Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Charles Blow on some of the latest gems of political rhetoric. Peter Catapano on what the birthers are saying now.

Are the sciences facing a glut of PhDs?

A few interesting elements of the press coverage of the royal wedding:
-the class chatter and other petty things that say so much about the people saying them;
-the Times thought the dress was perfect, the Post thought it was boring. I will say that the last page of that one--where the 'Fergie girls' are discussed--illustrates how ridiculous people can look in expensive, designer clothes;
-the Times' discussion of the dress is interesting because of this piece about how princess-obsessed little girls aren't interested in the real princess-to-be. There was nothing Disneyesque about her.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday evening roundup

Wealthy people think they're middle-class.

Get your regal prophylactics here.

This slideshow is informative if you need to be convinced that tasty vegan desserts are possible. Don't look for healthy vegan desserts there, though (see the sugar content!)

Is Jewish food awful? My perspective is skewed because Russian Jewish food is different.

Speaking of tribes to which some might question my membership, I roll my eyes at those kinds of vegetarians.

Thursday morning roundup and response to comment

Honoring the war heroes who stood up for the laws of war. After all, torture and unlawful detention are so China.

Re: "Die, Vampire, Die!": That song is too amazing for its own good. I listened to it a few times and haven't been able to get it out of my head all week. Which is kind of a good thing, because I love it and definitely need to hear it.

Looks like it was at the Celebration Theater in LA last year... and it's coming to Mountain View this summer (you know, only eight hours away (just kidding))... so hopefully it'll be back in SoCal and everywhere else, because it is awesome.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

Pakistan's f*ed up justice system. Let's see if Texas is any better.

What makes things and people annoying?

Foreign Policy's first-ever Food issue is disappointing, but here's a not bad slide show, and here's an interesting but disappointing one (in terms of the anti-organics invective).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday evening roundup

What some people go through, and what so many people run from.

Ladies, keep your maiden name.

Save the planet: eat an invasive species today!

One-story Monday morning roundup

I'm all for standard sizing, but what about that phenomenon where something looks awesome on me in Banana Republic's mirror but crappy on me at home?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Die, Vampire, Die

Before I was spurned in my shopping mission, I saw a phenomenal musical called "Title of Show." Even though it was hilarious, I found myself crying during one of the numbers, because it was so inspiring. I can't find it with the actual video moving, but the song is worth it in and of itself. Enjoy, and wield it as needed.

The consequences of underrepresentation

F* you, Gap Outlet, for being closed, and f* you, Trader Joe's, for closing early. Does it f*ing occur to you that some people don't give a f* about Easter? Don't you have any Jews in your employ that could hold down the f*ing fort? What the f* am I going to put on my feet when I go on vacation? What the f* am I going to eat this week? F* you both.

Sunday morning roundup

Haiti's housing situation remains dire.

Congo from the perspective of the killers.

Even Texans are wary of fracking.

How should media organizations report on the competition?

VDOT will compost roadkill. Funny store: I read about that in the Sunday paper, but it's impossible to find on the Post's website. WTF, WashPo??

This iWant vs. Luddite thing is so Jay and I, even though we're not literally married.

I've found that I can more or less dispatch a New Yorker in the course of my commute, though less so when I'm biking.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Chinese officials are wary that the in-your-face nature of lavish tombs may stir up class resentment.

Check out some of the late Chris Hondros' incredible photography.

Tokyo turns to cycling.

Gail Collins updates us on what governors around the country are up to.

Walkability is more important than urban/suburban.

Organic farming is anything but exotic.

Really? Environmental consciousness is considered "feminine."

The Economist goes after the language police. I never did like "healthful," couldn't bring myself to use it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday morning roundup

A thought-provoking, if not-necessarily true-ringing, column from Dave Brooks on 'Book of Mormon,' the musical.

Gerson likens objectivism to adolescence.

The Post, having embraced user-unfriendliness, has removed the option of permalinking to Toles cartoons. In any case, see if you can check out today's in this gallery. Takeaway: the pollen count is bad.

You don't need to buy green products, although I have a few. Make friends with vinegar--not just for cleaning. Here's how to make a green cleaning kit. If you're really committed, make your own dish detergent and laundry detergent.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Phone call

(TV is running in the background)
Mom: Hold on--I can't find the remote. Where is it? (Yells dad's name.)
A.: Mom! We've talked about not yelling into the phone.
Mom: I'm trying to find the remote. Fine, I'll just turn the TV off with this other one.
A.: How's your knee.
Mom: It's okay. Neither good nor bad. We went looking for another physical therapist today, but I haven't found one I like. How are you?
A.: Good--
Mom: Why? What, specifically is good?
A.: Um... work is good, the weather's good...
Mom: What else?
A.: Not much... cat's good...
Mom: What else?
A.: I'm six business days away from my vacation.
Mom: That trip, you call that a vacation?
A.: I do. I'm looking forward to it.
Mom: What's going on there?
A.: Nothing.
Mom: I'm glad there's nothing going on somewhere in the world. What else is up?
A.: That's about it, actually.
Mom: Oh, here comes your dad. (To dad) It's A. (To phone) What else?
A.: Nothing.
Dad: Hi!
A.: Hi!
Mom: So? What else?
A.: Nothing, mom. We've about covered it.

and some e-mails (edited, substantially, actually, for added hilarity)

Jay: Did you see the Delhi forecast? It's going to be like 109 over the next few days... I may spontaneously combust if it's going to be that hot... Thank god for waterproof mascara and diet orange soda.
A.: You mean, you'll burst into flames? by the laws of gay physics, all it takes is 109 degrees to convert you into a twink?
Jay: No, it would take 212 degrees to turn me into a twink (for all the fat, muscle and hair that would need to disappear). But that would require a steam room, which introduces a whole other branch of gay mathematics (the trigonometry of naked twister...) Actually, it's more likely that I'll either sweat to death or just melt, due to my sugary-sweet disposition... you'd better find a cattle prod to shock me when I whine about the heat and humidity..
A.: I don't think they do cattle prods over there.

Thursday morning roundup

Factory farms are not okay.

I don't actually say this often, but brilliant column from Salman Rushdie on art and politics.

What if we addressed mathematical illiteracy the way we view literal illiteracy?

You know Donald Trump's wrong about Gail Collins' merits as a columnist--she's so brilliant, she manages to bring out the humor in the tragicomic politics of Texas.

Kristof on ThreeCupsofTeaGate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

How do you solve a problem like Mugabe?

Europe the singular business entity still has to deal with its rogue component parts.

This Passover, consider the tyranny of oil.

How Dave Brooks stopped worrying and learned to love the Donald.

As with the inane debates over breastfeeding in public, this makes me wonder why some people insist that breasts are "lewd and vulgar".

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday morning roundup

You can argue over whether or when war is justified, but it's never pretty.

It's never too late for accountability. Oh, and I'm a little slow so I need someone to help me understand the lawyer's statement. Specifically, how does torturing nuns help prevent the spread of communism? That connection may be obvious to some people, but I just don't see it.

Is quinoa kosher? Look, here's what I'm not consuming this week: wheat, rye, oats, or barley. For a macrobiotic, that's plenty. I know that Ashkenazis also avoid rice and legumes, but it's not going to happen. I got myself some injera, made some brown rice, and I'll be doing soymilk smoothies for breakfast.

The actual budget cuts (i.e. not most of them, which are on paper), which I don't want to discuss in detail, are horrifying enough--cuts to environmental programs, sustainable agriculture, etc. And we don't have time to waste on climate change. Even though the same urgency doesn't apply to cuts to the arts, it's still heartbreaking. DC theaters are experiencing huge cuts, and they're such a valuable gift to the community. It's not a life or death thing, but it's about our souls.

Forgive me the cheesiness, but this is really sweet.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Response to Response to Response to Comment

I wasn't accusing you of being indifferent to the havoc your son was wreaking. Just pointing out that when a child misbehaves, I'm not thinking, "that parent must be a terrible person;" I'm thinking, "my head hurts." I appreciate it when the parent makes an effort to ease the pain.

Please also understand that I'm sort of fed up with *people.* Metro riders, theater-goers, voters. People. I've already gone on about what they do. I've already admitted that I know I must infuriate other people, too. It's a part of existing in a society. Which makes me seriously consider, but quickly dismiss, the prospect of hermitude. After all, I prefer a theatrical performance where someone to my right is crunching hard candy, while the person behind me is explaining what just happened to her companion, and someone next to him is rattling papers in her purse, to no theater at all. I'm also in no position to criticize people who take up more than one seat, as I brought one such person to a performance not long ago. I wish I could bring her more often, but we were lucky enough to be at the end of a row that time, and we couldn't do that to other patrons if we ended up surrounded by other people. But here's what I will say: had someone needed to get past her during the intermission, she would have gotten up and gotten out of the row to let people pass. She wouldn't have shot people the look that I got last week, the one that said, "you want me to actually get up?" Yes. I'm sorry but you're not small enough for me to get by you otherwise.

But row etiquette is a distraction. It's annoying, but it's not necessarily rude.

Talking, chewing, crunching, and rattling is rude.

The people on the stage are pouring everything into this show. Do you have any idea what goes into a theatrical or dance performance? Can you appreciate the training, the concentration, the sharing of all one's energy and spirit? If you can, see if you can go one f*ing hour without eating, chatting, or rifling through your purse.

Really quick response to comments

I don't remember whether I posted this before, but there was an NYT piece months ago about how sometimes kids just grow up to be bad people. I can't find the article itself but here's an NPR interview about it.

I don't know why I even bother wading into this topic, but I can't help myself. I don't give parents whose kids are screaming around me dirty looks because I'm judging them as parents; I give them dirty looks because I want that kid to stfu. I have to stand there too, and your screaming kid is no joy for me to listen to. I don't care what a good person he is the rest of the time. I care that he's giving me a headache at that moment.

Having said that, I understand that kids scream and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. All I ask is that you try. And some parents do. I understand that everyone has to stand in line to return stuff, and sometimes you have to bring the kid, and sometimes the kid screams. Got it.

Now please understand that when your kid screams, my head starts to hurt.

If you try to get the kid to calm down, but you can't, fine. If you don't even try because you don't think it's your problem, you're wrong.

Sunday morning roundup

Pearlstein on India's middle income trap.

Revolution through mockery.

I'm done trying to find $hit on the Post's website. If you can navigate to the Outlook section, check out the review of Mearsheimer's book on why leaders lie, as well as some other stuff.

In vegetarian news: make sure you're getting enough Omega 3s and B12, but also make sure to celebrate your much reduced risk of metabolic diseases.

To tiger-parent or not to tiger-parent? Who the f* cares?

Speaking of debates about parenting, have you seen this foolishness?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday evening roundup

The hazards female journalists encounter.

Great article about Chinese tourism in Europe.

I couldn't make this up

Keep in mind that this conversation is in Russian, and that my parents often have trouble recognizing proper names.

Mom: Where are you? Were you at the theater?
A.: I'm going to the theater now. But I was also at the theater last night.
Dad: What did you see?
A.: "Fragments"--some short pieces by Samuel Beckett.
Mom, Dad: Who?
A.: Samuel Beckett. You know, he wrote "Waiting for Godot."
Mom: What?
A.: "Waiting for Godot." You definitely know "Waiting for Godot."
Mom: What's it about.
A.: These two guys who... wait for Godot.
Mom: What guys?
A.: The two guys... waiting for Godot.
Mom: Why are they waiting?
A.: That's the point--
Mom: Who are they waiting for?
A.: Godot.
Mom: Why are they waiting for him?
A.: That's what the play is about--
Mom: Who wrote it?
A.: Samuel Beckett.
Mom: Why does that name sound familiar?
A.: Because I just told you I saw some of his short plays last night, which is why I was telling you about "Waiting for Godot."
Mom: Huh.

Saturday morning roundup

All about Planned Parenthood.

It's not too soon to teach your kids that consumption entails trade-offs.

Collins on Romney.

Did you know that the new Statue of Liberty stamp is modeled after the other Statue of Liberty?

Here's one dating site I won't be joining. Does anyone else find it irresistible that Ayn Rand was all about doing what one does best, all while being a horrendous writer? Does anyone else wonder why she and her acolytes aren't content with "be at your best"? Nothing wrong with that. "F* everyone else" is where I draw the line.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday morning roundup

The role of the National Endowment for Democracy groups in

How the budget hurts firefighters and law enforcement.

The McDonnell Administration pushes an anti-science policy of hate on Virginia.

Against the tide of we're-depleting-the-oceans stories, an argument that seafood is more sustainable than we might think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

How the cyclist debate plays out in Britain.

Russell Simmons talks, rather inarticulately, about becoming vegan. Also: factory farms are so horrendous that they're banning undercover videos because God forbid people understand the circumstances under which their food was farmed. But even 'humane' farming isn't pretty:

The Perennial Plate Episode 32: This Little Piggy from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Can't watch it? Then don't eat it.

The Times Magazine takes eight or nine pages to elaborate on why sugar's really bad for you.

Barbie is wrong in so many ways.

Really interesting piece on the cultural politics of food.

On a much lighter note: the winning Peeps are in.

Quick Tuesday morning roundup

On India: unrealized urbanization and gender-based abortion.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

The consensus is that the near-shutdown was ridiculous.

In this chocolate milk controversy, why doesn't anyone point out that milk's not that good for you.

I don't have time to get into the Jamie Oliver controversy right now, but remind me to blog about the first linked post later.

Wow, a whole series of blog posts aimed at debunking myths about single people.

An argument for Serenity Parenting (no pun intended, in case you're reading) and, in response, a why not to have more than one.

This is so wrong.

Tuesday morning roundup

Natural gas is not a clean energy panacea, but there are arguments for the Boone Pickens bill.

Brooks on how we use metaphors.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday evening roundup

Mexico's cartels target children.

Belarus's economy has is dire.

Humanitarian intervention is fraught.

Can a vegan marriage survive a return to meat?

On a lighter note: The Style Invitational is once again hilarious.

Also, a fun SNL video:

Quick Sunday morning roundup

Think the concessions of the other night were bad? The worst is yet to come. Ezra Klein on why the Democrats did themselves no favors in spinning the deal as a win.

A very stark, disturbing look at the challenges facing women in Hollywood.

I'm expecting brunch guests, and then going out. I haven't even brought in the Post--will round it up tonight.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

It's bad form to try to one-up people on tragic events.

I supplement our earlier discussion on not being a bore with Miss Manners' column:
Politeness in any form of discourse requires taking into consideration what would interest the listener, which is exactly the element that is missing in bores.
She goes on to say that social media encourages the broadcasting of the mundane, which no one cares about.
No doubt there are general announcements intended for an entire circle of friends: births, for example, or “I won the lottery.” But one has to be totally besotted with someone else to be fascinated by the mundane details of that person’s everyday life — as indeed, bores are with themselves.
You know I regularly link to Gail Collins' columns because she's awesome. Well, here I bring you her salvo in Trump vs. Collins.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Phone call

Mom, giggling: Getting all ready to go without a paycheck?
A.: Looks like it.
Mom: [Giggles.]
A.: It's not funny, mom. You realize livelihoods are at stake?
Mom: You'll get back pay.
A.: Very unlikely, but it's not about me. The security guards, cleaning staff, local lunch places, and so on, are certainly not going to get back pay. You think most of those people can afford to miss a paycheck?
Mom: Whatever. It's not going to happen. They'll come up with a deal.
A.: Doubtful.
Mom: We'll see. What were you going to say?
A.: I made your dry mushrooms.
Mom: You soaked them first?
A.: Naturally.
Mom: Then sauteed them in butter?
A.: I don't use butter, mom. I sauteed them in olive oil.
Mom: Not the same.
A.: It was quite good.
Mom: Butter is butter, A. The cows are happy--they ruminate, they're milked.
A.: That's not the way it works, mom.
Mom: Whatever.
A.: Goodnight.
Mom: Goodnight.

Friday evening roundup

Here's something moving before we get to the disappointing.

It's not just the usual suspects that disappoint us.

Let's work on saving the lives of children who have been born. Also: a look at at what Planned Parenthood actually does.

Reduced crop reporting--and increased volatility--as a microcosm of the lesser known effects of budget cuts.

What misused terms are actually worth fighting for?

Response to Response to Response to Comment

We're not in disagreement, but we're talking about two different things: People's responsibility to balance their own budgets, and people's responsibility, as citizens, to vote and communicate their informed priorities to their elected representatives. Your comment on Wednesday addressed the former; your comment last night pertains to the latter. I fully hold the American people responsible for the clusterf* that we're in, on account of our abdication of our civic duty. Elected representatives get away with catering to special interests when they know that the special interests will hold them accountable, but constituents may not. Lobbyists know exactly how much of the budget goes to their interest; many citizens think 50 percent goes to foreign aid. As I'd written last night, our collective ignorance and apathy, and often misguided, selective rage, are largely behind this mess.

You know, before I had the roommate from hell, I had, for over four years, a great roommate with whom I got along great. But I lost profound respect for him in 2004 when he told me that he didn't vote. In that election, in Virginia! He shrugged it off, said that it's not like it would make a difference for the issues he cared about, which were education and the environment. Really? Now just think about all the people all around the country just like him: they care about issues, but can't be bothered to get out and vote. We all pay the price of their choices.

Some countries have mandatory voting. In Australia, you get fined. In Bolivia, they garnish something like half your wages. There are doubts about that system: would you just have a bunch of people showing up to vote without doing the research? Would more people actually bother to inform themselves, since they're going to vote anyway? Is it even politically feasible to suggest something like this? Something to think about.

What is IRL?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Response to comments

(1) W--I take your point re: the fat in nuts being part of a whole food, but I still think it's odd that they got lumped in as a protein.

(2) Ernessa--on an unrelated note, I went to Borders a while back and looked for "32 Candles," but they didn't have it, so it's on my Amazon list and I'm waiting to get up to the amount I need for free shipping, and then I'm ordering.

(3) Ernessa--so much to say in response to your comment, and yet, I can't speak as freely as I like because I'm very careful about work-related issues. One thought that popped into mind: I don't remember whether I linked to this NYT real estate piece on what $700,000 will buy you in various places, one of which was DC (hint: a lot less than in the other locations featured). Two friends of mine actually own a very similar house (I'd say the layout is identical, which is not uncommon within DC-area row houses) in that neighborhood, and it is a beautiful house. But it costs a lot more than mine, and yet, the property taxes are about half of what I pay. And yet, I am not complaining, because I'd much rather pay taxes and get Alexandria's stellar services in return, where the District's services are pathetic.

Very much agreed--based on the information out there, not just on my personal opinion--about financial illiteracy and the lack of budgeting, as well as the ignorance with regard to how the government spends money. I know I've linked to a few pieces on this over the last month or so. I don't understand how anyone doesn't budget. I don't stick to a very firm budget, but I definitely keep track of what comes in and how much I should generally spend in whatever areas. That's partly because I have some expensive tastes that are very important to me (travel, theater, donations, living alone), and I pay for them by foregoing or cutting back on expensive things that are less important to me (electronics, expensive clothes, restaurant meals). I don't love not spending a lot of money on clothes--I'd be more willing to pay full price if more of the money went to the people making the clothes in Bangladesh rather than the corporate offices of Ann Taylor. I would be more willing to pay for an iPhone if more of the price went to the people thinking about jumping off the roofs of their factories in Shenzhen than the shareholders of Apple. But that's another issue.

From the perspective you laid out, families are more to blame than the government in terms of balancing their own budgets, because they don't have to contend with external political considerations. But yes, the balancing income and outgo is lost on many people, and they're unwilling to make difficult trade-offs. For many, it is just truly difficult to make it work on their incomes (you've seen the recent articles on the poverty level). For others, they're unwilling to acknowledge that they can't have everything. A friend and I were just talking about Suze Orman. I think her advice is of limited utility because she doesn't teach people about tradeoffs; she just tells them what to do. Wouldn't it be more helpful--rather than 'you can't afford that car'--to say, 'if you want that car so badly, think about what you're willing to forgo to get it.'

The public's complacency in the budget mess is a different issue, one tied in with our collective ignorance of and apathy with regard to how the government works. The issue with Congress isn't not knowing how to budget; it's ideological battles about the role of government. And that's where the constituents are the problem (which is pretty much what you're saying)--not because we don't know how to budget, though, but because we neglect to appreciate that the services we depend on cost money. Food safety costs money. If you leave it to the industry to self-police, it's not going to happen. Regulation costs money, and if you leave it to BP, well, you know what happened.

One thing I will say for my mother is that she puts her money, or at least her services, where her mouth is. She recently had a knee replacement operation and was offered all sorts of options, paid for by Medicare, for post-operation assistance. She turned it down because she didn't need it.

Here's the other thing I'll say: everyone I work with is taking the likely shutdown in stride. Most people are frustrated that they can't work for free, because they have so much work to do and they want to do it. Most of us are talking about how we're not thrilled about a missed paycheck but we'll deal, but we're concerned about people who have more to lose.

On a lighter note, check out the cover of today's Express for a completely blameless casualty of the shutdown.

Thursday morning roundup

You read a lot about criminals who incriminate themselves with social media, but what about police who do themselves no favors?

Milbank on the end of the era of Beck.

Kristof on irony. He's spot on. I'm not thrilled about the prospect of a forced unpaid vacation, but I'll manage it. I know that had it happened when I first got out of grad school, I'd have had trouble paying my rent, and I'm more concerned about people in that situation. I'm definitely going to cut down on spending to the extent that I can--my monthly payment eats about 72 percent of my paycheck, not including utilities--but I'd rather cut back than see an EPA eviscerated and reproductive rights trampled on. Anyway, here's more on spending hypocrisy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

The Ryan proposal and whom it screws.

This wasn't Tom Philpott's point, but I wonder, in this very interesting chart, how foods are classified. Why are nuts 'proteins' rather than fats? Do nuts have that much more protein than grains? The take away, in any case, is that we eat a lot of crap.

Want to make bank as a state worker in Wisconsin?

What people around the world think about capitalism.

This anti-tiger-mom piece is unremarkable, but I enjoyed this part:
[Kids] need to succeed for their own benefit, not to prove that their parents are successful. It’s sheer narcissism to believe that your child’s every success and failure is a reflection of your worth. Get over yourself.

Is anyone else horrified at how many (celebrity) women are photographed at the beach and denounced as fat?

Wednesday morning roundup

Abidjan residents are on edge.

Hope your trip to DC isn't planned for next week. In any case, at least you're in better shape than this couple.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

India finds itself outsourcing, but not to save on labor costs.

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, chimps; today, robots.

How I'd love to go to work next week.

I very much appreciate Stanley Fish's overall point about pointless conversation. You might recall my distaste for my former roommate's asking me questions for the purpose of hearing his own voice ("are you biking to work this morning?"/"obviously. that's why I'm wearing this suit, even though in the past, you've seen me dress very differently before a bike commute.") Nonetheless, I disagree with some of his (Prof. Fish's) later examples. Wishing someone a good day or reminding him or her to "drive safely!" has meaning.

While we're considering the cluelessness of roommate, consider this WSJ piece on personality types, particularly this excerpt:
Consider what happens when an introvert comes home hoping to chill after a rough day at work—only to find his extrovert partner waiting to recap every moment of her day. The introvert gets angry; the extrovert feels hurt. Ms. Mackler tells the extrovert that her spouse needs time alone; she tells the introvert that he needs to make an effort to come out and talk after he has decompressed.

"When people see something on paper, they realize it's not subjective—they have done the test and described the behavior themselves," she says. "It makes it more palatable for them to see and talk about" the issues.
It was ever so ironic that from our first weekend as roommates, he proudly announced that he'd figured out I was an introvert... and then proceeded to demonstrate that he didn't understand what that actually meant.

Are some languages smilier than others?

Gulliver appreciates public-transit accessible airports. I couldn't agree more that most collections of travel tips are too obvious to have value.

Response to comments

I really should stir up controversy more often--it's the only way I know y'all are actually reading. Now I know where Donald Trump is coming from.

Look, I'm not the conversation police. I'm not going around measuring when a conversation turns dull. It's situational. All I'm saying is, some parents are so impressed with the mundane details of their children's lives that they sometimes lose perspective about how worthy of conversation those details are. Parents are not the only ones in that situation. Some geeks think everyone cares about the specs of their smart phone. Some bloggers think everyone cares about her relationship with her mother. It's situational.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sigh: Response to Comment in Response to Comment

My point is, what's interesting to you isn't necessarily interesting to other people. I can talk budgets all day with people at work, but I'm not going to bore the f* out of people at parties by bringing them up. I might say, "work is crazy because it's budget time," just like one might say, "we're potty training." Fine. Allow me to present my personal, unauthoritative perspective on what does and does not make for acceptable conversation in mixed company:

"It's so much easier to get around now that the little one is potty trained."
"My daughter loves school. Spanish is her favorite subject, and she's great at it."
"I don't have a lot of time for other stuff right now because it's budget time."
"I switched from clay kitty litter to cedar."

Not Fine:
"My kid's poop used to be this color, and now it's this color."
"My little Sienna is gifted in Chinese. She puts all the other kids to shame. Let me tell you what her teacher said about her..."
"Did you see what one agency requested for construction? Are they for real? Do they have monkeys in charge of their cost-estimating?"
"My cat is pooping so much more often now that I'm giving her wet food. Her poop is of a more interesting shape, too."

Monday evening roundup

Antibiotics: it's what's for dinner.

Farm working conditions are generally horrendous.

Oh, Transocean. I'm officially giving myself a bonus for cleanest dining room table.

How environmentalists stood up and made Obama and Reid listen. Don't stop now, there's a lot more work to do.

Chimps are an obstacle in budget talks.

The best matchmaking sees beyond the butt type.

Response to comment

Ernessa, while you're conscious of minimizing the extent to which your stroller gets in the way, I can assure you that plenty of parents are not. Just like some parents do their best to keep their kids quiet on planes, others do not. I'm in no position to hypothesize on how many of each type of parent, proportionally, are out there. I'm just saying, both are there.

Let me start with the ad hominem aspects of your comment:
--I assure you that no mom rage inspired my post; I actually have no 'mom rage' to speak of. Mom frustration, maybe. Mom wariness, sometimes. But not mom rage. I do have some clueless-stroller-pusher rage. I cede that stroller-pushers have no monopoly on being in the way. It's tourist season in DC, and the clueless are out in droves. They take up entire sidewalks, walking slowly, and standing on the left of escalators. They're also pretty f*ing loud.
--Yes, children who run around knocking people over are more annoying and dangerous than those in a stroller.
--I'm not going to defend the 'don't have kids' argument, because I've never made it. I don't deny the biological urge to have children. I'd like to have children one day. I have a lot of friends who have children, and I often accompany them places, sometimes with strollers. They are conscious of their strollers. And being conscious doesn't mean never imposing on anyone, because no one, including the stroller-less, can do that. It does means not leaving your stroller in the middle of a crowded place, blocking everyone's passage. Nor do I "struggle to comprehend," by virtue of being childless, parents' needs to get things done, just like I don't struggle to comprehend, by virtue of being middle class, poor people's needs to eat. All this to say, I'm not the one who turned this into a parents vs. childless thing, just like I don't think rowdy kids in coffee shops are parents vs. childless issue; parents, too, looking for a quiet morning, are equally annoyed by rowdy kids.
-What I am saying is, stroller-pushers can be clueless. And it's dishonest to accuse me of hating on an entire group of women for pointing that out. Then again, I understand where you're coming from, because I'm sick of people complaining to me about cyclists. We, too, are just trying to get things done. We're just trying to get from place to place. Most of us signal, warn, and obey traffic rules; most of us cycle with your safety in mind. Some cyclists--just like some stroller-pushers--are clueless and aggressive, and they are as much a pain in my ass as they are in yours. I wouldn't want someone to say, 'just f*ing drive.' All this to say, my level of analysis is the behavior, not the group.
--I can also cede that my wording was needlessly provocative, but I'm not going to cede my overall point: when it's your stroller with your kid in it, it's your responsibility.

What I more generally wanted to express is a growing sense of being fed-up with a clueless society. I was thinking, as I walked down the street on Saturday, how horrendously clueless these people were and how they would get stampeded within seconds in New York, or Paris, or Tokyo. I wondered whether it was because many of them came into the city from the suburbs, or from elsewhere in the country where you don't need to be as aware of your surroundings, because you mostly get around by car (see the collectivization debates--I'm making the converse point here). Yet, you've heard me rant about clueless people walking and texting--and those are locals, so I don't know what their excuse is. The general issue is an appropriation of public space for private use. Just last weekend, I was going to rant again about theatergoers, until I realized I'd already exhausted that rant, leaving nothing new to say. What makes people think they can crunch on hard candy in a theater? Do they think no one hears them? Or engage in other behaviors we're they're acting like they're in their own living room? It's so disrespectful not just to the other theatergoers but to the people putting their heart and soul into the performance.

Note that I'm not putting every stroller-pusher in the same category--I'm not saying the act of using a stroller, per se, is an appropriation of public space. I'm saying clueless behavior with a stroller, just like clueless behavior with a smart phone, is an appropriation of public space. I didn't say this initially, because I was just linking to an article, but I'm saying it now. And like the writer of the article I linked to, I appreciate that we all end up eating our words at one point or another. Case in point: You know how I feel about Monsanto, and you know that when it came down to it, those feelings didn't stop me from using RoundUp on my poison ivy. That said, I'm going to be bold and lay out some behaviors I aspire to avoid when I become a parent:

-staying in a restaurant or movie theater while one's child is screaming;
-not trying to quiet a screaming child, or to control one who is harassing passengers, on a plane;
-becoming dull as $hit and thinking even my kids' most basic accomplishments, including their poop, are fascinating topics of conversation.

Notice I didn't say 'keep them from screaming in a restaurant or on a plane' or 'keep them from producing fascinating poop.' I know that all I can control my own behavior. All I'm saying is, I'm going to be conscious of my stroller.

Monday morning roundup

At least we can count on scientist being scientists.

Some crazy woman attacked a Gauguin at the National Gallery. Note that the Post doesn't have the journalistic anatomy to actually reprint the painting in full, because, God forbid, some idiot reader might freak out at the sight of painted breasts.

What processed food looks like without food coloring. You know, when we made soy ice cream for my party, the green tea ice cream was green and the azuki ice cream was red. Just sayin'.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday morning roundup

It's decision time in Israel. Meanwhile, Richard Goldstone speaks, and Israel reacts.

Unpredictibility and corruption plague business in India.

How presidents have spun the need for military actions from the eighteenth century to the present.

CAFOs smell really bad.

Would you dine at Fat Ho Burgers?

If you think nuclear power is unsafe, read up on coal.

The silver lining of invasive species.

The racket of unpaid internships.

Bridal registries get creative and maybe slightly less tacky.

The Post's ombudsman acknowledges that the new website is a hot mess.

Watch how you wield your metaphors, which matter.

There's a new biography of Edith Piaf.

Dowd on social conservatism.

Mike Daisey talks a lot about metaphors in the excellent, compelling, hilarious, poignant Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

Make sure to check out saturn this month.

Oh, please. How about you pick up your f*ing child?
Last time I lived in New York, when I was childless, I had to dodge the grim-faced parents rampaging down the sidewalks with their double-wide, all-terrain strollers. Where did their rageful sense of entitlement come from? They devoured every inch of space under scaffolds, obstructed store aisles — and did it righteously, as if the world owed them an unimpeded runway for their child-furniture. I couldn’t imagine what sort of yuppie lunatic would spend a hundred bucks on a stroller. (Answer: a yuppie lunatic who wants the warranty. Yet all around are ultrayuppie ultralunatics who spent $500 or $700.)

But the stroller-haters are self-centered, too, or unthinking. There’s a fallacy among childless people that there are simple ways for parents to make their children less annoying, and the parents just choose not to do them.

Would pedestrians infuriated by stroller traffic really be happier if the sidewalks were full of 2- and 3-year-olds toddling along at their natural pace, clutching their guardians’ hands? I know it’s hard on others when I’m going up the subway steps with a giant bundle of child and stroller in my arms. But you would prefer a 3-year-old climbing ... step ... by ... step?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Egyptian Salafis turn to democratic institutions and Article II, but the grand mufti of Egypt is not concerned.

Once abandoned Japanese towns are revitalized by the displaced.

Primary care isn't what it used to be, and more doctors are opting out.

Nonprofits that are thrilled to have worked themselves out of business.

I couldn't agree more with Kathleen Parker.

Donald Trump has proved he was born in this country.

Miss Manners' correspondence is rather hilarious.