Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year From Mars

Your 2012 Music Retrospective Dance Mix

Here's the soundtrack for your New Year's Eve dance party, darlings!

Worst Op-ed of 2012 Is ... *Drum Roll* ...

TA-DA!!  Coming in at the last possible minute, this thing takes the cake.  Honestly, at first I thought this had to be something by the Onion.  I mean, a constitutional law professor saying we should chuck the Constitution.  Hahaha - Oh, you're serious. I am further bemused/amused to see this. (Scroll down to realize that Glenn Greenwald and I are actually on the same page. LOL!)  Anyway:

2012: JibJab's Year In Review

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs (and Kittens and Bunnies and Ducks) of War!

While I can't say much for Buzzfeed's (in)ability to spell the word "soldiers," I'll happily link to its charming collection of mostly vintage photos.  #11 made me do a double take.  Hey, that puppy looks kind of weird ...

Dave Barry's Year in Review, 2012 Edition

Barry's annual snarky, satirical review is as hilarious as ever.  Here's a piece of it:
In the new year’s first major disaster, the Mediterranean cruise ship Costa Concordia goes way off course, hits a rock, and sinks. The captain, Francesco Schettino, is immediately relieved of command and placed in charge of the Italian economy.

2012: the Year in Movies

100 Astonishing Photos of 2012

Amazing snaps.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Et Tu, Ricochet?


Quote of the Day: Mark Steyn on Equal Justice Under Law

Just look at what l'affaire David Gregory hath wrought. Steyn observes:
Laws either apply to all of us or none of us. If they apply only to some, they’re not laws but caprices — and all tyranny is capricious.
Well, DUH.  Of course, I also feel compelled to offer this PSA: "The Fact That A Law Exists Doesn't Mean That It's Not Stupid."  (On a related note, remember this?  We're all felons now, eh?)  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quote of the Day: Samuel L. Jackson on Gun Violence

From a recent interview during which the reporter asked about Newtown:
"I don't think movies or video games have anything to do with it. I don't think [stopping gun violence] is about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere, and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren't taught the value of life."
Or more to the point, "don't care about the value of life."

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

Oui, mon ami.  Regulators and unions coming for your traditional unpasteurized artisan fromage?  TO THE BARRICADES!

Art Imitates Crop Circles

Art? Exercise? Both!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Taiwan: Security Issues Never Take a Holiday

While I've been obsessing about holiday recipes (naughty), Dignified Rant still has his eye on the ball (nice).

Happy Holidays from the Military Working Dogs of Afghanistan

I know I'm a day late for Christmas, but the pups are so adorable that I'm sure you (a) won't mind and (b) would be more annoyed with me if I didn't share them!  More here, where there's info if you would like to send a care package.

Movie Madness: "The Place Beyond the Pines"

Something to look forward to in 2013!  Gentlemen, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne. Ladies, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. I don't like Ryan's chemical hair and uber-tattoos, but at the same time, I don't even care.  The only words that matter: Ryan with a baby.  Even this childless unmarried monster is instantly enthralled.  Here's the trailer.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

MM in the Kitchen: Traditional Roast Christmas Goose

Golly, the whole thing makes me want to wear hoopskirts and bonnets and go full Victorian Christmas!

Merry Christmas: King's College, Cambridge's Annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Here is the background, and you can listen to the lovely Christmas music on BBC World Service online for a few more days.  The first carol is always "Once in Royal David's City," and it's gorgeous, simply gorgeous. Enjoy, gentle reader!

Blast from Past: Christmas 1994 is Still Terribly Catchy

No, I do not apologize.  Yes, I got coal in my stocking for posting this.

Inevitable: Christmas Lights Gangnam Style

From the Cine-Sib, natch:

Operation Christmas Drop

Now here's a heartwarming tale.  For some kids in Micronesia, Santa wears a flight suit:

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Christmas *Hic*

A bit of salty language so this isn't for little kids, but I think it's hilarious.  Enjoy!

Christmas Eve Santa Tracking!

Lots of options, including apps for your smartphone.  NORAD is still my favorite as it carries on its grand old tradition dating from 1955.

MM in the Kitchen: Rosemary-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

With horseradish cream.

TSA = Terrible Shenanigans Again

As everyone travels to spend Christmas with family and friends, here are two giggles to help you on your way if you're flying:

~TSA = Taking Sense Away according to this blog by a former TSA screener

~Remy is back with another holiday TSA video (recall his hilarious 2011 offering?):

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Treegonometry: The Formula for A Perfectly Trimmed Christmas Tree

Some math students at the University of Sheffield have come up with "treegonometry," formulae and all, and they've made a calculator to help you decorate your tree!

MM in the Kitchen: Macadamia-Crusted Rack of Lamb

Doesn't rack of lamb sound yummy?  In fact, this entire decadent Christmas menu from Australia sounds glorious.

The Champagne Index of French National Happiness

Apparently this index isn't official, but it darn well ought to be.  France is currently having a bad case of the holiday blues, and sales of bubbly are way, way down.

"Necessary Measures": Israel Planning for a Post-Assad Syria

Hmmmm.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, as usual?  Netanyahu:
"We are monitoring developments in Syria, where there are dramatic developments almost daily. We are co-operating with the US and, together with the international community, are taking the necessary measures to prepare ourselves for the possibility of far-reaching changes in the regime, with implications for the sensitive weapons systems there."

Ivy League Admissions and Asian American Students


RELATED: Entrance exam issues at Stuy earlier this year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Larry Correia on Gun Control

Why should you care what a bestselling sci-fi author has to say about guns?  Because he was also a firearms instructor and competition shooter who has worked with law enforcement and knows more about guns than your average talking head on the news.  Read this, please, if you haven't already.  Here is a piece of it:
Gun Free Zones are hunting preserves for innocent people. Period. 
Think about it. You are a violent, homicidal madman, looking to make a statement and hoping to go from disaffected loser to most famous person in the world. The best way to accomplish your goals is to kill a whole bunch of people. So where’s the best place to go shoot all these people? Obviously, it is someplace where nobody can shoot back. 
In all honesty I have no respect for anybody who believes Gun Free Zones actually work. You are going to commit several hundred felonies, up to and including mass murder, and you are going to refrain because there is a sign? That No Guns Allowed sign is not a cross that wards off vampires. It is wishful thinking, and really pathetic wishful thinking at that.
On another day I might blog about how I personally think that most efforts at gun control are actually and ultimately efforts at people control, but you pretty much can anticipate what I'd say, right? As for arguments that nobody should own firearms except the police ...  Just stop and think about that for a minute.  Do proponents of this realize that they're basically arguing in favor not only of more crime but also a potential police state?  What happens if and when it gets corrupted and nasty and starts to abuse power and stomp on your civil liberties?  Anyway, it's too late tonight to talk much more about a complicated issue and meditations on self-defense (not only as a right but also even as a responsibility), so I'm just going to sign off with this and one of my favorite lines from Firefly.  You know the one, darlings. Oh, you know.

MM in the Kitchen: Bacon and Spinach-Stuffed Rib-Eye Roast

What do you think of this for Christmas dinner?  Mmmmm, BACON.

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012)

Put a ring on it.

Peter Jackson manages to avoid repeating George Lucas' grossest errors in prequel-formation as he takes us back to Middle Earth in an imperfect, overly long film that is still worth the price of admission for the simultaneously humorous and horrifying contest of riddles between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quote of the Day: the Rush to Blame

From the good folks over at TechDirt:
The tragedy last week in Connecticut is still horrifying to think about on many different levels -- but the constant search for blame, and using it to support pet political ideas is troubling. This isn't to say that we don't necessarily need to have a "conversation" on various hot potato political issues, but basing it around an event like this isn't likely to be a productive and informed conversation, but one driven purely by emotions. I understand the desire, and the idea that making use of such a tragedy to create political will to do something, is all too tempting. But I fear what happens when we legislate around emotions, rather than reality. And, no I'm not even going to touch the question of gun control or mental health treatment. Both obviously evoke strong opinions from people on all sides of the issue (and, contrary to popular opinion, there are more than two sides to those issues). Instead, let's talk about the rush to blame video games and TV shows, as seems to happen every single time there's a mass shooting -- and almost always done with no evidence. 

Some Good News: Richard Engel & News Crew Freed in Syria

Oh, thank goodness!
NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and members of his network production team were freed from captors in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday, five days after they were taken prisoner, NBC News said early Tuesday. 
“After being kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and his production crew members have been freed unharmed. We are pleased to report they are safely out of the country,” the network said in a statement. 
“It is good to be here,” Engel said during a live appearance on TODAY from Turkey. “I’m very happy that we’re able to do this live shot this morning.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Quote of the Day: Surveillance Society

It’s anyone’s guess how we are supposed to stop terrorism by focusing so much of our energies on monitoring the activities of people who will never be terrorists.
Not unrelated: the execrable (and useless) TSA, along with everything we've ever said about the encroaching, intrusive, snooping government playing fast and loose with civil liberties and every rant ever about how we are citizens, not subjects.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life Imitates the Onion: Kim Jong Un

The Onion. The results of a recent Time magazine reader poll.  (How many of those votes do you think were cast by trolls and other snarky Internet agents provocateurs?)

LOL: Tolkien + One Direction = ?

The Hobbit is now in theaters, so let's have some fun with Tolkien and a certain pop song.  Now the last time that I mentioned UK boy band One Direction, it was not a happy occasion, but I promise this time is different!  Caveat: the song is darn catchy earwormy goodness.

Quote of the Day: The Syria Debacle

Unkind, but not necessarily untrue:
Watching the nightmare in Syria unfold, you have to ask yourself: Could the Obama administration have made a worse hash out of the situation if it had tried?

Friday Fun Video: Singing Vikings

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meet the Rare New Guinea Singing Dog

Good boy!

Property Rights ... In Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

All kidding aside, this is very interesting.

Worse Than $7 Coffee at Starbucks

Thanks, but no thanks.  And yes, I know all about that civet cat coffee too, and I'm not going for that either.  Ugh.

All Politics Are Local

I can get on board with this!  This proposal also means no bailouts, I assume, that take money from fiscally responsible states to "rescue" irresponsible ones.

It's 12-12-12 Today

Hey!  Today is 12-12-12 regardless of whether you are reckoning it by the American way (month, day, year) or not (day, month, year).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Econ Prof: "Why Is Higher Ed So Expensive?"

Econ prof Daniel Lin explains why higher ed is so expensive and why government subsidies for it are so ultimately counter-productive:

Philippines and Japanese Rearmament

WWII history or not, Manila appears to be absolutely fine with the idea.  Everybody's interested in counterbalancing China. Remember this?  WWII was 60+ years ago.  Manila is worrying about right now.

The UK and Syria

Hm, what's this?

The Science Behind the Disgusting Durian

In case you ever wondered just how and why the durian reeks the way it does. Ewwwww!

LOL: LEGO Battle of Helm's Deep

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Therapy: Total Unhinged Vehicular Mayhem

Because no matter how bad your commute is, it can't be this bad.  Via Ace of Spades and the Cine-Sib, here come 13 minutes of pure insanity.  I don't speak Russian, but I think it's safe to say there should be a language warning if you do. I can't help but quote Ace too:
When you drive in Russia literally anything can happen - and does. If you watch the full 13 minutes of this video you'll see that the Russian driver has to be prepared for sheep, drunks, tires, trees, elks, front loaders, gun fights, power lines, helicopters, and even jet planes at any moment.
I haven't seen this many cars entertainingly crashed since the Blues Brothers. And yes wanton destruction makes me all tingly and happy inside.
I laughed uproariously ... and then watched the entire video all over again.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Internet Cat Culture + International Relations = ?


Friday Fun Video: The British Monarchy In Song

After all the hoopla this week about the royal bun in the oven, let's take a look at the line of monarchs that Baby Cambridge will join as third in line to the throne (it's Queen Elizabeth II now, then Prince Charles, then Prince William, and then Baby Cambridge).  The song starts with William the Conqueror.  Sorry, Anglo-Saxons!  Too bad about that whole Battle of Hastings thing, guys.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Headline of the Day on Libya

I present the following New York Times (!) headline without comment:
"U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands"

Geek News: Congress, the UN, and Internet Regulations

For once Congress did something right.

Movie Madness: "Star Trek: Into Darkness" Trailer

Quote of the Day: Axes to Grind

From some useful thoughts on civil discourse and trying to see where the other person is coming from:
My hypothesis is that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes. For progressives, the main axis has oppressors at one end and the oppressed at the other. For conservatives, the main axis has civilization at one end and barbarism at the other. For libertarians, the main axis has coercion at one end and free choice at the other.
Of course, these are just guidelines. I'm inclined to see coercion in its most flagrant forms as a kind of barbarism.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Forgotten History: the Philanthropist and the Queen

Interesting stuff here:
She is regarded as the ancient world’s equivalent to the Mona Lisa and this weekend the 3,400–year old bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti will be the centrepiece of a grand exhibition in Berlin’s Neues Museum, celebrating her discovery by German archaeologists exactly a century ago.

The delicately featured and priceless bust of the wife of the ancient Egyptian Sun King Akhenaten has been one of the highlights of Berlin’s museum collection since it was first put on display in the city in 1923.

It was unearthed by the famous German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, at Amarna in 1912. He became a household name in Germany but few know the story of the wealthy Jewish patron and philanthropist who not only funded the excavation work that led to the bust’s discovery but also donated Nefertiti and scores of other ancient Egyptian artefacts he owned to Berlin’s museums. Organisers of the centenary celebrations are hoping to change that.
Yes, please meet James Simon, who was written out of the history books after the rise of the Nazis in 1933.

Amid Egyptian Turmoil, A Notable Placard

As protesters rush the Presidential Palace, Twitter reveals a particularly piquant sign.  Oh ... dear.

Seriously, though, here are a few thoughts, including:
Watch this one closely, folks. This is a real revolution: The shape of the Egyptian state is up for grabs and Egyptian society doesn’t really know what it wants or where it is headed. History is unfolding in real time.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

LOL: New York City as Tolkienesque Map

Look carefully for all the jokes. Don't miss the reference to a certain New Jersey governor too!

Wow: Making (Personalized!) Stem Cells From Blood

Some exciting news from the University of Cambridge:
A patient's own blood has been used to make personalised stem cells, which doctors hope will eventually be used to treat a range of diseases.

The team at the University of Cambridge says this could be one of the easiest and safest sources of stem cells.

In a study, published in the journal Stem Cells: Translational Medicine, the cells were used to build blood vessels.

However, experts cautioned that the safety of using such stem cells was still unclear.

Gorgeous Photos from NatGeo's Annual Competition

Look at these lovely photos submitted by some of the world's best shutterbugs.

Monday, December 03, 2012

A Tale of Two Headlines

December 1: "More Babies, Please."

December 3: "Kate's Pregnant: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Announce They Are Having a Baby."

Oh, and congratulations!  Now before you go off whingeing about the hoopla, I just want to say this: Why?  This is pretty much like all the griping about the wedding last year.  Two young people are happily taking a leap of faith together and starting a family. Say congratulations and good luck to them as to any couple who are doing likewise, and leave it at that. I think it's delightful that folks are excited about a baby!  Such happy and hopeful news!

Meet Shin Dong-hyuk, North Korean Refugee

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a North Korean prison camp and escaped at age 23.

His story, Escape From Camp 14, is here.

Book Review: "The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza" by Eyal Weizman (2012)

The book (or at least its intent) sounds interesting, and this review even more so since it actually uses the delightful and grossly underappreciated word "defenestrated" a few paragraphs in. Anyway, here's a blurb:
For Weizman, instead of regulating or limiting violence, international humanitarian law (that is, the laws of war) actually legitimates certain manifestations of it. This is due to the utilitarian logic that pervades our thinking about violence caused by states and their agents, reasoning that sees “the sphere of morality as a set of calculations aimed to approximate the optimum proportion between common goods and necessary evils.” According to Weizman, deeming certain evils “necessary” provides the conceptual cover for further acts of cruelty. What begins as a “pragmatic compromise” between two terrible choices becomes an acceptable logic in less than exceptional circumstances. The logic of the exception is widened; the infliction of suffering is made civilized and inevitable. Weizman focuses largely on the concept of proportionality.

Quirky Euro Files, Holiday Edition: the Gävle Goat of Sweden

Let's see how long he can hang on this year before somebody burns him down! Here's a webcam and even a blog and Twitter account for the gigantic straw goat. You gotta love a holiday tradition that involves ritual arson.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

An Advent Calendar For Grownups

Need a wee dram to get you through the holiday stresses?  Here's something perfect for that.  Or this.  It all brings a whole new meaning to the term "Christmas spirit."

Canada Vs. the UN

I hadn't posted about the kerfuffle in the UN on the upgraded status for the Palestinians, but now I think I have to because Canadian-raised Alessandra just alerted me to a news item with the pleased comment: "Did you hear that the Canadians grew some balls?"  There's no way you can ignore a news item like that!

Headline of the Day + Best Use of Scare Quotes

Ah, British humour! The Telegraph can barely contain the gleeful disdain: "North Korea 'archaeologists' report quite unbelievable discovery of unicorn lair." 

I love the use of scare quotes around the word 'archaeologists.' Note the brilliant choice of accompanying image. Well played, Telegraph.  The only thing you could do to improve it would be to Photoshop Kim Jong Un into the mix so that he's riding that unicorn ... or perhaps do something like this.

I think I'll also nominate this tale as "worst/dumbest propaganda of the year." 

Rachel Lucas on the Fiscal Cliff Shenanigans

What do you think? Rachel's also running an impromptu poll, where currently the "let it burn" option is winning by a huge margin. 

An additional thought: everyone's howling about taxes, but the bigger problem is the government spending, and that does include entitlement reform.

Meanwhile, I'm sure we're all delighted that Obama's apparently scheduled a 20-day Hawaiian vacation over Christmas, so if we do go sailing over the fiscal cliff in fine Thelma and Louise fashion, he'll be off sunning himself in Oahu or whatever on $4 million of taxpayer money.  "Let them eat Hawaiian vacations"? 

Yeah, that really demonstrates how much he cares for the little guy, the unemployed guy, the people actually suffering from the toxic effects of this craptastic economy.  Hey!  I thought a bunch of people voted for him because you thought he was more "empathetic" or some touchy-feely nonsense like that.  O RLY?  I bet he'll really be feeling your pain when he's out there surfing for 3 whole weeks.  The optics are horrible, but nobody seems to mind. (No, I don't care if it's a habitual place to go for him. I'm talking about right now.)  Meanwhile, the closest your humble hostess is going to get to Hawaii any time soon is this.

RELATED POST: LOL, though it's not funny, not funny at all.  There's no way you can seriously propose $50 billion for another ill-advised round of stimulus spending, much less - well - any of the rest of it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Quote of the Day: Sen. Rand Paul and A New Standard

This is too hilarious not to post even though I should be working:
I will tell you, since I know this record of this debate will be widely read, that I want to make formal objection to the "crazy bastards standard." I don’t really think that if we’re going to have a "crazy bastards standard" that we shouldn’t have a right to trial by jury, because if we’re going to lock up all the crazy bastards, for goodness sakes would you not want if you’re a crazy bastard to have a right to trial by jury?
All right. For using the term "crazy bastard" repeatedly in an actual Congressional debate about terrorism, you get your own blog tag, snarky Rand.

Here's the video:

John Yoo: "Why Aren't Asians Republicans?"

He says he's going to write a book. GOOD. 

I would add that in terms of "Republicans" he should make a distinction between establishment big-spending GOP and the actual principles of minimal government and maximal freedom - i.e., the more libertarian side of things where I (and a lot of my friends) live.  We define the American Dream as success from hard work, good education, and self reliance, not handouts and dependency, for goodness sake.

I hate identity politics, their reductive categorization of individuals according to arbitrary traits, and the tribalistic, divisive "us versus them" mentality it tends to breed, but I've also seen a lot of people who aren't Asian Americans trying to "analyze" Asian Americans in the wake of the election.  Let an actual Asian American have a go, shall we? Go, John, go!

Fiscal Cliff LOL

I do mean an actual LOL. At this point, incredulous, derisive, "you have got to be freaking kidding me" laughter does seem a fitting response to this completely unserious administration.

"The First Thing We Do - We Kill All The ..."

Incredible silliness from a law dean, which is - now that I think of it - not a surprise.

UPDATE: Smackdown. Don't miss the link to responses by recent law school grads.

Friday Fun Video: "Meltdown"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lessons From a 1956 Sears Catalog

Fascinating, actually!  For instance:
Sears’s lowest-priced 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, was priced, in 1956, at $129.95.  (You can find this range on page 1049 of the 1956 Sears catalog.)  Home Depot sells a 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, today for $348.00.

The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 129.95/1.89 – or 69 hours – to buy an ordinary kitchen range.  His or her counterpart today must work 348.00/19.79 – or 18 hours – to buy the same sized ordinary range.
By the way, the numbers use the following: "[For 2012] ... the nominal average hourly earnings of nonsupervisory nonfarm private production workers in the U.S. [is] $19.79 (as of October 2012) ... For 1956 I instead use average hourly manufacturing earnings of production workers. That figure is $1.89."

Land Grabs: Maps and Territorial Disputes

Bring it on!  Well, at least it's better than Apple Maps.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Free Advice: Hey, Beijing, Bullying Is Not a Foreign Policy

In terms of looking at China's foreign policy, consider these also the quotes of the day:
“Chinese assertion has backfired,” says Andrew Carr, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at the Australian National University in Canberra.

“They don’t see the connection between upping the tempo on the maritime operations and the fact that so many countries in the region are moving towards the very counter-containment strategies Beijing doesn’t want,” says Michael Green, former Asia director at the National Security Council ...
Seriously, what do you say about a course of action that makes Japanese rearmament look great even to Japan's neighbors?

Book Review: New Biography of Mao

This one focuses on Mao's ties with Stalin. The bloodiest bromance of the 20th century?

Oh, Those Stoic Singaporeans

"Polls" like this aren't good for much more than a giggle, but here is this ranking that says Singaporeans are the least emotional folks in the world.  Really?

(Now I can't get the "Clearly you've never been to Singapore" line from Pirates of the Caribbean out of my head.)

Dreaming of a Mars Colony

Who's feeling adventurous?

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream For Edvard Munch

Dude needs a better museum?

Chinese Paper Falls for Onion Joke

You might remember me giggling about the Onion's take on People magazine's annual silliness.  Even funnier?  Two Asian newspapers thought the Onion was real news and in all seriousness published stories about the unbearable hawtness of Kim Jong-Un. I laughed out loud.  The gaffe is now all over the international news whenever you care to look.  Even better: the Onion has amended its original story to include the following:
For more coverage on The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People's Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades.
Well played, Onion.  Well played.

UPDATE: Plenty of other people have been fooled by the Onion too.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Shopping In a Nutshell

This is pretty much what the holiday weekend shopping experience is like - sheer laughable, incomprehensibly chaotic madness, and then you feel the sudden overwhelming urge to punch someone in the face.   You know I'm right.


In case you are reading this piece and wondering, "Hmmm, what did Mad Minerva just say?" here it is.  I believe the exact words of advice to the GOP were "NO JEB BUSH. EVER."

Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami on the "Arab Spring"

Two of the most influential scholars of the Middle East weigh in.  Caveat: their analyses culminate in completely different conclusions.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Dignified Rant!

Ave atque Vale, Larry Hagman (1931-2012)

Hail and farewell to the actor who will always be defined as J.R. Ewing, one of the best TV villains ever.  What an icon of pop culture.  Gentle readers of a certain age will surely remember this theme song:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipe Dump

Now that Thanksgiving's over, are you looking at a mountain of leftovers?  Never fear - recipe ideas are here!  I kind of like the turkey pot pie with cheddar biscuit topping myself.  In related news, I'll have you know that there is no shame in eating pumpkin/apple/whatever pie for breakfast for the entire extended holiday weekend - NO SHAME AT ALL.

Morsi in Egypt: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Morsi decrees himself to be above judicial oversight and thus basically grabs tyrannical powers.  Meet the new boss pharaoh, same as the old boss pharaoh.  Oh, I'm sure this will turn out just frickin' awesome.

Quote of the Day: Insta-Prof on Communists

The eminent law prof seems rather peppery:
Communists are no better than Nazis. Refusing to hire Communists is on the same moral plane as refusing to hire Nazis. Which is to say: It’s a good and admirable thing, not a sin. Go broke and starve, commies. It’s what you deserve for being eager, willing servants of totalitarianism.
Don't hold back, now.  Tell us what you really think!

One More Thing To Be Thankful For

You are not the New York Jets.

I've watched the video about a dozen times, and I still can't believe that this laugh-out-loud, hilarribly atrocious moment actually happened.  It's not so much a fumble as it is slapstick comedy gold.  So - worst team in the NFL right now or worst team ever?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Movie Review: "Skyfall" (2012)

Skyfall will make you forget the disappointment of Quantum of Solace (2008) as it fulfills the thrilling potential that Casino Royale (2006) presented of a new kind of Bond, and Daniel Craig blows away any lingering doubts that he is the best Bond since the iconic Sean Connery.  Moreover, Skyfall - a movie that was almost never made as critics wondered if the Bond genre had gone extinct - is a triumph that, despite some flaws, resurrects Bond in glory as the box office celebrated.  This is Bond wrapped in elegiac themes and gorgeous visual artistry, Bond a galaxy away from the self-parodic wisecracks of the past, Bond that plumbs the depths and doubts of being Bond.  It is also, as the Cine-Sib said, "a reboot without being a reboot," and the result is riveting. The full review is after the jump, but if you're in a hurry and can't engage right now, at least take a look at the spectacular music video of Grammy-winning Adele (!) singing the Skyfall theme:

Nerd Journal: Meet Lady Krav MaGaga

I've fled Nerdworld for a few days for Thanksgiving, so I'm happily home and catching up with old friends.  One of them has just spent a few months picking up a brand new skill set as a hobby, and it turns out she wasn't needlepointing or gardening or messing with decoupage. Nope, the girl was taking Krav Maga lessons for fitness and fun.  (You do know what Krav Maga is?)  She also just got her first belt, so she'll now be known on this blog as Lady Krav MaGaga.

So we were just hanging out over coffee and she was telling me about her new hobby.

"Oh!" I said. "I heard it isn't very pretty but that it's brutally effective."

"Yeah!" She perked up. "Hey, wanna see?"


Famous last words, right?

"So sneak up behind me and grab my hair," she said, instructing me to be the bad guy.

And then POW!  She pulled her punches and didn't make actual contact, but about ten seconds later I was like, "Uhhhh ... DUDE, HOLY CRAP."

She grinned. 

"So basically if I were a real bad guy, I'd be a puddle on the floor screaming, 'Oh, my balls!'"

"Teehee!  Here, grab my hair again and I'll show you in slo-mo."

Let it be known, potential muggers and assorted scumbags out there, do NOT mess with this chick!  She looks all cute and little, but Lady Krav MaGaga will beat the stuffing out of you and look all adorable while doing it.  And don't think about sneaking up behind me and grabbing me by the hair either.

So what did you think my friends and I do when we're not studying?  Sitting around with glossy fashion magazines and talking about boys and makeup?  Well, OK, sometimes, but not always. 

Headline of the Day: "The Purple Prose of Cairo"

Great wordplay with a movie title, not to mention all too fitting for the content. Here's a blurb from the substance:
In the battle of Gaza, Egypt is the fact-checker. Egypt is the referee. Egypt is the peacemaker.

That’s what Egypt says.  But Egypt is none of these things. What Egypt has done, at best, is to douse a fire that was ignited and fed by Egypt.

According to the New York Times, at a weekend briefing in Cairo, Egyptian officials “sought to blame Israel for the conflict while at the same time maintaining Egypt’s role as an intermediary pressing both sides for peace.” A senior Egyptian official, quoted by the Times, accused the West of “double standards” for embracing Israel’s, but not Gaza’s, right to self-defense. The official said “the blame should be directed toward the occupation,” and he chided Western media for reporting that Hamas had fired “rockets” when in fact Hamas was only launching crude “projectiles.” On Tuesday, Egypt’s state news agency boasted that thanks to the ceaseless diplomatic toil of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, “the farce of Israeli aggression” would soon end.

Oh, yes. Do tell us all about farces, projectiles, aggression, blame, and double standards.

Dear Security Council ...

Here is a fascinating (and grim) look at the multiple letters sent to the Security Council by Israel's ambassador to the UN. Dating from February 27 to November 12 of this year, these missives detail the increasing rocket attacks from Gaza (as well as the Security Council's silence). Yep, nobody cares about people firing rockets into Israel, but heaven forfend the Israelis get sick of it and fight back, so cue now massive scurryings and utterings at the same UN.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Fresh Hell Is This? Email Privacy

Oh yeah, I'm sure this is going to turn out frickin' awesome:
A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.

CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.
UPDATE: Given universal outrage, Leahy backs off. Good.

Headline Hilarity: On Drone Warfare

Some wag at Foreign Policy gave this title to a piece about drones: "Silent but Deadly." *sophomoric snicker*

Thanksgiving Planning Guide!

Logistics, logistics, logistics!

An Open Letter to the GOP Leadership

Vodkapundit Stephen Green has something to say, and I love how he starts out with "Dear Speaker Boehner and Other Assorted Clueless Bozos on Capitol Hill ..." 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quote of the Day: Conflict and Comprehension

Profoundly simple yet desperately difficult.  Simple is not the same thing as easy.
If you don’t understand the extremism of the enemy, you don’t understand the enemy. And if you don’t understand the enemy, you have no idea of what to do in response. This is precisely the problem of the Western policy toward the Middle East and revolutionary Islamism. 
(Source of quote here.)

Book Review: "Eating Aliens" by Jackson Landers

Hey, this is right up the Insta-Prof's alley: the suggestion that we get rid of invasive animal species by hunting and literally eating them out of existence. Take a look at this nice review of a book by a guy who did just that.

"Just War": History, Thoughts, and Perspectives

I also think people these days bandy about the term "just war" while having almost no idea of what it means aside from "we don't like what Israel is doing." Anyway, do take a look here.  Are you perhaps Jacksonian in your outlook?  Perhaps Clausewitzian?  Thoughts on "proportionality"? (I dare say that's just not "the Chicago Way" ... but do you want to get Capone or not?) 

Monday Therapy: "Twilight"'s Ultimate Hater

La Parisienne and I hate Twilight, and we are pleased that we not alone. Still, one does wonder if the entire Twilight experience has driven Robert Pattinson mad.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

In Soviet Russia, Books Read You!

Geez, the joke becomes reality?

"World of Warcraft" and Israel's Rocket-Hunting Ace

This article from April seems timelier than ever:
While many of the boys in Idan Yahya’s high school class were buffing up and preparing themselves for selection into elite combat units, this gawky teenager was spending “a lot of time” playing Warcraft. ... People in the army describe him variously as a geek and an ace. But the geek who grew up playing Warcraft is now a highly prized soldier on the cutting edge of real war craft. He’s the Israeli army’s top rocket interceptor.

Thoughts on Gaza

So I read this morning in the Jerusalem Post that 75,000 reservists have been OK'd.  That's a lot of reservists.  For what exactly might they be mobilizing?  While we've been distracted by Benghazi, Petraeus's peccadillos, and Twinkie-pocalypse, trouble's been brewing in Gaza as Hamas rockets aim for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  

Where Israel's concerned, let's recall what Macbeth said: "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly" ... i.e., before the UN and everybody else poke their nose in there and tries to stop the Israelis from doing/completing whatever they're now thinking of doing.

Movie Review: "Anna Karenina"

I haven't seen the movie.  I had my doubts right from the beginning when Keira Knightley (why are casting directors so enamored with her, anyway?  I don't get it) was cast as Anna.  After this magnificently critical review, I might not bother going to see this at all.  Here's a bit of it:
Joe Wright’s ornate visuals are easy on the eye, but the wooden, mannered screenplay by verbose playwright Tom Stoppard is jarringly at odds with the neo-realism Tolstoy was aiming for in his novel, a sensation from the day it was published in 1877. His tortured themes of passion, addiction and suicide are now upstaged by lavish sets, costume changes and chandeliers ... Unfortunately, the high-concept approach more closely resembles one of those phony, hysterical, over-produced bores by Baz Luhrmann than anything by Tolstoy. Who, in his right mind, would set out to imitate Baz Luhrmann?
Ouch!  This sounds like the period drama's equivalent of using special effects to overwhelm the story ... like the costume movie's version of Michael Bay!

Robot Apocalypse Update: Trossen Robotics' Hexapod

Good grief!  Something about the way this thing moves just creeps me out. Apparently the only kind of robot even more disturbing than humanoid robots are non-humanoid insectoid/arachnoid ones.  KILL IT WITH FIRE!


Life Imitates Satire: Taliban Accidentally CC's Everybody On Its Mailing List

Hitting "reply all" is apparently a universal office communications hazard, whether you're a mild-mannered software engineer or a bloody-minded evil terrorist.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nerd News: The Cost of Administrative Bloat

It's worse than ever. Here's a bit of it:
Administrative costs on college campuses are soaring, crowding out instruction at a time of skyrocketing tuition and $1 trillion in outstanding student loans. At Purdue and other U.S. college campuses, bureaucratic growth is pitting professors against administrators and sparking complaints that tight budgets could be spent more efficiently. 
“We’re a public university,” Robinson [J. Paul Robinson, chairman of Purdue University’s faculty senate and a 59-year-old professor of biomedical engineering] said. “We’re here to deliver a high-quality education at as low a price as possible. Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?”

Quote of the Day: Fools and the Prince of Fools

Via Smaizdata comes this pithy comment translated from the original Czech (this had appeared in a Prague newspaper):
The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president.
Oh, dear.  Is it really that bad? DON'T ANSWER THAT! IT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION!

In Photos: the Gaza Conflict

The Atlantic has a striking (and sobering) new photo gallery.

Egypt's Long History of Pro- & Anti-Pyramid Thought

Some background on the current Salafist idea of blowing up the "un-Islamic" pyramids.  It sounds all too much like the Taliban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas.  Are these nuts capable of nothing but hate and destruction?  Ugh.

No More Twinkies?

Twinkie-maker Hostess going to close?  Haters will now be reduced to using only "banana" as an insult for Asian Americans.

There's No Way To Say "Turducken" And Sound Dignified

Thanksgiving is coming up fast, so my buddies and I have been, in person and online, been happily obsessing about recipes.  The one that's always both fascinated and horrified me is turducken, so let's just say this is pure madness and a thing that spawns madness too. So here are three takes on this monstrosity:

I.   An actual recipe for the Ultimate Turducken.  Overengineer that sucker to oblivion!


III.  The incomparable Iowahawk mashes up Churchill, Petraeus, Benghazi, and turkey into this hilarity:

Friday Fun Video: Helvetia By Night

Gorgeous Swiss landscapes in time-lapse photography done by Helvetia By Night.  My favorite moment begins around 2:35.  Amazingly beautiful.