Monday, February 28, 2011

Harvard Crimson Op-Ed Versus ...

Here's how the hostile editorial in the Harvard newspaper begins:
Every time she opens her mouth and lets loose her latest litany of seizure-inducing inanities, the media—dutiful stenographers that they are—respond with Pavlovian immediacy. They hail her as a trailblazer and a model for working mothers everywhere, even as they proceed with their objectifying scrutiny of her every questionable fashion decision. She invites the derision of the political opposition and the praise of the political base, while a majority of the country has largely made up its mind about her. She is over-hyped, over-covered, and over-rated.
Meeeeeeeeeeeee-ow!  Now guess whom this little nastygram is ABOUT.  Hint: Nope, it's not Sarah Palin.

Kitchen Notes: Farming Russian Caviar

Black gold!

Government Workers Vs. Taxpayers, Says the ... Washington Post?!


Nerd Analysis: Prof. Bernard Lewis on the Arab Uprisings

"A mass expression of outrage against injustice."  Read the whole thing.  Professor Lewis had earlier thoughts on Egypt here.

Public Sector Unions, Absconding Politicians, and the Flight From Reality

Read this.  So it's not only a gross abdication of responsibility, Brave Sir Robin?  Pathetic.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Laughter as a Weapon: Auto-Tuning Qaddafi

Here's the story:
In his recent hour-long screech on a Tripoli balcony, Muammar Qaddafi vowed to hunt down his own rebellious people "inch by inch, house by house, room by room, alley by alley" and to wipe them out "to the last drop of blood". An Israeli musician and journalist named Noy Alooshe -- who is of Tunisian descent, by the way -- caught the speech. He noted the rhythmic repetitions, the zany clothes, and the trippy way Qaddafi kept raising his fists, and said to himself: "Classic hit!" 
Alooshe cranked up Auto-Tune and remixed Qaddafi's speech as a mash-up with "Hey Baby," a song by American rappers Pitbull and T-Pain. . . . It went viral across the Arab world. 
Some Arab viewers were put off to discover the video's Israeli provenance, but the vast majority, it seems, think it's terrific. In Libya in particular, young revolutionaries are loving it. The New York Times says the video has become a "popular token" of the Libyan uprising. 
Now here's the video:

"Every joke is a tiny revolution." ~ Orwell

Quote of the Day: "Marxists. I Hate These Guys."

Read the whole thing.  It's really not about hating Marxists in general, but about a particularly virulent and nasty subspecies: the shameless apologist for totalitarian Communism, that blood-soaked and evil creed.

Oscar Fashion Madness: *Sigh*

I am watching the "live from the Red Carpet" broadcast with the sound turned off.  Ugh, if I have to listen to one more simpering word from Ryan Seacrest and his botoxed cronies, I am going to hurl.   The fashions so far have been ... meh.  
  • Halle Berry's hairdo looked like a feather duster, with bits sticking up every which way as though she had dried her hair in a wind tunnel.  
  • Hilary Swank looked like she wore a feather duster.  
  • Gwyneth Paltrow's golden metallic get-up was ... just ew!  Maybe she was attempting to be an Oscar statuette.  Rumor has it that she's going to sing tonight.  Ugh!  I hated her singing schtick on Glee and I'll probably hate her here too.
  • Surprisingly enough, Helena Bonham Carter didn't look like a total lunatic tonight; she was (for her, anyway) subdued in classic black.  
  • Sandra Bullock lost her terrifying bangs from the Golden Globes (whew!) and looked OK in red ... but the Oscars aren't for "OK."  She looked -- sorry to say this, sweetie -- tired, as if her bun hairdo were an afterthought hurriedly done in the limo on the way there.
  • Mila Kunis's peekaboo lavender lace gown was OK, but the pale hue did nothing for her.
  • Anne Hathaway's crimson dress looked fine until your eyes reached the skirt, at which point you too will be forced to ask why ugly lopsided fabric roses were clinging to that dress like hungry remoras on a hapless shark. 
  • Cate Blanchett's dress was, unfathomably, covered with Nerds candies.
  • Natalie Portman was wearing tassels for earrings.  Hey, what high school graduation mortarboard did you steal those from?
  • I don't know if I actually like Nicole Kidman's origami-ish cream dress with sparkly bits glued on, but her ponytail hairdo seemed out of place with that.
  • I've been most entranced at this point by Penelope Cruz's red sequin gown, though that was probably because I was half-expecting her enormous bosoms to stage a desperate jailbreak from that bodice. 
  • OK, OK, young Hailee Steinfeld did look cute.
UPDATE: Good grief, the actual broadcast has started, and it is PAINFUL.  I'm done!  As usual, Nikki Finke is live-snarking this debacle.

Quirky Asia Files: Penny-Farthing Racing

No, not Japan this time.  Tasmania.  It's buckets of crazy, but it kind of looks like fun too, doesn't it?

Nerd Notes: Campus Speech Codes Are Both Evil and Stupid

Not, of course, that you needed a reminder.  You should not have to give up your Constitutional freedoms and protections once you get on campus.

HopeChange Chronicles: "Both Cynical and Naive": Responding to the Arab Uprisings

Here is a bit of the lambasting:
The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting—and perhaps helping to bring about—American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.
Well, OK, but one thing that seems clear enough is that the Middle Eastern tumults are by, for, and about local conditions and local people.  They're about locals in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. being unhappy with their leaders. They're not about Israel (contrary to decades of wonky foreign policy belief) , and they're not about the US and the West either, not really.  On the other hand, perhaps Hitchens is being a little unfair in criticizing the administration's foreign policy when it seems to me that the problem is that it's flailing around because IT DOESN'T REALLY HAVE ONE. (Oh, snap!)

Nerd News: 3 Law Schools Freeze Tuition

Edupunktastic!  See also this.  Some folks are realizing the impending peril of the higher education bubble going kaboom.

Thoughts on the American Dream


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Geek Fun: the Gin-and-Tonic Laser

Ah, science!  Doesn't this remind you of Happy Hour for Japanese scientists?

Movie Madness: The Nominees for Best Picture

I refuse to watch the bloated, self-aggrandizing yet boring perversity that is otherwise known as the Academy Awards (sorry, James Franco -- you might be as cute as a button, but your pretty little face as host isn't enough).  Still, I am vaguely curious which film will get the Best Picture Oscar.  Here's a useful rundown of the nominees.  Oh, and I will watch the red carpet arrivals for the express purpose of mocking the bad outfits that are bound to appear.  (If you're in the mood for fashion snarking right NOW, you can relive the hideousness of the Golden Globes.)

Kitchen Notes: 15 Recipes for Braised Meaty Glory

Oh, these recipes are perfect for a cold winter day!

Nerd News: A Perfect Storm in Undergrad Education

Oh, boy.  Yeah, it's bad.  But articles like this also don't mention that there in the nerd trenches, some of us are absolutely busting our butts to teach well and teach substantively with high standards and expectations.  

Libya: British Forces Rescue 150 UK Civilians

Nowadays knights in shining armor swoop down in RAF Hercules aircraft.  And are SAS.

History Nerd Fun: 10 Reasons to Go Back to the Dark Ages

This is a hilarious list.  Oh, never mind the fact that mortality rates for everybody were sky-high!  Dark Age denizens had organic veggies and plenty of exercise!  They had low unemployment and no obnoxious PAC lobbyists!  (Nope, they just had serfdom, nepotism, simony, indulgences, witch hunts, Viking raids, the Black Death, rampant illiteracy, no antibiotics, no indoor plumbing or electricity, and people like the Borgias calling the shots!  Plus no high-speed wireless Internet access!  Oh, the humanity.)

"Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

Happy Iowa Bacon Day, February 26

Happy Iowa Bacon Day! Thanks, Iowa House of Representatives!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

LOL: The Grassroots Effort to Build Robocop

Oh, this is hilarious.  And brilliant.  And pretty darn awesome.  My friends, behold the power of the Internet, social media, playful and dedicated fans, and a crazy idea.   Ah, private initiative!

Edupunk Nerd News: A Bachelor's Degree for $10,000?

Interesting.  I'm not saying this idea is all good, but it's an interesting opening gambit to a much-needed discussion on higher education today.  Note, too, how the author of this piece is a university professor of 20 years' experience (so he must be tenured and a senior scholar), but he still feels the need for anonymity because there are plenty of edu-crats and academics who would probably want to flay him alive for his nerd heresy. 

Movie Madness: the 50 Greatest Opening Sequences Ever

Fantastic!  Be warned, though, that the article contains video of all 50 opening sequences, so it could potentially eat up a couple hours of your life!  I'm glad to see that the opening titles of "Watchmen" made the list.  The movie itself ultimately ended up being ambitious but flawed, but all the same, in my review I did say how awesome the opening sequence was.  Still, the opening sequence of "Iron Man" is awesome too in an entirely different way.

FYI, If You Want to Rule A Brutal Dictatorship ...

Here is a useful bit of info (that will now do Qaddafi of Libya no good whatsoever):
Out of approximately 50,000 regular troops, only a hardcore of about 5,000 soldiers and special forces can be considered reliable, and it's simply impossible to retain dictatorial control over a population of almost 7,000,000 people with only a single brigade of soldiers. It is now out of the question as to whether the government can retake the entire country. It can only hold out for as long as possible. 
It's only a matter of time, eh?  You'll remember, of course, that storm troopers are not a luxury (if you're an evil overlord).  Well, nobody's going to be sorry to see the end of Qaddafi, including parts of his own military and diplomatic services who have turned against him.  I'm personally rather impressed with the two Libyan pilots who flew to Malta and defected.

Quote of the Day: "a gross abdication of responsibility"

Read this commentary on Wisconsin's runaway politicians.  Anyone else thinking of Brave Sir Robin?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nerd News: German Defense Minister Accused of Plagiarizing Doctoral Thesis

Via an econ prof's blog, here is a whiff of possible scandal involving (the stupendously monikered, by the way) Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jakob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg.  Oh, in this Internet Age, it is both easier to plagiarize and easier to get caught plagiarizing than ever before.

MM in the Kitchen: Clementine Pound Cake

Two of my favorite things to eat, now in one handy combination!

Nerd News: Credential Inflation

Uh-oh ... though I love the title: "Soon You Will Need a Master's Degree to Wash Dishes."

LOL: Rules for Snow Shoveling and Parking

Oh, this is hilarious.

A Liberal Cartoonist on the Wisconsin Protests

The protests have turned him off, and he's got the personal integrity to say so.  The whole mess about the public sector unions shouldn't be about Left and Right, liberal and conservative.  I quote from his commentary:
This debate over Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill has been difficult for me. I have progressive values. I believe in gay marriage, I believe in mass transit, I believe in global climate change, I believe in abortion rights, I believe in urban planning and I believe in a single payer health care system. But on the issue of public employee compensation and the role that their unions play in our government, I find myself siding with conservatives. 
I don't have a problem with unions in the private sector. Private sector workers should have a chance to collectively bargain for a greater share of the profits they generate. While public sector workers perform valuable services that make society livable, they don't generate profits for the state government. When public sector unions negotiate, the entity on the other side of the collective bargaining table isn't some greedy corporation, it's us, the taxpayers. 
I believe that public employees should be well compensated for the valuable work they do. In fact, exceptional public employees should be exceptionally compensated (something that most unions have fought against in favor of pay based on seniority). But like the rest of us in this economy public employees need to make sacrifices.
Now here is his fabulous cartoon.  See also this.

Fabulous Political Cartoon on the Debt Crisis

Geek News: Futurist Ray Kurzweil on Climate Change

And the notable futurist, who famously predicted the role of information technology in collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of the Internet, and the ability of artificial intelligence to beat humans at chess by 1998, has something to say about fossil fuels, energy problems, and climate change -- "No problem."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Film Culture Commentary: Demographics, Marketing, and the Decline of Creative Storytelling

Read this and then definitely this.  Blurb:
... let's look ahead to what's on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children's book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.
Save us, Christopher "Inception" Nolan!

A Glimpse Inside Libya: A Photo Essay

Here is something worth your time by freelance journalist Michael Totten, whose reports from abroad are always worth reading.

Get Schooled: One Teacher's Perspective on the Wisconsin Protests

Read this.  Interesting.  Remember, "teachers' unions" (and their union bosses) are not the same thing as "teachers" or "education."  To oppose the first thing is not the same thing as the opposing the latter two.

Great Moments in Research: the Looming Global Food Crisis

An economist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government has this to say.  Allow me to cut to the chase:
In conclusion, increasing food prices is a major problem, especially in poor nations with large urban populations. The increases cause political instability, bad economic decisions and real hardship. The US contributes to this problem with its ethanol program; to a lesser extent, China does, too, with stockpiling.
Well, DUH!  Meanwhile, we continue to pursue the colossally idiotic boondoggle known as ethanol.  I can't resist quoting from the report:
The US ethanol subsidy diverted more than 100 million metric tons of corn into ethanol last year. This did little to reduce global warming, and made basic grains and meat more expensive for most people in the world.
This is an outrage.  What would Norman Borlaug do?

Quirky Asia Files: Beijing Issues New Rules on Reincarnation

Good luck with that, pal.  Blurb:
It’s probably best not to even try making sense of Beijing’s pronouncements on the 14th Dalai Lama and other Tibetan spiritual leaders: you’ll only make your head hurt. Last week the officially atheist Chinese government’s State Administration for Religious Affairs disclosed plans to enact a new law forbidding the 75-year-old Buddhist deity to be reborn anywhere but on Chinese-controlled soil, and giving final say to Chinese authorities when the time comes to identify his 15th incarnation.

Monday Therapy: Gorgeous Photos of Iceland

Lovely.  Remember, Iceland wants to be your friend!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The BiblioFiles: Read This Book -- "A Renegade History of the United States" by Thaddeus Russell

I had previously profiled the contrarian historian Professor Russell here.  (Russell's website is here.)  Now here is an overview/book review of his new book.  

Quirky Euro Files: Spanish Nun Booted From Convent For Too Much Facebooking


Quote of the Day: Public Sector Unions vs. Taxpayers

Take a look:
In the romantic liberal vision of this union uprising, determined workers are standing up to the powerful. But there's no fat-cat owner wanting to pocket more profits here. The unions' target in Wisconsin is the taxpayer. 
At bottom, this is the unions versus the people. 
For much of the Left, though, this about protecting the power of labor. Again, this ignores the fundamental difference between public-sector unions and private-sector unions. Even Franklin Roosevelt said, "The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service." 
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, campaign contributions by government-sector unions, collected through mandatory dues, help elect the public officials who are then supposed to negotiate with them: "The unions sit, in effect, on both sides of the bargaining table."
Read the whole thing.  Note how it makes the important distinction between private sector unions and public sector ones.  It's a distinction all too often lost in the current debate in Madison.

An Anonymous Online Call for Protests in China?

Hmmm, what's this?
Jittery Chinese authorities wary of any domestic dissent staged a show of force Sunday to squelch a mysterious online call for a "Jasmine Revolution," with only a handful of people joining protests apparently modeled on the pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East. 
Authorities detained activists, increased the number of police on the streets, disconnected some cell phone text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the call to stage protests in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities. 
... Many activists said they didn't know who was behind the campaign and weren't sure what to make of the call to protest, which first circulated Saturday on the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website ... The call is likely to fuel anxiety in China's authoritarian government, which is ever alert for domestic discontent and has appeared unnerved by protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya. It has limited media reports about them, stressing the instability caused by the protests, and restricted Internet searches to keep Chinese uninformed about Middle Easterners' grievances against their autocratic rulers.
We haven't forgotten about Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Quote of the Day: FDR on Public Sector Unions

Roosevelt's reign certainly was the bright dawn of modern unionism. The legal and administrative paths that led to 35% of the nation's workforce eventually unionizing by a mid-1950s peak were laid by Roosevelt. 
But only for the private sector. Roosevelt openly opposed bargaining rights for government unions. 
"The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, "I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place" in the public sector. "A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government."

Casualties Mount in Libya Protests

The Middle East continues to boil over with anti-government protests, and the deaths are piling up in Libya in particular.   Here is a heart-rending quote from one of the protesters to CNN:
The government's firm grip on power heightened the concerns of a woman from Benghazi, who urged U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders to help the Libyan people in the face of the government crackdown. 
"We have no freedom here," she said. "I speak to all the world, to America, to Mr. Obama: Please help us. We (did) nothing. We want to live a good life."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Awesome: The Night Sky From Chile

Look at this amazing time-lapse footage of the night sky.  Wow!  Also, is it just me, or are those 4 synchronized astronomy antennas oddly cute?

Starry Night.

The BiblioFiles: Revising Bad Guys into Good Guys

Here's something interesting.  I had mentioned the Tolkien-overturning Russian book The Last Ringbearer here.

Awesome: the Aurora Borealis in Norway

Here is just a taste.  Go feast your eyes on more amazing photos here.

Nerd Analysis: 2 Law Professors on Wisconsin and Public Sector Unions

I had previously linked to a prof's take on the Wisconsin showdown here.  Two other professors (both in law) weigh in here and here.  The second one is short enough to quote:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quote of the Day: The Wisconsin Budget Protests, Part 2

A professor considers:
Despite the terrible impression created by irresponsible teachers in Madison fraudulently calling in sick and hauling children down to protests they do not understand, and despite tactics that have further damaged the already poor image of public sector unions, these working people and their families are not wrongdoers or parasites.  But they have allowed themselves to be deceived by the false promises of demagogic and irresponsible politicians and they now stand in the way of inevitable, necessary and ultimately benign changes in the way our society works.
The whole thing is worth a look.

Taiwan: Crackdown on Food Hoarding

Well, this just isn't a good sign, either in itself or as the inevitable response to recent hikes in food prices.  Stocking up is an actual crime?  We'll all screwed.

Quote of the Day: The Wisconsin Budget Protests

From Powerline via the Insta-Prof:
A common theme of the union demonstrators in Madison today was that Governor Walker is a “dictator.” This showed up on sign after sign. It sheds light, I think, on how public union members in particular, and liberals in general, think. What is going on here is that the voters of Wisconsin have elected a Republican Governor and–overwhelmingly–a Republican legislature, precisely so that they can get the state’s budget under control. 
What the Democrats don’t like isn’t dictatorship, it is democracy. That is why the Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate fled the state en masse–they prevented a quorum, so that a vote they were going to lose couldn’t take place. Once again, it is democracy they are trying to frustrate, not dictatorship. 
One could make the point more broadly about the organized labor movement. The unions’ top priority is to eliminate the secret ballot in union certification elections. Why?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Unrest in Wisconsin

Ann Althouse, a law professor based in Madison, Wisconsin, is right at in the middle of the current uproar over public sector worker unions, the state government, and Wisconsin's budget troubles.  Madison is starting to look like Greece, for goodness sake.  I've been inside the lovely state capitol building before, and it's a whole lot lovelier when it's not jammed with angry protesters.  As for Wisconsin's budget ills, I hate to say this, but it's not alone, and it might be only a matter of time before we see similar public sector worker unions' temper tantrums in other states.  The states are broke.  

UPDATE 1: On the news video footage, I saw multiple protest placards depicting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker as Hitler.  You know what that means: the group using the Hitler accusation automatically loses.  Twice.

UPDATE 2:  An interesting op-ed from the Chicago Tribune, of all places.

Disgustingly Cute: A Living Fossil Smiles

Via Neatorama, check out National Geographic's new image gallery of the coelacanth.

Kitchen Notes: Would You Eat This Burger?

It might taste of patchouli and hemp.  I think I'd rather have a bacon cheeseburger!

Quote of the Day: Teaching Law School

What an intriguing snippet:
I suppose over the years I’ve murdered pretty much every 1st-year teacher — and certainly all my Deans — and they’ve all murdered me, too.
Do read the rest.

Headlines Imitate Satire: "Storm Troopers Are Not a Luxury"

The topic is serious, but the wording is amusing.  It also reminds me of this oldie but goodie, Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became an Evil Overlord.  Pay attention to mentions of the Legions of Terror.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sign of the Apocalypse: I Hate Justin Bieber A Little Bit Less

Oh, don't you worry, I still hate this pint-sized teen pop idol with the ridiculous hair and his screaming mobs of twelve-year-old fangirls. His nauseating song "Baby" should be ritually condemned as a crime against humanity and then wiped from every single digital music archive on the planet.  Having said all that, though, I have to confess that I hate Bieber just a tiny bit less after seeing this.  (I can't believe I just said that.)

LOL: Drunk Tweeting and the American Red Cross


Middle Earth from Mordor's Perspective

A massive work of Russian fan fic sympathizes with the baddies.  Should be interesting!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thucydides on War and Foreign Policy in 2011

Lessons and thoughts from ancient Greece by foreign policy professor Walter Russell Mead.  Here's the beginning of it:
If a specter haunts the chancellories of America, it isn’t communism and it isn’t Karl Marx.  It’s Thucydides, the chronicler of the 30 year Peloponnesian War between ancient Sparta and Athens that led to the comprehensive defeat of the world’s first great democratic power.  The assumptions most Americans bring to the study of foreign policy — that there are win-win solutions for most problems, that democracy makes for a more peaceful world, that international law can prevail and that power need not be the final arbiter in human affairs — strike Thucydides as pious, nonsensical claptrap. 
Unfortunately, he was a very smart man, and much of what he wrote makes sense.

Rant: Obama and the Cost of Higher Education

Here's a taste of it:
If President Obama thinks education is so important, then why is he hell bent on financially crippling those who seek education? Seriously, why can’t he understand that making education affordable for everybody is not achieved simply by giving everybody the opportunity to take out loans that they cannot pay back?

Bad Astronomy = Headline of the Day

No, there's no proof of a giant planet in the outer solar system.  Also: interesting but inconclusive evidence does not = proof.

Couch Potato Chronicles, Sci Fi Valentine Edition

All right, all right, enough serious business about foreign policy and emerging markets, mmmmmmkay?  Here's something amusing for your post-Valentine's Day amusement: 26 sci-fi weddings, festooned with snarky commentary. Who loves ya, baby?

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Mankiw on Emerging Markets and Higher Education

Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw (he usually blogs here) has this interesting piece in the New York Times.  It's all good, but I excerpted my favorite bit after the fold:

Nerd News: Conservatism on Campus and a New Class at Brown

Remember this recent post on political bias on campus?  Here's something new and hopeful at Brown University:
This semester, Brown University is offering a new course on political conservatism. The university said the course is unrelated to current events and reflects Brown’s commitment to “broad-based academic inquiry and intellectual exploration.’’ 
... The independent study course — Modern Conservatism in America: Conservative Thought in the 20th Century — was designed by five students in collaboration with Steven G. Calabresi, a visiting professor of political science with a high profile in conservative legal and political circles. Calabresi, a Northwestern University law professor, co-founded the Federalist Society, the nation’s leading forum for conservative and libertarian thinking about the law and its impact on public policy. He also served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, advised Attorney General Edwin Meese III and wrote speeches for former Vice President Dan Quayle. 
Terrence George, a Brown sophomore who helped put the course together, said it “isn’t meant to indoctrinate anybody, but to inform people about a perspective they would not hear about.  
“The history of intellectual conservatism at Brown is a history denied,’’ he declared.
For the record, I don't want conservatives brainwashing people any more than I want liberals brainwashing people, but I don't think that's what the class is about.  Anyway, it's a welcome thing indeed to see any differing perspectives on campus at all!  Even better: clear signs that there are students out there who are thinking for themselves and resisting the one-size-fits-all campus mental orthodoxy.  Now there's a kind of academic freedom that's change we can believe in.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Awesome: Cartoon Bunny Warriors Return!

Remember when I raved rapturously here and here about Japan's fierce cartoon bunny warriors?  That video link to the trailer is dead, but here is a new one or two.  Even better, an entire episode is now available online!  It's only free for a few more days, but you have GOT to watch this thing.  I'm already thinking I'll get the DVD.

It's the most mind-bogglingly awesome, insane thing I've seen in a really long time.  Two adorable commando bunnies rack up an impressive body count as they rescue hostages in the desert.  This is probably rated R for crazy bloody violence and a bit of language.  Enjoy!  (The actual episode starts about 4 minutes in.)

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Ferguson on Egypt and US Foreign Policy

Harvard professor Niall Ferguson in both print and video rips into Obama's foreign policy in general and on Egypt in particular.   Hear, hear.  The zinger at 9:40 is a thing of savage beauty.

Celebrate Valentine's Day With the Bard

Here's Shakespeare's Sonnet 116!
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

I can't help myself.  Here is a reprise of some holiday hilarity from a couple years back:

"Flowers ... chocolates ... promises you don't intend to keep ..."

Movie Madness: "X-Men: First Class"

Consider this my Valentine to you all, darlings!  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, both always watchable, lead the cast.  I'm trying not to have high expectations because I don't want to be cruelly disappointed at the theater come June!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nerd News: Cornell Researchers Take On Gender in Science Professions

Read this!  Ah, how sacred cows make the best burgers.

A Hungarian Ambassador's Thoughts On Egypt

Andras Simonyi, former Hungarian ambassador to NATO and the United States, has some piquant thoughts including this one:

Where Do Libraries Come From, Mama?

This Canadian lambasting of British author (and dirtbag du jour) Philip Pullman is a thing of beauty.  Here's just a bit (the last paragraph is just magnificent):

Nerd Analysis: A History Prof Looks at the Tea Party In the Light of American History

Read it all.  This is a real and thoughtful history professor, mind you, not a shrieking ideologue of the type found all too often on campuses.  Here is a taste of his article after the fold:

Fugly or Fabulous? Shoes for a Warrior Queen

Wow!  Crazy, yet ... crazy awesome.  From Hong Kong.

Dyed in the blood of my slain foes.
Also go comfortably from the office to dinner at a nice restaurant!

Movie Madness: "Atlas Shrugged"

Is this film adaptation of Ayn Rand's massive Objectivist novel going to be a triumph or a ... um ... train wreck?

Who is John Galt?

Call Me Ishmael: Marine Archaeology Meets Melville's "Moby Dick"

Awesome!  Blurb:
US marine archaeologists have found the sunken whaling ship belonging to the captain who inspired Herman Melville's classic 19th Century novel, Moby Dick
The remains of the vessel, the Two Brothers, was found in shallow waters off Hawaii. Captain George Pollard was the skipper when the ship hit a coral reef and sank in 1823. His previous ship, the Essex, had been rammed by a whale and also sank, providing the narrative for the book.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: Hello Dalek

Look at this fantastic mashup by Joseph Senior:

True colors.

Egypt: A Revolution in Photos

It took a little less than 3 weeks to topple a regime that had lasted for 3 decades.  Is it Egypt's Berlin Wall moment?  I could write about it, but a picture says a thousand words.  Check out these great image galleries from Foreign Policy:
See too this massive image gallery from the Boston Globe, along with one from the Telegraph.

Now all this is great, but it's also not over.  We're moving into another phase of the Egyptian revolution -- and one that is arguably even more important with the stakes higher than ever.  Still, watching the Internet and Google and social media play their role in connecting the protesters ... More, seeing the fear broken off an atomize populace so it felt the confidence to take to the streets in the cause of freedom ... What a sight it was.  

By the way, here's a great website:   The answer is finally NO.

OK, I'm a nerd.  I can't help it.  I think of Mubarak now and the verses of Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" scroll through my head.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Fun Video: The Return of Tiny Darth

First there was this delightful commercial.  Now take a look at the "making of" video, which is -- unbelievably -- even better.  That kid in the Darth Vader mask is some kind of genius of physical comedy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Satire Alert: Robots vs. Huck Finn Censorship

Remember this original post about the censorship of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn?  The Onion then took a potshot at it.  Now there is something even better: replacing every occurrence of the "n-word" in Huck Finn with the word "robot."  Ah, there's nothing quite like humor to make a serious point!  Go here now or just watch the video below!

Nerd News: Political Bias On Campus -- One Nerd's Account

A follow-up to this previous post.  Here's one view from the trenches by a "closet conservative."  Brother (sister?), I feel your pain.  I've been there -- AM there!  Actually, I have a few libertarian/conservative/center-right friends at other campuses, and I don't feel SO alone.  But we're all "in the closet" and have talked about it with rather rueful humor.  And the whole business about "coming out" as a non-liberal is so true it hurts!  

A Few More Thoughts on State Multiculturalism

Here's a follow-up (or two) on the ongoing recent discussions about state multiculturalism (last post here).  Seriously now -- who is really that surprised that the ghetto-ization of foreign people groups has blown up in all our faces?  

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Political Humor of the Day: the Obama Slogan Generator

Check out this hilarity from Slate!

Oh, This Will End Well

Killing one native species in order to help another?  Only environmentalists could think this is a good idea.  I'm waiting for the wildlife biologists -- you know, REAL scientists -- to put the beatdown on the environmentalists.  Meanwhile, place all bets now on the barred owl!

Nerd News: Political Bias in Academia

It's real.  Via the Insta-Prof.  FYI, I never discuss my politics when I'm at school.  I don't want to attract negative attention, so I guess I'm a big fat moral coward.  The gig may soon be up, though.  Not long ago, a fellow nerd announced proudly, "I'm a socialist!" and then looked at me expectantly, as if expecting affirmation or agreement.  I looked back at him expressionlessly for a moment and gave him the Gallic Shrug.  He didn't know what to do with THAT.

LOL: Capitalism-Bashing Filmmaker Sues For More Money


Quirky Asia Files: Sushi Candy

Watch this.  The "sushi" is all gelatin and soft gummy candy:

Nerd News: Villanova Law School Knowingly Inflated Its Ranking With False Exam Scores


Canada: the Failure of State Multiculturalism

A prominent voice in Canada’s Muslim community said British Prime Minister David Cameron was “spot on” when he insisted British multiculturalism has failed. 
And just like Britain, Canada’s will fail, said Muslim Canadian Congress founder Tarek Fatah. 
He said Monday that, like Britain, Canada has been too tolerant in allowing Muslim immigrants to settle into closed communities, some of which preach Islamic values and a hatred toward the West. 
“The Canadian multicultural model has failed, as the British model has,” said Fatah. “When first generation (Muslims) are more loyal to Canada than the second generation, then we have sufficient evidence to say that multiculturalism has failed.” 
Citing the Toronto 18 terrorist plot as an example of the extremism that can result from ethnic isolation, Fatah said he hoped Canada can “pick up on” the points Cameron made in a controversial speech on Saturday. 
Well, DUH.  At least more people are realizing the perils of this practice.

RELATED POST: UK's Cameron: State Multiculturalism Has Failed.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Quote of the Day: On Bad Movies

This is actually pretty decent analysis for how some movies are so bad that they're good (or at least entertaining).  My emphasis:
I suppose one thing all so-bad-they're-good films have in common is unbridled enthusiasm. No matter what genre they're acting in, it doesn't occur to an actor in a camp film to tone it down a bit. No director of such films resists a close-up, or a splatter of gore, or a musical sting. It's like watching five-year-olds play soccer. They're no good, but just seeing them go nuts is a joy.

Social Media, the Internet, Self-Organizing Individuals, and an Egyptian Tea Party?

Interesting.  Power to the people indeed.

Couch Potato Chronicles: An Age of Awful TV

Heh!  And yes, I did think Flash Forward totally sucked.

The Forgotten: The Persecuted Christians of the Middle East

Read this.

A Belated Happy Birthday to the Great Communicator

Check this out.

Then check out this statement from Marco Rubio on how the son of Cuban exiles regards Reagan.  Hear, hear.  You know, Reagan is the first president I remember, and somehow every other president after him has seemed so much smaller.

Monday Therapy: the "Coca-Cola Siege" Ad

This epic ad was one of last night's many delightful Super Bowl commercials!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Awesome: A Shout-Out to a Classic Ad

Check out tonight's Super Bowl ad for "House" and see if it doesn't remind you of something...

Then check out the classic 1979 Coca-Cola ad with Mean Joe Green:

It's Super Bowl Sunday!

10 Websites That Changed Everyday Life

I would have to agree.

Nerd News: American University in Cairo Press Offices Trashed

NOT COOL.  Blurb:
During the escalation of tensions in Egypt on Friday, police ransacked the offices of the American University in Cairo Press, a major force for academic publishing in and about the Middle East. 
While most of the American University in Cairo is located in a new office well outside the center of the city, the press offices overlook Tahrir Square, which has been a central site both for protests and for police attempts to crack down on the protests. 
Neil Hewison, editorial director of the press, posted an account of experiences there on the blog of Oxford University Press (which is the North American distributor for American University in Cairo Press). His post about Friday's events said: "Our AUC Press offices were trashed on Friday. The police had broken into the AUC to use the roof of our wing to fire on protesters at the junction of Sheikh Rihan and Qasr al-Aini (we found empty CS canisters and shotgun cartridges up there). And persons unknown ransacked our rooms. Drawers and files emptied, windows broken, cupboards and computers smashed. But it could have been much worse. Meanwhile, the violence may get worse before it gets better."

Three Views on Egypt

Take a look at:
  1. Natan Sharansky in the WSJ on the chance for liberalism in Egypt
  2. Aluf Benn's essay in Haaretz arguing that Obama has lost Egypt
  3. Tim Cavanaugh of Reason on Egypt (partly in response to Benn).

Quote of the Day: In London, "The Foreign Office no longer understood foreign affairs"

The whole piece is interesting, but this bit should give us all pause for thought:
Not the least of the pleasures the North African revolutions are bringing is the look of astonishment on the face of the foreign policy establishment. The world has become a constant source of surprise for diplomats and ministers, as each news bulletins lands a fresh blow on their crumbling certainties. "Tunisia, who knew?" "Egypt? Egypt! WTF?" So lost has Whitehall become, Alistair Burt, the Middle East minister, admits that the Foreign Office no longer understood foreign affairs. "The tide is turning very strongly," he sighed. "It's not for us to sit here in London and work out where that tide is going to go." 
We are witnessing a diplomatic failure as great as the failure to predict the collapse of Soviet communism. Revolts in the Arab world are coming in a manner and from a quarter the experts never expected. 
Add another thought: the experts were wrong, and they thought they knew more than they actually did.  They had built their assumptions on (pardon the expression as we talk of the Middle East) foundations of sand.

RELATED POST: Israel as sideshow, not driving factor.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Egypt Disappears from Chinese Internet Searches


Movie Madness: First Official Poster of "Captain America: The First Avenger"


Nerd Analysis: Complexity Theory and the Egyptian Crisis

More analysts and academics weigh in using complexity theory.  Hmmmm.  Other Nerd Analyses of Egypt are linked here.

UK's Cameron: State Multiculturalism Has Failed

Angela Merkel said the same thing in Germany some time ago.  Now it's David Cameron of the UK.  Well, you'll recall how the capital of the UK is "Londonistan."

Retrospective: A Canadian View of Reagan

Take a look at the most influential president since FDR.

Movie Madness: If Movie Posters Told the Truth

Go check out the entire hilarious list (the "Toy Story 3" one is absolutely perfect -- and true), but here is an example:

HopeChange Chronicles: the UK's Nuclear Info

More "smart diplomacy"?

UPDATE:  Nope?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Forgotten History: Viking Navigation

Cool!  OK, I just have to add that reading the references is in itself a wee bit amusing.  See for instance: "Gábor Horváth, an optics researcher at Eötvös University in Budapest, and Susanne Åkesson, a migration ecologist from Lund University, Sweden ..."

Now I can't help myself:
Alsø wik
Alsø alsø wik
Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yer?
See the løveli lakes
The wonderful telephøne system
And mani interesting furry animals
Including the majestic møøse
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti

Public Service Announcement: Getting More From Google Chrome


Snowmageddon, Thundersnow, and A Mad Weatherman

Snowmageddon here at Nerdworld was pretty intense, but it apparently wasn't quite as crazy as the Chicago version!  Check this out:

RELATED POST: Stephen Colbert on thundersnow.

Nerd News: Harvard Study on Overselling College

Well, well, well.  Read the whole thing.  That sound you hear is the higher education bubble popping.  For the umpteenth time, the one-size-fits-all "everybody must go to college" idea is going to ruin, bankrupt, and in other ways ill-serve too many people.  Blurb:
The United States can learn from other countries, particularly in northern Europe, Professor Schwartz says. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, for instance, between 40 and 70 percent of high-schoolers opt for programs that combine classroom and workplace learning, many of them involving apprenticeships. These pathways result in a “qualification” that has real currency in the labor market.

Cultural Commentary: Liberty Versus Benevolence

Read this.  Need I give you this remark by Thoreau? "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life."  Well said, sir.

Couch Potato Chronicles: When TV Meets "D&D"

This one's for Koz and Alessandra and all my peeps who love them some role-playing games. Where are you on this chart?  The fact that not only am I instinctively Chaotic Good but matched with "Doctor Who" is just the most natural thing in the world.  Click to enlarge, natch.

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Springborg on "Game Over" for Egyptian Democracy

Robert Springborg, a professor of national security affairs, has a piece in Foreign Policy in which he grimly opines that the chance for democracy in Egypt is over.  Link via Tigerhawk, who has his own commentary.

RELATED POST:  Other analyses by professors are linked in this post.

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Wawro on Iran and Egypt

See what Geoffrey Wawro, the General Olinto Mark Barsanti Professor of Military History and Director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, has to say about Egypt now in the light of the 1979 revolution in Iran.  Note how utterly disastrous Carter turned out to be on that.

RELATED POSTS:  Professor Bernard Lewis on Egypt and Professor Milani as well.

A Letter From Winter 1948: Dear MIT, Please Send Flamethrowers. Love, Mayor of Boston

This is fabulous!  And so appropriate for Snowmageddon!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Bernard Lewis on Egypt

Professor Lewis needs no introduction, really.  He is a giant in Middle Eastern Studies.  Do see what he has to say about Egypt, the Middle East, and Obama's foreign policy.  (Link via Transterrestrial Musings.)  Here is a teaser:
“At the moment, the general perception, in much of the Middle East, is that the United States is an unreliable friend and a harmless enemy. I think we want to give the exact opposite impression.”
You don't say!  What we actually want is to be is a steadfast friend and a dangerous enemy.  You'd think this would be obvious.  But sadly, no!  I do like one of Transterrestrial Musings' commenters, who quoted my beloved Tony Stark: "Is it better to be feared or respected?  I say, is it too much to ask for both?"

Vita Brevis, Ars Longa: Your Virtual Art Museum

Feast your eyes!  The Botticelli will take your breath away.

Well DUH: Chivalry Is Awesome!

I, for one, love chivalry and chivalrous guys.  Maybe now the brainwashed looking-to-be-offended neo-feministas will catch a clue.  Have these harridans ever thought about the fact that in throwing chivalry back in guys' faces that the girls are being rude?  Sheesh.

Nerd Analysis: Revolution in Iran and Egypt

Abbas Milani, director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University, reflects on revolutions in Iran and Egypt.  Do read it all. 

Quote of the Day: Obama's Egypt Speech

There have been various analyses already such as this and this, but from the latter comes this piquant summation:
I asked a former Middle East hand if there was something new here. He replied, "Nothing." Why a nothing speech, then? He answered, "My interpretation is that this is an effort to claim credit. That's why he went immediately after Mubarak. They [the Obama advisers] know they muffed it and missed it and blew it -- so the empty remarks are an effort to establish a counter narrative." 
In any other administration, you'd think such an assessment harsh. But remember, this is an administration that views Egypt's revolution as a PR problem. And Obama isn't winning the PR game on this one, not domestically and certainly not internationally. I think the Middle East hand nailed it: The Obama team, after assuring us it didn't much care about the outcome in Egypt, is now, in the vaguest possible terms, trying to say that it was instrumental all along. Except it wasn't. 
Oh, my.  I've been been heavily critical of the Obama Administration's foreign policy (i.e., it doesn't seem to have a serious clue ... and is John Bolton actually right?  Heaven help us all if he is).  Worse, it's becoming increasingly evident that the feckless, naive, reactive approach is obvious to .... well, just about everybody.