try to whitewash: in government's tilting at the windmill of green energy, consumers are going to be losing a lot of green...backs. Surprise! OR NOT.  Still, I have to give credit to the headline for being honest.

The headline:
"Japan seeks consumer burden to push renewable energy."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

History: August 14, 1945 was V-J Day

Here is some great archival film shot in Honolulu on that day, celebrating victory over imperial Japan. (via Iowahawk.)  And as always, a shoutout to the veterans of the Pacific Theater.

Related post here if you want to read my take, as a history nerd, on the bomb and defeating imperial Japan in WWII.

Weekend Movies: MM and the Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommend...

This time we recommend "The Expendables" for mindless action entertainment and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" for something quirkier.  (Mini-reviews forthcoming.)  Our previous recommendations are also playing, so do go see if you haven't already.  Pass the popcorn!

2 Things Worth Reading

Thing the First and Thing the Second.  No time for me to comment more right now -- errands to run, appointments to keep, things to do!

Cool Video of the Day: Video Postcard from Japan

Check out this great artistic video "postcard" from Japan. I have got to get over there someday!  (Roamin' Ronin, this one's for you.)

A History of Stalin's and Mao's Useful Idiots

Take a listen to this 2-part documentary from the BBC World Service.  Hurry, though, as it won't be available online for too much longer.  You can download it as an mp3 and listen to it later.  But do listen.  The "useful idiots" phenomenon is not confined to those murderous monsters Stalin and Mao.  Here's the blurb from the BBC:
The phrase 'useful idiots', supposedly Lenin’s, refers to Westerners duped into saying good things about bad regimes.
In political jargon it was used to describe Soviet sympathisers in Western countries and the attitude of the Soviet government towards them.
Useful idiots, in a broader sense, refers to Western journalists, travellers and intellectuals who gave their blessing – often with evangelistic fervour – to tyrannies and tyrants, thereby convincing politicians and public that utopias rather than Belsens thrived.
In part one John Sweeney looks at Stalin's Western apologists.
In part two he explores how present day stories of human rights abuses across the world are still rewritten. [Note: Part two also mentions Mao. You know how I feel about him! -- MM.]

Friday, August 13, 2010

MM in the Kitchen: Peach Cobbler

One of the glories of peaches being in season is the chance to make some truly sublime peach cobbler.  I'm making some tonight.  Peaches and brown sugar and cinnamon and butter and vanilla ... Aw, yeah, baby!  How to eat the finished product?  At almost room temperature but still just about warm enough to make a scoop of vanilla ice cream slowly begin to melt into total dessert splendor.  Come on, you know you want some!  Don't feel guilty.  Just spent a little more time on the treadmill.  Tomorrow.  Come join the Dark Side ... We have dessert.

Nerdworld Soundtrack: Mary Chapin Carpenter

Today's Friday the 13th, so I'm listening to "I Feel Lucky"!

Meanwhile, I'm still about making your own luck.  Or as darling Ten said once,
"That wasn't luck.  That was me." 

Nerds Behaving Badly: Who's Worse -- Plagiarists or the People Who Excuse Them?

You ought to read this.  It's ... Well, just read it.  It's ... interesting.  For the record: plagiarism is cheating, period.  It's also called "stealing."  

Friday Fun Video: Awesome Office Prank at Sega

A Sega employee goes on holiday for three weeks ... so watch his co-workers turn his cubicle into a real-life Sonic the Hedgehog scenario!

History Nerd Fun: a Miniseries of Medieval Mayhem (and Matthew Macfadyen!)

Like that alliteration, did you now?  The 8-part TV adaptation of Ken Follett's novel of historical fiction is now available at Netflix, and I'm in clover!  I didn't get to see it when it aired since I don't have premium cable channels; the basics are expensive enough!  Anyway, I do love me some historical drama -- and I don't care too much if the history is mangled as long as I get some good storytelling and some good acting.  12th century England, here we come!  It was a time so messy that it's sometimes referred to as "The Anarchy."  That's impressively messy even to a history nerd who's used to big messes.  A caveat: it's basically rated R for a lot of graphic violence (swords! axes! burning at the stake!), and it doesn't come close to "The Tudors" for that other kind of R-rated graphic stuff.

Recognize any of the cast?  Just ignore the prerequisite "pretty youth" and "pretty maiden" stereotypes.  Look at everybody else.  It's a fantastic line-up of actors who can actually ... hm, act.  Ian McShane.  (If you've never seen him in "Kings" -- now on DVD -- then you are missing out.)  Donald Sutherland.  Rufus Sewell.  And Matthew Macfadyen, whom I loved as Tom Quinn in "MI-5" and Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice."  Plus Tony Curran too.  See the trailer after the jump.

Lileks: "Let's invent new vindictive forms of taxation for fun"

That charming humorist James Lileks has a hilarious suggestion.  It even involves tenure!

So Basically I Can Look Forward to Working Until I Drop Dead One Day

Well, that's just great.  Retirement's kaput.  As the Cine-Sib and I have actually discussed,  these days it does feel as though we're seeing our futures melt away in order to pay for the present -- including other people's present.   Just how the hell we're supposed to save enough to ever retire is a question we'd love to find an answer for.  (Add too one terrifying thought: in old school Taiwanese culture, a person's IRA is called "children."  Add too a huge dose of filial piety to make it stick.)