Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday evening roundup

Famine survivors never forget what it was like.

Botswana's savvy and humane move.

The UN vote in perspective. And another perspective on the fighting.


Hope against the scourge of mountaintop mining.

Real men find Suzanne Venker's argument insulting.

HP's epic f*-up.

China embraces imitation landmarks.


This is so, so true: when you travel, you learn to let things roll. See my Prague notes.

I don't disagree with the content, but I wonder why this woman is so threatened that she even cares.

Let's be respectful of one another's body types.

I'd better watch my Honey Badger soundboard... though I won't be throwing my phone into a field anytime soon.

Being good at being nice when you're angry

I was worried about myself after the two incidents this weekend, but I've been almost unfailingly polite to a slew of customer service people lately. A huge part of it was that they were being polite and responsive to me. In two cases, the stakes were low (reserving vegan meals on flights) but the waits were long. In one case, I was livid again and ready for blood (but not from the customer service representative). I was ready to take Barclaycard's (actually low) finance charge to Twitter and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau out of principle, but they're handling it (which means they're not only working on crediting it, but they didn't accuse me of being stupid four times during the call like they did last time). I did raise my voice in a call with Aetna, because they're creating an awful lot of work for me and costing me money (they decided to uncover some of my wisdom-teeth procedure, f*kers, and also to balk at covering my cleaning; WTF, Aetna?). So I was agitated, but I went out of my way to let the dude know it wasn't him; it was all the conflicting info I'd been getting from various colleagues of his, and how many times I've had to talk to them since August. In this case, though, I'm making it my dentist's office's problem.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Phone call

Mom and dad went to a friend's birthday celebration, at which the friend's daughter--who is training to be a professional opera singer--sang. Mom felt the need to blurt out, within the friend's earshot, that the singing wasn't very good. She shrugged it off: everyone was thinking it. Dad didn't really disagree, but still. Mom then took to complaining about how the friend's daughter is wasting her genes (by pursuing this career, at which she isn't very good, instead of having babies). Dad said, that's her call. Mom said, no! Genes are made to be propagated.

Dad asked what I did over the weekend, even though we'd talked then. I reminded him to see "Argo," said that "Anna Karenina" was said to be very good. They were both emphatic about refusing to see an in-English version of "Anna Karenina." I don't blame them; there would have to be plenty for them to take issue with. 

Mom then went on to be nice to me. We talked about my upcoming business trip. She said it was fascinating stuff, said "good job" for getting myself such a great gig (I'd have to agree).

Wednesday evening roundup and ramble

Kissinger on China, by way of the Wall Street Journal.

As you know, I'm a fan of The Onion and its impact, but occasionally it disappoints in the way of great concept, weak execution. I wish this piece were funnier.

Thank you, Kathleen Parker, for calling out your colleagues on their double standards.

***
I found myself, this morning, in another conversation in the variety of which I complained about yesterday. It didn't annoy me, i.e., it wasn't like, "why must we talk about this?" because it wasn't personal or accusatory; it did confound me. Personal or accusatory would have been, "why on earth do you eat that way?" or something. But I'm jumping ahead again.

We were talking about chocolate, because we are going to a place of great chocolate. I was asked whether I ate chocolate. Why, yes, every day, I said. "It must be low-carb chocolate." Huh? It's just regular dark-chocolate, in the form of Trader Joe's pound-plus bars, 72 percent cacao (no, I don't eat a bar a day, but that would be hilarious; I eat about a serving, or two to three squares). My colleague was nonplussed. Yes, we've discussed how these are not technically vegan, for those counting sugar not guaranteed to be not refined over bone char. We've also discussed how I pick my battles. Anyway, I couldn't resist picking up on this low-carb bullcrap and letting my coworker know that I partake in a high-carb diet. And I love it. I just had my delicious whole-wheat pasta, doused in olive oil and seasoned with nutritional yeast. Mmmm. That's the $hit--pasta and chocolate, not to mention all the other carbs (today: oatmeal, barley, sweet potato, apple, wine, bean salad)--that keeps me in my size 00 apparel and ample muscle. Don't buy into the low-carb lies; just don't.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday evening roundup

Oh, Hungarian far-right.

Fascinating piece on the future of manufacturing in the US.

The Onion scores another win against a Chinese state newspaper. This one is probably the most awesome ever.

Tell me that this is also merely an Onion article? Sadly, it is real.

An honest takeaway from the Chris Brown twitter debacle.

Travel inexpensively but don't skimp on what's important.

Make "Next!" your dating mantra.


Tuesday morning roundup

Things in North Korea are bad.

Japan inches toward a (still defensive) regional military role. To anyone who knows the region, this is a massive paradigm shift:
In a measure of the geopolitical changes roiling the region, however, concerns about any resurgent Japanese militarism appear to be fading in some countries embroiled in their own territorial disputes with China, like Vietnam and the Philippines, the scene of fierce fighting during the war.
The drought--now covering 60 percent of the country, as reported this weekend--will impact commerce that depends on the free-flowing Mississippi.

IRC's refugee-agriculture programs are awesome.

We apparently have a maritime border dispute with Canada.

David Brooks on personal change:
You can tell people that they are fat and that they shouldn’t eat more French fries, but that doesn’t mean they will stop. You can make all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, earnestly deciding to behave better, but that doesn’t mean you will.
People don’t behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape.
Human behavior flows from hidden springs and calls for constant and crafty prodding more than blunt hectoring. The way to get someone out of a negative cascade is not with a ferocious e-mail trying to attack their bad behavior. It’s to go on offense and try to maximize some alternative good behavior. There’s a trove of research suggesting that it’s best to tackle negative behaviors obliquely, by redirecting attention toward different, positive ones.

Yes! I've had trouble shopping for basic blazers, because they're all bedazzled now. But I'm not on TV and I still like a blazer to throw over my dress when I need something more formal then a sweater. And with regard to, "You can get a really nice dress for $300," you can get a really nice dress for $40.

Last but not least: how to close your envelopes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday evening roundup and ramble-rant

Yup, the manliness crisis is women's fault. It has nothing to do with things like he-waxes.

***
Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't
Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won't
Depend on how the wind blows I might even paint my toes
It really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul
                                                                                 -India Arie

like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind

like what I happen to be wearing 

the day that someone takes my picture 

is my new statement for all womankind

                                                                                -Ani DiFranco
                                                                       

Let's talk about the bizarre social space of making comments to people about their appearance. I've ramble-ranted about this before, mostly with regard to weight; today, I reacted to a neutral comment about my hair with surprising annoyance. Such comments don't generally set me off or inspire me to wax philosophical, but I've been irritable (see my two altercations with customer service people over the weekend).

Now, mom would argue that the reason I get "defensive" about my hair, my weight, etc. (in mom's case, the list would including my lips, my skin, and who knows what else) is that I'm not happy with those things, but I continually argue that I just don't want to hear it. Especially with regard to food: I'm very happy with my food; that doesn't mean I want to justify it continually.

But I've jumped ahead. Let's take the kinds of comments one can make about another's appearance:

(1) Pure compliments: "You look great!"
(2) Backhanded compliments: "You age very well, especially for [your ethnicity]."
(3) Clumsy compliments: "You look so much nicer than you always do! Special occasion?"
(4) Retroactive insults: "You look great! Before, you looked like a whale."
(5) Inquisitive questions: "Have you lost weight?" "Have you cut your hair?"
(6) Straight-up comments: "Your hair is straight."
(7) Nosy questions: "Why have you straightened your hair?"

If you can't say (1) or (5), don't say anything at all. There is no reason to. If you're just throwing things out there to make conversation, find something more interesting to make conversation about. I don't know what to say to an inquisitive “your hair is straight.” Yes, it f*ing is. We had this conversation last weekend. Sometimes my hair is straight. Who the f* cares? I sure don't. If you need help making more interesting conversation--to quote that Jezebel article, again--go read a book or something.

Monday morning roundup

Congo descends into even greater chaos and violence.

An industry pushes back against safety regulations; preventable deaths ensue.

I don't subscribe to O but when I read it--say, waiting room copies or friends' copies--I like what's there.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Barclaycard: the audacity!

My credit card was bought out by Barclay's a month or so ago. I had to call them a few weeks ago because I returned a dress (go me!) to J Crew outlet, to which I didn't get soon enough to return it to the old card, and the credit wasn't showing up. In the same phone call, I asked the guy whether the automatic payment I had set up with the other card would go through; he said no but not to worry about it: there would be no payment due until December. Indeed, the amount due shown on my account was $0.0. So imagine my surprise when I logged in to find a late fee assessed.

I called. The Bangalorian I spoke to was all, "oh, you couldn't make your payment on time and so we assessed you a late fee" and a I was all, "bitch, I didn't make my payment on time because I never got a statement and none was available on the website, which showed no payment due." Except I didn't actually say "bitch." She kept on condescendingly explaining when the payment was due (i.e., Friday) and I kept explaining to her that I knew that now but that was not made clear to me before the actual payment was due, and that someone at Barclay's specifically told me that no payment was due before December. Finally, she said, "what would you like to for me to do regarding the late fee?" I said, "how about crediting it back, miss Mensa?" Just kidding. I said, "I would like you to credit it back." She said something along the lines of, "okay, but just this once, because you were confused because of the transition." I said, "I was confused, asshole?" Just kidding. I thanked her and let it go.

***
Postscript: I apologize to the customer service people I was snippy at this weekend; you caught me on a moody weekend. By the time I have to make that call, I'm already annoyed about something, and, really, you were not listening. But that's no excuse; I shouldn't have taken a tone. If mom has taught me anything, it's that speaking more loudly and angrily is not going to make the other person take you more seriously or listen more attentively to what you're saying. I don't like to add one more crabby phone call to your day's worth (and I usually don't, regardless of the issue), so I'm sorry.

Sunday afternoon roundup

Ancestors of the Jews who fled the Inquisition to Colombia are rediscovering their identities.

In memory of Vladka Meed, who wrote about maintaining one's humanity "in the face of hell."

Are Afghanistan's Hazara at [more] risk [than usual]?

Secretary Rice (former, not potential) explains the Middle East for you. But don't forget Algeria or Kuwait. Also, let's play "who won the latest conflagration": reconcile the Ombudsman's very valid response to criticisms of bias in middle east coverage with this reality.

Andrew Soloman's book on the parents of children with serious conditions.

Your guide to the Richard III debate and to last century's war on Mexico.

Tom Toles nails it (while ALEC fights it). Oh, while we're on cartoons, check out these.

Look, I love going carless as much as anyone, but if DC's going to make parking harder, they need to make their Metro trains and buses more reliable. I've drove to a party in DC last weekend--it was not quite near a Metro--and to Thanksgiving in DC on Thursday--I was lugging food, and I was
glad to be able to park.

This remarkably silly piece made it no surprise to find that it was written by an expert on the internet, not a psychologist.

The Smithsonian on the history of how we eat.

Gracie would have voted for Hank the Cat if she could have.

Date Lab is most pleasurable at its most vapid.

Speaking of vapid, the Post's piece on cycling in the winter is lacking in anything new or interesting (here's an idea: wear warm clothes when you bike).

Sunday morning roundup

Prostitution in India is just another industry "where information technology has undermined the role of middlemen," with mixed results for prostitutes.

Drug companies have an increasing influence over medical research.

Yesterday, when I mock-glibly blogged about the boots I ordered in a post that started with a story about Syrian dissidents, my logic was, "look, wearing crappy boots isn't going to bring peace to Syria. I blog about my first-world problems not because I lack perspective on third-world problems; in fact, I essentially have a master's degree in third-world problems (or developing-world problems, as we like to call them). I blog about first-world problems because those are the ones I can do something about. The conflict in Syria, not so much. But I, you, we can give to Oxfam, etc. to mitigate Syrian refugees' brutal winter.
Since only about 35 percent of the $70 million budgeted for winterization has been funded, only the most vulnerable third of the population will get help, Mr. Moumtzis said. Or as one senior diplomat put it, the refugees will be fed, “but not generously,” and they will be clothed, but “they will be cold.” 
You know something's really not right when I respect Kim Kardashian's position.

Steve Pearlstein pleas--no, makes the case--for outside-the-box thinking and positioning on the budget deal.

Crafty hipsters embrace Martha Stewart.

The question is, when will the caviar vending machines hit Japan?

I'm quite satisfied with Google Voice Search. It is particularly useful for speaking addresses for the maps/navigation apps, when you don't have time to type.

Sorry, guys--I should have published this two hours ago before I got distracted. I'll get you the rest in an afternoon or evening roundup.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday morning roundup and rant

Diary of a dissident Alawite.

Morsi overreaches.

Neuroscientists want to take back neuroscience, or at least put the science back in.

No one still uses flax seeds? I do; but I'm also open to hemp and chia for certain things. I don't care for chia's gelatinous properties. Now I know what my gay husband is getting for the holidays, and it's not here.

If you only look at one photo slideshow this week, make it that of the Pushkar camel market.

Paul Rudnick never fails to crack me up.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Classic, vintage mom blog

The parents Skype-video called. The following was said:

Mom: Where are your lips? What's wrong with your forehead? Is your hair always like that? I mean, is your whole forehead always entirely exposed? Why don't you style your hair to cover more of your forehead?

Dad: She looks fine.

Mom: She'll look fine once she gets her lips done. She hardly has any lips. They're pencil-thin. It's very sexy to have substantial lips.

And so on.

Friday evening ramble

May I ramble a bit more about mom, and about my mom-related epiphanies? They just keep coming.

A year ago, I thought I was at peace with mom and her antics. This was before the most recent, most egregious antics, but I still thought I'd come to terms with the reality and learned to manage it: hear it out, let it roll off, and transpose it into humorous copy for my faithful readers. I had accepted that mom wasn't going to change, so I'd better adapt however I could. Out of loyalty and love, I would continue to visit her, and I would continue to deal by writing about her. But I realize now that I resented her for that arrangement: she had won. She could be herself, say whatever she wanted, do whatever she wanted--no matter the impact on anyone else. By wearing everyone out and determining that she would never budge, she had won. And--as I also learned as I accepted a similar arrangement with F., when you feel that the arrangement is unfair, you end up snapping. I went into the Labor Day Weekend trip holding my breath and letting mom do her thing, all the while resenting her for it.

But then I stopped resenting her, because I realized just how much she has not won. I understand just how tortured she is. All the f*ed up accusations she hurls at me (and dad, and everyone else) are reflections of what she doesn't like about herself. She knows she has these issues, and she refuses to meaningfully address them, so she projects them on everyone else. She knows that it's obnoxious to constantly interrupt someone when they're talking to someone--especially someone in a foreign country--which is why she takes it so personally when she's called on it. She can't accept responsibility for anything (see previous post), so calling her out makes her lash out.

This doesn't make her any easier to be around, but removes some of the manufactured injustice from the situation. It's not, "you win, I'm going to sit here and let you insult me, because that's the only way it can be;" it's, "we both lose, but you lose more, so interacting with you is still no picnic, but I feel compassion for you rather than resentment, and it makes me more sad than angry or bitter."

Black Friday evening roundup

Gratitude is good for you.

Quebec cracks down on foreign-language signs. I have to say, Poulet Frit Kentucky sounds incredibly silly.

Sigh. I don't buy Tara Parker-Pope's or Gina Kolata's argument--nor this woman's embrace of it. It is fundamentally flawed. Of course obese people forced to subsist on 500 calories a day don't lose weight or gain it back; that doesn't mean that they can't lose weight. It means that starving themselves backfires. It's an issue of "because," not "even though."

Cryptographers tackle a mystery pigeon.

The Onion on Black Friday.

Slate on Skymall. I had no idea there was so much cat stuff.

Black Friday morning roundup

Sandy-hit areas rally for Thanksgiving.

Toward a saner drug policy.

I saw this headline--"Turkey takes a backseat to bargains"--and thought, huh?? I tried to place it: "Turkey's slowed economic growth... Turkey's setback in becoming a regional player... where do bargains fit in... [pause, look at the associated photo]... oh, that turkey."

If you are shopping today, use your smartphone to guide the way. I, myself, am going to work. Ciao.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving ramble

I talked to mom and dad this morning, and then just dad. The first conversation was not without humor.

Dad: Mom bought a couple of those things--what do you call them, those American desserts where you put fruit in it and then dough over the top?
A.: Pie?
Dad: Yes--that.

The second conversation was less amusing. Mom had stormed out after dad told her how he felt about her having chased him off of Skype--with his best friend in Russia--to go see what a beautiful day it was. This not unlike mom; when she decides you must experience something, she decides that you must drop everything to experience it, and you must experience it the same way she does. Mom was talking loudly, so dad pretty much had to get off the phone. When dad called her on what she'd done, mom started badmouthing dad's friend and saying that she knew things about him that he didn't even know (really? dad went to grade school with this guy; I've met him; mom's never had a bad thing to say about him before). But mom can't stand to be in the wrong in any way, and so to bring herself into the right, she tried to undermine the person dad was having a conversation with. As if it mattered.

Dad then told me that mom had driven off somewhere. Mom's neurologist gave her the go-ahead to drive during the day but not at night. Dad could have sworn that the doctor had uttered the world 'Alzheimer's' but I argued that he'd misheard; mom's symptoms are not those of dementia.

I feel for dad. He handles it well, but it has to be a strain on him. I'm there for him to the extent that I can be and still maintain my sanity, which, at this point in my life, means staying away from mom.

***
On the way to Thanksgiving dinner, I stopped at another friend's house to drop off some shoes. The friend had surgery, can only wear flats, needs a pair for an upcoming job interview, and can't move enough beforehand to do the requisite shopping. I popped in, said hello to her family. She showered me with thanks and compliments: my hair looked great, look at those boots, look at those jeans, I was going to pick someone up where I was going. Nope, I said: just other single women, and a couple of couples. She lamented that the hair, boots, jeans would be wasted. She also asked if I wasn't getting too thin. I shrugged, reassured her that I ate as much as I wanted and could still boast some flab. Worry about me if I lose another pound or two, and even then, what would you have me do?

***
Thanksgiving was lovely. I've been giving annual thanks with permutations of this crowd on and off for many, many years now, and it feels like family. Everything I ate--which was everything but the turkey and mashed potatoes, and even I have to admit that the turkey was picture-perfect--was amazing. The hostess set aside some vegan stuffing for me, and there were a few salads and vegetable dishes, including some fantastic olive-oil roasted brussel sprouts. The squash gratin I brought was a big hit, with several requests for the recipe.

Thanksgiving mom blog ramble

Could I ramble to you for a minute about letting things into one's life? This has been on my mind a lot as I continue to process the newly-acknowledged realities of my relationship with my mother.

My mother and I are again and still on speaking terms, but even before the absurd Labor Day weekend episode, I had to definitively acknowledge that even though I have mom, to the extent that I have people who play the role of mother in my life, mom is not one of them. Mom gave birth to me and raised me, so she is my mother, but in the sense that a mother supports you, has your back, encourages you, etc., mom does not play the role of mother.

I may have realized this before in a disconnected, matter-of-fact way, but it only recently gelled into an in-your-face epiphany. Actually, I know the exact moment when it gelled: it was when mom learned that F. and I had broken up, merely a few hours after the breakup. Mom didn't waste a breath before saying, "well, you know what your problem is? You're harsh; you're not feminine. You need to be more... kitten-like." This neither surprised me nor hurt me, at least not at face-value. It was pretty much what I expected from mom: mom was not a source of comfort or emotional support.

This was certainly not the first time this had happened (this wasn't even the first time she took the side of an ex), and certainly not the first time I thought about it. I live a blessed life, and I haven't experienced the kind of challenges where one would turn to one's mother for comfort. To the extent that I have--work troubles, roommate troubles, etc.--I know not to turn to mom for comfort or support, so I had never really given her the chance to fail. Which is not to say that she hasn't taken it anyway, at the slightest opening. Mom doesn't need bad situations to fail to support; she manages to turn happy occasions into $hit storms. She tried her best to sabotage both my graduations (and she succeeded at the first one; at the second, a family friend chastised her into decent behavior). Five years ago, she took the moment I'd gotten the job offer I'd worked so hard for and tried to turn it into a failure.

I write all this not as an indictment of mom. Mom is who she is, and she's not wired for comfort and support. To expect it from her would be to expect an embrace from someone with no arms (which is not to say that people with no arms can't find a way to hug, but you see my point). I've known this for a while; it was not the epiphany that hit me this summer.

The epiphany that hit me this summer was that I could use a mother--that there was room in my life for the role of a mother. And in the spirit of "ask and you shall receive," mothers rolled in. A couple were already in my life, but I got even more. It was like when I acknowledged before leaving for Budapest, as well as the first day there, that I knew I'd be among friends again soon--that Friday in Prague--and I didn't know where companionship could possibly come from, but I was open to receiving it. And so I ran into an old grad school friend on the bus on the way to Dulles, and made friends in my tour group and with the tour guide in Budapest. Not to keep harping on this, but it blows my mind: I go to a city in a country known for its meat-based cuisine, and I connect with a fellow vegan. The next day, I lose everything I need to get to the wedding that this whole trip is about--including the address and all the phone numbers--and ask for some way to get there, and I connect with the groom's parents, who lead the way. So, without blaming mom for leaving gaps in the role of being my mother, I've been increasingly open to the fact that I wouldn't mind those gaps sealed.

And the (gender-neutral) moms rolled in. People already in my life who listened to me without judgment and offered support. Even in Prague, Nina's aunt-in-law and friend filled in. It was Nina who'd brought up mom--after all, mom was once married to her uncle--and when the stories came out, it was all, "well, it sounds like you need a real mom, and we're here for you."

I've recently grown closer to a gym friend at work. She was having a hard time, so I shared some coping techniques with her. I told her what I used them for in my life (including mourning the fact that even though I had mom, I didn't have a mother). She was there for me very recently when I was about to lose my mind from complete overwhelm at work and home. I summarized for her my Labor Day Weekend adventures. She replied that I had beautiful skin and hair, and that I radiated nothing but warmth.

Mom's constant chiding me about my talking too much, knowing it all, being socially overbearing, etc. has taken a toll; I have felt the need to tone down my fabulous, vibrant self. I had just expressed a thought in class and quickly thought, "am I talking too much?" During the break, the woman sitting next to me approached me and said, "I love the way you talk." She said that I was articulate, analytical, and spot-on--capable of stating in ten seconds what it would take her two minutes to express.

***
For so long, I told myself it didn't matter: that I emerged from my relationship with mom, unscathed. At least relatively unscathed. I'm an adult; I have meaningful relationships. I let mom's character attacks and digs at my appearance roll off, because I can. I mine it for copy, for comedy value, therefore I clear it from my consciousness. But my badly mangled date last week was such a gift--such a wake-up call--that all those attacks can still get to me.

Maybe it's not fair to blame mom--after all, I was exhausted and overwhelmed that night, and that had nothing to do with mom. And she's certainly not the only well-meaning bullshit mongerer telling me that men don't care about smart, that one needs to cover up her lady-balls when dating. Fair enough: I'm not blaming mom; I'm acknowledging that the impact she has on my spirit is generally toxic, and that I should not only limit that impact, but manage it. And that, gosh-darnit, I could use a mother, or two, or three. I accept and forgive mom for not being that mother; I know she does the best she can, with the programming that she has. My point is not to excoriate mom for her shortcomings in that role; it's to thank everyone who's stepped in to fulfill it, and to be grateful that they're in my life.

Thanksgiving morning roundup

But first, your Thanksgiving quote: "I would rather be able to appreciate things I can not have than to have things I am not able to appreciate." -Elbert Hubbard, author, editor, printer (1856-1915)

***
The EU's wine cellars are well-stocked.


The generator business is flourishing, because our power grid and other infrastructure are not. But there's progress.

The trouble with mammography.

The turkey-pardoning ritual is inane.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday evening roundup


Is the saddest thing about the Middle East that it's come to this?

Wow. I want to disagree with Ruth Marcus, but I can't entirely, and not only because I've defended Robin Givhan. But Robin Givhan puts wardrobe choices in context; she doesn't warn men to beware of women who dress to flatter. And yet... she has a point. Whether it's right or not, women attract attention by how they dress. But, but... who defines "dresses like a sex object"? How much should women go out of their way to hide their figures? And, by the way, women in the military have uniforms, too.


While we're on the topic of statements I disagree with:
Becoming food savvy is one thing, but it’s amazing how fast savvy turns to snooty, and snooty leaves you preparing three-hour meals that break your budget and that the kids won’t even eat.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/21/redeeming-the-supermarket-the-diet-for-the-99/#ixzz2CuNXnVhO
Becoming food savvy is one thing, but it’s amazing how fast savvy turns to snooty, and snooty leaves you preparing three-hour meals that break your budget and that the kids won’t even eat.
Becoming food savvy is one thing, but it’s amazing how fast savvy turns to snooty, and snooty leaves you preparing three-hour meals that break your budget and that the kids won’t even eat.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/21/redeeming-the-supermarket-the-diet-for-the-99/#ixzz2CuNXnVhO

The Onion on apes and their mid-life crises.

Wednesday morning roundup

India has a ways to go in terms of protecting speech.

What's the right size for government?

When you start to get depressed about the world, find inspiration in awesome ten-year olds.

Food waste is an abomination. So are the conditions of most food workers.

Mark Bittman's ode to the sweet potato. And, from Time, some other ideas for chips. I have yet to successfully make kale chips (need to remember to dry out the kale) but I'll keep trying. Haven't thought about turnip chips, but I've made some really tasty turnip fries.

That's a lot of $hit for a sandwich.

I will not be laying off the wine this holiday season. Mmm, wine.

Ooh! Today is my Gracie-versary: six years I've had that furball.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Quick Tuesday morning roundup

Solar can still add value even when it's off the grid.

I appreciate the concept of congestion pricing, but did nobody think about making an already-confusing area for drivers even more so?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday evening roundup

Organic farming requires less energy input.

Remember my epiphany about how I'm kind of a gay man because I like ballet, cats, and gay men? Well, if knowing the difference between hummus and baba ghanoush is thrown into the equation, we know to which side that tips the scales. However, though I did love the film as a child, I'm not particularly taken with "The Wizard of Oz," and that apparently counts for a lot.

Another karma-is-a-bitch episode with regard to smug married women:
Yeah, I was judgmental. It was inconceivable to me that you wouldn't be able to tell, pretty much right off the bat, what kind of man you were getting involved with. It didn't occur to me that people change -- or that people can be pretty damn good at hiding things.
So when this happened to me, a lightbulb flashed on. Ohhhh, you mean bad things can happen to smart people? You mean people don't necessarily walk around with signs saying, "I'll cheat on you" or "My social drinking is going to become a real problem down the line" or "Maybe I'm great with the dog, but I'm going to be a lousy dad"? Now I was the one getting the ol' Ohhhhh, didn't you know? eyebrow raise. Karma is a bitch.

Now when I see judgmental comments online, or I hear them in real life, I just laugh. You wait, I think. In fact, I think most of the time when women are being judgmental about other women's relationships, they just haven't found out something about their husbands yet. If you haven't, and never do, then you should still be nice to those not as lucky as yourself -- because you didn't necessarily choose correctly. Luck played a role too.
Oh how I would love to see Ljubljana.

Mark Bittman on a number of food and agriculture issues. By the way, I made the squash gratin that my friends made last weekend, and it was f*ing phenomenal.

Monday morning: The world is on fire

Israel-Palestine and Congo (Democratic Republic of) have pushed Syria off the front page, but not entirely.

Wyoming drank the Kool-aid.

Body image issues are plaguing males, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday roundup

Sandy has devastated Haitian farmers.

Hunger in DC has spread.

Let this be a lesson to other states with hateful, intolerant policies: you will lose high-quality people, which just brings more of them to places like DC. Are you listening, French protesters?

Meat kills.

Don't believe these myths about the brain.

Your "age is just a number" moment: when a 38-year old rocks a dress and a 22-year old does not.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday morning roundup

Ikea used forced East German labor.

The military shows the pitfalls of incentivizing marriage.

Please dispose of your used smartphones as sustainably as possible.

The Onion on secession.

Gail Collins on the election. Wow:
The Maine Republican chairman was breathlessly reporting that “dozens, dozens of black people” had mysteriously shown up to vote in rural areas.
I'm laying off of the Twinkies jokes because they speak for themselves, but here's how you can make your own if you need a fix.

My self-imposed clusterf* of a hell week

You haven't heard much from me because I've been in headless-chicken mode. I had a fantastic long weekend with friends, but the drive took a lot out of me. Then I spent the next few days working late, sleeping poorly, and spending half my free time cooking and baking things for work events and the rother half running to non-work events. It was a week of misses, from the botched chili for the chili cook-off at work (the quinoa drained the flavor, making the chili bland) to the bad date (bad because I was a mess). Now, botched chili is not a tragedy--I had to make chili because I'm on the social committee at work (don't ask) and this was our event, and not that many people signed up to cook--but cooking misses make me sad. The bad date, however... I rarely meet interesting guys with personality, who look like Jon Hamm (except possibly more attractive). How do I botch the opportunity when it actually arises?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday evening roundup

I hope these "pro-life" decision makers are happy with themselves. Actually, that's not what I hope at all.

Oh, male journalists. Why is Chris Cillizza still employed? Do we need his inane analysis?

Is the Netherlands worth emulating with regard to disaster prevention?

"Idiocracy" was ahead of its time.

I'm with this blogger: I'm a feminist--unabashedly, unlike the maligned Taylor Swift--but like TS, I have no interest in wearing the pants in the relationship. None.

Here are some unique holiday tips.

Thursday morning roundup

Yes, the new Pepsi is what people need to help manage their weight.

Single women explained:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday morning roundup

A new, risky book on China's Great Famine.

What does the future hold for Washington-Moscow relations?

Tom Friedman on Syria (the dude knows what he's talking about, when he's talking about the Middle East).

Egyptian women are in the middle of their own revolution.

Is the era of sustainable biofuels upon us?

When the people who grow your food lack access to clean drinking water.

Is a doctor's note the right approach to obese airline passengers?



Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday evening roundup

Coal isn't exactly spreading the wealth in Mozambique.

The cupcake craze hits Ethiopia.

A few states file for secession.

Clean tap water, especially in/after an emergency, is nothing to sneeze at.

Don't overuse antibiotics, especially on your kids.

Frank Bruni makes excellent, excellent points about the media coverage of the Petraeus affair, with regard to personal responsibility.

Way to go Los Angeles!

Oh, man.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday morning roundup

The UK determines cuts the development aid cord with India, or plans to.

The Economist is at its best when dripping with sarcasm. I, for one, confess to contributing to the slow fray of the social fabric, though I wouldn't dare speak for my fellow immigrants. In fact--though I doubt this was what Mr. Krikorian meant--I was just telling both my gay husband and my gay mistress about my epiphany, that I am in many ways a gay man. Think about it: I like ballet, cats, and gay men. And those are just a few examples. But it seems that I am part of a greater social trend.

Alright, all--I'm away for the next couple of days. Have a great weekend and I'll talk to you Monday or Tuesday.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday evening roundup

Take it from the Secretary of State: quit whining about your life choices.

I don't know about you, but I--and I am no fan of schoolbuses--find this punishment is spot-on.

It's funny: I struggled with the same concepts when I first learned French, and it's absolutely true that going through the process made me a better writer in English.

Does this strike anyone else as a ridiculous fluff piece that no woman would have written? If the Post wants to go close-reading photos, they best get Robin Givhan back, because she's actually good at it.

Who the hell charges people, much less family members, for hosting holidays?

Let's talk about women, as voters. Let's start with Amy Davidson's take:
When you are insulted, when you are told that endless conversations about liberty do not include control of your own body, when it becomes clear that a politician views the crisis of a woman who has just been raped as an abstraction, you begin to think about sympathy, and its limits. And you begin to think about trust.
And now, Alexandra Petri:
 Any more, and we’ll stop being excited to see a woman on the ballot. This will become dull and routine, and “Women Senators” will just be “senators.” Women will stop being lumped together and start being evaluated on their individual merits. They might even run against each other! Who wants that? We must retain the magic, at all costs. Familiarity breeds contempt. Women are a special-interest group who vote in monolithic packs because otherwise they worry that bad things will happen to their rights. And the fewer of them there are in office, the longer they are likely to stay that way.
No no, any more, and we’ll start taking the days when our legislatures don’t try to tamper with our bodies for granted! Stuff and nonsense. After Title IX, Relaxing Without Fear That The Government Wants To Make Deeply Personal Choices For You is one of the few activities men can still enjoy without women showing up and ruining everything.
...
I look forward to the day when a candidate’s gender is barely noteworthy. I look forward to the day when the choice is just between two people.
Now I’m excited by 20 women. But I can’t wait for the day when I’m disappointed by that number. 
But I don't think these Drunk Nate Silver jokes are funny. These are better.

Thursday morning review, roundup, and rambles

"You for Me for You" was powerful, creative, poignant, and very watchable. In other words, it was excellent. Like everything else at Woolly Mammoth, it was avant-garde, but unlike most of Woolly's last season, the avant-garde enhanced the play rather than distracting from it. It was cleanly and yet creatively written, and effectively and creatively produced. Not to mention well-acted. All this to say, if you're in the area, go see it; if you're not, get it to your area.

I saw it the day after I not-unironically wrote to you about my first-world problems. With no bitterness or sanctimony, the play laid first-world miracles as well as absurdities in stark contrast to third-world problems. I use that term deliberately, though some of you may prefer 'developing world,' but let's be honest: would you sooner describe North Korea as developing or third world? Point is, it could have been easy for either the writer or director to fall into the sanctimony trap, but they resisted, and the play is stronger for it.


***
Evan Osnos is always worth reading, and his piece on high-speed rail in China is revelatory and shocking, without being all that surprising. This is not the most important excerpt, but I share it because it's striking:
The Minister’s brother had arranged for himself such a healthy piece of ticket sales that he accumulated the equivalent of fifty million dollars in cash, real estate, jewelry, and art. When investigators caught him, he was living among mountains of money so large and unruly that the bills had begun to molder. (Storing cash is one of the most vexing challenges confronting corrupt Chinese officials, because the largest bill in circulation is a hundred-yuan note, worth about fifteen dollars.)
More to the point,
In China, as in the United States, corruption and growth flourished together. In the nineteen-eighties, a carton of Double Happiness cigarettes was enough to secure a job transfer or the ration coupon for a washing machine. But in 1992 China began to free up the distribution of land and factories for private use, and the corruption boom was under way. According to the sinologist Andrew Wedeman, in a single year the average sum recovered in corruption cases more than tripled, to six thousand dollars. Cartons of Double Happiness gave way to Herm├Ęs bags, sports cars, and tuition for children studying abroad. The larger the deal, the higher the cadre needed to approve it, and bribes moved straight up the ranks.
*** 

The influence of big donors and superPACs on the election was not commensurate with their spending.

Colbert on demographics and porous borders, or, er, women.

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California disappointed, but a movement emerged.

How green is your pot?

Every vote counts. A number of DC residents were saying at work that their vote wasn't important, but it was: without their votes, there would be a different electoral landscape. Also, the popular vote matters. Still, I applaud Dana Milbank for his protest vote.

There's something to be said for November-is-National-Novel-Writing-Month, but it is emphatically not that one should try to publish one's crap; it's that most things start out as crap and that it's okay, perhaps necessary, to let the crap flow. But then you have to revise.

I only skimmed this piece on singlism, but it made me think about how it's not reflective of anyone I know, apart from my mother.

David Sedaris is hilarious.

***
Yesterday, I had an early-morning doctor's appointment, worked a full day, went to the gym for lunch, and got my hair cut before going to the play. Not complaining; the other stuff 'broke up' what would have otherwise just been a long day at the office, and the work that's kept me there for very long days is starting to settle. But two things: (1) it's days like that when you're so glad the play you've hung around for after a long day, delivers; and (2) is it okay that I'm too tired to bike to work?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday evening ramble: my first-world problems, an update

While we're waiting for election results to come in, I thought I'd update you on my glorious first world problems. And they are glorious--especially those that are resolved, like the Bose miles.

I've been meaning to ramble about something similar for a while, but how quickly and effectively Bose took care of the issue really brought home this point: Bose is a high-end company that doesn't f* around with its customers. F*ing around with its customers is not worth it. AAdvantage has a lot to learn from Bose in the way of addressing customer inquiries and complaints.

But I also wanted to ramble about an interesting 'unintended consequence' of my having bought the Bose, whether or not I got the miles for it (though, as I'd written here, I probably wouldn't have splurged on the Bose had I not had miles to save... but I'm glad I did). When you air-travel a fair amount, quality noise-cancelling headphones are a necessity rather than a luxury. For years, I'd been traveling with Panasonics, which are supposed to be as good, but  my Panasonics have been on the fritz, and the Bose are better, anyway (and take up less space). But since I have these Panasonics that I no longer really care about, I thought I'd use them on my commute. I wouldn't use the Bose on my commute (are you kidding? $300 headphones on the Metro??), and speaking of Metro, really?? Daylight Savings Time is beyond your logistical capabilities? Really?? But I digress. As I was saying, I've been wearing the Panasonics on Metro, and it's been amazing. The noise reduction is significant and noticeable, to the extent that I realize I've forgotten to put them on when I hear shrill Metro noises. I'll wear them to the office, too--just a five-minute walk from the Metro, but lots of loud trucks on the way. Numbing so much of this noise has really made a difference. I'm probably calmer.

***
Now, let's see... my other lingering, protracted bureaucratic battle--the one with the dentist who pulled my wisdom teeth--has been resolved. The dentist got all the payments from my insurance, and, at my request, refunded (most of) what I paid. In the end, after both sets of insurance did their thing, I ended up paying $180, which is more than reasonable for a job very well done. I love not having wisdom teeth, and I love that the sockets that previously held the wisdom teeth have healed just fine.

***
The unresolved first-world problem: none of my pants fit, and it's hard to find pants that do fit. Banana Republic's 0s are noticeably baggy on me; 00 petites are about right, but they're hard to come by. My dresses are mostly not suitable for cold weather.

A friend and I were discussing this at the gym the other day: she's also small, she's also been sized out by vanity sizing. And neither of us is emaciated: we're both quite muscular. If we're 00 petite, what the hell do emaciated people do for clothing?

Funny, when I said to her, "...and I'm not emaciated," she said, "but you're a woman," as if to say it was okay to not be emaciated--as if I were apologizing. I'm not criticizing her for her social impulse; I'm merely noting the impulse to reassure a woman that it's okay to have flesh on her bones. The truth is, I have no aspirations to be emaciated; this is why I keep ranting against the idea that rail-thin models 'cause' eating disorders. The existence of very thin people, alone, does not make people engage in unhealthy behavior or even unhealthy thinking. When I see very, very thin people, I by no means think, "I want to look like that." More power to them if that's their natural body type, and for some it is. But I was just watching the video for Beth Orton's "Concrete Sky"--and I love Beth Orton, and I love "Concrete Sky," but I just think, 'I wouldn't want to look like that.'


I'd also run into this particular (work) friend the day before, on the way out of the office. She was about to break up with a guy she'd been seeing, and she had a plan, according to what she'd read in a book: guys are data-driven, and you have to talk to them like you'd approach a logical argument--for example, "you wouldn't invest in down-trending markets, so why would I want to stay in a relationship where all the indicators look pretty bad?" I didn't ask her how that had worked out for her.

***
I felt like an @$$hole again today because I was telling people that there's nothing to do out by the Eiffel Tower, i.e., if you're going to stay in Paris, don't stay there. What can I say? I know Paris. I sometimes find myself saying, "the last time I was in Paris..." and I can't help it if it sounds douchey, it's just true. Besides, isn't Lyubljana the new Paris? It I were trying to go for status, I'd start saying, "last time I was in Lyubljana..." That, and I haven't been to Paris in over twelve years. Thinking about it makes my heart hurt, because that city is such a part of my soul.

***
The overall first-world "problem" is that I've been crazy busy at work. It's been exhausting, which is fine--always, because I always know I'm blessed to be employed--but the sense of blessing has been even more intense: the work is so fascinating that I'm constantly struck by the sense of "this is awesome, I can't believe I get paid for this." And there's the whole working with really great people thing. And generally being constantly amazed at the caliber of people in my life. That, thankfully, is not uniquely a first-world problem.

Tuesday morning roundup

Egyptians attempt to tackle street harassment in spite of the police and government.

People will miss the historic boardwalks that were washed away.

Wow. Powerful statements from 9 LDS women.

Emotional intelligence is essential to men's happiness, too.

The case for accepting children as they are.

Henna art is cool.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday morning roundup

The Copts adjust to a new reality with a new Pope.

Rahul Gandhi is no Bill Clinton.

Russia looks to harvest the tourism potential of its mountain and lake regions.

Beware the looming Alternative Minimum Tax.

Pandora finds itself in the eye of a royalties storm.

If I didn't live in a swing state, I'd be all over third-party candidates.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday morning roundup

The ANC continues to disappoint and is losing support fast. The featured photo, also here, is striking.

Women in China face institutional as well as cultural barriers to advancement.

Is being gay in Pakistan in some ways easier than being straight and unmarried?
The reason is that while the notion of homosexuality may be taboo, homosocial, and even homosexual, behavior is common enough. Pakistani society is sharply segregated on gender lines, with taboos about extramarital sex that make it almost harder to conduct a secret heterosexual romance than a homosexual one. Displays of affection between men in public, like hugging and holding hands, are common. “A guy can be with a guy anytime, anywhere, and no one will raise an eyebrow,” the journalist said. 
And then there's this:
For many in his and previous generations, he said, same-sex attraction was not necessarily an issue because it did not involve questions of identity. Many Pakistani men who have sex with men do not think of themselves as gay. Some do it regularly, when they need a break from their wives, they say, and some for money.
Mexican cartels are bringing meth to a city near you. If they haven't already.

Germany welcomes India's engineers.

In anticipation of Tuesday, but even more so, January, calls for centrism. But what is center?

The world is safer than any politician is willing to admit.

Had Sandy hit the DC region harder, it would have been BAD. So how does any region prioritize and prepare?

How do we know if we can identify as Jews?

Not that you were wondering, but this is how I'm marinating my tempeh this week (see tempting tempeh wrap, just past half-way down).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday morning roundup

An artist in New York works with the darkness.

Do our reward circuits mess with (the rest of) our heads? Also, is that interpretation of "King Lear" very much off?

***
I woke up to an e-mail from my dad. He asked me if I'd ever heard anything about Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." I wasn't sure how to respond. Here were the options:

(1) Sarcasm: "I've spent the last few years under a rock, so, no, I've not heard anything about it."
(2) Pragmatism: "Please spend your precious time reading literature, not horrendously written, ideological drivel."
(3) Matter of fact: "My ex-bf had it on his bookshelf, along with "The Fountainhead" and maybe even another. Should have been one sign of many to run far, far away."
(4) All of the above: "Really??"

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday evening roundup

War f*s people up, in myriad ways.

I don't understand why some Jews think that Jews are stupid.

Insightful but somewhat depressing look into the ways of Washington.

AAAS dissents from its own board on Prop 37.

Empathy and logic cannot be summoned at the same time.

The Onion's contribution to the analysis of Nate Silver bashing (more here and here). Actually, this is one of those occasional (I won't say rare) instances where Alexandra Petri is worth reading.

Ah, traveling while single. I was just looking into tacking on an excursion to a possible work trip when I was put off by the single supplement (which in one case was more than double the tour price!). This has rarely been an issue for me because I've been blessed to so often connect with friends who want to travel to the same places, but sometimes you just want to go somewhere close to where you happen to be, and they don't make it easy.

Before I knew what that article was about, I thought it might be about navigating the holidays in general while single. This is one of those things--like Valentine's Day--that supposedly strikes dread in the hearts of others, but not me. Not because I'm entirely satisfied with my relationship status, but because I care less about external milestones like holidays. In fact, last year, I was dating someone during the holidays and still felt like I was on my own (mom didn't make it any better by constantly trying to set me up with someone else). At least this year, I will spend little, if any, time with my parents over the holidays.

Back to the article: Paris is complicated. I'm not one to hand anything over to couples, much less one of my favorite cities in the world; on the other hand, Paris can be painfully romantic if you're single. But not for long. I've spent a lot of time there, single, and loved it.

My parents used to make fun of me when I talked about Paris. In the Soviet Union, for most people, Paris was but a fantasy. There was some movie--or maybe some celebrity uttered this line in an interview: "the last time I was in Paris..." and it was scandalous, like someone saying "last time I was on the moon" with the tone one more suitable for "last time I cleaned my bathroom." And yet, my parents were only moderately impressed with Paris when they saw it. It's one of those cities that you have to let get under your skin for you to fall in love with it. And I did, and I find myself saying, with no intention of being obnoxious, "last time I was in Paris..." Of course, by now, last time I was in Paris was 2000 (March, I think), and that city will always have a claim to part of my soul. Then again, so will Cardiff, perhaps for the parts of it that evoke Paris.

***
AAdvantageGeek, thanks so much for the advice! I called Bose on Tuesday and my 1,500 bonus miles were posted that day, no questions asked. Wow. I really should have just dealt with Bose immediately, i.e., exclusively, and left the AAdvantage customer service people to stew in their own incompetence.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday evening ramble

In honor of World Vegan Day--which kicks off World Vegan Month--I'll share an idiotic comment that I fielded today from a friend, even though I sort of told you I'd stop ranting about idiotic comments pertaining to my veganism. The comment was--shocker--from a friend who eats like she thinks cavemen ate (see earlier post for rebuttal of that whole concept). It came about when I offered her chocolate and said I loved dark chocolate. She said, "that's why you're so thin, in spite of being vegan." Oh, honey. She and I have a sort of truce about talking about one another's eating habits, but the same loopholes apply as with my mother: I won't provoke, but I'll rebut statements that are just false. And yet, I've resisted saying to this friend, when she complains about how her skin has aged, "it's all those animal products--and your refusal to eat soy!" I just don't want to go there. People will believe what they will. All I said was, whatever. She then said something about how you can eat fat or carbs, but not both. I told her I ate both all the time. She said it was because I was "still young." Not gonna argue with the fact that I am still young, so I left it at that. The friend--who claims she prefers to not discuss politics--proceeded to drop references to liberals and lefties associated, dubiously, with everything she found distasteful. If I had more time, I might have had her justify the explanation, but it wasn't worth it.

***
Mom just called, independently of dad.

Mom: Oxfam--should I sent them money?
A.: Yes. They're one of the best.

***
At the party I went to Saturday, a woman whose mother was Slovakian talked about the $hitty things her mom said to her. It's a different standard. Eastern Europeans are not shocked by such things; it's what we know.

Today I went to lunch with friends, one of whom is Ukrainian. I gave her the short version of the mom fallout (the other friend had already heard it); it did not shock her; in fact, she commented that her mom is my mom, lite.

We three talked about our aging mothers. We remarked--the two of us Eastern Europeans, that is--that even though our moms always had a little crazy in them, the crazy just got crazier with age. I've been thinking a lot about this. My mom's always had a clueless streak, an inconsiderate streak, an unhelpful streak, and perhaps even a crazy streak--but she's gotten crazier with age. The 'unhelpful streak' resonated as my friend--who is eight-months pregnant, talked about how unhelpful her mom was when her first child was born, not in the sense that she wasn't practically helpful, but in the sense that she made a big deal out of superficial things, at the wrong time, when the focus should have been just making things easier for the mother and child. The focus should not have been picking fights. Yup. As she reminded us of this story, I thought about how that was so my mom: it's not that she wouldn't go out of her way to be helpful; it's that, at the same time, she wouldn't stop herself from being unhelpful. The thoughts of, "is this the right thing to say right now? Is it the most loving thing I can communicate to my daughter? Even though it's come to mind, is this the right time to share it?" do not cross our moms' minds. That filter--the "this is not about me" filter--is not there. It can't be persuaded, because it doesn't exist.

The Ukrainian friend understood--and helped convey to the other friend--the relative understandability of the moldy bread incident. For those of you who missed this story in August, it is here, complete with photo. "I still can't throw away bread," the friend said. "Oh, neither can I," I told her. "But this bread was really f*ing moldy." I showed them the picture. I'd brought this up as an example of mom's becoming more extreme in her old age (even as she accuses me of being more extreme in mine), but it became a fascinating case of cultural difference. To the Ukrainian friend and I, the instinct to preserve the bread was quite understandable. It made sense to us even as it didn't; had the mold been any slighter, we might have let it go. To our American friend, this was all absurd. The Ukrainian friend acknowledged that the instinct--the gut aversion to throwing out food--would be even worse for my parents, who had lived through The Blockade, than it would be for other former residents of the Soviet Union. And yet, for those other former residents (and their descendants), it was still hardly negligible.

***
The cultural issue came up again when my Ukrainian friend talked about how she hated having to nag her son to eat. She knew it was counterproductive--she, too, was of the upbringing of "we know hunger, and we know that if you're hungry, you'll eat. If you're not interested in what's in front of you, you're not hungry." But she said it's like letting your kid cry: it's not as easy as it sounds, even when you know it's the better thing to do. And if she sends him to bed hungry, he wakes up half an hour later saying he's hungry (again, this is where my parents would have said, or did say, "too bad, next time you'll know to eat at mealtime.") This is something my parents did right. I didn't want to say this to my friend--though, being Ukrainian, she wouldn't have been offended either at the statement or at the unsolicited opinion from a non-parent, partly because she knew it was right. She said as much.

***
Cultural/historical factors aside, mom of ten years ago would have still tossed the bread upon seeing the (extent of the) mold. She might have yelled at me for having created the situation based on which the bread got moldy, even though I'd just gotten there; she's blamed me for more absurd things. She might have tied the incident to my general spoiledness and disregard for others. Unless she were in a particularly forgiving mood, she wouldn't have passed up the opportunity to shift the blame to me, nor to leverage it into a broader attack on my character. But she would have acknowledged that the bread was beyond edible and she would have tossed it. Mom as she is now, however, just agreed to toss it after ten minutes of trying to convince me that it wasn't that moldy, only to took it out of the plastic and stick it in the crisper drawer of the fridge, where the mold could spread to all the veggies. Somehow not realizing that I would see it when I went to make the salad.

It's this change in my mother that breaks my heart when I allow myself to think about it. Hell, she's always been abusive and ridiculous; it's what she knows. I just hate that she's losing her mind.

But what makes me feel a little better is that she's still holding on to her mind. She's still herself.

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