January 30, 2009

January 28, 2009

University Diversity Adversity

Emerson College, I learned from our Vice President for Public Affairs today, is pleased to inform us of its newly adopted strategic plan for diversity. Quoth the all-singing, all-dancing white paper released to coincide with the new policy:
While we have made some progress in attaining our diversity goals, we are not as a community satisfied with the rate or scale of change. It is clear to all of us that much more work needs to be done.
Well, gosh, chaps, I'm no expert, but I think part of your problem might be this:

Yes, that's right: according to the Emerson College "Strategic Plan for Racial and Ethnic Diversity", you can either be white, foreign, or other. Backslapping all round on that one, I imagine.

To be absolutely fair, there are some other charts scattered around the document that actually break down enrolment in a slightly less absurd way — but the fact that indiscriminately shooting for "multicultural" students is part of the plan at all is pretty horrific.

Now, you might think that, as a student and part-time instructor at Emerson College, I should lay off the public trashing of my school's diversity policy. I say, on the contrary, that as a member of the vanishingly small "International" segment of the student and faculty body, I'm perfectly within my rights to express a little outrage.

On the other hand, if this white paper is anything to go by, Emerson College is the one place that might actually be enough of a self-parody to expel an international student for disagreeing with the diversity policy. So perhaps I should keep my big mouth shut.


January 26, 2009

Bit Sand Bobs

Item: Papa pundigrion informs me that if you misspell the word pundigrion in Google these days, you're sternly corrected and automatically directed here. What celebrity!

Item: Reiner Sprengelmeyer (presumably not a native) of St Andrew's University, reveals his acute empiricist insight while discussing a recent study of cuteness in babies: "When my daughter was born, I saw that women react totally differently to babies than men . . . Women are much more keen to look at young babies than men." Stop the presses!

Item: I am actually eating tea and crumpets at the moment.

Item: Names are funny. Recently sworn-in Portland Mayor Sam Adams has come under fire for lying about a relationship he had with an 18-year-old, but his isn't the funny name. The teenager is described as a "legislative intern" by the AP, but a career in porn surely awaits him, since he goes by Beau Breedlove. You should have known that one would get you in trouble, Mr Adams . . .

Item: Silvio Berlusconi is, as usual, awesome. "You can't consider deploying a [military] force that would be sufficient to prevent the risk [of rape]," he told Italians. "We would have to have so many soldiers because our women are so beautiful." In the ensuing furore, he reminded people that all of his comments should be taken with "levity and good humour" — presumably because you might otherwise slit your own wrists in despair that a man like him can be in charge of a country.

Item: I must stop procrastinating!

January 24, 2009

Department of Questionable Analogies

I'm not really sure why, but recently the media has been bombarding us with Pearl Harbour references like — well — Japanese bombs at Pearl Harbour.

First, on January 18, Warren Buffett had this to say about the current economic situation:
It really is an economic Pearl Harbor. . . . The country is facing something it hasn't faced since World War II.

And they're fearful about it. And they don't know quite what to do about it. . . . And temporarily it looks like we're losing. . . . Interestingly enough, we were losing for a while after Pearl Harbor. But the American people never doubted that we'd win.
Which struck me as kind of inappropriate at the time — after all, Pearl Harbour was a colossal loss of life sparked by militant ultra-nationalism, whereas the recession is a colossal loss of money sparked by corporate greed and poor regulation. And I know if anybody is going to equate human life to money it's a billionaire investor, but still: are we really at that point?

Anyway, then on Thursday, everyone's favourite Hair Club For Men poster boy, Rod Blagojevich, came out and said this:
Dec. 9 to my family, to us, to me, is what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States . . . It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected. And just like the United States prevailed in that, we'll prevail in this.
Blagojevich is going to nuke the Senate?

Thankfully, though, it's not all greedy douchebags pretending that some external force is to blame for their unexpected loss of power (actually, equivocation: Buffett himself I would not call a greedy douchebag, but he certainly speaks for a lot of 'em). No, even lowly system admins are getting in on the game; speaking on Thursday about the rapidly spreading Conficker worm, computer security analyst Rick Wesson came out with this doozy:
“If you’re looking for a digital Pearl Harbor, we now have the Japanese ships steaming toward us on the horizon."
Actually, though, this one is just a mis-transcription by the Times; what Wesson really said was "PERL Harbor".


Anyway, in summary, I think it's high time people let go of Pearl Harbour as an appropriate analogy for describing anything, other than maybe a horrific and unexpected attack by one country on another. Okay?

January 23, 2009

January 20, 2009


A second-by-second account of the historically historic inauguration of history-making Barack History Obama, from the offices of plethoric pundigrions.

10:44 a.m.: Not watching the inauguration coverage.

10:47 a.m.: Launch browser to check out witty t-shirt websites. See a headline about the inauguration. Don't click on it.

10:55 a.m.: Get in shower. Odd craving for Pepsi.

11:23 a.m.: Catching up on the blogs I subscribe to.

11:24 a.m.: Horrified at having just ended a sentence with a preposition.

11:26 a.m.: Turn on the TV to see what's happening on CNN. Find Cool Runnings instead. Historic!

11:37 a.m.: WTF? Why is Cheney in a wheelchair?

11:38 a.m.: Apparently he pulled a muscle moving house.

11:40 a.m.: FACT: Obama is the fifth youngest person ever elected president. Thanks, CNN!

11:42 a.m.: Jamaica just came in last place in the opening race. Boo! But John Candy's "our father who art in Calgary" joke. Yay!

11:48 a.m.: Renewed appreciation of American knack for pageantry.

11:49 a.m.: FACT: CNN's fact writer doesn't really earn that salary.

11:50 a.m.: "The peaceful transition of power for the 44th time." You FAIL, Reverend Warren! It is the 43rd transition of power, to the 44th president.

11:52 a.m.: CNN cuts to a shot of hungover hipsters watching at 8:30 a.m. in L.A.

11:55 a.m.: OH NO! The bobsled broke! They're crashing!!

11:56 a.m.: Whoa. Aretha Franklin. I thought she was dead.

11:57 a.m.: BUT THEY'RE GOING TO CARRY IT ACROSS THE FINISH LINE ANYWAY. Now that's pageantry. Slow-building applause!

12:06 p.m.: Flub on the oath! I missed the end of Cool Runnings for this?

12:14 p.m.: "Restore science to its rightful place"? Ho, SNAP!

12:16 p.m.: Obama daughter filming speech on her digital camera. Adorable. (Psst... I think someone has that covered!)

12:17 p.m.: Shot of Bush furrowing brow. Big words?

12:23 p.m.: "We have doodies". Heh.


12:28 p.m.: Poetry. Yawn. I'm going to go watch 24.


Cynicism aside: yeah, it was a good speech.

January 18, 2009

A Moment of Sophmority

Seen on Netscape:

Most of these photos, naturally, show Bill Clinton's inauguration — and, of course, Chester A. Arthur's misguided attempt to celebrate his Celtic roots by wearing a kilt at his swearing in.

Nixon also had a lot of balls keeping a straight face the second time round.

January 16, 2009

January 12, 2009

The Racist Formerly Known As...

From BBC NEWS | UK : Prince's apology for racist term
The News of the World has published video in which [Prince Harry] calls one of his Sandhurst colleagues a "Paki" in commentary he made over filming.
Aw, how cute! He takes after his grandfather!
In a separate incident, Prince Harry is heard calling another officer cadet a "raghead". . . .

A statement from St James's Palace [said]: "Prince Harry fully understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offence his words might cause. . . ."

The statement continued: "Prince Harry used the term 'raghead' to mean Taleban or Iraqi insurgent."
Seriously? That's the best they could come up with? It's okay to be racist as long as you're only talking about the bad guys? It's that sort of mentality that makes them "the bad guys" in the first place, dipshits! Here are some of the other excuses considered by the palace spin doctors:
"Prince Harry used the term 'raghead' to refer to someone who is extremely enthusiastic about rags."

"Prince Harry was actually saying 'ragged', as in, 'Let's run those Taleban scallywags ragged, eh, chaps?'"

"Prince Harry used the term 'raghead' to refer to that scene in The Invisible Man where the title character pulls the rags away from his face to reveal his condition."

"Prince Harry was actually saying 'Jughead', a popular nickname for his best friend in the unit, owing to the prince's own uncanny resemblance to Archie."

"Prince Harry is a spoilt tool."
I think they should have gone with the last one.

January 10, 2009


From AOL News: Palin Takes Aim at Fey, Couric, Kennedy

Sarah Palin recently sat down for an interview with John Ziegler, former talk show host and self-described conservative agitator. (Caveat: I don't actually have a direct quote from Ziegler where he describes himself as a conservative agitator; but he did write a post on the Fox News blog where he describes himself as "a favorite target of the Internet's left-wing attack machine," so, ceteris paribus...)

Ziegler's been making a nuisance of himself recently by polling Obama voters in a way that suggests they're generally not as intelligent as they like to make themselves out to be. For instance, 57% of Obama voters did not know that the Democrats controlled Congress; and, my personal favourite, 87% said that Palin claimed to be able to see Russia "from her house", even though that was actually Tina Fey (Palin only said you can see Russia from "land in Alaska").

ANYWAY, all this is in preparation for Ziegler's new movie about how Obama got elected because of media bias, and so the Palin interview meanders around between Fey's infuriating impressions and Katie Couric's pointed interrogations, and plenty more besides; about Couric's enquiry as to Palin's reading habits, she says:
To me the question was more along the lines of, "Do you read, what do you guys do up there?"
Which then segues into rumination about Caroline Kennedy:
"It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out and I think as we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here."
Well, as much as it pains me to agree with Sarah Palin about something, I think you have to agree that she hits the nail on the head, here. For all that we liberals can claim that we just want a candidate who is "well-informed" and "will do what's right for the country," what it really boils down to is that we didn't like Palin because we thought she was some blue-collar hick from a backwater. Nobody, as far as I'm aware, ever felt the need to ask Clinton what newspapers she reads, and I'm sure if someone had, the question would have been pounced upon as patronising and a little insulting — which, in retrospect, it really kind of was.

No, looking back from outside that few-week frenzy in the fall, it really does seem like all of it — all of the intense, vitriolic dislike of Palin and, by association, McCain — revolved around this unspoken class conflict that managed to disguise itself as a disinterested, intellectual concern about "what's important in a candidate". But the really unsettling thing (for me, anyway) is that you can identify exactly the same class divisions (particularly as regards informedness and media-savvy) even within the population of Obama voters, as Ziegler's poll pretty well demonstrates. There are plenty of "Sarah Palins" who voted for Obama — so who, exactly, are "we" Obama voters opposed to?

Something to think about.

January 09, 2009

January 08, 2009

Department of Conceptual Nightmares

I mean, for a guy named "Joe the Plumber", pretty much any job that isn't "plumber" is going to be fairly surprising.

The story, by the way, is that he's being sent to cover the conflict in Gaza.

No, really.

January 07, 2009

Why? Because I Gupta!

From Newsvine: CNN: Gupta approached about surgeon general post
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama's reported choice for surgeon general, CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, could bring a dose of star power to a job that hasn't had that much clout in decades.

Gupta doesn't just play a doctor on TV, he's a neurosurgeon who still scrubs in part-time in one of the nation's toughest hospitals when he's not on CNN assignments that have taken him from Hurricane Katrina to Iraq. . . .

People magazine named the then-single Gupta one of the sexiest men of 2003.
Obama's selection process for deciding on the new surgeon general was extremely rigorous:
OBAMA: Okay, so what about Surgeon General?

STAFF: [blank stares all round]

OBAMA: No suggestions?

STAFF: Ummmm....

OBAMA: Can anyone name a doctor?

STAFF: Doug Ross!

OBAMA: Wasn't that George Clooney's character from E.R.?


[long silence]

OBAMA: I'm waiting.

STAFF: Dr Strangelove! Dr Moreau! Dr Frankenstein!

OBAMA: What are you, a film student? Can anyone name an actual doctor?

STAFF: There's that guy on CNN who gets sponsored by the drug companies.

OBAMA: Sold! Okay, now, who do we have for the Hairdresser General?
I mean, apart from the whole "I won't put lobbyists in my cabinet" thing, are we really at the point where a recurring five-minute segment on a morning news show is a valid route into government? What's next, Wolf Blitzer for Secretary of Defense? He does have all that experience in the situation room!

(And yes, I realise that Gupta is not technically a lobbyist, but I think there might be just a few tiny conflicts of interest there, nevertheless.)

Am I justified in finding this really depressing/alarming? Or is it just gratuitous cynicism?

January 05, 2009

Best Product Labelling Ever

From the directions on a bottle of Drano Max Gel:
GARBAGE DISPOSAL DRAINS: Follow same directions. If drain has not cleared, do not turn on disposal since product may splash back. Consult plumber.
Those last two words just make me giggle, for some reason.

January 02, 2009

January 01, 2009

Hit Me

And now, my brief annual rundown of the blog's vital statistics:

•Total hits: 10,392. This is an 9% increase over last year — significantly less than the 50% growth from the year before, but growth, nonetheless. The slowdown is mainly due, it seems, to my decision not to blog the Fringe this year, as the biggest lull came between July and September.

•I'm way up among university readers; visits from McGill, Emerson, and Edinburgh all increased by respectable amounts, and new readers in Cambridge and St Andrews brought both of those into my top twenty visitor sources.

•Google referrals are up as well, especially from Google image searches. Which brings me to...

•Google search terms! Among my favourite, the following:

"steven pinker is a douchebag"
"am i a relativist 'pop quiz' "
"finger is a bit plethoric looking"
"mitt romney, nude, naked, shirtless"
"reasons why britain is better than america" / "reasons why america is better than britain"

...and, last of all, "lolchomsky". Which I assume would look a little like this:

Happy new year.