Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nerd News: Some Commencement Awesomeness

Well, graduation season has more or less ended, so I leave you with one of the best Commencement videos from the season.  It's from graduation ceremonies at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly):

Power Imbalance: Liberal vs. Libertarian Economic Perspectives

Hmmmm.  The first bit of it takes a potshot at Paul Krugman --a  shot that, though well-deserved, isn't even sporting anymore since taking down the conceited idiocies of Krugman is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Anyhoo, a blurb:
In fact, when government is given power, nominally to correct such imbalances, they tend to use it to protect those in power as often as they do to protect the disenfranchised. Government restrictive licensing of hair dressers, interior designers, and morticians; bailouts of GM, Chrysler, and AIG; corporate welfare to GE and ADM; and use of eminent domain to hand private property to favored real estate  developers — all are examples of finding government cures for perceived private power imbalances that are worse than the disease.

Lest We All Forget, Libya

Oh, yeah, we're still over in the sands of Libya, aren't we, despite the media's apparent forgetfulness.  Anyway, what a mess that's turned out to be on all kinds of fronts.  Read this short but piquant commentary.

Why Blogs For Women Are ... Bad For Women

Well, DUH.  Read the whole thing.  I never read "women's blogs."  (I love recipe blogs, but that's not the same thing.)  Here's a bit of it, by the way:
If blogs for women existed in the real world, rather than a virtual one, what would they look like? Giant pink bubbles in which women floated through life, peering through the see-through pink walls at the big, bad confusing world out there in which men exist, things are complex, and not everything has to do with whether or not you have a pair of ovaries. 
You don’t learn how to live in the world by withdrawing from it. You learn how to deal with the world by living in it. You don’t become empowered by talking about how disempowered you are. You become empowered by getting over whatever gender your parents’ biological sperm-and-egg cocktail gave you and getting on with it already. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Geek Fun: Hacking More Traffic Signs

Check out these warnings of zombie apocalypse from some Canadian pranksters.  My favorite message is this one.  So versatile it also works great for alien invasions, vampire infestations, family reunions, court dates, final exam week on campus, and US economic forecasts!

Heads up.

Nerd News: North Korea Shuts Down Universities, Sends Students to Work Construction


Thoughts on Government and the Definition of Marriage

Here are a few thoughts.  A quick blurb:
By making government definition the prize, social conservatives legitimized efforts to change marriage's definition by government decree as well. Instead, social conservatives should have taken a lesson from fiscal conservatives and fought to keep government from defining marriage at all.
Well, DUH.  Anyway, a lot of social conservatives drive me crazy because they've almost no grasp of the long term or the truly big picture when it comes to ramifications of government meddling in private affairs, but I think you already knew that.  Look, I want government to leave me the heck alone, regardless of whether that government is on the right or the left, capisce?  Anyway, note the new blog category tag for the matrimonial matters. 

French Intellectual Cage Match: Michel Houellebecq vs. Bernard-Henri Lévy

Check out this book review of the Michel Houellebecq/Bernard-Henri Lévy literary duel.

RELATED POST: Iowahawk vs. Lévy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sci Fi Geek Fun: Best Travel Posters in the 'Verse

For La Parisienne and all you other fans of "Firefly": vintage travel poster art style meets the world(s) of Malcolm Reynolds.  C'mon, don't you want to visit Jaynestown?

Quote of the Day: Foreign Policy Follies

Here is the quote: 
Foreign policy without a teleprompter is hard.
Now read the whole thing, which in its hilarious sarcasm and satirical outlook is a pretty good snapshot of Obama's morass of foreign policy.

Awesome: Lunar Eclipse Over the Acropolis


Movie Review Cop-Out: "Green Lantern"

I haven't got time or energy to waste on this miserable disappointment today (Nerdpocalypse Now calls).  Let me direct you to this hilarious takedown instead for now.  Oh, there's a slight language warning -- a wee bit of profanity in the cause of comedy, natch.  Look, if you want a comic book superhero movie that's actually worth the price of admission, for goodness sake go watch "X-Men: First Class."  It actually has (a) a villain that didn't make me laugh out loud at its over-the-top CGI ridiculousness, (b) a hero who isn't largely a jerk, and (c) a thing that baffles most of Hollywood, a mystical Holy Grail-like wonder called "character development." 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kitchen Notes: Syrian Ice Cream

It has rose water and pistachios!  Count Chocula, make this in that gelato maker of yours!

LOL: Harry Potter vs. Star Wars


Nerd News: College Grads and Student Loan Debt

Welcome to the world of crushing debt.  Still, some of these "kids" clearly had unreal expectations about their degrees, the job market, the economy, and the real world.  Getting a degree is no guarantee of ... well, anything.  There are no guarantees in life.  Still, the higher education bubble is getting worse.  More here.

Awesome Nerd News: Better World Books

Used books in good condition at really low prices plus free shipping!  Check out Better World Books, a link that La Parisienne --  that evil enabler! -- sent to me in the full knowledge that I would immediately lose my mind, go into a squealing bibliophiliac frenzy like a kid in a candy store, and buy 3 books in 3 minutes.  

Oh, yeah, you know that's exactly what happened. But hey!  The total was about what 1 book would cost new at a "normal" bookstore.  I.e., I just bought a copy of Ian McEwan's "Atonement" for $4 (after I balked at paying $8.45 for it new on Amazon, much less shelling out $15 for it new at Borders and Barnes & Noble ... and found it was checked out at both the university and local public libraries). 

Monday Therapy: Coffee: Greatest Addiction Ever!

Enjoy, gentle reader!  I'm on my second cup of coffee right now as I do research for Nerdpocalypse Now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mini-Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

OK, Cine-Sib, here's the beginning of a flood of movie reviews.  I'm saving my time and energy for in-depth reviews of really good flicks, so I'm giving just mini-reviews to bits of fluff that I recently watched.  Let's start with the latest Pirates sequel, shall we?

Lost at sea.

Johnny Depp and his guyliner invade the movie screen for a fourth outing!  Actually, it was better -- way better -- than the last sequel and, really, the sequel before that.  OK, OK, that's not saying a darn thing, since the sequels were so awful compared to the rollicking, unexpected fun of the first Pirates movie in 2003.  

The good:  
  • Rejoice, people, because neither Orlando Bloom nor Keira Knightley are in this flick!  Yeah, they were great in the first one and they can do fine work in other movies, but they were simply awful in the sequels.
  • In Bloom and Knightley's absence, you get awesome British character actor Ian McShane (lately of TV's "Deadwood" and "Kings") as Blackbeard and -- reason enough for the Cine-Sib to sprint to the cinema -- Spanish hottie Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard's pirate queen of a daughter, Angelica.
  • Cameo appearances by Keith Richards and ... wait for it ... Judi Dench (!)
  • A soundtrack that might be worth getting because it features the Mexican guitar duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela, who are splendid.  Who doesn't love some Spanish guitar?
  • Some cool action sequences
  • Mermaids
The bad:
  • Disjointed and ludicrous (even for a pirate flick) relationship between Jack Sparrow and Angelica
  • Disjointed and ludicrous (even for a pirate flick) plot about the Fountain of Youth.
  • Mermaids (yes, I know I put them in the "good" section too)
  • Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is back.  Yawn. And he looks horrible.
  • Why do everybody's relationships seem arbitrary and unbelievable?

MM gives this flick a C (UPDATE: OK , I just re-graded it in comparison with the delightful first Pirates movie, and I busted my initial grade down to a C ... and I think I'm being generous with the C.  End of update).  Look, the fourth Pirates flick is entertaining nonsense for 2 hours that you'll never bother to buy the Blu-ray of.  (Yes, before you ask, I do own the first Pirates flick.)  But hey!  It is rather entertaining, and it's way better than previous summer idiocies of soul-sucking incompetence like Terminator: Salvation or Angels and Demons (or this summer's Green Lantern -- but that's another review).  Besides, it's fun just to see actors of such top caliber as Rush, McShane, Depp, and Dench running around in a silly summer popcorn flick -- we can't grub for Oscars in every movie we do!

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" has a Rotten rating of 33% from RottenTomatoes.  It runs 2 hours 17 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Color Me Unimpressed in General?

Well, DUH.

On the other hand, Rand Simberg did make me laugh out loud with his hilariously snarky "Tollybahn" comment on the recent Obama Afghanistan speech (which I admittedly didn't even bother to watch -- as apparently most of the country didn't either, as ratings went through the floorboards).  I guess I shouldn't say that the oratory's bad if I didn't even trouble myself to hear it -- but basically that in itself is the point: I can't be bothered to listen because all the speeches sound the same with the same predictable boring -- nay, stultifying -- blather no matter how important the actual subject matter is.  

Remembering the Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan

Some piquant commentary:
When they blew to pieces the gigantic Buddhas of the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, much of the world learned for the first time about the darkness at the heart of the Taliban. Suddenly, they acquired an air of menace in our collective imagination. 
That was 10 years ago this spring, half a year before 9/11. Like 9/11, the obliteration of the Buddhas was an atrocity that sprang from Islamic rage, an assault on culture and history. It was a blatant refusal of magnanimity. The message was clear: The Taliban had no tolerance for tolerance. It was also an attack on memory itself, that cornerstone of civilization. The fact that it was so graphic gave it special force. This erasure of unique ancient icons was more chilling than a book burning.
You'll remember, of course, the idea that people who burn books aren't that far from taking out their hateful impulses on those who read and write such books.  The Bamiyan Buddhas had stood there since the 6th century before they were erased in a willful, evil act of blind, wanton hatred and a narrow-minded thirst for destruction.  Is it such a leap from the twin Buddhas to the Twin Towers?  It's the same dreadful underlying ideology that is the enemy of all decent people the world over.  

MM in the Kitchen: Sour Cherry Almond Muffins

Here! Make these, slam on some real butter, have some coffee, and enjoy the weekend.   I actually own a cherry pit-remover-gizmo; I bought it last summer, and to my surprise, it's pretty awesome.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Movie Trailer: Puss in Boots!

Look at this awesome teaser poster!  I've been waiting for Puss in Boots to have his own movie ever since he stole the show in "Shrek 2."  Antonio Banderas is perfect as the voice too.  The trailer itself is after the fold.  Enjoy!  

Fugly or ... REALLY Fugly? The Lorissa Pump by Sam Edelman

You know I love shoes.  You know I love "Fugly or Fabulous" blog posts about footware and fashions and how different people can have different tastes.  One person's fugly might be another's fabulous.  BUT.  Who (OK, besides Lady Gaga) would pay $200 bucks for these crazy things and wear them?  You'd end up shredding your own ankles!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quirky Asia Files: The Chinese Knockoff of an Austrian Village

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?  Still, isn't this a little .... much?

Programming Note: I Owe You Movie and TV Reviews

I did a review for "Thor" and haven't managed to find time to do anything else!  Never fear, this is just a note that reviews of varying length are in the works for the following:
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Green Lantern
  • Super 8

DVD reviews are forthcoming for:
  • Atonement
  • Tangled
  • The Last King of Scotland
  • The King's Speech
  • For My Father (foreign film, Israeli)
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Ondine

I also owe you a little TV review for
  • the premiere episode of the new sci-fi series, "Falling Skies"
  • the mid-season finale/cliffhanger of "Doctor Who"

Pass the popcorn!

Nerd Journal: I Need a Fanfare, Part 2

The previous fanfare was fun, but I think I need something new to play every time I waft into the Library of Doom for my Nerdpocalypse Now summer research cram!

If music be the food of love, play on!

Nerd News: the Prof and the Prostitution Ring

Busted.  What's possibly even more facepalm-worthy is the assertion that Professor Dirtbag here wasn't running that prostitution ring for profit but as a non-profit hobby.  AS A HOBBY?  Are you kidding me?  A hobby is something like gardening or woodworking or baking or scrapbooking or blogging or collecting stamps or setting up model trains.  On another note, this whole story should be another entry into the "life now becomes impossible to satirize" files, given Stephen Colbert's recent joke about prostitution during his Commencement speech.  Blerg!

Quote of the Day: Libya

More fodder for the HopeChange Chronicles of smart diplomacy?
Libya's not important because it is vital to our national security. Nor is it a particularly significant country. It's important solely because the Washington establishment, led by President Obama, made it important.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21: Official Start of Summer

Not, of course, that "official" is always so important.  Other "starts of summer" that count around here include: taking your last final exam of the spring semester or Commencement or Memorial Day or the first day it's warm enough to go outside without a coat or the first sunny, warm day when I can wear sandals and sundresses.  Today, though, it's official: Summer Is Here!  ... and there was great rejoicing in the land.  Fire up the grill, make some lemonade, head to the beach, go watch a silly summer blockbuster movie, or do whatever makes you happy!

Forsooth, Nerd News: Shakespeare and Neurology

Check this out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quote of the Day: Government in the Economy

Who said this?
"The ... economy ought to be dominated by private businesses and private investors. The government must protect the choice and property of those who willingly risk their money and reputation."
So, who said this?  You might be surprised.

Great Moments in Research: Head Trauma in Asterix Comics

No, really!  I do love Asterix, though.

MM in the Kitchen: Strawberry Cupcakes

Summertime sweets!

Nerd News: Adjuncts and the Devalued PhD


Nerd News: Stephen Colbert's Commencement Address at Northwestern

Check out the speech from this past weekend!  (How does it stack up next to Conan's, though?)  Still, these two are speeches actually worth listening to!  A little humor makes interminable commencement exercises much more bearable.  Thanks, guys!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Geek News: A Black Hole Eats a Star, Burps Gamma Rays


Foreign Affairs Explained With Cows

Brilliant.  See the follow-up too.

MM in the Kitchen: Lemon Chicken

Perfect for summer dinners.  Leftovers are easy: shred the chicken and toss with a great salad.

Awesome Movie Madness: Final Trailer for Last Harry Potter Film

Presented without comment:

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

Steyn on Fake Personae and The Easily Duped

Heh.  I suppose if you tell certain people exactly what they want to hear in their preconceptions and biases, you can get away with all sorts of ludicrous hijinks that no normal thinking (i.e., skeptical and demanding proof) person would ever fall for.  Don't be a gullible dupe.  As for the fake personae just recently busted?  There's nothing else I can do but quote Austin Powers: "THAT'S A MAN, BABY!"  Yeah!

Nerd Notes: A Wellesley Conservative

A personal story from a famous college campus.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nerd Holiday Smackdown: Is Today Bloomsday or Captain Picard Day?

Would you rather that your humble blog-hostess celebrate Bloomsday or Captain Picard Day?  By the way, no fair, Boston Globe, tarting up your coverage of Bloomsday with a photo of Marilyn Monroe.  Talk about journalistic bias!  (Of course, Jean-Luc Picard doesn't need to be tarted up, does he, ladies?)

Quote of the Day: Czech-US Relations

Here's a telling comment by a Czech lawmaker on Obama's approach:
"...the current administration doesn't take the Czech Republic seriously."
Oh, dear.

Best Headline Fodder of the Day: Officer Cage Byrd Rescues Baby Hawk

No, really!  The police officer's name really is Cage Byrd!  He did indeed rescue a wounded raptor fledgling too.  It's too perfect. 

Nerd News: Shuttering the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism

The campus Powers That Be have decided to pull the plug on its five-year-old Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism. Needless to say, this has caused a flap.  Powerline has 3 recent posts on this: here, here, and most recently here.  At the very least, the whole thing simply looks bad on Yale: "Let's take a serious look at anti-Semitism ... Oops, we don't think we're going to anymore."  Well, it can't be because they think anti-Semitism is no longer a problem.

After the Fall of the Pharaoh: Thoughts on Post-Mubarak Egypt

The always-interesting Michael J. Totten offers some thoughts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Magna Carta Day!

Something remarkable happened in Runnymede on June 15, 1215. Read this landmark document via the British Library.  Here's part of it:
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Quote of the Day: A President in a Time of Economic Crisis

I'm going to give you a little quote, and you tell me if it resonates at all with current events:
[The president] brought some convictions with him to office about how the economy worked, how government worked, and what his role as President should be.  As the [country's economic problems] deepened, he did the best he could within those limits, but nothing seems to have made him reconsider the mix of progressive ideas that he brought with him to the White House.  As months of failure and disappointment grew into years, he doesn’t seem to have questioned those core ideas or to think about ways in which the economic emergency might require steps that in normal times would not be taken.  He not only failed to end the [economic crisis]; he failed to give people a sense that he understood what was happening.  Over-optimistic forecasts issued in part to build confidence came back to haunt him.  To the public he seemed fuddled and doctrinaire, endlessly recycling stale platitudes in the face of radically new economic problems.
Think we're screwed?  Look after the fold and see just how screwed we might still be.

Photoblogging Umbria

I have no idea who "Bird Dog" is, but his gorgeous photo essay from his vacation in Umbria is making me absolutely green with envy.  Take a look!

Awesome: Your Favorite Book as Poster Art

This is brilliant!

Nerd News: Conan O'Brien's Commencement Address at Dartmouth

Here's one more reason to love Conan.  I embed for you:

Film Culture Commentary: Save Ferris!

First there was this.  Now there is this.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nerd News: Physical Books in a Type Specimen Archive

Here is something pretty darn cool, not to mention, necessary and prudent.  It's like manuscript studies in the technological age.  Then again, the issue of corrupted or altered text is evergreen.

MM in the Kitchen: Berry Limeade

Perfect for a summer get-together with friends.  Ditto this.  So pretty.  Try making both with sparkling water for variety.

MM in the Kitchen: Buffalo Chicken Dip


Have a Steak Already!

This former veggie-vore wants to have his steak and eat it too.  Note the still-annoysome attempt to sound holier-than-thou even though he has abandoned his vegetarianism (for health reasons!  of course -- and I could have told you long ago that being an omnivore is absolutely the way to go for health reasons).  The attempt reads a bit like this: "I eat meat now, but I'm still morally superior to other people who eat meat because I still advocate for animal rights and only eat virtuous expensive grass-fed/free-range meat that practiced yoga and listened to Mozart before I ate it."

Lordy, just shut up and eat the gorram steak already! You don't see the rest of us normal people writing entire essays about how virtuous our eating habits are in comparison to other people's when we're all eating basically the same thing!  Then again, this guy actually did write the following phrase UNIRONICALLY:  "existential perfection is no longer my goal." Are you kidding me?  Only a truly delusionally self-involved person could say such words.  Spare us this pietistic guilt show and just pass the steak sauce.

What Fresh Hell Is This? Rising Electricity Costs

UGH.  Because that's just what a weakened economy and a financially strapped citizenry need -- still more price increases.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Film Culture Commentary: Virtue and Violence

Interesting, via gentle reader Pseudo-Polymath (who always has fascinating links).

Quirky Euro Files: Norwegian Diplomats to be Trained in Black Metal


Nerd Notes: A History Prof Ponders Ken Burns and the Civil War

Read the entire thing.

Nerd Notes: Researching Gendercide

Thoughts on the unnatural gender imbalance in Asia -- what some people call "gendercide," the selective abortion of girls.

Nerd Journal: Musick Hath Charms to Sooth a Savage Nerd

I'm basically in a nasty mood this morning (OK, nastier than usual).  Here's some music to beguile my desire to pillage the nearest village as a way to express my frustration with school and life in general.  Yeah, the video's archival ... i.e.,  from  a time when Charlotte Church (a) could still sing, and (b) wasn't skanky-looking UK tabloid fodder.  In the meantime ... MUST. HAVE. MORE. COFFEE. (Coffee counts as breakfast, doesn't it?)

Energy Debate Rant and the "Addiction to Oil"

Hear, hear.  Part of the salvo:
You know what I can’t stand to hear about anymore? That we Americans are addicted to oil. It’s a smarmy term  that tries to couch an economic and environmental argument in pathological terms. ... It does nobody any good to try and debate economic and logistical necessities while using terminology to imply people who disagree with your view are mentally ill.
But what do I know?  I'm just another bitter stupid racist clinging to my guns and Bible who wants to push granny off a cliff and destroy the earth by emitting carbon with my Internet searches. Or something.  Hey, I'm just 'angin' onto outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic an' social differences in our society!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nerd News: A French Academic Takes On Totalitarian Smurfs

No, really!  Link via gentle reader Dignified Rant.

LOL on the Links: Darth Vader Plays Golf

Japan: Cleanup Continues

Here are some encouraging before-and-after photos of Japan's massive cleanup and rebuilding efforts after the March earthquake and tsunami.

HopeChange Chronicles: the Falklands Flap

Are you kidding?  This administration seems bound and determined to cut every ally off at the knees while sucking up to those who are not allies and never will be.  Hey, doesn't anybody care what the actual residents of the Falklands actually think?  They overwhelmingly consider themselves Brits, you know.

Quote of the Day: "foolishly exchanging an essential liberty for an illusion of security"

Physician Paul Hsieh has some related comments on both pharmaceuticals and the TSA.  As Malcolm Reynolds did say bitterly, "That's what government's for -- to get in a man's way."

Film Culture Commentary: Ferris Bueller and His Discontents

Not everybody loves Ferris, apparently.  For the record, I've loved "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" from the first viewing and I still do.  (Is this flick really 25 years old this year?!)  Never mind.  I think I'll watch the DVD later as I work on Nerdpocalypse Now.  Bueller ... Bueller ... Bueller ...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Satire Alert: Onion Headline "Pakistani Intelligence Announces Its Full Cooperation With U.S. Forces During Upcoming Top Secret June 12 Drone Strike On Al-Qaeda At 5:23 A.M. Near Small Town Of Razmani In North Waziristan"

Leave it to the Onion to make a pointed statement about Pakistan while making us laugh too.  Oh, and we do laugh.  We laugh because there's truth in that satire.

Quote of the Day: "That is not my idea of progress."

When respected Harvard econ prof Greg Mankiw says something made chills go down his spine when he read it, you better read it too.  Then he says with utterly sublime understatement, "That is not my idea of progress."  You don't say, sir!

Musick has Charms to Sooth a Savage Audience

Watch both videos and be amazed.  The lesson of "don't be fooled by appearances" is ever-applicable.  Pass the Kleenex!

Musical Mashup Madness: Bach, Salsa-Style

The Opera Diva and I have been enjoying this, and it's too good to keep to ourselves:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Nerd News: Professors and Teaching

Well, OK, but almost all the professors I know teach like mad, are devoted to their work and their students, and don't have a bunch of time to take on still more teaching duties.  They're all running around frantically already among teaching, research, campus duties, and real life at home.  I'm not sure what kind of professors Professor Vedder is actually talking about -- celebrity older folks who think they're too posh now to teach mere undergrads?  I think we should first go cut back the armies of edu-crats and trim ridiculous bureaucracy!

MM in the Kitchen: Orecchiette with Peas, Lemon, & Crème Fraîche

Such an impressive-sounding name (words in 3 languages, no less!) for such an easy, pretty, and delicious dish!  It even has all four food groups in it too.

Why Does Every Design Element of the 2012 London Olympics Suck?

I'm just sayin'.  The logo looks like broken dishes, and the mascots are flat-out vomitous, cyclopean abominations.  Now there's the newly unveiled Olympic torch to make fun of because it looks like a golden cheese grater.  Hey, it also looks like bubble wrap -- maybe the actual torch is inside it!  Bleagh!

Edupunk Nerd News: Khan Academy and History Lessons

I had previously posted on Khan Academy's cool online lessons on science and math.  I still think they're fun introductions to those concepts, and their accessibility is great. I don't, though, recommend Khan's history lessons, what few he has, because it's really hard to do justice to the vast complexities of history with 10-15-minute-long video overviews.  History is fundamentally different from quantitative subjects like physics and math.  Now the National Association of Scholars has an article about just that very thing.  Do read.  For the record, I am not a fan of the "Big History" approach because it sounds as though the actual, particular details of history become subsumed into whatever thematic idea is being "taught" at the moment -- too streamlined, too pretty, too reductive, too prone to skipping things and glossing over others, too open to the deadly possibility of ignoring counter-examples and important outliers.

Quote of the Day: The Laughter and Lessons of Weinergate

Here's a little lighthearted commentary with a serious underpinning:
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a good old-fashioned political sex scandal. They're entertaining, and they may even be edifying—reminding us that self-styled "public servants" are often less responsible, more venal, and just plain dumber than those they seek to rule. 
... Not only are political sex scandals great fun, they serve an important social purpose. They remind us that we should think twice before we cede more power to these clowns.
Hey, didn't I just say something like this? Knock our hubris-ridden, self-absorbed would-be overlords down a peg or two!  Besides, Icarus and Phaethon themselves are laughing at Weiner's underwear-tweeting.  Hey, can we call that "junk mail"?  *rimshot!*

Geek Fun: Microsoft Fanboys Vs. Apple Store

Outstanding little prank in Hamburg!  Ah, and the computer wars continue ...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Couch Potato Chronicles: Matt Smith Confirms Another Season of "Doctor Who"

Yay!  Eleven, you were just starting to grow on us!  Changing Doctors is always such a traumatic thing.  Oh, and check out this hilarious tweet on the matter by showrunner Steven Moffat.

Nerd News: WaPo Op-Ed -- "What is a college education really worth?"


MM in the Kitchen: Creme Fraiche Chicken

Yummy chicken!

Fugly or Fabulous: Vintage Wedding Dress

What do you think of this vintage bridal gown from 1947?  Whether you like the dress itself or not, you really must read about its remarkable history after the fold!

All's fair in love and war.

Every Time I Google For Recipes and Shoes, Global Warming Kills a Cute Baby Polar Bear

Yadda yadda yadda.  Is there any part of life that the Greenies will not seek to control in their horrendous eco-crusade?  Is there not a single activity of normal life that they do not feel justified in pontificating about, unasked and unwanted?  Killjoy thermomaniac watermelons!  In the name of their implacable pagan deity Gaia, amid lurid visions of greenpocalypse, these frothing fanatics will stop at nothing.  Prius-driving, soy-latte-sipping, humorless little popinjays!  Pathetic, hypocritical neo-hippies with delusions of messianic grandeur and fantasies of power justified by an aggressive sense of moral superiority. What a toxic crew of obsessive miscreants who trade in guilt and misery as the expression of their perverse secular doomsday cult.  GO AWAY.  I don't care if you want to flagellate yourselves over your eco-sins, but I sure as hell mind when you attempt to flagellate me.  Hey!  Can we classify Greenies as an invasive species?

In the meanwhile, I am busy Googling away -- Payless Shoes is having another BOGO sale right now, and MM needs some nice new sassy but cheap sandals for summer!  (Though that too is evil, apparently.)  I'm also doing this while drinking a big vat of non-fair trade, non-organic coffee and frying up some eggs from non-free-range chickens.  Evil!  How many sins can I commit before breakfast?  Heh!  Oh, and Google already put the beatdown on this stupid Internet-search idea back in 2009: "...a typical individual's Google use for an entire year would produce about the same amount of CO2 as just a single load of washing."  Speaking of, I gotta do laundry today -- rack up yet another eco-sin for me, yay!

Monday, June 06, 2011

History Lesson: The First Wave at Omaha Beach

On the 67th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, it might be good to remember.  It's hard to overemphasize the utter importance of Operation Overlord. Here is a brief look at Omaha Beach. If you've never heard Eisenhower's D-Day speech, here it is.  Clocking in at less than two minutes, it's masterful.

"This great and noble undertaking."

LOL: Anthony Weiner Hoisted By His Own Pe...tard

He confessed to tweeting that raunchy photo, after all.  Will he resign?  This dirtbag -- I mean, distinguished *ahem* member of Congress -- isn't going to fall on his own sword.  Weiner's too arrogant, too cocky, and he's now a loose cannon--  OK, now I can't stop laughing.  Should I stop with the jokes?  This is a family blog.  OH MAN, I CANNOT WAIT FOR THE COMEDIANS TO PILE ON.  Don't disappoint me, Jon, Stephen, Kimmel,  everyone!  This whole situation is COMEDY GOLD.  On the plus side, at least now we finally have some -- what's that word?  ah, yes -- certitude.

UPDATE: I feel no guilt for being amused by sophomoric humor if the cause is the even more sophomoric behavior of someone who's supposed to be a public servant.  Didn't I tell you that our political class and various "elite" classes are basically horrible?  Heck, at least this time it's providing us some laughs since goodness knows we're not getting any real leadership on any front, much less moral.  In fact, I think it's a good thing to deflate prancing, posing politicians and their groupies as often as possible.  Come on, Weiner knowingly, purposefully, and unabashedly LIED to everybody for a whole week about his Twitter mess -- told utter bald-faced FIBS in public -- until in the end he couldn't deny the truth, and then he gives a press conference filled with crocodile tears.  Am I seriously supposed to believe he's actually sorry?  Oh, please.  He's sorry that he got caught is all.   

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Bedazzled Mortarboard

During graduation season, whoever decided that customizing her mortarboard with Hello Kitty gets an F for good taste.  Mom and Dad must be so proud.  Behold the madness!  Here is a close-up:

Pomp and circumstance.

Meet Gorilla the Kookaburra

He's got quite a story!  Oh, Australia, where the critters are more epic than you can imagine.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand now I have the kookaburra song stuck in my head.  All together now: 
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
Gay your life must be! 
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Eating all the gumdrops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me! 
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
That's not a monkey, that's me! 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The 2011 Index of Economic Freedom

Here are the top 3 nations in this year's Index of Economic Freedom:
  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. Australia
You notice who's not up there?  Ummm ... yeah.  The U.S. finished barely in the top 10 at #9.  What would Milton Friedman say?  Here is some commentary.

MM in the Kitchen: Single-Serving Tiramisu

Mangia, mangia!

Thoughts on Repression in the Middle East

Read this and this (via this).  The second link to a Dubai-based Arab op-ed basically says, the Zionist entity is bad, but our own Arab dictators are even worse!  It's a start.  Here's a bit of it:
Unlike in some Arab countries, Arabs living inside Israel can organise sit-ins very comfortably. And when the Israeli police intervenes, they never beat demonstrators to death. And if we compare how Israel treats Shaikh Raed Salah with the way some Arab dictators treat their opponents, we will be horribly surprised, as the Israelis are very much less brutal ... 
Israel can always claim it is facing an enemy, whereas Arab dictators are facing their own people.

Satire Alert: Pope Vows to Clean Up Vatican Slum

The Onionistas strike again.  Here's a bit of it:
... the pope condemned the disturbing crime trend in the notoriously run-down section of Vatican City and unveiled a $235 million initiative that would provide the resources necessary to crack down on violators found counterfeiting relics, burglarizing tabernacles, performing back-alley confirmations, or assaulting rival clergy. 
According to the Holy Father, the new anti-crime program would focus on apprehending, prosecuting, and convicting unlicensed street bishops, racketeering priests, and deacon thugs involved in illicit Church activities. In addition, the proposal  would increase the number of Swiss Guards patrolling the streets of the slum and create a program to dissuade youths living in the neighborhood from ganging up to form their own rogue religious orders.
Heh. Is this the Onion or is this Renaissance Rome with the Borgias?

Life Imitates Homer's Iliad: Meet Acting Sgt. Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles

Britain's newest hero is a Nepali. 
Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday awarded Britain's second-highest award for bravery, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, to Acting Sgt. Dipprasad Pun of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. 
While stationed as a lone sentry at a checkpoint in Afghanistan's Helmand province on September 17, Pun fended off an attack by up to 30 Taliban fighters. 
"There were many Taliban around me," Pun said in an interview with British Forces News. "I thought they are definitely going to kill me. ... I thought before they kill me I have to kill some of them." 
During the 15-minute battle, Pun fired more than 400 rounds of ammunition, detonated 17 grenades and a mine and even threw his gun tripod at a Taliban fighter climbing toward his position ...  "He was just about to climb up there and I hit (him) with my tripod and he fell down again," Pun told British Forces News. 
Pun's actions saved the lives of three fellow soldiers at the checkpoint and were the "bravest seen in his battalion over two hard tours in Afghanistan," according to his medal citation. 
Pun was not wounded in the firefight.
And unlike Achilles, Dipprasad Pun isn't the son of a goddess!  His next appearance must surely be here!  More here and here.  Kudos, sir.  Here's more about the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Nerd News: Murder Most Academic

Don't read this article about a serial killer British grad student unless you want to be utterly disgusted.  Bonus: He was working on a PhD in homicide studies.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

If You Built It, They Will Come

The "Field of Dreams" principle apparently does not apply to British breezes for wind turbines.

Shut Your Pie-Hole

Hey, I love pie!

Fashion Faux Pas? Plus Accidental Rant

Well, I like the bit about the history of clothes in the US, but as for the mini-jeremiad about how immoral current purchasing trends are ... Look at this:
In 1930, the average American woman owned an average of nine outfits. Today, we each buy more than 60 pieces of new clothing on average per year. Our closets are larger and more stuffed than ever, as we've traded quality and style for low prices and trend-chasing. 

Friday, June 03, 2011

Taiwanese News Animators vs. Sumo Scandal

Here's the newest cartoon lunacy from those delightfully goofy animators:

Someone Accuses Ramen of Being Raaaaaaacist

Really?  According to the writer, eating ramen in Japan back in the old days was an act of "giddy totalitarianism" and unapologetic imperialism ... or something.  Or maybe a bowl of ramen is just a bowl of ramen, i.e., deliciousness.  The Japan Probe blog responds to this "ramen is racist!" accusation. 

MI-6 and Operation Cupcake's Sweet Success

In the ongoing struggle against terrorists, let's quote the immortal words of Churchill, shall we?
We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight with cupcakes ... Wait, what?

The US Economy, Workplace Need More Puppies

Well, DUH!

LOL: Prince Philip's Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Gaffe-tastic! Is he the UK's version of Joe Biden?  Here's a hint of these priceless Philip-isms: 
 "If it has four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."

Explaining the Kitten Hug

First there was this.  Now here's the science.

Awesomely Epic Friday Fun Video: the Grand Rapids Lip Dub

Is this the greatest lib dub ever?  

More details after the jump:

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Disgustingly Cute: Gumball Wars

Like a Good Neighbor: Massive Taiwanese Aid to Post-Earthquake Japan

Here are some rather astounding numbers:
Taiwan, a country of 23 million people, has to date pledged approximately 5.9 billion New Taiwan dollars (about ¥16.7 billion) in relief funds following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11. 
By comparison, South Korea's 49 million people have raised 55 billion won (about ¥4.1 billion), while the United States, a country of 300 million, has donated $120 million (¥9.8 billion).
I shouldn't have to tell you that this is is neither a contest nor a critique of other nations' generosity and fund-raising on behalf of Japan.  Kudos to everyone from all countries who pitched in to help that beautiful but stricken country -- a lot of the money came from just normal folks donating what they could.  On a personal note, a Japanese friend of mine recently emailed me about her gratitude to Taiwan for its help.  We tiny Asian democracies gotta stick together, after all.

Quote of the Day: Tea Party Immigrants

Some immigrants are joining the Tea Party.  Here's a quotation by one such fellow, Tito Muñoz, originally from Colombia and now owner of a construction company in Virginia:
“Why do immigrants leave their country? Because they don’t have opportunity and they don’t have freedom, because politicians control everything,” he said. “We come to America and we are going to have the same crap? Then we might as well go back there.”

Apocalypse Not and Profits of Doom

Kyle Smith is basically right.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Awesome Photography: Arctic Light in Norway

Spectacular scenery filmed in Norway!

Nerd News: Free Inquiry and Expression on Campus? YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG

First there was this moronic dean, and now we get a couple egregiously imbecilic professors who verbally assaulted students who held opposing political opinions.  
Dear idiot professors,  
Please leave my chosen profession; you make it look stupid.  Your attempt to silence opposing viewpoints instead of engaging them with thoughtful and courteous debate is an utter disgrace and total repudiation of everything that academia should be, and, frankly, you make me sick.  I would say that you should be ashamed of yourselves, but I am fairly certain that you are incapable of even pretending to blush at your own transgressions.  May a thousand Hello Kitties like Furies of old haunt your dreams night and day with shiny pink clouds and singing gumdrop rainbows until you realize the extent of your sins.

Nerd News: Too Sexy For a PhD


I'm not a mathematician, but ... Should I be worried?  Should I stop wearing sassy high heels to my Nerdmoots?  Um ... NO.  If I'm going to crash and burn, I'm going to do it my way.  It's not as if I'm not already getting comments like "funny, you don't look like a (insert position here)" and "do you have a husband?" and "you still have a few years to get married" and other such hilariously inappropriate and Neanderthalish utterances from male nerds who honestly think they're enlightened and progressive, yadda yadda yadda.  Rubes!  I haven't yet had to kick anyone in the keister with my stylish yet affordable shoes, but I will if I have to!  You see, ladies never start fights, but ladies can finish them ... and the best revenge is being successful, especially if it means beating the Neanderthals at their own nerd-game ... and doing so while dressed to kill and smiling with sweet, sweet innocence.

45 US Senators Want F-16s for Taiwan

Check this out.  More here. See the 45 senators' letter to Obama dated May 26.  While I'm gratified that 45 senators have some grasp of what's at stake, I'm pessimistic because the top leadership (*cough* Ma!  *cough* Obama! *cough*)  is simply so ... well, apparently clueless of said stakes.  Take a look at this piquant observation by Michael Turton:
The F-16s aren't coming here because the Ma Administration doesn't really want them and the Obama Administration doesn't want to sell them -- Ma is just making noise -- and because, as a friend of mine and I were just discussing tonight, there's a growing spirit of resignation in DC that Taiwan is circling the drain. Apparently everyone has forgotten the simple lesson that you don't make the monster smaller by feeding it. I'm glad I won't have to be the official who has to explain to the public why the US wouldn't defend 23 million people in an allied democracy with its own armed forces but will go to war over some uninhabited rocks in the ocean because of the US-Japan Security Treaty.
*Headdesk*  In a similar vein, one might see a parallel with another tiny country that is an embattled allied democracy with its own armed forces.  (At least that country has a decent head of state instead of the disgraceful squish that Ma is.)  At least both nations have some solid Congressional support ... but that's not enough.

Food Poisoning: A Taiwanese Company's Tainted Products

Fresh from an email sent by the Cine-Sib is this depressing/alarming/infuriating news.  At least this is all over the news in Taiwan, where nationwide store inspections have begun in response.  Oh, just heard from a family friend in Taiwan: It's a huge scandal ... as it should be.  Putting industrial plasticizer into food products?! NOT COOL.

De Gustibus: Mitt Romney and "Twilight"

Well, there's no accounting for taste.  But "Twilight"?  Dude, really?