Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

It's little consolation to anyone that the Russian government is transparent about its brutality.

It's not little consolation when the plane you're on turns out to be just fine, in spite of an earlier announcement to the contrary.

How much does it scare you that lots of people are taking investing advice from Glenn Beck?

The term "Kafkaesque" can be overused, but it describes nothing if not this.

Also: Ron Paul makes sense; bigots building near Ground Zero incur no outrage; the Onion captures it all.

Tuesday morning roundup

Look to Britain when you think about electing people who'd gut social programs, and to France when you see race/immigrant baiting.

New sanctions aim to keep the North Korean elites from their yachts.

Speaking of North Korea, that article I posted months ago was horrific, but it didn't make me sick to my stomach like this one about Siberian prisons. Something about knowing that that's how my grandfather perished makes it that much more painful to read.

It's a wonder--maggots and scurrying rodents and all--that the salmonella outbreak didn't hit until now.

Toles on Beck.

I'm so glad that (a) I don't belong to a homeowners' association; and (b) my neighbors are highly unlikely to fly a flag increasingly associated with the tea party.

Oooh, that's bad:
"There is a pervasive, systemic failure in our infrastructure," said Maryland House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery). "I have relatives in Mumbai who cannot believe how often we lose power."
A judge stops one of the VA AG's bull$hit endeavors. Now he can go do something productive with our tax money. Besides, I've a very personal reason for reducing carbon emissions. If we could just get all of VA's poison ivy sufferers to unite against this assault on common sense...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday morning roundup

None of this is new, but it can't hurt to restate that a two-state solution is the only way forward.

With this tragic article on livestock losses as the last straw for struggling Pakistanis, is a beautiful photo.

Russia has issues and more issues.

Lest you were harboring suspicions to the contrary, China is still statist and authoritarian. And it's not because baseball is a tough sell there.

Anne Applebaum on the Iraq war's toll on foreign policy.

Since when is it anything but utterly repugnant to insult someone's religious beliefs, much less the President's?

Does anyone else see a structural problem with unpaid internships you have to pay for? Not the actual ones discussed in the article, but the issue of excluding people who can't afford to pay, even more so than in the past, when unpaid internships excluded people who couldn't afford not to earn a paycheck?

Because I have, many a time, prematurely eschewed a technology only to embrace it when I came to understand its utility, I hesitate to slam location apps. But I can express bewilderment, like many of the people of my generation. And what's with the premise that people will do it for the odd coupon? I mean, do you really shop that much that it makes a difference?

While we're on the subject of (eschewing) technology, and discounts, I've apparently saved myself $4.99/month for an iPhone 'mute' app by never having signed up for Twitter.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good news, bad news, and mitigating factors

The good news (for you, my loyal readership) is that I'm going up to Boston for the long weekend, and I've never weighed more. At my recent doctor's appointment, I weighed in at seven pounds heavier than I was a few months ago.

The bad news is, apparently, I "look great." Lots of people have been saying this to me recently--too many for it to be a fluke. I must have looked quite the hippopotamus before.

Mitigating factor: Those people don't make a point of appraising my posterior when it is protruding, for example, in service of a yoga pose. Mom, on the other hand, is likely to do just that. And when she does, she is likely to announce (and harp on the observation) that my butt is huge.

The upshot: I doubt you'll be bored if you tune in next weekend.

Phone call

A.: You know when I'm getting in? Thursday.
Mom: I don't know. Is it Thursday? Yeah, maybe.
Dad: It is Thursday, in the evening. We have your itinerary printed out somewhere.
Mom: We just got back from a lovely walk along the trail. I love having the river nearby. I don't know how you can live somewhere without a river nearby.
A., not aloud: [Um...]
Mom: What did you do today?
A.: I've been spending a lot of time on yardwork. I planted some shrubs, fed lots of mosquitoes.
Dad: They've killed off the ones here because of West Nile.
A.: It's bad here.
Dad: That surprises me--I mean, you don't get a lot of rain.
A., politely but aloud: What planet do you live on, dad?

I mean, seriously, where does he get this stuff? How many flood warnings has the area gotten in the last couple of months? Does he not hear me say, every time mom asks me whether I have a basement, "no, and good thing, because it would get flooded every time it rains"?

Dad: [Laughs]
Mom: Any food requests? Russian store...
A.: Hmmm... if they have that eggplant.

Side note: amid the proliferation of completely gratuitous kitchen gadgets, I wish someone would invent a tool that cleanly removes the seeds from eggplant.

Mom: I'll check.
A.: Thanks!

Speaking of food shopping, I'm starting to question my local grocery stores.

This isn't the first time I've had complaints about the Trader Joe's in Old Town--as much as I love having it there--but I'm getting really, really sick of their $hit. By which I mean their half-rotting produce and unavailability of products. I happened to stop into the TJ's at Bailey's Crossroads yesterday, and they had (a) organic pink lady apples, which TJ's has been out of for months (their supply of organic apples has been generally inconsistent); (b) bags of organic lemons and sweet potatoes that aren't one foot in the grave. They just had more stuff.

Meanwhile, I stopped into the Whole Foods in Logan Circle the other night before heading to a friend's, and I've always known that that WF was awesome (I used to live not far from their) and that the one in Old Town paled by comparison (lame bulk bin, etc.) but I hadn't been to the LC WF in a while, and I was once again impressed with what they actually had available.

Really, Old Town grocery stores? C'mon--this is the city of 20 doggy bakeries per human resident, and you're going to let DC beat you on human food?

Sunday morning roundup

Floods and changing times are testing Pakistan's feudal system.

Meet Japan's answer to the Tea Party. They could use some branding help, as "Citizens Group That Will Not Forgive Special Privileges for Koreans in Japan" [sic] doesn't roll off the tongue.

I would actually love to try gefilte fish with Jamaican seasoning.

Why and how not to let the "mamma grizzlies" hijack feminism. Also: Frank Rich on the Koch brothers behind the Tea Party. (Yes, he talks about the New Yorker article). Also check out what Robert McCartney has to say, as he actually showed up and interviewed some of the rallyers.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

It's not news that tea partiers/Beck ralliers have a sense of persecution and rally with no sense of irony. That doesn't make their arguments any less inane. See Charles Blow on re-reclaiming the dream.

Meanwhile, an Economist blogger argues that the democratization of home ownership didn't cause the crash. And Ron Lieber on why real estate isn't a lost cause after all. So, no, realtor who sent me a form letter earlier in the week, I am *not* interested in selling. Do you think I'm stupid?

A fascinating new look on how our language influences the way we think. I'd never heard of geographical languages before--perhaps it's time to pay more attention to cardinal directions, particularly in my very confusing office building. I wonder whether Managua denizens--who call north, "al lago," because that's where the lake is; east, "arriba," because that's where the sun rises, etc., would retain at least the former when traveling to a place where the lake was located to the south?

Funny, also, that he talks about words for colors, as that is how Robin Givhan opens her column on a new type of fashion consulting to hit the DC area. Naturally, it has to mirror the wonkiness of the residents:
Pantone colors were scrupulously dissected topics of conversation, along with foundation garments, proportions and a complicated formula for calculating "cost per wear" that involved enough algebra and opacity to make the Government Accountability Office proud.
Who doesn't want to be a playwright? Nonetheless, this sounds like a pretty cool day job (if you know Japanese).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday morning roundup

The Bahraini government opts out of reform and appears to embrace the (unsustainable) Egypt model.

Afghans love a Corolla, or at least its parts. I love the bumper stickers noted in the last paragraph.

Robinson on why the Beck rally isn't worth wasting our breath over.

Look past the PR; industrial farming is a disaster.

Isn't it interesting when self-appointed pro-democracy activists attempt to oust judges who disagree with them?

I want to like Alexandra Petri's columns, but my reaction to almost every one is, "you have good ideas in them... just too much fluff to obscure them, as well." This last one fell especially flat.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

Have I mentioned that I won't be going near the Mall this weekend? If I have, I didn't know at the time that the Glenn Beck rally will be on par with the moon landing.

On that note, a species that can land on the moon can certainly remember to bring a reusable shopping bag.

This piece on fire-and-drought-induced food shortages in Russia really emphasizes the staple status of buckwheat.

Michael Pollan on the real cost of cheap food (i.e., eggs).

Marriage tips from Samantha Bee and Jason Jones. The one about cleaning is interesting: I'm forgiving (and neglectful) of paper mess, but have no tolerance whatsoever for food mess. When my mom is here and insists on eating in the living room (or biting into her toast over the floor rather than her plate), it drives me up the wall. I'm somewhere in between on dust mess--I can go a week without vacuuming, but no more than that, under any circumstances.

Speaking of marriage tips, this husband has issues.

I hope they make affordable tickets available for "Follies."

Thursday morning roundup

India doesn't have enough civil engineers to fix its potholes because software engineering is a much more appealing career.

This is just my opinion, but, rather than hiring lobbyists, a better way for DRC to change its reputation is to deal with the humanitarian debacle plaguing the country.

I'll be staying away from the Mall this weekend.

The international commentary over the GZnM.

There is SO much hypocrisy in the following argument:
Geoff Ross, a Navy veteran who organized the tea party event in Florida last weekend, said the word means "the law that practicing Muslims follow to lead their daily lives." He became involved with anti-sharia events last year.

"I study the Quran, I study the Internet. I look at sources on the Internet and try to vet that information," he said. "I'm not anti-Islam. I'm anti-terrorist. But if you take quotes from the Bible and compare them to the Koran, the Bible might say, 'Turn the other cheek,' while the Koran would say 'Strike your enemies down and kill them.'"
I don't even know where to begin.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday morning roundup

Why supporting the GZnM is the Jewish thing to do; and the jack@$$ who "argues" otherwise. Religion aside, let's recall how the rest of the country loses when we let the rabid hatemongerers win.

Perhaps the above debate can be resolved, like many a New York real estate dilemma, with feng shui.

Putting down the Blackberry is good for the brain.

Cairo is officially sprawling. And the Times uses "comprise" in a way that I know has become okay, but I still hate it.

Really, Britain? Do you really want to compete with Russia for most assishly alcoholic nation?

Eggs and the food safety debate.

Just say no to more farm subsidies.

Alligators are springing up in unexpected places.

Corporate social responsibility at its best.

Do not even get me started on the VA AG's latest assault on personal freedoms.

The Post's conservatives are taking exception to the toxicity and broken karma around the nation, although the latter column--Kathleen Parker's--is just kind of annoying.

Who really writes it best is MLK III:
My father championed free speech. He would be the first to say that those participating in Beck's rally have the right to express their views. But his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation or political beliefs. He envisioned a world where all people would recognize one another as sisters and brothers in the human family. Throughout his life he advocated compassion for the poor, nonviolence, respect for the dignity of all people and peace for humanity.

Although he was a profoundly religious man, my father did not claim to have an exclusionary "plan" that laid out God's word for only one group or ideology. He marched side by side with members of every religious faith. Like Abraham Lincoln, my father did not claim that God was on his side; he prayed humbly that he was on God's side.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday morning roundup

What if the Yuan isn't the problem?

The very complicated debate over genetically modified seeds takes an even more complicated turn in Italy.

Richard Cohen on why compromising on the location of the GZnon-M is a bad idea.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday evening roundup

Prior to reading this, I honestly didn't weigh income very heavily as a factor in deciding whom to date.

Baggage fees got you down? Try a nakation.

Grist takes on the anti-locavore argument. Some of the points there are great (for example: it's about the food system, not strictly food miles; the food economy's comparative advantages are influenced as much by subsidies as geography;), others make me roll my eyes (for example: it's about knowing your farmer). Not because in an ideal world I wouldn't want to know my farmer; it's just not a priority.

Meanwhile: you should be livid about salmonella in eggs. I gave up eggs a while ago, as I told you, because I got sick of navigating the humane-egg clusterf*. I'll give them up all over again if I can't have runny yolks on toast.

This is AWESOME. An excerpt:
As someone who rides the Green and Yellow Lines all the time, I can assure you that there are no "rules" that state these subway lines must be avoided at all times, especially at night. But then, I guess I'm not using "A Cliche-Ridden Guide To Avoiding The Black People On The Subway In Washington" as a rulebook. Ironically, one needs to ride the Green/Yellow line in order to visit the National Archives, where the Constitution of the United States is housed. (Not that these rally attendees have any particular reverence for that document.)

Look, Glenn Beck rally attendees, if there's one essential piece of information you need to know, it is this: DO NOT STAND TO THE LEFT ON THE ESCALATORS UNLESS YOU ENJOY BEING MOCKED AND ABUSED. Just remember to stand to the right on the escalators, and your visit will be more than pleasant.
Disclaimer: One does not need to ride the Green/Yellow line to visit the National Archives; one may walk from Federal Triangle if one is so inclined. I wouldn't recommend it in this weather, but if you insist on avoiding the green and yellow lines (the latter of which, incidentally, I take to and from work), you have that option.

This so reminds me of one of my former carpoolers. I did once threaten to kick him out and make him hitchhike off the side of the beltway, but in that case it wasn't because he was late.

BTW, I sent this to Jay, subject line: "I knew it!"

Monday morning roundup

Violence in Venezuela is out of control.

Yoga knows no intellectual property.

Courtland Milloy on race relations and circumlocution.

The changing faces of U.S. nuclear negotiators.

Home ownership is no longer seen as a good investment.

The issue with Karen Hughes' argument is that it would let the rabid hatemongerers win, and we can't afford to grant them another victory.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

I know we've heard/read enough about this, but there's so much acrimonious, absurd, childish discourse and antics out there that it's that much more important to amplify the mature voices. Kristof's take is not extraordinary, but concise. Maureen Dowd brilliantly sums up the whole mess, before she starts to ramble. Frank Rich is insightful as usual. See also
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
I'm glad I won't need a nanny to raise a bilingual kid.

In the National Parks, technology has been enabling some serious stupidity.

While we contemplate the meaning of an incoming college freshman class that never knew the country of Czechoslovakia, Japan sees a cultural (and economic) see change as its new generation of young adults didn't grow up in a flourishing economy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday morning roundup

Jordan flirts with autocracy.

A non-opinion article about the non-mosque. Oh and did you know that there's already a non-mosque at the Pentagon?

Gerson vs. Robinson on Obama.

These are some very good points about the real math of local food, but the discussion isn't complete without talking about meat production.

Gail Collins on the political math of yachts.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

One region in China has an interesting answer to gridlock: the straddling bus.

A more empirical look at the twenties are the new teens phenomenon.

Hypocrites in Alaska and hypocrites coming out of Alaska.

Spirit Airlines may be cheap, but more and more customers are finding that that doesn't make up for its BS.

In the event you'd like to lose your appetite, check out this slideshow of state fair foods on a stick.

How did I miss this the first time around?? Apparently I was in China. Anyway, to what extent does literature matter when you're dating? I'd say quite a bit--not in the way of specific books, but in one's relationship to words, stories, etc.

I LOVE "The Straightforward Mermaid by Matthea Harvey. I don't think I've ever posted to a New Yorker poem before, but that one just rocks.

Wednesday morning roundup

This reflection on the Rolling Stones' 1990 concert in Prague reminds me of going to see "Rock n' Roll" at the Studio Theater about a year ago (about music, ideology, resistance... and everything else). What an amazing play.

Police say sex-for-rent is not uncommon.

Poke your own holes in Kathleen Parker's column, regardless of the reasonable conclusion.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

No offense to some of you, but I'm all for anything that deters parents from bringing babies on planes.

One thing I'll give this non-mosque controversy is there's some excellent commentary out there. Jon Stewart's opening segment was awesome:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tuesday morning roundup

In the land of knockoffs, nothing is immune to being systematically faked, including virginity. There are some seriously, humorously offensive quotes in that article.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is still stupid, more stupid. However you want to look at it.

Richard Cohen more articulately says what I was trying to say the other day: grow. a. pair. This isn't a complicated issue. This isn't the war in Afghanistan. Either you (you being people who don't think the mosque is the end of Western Civilization as we know it) are standing on principle or you're pandering. I particularly recommend Dana Milbank's column, but I'll direct you to the Post's Opinion page, where just about everyone has something (smart) to say about it. The Times also pipes in, and here's the Sufi angle.

OPM fights back over mischaracterization of federal salaries. Yes, I earn more than the average waitress in rural Ohio. And if the real difference is in benefits, bring on the benefits in the private sector, rather than trying to detract from public sector benefits.

Anne Applebaum, who, I remind you, considers herself and is generally considered conservative, asks why the Presidents who lack their own vacation homes are the ones most criticized, by virtue of their vacations, for being elitist.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday morning roundup

Anticipate an uptick in succession drama in North Korea. South Korea has ideas.

Is China getting in touch with its less punitive side? I was going to say "humane side" but whom are we kidding.

Tamil pulp fiction is taking off in India.

Michael Gerson makes some excellent mosque-related points.

Last year I may have shrugged off an article about another kind of near-apocalyptic disaster, but having observed Snowmageddon and Stormageddon, I'm all ears.

Samuelson about our bumper stickers and bumper-sticker discourse.

Response to comment: This article in Parade mentions how hot he (Jon Hamm) is, but centers around his acting career. Whereas I don't think I've ever read anything about Christina Hendricks' acting. But do you know what I really want to stop reading about? Cupcake lines in DC.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday roundup

Japan comes to terms with an epidemic of phantom centenarians.

China comes to terms with its outdated 'hukou' system.

A Peruvian mining town isn't thrilled with the Chinese company that's established itself there. But the article would be more contextually complete with a discussion of Chinese (and Japanese) immigration to Peru last century.

A reporter's literally hellish sojourn in Moscow. Russia's leadership is more likely than ever to face the fallout.

It's not peace if Afghan women's rights are sacrificed in the process.

Travel writers assess "Eat, Prey, Love" (yes, I know the movie has no commas, and that just infuriates me) for its portrayals of Bali, India, and Rome.

Under budget pressure, schools are asking kids to Bring Their Own cleaning supplies and other stuff. I'd probably resent some of the stuff on the list--paper plates? How about introducing the concept of reusable plates?

It's not yet posted online, but even public transit devotees are telling Dr. Gridlock that they've had it with Metro. I'm used to unair-conditioned cars, but the other day I stepped into a moldy one. It was disgusting.

Maureen Dowd on the President and the left. Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Julian Zelizer on the same, although the latter is more of an analysis of the facts as well as the politics.

I'm sorry, but leadership means growing a pair, not qualifying your statements.

Frank Rich expresses his faith in progress in America, a day after two of his colleagues did (see yesterday's roundup).

This ode to Naomi Campbell may be the weakest column by Robin Givhan I've ever read.

Tom and Lorenzo make an excellent point vis-a-vis the focus on Christina Hendricks' curves: why isn't anyone talking about what a fantastic actress she is? Jon Hamm is hot, too, but he gets credit for his acting.

iPhone users get more action--twice as much as Droid users, apparently.

Americans are finally just saying no to white bread. I recently discovered Ultimate Grains brand (you don't expect me to bake my own in this weather!), and it's heavenly. I've been toasting it, than misting with olive oil. Heaven, I tell you. On the topic of what not to eat, researchers use Progresso vegetable soup to simulate a vomit-like substance.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

Japanese sushi chefs find greater opportunity abroad.

The King of Saudi Arabia moves to rein in the proliferation of sometimes nutty fatwas that the information age has exacerbated.

A Sudanese pro-democracy movement speaks out even in the face of great risk.

Bill Richardson makes the case for more engagement with Latin America.

Mayor Bloomberg epitomizes how one's Jewish heritage should shape one's views on mosques near Ground Zero.

A number of columnists suggest making a distinction in the tax code between the rich and ultra-rich.

In an inspired and inspiring column, Gail Collins reminds us that progress takes time. And perseverance.

Charles Blow's faith for progress rests with young people.

The Style Invitational prints some bad ideas for making the nation more secure.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday morning roundup

The non-spy pardoned by Russia in the spy swap is feeling the pain of exile, but is afraid to go back. If even not doing anything in Russia is fraught enough, actual activism, as we know, is really dangerous.

Older women in India are opting for IVF.

Hertzberg on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. For Colbert on the same, see the video for The Word on his main site (the link doesn't work).

Stormageddon hits DC. I haven't biked to work at all this week because of the weather, which means five days of metro. And my metro stop for work has been getting an awful lot of attention lately, none of which is surprising.

Yes, aggressive talkers are annoying, too, but--I'm sorry, Petula Dvorak--obnoxious children are still public enemy #1 on flights. It's unfortunate that flight attendants these days apparently hate their passengers, especially those with families, but many parents don't help the situation by deciding to take a break from parenting once they board, at the expense of everyone else on the plane.

The poison ivy chronicles, continued

Do you guys remember this extremely disturbing article about the woman who couldn't stop the itch (and eventually scratched a hole to her brain)?

I'm not quite there yet. Actually, a week into my third round of poison ivy, I've gotten better at not scratching.

The first round was brutal. The steroids helped the itch, but kept me up. As of Monday, I'm officially off the juice.

The second round--which is limited to one section of my forearm, and in its last week as we speak--is pretty mild.

The third round resulted from my final attempts to eradicate the monster from my backyard. I wore protective gear. Nonetheless, it's almost impossible not to expose any body part. As a result, the rashes are back, although still not as bad as the first time around. And I don't have to go back on oral steroids. But it still itches. And I still can't sleep.

Remember I told you I hoped at first it was a mosquito bite? With this round, I was afraid it was bug bites, but since I would wake up to discover the bumps, I worried it was a spider or something. I do prefer poison ivy to bed bugs.

I couldn't reach some of the ivy, even to spray. It's dying, but it's going to fall at some point, and I'm going to have to handle it again. In protective gear. But that only takes you so far.

I just flipped off my cat. I am literally sick of her $hit.

I hate her. I don't know why I keep her around. She's not that cute.

I found myself summing it up the other day to a friend: I guess I'd rather she annoy the crap out of me than be dead.

Barring that, I hate her fat, whiny ass.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

quick Thursday morning roundup

China desperately needs some health care reform.

A few stories after Steven Slater, i.e. Colbert's Alpha Dog of the week, we have omega scumbag of the week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday morning roundup

The case against slum tourism. But you don't have to do it that way. You can go see different parts of a place without gawking.

Cohen finds the Economist's review of a new biography of Sayyid Qutb missing something important.

Maureen Dowd makes a compelling case for not pre-screening one's college roommates. That's the best time to start appreciating other people for who they are. I even appreciate my last roommate for who he is (although I'd never want to live with him again).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday evening roundup

Some travel safety tips from the Economist.

Some travel-inspired life lessons from David Sedaris.

If the excerpts in this review represent the best humor Laura Ingraham's new book has to offer, I'm really confused about the reviewer's idea of effective satire. Politic leanings aside, it comes off as a lot of mean-spirited pettiness.

Monday morning roundup

India considers reforms to its broken food aid system.

Rwanda continues to flourish and to undermine civil liberties.

Southeast Asia's new China strategy: military buildup.

Ross Douthat's argument against gay marriage may be the least hateful out there, but that's not to say its logic holds.

A massive brawl wakes Metro up to the chaos that regularly transpires in its system.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

Tom Friedman's compelling when he's right, and he knows the Middle East.

Plans for mosques across the country are testing our national commitment to religious freedom. On a quasi-related note: why Jews should be all over the California ruling.

It's awesome when responsible business finds success. I hope that Alexandria does something with all the fallen tree parts it was wonderful enough to pick up curbside.

Would you people shut up and let the First Lady vacation where she wants?

A more in-depth look at the concept that money can buy happiness--when it buys experiences rather than stuff. The home near the hiking trails is a good one--I was just thinking this morning, "this trail is priceless." It's so beautiful I never get sick of it, and it's right there. I like that this article leaves room for nuance: experiences are awesome, but sometimes material things (a) are more than the thing itself; and (b) hit the spot.

I'm one of those jackasses who likes to read things because they're well written and speak to me. I love some of these these writers. But I'll admit I'm disappointed with some of this year's New Yorker fiction.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday morning roundup and response to comment teaser

Amid the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, outrage and dilemmas persist in Japan.

Can social media fight Egypt's epidemic of police brutality?

Nixon loyalists in denial about the wrongness of Watergate are challenging the National Archives' representation of it.

Those nooks and crannies might be the next test for Wikileaks, and a less damaging one, at that. Who knew that Hostess was so scheming. I guess there's only so many Twinkies you can sell without resorting to corporate espionage to broaden your horizons.

This is a really dumb article on the "new" youth bulge in the federal workforce.

Alexandria lost so many old trees in the recent storm because so many of our trees are very old. I saw one or two, or twenty, on my ride home, just removed from the trail.

Some of these people's complaints about their dining companions bother me. What's so picky about asking for dressing on the side? I told you about how my overpriced shredded cabbage salad at Founding Farmers was barely edible because it was overdrenched in dressing (which, incidentally, I'd requested on the side). I'm all for people paying more attention to what they eat. On that note, it turns out most people do read nutrition labels.

It also turns out that women by sexier clothes when ovulating. Here are some other interesting social biology tidbits.

I wasn't sure where Alexandra Petri was going, but I appreciate her point: a wedding is a big deal:
This day is big not because Bill doesn’t expect his daughter to lead a fulfilling and exciting life -- but because it marks a special occasion that is qualitatively different from a professional milestone like being elected president, the kind that stands out even in a rich life. It is a celebration of finding the proverbial needle of love and commitment in the haystack of the singles scene.
Which brings me to the romcom issue, the full reply to which is still developing. There are two issues there: the one invoked in the original column, which is that people care less about language, dialogue, etc.; and the one about the sad state of romance bringing down the art form that was the quality rom com. I do agree that they're no longer gender-neutral: even some not-bad ones that I watched at the behest of a male friend ("The Two Ninas," "The Tao of Steve,") were clearly, obviously guy movies. More later.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday morning roundup, Asia edition (and more)

As Indonesia outgrows its reputation for corruption and inefficiency, questions about a hajji mafia emerge.

Meanwhile, China's once-unstoppable charm offensive on Southeast Asia is losing steam.

A Chinese modern artist takes on pollution.

Naomi Campbell finds it terribly inconvenient to testify against Charles Taylor. I bet we could find some people in Liberia and Sierra Leone who could clarify the concept of inconvenience for her.

More locally: I'm thrilled that the power's back and looking forward to cleaning up my part of the metro region's storm-induced mess. I walked home from the metro through a disaster area yesterday--fallen mattresses, tree branches, just about everything else. I'll need to take my bike home today; hopefully the trail is in decent shape.

Found the phone number

Please see Sunday evening's phone call for context.

I'd talked to mom on Monday morning--she was livid on Sunday night, and still going on on Monday about how she had no time for this but it would take me five seconds because it was three lines. I said, fine, if it's three lines, tell me those three lines in Russian and I'll type them up for you, right now. So after three lines, she started going on. and on. and on. I told her I was done at three lines. I sent them to her.

That's why she likes to write letters: she doesn't want to resolve the problem; she wants to be witty and make a statement. Except that she lacks the tools, skillset to do so, and has to ask other people to do it for her (usually me). And I don't share her sense of wittiness ("no, mom, I'm not writing, "I'm too old for this.")

Anyway, I called last night.

A.: Did you send the three lines?
Mom: Oh, no. I found a phone number and called.

Of course. After all that.

And yet, you'd think if she had no one to call, she'd have found the phone number right away without wasting anyone else's time. I wonder how many fights I would pick if I could just have someone else take care of them for me. Someone write to ADT about their raising my rates even though I'm locked into a contract. Hell, someone write HP about what a piece of crap my new computer is. That's something I'm going to do anyway. Really.

Then she goes on. and on. and on. about how she's left Verizon again because she didn't like the router. And then about something else she bought that she had to go return.

I have to wonder whether she thrives on this stuff. I still don't think so, but I have to wonder.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

Is the Time cover dealing in war porn and blackmail, or (just) bringing attention to the plight of Afghan women?

In case you thought Dr. Kissinger didn't have enough to answer for, he also scapegoated and slimed an Air Force General.

The daughter and granddaughter of Tennessee preachers assures us that politics only cheapens religion.

Gail Collins on hydrangeas and viral videos.

Robert McCartney urges Bravo to spotlight the real, real housewives of DC. My question: do they still have to be housewives? Because I don't think they are.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

I stand corrected: there is an aspect of Chelsea Clinton's wedding worth writing/talking about.

Urban agriculture is anything but a fad, has a distinguished history.

Can love transcend divergent feelings about food? BTW, my reaction to the excerpt was, "gag me." I like food but I don't need to close-read it.

Wednesday morning roundup

Bring on the accusations of socialism, but I think child nutrition programs and assistance to indigent refugees are a worthwhile use of federal funds.

The decline of the romantic comedy is a decline of wit and appreciation for language.

Britain's budget woes are about to herald a paradigm change in funding for the arts.

This writer-to-Carolyn has trust issues.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday morning roundup

Would you prefer that Virginia's Attorney General prioritize the use of your tax money to go after drunk drivers with multiple DUIs, who end up killing and injuring nuns or illegal immigrants?

Atul Gawande's poignant essay on terminal patient care will make you grateful for every disease-free, functioning part of your body.

As much as I love "Mad Men," I have to wonder whether it merits so many sociocultural analyses.

Really, Washington Post? Are there not two wars going on? And even if there weren't, leave the Clintons alone.

I like where Sixth and I is now--do they really have to move it again? To across the highway?

Hell is leaves of three

Gracie loves it that I can't sleep past 3am. She loves going outside at this hour.

3am's the new normal. It's not bad; it's manageable, even more so than 2am, which was the old new normal. A few more days of steroids, I keep telling myself... but I wonder whether the insurgent itch on my forearm, so far fairly tame, is residual or a new bout. I think I may lose my mind if it's new--I can't take more iching or more steroids. At this point, the anxiety is worse than the itching.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday morning roundup

No love for the Blackberry among Persian Gulf autocrats.

Are Arab states apathetic to the fate of actual Palestinians?

In the Information Age, some students struggle with the concept of intellectual property and the associated sin of plagiarism. In its last paragraph, the article invokes some recurring themes on this blog:
At the University of California, Davis, of the 196 plagiarism cases referred to the disciplinary office last year, a majority did not involve students ignorant of the need to credit the writing of others.

Many times, said Donald J. Dudley, who oversees the discipline office on the campus of 32,000, it was students who intentionally copied — knowing it was wrong — who were “unwilling to engage the writing process.”

“Writing is difficult, and doing it well takes time and practice,” he said.

And then there was a case that had nothing to do with a younger generation’s evolving view of authorship. A student accused of plagiarism came to Mr. Dudley’s office with her parents, and the father admitted that he was the one responsible for the plagiarism. The wife assured Mr. Dudley that it would not happen again.
Speaking of younger generations, the Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon babies are coming.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday evening roundup

Insurance companies engage in some serious bull$hit at the expense of the bereaved.

The Real Housewives apparently helps women hate women.

Have I mentioned that overfishing is depleting our oceans?

Moscow's traffic nightmare says a lot about Russia.

With power outages, as with many things, not knowing what's going on is worse than not actually having power.

A book review on "Nine Lives:The Search of the Sacred in Modern India."

It looks like we have another letter to write

A.: Hello?
Mom: Hi. So, it looks like we have another letter to write.

I don't object to letters, per se. If RCN is being its evil self, I'm willing to help out. But I wanted to point out that it wasn't a good time for me to get the details.

Mom: So, I joined this risk-free, monthly...

A.: [oh, no.]

Mom: ...blah, blah, blah.
A.: Mom, my hands are dirty...
Mom: Well, I'll just explain in general.

But she goes on to explain in detail.

A.: Mom, I can't take this in right now. Besides, could you just call them?
Mom: I want to cancel out officially.
A.: [loud sigh]
Mom: Look, will you do this for me?
A.: Of course I will, if we need to. But I prefer it if you try calling them first.
Mom: I didn't see an easy way to do that?
A.: You didn't see a phone number? They gave you no instructions for canceling?
Mom: What's so hard about writing a letter?
A.: I don't have a lot of time right now. I will write this if we need to write this...
Mom: Fine! Goodbye!

I'm getting over a bout of poison ivy so nasty that I'm relieved when I find that I have a mosquito bite, because that itch will go away with vinegar or subside naturally in little time. I'm not sure how many hours I worked last week... but I pretty much remember that I got home, crashed, woke up itching, crashed, woke up, and went back to work. I've not read most of the Post yet.

I'll write mom's complaint letters when complaint letters are warranted. When the situation can be resolved with a phone call, I prefer that we take that route.

Mom doesn't write, so she thinks writing is easy for people who do. She doesn't understand that it's not helpful to hear "the general idea." That's not how it works. It would be as if I asked her to hem a pair of pants for me without measuring it, or by asking her to measure it while she was cleaning mushrooms.

A significant part of my job entails writing. It does not entail pulling information out of my @$$; rather, it--particularly the drafting of the product--requires taking detailed notes, organizing those notes, and building a case. That's how I write.

If mom would like me to write her a letter, the least she can do is give me something to work with (when I can work with it).

Sunday morning roundup

Glenn Beck inspires violence.

Our food system has killed our oldest farm, after centuries.

A new book on being careful about what we take from the sea.

Beware the budget deficit.

Do the woes of a struggling garment factory present a microcosm of what ails the Italian economy?

French GM workers accept benefit cuts to save their plant.

You know the economy is hurting when counterfeiters are selling knockoff Charmin (and other mid-range products). You'd still have to pay me to wear Uggs, real or fake.

Orhan Pamuk's window on the world.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker will miss the "small-town" values she experienced in the nation's capital.

Levi Johnston is one of three possible fathers, based on the week of conception? What the f* am I doing with my life?

Maureen Dowd's Holly Golightly-Betty Draper analogy starts out strong and ends up a bit tortured, but is nonetheless interesting.

Sloane Crossley's very humorous essay on how record temps in New York have brought about the New Naked.