Saturday, December 31, 2011

Narcissism in 2011

As 2011 ends, I thought I would mention some highlights and lowlights in the world of the Spew family:
As there is far more blue than red, one can pretty easily observe that 2011 has been very good to me.  Sure, my car got crushed by a bus, but I was not hurt.  Plus it made for a good story when I gave my job talk at Carleton, which produced a mighty fine job that I can spend looking forward to during the first half of 2012.

I hope my readers had a great 2011 and best wishes for a most wonderful end of the world in 2012. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Movies of 2011, Abbreviated

How the hell should I know?  I saw damn few movies this year because of the following challenges:
  • Spew Junior had far more work this year so she didn't even want to spend any time on weekends going to the movies (apparently, in QC, this is the equivalent of the OWL year).  Bad news about moving--next year is OWL year in Ontario.
  • Too much good TV. We had so much stuff on DVR that weekend evenings were handy for catching up.
  • The demise of Blockbuster and the inadequacy of substitutes.  In Canada, Blockbuster died.  Yes, there is Netflix Canada, but our one month trial determined that their selection sucks.  There is, which is netflix-like, but we found out that if you include both new movies and older movies on your list, no matter how you rank the list, you will always and only get the older movies.  We have now altered our list to only include the newest movies--it will be interesting to see if we get any movies now.  
As a result, we have not seen Attack the Block; Bridesmaids; Crazy, Stupid Love; Drive; 50/50; The Descendants; Rise of the Apes; Muppets; Contagion; and the rest.

So, I cannot really come up with a top ten list.  I think Super-8 was probably the best movie I did see.  It was so engrossing, chock full of nostalgia, early Spielberg type stuff (ET, Close Encounters), great performances, action, and more.  The final Harry Potter movie comes close, as it did a very nice job of finishing off a terrific series, and most of the changes were fine (ah, poor Lavender!).  Snape nearly made me cry.  What we do for love? 

So, which movies rocked your world in 2011?  You already can tell what is on my Zip list, but what should I add?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

21st Century Situational Ethics

I am not an expert on ethics, but I faced an annual ethical problem: how to access wifi when visiting a relative who has no internet access.  In the good old days (last year and before), the neighbors of my mother-in-law left their wifi un-encrypted, so I could and did access the internet via their wifi.  I don't think I downloaded enough stuff to change the rates that they were charged, but I was clearly partaking of something that did not belong to me.

This year, no dice (as my lack of blog posts might have indicated).  The folks encrypted their wifi.  One of my nieces thought she figured out the password for one of the neighboring wifi sources.  But she didn't.  I definitely felt far more reluctant about stealing someone's protected wifi as opposed to an unprotected source of internet, but my addiction to the net might have overcome whatever qualms I had.

Instead, I ended up going to Starbucks a few times for their free wifi--where I bought a drink to soothe my guilt about just sitting in a coffee shop to use free wifi.  Apparently, loitering in a cafe for free wifi imposes more moral issues (guilt) than sitting in a house near someone else's free wifi. 

What do my readers (if they have access to the internet) say about this quandary of the 21st century?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

How About Some Islamophobia for Christmas?

The xenophobia, anti-Muslim Party for Freedom in the Netherlands has recommended kicking Turkey out of NATO for its lack of support for France and Israel.  This would be funny if it were not so full of hate and political opportunism.

I am not surprised to see this party take such a stance, as it is very hostile to Muslims, and Turkey is, well, full of Muslims.  But the irony here is so very painful--this xenophobic party did not support the Netherlands' participation in the various NATO missions because its isolationism trumped its hatred of Muslims.  So, it is more than a bit strange to see this party criticize a country that has been a key NATO ally when the party has not been willing to support NATO in its most costly conflict. 

The Netherlands had trouble getting enough support in 2005-2006 to send troops to Uruzgan and then could not extend the mission in 2010 because there was not enough support.  Why? Because the Party for Freedom, otherwise a natural ally for the center-right coalition, would not support the mission.  Much haggling ensued in 2005 and again in 2011 to get support from left of center parties to approve the mission.  You would think that a party that has not been supportive of NATO efforts might just restrain itself from judging the NATO-worthiness of other countries. 

But then again, xenophobic parties are not known for their restraint.  Indeed, hypocrisy tends to be an essential element for such folks.  The Party for Freedom might be the third largest party in the Netherlands, but that does not mean that the entire country supports each and every contradictory element of the party's stances.  I just hope that the Dutch eventually realize that supporting a hateful party is an incredibly poor response to the economic crises of the day and that there are better ways to deal with immigrants.

EU Skeptic? Sure

I posted this at Current Intelligence in my last post there for 2011.  Not a good year for the European Union.  In the next issue of CI, I will have a piece reviewing the year in international organizations.  Yep, not an entirely positive one, but some did very well, especially given expectations (that would be you, Arab League).

Anyhow, take a gander.  I will have few posts this week, as I am currently in a wifi-less land except when I duck into Starbucks. 

Enjoy the rest of the holiday season.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Year in Review: Navel Gazing Part 3

Last post in the narcissism tourney of examining my 2011 in blogging.

Where Do My Readers Reside?  As an IR prof, this is naturally of interest to me, if no one else.
  1. Canada:  Not a surprise since my topics are often on Canada and my students and former students mostly reside here.
  2. US: Not a surprise either, as much of stuff is focused on the US
  3. UK: Another place with former students, plus I touch on British issues.
  4. Norway:  Hmmm.  Maybe the folks at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo?
  5. Australia: Again, a country I have discussed, in part due to my trip there last summer (their winter) but also their interesting role in Afghanistan.
  6. Germany: I tease them, they read me. 
  7. Netherlands: Again, the Afghanistan connection, plus perhaps my posts about The Hague last winter when I visited.
  8. France: McGill students end up in France quite often, plus I blogged much about France due to Libya.
  9. India: I talk about Pakistan in a negative way?
  10. Belgium: I blogged a bit about Belgium when I was there last winter.
  11. Philippines: at least one former student is there
  12. Hungary: a co-author is there, plus other Central European University connections.
  13. Sweden: Maybe some of the folks at Uppsala who study civil war follow me.
  14. Spain:
  15. Brazil:
  16. Italy
  17. Indonesia
  18. Turkey
  19. Malaysia
  20. New Zealand. 

The fun category would be those countries where only one person visited my site once: Malta, Macau, Brunei, Niger, Martinique, Sri Lanka, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Guinea, DRC, El Salvador, Oman, Bolivia, Iran, Bahamas, Maldives, Vanuatu, Aruba, Honduras, Belize, Ecuador, Zambia, Jersey, Ethiopia, Barbados, Mauritius.
--Islands, South America, Africa.  The only surprising one here might be Sri Lanka since I have written about that country and its conflict on occasion.

There are countries where no one has ever viewed my blog: Nicaragua, Paraguay, Libya, Mauritania, Chad, Sudan, Central African Republic, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Madagascar, Somalia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgzstan, Burma.
--Some failed states, some very authoritarian states, countries with low internet access.  Not really saying that my blog should be read around the world--it is hardly relevant for anyone--but the patterns are interesting.

Year In Review: Navel Gazing part 2

As I have intermittent access to wifi over the holidays, I have set up some navel gazing posts ready to upload at any McD's or Starbucks (I sell out to corporations that provide free wifi).

Top Ten Viewed Posts:
  1. Hogwarts Houses from July 2009:  An oldie but still a goodie, where I consider in which house I would belong.  What does this show?  That any blog post with a Harry Potter angle is likely to get lots of hits.
  2. My guide to Montreal for the ISA-goer: Still catches the occasional tourist.
  3. That McGill students suck at math--that they should not be protesting tuition increases.
  4. Ranking the Star Wars movies: George Lucas and JK Rowling have a few things in common.
  5. Earlier post on same theme as #3.
  6. Applying IR theory to Game of Thrones or vice versa
  7. One of my favorite posts of the year: what would a Zombie outbreak mean for Political Science and the profession.  I missed the fun and flashy Zombie panel at the ISA so that was my effort to say what I might have said.
  8. My post announcing my big move next summer from McGill to Carleton to take up, sit in, be (what is the correct way to phrase it?) the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University.
  9. Drezner's Viral ChallengeDan, one of the folks who inspired this blog (don't blame him), had a post asking folks what IR stuff should politicians read. 
  10. We are McGill: Post discusses a bit the aftermath of the deployment of riot police at McGill in reaction to an effort to occupy the Principal's office.
Two patterns here: pop culture gets heaps of hits, maybe mostly accidental; and McGill news (I think more and more of my students started tracking my blog).  It was an especially contentious fall at McGill so I am not surprised that my rants about the various events got some play.  Indeed, I got a lot more hits over a few days this November than in any other period this year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dare Not Speak Its Name

Pakistan's Prime Minister Raza Gilani continues to make waves by publicly fearing a coup.  Folks are upset at this: how dare the elected leader of a country worry about a coup d'etat by a military that is generally viewed as out of control and that has repeatedly engaged in coups?! 

One may consider this poor etiquette and even bad strategy, but given that military re-entring into government usually want to be faits accompli, Prime Minister Gilani may actually be smart here by reducing the chances for a surprise coup.  Of course, he is still in danger, but coup-proofing is more art than science.  I would still say that the odds of a coup in Pakistan in the next year are no worse than 3 to 1.

How is that for a Happy Blogpost for a Happy New Year?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Annual Holiday Tradition

An annual tradition:

Ok, just the second year running or dragging.

Year in Review: Finding the Spew

As part of the navel gazing exercise at the end of the year, I pondered how folks found ye olde Spewe.

Top Ten Traffic Sources
  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Blogger
  5. My McGill site
  6. Political Science Jobs Rumors.  I am one of the very few folks there that posts non-anonymously (probably a better way to say that).  I do get some crap for it from folks online (and far less from my chair despite what folks occasionally suggest when they post on the site).  I am often viewed as a voice of reason there.  Which says far more about the site than it does about me.
  7. Duck of Minerva.  I started posting there a while back, and I usually cross-post, putting there things I post here that I think will have broad interest for the IR scholarly community.  My posting there is not consistent at all.  I tend to filter myself more there.  The other bloggers there are very sharp folks, so I tend to be a bit intimidated.  This does not mean that my best stuff appears there--just the stuff that I think sucks less.
  8. Fully Myelinated: Lil' Steve's blog.  He likes my stuff, and I like his.  The best part of not being in the same department is that I would never win a teaching award with him around.  Alas, that is the only good part.  Miss the little guy and his mad band of gingers (Weasleys?  Indeed).  
  9. Phil Arena's blog: Someone I have yet to met in real life.  A younger, more rigorous IR scholar. 
  10. Drezner's blog.  He has so many followers that all it takes is for one reference on his blog to me and I get a huge jump in hits.  He has a lot of followers for good reasons--sharp, succinct, often amusing, always relevant posts. 
 Given that google is #1, the next question is what kind of searches lead to the Spew aside from those who throw my name with or without spew into google:
  1. Hogwarts Houses     same as last year--JK-related posts still get heaps of attention.
  2. Paul Robinson, Afghanistan: catches my post where I rant about folks who say Afghanistan militarized Canada somehow.
  3. Ranking the Star Wars Movies was also on top last year.
  4. Alouette (looking perhaps for the CFL team, but finding my post on the Canadian fighter squadron north of Quebec).
  5. McGill Strike: people would find a number of posts as I addressed both the staff strike and the student tuition strike several times.
  6. ISA, looking for my guide to Montreal.
  7. For your situational awareness: where I link to a cool blog that was occasionally dispensing Pentagon-ese to the masses.
  8. McGill sucks. Gets my posts on students opposing tuition increases.  Probably some of these folks are finding the opposite of that which they are seeking.
  9. Pre-electoral coalitions Australia.  Really?  Hmm.
  10. Quebec Patriotic Militia.  I love it that people searching for this fringe group end up finding my blog posts on it.

A Squirrel in Red and White and Bleu

The biggest story in Montreal for the past week or so has not been the bridges that might be on the verge of collapse nor that global warming may be causing our non-white x-mas.  Or heaps of other stories that might be seen as important.  Mais non, the story of the week is that the Canadiens have replaced their coach with their assistant coach who ne parle pas francais. 

So, of course, the letters in the English newspapers say this is not a big deal, that the letters in the French press say it is.  But I wonder how much of this is a media and elite creation as opposed to the public?  It does come on the heels of various other nationalist/language events, such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointing a serious of unilingual folks to top federal positions.  Thus, there may be heightened sensitivity at a time where the parties focused on the defense of French are at low ebbs.

It is easy for me as an anglophone to say that the bridges are more important than hockey simply because hockey only harms those who are involved in the game (Crosby and his concussions) whereas bridge/tunnel collapses can kill and that threat is costing Montreal and Quebec a great deal. 

Still, the Canadiens are more than an ordinary hockey team, but a key component of Quebec (and Canadian) identity.  That the local team has a coach who cannot speak in French is purely a problem for the public and the press, as the team only has a couple of Francophones on it and nobody complained when the guy was just an assistant coach.  The problem is that there are a limited number of Francophone coaches, and speaking french is neither an asset or a disadvantage when it comes to winning.  But if you restrict the pool of candidates, you might be putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage. 

The real question, then, may become: do Quebeckers and Montrealers prefer a decently performing team where the coach speaks French or would they prefer an excellent team where the coach does not?  The good news is that they really do not have to choose.  The team's players are ok enough that the quality of the coach does not matter much.  So, restrict the pool of candidates for the coach (and team captain), satisfy the bored media and the underemployed nationalist politicians--the Cup is not coming to Montreal next spring regardless of whether the coach speaks French, English or Urdu.

Retro Movie Review

I cannot believe I never saw Vision Quest before.  It is a cheesy sports movie about a teen wrestling star (Matthew Modine) who becomes obsessed and dedicated with beating the best wrestler around but is almost distracted by a slightly older woman played by Linda Fiorentino.  I guess having Madonna on the soundtrack and singing in a bar scene deterred me, but I wrestled at camp and in middle school.  So, I am again surprised I never saw it.  I was inspired to watch it now due to Sport Guy's occasional references to the movie.

Anyhow, just a fun, incredibly dated movie.  The wrestling scenes are actually really, really well-staged and mostly accurate as far as I can remember.  I recognized the moves (mostly switches, double-armed bars, fireman's carry, and one or two others mostly repeated).  And the bloody nose--well, I had a bloody nose for much of my 8th grade experience.  I found it advantageous since I could get a break to get it cleaned up in the middle of a match.  As it was a movie, Modine's character did better than mine.  I choked during the finals at the end of my middle school career (my high school career ended very quickly as I quit the team--just not a fun environment anymore). 

I do have a couple of observations:
  1. Modine must have been the sweatiest room service waiter of all time.  He ran everywhere, wearing a plastic suit since he had to lose weight to get into the right weight class.  Not so many showers, so yuck.
  2. 168 pounds?  Modine made that realistic, but his opponent was a horse.  I would have guessed steriods--no way he was 168.  
  3. The team's theme music was this.  Hmmm.
  4. The rest of the soundtrack (minus the Madonna stuff) was actually very good for this child of the 80's.  
Anyhow, a fun way to spend a couple of hours--if you like cheesy nostalgia. 

Scratch That Bridge Off of Our Travel Plans

Heaps of controversy over the past few years about the state of Montreal's bridges.  I have complained about them frequently here and elsewhere.  But now much effort has been spent to repair them, so all is good, right?

Nope.  The repairs to the Mercier bridge were done ... poorly.  This is so incredibly aggravating.  After heaps of denial about there being significant problems about the bridges, there are heaps of closures and heaps of cash spent, and now we have a bridge that we cannot trust.  Oh, and governments we cannot trust.  At least we found out pretty quickly this time that the repairs sucked.  So, accountability is up, right?  Probably not, because we already have heaps of denial about who is to be blamed.  Anybody in government going to lose their job over this colossal waste of time and money?  I wouldn't bet on it.  We have spend our time worrying about whether the coach of the Canadiens speaks French or not.  Yep, that is the crisis du jour.  More on that in another post. 

And people wonder why I am leaving McGill.  While Carleton offered an amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues, Montreal and Quebec certainly made it far easier to leave. 

How to Annoy Your Alumni

Just got the Oberlin Alumni Magazine and the last page refers to a key piece of Oberlin (and other colleges, I suppose) by the wrong name.
They refer to this kind of chair:
As a ball or moon chair.
We knew them as womb chairs.  Featured in the Winter Wonderland of Oberlin I posted a few days ago.

Sure, if you search online, you can only find the right chair via ball chair, but that does not matter.  The magazine had in parentheses "mistakenly called womb chairs."  Are they saying that entire generations of Obies are mistaken about this?  That we were wrong?  Um, no.  You, Mr. Alumni Magazine, are wrong, so very wrong. 

Mrs. Spew is very tempted to write into Oberlin to complain.  Oh yes.

So, try to un-do decades of social construction by changing the meaning of these sacred vessels, if you dare. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What I Asked Santa For

With the second night of Hanukah and the Winter Fest upon us (my family will celebrate any holiday that involves gift receiving giving, my thoughts turn to, well, gifts.  What did I ask Santa for this November as I looked forward to the holiday season?  Nope, not a new job--got one of those for my birthday.

Nope, I asked Santa for tenure-track positions for my two PhD students.  And, lo, Santa heard my request, as my students received very good job offers (damn, schools come up with far better packages than I when I started long ago).  I will update my webpage in the new year, with much pride for the outcomes once the second one signs on the dotted line. 

What else did I ask Santa for?
  • A clone.  Though I hate clones as a plot device, it would certainly help to get through the very busy winter/spring.
  • An easy sale of our house in Montreal.
  • A two car garage in our new home in Ottawa.  I am tired of scraping windows. The new car seems to have lots of inside on the inside...
  • The usual health and happiness for everyone.
  • A few additional miles on my United FF account so that I can make it to the next level.
  • Continued support and fun from my blog commenters and twitter followers.  While these have become a huge time sink, I enjoy being connected.  I cannot remember how I managed to get by in the isolation of the early internet in the wastelands of West Texas.  Oh yeah, the fun bunch of assistant professors a.k.a. Hogan's Heroes.
  • Some unprotected wifi near my mother-in-law's house.  Otherwise, not much blogging or tweeting next week.
I, of course, want other stuff.  But I don't want to be seen as too greedy (sure, I am greedy.  I just don't want to be perceived as such).

I hope my readers get everything they desire for the holidays and beyond.

US-Canada Cultural Divides

Every once in a while, I experience something that reminds me that Canada and the US are worlds apart.  That I am in a strange land, that I will never, ever fit in.  There are just some things, some aspects of Canadian life that will always be foreign to me, and I to them.

No, this is not about bags of milk.

This is about .... the Robertson screw: