Sunday, February 28, 2010


Ernessa, we have to find you a mint that's minty enough: it is out there. Mint's my favorite. Agree that chamomile is useless. Another one of my favorites is an orange spice tea I got in Istanbul--it's running out and I'm savoring the last teaspoons.

What I don't recommend is this Lipton herbal variety pack--it's kind of artificial-tasting.

Sunday morning roundup

Is German frugality as big a Europroblem as Greek profligacy?

The nation's thinking on China could use some nuance.

Frank Rich on the increasing scariness of the country's lunatic fringe.

King counters Milbank.

Michael Kinsley's very witty take on "six ideas" for health care reform.

Really, Washington Hospital Center? I didn't realize you had devoted, experienced nurses to spare.

Airlines' "new price" bait-and-switch.

I was worried there for a minute that you were going to tell me rainbow trout was now off the sustainable list. As it turns out, its just that its history is fraught.

I've met Julianna Smoot at Smith Club events.

Best dating advice ever: be true to yourself and pay attention to any red flags.

Some friends and I were recently discussing over-the-top, ostentatious Bat Mitzvahs. Here's an example of what the rite is really about.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

This is among the most offensive concepts I've come across in a while. The "abortion industry"?? Abortion clinics that "prey"?? A racial conspiracy??

Charles Blow faults Tyler Perry for reviving/perpetuating the myth of the crack-addicted black mother.

Religion in foreign policy: a debate.

For those of you who think sustainable agriculture and vegetarianism are a bunch of hippie crap that could have nothing to do with the way you live, consider the factory farm industry's resistance to antibiotics.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution comes to a classroom in Huntington, WV: Perhaps my former RM could sit in.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday evening roundup

Gail Collins is on vacation, and in her absence, the conversation with David Brooks is highly annoying. And misguided: there are plenty of fora for cultural discourse.

Identity politics and perspectives on history are changing throughout Eastern Europe.

What not to name your kids: this edition--names perfectly normal in isolation, but horrid when combined with the last name.

On old Freakonomics post on plumbing and obesity.

Friday morning roundup

Kurtz on the Scott Brown saga and more. Pearlstein and Milbank on the health care summit.

A Minnesota doctor stands up for what's right.

A Capitol Hill couple gets a fragrant surprise delivery on their doorstep.

I've always been more of a tea person, but metaphorically, I choose the Coffee Party.

How millenial are you?

Phone call

Mom: Where were you, in this weather?
A.: I just got home from work.
Mom: Lots of work?
A.: Yeah.
Dad: Okay, the sound's off.
A.: Huh?
Dad: The TV's on. They're sweeping the floor again.
A.: What? Who?
Dad: You know, the curlers.
Mom: When are you leaving?
A.: What?
Mom: For vacation?
A.: April.
Mom: Oh, April.
A.: I sent you my itinerary.
Mom: Like I'm going to search through my e-mail!
A.: Well, you've asked me numerous times. That might be more efficient a this point.
Mom: How's the cat?
A.: Fine. She's playing.
Mom: What's she playing?
Dad: Ha.
A.: She's found or hallucinated something on the floor, and she's chasing after it.
Mom: I wonder why people find that interesting to watch.
A.: Um, I thought you liked watching cats at play as much as anyone.
Mom: I meant the curling.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

Great quote from an interesting piece on empire:
"the past is a map, not a compass. It charts human experience, stops at the present and gives no clear sense of direction."

On black women and interracial dating.

Bike, don't drive, DC, says the city's transit chief. But how am I supposed to bike through all those snow banks, I ask you??

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wah indeed

Here's a good article with which to mark the end of my Post subscription. It's been fun, but I have to move on and read other things with my time. I'll still check the website.

Anyway, let's talk about the article: it's a piece of crap. It's pointless. This is one of those subjects for which the Post has a natural advantage over the Times, and yet they run this bull$hit? I mean, this is a fluff piece, but it's not far in quality from some of the world news stories they file--I read the headline and blurb and think, this should be interesting. And then it's not. They find interesting topics and turn them into boring articles.

Back to this one. One line struck me:
And if it's true that people covet the specific rather than the abstract, then it's one thing to hear generally about government perks... and quite another to watch your spouse telework in her pajamas during a week's worth of government snow days, watching Bravo, eating Oreos. Not that you're bitter.
Let's start with the facts: there is no such thing as teleworking and watching Bravo. Teleworking rules preclude engaging in other activities while teleworking. As for eating Oreos, one can do that at the office, too. As for teleworking, non-government employees do that, too. As for snow days, how the f* are people supposed to get to their offices if the metro's not running and the roads aren't passable?

Now for the facts that the article got right: yes, government employees have sick days. We accrue vacation days. Nothing above the standard in most of the rest of the world. Instead of trying to bring down government benefits, why not see if the private sector will match what's really not that much vacation time?

And yes, we do work long hours. It's not uncommon. There's a lot of $hit to do, and you'd miss it if it didn't get done.


This great article about chewing was in Wendy's Food and Wine. I shared the link with a friend whose grandmother encouraged fifty bites. The article makes a great point: chewing is good. Slowing down is good. But I don't understand the study at the basis of these findings: they don't say what size serving of ice cream they offered the two groups, but I can't imagine how much ice cream it had to be such that one group took half an hour to eat it. I just don't think that's possible. I would lose my mind before taking half an hour to eat a serving of ice cream.

Wednesday evening roundup

The Sixth Seal is open. Just kidding.

Bill Clinton on Shakespeare.

Walmart becomes a player in local and organic foods.

Lori Gottlieb kind of redeems herself in this interview. I'm still not going to read her book (I have more interesting things to read), but if she means what she says she means, she has a point. I don't know if I agree with her, though, about men having lower expectations--I don't know whom she's interviewing.

Also, my fellow single women: this is not okay. Take control of your finances.

Wednesday morning roundup

Oh no we are not getting more snow. I won't have it.

French anti-smoking ads strike the wrong tone.

China's ethnic theme parks remind me of Julian Barnes' "England, England."

Perhaps the other day when I blogged about Rosetta Stone, I erred in mocking the importance of shapes.

Kathleen Parker on the RINO hunt. Jon Stewart on CPAC.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday morning roundup

I'm sorry if I got caught up in thinking I had problems. I'll stop worrying about that collapsed gate now.

There were a million people in Beijing in 1800?

Another burden we impose on those we send to war.

My state, everyone. One of our delegates expresses some "interesting" insights.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Response to comment

You know I'm going to have an (informed) opinion about this. I mean, I have a blog at least nominally about the variety of ways, and striking frequency, with which my mother tells me I'm fat.

Like Ernessa's relatives, my mom believes in telling it like it is. Incidentally, Miss Manners is not a fan of that concept, much less the blanket application thereof. She believes some things are best left unsaid.

I have no idea why anyone would say something like that to a small child. To my mother's credit, she waited until I was an adult to start harassing me about my weight. I grew up not hating my body, which is apparently anomalous among women in this country. Did you see the Tina Fey interview I posted last week? She talks about how she doesn't obsess about weight because she doesn't want her daughter to do so. I wouldn't want my daughter to go through that. My mother, unfortunately, is of a different disposition.

And it's counterproductive: none of her relentless "observations" helped me slim down--if I lost a hundredth of a pound every time mom told me I'd put on weight, I might be able to fit into my favorite jeans by now (Banana Republic, 00 Petite--and I needed a belt to keep them on!) If anything, it was the opposite. Mom's antics are actually so counterproductive that they're ironic, in that the exact opposite behavior would be helpful. Instead of constantly pointing out, in increasingly unflattering ways, that I've put on weight, while, at the same time, encouraging unhealthy eating habits--eat more, have ten pounds of cheese, etc.--she might not say anything about my weight, nor hassle me when I exercise portion control. But I digress.

At 32, going on 33, I'm annoyed but hardly impressionable. I *still* don't hate my body (although I'd like my clothes to fit the way they once did). How f*ed up do you have to be to tell a one-year-old that her stomach is disgusting? First of all, don't think she can't understand you.

Full disclosure: I've said to Gracie, "look at this belly!" I've asked her why she's so fat. I also regularly threaten to beat her (she knows I'm kidding) if she doesn't shut up. But she really can't understand me, otherwise, you'd think, she'd shut up.

All asides aside, there's nothing funny about instilling body image issues in small children. If you don't have anything helpful to say, shut the f* up.

China's f*-you to the world

Way to go. This takes serious balls.

Monday morning roundup

I know this is cold comfort to South Africans commuting to the cities from the townships, but the people resisting the buses because of concerns about property values will get theirs: recall that Georgetown residents lobbied hard against a metro stop in the neighborhood because they wanted to keep out the riff raff, and see how that's worked out for them.

Greece: a cautionary tale.

Ross Douthat on the role of the Enquirer today, and a look back at Joseph Pulitzer's life, career and legacy.

Is this guy suggesting that fiction doesn't teach us about the "real world"? I'll tell you what does keep you out of the real world: an overwhelming preference for the digital world.

I was very happy to read that spring is in sight--it was quite a feel-good story--and then someone had to go and suggest extending Valentine's Day?? What kind of bull$hit is that? A day is plenty.

There are a few great things about living in Virginia rather than the District: representation in Congress; going more than a week without one's car being broken into; and better public services. Please don't f* with that third one.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Jay: How's the RS coming?
A.: Great--in the event that I'll need to point out to someone that the yellow triangle is bigger than the green square, we are all set. I've got that down.
Jay: Well, colors might come in handy, if we go shopping. You could say, 'I'd like those blue jeans.'
A.: Except that I don't know how to say 'I'd like' or 'jeans.'
Jay: Good point.

Gift-themed ramble

As I've succumbed to blog creep, a number of recurring themes have emerged beyond 'mom' and things Jewish and Russian: things single, public transportation etiquette, gifts. I was thinking about this last one recently because with the gift I told you about in the roundup, there are now two wallets I'm complimented on whenever I whip out either. Also, Wendy came bearing gifts--which she totally didn't have to do--and they are lovely/useful. Actually, some of the best books that I've read over the last few years were gifts (many from Wendy, too)--books worth their weight in gold because I'd never have picked them up on my own, yet I'm very happy to have read them. And while gifts that are great really are great, I genuinely believe in it's-the-thought-that-counts--and the thought adds value to the gift. [Those of you who have already figured out that this is going to lead to a few swipes at RM can pat yourselves on the back]. Not only do I love the wallet that Marcela gave me, but I love that my friend was thinking of me on her vacation, and I love that my friend, with a fabulous sense of style, knew me well enough to pick out something I would love. I thanked Marcela again for the wallet, and she wrote, "I definitely put thought into something that you would like instead of some knick knack that would just collect dust." Which means a lot. When I look at the things on my shelves and walls, they reflect that thought--they reflect my friends--as well as my own travels and experiences. Need I bring up the contrast between the beautiful Bohemian crystal that Heather brought me from Prague, and the conference freebie imitation crystal that RM placed on the dresser in the upstairs hallway, in imitation? The former reminds me of a friend who is far away, and the latter creeps me out (and yet the hoarder in me can't bring myself to toss it--it'll be in my next Freecycle box).

You don't always get gifts right, even when you try, but even having the right idea in mind makes a huge difference. It's funny because I hate to slam people for any kind of gift--especially because my mother slams people for almost any kind of gift--and yet I love slamming RM for everything gift related that he ever did--mainly the fact that he continued to give them after I made it clear that doing so was inappropriate, but also the fact that the gifts themselves were completely inappropriate. It goes back to the idea that it's the thought that counts--in his case, the thought was misguided. In the vein that I was annoyed with RM for trying to manufacture intimacy--and I just mean platonic intimacy--I was duly annoyed at his gift giving to that end. That epiphany that hit as I was returning home from a friend's party--it was the week after the pearl earrings incident, so RM's manufactured intimacy was on my mind--I was thinking of how long I'd known the friend, the fun things we'd been through together, and also how he was there when I had a minor breakdown after an overdue but fraught breakup, and how RM thought he could just pop into my life and decide that we were close friends. And further that with regular (and inappropriate) gifts.

Going back to what Marcela said, and to the other beautiful/useful/readable things that people have given me that now have a home in the house, the best gifts are not only about the thought, but reflect thought, and also reflect actual friendship: they (often) work because the givers know you well and know what you would want to display/use/read. To give not-quite-credit where it's due, RM later told me, the first time we had it out--after he first saw the dissonance in our respective concepts of the roommate relationship--he put a lot of thought into the earrings: he described me to the person at the jewelry counter in order for that person to suggest an apt gift. In that case, the 'thought' needed to take a step back (and the person behind the counter, if provided the right amount of detail, should have told him not to get his roommate jewelry). Do you know how sick to my stomach I felt when I opened that box? It really was worse than when he tried to give me a foot massage.

I realize that not every needs to be deeply thought out. The baked goods I gave my neighbors for the holidays and the gift card I gave the mail carrier, who can't receive cash, were intended to convey community rather than friendship. But when I do choose gifts for friends, I think about them--who they are and what they may find useful. The gifts reflect my having thought about the recipients, as people. Of course, you're not always right and you'll occasionally choose something that will collect dust--all you can do is try. The whole point of this ramble is that gifts reflect a relationship, not the other way around. I hated RM's gifts because they reflected his attempt to manufacture a relationship. I love my friends' gifts because they reflect who they are, who I am, and the connection and understanding between the two. And I love when I get a gift right for the same reason. Then again, I'd never know, because, as mom would say, they're probably just being polite.

Sunday morning roundup: Part II

Lucille Clifton has passed away. This is a minor detail, but did you know that she's the "Lucille" in Ani Difranco's "Lost Woman Song"?

American women are socially bullied into agreeing that everything's fine. Robin Givhan reassures us, however, that fashion-wise, things are looking good. On a related note, check out out the latest Scene In.

One Smith College constituency gets a shout-out from an unlikely source. Later at the same event, the Glenn Beck show, complete with blackboard.

Read the civilian trials piece in the New Yorker that I posted a few days ago for more substantive context, but do read Dana Milbank's argument for why the President should ignore calls for Rahm Emmanuel's head.

It's not "discrimination" when there's a practical or actuarial basis to it. Younger drivers pose higher risks (although 25 is a high bar), and it's not fair to passengers when very large passengers take up part of their seat (nor when children kick them or keep them awake over the course of eight hours on a red-eye, but that's another topic).

Russians will not stand for threats to their dachas.

With rising unemployment--of which I am not making light--people are learning to make their own waffles.

How not to address weight issues--much less non-existing ones--with children. That's *just wrong.*

I love Ten Thousand Villages and Busboys and Poets, and it sucks that they're struggling, but it doesn't surprise me given their business models. I've rarely bought anything at TTV for myself--I've bought many a gift there and received some beautiful gifts from there--but I can't justify buying "fair trade" stuff for myself. Marcela--who recently gave me a beautiful portfeuille wallet from Colombia--was talking about it--why would you, especially when you have the opportunity to get the same things in the country of origin?

The Post writes that the recent crop of Israeli films are worth seeing.

Sunday morning roundup--Part I

Living conditions for Royingya refugees are still squalid, dangerous and demeaning.

Malcolm Gladwell's article on the sociology of drinking is interesting, but we need more than a handful of anecdotes and highly localized, decades-old studies to buy his conclusions.

Sen. Bayh urges the country and its leadership to grow up, while pundits offer additional ideas for the Senate.

Nicholas Kristof on what it would be like if journalism worked like health care, as inspired by this piece on what air travel would be like under the same analogy. In the Post, an excerpt from a Rodale piece on why CT Scans epitomize the market failures of health care and why you can, theoretically, blame the Beatles.

The real estate bubble burst in suburban Atlanta; down-and-out Iowans turn to an emergency lottery; there's muted optimism in Detroit; and an insightful quote--"The Internet seems to run on Schadenfreude and hysteria"--from this perspective on a writer's recession.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Roundup

Homelessness in Haiti is still rampant.

Technology has made secrecy in political assassinations harder to pull off.

Patrick Smith suggests everyone involved in air travel chill the f* out.

Mmm, rum. Mmm, Costa Rica. Seriously, though: the future of spirituality in America.

Gail Collins can't resist mentioning Mitt Romney in a column--she's admitted as much--without also mentioning the road trip with the dog strapped to the roof.

Conservatives can't resist finding fault in the First Lady's war on obesity.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday evening roundup

At least our right wing fringe hasn't yet taken to throwing blowtorches.

Alternatively, you can just add "freedom" to the monikers of not-actually French products.

On a more local note, Wendy and I have just further solidified our geek cred: there's nothing like Rosetta Stone on a Friday night.

Friday morning roundup

There's some salient and otherwise noteworthy stuff buried in the international digest. Speaking of beasts of burden, check out this (registration required)New Yorker piece on mules in the military.

Can you imagine what the children of the Disappeared must be going through?

Russia's government is running into resistance it can't throw money at.

Some holes in David Brook's argument, don't have time to address them.

Eugene Robinson asks whether we're really that stupid or just pretending.

The republicans get another new star. Ruth Marcus is wary.

Hat tip to Jay for this hilarious roommate ad.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

China's charm offensive in South Asia continues: Nepal edition.

Sorry, tenthers: even Scalia says you're s$it out of luck, in not so many words.

The growing stimulus criticism industry.

Mail services in DC are catching up. I just got a week-late UPS delivery last week. The area will soon deal with potholes, which have quite a place in local history:
For decades, potholes were such an issue that some local political platforms were based in large measure on a promise to fill them. Marion Barry once launched a $1 million mayoral "war" on potholes; in 1987, potholes were so large and numerous that snowplows had trouble clearing the streets.

When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to the District in 1990, crews rushed to patch potholes in places his limo might travel. The same year, a candidate for the D.C. Council patched a dozen potholes herself to make a point. Columnist Art Buchwald wrote in 1996: "Many of them are so large that an aircraft carrier can disappear into one and never be heard of again."
This column isn't posted to the site yet, but Thomas Heath reports that Crumbs is coming to DC in May. Because we need another cupcakery.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The battle over the KSM trial

As depicted in the New Yorker.

Wednesday evening video roundup

Best f*ing weather report ever.

The following video is funny (and offensive), but I'm posting it because it reminds me of Joe the Plumber complaining that Sen. McCain ruined his life:

Wednesday morning roundup

Are people really going to pay to read the New York Post online?

Here's some free online content that will raise rather than kill your taste level.

Too much information about King Tut.

Earthquake art emerges in Haiti.

Is our political system too dysfunctional to manage the debt crisis? According to Anne Applebaum, we're not far from Greece. James Surowiecki makes some great points about governing in the face of economic populism, and Steve Pearlstein echoes his suggestions.

I hate to (once again) overuse the gambling-in-the-casino cliche, but I'm not sure what else can so aptly capture the reaction to the latest Marion Barry revelations.

Courtland Milloy: rather than jumping on ham-handed but harmless (or impolitic but true) comments, let's understand what is racist.

I'm torn on this one: I think bumper sticker (or in this case, license plate) debate is detrimental to the public discourse, i.e., that issues should be discussed earnestly rather than reduced to one-liners that can be stuck to cars. But the opposing side fired the opening salvo, and we shouldn't let them drown out our voices.

Response to comment

Have to disagree with you about anti-Valentine's Day: the thing is, Valentine's Day is almost wonderful in how much there is to hate--there's something for everyone. It's just a stupid holiday, whether you're part of a couple or not. I can't imagine myself ever wanting to celebrate it (I can imagine myself wanting to just ignore it). As I've said, I'm indifferent to it at this point--hosting that party for so many years, I associate the day with the party and not the holiday--and I'm so indifferent that I can't even be bothered to delineate all the stupid things about it. It's even more manufactured than mother's day--which my family doesn't really do, anyway. Heart-shaped boxes of candy make me want to gag (unless they have Happy Bunny printed on them). If I were in a relationship, I'd probably resent those boxes just the same if not more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

Okay, how about we start kicking people off planes for legitimate reasons, like screaming children?

Gene Weingarten's column: another argument for anti-Valentine's Day.

Skype call

Mom: Have you lost weight?
A.: [Shrug]
Mom: Can you hear me?
A.: Yes, I can hear you.
Mom: Well?
A.: I don't weigh myself regularly, mom, so I don't know.

Mom: Avast! is telling me my trial period has expired.
A.: You bought the updated version, mom.
Mom: Well, that's what it's saying.
A.: Check your e-mail for the confirmation.
Mom: When?
A.: Last week of December.
Mom: Then what?
A.: Forward it to me, I suppose.

It's not that I'm too impatient to help mom with her computer stuff. It's that it's very difficult to do remotely at her level of computer literacy. Which isn't bad. But it's bad enough that I can't exactly guide her from here.

mom tricks me into video chatting

A.: Hello?
Mom: So, I just discovered a card of some sort sticking out of the computer.
A.: What does it say?
Mom: It doesn't say anything. It just sticks out.
A.: Can you take a picture of it?
Mom: It's just here--I think it was inside before.
A.: I don't know, mom. I'd need to see a picture.
Mom: It's... black, and I hadn't noticed it before.
A.: Mom, can you show me a picture?
Mom: I'll skype you.
A.: Okay.

I'll let you know if she calls me fat.

Tuesday morning roundup

China turns its charm offensive on South Asia. Meanwhile, to women's relief, Indian men are eschewing facial hair.

Thank you for addressing the question I've been asking all along: did it not occur to these people to brace for tyranny when we had a government completely uninterested in civil liberties? Here's another bit of irony, given Sarah Palin's quip about how we don't need a professor of law in the Oval Office:
As the meeting ended, Carolyn L. Whaley, 76, held up her copy of the Constitution. She carries it everywhere, she explained, and she was prepared to lay down her life to protect it from the likes of Mr. Obama.
There's also this:
Their task seemed endless, almost overwhelming, especially with only $517 in their Tea Party bank account. There were rallies against illegal immigration to attend. There was a coming lecture about the hoax of global warming. There were shooting classes to schedule, and tips to share about the right survival food.

The group struggled fitfully for direction. Maybe they should start vetting candidates. Someone mentioned boycotting ABC, CBS, NBC and MSNBC. Maybe they should do more recruiting.
While we're on frustration with government, this area's local governments' grace period has expired: people are fed up with how the cities have managed the snowstorm(s).

I was away for most of it, and I'm fed up. I mean, I was ready to come back... but now I'm ready for spring. This whole having to put a coat on to go outside has already gotten old.

Another side effect of having been away: I think I've developed a physical dependency on coffee. I generally have it a few times a week, at most, but I had it every day out there so I could function at work... and I definitely needed it this morning.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Phone call

Mom: How'd the party go?
A.: Great.
Mom: You know, Tanya called to wish us a happy Valentine's Day. I told her we didn't really celebrate it, probably your influence. She said it's a holiday about love so it's a good inspiration to call the people you love. Maybe you could think of it that way.
A.: I don't think of it any way, mom: I don't CARE. Actually, I think of it as a mess I've gotten myself into in terms of having to devote at least two days to preparing for, throwing and cleaning up after a big party, but I'm over it because it's inevitably a good time. In terms of the Valentine's Day part, it's irrelevant. Marcela put it really well when someone asked her if she was really anti-Valentine's--she said that it was more that she, and other party-goers, were pro-party and pro-A.'s food.
Dad: What did you make?
A.: Um... lots of stuff... grilled green-curried shrimp, Rocquefort (pistachio-encrusted) grapes, some other stuff, and the usual tiramisu and fondue.
Mom: You could make some of that next time we visit.
A.: If you'll recall, last time you were going to visit, you wanted to bring your own food.
Mom: Well, you never know with you.
A.: [Shrug.]

I felt like I got enough of a dig in, didn't push it by saying that Marcela and Tasha were so traumatized, so many years later, after being roommates to a cold, unfeeling bi&ch like me that they really just came to the party to see me interacting with people in a normal way. Funny, when we lived together, it never occurred to them to try to win me over by breaking into my office and touching my feet.

Monday evening roundup

Market fables.

Oh, Pat Robertson, you sure do know how to pick 'em.

Disclaimer: I LOVE 30 Rock and I think Tina Fey is brilliant, beautiful and hot.

In light of the latter two, I wonder why people are so amazed that she's successful. Mind you, it's Vogue, but why does so much of this interview revolve around body issues? Yet, I'm glad she's so openly healthy about them.

Second disclaimer: When I was in HI last week, the place I worked had an old (almost four year-old) photo of me on file from the first time I ever went there, which they printed onto my badge. It was shocking to see that picture--I looked noticeably younger. And thinner. As in, you could tell from just my face that I was thinner then. It was unnerving, and, yet, it was pretty easy to let it go. My focus on these days is eating healthily--and not in terms of ingredients, because that's never been a problem for me, but in terms of habits. Like mindfulness. I eat when I'm hungry; I don't eat when I'm full; I eat slowly, at a table, doing nothing other than eating. And I refuse to think of myself as fat.

Hotness and global warming

Snowmaggedon and global warming are not mutually exclusive, as noted by Milbank and Toles. And Jon Stewart's weather team.

Also on TDS, the toss the other night was great.

AV weekend roundup

Greeks are taking in their crisis with perspective and apparently making the most of it.

Maureen Dowd imagines a conversation.

Frank Rich warns against getting carried away by the writing on the hand.

Do you guys remember that great line from "Sleepless in Seattle"--I think I quoted in on these pages this summer: "So he can't write! Verbal ability is a highly overrated thing in a guy and our pathetic need for it is what gets us in so much trouble." Perhaps true, but I can't help but melt at the quality of these Victorian personal ads (apart from the last one).

No, I'm not f*ing ready for Round 3.

Hat tip to Priya for this video (the original really bothered me): That's it for now... will get to the Post at some point.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Response to comment

If it makes you feel better, if you go by hour-by-hour breakdown, I spent more time being terrorized by small children on airplanes than enjoying recreation activity in Hawaii.

Seriously. I'm a convert to the idea of a no-fly list for children: you can't keep your mouth shut a certain percentage of a flight, you're off. Especially when people are trying to sleep. Parents have multiple tools at their disposal: reasoning, Tylenol PM, and duct tape.

I was telling some friends, in not so many words, that if my body could talk, it would say, 'I'm so confused: this morning, we were snorkeling, and now we're shoveling.' I might say, 'technically, it was yesterday morning, but I appreciate your confusion, because you've not slept since then. Because the child sitting in the row behind you, diagonally, loudly demanded something of her parents every half-hour or so.

I could go on, but I have to keep prepping for this AVD party that no one is coming to, because of course the very people who convinced me that it must happen--in spite of my explanations of how much work it requires and how tired and jet-lagged I'd be (they even said they'd help, that's how much the party had to happen)--aren't going to make it. At least now I have solid ammunition for this being the last one.

I'm amending the above post for Sunday morning. I regret the tone but not the content (I regret nothing about suggesting duct taping the mouths of rowdy children; I feel some compunction about slamming my friends). I, too, have backed out of parties for legitimate reasons (illness, exhaustion). Just like I don't blame my parents for not wanting to drive down for Thanksgiving--but I'm annoyed because they insisted on doing so and then at the last minute decided not to come at all because it occurred to them the weather in November would not be great for driving--I'm not annoyed at my friends for being sick or tending to their sick children. But the thing is, I said a month ago I wasn't having this party because it was so much work and I wasn't feeling it, and I was overruled. There is so much I'd rather be doing right now: reading the Sunday paper (I'll probably do the Times now and Post later; catching up on Daily Shows; going for a walk; etc. But instead, I'm cleaning and cooking for a party that people convinced me to have, and it's stressful. So, fine: this is it. Last time.

How I Celebrated Snowmaggedon

View of Diamond Head Crater from my hotel room Where I snorkeled yesterday Valley of the Temples
View from Battleship Missouri
[...] Y'all know I'm useless at plant names

Saturday roundup

Okay but it's back to 'My TIVO Thinks I'm Gay.' I was taken aback--once I figured out what Buzz was--that Google opted to include a contractor of whom I'd requested an estimate for a shed. It's bad enough that people I barely know--mortgage lenders I didn't go with--are inviting me to linked in, but I really could live without a social network of service providers. Now, I've not posted anything to Buzz--if people want to know what I'm up to, they can read my blog (and I reiterate that I'll never subject people to the mundane details of what I'm up to unless I feel the need to tie it into some higher social meaning, or share funny dialogue). Or gloat about where I was this past week (see upcoming post).

Gail Collins gets a special shout-out this morning because this column made me laugh hysterically, thus scaring the cat that was sitting on me and head-butting me from time to time. I missed you, too, Gracie, but mommy has $hit to do. Such as gloat about where she was this past week.

The Post's circulation department does not get a shout-out this morning, because they once again failed to respect my request for hold on delivery (in fact, the one time they did respect it, the trip was canceled). I'm not dealing with the piled-up Posts this morning, but you may see them in future roundups.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday roundup

Awesome news. Now if only these people would resume full operations, we'd be in business. Robert McCartney explains why the clusterf* of the last few days is not okay.

This reminds me to stop complaining about my recent travel hassles.

You know you (in this case, Uzbekistan) have issues when Russia is granting asylum to your artists.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Quick response to Jason's comment

There are so many things--and financial literacy is perhaps the most important, and nutrition is up there, too--for which people could just learn the basics and reap exponential rewards. Schools are making more of an effort to teach the basics of financial literacy.

One of the coworkers with whom I'm traveling was just saying this morning that he'd learned a language--in college and then through tapes--and forgot it through disuse. I definitely feel mine slipping sometimes. Once you get to a certain point, they come back once you need them, but if you don't get to that point, it's harder.

As someone who did devote myself to learning languages, I have very little in pragmatism to show for it (my portfolio certainly has not benefited). Which is not to say that I have any regrets... but it does take time and energy, and that has to come at the expense of other stuff.

Aloha and Happy Mardi Gras

I'm debating whether or not to renew my subscription to FP. I read much of the latest issue on the way over and was leaning yes with this insightful, well and coyly written piece but then I read this completely nonsensical BS. Why reduce complexity to artificial categories? Why?

Also, interesting Russia piece in there, and one about the Ukraine (and what the recent election means for Russia) in the Times this morning.

Our financial illiteracy contributes to our constantly getting ripped off.

Hat tip to Wendy for this debate on Americans and language learning. I have to agree with Susan Jacoby--there is a dumbing down of what it means to be an educated person in this country, and that's not limited to languages (I'm not putting myself above the standards by any means).

Two side notes:

(1) I mentioned that I'm Rosetta Stoning--and it's getting harder, as it does. But it makes you think in a completely different way and you're forced to challenge yourself and leave your comfort zone, and people should just do that, all the time. I believe in language learning for the sake of learning languages, but if that's not enough for you, do it as an educational exercise. I'd also argue that it's important to learn at least one other language to understand how they work. Which leads to one reason I think people don't learn languages: it's really f*ing hard and it takes discipline and perseverance, sometimes in the face of invisible progress. Much like other things we learn (physics--at which I suck--for eg), but those are not made optional.

(2) I think it's funny that in the lemondrop link I posted the other day--in the context of "settling"--the woman who was endorsing settling was saying she thought she'd marry someone who spoke foreign languages. There's lots to be explored in that in terms of what it means to speak and not speak a foreign language in this country: as Ms. Jacoby pointed out, it's not an indicator of one's education. So what does it indicate? What does it mean to speak or not speak a foreign language, in terms of the person that you are?

Also, we're not alone in our cluelessness: when I was in the UK, working at an international school, many Brits believed language teaching was pointless because everyone spoke English.

Okay, much more to say but I have to go to work. Please comment and we'll discuss.

Escape from DC

I can be a jackass sometimes—and I don’t just mean in ways that I’m always a jackass as far as you may be concerned, because that’s who I am; I mean, I can be a jackass even by my standards, even according to my own rules (or those I’ve embraced).

Case in point: I’m generally pretty good at counting my blessings and taking nothing for granted (life, health, employment, shelter, etc.), but occasionally, wanting more and wanting things to be perfect—not bad wants—can skew my circuitry. And so, a month or so ago when I learned I’d be traveling to Hawaii for work this week, my reaction was, ‘oh, okay.’ This will have been my sixth business trip to HI (first for this job), and, in my defense, it’s work—there are pretty mountains on the way too and from the meetings, and beautiful beaches, but it’s not like you’ll get out in time to enjoy them. Sure, it’s a nice change of scene, but when your coworkers are going to, say, Ghana, Vietnam and Cambodia, you can’t help but be a bit envious. Besides, the flight to HI is a long one, usually full of families. I hope I can get an aisle seat, away from those, I thought.

I know appreciate what a jackass I was. By Friday, I was scrambling to get to HI anyway I could—spoke to many a travel agent and airline agent as one flight after another that I’d been booked on was canceled (the rest of my team, which had booked out of Dulles, was less screwed). Eventually, a very resourceful AA agent got me on a flight leaving and getting in later than I would have liked (not to mention a day later), but at that point, I would have taken the first hot air balloon out of DC to pretty much anywhere else.

Seriously. Forget HI; take me to Omaha. Take me somewhere where I can leave the house. Ironically, I’d have had an easier time accepting staying in DC and not going to HI had the office been open—I’d have preferred to go to work. But the metro’s still not running above ground, and with more snow to hit DC today, it’s not going to be up and running today. The lack of resiliency is insane.

I had the resolve of someone given a second chance at life: when I get back, and DC is functioning again, I’ll do everything that’s going on—I’ll go to all the plays, trivia nights, concerts I can. At first when I thought I wouldn’t be able to go, I thought, ‘I’ll dig out all the stuff I turned down because I thought I’d be out of town.’ Then, realizing none of it would be going on, I became dejected. And promised it would be carpe diem when the city got back to normal.

To make a long story short, a very kind friend gave me a ride to Dulles. The ride to Georgetown was pretty rocky--rte. 1 was plowed but barely—but the rest of the trip was smooth. The orange line tracks run parallel to the highway were nowhere near clear.

Dulles was a ghost town. I took my sweet time getting to the gate (I had three hours)… stopped at Chipotle straight out of the security line to leisurely savor a breakfast burrito, then sauntered over to the gate. On a whim, I approached the counter and asked if there was any room on the flight and then on the one to Honolulu... and the woman doubted it, but worked her magic and got me on. I told her she was a saint.

I was so happy to be on my way that circumstances that would have annoyed me otherwise were immaterial. It was middle seats the whole way, with a loud, kicking child [not too small to be counseled otherwise] behind me on the longer flight. At one point I turned around.

A., politely: Would you please stop kicking my seat?
Kid’s mom: She’s not kicking!
Woman next to me: She’s kicking me, too!
A.: Impressive, isn’t it.
Woman next to me: She’s loud, too.
A.: She is, but it might be too much to ask to ask her mother to teach her about inside voices. I think it’s reasonable to ask her not to kick, though.
Woman: You’d think.

The truth is, perspective and all, loud, kicking kids on flights—especially in conjunction with self-righteous parents in denial—are annoying. The loudness bothered me less because I had my trusty noiseblockers (don’t leave home without them—really!) but my poor neighbor must have been going nuts.

It wasn't all frustrating (again, not that it mattered). I got to see an episode of 30 Rock (woohoo!) and Community, which I’d not seen before. Plus, Night at the Museum II was actually pretty funny. Love the Oscar the Grouch scene.

It is eerie to look outside and not see snow. It's eerie to be able to walk around without massive amounts of snow limiting every move. I’ve never been happier to be in Hawaii.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday morning roundup

Policy and debt in Asia and Europe.

War stories.

Gotta run... hopefully heading out of town. Talk to you all later.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Post SB roundup

I don't know whether to be amused or afraid by this kind of... can't... call... it... logic.

I don't quite know why but I found this hilarious:

Ramble and response to comment

I am Miss Popular this morning: my phone is ringing off the hook (mostly with recorded messages). My flight for tomorrow has been canceled, and American Airlines, bless them, has bothered to inform me of that (United did no such thing for the original flight--I only found out when I went to check in online). Then UPS called to confirm that they're getting the hedgehog. Then my mother called to ask whether I was snowed in.

I have to say, the snow and the canceled trip is a double-wammy: I didn't buy a lot of food since I thought I'd be away all week, I didn't get the Post today, and so on. I'm not complaining, I still live somewhere where I can walk to stuff... but not knowing whether the trip is on for Tuesday or not, I don't know whether I should buy fresh food for the week or just for the next two days. And I don't know whether the stores are open and/or stocked. But I need to get out, so I guess I'll find out.

As I was formulating a response to Ernessa's comment (and digging out a path to my recycle bin), it occurred to me that I've taken to commenting on 'single' issues as much and in the same way that I've always commented on Russian and Jewish issues. That same way being, everyone's different, and take cultural generalizations with a grain of salt. For every Ian Frazier and his brilliant observation on Russians and their hour-long teas, which make them prone to 'unhealthy foreign ideas', there are ten idiots who completely misinterpret or overinterpret something.

Okay, that was my roundabout way of emphatically agreeing with what Ernessa had stated more articulately: everyone's different.

And I may not go as far as to deem Gottlieb's passage that compares single women to brain-dead accident victims offensive, I'll easily deem it inaccurate for the reasons I discussed in my original post: the unhappily married are cautionary tales, too.

I have (at least) one friend who "married him" because her older sister urged her to, said 'it just gets harder as you get older, so unless he's so hideous you can't let it go, marry him.' The guy my friend married is a good guy, but my friend is *not* happily married, i.e. not very happy. She's happy that she has kids, so maybe for her it's worth it--it's a trade-off each person can only make for herself.

Ms. Gottlieb's book is not going to change my life one way or another; there are no hordes of unattractive but otherwise wonderful men beating down my door. Nonetheless, I know that in other situations (job, house) where other people urged me to settle, I was really happy I held out until I found what was right for me. Neither is perfect in every way: had I held out for, say, Google-like working conditions, or a house right in Old Town with a newly renovated kitchen, I'd be worse off--but none of that is important for me. I'd also be worse off had I settled for, say, any employer that could reduce my commute or any house, period, because the time is right. So it comes back to what we've been saying all along: figure out what's right for you and go for that.

I twice recently mentioned 'He's Just Not That into You'--and I came across a quote that brilliantly captured the book's message: "If he likes you, you'll know. If he doesn't like you, you'll be confused." But I digress. There's another great book that I've mentioned on these pages, and it is one of my two go-to self-help books (the other is "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"). This one is Karen Salmansohn's "How to Be Happy, Dammit: A Cynic's Guide to Spiritual Happiness". She talks about making choices with your soul rather than your ego, i.e. she makes the valid part of LG's argument without reducing it to an issue of being picky or not. It's not about lowering your standards; it's about being guided by what's really important rather than by window dressing.


Sunday morning roundup

Karaoke is apparently a blood sport in the Philippines--one that creates a niche market for gay men, to boot.

Amy Wilentz writes that the aftermath of the earthquake shows how far Haiti's come since Baby Doc fled twenty-four years today.

This coming Thursday marks another meaningful anniversary for freedom. I recommend you read all the brief (and very poignant) statements linked in that article, but I'll single out this especially articulate, compelling piece. I have to ask out loud, as much as part of me wants to keep out the snark, how the Tea Partiers fancy themselves freedom fighters.

More locally, the storm has screwed with just about everyone.

Oh, Lori Gottlieb. I understand the point you're trying to make, and I *still* disagree with you, kind of. I mean, I agree with what I think you mean, i.e. it would behoove women, and men--because everything you say applies to men as well (they can get lonely, crave companionship, and reject women who don't look 'perfect')--to redefine their idea of Mr. or Ms. Right. But I think all too often women make the opposite mistake, too, and you're dwelling on women being too picky--because you've been too picky--but the grass is always greener, and single women like you can write about how you wish you'd "settled" but you'll find few married women--among those miserable in their marriages--admitting that they wished they'd thought more carefully about whom they'd chosen to share a life with. At least we do have women who divorce, like Jenny Sanford, to offer that perspective. But wait, apparently, you don't think this settling stuff applies to men. Sorry, I think you're full of $hit (well, I can only speak for myself, and I would rather be single).

Here's where I do agree with her: we should be to decouple, in our discourse, loneliness from desperation (and from gender). Friends have reported feeling guilty, from an independent woman perspective, for wanting to be in a relationship. There's nothing anti-feminist about wanting companionship (like I said, men do it, too), just like there's nothing anti-feminist about being mindful about what you eat. No one should get slammed for having a full life and yet acknowledging that it might be more fulfilling with a partner (see Sonya Sotomayor). And here's where I'll reiterate what I said in the previous paragraph: it won't be more fulfilling with just any partner. Yes, by all means, let go of the Adonis thing, but stick to your standards, if they're reasonable, for character, and never, ever compromise those because you'll end up just as lonely except with a huge, hard-to-get-rid-of burden in your life in the form of another person.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

So there, mom

I had asked some friends whether they wanted to go see Kevin Smith at Sixth & I, and one sent me a link in response, which in turn linked to this... which gives me something to tell my mother next time she gets creative about how fat I am (I have yet to achieve that).

My winter wonderland: the sequel


Do you guys remember this? I'm seriously considering it, except I don't have any beer and I don't think I could handle that much tea. Or beer, for that matter. So shoveling it is.

Phone call

Message from mom: Where are you? You should be sitting at home with the phone nearby!

Mom: Hello?
A.: Hi.
Mom: So, where were you? Out shoveling snow? In the bathroom?
A.: I was on the phone.

Wow. Mom really thinks I don't have any friends. The possibility that I might be on the phone with someone does not cross her mind.

Mom: So, you're getting lot's of snow?
A.: You could say that. The heaviest of it fell overnight, but it's supposed to keep snowing until this evening.
Mom: Did you shovel?
A.: Yeah, I shoveled last night and then again just now. I cleared the path through the front lawn, as well as the sidewalk. I'm saving the back for when I get stir crazy again. Everything's closed and the metro's shut down.
Mom: Have you cleaned off your car?
A.: No. I'm not driving anywhere.

Mom: Do you know anything about Seagate?
A.: Seagate what?
Mom: I have a Seagate storage drive I'm trying to use to transfer files to the new laptop.
A.: No.

Mom launches into a tirade about Seagate.

A.: Mom, I'd really have to see it and do it myself--I can't help you over the phone.
Mom: Well, could you ask someone?
A.: Ask someone what?
Mom: About Seagate?
A.: No. But I can take a look at it next time.
Mom: That doesn't help.
A.: Sorry.

Mom and dad start arguing about something. Eventually, they remember that I'm on the line.

Mom: We can discuss that later.
A.: Yes, please do.
Mom: So, what are you going to do?
A.: [Shrug] Clean. Shovel. Read.
Mom: Have fun with that.

Saturday roundup

Remittances from the Persian Gulf to South Asia are drying up.

It's still snowing. Gail Collins makes an interesting point about that.

The cable guys are local heroes this weekend.

Matthew DeBord's commentary on the auto industry, with regard to what it takes to get to #1 versus stay at #1, isn't without analogy to the difference between campaigning and governing.

I take your point, Ms. Givhan, as it pertains to Katie Couric, but women in more down-to-earth industries embrace the sexy-is-powerful paradigm at their own professional risk.

FDA reconsiders serving sizes to reflect actual behavior rather than suggested portions. I see the benefits--including a decrease in declarations of 'no trans fat' when there's less than half a gram--but isn't also worthwhile to inform people of what a suggested serving size is? I'm comfortable with a portion of pasta at 2/3 to 1 cup cooked, but I don't think I'd ever stop at half a cup of ice cream. I do agree that declared serving sizes are deceptive when they're not intuitive (half a muffin or frozen meal or can of soup), even when it's not deliberate, like in the case of the chips in the article. Transparency is the key... although standard setting is also an issue.

As for what is junk food, I know nutrition is nuanced and complicated, but don't put avocados in the 'maybe' category with crackers. I also disagree with this guy: 'cheap' needn't be part of the definition of junk food. Whole Foods sells a whole bunch of expensive, processed crap. Terra chips are high brow and very good, but they're still junk food. They may have less fat than avocado, but the latter is still real food. Sure, empty calories cost less, BECAUSE THEY'RE SUBSIDIZED. Yes, all that stuff is still junk. And no, not all nutritious food is expensive. An apple doesn't cost more than a candy bar, and peanuts don't cost more than chips. Don't tell me that nutrition is elitist when the following foods are under $1 a serving: eggs, whole wheat breads and other whole grains, hummus, beans, oatmeal, nuts, bananas, frozen spinach, etc.

You know I don't want to come off as a blind follower of Michael Pollan, but the fact is, his food rules were my food rules before he 'patented' them (two of them, anyway; I came late to the 'not a lot' set of rules). Actually, Jay and I were just talking about hidden trend-setting talent: I was having anti-Valentine's Day parties before it was cool, and composting and CSA-ing before it was hip and trendy (my parents have always composted, and I belonged to a CSA in college), and he and I went to Panama before it was cool, and I've been making amazing oatmeal before the trendsters got a hold of it. Which is why I'm telling you that the trends I eschew--like truffle oil and granite countertops--will soon go the way of the dodo.

By the way, award-winning food writer, Scottish salmon is farmed. But I couldn't agree more with Tom Colicchio here:
Tom Colicchio, who helped found the modern green-market-gastronomy movement at Gramercy Tavern and then Craft, says, "Some people think manipulating food is the job a chef does. It isn't. Flavor comes first. You treat it with respect and keep its natural taste. I want people to say, 'I never knew scallops tasted like this.'"
But this is why I don't go to a lot of restaurants: I can make food that conforms to my standards (quality, taste, sustainability, price) at home.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday afternoon roundup and rambles

After the office closed, early, I thought I'd pop into the Safeway a few blocks up before heading home. The lines were insane, but I had a magazine and I wanted some groceries. In the line that I stood in--for an hour and a half--the couple not far ahead of me took turns holding the place in line and running all around the store to get more stuff for their two grocery carts. It was rude. I know I extolled the virtues, the other day, of not blogging about $hit like that, but it was so egregiously obnoxious that I had to tell you about it.

I had to wonder about the hordes in the market, apart from those clearly shopping for a cast of thousands for what I imagine are superbowl parties. They'll be able to shop again *in two days.* I just happened to have some time and a hankering for avocado.

I had my own bag, in case you were wondering. I keep one in my handbag. It was enough for the six items for which I waited ninety minutes.

The bag tax may be coming to Virginia, although there's some opposition in the state legislature. To which I say, 'really, D-Alexandria? Do you know your constituency?'

I read this guide for Type-A parents while in line. It's pretty funny.

Ruth Marcus can't understand why Jenny Sanford put up with so much BS and ignored so many signs, but women--smart women--do it all the time. I've done it, and I find myself talking my friends out doing it, regularly. This why I wholeheartedly believe that "He's Just Not That into You" is possibly the greatest gift to women of all time, up there with "Our Bodies, Ourselves".

I recommend last night's Daily Show in its entirety, but I have to share one clip in particular.

Now, I may have told you before that one motivation for mom's concern over my weight and my overbearing personality and overall harshness is that she seems to believe, at least partly, that that's why I'm single. Let me offer you an alternative explanation: I have the sense of humor of a 14-year old boy, and that clip had me rolling.

Speaking of clips, have you guys seen this?? Scroll to 2:20 or so.

Friday morning roundup

Anne Applebaum doesn't fault the POTUS for skipping out on the European summit.

Over half of the front page of the Metro section in today's Post is devoted to panda coverage, including this awesome headline. While we're on headlines, the Post's digest places "Webcam viewer alerts Scottish park to rhino birth" two blurbs after "PAKISTAN: India offering to talk, Foreign Ministry says" and gives it about as much space.

This is Not Funny but you have to admit it kind of is:
.A respected domestic violence and anger management counselor in Fairfax County was arraigned in federal court Thursday after he allegedly pulled a gun on two men who he believed were blocking his car on an Annandale street last week

People are flipping out over maybe a foot of snow. I'm flipping out because the flipping out may mess with my business travel.

It's really tempting to get a new digital camera, but I don't need one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I get it, New Yorker writers and editors: you knew J.D. Salinger well, and few can say that. And your appreciations are genuine, and it is understandable that you'd devote the entire 'Talk of the Town' section to them. The insights you share in honor of his memory--about books, writing, writers--are interesting. But I have to question this one:
In American writing, there are three perfect books, which seem to speak to every reader and condition: “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “The Catcher in the Rye.” Of the three, only “Catcher” defines an entire region of human experience: it is—in French and Dutch as much as in English—the handbook of the adolescent heart.
No, Mr. Gopnik: they speak to every (white) male reader, and define an entire region of the (white) male experience. Guy bonding, guy adolescence, guy coming of age. And there's a lot to be said for that, but don't try to pass it off as universal.

It's funny because I've referenced, on these pages, two writers whose stories speak to my condition: David Bezmozgis and Gary Shteyngart. They're both guys, but their books, stories are less male-centric than 'Catcher in the Rye.' Kind of. I mean, "Natasha" in "Natasha and other Stories" is very male, but the other stories aren't, really, and that book spoke to me to the point that I felt it in my bones. You'd never think to suggest a book about an immigrant childhood as a narrative of a universal experience--nor should you--but the point is, you'd never even think about it. But it doesn't seem like Adam Gopnik thought twice about extending the Holden Caulfield experience to the rest of us.

Thursday morning roundup

It's like Pandora's bottle. Those are some statistics, and that's quite a bit of caffeine. At least Russian's get to share the wealth. The wealth being, a reputation (based on truth) for destructive alcoholism.

The Collins-Brooks conversation on national security trade-offs.

The Swiss Government is scrambling to not give millions to Baby Doc.

Toles on DADT.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

Really? The Lavish pay of the federal workforce? As Jon Stewart would say, meet me at camera 3.

Sigh. I don't want to get into personal financial details, and I won't--you saw (read) me react in horror when my mother wouldn't stop alluding to my salary at dinner over the holidays (when a friend of the friends with whom we were having dinner said that federal workers make high six figures). You can probably deduce that I am not exactly rolling in it, since I put up with an overgrown baby for a roommate for much too long, but that--i.e., my salary--is not the point. Just like my weight is not the point. Yes, the fact that I'm not actually overweight makes my mom's commentary on the matter even funnier (if I were, her commentary would be merely tragic rather than a healthier tragicomic). But as close followers of this blog will know, mom has recently developed a new superpower: she can assess my weight without actually seeing me. Which is to say, roundaboutly, that my weight--which is healthy--is not the issue. Likewise, my salary, which is appropriate--neither paltry nor lavish--to my level of skill, education and experience, and to the cost of living in this area, is not the point. Making it the point is like assessing charities purely on their administrative expenses, without taking into account what they actually do and how they do it (and yet, so many people only figure in administrative expenses when choosing charities to support). The point is, it's not like a monkey could do my job (and I am not even talking about the examples of highly specialized professions in the response letter--doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc.). Maybe it's appropriate that skilled people earn a living wage, commensurate with the competence they bring to the job. I work directly and indirectly with highly competent, hard-working, dedicated people across the federal government. Could we maybe show them a little respect?

Speaking of charities, here's why I told you not to give to the Red Cross.

And here's the debate about how best to rebuild Haiti.

Wednesday morning roundup

Admiral Mullen boils down a non-complex issue into a clear statement of 'wtf':
"No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
Maureen Dowd and Dana Milbank elaborate.

Could Guinea be the "rare case in which swift international sanctions actually worked"?

In China, a prominent human rights lawyer vanishes in what some see as part of a trend:
John Kamm, a veteran American human rights campaigner, said that during three decades working in China he had rarely seen such a hard line toward dissidents — and unbridled defiance against pressure from abroad. “China right now doesn’t feel like it owes anyone anything on human rights,” said Mr. Kamm, the founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, which seeks clemency for political prisoners through quiet diplomacy. “I’ve never seen a downward spiral like this.”
Child pornography is not a victimless crime, and people who buy the stuff are part of the problem.

At times I've urged people to cut WMATA some slack--things can happen even under the best management. But not this many things.

Oh, would you people stop whining?! It's not even cold out.

Joe Davidson explains why federal workers aren't overpaid.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Discussions and excerpt

A coworker and I were talking about what a bad paper the Post is. It's amazing. And it didn't used to be that way.

Another coworker was talking about a creepy guy around the corner who kept popping into her office and talking to her, and she couldn't figure out why. He wasn't flirting--in fact, he mentioned his wife all the time. Then she realized that he thought she needed the companionship. It reminded her of RM. Who, by the way, shot me an e-mail the other day to say 'hi.' I didn't *get* it, but I responded as tersely as possible.

I loved, loved, loved this week's fiction in the New Yorker. Last week's was good but weird, but this week's--Kevin Barry's short story--was amazing. And I have to quote from it, based on another conversation with a coworker, who is Ukranian, and actually shops at the lame Russian store a few blocks from my house (I guess it's less lame if you eat meat). Anyway, you know I'm very deliberate about my food choices, but I don't generally judge other people's food choices (the 'generally' is key; I did often think, speaking of RM, 'and that's your brain on high fructose corn syrup'). Anyway, I loved this:
I was not well liked out in Killary. I was considered “superior.” Of course, I was fucking superior. I ate at least five portions of fruit and veg daily. I had omega 3 from oily fish coming out my ears. I limited myself to twenty-one units of alcohol a week.

Groundhog Day roundup

Great t-shirt idea.

Howard Kurtz responds to this awesome opening clip.

Tuesday morning roundup

Whom would Jesus kick-box? I was waffling on including this article, but some of the lines, such as the following, proved irresistible:
The outreach is part of a larger and more longstanding effort on the part of some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility.
Salons are popping up around Baghdad.

Gail Collins wittily parses the Illinois senatorial election.

If it weren't freezing and if I weren't carrying a ton of crap, this, while a good idea, would be a good reason to bike in.

A friend sent me this. As a loyal reader of this blog, he must have figured that my mom has been too distracted by my gargantuan @$$ and collagen-deficient lips to look out for my career.

Eugene Robinson is wary of the personal political brand. Dana Milbank comes a month or so late to the Orszag hotness analysis.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday morning roundup

Haiti's leadership crisis.

I love the discussion of fiction as self-indulgence unless there's a reader in mind. But even when new media challenge's one's reclusive tendencies, the right town will help you pull it off.

As a fervent Daily Show fan, I find Howard Kurtz's analysis baffling. Maybe it's my own liberal bias showing, but Jon Stewart has always been an equal-opportunity skewer of things that don't make sense. And this whole paragraph:
His "senior black correspondent," Larry Wilmore, solemnly informed the host that "Negroes aren't magic. . . . He's just suffering from the hard bigotry of high expectations." On another night, Stewart chided Obama for his cerebral style, saying: "You thought you could win us over with rational policy decisions and an even temperament?"
I interpreted less as chiding of Obama and more as pointing out the public's unrealistic expectations.

Sledding in Alexandria has gotten harder.

My governor, everyone.