Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Play My Sympathy Violin For ... the US Congress

La Parisienne and I are disgusted at Congress critters wailing that they don't earn big enough salaries.  Boo freaking hoo, Congress.  The rest of us will probably never make six figures (much less get all your perks), and I don't want to hear a single gorram thing about this while the country's got 9% unemployment.  As it is, Congress critters already make 3 times as much as the average American worker.  You call this public service?  As I tell my slacking undergrads, SHUT UP AND GET BACK TO WORK.

What Fresh Hell Is This? Taiwan's F-16s

You have got to be frickin' kidding me!

Mini-Movie Review: "Fright Night"

"Let's kill something."

Finally, a proper vampire flick that doesn't have idiotic girls named Bella or self-loathing (and infinitely loathe-able) sparkly pseudo-monsters whose heart I want to cut out with a spoon!  Nope, you'll get none of that here even though the protagonist Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a teenager. "Fright Night" is sheer campy horror fun.  With plenty of rip-roaring suspense and action -- not to mention rousing turns by Colin Farrell as Jerry the unapologetically and delightfully creepy vampire and David Tennant as Peter Vincent the hilariously overdone Vegas personality who hunts him -- "Fright Night" delivers some stylish, sassy genre entertainment in a genre that desperately needed an intervention to kick it out of its brain-dead Twilight stupor.  "Fright Night" better deliver that jolt -- Marti Noxon the Buffy alum wrote the screenplay!  This horror-action-comedy remake of the 1985 cult classic is a great way to end the summer.  (Yes, I used the UK poster because it has David on it.  So sue me.)

MM gives "Fright Night" a  solid grade of B.

Rotten Tomatoes gives this movie a Fresh rating of 77%.

"Fright Night" runs 101 minutes and is rated R for language, violence, and gore (though, frankly, I thought it barely deserved this ... Then again, I usually laugh at horror-schlocky violence!).

Hurricane Hilarity: Signs for Irene

Here is a fun collection, though if I had to pick just one, I'd pick the following:

Is Steve Jobs the Henry Ford of Our Time?

Here's an interesting thought about Ford and Jobs, along with a charming tribute to Jobs and his many accomplishments.

Monday Therapy: Muppets + AC/DC

Some wag has made this mashup that's perfect for a Monday morning:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nerd Journal: A Soundtrack For Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Pain in the Neck Irene

Irene's hit the East Coast, so the weather's just horrible.  The rain is pouring down in sheets.  At one time, it looked as though it were raining sideways!  Still, I have plenty of food and water and candles and flashlights and electricity and Internet access and Netflix and Nerdpocalypse Now research, so I'm all set!  In fact, since we're all chilling out at home, here's some meteorologically relevant musical entertainment:

Leave those umbrellas at home.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mashup Hilarity: Simpsons + Mad Men

For La Parisienne and Count Chocula, who've been on a "Mad Men" kick lately on Netflix!  (Now I'm thinking maybe I should take some fashion tips from YoSafBridge -- I mean, Joan Holloway Harris.)

Thoughts on DC's Newest Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. takes his place on the Tidal Basin.  Official website here.  He's the only non-president to be honored with such a memorial in the nation's capital.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Because It's Finally Friday ... and Life Is Short

Who loves ya, baby?

Nerd News: Indiana College Bans National Anthem

Goshen College has banned the national anthem for being "too violent."  WHAT.  Oh, all right, I suppose you can defend the school on free speech grounds.  But the whole thing rubs me the wrong way.  It's not like banning the "Star-Spangled Banner" is the most offensive thing some campus critter has done in recent memory, but it still bothers me.  I've loved that song even more since I went to Fort McHenry.  If Goshen College is going to opt out, then I am emphatically opting in.  Have some fun with the song and its history, courtesy of the Smithsonian.

Awesome Photography: Hurricane Irene Seen From Space

Some amazing images from NASA.  I like this one best.  First a little earthquake and now a hurricane.  Some people here in Nerdworld are beginning to freak out.  Since disasters happen in threes, let me tell you that the third is nearly upon us -- the plague of incoming freshmen and their traffic-blocking parents.  The horror, the horror!

Proof that God Is A Woman

Astronomers discover an entire planet made of diamond.

UPDATE: I knew this sounded familiar somehow!  It turns out that Life Imitates "Doctor Who"!

Friday Fun Video: Kittywood Studios

In case you ever wondered why the Internet is full of cat videos gone viral, check out this hilarious spoof:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Geek Fun: Yet Another Hacked Traffic Sign

This one's from Arizona, and it joins the ranks of road signs warning of apocalyptic doom, zombies, and velociraptors.  I love these things!  (Oh, nearly forgot this gem from Down Under.)

LOL: The Children's Illustrated Clausewitz

Some enterprising wit is attempting to turn Carl von Clausewitz's treatise On War into a children's book complete with colorful illustrations.  Clausewitz the Prussian general and military theorist himself is a bunny in a uniform!  Check it out here: http://clausewitzforkids.wordpress.com/.  As for me, I'm thinking now, Hmmmm, if my academic career crashes and burns, maybe I'll write and illustrate a children's version of Sun Tzu's Art of War ... with pandas.  Lots of pandas.  Perhaps Sun Tzu himself should be a tiger ... Oh, boy, now I'm going to obsess about this.

Awesome: A Day at the Beach in 1910

Via Pseudo-Polymath comes a link to this blog post noting a splendid vintage photo from the Jersey Shore in 1910 and -- even better -- a lovely essay about that photo, with beautiful attention to its many details and to a meditation on life and history.  Carpe diem, gentle reader, and make time for one more day at the beach while it's still summer!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Biden's Dipstick "Understanding" of China's Brutal One-Child Policy

Read this.  So the VP "understands" forced abortions, forced sterilizations, the ongoing violence against rural Chinese women, mass gendercide, and the demographic time bomb that's been the result?  Remember this and this?  Biden's a galaxy-class buffoon.  Won't someone tell him to keep his mouth shut?  

Monday, August 22, 2011

PSA: Tainted Chinese Vinegar

So far the casualties number 11 dead and 120 sickened in Xinjiang from vinegar tainted with antifreeze.  Good grief.  

LOL: Rebel Without A Clue

The Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic strikes again. Same goes for bubbleheaded undergrads and the instructors who observe them, I think!

Al Gore and the Great Green Meltdown

Well, I'm glad to see that I'm the only one who's sick and tired of Al Gore and his self-righteously shrill, pseudo-cultic, fraudulent greenie crusade.  Its implosion will be a moment of Schadenfreudtastic glee, not to mention relief for serious people who resist the outright politicization and corruption of science for power and profit (including people like ... oh, I don't know ...  actual scientists).  

Mark Steyn on Presidential Ostentation

I'd never really thought about it before, but the juxtaposition between the visit to Minnesota and the escape to Martha's Vineyard does seem rather ... striking after I read this.  Besides, Steyn always manages to be entertainingly humorous no matter what his topic is.

You Miserable Vomitous Mass: Meet This Useful Idiot for Totalitarian Communism

Meet British historian Eric Hobsbawm, who has a new book.  As for the man:
In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of "15, 20 million people might have been justified" in establishing a Marxist paradise. "Yes," Mr. Hobsbawm replied. Asked the same question the following year, he reiterated his support for the "sacrifice of millions of lives" in pursuit of a vague egalitarianism. That such comments caused surprise is itself surprising; Mr. Hobsbawm's lifelong commitment to the Party testified to his approval of the Soviet experience, whatever its crimes. It's not that he didn't know what was going on in the dank basements of the Lubyanka and on the frozen steppes of Siberia. It's that he didn't much care.
Disgusting.  In a just world, he should be run off campus in utter disgrace for justifying outright massacre and industrial-scale cruelty.  I'm sick of useful idiots who keep insisting that Communist regimes who slaughtered, imprisoned, brutalized, and oppressed millions of people "just weren't doing it right" and that the next great Commie effort will bring some ludicrous Marxist paradise on earth.  Inhuman, immoral garbage.  They might think they're revolutionary, but I only find them revolting.  Of course, these dipsticks assume that they will be among the Communist elites who get to run the new utopia, not one of the "15, 20 million" who get to be cavalierly sacrificed -- nay, liquidated -- "for the greater good."  The greater good of the nomenklatura, you mean.  What is my professional academic opinion of this type of historian?  *Barf!*

Awesome Monday Therapy: Queen on Ukulele

Check out the remarkable Jake Shimabukuro:

Higher Edpocalypse: Exit Strategies

Because we're all screwed?  Still, say what you want, but there is no substitute for real live teachers investing in and mentoring their students while teaching things worth knowing.  If you really want to save higher ed, you should begin by (a) slashing the ranks of edu-crats, admin, and nerd-bureaucrats, and (b) telling government to butt out on all levels.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Awesome: Best Wedding Photos Ever

I'm not even kidding.

I Must Have This T-Shirt

Which?  The one on the very left of the first photo.  Ladybird pointed me to this, and now I'm enamoured!

Mikhail Gorbachev at Age 80

An interesting interview.

Crazy Headline of the Day: "Reindeer herder finds remains of baby mammoth in Russia's Arctic"

There is just waaaaaay too much going on in this one headline.

Friday Fun Video: One-Man Disney Movie

Kitchen Notes: Sushi

For fellow sushiphiles La Parisienne, Count Chocula, and Alessandra: a glance at our favorite noms.  Oh, and on the business about wasabi and soy sauce: I've seen people here and in Taiwan do it both ways, and nobody seems to care one way or another ... as long as you're happy gobbling down those yummy, yummy sea kittens raw.  Your humble blog hostess prefers salmon, eel, and tuna, though she's never turned down any kind of sushi or sashimi.  

Oh -- for the record, the Cine-Sib and I think California rolls are for sushi sissies.  They're still yummy, though, and a great "starter" sushi.  I will confess to trying to gross out sushi neophytes, though, if I'm in a mischievous mood and think they need to have their cage rattled in the name of culinary-cultural education.  "Hey, wanna try some of my octopus?"  "Ewwwwww!"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME: Wasting time online boosts worker productivity!

BEST. STUDY. EVER.  (Done by the National University of Singapore.)  Yay!!!  I feel soooooo much better about posting this instead of working on Nerdpocalypse Now.  

LOL: Iconic Photos Lego-Style

From the lunar landing to the kiss in Times Square on V-J Day to raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, they're all here and done in glorious Lego.

Quote of the Day: Big Government

Has the staggering growth of the federal establishment made America a better, more humane, more optimistic place to live? Obviously it is possible to single out this or that law or regulation or expenditure and show that it has been beneficial. Not even the most ardent libertarian disputes the need for federal governance of inherently national matters -- and the Constitution itself makes clear that Washington has a role to play in guaranteeing civic equality and political liberty. Yet in crucial ways, the flow of power upward to Washington has impoverished American culture and weakened civic society. [My emphasis -- MM]
My feelings can be summed up by my favorite ill-tempered Browncoat captain's sarcastic view of big government: "That's what governments are for -- to get in a man's way."  And to turn self-reliant citizens into dependent sheep and social engineering projects.  No, thanks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Honey Laundering

Watch out for honey from China or India.  Don't eat the stuff -- it might be tainted with heavy metals and illegal antibiotics and lead (!).  Trouble is, there's honey laundering going on -- it's been adulterating some honey sold in the US.  Chinese and Indian honey is banned in Europe.  Be careful out there, honey fans!  See if you can't find a good farmers market and get some local honey.  Here's a link to the National Honey Board.  I'm miffed -- I do love me some honey butter.

Disgustingly Cute Geek Fun: Chewbacca + Leia

Awwwwww.  The last photo is probably my favorite out of a hilarious set.

MM in the Kitchen: Zucchini Cheddar Biscuits

For all my friends who have more zucchini than they know what to do with -- zucchini cheddar drop biscuits!

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

Oh, PUH-LEEZ!  By the way, I'm sure we'll be hearing all sorts of whining and dipstick comments by politicians in the days and months ahead until November 2012, so note the new blog tags.  Also, I cannot believe the sheer scope of the "poor me, it's soooooo hard" undergrad-esque whinging coming persistently from the White House.  If you didn't want that job, you wouldn't have that job, so don't come crying to me about how hard that job is now that you've got it (and are plainly angling to keep it).  Man up already.  Geez.

Fugly or Fabulous? The Moon Mattress

I would have loved this when I was a kid!  (Well, even my friends will tell you that sometimes I can be a real space cadet. ... )

Island Getaway, Libertarian Style

La Parisienne and I have been dreaming about doing just this very thing for years ... though, alas, we haven't the bajillions of dollars necessary.  

Yes, yes, I know that every two-bit sci-fi dictator wannabe has an island lair as a base from which to launch their takeover of the world.  What makes us any different?  For one, we don't want to take over. We just want to be left alone by assorted meddling, nosy do-gooders, some of the worst of which  may or may not be genetically related to us in the matrilinear line (but that's another story).  The thought had occurred to us that if we had our own island, we could more or less control who gets to come to said island -- and wouldn't that be delightful! 

Nihil Sub Sole Novum: Out of Ideas

... it's becoming tough to conceal the administration's ideological rigidity and lack of ideas.
You don't say!  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kitchen Notes: the Art of S'Mores

An outdoor classic.

Quote of the Day: Undoing the Enlightenment?

It is no secret, especially here in America, that we live in a post-Enlightenment age in which rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate have lost the battle in many sectors, and perhaps even in society generally, to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy. While we continue to make giant technological advances, we may be the first generation to have turned back the epochal clock — to have gone backward intellectually from advanced modes of thinking into old modes of belief. But post-Enlightenment and post-idea, while related, are not exactly the same. ... Post-Enlightenment refers to a style of thinking that no longer deploys the techniques of rational thought. Post-idea refers to thinking that is no longer done, regardless of the style.
UPDATE: Do read gentle reader and history buff Lumpy's comment below too.

Awesome: Starbucks CEO to Washington, DC--"We're Cutting You Off"

No more campaign contributions to anybody until everybody cleans up their act.  Now that's an idea.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is also encouraging other CEOs to do likewise:
"I am asking that all of us forgo political contributions until the Congress and the President return to Washington and deliver a fiscally, disciplined long term debt and deficit plan to the American people," Schultz wrote in a letter that was passed on to members of the NYSE and Nasdaq.
Hit 'em where it hurts!  Aaaaand now I think I shall go get myself a nice mocha frappuccino.

Disgustingly Cute: Useful Dog Tricks

Jesse the Jack Russell terrier is amazing:

Higher Edpocalypse: Exploding Student Loan Debt

This latest report from the Wall Street Journal is pretty darn horrifying.

Not Fresh Hell After All? Taiwan and F-16s

It seems that the recent report of F-16s being denied was an inaccurate report, as Dignified Rant wonders, "Could good sense prevail?"   One never knows with this administration's foreign policy follies. Sell those F-16s already!

Monday, August 15, 2011

LOL: the Tweeting Terminator

Some wag is on Twitter in the guise of the T-800, and he's busy tweeting at different Sarahs looking for Sarah Connor.   See, for example, this.   Cute and all, though nowhere near as parodic as Big Ben or as laugh-til-you-cry awesome as the Bronx Zoo's Cobra back in its day.

With Friends Like These ...

From the Washington Post and the Financial Times
"Pakistan gave China access to the previously unknown U.S. “stealth” helicopter that crashed during the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May despite explicit requests from the CIA not to."  
Caveat: the story needs confirmation.  On troublesome Pakistan, you may remember this and this.

What Fresh Hell Is This? "No F-16s for You!"

It's like Seinfeld in a nightmare universe.  I've been banging on repeatedly about selling those F-16s to Taiwan and the maddening reluctance of the current US government to do anything, and now Dignified Rant has the link to the latest example of rage-inducing foreign policy.  "Smart diplomacy" in the age of HopeChange means selling out an Asian democracy of 23 million in order to suck up to Beijing.  I am utterly disgusted.  As I've said before, how many democracies do you think there are in Asia?  Democracies that look to the US for support?  Hey, didn't I just post on another example of Beijing's strong-arm tactics?  on Japan's recognition of China's pushing of their sphere of influence in Asia?  

The news piece quotes an official from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense:
"We are so disappointed in the United States."
So are the rest of us.  This administration's foreign policy sucks like a supermassive black hole.  *headdesk*

UPDATE: Not fresh hell after all?

Monday Therapy: At Least You're Not This Guy

No matter how awful your Monday is or how dreadful your commute, surely your usual time behind the wheel can't be this spectacularly horrendous.  This video is a like a mesmerizing train wreck -- you can't bear to look, but you can't bear not to look either!

Where's Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?

Awesomeness: Philly's Mayor Nutter Speaks

Alessandra told me about the recent "flash mob" youth violence in Philadelphia and the response of the mayor.  His recent speech on the subject is awesome.  Do read the whole thing here as Mayor Michael Nutter delivers some home truths.  We need more of this.  It's time and past time for Philly to be a City of Brotherly Tough Love.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The (Book)Worms Turns: An Author Comments on the End of Borders

Best-selling sci fi/fantasy author Larry Correia does not lament the end of Borders.  He's convinced that the chain's own bad business practices did it in.  Me, I'm not lamenting either. In fact, I've never spent as much time in Borders as I have in the last few days picking at its corpse like a big bibliophiliac vulture -- and even amid the liquidations I didn't find too many real bargains.  People who are bemoaning the demise of Borders as if it's THE END OF LITERACY AS WE KNOW IT AND WE'RE ALL TURNING INTO GRUNTING MORONS!!!!!  are totally misreading (ha) the situation.  Borders ran a business badly, and their competitors did a better job.  I'm just going to get my books elsewhere ... as I have always done.

If you will permit me a bibliomaniacal digression: 

Quirky Euro Files: Meet Yvonne the Fugitive German Cow

The latest attempt to lure her back involves a bull named Ernst.  Really.  I herd this right from the BBC, a news outlet that never steers me wrong. Now I'm tempted to milk this story for all it's worth.  I'm sure the Germans will beef up their security measures: Yvonne's been running around since May.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

MM in the Kitchen: Hazelnut Nutella Cookies

Yummy.  Heck, maybe I'll have some for breakfast.

Bill Bratton is New UK Crime Adviser

In the aftermath of the riots, David Cameron has asked Bill Bratton (he of New York and Los Angeles crime-fighting fame) to help with law enforcement.  Bratton said that criminals currently emboldened by lax policing and light sentences need to fear the cops again.  I do hope Bratton works his magic before the usual political suspects hamstring his efforts.

Today in History: The Berlin Wall Went Up 50 Years Ago

And thus began 28 terrible years marked with too much blood of those trying to escape, voting with their feet against totalitarian Communism.  Oh, and lest we forget: the Wall didn't come down "by itself."  Freedom-loving people went out there and finally tore that sucker down in 1989.  But in remembrance:
The number of people who died trying to cross the Wall is disputed - at least 136 are known to have been killed but victims' groups say the true number is more than 700. The first victim was thought to be Guenter Litfin on 24 August 1961 and the last Chris Gueffroy on 6 February 1989.
I also give you one archival photo that has always stuck with me--an East German border guard defecting in 1961, leaping through the 2-day-old Wall as it begins to form first as a barbed-wire barricade:

UPDATE 1:  Some members of the German far Left are nostalgic for the Wall and "the good old days" when you could get shot for trying to escape East Germany.  Actual apologists for the Wall and totalitarian Communism.  Ugh, how repugnant!  They get the "dirtbag du jour" tag.   Link xie-xie to gentle reader Marian.

UPDATE 2: The mayor of Berlin is appalled with Wall-nostalgia:
"We don't have any tolerance for those who nostalgically distort the history of the Berlin Wall and Germany's division," [Mayor Klaus] Wowereit said at the ceremony in front of a small section of the Wall recently rebuilt for posterity. 
"The Wall was part of a dictatorship," he said. "And it's alarming that even today some people argue there were good reasons to build the Wall. No! There's no legitimate reason nor justification for violating human rights and for killings."

Quote of the Day: The Last 2½ Years

I absolutely concur:
"You deserve better than you've been getting out of Washington over the last 2½ months--for that matter, for the last 2½ years."
Guess who said that.  Then just think about it for a minute.  Just who was in the Big Chair for the last 2½ years anyway? 

Nerd News: "the Xinjiang 13" and China Blacklisting US Professors

Via View From Taiwan, a  disgusting tale of Chinese official bullying and, even worse, the refusal of some of the persecuted professors' home institutions to support them. Here's something by one of profs blacklisted for his research on Xinjiang (formerly "Eastern Turkestan"), a Turkic-Muslim region in northwest China:
"As a group, most of us have been very disappointed in the colleges’ and universities’ lack of sympathy and support," said Dru Gladney, an anthropology professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California, who described himself and his American co-authors as the "Xinjiang 13." Colleges are "so eager to jump on the China bandwagon, they put financial interests ahead of academic freedom."
Sordid grasping edu-crats are sordid and grasping.  Maddening but not surprising. The least you and I can do is read the Xinjiang 13's research for which they have paid so high a personal and professional cost.  By the way, Professor Gladney's two contributions to the book are entitled "The Chinese Program of Development and Control, 1978-2001" and "Responses to Chinese Rule: Patterns of Cooperations and Opposition."

On a related note, note this small bit of the overall story, and it tells you plenty about freedom issues: "Former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Peter Perdue had to shift his research from Beijing to Taiwan in 2007 for a Fulbright fellowship awarded by the State Department because Chinese officials blocked his entry." 

History Debate: Japan's Surrender in WWII

This post actually isn't about Truman and the Bomb.  Take a look at a relatively new take on Japan's surrender:
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa - a highly respected historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara - has marshaled compelling evidence that it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict, not Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that forced Japan’s surrender. His interpretation could force a new accounting of the moral meaning of the atomic attack. It also raises provocative questions about nuclear deterrence, a foundation stone of military strategy in the postwar period. And it suggests that we could be headed towards an utterly different understanding of how, and why, the Second World War came to its conclusion.
I'd have to look into Hasegawa's research before I can form an educated opinion. Oh, and as for  the news writer's bit about "provocative questions about nuclear deterrence, a foundation stone of military strategy in the postwar period," I will take issue with that.  You can't possibly be saying that the idea of mutually assured destruction didn't play a big role in how the US and USSR as Cold War superpowers regarded each other.

Higher Edpocalypse: Hey, Let's Turn Grad School Into More Of A Joke!

Ugh, look at this facepalm-worthy story from the UK about the University of Birmingham’s School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion.  Yeah, there are a bunch of factors involved, though as usual money's the prime mover.  So much for standards and academic rigor.  Look, edu-crats have succeeded in turning the bachelor's degree into a glorified high school diploma that means nearly nothing, so now let's diminish grad degrees too, why don't we?  Dime a dozen in a bad job market.  Pretty soon you'll need a PhD just to be a waiter. Then again, if you'll pardon my snark, what else are you going to do with a grad degree in philosophy, theology, or religion?

Friday, August 12, 2011

FYI: Social Media Cuts Both Ways, Scumbag

There's been a lot of talk about how the UK rioters used social media.  Well, social media cuts both ways.  Check out this absolutely glorious tweet by the Greater Manchester Police. You're nicked!  Besides, never waste sympathy on stupid criminals (dirtbag du jour).

Disgustingly Cute Friday Fun Video: "Hooked"

History/Policy LOL: Harry Potter and the Post-War Reconstruction

Yay, Voldemort has been defeated!  But as any historian can tell you, getting rid of the Big Bad is often the "easy" part.  The aftermath ... That's the really hard bit.  

(At the end of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Alessandra turned to me and said something like this: "Now comes the really tough part.  OK, Aragorn, you did all this awesome stuff to help rid of Sauron, get the girl, and claim the crown of Gondor, but now you have to do all the hard, inglorious, everyday stuff like worry about paving roads and fixing sewers in Miras Tirith.")  

Check out this rather tongue-in-cheek look at Harry Potter and the Post-War Reconstruction.  I'll leave you with a cool quote: "What ultimately matters is not just whether something evil was defeated, but whether something good is built in its place."  True dat.

Quote of the Day: Delingpole on London Riot Commentary

More from the ever-readable James Delingpole:
But I surely can’t be the only Londoner for whom it sticks, ever so slightly, in the craw to be told by a Chicago-born professor of sociology and his Dutch sociologist wife in the New York Times is that the riots are kind of our fault ...
By the way, this is the NY Times piece in question.  The usual suspects blame the usual suspects.  Ho-hum, though still annoying.  Anyhoo, do read Delingpole's response -- and indeed Delingpole in general.

London Appalling: Rioters Ignore Bookstores

A bit of analysis that contains, among other things, the HuffPo's hand-wringing blather and one British author's hilarious tweet.  Look, if you were a looter, would you rather go for consumer electronics or paperback novels?  Which has more resale value?  Um, duh?  I doubt your average hooded thug would pass by a plasma TV in favor of an armful of Dickens.

Let Them Eat Gold-Flecked Ice Cream

The massive gap between rich and poor in Iran. How's that 1979 revolution working out for you?

Weird "Analysis" of the Day on the US and China

I haven't time to go into this at length, so I'll just post it  and see what you have to say about this author who says (a) war between the US and China is "inevitable," and (b) it'll be all our fault.

(OK, I will say this: it takes two to tango, pal.  The guy even admits that China's the one who refuses to back down. His sensationalist analysis is full of holes. Hey, wanna say something about China's cyberwar on everybody? Its reach into Africa for resources? Its ... Oh, never mind. I won't even bother with his mangling of Asian history.)  

A while back, Harvard prof Niall Ferguson did say something about the rivalry between the US and China, but Ferguson's take is a bit more ... measured.  I on reflex dislike "analyses" that use words like "inevitable." Frankly, if I were you, I'd pay some real attention to how other Asian nations are responding to China; see Japan, for instance.  You want real analysis about security issues and notes on China and the Pacific region?  Read Dignified Rant.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Putin Takes Up Underwater Archaeology

See Vlad's latest publicity stunt.  Come on, after his previous manly-man stunts, I was half-expecting him to wrestle sharks or something.  Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!  I'm disappointed, Vlad, very disappointed.

London Appalling: Liberty, Property Rights, and Self-Defense

Here's a perspective, though it just might be summed up by the quote from John Adams at the very end.  There is something deeply perverse about denying free people to right to defend themselves and their property, homes, and businesses.  UPDATE: I had to read this twice because at first I couldn't believe it -- a modern Brit is thinking about the right of private citizens to bear arms!

MM in the Kitchen: Lemon Blackberry Pound Cake

In honor of La Parisienne!

Awesome: Rodrigo y Gabriela

Stop everything and treat yourself to a magnificent bit of guitar by the Mexican duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela!

Couch Potato Chronicles: Star Trek Fashion

This snarky blog about the outfits of "Star Trek: the Next Generation" is a hilarious time vampire.  Heck, you could do an entire blog just about Guinan's crazy hats or Wesley Crusher's horrible sweaters.

James Delingpole Asks a Question

It's simple ... and simply devastating.

Nerd Analysis: Prof. Drezner on the World Cracking Up

Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University, wonders if we're repeating 1931 with a pretty pessimistic round-up of news.  May I offer some wry humor to go along with that?  Here's a sign that wouldn't be out of place on the road to serfdom.

Doom in the mirror is closer than it appears.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quirky Euro Files: Baguette Vending Machines

In France, of course.  Video here!

China, Taiwan, and Aircraft Carriers

Short version?
China: "We have an awesomely awesome aircraft carrier, mwahahaha!" 
Taiwan: "We have an awesomely awesome missile. That kills aircraft carriers."

MM in the Kitchen: S'Mores Cupcakes

Here is something upbeat, pretty, and yummy before we go back to being depressed/infuriated about economic issues/foreign policy/Nerdpocalypse Now deadlines/political debacles/the fact that at this point I pretty much can't stand to encounter the news or work anymore and would rather just marathon "Star Trek" on Netflix all day while eating ice cream right out of the pint and texting with my evil friends.

Kitchen Notes: The Feast of St. Lawrence Today

To grill or not to grill?  I say, grill!  Grill especially as a nod to the saint's own joke.  He had a defiant sense of humor; don't lose it. 

Uh Oh: German Economy Slowing?

It's tough supporting the eurozone's deadbeats.

Political Cartoon: the Welfare State

Rise and fall.  Lovely art too by a think tank intern.  Come on, already only about half the US population even pays taxes.  (Boy, talk about "exploiting the workers," eh!)  Anyway, when the party's over, the inevitable collapse of the bloated and unsustainable, increasingly indebted welfare state wherever it exists won't be pretty at all.  Look at Europe.

London Appalling: 2 Thoughts and A Broom

Here are two interesting reads from the UK: a thoughtful leftist argues that the welfare state is to blame, while an editorialist insists that the only solution is a bigger welfare state.

Amid all the broken glass, looting, arson, and violence, though, there's a sign of hope.  The cleanup effort's begun, and the broom and brush are becoming signs of resistance to the riots. (Check out the charming photo.)  A note: in contrast to the riotous young people, a large number of cleanup volunteers are also young people.  So be careful when reading editorials saying that England is doomed and its future in the ditch.  I think what we are seeing, though, is the brutally clear delineation of two divergent paths, between the productive and the destructive.

UPDATE 1: Thoughts on the rise of an antisocial subculture.  I've heard folks use the term "feral youths."  This can't be good.  Recall also what Theodore Dalrymple said back during the March education riots.

UPDATE 2: Some German newspaper comments on the London riots.

UPDATE 3: Thanks to Dignified Rant for the link.  Do see what he has to say too: "The barbarians are sacking the cities."  It's like the 5th century AD all over again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

LOL: A Laugh For a Downgrade

The debtocalyptic downgrade and the entire maddening political and economic milieu surrounding it has caused no end of headaches in the last few days, so here's something for a laugh -- even if it's of a wry, bitter variety.  Some wag has combined Obama's downgrade speech with Swedish pop singer Caroline af Ugglas' 1997 song "Nothing Left to Say."  (source)  The song starts about a minute into the (disastrous) speech:

What Fresh Hell Is This? A "Dirty Dancing" Remake Is Underway

La Parisienne just alerted me to this latest Hollywood stink bomb-in-the-making that's also going to desecrate a cult classic. Well, you can't make me watch this, Hollywood. Nobody puts Baby in a corner!

Mashup Hilarity: "The Office" + "Dallas"

Who needs a break from all the miserable news?  Try this!

Nerd News: the Celebrity Tutors of Hong Kong

Hmmmmmm ... Career opportunity?  I'd be lying if I said I had never thought about going over to Asia to take a stab at making a living there as a teacher of English and/or history and/or Western literature.  I think I'd prefer Taiwan, though ...

Somalia's Former Prime Minister Returns Home... to Buffalo, New York

A fascinating story.  I do hope he writes a book about his experiences.

Judo's First Female 10th-Degree Black Belt Master

Only 3 other people have ever achieved this, the highest level, and they are all men living in Japan.  They have now been equaled by 98-year-old Sensei Keiko Fukuda of San Francisco.  Oooh, and here's a cool factoid: "Fukuda is the only living student of judo's founder Jigoro Kano who opened his first judo school in 1882."

Nerd News: Unusual UK University Majors


A Page Turns in the History of the House of Representatives

After almost 200 years, it's the ending of an era.  No more little go-fers!

Well, Assuming That You Even *Have* Cash

A large assumption to make ...

Saudi Arabia Recalls Ambassador to Syria

In protest against Assad's ongoing, bloody assaults on his own people.  Kuwait and Bahrain have also recalled their ambassadors. Meanwhile, I see that the White House is still leading from behind on this. 

Nerd Analysis : A Professor Abroad Ponders Obama's Foreign Policy

Here is an interesting piece that I would have missed if not for the excellent Pseudo-Polymath.  Here's a blurb:
... the United States avoided the worst possible self-inflicted wound of default, but the extraordinarily divisive debate and the manifest failure of President Obama to lead in a responsible way likely did long-lasting damage to his and the country's global stature.
And people are noticing.  Well, that's just great. Ugh.  Oh, here's more from Professor Feaver who, by the way, has the best name I've heard in a long time.  It sounds as though it should belong to a comic book superhero or supervillain!  You do need this blurb, though, from Feaver's vantage point in Singapore:
... the unilateralism that seemed to worry people the most was the United States unilaterally ceding global responsibilities and initiative -- in this part of the world, especially to China. No one I talked to wants the United States to start a Cold War with China, but nor does anyone want the United States simply to abandon the region to Chinese influence.
You don't say!  (Dear World, Miss me yet?  Love and kisses, Big Evil Imperialist America That You Love to Bash)

London Appalling: Riots Spreading

What the hell is going on over in London and the UK?  Is this the same city that I love?  Good grief -- it's like Jekyll and Hyde.  Is this PM David Cameron's "Falklands moment"?  It's time to see what he's made of.  I don't envy him rushing back from his Italian vacation to see London in flames as thugs run amok in its streets.  This isn't "freedom of expression" and peaceful assembly. This is criminal behavior and the willful, wanton destruction of other people's property and businesses.  Anyone else remember the Riot Act of 1714?  UPDATE: The chaos has spread to Nottingham.  Perhaps they could use a good sheriff.

Nerd News: 10 Misconceptions About Teaching

Do take a look.  I find #6 especially appropriate.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Denial Is Not Only a River in Egypt

Look at this headline: "Obama: US will always be AAA-rated, despite downgrade."  What?

That's like telling a sobbing team of soccer players that they're all really winners on the insider even though they've just had their butts handed to them on the pitch. The downgrade happened!  Deal with things as they actually are!  Shooting the messenger is not the answer, by the way. We've been downgraded, and, like this blogger, the markets are displaying a massive vote of no confidence.  I say again (caveat: I am being metaphorical, mmmkay?): GIVE ME TIM GEITHNER'S HEAD ON A PLATTER AS A SIGN THAT YOU'RE SERIOUS ABOUT DOING SOMETHING USEFUL.  And Tim, if you had any shred of honor or decency, you would fall on your own sword -- certainly instead of whining about the S&P.

*Headdesk*   Oh, we're screwed.  La Parisienne and I are going to flee to Australia.  Come with?

UPDATE: The thought now occurs to me that the downgrade reeked, but what is arguably even worse and more indicative of continuing economic woe is the response of the "people in charge."

Satire Alert: "Scientists Trace Heat Wave To Massive Star At Center Of Solar System"

Oh, Onion.

Higher Edpocalypse: Moody's Issues Warning About Student Debt

Oh, boy:
A growing chorus of economists and educators think that the higher education industry will be America's next bubble. Easy credit, high tuition, and poor job prospects have resulted in growing delinquency and default rates on nearly $1 trillion worth of private and federally subsidized loans. Now the ratings agency Moody's has weighed in with a chilling diagnosis: "Unless students limit their debt burdens, choose fields of study that are in demand, and successfully complete their degrees on time, they will find themselves in worse financial positions and unable to earn the projected income that justified taking out their loans in the first place." 
Turns out borrowing a couple hundred grand to fund an unmarketable bachelor's in gender studies isn't a sound business decision.  Who'd have thunk?  Want fries with that?

I Love the Smell of Patton in the Morning

... smelled like ... victory.  Check out the Army's new official cologne.  And NO, it apparently doesn't smell, as Patton's nickname would have you believe, like blood and guts.  According to the ad copy, it smells like "a woodsy blend of lavender, citrus, coconut, cedar, sage, tonka bean, bergamot, [and] lime."  Heh.  One can only imagine what Patton would say!

Monday Therapy: Epic Office Post-It War

Behold the Great French Post-It War of 2011 between two companies!  Go, look, and marvel.  Here's the story also as reported in a French newspaper -- Vive la guerre des Post-It!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

MM in the Kitchen: Tomato-Zucchini Tian

With eggplant too, to use some of the late summer's crop of veggie goodness!

Public Service Announcement: Updating the "Nazi Rule of Arguing"

You surely know my "Nazi Rule of Arguing" -- in an argument, whichever party first accuses the other of being a Nazi automatically loses.  I now amend the rule to include accusing the other of being the Taliban.  Pfffffft.

World Leaders in Times of Economic Crisis: "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout"?

I guess we're all pretty much comprehensively screwed.  Haven't we ranted before about the uselessness of our feckless political-intellectual class?  (I can't help but think of Buckley's famous quip about preferring to be ruled by people in the Boston phone than by Harvard eggheads.)  Anyway, Nile Gardiner has some home truths to say as well in terms of the US debacle in particular.  

I want Tim "There's no risk the US will lose its AAA rating" Geithner's head on a platter, but his resignation will do as a symbol.  Of course, it won't happen.  But can we all reasonable folks at least agree that the government's Keynesian madness has got to stop?  We now literally cannot afford to be so stupid.  Am I going to have to resort to hawking a kidney?  Dude.

Nerd Book to Read: Truman and the Bomb

Keep an eye out for The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge University Press, 2011), by Fr. Bill Miscamble, C.S.C., Professor of History at Notre Dame University.  More from the professor here. I previously talked about Truman's decision here.  Note this perspective from a soldier who would have otherwise participated in an invasion of Japan.

UPDATE: There's a lot of interesting debate going on at Ricochet.  Check out this one about morality and necessity.  The fab James Lileks even comments. If I may add too: Historical hindsight is easy, so very easy.  I do not envy Truman as he wrestled with his decision in real time as the Pacific ran red with blood.  It was not for nothing that the sign "The Buck Stops Here" rested on his desk.

The Nutella Lawsuit (And Why It's Bunk)

Go ahead!  Eat chocolate for breakfast!  I know I do.  As long as, of course, that's not the only thing you have for breakfast.  DUH.  By the way, lawsuit-flinging dipsticks, what have you got to say about children's sugar bombs breakfast cereals that come loaded with marshmallows and about a metric ton of artificial colors and flavorings?  Nutella at least is better grade chocolate than that garbage in Cocoa Puffs and Count Chocula. I'm going to call this stupid legal action "the lawsuit against edible awesomeness" ... because that's what it is.

Oh, but in general, gentle reader? You want to know what's awesome?  Nutella on toast with fruit on the side and a huge vat of coffee.  That's the breakfast of nerd-champions, right there!  Try it if you never have before.  Nutella on croissants is awesome too.

Film Culture Commentary: Harry Potter as Conservative Hero?

You know, I'd never thought about it in these terms, but now that I am, it kind of makes sense.  Note the story's emphasis on family, self-reliance, hard work, right and wrong, and a healthy distrust of an intrusive bureaucratic government.  Hmmmm!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Kitchen Notes: Guinness Marshmallows

Is this genius or madness?

Higher Edpocalypse: Hey, How About Selling A Kidney to Pay Your Student Loan Debt?

An academic at Scotland's University of Dundee actually suggested this recently, so of course the story is winging its way across a horrified Internet.  OK, I'm only going to say this once: if I wake up tomorrow in an ice-filled bathtub with a note nearby that says "Call 911; we took your kidney to pay our student debts," I am going to be SERIOUSLY FRIGGIN' ANNOYED.

Absolutely Awesome: Move

3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38000 miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage = one of the most awesome videos I've ever seen. Enjoy!

Petty Tyranny Is Still Tyranny

BLERG.  Also: It's the incrementalism, stupid!  It's like Lilliputian annoyances that add up.  It's like being pecked to death by ducks.

LOL: Meet Tony the Commuting New York Pigeon


A View From Lebanon: Grading Obama's Middle East Foreign Policy

How's that hope and change working out from one Lebanese journalist's point of view?  In terms of foreign policy toward the Middle East specifically, the assessment is pretty darn brutal.  I guess the lack of strategic vision is simply too obvious to ignore or whitewash.  Do read the whole thing.

Nerd News: South Korean Schools to Go Paperless

Paper-free and fully digital by 2015?  Samsung is going to be quite involved.

Life Imitates Monty Python: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog Lives!

Is this one of the greatest images ever to hit the Internet or what?

Friday, August 05, 2011



Analysis: Keynesian Catastrophe?

Hmmm.  Well, there's always this the Hayek vs. Keynes rap battle.

Couch Potato Chronicles: New "Doctor Who"

Here's the trailer for the upcoming second half of the 2011 season/series/whatever you want to call it.  Goodness knows we could use a little escapist adventuring in time and space as a break from all the horrible economic news, especially yesterday's Dow plunge of 500 points.  Geez!

History Argument: The Best and Worst Presidents on Foreign Policy

Let the debating begin!

Friday Fun Video: the TSA Pokey Pokey

Nerd News: the Tale of Deb Caldieri

This is a blistering example of why edu-crats and school administrators have such a bad name.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

History in Photos: the London Blitz

Here is a great collection of photos from the Battle of Britain in 1940.  You will recognize the iconic image of St. Paul's amid the smoke, though it is but one of many memorable images.  Look for 11-year-old then-Princess Elizabeth, close-ups of the Luftwaffe's Messerschmitts, and photos taken from the air.  I give you one image that really struck me.  Remember Napoleon's jibe "England is a nation of shopkeepers"?  Well, they're shopkeepers with nerves of steel.  Click to enlarge if you can't read the sign that the shop owner is chalking up the morning after a German air raid blew away the entire front of his store.


Bear + Wolf: Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Or not.

Kitchen Notes: World's 50 Most Delicious Foods

The list and the rankings are completely subjective, but overall? OM NOM NOM NOM!

Nerd Analysis: Fouad Ajami on Presidential Pessimism

Short version of a damning indictment: A sad sack executive does not fit a historically and robustly optimistic nation.    It's not just being a wet blanket; it's also being divisive and tiresomely condescending as an arrogant, amateurish ideologue.  The mask is off.

Japan Releases Annual Defense Report; China Predictably Angered

For Dignified Rant. The 2011 Japanese report was released on August 2, and it stated, among other things:
Japan's annual defence report had warned that China's naval forces were stepping up their activities in the East and South China Seas, and the Pacific. 
Japan was taking measures to bolster its coastal defences as a result of China's growing presence, it said. 
The report also warned of the danger of cyber attacks and said North Korea's nuclear and missile projects posed serious threats to national security. 
"Given the modernisation of China's naval and air forces in recent years, its sphere of influence is likely to grow beyond its neighbouring waters," it said. 
"China plans to expand its sphere of maritime activities, carrying out operations and training as an ordinary routine practice in waters surrounding Japan." 
Areas for potential conflict with China's navy included the "East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the South China Sea", it added.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Oh, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

LOL: The Obama Speech Keyboard

Well, hey!  Many of his glitteringly vacuous speeches are basically interchangeable with regard to buzzwords anyway, so this should make his speechwriters' work a whole lot easier.

Awesome: NatGeo Photo Contest Winners 2011

They're all lovely, but the National Geographic contest's first place winner is especially splendid.  Do go look.

Heh: Do You Have OIIS?

I hear it's a new epidemic sweeping the nation.

Euro Notes: Beware Greeks Bearing More Panic

There's a metaphor in here somewhere:
One senior investment banker is more blunt: "People are scared that the government doesn't know what the [expletive] it's doing." He tells a story about an acquaintance who took out €30,000, wrapped it in a bag and stashed it in his garage. "The bag had previously had some food inside," he says. "So it attracted rats, who ate the notes."

UPDATE: Of course, you could always just blame Zeus and the other Greek gods for your economic woes.

Swan Upping on the River Thames

How did I miss this annual avian census, complete with royal livery?  It dates from the 1100s!  By the way, check out the chaps who make it happen, the Queen's Swan Marker and the Swan Uppers of the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies.  Call me crazy, but that sounds like the name of a band.  An Elizabethan punk rock band that plays at Renaissance festivals.

UPDATE: Oh!  Here's a tidbit especially for my friend Lady Bird, herself an ornithologist. The Swan Upping crew even has a resident nerd -- Professor Christopher Perrins of the University of Oxford, an ornithologist who specializes in swans (natch). His role is helping to check Her Majesty's swans and cygnets for disease.  He gets the very cool title of "the Queen's Swan Warden."  Just imagine how that looks on a CV!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

LOL: the Debt Ceiling Rap

The End of Bin Laden: "Geronimo E.K.I.A.”

Read the whole riveting account, right down to the Navy SEAL on the radio: "For God and country."  Indeed.

You know, my sentiments haven't changed at all since the great moment when the news broke that Bin Laden was dead.  The guy wanted to be a symbol, and he got his wish -- though not, in the end, as he fantasized it would be.  His exit was a great moment for all decent people everywhere.  Related posts here.  I don't even care that this New Yorker piece seems oddly timed to highlight the president's one (admittedly) great success even while just everything else is going to hell in a handbasket, especially the economy.

Quirky Asia Files: Chopsticks to China

Here's a neat little tale about a Georgia company making chopsticks to send abroad because China's got a chopstick shortage.  The company also exports to Japan and Korea.  Well, whaddyaknow?  (I like bamboo chopsticks instead of wooden ones, but to each their own.) Belated link xie-xie to Sushiphagos the Progenitor of Alessandra!