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November 8, 2006

"My 'Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'" — Gauhar Abdygaliyeva begs to differ with Borat


Ms. Abdygaliyeva is a student from Kazakhstan doing graduate work at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

She wrote a most sprightly and informative piece about her country for the Op-Ed page of today's Washington Post; it follows.

    My 'Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'

    I'm a Muslim Kazakh woman who arrived in the United States two months ago to work on my master's in public administration. Almost every time I meet people and tell them where I come from, they ask me about the "Kazakh journalist" Borat, "the sixth most famous man" in Kazakhstan. I answer that Borat is a satirical fictional character who has nothing in common with Kazakhstan or its people.

    Many of my new American friends find Borat's adventures in "US and A" hilarious and his remarks about my country amusing. Unsurprisingly, not many of the people of Kazakhstan are equally amused. So I want to tell you the inside story about Kazakhstan. And, to steal a line from Borat, please read my article, or I will be execute.

    Kazakhstan is the world's ninth-largest country in land area. It is in Central Asia along the famous Silk Road, which once stretched from Venice to Beijing. We "walk on oil," but that's not the only thing we were blessed with. Our social and economic achievements in the past decade have been remarkable.

    But I would rather speak of my people. I am in my mid-20s and am myself a good example of what today's Kazakhstan is about. I was the first of three children born to an average Soviet family in the year of the Moscow Olympic Games and the Oscar-winning movie "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears." My dad worked at the Space Research Institute of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, while my mom taught computer science at the National Technical University. The tradition of education in my family, which led me to degrees in international law and business administration and now has brought me to this country, is strong in Kazakhstan. That is why its people are among the most educated in the world and have a 98 percent literacy rate.

    Borat says women can now ride "inside of bus" in Kazakhstan. Actually, men and women enjoy equal opportunity, and our women are more likely to be driving the bus. Before arriving in the United States, I worked for the best local law firm and then a U.N. field mission, and I had a car and an apartment in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

    People in Kazakhstan take pride in their ancestors, the nomadic Turkic tribes that managed to unite and retain a territory the size of Western Europe for centuries, despite their vulnerable location between the Chinese and Russian empires. For many years the mostly Sunni Muslim Kazakhs, first as part of the Russian empire and then the Soviet Union, welcomed Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Koreans, Jews, Chechens and Uighurs to their land regardless of their religious beliefs. Those people either chose to come or were deported to Kazakhstan by the communists for various reasons. At different periods my country has been affected by wars, famine and repression.

    With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the economic turmoil brought hardship. Many of my Russian, German, Korean and Jewish friends left for their historical homelands, but many others chose to stay and build a modern, thriving Kazakhstan together. Today those troubles are a thing of the past, and our people look to the future with great optimism.

    The Kazakh flag Borat uses in the movie, with an eagle soaring in the blue sky under the sun, is our symbol of independence and pride. If your eyes have ever welled up when you saw the Stars and Stripes, you will understand how we feel about it.

    The "moviefilm" by Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," is playing well in American theaters. One can only applaud the humorist's talent, but the movie is entertaining only because the world is so unfamiliar with reality.

    Perhaps that will change. The movie has already created unprecedented interest in Kazakhstan. Not only has Borat promoted our name and flag, he has also indirectly fueled a great wave of patriotism among my fellow citizens.

    Please take an opportunity to visit us one day and hear our real language, not Borat's:

    "Kazakhstanga kosh keliniz!" — "Welcome to Kazakhstan!"

November 8, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Free lifetime supply of LEGO blocks — but there is one small catch...


... you can only take full advantage of the offer if you live in a cold climate or inside a freezer.

All you have to do is buy one of these nifty LEGO ice cube trays, freeze the contents and voila: LEGO blocks ad infinitum.

From the website:

    LEGO® just got even cooler!

    Serve the coolest drinks around with ice that looks like LEGO bricks, or build your own LEGO ice "sculpture!"

    Ice cube tray makes 10 ice "bricks" at a time!

    Made of durable silicone.



November 8, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Philosophical Gourmet Report's Top 10 Philosophy Departments in the U.S.


In order, best first:

1. New York University

2. Rutgers University

3. University of Michigan and Princeton University (tie)

5. University of Pittsburgh

6. Stanford University

7. Harvard, M.I.T. and U.C.L.A. (tie)

10. University of North Carolina and Columbia University

"In 1989, a Ph.D. candidate named Brian Leiter assembled a list of the best graduate programs in philosophy, in his opinion, as a guide for applicants. Now the Philosophical Gourmet Report is an influential biennial ranking of the nation's top 50 programs, based on assessments of their faculty by 300 academics," wrote the New York Times in an item in its Education Life supplement of November 5, 2006.

It's much easier to get big fast in philosophy than in, say, football: the University of Miami jumped from 46 in 2002 to 32 in the soon-to-be-released 2006-2008 standings as a result of hiring away superstar Colin McGinn from Rutgers.

Tell you what: if Miami isn't careful and current trends continue, their philosophy department will be ranked higher than their football team.

Who'd a thunk it?

November 8, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bow-Lingual Dog Translator


Arf! (That means tell us more).

From the website:

    Your Dog Has Something To Tell You!

    Now you can find out what your dog has been trying to tell you.

    Translates your dog's barks into one of six emotions: happy, sad, frustrated, on guard, assertive or needy.

    Provides a phrase matched to the emotion to represent what your dog might say if it could speak.

    "Home Alone" mode allows the system to translate while you are away (up to 12 hours).

    Bow-Lingual maintains a record of the 100 most recent barks.



Still hesitant?

I can understand that.


Much more in a very detailed review here.

November 8, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Transit of Mercury — Watch it live today


No, don't go staring at the sun, booboo.

Instead, let the magic of the internet do the heavy lifting for you.

Beginning at 2:12 p.m. Eastern time today, Mercury will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun.

The passage, or transit as it is called in astronomy, will last for five hours and will be visible in near-real time here, with imagery from a Hawaiian observatory.


The last transit occurred in 2003 and the next happens in 2016, so don't miss it.

November 8, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flickr Business Cards


Andrea Caumont's "Buzz Worthy" feature in this past Sunday's (November 5, 2006) Washington Post was a rave review of Flickr's new partner — London-based print shop Moo.

Short story shorter: You choose the pictures you like from Flickr, crop them and personalize the cards on the reverse.

Here's the article.

    Snappy Cards

    Members of Flickr have long been able to beam pics to one another on the Web. Now, thanks to the online photo-sharing site's new partner — London-based print shop Moo (www.moo.com/flickr), Flickr devotees can add MiniCards to their "Things I Love About Flickr" list.

    These clever photo calling cards are truly tiny — a mere 1 by 2 3/4 inches — and are a great way to showcase the pics in your Flickr library. The ordering process is a snap: Pick your pics, crop them and personalize. For $19.99 (plus $4.99 shipping), you can order a wee box of 100 cards, each of which has a picture on the front and whatever message you want on the back.

    Moo's svelte packaging and print quality set its cards apart from its competitors', though some images print a little dark. The cards ship quickly, too — typically in a week or less.

    If you can't bear to part with your precious little Moos once you receive them, take a cue from other Flickr members who are making them into collages and using them to decorate everything from shower curtains to coffee tables. Or give in and share them with your friends and family. You can always order another box.


Judie Hughes likes Moo (coincidentally, her review appeared the very same day as the Post story) so you know it's got to be good.

November 8, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Experts' Expert: Gordon Ramsey's Favorite Knives


Pictured above and below, they're made by the German company Gustav Emil Ern.

Says Ramsey, "‘These have an amazing grip, nicely weighted handles, and the blades don’t go blunt."


From $18 to $188 at www.russums-shop.co.uk.

[via Sandra Ballentine and the New York Times Magazine Fall Living 2006 supplement]

November 8, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Solar Flashlight


From the website:

    Solar Flashlight

    Solar-powered flashlight shines bright and never needs batteries.

    Our solar-powered flashlight has five powerful LEDs that shine brightly when you need them most.

    Just allow the flashlight to charge in the sun for 8-12 hours and it's ready to go.

    Sturdy aluminum construction makes this a great flashlight for camping or for use around the home.

    No dead batteries to worry about.

    Flashlight remains charged and ready to use for 5 hours.


What a great present for a kid who can't afford to buy new batteries all the time but loves to read in bed after lights-out.

I knew someone like this once....

$34.95 (batteries not included).

November 8, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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