Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quick Wednesday Roundup

Good for the New York Times for this headline, this lede. See also The Cipher Brief.

There is such a thing as the extreme left, but it's tiny and there's no moral equivalency with the far-right.

Not every woman is in a position to do what Taylor Swift did, but people are paying attention.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday roundup

Here are some good reads on North Korea, or rather, strategic stabilitymissile defense, and what they actually haveThere's a lot of disagreement about this one (about the missiles themselves), but you might want to give it a skim to get a sense of the parameters in question.

This thread on what's happening in Charlottesville.

Regardless of what we think of Taylor Swift, she's spot-on in refusing to let her assailant change the subject.

I've critiqued Gopnik's language in the past but I appreciate his turn-of-phrase here:

We may or may not be able to Americanize our Buddhism, but we can certainly ecumenicize our analgesics.
Another excellent response to the infamous Google-bro memo.

A beautiful story about Barbara Cook's passing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday roundup

Read this interview with a journalist who just returned from assignment in Venezuela, and who said the experience taught her that things can just keep on getting worse.

In all the hysteria around North Korea, listen to Sig Hecker.

Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico because people eat meat.

Brittney Cooper takes the Sanders left to task. On a related note: don't fall for policy ideas that end up hurting the people they purport to help. See also this thread:

The extreme right and new-age left have moved away from the idea of an objective reality.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts.
I'm not a defender of the wedding industrial complex, but I see the point that the bridezilla smear only perpetuates it.
Just as a competent, civil presidential candidate was called a “nasty woman” and little girls who show leadership skills are scolded for being “bossy,” “bridezilla” is specifically designed to condemn a woman who puts any energy and authority toward trying to achieve entirely reasonable goals. It’s efficient shorthand to remind her, “Hey, the world actually likes you a lot better without opinions.” You might ask: But how is she supposed to communicate, let alone meet ever-loftier wedding day expectations, without expressing those opinions? It’s impossible.
I've not planned a wedding but I've planned trips, and I've managed projects. And as I've told you before, bitches do get stuff done.

Pregnant women are not entitled to other people's dinner reservations.

This piece on roommate relationships applies to all relationships: communication is key, feedback is essential (and all parties need to make it safe), and it's good to be open about how you respond to stress so (among other things) people don't take your response personally.

I used to say--in response to getting hit on by myriad men who'd never exercised in their lives--that I wished straight men would take up a smidge of the body conscientiousness that preoccupies many gay men. I wasn't baselessly stereotyping. 
Going to a gay beach is crazy intimidating,” he continued. “It’s always in my face. One of the best things in the world for a gay man is to go to a straight beach. I would much rather stay at a gay beach, because I like what I am looking at, but to be at a nongay beach, I feel like the hottest dude on the planet.”

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday ramble with pictures

Last night I saw a show, and tonight a movie, about Berlin. In between, I saw a piece the Berlin wall.

"Cabaret" was interesting, because it was good in spite of being technically mediocre--maybe even good, but not that good. By which I mean, the music was pretty good but nothing special; same with the dialogue and the dancing. The structure was imperfect; you wouldn't have seen the tight plotting and symmetry of Stephen Sondheim, nor the twists. The plot was somewhat predictable. But it was a powerful, enjoyable show (the music, choreography, and dancing were good enough; the mediocre dialogue nonetheless got the predictable plot across). The power of the story carried the show. The symbolism amplified the story.

That was Berlin in 1929. Earlier tonight I saw 1989 Berlin in "Atomic Blonde," which I very much enjoyed. It was perfectly choreographed (I do love my 80s music, but still) and beautifully staged. It is not profound or symbolic (it may pretend to be, but its nod to history and substance is thin, transparent), but it's fun to watch. As fun as any James Bond movie, but don't dismiss it as a 'female' Bond flick.

In between shows, I went on a tour of the Capitol, which was awesome. And evidently by my own example, something very easy to not do even as you've been in DC for 15 years. And as you traverse the main hall just above the crypt, you'll pass a bust of Ronald Reagan, and between the bust and the pedestal it's on, there's a layer of concrete from the Berlin Wall.

Here are some pictures from the tour.

Bullet hole on the statue of Calhoun
There's meaning in the pattern
There are only six or so statues of foreigners in the Capitol; Havel is one.

The lid of the box with the Magna Carts

Anyone remember the name of these doors?

Justice has no blindfold here; she has to be able to read the Constitution

Friday roundup

What the world's most powerful nation says, matters.

The progressive left needs to put its ideas into implementable policies; it doesn't need to play dominance games. Please read every word of that last piece by Melissa McEwan, particularly the excerpt from Ginger McKnight-Chaver. See also, this.

What do we keep saying about meat?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to announce the largest recorded “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, where low oxygen levels cause marine life to suffocate and die. The culprit is believed to be toxins from manure and fertilizer from the meat industry flowing into waterways, The Guardian reports, based on a new report by environmental group Mighty.

The pollutants from meat production flowing into the water causes algae overgrowth, which then decomposes and depletes the oxygen. 
“This problem is worsening and worsening and regulation isn’t reducing the scope of this pollution,” Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty told The Guardian. “These companies’ practices need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely necessary to reduce the environmental burden.” The report identifies Tyson Foods as a “'dominant' influence in the pollution, due to its market strength in chicken, beef and pork.”
I keep hearing about globalists.

So by now you've seen the transcripts (and if you haven't, you must). These two excerpts,
He told the New York Times this month of his speech in Poland: “Enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.” 
He told the Associated Press in April of his speech to a joint session of Congress in January: “Some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.”
remind me of my WMF, or I should say my WMFF--well-meaning former friend. After the election, I officially couldn't deal with her anymore. But while we were friends, she'd said a couple of things that struck me as odd and unnatural. I gave her the benefit of the doubt at the time and later realized that they were absolute BS. She told me,

"People [in her position] have said, you're so smart, you should be [in a higher position]."
I later learned that the people in her position complain about how useless and incompetent she is in her existing position. She also once said to me that I'd be so pretty if I'd wear make up. She even told me that a now-mutual friend (who's also sick of her shit) said that to her, about me. It was questionable at the time, but recently, the friend assured me it would never remotely occur to her to say anything like that. So why does this woman--unsurprisingly a 45 supporter--do this? Why does she feel the need to just make things up about what other people say?

Please stop whining about the sacrifices of parenthood.

So much to say (though I've already said much of it--see below) about feminism and weight.

I really feel for both people, this is such a heartbreaking story. I've written before and linked to pieces about feminism and weight (and written about associated complexities).

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday ramble

Last fall, I had a bizarre anxiety dream about something I wasn't remotely anxious about in any way: I'd dreamt that I'd received a mediocre performance review. Not only was I not worried about my performance review, but it wasn't on my mind at all. I couldn't fathom why it would assert itself in my dreams.

Last night, I dreamt that I was lost in Paris. That I was in Paris with a friend but had forgotten to have the international plan activated on my phone, so I wasn't sure how to get where I needed to go. I've spent a lot of time in Paris--most of it before I had any kind of phone and before phones had maps on them--and didn't give a second thought to getting lost. I'd get lost on purpose and find myself. I'd go for walks every evening and easily find my way back to my host family's apartment. I'd metro out to less-frequented neighborhoods and still have no trouble metroing back into the city (you're never far from a metro stop in Paris). If you plopped me down in Paris today, I'd likely find my way to where I needed to be by some combination of memory and instinct, and maybe a paper map and the ability to ask for directions if needed. Why on earth would I dream about getting lost in Paris?

Once in a while, a church not far from me hosts an interfaith meditation initiative to which I go whenever I can. It does me a lot of good (much of which can be undone in 15 minutes of driving home from it, but nevertheless). It did me a lot of good tonight, and I thought of how my mother was ahead of her time in embracing yoga and meditation. And yet, no amount of yoga and meditation and new-agey self-help ultimately empowered her to get over herself.

When the facilitator asked us to think about what we'd come for, what we hoped to get out of it, my answer was 'presence.' Or rather, practice for presence. As the first practitioner pointed out, what we get out of meditation is what we take into the world with us when we're not meditating--such as the ability to acknowledge a distraction and not let it derail us. You practice wandering and coming back to the breath, and in theory that helps you stay grounded against distractions in your day-to-day world.

Quick Monday roundup

This Glengarry Glen Ross analogy is brilliant. I'll add that the salesman in the story was under pressure because his sick daughter needed medical care he couldn't afford.

In this phenomenal piece on veganism, this truth is brilliantly articulated:
Yes, veganism can be expensive — and so can eating meat and cheese. The real cost difference is in eating well rather than eating whatever. If you care about eating healthful, high quality food, plants are the cheapest way to go. (Compare the cost of an antibiotic-free, grass-fed steak with the cost of broccoli, beans, and whole grains like oats and brown rice.) This makes sense from a resource standpoint, since it’s inherently less efficient to feed crops to other animals so that we can one day eat these animals. We would save a lot of water, cropland, misery, and money if we just ate closer to the earth. Veganism gets a bad rap for being elitist and exclusionary, but the fewer animals we eat, the more people we can feed. When it comes to most animal products, we don’t see the real cost. The price tag for meat, eggs, and dairy is artificially low due to disproportionate government subsidies to those industries and to the corn and soy industries that support them. And the price we do see still excludes the environmental cost of these products.

Quick storification

I storified some thoughts on the debate Saletan brought on when he suggested women only need to mean it more. Maybe this weekend I'll talk some more about it. I've written on these pages before about two of the offending men (RM and BE) and about how The Gift of Fear reminded me of them both. In neither case was I holding back; in both cases, I made it clear that I meant business and neither wanted to listen. Both saw me as a little sister figure, even as at least one was pursuing a relationship with me (well, both were pursuing a relationship but only one was clearly, openly romantic). I never led them on. Nonetheless, they were shocked when I had to make it clear for the fortieth time that I meant business.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday roundup

This week has given me many reasons to be proud of my country; one was the tremendous backlash against the transgender ban. And yes, it does matter that many things cost more than accommodating transgender servicepeople, because the people pushing the ban are using cost as justification.

The Onion hits it out of the park twice in one week. See also,
Pity those who have tried and failed to bring peace to the Middle East. I see the bids and asks across the Levant. I can spread the arbitrage from the Bosporus to the Khyber Pass.
The often left-out part of 'no pain, no gain' is 'no rest, no gain.'

Innovation has its place but so does maintenance. So many of us just want basic stuff to work well rather than bells and whistles. Reminds of that time when I bought my house and paid people to clean it, and emphasized that I was after a deep clean, not hospital corners, etc. (I got hospital corners, etc). Reminds me of when RM used to try to figure out why I was sick of his shit, but all he had to do was listen to the plain, simple truth rather than come up with creative theories. I wanted him to be the roommate who quit hassling me, not the one who went out of his way to be extra awesome.

As per the above, I've not paid someone to clean my house since. It only makes you happy to save the time if the people you're paying do it right. But yes, I make that call all the time with home repairs. I only opted to replace the toilets and tile myself this past fall because I was sick of trying to coordinate with potential handymen.

The most important part of this listicle on veganism is,
If you care about eating healthful, high quality food, plants are the cheapest way to go. (Compare the cost of an antibiotic-free, grass-fed steak with the cost of broccoli, beans, and whole grains like oats and brown rice.) This makes sense from a resource standpoint, since it’s inherently less efficient to feed crops to other animals so that we can one day eat these animals. We would save a lot of water, cropland, misery, and money if we just ate closer to the earth. Veganism gets a bad rap for being elitist and exclusionary, but the fewer animals we eat, the more people we can feed.   When it comes to most animal products, we don’t see the real cost. The price tag for meat, eggs, and dairy is artificially low due to disproportionate government subsidies to those industries and to the corn and soy industries that support them. And the price we do see still excludes the environmental cost of these products. A 2016 Oxford study calculated that beef would need to be taxed at 40 percent to offset its contribution to climate change. That’s to say nothing of the externalized expenses of health care required by years of eating diets low in fiber and high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Meat is a more expensive habit than we realize.
If I ever get a tattoo, it'll be one of these.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday roundup

Factory-farmed meat is a climate nightmare.

This isn't the first I've heard of small children being obsessed with 45. Kind of makes sense.

I could have told you this.
What they say: Women are often seen as dependable, less often as visionary. Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion — and more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight. Men remain threatened by assertive women. Most women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive. Some women get discouraged and drop out along the way. And many are disproportionately penalized for stumbles.
Pair this thread--especially this thought--
With this piece about people who opt for panhandling. I admit, I don't want to pay for that woman's cigarettes, soda, or cable. And why should I?

What kind(s) of introvert are you?

Get good at detecting bullshit.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday ramble

I didn't make it to work this morning; I was on my way, on the metro, when I fainted and hit my head on the way down. I came to within a minute to the sound of people saying that someone had fainted, and it turned out that someone was me. An ambulance had been called by the time I got out of the train, but (before I realized that I'd hit my head and was bleeding) I wasn't sure I wanted to get in it; I wanted to go to work. Once I had realized what had happened--there was a dent on my head and blood coming out--I decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. One thing that did not factor into my decision was cost; I knew my insurance would cover most if not all of the trip, and it did. No one should have to make a decision about essential medical care based on cost. A friend of mine recently fractured his leg very badly in a freak accident; without insurance, his bills would be in the hundreds of thousands. That's enough to wipe most people out financially.

I don't know what 'percent' I'm in in the way of access to health care. Today I made a needed trip to the emergency room that was affordable to me. Yesterday, I partook in a health fair at work--the health care came to me, at no cost. I got my skin tested--something I'd been meaning to do and never got around to; I got my bone density tested--something I'd never bothered to do before, and the results amazed the doctor who explained them to me even before I told her that I didn't eat dairy. I got my cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure tested--all fine--so I knew what to benchmark against when the latter two were taken again this morning. As I did this morning, I experienced a sense of injustice: I was grateful for the care I was getting, but I wanted everyone to have access to it. At the fair yesterday, I saw the range of employees--groundskeepers, security guards, technicians--and thought it was awesome that they had access to the same screenings. I hoped their counterparts at other institutions did, too.

Since we're talking about class, sort of, let's talk about David Brooks' much-mocked column.
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Let's start with this excellent point: it's always a good idea, especially in this day and age of dietary restrictions, to consult people about where you eat together.

Friday roundup (brought to you by my ER visit)

Israel has no business making things difficult for asylum seekers.
As public opinion has turned against asylum-seekers and Israel has become more insular, many Israelis believe their country is losing touch with its founding values. Anat Ovadia-Rosner, the former spokesperson for the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, a Tel Aviv-based legal advocacy group, told me the situation makes her think of her grandparents. “They were both in Auschwitz, survivors of the Holocaust. When I hear the story of the asylum-seekers … it reminds me exactly of the stories that I heard of my grandparents.” She said she understands why some Israelis are hesitant to open the borders to large numbers of refugees from outside the Jewish faith, but believes “we have a moral obligation” to do so.
Dudes have to speak up for women, etc. If you let casual misogyny slide, you're part of the problem.

Localities want sovereignty in governance but they're not getting it. And utilities are winning the fight against clean energy. Don't let them; vote in local and state elections.

What kind of ignoramus takes issue with the Declaration of Independence?

How exhorbitant is DC, by metro station?

This disruptive passenger story is amazing. Here's an excerpt from the NYT version:
Then a flight attendant, wielding two large bottles of wine, struck Mr. Hudek with both, breaking one, the complaint said. Mr. Hudek “did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, ‘Do you know who I am?’ or something to that extent.” The altercation ended when flight attendants, with help from passengers, restrained Mr. Hudek with zip ties.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On fitness (and more travel rambles)

Three times a week or so, I bike eight miles to work. After making it up The Hill from hell and parking my bike, I walk up four flights of stairs to the showers, and then back down, and then up a couple more to get to my office. Some days I feel the ride more than others--some day I feel the ride to work and other days I feel the ride from work--but I generally do feel those stairs. The stairs, especially (or sometimes the Hill), remind me that fitness isn't about not feeling it; it's about knowing that you'll make it even if it hurts. And the more you hurt regularly, the less you'll hurt on vacation.

We didn't deliberately plan an active trip, but the places on our itinerary were not designed for inactivity; if you want to get around, you have to move your body. You have to walk the old city walls and climb the clock towers. I suppose you don’t have to kayak or cycle, but you'd miss out if you don’t. My phone counted 22,671 steps the day I arrived in Tirana—and I didn’t get there until 3pm, and 30,526 the day after. Even on days where we spent five or six hours on a bus or in a car, we moved. The day that started with a six-hour bus ride to Kotor clocked in at 15,000 or so steps, and 17,000 the day after that. Once we settled into places where we didn’t constantly need to coordinate or use maps, I started leaving my phone in the apartments, so I don’t have the data from those days, but I know that K’s phone counted 16 miles the day we were at Plitvice.

We felt some of the walking and hiking. I certainly felt the cycling and the kayaking. But it was tough in a good way; I knew I could do it. Because I do it regularly. I say this without a trace of smugness; I know how hard it is to get in shape. I initially got in shape back in the day because my lifestyle demanded it (I had to be somewhere by a certain time, within half an hour of leaving work, and cycling was the only way to do it). I hated every minute of it until I didn’t. Once I got in shape—probably about six weeks after starting—I didn’t want the bike ride to be over. Everyone feels better when they exercise. Everyone benefits from being more mobile. 

There was a bit too much sitting (and for the drivers, too much driving) but the movement was what made it tolerable. On the long drives, we listened to podcasts, including some episodes of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. There was a sense of disconnect in listening to this quintessentailly American show in a very foreign landscape, in these foreign lands. Foreign even as everyone we interacted with spoke English. The tours—the walking tour, kayaking tour, etc.—were in English. Signs and descriptors were in English. If you were a foreign tourist who didn’t speak the local language or English, you were SOL. People asked us where we were from and were sometimes surprised when we told them. There are more European and other tourists in the area than Americans, or maybe we didn’t look the part, whatever that means. 

Some standards were better, others worse. I do like reliable western plumbing, and I say that as someone who has very reliable, very low-flow toilets. Public toilets were often pay toilets (thumbs down, but I get it).

Wifi was an expected thing (in restaurants, etc.), as it is in so many places outside the U.S. My cab driver into Tirana from the airport had wifi in the cab (well, I guess I hotspotted off his phone).

The buses were clean, and the regional flights were nice. Even on the small planes, including the turbo-prop to Zurich, there was sufficient leg room. I don’t need much, but it’s nice to not have a seatback jammed directly in front of your nose, which I did experience on the way to Miami and back just over a month ago. Regarding the long-hauls, I was excited about Austrian Air on the way out and not so much about United on the way back, but United was very comfortable with great service and Austrian was meh—they were apparently bought out by Lufthansa and it showed. On the way over I was seated next to a massive (tall and big boned, not overweight) Austrian woman who openly resented the fact that someone was occupying the adjacent seat; throughout the two or so hours that I slept, I’d intermittently wake up and find her limbs in my space. Bitch, if you need two seats, buy two seats. Buy business class. Your (tall) size is not my problem. I’m merely claiming my own space, not size-shaming or stigmatizing. If you need more space, for whatever reason, you’re not entitled to mine.

Miscellaneous travel note rambles and not becoming my mother

It's bananas to see a Balkan spot as an example of how unaffordable DC restaurants are; we ate so well, and mostly affordably. Albania was cheap, Montenegro affordable, Croatia mixed, Bosnia mostly cheap, and Slovenia expensive. There were things that were a great value (the ferries to and from Korcula), other things that were expensive but worth the experience (the city walls in Dubrovnik, and the kayaking tour around the city, entry to Postojna caves), and a few things that were expensive and not worth it (entrance to Bled castle and the pathetic vegetarian meal at the restaurant). There were meals that were affordable and amazing, and others that were affordable but barely edible (the only vegetarian item at the restaurant we were near in Plitvice by the time we got hungry—pasta that tasted like it came out of a can even though I saw that it didn’t). We were each offended by different things (Jay by the price of bike rental in Korcula or at least by the activity itself; me by… Bled Castle). I was very wary of Postojna, but once inside, we both thought it was worth the price.

Our costs varied significantly such that we had to itemize (it was never a difference of just a few dollars), and with so many people, we to reconcile every night (even when it was down to three of us). And even so it was overwhelming. We took turns getting money out and paying for things. I accidentally got too much money out in Albania even after Jay had warned me not to; I'd misinterpreted the exchange rate by a zero or two. But it was mostly fine.

I'm still happy about my vacation. The planning was more stressful, though it could be a fun distraction.
The only vacationers who experienced an increase in happiness after the trip were those who reported feeling “very relaxed” on their vacation. Among those people, the vacation happiness effect lasted for just two weeks after the trip before returning to baseline levels.

This is week three and my post-vacation chill is fading but not gone.


K mentioned "You Should Have Asked" on the trip, which I'd not heard of before but it makes so much sense.
“When a man expects his partner to ask him to do things, he’s viewing her as the manager of household chores.”
Carolyn further explains,
“I’ll . . . hate myself for being a miserable nag” — and recognize no amount of love will make it healthy for you to stay.
Yes--I hate the person I become when I have to nag people, whether they're significant others or travel companions. I invited K on this trip and deliberately did not invite another friend who was also living in Europe because I knew I'd have to 'manage' her and nag her, and I wasn't feeling it. I had to do some nagging pre-trip, and I was occasionally annoyed when things I'd brought up ahead of time hit like a surprise (we have no obvious way to get to or from Korcula, for example). But it worked out.

I sometimes wonder if I'm too put off by men who appear to need management. I've heard too many married friends complain about their husbands—the dirty glasses they don’t see, the lists that have to be made for them to know what to do. Not only do I find relationship project management exhausting, I hate the person I become as a result of it. I have found that asking--not just significant others--brings results, if not the direct ones you seek; asking can expose the askee as a fraud. Remember when RM regularly insisted that I tell him what he could do to help, as he saw me scrambling, only to put on a confused ‘not that’ face when I actually told him? At least I asked and found out for sure that he was full of shit. I also regularly asked an ex to take part in planning stuff for us to do; he never did, and then accused me of arranging the relationship around my lifestyle. At least I’d asked, and so I knew he was full of shit. But these were both relationships that were doomed to end. In a functioning, healthy relationship, asking has to happen but it shouldn’t always have to happen.

I think about Ruth Reichl’s “Not Becoming My Mother,” in which the author largely pinned her mother’s misery and ensuing issues on her never having had a career of her own. That wasn’t my mother’s problem, although one could argue that toward the end of her functional life, retiring didn’t help her moods. More specifically, being home all the time after she retired allowed her to focus on hunting for misplaced objects around the house, but even before then, she'd hone in on random things and center a temper tantrum around them. It was what she did. She built an identity around being the only one who ever cleaned up after everyone else, regardless of whether it was true, and of how toxic it was in the long run. All she did was shop and pick at things around the house (“cleaning the garage,” in “The World According to Garp” parlance, although I’m not sure anything ever got cleaner).

I saw my mother miserably nag my dad and me, and since I've taken to nagging my dad, so I see where she was coming from, until the nagging became an end within itself. That is certainly one way in which I’m committed to not becoming my mother.

We did laundry in Split and hung our clothes on the line outside, hoping they wouldn’t fall, as there’d be no way to get them. I thought about when my mother fumed for hours in Shanghai over my decision to wash some clothes. I have to think now about how unhappy she must have been as a person.

There are ways in which I don't mind becoming my mother. On the trip, the others consumed a massive amount of bottled water (I just don't really drink water*; Jay wonders if I'm sure I'm not a witch). In Albania and Montenegro, there was nowhere to recycle the bottles, so we essentially hauled a miniature pacific garbage patch from Tirana to Dubrovnik.

*I hydrate via food, tea, and coffee. There was mostly thimble coffee to be had (just as there was a lot of Italian food, there was an Italian sense of coffee), which was fine in terms of strength but I often wanted more in the way of hydration.


My mother would have loved Twitter, given her penchant for complaint letters. I’ve used Twitter countless times to resolve disputes with companies. Unlike my mother, I don’t enjoy the fight; I'm just there to get the problem solved. By the time I turn to Twitter, something has gone egregiously wrong. Cases in point: 

(1) My power company missed its deadline (and, it turns out, gave up altogether) on installing my net meter, precluding me from activating my solar panels in time for a scorching weekend. Tweeting at them got their attention; they prioritized my case and comped my power for that month (as well they should have). Who knows how long it would have taken them to do their job had I not publicly shamed them? 

(2) My health insurer responded to my inquiry about the epipen recall (which they wrote me to inquire about) with a message to someone else, and then ignored me altogether when I replied to let them know their message was meant for someone else. With that kind of customer service, what do you do without Twitter? Twitter got them on the case; they claimed to be horrified and wrote to say that they coached some people. 

(3) My internet company has failed to provide internet for the better part of the week, notwithstanding two three conversations with India. Twitter to the rescue. It’s the only reason I’m able to write to you today. After conversation #3, in which the customer service rep could not understand why I could not be home for a four-hour chunk in the middle of the day, I took to Twitter again (and note that they only took up my ticket, though it'd been several days, after I took to Twitter after conversation #2). So she was going to send someone to my place on Saturday from 11-3. I expressed my frustration on Twitter, and someone came by earlier this evening. The window was 5:15-6:30 (dude was almost an hour late, but I can deal with having had to leave work an hour earlier than I actually needed to; I could not have dealt with having taken a half-day off).

I could go on, but you get my point: here are companies behaving badly, failing to meet their commitments to their customers. What accountability is there? My mother used to love to have me write flowing, angry letters. I just want to get my issue resolved, and hopefully deter them from failing other customers. This one’s a toss-up: is this a way in which I am becoming my mother?

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