Public Service Announcement: Free Ice Cream!

April 29, 2008

Yum!I don’t know how many people will see this in time, but today, April 29, is Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day! Check the official site for the shop nearest you. I’m seriously considering stopping on my way home from work.

Now, the requisite poll question: What’s your favorite flavor?

I am, unoriginally, a huge fan of Cherry Garcia.


Welcome to DC! Now Stand on the Right!

April 25, 2008

Last spring, I posted my maxims for DC tourism.

This year, I decided to go more positive. You have my list of rules, so why not some insider suggestions of things you should do?

Of course!

1. Go to a baseball game. What better way to watch America’s pastime in America’s capital? Especially since we have a brand new, awesome stadium. Check it out!

2. Go to a museum. American History is closed for awhile, but there are a million museums in this town. My favorite is the Freer and Sackler galleries, but I’m a sucker for Chinese art. Some not-to-be-missed ones are the Holocaust Museum, the Phillips Collection, and the Spy Museum. Also, the Newseum just opened up. It’s so new, there’s not buzz about good or bad, so check it out!

3. Go to brunch on Sunday. It’s a DC thing. We love our Sunday brunch. Most restaurants have one.

4. Try some new food. DC has most types of food– try something new. Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide has the low down on where to eat. His site is where DCers go to find new ethnic restaurants, so you should, too!

5. Try a walking tour. There are several companies that will lead you on one, several books that have one. I even saw a deck of cards with different tours on them… our neighborhoods are great and hold a lot of treasures you’ll miss if you stay with the usual attractions. Our row houses are gorgeous, as are our tree lined streets, with small treasures tucked amongst them.

6. Buy a book. DC is one of the most literate cities in America and we have some excellent independent bookstores to prove it. Olsson’s, Politics and Prose, and Kramer Books are all excellent places to grab a cup of coffee and browse. They also often host author readings– Politics and Prose has an author every night!

7. Eat some seafood. You’re on the coast and no one does a Maryland crab cake quite like Maryland! And if you’re in the northern suburbs? You’re in Maryland!

8. Grab a drink at the Willard Hotel. As the story goes, President Grant used to grab a drink here after a long day at the White House. The best time to get a favor from him was a few drinks in, so… people used to mill about the hotel lobby and wait for him, hence… lobbyists.

And, while you’re doing all that…

Let people on and off the metro

Don’t block entrances, exits, and the tops and bottoms of escalators

On the escalator, stand on the right, walk on the left (seriously)

Don’t drive

Don’t rub your vacation in my face


New Crayons

April 21, 2008

This year, the Crayola 64 ct crayon box turns 50!

So they introduced some new crayon colors. Check ’em out!

I got a box to play with (of course) and I’m pretty frustrated that I can’t figure out what color the various colors are. I meant, “Paint the Town” is a J. Crew color, but you paint the town red so, you at least know it’s red. I mean, what color, exactly, is Bear Hug?! Well, here’s the report:

Awesome: would have been awesome in 1985! Bright florescent orange red

Giving Tree: oddly similar to the discontinued Jungle Green, but not as bright. Slightly brighter than regular green.

Famous: A pinkish-purple magenta-y color. Like, if red violet were lighter. It would be cooler if it had glitter.

Fun in the Sun: A bright, happy orange.

Super Happy: Very similar to the long-ago discontinued Lemon Yellow. However, I think this one should be “fun in the sun” and the orange one “super happy.”

Best Friends: a nice, dark lavender that reminds me a lot of the cover to My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe

Happy Ever After: a nice dark blue with a hint of gray– my favorite of the bunch

Bear Hug: a gray with a hint of brown to it. An odd color that I like. Almost moss-like.

I’m most happy about the inclusion Happy Ever After and Bear Hug– they’re darker, subtler, and ultimately, cooler, than a lot of the colors Crayola has introduced in the past.

What are your thoughts?

More Local China-Tibet Protest News

April 17, 2008

Not to make this blog all East Asia, all the time, but hey, it’s what’s catching my attention right now. It turns out there was a lot more fallout from the local NC protest/counter-protest I mentioned last week. A Chinese undergraduate somehow ended up between the two groups, apparently trying to get them to actually talk to one another rather than just competing over who could yell slogans loudest, and, well, things went downhill for her from there.

Some people posted an account of her actions to the Chinese student and scholar listserv I mentioned before as having organized the counter-protest. Outraged messages followed calling her a traitor. Then people posted her picture… and her name, her Chinese identity card number, her US address and email, her parents home and work addresses in China, a map to their house, and pictures of their front door. One of my colleagues has friends in the student’s hometown, and they called over the weekend to ask what the student had done to get rocks thrown through her parents’ windows. News of this has now made:

Interestingly, the two articles that came out today do not mention at all the event that took place last night, which the NY Times reporter attended sitting next to the threatened student. It was a panel discussion set up to address the contentious issues surrounding Tibet (and to some extent the Olympics as well) in a calm, rational setting. Though seven campus police officers had been arranged for security, the entire thing went very smoothly, with no heckling or interruptions of any kind during the speakers’ presentations, nor during the Q&A. The campus paper has a reasonably good report of the overall points that speakers made here: Panelists Stress Trust, Sincerity.

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Secular Memorialization

April 15, 2008

My last post on the Yasukuni documentary got me looking around for other stuff on the politics of war memorials in general. While I have mostly found so far that I will need to go to the library and check out actual books, I did come across an interesting article on Sino-Japanese relations in a 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, which contained the following intriguing paragraph with a suggestion on how to handle the Yasukuni issue:

[C]onferences … involving academics from neutral countries such as Canada as well as Asian specialists from within the region, could improve relations by fostering less-politicized discussions of the war. Germany and Poland, as well as Japan and South Korea, already have joint textbook commissions that could serve as models for China and Japan. An initiative such as this could be particularly effective at de-escalating tensions in the wake of progress in the strategic dialogues outlined above. To help those dialogues along, moreover, U.S. officials should refrain from making casual pronouncements on the delicate matter of wartime commemoration in Japan. As Koizumi has noted, many personal issues are involved in such events. The Japanese people themselves, however, deserve the broadest possible range of options about how to remember the war. For several years, there has been spirited discussion about building a national secular war memorial to supplement Yasukuni, and this deserves serious consideration. Such a model has worked well in both Hiroshima and Okinawa. Apart from providing a way to commemorate the sacrifice of civilians and other heroes of past conflicts not enshrined at Yasukuni, a secular memorial would clearly help improve Japan’s relations with other countries in the region and provide foreign leaders with a way to gracefully honor the past sacrifices of the Japanese people.

-Calder, Kent E., “China and Japan’s Simmering Rivalry,” Foreign Affairs, 85(2)

(emphasis mine)

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Yasukuni Documentary

April 15, 2008

I’ve written about the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan before, and all the controversy it causes, especially every year when the prime minister decides to go or not to go to pay respects. I was therefore very interested to read this article on the BBC yesterday all about a documentary that has been made about the shrine, simply called “Yasukuni,” by a Chinese director. It sounds fascinating to me, especially its attempts to understand what the shrine represents to differing groups:

In all, Li Ying has spent 10 years, on and off, making the film.

During visits to Yasukuni he says he was at times threatened, abused, and on occasion had his equipment confiscated. Newspapers here have reported that he has received death threats.

He says he set out to try to understand better what the shrine means to Japanese people.


To many it is one of the most sacred places in Japan. To others it is a place they feel glorifies war.

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Local Olympic Torch Protest Follow-Up

April 10, 2008

Well, I did indeed get to come to work today and find out how the planned pro-Tibet vigil and pro-China counter-protest turned out last night. Both the campus paper and the local paper reported on it. The basic description from the campus paper:

Crowds of upset protesters flooded the Chapel Quadrangle Wednesday evening, interrupting a planned candlelight vigil supporting freedom in Tibet.

Members and supporters of the Duke Human Rights Coalition, led by juniors Daniel Cordero and Adam Weiss, marched from East Campus to West Campus, Tibetan flags in hand, to advocate for the region’s freedom from the People’s Republic of China.

In response, protesters bearing signs and Chinese flags filled the Chapel Quad, expressing patriotism and criticizing Western media through chants and song.

When the pro-Tibet faction arrived outside the Chapel, protesters swarmed them en masse with chanting and shouting.

The pro-China students had recruited compatriots from the two other large universities nearby and had them carpool over. Fortunately, yelling really loudly and in large numbers was as far as things went.

A bit more from the local paper, highlighting the frustrations of the Chinese students:

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Thoughts on Olympic Torch Symbolism

April 9, 2008

At this point, I’m sure everyone has seen or heard news about the Olympic torch relay being interrupted in both London and Paris. In London, a protester even came close to grabbing the torch away from the relay runner. Today, the BBC put up this interesting feature presenting the opinions of one of the London relay runners and of the executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, who plan to protest in San Francisco.

An excerpt from the relay runner’s side:

A peaceful protest on the sidelines – fine. But don’t try to stop the torch, because the torch is about more than the Beijing Olympics. It’s about the Olympic spirit and the importance of the Olympics in teaching youth, and teaching the world, what sport can do – how sport can bring people together, how it can overcome suffering, how it has overcome even wars in the past.

It’s a very powerful thing, and trying to stop the torch was trying to stop that message, so that was wrong.

The thing that made me laugh about this is not that I don’t think that’s a fine sentiment, but I had just finished listening to Frank Deford’s somewhat scathing comments on the Olympics on NPR’s Morning Edition, and the contrast with his opening part in particular was kind of funny:

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Revisited: Religion in the local public schools

April 8, 2008

In a strange return to one of the very first posts here at Geek Buffet (now more than a whole year ago!), I heard a startling local news blurb on my way home this afternoon. The saga of Mr. Escamilla and Enloe High School is apparently still dragging on. After his suspension from teaching, Mr. Escamilla did not have his contract renewed at Enloe, and was instead transferred to an alternative school starting in May 2007.

He also got a very poor 12-page review put into his file evaluating his teaching that year. According to the website he has set up to chronicle his interpretation of events, it was the first negative review he had ever gotten in all his years of teaching. He appealed these decisions multiple times, and seems to have raised such a furor that the school board felt the need to defend their decisions, so they released supporting evidence from his personnel record in October. In November, he sued. Yesterday, the case was finally settled.

The local newspaper report is rather vague on the details, though:

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Assassin’s Creed – A gamer’s perspective

April 4, 2008

Some of you might be surprised to see me posting about my thoughts of this particular game today. Truth be told, I bought the game months ago when it first came out. I was looking forward to the game so much I actually pre-ordered it. I began playing the game the day it was released. In large part, the delay is due to my struggle to experience the game in its entirety and then to decide what exactly I had to say about it.

It’s not that I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoyed the game or not. To the contrary, I was immediately certain that I loved it, and no part of my continued play could convince me otherwise. The game was hugely enjoyable. Every time I set my X-Box controller down I found myself looking forward to the next time I would be able to play the game.

I think, overall, that my trouble was that the game was considerably different from any other game I’d ever played. Many video games are simply variations on the theme of other games I’ve played in the past. Those games can be very good even if they’re not entirely innovative. While Assassin’s Creed certainly was reminiscent of certain other games I’ve played, it confounded my expectations, and required me to do a lot more thinking before I could clearly articulate my experience with it.

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