Thursday, March 31, 2011

Couch Potato Chronicles: New Trailer for Upcoming Season of "Doctor Who"!

AND THERE WAS GREAT REJOICING IN THE LAND.  Check out the new trailer!  I can't wait to go back to the Whoniverse.  The Christmas Special was a long, long time ago!

"Look how cool this stuff is!"

MM in the Kitchen: Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Red Wine

Perfect for winter ... because winter refuses to go away!  A nasty nor'easter is heading straight for Nerdworld!

The BiblioFiles: Andrew Klavan on "Beowulf"

Worth a look, but do read the outstanding Old English poem first here.  I like the Burton Raffel translation, myself.  NO, the horrible movie does NOT count, and neither do modern revisionist manglings of the story. 

You Go, Girl: Veena Malik and True Feminism

Here are some related thoughts along with this, but, really, just watch Veena go gloriously ballistic on her critic.  Now think if you would rather a world with people like Veena in charge or people like her critic calling the shots.

You may remember other Pakistanis who opposed religious violence and extremism -- folks like Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LOL: the Bronx Zoo Cobra on Twitter

Here's the deal.  Don't ask questions.  Go, read, and laugh uproariously at the wit and humor.  It is one of the funniest things I've seen online yet.

Is This Blog A "Lady Blog"?

I don't think so.  Is this a "girly blog"?  Oh, I hope not!  It's a blog written by a girl, but that's not the same thing.

Quirky Euro Files: Attempting to Ban Cars in Cities

Good luck with that, pal.

Public Service Announcement: Always Listen to Your Dog

Especially if she is a 12-year-old shih tzu named Babu.

Terror and Courage at Fukushima: Update

Here is an update on Fukushima, where some 400 workers are taking turns in their Herculean task.  I had posted about these unsung heroes here.  

Absolutely Awesome: Makoto Fujimura Illuminates the King James Bible

Utterly, breathtakingly beautiful.  The art, the concept, and the quiet passion and diligent dedication of it all literally left me speechless.  Be sure to watch the embedded video.  Kudos indeed to Mr. Fujimura.  Ars longa, vita brevis, and really great art is just a little transcendent. RELATED POST:  The literary gem that we take for granted as the King James Bible is 400 years old this year.

Watch Syria

Libya is the topic du jour after the president's speech, but keep your eye on Syria .... because I think I can pretty much assure you that the White House doesn't have a Syria policy worth the name, much less a grand strategy for Middle East foreign policy in general.

LOL: the Perfect Family Portrait


Monday, March 28, 2011

Liveblogging: Obama's Libya Speech Is a Belated, Muddled, Unconvincing Mess

That's my first impression.  He sounds like a member of a high school debate team trying to refute every point of the opposition team.  Plus: criticizing the Iraq War while defending the Libyan intervention.  Heh, it's like saying, "my coalition war is better than your coalition war."  Ungracious, not to mention numerically false.  Bonus: Obama pedantically explaining where Libya is on the map.  Really?

UPDATE 1:  OMG!  He said he'd use the military "unilaterally if necessary"!   That sound you hear is a million lefty peacenik heads exploding. 

UPDATE 2:  This speech is sounding more and more like EVERY OTHER BORING EGGHEAD LECTURE I'VE EVER HEARD ON CAMPUS.  

UPDATE 3: *groan*  SHOOT ME NOW.  OK, so while you're going to drippily mouth platitudes about a brighter future for Americans and everybody, you cannot and did not give us any clue of the endgame in Libya -- a thing that is much more concrete and pressing!  

UPDATE 4: In retrospect, what a mealymouthed speech that gives us the words about American exceptionalism and nobility and yet delivers them without the real passion of conviction.  Here are some analyses that make points worth noting: "Hope is not a method, and wishes are not plans," "The President's Speech," and the thought that the speech raises more questions than it answers.  Y'think? Oh, and for the umpteenth time, there is a contradiction in saying BOTH "Qaddafi must go" AND "we're not after regime change."  Powerline comments.  Is it any wonder that the near-universal reaction to the speech was a resounding "meh"?

Libya: Most Snarktastic Operation in Recent Memory?

From a piece today in the New York Times:
Tonight, in a speech that probably should have been delivered before American planes began flying missions over North Africa, Barack Obama will try to explain to a puzzled nation why we are at war with Libya. 
Not that the word “war” will pass his lips, most likely. In press briefings last week, our Libyan campaign was euphemized into a “kinetic military action” and a “time-limited, scope-limited military action.” (The online parodies were merciless: “Make love, not time-limited, scope-limited military actions!” “Let slip the muzzled canine unit of kinetic military action!”) Advertising tonight’s address, the White House opted for “the situation in Libya,” which sounds less like a military intervention than a spin-off vehicle for the famous musclehead from MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”
After the (admittedly hilarious) snarking over the nigh-Orwellian mangling of language is over, though, we're still left with some significant and significantly troubling questions such as this one (as Jake Tapper endears himself to me even more).

Awesome: Time-Lapse Aurora Borealis in Norway

Utterly breathtaking.  Bonus: soundtrack from "Gladiator."  How I love that flick!  Anyway, feast your eyes on this:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oops, I Did It Again: Another Manmade Famine

Reading articles like this drives me absolutely crazy.  Some of the most horrific instances of food crises, hunger, famine, and outright starvation in history were caused by man himself, and we're apparently repeating the same deadly mistake.  Remember this and this?

Fiat Lux: the Aftermath of Earth Hour

I enjoyed my shiny heat balls, and some other folks were likewise having fun.  Check it all out after the fold:

Awesome: the Wallace and Gromit Charity

Who doesn't love Wallace and Gromit?  Check out their charity work too.  In a delightful twist on the lovable claymation duo of man and dog, their charity fundraiser to aid sick kids asks you and your dog to take part in a walk which they are calling -- what else? -- A Grand Day Out.

Nerd Analysis on Libya: Costs and Benefits of Multilateral Coercion

See what Sarah Kreps, a professor of government at Cornell, has to say.  Her brand-new book might be timelier than ever: Coalitions of Convenience: United States Military Interventions After the Cold War (Oxford University Press, 2011).

For a rather snarky look at multilateralism in Libya, see this: "Can Any Old Country Now Bomb Libya?"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Earth Hour ... Fiat Lux!

So while the treehugging Greenies are busy sitting in the dark -- hey, it's Earth Hour so you're supposed to be guilt-tripped into turning off your lights for an hour or whatever.  Forget that, man -- I got basketball games to watch and homework to do!  Besides, I love my light bulbs heat balls.  Check out some gorgeous video footage of some brilliantly illuminated cities -- centers of learning and culture, places where people live and work and have better, longer lives because of technological advancement and human achievement.  

Remember this?  Notice how the most miserable and poverty-stricken swathes of the planets are the ones that have no lights?  

Besides, do you really think that sitting in the dark for an hour is going to do anything substantive for the earth?  The very idea is laughable.  See this factoid from that piece:
When we switch off the electricity, many of us turn to candlelight. This seems natural and environmentally friendly, but unfortunately candles are almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs, and more than 300 times less efficient than fluorescent lights. Using one candle for each extinguished bulb cancels the CO2 reduction; two candles emit more CO2.
Earth Hour is really just an opportunity for more moral-pietastic posturing and self-congratulatory egotism on the part of the enviro-fanatics.  Let them sit in the dark.  The rest of us have better things to do!

Mark Steyn on Libya: "Do-gooders in a land with no good guys"

Oh, my!

Schadenfreude Alert: Duke's March Sadness

A fellow college hoops fan and I were talking earlier today, and it reminded me: 2 days have passed since Arizona sent the Blue Devils slinking home, and if anything the victory is even sweeter with time and recollection.  OH YES.  Buh-bye, Duke!  The second half of that game was probably the best thing that happened to me all week.  To the victor belongs the right to gloat with sweet, sweet Schadenfreude.

MM in the Kitchen: Peach Galettes

I'm sick of talking about Operation Rhododaktylos Tomahawk Missiles.  For a break, let's talk about something else ... like yummy peach galettes.  Oh, I know, it's too early yet for peaches, but ... Summer will come soon, but not soon enough.  It's still freezing here in Nerdworld!

If You Start To Take Tripoli, Take Tripoli

FTW!  Let's be clear: I'm frustrated with the shambolic "leadership" on the whole thing because I think it makes winning harder than necessary, and I want to win.  There is no substitute for victory.  It doesn't matter who claims or gets credit.  

Jon Stewart on Libya: "Don't We Already *Have* Two Wars?"

"You know, wars aren’t kids -- where you don’t have to pay attention to the youngest one because the older two will take care of it."

Operation Rhododaktylos Round-Up: Strategic Incoherence

This whole thing is turning out to be a multilateralism fail on a massive scale.  Do we even have a clear-cut objective?  Goodness know there's no "exit strategy."  The entire project is maddeningly incoherent, and it's not funny anymore.  People are starting to NOTICE. Here are some thoughts, with more links (updated with a rant) after the fold:
To all appearances, U.S. foreign policy in the Obama Administration has now definitively gone down the rabbit hole. It is intoxicated with an advanced form of Wilsonian madness, one shorn of all sensitivity to the consequences of the U.S. government’s behavior. Like Alice with her pills, some things are getting or will soon get bigger—risks, mission definition and casualty figures on the ground in Libya—while others are getting smaller—our reservoir of good options, our stock of common sense and our peace of mind.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Nerd Rant: The Politicized Campus

Hmmmm.  Well, OK, but as usual this sort of generalized conversation bothers me because it focuses almost exclusively on "wow, there are so many leftists in academia" and has no mention or thought AT ALL of the conservatives, libertarians, centrists, and independents who ARE ALREADY THERE.  Gee, thanks a lot.  What are we, chopped liver?  So on one hand we have liberals basically crowing that they have a chokehold on campus culture and on the other we have folks complaining about it.  What about my tiny group of compatriots and me who are doing our best out there as teachers and students?  We want a vibrant place for debate of all ideas and political outlooks.  I for one am not advocating that we exchange one kind of campus mental hegemony for another.  Anyway, what we need is a good shot of intellectual honesty -- read this -- though I'm pretty sure we're not going to get it from anywhere.  The politicized campus is so riven with ideological faultlines that it's almost too unstable for rational discourse.  Rant follows after the jump:

Leno on Libya

Sometimes humor really is the best way to make a valid point:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Madness Satire Alert: World Leader Democrats-vs-Dictators Brackets!

The folks at Foreign Policy are having a little topical fun.  They're down to their Final Four already.

On Libya: Truly, A Pressing Question

A pressing question indeed!  See this too.  Or this. *facepalm*

Awesome: Hideaki Akaiwa 2, Earthquake 0

The delightful website Bad@$$ of the Week typically profiles a different fictional or historical figure every week amid a masterclass-level exhibition of profanity in the service of rip-roaring comedy, and it's great fun.  This time, though, its admiration is clear as it profiles Hideaki Akaiwa, a real-life action hero from Japan.  This is not an exaggeration; his story is fully documented (see the news article links at page bottom).  Read it and be astonished.

Operation Rhododaklytos Tomahawk Missiles: Foreign Policy Imitates Undergrad Cluelessness

I saw this headline and thought almost instantly and involuntarily of a typical undergrad utterance when given an assignment after they have not been paying attention: "Umm ... What are we doing again?"   

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japan Relief Update: Operation Tomodachi

Here is some good stuff as US sailors and Marines go to work in Japan.  Check out the Flickr photostream too.  Yeoman's service indeed.  

4 Thoughts on Operation Rhododaktylos Tomahawk Missiles

One.  Two.  Three ("too much too late?" hm).  Four (also proving that there's a Shakespeare reference for every situation or personality).  The Obama Administration's utter lack of a coherent foreign policy in general is the real liability (remember this?). So we muffed Egypt and are now lobbing missiles into Libya amid a muddled mess of stated and implied objectives.  Some of my lefty friends are attempting to spin Obama's dithering and indecisiveness as some kind of thoughtful, deliberate statecraft, but I am just not buying it.  From other lefties, including the same ones who fulminated loud and long about "Bush's wars," comes a thundering silence.  

As for what I think? Since we have troops committed and thus are in this thing, regardless of how we think we got here, we have to deal with the situation that now exists ... and I want to win.  Schadenfreude-tastic gloating is fun and in some cases justified, but that only lasts for a minute, and then we have to think about policy in a dangerous world.  OK, so the US can't and shouldn't be the policeman of the whole gorram galaxy, but when we do act on the world stage, I want a US that behaves like what it is -- the leader of the free world.  That's one reason I'm so frustrated with this administration's foreign policy vacuity and vacillations and vapid little speeches and apology tours.  It's not that America is too small and tainted for the risks and responsibilities of being the world's sole superpower.  It's that in many ways the current leadership is too small for America.  OK, end rant.

By the way, my antipathy for the stupid name Operation Odyssey Dawn continues unabated, especially after a conversation with the Cine-Sib last night ("'Odyssey Dawn' sounds like the name of a stripper" -- in the vein of the laughable name Jade Blue Afterglow).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Leadership on Libya: Vive La France?

Oui, mon ami!   Note also the role of the Brits and David Cameron.

Quote of the Day: Obama, Libya, and Congress

Some liberal Democrats in Congress are darn unhappy with Obama's actions over Libya (though I doubt anyone is quite as splashily goofy as Dennis Kucinich, who said the word "impeach" already.  Dennis, sweetie, you have to pace yourself). Still, it's hard for me to hide a smugly Schadenfreude-ish smirk when I give you the quote of the day, spoken by unnamed House Democrat.
"They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress." 
Well, well, well.  Need I remind you that even the Evil One formally consulted Congress and got an authorizing vote from it before acting?  Read this take too.

Perspective: Japan's Crises Nuclear and Humanitarian

Lately there's been overwhelming and near-hysterical media frenzy about the Fukushima nuclear reactors (which, by the way, cannot become nuclear bombs), and the frenzy is fed in part by the fact that there's a lot of scientific ignorance and misinformation about nuclear power and radiation (here is, for instance, the usually flippant xkcd doing yeoman's work with its explanatory graphic of everyday radiation levels).  I don't want to underplay the very real concern.  See also information on nuclear reactors, radiation, and Fukushima posted by the blog of MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.  (I'd also like to point out its comment on nightmare scenarios flooding the media -- they have "varying degrees of scientific merit," which is diplomatic Nerdish for "there's a lot of BS out there.")

But amid it all, though, I can't help feeling that the Fukushima coverage has all but forgotten the much greater and far more terrifying crisis everywhere else in Japan: the humanitarian one as millions of Japanese struggle to cope amid the devastation.  

Aid and relief workers are piling in (here is a riveting account by an Australian aid worker), but the need is unfathomably vast ... and every little bit helps.  Let the specialists keep on  Fukushima, but for God's sake, let us all please do what doesn't require such expertise -- and by that I mean everything we can for the folks.  The next time you're tempted to flip out about Fukushima, I challenge you to give $5 to a charity working in Japan.

What's In a Name: Operation Odyssey Dawn (aka Rhododaktylos Tomahawk Missiles)

I have to admit that I rolled my eyes at the name of the Libyan mission.  I wasn't fast enough with the snarking, though, because someone else beat me to the punchline:
But, seriously, Operation Odyssey Dawn?  Sounds like a Twilight sequel.
Heh!  Well, it's a silly name that manages to be both pie-eyed hopeychangey and yet pretentious of substance, but what do you expect from the sorts of people who are running this?  Besides, it wouldn't be the first goofy name for an operation. 

But Odyssey Dawn, Odyssey Dawn ... In that awesome ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey, Eos, the Dawn personified as a goddess, shows up a lot, and she's called "rosy-fingered Dawn."  Who knew it would take Obamessiah, vaunted Nobel Peace Prize winner, to turn "rosy" into "bloody"?  Rhododaktylos Tomahawk missiles, man!  Of course, she's also "saffron-robed Dawn," and maybe that's for Qaddafi's mustard gas.  So ... WWHD -- What Would Homer Do?  Probably send Diomedes -- and just Diomedes, ancient Greek equivalent of Chuck Norris -- against Qaddafi and then watch the ensuing beatdown on pay-per-view.  But I digress.  

OK, one more comment because I can't resist: The leftist peacemongers might as well flip out now because, lest we forget, the most famous war in Homer lasted for TEN WHOLE YEARS.  As for Odysseus, protagonist of the Odyssey, he was at Troy for ten years, and then he spent ANOTHER TEN YEARS trying to get home afterwards.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Schadenfreude Alert: Gaddafi Clan Wants Its Campaign Contribution Money Back

Here's the claim/accusation/complaint distilled into one line: "We contributed money to Sarkozy's campaign ... He's leading the coalition against us ... We want our money back!"  So you're telling me there's a possibility that Gaddafi totally got suckered by Sarko?  MWAHAHAHAHA!  Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Friday Fun Video: The Monty Python "Bright Side of Life" Sing-Along

It's been a tough week on campus for everyone.  We could use a tiny respite and a laugh courtesy of Monty Python before going back to our books! ... Slight language warning.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

PSA: Sandra Bullock Is Kinda Awesome

I might make snarky comments about her fashion choices, but Sandra Bullock is kinda awesome.  I think I'm so used to seeing celebrities act like self-centered idiotic basket cases that I'm actually surprised when one behaves with understated grace, generosity, and consideration for others.  Sandra also gave much to relief efforts after the Haitian disaster and Katrina. Good on you, Sandra!

Green Guinness on St. Patrick's Day!

Only on this day will I do a silly post like this.  There you go, Greenies.  

UN Approves Airstrikes, No Fly Zone on Libya

Oh boy.  The Security Council resolution was proposed by the UK, France, and Lebanon.  Here we go, though part of me can't help feeling that it is too little, too late ... or at least an act at the eleventh hour.   The WSJ story says air strikes could start "within days."  The rebels likely don't have days.

UPDATE:  News of imminent Western-led military force against Gaddafi leads to jubilation in Libya.  Hmmmm.  The Insta-Prof has some thoughts.  

A Tale of Two Tsunamis?

Hmmmm.  Well, OK, but in the increasing criticism of Obama as "the president who wasn't there" and his foreign policy as being composed of "the missing presence of the US," it brings up another issue: Here's the world you wanted, those of you who wanted a world without the US as the robust, resolute, active leader -- big bad warmongering imperialist America.  Life without America?  Be careful what you wish for.  You just might get it.  Especially if there's a photogenic but empty suit in the Big Chair.  Related: Libya, duh.

Quirky Euro Files: Sweden's Vasaloppet Cross-Country Ski Race

It's the biggest cross-country ski event in the world.  The 2011 Vasaloppet took place on March 6, covered 90 km (that's nearly 56 miles), and involved nearly 15,000 ski enthusiasts!  Check out this amazing video.

MM in the Kitchen: Irish Soda Bread

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, when everybody is a little bit Irish!  Here is a recipe for the occasion.

Nerd News: Bruce Wayne Is A Yalie


Couch Potato Chronicles: "Glee" Jumps the Shark

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Look at USA Today's writeup of "Glee" and its meteoric rise and its equally remarkable fall:
What had been a musical comedy with at least one toe dipped in real waters now seems to be an over-produced, overly Auto-Tuned variety show that exists merely to sell downloads of its covers — a modern version of Your Hit Parade.
It was a victim of its own success?  One more thing: the fact that the show kept sucker-punching its conservative/libertarian fans did NOT help.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Genius or Madness? Bacon-Scented Candles


Satire Alert: Iowahawk on the Government Budget

Oh, Iowahawk!  You magnificent beast!

Mashup Hilarity: "Sucker Punch" + Disney Princesses

Via /film comes video mayhem when the trailer for "Sucker Punch" meets a horde of Disney heroines:

Photos from Japan: Horror and Hope

More photos of unimaginable devastation ... and amid it all, a tiny, precious glimmer of hope.  UPDATE:  A tale of two dogs.

10 Operas You Didn't Know You Already Like

Well, whaddyaknow?

Kitchen Notes: Wholesale Food Prices Reach Highest Spike in 36 Years

Food prices soared by 3.9% last month -- the biggest gain since 1974. HOPECHANGE!  Yeah, I just went to the grocery store and I am BITTER.  Oh, remember this?

HopeChange Chronicles: I Am Disgusted

Disgusted.  That is all I have to say.  Big chair.  Empty suit.  Out of his depth and too small for the magnitude either of the office or the circumstances.  Or is it a matter of perspective and priorities?  The world's going up in flames both literal and metaphorical, and we're worrying about NCAA brackets and school bullying?  You're the leader of the free world, for goodness sake.  SO LEAD ALREADY.  Geez, you'd think he cares only about tax-and-spend, debt-inducing tinkering with domestic policy and therefore regards foreign affairs as an unwanted distraction or something ... 

UPDATE: More disgusted folks.  Aaaaand still more.

Terror and Courage at Fukushima

By terror, I mean the increasing fears of a nuclear catastrophe in Japan.  But by courage I mean the forgotten heroes of the Fukushima situation: the 50 technicians working desperately on site.  With respect to Mike Rowe, this is the world's ultimate dirty job, and the stakes have never been higher:
They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air. 
They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies. 
They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots.
UPDATE: The workers have apparently been pulled back after a spike in radiation levels.  *gulp*

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Long Arm of the Law -- and the Rugby Tackle

Kudos!  The "dirtbag du jour" tag refers to the escaping criminal, obviously, not the spirited judge who stopped him.  Via Brits at Their Best.

Errors in Judgment and Errors of Doctrine

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend?

Quote of the Day: The Best-Case Scenario

According to Niall Ferguson
At best case we're going to re-run the 1970s, only with Barack Obama instead of Jimmy Carter in the White House.
Well, that's just freaking fantastic.  Ugh.

Beware the Ides of March!

Do something appropriate!  Read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.  Read these three ancient accounts of Caesar's last day.  Watch the Marlon Brando "Julius Caesar."  Or watch this hilarious video, "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga"!

More video hilarity after the fold:

Monday, March 14, 2011

History Nerd News: Henry VIII's Bloodline


Headline of the Day: Big Fish, Little Fish

Here's the headline: "Total German triumph as EU minnows subjugated."  Editorialize much in your headlines, Telegraph?

The BiblioFiles: Sun Tzu at Gettysburg

For Dignified Rant and all my gentle readers who appreciate military history, here is another book for your to-read list -- "Sun Tzu at Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom in the Modern World" by Bevin Alexander (forthcoming from Norton).  Now check out a fascinating interview with the author.  If you've never read Sun Tzu's Art of War, I tell you to do so immediately!

Monday Therapy: Forced Perspective in Photography

Here are 88 delightful examples.  I love the one that makes brilliant use of reflections on Florence's River Arno.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

6 Minutes from Trickle to Flood

This video of the post-earthquake tsunami in Japan will leave you stunned.  There are no words.

Japan: Shinmoedake Volcano Erupts Again

Japan just can't catch a break!  On the other hand, it's reasonable to wonder if the massive seismic volatility of the last few days has affected the volcano.  Shinmoedake had last erupted in January.

Heroic Geekery: Japan's Earthquake Architecture

It has frequently been pointed out that Japan is one of the best-prepared nations in terms of natural disaster preparation.  In a sense, it has to be, as it is sited on a dangerous geological zone prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.  Some while ago, some of my friends did a research project on Japan's earthquake architecture and efforts to design buildings that could withstand tremors, and it was absolutely mind-boggling.  But it paid off.  Look at this video footage of office buildings in Tokyo.  The skyscrapers swayed in the 8.9 quake (one of the biggest ever recorded), but they did not collapse. Utterly amazing.  See, good engineering can and does save lives.  More here.

Daniel Hannan: A European's Warning to America

In short?  Don't repeat our mistakes.  Sounds like good advice to me.

Film Culture Commentary: Grading Alien Invasions

John Scalzi is predictably delightful.  Here's a taste of it:
Really, aliens? You invade a planet that is made up of stuff that can melt flesh off your bones? You deserve to be defeated by Joaquin Phoenix and a baseball bat. Stupidest invasion ever. Invasion score: F

Taiwan Increases Disaster Aid to Japan

Taiwan has increased its aid package to NT$100 million and appealed to the public for more donations.  From the press conference:
“Taiwan has close relations with Japan, Japan is our important neighbor and there has been a close bond between the people of the two countries. The Japanese government and civil groups gave a helping hand to Taiwan at the time of the 921 Earthquake [in 1999] and August 8 Flood [in 2009] ... We hereby appeal to Taiwanese to donate to help those in Japan,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳) said.
A 25-member Taiwanese search-and-rescue team is also on its way to Japan.

Groundwork for Intervention?: The Brits on Libya

British PM David Cameron is apparently laying the groundwork for intervention.  Perhaps more telling is one British source stating that imposing a no-fly zone is possible without US assistance or a specific UN Security Council resolution.  I'll say this for the resounding vacuity from the Obama White House during the Libya crisis: it's forced some of the Europeans to take the lead. See Sarko and France and now the UK.  See too this quote of the day: "Inaction is not a neutral position." (And this.)  Hmmm.

Sing, Goddess, of the Rage of the Passenger Stuck in Seat 29E!

Here is a truly memorable letter of complaint by a furious airline passenger who was stuck in a horrible seat next to the bathroom.  


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The First Nation to Formally Recognize the Libyan Opposition

No, it's not the US.  It's ... *drum roll*

Nerd News: Social Psychology, Political Bias in Academia, and One Heroic Nerd

Remember this previous post?  Here is a related thought.  Kudos, by the way, to social psychology professor Jonathan Haidt.

Nerd Fun: A Law Prof and Her Class

Law professor Ann Althouse and her class.  Oh, I heartily approve!

Nerd News: Bicycling Studies

Via Pseudo-Polymath, news of an unusual new college program.

Calls for Lower Taxes In ... China

Well, well, well.  What's this?

Preach It: Leave Me Alone, Meddling Do-Gooders!

Remember these brilliant quotations by C.S. Lewis and Thoreau?  I'm reminded of them once again as I read this piquant op-ed about the progressive elites' will to coercive power.  For our own good, of course.

Entire State of Maine Exempted from ObamaCare

Riddle me this, Batman: if this entire ObamaCare business is supposed to be so freaking awesome, then why are Sebelius and HHS giving out waivers hand over fist to a thousand and more companies and now to an entire state (with three more states applying for the same exemption)?  Could it be that people are figuring out that ObamaCare is a train wreck and an unaffordably expensive one?  Furthermore, the whole idea of exemptions and waivers granted at the apparent whim of Sebelius smells darn fishy to me.  So, what?  We're all supposed to be saddled with this stinker of a program ... except those folks who manage to get out of it?  How's that remotely fair or not corrupt?

Geek News: Humanoid Robot Professor Will Creep You Out

Check out the video of the robot trying out its facial expressions.  And yes, it's one of Hiroshi Ishiguro's creations.

His Name is RoboCop: Statue Update

Remember the grassroots efforts to build a statue of RoboCop in Detroit?  Here's the latest.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I Got Your Apocalypse Right Here: International Food Crisis Looms

This cannot be good.  Food prices are at an all-time high and rising. I recently posted about this and ranted about the idiocy of ethanol.

Awesome Nerd News: CS Lewis's Lost Translation of Virgil's "Aeneid" Has Been Found

OH YES! This is, by the way, the translation that Lewis read to JRR Tolkien -- a work that Tolkien mentioned in his own letters. NERDGASM!

Erin Go Blah: Moscow and Shanghai Cancel St. Patrick's Day Parades

Why?  Moscow's afraid of traffic jams.  Shanghai's afraid of popular uprisings.  Hmmmm.

Sympathy Violin: High Schools Not Stampeding to Get Obama as Commencement Speaker

All together now: "Awwwwww."  Way to win the future, people!  How bad is it?  Last year saw 1000 high schools apply for a presidential turn as graduation speaker.  So far this year ... 68.  Hmmmm.  The hot trendy magic is gone, dude. Oh, but high school can be brutal.  Aaaaand now I feel like watching "Mean Girls."

Saturday, March 05, 2011

From Baghdad to Benghazi

The Insta-Prof points out something notable. Or you can go here.  Well, well, well.  Plus your quote of the day:
For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.
Indeed not.

Geek News: Is the Navy *Trying* to Start the Robot Apocalypse?

Life imitates sci-fi flicks!  Bonus: catchy blog post title, folks at Danger Room.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The BiblioFiles: Re-Titling Dr. Seuss Books

Some literary amusement.  Here's an example!

Friday Fun Video: Voyage Through the Universe

Take a look at this amazing video.  It's not a trip in the TARDIS, but it'll do!

Nerd News: Food Fight at Bowdoin

Kudos, I say, to the students who protested by having a barbecue outside!
Controversy erupted at Bowdoin College last week after the campus’s main dining facilities went completely meatless for dinner as part of “Meatless Monday,” a national nutritional awareness campaign started at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. 
Dozens of students held an impromptu barbecue outside one facility in protest. Two other students sold McDonald’s cheeseburgers while simultaneously raising funds for a local humane society. Another group of students ate buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken inside the dining hall. Opinion both for and against the awareness campaign has been published in The Orient, Bowdoin’s student newspaper. 
These days, veggie options are standard at most colleges -- and some provide for vegan, Kosher or other dietary choices as well. While the range of choices isn't controversial, removing meat options is something else.
Dude, don't you know how expensive meal plans are on a college campus?  Or how they're often mandatory if you live on campus in the dorms?  I'd be annoyed too!  Sure, go ahead and give veggie-vores their options, but don't you take my carnivore ones!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Nerd Fun: Chicken Sculpture Made of Eggshells

How ... er ... meta.

Great eggs-pectations.

Qaddafi's Useful Idiots

Here are the top 10.  You won't be surprised, I think!  Here's a taste of it, in terms of Qaddafi and Hugo Chavez: "The greatest thug bromance since Hitler met Mussolini."

Nerd News: Lunacy in College Admissions


Language LOL: Backronyms

Via Pseudo-Polymath who wittily coined "backronym," here are some delightful suggestions for making the word "acronym" itself an acronym!
  1. Alphabetically Coded Reminder of Names You Misremember
  2. A Contrived Reduction Of Nomenclature Yielding Mnemonics
  3. A Crazy Reminder Of Names You Misplaced
  4. A Concise Reduction Obliquely Naming Your Meaning
  5. A Clever Re-Organisation to Nudge Your Memory

Pro-Reform Protest in Vietnam

Hmmmm ...

Ave Atque Vale, Shahbaz Bhatti: Pakistani Christian Cabinet Member Assassinated

Like Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti openly and courageously opposed religious violence and Islamic extremism in Pakistan ... and like Salman Taseer, he was brutally murdered by fanatics. As minority affairs minister, he was Pakistan's only Christian (Roman Catholic) cabinet member, and he staunchly opposed the blasphemy law and championed Pakistan's minority groups.  More from the Anchoress, including this video interview:

So the next time some twit of a fuzzy-minded apologist attempts to explain away the actual evil of religious violence and intolerant extremism with multiculturalism or political correctness or moral equivalence, think of Salman Taseer and now of Shahbaz Bhatti.  And think of the persecuted Christians around the world who are always forgotten in the media.  You don't have to be a Christian in order to be utterly appalled and outraged.

LOL: Charlie Sheen Rants as Cartoon Captions

Somebody with  both a sense of humor and too much free time has re-captioned New Yorker cartoons with Charlie Sheen rant-quotes.  

La Parisienne, this one's for you: I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total b*tching rock star from Mars!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Awesomeness: The Best Comment Thread Ever

Via Transterrestrial Musings comes this link. Oh, the actual blog post doesn't even matter. What you want is the comment thread on it. The first commenter left this statement:
As much as I hate the recent developments in airport “security”, I feel sorry for most TSA personel. They didn’t ask for any of this, they probably realize just how pointless their work is, and every man and his dog now hates their a**. 
Aside from a couple of perverts (who are to be found pretty much everywhere), most of these guys get to choose between rolling with the entire thing against their choosing or losing their job. 
…and seriously, where are you going to go if the TSA fires you!?
In response to this silliness, other commenters left gems like these:
As much as I hate the recent developments on Alderran, I feel sorry for all those stormtroopers. They didn’t ask for any of this and they probably realize just how pointless their work is, and every man and wookie now hates their a**. 
Aside from a few real sith lords (who are to be found pretty much everywhere) most of these guys get to choose between rolling with the entire Empire against their choosing, or being frozen in carbonite. 
And seriously, were are you going to go if you get choked to death on the bridge of a star destroyer?
As much as I hate the recent developments in Mordor, I feel sorry for most Orcs. They didn’t ask for any of this, they probably realize just how pointless their work is, and every man (and dwarf, elf, and hobbit) and his dog now hates their a**. 
Aside from a few Uruk-hai (who are to be found pretty much everywhere), most of these guys get to choose between rolling with the entire hoarde against their choosing or being eaten by their comrades. 
And seriously, where are you going to go if Sauron loses the War of the Ring?
As much as I hate recent developments in the time-space continuum, I feel sorry for most Daleks. They didn’t ask for any of this. They probably realize just how pointless their work is, and every Time Lord and his K-9 hates their a**. 
Aside from a couple of Skaro cultists, most of these guys get to choose between “Exterminate! Exterminate!,” or losing their jobs to Cybermen. 
And seriously, where are you going to go if The Doctor shows up in his TARDIS?
As much as I hate the recent developments at Initech, I feel sorry for Lumburgh. He didn’t ask for any of this. He probably realizes how pointless his work is, and how Michael, Samir, and Peter now hate his a**. 
Aside from efficiency experts and consultants who love to fire people (and are to be found pretty much everywhere), most of the people at Initech get to choose between rolling with the entire thing against their choosing or being downsized. 
And seriously, where are you going to work after Initech? Flingers?
The entire comment thread is full of comedy gold.  It's delightfully smart comedy gold too for the most part, with references ranging all over pop culture and history and literature and current events to include, among other things, the Battle of Rorke's Drift, Château d’If, Beowulf, and the emperor Nero.  My absolute favorite two, though, are after the fold.

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Ferguson on Un-American Revolutions

Professor Niall Ferguson (whom I most recently linked here for his critique of US foreign policy on Egypt) now has a few gloomy thoughts about political revolutions.  

This sounds familiar, and not because of Ferguson.  Haven't I babbled on before about how most modern revolutions end in chaos and tyranny with the notable exception of the American Revolution?  (OK, and also sort of England's Glorious Revolution of 1688.)  Just look at what happened after the French Revolution ... or the overthrow of the Romanovs in Russia ... or the upheavals in China since the end of the Qing Dynasty.  Ferguson is gloomy, but that doesn't mean his point isn't valid.