Hamburger Helper

Reports from the frontline in Iraq, the classroom and Japan. And I need your advice about visiting New York (see bottom).

1. HAMBURGER HELPER. This is from the Conservative Lie blog by veteran Dave Jeffries. Whether you agree with his politics or not, this poignant memory from his time in Iraq is worth reading. It gets gruesome if you click on the link – which is also where you’ll find his thoughts on combatants’ motivations. Here are the opening lines:

Sometimes there are scenes from my time in Iraq that won’t quit looping through my mind. So, I thought that maybe writing about it might be cathartic and help me put paid to it for a while. I suppose, in a way, this is political, but I really don’t care.

While in Ar Ramadi, we had a network of computers that had limited internet access, but a great intranet system that allowed us to communicate with each other very well. One day, as I was perusing the list of messages, I came across one labeled “Hamburger Helper”. There were a few jokers in the Regiment, so I opened it up anticipating something that would make me laugh. Instead I was confronted with close up photos of the remains of a suicide bomber who had blown himself up the day prior on the steps of the local college.  Click here for the full piece.

2. RIGOR PLEASE. I saw this on Mike Adams (ex-atheist, ex-Democrat, current Republican, critic of diversity movement in academia) says we should ban all academic courses with the word “studies” in the title. Media Studies is the first that comes to my mind. He specifically identifies Communication, Environmental, Liberal, Women’s, and Gay and Lesbian Studies as deserving the chop.

Why? Because, he says, the courses are rubbish and their students poor performers. Both lacking in rigour. How does he know? Because – in his experience – students doing Studies courses ask such stupid questions.

He does seem to have a political – prejudiced? – axe to grind against liberal/left/feminist/multi-racial/sexually-diverse aspects of life. So maybe he’s just a bigot. Or does he have a point about lowering the third level education bar too far? Here’s a flavour:

I have made a habit of asking students their major (and minor) immediately after they ask me a silly question. This is necessary because I teach two basic studies courses per semester – both populated by students from across the spectrum of academic disciplines. I have found (consistently) that nearly all inane questions and comments come from students in just a handful of academic majors…

I rely principally on an unscientifically gathered collection of stupid questions I have recently heard from students in the Fill-in-the-Blank Studies era of higher education… here’s a great question from a student who has been trained by the finest minds on the Fill-in-the-Blank Studies faculty: “What is a propensity?”

My response: “It is a habit, predisposition, or inclination. For example, people who choose majors or minors ending with the word ‘studies’ have a propensity to ask idiotic questions. But they do not have a propensity to use the dictionary.”

Of course, not all of the stupid questions I get are from students in Something-or-Another Studies. But they dominate the field of stupidity in a way that reflects poorly on their respective majors and the university. That is the reason why we need to take a Darwinian approach by getting rid of these departments and forcing these students to attempt to survive in a real academic discipline. Click for the full piece, his list of stupid questions (and his snooty answers).

3. THE COMING CRISIS IN THE GLOBAL MANUFACTURING CHAIN. Tokyo-based Irish journalist Eamonn Fingleton covers Japanese, Chinese, US and world economics and politics in his Sandcastle Empire blog. He’s the author of In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity which anticipated the US Internet stock crash of 2000, and In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony.

Here he writes about economic consequences that may have been overlooked in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami:

Not many people in the American electronics industry had ever heard of the Japanese town of Niihama before the summer of 1993. That changed overnight when a small specialty chemical factory there was knocked out by a fire. Obscure though it may have been, this factory accounted for 65 percent of the world’s supply of epoxy cresol novolac, a resin essential in making most semiconductors. As shockwaves shot through the world electronics industry, prices of some kinds of semiconductors doubled in days. The crisis soon became so acute that the Clinton administration weighed in with a public plea to the Japanese government to take emergency action to restore supplies.

The episode illustrates in microcosm a problem that may confront many key global manufacturing industries on a much larger scale in the wake of the Japanese earthquake: shortages of highly rarefied but critical materials, components, and capital goods. Even as the death toll mounts and rescue teams race to dig out survivors, the world’s supply chain chiefs are bracing for major disruptions in the availability of many so-called “producers’ goods,” in which Japanese companies have built up dominant or even monopoly positions. Just how gravely will these shortages impact the world economy?

Experts on industrial logistics point out that, as world manufacturing has become more technologically advanced, it is more likely that a single supplier, or even a single factory, can be critical to a whole industry. And we know that, in this vein, Japanese corporations enjoy monopolies or oligopolies in a host of crucial niches in supplying advanced materials, components and production machinery for industries like electronics, cars, and aerospace. …I succeeded in identifying close to 100 of Japan’s more important manufacturing “chokepoints”. Click here for the full article.

Brooklyn from the bridge, November.

MEANWHILE… I’ll be in New York city next week – end of March/beginning of April. Anybody around? Or can suggest a good place to visit? If your suggestion revolves round drinking, that’s perfectly acceptable.

I’ve spotted a South African exhibition at MoMA which I’m looking forward to seeing. Weather permitting, I may also find a sunny square of pavement/sidewalk on which to sit and eat fish and drink bellinis. (Well it worked the last time I was there after an election one November.)



Filed under blogs, life, politics

6 responses to “Hamburger Helper

  1. Barbara Rodgers

    Thanks for pointing me over to Hamburger Helper. Very moving…

  2. Nobody comes back from Iraq unchanged. I know, I have a friend who is a Vet and he’s damaged. Sweet but damaged. As for silly questions, I was always told there’s no such thing as a silly question. Not sure I believe it though. Enjoy the Big Apple

  3. As far as the “studies” go I have another reason for detesting them. Did 34 years high school American history teaching. Very few English majors had no clue as to the American lit in 11th and English lit in the 12th because all they took was “studies” stuff. They know all about studies but nothing about grammar or great literature. Social studies teacher hopefuls took so much “studies” they knew nothing about American history or basic 9th grade world history.

    • blackwatertown

      Must admit that I came to some greats late in the day – especially Dickens and Faulkner. I’ve always enjoyed Conrad – but only now reading Lord Jim. (Can’t say it’s an unmitigated pleasure.)

  4. Japanese disaster should be eye-opener as to why U.S. must become more independent. This crisis will affect some industries on a worldwide level.

  5. Mr Adams Is A Serious Body.He Might Well Be Right, But I Cant Help Thinking He Is A Fairly Blinkered Soul Himself……….
    Have A Great Time In NYC !

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