Monday, April 14, 2014

What you go through when your animal is ailing

You kind of find God and start bargaining. "If she gets through this, I will be so much better about brushing her teeth regularly." You start appreciating the everyday annoyances ("why is she not in my face as I'm trying to get breakfast together?"); you just want to hear her whine, annoyingly, again.

The night before Gracie got sick, she was especially whiny (and I was really, really tired); I'd come home and fed her, and thought the least she could do was shut the f* up while I was trying to get my own dinner together, instead of reminding me, vocally and persistently, that she wanted to go outside. I finally let her out, and that's probably when she rolled around and cut herself on something on the ground. But who knows; it could have happened earlier.

The next morning, she wasn't whining for her breakfast. I thought, maybe she swallowed a stink bug and needed to sleep it off. That night, she was better, but not by much, and the next day, I noticed that she was also sore as well as lethargic and unhungry (which, by the way, are the symptoms of all kitty illnesses). So I took her in, panicked. They figured it out and fixed it, and soon she'll be good as new. But now she looks ridiculous, with a shaved backside and a conical collar on her head, and you can hear her from a mile away, since she bumps into everything with the collar (she and I are about equally spatially inclined). But she's eating again (just as of today, really) and her spirits are up. I'm so glad that she's back.

Monday roundup

College rankings should totally factor in how schools handle sexual assault.

Oh, the Economist, you do pretty well, particularly for how technical you get, but some of your facts are still a bit off.

Ohhhh, US Airways. Let us know what you find out in your investigation.

Ffs, keep your discarded sex toys (together with your other trash) out of the oceans. Although, James Dyson to the rescue.

If you want to raise good (moral) kids, setting an example goes much, much further than preaching at them. Related: everyone, including your dependent children, have a right to manage images of themselves. Related (in a different way): when do the ends justify the means?

Do you ever hear something on NPR that makes you a little more conservative, or makes you kind-of identify why conservatives can't stand the thing? This was that for me, and I don't even disagree with much of the content, in theory; microaggressions are real and they're damaging. People who insist on asking non-white (or other foreign-"seeming") people where they're from need to put in their place and discouraged from doing it, especially in this day and age when everybody looks "different." But I don't think the best response to any aggression, including microaggression, is confrontation. Yes, those people are obnoxious, ignorant, and socially inept... but they're probably not deliberately trying to make you feel out of place in your own environment; they're probably just nosy. It's normally to wonder about someone's ethnic identity (again, I'm not saying that anyone's entitled to an answer).

Look, there are any number of reasons that someone's physical appearance might raise questions. If it's about skin tone or facial features, it might raise questions about ethnic origins; an accent might raise the same questions. A protruding belly, it might raise questions about pregnancy. A scar or burn or wound would raise other questions. That's normal. It also doesn't mean that the person who arouses the curiosity owes you an explanation; he or she may not want to talk about it, and you're probably not the first person (that day) to ask. Keep your powers of observation to yourself.

But those of you on the receiving end: I know it's annoying, but chances are, the asker isn't implying that (s)he belongs any more than you do; (s)he's just trying to make conversation. Do as the interviewees suggest--don't answer on the first attempt, and maybe the person will get the hint. But also do as Miss Manners would have you do: avoid humiliating the asker, if you can. "Why do you keep asking me that?" is a pretty good way to draw out any assumptions or underlying issues.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday roundup

I love Carolyn's response here, because there's no judgment about choices; merely the statement that there are tradeoffs and they're up to the individual to weigh. I've written about how my issue with many personal finance columnists--like Suze Orman--is that they unhelpfully make decisions for those who seek their advice, rather than teaching them to prioritize. Pair that column with another recent one, where a miserable letter-writer asserts that she nonetheless has no regrets. Her choices are not those I would have made (or did make), but if it's worth it to her to be in an unhappy for a big house and kids, who is anybody else to tell her otherwise?

I also love Laura Bates' column in response to the inane Foster column (to which I will not link).
Feminism simply means wanting everybody to be treated equally regardless of their sex. It's as simple as that. And no part of that definition maligns or "bans" flirting, telling somebody they look nice, or going at it like joyfully consenting rabbits in whatever style, location, position or combination of partners your heart desires.
What it does mean is that women shouldn't be scared to walk down the street; shouldn't be faced with intimidating and aggressive sexual shouts from cars and vans; shouldn't be treated as dehumanised sex objects; shouldn't be made to feel that men have an inherent entitlement to their bodies in public spaces.
Strange though it seems to have to keep reiterating it, the difference between sexual harassment and flirting is really fairly clear. It's actually quite insulting to the vast majority of men to suggest that they aren't perfectly capable of knowing the difference between complimenting someone, starting a flirty conversation, and harassing them. The clue is in the name: harassment. And if you're hoping to end up in bed with someone, of whatever gender, it's really in your interests to steer clear of harassing them, as it's likely to be fairly unhelpful to proceedings.
But for those still in doubt, you could always run through this handy checklist of questions:
• Is the way in which I'm making this advance likely to scare or alarm the person?
• Has the person already made it clear to me that they are uninterested in my advances?
• Does the speed at which my vehicle is moving rule out any likelihood of a response to this advance?
• Is this "advance" actually just a shouted and uninvited assessment on my part of this person's attractiveness/body/genitals?
• Does the context of this situation (a job interview, for example) make a direct sexual advance offensive or inappropriate?
• Am I actually, all things considered, just being a bit of a dick?
If the answer to any of the above is "yes", then perhaps what's happened here is that you have accidentally confused sexual harassment with a respectful sexual advance. In this case I refer you to the advice of a lady on Twitter, who rather eloquently summed things up:
While we're still on Things I Love, Martha Nussbaum on nourishing your inner world:
As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.
I won't go as far as to say I love this, but it's a good example of how to write about science: with nuance. In this case, vinegar as a jellyfish-sting remedy... is complicated.

And here's how not to write about science. I get it: people freak out about radiation and don't really understand what it is or where it comes from. But being all cutesy and cagey about it isn't going to allay any fears or address misconceptions. Start reading that and tell me what you think she thinks the issue is: is it radiation, or is it plutonium? It's too bad because there's a lot of decent information in there, but she needed to have chosen a message and stuck with it. If that message was, radiation can be life-saving, why throw people off with uranium writ-large and one "bad" isotope of plutonium? If her point was--and I think it was--"here's how smoke detectors work, and by the way, this process depends on radioactive decay, so don't reflexively fear radiation"--she would have done better to just say that.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Ubiquitous click-baiting gets annoying, fast (and CNN, naturally, is shameless).

NOW, among others, should not be fighting big Pharma's anti-science fight.

Grist should not be promoting leather shoes as low carbon (they somehow forgot to factor in the carbon footprint of the cows, though, to be fair, it's more methane).

Does science cooperation have to be a casualty of geopolitics? Probably, but it really sucks for the scientists (and the science).

I have to admit--which is a sign that those people have gotten to me--I found this 'which particle are you' quiz quite fun.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday roundup

Stardust and interstellar gas and cosmic x-rays, oh-my!

If you're gonna invoke deterrence, get your deterrence principles straight.

Um, this talk of tenses and behavior is flawed not because it's written in English but because it's overly simplistic, but that's what I've come to expect of TED talks. (I'm no economist, but I am a lapsed linguist.)

Big data is not a panacea.

One of the things I wouldn't do for science.

Who is Richard Dawkins to think he owns truth? These aggressive atheists are growing very tiresome--and I'm not about to see any images of any messiahs on my toast anytime soon.

I attended a volunteer reception event the other day, at which one volunteer who was given an award thanked the shelter for opening up another day for a given volunteer activity, because so many people from her church were clamoring to help out. I'd rather agree to disagree with people like her than wallow in internet-smugness with people whose contribution to society is dehumanizing people of faith. Just sayin'.

Another take-your-pick: this guy (Osmel Sousa),
“I say that inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.” 
And Human Barbie and her f*ed up perspectives, or Phenomenal-Woman Maya Angelou?

Yale made a healthy student eat unhealthily because she was arbitrarily deemed too thin. And I can understand how she must look crazy thin: at my height, she weighs eight pounds less than I do, and I don't have eight pounds to lose. But if that's her body, that's her body; let it go.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday roundup

Let's pair Frank Bruni's column on the Mozilla CEO's resignation with the Times article on women in tech, because it's telling--Bruni makes the point that it wasn't the LGBT community that ousted the CEO, but the tech community itself, which couldn't reconcile his views with its values--that that same community, on a general level, doesn't have the same sense of disapproval for misogyny. There's another parallel (although it's a difference, and one that Bruni didn't note): the CEO was given the chance to repudiate his Prop 8 donation, and he didn't, so it's not like he was being held accountable for past beliefs. In contrast, Pax Dickinson did apologize, did repudiate his abhorrent tweets. As noted in the article, that's not enough for some, but it's huge.

Also apparently rife with misogyny (and also largely over the issue of objectification): the stay-at-home dad community.

I'm all for making science outreach largely about people and not just about the research, but I'd caution against making it too much about the peope, at the expense of the science (see my friendly critique of "Particle Fever," which I nonetheless liked/appreciated. And I get that this was an April Fool's joke and that jargon is alienating (though also useful), but you can't take out all the substance (or content, as the kids say these days).

This is so, so important: it's not controlling to have needs or express them.

Hat tip to Jezebel for the article on body agnosticism, but the best quote is in the article itself:
I come to this topic as a woman who cares about her body and her physical appearance, but is not obsessed with it—in terms of having the perfect figure, or in terms of chastising myself for every cookie consumed. Body obsession is often viewed as the privilege of the slim, healthy, and active, and thus my denigration of “obsession” suggests I’m ridiculing those who are serious about weight management and fitness. Not at all. I’m saying it may not be psychologically healthy to be obsessed with your own body, regardless of how it looks.
My point is that if you can build your character toward a goal of true self-acceptance, it ceases to matter which category you belong to, or who evaluates you as belonging to one category or the other. There are objective benefits to exercising and eating healthily, but there are also objective detriments to fostering an attitude of shame and low self-esteem.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday roundup

Rwanda's (erstwhile?) following-orders mentality... well, its not alone in that.

One should try to muster compassion for a woman whose son has been sentenced to death, but I just can't come up with it for the woman quoted in the Mumbai rape verdict.

Sexual assault has always been part of the storyline in American television, but these days survivors are the focus of their own stories, rather than mere accessories.

I was frustrated with the (perhaps uninentional) false dichotomy in Ian Frasier's article on homelessness; it's not an either-or thing, and the two sides would do well to appreciate--and probably do--that's it's a combination or perhaps a spectrum of external circumstances and individual ones. Dealing with either assumption alone is not the answer.

Politicians are getting sloppy in their ads, in hilaroius ways.

In case you were wondering about superfluous gamma rays as a sign of dark matter.

Grit may be overrated, but this line is priceless:
If enjoying a complex mental life interferes with performance in a contest to see who can spell the most obscure words correctly, is that really an argument for grit?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday roundup

Afghanistan can only be as strong as its institutions.

Coal makes rivers black.

You know I generally prefer to eat unprocessed food, but I think well-made immitation meat is a wonderful thing. Also, vegan cinnabon doesn't look bad, nor does the concept of taxing meat.

Expeller-pressed oil is just as fatty, but not hexane-y.

This woman--full-time translator, sloth foster mom on the side--is my hero.

The truth behind ten ancient myths and legends.

Ooh, (Saturn's) moon-ocean.

Photos well-worth breaking a mirror for.

Oh saints preserve us (and our mullets, wherever they may be).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday roundup

There's a lot at stake for Afghan women.

This sentiment--aired in the Detroit rape kit saga--is so common that the author didn't think much of it:
She detailed a deficit elimination plan that had been recently placed on her desk from Wayne County CEO Bob Ficano’s office calling work on non-grant-funded sexual assault kit investigations and prosecutions “low priority,” and saying that the work “should be discontinued.”
This, in light of the fact that "to date, almost 100 serial rapists have been prosecuted from the backlogged kits."

(Some) conservative women suggest the rest of us really lean out.

Emotional trauma manifests itself physically; that's science, not new-age quackery.

In memory of Irene Fernandez.

I had not realized that Alan Greenspan had been involved in the Savings & Loan mess (until I read it in Charles Keating's obituary).

This is honestly a sloppy article about language discrimination, starting with the subtitle; the authors ought to define and use their terms more carefully. Are "native speakers" and those "born abroad" mutually exclusive? And, the way that the study is described, it's not clear that it's a language vs. culture thing (would you see the same results with Americans or Australians, or with Nigerians or Jamaicans?). Are you also controlling for class? Get that stuff straight before you generalize the results.

I got distracted before I managed to comment on this shameless click-bait about non-parents paying more in taxes (which we do anyway). I'm all about funding public services, like education, but the idea of taxing non-parents has got to be one of the dumbest ever. Never mind that we already pick up the slack for people who can't quite be full-time at work, etc. Let's focus instead on how this would essentially be a reverse-carbon tax. Or how it would be impossible to implement/enforce. How would you penalize people with fertility issues? Maybe, instead, make it easier for people to adopt?
Jezebel doesn't think Johnny Depp is allowed to say anything positive about China, even about its architecture. From the headline and the analogy to Dennis Rodman, I was expecting some political statement, but all he said was that his experience in-country was positive. I mean, you can say "China has cool architecture" without saying "I approve of China's government." Jezebel needs to chill the f* out and pick its battles.

On a lighter note: these pictures are pretty.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Moroccan women make tiny amounts of money from carrying massive loads.

Theater matters everywhere, including refugee camps.

By now you've heard about the disgraceful DuPont heir case and perhaps the survivor's "you win" letter to Harvard, both of which smack of one of the most nefarious elements of rape culture: don't bother reporting or testifying, because the justice system and the universities and society are not equipped to help you; in fact, they will probably put you on trial (see, by the way, Anita Hill's interview on the Daily Show, where she talks about just that). And Jon Stewart talks about privilege as exactly what it is and how it manifests itself. Privilege is such an important concept--in this case, people proclaiming the end of society because they are losing the absolute ability to behave badly at the expense of others, as others gain some power--and unfortunately, it's become a meme ("check your privilege" is thrown around with mockery). But this is a discussion for another day because I have to get to work. 

Still unclear as to whether the multiverse is even science?

Someone please veganize these cake planets.

These are so dumb, I can't believe they're real (even in this world of imagined gluten sensitivity).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday roundup

Poland can do better than coal.

It's not too late to walk the dog back (in Crimea), but it's all about institution-building.

Valenti on rape culture.

As discussed in the next thread (see Cancel-Colbert, below), censoring conversation is not the answer, and Theater J is not the enemy.
The incident is but one of many examples of how the Jewish community labors under a not-so-hidden loyalty test regarding what one can and cannot say about Israel...
I understand what’s behind this atmosphere of fear and retribution. Israel is increasingly treated as a pariah nation despite being the only true democracy in the Middle East and having a far better human rights record than its neighbors. While powerless to change the antipathy of so much of the world toward Israel, some Jews try to demand of their co-religionists a loyalty to the country that allowed the Jewish people to reconstitute itself after the Holocaust. Yet with the passage of time, fewer and fewer Jews carry these memories, and their ties to Jewish solidarity weaken. Attempts to enforce communal discipline and to require a non-critical assessment of Israel not only cannot succeed in America, they also are likely to alienate the very Jews the community hopes to engage.
One gift Nelson Mandela gave the world was the understanding that no healthy nation can be built on the back of a historical injustice without a process of truth and reconciliation in which all parties come to grips with the past. There is plenty of blame to go around on all sides. Until the parties to the Middle East conflict are ready for such a process, perhaps art will have to suffice.
Maryland's motto has some interesting language. Actually, that story speaks to what has turned into the Cancel-Colbert debacle (or what sparked it: language needn't have been nefarious or known to be so at the time a name or phrase was coined, but names and phrases should adapt with the times). But, back to cancel-colbert, I will quote Erin Gloria Ryan:
This isn't to say that fights against perceived racism or injustice should only be fought if they're guaranteed to succeed. But, you know, is this the hill you want to die on? Trying to get a guy who owned the shit out of President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Dinner fired from a 9-year-long Emmy-winning show because you don't understand how TV show Twitter accounts work? Good luck.
People have contexts that extend further than the paragraph containing a sentiment. Colbert, for example, has starred on a show that has run for almost a decade, four nights per week, with scattered breaks. His show exists to poke holes in the absurdity of sexism, racism, the media industry, American imperialism, celebrity, warmongering, homophobia, and every other archaic -ism most left-leaning people would be glad to see banished from society. He succeeds 99% of the time, which means he's better at comedy than most doctors are at medicine. He's on our team. Sometimes people on our team make, or appear to make mistakes, or have some growing to do. That's okay, because no person is 100% perfect all the time.
While we're on the topic of giving people a break, even Kathleen Parker says everyone should back off of Michelle O.
 Steven Pearlstein devotes an entire column to the idea fact that it's really not cool to shut down the nation's capital every time it snows.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday roundup and ramble

Note that special Chinese airline food for elite government officials is... largely plant-based.

Whither NATO?

It's not a bad thing that our policy interests don't align perfectly with those of Saudi Arabia.

Art institutions better f*ing care about the labor conditions behind their buildings.

If I did want to actually reason with my mother, I'd send her Fareed Zakaria's column.

Shockingly, there are gender-biased implications in the Christie bridge report.

It's unconscionable to send tons of perfectly edible peanut butter to a landfill.

Yay! We'll soon have a methane policy/strategy.

It's time for another installment of "I can't believe you people have me defending this person" ("this person" has previously taken the form of Kate Upton, among others). Today, it's Gwyneth Paltrow. Like most people, I find GP tiresome and insufferable; she's smug, overrated, and interchangeable in just about everything she's done (with the possible exception of "Sylvia"). She was once a legitimate style icon, but once she realized it, she started donning clothes that wore her, other than the other way around. Her lifestyle advice is an unfunny, tone-deaf joke. All this to say, if people didn't love to hate her, she'd be a non-entity; there would be no reason whatsoever to pay attention to her.

But, all of that said, what's so wrong with the idea of conscious uncoupling? What's wrong with amicable divorce and looking inward to heal and grow, rather than to fall back on bitterness and resentment? Furthermore, is it really accurate--much less fair--to characterize an ended marriage as "failed," if that marriage was happy for most of its duration? Is a more successful marriage one that endures past its healthy point for either party? Just sayin'.

I picked up my new phone the other day, but I haven't had time to set it up. Here are the last pictures from my old phone (not including the ones at Silo, which, btw, has a lovely house wine).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Phone call

I was pretty upset last night after talking to mom. As in: "it might actually be too much work not to hate you; it takes an active effort, and I've been making that effort, but you are determined to undermine it at every turn, so maybe I should save both of us the trouble and just hate you?" Ironically(?), giving myself that option gave me the freedom to come around to, "meh, it's not worth it. I'm sorry, as usual, that you can't help but be this way; you must hate yourself, much of the time. You affect me a little bit--enough that I realize how important it is to ration my exposure to you--but I don't need to hate you."

STFU, Princeton Mom

I haven't had much to say about Princeton Mom's uber-misguided ('offensive' goes without saying, but is not the point) comments about rape, mostly because everyone else has said it better. But there's one point I want to emphasize. I'm not sure that no one's said it (particularly in this context), but it's worth repeating: to the extent that she has a point, that point is part of the problem.

Let's dissect this concept that the woman is ultimately responsible for her own safety, just as--in her example--the pedestrian is responsible for looking both ways, even when the pedestrian has a green light. Or, rather, it behooves the pedestrian to look both ways, even if it's the pedestrian's right to cross the street. Leave aside for now the fact that this is a fundamentally flawed analogy, because in that scenario, the cars are innocent passerby, going about their business, perhaps somewhat distracted. You can't always control for human behavior; a driver may be changing the station or yelling at his kid, or whatever, so you'd better look both ways. But a rapist is not a distracted driver; a rapist is willfully looking to assault the victim. That analogy would only work if drivers were going around trying to strike pedestrians. And that analogy is dangerous, because putting the onus on the pedestrians would help the drivers get away with it. It would create a culture where offensive driving were the norm, because a smart pedestrian would watch every step. Hell, a really smart pedestrian might not ever leave the house.

There are lots of things that a pedestrian who truly cared about her safety might never do: never go out, never trust anyone, etc. Not that that would really keep you safe; someone could jam a car into your house. But what taking this uber-flawed analogy into absurdity gets us is, the secondary effects of rape culture: the limits that women impose or are expected to impose on themselves to stay "safe." And let's be clear: they are limits, and limits have a price--an opportunity cost, if you will. Of course, there are things that all of us do all the time (such as looking both ways), but there are things that we do--or consider doing--at a cost. And it is bullshit to expect women to continue to bear that cost by implying that, if we try to shift it, whatever happens is our fault. That bullshit has a name, and it is rape culture.

Wednesday roundup

The invasion of Crimea has brought about, among other things, the rest of the world's bizarre confusion about Russian women.

And Americans, for one, have no excuse for being confused; Gloria Steinem has been rocking powerful and beautiful for decades.

It's not just you; most people think women look better with less (or no) makeup.

We don't know the full story, but--all while some girls aren't allowed to wear leggings--this girl wasn't feminine enough for her Christian school.

Beauty pageants are for chickens.

For the gazillionth time: industrialized meat production kills many more animals than the ones that get eaten. Eat the stuff on these gorgeous maps instead. Also: the Austrian study is full of $hit.

Hold that champagne... but only if your champagne was for inflation (of the cosmic variety).

SciAm takes on the other two-body problem.

Got a cold that won't go away? You're in good company.

About privilege, can we distinguish between "let your voice take a backseat to those who are affected" (good) and "shut up and listen" (not helpful)? And yes, I agree that body shaming (and body confidence) doesn't correlate to condition the way other things (race, gender, etc.) do.

If you don't know how to start or hold an meaningful conversation without insulting or offending someone, the problem is not that you're too interesting for your own good. Also, if you get sanctimonious when someone asks how your wife is (after she just gave birth), the problem is your head up your @ss, not the people asking after your wife.

Mmm, I love this:
I have seldom met an individual of literary tastes or propensities in whom the writing of love was not directly attributable to the love of writing.
A person of this sort falls terribly in love, but in the end it turns out that he is more bemused by a sheet of white paper than a sheet of white bed linen. He would rather leap into print with his lady than leap into bed with her. (This first pleases the lady and then annoys her. She wants him to do both, and with virtually the same impulse.)
I'm normally not above gwynethfreude, but I just can't bring myself to rejoice at someone else's breakup (no matter how annoying that someone). The mitigating factor is that it's always appropriate to smirk when a sanctimonious lifestyle pusher is brought down to earth--and I certainly did so when one of The Rules ladies got divorced... but all I can say here is, 'meh, it happens.'

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday roundup

Read McFaul's piece and--for a much longer read--Meek's piece to better understand what's going on with Russia. Do not read this piece, characterized by missing nuance so much so that it's painful (and disappointing from a publication like the Christian Science Monitor).

Whither Bangladesh?

Humaira Awais Shahid writes about how much it truly sucks to be a woman (or girl) in rural Pakistan.

Try to read about Jeff Bauman's post-Boston Marathon bombing recovery without tearing up. Then tear up at this giraffe's goodbye kiss to a dying zoo worker.

Today's wise words from Carolyn: "Justified anger is no less corrosive than other kinds."

Feminism does not preclude thoughtfulness.

Does anyone else identify with the "wealthy hand-to-mouth" phenomenon?

Ugh. It's true that we'll never know who was the biggest jerk in the T fat-shaming episode but I tend to have less sympathy than Jezebel or The Frisky bloggers for whomever is taking up more of a seat than is his/hers. If you can't fit in a seat, don't try to take it. Standing is also an option, and a better one than sitting on someone else. If you do end up sitting on someone else, don't get upset if the person you're sitting on takes issue with what you're doing.

Dean Burnett tries to make science, sexy.

Times trend stories: ironic on purpose?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Solopsistic Sunday ramble

As I get ready to say goodbye to my phone of two years--and, naturally, overthink the events of those last two years as coexperienced by that phone--I have to wonder (or admit) that I'm easily amazed, and definitely caught off guard by the passage of time. This sometimes manifests itself in silly, basic ways--every week, as I empty my vacuum canister, I'm amazed at how much dust and dirt accumulated in my house since I so thoroughly cleaned it the previous week. And now it's manifesting itself in a more profound way, as I go through the photos on my phone, wondering which are worth keeping (and what had kept me from deleting some earlier). These aren't all the pictures I took; my iPad, once I won it, became the tool of choice to capture the garden (and Gracie), and I continued to take vacation/travel pictures with my actual camera. But my phone was there when I didn't think I'd need a camera; it captured everything incidental about the last couple of years.

So here's what my phone saw, in the order that it saw it:

Sunday afternoon roundup

Geoengineering (with iron ore) is not the answer.

The extent to which quantitative analysis adds value to messy things like conflict is a longstanding debate (or wedge issue or open question) in the international affairs community. You can consider that in conjunction with this review of books on the brain: how much can looking at brain areas tell us about what goes on in the mind? I've sort of regretted not taking more (any?) neuroscience in college--I was more interested, like the reviewer, in the social psychology stuff--and I wouldn't mind getting back into it now, but not out of the sense that I missed out. Anyway, you can also pair that piece about consciousness with this piece on whether a corporation has concsiousness.

Tell people who tell you to smile that they're being culturally hegemonistic.

The spawn of the Title IX generation is full of fighters... in pink. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but let boys have their My Little Pony, too.

Baby-showerzillas are the new bridezillas.

Dr. Peiris said it best about the Daily Fail's epic fail:
I deeply pity the sort of person who can watch a report about ground-breaking news on the origins of the universe and everything in it, and see only the gender and skin colour of the panellists.
Well, there goes a major plot point in "Avenue Q." BTW, I once had to suffer through a pack (gaggle?) of physicists at a party debating whether Spider Man would ever reach terminal velocity.

Remember my review of "Particle Fever," which included past references to the idea that it behooves us all to understand complicated things--and for those who understand them very well to help us understand them a bit, instead of dismissing us as a lost cause? That's why Phil Plait wants you to tell your kids why the sky is looks blue.

You'll cringe at the corny batman theme stuff, but Karen Salmansohn's take on toxic relationships is spot on. Recall the truest words ever uttered, by Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe it." But so many of us spend a lot of time making excuses for other people.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hair, or If it's not one parent it's the other

When Skyping with my parents, I prefer to keep the camera on Gracie. Not only is she far more interesting, she also understands no Russian and, as such, is in no position to react to mom's critiques of her "inadequate" tail, among other things. I, on the other hand, am expected not only to understand when mom asks me what's wrong with my forehead, but also to respond. This is a challenge, because I don't believe there's anything wrong with my forehead (and "I don't know" is not a satisfactory answer as far as mom is concerned).

Unfortunately, after a healthy stretch of pointing the camera at the cat, I was asked to reverse the camera.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday roundup

Turkey's attempted Twitter ban is adorable and the responses are priceless.

Germany's reaping what its short-sighted energy policy hath sown.

Japan is unique.

As I discussed yesterday and earlier this week, we--our society--has a nasty tendency to define women by the men in their lives (or deaths). At that last link, Alyssa Rosenberg discusses that phenomenon in terms of what's on TV.

Yesterday I also touched on the brutal truth about bacon. Today we can complement that with the brutal truth about dairy.

There's more to Andrew Solomon's book than this, but to touch on just one thing: parents have a hard time not projecting their missed opportunities on their kids.

Was the late Lawrence Walsh the Old Man or the Marin?

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