Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

Petula Dvorak's poignant appreciation of those we lost in the storm.

For the Gulf to recover, we can't proceed under the delusion that the Deepwater Horizon spill was the first and only thing to damage it; we have to address decades of abuse and neglect. With the pipeline leak threatening Lake Michigan, can anyone argue in good faith that these are one-off, freak events? Under what clean water standard would Jesus be baptized in? On a lighter note,
The Style Invitational prints winning Gulf spill parody song entries; definitely worth checking out, though in the editor's own words, they're "editorial-cartoon funny rather than comic-strip-gag funny."

A Chinese official reacts comically when caught off guard by the Obama Administration's assertion of anatomy:
Foreign Minister Yang reacted by leaving the meeting for an hour. When he returned, he gave a rambling 30-minute response in which he accused the United States of plotting against China on this issue, seemed to poke fun at Vietnam's socialist credentials and apparently threatened Singapore, according to U.S. and Asian officials in the room.

"China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that's just a fact," he said, staring directly at Singapore's foreign minister, George Yeo, according to several participants at the meeting.
We need to avoid leaving Afghan allies at the mercy of those they helped us fight. Nor can we abandon Afghan women and girls.

Health Care reform will benefit women.

Charles Blow on our dysfunctional national discourse on race. A brilliant excerpt:
He’s on a crusade to convince the lemmings of Foxland that President Obama is governing under the principles of Black Liberation Theology, a “grave perversion” of Christianity in which “minorities are saved in the sense that white people constantly confess and repent of being racist and meet the economic demands of minorities via the redistribution of wealth as a consequence of, in some form or another, reparations.” What? Oh, Glenn.

I have to say, I don’t know how these Fox viewers do it. Listening to a Beck argument is like living in an M.C. Escher drawing — fantastical illusions that defy logic and strain the brain.
Apparently there's an architectural/aesthetic reason for Metro's mood lighting.

Online language exchanges allow you to practice in anonymity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

WTF, who says this $hit.

Scene-in, Atlas District. If you're going to get a tattoo, sakura is the way to go.

This article just pissed me off. I think there are aspects of the fat acceptance movement that are awesome, and others that are scary. It's wonderful that people choose to love their bodies as they are, but I find it's worrisome that they eschew exercise, which is healthy in so many ways regardless of its impact on weight.

Thursday morning roundup

Mass tragedy on the border.

A Times correspondent appreciates humanity through reflections on the life of his cat.

Does this reality show come with a Malaysian Tim Gunn counterpart to help make it work?

Brace yourself for a particularly nasty campaign season... and if you're in search of an oasis of civility, look no farther than Delaware.

Anne Applebaum makes an excellent point: the Wikileaks leak makes the case for the mainstream media.

Gail Collins finds hope in the mental health and decency of presidential offspring.

You're probably not getting enough Vitamin D.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday roundup

Has the technology that enables always being connected made it harder to actually get in touch with people?

Africa abounds in elections but not necessarily democracy.

Indonesians are opting out of learning Indonesian.

I was just thinking, it's been years since I've been crapped on by a bird. It used to happen all the time.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday roundup

A compelling, concise analysis of the Somalia clusterf*. Read it if only to experience an island of effective journalism in the sea of crap that's out there.

Economic displacement and resentment in Tibet.

Turkey finds a new BFF in Syria, but there might be drama.

Meet the world's new cocoa baron.

Hugo Chavez is full of $hit (and anything but Simon Bolivar's heir). If you are looking for Marxism, the Chinese Communist Party is not a bad place to look, contrary to appearances.

Could the oil spill be the crisis that begets the impetus to restore the Gulf and its rich ecosystem? And to deal with or at least talk about our dependence on oil? If that's too hard we could just blame excessive regulation.

The country's transit systems are strained.

It's not out of defense for the show that I get annoyed when people describe "Mad Men" as sexist; it's because that's a really silly way to look at it. As Jon Hamm says in that interview, those three lead women are very strong. And the show doesn't pit them against each other or reduce them to a single dimension.

The show is such an interesting study in eras that Frank Rich starts his column on what the Sherrod episode really says with a "Mad Men" reference. Van Jones adds to the Sherrod discussion from the perspective of regaining political sanity in the 24-hour media culture... as does Ruth Marcus. Maureen Dowd adds her two cents. On a different but related note, Kathleen Parker laments a media culture where journalists and pundits are pounced on instantly. And while we're on the topic of journalistic responsibility: governments are entitled to their secrets, but a knee-jerk leave-it-unreported reaction serves no one.

"Is that your butt??"

Mom left me a message saying she wanted to video chat on Skype so she could show me what she and dad had done with the backyard. So I video-called on Skype... but she regular-answered. So we chatted for a few minutes. I told her I had poison ivy, said it's too bad we weren't video-Skyping because I could show her the scars. I suggested that she video-call, so that I could answer properly and we'd see each other. So she did.

A.: Hello?
Mom: Hello. Can you see us?
A.: I can see you. Can you see me?
Mom: Is that your butt??

Now, I've never claimed to have diminutive calves. Let's be real--you can't pedal your way to work and back on diminutive calves. And I was striking an unnaturally bow-legged pose to get more of the scarring on camera. But still--is that your butt? Really?
A.: Yeah, mom--that's my butt. I'm mooning you as we speak.
Mom: Really?
A.: No! Those are my legs.
Mom: That looks awful!
A.: I know.
Dad: The carpet looks good.
A.: [shrug]
Dad: What are you using on the poison ivy?
A.: Over-the-counter crap. I need to go to the doctor.
Mom: Yeah you do. Get some steroids; otherwise you'll be itching for weeks.
A.: Will do.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday roundup

Daniel Schorr's life of journalistic integrity and perseverance.

You'd never believe it given the way industry execs talk, but this isn't the first oil spill to taint the Gulf.

The effects of a neither-here-nor-there immigration policy are tragic.

There's great demand for higher education in Vietnam, but capacity hasn't kept up.

I repeat: you're a moron if you believe Froot Loops is a "healthy choice," marketing aside. Axe will make you irresistible to women and a Dodge is your last stand as a man.

Gail Collins on Kentucky's election.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday evening roundup

What the spy story tells us about the nature of the Russian intelligence apparatus.

More anecdotes that show how accents and such don't always mean what we think they do.

Sigh; more on animal sex. And animal tv.

Hat tip to Wendy for this fascinating New York Magazine piece on parenting. I've blogged before about the dissonance between the long-term nature of the rewards of parenting and the immediate experience, which is more often characterized by frustration. I have many friends who are parents, and most of them remain interesting, but I have experienced the excruciating boorishness--often at gatherings hosted by these friends and attended by their friends who are also parents--of people who you know must have been interesting once, but they've not made an effort in years to deal in anything other than their own kids, and that's all they can talk about.

We're on the verge of
Mad Men Madness
.

Whatever else you may think of Angelina Jolie, I love that, when offered the role of Bond girl, she said she'd rather be Bond.

Friday morning roundup

China's oil spill is not pretty.

Engagement with Russia is not paramount to appeasement on human rights issues.

Kurtz on the Sherrod clusterf* from a media perspective. See this for the hypocrisy perspective.

It's apparently and almost unironically the year of the rich populist candidate.

I joke about wishing parents would drug their children, but really, I'd prefer that they parent them.

The Post's attempt at cutesiness with this story on salamander sex (or lack thereof) falls flat, perhaps because it just does, or perhaps because there's so much depressing $hit in the rest of the Metro Section that the reader is in no mood for cutesiness.

I have a computer. I have a blog. I am not on Facebook--and not just so I can say I'm not. So, yes, non-Facebookers are out there.

What's sloppy about this sentence: "In that case, speakers with mild accents were considered as truthful as native speakers but those with heavy accents were judged less truthful."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

Beijing's ancient neighborhoods are going the way of the dodo.

It's apparently the year for putting on "The Merchant of Venice"; The Shakespeare Theater Company is doing it as well. I saw the Al Pacino film, it was quite good. The Dowd column brings up another perspective: what of the women? Isn't it time that someone asks, "wait, what? this is my happy ending?" It's particularly relevant in this day and age of "settle for mr. good enough." Then what?

On a lighter note--yes, I am really f*ing sick of blogging about cupcake trends--NYC's cupcake trend goes macho.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

Japan dabbles in indentured servitude.

How factory farming endangers us all.

Anne Applebaum calls out the Tea Party on hypocrisy; Eugene Robinson calls out one of its racist elements. Read that and let me know what you think.

NPR detects froth in New York's cupcake economy. That second link is brought to you by the Wall Street Journal, by the way. Really.

These Shakespalin tweets are awesome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tuesday morning roundup

Russia forbids a "Forbidden Art" exhibit.

Maybe this story about a field trip to the beach is supposed to be hopeful, but that it's come to that is pathetic.

Saudi women love their beauty products.

Citizens of China and Taiwan are mingling.

When you think of public figures who fit the role of Shakespeare's poetic heir, who's the last person you'd think of?

Monday evening roundup and response to comment

Egyptian police brutality. caught on video.

Rampant tax evasion fuels income inequality in Pakistan.

What one man learned as a Cuban political prisoner.

States are taking steps to fight human trafficking.

First lesson of being a good guest: don't stick your hosts with an exorbitant utility bill.

Metro seat hogs get coverage in the Post.

***
I admit my evidence is anecdotal, and I concede the article's main point: I wouldn't have been hearing said anecdotal evidence a generation ago, because I wasn't talking to teachers, employers, etc. Parents--at least those of social status--probably were calling employers (see "Mad Men"). Other observations, such as the decline in critical thinking, may well be a function of changing educational standards rather than helicopter parenting. And parents have been loath to discipline their small children for a while, but I've observed both. For every kid that's allowed to wreak havoc on a plane or in a cafe, others are reined in by their parents. So it's hard to say whether the technological developments that have enabled helicopter parenting haven't been counterbalanced by other factors. What do you think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday afternoon roundup

We can still learn a lot about China from Pearl Buck.

On race and Tea. But here's what I ask you: what do you mean? If it's concern that we, as a nation, are not doing enough to fight poverty, isn't there a better way to articulate that than whatever the f* the Tea Party is doing? See also this book review, which touches on the Moynihan Report.

Are the millenials no more spoiled or entitled than any other generation?

Robin Givhan on the Blagojeviches' spending habits and what they say about them.

How yoga took off in America. And how immigrants influenced American cuisine.

Sunday morning roundup (Part I, probably)

Ranchers and drug barons are devastating Guatemala's rainforest. Do you know where your beef (and drugs) are coming from?

If you still haven't read "Three Cups of Tea," it's still an amazing read. I mean, my mother--yes, my Fox-News-watching mother--asks me whether I know the fate of those schools when she hears about bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For shrimpers now working for, and being treated well by, BP, it's hard to get used to having a boss. But keep in mind that consuming green doesn't give you a license to overconsume.

I don't disagree with much of what Mr. Tisdall is saying about American anti-Europeanism, but it's not intellectually honest to use ignorance ("is Sweden a country or a city?") as an example of antipathy.

Frank Rich on Mel Gibson, anti-Semitism, and the end of culture wars.

Read Dana Milbank's column. Here's an excerpt:
Twenty years ago, the dawn of the Internet Age gave us Godwin's Law: If an online argument goes on long enough, somebody will eventually invoke Hitler. When that happens, it's basically the end of the conversation, because all rational discussion ceases when one side calls the other Nazis.
Please stop drinking bottled water.

OMFG. I am shopping RiteAid for garden supplies, and couldn't help but notice this category of sale items. Who knew.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday morning rant/ramble

Earlier this week, I linked to an article about food as a source of fighting for couples. According to the article, food is such a touchy subject because it's one of the first ways we assert our independence, our own preferences. I added that that concept held much explanatory power with regard to my mom's constantly nagging or even asking me about food, and my resistance to want to talk about (or defend) it. I'd also blogged last fall about my annoyance with small talk--some types in particular--and conclusion that extroverts welcome it because it's a way to start a conversation, while introverts like me hate it, because it's a way to start a conversation. For example, I would come downstairs in a suit, and RM would ask me whether I was biking to work that morning. For him, way to start a conversation. For me, shut the f* up and stop wasting my time.

Bear with me, my point is coming.

Mom is both controlling and extroverted. I bristle when presented with the tactics of controlling people and aggressive extroverts.

I'm also not into explaining minor decisions, and I don't appreciate being expected to do so. I don't ask people about minor decisions (or other characteristics), because I have enough respect for them that I figure there's a good reason for what they're doing, or a highly personal one. I think it's rude to ask someone why they're walking funny, because even though it could be something minor, like a sprained ankle, it could also be something serious that they don't want to talk about. I don't ask people why they're not eating a certain food, because it's none of my f*ing business.

But my mother's not a stranger at a party or in the office, she gets some leeway in terms of asking personal questions. Which is not to say it's not annoying. And we have a long list of conversations I'm sick of having with my mother, of which I will only sample here:

-No, I don't drink coffee every day. Yes, I know it's healthy.

-I don't care that "rice doesn't make you fat because people in Asia eat it and they're not fat." I don't like rice.

-No, I don't need a TV in my kitchen so I can watch the weather.

And so on. Note that list does not include conversations I'm sick of having that don't concern personal choices--we can save that for another time.

So, there's also my bedtime, which is my mother's favorite thing to talk about with me, after what I eat and the weather. And I can't win on bedtime--if I call pretty much any time in the evening, mom asks why I'm not in bed. And if she calls and gets my voice mail, she leaves a message saying, "what, you're in bed already?"

I don't remember what time I turned off my phone last night, but that's not the point. Let's say I had decided to turn in at 7pm. So the f* what? Do you think I want to discuss it? I am not retired--I am contractually obligated to leave the house every day, and on the particular day that was yesterday, I relied on the steaming pile of $hit that is the Metro to get me home from work--and it did, an hour and a half later. Don't get me wrong--I fully prefer that to not getting home at all. But I got home tired--even more so than I'd have been anyway at the end of the week--and I didn't want to talk to anyone. I wanted to read and crossword. Is that okay?

You may be thinking, "relax! it's just a rhetorical question." But it isn't. That's the thing. It's another one of mom's attempts to manage every aspect of my life. Including my bedtime. Remember the time, when I was living in Wales, I left her a message saying, "I'm not feeling well, going to bed early, please don't call tonight;" and she called me after 10pm my time to tell me she got the message? It bugs the $hit out of her that I have a phone that I can turn off (and a home phone for which the ringer is always off), so she brings it up every time she has to leave me a message.

Wow, I just wasted a lot of time and space to tell you what you already know, but I am trying to make a bigger point here--little things can represent big things. See the Journal articles. See "The Odd Couple." That's what I need to do--channel the little stuff into a play. One of these days.

Saturday morning roundup

A Ugandan writer humanizes the tragedy in Kampala.

Russia moves to revive an old KGB practice.

Another resurgent Cold War legacy: Latin America awash in arms.

Polyandry was the norm a generation ago in some Himalayan villages, but it's been phased out by a changing world.

Pakistani lawmakers can sure come up with some creative explanations for fake degrees:
“A degree is a degree,” said Nawab Aslam Raisani, the chief minister of Baluchistan Province and an ally of President Asif Ali Zardari. “Whether fake or genuine, it’s a degree. It makes no difference.”
The difference is, when disaster strikes, it's valuable to know your $hit. Fortunately, Secretary Chu is really knowledgeable.

Gail Collins on 2010.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday evening roundup

No need to sit down, this will not blow your mind: the reality show about Georgetown Cupcake is boring as hell.

Another Onion piece that would be funnier if it weren't true.

The Post has announced the winner of its Next Great Cartoonist contest. Check out slides 8-10 for a hilarious sample of her work.

It has come to this: Bill O'Reilly is the reasonable one

Friday morning roundup

How long did it take the Church to acknowledge that the earth was round and orbited the sun? You might get the impression that it, as an institution, is getting better at embracing reality, but you'd be wrong.

I'm finding myself once again typing the words, "I agree with Michael Gerson." I briefly wonder whether I should be frightened, and then remember that I'm really not partisan, so when the man's right, he's right. And in this case he's right when he slams an element of the left, but not when he smears all the left (I've heard people defend the Sandinistas, too, and it turns my stomach). But the right is also guilty of "they're our sons of bi&ches" syndrome--it can be a bipartisan affliction.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

I'm always consciously grateful, whenever I go in for a major dental procedure, that I live in an era of anesthesia. It turns out I also need to be grateful that I live in a land where anesthesia is standard and available.

Belgium is f*ed up.

I'd posted an article or two the other day about how little things can set off big fights. Here's a companion piece about how one's behavior in a restaurant can be an indicator, or be interpreted as an indicator, of more substantial personality traits. I find this especially interesting because I've observed various extremes of restaurant behavior, from (what I'd consider) unnecessary curtness to excessive sugariness.

When you rely on couplehood, or material belongings, as an anchor, it's hard to say which is more precarious.

Thursday morning roundup

Conditions continue to worsen for Haiti's displaced.

The Indian government promotes safer childbirth through incentive payments.

The limits of behavioral economics, or why corn subsidies are a bigger issue than nutrition labels.

Kristof recommends the Swedish model, i.e., disincentives on demand, for fighting human trafficking.

Collins on Bristol and Levi 4-eva.

Sex toys are a hard sell in Russia.

French women have a knack for aging gracefully.

A Brookings study ranks the Washington, DC metro region as the best educated in the nation.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

The Economist contends that nativism is costly.

The extent to which the lessons of Exxon-Valdez went unheeded is infuriating.

Also, rivers shouldn't smell like $hit.

Would that more news out of Afghanistan be this cute.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Who are these people?

This mother can't think why her 23-year old daughter has second thoughts about getting married apart from her being spoiled.

This couple has some really f*ed up and nosy ideas about a brother-in-law's finances and financial priorities.

Tuesday evening roundup

Development in Afghanistan comes with trade-offs.

If you've always wondered why we call soccer, "soccer," Hendrik Hertzberg has your answer. And remember how I thought the stupid $hit people say on the radio had hit a new low? So silly of me.

Some people are just not nice people, and it's not the parents' fault.

Setting aside the debate over which eggs to buy, the bigger issue here is that I'm sick of sloppy, deceptive food journalism. In other food news, Emiril just says yes to factory farming, and a lifelong defender of the oceans has a new, passionate book out.

Men in New York have taken to an unfortunate fashion trend.

This article on our overemphasizing the small stuff in relationships made me smile, since there's a specific reference to proselytizing about sunscreen, which my mother does (only in the opposite sense). My irritation stems less from the content of the discussion and more from being put in a position to constantly justify the smallest and most personal decision. Mom engages in the same behavior with regard to food, which is why this article also hit home:
"We shouldn't need therapists to tell us that food cuts to a very basic issue of identity. It's no coincidence that one of the earliest ways we demonstrate our independence is by asserting our food preferences. By demanding that others respect what we eat, we are demanding that they see us as individuals."
I wonder whether mom's refusal to respect my food choices is a more-conscious-than-I'd-thought reach for control. Also, could RM's insistence on giving me chocolate after I'd asked him not to (politely at first) reflected a similar attempt to exert control, conscious or otherwise?

I'll take this kind of funny-looking toilet over the musical ones in Japan anyday. Oh, speaking of Japanese toilets--I'd thought that the warnings and instructions on them were the funniest I'd ever seen, but this beats them all. Enjoy it while it lasts (although that one is not from Asia), as China is cracking down on funny signs.

Tuesday morning roundup

A new generation of Chinese workers sees little glory in "eating bitterness."

A new generation of American students sees little glory in critical thinking (and little harm in plagiarism):
"This represents a shift away from the view of education as the process of intellectual engagement through which we learn to think critically and toward the view of education as mere training. In training, you are trying to find the right answer at any cost, not trying to improve your mind."
It takes an incident for Metro to decide to make it harder to steal buses. By the way, the metro car I was on yesterday was a zoo--clueless tourists, crying babies, the works. I was standing not far from a woman who, in spite of the crowded car, felt free to take up the seat next to her with her stuff. An older woman came in and sat on the edge of that seat. An argument ensued--"You could say something and give me a chance to move my stuff," to which the other women gave her a few seconds and then sat down anyway, and the woman with the stuff practically knocked her off of the seat. My take, should you care for it, is that they were both in the wrong.

I can't fault Petula Dvorak for her decision not to adopt FIV-positive kittens, but I hope someone gives them a good home.

Anne Applebaum on the French aristo-political scandal.

So glad Tom Toles is back from vacation and drawing about our energy policy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday evening roundup and ramble

Echoing the comments that say, "really, Express? This is a question??"

I may be getting sick of Paul coverage, but I think it's cool that he's getting offers.

Please stand by while I laugh hysterically over the fact that Alexandria scored lower than *Centerville* in Best Places to Live. Have they considered factoring in walkability??

Bless this woman for arming her children with manners, but it's unfortunate that it's come to people falling over her with gratitude and praise because her family is such an exception:
I've also noticed that people tend to get anxious when they see families with children boarding a plane. I've been on both sides, and I know that when other passengers see us coming, they say a silent prayer that they won't be sitting anywhere in close proximity to us. When people see us coming, they have low expectations about how my children will behave.

But over the years, I have armed my children with manners, and I think people are pleasantly surprised at how well-behaved my older children are. Because of that, they tend to give me more latitude when it comes to my toddler. Flight attendants also tend to slip us extra pretzel or peanut packages, or they let us keep the the full can of soda.

On this last trip, several people, including the flight crew, complimented me my children's behavior as they disembarked. In other words, they thanked me for the fact that my children didn't drive them crazy during the flight.
***

My house and yard are happy: new chimney cap, clean gutters, reinstalled utility room cabinet (thus unencumbered stairway), new flapper and valve in the downstairs bathroom, new shed, and newly constructed garden components--composter and bed--that I need to find the right place for. Love the shed, love that the lawnmower no longer lives in the spare bedroom. I don't love that I see it instead of the potted plants when I look out the back door, but I suppose that's another reason to relocate the computer(s)--and new monitor (!) so I can use the new(er) computer--to the other side of the living room. It is so good to have the house looking house-like, rather than clusterf*like, again. I feel inspired to clean, organize, etc.

And, lest you were wondering whether I continue to suffer lingering effects from my roommate drama, yes, when I sat down to blog this, visibly exhausted, I did so in full consciousness of how wonderful it is that no one, apart from Gracie, is trying to talk to me.

Monday morning roundup

I've been to middle class areas of Nicaragua that made me temporarily forget that I wasn't in the States. It's hard to imagine that in more developed Russia, no matter how many Ikeas and gated communities they build. Hydrangea conditions aside, it's a different kind of middle class.

Ross Douthat slams a different, more prevalent redistribution of wealth.

Yawn. DC is a better burger capital.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday roundup

I wonder whether this article, which quotes a British aristocrat saying that restrictions of fox hunting were "taking away the very essence of our liberty," would have made me less sick had I not earlier read this heartbreaking dispatch from North Korea.

South Africans continue to demonstrate a remarkable capability to leave the past in the past, and sports appear to be a great catalyst for that. All the more reason to hope that Somalis can watch and play soccer in peace.

Finally, a "Shouts and Murmurs" that had me rolling. Bonus points for mocking Tom Friedman.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kafka at the post office

Last Saturday, the mailman rapped at the door, and twenty seconds later, when I answered, he was gone, having left a package pickup slip. According to the slip's directions, I went online and requested that they hold it at the post office. I'd planned to pick it up this morning--it's the refurbished monitor I ordered so I can use my "new" laptop with its newly cracked LCD screen. Although I haven't written my complaint letters yet, I will. But I digress.

Also last weekend, I ordered a shed, and sprung for home delivery from Lowe's. They estimated delivery for Thursday evening, after 5pm, and indicated they'd call the night before to confirm. So I planned to be able to leave work earlier on Thursday.

On Wednesday night, they called to say they'd deliver Friday between 1-5pm. I told them there was no way I could rearrange my work schedule on short notice to be home during those hours, and requested that they deliver on Saturday (today) instead. They agreed, and promised to call on Friday night to give me a time window.

They didn't. So I called--no answer--and left a message. Then I called the store. They told me they'd call early this morning. They didn't. Finally, I reached someone who was actually helpful, who said they'd come around 10am.

Which gave me a one-hour window to pick up my package--the one that I wouldn't have needed to pick up had the mailman knocked louder and given me more time to come to the door. The post office opened at 9am. Not a problem--it's close enough nearby. I'd even have time to pop into the grocery store on the way home.

So I get to the post office just before 9am and wait in line for a few minutes. When the guy at the counter takes my package slip, he asks if anyone else in line is there for a package, since he's going back to get them. One person steps forward.

A while later, he returns with a small package that can't be my monitor. He processes it, keeping me waiting, only to inform me that my package isn't at the post office.

He tells me that they never sent it there from my "home" post office on Duke Street. I tell him that the post office indicated on the slip, and online when I made the arrangements, is the one in which we were standing. He said he understood but said they never sent it. I asked who, and asked why it was at no point indicated to me that the package was at another post office, and said that there was no way I could get there (and be home in time for the shed delivery). He *shrugged.* I asked him what I should do. He said to ring the buzzer to talk to a manager.

I rang the buzzer. A few minutes later, he told me to ring it again. This went on for almost ten minutes, until I asked him whether this was something I could resolve over the phone, at which point he went back and found a manager.

And the manager found my monitor. In that very post office.

Meanwhile, people in line, who had observed the entire thing, made comments like, "that's great that they found it." I said, "yeah--I mean, otherwise, I'd have gone to the other post office, and it definitely wouldn't be there." The guy at the counter made some snide comment about how that would be the end of the world, as if he hadn't needlessly caused confusion and delay. And you wonder why the Post Office is losing customers.

Over half an hour later, I left the post office, so now I have a monitor. I don't know when I'll be able to install it or try it out, since the handyman will be here shortly and it will be home repair time. If it stops raining, it may even be shed time.

Saturday morning roundup

India can build arenas and airport terminals to its heart's content, but putting an end to honor killings might be a more meaningful sign of welcoming the 21st century.

Our immigration system is so f*ing broken. Also, denying the (fellowship-inspired) visas of human rights activists is not okay.

When kids start asking about financial status.

Who needs a sauna when we have Metro?

Blake Gopnik's take on Norman Rockwell touched a nerve.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday evening roundup

Paul the knowing octopus is being provided protection.

You may soon do best to avoid conventional California strawberries.

Organic farming for veterans is a great idea.

Celebrity profiles in magazines almost always make me want to gag, but this one is especially nauseatingly sycophantic.

Friday morning roundup

The rich are defaulting on their mortgages at a disproportional rate.

It's $hit like this that makes me roll my eyes at the ACLU.

And it's $hit like this that argues against donating to colleges, which I can talk about in more detail later. I've given consistently to Georgetown (to my grad program specifically) and less consistently to Smith, but I've recently felt inspired to reconsider that inconsistency. Not because I think my Smith education contributed to my employability, but because I can see, now more than ever, that it reinforced my resistance to general foolishness.

Michael Gerson wins me over with a Che Guevara t-shirt reference.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday evening roundup

Kristof on Israel.

Just when you thought the $hit oozing out of RL's and GB's mouths couldn't get any dumber.

Thanks to the World Cup, there will be no octopus at a good tenth of the restaurants within walking distance of my office.

Slate slams the Times' penchant for overblown trend stories. Speaking of trends, and of my office, there was a cupcake truck parked outside around lunchtime, with no shortage of deranged people in line (it wasn't comfortable outside).

Maybe I do need an iPhone. Even without the app, I could send pictures of myself in the proposed outfit to my mother. KIDDING!

Gag.

Thursday morning roundup

I was not aware that the Queen had a royal piper and an official counter of swans.

Wah. People are whining about the indoor tanning tax.

Dionne on why "Chairman Mike" is entitled to his opinion.

Do the oceans a favor: eat lionfish.

Following up on its less-than-revolutionary coverage of the winter's snowstorms, the Post, on its *front page*, reports that it's hot. And, yup, I stepped into a non-airconditioned metrorail car yesterday. I managed to transfer to another car at the next station, but that first one was bad.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

An e-coli survivor struggles.

Sumo is rocked by a scandal.

Beware faux feminist outrage.

Beware confused friends with outdated ideas about what constitutes gender-appropriate toys.

Beware of people in denial about the hazards of obesity. Fair enough: these women eat healthily and exercise; good for them. But don't get mad when people take steps to fight a national epidemic that carries real health risks.

Wednesday morning roundup

For the benefit our nation and others, could we consider an export restriction on Pat Robertson's hatemongering?

Nepalese Maoists aren't standing down.

The British monarchy draws less excitement than it used to.

I'm not to judge whether turning down jobs reflects millennials' career strategy or sense of entitlement, but I can tell you that when I was just out of college (as well as grad school), a $40,000 salary seemed like a fortune.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup and ramble

I've been thinking about Camille Paglia's unfortunate column since I linked to it last week. So many things with which to take issue, but I'll take just one:
Furthermore, thanks to a bourgeois white culture that values efficient bodies over voluptuous ones, American actresses have desexualized themselves, confusing sterile athleticism with female power. Their current Pilates-honed look is taut and tense — a boy’s thin limbs and narrow hips combined with amplified breasts. Contrast that with Latino and African-American taste, which runs toward the healthy silhouette of the bootylicious BeyoncĂ©.
Sterile athleticism? WTF? What bothers me most about this--and it should be the implication that femininity is inherently weak--is the idea that we can prescribe the body type women should aspire to--that even CP can consider herself the arbiter of what is and isn't sexy--instead of letting women be themselves. Women come in all body types, and it does us no good for the gender studies police to declare that we should look one way over another. Have you seen the really annoying comments about Crystal Renn's slim look? So what if she's naturally shed some pounds or was photographed in a slimming outfit? She's not the poster child for big-is-beautiful. Okay--maybe she is--but she doesn't have to be--she doesn't owe anybody that. You can't mandate that she stay voluptuous any more than you mandate that someone stay or get thin. Shut the f* up. And meanwhile, let beautiful curvy women stay curvy.

This Hax-moderated discussion--on whether single people "have issues"--is a goldmine. There's so much to say, and most of the comments have actually said a lot of it, and well. Let's take one thought: who doesn't have issues? Single people hardly have a monopoly on issues.
And one person's "issue" is another's quirk. I'm sure RM thought (thinks) I have issues because I believe in boundaries.

Clearly--just look at the inane commentary surrounding the last two nominees to the Supreme Court--there's still suspicion about single women especially. See also Maureen Dowd's brilliant columns on said commentary.

I was also thinking about the "marry him/settle for mr. good enough" issue this weekend. I take particular offense to one of the underlying implications: that the supposed aspects of women's appeal (physical attractiveness) diminish over time, while men's (money) appreciate. Really? In this day and age when so many women are primary breadwinners and generally out-earn men? And, seriously--when I run into men I haven't seen in a while, I often think, "wow, he's not aged well." It doesn't matter, but it matters within the realm of this absurd paradigm. Lori G. might be right: most people who criticize her book haven't read it. But she's made her own bed by opting for a controversial title and subtitle and seeking out controversy.

Tuesday morning roundup

Mexicans turn out to vote.

I suspect that Miss Manners might be delighted that India has taken to her counterpart there, but she'd be horrified that the Post would describe her, even my analogy, as someone whose primary area of focus is napkin folding and using cutlery. Still, probably good to teach people to not ask about one's salary or weight.

A Shanghainese stand-up comedian pushes but stays within party lines.

Why the possibility of a Romney ascendancy is cause for trepidation. Although he's so comically one-sided that there's no need to panic, at least for now. For a more balanced conservative perspective on Obama's foreign policy, see AAnne Applebaum's column.

Cohen on the dumbing down of politics.

A record number of Indian Americans are seeking office.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday evening ramble

At a barbecue yesterday, someone asked me what was in a three-bean salad (four, I guess, if you count green beans) I'd brought. As I went through the ingredients, I found myself needing to clarify that it calls for real balsamic vinegar, not wine vinegar with crap in it. It's actually quite the ordeal to find the real thing, and really easy to not check for the difference. I recently ran out of the bottle I'd had for years--because you only need to use a drop of the real stuff--and found myself shopping for balsamic. The ingredients on bottle after bottle--each bottle labeled "Balsamic Vinegar of Modena"--read, "wine vinegar, caramel color," etc. Trader Joe's doesn't sell real balsamic; Whole Foods sells a few bottles amid the impostor.

I bring this up because it has to do with the way we buy and sell food in this country. Companies can just label their product "balsamic vinegar," even though it isn't. Don't you think there's something wrong with that?

Monday roundup

What Turkey lacks in press freedom, it shuts up Eurocritics in economic growth.

Reality TV in China crosses the "morality" line in terms of materialism. At first I thought, in response to the following,
In the most controversial segment, a 24-year-old fashion model told a poor and unemployed bachelor who offered her a bicycle ride that she would "rather cry in a BMW than ride a bicycle while laughing."
, "I'd rather ride a bicycle while crying..." but then I realized that wasn't really true. All things being equal, however, I'd opt for the bicycle.

Speaking of materialism, here are some things you should know, and others you should unlearn, about diamonds.

Religious leaders in Houston call for tolerance and compassion.

Helicopter moms burn out faster.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday morning roundup: Part I

Russia jails its whistleblowers. A Montgomery County hospital fires theirs.

Oil companies love their subsidies.

Amid all of the "end of an era" columns eulogizing Sen. Byrd, Stephen Marche's, which speaks to the Senator's eloquent and appropriate invocation of Shakespeare, is quite original.

The consensus among these contributors to "On Leadership" is that today's Tea Partiers are hardly the heirs of the 1776.

Robert McCartney's analysis of decline and prescription for a rebound.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

Xinhua comes to New York, but I'm holding out for KCNA.

Policing in a burqa can't be easy.

Yawn. Another less than earth-shattering piece on how India is modernizing: a new airport terminal. Yawn.

Allen should ask Tea Party Constitutionalists whether they'd have us get rid of the Air Force.

Anthony Lane's Eurovision piece my be the funniest f*ing thing I've ever read. It's also subscription-required.

I always love Gail Collins' quizzes.

The Library of Congress sheds light--pun intended--on the change from subjects to citizens.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Triple metablog and more

Lots of diet and exercise studies are based on male subjects, and the results don't necessarily apply to women.

Voting with your wallet isn't enough to change the food system.

***
Sometimes it's enough, when multiple bloggers write about one thing--or blog about what the other blogged about that one thing--to pick the most inclusive and leave it at that, but I think all three of these are worthwhile for different reasons. Let's take the original: Mark Bittman's book review of what is apparently "Skinny Bitch" for men. The book is noteworthy because it goes against the trend that I (meta)blogged about a couple of months ago--the conflation of meat with masculinity. But really, I have to echo MB's disapproval of all that fake food. Soy cheese has got to be the most disgusting invention ever, even when it convincingly tastes and feels like dairy cheese.

Ezra Klein defends processed foods, says you can't blame people for choosing frozen meals. Grist's Tom Laskawy reminds him that that's a bunch of crap: it doesn't take much longer to prepare a basic meal than to heat up a processed one. And I agree with him on another thing: frozen peas are awesome. But also on his general point: there are processed foods, and there are processed foods. Tofu is not lean cuisine. The raw foods people are full of hippie crap.

Thursday morning roundup

Grow up, people--this is more pathetic than demonic sheep.

WTF, Fannie Mae?

Metro strikes again/. For those of us who have ever gotten on the wrong train by accident (and not noticed until it was too late to switch), it's annoying enough when it's your own fault.

Maggots on a plane! (see last paragraph).

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