Thursday, June 30, 2011

I don't even know why I'm blogging this

Mom: We have cake.
(Pause)
Mom: Do you want cake?
A.: No, thanks.
Mom: What's wrong with cake?
A.: I'd imagine it's made with dairy.
Mom: I think you shouldn't deprive myself.
A.: I'm not. I don't want to eat dairy.
Mom: We eat everything.
A.: [Shrug]
Mom: We don't eat read meat, really. We do eat pork and lamb. What are you gonna do?
(Pause)
Mom: I think one should eat everything. We've eaten that stuff all our lives and we're fine.
A.: It's the pigs, the sheep, and the ecosystems that are not fine.
Mom: I know, I know.
A.: I know you know.
Mom: Then why are you telling me I shouldn't eat meat?
A.: I am? You're the one who keeps bringing it up.
Mom: I do feel bad for pigs. Pigs are smart.
A.: Pigs are smart.
Mom: Why are they so good?
A.: That's how I feel about octopi. I'm making a point not to eat them, which isn't hard.
Mom: Octopi are very smart!
A.: See, we agree on something.

A relatively mild Thursday afternoon

Mom: Hello?
A.: Hello?
Mom: Are you on the plane?
A.: Yeah, about to get off.
Mom: So you'll call in an hour and a half?
A.: No. I'm in Boston. We just landed. I'm here now.
Mom: What? You're here? I need to get dressed.
A.: Mom.
Mom: What? Your dad had all the details. He's probably on his way home from work. I'll call you when we leave.

***
Mom: Are you hungry?
A.: We might have time for a quick snack. I'm meeting people in half an hour.
Mom: We can make mushrooms.
A.: Can we make them not in butter?
Mom: What? Mushrooms not in butter?!
A.: Maybe in olive oil.
Mom: Why on earth?
A.: I don't eat dairy, mom.
Mom: But dairy's from cows that are alive...
A.: Nonetheless--
Mom: Those cows could be happy.
A.: But they're not.
Mom Suit yourself.
A.: Thanks.

(I opened the fridge.)

A.: Since when do you eat peanut butter?
Mom: I don't.
A.: Why is there a massive jar of peanut butter in the fridge?
Mom: I dunno. Maybe your dad bought it.
Dad: I did not. Mom probably bought it because it was on a massive sale.
Mom: No I didn't. I don't know how long it's been here.
A.: It's taking up quite a bit of fridge space.
Mom: Who knows how long it's been there. Will you eat it?
A.: No.
Mom: What's wrong with peanut butter.
A.: Nothing's wrong with peanut butter. But there's sugar and hydrogenated soybean, as the second and third ingredients respectively, wrong with this peanut butter product.
Mom: Well, I don't know how it got there.

Thursday evening roundup

Just when I was full of admiration for Gov. Cuomo, he has to go and pull this bullshit.

Holidays are tougher, but this Monday, too, can be a meatless one.

When writing is generally good, I tend not to notice the odd line or paragraph that's bad. Which is why I was surprised to find myself recoiling at Adam Gopnik's turn of phrase:
"Would you teach me how to draw?" I asked for reasons that at the moment seemed as clear-flying as a lark in spring air, but that, over the next two years, receded and rose mysteriously, like fish swimming in a muddy aquarium.
Really?

Thursday morning roundup

Isolationism has a long history.

I've always liked Tom Petty.

Tracy Morgan might wanna stop talking.

Okay, I like pesto but I don't like to think about it on my walls. Still, I suppose, given the actual color, that's a more marketable name than 'puke.' This is awesome:
Taryn Look, 25, an actress, who was checking out Home Depot’s Behr collection the other day, rolled her eyes at some of the names. “I wonder how much these people get paid,” she mused, glancing at Genteel Lavender, a color she said she would rebrand My Gay Best Friend.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quick Wednesday evening roundup

You know industrial ag's not nice to the animals, but it's not exactly a utopia for the employees.

Turtle sex may be the best reason to have your flight delayed.

Wednesday morning roundup

Why is the Post not a very good paper? Let me count the ways, or rather, examples. So many times I read something and think, 'this is going to be interesting,' but the article kind of rambles on without getting to the essence of the issue. Exhibit A is this article that should be about education, but I really don't get what's going on, so I'm posting it from the perspective that I can't believe yet another person is starting a gourmet cupcakery in the area.

German culture apparently does not embrace working women.

You may think that it doesn't matter that the President isn't leading on marriage equality, because he's not pushing inequality, but it does, and here's why (by way of Gov. Cuomo, by way of Maureen Dowd):
“I have never been in anything like that in my life, period,” he said. “Not when I worked with Clinton. Not with my father. In my 30 years in government, I never felt what I felt in that parade. Just the difference we made in people’s lives, how we touched people and made them feel good about society. It was really magic.

“A father, maybe 60 years old, came up to me and said, ‘You know, I have a gay son, and I never really accepted him and I shouldn’t have needed you to tell me that it was O.K. to accept my own boy. But I did.’ ”
How many such fathers would be moved by the President's leadership on this issue? Evolving isn't leading. Another great line from the column:
He said Senator Roy McDonald, a Republican who grew up in public housing and represents a somewhat conservative district in the Albany area, told him that he wanted to vote for the bill because “it’s the right thing. I believe my God is a God of love and acceptance.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

Does this ban on babies mean that Malaysian Airlines thinks economy-class passengers have less of a right to peace and quiet than those in business class?

Oh, fracking.

Right now I'm more confused than anything else about the survey, but I think "benevolent" sexism is very real and not really benevolent. And no, I don't mean holding doors, etc.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Okay, this is even more infuriating. It's not a childish mistake on her part; getting drunk and passing out on a camping trip does not constitute consenting to sex. That doesn't change the allegation.

Oh, TSA.

Luxury shops air-condition the streets while Tokyo burns. But before you get too judgmental, consider your cable box. Meanwhile: the Bay Area is littered with fast food waste.

The amenities of living in high-cost areas are like commodities that one pays for.

You may be wondering about the previous post. Shutterfly has been good to me (just ordered ten photo greeting cards for free), even though they're also a pain in the ass. But it's a testament to how much I like their products that I keep banging my head against my dining room table to put them together.

5x7 Folded Card

Picture In Portrait 5x7 folded card
Click here to browse Shutterfly's modern graduation invitations.
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday morning roundup

Syria's awakening.

Argentina's Jewish gauchos insist on holding up the fort.

Saudi women's quiet, apolitical campaign is changing more than attitudes about driving.

The TIP report is often criticized and dismissed, but it makes a difference.

Jessica Valenti articulates an excellent point about Bristol Palin. By the way, I looked up Redline on Yelp because a friend picked it, and couldn't believe this review. Yelp should have a button for 'horribly offensive and in the poorest taste.'

I'd permalink to a Toles cartoon but the Post has made that impossible. And they think people might pay for access to their abominable website?

A policy change has the potential to rein in home prices in some of DC's upscale neighborhoods.

I'm all over making cities hostile to cars, but then you've got to make them friendly to public transit. I drove into DC yesterday because I was meeting a friend for lunch in Eastern Market and then going to see a play in the Atlas District. Two different neighborhoods in Capitol Hill, no direct subway connection. Take a bus in DC, on a Sunday? Please. I suppose I could have walked (half an hour) if I had more time, I didn't, so I drove. It took me twenty minutes to drive to Eastern Market (and another ten to park). It would have taken 40 minutes just on the metro, not including wait time. Then to get NE, I'd have had to take take the blue line to L'Enfant, the yellow to Gallery, and the red to Union Station--that's three transfers--only two walk 25 minutes to Atlas. Really? And this is in DC, which has a very decent public transportation system as American cities go. How do you expect people to cut back on driving in, say, Albuquerque? On a side note: my mother would be horrified at the concept of deliberately not synchronizing lights. I'm all over making parking expensive, but I don't see how making traffic worse is going to help emissions.

The Times adds its voice to the chorus that's urging the President to get with it on gay marriage.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Response to comment

There's a difference between introverts and people who are just socially awkward/inept, even though there's some overlap. I'm an introvert, but I can talk, and I can certainly hold my end of an interview (either end, at that). I appreciate what you're saying about having to channel whatever extrovert you have to get ahead, and I've certainly had to do that, and recognize that a lot of things would be easier if I did it more.

You're right about RM: his being an extrovert was only one angle of the clusterf* living situation we'd gotten ourselves into. His lack of boundaries were a much bigger factor. And I'd gone back and forth between giving him the benefit of the doubt (just clueless) and doubting the benefit of the doubt (no, there's got to be some conscious manipulation going on here), and that article made me think about that again. When I think about that horrible episode when he walked into my office, approached me, sat down in front of the futon on which I was sitting, and put my foot in his hands--the whole time, from the minute he stepped in the room, I looked horrified--I think he must have registered that I looked horrified. But the article points out that extroverts don't do that. They don't survey the scene; they just jump in. That doesn't excuse his behavior, but it exposes my own bias in thinking about what he was thinking in terms of what I would have been thinking. Let me reword that: I often gave him crap, and rightly so, for refusing to put himself in my position as an introvert. It's not that I disliked him (at first); it's that I needed me time. How could he not get that? And then, there was I, months later, not being willing to get that his mind works in an entirely different way, so his behavior reflects different underlying beliefs than the same behavior would on my part.

Purge

It's not every day, or even every month, that I tell you a play is phenomenal. I say that maybe a few times a year. I see a lot of plays, most good or very good. It's only once in a while that one comes along and blows my mind, and "Purge" at Scena Theater at the H Street Playhouse is one of those.

It wouldn't be glib to say I don't feel that bad now about having missed "Ruined," since one should probably limit oneself to one play about human trafficking per season, but it would be stupid. Both are about redemption. I can't speak to "Ruined," although I've heard the same thing from people who saw it (and I hope to catch it when it comes back through town). The point is, both take on a heavy subject matter only to fill you with the will to live, rather than sap it. "Purge" also has that extra bit of meaning to me because of the historical angle, and because that history is Eastern Europe's.

All this to say, go see it. It's playing through next Sunday.

Sunday morning roundup

More and more people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Corn subsidies in myriad forms are one of the country's most infuriating wastes of money.

What else is in processed food? Petroleum.

Times have changed--get with it, Mr. President--and it's much harder to hate who you know. And being organized helps.

Why do we stigmatize shyness? We "watchful, slow-to-warm-up types" don't need Zoloft. A lot of this really explains some of RM's cluelessness:
Relaxed and exploratory, the rovers have fun, make friends and will take risks, both rewarding and dangerous ones, as they grow. According to Daniel Nettle, a Newcastle University evolutionary psychologist, extroverts are more likely than introverts to be hospitalized as a result of an injury, have affairs (men) and change relationships (women). One study of bus drivers even found that accidents are more likely to occur when extroverts are at the wheel.

In contrast, sitter children are careful and astute, and tend to learn by observing instead of by acting. They notice scary things more than other children do, but they also notice more things in general. Studies dating all the way back to the 1960’s by the psychologists Jerome Kagan and Ellen Siegelman found that cautious, solitary children playing matching games spent more time considering all the alternatives than impulsive children did, actually using more eye movements to make decisions. Recent studies by a group of scientists at Stony Brook University and at Chinese universities using functional M.R.I. technology echoed this research, finding that adults with sitter-like temperaments looked longer at pairs of photos with subtle differences and showed more activity in brain regions that make associations between the photos and other stored information in the brain...

Sitters’ temperaments also confer more subtle advantages. Anxiety, it seems, can serve an important social purpose; for example, it plays a key role in the development of some children’s consciences. When caregivers rebuke them for acting up, they become anxious, and since anxiety is unpleasant, they tend to develop pro-social behaviors. Shy children are often easier to socialize and more conscientious, according to the developmental psychologist Grazyna Kochanska. By 6 they’re less likely than their peers to cheat or break rules, even when they think they can’t be caught, according to one study. By 7 they’re more likely to be described by their parents as having high levels of moral traits such as empathy.
Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me comes to the Times.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

I imagine Lewis Carroll is turning over in his grave knowing that the Japanese nuclear industry used his characters to perpetuate a safety myth.

Don't let your elected representatives gut food system reform.

Did I already post this piece about food waste?

Last week's Post article focused on the uber-rich, but there's that other side of inequality.

Best quote out of New York:
Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo, was the 33rd vote for the bill. “I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”
The Tea Party Patriots, however, apparently disagree that all taxpayers are created equal.

Real estate bidding wars are back, except they're more like skirmishes.

GOOD on vegan accessories, if you know what I mean.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday morning roundup and ramble

Environmentalists are all riled up with nowhere to go.

Really? That dolls define girls' personalities is news to me, even if there's one that apparently fits my demographic.

***
There's a lot of talk about how women have trouble saying 'no' to people, to their own detriment. I'm not saying I have this one figured out--after all, my roommate chronicles show that while I said 'no' all the time, I was uncomfortable being constantly put in that position and I often felt bad about it. I also found it especially difficult because RM was especially good at phrasing the demand as if it were a given. How do you say no to "we're family!" In retrospect, I should have just said, "really? what makes you say that? because I just met you." But that's easy to write after the fact and very, very difficult to say at the time.

And yet, I think I'm better than many women at saying 'no.' I did it at work just the other day. It was the perfect storm for a 'no': someone asked me something that (1) I didn't have to do; (2) didn't want to do; and (3) didn't have time to do; and the someone didn't ask very nicely.

When you go to ask someone to do something extremely tedious that they don't have to do, you ask like my friend/colleague Bill does: "I'm really sorry to ask you to do this, but we're really pressed for time and you're one of the only people who can do this." To which I always say, "of course! it's my job."

But when someone said, "do you have time to do [this extremely tedious task]?" I said no. He said 'what about next week?' At which point his teammate said, 'let's find someone else to do it.' But I would have been in my right to say 'no.'

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Very late Tuesday evening roundup

Fascinating FP article on the reality behind the collapse of the Soviet Union. I tend to distrust anything coming out of the AEI, but this is quite good and not ideological. Not the most important excerpt, but a good one:
Those who instilled this remarkable "break in consciousness" were no different from those who touched off the other classic revolutions of modern times: writers, journalists, artists. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, such men and women "help to create that general awareness of dissatisfaction, that solidified public opinion, which … creates effective demand for revolutionary change." Suddenly, "the entire political education" of the nation becomes the "work of its men of letters."
See also Anne Applebaum's lament on what Mikhail Gorbachev has done with his post-Soviet life.

Ricks calls out Kristof and smug veterans.

Really great discussion about The Book of Mormon, most posts are worth reading (sadly, Arun Gandhi's is the most vapid). In keeping of the tradition of sharing pertinent Lewis Black clips, see this one: and here's Ricky Gervais for good measure:

Summer solstice roundup

In memory of Elena Georgievna Bonner.

Ambassador Eikenberry says what needed to be said. Which is not to say that our aid programs aren't inefficient. Dave Brooks says it's all irrelevant because the violence is rooted in tribalism, not poverty. I'm sure his colleague Tom Friedman would have something to say about that, but he's busy writing about the two-state solution.

It sucks to be poor in London.

For the sake of their eyesight, let your kids play outside.

There's no such thing as anonymity, says the anonymous blogger.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Check out the hilarious shrimp-on-a-treadmill video at the bottom of this fact-checker post. Though it makes me feel kind of bad about eating shrimp (not that I do so often--I've been mostly completely vegan of late). Besides, Umbra says we sometimes-pescatarians needn't worry. Although Umbra also kind of annoys me by falling into the soy-has-issues-too trap--not because she says that soy has issues, but because she cites genetic engineering as the issue. Let me tell you, again, that you're more likely to consume genetically engineered soy by eating meat, because that's what your meat probably eats. It's nearly impossible to buy genetically engineered soy milk or tofu--Whole Foods and Trader Joe's only sell organic (which is not GE) and even H-Mart's store-brand tofu is non-GE. Now, if you're consuming a lot of Boca burgers or other processed foods, chances are GE soy was used, but it's also probably the least of your concerns if you eat processed foods often.

The Post had a big article on income inequality over the weekend but it's kind of blah. Ezra Klein's explanation of why reminds me of Lewis Black's personal ball washer:

Oh, here's another newsflash about as surprising as growing income inequality: Fox News has a partisan ideological agenda.

Props to CNN for pointing out, in this era of antagonism toward bikes, that bicycles are an amazing thing. Minus props to CNN for the incredibly silly summary to the side, which counts on people not knowing who Susan B. Anthony was. Besides, what does "stay-at-home wives or daughters" even mean?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Title of Show to the rescue, again

I'm once again experiencing some doubt and frustration with regard to something I've written, and "Die, Vampire, Die!" doesn't quite fit what's plaguing me. But "Nine People's Favorite Thing, also from "Title of Show," does:

We can either follow our instinct
Or take advice from every joker
We can either be distinct
Or wind up merely mediocre

Sunday morning roundup

Mexican cartels have diversified.

Another idea for a Yemen policy.

Our latest import from Japan seems to be chemical suicide, which can also physically harm other people. What does it also say about what's in our household products?

The Archbishop of New York is a hypocrite.

For anyone else drowning in CSA greens, here's Mark Bittman to the rescue.

Questions can be more fun than answers. This concept sums up my gradual transition in college from hard science to social science to literature.

I'll get the Post later.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Real America

The metro area I call home is not known for its kindness. This is where people come to lose touch with what it's like in the rest of the country. Stay here, in the nation's capital, too long, and lose sight of everything that's important. And while I'm not going to defend the nation's politics, which have been making me especially sick to my stomach of late, I'm going to defend my adopted hometown. To neglect to do so would be ungrateful.

On Thursday, my bike acted up on the way to work. I was able to get there and figured I'd be able to get home, but a few miles from my house--thankfully once the rain had ceased to pour itself down--my bike just stopped. I turned it over to try to figure out what was wrong. Three people biked by within minutes, all of whom asked if they could help (by the third, I said yes). He helped me identify the problem, and I was soon on my way. Then, this morning, I blew a tire on the beltway, called emergency roadside assistance, and took out the spare and the tools (I've changed a tire before, years ago, but my memory was rusty and I didn't want to be hanging out outside the car). But two guys pulled over and helped me before the company got there. Then, when my car wouldn't start, they turned their car around and jumped mine. It took them ages to turn back around safely. And they were totally nice about it.

None of this is extraordinary, I guess. I'd do the same--I've stopped to help people with their bikes, and I'd do so with cars if I were better at it. But it is kind of amazing, and my week is that much saner for it.

On a less cheezy note, never leave the house by car without a spare or jumper cables!

Saturday morning roundup

Some states are playing politics with people's livelihoods. Of course, there is a small part of me that I am not entirely proud of that has little sympathy or at least much annoyance for people on cholesterol medication (including my parents). Stop eating animals and see if you'll still need that medication. Yes, yes, I know high cholesterol can be genetic and also unrelated to dietary cholesterol, but seriously: stop eating animal products. See where that gets you.

The rash of Navy firings over unprofessional behavior made me think of my former roommate.

Another consequence of cheap food is food waste on an epic scale.

Mint has dinged me for exceeding my "arts" budget this month, mostly because it's the time of year to renew theater subscriptions. But it got me thinking whether I was "overspending" on theater and ballet, whatever that means. Without comparing my own spending to anyone else's, I answered 'no,' not only because "arts" is one of the best things to spend on/an investment in my soul/support for arts institutions, etc. Which are the most important reasons. But also for the very basic arithmetical fact that if I weren't out at a play, I'd probably be out shopping, spending the same amount of money on crap (clothes, household goods, etc.). Furthermore, since Mint made this handy video, I see that I spend on two plays what the average Mint user spends on a month of fast food. And my monthly arts spending is less than half--maybe a third--of what people spend in bars and restaurants.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday evening roundup

Don't do it, Senator.

Why are my people so tacky?

This is about scientists, but I know that creative types also suffer from imposter syndrome.

Your non-vegan guide to the countries of the Middle East.

Your vegan guide to dessert.

Eat shit, not meat.

Quick Friday morning roundup

Okay, I still don't think it's fair to compare atheists to other groups subject to discrimination. But that may be because the discrimination is most felt among some families and some employers (friends in the military, for example, have complained), so the rest of us are oblivious to it.

It's the middle of 2011, and you're telling me that just offering vegetarian choices in restaurants is revolutionary?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday morning roundup

Another shameful subsidy: coal. And for what? Cross-state pollution? And please don't bullshit us about how renewable energy takes a higher toll.

Eat your fruits and vegetables; pesticides are no excuse. Just don't get tomatoes from Florida.

Wednesday morning roundup

As Sicily's mafia tries to get in on the green energy industry, businesspeople say they prefer dealing with them than with corrupt politicians.

Your tax dollars at waste.

Save the very ceremonious graduations for after fifth grade.

Gum-wad art is awesome.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

Glenn Kessler fact-checks last night's debate.

It's not a good time to have ever been a moderate or pragmatist.

The point I'm about to make is not the main one of this column asking that we reclaim Uncle Tom, but it's related: it's unfortunate that dramatizing a book led to its oversimplification and to undue sentimentality, at the expense of depth and truth to the characters.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday evening roundup

I've been wondering whether it'll get to the point where I'll get so disaffected that I'll sit out the next election because I'll figure it won't make a difference. Why does this Administration hate the ocean? I know what you're going to say: the other candidate not only hates the oceans but hates women and hates clean air and sustainable agriculture even more than this President. But I'm starting to wonder whether it's diminishing returns.

The government doesn't subsidize what it preaches. Still, there's hope.

If the antibiotics fit hitting the shan isn't enough impetus to stand up to Big Ag, I don't know what is.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/10/liberte_egalite_virilite

Monday morning roundup

Weinergate is about narcissism, not adultery.

Only get local tomatoes. Seriously--it's not a pretty industry.

Bruce Babbitt is disappointed with the President's environmental negligence, and so is the Times' editorial page, and so am I.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday morning roundup

The Pakistani government tortures journalists.

Reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very treacherous journalistic territory. And there's a chance of turbulence ahead.

I've walked away from buying tickets because of exhorbitant Ticketmaster fees.

The comedians are spot-on.

Alexandria residents want parks, not hotels, along the waterfront. Did you know that that story is on the front page of the Metro section, but nearly impossible to find online?

DC loses its bike lady.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday evening ramble and AMAZING essay by Jhumpa Lahiri

I really hate it when a child makes me want to smack him or her upside the head, and not only because I can't go through with it. I don't appreciate the urge to smack; I don't like the urge, in and of itself. But I'm not going to tell you it doesn't happen. Today it happened at the ballet.

The girl regularly whispered, loudly, throughout the first Act. I shushed her. Her mother or grandmother indulged or ignored her (where's the Tiger mom instinct when we need it?). We were in the second f*ing row. If your six-, seven-, eight-year old child can't shut the f* up for forty minutes at a time (between intermissions), don't bring her to the ballet. I know you parents just love it when I lecture you about how to raise your kids, but you can suck it. Raise your kids however the f* you want, but don't unleash them on society until they learn to shut the f* up for forty minutes.

Anyway, I didn't smack her. I've been reading up on civil disobedience. But just before the start of the second Act, I asked the grandmother/mother to ask her not to talk, because it was very distracting. And it worked. Instead of tilting her head to listen, she shushed her. And the girl talked less. Which was wonderful, because the dance of the Naiads was possibly the most beautiful dance performance I've seen in my life. It was amazing.

The girl was promptly shushed the few times she opened her mouth during the third Act, which I could take or leave. It was the least unique of the three. But it was still better without comments from the peanut gallery.

***
I am not reading Sarah Palin's e-mails because I do not care. I cannot convey, in words, the extent to which I Do Not Care.

I'm also kind of done with Weinergate, but sometimes I come across something I can't resist posting.

***
There was so much in Jhumpa Lahiri's essay that spoke to me. I'm going to excerpt a few especially striking paragraphs, but I highly recommend the whole thing.
As I grew into adolescence and beyond, however, my writing shrank in what seemed to be an inverse proportion to my years. Though the compulsion to invent stories remained, self-doubt began to undermine it, so that I spent the second half of my childhood being gradually stripped of the one comfort I’d known, that formerly instinctive activity turning thorny to the touch. I convinced myself that creative writers were other people, not me, so that what I loved at seven became, by seventeen, the form of self-expression that most intimidated me...At twenty-one, the writer in me was like a fly in the room—alive but insignificant, aimless, something that unsettled me whenever I grew aware of it, and which, for the most part, left me alone. I was not at a stage where I needed to worry about rejection from others. My insecurity was systemic, and preĆ«mptive, insuring that, before anyone else had the opportunity, I had already rejected myself...
I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues of life. And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, “Listen to me.”

This was where I faltered. I preferred to listen rather than speak, to see instead of be seen. I was afraid of listening to myself, and of looking at my life...
As a child, I did not know the exact meaning of “tenure,” but when my father obtained it I sensed what it meant to him. I set out to do as he had done, and to pursue a career that would provide me with a similar stability and security. But at the last minute I stepped away, because I wanted to be a writer instead. Stepping away was what was essential, and what was also fraught. Even after I received the Pulitzer Prize, my father reminded me that writing stories was not something to count on, and that I must always be prepared to earn my living in some other way. I listen to him, and at the same time I have learned not to listen, to wander to the edge of the precipice and to leap. And so, though a writer’s job is to look and listen, in order to become a writer I had to be deaf and blind.

Saturday morning roundup

Even though unemployment sucks right now, it behooves economic policymakers to take the long view.

Sprouts may be the messenger, but the underlying issue is meat.

There's no reason you should pay more for healthy food. It doesn't cost more to make.

The UK's Eat Well Plate is quite deferential to dairy. Some of those food charts are very creative. Slovenia's looks like a board game.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday evening roundup

A SlutWalk is coming to New Delhi.

Local reporting is in trouble, which means national news is as well.

Wait, what? I thought the Right was all about school choice.

We chocolate lovers apparently require a lot of water.

I can't wait for solar to get affordable.

Quick Friday morning roundup

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita offers a twist on the resource curse.

Farmers are increasingly turning to side businesses to get back to profitability.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quick Thursday morning roundup

How industry in India has flourished so far in spite of a tremendously incompetent government. See page four for the most striking/egregious examples.

This is sort of the analysis I've been waiting for, about how when sex is not consensual, sexual cultural norms are irrelevant. There was also an excerpt that made me think of RM:
Could it be that offensiveness is relative to the perspective of the recipient, based on her own cultural sensibilities? More troubling, could it be that our very experience of an encounter might be significantly affected by our background, upbringing, culture, ethnicity, in short, by what Michel Foucault called our discourse?
Could it be that RM really found nothing inappropriate about a foot massage? Thinking about the whole experience, I'm still inconclusive, erring on the side of not really, as to whether there was an inappropriate sexual aspect to his creepiness, but I'm even more adamant this his behavior was generally inappropriate, that there was nothing innocent or subjective about it. If he respected me, he wouldn't have done it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

Before you think the Roundup-birth defects connection isn't your problem because you don't eat vegetables, keep in mind that a lot of that corn and soy is designated to animal feed.

Also not good for you: bottled water.

Do catch up on Mark Bittman's blog, where he talks a lot about Eating Less Meat, particularly in the context of e-coli (and more e-coli). But also in the context of meat in and of itself.

Wednesday morning roundup

I am not an energy expert, but I find these comparisons disingenuous. Yes, wind takes space and steel. You can do solar without tons of land. But what about fracking? What about nuclear waste? Why not talk about the toll of all that?

A no-relation Weiner laments.

Maureen Dowd wonders why men who marry up, cheat down.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday evening roundup

This column is annoying in myriad ways. The way she approaches the issue (whether French or American women have it 'better') is dumb, yet it might have been a decent analysis had she approached it differently. And yes, there is a widespread effort to address the housekeeper safety issue.

This column makes an excellent point about our double standards for violent videos.

Cohen unlabels Obama.

CBS News takes the high road by denying Weinergate lead-story status.

Fox News is confused.

Quick Tuesday morning roundup

French women are speaking out. If you haven't read Ariel Levy's piece on Italian women, or the article on SlutWalks, please do. See also this post commenting on the latter, even though I have very little time for anyone who "stops short of the “feminist” label."

State Parks are hurting, and getting more expensive.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Today in "if you're not enraged, you're not paying attention" news: how your tax dollars enable human trafficking on an epic scale.

There's really no point to genetically engineered salmon.

More things you don't want to know about how our food system makes room for e-coli.

This case of hacking is awesome.

Wow. This isn't the history I learned. Then again, I'm a product of the public school system.

Monday morning roundup

Big arrests are a huge step, but Serbia and its neighbors must have an open, honest discussion about the past.

Our confirmation process has gotten politicized to the point of paralysis, to the detriment of the economy.

Dionne on freedom.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday evening roundup

Randian ideology is not playing well with a key segment of the GOP's base.

Did you know saffron grew in Switzerland?

Ariel Levy's brilliant article on Italian women and dignity. Take advantage of the fact that it's not subscriber-only and read it now.

Translation apps only get you so far (but they do make for some priceless comedy).

Sunday morning roundup Part I

The impact of climate change on global agriculture. I think the reality that meat and dairy take a "considerable amount" of grain to produce merits more than a sentence. Perhaps also a discussion of methane?

If there's a global agriculture crisis, where are we going to get gourmet food to feed our dogs? Would you guess that the people investing in (plastic) prosthetic nut-sacs for their neutered pets otherwise pretend to be eco-conscious? I'm all over natural, vegetarian, and organic, but can't you mash up your dog's butternut squash instead of getting it from a can?

Nicholas Kristof's thought experiment is innovative (Tom Friedman's is yawn-inducing). Here's a real-life scenario of the former: what kind of society defunds libraries?

I'm a little disappointed with the Times' travel section's St. Petersburg coverage. It doesn't do my city, nor the white nights, justice. Later in the summer, the sun won't set at all--the whole night stays white. And it's not this yuppie phenomenon that you just see in upscale cafes, and it's not new with better economic times. People of all means have always gone out and watched the ships pass through the city.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Revisiting the then-called United Fruit Company's brutal intervention in Guatemala.

Rule of law in Russia is still lacking.

Find a SlutWalk near you.

I'm not sure where this columnist is going--is she defending or critiquing, or both the rights of teachers to slam their students on Facebook? The comparison to the actual free speech cases isn't clear.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Phone call

I've been mindful about being very even-toned with my mother lately. She's been very tired and in a lot of pain from her operation. I've been meaning to go visit, but I initially waited until she was more mobile and then until I could pull it off work-wise. So we discussed the upcoming holiday weekend. I was looking at an alternative and discussed both with her.

She called me, not twenty minutes ago. I didn't snap, but I had to take on a firmer tone.

Mom: Marilou called--she's invited us over for the 4th! She's back in NH.
A.: Okay, but I was going to visit on the weekend of the 4th.
Mom: Great--we can all go up together.
A.: Well, no, I'll need to catch a return flight on the 4th.
Mom: Oh. Can't you go back the next day?
A.: No, I need to be at work the next day. I'm taking off a day and a half the previous week.
Mom: Huh.
A.: It's fine. You can drop me off on the way up there and go without me. I'd love to see her but it's what makes the most sense.
Mom: What time?
A.: I wanted to get the flight tonight, I was just looking at times. There are a couple mid-day--would that work? Then you can drive up right after dropping me off.
Mom: I don't know. What time do we usually go up there?
Dad: Not until the afternoon. So that works, if A. picks a late morning/early afternoon flight.
Mom: How about this? I'll give her a call tomorrow and ask. Or did you want to book the flight tonight?
A.: I wanted to book the flight tonight.
Mom: Well, you know, we just got back. And everything's in bloom. The roses are out of control this spring--
A.: Mom, I know. We discussed the roses in detail yesterday. Right now, we need to talk about flight times.
Mom: Okay, early afternoon probably works well.
A.: Sounds good, I'll get the ticket now. Thanks, mom. Goodnight.
Mom: Goodnight.

Friday evening roundup

Saudi Arabia's proud executioner.

China's values crisis.

India's girl crisis.

Appalachia's and the nation's coal-induced pollution crisis. I saw "The Last Mountain" this afternoon. It gives new meaning to the phrase,"if you're not enraged, you're not paying attention."

The Post's fact checker looks at Sarah Palin, while Dana Milbank compares her to another Republican on tour.

What's not being done to protect you from e-coli.

It's really not cool, not to mention counterproductive, for politicians to hate on government.

Even serious columnists can't resist a few Weiner jokes.

Why is the DC area doing so well and what does it mean for the region?

Some gardening tips for you.

Of course women are funny. By the way, you forgot to mention Nora Ephron.

Friday morning roundup

Some people don't think it's the government's job to address the obesity crisis. Others point out that obesity has wide-ranging impact on people's lives, beyond 'just' health. What else has hidden costs to society? Factory farms. And chemical-heavy agriculture, particularly the corn and soy that goes into animal feed.

Meanwhile, organic farming is a growth industry in India.

Thank you for this hilarious but necessary public service message: guys, we're not aroused by the sight of your junk. Nor, by the way, by the sight of your biceps. If anything, your obsession with your junk and/or biceps is very off-putting. You, making yourself useful--now that's hot.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Some very useful advice

Mom: Well, dad drove. I'm still not driving. Sometimes I get a sudden pain in my knee. Dad handles it well, you know. I would have told me to go to hell by now, but he just ignores me.
A.: You haven't told mom to go to hell?
Dad: You know, in thirty-plus years, she's given me lots of practice: training for the psyche, if you will.
Mom: Please.
Dad: Imagine someone sitting next to you while you're driving and providing a running commentary, the whole time.
A.: Oh, I know. I've driven with mom.
Mom: You have? When?
A.: Most recently when you visited a couple of years ago.
Dad: What you should do is, when you're driving, call her. She'll provide some very useful advice.
Mom: Very funny.

Thursday morning roundup

High oil prices have raised demand for more environmentally friendly packaging.

Walkability is an evil plot.

How the government has promoted food over the decades. And how the government is prioritizing food funding now:
While the subcommittee cut money for food safety, it fully funded a controversial program that promotes American farmers abroad... Last year, for example, the Cotton Council International, which represents the U.S. cotton industry, received $20.3 million through the program to help fund a popular reality television show in India featuring aspiring fashion designers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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