Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Monday roundup and ramble

Why do people have to hate on the border children?

African economies are finally developing (away from extraction, etc.).

This is the best description of basic Alzheimer's science I've seen.

We don't want to incentivize doctors to cut corners.

I flat-out agree with Ross Douthat about policing parents. I just wish he'd written more about affordable childcare.

Nobody is in a place to tell anyone else what's important to them. That said, Arthur Brooks points out that we're happier when we focus on people and meaning, not status and material things.

It's been hard to keep upwith the rash of articles on the environmental impact of food (especially burgers--actually, especially cheeseburgers). Of course, Tom Philpott also got in trouble for his piece on almond milk (though more for the headline slapped on it, which, admittedly, wasn't helpful). He did acknowledge that industrial-scale dairy production is a pretty nasty business.

See also these infographics on hunger.

You really don't have to worry about electromagnetic frequencies. But you should check out these life forms that feed directly on electricity.

We have so much gender/male-gaze stuff to talk about that I don't even know where to start. Maybe with Glendon Mellow's piece on the importance of gaze (NSFW). Next, see this woman's efforts to point out to cat-callers that she's not interested in their observations and evaluations (she's just existing for herself; not wondering what they think). See also Rebecca Traister's excellent piece, where she reiterates that we don't care what you think, and we're not grateful for even genuinely well-meaning appraisals. And Jezebel's that basically excerpts from Traister's, but emphasizes the IDGAF battle cry. It essentially comes back to what I posted last week: nobody gives a shit about your boner.

And because it apparently still needs pointing out, brains and stylishness are not mutually exclusive.

***
Pandora, your predatory ads are backfiring. And, no, Shady Grove Fertility Clinic (by way of Pandora) I am not worried that time is running out. So you can *stop* trying to convince me that I should be by asking three times in one hour.

To make it stop, I turned off Pandora and went outside to weed (actually, thank you, Pandora; I'd been procrastinating). And while I weeded, I checked in with myself to make sure I really wasn't "worried," because if I wasn't, why was I so angry? Because I resent your being in my face about it. In part because I know other people are sensitive about it, and I resent it on their behalf.

If I wanted to have a baby at all costs, I'd take steps to have a baby. The least appealing option for me would be the Lori Gottlieb plan (marry some jackass who may turn out to be as much of a child as the child you're marrying him to have). I have friends who've done that, and they're not happy. They just have an extra child, in adult form. I could do it; I get hit on very regularly. But I choose not to. Getting impregnated through a fertility center is a less unappealing option, and more power to those who go that route, but I just don't want it enough. I like my life enough. Having a child is not so important to me that I'd want to do it alone. I have enough to do as it is. There's also the whole "why bring a child into this world" argument, which is certainly prevalent around now (I won't link to the Jezebel piece on it because I quibble with too many of the details, even though I appreciate the overall message). I don't think all that is enough to stop me from considering bringing a child into this world, but I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to do it. But if I do, the last place I'd go is Shady Grove Fertility Clinic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday roundup

India's sanitation crisis.

There's human rights abuses in your shrimp and god only knows what nightmares in your pork. But Jezebel still opts to take cheap shots at vegans, taking the story of someone who got to the point of eating nothing and portraying it as an example of the dangers of veganism. But Erin Gloria Ryan redeems herself with this PSA:
One of the more irritating aspects of that sort of comment is that the people making them are 100% convinced that the worst thing a man can say to a woman is that he doesn't want to have sex with her, that the most important thing to a woman is how their weens feel about her. Why else would they wear makeup? Heels? Why would they slather on sunscreen every morning?
Guys, guys, guys. It's not for you. More often then not, women do it for each other. No one gives a shit about your boner.
***
This (from Carolyn):
Everything, everything I advise is easier said than done... Finding ways to leave painful things behind us is hard. Finding words at a tense moment that help vs. hurt is hard. Accepting what we’ll never achieve, whom we’ll never be, what we’ll never be given, what we can’t expect, is hard. Admitting when we’re at fault is hard. Accepting when we’re blameless but will suffer anyway is hard.
There's a difference (that this article fails to make) between competitive best and personal best; you may never be the best at something if the innate talent's not there, but you can get pretty good at it--which is its own reward if it's something that interests you. Funny that the article does mention juggling; I learned to juggle, and anyone can learn to juggle, with practice.

Oh, dear (see the last line indeed, which will put your day in perspective).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday roundup: assholes & idiots edition

The Times is late to the Israelis-and-Palestinians-no-longer-see-each-other-as-human party; see this FP piece.

We've heard about good guys with guns and bad guys with guns, but what do you do about idiots with guns? Like this idiot who killed a small girl through his ceiling when he used a loaded rifle as a crutch? What about this idiot who killed this new dad, just back from the hospital with his newborn? Really--I'd like to know--what's the gun-rights position on idiots with guns?

Onto the assholes: Rollin' coal and their liberal equivalent, NPR. Notwithstanding the odd good story, like this one on what Americans stress about, NPR has a lot in common with Rollin-coalers: they needlessly hate on people who are just doing what they believe is right. Listen to the last few episodes of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and count the slams on vegans. Someone ought to tell NPR that they may as well shove their Priuses up their haughty asses, because they're a drop in the bucket in terms of reducing environmental impact, compared to cutting back on animal products.

I'm going to tackle this idiocy by acknowledging some valid points:
(1) STEM is cool but it's not Jesus; the humanities matter, too.
(2) I, myself, was drawn to the humanities, things with story-lines, etc.

But that has nothing to do with my gender. I'm drawn to both facts and people/stories, etc. Focusing on either, serves different purposes. I don't need to say this, because Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently said it more eloquently, but before we start talking about how women (or girls) are not naturally drawn to science, let's deal with the social barriers to women and girls in science, or the things that actively drive them out, like dude-bro Feynman worship.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday ramble: the shit fairy and the shrubbery

It's funny and purely coincidental that my last post included a reference to the suck fairy (Jo Walton's concept), because, earlier in the week, even before I knew such a thing existed, I'd planned on blogging about its cousin, the shit fairy. The shit fairy is my old friend Lizzie's concept, or at least her name for it; the shit fairy is similar to any of the vampires that the writers of "Title of Show" urge you to slay. For me, the shit fairy can also take the form of my mother.

Sunday roundup

Much of Central America is hell right now; no wonder the refugee crisis.
Formerly coexistent neighbors have grown a lot less peaceful in Mandalay.

Another in-depth look at how another college really fucked up in allowing justice (and peace) in the aftermath of sexual assault; it's no wonder more people don't come forward.

Smith's graduating class missed out by hating on Christine Lagarde. Check out some of her wisdom here. Maybe even print it out and tape it up in your office.

Does what you know now ruin your old favorites for you? Blame the suck fairy. For what brought all of this on, read Matt Francis' excellent post on Feynman (the genius but not the hero)--btw, I'd suspected Ash Jogalekar was an inveterate moron, but his post on the subject proved it--and a broader perspective from Janet Stemwedel.

Being wrong is part of practicing science, and it has its utility.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Souvenir from last weekend

You have two reasons to be angry with me: (1) I've waited almost a week to tell you about the funniest thing about last weekend--and it is f*ing hilarious--and (2) I'm only going to tell you, rather than post the evidence. About the delay: things were pretty crazy while my parents were here and then they were bananas at work. About the lack of video: I just can't do that to my parents. But let's get to what that is.

Saturday roundup

Israel sees a generational shift in a bad direction.

Another PSA to the point that nothing short of actually consenting to sexual activity--much less, just being female--amounts to consenting to sexual activity.

On a related note, being poor does not naturally invite opinions on one's personal finances.

It's $hitty to boycott a wedding because your kids aren't invited.

Petula Dvorak is much, much too forgiving of her colleague, who did incite violence against cyclists, but she makes an excellent point: even (most or at least many) cyclists wish the dickish minority of cyclists would stop being such dicks, because it makes it much harder for the rest of us (and not just when they directly endanger us by passing too closely, not warning, etc.).

The continued existence of avocados is a miracle.

The science of air conditioning.

Amazing astrophotos!

Oh, SciAm; the better part of their GMO editorial is in the comments. And let's note that golden rice is a conventional food (but I'm increasingly losing faith in SciAm's ability to get its facts straight anyway).

Let the naysayers note that another study has found nutritional value in organics. Not suggesting it's organics or nothing; just saying, there are benefits. And there have always been known benefits for farmers and for the planet.

Slate's brilliant response to the absurd Esquire 42-year old women piece.

I'm all for equality and holding dudes to the same standards, but let's drop this BS altogether rather than just imposing it on both genders.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Children are increasingly targets, not just incidental victims, in conflict.

Let people read horrible, inflammatory books and see for themselves that they're horrible.

Read this instead of the Post piece on surveillance.

I don't have a link for the following--it came to me in Foreign Policy's Situation Report newsletter--but it is so amazingly resonant that I have to share it:
Stepping back: Shin Shoji, a Washington-based producer with NJK, Japan's Broadcasting Corporation, is returning to Japan. But we asked him what his best and worst moments were during his experience here over the last few years being a reporter in Washington. His best moment in DC reporting:  "As an international affairs professional, it is a huge dream come true for anyone to be in the frontlines where global events develop and evolve on a daily basis. To be able to witness huge policy developments and to develop relationships with real people who are hands-on on those issues is a huge privilege that people outside of Washington will not get so easily. Washington is in a league of its own, well above any cities in that regard, including New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing."

His worst moment in DC reporting, and he even uses the term "this town": "Information asymmetry at its worst. People in this town are assessed on being at the right place at the right time, with the right person for a particular information significantly more often than knowing the significance or long-term implication of that information as an analyst. If anyone complains about a bell curve grading in undergraduate exams as being unfair, information asymmetry in Washington reporting makes pre-med science exams a cakewalk." It was good to get to know Shin and we wish him well.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Saturn's rings (courtesy of Emily Lakdawalla).

What's the Large Hadron Collider doing now (courtesy of the Onion).

If you're still eating animals... why?? If you don't have celiac's and you're not eating gluten, why not??

Wait, women can actually... depend on themselves?


All about boundaries (courtesy of Carolyn Hax). And respect (courtesy of Miss Manners). Spoiler alert on the second one: dressing up for a special occassion doesn't amount to pretending to be someone you're not.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday update

This morning, before mom woke up, dad apologized for putting me through this. I shrugged, said 'such is having mom for a mom.' She was pretty cranky initially, and even said something again about how she'd never come here again, but she eventually let it go. Dad and I set her up on a lounge chair in the shade and went to Lowes, and she was perfectly pleasant by the time we returned. Even started talking about coming back in the fall. She may have asked again why my stomach was protruding, but that's on the least-cumbersome end of the mom spectrum these days.

The TV's been off all day; we'll have to find a way to keep it off. Ironic, since the only reason I got it in the first place was to keep her entertained.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

We're back to "this is why you're single"

As we speak, mom is telling dad that I will be alone forever and she'll never have grandchildren because nobody will ever be able to live with me. She also repeated many times that she didn't want to come here and agreed to as a huge favor to dad, and then proceeded to enumerate all the sacrifices I made so I could do everything I ever wanted.

What brought this on? First, I forgot the first rule of dealing with mom: she dishes out shitty things to you all day, every day, but gets ridiculously defensive and uncooperative at polite statements and requests, such as,

  • could you give me a minute? I'm sending a work e-mail
    • mom response: so?
  • could you please not go upstairs in those (slip-off) shoes?
    • mom response: why? [because they've been outside in the mud] so? [and I gave you slippers] so?
  • oh, don't water the lavender. The lavender prefers dry soil.
    • mom response: stop telling me what to do!
  • mom, you're about to fall out of your tank top.
    • mom response: so? [so I live on a street and have neighbors; please pull up your tank top.]
And so on. And I should know that and in theory I should be able to let it go, but in the moment, I have to react.

And then she kept going on and on and on about the horrific killings in the Middle East (and about her less than progressive proposals regarding the conflict), and dad and I asked her to stop, multiple times. I eventually lost it.

A.: Stop. Just stop.
Mom: Why should I stop!
A.: Because it's enough! Why do you have to keep rehashing horrible things non-stop?
Mom: People have to live with that.
Dad: Those people don't talk about it non-stop. They move on because they have to.

This got her on a spiral of his always taking my side, my being a horrible person, my being a know-it-all who always has to get what I want, my being dead to her and her never wanting to see me again, and so on.

We have two more days. I kind of have to agree with her: why did dad think this was a good idea?

Saturday

Mom: These are just not good.
A.: You're under no obligation to eat them.
Mom: It's just a lot of work for little return.
A.: Thank you.
Mom: I just speak the truth.
A.: I heard your truth the first three times.
Mom: We just fry zucchini.
A.: Well, I thought it might be nice to try something different with the 5 tons of zucchini I got.

I'm not particularly sensitive about the food I prepare; anyone is entitled to not like it. Furthermore, sometimes I try something new, which means I risk making something that's not tried and true. If you don't like it, don't eat it. But don't keep bitching about how (1) it's not good and (2) why did I even bother. Just like last night, she kept telling me to quit weeding because it didn't even matter, my soil was doomed; nothing good would grow here, but I should see how amazing her yard is.

But even the zucchini pile-on was a welcome break from the nasty political rants that were emanating from her before that.

Saturday roundup

The tent city of Zaatari.

Tough times for the Fifth Republic.

There are better ways to celebrate freedom than bringing a gun to Target:
There are those in the open carry movement who have spent time in the military, and I thank them for their service. But there are others who need to realize that bringing a Glock into Starbucks doesn't make you a freedom fighter...
You might find serving a challenge, though. It'll take more commitment than shooting a few holes in a paper target whenever you feel like it. It'll take more time than slapping a "Don't Tread on Me" sticker on your windshield.

Carnegie's guide to great immigrants.

Good things happen when you pay your people decently.

David Sedaris lets his FitBit change his life.

There's a back-pain treatment with an amazing side effect.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I have a TV now

Yesterday wasn't bad at all by mom-interaction standards, until it got really, really bad fast. She complained in the car--and I did my best to remain patient, which is partly challenging because Alzheimer's mom is not that different from regular, passive-aggressive mom. So when she kept asking, every minute on the way home from the airport (there were not that many minutes) whether I had air conditioning in my car--yes, I repeated, and it's on full-blast--after about five times, I asked whether I should just turn the AC off so she could appreciate the difference. I drive an old Corolla, not a Jaguar; the car is not going to get that cold on a very hot day.

We settled in, and for whatever reason, mom started ranting about the Ukraine. So that was fun. But the real fun came that night, when even I was blown away by her emotional selfishness.  It's true, she's ill, but--again--she pulled the same $hit when she wasn't. The same inconsiderate disregard for everyone in the room. The same unmitigated willingness to make everyone around her miserable because she felt like it. It reminded me of when she wouldn't shut up about the "idiocy" of my having done some laundry in the sink in Shanghai.

Anyway, last night we had dinner and went for a walk once it cooled down. It was actually not a bad day--she enjoyed the local flora and appreciated the food and the air conditioning. She did complain about how there was no TV, but she seemed to let it go. I offered to stream something on the iPad but she said she wanted to take a nap. When she woke up, she started to rant about how there was nothing to do here and she was bored. What was she supposed to do in the evening? Stare at the ceiling? In Boston, there are all sorts of concerts--all kinds of music comes to Boston--but here, there's nothing. Not even a TV!

To dad: This is what happens when decisions are made behind my back! I know you wanted to see your daughter, but I didn't ask for this. There's nothing for me to do here.

Not that it matters, but she was on the phone when we bought the tickets. No complaints or even comments.


This went on, on repeat, for hours. to the point where I went to bed and came downstairs after an hour or two to tell her to be quiet. She said to call the airport because she couldn't take another day of doing nothing. I asked her what she wanted to do; she said she wanted to go home. Where there are concerts or at the very least friends to see. And why don't I join them? There are friends there. I told her I had friends here, and that we could easily get her to a concert if that's what she wanted.

I went back to bed--it must have been around midnight--but she continued to berate dad about how she didn't want to be here and that she was leaving tomorrow. Eventually she stopped, only to pick up where she left off, first thing in the morning.

Mom: I don't want to be here! There's nothing for me to do here!

This went on for a very long time. We were going to go for a walk, but mom wanted to take a nap again and by the time she woke up, it was too hot for a walk. So she started complaining about how there was nothing to do, not even a TV.

So I decided that we would go to Best Buy, to buy a TV. But that didn't help. First of all, on the way to the car, she set her sights on my lavender.

Mom: Dig one of those up for me, would you?
A.: It'd die before you bring it home. Could you just get one of those in Boston?
Mom: No! I don't have time to go get one. You have four!
A.: That's because I planted four, and I actually want to get more. I'd be happy to get you one but you'd still be better off getting one locally. It's a pretty delicate plant.
Mom: This is not the first time! You always do this! I ask you for something simple, and you refuse. You're so greedy and selfish.
A.: You are right that this is not the first time, in the least, that you've asked me for something--or asked me to do something--that makes no sense whatsoever. And so I've said no. I am not digging up my lavender for it to die. I don't understand why you can't get your own lavender or at least let me get you new lavender.
Mom: Because! Because! I ask you something, and you say no! You always do this! Never once have you been there for me when I needed you!
A.: Never once have I ceded to your emotional blackmail when you try to make me feel guilty about something stupid.

So I bought a TV, brought it home.

Mom: Where are you going to put it?
A.: I haven't thought about it.
Mom: Why do you need a TV?
A.: I don't. You do.
Mom: Oh, so I can take it home?
A.: I wouldn't recommend it. It doesn't travel well. (I resisted the urge to add, 'like lavendar,' mostly because I didn't want to bring it up again).

We set it up. Now mom's complaining about how there's nothing to watch (nothing=not Fox News). And she's still going on and on and on about how she hates being here and wants to go home and there's nothing to do.

Dad's response has been, "welcome to my life."

Thursday roundup

Another must-read dispatch from the mens-rights conference.

Some guys are really threatened by the concept of sex without consequences, and those guys are pretty vocal about it.


Women’s rights activists point out that opposition to contraception access is fundamentally about control and brings us back half a century to when women were less able to control the number and spacing of their children — and, as a result, significantly less equal.
Demanding that women close our legs and calling us whores for planning our pregnancies confirms the feminist suspicion that opposition to contraception and abortion is less about “life” than it is about a sense that sexually active women are doing something wrong and should be chastened for it.
and

Many of the rights we take for granted — having our own credit cards and checking accounts, divorcing an abusive partner, being able to report domestic violence to the police — were hard-won feminist victories that went hand in hand with the rights to bodily autonomy and sexual privacy.
And that’s exactly why far-right conservatives are so opposed to contraception: They correctly realize that it allows women freedoms that were once nearly impossible but for a privileged few. And their ideal society hinges on a family with the husband as head and the wife as a "helpmeet." Contraception inches her closer to being an equal player.

Steve Coll on how Hobby Lobby is not unlike the Taliban.

By the way, I don't shop at Hobby Lobby anyway because crafts are not my thing, but I also will not be buying Eden Foods from now on. Could someone else please start making mochi? And, yes, organics do matter.



Here's a very good, comprehensive but concise explanation of why you can stop asking me where I get my protein (and stop worrying about yours).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday roundup


In Ukraine, atrocities on both sides.

How your polarised sunglasses work.

Friends going through a hard time need a listener, not an offerer of undue optimism.

Bruni on how Charnov got away with far too much for far too long.

More Hobby Lobby analysis.

Did you know there was just a MENSA MRA convention outside of Detroit?
One speaker postulated that women are responsible for all domestic violence because, having all the power in relationships, they could simply choose not to marry violent men.
The greater tragedy, though, was that they're not altogether wrong on everything:
They’re not unsympathetic issues. In fact, when men are talking about wanting shared custody of their children, when they are talking about wanting to reshape the culture to make it acceptable for men to be primary caregivers instead of just primary breadwinners, when they want to raise awareness about the military industrial complex that sends mostly boys to die in wars — then, they don’t sound like angry white misogynists. They sound like they could be feminists.
There’s a kernel of something in this tiny, peripheral movement that might speak to larger questions: regarding our expectations of modern masculinity, regarding how to truly measure equality. But the kernel gets rhetorically buried in paranoia and anger, which, at this conference, created a wounded echo chamber of nebulous statistics.
But they're held back by their amazing compulsion to miss the point.

Here's the Clark-Flory piece referenced in the above link, which is worth reading in and of itself, not least for its identification of the Omega Male. I want to elaborate on that a bit: there's another breed of Omega Male--F., an ex of mine, is one--who are Alphaish in their careers but functionally castrated man-children in every other aspect of their lives. They're just as useless as the full Omegas.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday roundup

Which is it, notallmen? Are you going to keep repeating that women needn't treat every man as a potential predator, or are you going to blame women--as some of the commenters here do--for not treating every man as a potential predator? I hate to keep having to go over this, but drunkenness doesn't amount to consent to sex; letting someone inside does not amount to consent to sex. When a woman asks someone to walk her home, she's asking for someone to keep her safe; she's emphatically not consenting to sex.
 
Many women will lose access to life-saving medication because politics--we'll get to that in a minute--and there's more arsenic around because politics.

A detailed chemistry of glass and some amazing pictures of Saturn and it moons. And some cool photography.

Let's hope that the success African writers are experiencing is more than a trend.

What has to happen so that we pay more attention to women's substance than their style?

Now for the Hobby-Lobby debacle... let's start with this,
Today, five men on the Supreme Court said that women's reproductive health care is less important than a woman's boss's superstition-based prudery and moral trepidation about fornication for female pleasure. They ruled that it doesn't matter if birth control actually causes abortions; it only matters if business owners sincerely believe that birth control causes abortions. They ruled that it's okay for a corporate person to discriminate against a female semi-person and dictate that she not spend her compensation on stuff that might possibly be enabling sex without consequences, if they believe that God thinks they should.
and then just turn to Twitter:






Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mom's obsession with my weight may be back (to stay)

Over Skype:

Mom: have you put on weight?
Dad: why do you say that?
Mom: I caught a glimpse of her belly. She's put on weight.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Follow-up ramble

Having thought a bit more about last night's mini-dates, I found myself conceptually dividing the guys into two categories: the natural conversationalists and the cliche-ridden interviewers. I'll elaborate in a minute, but let me tie this even more directly into the last post, in which I meant to state--but only implied--that there are dates that help you get over the other guy, and there are dates that make you think that no one will be as right for you as the other guy. Now, align the two left-hand categories--the conversationalists and the helpers--and the two right-hand categories--the interviewers and the regressers. Even if the conversationalists are not for you, they at least remind you that dating can be fun and interesting; the interviewers remind you that it can be brutal.

Saturday ramble

Where do I even start? Starting chronologically would take us back to the holidays, when my mother--who, by the way, is coming to visit this week (as is my father)--was relentlessly hammering me for being single. That offered some motivation, in an unintended way: I thought, if I'm not single by the next holidays, maybe I'll get out of spending them with my mother. So when I saw a Groupon for speed-dating, went for it (upon recruiting a friend to join me). And then I escaped from mom's hammering and felt no motivation to redeem the Groupon, until a month ago, when I figured I may as well use it before it expired (which it did yesterday).

Let's jump out of chronological order for a minute, to yesterday morning, to a panel event on technical things that you may or may not care about. On my way out, another attendee whom I know--the president of a company--asked me if I was okay. I realized later--I'd just said yes and we moved on to talking about business--that it might have been because she saw me go for my third cup of coffee in the course of the event.

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