Saturday, March 28, 2015

This is why I can't have nice things

No, this post is not about how I cut back on showering after I got my bathtub refinished. It's about my headphones. Now, since that post, the Panasonics quit working entirely and I did take to taking my Bose on the Metro. I'd gotten so accustomed to the noise reduction that the full noise was jarring, and I thought, what's the point of having these things if I rarely use them (i.e., for flying). And I did use them for my Indochina trip, which entailed nearly 50 hours of flying, as well as an overnight train. Point being, I decided it would be better to use this expensive device regularly at the relatively low risk of losing or damaging it, than to have it sit rarely used in a drawer.

Saturday roundup


So Idriss Deby is the only one who can take on Boko Haram; that doesn't make his human-rights abuses or kleptocracy any less egregious.

Turkish women aren't buying into tying their self-worth to their marriageability.

How can anyone consider, much less propose or pass, ag-gag laws?

Gail Collins' Ted Cruz quiz.

You do always leave something behind when you migrate, but not as much as you take with you.

The mommy wars are mostly a myth perpetuated by the media, but occasionally, someone lobs a missile. Here's Annie Theriault's counterstrike.

Yeah, spare me the pretense of hospitality and just process my transaction please.

Watch Larry Wilmore's episode on slut-shaming.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday roundup (brought to you by long story)

RoundUp: possibly carcinogenic and linked to antibiotic resistance. Why wasn't there greater oversight?

Whither Singapore.

Why is Nicaragua buying Russian weaponry?

I didn't steal your job.

This goes for any democracy (i.e., that's what the article speaks to). Embedding the tweet so you can actually access the article:
While I'm embedding tweets: guess what this was about:
Was the intentional Carlson email any less offensive?

On women in comic books:
Marguerite Bennett, who co-writes the Thor spin-off Angela: Asgard’s Assassin with Kieron Gillen, remembers being frustrated as a young reader. “I couldn’t quite articulate why certain things felt off to me,” she writes via email. “Many women were obviously one-dimensional: perfect girlfriends, nagging shrews, femmes fatales – tragic, scorned, disposable women. But even with living heroines, something felt sour and discordant. These heroines were capable, competent, fearless, and yet they somehow wound up swooning or helpless or used only for male validation. Most of western literature focuses on male power fantasies. No one much cares about what a female power fantasy would be.”
and
Kelly Sue DeConnick invoked another household object when she told Comics Alliance in 2012: “Never mind the Bechdel test, try this. If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft. They have to be protagonists, not devices.” For decades, too many female characters failed the Sexy Lamp Test.
I'm too tired to get into this to the extent that I like to, but this old Modern Love column came up in conversation today. I love these excerpts:
I simply had come to understand that I was not at the root of my husband’s problem. He was. If he could turn his problem into a marital fight, he could make it about us. I needed to get out of the way so that wouldn’t happen.
It’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.
I wanted to say a bit more about her response to her husband's crisis, which was to give him the space to figure things out in a way that minimized the pain for her and her family. I thought about that a lot in the context of less formal relationships, particularly with various exes. I've written about the last in this context, I think. You can have your crisis; you can be not sure that you want to stay together, but please understand that I'm going to move on with my life in the meantime. I previously thought it was pure obliviousness--a passive inconsiderateness--that drove him to f* with my ability to do that, but now I wonder whether it was a delibearte control mechanism. I'll never know. Maybe more on this later, with stories from another ex.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday roundup

Nigeria's internal conflicts are more complex than the religious differences on the surface.

The Russian parliamentarian who voted against annexing Crimea.

Neil Gaiman's new book punches down, according to a very well-phrased post by Sasha Garwood:
I think maybe the thing that bothers me the most is that calling the book Trigger Warning says to people who feel they need trigger warnings or are triggerable that this book isn't for you, it's for people who don't share your psychological experiences, who can use the concept of trigger warnings as an abstract concept or an allusion or a metaphor for the horrors of the human unconscious because they don't live with the risk of being forced back into agony and terror and physical collapse. It says to people with histories of trauma that maybe they - we? - don't belong in the club, because we think trigger warnings are to be taken seriously and literally and aren't necessarily metaphorical.
No, high-protein diets are not good for you.

John Oliver on the selective tyranny of municipal violations.

A woman is held for 8 days for being right about President Obama following her on Twitter.

Who are these guys? I guess I don't have to worry about attracting them.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Phone (video) call

"Mom: I've seen the cat. Do I get to see you?
A.: Why would you want to do that?
Mom: I gave birth to you, after all, and it's not like I could unbirth you.

I switch the camera.

Mom: You look worse. You used to look better.

I switch the camera again.

Mom: That pathetic, inadequate tail. No wonder you don't want her out there with other cats.
Dad: It's also that she's declawed.
Mom: Still, she must feel bad about her sad little tail.

***
There was also some "blah blah blah everyone else is having children, you should have children, blah blah blah."

Quick Sunday roundup

Today's paper is full of horrifying stories of unjust imprisonment.

So let's go straight to lighter news. On relatability:

“Relatable” is one of those perfectly awful words that has colonized the American vocabulary over an alarmingly short period of time. Writing in The New Yorker last year, Rebecca Mead described its rapid ascent in art and popular culture, but nowhere is it more perfectly at home than in the vacuous vernacular of campaign politics. It perfectly distills both the futility of the most famous woman in American politics embarking on a project to convince everyone that she can in fact relate to their everyday concerns and routines, and vice versa.

Pair with Goopy's self-association with "the common woman."

There is so much wisdom here (from Dr. Nerdlove) and I don't need to send you back through the RM (and mom) parts of this blog to appreciate why it resonates. Recommend reading the whole thing but here are key excerpts:
More often than not the problem isn’t about being socially awkward, it’s about pushing boundaries; claiming that being socially awkward – or defending someone on the grounds that they’re just awkward – means that we shouldn’t be so hard on them becomes about excusing their behavior and helping them put pressure on women to tolerate that behavior. But even when someone genuinely is socially awkward, it ultimately does not matter.
and
Almost everyone has been creeped out by someone out only to be told “Aw, he means well. He just doesn’t know any better,” or “Hey, he’s a nice guy! He does so much for us! He’s just a little awkward, you know?” There’s tremendous social pressure to look the other way, to “give him a second chance”.
Let’s run down just what makes someone creepy again:
  • Behaving in a manner that makes someone feel uncomfortable, unsafe or threatened.
  • Behaving in a manner that pushes against an individual’s boundaries – especially repeatedly.
That second one is incredibly important and forms a critical distinction: creepers and predators will frequently push against people’s boundaries in order to see what they can get away with. When they get caught, they’ll often claim to be “socially awkward” as a way of deflecting responsibility for their actions and – more importantly – putting pressure on their target to let them violate their boundaries with impunity. Many creepers will turn their actions around on their victim and make it seem as if they’re the one being unreasonable. “Hey, I was just paying you a compliment!” “I just wanted to talk to you!” “It was just a joke, geez, get a sense of humor.” “Man, don’t be so sensitive.”
and
Women are especially socialized to be considerate of other people’s feelings – even at the expense of their own – and face greater pressure to offer a “soft no” rather than a direct refusal, as a way of sparing the feelings of others.
 and
One of the undertones of the “he’s socially awkward” excuse is that he’s being misunderstood. That he’s harmless. He’s really a good guy… and this is why the woman maligning him should be willing to overlook the way he’s stepped all over her boundaries. Because he didn’t mean to.
Can you imagine why this argument isn’t going to go over well with women?
Here’s what’s happening when you’re telling someone that somebody deserves a second chance or should be forgiven for being awkward: it’s reframing a woman’s right to enforce her boundaries into a discussion about why the man shouldn’t be inconvenienced. He deserves a chance to convince her that no, she really does want to keep talking to him because he doesn’t want to intrude but how is he supposed to make her realize that he’s worth talking to? It is somehow inconsiderate or rude of her to enforce her boundaries because this person is actually a good guy. He’s a little weird, sure. He may have said things that are creepy, violated her personal space, followed her when she was trying to leave the conversation and otherwise ignored signs that she was uncomfortable… but he didn’t mean to. It’s just not fair for him to be treated like a potential rapist just because of other people’s bad behavior; he didn’t have anything to do with that!
The pressure to give someone a second chance – that they were just being awkward and the woman should just relax her boundaries a little – is telling a woman that she doesn’t have a right to establish her limits or to control who she does or doesn’t talk to. It carries the message that the right of a maybe-awkward-maybe-creepy guy to talk to her is more important than her right to feel safe and secure. It means she’s not allowed to trust her instincts and instead should either magically intuit somebody’s intentions or just let the crowd override her decisions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday roundup

Syrian refugees are being married off as young girls because Syria's refugee crisis. Orthodox Jewish women in the U.S. can have nearly as hard a time getting out of arranged marriages.

Yemen's women's movement.

Haiti's complicated corruption scandal.

Moral injury isn't the same thing as PTSD.

Free Amir Hekmati.

The Virginia school system upended a student's life over a Japanese maple leaf. Meanwhile, privileged parents feel that cleaning is a "degrading" punishment for their kids.

Could Prudence please stop talking?

All mommyjacking is douchey, but some is super-douchey.

Beautiful photos of the tragedy of glaciers melting.
Want to save water? Keep the showers, lose the burgers. Really:
If you eat just six fewer 4-oz burgers per year it'll save as much water as not showering. The. Whole. Year.
This is how much McDonald's cares about its workers's safety.
 
I've been over this before, but go ahead and have that occasional Tofurkey.

As I've always said, there's more to organics than your own safety as a consumer (even though RoundUp is a 'likely carcinogen'); the greater effect is on farm workers and the environment. That said, I accidentally bought conventional apples this week, and--I am not making this up or exaggerating--I could taste the pesticides, which overpowered the taste of the fruit.

FFS, I don't give a f* about Lena Dunham but working out is not anti-feminist. Also, I don't generally wear makeup but "make up" is not "the female version of pretending to be a navy seal." There is so much wrong with that I don't even know where to start. But, as Laura Bates has pointed out, anti-feminists don't understand irony.
 
Thor is selling (as a woman). And don't forget that Superman is an immigrant who was written by immigrants. Now let's put a woman on the $20 bill.
 
I love this Times piece on journalese.

Such an interesting perspective on having one's name on a Starbucks cup, including the revelation that white/anglo people have their relatively simple names mispelled, too. I'm so used to having my name mangled--and it's not even (that) ethnic--that I shudder when someone asks for it. And don't get me started on having to provide my last name, which also isn't even that ethnic. I don't like providing my name because I assume it will be mispronounced, and to some extent, in certain fora, I don't like providing my name because it's unique enough that erodes the anonymity I prefer. I very rarely purchase coffee, much less at Starbucks, because c'mon, that $hit adds up, but if I did, I wouldn't want to be treated as an individual in the process.

Um, if the person you're about to marry wants to include a baby-weight provision in the pre-nup, run.
 
 
Internet Explorer users got issues.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday roundup

You may be wondering about the front page of today's Post (though the story isn't to be found on the main website); see Cheryl Rofer's tweets.

DC's MPD at its unconscionable worst.

A college's bigotry backfires for a good cause.

Corporate America's crusade for a Christian America.

Remnick on Clinton.

Do you eat chicken? You should know how that chicken died.

Test your counter-vegan arguments against these spot-on responses.

The man taking care of Fukushima's animals.

A beautiful story about the peach farm that persevered.

Hydrothermal activity on Enceladus and stunning space photos.

I know I posted something years ago about video-game breast physics, but I can't find it to pair with all these more recent thoughts on the matter.

***
My readers know how inane and rude it is to tell women to smile, but not everybody does. Luckily, I had cause recently to collect the most recent links on the topic (unluckily, the cause was a friend's boyfriend's comment on my smiling habits). Anyway, here's why you should never tell a woman to smile.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saturday roundup

The Dalai Lama has threatened to not reincarnate.

The upside of capitalism.

Don't turn your kids into little assholes by over-praising them.

Persistence can be appropriate if it's respectful, but know when to back off. And look at the resistance that women get when they enforce boundaries.

Man attacks pregnant woman after holding the door for her.

Disease isn't a problem, if you're the disease agent.


I love this piece on failure:
The real truth, though, is that most of our mistakes cannot really be said to have such obvious redemptive power. Most of the time, we simply lose time. We retrace our steps. We let friends fall away; we hurt our families. We do idiotic things in our work. We make mistakes from which we learn and, more often, mistakes from which we fail to learn. Aware of our errors, but frequently unable to do better, we hang our heads.
The writer Kathryn Schulz has suggested that acknowledging the distinctive essence of failure rather than straining to invest it with positive utility actually allows us to experience a greater range of emotions and see more texture and color in the world. Just as understanding the night as merely a period that gives birth to day would cause us to miss so much of its particular charm, so seeing failure only as an element of success causes us to dismiss at least half of the human experience. Failure, she says, can feed imagination, as we construct ideas of what might have happened if we hadn’t made mistakes. It gives rise to black humor. It can make us less arrogant, more empathetic.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday ramble

Last weekend I rambled to you about how there's a type of person that I've learned not to engage if I can help it, and I avoid engaging those people by withholding certain information about myself (particularly national origin, but we may as well add dietary persuasion). Two characteristics--or maybe it's really just one--make(s) these people poor conversationalists: they carry assumptions about certain things (such as your national origin or dietary persuasion) and no information from you can counteract those assumptions. It's like they're talking to themselves, which they may as well be, because they're not listening.

Monday roundup


The judge behind Ferguson fines owes a lot of money in taxes.

Poor science journalism can undermine public respect for science.

Someone did this to me and I didn't react strongly enough at the time: it's creepy to contact someone in whom you have a romantic interest if that person hasn't expressly given you his or her contact information.

A stay-at-home-mom on why her occupation is not a job.

Pair with yesterday's link about renting in DC: how much you need to earn to rent in various cities.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday ramble

It's mere coincidence that shortly after blogging about the good, bad, and ugly of self-help this morning, I went on a date that reinvigorated some old, possibly limiting beliefs. In that post, I linked back to a handful of previous posts, one of which dealt with coming around from the idea that a bossier guy would be more right for me. This gets us into the territory of, you can't have it both ways: you can't want gender roles and then complain about gender roles. You can't expect a guy to take the lead if you're doing things for him. Which is what got me into that mess--that which I had to come around from--in the first place.

Quick Sunday roundup


The Asia-Pacific region's disturbing sexual violence statistics; the Thatcher government's complicity in a rampant sexual abuse and its cover-up.

What's Florida up to now? Banning "climate change" (the term, not the thing).

The costs of renting in the DC area.

Self-help and pseudoscience

Throughout the course of this blog, I've been transparent about dabbling in--and, on occasion, immersing myself in--self-help. I'm not sure if I've ever addressed it explicitly before, rather than dropping references to it in passing. I've certainly quoted Karen Salmansohn many a time. I read her "How to Be Happy, Dammit! (A Cynic's Guide to Spiritual Happiness)" back when I lived in Boston, and I've loaned it or recommended it to many people.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Saturday roundup

President Obama's amazing Selma speech:
What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people — the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many — coming together to shape their country's course?
What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?
and
We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing's changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed. Ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the "race card" for their own purposes. We don't need the Ferguson report to know that's not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character — requires admitting as much.
"We are capable of bearing a great burden," James Baldwin wrote, "once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is."
This is work for all Americans, and not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.

Meanwhile, columnist loses respect for Nemoy because Spock=Obama and conspiracy theorists doubt a peaceful transition of power awaits.

Coates on Ferguson (the state-sanctioned gangsterism, not the shooting).

Matt Taibbi's commentary on the Netanyahu speech is the only one you need to read.

Meat production is destroying China's ecosystems.

I love this story about China's renowned sex-advice provider and her trans partner.

Stemwedel takes on Dawkins (this time, for dismissing everything that's not physics).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday roundup

UCLA has an anti-semitism problem.

This reminds me so much of my mom and how I used to dread any events (graduations. etc.) that would have to involve her.

Here are some great things to keep in mind when parenting adult children.

Carolyn (why yes, I did use the snow day and delay to catch up on Carolyn) on the importance of "meticulous self-care":
Get fresh air, eat reasonably, sleep well and bring or queue up reliable sources of comfort (music and video, say, to supplement your books). For dealing with the turmoil, have a mantra to keep yourself steady. You want to listen more than you talk, stay calm more than you react, give affection more than you show anything negative — so try condensing these goals into a few words you can repeat in your mind.

Everyone's weird in their own way:
We’re all weird. Some people wear it for all to see, and some people tuck it away at home in horror that anyone will discover it, and most are somewhere in between. Please make up your mind just to accept yourself and your weird.

Men are generally more narcissistic.

Holy mommyjacking! The last example is the absolute worst.

One of the great things about reading STFU parents is how foreign most of that stuff is to me because most of my friends don't pull that $hit (it probably also helps that I'm not on Facebook). My friends aren't jerks--we're getting back to Carolyn here--parent-jerks are just the same jerks they once were, with a new focus:
People with jerk tendencies keep those when they have kids, and people with non-jerk tendencies tend to keep those when they have kids. (As do their friends, not coincidentally.)
And it's just about coming to terms with reality: your kids are not as charming to everyone else as they are to you:
The practical application being, someone with a me-centric world view will find it difficult to impossible to hear that you aren’t as charmed by their precious offspring as they are, and they will make you pay for your honesty. Someone less self-absorbed will have no trouble remembering that being around other people’s snot-encrusted, impulse-control-challenged need factories is not everything you had hoped your Saturday night would be.
Animals have consciousness.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday roundup (brought to you by: snow)

In light of the documentary about the Delhi rapists, debates arise not only as to whether it's giving them a platform or airing their views to be discussed and condemned but also whether the West is pointing fingers. It shouldn't be; it's not as if those views aren't aired here, all the time. (See, most recently, the University of Oregon case).

Also in India: a crisis of malnourished women.

In Afghanistan: honor killings are still a threat.

Yeah, that new secret facility, isn't, and the press should know better:
Somehow, not a single newspaper tried to contact any of these people. Carol Morello at the Washington Post wrote that NCRI’s claims “could not be independently verified.” Yeah, not unless you have a computer and an Internet connection.

It's everyone's problem when black America can't trust the police.

The most egregious parts of the Ferguson report. On Twitter, Adam Serwer dubbed the town a violent kleptocracy.

Marissa Alexander's incredible strength amid incredible bullshit.

Why the surprise about most sex workers enjoying their jobs?

The redemption of Dennis Kozlowski is an adorable story.

I'm going to update my earlier post with excerpts, but for here: quit calling women crazy.

Love this:
I normally don’t invite poetry into my daily life. As an ecologist, I embrace science. But all I had to offer her at that point were the thoughts of others who struggled to make a meaningful life and had put those thoughts into the best, sparest words they could.
It suddenly struck me — I the one who loves science, data, facts and reason — that when push comes to shove, it was poetry I could count on. Poetry knew where hope lived and could elicit that lump in the throat that reminds me it’s all worth it. Science couldn’t do that.

I know we've talked about this a lot, but it can't be said enough, because I see a lot of "why does y even matter when x is happening." In fact, when someone replied to a tweet the tragedy of a journalist killed in a car accident, some douche bag had to say, "oh, c'mon, the Chapel Hill murders are a tragedy." We can't mourn a life lost because other lives were lost within the same 24-hour period? If that were the case, we could barely care about anything.

Take it from someone who's been there: just don't:
Didn't I tell you that Nina Teicholz's op-ed was bullshit?

Not a surprise that Alexandria's a wonderfully liveable place.

Need help picking a sweetener?

Stoned bunnies!

I want to visit these ice caves.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Two related rambles (updated)

I have a ramble for you, in reference to (1) my roundup, in which I linked to an article about how guys use accusations of "drama" to shut down concerns; (2) to yesterday's ramble, in which I revisited an earlier conversation about (not) asking people where they're from; my storified account of how recent attention to unwanted handsiness triggered memories of RM; and earlier discussion of the (mythical) needy girl (tl;dr: one is needy when one's needs aren't being met) and the fictional cool girl.

Monday roundup

Two good reads on Nemtsov's assassination.

Meanwhile, Russians will be spending much of their income on food.

Meanwhile that, we'll be wasting a tremendous amount of food, with severe environmental consequences.

I've read a few thinkpieces on Beyonce's vegan delivery service, ranging from "yay, vegan is mainstream!" to "this elitism/trendiness when kids are malnourished is what's wrong with our food system." None of those is worth linking to, but this one pretty much sums up my take: okay, yeah, whatever, but especially if you don't have money to burn you can do better cooking for yourself.

Back to environmental consequences: Keurig cups are so bad that their inventor regrets their invention.

John Oliver, brilliant as always, on infrastructure.

Don't be a bad ally.

Dudes use accusations of "drama" to shut down concerns. More on this in my ramble.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday evening roundup

Unsolicited touching is a boundaries issue. The article triggered RM memories, which inspired RM tweets. Storified here.
 Unsolicited parenting advice is a boundaries issue.

There's nothing wrong with your arms.

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