Thursday, July 31, 2014

Quirky Asia Files: Selling Peaches In China

I don't even know what to say.

Public Service Announcement: The "Guardians of the Galaxy" Soundtrack Is Available


Come on, it begins with "Hooked On A Feeling" and ends with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."  Peter Quill wasn't kidding around when he called the collection "Awesome Mix, Vol. 1."

I'm using Spotify.  You can find it via other services too.

As for the Guardians movie, I've been looking forward to this for months.  It opens tonight, so I will be pretty much useless until then.

Israel Rallies Behind Netanyahu

Current polling has some 90% (!) of Israelis supporting Netanyahu.

Meanwhile Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have basically lined up against Hamas and so aligned themselves with Israel.

Support at home and from the usually hostile neighbors will give Israel a lot more leeway to act. The New York Times reports on this and complains that Egypt, et al's choice is making everything worse by impeding a ceasefire.  You know, ceasefires would probably be more feasible if Kerry weren't an idiot, Hamas didn't consistently break them by refusing to stop firing rockets, and - let's be brutally honest - they didn't help the aggressor.

Nerd News: San Diego State Students Mix It Up Over Gaza

What I want to highlight is the fact that there is significant, thoughtful pushback from other students.

Public Service Announcement: How To Cut Up a Watermelon

You only thought you knew how!  Watch and learn, grasshopper.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Disgustingly Cute: Little Rascals

Since for the foreseeable future I'm going to obsess about Guardians of the Galaxy and Rocket Raccoon, here are a few other raccoons to help while away the time until the movie opens on August 1. 

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ruined everything"

This open disgust comes from Haaretz, Israel's version of the New York Times.  Looks like more smart diplomacy in action.

This sums it up:
Kerry's recent efforts to negotiate a ceasefire have come to nothing in part because his proposals treat Hamas as a legitimate organization with legitimate security needs, as opposed to a group listed by Kerry's State Department as a terror organization devoted to the physical elimination of one of America's closest allies. 

Monday Therapy: Need Some Help With Your Coiffure?

OK, so this is really for the ladies in the audience, but ... Hey, a comic actor AND action hero who can also braid your hair for you?  THAT'S HOT.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Faith, Hope, Love, and FLAMENCO

Check out Spain's dancing priest Father Pepe.

Headline: "Russia Needs to Learn the Value of Human Life"

Good luck with that.

Got Stock in Malaysia Airlines?

DUMP IT NOW, because evidently that airline is run by crazy people.

Astronaut's-Eye View: Gaza From the International Space Station

Tunnel Vision: Digging Trenches in Military History

A history professor at the University of St. Andrews takes a look in light of the current conflict in Gaza and Hamas tunnels.

UPDATE: It keeps getting worse the more we dig into the topic.

China: Frozen Dumplings, Fridges, and Environmental Impact

Here's a stat for ya: 
In the 12 years between 1995 and 2007, China’s domestic refrigerator-ownership numbers have jumped to 95 percent from just 7 percent of urban families.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Movie Review Madness: 4 Grades

I owe you movie reviews, but since I'm a wee bit too busy to write full posts for each flick right this minute (I'll try to do that later), here are the grades I've given the last 4 summer movies that I've seen:

Next on the to-view list: 
  • Hercules (which I am hoping is a lot of silly bombastic popcorn fun with the Rock!) 
  • Snowpiercer (sci fi with brains, so I hear)
  • Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (which I expect to be AWESOME)

If you haven't yet seen Edge of Tomorrow, get to the theater while it's still playing!

Kurds vs. ISIS

The Kurds of northern Iraq want and need US aid to fend off ISIS.  

Taiwanese Defense and the UN Charter

Is it technically illegal?  Whatever. Does anyone really think the major players in Asia are going to care about use of force rules in the UN Charter if/when things get dicey?  Give me a break.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Middle East Friendship Chart

Obviously it's reductive and imperfect (where is Jordan?  I didn't see Lebanon either), but this chart is an interesting attempt to begin to think about the complexity of relationships in the Middle East.  I kind of want to add "Frenemies" as another relationship option and "Kurds/Kurdistan" as another player.  Note, though, how ISIS is pretty much hated by everybody.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Awesome: The First Space Selfie!

Cakes In Spaaaaaaaaaace!

On this 45th anniversary of the lunar landing, Cake Wrecks is celebrating with a gallery of cakes that are out of this world!

Cartoon Commentary on Hamas in Gaza

As Israel-bashing in the media and commentariat reaches new heights (or depths?), maybe we can remember just how the current Gaza situation started.  Palestinian civilians are suffering for it, but I'm pretty sure Hamas doesn't care about civilians.

Wuv, Twue Wuv, Will Fowow You Foweva


Lowe's Does Customer Service Right

A wonderful story. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

In Russia, Beach Hits You!

Just another day in paradise as the temperature suddenly plummets 40 degrees and the sky hurls golfball-sized hailstones at fleeing vacationers.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Drone Surveillance of China's Coast: Made In Taiwan?

The apparent goal is to keep tabs on the 2000+ coastal missiles that China currently has aimed at Taiwan.

I am also bemused by this related note: "the U.S. has expressed concern to Taiwan over how its drones are being deployed."

O RLY?  Last I heard Taiwan hadn't used any of its drones to kill people and prompt a barnstorming filibuster by Rand Paul.

Quote of the Day as Israel Hits Hamas

Around the 8:30 mark: "Sometimes you just have to fight against people who want to murder you."

World Cup 2014: Germany Wins It All!

Die Mannschaft beat Argentina 1-0 and the Germans are now the Weltmeister.  I was also amused by the various sartorial antics of the fans, not to mention this comment on the president of the hilariously corrupt FIFA and his companions:
Since this IS 2014 and no event is complete without a selfie or two, here you go. The selfie game is strong with this one.

Congratulations to the Germans!

UPDATE: The Onion comments hilariously.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Letter From 1944

Extraordinary letter to Mom and Dad from a son shipping out to war.  Here's a piece of it: "Do not pray only that I shall return, but that I will have the power to do my duty."

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Laughing All The Way To The Potato Salad

Here's the tale of hilarious Kickstarter hijinks.  Even funnier might be the waves of disapproval from humorless observers and commentators.  Also: why do they keep wanting to tell the guy what to do with the money that he's been given by people willing to give it to him?  It's his money now.  It's none of their freaking business.  Sounding all pietistic and moralistic about it doesn't change that basic fact.

World Cup LOL: What If We All Behaved Like Soccer Players?

World Cup 2014: Brazil Was Die Mannschaft-ed 7-1

You don't have to like soccer to appreciate the historic moment in sports history.  You don't even have to like sports to appreciate the epic quality of the German victory.  The match happened yesterday, but it's taken this long for the results to sink in.  At the time, all that my buddies and I felt was shock and disbelief ... and we were cheering for Germany!  Even the great Beckenbauer tweeted, "What was that? Hard to believe."
I thought the match was going to be a tough fight that Brazil would barely win in the end given the absence of injured Neymar.  I wasn't expecting a brutal 7-1 beatdown that looked as if the Brazilians were a Little League team going up against the New York Yankees.  As the demoralized Brazilians completely collapsed in appalling fashion, the rampant Germans scored 5 times in the first half hour, and there are no words for this:

UPDATE: I had linked to a Vine of the first 5 goals, but that's been taken down since this post went online.  As a consolation prize, let me give you another Vine.  The French sports publication L'Equipe just made this Vine of a LEGO version of the poor Brazilian goalie. Aw, just look at his expressions:

The sports commentary in the aftermath of the match has been wild.  How do you describe such an epic performance?  It's World Cup history being made in front of you.  My crew and I ended up feeling bad for the Brazilians being destroyed on their own turf even as we marveled at the impeccable Germans.  You almost wanted a mercy rule to kick in and put Brazil out of its misery.  How the mighty have fallen indeed.  

Up in the ESPN booth, former German team captain Michael Ballack was over the moon, and who could blame him?  (Lookin' goooooood there, Mike!)
The Netherlands take on Argentina today for the other spot in the final.  I like the Dutch very much, but I think a Germany-Argentina final would be just brilliant ... especially if (when?) the Germans crush the Argentines into dust.

Oh, and the German team is being classy in victory.  Good for them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Can You Dig It: Archaeological Discoveries in Northern Iraq

For once here's some good news out of Iraq.  Check out some fascinating discoveries including statues and the remains of a temple dedicated to the ancient god Haldi.  More here.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

If You Can't Stand The Dissent, Get Out Of The Kitchen

Dinner wasn't the only thing cooking in Soviet kitchens.

Tour de France 2014: Suggested Reading

Three books on the iconic sporting event that has this year claimed its first victim on the first day.

Nerd Notes: An Interview With the Cartoonist of PhD Comics

Poking fun at grad school is a fantastic defense mechanism.

National Archives To Put Entire Collection On Wikimedia Commons


George Takei on the WWII Internment of Japanese Americans

Takei was 5 years old when he and his family were sent to the camps.  Here is Takei's story.  He also talks about the incredible 442nd Infantry Regiment composed of Japanese Americans.  Do take a listen to his thoughtful take on being American and on the ideals of democracy.  

Friday, July 04, 2014

Iowahawk on Critics

I was going to say something about all those haters using the Fourth of July to bash America, but Iowahawk is so much better at commentary:

The USA: Not Just 50 States (and DC)!

Add reservations and a bunch of islands!  Here's a brand-new video from CGP Grey:

Friday Fun: Remy on Independence Day

It's as good this year as it was when it came out last Fourth of July. 

As for my crew and me, we are absolutely grilling hot dogs and burgers, drinking unhealthy but delicious beverages, and having as much fun as possible.  We might even be making our own ice cream before going to see fireworks. 

Hey, let's end on a high note for liberty and personal choice and agency: Bloomberg's soda ban has recently been killed once and for all in New York, so yay!

Public Service Announcement: Tips For Photographing Fireworks

Looking forward to some fireworks later?  Here's some advice from National Geographic if you want to take snapshots.  Happy Fourth of July, my darlings!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

But How Could You Tell That From Normal MSNBC?

Technical difficulties fill MSNBC's news ticker with hilarious gibberish.

Kurdistan Rising? A Referendum on Independence

It begins.  There are considerable concerns, of course.  Elsewhere, Israeli support for Kurdish independence is fueling criticism that this further oppresses the Palestinians and marginalizes the Kurds.  I haven't looked into reactions in Turkey yet, but you're perfectly capable of doing that on your own.

Awesome LOL: Global Stereotype Map

This is brilliant ... and a brilliant commentary on the absurdity of reductive stereotypes.  It is also delightfully insightful and incisive in places: note how it calls a chunk of Russia "Putingrad," Ukraine "Putin's Precious," and Crimea "Putinistan."  On a lighter note, Sweden is labeled "ABBA," "IKEA," and "Nobel Prizes."

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Nerd News: FIRE vs. Campus Speech Codes

You don't give up your First Amendment protections when you set foot on a campus. I hate speech codes ... and so does FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).  It just announced these lawsuits yesterday:
“Unconstitutional campus speech codes have been a national scandal for decades. But today, 25 years after the first of the modern generation of speech codes was defeated in court, 58% of public campuses still hold onto shockingly illiberal codes,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For 15 years, FIRE has fought for free speech on campus using public awareness as our main weapon, but more is needed. Today, we announce the launch of the Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, an expansive new campaign to eliminate speech codes nationwide. We have already coordinated two lawsuits in the past nine months, and this morning we brought four more. The lawsuits will continue until campuses understand that time is finally up for unconstitutional speech codes in academia.”

World Cup 2014: Great Run, Team USA!

It was a great run, and just think: we made it into the Round of 16, something that supposedly better teams could not manage.  We lost to Belgium 2-1, and the last 15 minutes were insane.

Man of the hour: US goalie Tim Howard, who racked up a record-setting 16 saves.  Absolutely amazing.  After the match Belgium team captain Vincent Kompany went on Twitter to salute him:
Howard is currently the darling of the Internet (check out the hilarious hashtag #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave) and rightfully so.  Look what one fan did on Wikipedia:

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Closing of the Chinese Mind

Aka "groupthink makes you stupid."  The CCP is busying itself with "thought reform."  Note too a related academic angle:
... the customarily mild-mannered American Association of University Professors called on universities to cut ties with Confucius Institutes unless academic freedom prevails there. That’s not the case at present. Notes the AAUP, “Confucius Institutes function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom.” Agreements establishing them make “unacceptable concessions to the political aims and practices of the government of China. Specifically, North American universities permit Confucius Institutes to advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate.” These cuddly-seeming institutions, in other words, are CCP propaganda mills on American campuses.

World Cup 2014: US vs. Belgium in the Round of 16

Whoohoo, we're in the knockout round!  We're up against Belgium this afternoon (time to get pumped!), so here's a little video for a humorous nod to the idea of "Know thy enemy," haha:

Quote of the Day on ISIS

No good choices:
It is fine to pit Assad and Maliki plus Iran and Russia against ISIS, except under the following circumstances: Either side wins or, alternatively, there is a draw.

We Have a Finalist For Stupidest Op-Ed of the Year

Via Power Line comes the link to this amazing utterance: "Libertarians are the New Communists."  That's right, folks: libertarians are fearsome power-hungry tyrants who want to ... leave you alone!

"Libertarian." You keep you using that word ...

ISIS, the Caliphate, and the War On History

So ISIS (or ISIL or you say tomayto, I say tomahto, you say bloody-minded extremist, I say violent jihadist) has renamed itself IS (Islamic State) and declared a caliphate.  Bold and risky move.  See too the role of history, mangled and otherwise.  While we're on the topic,  don't forget this:
By formally abolishing the Syrian-Iraqi border ISIS doubtless hopes to evoke memories of the Ottoman era before supposedly artificial states were constructed for the convenience of European powers—a time when frontiers were porous and the ways of Islam were universally observed. The fatal flaw in this utopian vision—apart from its obvious historical inaccuracy—is its failure to recognize the division between Sunnism and Shiism that long predated Western interventions in Iraq and Syria. ...
However much the leaders of ISIS seek to draw on the imagery of an international Arab jihad rolling back a century of Western imperialism, the growth of ISIS feeds on these sectarian tensions that have been reanimated across the region. Politically, the jihadists have gained support from the widespread hatred of the Shiite cronyism of the Maliki regime, which replaced the cronyism of Saddam Hussein’s, as well as from the brutality of its counterpart in Damascus. And to the extent that foreign powers are driving the situation, the underlying dynamic flows less from the West than from the rivalry between the Sunni monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf on one side and Shiite Iran on the other.