Sunday, January 31, 2010

Response to comment

I take your point: one's appearance and one's conveyance matter everywhere--I'm not an actress, but I'd never show up to a job interview in sweatpants. But I don't live in LA, so no one would care what car I arrived in (in fact, metro would be the assumption). The thing is, there's a difference between investing in expensive things because you're in a profession and/or place where that's what your clients expect (like these New Yorkers who felt they had to shell out hundreds of dollars every two weeks for highlights). That's not the same as buying a car you can't afford or otherwise seeking out the trappings of wealth to impress people not in a position to hire you or buy from you.

DC is a solar system apart in its status culture, although the lawyers and lobbyists dress and drive flashy. The rest of us tend to keep it low-key. Tim Gunn has complained about it and Robin Givhan has made quite a career out of pointing it out (to be fair, I should say a fraction of a career). David Brooks' comment also sums it up brilliantly:
"Gail, recently I’ve become greatly disturbed by the cars that are owned by the top officials in the Obama administration. These are people who have been making serious change for many years as president of Harvard and that sort of thing. And yet according to published reports, they tend to drive 1995 Honda Civics and 1994 Ford Tauruses. In other words, they own the kind of cars that are the subject of a hundred “Car Talk” episodes because they only go into reverse when the radio is set on AM.

In my view, anybody making enough money to afford it should be driving an understated semi-luxury vehicle, like an Audi, Acura or an Infiniti. To drive less shows a lack of appreciation for the finer things in life, a lack of sensual acuteness, a certain inner drabness."
Again, none of this is to say that status doesn't matter. David Brooks has made much of a career pointing out that people will find subtler ways of signaling status.

Sunday morning roundup

Nicholas Kristof reminds us that Haiti is not the only tragedy in the world. And the Red Cross is certainly not the only organization doing something about it.

Never a dull moment in the Caucasus.

Frank Rich embraces the SOTU and calls for more in the same vein. That column goes nicely with the New Yorker's 'Tea Party' article, which basically argues that the tea partiers are not a bunch of lobbyist-led rednecks. Fair enough, but that doesn't mean that ignorance doesn't pervade their agenda. On an unrelated note, Jackson Diehl makes a good point about what wasn't said in the SOTU.

Secretary Paulson dishes on the players in the rescue of the financial system and tells Sarah Palin not to call him 'Hank.' Andrew Young dishes on the John Edwards debacle, and even though, as I've said before, I don't care, the stuff that went down is just wrong. Paul Strathern dishes on Borgia, Machiavelli and Da Vinci in what sounds like a great read.

A new book compellingly tells of a social wrong on the part of the medical establishment.

Another book celebrates chutzpah, but Zachary Goldfarb, the reviewer, is skeptical.

Michelle Singletary advises us to stop pretending that we're rich. Did you know that 86 percent of luxury vehicles are driven by non-millionaires? Whereas millionaires do go for $16 haircuts and $10 bottles of wine.

The Times articulates my thought on the choose-life Super Bowl ad: "choose life" is still pro-choice. Let it go. Writers for the Post make the same point less concisely. Here's what's not okay about CBS's ad choices.


Mmmmmm, green curry ramen.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Packer on Dresden

George Packer's must-read Dresden article is sadly subscription only. It is also excellent, and addresses a theme I've often blogged about--places, and peoples, coming to terms with their history. In this case, architecture characterizes the coming-to-terms, or lack thereof, or something in between.

I found Dresden beautiful. It was actually mom who urged me to go, if only for the Old Masters' Gallery. An acquaintance in Geneva suggested I not bother, said the city was nothing but ruins. Which isn't true, wasn't even true in 1997, but in any case, even the ruins added to the beauty. You walking across that bridge to see the beauty of the city open itself up at an ever-changing angle. Much like Porto. But I digress.

We studied the fire-bombing of Dresden in grad school, in my Just War Theory class, and Packer's analysis only illuminates the issue. Proquest it, buy it, whatever--but do read it.

New addition to the 'physical defects' bracket of Mom Madness

A.: Hello?
Mom: Where are you?
A.: Home.
Mom: Then how come your computer's off?
A.: It's on.
Mom: But you're not on Skype.
A.: No.
Mom: I want to show you a jacket--turn on Skype.

Mom: There you are! You're a little discolored. It might be the video. Do we look discolored?
A.: No.
Mom: I guess our web camera is better than your web camera.
A.: So, this jacket...
Mom: Let me go get it. Talk to dad.

Dad and I talk. Mom reemerges with the jacket.

A.: Looks awfully big, mom.
Mom: Well, it's too small for me.
A.: What material is it?
Mom: It's a good material.
A.: ??
Mom: Huh... 40 percent polyester...
A.: Eh.
Mom: It looks good.
A.: I really can't say anything without trying it on.

Mom: So you're going to keep your hair long?
A.: I guess.
Mom: I see a gray streak...
Dad: Nothing wrong with that. It's elegant.
Mom: I agree...

Mom: Eyebrows just like your dad's... hopefully they won't start curling. Something's up with your smile... it's not very full. You could use some collagen implants.
Dad: Please.
Mom: Seriously--people do it all the time. It's not even considered plastic surgery--not that there's anything wrong with that.
Dad: Her smile is fine.
Mom: But with collagen implants, it would be perfect.
Dad: It's fine.
Mom: Your skin doesn't look bad...
A.: So, what are you up to this weekend?
Mom: We're going to the opera--well, to a simulcast.
A.: Cool!

The subject changed, we managed to have an inoffensive conversation.

Response to response

Very much agreed, but advice needn't be advice. Again, I'd still steer away from unsolicited, especially in the personal realm. See this letter to Carolyn, especially her response: digging at someone is not helpful. Mom's staring at my middle, speechless, and then not speechless but fully expressive of her awe at how it's grown, has achieved nothing in the way of shrinking the offending bulge.

I'm not suggesting that you say to your sister, instead of "He didn't call you for 3 weeks after the first date, no, don't go out with him again!", "He didn't call you for 3 weeks after the first date, he's just not that into you," but that's a little bit better: it's a statement of fact rather than something she "should" do, and "should" is part of the problem. But I agree: eventually she'll figure that out for herself.

I love career advice--I don't think you're ever at a point where you can get enough--but there's as much bad advice out there as there is good. The difference is, it's not as personal and it usually is generalized into facts, rather than directives, so, for both reasons, people take it better.

Re: the gray, I completely agree. It's a part of what makes me unique, and more people--including hairstylists--have told me not to touch it. It's not that I'm "going gray"--I've had the same gray hair for over ten years. But I usually bristle when people do direct me to dye it, and yet, I didn't, because it was said in context (i.e. my friends believed that men my age would be under the impression that I was much older because of the gray), rather than as a 'you should do this.'

***
No roundup this morning--just one column worth sharing. Gail Collins expresses her frustration with politics as usual.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Response to comments

Here's an amazing misguided-overprotective parent story. Apparently, the school reconsidered.

***
The hedgehog has an official check-out date. Its handler, who had arranged that date without my input, tried to postpone it by two weeks when I told her I’d be out of town and thus have to evict it early, leaving it outside for an extra day before the UPS guy can collect it... but I would have none of it. I want that thing out of the house.

***
ETC, I’m honored to have had a positive influence on your relationship with your sister! I’ve felt strongly about unsolicited advice for a long time—I wasn’t very old before I noticed how unhelpful it was. But there are two kinds of advice, as I’d written in my original post: the ‘you should do this’ kind and the ‘be aware of this fact, think about yourself and your priorities, and integrate the two’ advice. For example, there’s ‘lower your standards if you want to meet someone’ and there’s ‘think about the extent to which it’s important for you to be in a relationship, and consider whether it’s worth changing your ways to make it happen.’

Incidentally, I met some friends for drinks last night and pointed them to our debate re: dating. They’re successful, amazing, beautiful, interesting, African-American and single. They agreed that the city sucked in general but that it was notably worse for them.

They’re also two of the few people from whom I take advice on my appearance without bristling, usually because they don’t offer it without solicitation. I generally get annoyed when people advise me to dye my gray hair—and I’m still not going to do it—but they said it in a context that was practical and non-offensive.

In case you were wondering, our recurring ‘this city sucks for dating’ conversation ended in ‘too bad. We’re not desperate, we’re not going to lower our standards, and we’re going to go on living our very full lives.’ Although we agreed that what we did need was (1) a ‘wife,’ i.e. personal assistant and (2) a boy toy, none of us felt she needed, wanted a husband. I revisited that feeling today when a coworker told me that her mother-in-law had taken to complaining over the dearth of home-cooked meals her son was getting and gave my coworker... wait for it... a gift subscription to Good Housekeeping.

***
re: family, my mother, but not my father, is the same way: the more I have my $hit together, the less she can believe it and the more she picks at me. Probably because that way she feels needed.

***
Doris Kearns Goodwin says bring on the filibuster.

Friday morning roundup

Let's talk about 'too much government intervention' for a second: in addition to the spectrum of reasonable positions on this matter, you have the two extremes, the idiots, and the hypocrites. I.e. you have the people that believe government should manage everything and those who believe that government should manage nothing; you have the people who say government should manage nothing, i.e. their medicare, and the people who say government should manage nothing (apart from women's wombs). I'm not sure where to place this horse$hit:
Massachusetts is the first state to add toothbrush time to the color-nap-snack-and-play routine of preschools, requiring that all children who eat a meal at day care, or attend for more than four hours, brush their teeth during class and be educated about oral health.

The regulations, which went into effect last week, are being praised by some parents and caregivers while causing a tempest in a toothbrush for others, according to schools and chat rooms.

“I don’t want someone’s hand in my child’s mouth,” said Sarah Brodsky, a teacher at First Path Day Care in Watertown and mother of 4-month-old Noah. “It’s a little too much” government intervention, Ms. Brodsky added.

“JG,” posting on Boston.com’s blog Moms Nation, agreed that the government might have overstepped its bounds: “We don’t need the state mandating every little thing in our lives. Let parents be parents,” adding, “The kids can’t even reach a sink.”
Now, my parents grew up in a police state. I grew up listening to their stories of having grown up in a police state. I wouldn't, for a minute, suggest there's no such thing as too much government intervention. But teaching kids to brush their teeth--in (state-funded) schools--is not the same as paying neighbor's to spy on each other and report their thoughts to the state. Right?

Maybe I'm just bitter because I wish someone had taught me to brush my teeth properly. It could have saved me a fortune in dental bills. But I'm not talking about the other reasons (logistical, hygienic, etc.) for which this might not be the best idea. I'm talking about how the public discourse on "government intervention" is losing touch with reality.

David Brooks touches on the outdated nature of the big government/small government debate.

Investing in Haiti's economy.

Samuel Pisar eloquently contemplates humanity in the face of tragedy, natural and man-made.

John Bowe's book on love looks interesting.

Not that I drive to the District if I can avoid it, but I welcome the no-quarters-needed trend.

We talked a bit over the weekend (well, blogged and commented) about sanctimommies, and Ernessa said something like she hasn't met a lot of actual sanctimommies, but the internet encourages that kind of thing. Perhaps. I do know moms who complain of sanctimommies (a friend of mine considers her sister-in-law as such). What I can say is that I've noticed that moms, like others, attack when they feel threatened. So I'm going to extend this already stretched metaphor to healthy eating, having blogged yesterday about nonjudgmental yoga and nonjudgmental eating. I'm all about not criticizing what other people eat, until (like RM) they start calling me a freak. It follows that if we must label parents weirdos based on the food choices they make on behalf of their kids, let it go to the ones that opt for the junk food. And there's nothing impossible or more expensive about mixing your own vinegar-based cleaning products.

But I will judge parents who overshelter their children and the schools that pander to them. That's just a travesty.

It's tempting to judge, as greedy, the landlords claiming ownership over a meteorite, thus keeping it out of the Smithsonian. But in the interest of intellectual honesty, I'd have to ask myself whether in a similar situation, the prospect of that much money wouldn't alter my own behavior.

I'd considered going to the farewell party but I was concerned it might be a zoo (no pun intended--really). It's also going to be very cold.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

Were I a more thorough blogger, I'd have gone back and linked this creative post with the article on the memories associated with smell, which I posted earlier this week.

Ha. Have I been to this Tesco? I don't remember ever shopping there. I would go to Cardiff to shop at the covered market, and also in some of the smaller grocery stores to the west of the city, toward the arts center neighborhood--Chapter, is it called?

I was just thinking of Wales, as an example of how we let beauty sink in and don't notice it once we're used to it. I went to Ireland for a weekend, which was also beautiful but in a very different way, and coming back--just taking the bus back from the nearest station, I was struck by the beauty of the landscape, which I'd been observing for months but at some point it stopped being as noteworthy. I just experienced the same thing last week when I biked to work for the first time since early December--it's such a beautiful ride, but it's not as striking when I see it more regularly.

Where not to stay.

Thursday morning roundup

Lots to talk about in this article on foodie yoga, mostly the concepts of judgment and purism. My yoga teachers have always taught me that yoga is non-competitive; however, one did ban meat (and mushrooms and garlic, like one of the yogis in the article). The idea of eating during yoga grosses me out, but nothing wrong with feasting afterward, if you ask me. This is a really interesting excerpt:
And in yoga and foodie circles alike, contemplating the awesome significance of every bite taken — its flavors, its implications, its history — often seems to lead to moral judgments about others.
I mean, it doesn't have to be that way. There are, indeed, judgmental foodies, and I started to cross that line with RM only after he would constantly draw attention to the contrast in our eating habits. There's a difference between arguing that people should eat more mindfully and sustainably, and judging them.

On that topic, check out Kathleen Parker's column on hunting that I posted earlier this week (was it Sunday?) Here's a different piece on hunting, whose last paragraph elicited in me a non-judgmental 'gag me.'

While we're on the topic of meat... call me a cynic, but if the meat industry is happy with the Adminstration's food safety nomination, I'm skeptical and hoping to for a pleasant surprise, because there's no time to lose.

If you didn't watch the Daily Show clip I linked to on Tuesday, or yesterday's Colbert Report, read up on the Bauer incident here.

I've been using Rosetta Stone recently--I have free web access through work--and I've been discussing it with a couple of friends, one of whom is taking a language class and one of whom is also learned in the way of linguistics. I find RS extremely annoying, but I have to admit that it kind of works. For now. It's a good start--I've also used RS for a language in which I had more of a basis, and it was clearly an experience in diminishing returns. And still annoying. I should check out the BBC language aps.

Gail Collins cracks me up.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pre SOTU ramble

I was talking to someone about blogging--she was considering starting one--and I said I thought the key was not getting carried away by having a medium: just because you can easily broadcast what you had for breakfast, doesn't mean people suddenly care. Now, it's not that I've never blogged about what I had for breakfast, but when I did, it was in the context of having breakfast with my parents (mom's narrating the order in which I eat the things on my plate, or overanalyzing what I put in my oatmeal, etc.).

The point is, there are tons of things, even on a given day, that are important to you. That doesn't make them worth blogging about. This, too, goes back to the Mendelsohn piece on memoirs: even before new social media, there's some $hit you just need to keep to yourself. I could have a blog solely devoted to rude people on the metro, and I have to admit, I've caved and written about people who don't cede seats to riders who obviously need them more, or who stand directly in front of the doors. I could blog about things that are mundane but quasi-intriguing, like the stuffed animal, noise-making hedgehog in my house, which I did not invite but cannot get rid of it. I could tell you about how I took my shoes to the cobbler, and the guy at the counter recoiled. And when he took them into the workroom to check on the price--because he'd apparently never seen such worn shoes--I could hear the woman gasp when she saw them. I took them in on Saturday and only got them back today. At first I tried to wear skirts every day, so I could wear boots with them, but that lasted *a day.* Yesterday and today, I just wore pumps. Glad that's over. But see how quickly that got boring?

Okay, State of the Union's on. Ciao.

No emperor-clothes pun here

David Brooks and Tom Friedman both annoy me sometimes but have a way of being right when they're right. But here's the thing about what Brooks said--quoting someone else--about how government shouldn't be transparent for the same reason middle-aged people should wear clothes. I'm not going to say there's nothing to that, but I also agree with Gail Collins' retort. I mean, even Madonna needs to wear clothes (as does Angus Young), but so does Lady Gaga.

This is the kind of debate over the D.C. bag tax I like to see.

Wednesday morning roundup

In appreciation of Senator Mathias.

Remember the Telescope Effect article that I posted two Sundays ago, about the issue of disproportionate compassion for individual people vs. masses? Here's a compelling argument for at least caring about individuals:
It also shows how impossible it is not to get caught up in the fate of individuals even when confronted with mass casualties.

"You know, we talk about and teach the 'most good for the most people' approach," Redmond said. "But if you are presented with a problem of one particular person, and you think you can do something about it, give it a shot."
That article also speaks to the magnitude of the survivors' needs in Haiti.

Maureen Dowd.

The Times samples some State-of-the-Union-like addresses. Check out the word counts as well as the themes.

This is why I'd never make AVD a potluck. I'm not averse to potlucks for lesser occasions--picnics, etc. But I strongly believe that when you invite people to celebrate something, you're responsible for the celebration. And yes, I have taken to having annual birthday parties for myself (Miss Manners wouldn't suggest, I'm sure, that since I've no significant other, or nearby family, to arrange such a party for me, I should just let my birthday go.) Across Eastern Europe, you throw your own party. But you don't invite people and then expect them to do the work/foot the bill. Moving on, the second letter in the above link represents a truly horrific lapse in judgment and taste.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lotus. Flower.

Jay: What about Hotel Rose Garden? It's $123 for a double bed, good reviews, etc... Southern Tower looks very nice (I'd even say "hot"). I think I never want to book another hotel again in my life...
me: I don't give a f*. Let's just book something. My mind is mush, am going to bed.
Can book tomorrow. but yes Rose Garden looks good.
Jason: k, richard's good with southern tower
me: ok
whatever then
And by whatever
I mean whatever
in a way I've never meant whatever in my life
Jason: i'll book that, and then do you mind getting villa fontaine
I hear that!!
me: no, I'm not dealing with agoda again
Jason: or we can just leave the reservation
we can pay $30 more a night thru the hotel and not prepay, which I half think is easier.
me: either way
I don't want to deal with Agoda but you can if you want, and I can book the other place
or the other way around
I don't care.
Have I mentioned that I don't care?
Jason: I feel your pain. Don't worry--I'll sort it tonight.
and then we're done for real.
me: okay, cool, thanks!!
Jason: no worries.

Tuesday evening roundup

Mostly a New Yorker roundup--it's a good issue.

This cryonics article is crazy. Apparently, the cryonics pioneers haven't seen "Idiocracy."

When I first saw this article on the association of smells I thought back to "Remembrance of Things Past" and how much I hated the first French lit class I took in college.

Hendrik Hertzberg reviews "Game Change."

From the Daily Show and an overall worthwhile episode of the Colbert Report.

How fat am I? Let mom count the ways.

As I "dialed" my parents' number last night--there's no sleek way of saying 'as I hit redial on my cell and waited,' but dialed is like saying "rolling down" a car window, which, by the way, I still do, because my car has power-nothing, but I realize that almost no one else does--but I digress.

Anyway, you know how you develop defense mechanisms, and one of mine is not quite registering the horror of a situation until it's over? Like with RM? But then, you realize how traumatized you are, because you keep thinking about it? Even over the last few weeks, especially when I've had an especially long day, and I was just sitting down to some 'me' time after a day of work/volunteering/cleaning/other errands, I've thought, 'why do I just know he's going to aggressive-talk to me tonight?' And then I breathe a huge sigh of relief because I realize that's no longer possible.

Although I had a moment of panic last night when Marcela e-mailed me with a subject line that asked about a spare bedroom--I was worried that she knew someone who was looking for a room. Which is ironic, because I told her that her mother and/or partner were welcome to stay with me for as long as they needed to while she was settling back in--and I meant/mean it--but I'm not going to live with random people I don't know. But again, I digress.

Just as, sitting down after a long day, I sometimes experience a momentary fear of RM conversational offensive, I've taken to experiencing my own, individual Mom Madness. Now, I often play mental Mom Madness before visits home, but it's recently hit me before phone calls. I'm not sure why this is just happening now--after all, mom was comparatively laid back over the holidays; she only told me I was fat every other day, and only dwelled on it for a few minutes at a time. At the same time, however, she's gotten more creative over the last few months: she's started talking about my weight without having to see me, so distance no longer confers any protection. She can now launch a "you're fat" monologue over the phone. I half expect her to say, "I can tell from the sound of your voice that you've gained weight. There's a different echo to it."

Not only has she crossed that line--she's managed to badger me about my girth without actually having my allegedly gargantuan gut within sight for inspiration--but she's also expanded her repertoire of weight comments, such that I could probably come up with a Mom Madness bracket for weight comments alone. Here are some [actually spoken] themes:

-You've gained weight. [Five minutes later] You've gained weight. [Repeat several times]

-What was I saying? I got distracted by your massive gut. Wow, that thing is HUGE! I completely lost my train of thought. Seriously, that is some stomach you've grown yourself!

-[Enter item of clothing] makes you look fat/makes your butt look big/is too tight.

-Why are you fat? Genetically, you have no reason to be fat. Seriously, why are you fat?

-Lay off the soup/no I will not pass you the bread/you've had enough grapes.

-Have I mentioned that you've gained weight?

Tuesday morning roundup

Haiti is starving. An etiquette of sharing what little there is has taken hold.

As I was flipping through a "Fitness" magazine yesterday I came across an add for Hostess 100-calorie cupcake snacks. No sense of irony.

I was also flipping though a Travel Tips for Women booklet that a tour company sent me. I didn't look at it in detail, but few of the tips were women-specific. I stumbled on a tip about Russia that really threw me: don't expect American-sized portions, savor the smaller dishes. Um, Russian portions are gynormous. My parents and their friends are not an anomaly. I don't know what those people are talking about. Occasionally, I come across blanket statements about Russian culture, as observed by foreigners, that are amazingly spot on. And occasionally, native Russians pull nonsensical ideas out of their a$$es.

Tea Party "idealism" meets reality. Richard Cohen explains, while David Brooks writes on the limits of populism. Elsewhere, Richard Cohen parses the significance of John Edwards' brush with presidency.

This is going to be a trial week for going Postless. I put my subscription on hold because I thought I'd be business-traveling, but our trip got postponed, and I forgot to cancel the hold. Which is just as well in terms of my information overload, but it will make for less comprehensive roundups.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Phone call

The battery on my cell phone was running very low so I turned off the phone. I only remembered to turn it on half an hour or so ago, and when I did, three messages were waiting for me:

(1) Dad: Hi! Sorry we missed your call last night, we were out. We'll call again, or call us.

(2) Mom: Where are you? I don't get it. Call us.

(3) Mom: Where could you possibly be in this weather? I mean, really? It's getting late. And the weather! Look, call us.

***
Mom: Hello?
A.: Hi, Mom.
Mom: [V.!]
A.: Mom, could you not scream into the earpiece, please?
Mom: Could you not use that tone with me, please?

Mom, holding the phone away: V.!!!
A.: That's better, thanks.

***
Nothing more to see, people. It wasn't a Skype call, so "why are you fat?" and "what's wrong with your hair?" would have been especially gratuitous (which is not to say that that's much of an impediment, but mom wasn't in an especially gratuitous mood. Rest assured, though, that I'll keep you posted in the event of future verbal carnage.

Monday evening roundup

I love it! I may have to read this book. I've always been frustrated when languages I'm learning don't have a good word for boredom. To my knowledge, there's not one in Spanish. In French it's context-dependent rather than unique--the concept of 'ennui' is there, but 'ennuyer' is 'to bother' as well as 'to bore.' In Russian it's a bit more clear, although it can share the term with 'to miss.' I could go on, but the point is, I wonder why English is the only language I know with a strong, unmistakable term for the concept of boredom.

And you thought I was clumsy.

The Times rounds up the Alpha Wives debate. None of the contributions are earth shattering, but the links in the introductory paragraph may be worth checking out.

And now for the mommy wars: on shared-not-divided parenting; the overparenting backlash; and whether parenting lessens one's capacity for adult conversation.

With all due respect to the original J.Lo, this is awesome. As is last Thursday's Word:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Two-Faced
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Monday morning roundup

Sounds reasonable. I wonder if he'll get crap for it nonetheless. On a more substantive note, Fareed Zakaria's wisdom always deserves attention.

Immigration and organized crime clash in Naples.

Unsurprisingly, botox is dual-use.

Credible opposition begets increased transparency in Sri Lanka.

Is authoritarian populism in Latin America on its way out?



Ross Douthat makes some reasonable points but I don't buy the argument that we can go without comprehensive reform. It's not just about the uninsured and the pre-existing conditioned; it's about the system, the cost structure of that system, and how that cost structure is bankrupting the nation as a whole (as well as harming the uninsured and pre-existing conditioned).

Being cerebral is an underrated quality, especially in a President.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

Long, scary article on when radiation therapy goes wrong. Here's another 'feeling lucky to be alive (and healthy)' article.

It pains me to say this, and you can probably guess how I would have voted, but Massachusetts democrats have tended to take voters for granted. Frank Rich parses the election results. Meanwhile, contributors to "On Leadership" agree that the Administration must regain message control, as presidential speechwriters share some interesting insights on the State of the Union address.

Jennifer Garner slams sanctimommies. Another woman writes about her need for a proverbial wife--not an actual one--a concept all the more ironic with the latest women-out-earn-their-husbands studies. And even though she admits to oversimplifying 'the good old days,' I still fault her for oversimplifying to the point that her argument is useless (not the part about needing a proverbial wife, but the part about how people were happier when roles were more clearly delineated). On a happier note, here's a realistic but inspiring portrait of a timeworn marriage.

I want to keep an extra $.18/month as much as the next taxpayer, but when I consider the big picture, it's a small price to pay for health benefits for the families of police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty. Similarly, I'd hate to make the homebuying process any more expensive, but I'd be willing to cough up an extra $10 for environmentally friendly farming once every real estate transaction.

Kathleen Parker eloquently verbalizes my feelings about hunting (which, in the column, is part of a political-imagery analogy).

Listen up, millennials: having your mom or dad call potential employers to advocate on your behalf calls your maturity into question. Parents were among those that complained to the Post over graphic earthquake images. This is one of those tricky 'I'm not a parent so can I really say' things, but if I were to be so bold, I'd say, 'get over it.' Also on the theme of the potential harm of overprotective parenting: it's admirable that parents acknowledge the dangers of driving, but sheltering their kids from the seriousness of the responsibility means forgoing a teaching opportunity:
It has become harder for teens to grow up, Allen says in a recent book, "Escaping the Endless Adolescence," because parents too often try to eliminate risks and obstacles rather than teaching teens to manage them safely. "Parents are scared to death about their teens driving," he said. "But they won't grow up if we just lock them in a room to keep them safe."


I feel compelled to pass along the Post's high recommendation of Jane Bryant Quinn's "Making the Most of Your Money Now", but I can't tell you that I'm going to buy or read it (yet). According to its review, "Remembering Survival" is excellent. The review itself is a bit blah, but it's interesting from the perspective of the Mendelsohn piece I linked to the other day. Also recommended are "Daring Young Men" by Richard Reeves and Solzhenitsyn's In the First Circle. On a trivial note, I'd be interested in why the author's last name was transliterated as it was: the last three vowel sounds are not exactly interchangeable in Russian, nor are they especially well distinguished by the letters chosen for them.

It's great that Laura Linney is getting the recognition she deserves. Reading that reminded me of what a great movie "The Truman Show" was.

Robin Givhan on fashion and size. An excerpt:
Just how big does a model have to be before folks are satisfied that she represents some ever-shifting vision of what a "real" woman looks like? Must she be precisely 5-feet-4 and a size 14, which is the fashion industry's accepted stats for the average woman? And if she is, will that transform the fantasy photographs in fashion magazines into the equivalent of catalogues? After all, a large part of our fascination with Hollywood is because it's populated with absurdly stunning men and women who are so far from average they ignite our wildest desires and persuade us to pay good money to go to bad movies.
The Post's travel section is only occasionally useful, so I was delighted to find a guide to what the TSA allows as carry-on food. Pies, in case you were wondering, are "allowed and subjected to additional screenings if need be." See also some tips on protecting your valuables from the likes of Cybill Shepherd's son.

I haven't faulted the Travel Section on inspiration; on that note, Burundi and Montreal beckon.

Biology may be the deciding factor in why I'm hardly attracted to Jewish men.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

Even as I cringe, I have to admit that the pun with which Charles Blow closes his column is awesome. Speaking of awesome, Gail Collins delivers as usual.

I know it's "a behavioral economist's dream," but people need to get over the DC bag fee. Apparently, an unanticipated benefit is that people are buying less crap, out of self-consciousness.

I'm as averse to waste as anyone, but I'm also cognizant that poor people are not repositories for garbage. There's a difference between donating something still good but not right for you, and donating something unusable (unwearable, unreadable) for anyone. But yes, try to donate or recycle before simply tossing.

This is funny. This too. I stumbled on it while looking for this, which is less funny than 'pathetic but true.'

Friday, January 22, 2010

On memoirs

I love a great memoir, so I hold the genre to a high standard, and, like Daniel Mendelsohn, find it worthy of analysis. His review is actually fascinating, and I'm too wary to do it justice, but I'll make a few comments:
-I love that he challenges the idea that personal redemption is necessarily art-worthy
-Very true how blogging and twittering is contributing to the excesses of the memoir mentality--I mean, he talks about how with an enabling medium, everyone's a publisher. There's a great book that he does not mention (perhaps because it's not a memoir) called 'Diary of a Nobody'--its authors making fun of gratuitous oversharing of the mundane ages before it got this bad.
-I know I've ranted about this on these very pages, but I still think Rigoberta Menchu is full of $hit and that those kind of faux memoirs do serious damage,

That's all I've got. Do read the article.

Friday evening roundup

Sometime you just have to laugh at Latin American populist leaders.

More on when humanitarian aid goes wrong.

Friday (yawn) morning roundup

Hey all. (Yawn.) You know how sometimes I say, 'I was really tired but I'm so glad I went to this thing last night'? Well, this isn't one of those time--the thing sucked. Anyway, here's your roundup:

What'd I tell you about not going over there with your church group? It's good that aid workers feel comfortable being vocal about how not to help.

Israel's relief efforts force some self-reflection.

Is criticizing the Times fashion bloggers for complimenting women on their curves a form of killing the messenger?

I know this is petty--in fact, I've only read the last paragraph because that's how much I don't care--but could someone tell the writer, and Elizabeth Edwards, that ending sentences with prepositions is perfectly acceptable, often better, and certainly nothing to get sanctimonious about.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

David Ignatius offers some historical perspective on the philosophizing of tragedy.

A referendum on what, exactly???, asks Gail Collins. Dana Milbank elaborates.

Newsflash: the Beltway sucks. I mean the actual ring road, not the proverbial geopolitical entity for which it often serves as shorthand.

Seriously? I kind of liked the idea of my old car being an unappealing target for theft. Shrug.

Wait, that includes my walk to work from the metro. If they're there when I'm there, I won't hesitate to give them a piece of my mind.

This doesn't surprise me.

I've met her. She's super nice.

It's (almost) that time of year

Valentine's Day came up over lunch with some colleagues the other day. Someone was saying she'd considered visiting friends over the long weekend in February, but realized VD fell on that weekend and thought her friends might have Other Plans. She added that she'd brought up VD with another friend, who commented on the cruel nature of the "holiday"--'let's have a day for making single people feel like crap. I mean, would anyone think to have a day to celebrate the tall and thin?'

Now, I've been celebrating Anti-Valentine's Day (AVD) for so many years now that I've stopped caring. Really. Especially with all these studies coming out about how couplehood is a raw deal for women in terms of finances, career, housework, and staying fit. No wonder you need a holiday to make those people feel good about themselves.

And yet... couplism is alive and well. Every time I start balking at having this party--because, let's face it, my parties are fabulous, and fabulous parties don't throw themselves--it's not long before I remember why I started doing it in the first place. Just yesterday, someone in the coffee room at work was talking about it (particularly in reference to how her parents had wanted to stick her in a small room with no door on it so their granddaughter, who was bringing a boyfriend, could have the guest bedroom--she countered that she was an adult who preferred a real room, and would stay in a hotel). It reminded me of the chapter in Susan Jane Gilman's "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress" in which the author's recently divorced mother was dining solo at a restaurant, and a couple at a nearby table placed their dirty dishes on her table, saying she wasn't using the extra space. (On her way out, she replaced them, and her own, onto their table. While Miss Manners would never countenance fighting rudeness with rudeness, I say hat's off).

Earlier, in the same coffee room, someone who had heard that I'd be traveling next week, for work, told me that that place boasted a beautiful sunset, urged me to watch it. I replied that I never missed the sunset when I had the chance (it's a "Little Prince" thing). It reminded me of a business trip years ago when I'd told colleagues I'd met for dinner that I'd just watched the sunset. One of them asked me whether the couples thought I was crazy--this single person watching the sunset. What a concept--since when do couples own sunsets?

I could go on... we could talk about 'Sex and the City.' We could talk about RM, wonder whether his behavior would have been as egregious had he not had preconceptions about singlehood. After all, he did regularly, upon hearing that I'd spend time with friends, say, 'well, at least you had some companionship.'

Which brings us back to the whole AVD concept: it's really an anti-smugness movement. I'm not going to try to tell you that I never get lonely, but who can really say that? Some of the loneliest people out there are married. What I am telling you is that I don't need your f*ing sympathy, and that you needn't assume that your coupled lifestyle is superior to mine. Have your Hallmark holiday, gorge on cheap chocolate, take comfort in empty, pre-packaged gestures--or have a genuinely good evening with good chocolate and meaningful conversation, but you people are less likely to go all smug on the rest of us, so you're not the direct addressee of this paragraph. In any case, you needn't feel bad for me: I have the best friends in the world, and being single hasn't stopped me from doing the things I love (watching sunsets, watching sunsets all over the world, etc.).

So even though I'll be exhausted and jet-lagged on AVD, the spirit lives on. And so the party goes on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

Could a woman get away with baring almost all and salvaging a political career?

Sigh. You're just going to drive me further into the arms of the Post, and I'm not going to be happy about it. But at least Robin Givhan wouldn't suggest that these women are round or call Christina Hendricks "a big girl". See this for a reality check.

This is so creative and resourceful that it's *almost* enough to overcome my aversion to the cupcake trend.

Speaking of trends, soooo much to say about this clusterf*. Let's just say no to snack creep.

Wednesday morning roundup

More analysis on how men benefit more from marriage, including some discussion of the racial angle. I've really done well for myself with this whole single thing. This is my favorite part:
Ms. Zielinski, the fashion stylist, said her best friend, a man, told her once: “ ‘You are confident, have good credit, own your own business, travel around the world and are self-sufficient. What man is going to want you?’ He laughed, but I found that pretty depressing.”
The gender revolution is hitting Germany, too.

Steve Pearlstein and the Post on why the Massachusetts vote is not a mandate on or a defeat of health care reform.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

For many reasons, you should watch this.

Remember that incredibly cringe-inducing article from a year and a half ago--"The Itch"? This is equally disturbing.

Oh and were you wavering on the need for health care reform?

Monday morning roundup

Unsurprisingly, E.J. Dionne and Dave Brooks hold vastly distinct interpretations of the polls and offer quite disparate prescriptions. Guess with whom Eugene Robinson agrees.

Petula Dvorak adds her 2 cents to the trends indicating that marriage is a better deal for "the male of the species", "Mad Men" references and all. My friends and I were just talking about "Mad Men" in that context (i.e. my friend's sister had told her it was anti-feminist; I disagreed). I mean, the late fifties/early sixties were different times, and showing the realities of those times isn't anti-feminist. And if you look at the happiest women in "Mad Men"--and those most flattered by the show--it's the ones ahead of their time or changing ahead of the times. It's *not* the housewives or aspiring housewives, for sure. Here's the actual article on the study.

Centers in DC that serve those in need show lines far out the door.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday morning roundup

My family certainly engages in greenfighting. And I'd often rather avoid restaurants than quiz the waiters. But who the f* "prefers the way food tastes when it is served on Styrofoam"? My former RM, probably. Who did leave plastic yogurt cups and such in the trash, and like one of the people in the article, I had to wonder whether he was doing it to bait me. But that would be giving him too much credit.

My feelings on the statue are mixed. The statue honors soldiers, not so much the Confederate cause, and it reflects Alexandria's complex Civil War history.

Perhaps I unfairly maligned the Post, particularly in comparison to the Times. I'm relieved that they're not going with the equal-opportunity-destruction angle; rather, they're reporting on how Haiti's elite have not experienced a lesser extent of devastation. Which means, as I said yesterday, that structural changes can ensure lesser devastation for more people in future disasters. And institutional changes.

News

Last night

D.: What's that show after 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me?'
M.: 'This American Life'?
A.: Thanks for texting me about that show yesterday, it was interesting. It's telling that I had no idea which station hosted NPR and had to fumble for it.
D.: Why? You stream it?
A.: No. I don't listen to NPR.

Pause. Shocked looks

D.: Well, I guess something has to give, if you read the Times, and the Post...
A.: Yeah, and I've never liked getting my news from the radio (or TV). And I've just never gotten that into NPR.
D.: I think I'm going to cancel my subscription to the Post...
M.,A., in unison: We were just talking about that!
M.: And about how it's gone downhill, even just in the past year, and how the Times is just better journalism.
A.: The Post magazine is usually such fluff...
D.: And I love, love, love, the Times magazine.
M.: Well, I like Date Lab.
A.: I hate Date Lab.
M.: It's also just too much.
A.: I agree. I'm even thinking about not renewing the New Yorker. But I'm wavering, and I think if I cancel the Post and let expire the subscriptions to magazines I don't really read, I can keep it. I just got my last issue of Elle...
D.,M.: [Shocked looks].
M.: A., once in a while you say something that just shocks me.
A.: [Shrug] They have good articles once in a while. But Elle, too, has gone downhill.

***
A.: I don't know if anti-Valentine's Day is going to happen this year... I'll be getting back from a business trip the day before, and one that entails jet lag, at that.
M.: What? No! You have to do it!
A.: I might, just because this was going to be the last one. I was going to stop years ago but people wouldn't let me, so I said I'd go to ten--nice, even number.
M.: Why stop? Don't make it the last one!
A.: It's just so. much. work.
M.: You can do a potluck.
A.: Eh. Tacky, and not the same.
M.: I'm willing to contribute. You have to have this party.
A.: I'll think about it. This is exactly what happened years ago when I tried to stop.

Seriously. I really don't feel like having this party. Sigh.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Phone call

My parents and I actually had an interesting conversation.

I mean, the phone call wasn't without jabs, which I'll recount first:

Mom: How's... what's her name? Your animal?
Dad: Gracie.
Mom: Right.
A.: She's fine. She was in a playful mood this morning. She was trying to capture a string out from under the table...
Mom: You know, animals are like people: some are smarter than others. We were really blessed with C.--she was a kitty genius. Your cat, not so much, I think.
Dad: She was probably just playing. that doesn't mean she's dumb.

There were also echoes of conversations we've had many times (it doesn't get cold in DC, DC is devoid of quality opera, etc.). The perceived lack of river did not come up.

But then we were talking about opera, theatre, film, etc. I mentioned that I might go to see "Ward No. 6" at the National Gallery, especially as it's halfway to my friend's house, to which I'm going later tonight. Mom talked about how she saw a Japanese production of "The Idiot" that was amazing. (Incidentally, I'm reading about a South African's version of "The Nose.") We talked about how that kind of production speaks to art as a vehicle for the universal human experience. I mean, when you can take a story and make it work in an entirely different context (and I'd argue that the Shakespeare's Balkanesque production of King Lear didn't work--I mean, the play did, but the Balkan part was lost on me), it really works.

The Telescope Effect

I've alluded to the Telescope Effect--a cousin of the better known compassion fatigue--in recent posts about the earthquake in Haiti. I remember debating it in grad school--how could Amnesty International, some people asked, justify making such a big deal out of individual people. Which is a different issue, because a regime that incarcerates a political prisoner tries to break his or her spirit, which includes his or her sense of self, individualism, etc. AI's impact in making sure those individuals are not forgotten is much bigger than the individuals themselves.

There's also something about events like earthquakes that tugs at the heartstrings. Is the earthquake more tragic than the ongoing humanitarian clusterf* in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Are its victims more deserving of relief funds? I'm not implying they're less deserving. Remember when the Red Cross infuriated donors by appealing for funds under the guise of disaster relief, and then using those funds for other, arguably no less important causes? Now, they have an obligation to use donor funds as directed, and to be transparent about how they do it. Relief agencies are going to use natural disasters to solicit donations, as well they should. And in an ideal world, should they find themselves with more funds than can be spent onsite, they should be able to take that money for relief work elsewhere (or development work there and elsewhere).

I'm not immune to the Telescope Effect, or to other skewed emotional responses, but emotion is one thing and action, response is another. It's wonderful that people open their wallets whenever something like this happens--and many people open their wallets anyway--but investing in prevention and resilience goes a longer way than cleaning up the mess.

Annotated Sunday morning roundup

Some of the statements in this article aren't really true. This particular earthquake may not have discriminated, but earthquakes do, and that's important. Natural disasters happen, but their impact can be and often is mitigated and the most well-to-do feel them the least. The distinction between natural disasters and "complex emergencies" is usually a moot one (for one thing, note the breakdown of security that's hampering the relief efforts). Arguing, accepting that natural disasters don't discriminate means failing to accept that structural changes can build resiliency in the future. That aside, yes, people of all social strata were badly hit. It's that the rhetorical flourishes that the writer relies on to dress up that point aren't neutral or true.

Watch out for donation scams.

In Haiti, religious differences are not religious divisions. Kathleen Parker on the Robertson and Limbaugh comments. Frank Rich on Reidgate, and tea-partiers and their false prophets. As for Reidgate, cooler heads see it as a call for mature dialogue.

The FBI suggests that Osama bin Laden may look like a Spanish lawmaker. Who kinda looks like George Clooney.

Entrenched interests are wary of educational reform in Pakistan, and the suspicion trickles down:
When Hussain challenges graduate-level students for proof, they accuse him of being part of the plot, he said.

"Telling students they need to use evidence and logic means that you are definitely an agent of India, Israel and the CIA," he said. "They don't understand what evidence is."
Latin American voters want... large appliances.

It is no secret to readers of this blog that I think FLOTUS is nothing short of awesome.

People say I'm clumsy, but I've never walked into a parked truck. In contrast, I have been crowned an honorary lesbian. It was when my friend, also called A., visited me in Boston many years ago and we were looking for ice cream but too tired to walk *all the way* to the North End from Quincy Market. We had already walked a long way, in our defense. So we gave up and settled for McDonald's. Where we got gay-bashed while waiting in line, only to learn that they were out of sundaes. So we went to Union Oyster House, which was either out of or didn't serve ice cream. But we got this amazing cheesecake--perhaps the best ever, but that's a high bar. Actually, I think the best cheesecake I ever had was at a Spanish restaurant in Rhode Island--I don't remember the name--that served Kahlua cheesecake. It was heavenly. But I digress. Anyway, the bartender at Union Oyster House was flirting with us, which prompted the following conversation:

A.: A., why is he flirting with us? Can't he tell we're lesbians?
A.: A., I'm not a lesbian.
A.: I know, A., but you're an honorary lesbian.

And yes, to this day, A. and I, for some reason, feel compelled to use our name(s) in every practically every sentence. We feel no such compulsion in conversations with other people, i.e. people not named "A."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

Urban safari in LA.

Be afraid? Mr. Blow actually sighs at the end of his column. Gail Collins effectively sighs, again, in hers.

DC's same-sex marriage law prompts some Virginians to consider moving, but it's not an easy choice.

A microcosm of loss a huge loss to the world, personified in a Smithie among the earthquake victims.

Colbert King wonders why Peter Orszag gets a get-out-of-fatherhood-free pass.

I may be a cat person--and apparently we're a neurotic bunch--but Gracie is a dog cat.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Can't say it sounds like a good choice

Ariel Levy on the institution of marriage, by way of Elizabeth Gilbert's new book.

In the same issue of the New Yorker, Jennifer Egan's powerful fiction piece also addresses the topic.

***
Since we're on the topic of commitment with the threat of co-dependence, as discussed in New Yorker articles, this might be a good time to tell you that I don't think I'll renew my subscription to the New Yorker, which expires in less than a month. I love it--you know that--but I love it so much that it keeps me from reading other things, and I think it's time to move on. I'm not sure my resolve will last, but I think it's what I have to do.

Friday morning roundup

I'm not suggesting that people not donate to the Haiti relief effort, but I'll agree that there is legitimate rationale to opt not to do so. That rationale is emphatically not that articulated by Rush Limbaugh.

Now, him aside, you could donate or not donate to Haiti. I probably will. So will millions of other people, so if you are working with a very fixed donation budget, it is reasonable to allocate your donations to organizations that might get short shrift because other people are sending their money to Haiti. There are still people dying elsewhere in the world. It doesn't look like money is the issue right now (the issue is logistics). Which is why I don't recommend that you hop on a plane with your church group to try to help.

But money will become an issue, so, as I said, I'm not arguing against donating. I don't give to the Red Cross, but that's just me. I'd give money to Oxfam, Unicef, or International Rescue Committee. Mercy Corps does great work but I personally don't support them because their fundraising is intrusive and annoying, so if you can give without getting on their phone list, go for it.

And when I said there was a legitimate rationale not to donate, I meant that places like Haiti need help all the time, even if that particular place needs a lot more help now. An outpouring of relief funds is great. Continuous investment that might, for example, help build a more earthquake-resilient infrastructure, is even better, and it appears that there couldn't be a better USAID administrator for the job.

As for the politicization of the tragedy, Keith Olbermann's comment was unnecessary but not clueless or offensive. The analogy in that article--that Senator Kennedy's passing was "exploited" to pass health care reform--is disingenuous, since health care reform was such a core of the Senator's work over the decades. But let's all stop bloviating; of all the pundits, Fox's Shepard Smith got it right.

***
Part of me things, "be afraid," but at the same time, I understand that having to actually govern has a way of grounding people in reality.

Steve Pearlstein says it's time to put down the pitchfork and move on.

Meet the eight-year-old on the terrorist watch list.

Russians are most likely to blame their weight on genes.

Is 'y'all' becoming a political liability in Virginia?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

"Fortuitously named," indeed.

Very good advice from Sally Quinn. I catch myself doing that sometimes inadvertently--less about work but about other $hit of little interest to many people--and correct course.

People are shocked that size 12 is not overweight. Which is kind of silly because it's a height thing (at 5'2, I'd be overweight at size 12).

The Daily Show is spot on on trends:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Year in Preview
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Thursday morning roundup

Some people are incorrigible jerks. True story. But even wiser heads are tempted to by that theory.

Gail Collins sighs out loud.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Convo, not in order

Jay: The breakfast is little hot dogs, did you see that?
A.: What? No! They better f*ing have something for breakfast that's not little hot dogs.
Jay: I don't see a twin bed.
A.: Whatever, we've shared a bed before--remember when that guy in Panama moved us to a room with one bed?
Jay: Yeah, I was just thinking about that--and how you screamed because of the massive spider and hallucinated a hole in the wall.
A.: At least this time there won't be any roosters to keep us up from 4am. In any case, we'll see if we can 'upgrade' to two twin beds when we get there.
Jay: I'm having reservation-booking PTSD, I've so had it.
A.: I know, me too, and I haven't even been at it as long. This is the most complicated set of reservations I've ever had to make.

***
Group Skype chat

[10:02:39 PM] Richard: that's teh one next to the station
[10:02:59 PM] Richard: single (which is a full sized bed) is like 145/night for 2 ppl in it; twin room is like 223 though
[10:03:21 PM] Jason: hmm, 145 isn't too bad
[10:03:24 PM] Richard: so not bad for us but horrible for u guys
[10:03:31 PM] Jason: we can share for a night, as long as you're not too offended
[10:03:55 PM] A.: as long as Jay doesn't introduce any large arachnids on the bed, as he has in the past
[10:04:45 PM] Richard: ????
[10:04:52 PM] Richard: Susan would murder someone if they did that to her
[10:05:07 PM] A.: we were in Panama, and this hotel owner thought we were a couple so our second night he moved us to a room with one bed
and no door on the bathroom
very romantic
we'd gone on a 10-mile hike the day before, were exhausted
Jason: he said there were no spiders in that part of panama (!!??!!)
[10:05:37 PM] A.: went for a quick walk in the morning, came back to pack
I collapsed on the bed.
Jay put his suitcase on the bed
opened it
said, "A., get off the bed!"
I said, "huh, I'm tired" what? what's happening. I look up, and there's this GYNORMOUS spider, inside the suitcase
there was no escaping
until I screamed bloody murder and the spider ran away
Richard: i'm sure it was the screaming that ran him off
Jason: surely it wasn't my dirty clothes :O
[10:08:22 PM] Jason: cool--also close to a 7/11
[10:08:40 PM] Richard: that man is determined to be in a 7/11

Wednesday evening roundup

Kosher is the new cupcake.

Don't marinate your family in toxic chemicals.

OMG, this is so me.

A clip from last night's Daily Show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

Do you think they'd have remembered to leave my dressing on the side?

The art of effective rhetoric.

Crazy people. More importantly, ugly underpants.

Russ Parsons on farming:
What's political is also personal. If you believe in something, you should be willing to make sacrifices to support it, even if it's expensive or inconvenient. Wailing about farmers who use pesticides and then balking at paying extra for organic produce is hypocritical because the yields in organic farming are almost always lower. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with doing the best you can whenever you can -- as long as you're willing to accept compromises from the other guy too.

Tuesday morning roundup

The only word that comes to mind to describe this woman is, 'awesome.'

Anne Applebaum invokes the idea of Osama bin Laden as the Che Guevara of the East. Richard Cohen reminds us why the Ches of this world so appeal to young people.

The woman who hid Anne Frank has passed away.

Eugene Robinson on race here and in Brazil.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Won't be going back there...

...and now I can say that with conviction because I've been there. There being, Founding Farmers.

There wasn't any one thing that was awful... it was just a bunch of little things that were 'eh.'

Like the light but constant deep fryer smell. Or maybe shallow fryer smell. But the place smelled like fried food.

And that my salad arrived with the dressing all over it, rather than on the side as requested. When you're paying $16 for a salad, it's not too much to ask that it's made 'to order.' As often, the dressing was overwhelming--just a bit overwhelming, but still. I'd have preferred to have less of it.

Then a friend's mousse came with caramel drizzle, after she'd specifically asked that it be omitted. She wouldn't have said anything had it not been for my salad (about which I hadn't said anything, to the waiter--it was only afterward, when we were discussing how mediocre our meals had been, that I mentioned it). I'm glad she spoke up.

So there you have it: fried-smelling, overpriced, and mediocre (in terms of food and service). And yet, crowded, even on a Monday night, with a line to get in by the time we left. I don't get it.

***
Response to comment

T, I'll have been at this job for two years next month, and I can't believe they're still showing Fox News at that gym! We were fighting that fight back when I was working out there! Unf*ingbelievable.

Monday morning roundup

This is what legitimate frustrations with the health care reform package look like.

A train line reconnects the Balkans.

Yay, Hillary effect!

Ruth Marcus on Reidgate.

Fareed Zakaria urges strategy and sense over posturing.

While I couldn't agree more with Ross Douthat here:
"If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously. The idea that religion is too mysterious, too complicated or too personal to be debated on cable television just ensures that it never gets debated at all."
...but as for Brit Hume's words having been "denounced across the blogosphere as evidence of chauvinism, bigotry and gross stupidity," those three descriptors are spot on. Yes,
"...the differences between religions are worth debating. Theology has consequences: It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them."
Yes, it's worth having the debate intelligently. But that doesn't place Mr. Hume's foot anywhere outside his mouth.

I hadn't seen that article, Ernessa. I make a point of not reading the On Love section of the Post, but that story was sweet--good for them. As Marisa often says her grandfather likes to say, 'there's a Jack for every Jill.' What I do read is Carolyn Hax's advice column, which, of late, has been filled with 'why won't he commit' and 'why is he doing this' letters. I just want to shake those women and say, 'grow a spine and move on with your life.'

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

The same words come to mind every time a story like this one emerges: not. okay.

On religion and women.

Who becomes a terrorist?

Countries cut their umbilical dependence on pipelines.

Elder care in three countries.

Did you all see the Daily Show's coverage of the Orszag "scandal"?
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Peter Orszag Sex Scandal
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Do read the hilarious, above-linked Times article, too.

Newsflash: critical thinking matters. A lot.

Seriously--stop changing towels every day.

Is she for real? and

Friday, January 8, 2010

Helpful hints

Attention, barn-raised metro passengers: here are two rules (there are, of course, more, but we'll save those for another day)--
(1) Take up only one seat. Both seats are not for you. And I'm not talking about people who can't help but take up more than one seat; I'm talking about people who do so voluntarily.
(2) "I'm getting off here" is not a polite way to ask someone to stand up so that you can, indeed, exit the train. "I'm getting off here" is information. What you need is a request, such as, "excuse me."

Friday morning roundup

I guess this puts Stalin nostalgia in perspective.

These people are awesome.

This is supposed to be a trend story about male homeowners but I definitely identify. Except I've managed it by adopting a "just say no" approach to continuous improvement.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday evening ramble

On Food

Remember last week I was rambling about the mainstreaming of "ethnic" food? Or gentrification, perhaps. Anyway, over the weekend, Whole Foods had green curry paste on sale... and sold out.

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I bought some organic Pink Lady apples at Trader Joe's. It's like eating an appletini. Mmmmm.

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Conventional sweet potatoes are officially not as good as their organic counterparts. It's not just a store thing. Trader Joe's was out of organic, so I bought conventional, and they're 'eh.'


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On Gracie

A.: It's actually a good thing that you're not annoying as an intermittently beeping carbon monoxide detector, because if you were, you'd be homeless. That does mean that I'm going to tend to it before I tend to you, but I ask you to take the long view in this situation.

And while we're talking about the long view with regard to your being fed, I need you to help me out. You see, I--perhaps foolishly--adopted you, so I am obligated to feed you. As no such moral contract exists for the people who kindly agree to feed you when I travel, it would behoove you to cease leaving little kitty landmines for them to step on when they come to give you food. Is that clear?

Wednesday evening roundup

Terrorist or genocidaire or freedom fighter: Ukranian edition.

How not to test airport security.

Colbert comes up with a new ID requirement:
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Night of Terror - The Crapification of the American Pant-Scape
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Glenn Beck sets a new standard for classy:
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The Temple of Hume
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