Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday roundup

The (sex-related) things people google about.

What's not awesome about Cambodia is its sweatshops.

Have we talked about the environmental impact of meat?

If your marriage can be undone by yoga pants... and yet, I agree that we needn't ridicule that woman.

Indochina travel notes: epilogue/ramble

I've been back for exactly a week now, almost to the hour. The jetlag is milder than any I've experienced upon returning from Asia (or Australia). I'm adjusting to less-fresh food, and to having to cook it myself. But I do love staying put night after night, at least for now. I've been shaking the dregs of my cold; I was pretty much over it by the time I got back, but I was still having residual coughing fits on the return flights, and it wasn't until Tuesday that my ears cleared. It was actually good to come back to work, good to see my work family. Gracie was thrilled to see me; she was more affectionate than ever. It's even been easy to adjust to winter, perhaps mostly because I brought the good weather back with me; it's been mostly pleasant ever since I returned. We weren't here for the 0-degree days.

(A tiny part of) the Mekong Delta

It dawned on us that the bus we were on--destination, Saigon--didn't have a dedicated stop at My Tho. My Tho was on the way, and this bus was the travel agency's quickest way of getting rid of us. I was concerned that we'd have to go all the way to Saigon and backtrack. Jay was concerned that they'd drop us at the side of the road and we wouldn't be able to get a cab to the guesthouse. Rick had had it, period, and threatened to get off at Rach Gia. That wasn't an option as far as I was concerned; we were flying out of Saigon the following night. So we stayed on the bus as it honked its way across the Delta. The part of the ride for which we had daylight was, at least, beautiful. But at that point, none of us reacted much to rice paddies, with or without water buffalo. It got dark. I slept intermittently (the seats reclined fully). Around midnight, we stopped at a truck stop for a half-hour break. I marked my territory by way of my very productive coughing.

Around 1am, the bus did indeed drop us off the side of the road at My Tho, but it wasn't long before we saw a cab. We showed the driver where to go... except Google Maps got it wrong, so we took him slightly the wrong way. He had to call the guesthouse, and the owner directed him. We didn't blame him one bit for not speaking English, even though, in practice, it made communication a challenge. But it all worked out. We got there, the hostess and staff showed us to our rooms, we slept it off (or at least I did). I'm a good sleeper; my body will sleep, and if it doesn't for whatever reason, it'll make up for it next time. I set up my mosquito net and used my earplugs. I don't remember whether we were woken up by roosters (we were elsewhere, even in Snooky; in Luang Prabang, it was monks, who drum at 4am).

Cambodia (other than Angkor)

I didn't tell you much about Siem Reap in the other post. The photos were getting unwieldy, but you can't begin to convey Angkor without photos. I'm not sure you can convey it with photos; part of what's mind-blowing about it is the scale. I can show you the details, but the awesome is in the whole--in how many details there are. It's a big city of awesome details. Actually, it's multiple cities of awesome details. Let me quote my Insight Guide earlier than intended: "Angkor must be seen to be believed."

The Angkor Complex

Our wariness was growing as we left Luang Prabang. We didn't want to leave Luang Prabang, we all could of used another day or two there. I'd like to go back and just do a bike tour of Laos. But we had some of the most amazing ruins in the world to see, so onward we went. 

Arriving in Cambodia was a $hit show, worse than that of Laos. The visa is basically an employment program, and they have ten people sitting there to process them. Of course, they also stop everyone to have you fill out a health form. They take the visa fees in dollars, and we'd brought a bunch but also spent a bunch (you can pay for many things in Indochina in dollars, and a lot of prices are quoted that way). What we hadn't realized was that Cambodia uses dollars almost entirely (small change is given in rials). So as we shelled over our last dollars for visas and the cab to our hotel, we fretted about how to get more. We laughed at the irony of getting rials from the ATM and having to change them to dollars at a bank. Until we went to the ATM and realized that they only distributed dollars, because that was what the country used.

We cabbed it to our hotel, only to realize later that the hotel would have picked us up for free. The cab driver offered us his services as an Angkor driver, and we tried to ask him how much he charged, but he couldn't understand us and answered a different question. At the hotel, too, the receptionist had some trouble communicating with us. Now, you know I'm not one to complain about people in other countries not speaking English... but if you work in tourism and English is the lingua franca among tourists, it would really help to speak English. We asked the receptionist about a tuk-tuk to Angkor; there was some nonsensical interlocution, and eventually, we reserved a driver. The next day, a couple of Chinese guests were trying to explain to him that they wanted to check in rather than check out.

The hotel itself was pretty awful. It was in the shadow of a nicer hotel, which probably explains the rave reviews (the rating was mixed up with those of the main hotel). We'd gone for mid-range throughout the trip, but all the mid-range was sold out by the time we booked for Siem Reap, and, given the high ratings, we opted for this very inexpensive place. And we got what we paid for. The three of us were in a cramped room with one functioning overhead light and a shower that drenched the entire bathroom. It's typical for showers to just be showerheads in the bathroom, with the water draining into holes in the floor if not an actual drain, but in other places you could turn on the shower without soaking the entire bathroom. It was fine, I guess--it was what it was--but it compounded our wariness.

We hadn't really figured out what we'd do in Angkor. We'd done well thus far by winging it, i.e., showing up at a place with a vague plan and seeing where our wandering, combined with local suggestions, would take us. I nonetheless tried to get my head around the Angkor complex, but my head is not that way; I couldn't understand it until I saw it. Jay also looked at the books, but also struggled to know what was what. Rick was even further out there ("so, what's this Angkor thing? Is that, like, the main attraction here?"). Over dinner at Peace Cafe (Jay noted that this trip took him to the hippy-dippiest places ever), we tried to come up with a basic plan. Luckily for us, the tuk-tuk driver for the hotel was awesome (and this almost redeemed everything else about the hotel). He asked us if we had a plan, and when it was clear that we didn't, he just took us around to where he thought best. The next day, I added some places. But it worked out really well.

None of us knew what to expect. I'd always wanted to go, but I didn't quite know why. Jay loves ruins, so he really, really wanted to go. Rick... well, we've covered him. So we pull up, get our tickets, and reach the moat and one of the gates of Angkor Thom. And our minds our blown.

Luang Prabang (and Kuang Si)

We were ready to leave Hanoi, but the wear of travel was starting to get to us. We'd been going for over a week at this point--this was our second flight in Indochina, and it followed that overnight train trip and the four-hour bus rides to and from Ha Long Bay. We'd already stayed in five hotels (not including the overnights on the boat and in the the train), and we were ready to be in one place for a while. That said, we were in awe of all that we'd seen, and we were only half-way through our trip. I thought about how I was happy to be traveling; I felt no pull for home.

I couldn't wait to see Laos; I'd fought to keep it in the itinerary. Well, "fought" is an exaggeration because Jay was on board, and Rick was happy to leave the decisions to us; but I would have fought had it come down to it. It was costly to fly there, with the alternative of a 24-hour bus that regularly took more like 72 hours. Rick hated propeller jets; to me, they were just another plane, and a much steadier one than I expected--I was thinking of the Cessnas I took around Nicaragua. Jay and I--probably especially Jay--were happy with how happy Rick was with the trip thus far, given that he didn't really know what he was getting into, didn't know what to expect. I didn't mind that he wasn't participating in the planning, because he wasn't complaining about anything but the conveyances. Jay was relieved that the flight hadn't been cancelled for rain (he'd read that they could be cancelled at the drop of a hat), and it was pouring it down pretty much all over Asia (it wasn't supposed to be, as our innkeeper in Luang Prabang told us; it was dry season). I was upset: we had two days in Laos, and it was raining?? Would we be able to see anything, do anything?

We landed, crossed the tarmac with airline-provided umbrellas, and got in line for our visas-on-arrival. It was a $hit-show, but I won't bitch about it here. We found a functioning ATM and were overcharged for a super-shuttle-type operation to our guesthouse. The hostess at the guesthouse was confused about us--for which we blame Agoda; when we'd booked through or, the management got in touch with us to offer us a ride or make other arrangements (that was how I was reassured about finding am after-hours dentist in Hanoi). Agoda doesn't share contact information. Anyway, the confusion was resolved and we settled into our respective rooms. I cursed the rain.

By morning, the rain had let up slightly, i.e., it was still raining but not in sheets. We got a tuk-tuk (through the guesthouse) to the falls.

 The scenery on the way was stunning, and I was at peace with having come to Laos.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hanoi and Ha Long Bay

We'd read great things about the night trains in Vietnam, and perhaps, had we taken the one originally intended--the slightly faster one, which was out of beds in the same compartment--maybe we'd have appreciated what the fuss was about. Instead, we spent a long evening and night on a noisy, smoky train (no, smoking wasn't allowed but the people in the next compartment were doing it anyway and it wafted in). The views out the window were great while they lasted, but, though we wouldn't quite grow tired of the scenes of villages and rice paddies, we grew accustomed to them and they ceased to insire any emotions among us.


My not-quite-first thought upon arriving in Hue was, what the f* are we doing in Hue? The truth is, you really never know what's worth it and what isn't. There are things every guidebook and every person recommends that you'll hate or at least dismiss. Luckily, Hue wasn't that place. Well, Hue itself maybe; but the surrounding countryside made it worth the stop.

We wouldn't figure that out until the next day, though, and in the meantime, we weren't thrilled with Hue. The motorcycles were relentless (I got stuck in the middle of the street during our walk, and only wanted to avoid street crossings for the remainder of our stay), and the hawkers were in our face. We made it to dinner with just a few street-crossings, and it was an amazing, "authentic" (you know I hate that word), local, open-air vegetarian place. The waiter was very patient with us, and we just kept ordering and ordering (Jay tried to stop me but I really was that hungry).

The next day, we hired a driver (through our hotel) to take us around to the surrounding sites. We found, throughout our travels, that three was the magic number: it cost about the same to hire our own transit, guide, etc. as to go with a group tour. He dropped us off at our first site--Khai Dinh's tomb--and I was at peace with having come to Hue.

Hoi An

Hoi An was lovely in almost every way--almost because motorcycles. And yet, the motorcycles there were manageable; there were natural, albeit short, lulls in the onslaught of traffic during which you could make your way across the street.

We flew to Danang

and cabbed it from there (unbeknownst to us, there was a new shuttle service, and another from Hoi An to Hue, but at that point we'd already bought our train tickets). The guy at the train station was very helpful and efficient. He didn't speak English, but we had everything written down and he triple-checked to make sure everything was right before booking our tickets. He even changed us to a different train to Hanoi from Hue, after pointing out that the one we wanted didn't have three beds in the same compartment. And this was our experience throughout Vietnam: people were extraordinarily, out-of-their-way helpful and efficient. I'd spoken before the trip to a coworker who'd been recently, and he told me he was surprised at how easy it was to travel in Vietnam--how the trains ran on time, literally and proverbially. It was really true. Jay marveled at how unlike India it was--India being shorthand for inefficiency and unhelpfulness. We wondered whether we'd have hated Vietnam the way we did India had we gone during the worst time of year, as we had to India (whereas it was the best time for most of Vietnam), but concluded 'probably not.'


We flew over some mountains

to get to Dubai.

We stayed in Deira, which was hopping. We'd been told that Dubai wasn't at all walkable and that we shouldn't even try, but that's really only the case downtown; Deira is all about the walking, and it was bustling.

We went for a walk, around the streets and the souks, the night we got in. It reminded me a lot of Istanbul... I'd tweeted that it was Istanbul meets Tokyo, with a dash of Shanghai and Jaipur.

Travel notes: prologue

I needed to go on vacation, badly. I hadn't been on a real vacation in years (2.5 years, precisely), and I'd been agitating. I'd considered joining a friend of mine who was going to Switzerland for work, but I'd been there (lived there, actually), and the timing wouldn't work. But by late October, my report was out and, as Jay's contract would end at the end of 2014, he grew more responsive to my agitating. One morning, as I sat in a meeting--I don't normally bring my phone to meetings, but I knew the one in question would be brutal--we texted back and forth about possible destinations. We were all over the world: Puerto Rico, southern Africa, Macchu Pichu, Yellowstone, Argentina, Indochina... and so on. We started throwing out places in the morning, and by late afternoon, we narrowed it down.

Too hot in Namibia; rainy season in Macchu Pichu. I'd always wanted to go to Indochina. 

So we settled on that and proceeded cautiously and expeditiously. My manager blessed the trip (i.e., my monthlong absense, two-three weeks of which were during the holidays anyway so who cares). We booked flights--Emirates offered the best deal--so we added a stopover in Dubai. The guys wanted to go to Ferrari world, which, by the way, you can see from low-earth orbit. We booked lots more flights, and lots of hotels. We left some arrangements unmade--some things were better arranged in-country--and though we had a rough idea of what to do in each place, we mostly winged it in terms of activities. We made trade-offs: it was an ambitious trip, with four countries in two and a half weeks, and there was so much to see. You can always spend more time somewhere, and it's a matter of personality whether you want to take it slowly and really get into a place or hop around and see a little bit of everything. We were scolded over our choices: you need two weeks just for Vietnam! Skip Laos! You need five days for the Angkor complex!

We probably could have spent two weeks just in Vietnam, but I have no regrets about going to the other places. We certainly did not need five days in Angkor. I mean, there are advantages to having more time--you can hit more temples first thing in the morning, before the rest of the masses descend on them, and that makes a huge difference--but you can definitely see as much as you (or at least we) want to see before getting templed out, in two days. As for Laos, we didn't want to leave; it was lovely.

It did take a lot out of us to change places, hotels every night or every other night. In fact, the only place where we stayed three nights was the crappiest hotel ever, so it didn't really help. But hopping around was the choice we'd made, and it we saw a lot as a result.

We all worried about things. Jay worried that flights would get canceled, or that our Vietnam visas would get confiscated, or that we'd have to bribe someone to get back in the country from Cambodia. He worried that the trains would sell out (well, I kind of did too) or that we wouldn't always be able to get around. He worried about all the cucumbers that might manifest themselves in his food. Rick didn't like small planes, or most boats, so he worried about those. He also worried about food poisoning and malaria. I worried about bad weather--scorching heat in some places, rain in others, and fog in Ha Long Bay. I worried we wouldn't find a good Ha Long Bay cruise, and maybe that we wouldn't find our way around the Mekong Delta. I worried I'd have to eat a lot of seafood. Later, I worried about getting hit by a motorcycle.

But not a lot went wrong, especially not at first. The flights all flew, and the hotels were all fine except one. I lost a tooth (crown) at Ha Long Bay, but a dentist in Hanoi put it back in that evening in ten minutes, for $10. I caught a cold between Luang Prabang and Siem Reap, but it didn't stop me from doing anything. Rick did lose his camera, which super-sucks, but he'd gotten all of his photos off of it beforehand. All in all, as weary as we were upon returning, we had a blast and saw some really cool stuff.

Saturday roundup

Here's the Times obituary of King Abdullah but don't miss the story of his encounter with Queen Elizabeth.

Will Africa's economic growth also usher in greater food security?

Inconscionable state sponsorship of animal cruelty, all on behalf of the meat industry.

On combatting food waste.

The oceans are hurting.

Carmen Guadelupe Vasquez has been pardoned, but this travesty never should have gone this far.

Letting your kids walk around on their own is now apparently a crime.

Posting graphic pictures of your kids' colds should be a crime.

Yup any woman who takes issue with things is just jealous.

The problem with exclusively health-motivated vegans is that they often go too far and then give up.

Immigration: a photo essay.

Is dumb-shaming anti-vaxxers not the best way to go?

An excellent critique of media exaggeration/distortion, with the longterm impact and the position it puts experts in:
Stories like this make analysts like me crazy. It’s obviously careless reporting, yet I will encounter claims of a Second Artillery Unit “near Baekdusan” for years, if not the rest of my miserable life. I’ll have to deprogram graduate students and be the jerk who corrects people in meetings. All because no one at the Chosun Ilbo bothered to check with a single competent expert before running that story. What? Mark Stokes doesn’t have email? Henry Boyd at IISS was on vacation? There are literally half a dozen people who would have been happy to correct Chosun Ilbo had they bothered to send a single, solitary email.
So, no China is not deploying nuclear-armed missiles on Mount Baekdu. Instead, the 810 Launch Brigade out of Dalian froze their balls off spending a month reenacting the opening battle sequence on Hoth from Empire Strikes Back.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I'm back... you may have noticed from the mini-roundup. I'll try to get you some travel notes within the week. Here are some random, unedited photos for now. You can play "guess the place" in the comments (hint: four countries represented; one especially is not like the others).

Quick Monday roundup

Agrichemicals are killing farmers in Sri Lanka.

Affluenza-afflicted man-child killed his father.

QVC hosts not sure whether the moon is a star or a planet.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve ramble

Yesterday, when I was looking for videos of Russian children's music for my Сиди дома не гуляй post, I came upon other childhood favorites like the very classic Голубой вагонIt's about the passage of time, very fitting for New Year's. The poetry is lost in translation (you can find the original lyrics and a poor translation at that link), but here are some excerpts (with my translation):
Медленно минуты уплывают в даль,Встречи с ними ты уже не жди.И хотя нам прошлого немного жаль,Лучшее, конечно, впереди.
Slowly the minutes flow into the distance,
Don't hold your breath waiting to meet them again.
Although we're loath to let go of the past, 
The best, of course, is ahead!
and for good measure,
Может мы обидели кого-то зря,Календарь закроет этот лист.К новым приключениям спешим, друзья...

Maybe we needlessly offended someone
The calendar will close that page.
To new adventures, friends!
Here's another thing I inadvertently came upon for New Year's: a stack of old letters and cards. Dad handed me a binder of papers to sort through, which he'd described as old 403b statements. There were some of those--together with my GRE scores and some old pay stubs--but there was a lot of personal correspondence from over a decade ago, when I lived in the area. It was all addressed to Boston--I'd kept the envelopes--but I'd left it here for whatever reason. It struck me how prolific my friends and I were, on real paper. It was back in the day when letters were really a thing. Exhibit A:

We wrote on cards, we wrote on stationery. We sometimes apologized for our penmanship, even though it was always impressively legible, We asked about each other's jobs, dates, moves, grad school applications, etc., and asked after the same. We wrote of various events going on in our respective cities, and plotted visits, some of which materialized. In which case we reminisced about those visits in later letters.

There was also a holiday card from one coworker, in which she thanked me for mentoring her, and another card from another coworker, in which he apologized for having made me uncomfortable by having made known his feelings for me. I know why I kept the first card; I don't know why I kept the second, but I'm glad I did. I meant the guy no ill will, bore him no resentment--I just didn't return his feelings. I appreciate now, in a way that I didn't appreciate at all at the time, the explanation in his heartfelt apology, that I made him nervous. 

Over a decade later, I've been hit on a lot more dudes for whom I don't have feelings. I've been counseling a friend on the same, now that I've come to recognize the pattern (at least the dude who wrote the card was upfront about it; none of this sneaking into a date through an ambiguous, potentially date-like situation). I've experienced my own self-sabotage through nervousness. 

I, we experienced many more moves, job applications, dates, jobs, etc. Most of us migrated to email, but not all of us. I received a long paper letter from one of those friends a month or so ago, and wrote her back on paper as well. It's always interesting to look back through the past, to remember what was going on then. Especially on New Year's Eve.

Various insults with no direct translation

I vacuumed, (re)packed, yoga'd, washed my hair, and sat down to check in and print my boarding pass. There was some messiness; nothing serious, but I needed to concentrate (for example, to not get stuck between refreshing check-in screens).

Dad: I found this...
A.: Just a second, please.

A minute or so later, mom comes by.

Mom: [Ranting about something]
A.: Just a second, please.
Mom: No. Listen, now.
Dad: She's in the middle of something.
Mom: The sooner you just listen, the sooner you can finish.
A.: The sooner you stop talking to me, the sooner I can finish, and then I can listen to you.,
Mom: Bitch!
Dad: She's merely asking you to keep quiet for a few minutes.
Mom: In that tone of voice?
Dad: What tone of voice?
Mom (to me): You are dead to me! Never again show your face in this house! You don't exist for me.
A.: Okay.
Mom: I mean it! This is my house! I'll talk when I want! Bitch! [Various insults with no direct translation.]
A.: [Shrugs, completes check-in.]

In which mom offered me a pair of 3X Angry Bird lounge pants

Dad, to his credit, keeps his promises. After I gave him my cleaning tool for small spaces because the radiators each have their own colonies of dust bunnies--and I made him promise to actually use it--the radiators are spotless.

Mom won't let anything be tossed; it has to be done when she's not looking, and even then, she'll dig it out of the trash (or recycling bin or compost bin). She took the old phone books out of the recycling bin because the paper could be useful for sitting on, for example (dad plans to put them back just in time for them to be collected). She argues that clearly moldy food items, aren't, and even tries to eat them. In her defense, she's confused about what things are. In my defense (for getting frustrated with her), I have a built-up reaction against her trying to buy useless things and often foist them on me. Last night she tried to foist upon me a massive pair of Angry Birds lounge pants.

Mom: Do you want this? It's very cozy.
A.: No, thanks. I'm not taking any warm clothes.
Mom: I mean, not now; next time.
A.: We can talk about it then.
Mom: It's very cozy.
A.: They're 3X... they'd fall right off of me.
Mom: It's meant to be loose. It's like a [muumuu].
A.: Mom, they're pants.
Mom: No, they're not.
A.: Okay. In any case, I'm not taking it with me.
Mom: Suit yourself.

I'd get annoyed at dad for letting her buy them in the first place, but I know it's useless to argue with her once she sets her sights on something. I'd get annoyed with dad for taking her to that store, but what is he going to do? We barely talked her out of it the other day, when we were nearby for a walk. It's the same one where she gets all her discounted cleaning products. Of which this house doesn't need more.

Take my vegan card if you want it

I'd recently blogged about Bad Jews the play and bad Jews the thing, in which I wrote,
Never mind that Jews--even American Jews of Eastern European origin--are not unlike feminists, which is mostly to say that although we're perceived by our respective haters as some kind of organized cabal, we're not only not monolithic, but we in-fight, question each other's credentials, and otherwise undermine each other. 
We can easily include vegans in the same analogy, with the vegan police at one end and chegans like me at the other, with sanctimonious vegansplainers at various points in between (eg., "don't talk about health! it's about the animals!" or "don't eat processed imitation meat! it's too salty").

Could you all just shut the f* up? Nobody cares. There's no cabal; it's not a cult. It comes down to whether you see 'vegan' as a useful, pragmatic shorthand--more useful for food than for people--than as a statement of identity. I recently wrote,
about how don't love the labels vegetarian/vegan not because, as suggested in the article, some vegans are jerks (guess what: some omnivores are jerks, too) but because I choose not to define myself by the way I eat. There's a fine line between "I don't eat animal products" and "I'm a vegan," and it's the line between "this is what I do" and "this is what I am."

So I don't understand the fuss over what people call themselves, over this nonexistent vegan badge of honor:
Because I eat oysters, I shouldn’t call myself a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there’s an even more awkward word to describe my diet. At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. 
I'm not here to argue oysters; I'm here to argue labels. And Christopher Cox makes the labels point in his article about oysters:
There are dozens of reasons to become a vegan, but just two should suffice: Raising animals for food 1) destroys the planet and 2) causes those animals to suffer. Factory farms are the worst offenders, but even the best-run animal operations can’t get around the fact that livestock are the largest contributors to global warming worldwide and that the same amount of land used to feed one beef eater can feed 15 to 20 vegans. Animals are terribly inefficient machines for turning plants into food, and an inefficiency of this scale is disastrous. 
And here, he makes the chegan point:
And when I pick out my dinner, I don’t ask myself: What do I have to do to remain a vegan? I ask myself: What is the right choice in this situation? Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest... 
David Shiffman missed that point when he posted that article to his Facebook page with a snide comment:
Apparently it's ok for vegans to eat oysters because their harvest is sustainable and because they don't suffer. Ok then.
I thought that Mr. Cox effectively made the point that it's not helpful to talk about sustainability as "is it okay" or not. It's, what's the best choice in this situation. There are probably surely vegans who argue for purity and who suggest that a plant-based diet is impact-free; I'm not one of them. All diets have an impact. When we eat, we cause environmental damage. If we care enough, we can choose to minimize that environmental damage. And it's less about labeling oneself and losing nonexistent badges of honor, and more about the cumulative impact of individual choices. Jonathan Safran Foer said it very well in an interview about "Eating Animals"
I care about the environment, I try to buy good appliances, I certainly turn the lights off when I leave rooms, and so on and so forth, and yet I also fly. So should my getting off the plane say ‘Okay, I know that was bad, so I’m now bad, I’m going to leave lights on, I’m going to let my car idle.’ It’s nuts. I wish people would talk about food in a way that was more similar to how we talk about the environment. The question of ‘Are you an environmentalist or not?’ is nonsense. It just doesn’t make any sense.
And this is why rampant vegan-bashing is so mysterious to me. Cox wrote,
When I talked about this article with my editor at Slate, she said, “I won’t lie—you’ll be attacked viciously for being a vegan, and attacked equally viciously for not being a strict enough vegan.”
And indeed, look at the comments on the Facebook post and the replies to the tweet. Also, see how omnivores react with disdain at new vegan options--for example White Castle's vegan slider. It's kind of like dudes reacting with disdain to products for women; it's like they don't realize it's not about them.

I'm traveling tonight, and over the next few weeks, to places where vegan options may be hard to come by. I'll do my best, because I want to and not because I'm afraid the vegan police will pull my vegan card.

Possibly the dumbest conversation, ever

Mom: You should have a baby. It would contribute to humanity.
A.: Are you saying Gracie doesn't contribute to humanity?
Mom: She does. But a baby would contribute more. You should have one.
A.: You should get a cat.
Mom: I keep asking for one!
A.: You have to agree to clear a path to the litter box.
Mom: Get me the cat, and we'll have a conversation about getting to the litter box.
Dad: You'd have to teach the cat to fly.
Mom: Please.
Dad: Have you been down there? It's impassible.
Mom: Cleaning products are a good thing. The more, the better.
A.: That's just not true.
Mom: How is that not true?
A.: You know how whenever you visit, you talk about how clean my house is, and you ask whether I hire professional cleaners? I can keep it clean with minimal products and because I don't have a lot of stuff.
Mom: Don't tell me what to do! If you don't like dirt, don't visit! You keep your house your way and I'll keep mine, my way.
A.: Do whatever you want; I'm merely telling you that you don't need that many cleaning products and that the cat you want has no way of getting to its litter box.
Mom: This is my house!
A.: It is, indeed.
Mom: Then what is your problem?
A.: If you want a cat, you're going to have to sacrifice some cleaning products.
Mom: Don't tell me what to do!

Wednesday morning roundup

Putin's pipeline deal fell apart in large part because he underestimated the West's response to his aggression in the Ukraine.

Norwegians question their dependence on Statoil.

Tom Philpott on the limits of Big Data:

No one who has seen fertilizer-fed algae blooms in Lake Erie—or had their municipal tap water declared toxic because of them—can deny that the Midwest's massive corn farms need to use fertilizer more efficiently. Des Moines, Iowa, surrounded by millions of acres of intensively fertilized farmland, routinely has to spend taxpayer cash to filter its municipal drinking water of nitrates from farm runoff. Nitrates are linked with cancer and "blue-baby syndrome," which can suffocate infants. 
But as Quentin Hardy suggested in a recent New York Times piece, Big Data on the farm can also steamroll an extremely effective conservation practice: crop diversification, which can slash the need for fertilizer and herbicide, as a landmark2012 Iowa State University study showed. 

There's a creepshot pornographer or two or more on the Metro.

TV evolved in terms of women and sex.

Check out Play-Doh's now-recalled extruder.

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