Monday, October 24, 2011

Euro Notes: Excellent Estonia?

Hey, La Parisienne, maybe we should flee to Estonia if we decide against fleeing to New Zealand.  Look at this great quote from the economics minister:
"But when we had finally escaped from Soviet socialism, we were sick and tired of government centralism. We wanted precisely the opposite in all respects: We wanted a transparent state. A country that isn't constantly intervening, nationalizing businesses, placing a bureaucracy above everything and imposing rules on people in every respect."

Wouldn't This Cause More Car Wrecks

As people try to aim for the mimes?

ABSOLUTELY AWESOME: Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing"

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly" and "Dollhouse" fans rejoiced after Nathan Fillion tweeted a link to a site saying principal photography has wrapped on the previously unannounced project, which set the Internet abuzz with speculation. 
Joss Whedon has wrapped his next project. Only thing is, no one seems to know much about it. 
Fans of Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Dollhouse were rejoicing late Sunday night after frequent Whedon collaborators Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher and costume designer Shawna Trpcic tweeted a link to
Here is Fillion's tweet yesterday and follow-up reassurance it is indeed real.  Nathan, I could kiss you!  Here is Sean's tweet and follow-up that it's not a hoax. The website is this:   It describes the project as "A film by Joss Whedon. Based on a play."  Then look at the cast!  If ever you wondered what could cause a nerdgasm, this project is it.  Much ado about something awesome!  I am simply and utterly ecstatic!  Besides, this is the best Monday Therapy EVER.  More from Whedonesque.  The only response I can think of right now is this:

Storming the Gates: Another Revolution in Books

The beginning of the end of the traditional publisher?  Here's a quote from an enabler of this, -- i.e., an executive:  "The only really necessary people … are the writer and the reader."  The future seems set to include more writers and readers than ever.  I find it pretty exciting and liberating.  (By the way, I love Amazon.  By reducing the cost and therefore increasing the availability of books, it has enabled me to acquire more books than ever before -- and it's poised to do this on an even grander scale.)  

Now the whole idea of new publishing also calls for more autodidacts in terms of all this, but that's no bad thing if "traditional" sources of writing instruction aren't doing their job.  Here's some commentary on "creative destruction."  I suppose some folks will complain that this will mean that a lot of "bad" books will hit the open market.  Of course, what does this mean, "bad"?  I think there's a whiff of snobbery in this complaint.  There's also no accounting for taste.  Some of the books and authors that I love best were repeatedly rejected by publishers before finally hitting the market and becoming beloved by millions (see J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" and Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" series).  At the same time, some truly nauseatingly dreadful books have been accepted by publishers (some of which have flopped while others have been successful and successfully lampooned to great enjoyment).

You know what?  Let' em all publish and hit the open market of readers who will pick and choose what they want.  The ultimate winners are the readers.  Here's a related thought.  So, La Parisienne, get writing! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Daniel Hannan Asks a Question


7.2 Earthquake in Turkey

Breaking.  Just heard from a friend of mine who studied in Turkey.

Schadenfreude: Dissension at Occupy Wall Street

Check it out: now they are arguing about ... money.  And drumming.  And money for drumming.  My personal favorite line from the story is one protester complaining about homeless people who "feel entitled" to the protesters' things and come to mooch.  The utter lack of self-awareness is staggering.  Meanwhile, the disgruntled drummers are threatening to break away and form their own splinter group.  I'm sorry, I laughed out loud and thought of:

Disgustingly Cute: the Self-Amusing Dog

Watch this Jack Russell terrier play fetch with himself in London:

Good boy!

Fables and Foreign Policy: Is China the Scorpion?

Via View from Taiwan, Professor James Holmes has a few thoughts in applying the fable to Asia.

Pre-Occupied: Been There, Done That, Bored Now?

Heh.  Well, right from the start I did call it performance art or comedy improv.  Look, where I'm concerned, any "protest" that involves the usual suspects isn't really news.  The initial tea party protests were surprising in that they included all sorts of folks who weren't the usual suspects.

A Liberal Journalist Reflects

Do read this. I did say a long time ago that the fundamental problem was the transmogrification of objective journalism into unhidden advocacy. A blurb:
Someday, cultural historians will look back on the early 21st century and speculate about what killed the credibility of America’s so-called liberal-media elite. 
They will ask, Were the wounds self-inflicted or the product of a methodical plot? 
Make no mistake about it. We did this to ourselves. 
As a card-carrying member of the leftist media near-elite — alas, I’m not nearly rich or famous enough to be regarded as a 100% elitist — it pains me to see my brethren sinking like the sun in the west. But we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teachable Moment: Eminent Domain Debate

Sometimes you really do get teachable moments.  In class earlier, we were going as planned, and then we had a digression that turned into an impromptu class debate about eminent domain.  That hadn't been on my lesson plans, but I let it go because I thought it was a great "teachable moment."  The opinions and feelings expressed by the undergrads were actually close to what I personally espouse as an evil center-right enemy of social progress, and I was frankly rather surprised (and delighted) by the debate's results.  So, folks, at least in this one class, the kids are all right ... right down to their defense of property rights and their hostility to the Kelo decision even here in blue state Nerdworld.  Even the strongest defender of eminent domain conceded that it could be readily abused by corrupt politicians.  Well, whaddyaknow?  Glimmers of hope!

Why Does California Hate Yummy Things?

Oh, California, land of fruits and nuts.  First they came for the shark's fin soup.  Now they're coming for the foie gras.  Sure, you can say that these things are specialty items that most people don't eat often, and you'd be right, but that's not the point.  It's about the principle of the thing.  It's also the utter regard for food culture and culinary history. It's doubly also the incrementalism and government interference.  I quote from the foie gras story:
“I want people to have the freedom to eat what they want,” said [chef] Ludo Lefebvre ... “Animal rights people would turn everyone into a vegan if they could. I don’t want animal rights people to tell me what to eat. Today it’s foie gras. Tomorrow it’s going to be chicken, or beef.”
Preach it!  I also find extremely interesting this additional tidbit:
This is not the first time a community has tried to ban foie gras. It was outlawed in Chicago in 2006, producing a backlash from restaurants that, speakeasy-like, served foie gras secretly. The ban lasted barely two years.
Well, well, well.  How people refuse to learn anything from Prohibition!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Finding Common Ground?

The Chicago Boyz seem to have done it!  Check this out:

Perhaps we, from 99% to 53%, can also agree on the following ... ?

Has Your City Become a Hellhole?

A list of indicators, heh.  Via Rand Simberg.

MM in the Kitchen: Fettuccine Alfredo

Faster and easier than you might think.

Quote of the Day: Protests and Missing the Mark

From British MEP Daniel Hannan on the various and variously intellectually incoherent Occupy [Insert Location Here] protests:
The hard-Left protesters who marched in cities across the world today are wrong about many things, but they have got one thing absolutely right: bailing out first banks and then entire countries, is a form of class war against working people. 
The trouble is, the demonstrators are picking the wrong target. The people they should blame are not the financiers, but the politicians who obsequiously agreed to rescue them from the consequences of their malinvestments. 
Please understand, my Leftie friends, that what has taken place since 2008 is anything but capitalism. In a capitalist system, incompetent banks would have been allowed to fail, their profitable operations sold on to their competitors. Shareholders, bondholders and some depositors would have lost money, but taxpayers would not have contributed a penny.
Well, yes.  If these protesters had the least understanding of actual capitalism versus the perverse crony capitalism currently being practiced by corrupt-ocrats on both sides of the Pond and if these angry demonstrators actually had two economically-literate neurons to rub together, they'd be marching on government buildings.  But, of course, they don't.  And, so life imitates "Star Trek II": "You've managed to kill everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target!"  UPDATE: By the way, La Parisienne and I would like to note for the record that we always thought the massive government bailouts were stupid, but of course nobody listens to us.

One Professor Speaks To His University of California Peers: "Not In My Name"

UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge has some pithy comments in his open letter.  As Pejman Yousefzadeh notes, it's a good thing Professor Bainbridge has tenure.  Let's hear it for some actual, heterodox academic freedom.  I for one am tired of academics being blatant advocates and activists on campus.  Pursue your political hobbies on your own time, and while you're perfectly free to speak for yourself, don't you try to speak for other people who have voices of their own.

Another Day, Another Apocalypse

Today -- no, literally, today -- it's a "doomsday comet."  Yawn.  Bored now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Geek Fun: "Dragon Age"

Geek icon Felicia Day of "The Guild" has a new project now online.  Check it out, Koz and Alessandra!  (Oh, and how would I look with elf ears, I wonder?)

Nerd News: Is Forgiving Student Loan Debt "the Worst Idea Ever"?

This economist thinks so.  This econ prof doesn't think too much of it either.  Hmmm.

DIY LOL: Boost Your Wifi With a Beer Can

Check out this amusing writeup from the Discovery Channel.

MM in the Kitchen: Lemon Currant Scones

Perfect with coffee, tea, or cafe au lait.

Leftists and Property Rights

Harvard econ prof Greg Mankiw observes, with photographic evidence from the Occupy Wall Street kerfuffle, that even leftists believe in property rights when it comes to their property.  Heh! 

Dipstick Duel: Krugman vs. Zakaria

Pass the popcorn!  For even more Krugman silliness and hypocrisy, see this.  UPDATE:  Dignified Rant notes that this could only get better if that other famous dipstick Friedman gets involved.  Why, yes!

Hmmm ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The 53% Push Back

Here's an interesting blog.  You'll remember this and this.

Happy 50th Birthday to Germany's Ampelmännchen

And just what are the Ampelmännchen?  Delightfully adorable little traffic light figures wearing jaunty hats.  Do look.  More here.

Geek News: Researching the Black Death

I got your Yersinia pestis apocalypse right here!  99% of the plague bacterium's genome has been sequenced.

California Bans Shark's Fin Soup

Here comes the food police.  Oh, and apparently it makes no never mind that it's got a ton of cultural and culinary significance to the Chinese and Taiwanese communities!  (In case you're wondering: Yes, I've had shark's fin soup.  Yes, I like it.  Yes, I eat it whenever I get the chance.  I like bird's-nest soup too, but I like shark's fin more.  Yes, I'm eeeeeeeeeeeevil.  No, I haven't had that soup in a few years.  It's expensive, and I'm just a penniless nerd!)  Here's a bit from the news story:
Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy; walk into certain restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown, and you're guaranteed to find it--but not for much longer. Last week, California governor Jerry Brown signed a law banning the sale of shark fins. It's a move that is being celebrated by environmentalists, but some Chinese Americans are complaining that the law is an attack on their culture.
Apparently 85% of U.S. shark fin consumption occurs in California.  You know what's bound to happen, though, right?  A black market trade in shark fins and that soup.  Do you honestly think you can stop a food-loving culture from getting what it really wants?  GET REAL.  Hasn't Prohibition taught us anything?  More here, plus this: raaaaaaaaaacist?

53%, 47%, and Who Pays Federal Income Taxes

At least this piece acknowledges that almost half the country doesn't pay federal income taxes, but it seems to think it's all OK.  I kind of find the entire idea galling.  Disclaimer: I pay federal income taxes!

Movie Trailer: "The Avengers"

YES, PLEASE.  Oh, and for La Parisienne especially, there's a delightfully sassy quip or two by our favorite captain of industry.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Birdies, Eagles, and Roos: Golfing in Australia

Check out this remarkable photo.

Putin's Stunt Was Just a Stunt

I'm shocked -- shocked! -- to find that gambling  propagandizing is going on here!  Well, DUH.  In other news, water is wet, fire is hot, and coffee is the elixir of life.

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: the Hello Kitty Smart Car

It seems to be owned by a San Diego Charger.  Is this another case of people having more money than taste?

Friday Fun Video: Re-Editing Classic Flicks, George Lucas-Style

There is absolutely no reason why anybody should insert a "Nooooo!" for Darth Vader in that climactic scene.  His silence is what makes it so powerful!  I wish Lucas would leave the original "Star Wars" alone, but since he won't, let's make fun of his clueless revisions.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs at the 2005 Stanford Commencement

Consider this my tribute to the late Steve Jobs.  Here is the transcript.  See this too.  We're going to miss you, Steve.

Awesome Science: A Quadruple Rainbow

How cool is that?!

MM in the Kitchen: Almond-Berry Coffee Cake

Nerd does not live on coffee alone.

Ave atque Vale, Steve Jobs

Goodbye to a pioneer.  Here is the announcement from Apple.  56 is far too young.  

A Renaissance Man

I'm glad there are still some Renaissance men out there!

Euro Notes: Has the EU Failed?


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Unicorns of US-China Policy


Taiwanese News Animators Vs. Amanda Knox

Inevitable.  The face-off with Casey Anthony is a nice touch.

Confucius Say, ROTLMAO

Remember this?  Now via View From Taiwan comes this glorious link.  This whole mess couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of people.  How do you say "Schadenfreude" in Taiwanese?

Nerd News: Free Speech Lives at George Mason Law School

Free speech on campus?  You're doing it right, Dean Polsby.  Every dean, administrator, and edu-crat should read this.

Public Service Announcement: Watch "Prohibition"!

I had just noted this new PBS documentary, but now that I've had a chance to watch it myself, I can't recommend it enough.  It's fantastic!  You can watch all of it online here.  I just love how one historian flatly says about Prohibition, "What a stupid idea!"  As for "MM Behind the Bar" for the duration of your viewing, she shall make you a dirty martini.

Watch the full episode. See more Ken Burns.

Monday, October 03, 2011

History Lesson: Prohibition

Kyle Smith has a review of the new PBS documentary, and he piquantly observes:
“Prohibition,” a three-part miniseries that ... comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, has many lessons to teach us about such antiquated, 1920s-era ideas as federal overreach, unfunded mandates to states, runaway taxation, a belief that great political leaders can accelerate human progress, crony capitalism, and of course the dire need of Washington to take steps to improve the lot of the poor and the children. 
In other words, “Prohibition” is, to an almost mischievous extent, an investigative report about 2011.
By the way, the documentary's website is here.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

LOL: Poland's Death Metal Political Ad

The translation is here, here is some snarky commentary, and the ad itself is embedded below for your delectation, gentle reader:

Chicks with Guns

OK, so that blog title sounds cooler than "15 million women adhere to the Second Amendment."  Say what you will, but that one piece of equipment can be the difference between a woman being a victim or not.  I vote for not being a victim.

The best "chick with a gun" story I have involves a genteel older lady who was always immaculately dressed, coiffed, and made up -- a former beauty queen with impeccable manners and fashion sense.  In a passing conversation one day, she mentioned, "Oh, yes, I saw a rabid skunk out by the garage.  I didn't have time to call my husband, so I just pulled my gun out of my purse and shot it myself."  Then she went back to talking about interior decorating without missing a beat.  I was impressed.

Lady Gaga, Call Your Office

Somebody has one-upped Lady Gaga's previous and spectacularly tasteless abattoir chic.  Words fail me.  What do you think?

Euro Notes: "the danse macabre of the euro"

The dream becomes a nightmare? 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

LOL: PETA, the New York Times, and Love Poultry

I laughed out loud.  Do you know that the chicken in question is now on Twitter and snarking at PETA?  As for the fact that PETA beclowns itself yet again, it's a commonplace.

Great Moments in Research: the 2011 Ig Noble Award Winners

Silly research rears its head again!  I especially like the research into how tortoises yawn.

What's In a Name? How About Some Gravity?

I know we've all been following the whole "Fast and Furious" gunrunning scandal-in-the-making, and it's troubling, but I can't help snarking at it too.  Look, here's this disastrous thing, and the best name its perpetrators could come up with is the title of a totally crappy movie?  It's like the entire "Odyssey Dawn" Libya enterprise (about which the mainstream media seems to have conveniently forgotten) that has, as the Cine-Sib notes, a name that basically sounds like the stage name of a stripper or the title of a Twilight book.  I'm not really sure what my point is ... but it's something to do with the yet-unsharpened notion that the juxtaposition of serious, even deadly, business with silly, puerile, wannabe-cool names -- all followed by messy, prolonged repercussions -- is some kind of accidental metaphor for today's political leadership class. 

Nerd News: Thoughts on Scholarly Publication

Thoughts noted by law prof Ann Althouse.  Still, the old "publish or perish" rule still applies on campuses everywhere.

Nerd News: Cheating on the SAT

The infamy of this standardized exam is matched only by the history of cheating on it (and by the college admissions process that uses these exam scores).  Of course, every major exam system in history has had its history of cheating. (One of my favorite stories is from medieval China's bureaucratic entrance exams, during which some enterprising folks smuggled in answers inside steamed buns.)