Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday roundup

F* El Salvador's supreme court. F* it.

The moon's "extra" gravity explained.

Dudes who can't reconcile feminism and sex (i.e., women's sexuality) have issues.

Gotta give Megyn Kelly props.
The geography of Twitter. On that note: Unfortunately, Russia's "Everyday Sexism" handle will have plenty of fodder:

It's a really good time to quit factory-farmed pork.

I keep telling you about how all that corn and soy is mostly animal feed.  

Sigh, Well Blog, this is not helpful (then again, neither is the original article's abstract, and I'm not paying for access to the whole thing). What's "more" protein? What's "less" carbs? Is there a point where it doesn't matter? Where a given amount is enough? Does quality of carbs matter? Are we talking sugar or whole grains here? Make it meaningful or don't publish it.

If you think I'm dumb for having blended my finger, check out this guy (yes, I know, my brain is supposed to be bigger than that of a kitten).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday morning roundup and ramble-rant

Teaching reading comprehension is harder than teaching math.

Carolyn Hax points out that church is like cupcakes.

Speaking of cupcakes, this New Yorker cartoon says it all.
Actually, let's talk about salads for a minute. In the context of the most annoying things you can say to a vegetarian/vegan. One of those things being--forgive me if we've been over this before--"I'm sure there will at least be a salad you could order."

Why is this annoying? First and foremost, because it's obvious. The vegetarian/vegan who has just pointed out that the restaurant under consideration does not have good options for her has probably figured or assessed that there are salads. She does not need you to point out to her that there are salads. The point is, those salads are not satisfactory to her. They are either not vegan or not substantive (or won't be substantive once you veganize them). A salad that consists exclusively of vegetables is not, in and of itself, a meal. Vegetables do not have a lot of calories (or protein or carbs or fat). They usually have a small amount of carbs, unless you throw in corn or roasted potatoes or wheat berries. Then they may have enough carbs, but still not enough protein or fat. If you throw in an avocado or some nuts, you get fat and some protein. But this still isn't enough food. We are not ethereal beings; we need calories just like everyone else. Not only that, but if we're going out to eat, there's no point in going out to eat to get just a salad.

I have been over all of this with one of my coworkers. Nonetheless, we often end up having the same conversation: he recommends a restaurant, I point out the lack of vegan options, he points out there is a salad, I point out that that's not enough food. The last time we had this conversation, he then pointed out that I could get two salads. I mean, yes, I could... but why should I? I would if I were taking part in someone else's social occasion--a celebratory lunch, say--and then I'd just eat y own lunch beforehand--but I'm not going to seek out a restaurant that an omnivore deems to be good based on its non-plant options, on the basis that there is a salad there.

So please stop telling your vegan friends that they should try a restaurant because it has salad.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday evening roundup

The prevalence of inhumane slaughter.

Facebook has agreed to count misogynist speech and images as hate speech.

Journalists undermine their own credibility when they focus on a woman's shoes.

Psychology is not the only science that could use more rigor.

Under stress, we fall back on habits, including good ones.

It doesn't serve you to set standards of stoicism for dealing with anything.

I would never tell you that you must accept your body, but I'd suggest that there's no point in not accepting it (unless you're willing to change it). But I agree--not "accepting" is not a failure at feminism.

Tuesday morning roundup

Pakistan's power grid is awesome in its dysfunction:
Deep-rooted structural issues, exacerbated by political interference and systemic graft, lie at the heart of Pakistan’s power crisis.
Electricity theft, by rich and poor, is common. Slum dwellers steal power through illegal connections; powerful politicians and government departments simply refuse to pay their bills. Electricity officials and the police, fearing retribution, dare not cut them off.
Half-measures won't help Syria (and full measures would be very, very full).

Who the hell does Dave Brooks think he is to declare social science, pseudoscience? In this case, he takes on psychiatry (emboldened by the recent DSM debates). Does he not know that medical doctors also make mistakes, mis-prescribe drugs, guess at symptoms, etc?

Facebook culture may be the end of school papers.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday evening ramble

I enjoyed Constellation's production of "Gilgamesh" (though I agree with the reviewer that there was something missing; it didn't blow my mind the way "Ramayana" did). That said, it was fun to watch, and Tom Teasley's music was a joy as always. Also, there was nary a peep out of the audience, which is always a plus.

Have you ever made a point to move on symbolically before you were ready to move on in actuality? It was in that spirit that I painted my nails. Which I can hardly pull off on a good day (I'm always cooking or pulling weeds or maybe even planting things, so the color chips almost instantly--and you can already see where one is chipped from when I put away the dishes), and having one fewer finger with which to paint my right hand made me very shaky. But I wanted to let the universe know that I'm ready to get back to normal.

The last week or so hasn't been bad (the week before was hell, more for the itching--and the waking up in the middle of the night for the itching--than for the wound). But now that the itching has so mercifully abated, the wound has a monopoly on my frustration. It itches as it heals. Even as I know how much worse it could have been, I just want it to seal up already. At least seal up to the point where I could let it air, because I'm convinced that keeping it covered is exacerbating the itching. It's also such an annoying, inconvenient wound: it's always a challenge to wrap up. That's all, I'll stop complaining.

Sunday evening roundup

The conversations veterans need from the rest of society.

Here's an example of what Facebook doesn't find objectionable. Al Jazeera is among those calling them out. Some idiot British TV personality can't tell laptops from lady parts (note: while I've called people out for not seeing the lady parts in quadrupole magnets, that sort of confusion was clueless; this sort is offensive).

Ruth Reichl interviews Michael Pollan over a sustainable dinner. They talk about how their kids' generation is more herbivorous than theirs, and how it's more of an identity.

You can skip "F* the Forest."

Also in that issue (of Smithsonian), Lisa Randall eschews her field's obsession with beauty and elegance, but check out this collage of art and science anyway. Also, Brian Greene talks about the origins of water on earth. And there's an article about the world's hottest chili peppers.

Sunday morning roundup

Will things get worse for Afghan women?

More on the therapy of gardening for refugees and other immigrants.

R. Alto Chara proposes a DOMA I can believe in.

What are you going to do when you're 80?

For those who don't appreciate it when "some faceless dickwad tells you what to do," Madeleine Davies is our hero.

Actually, I love Target's wedding dresses. They're classier than most of the stuff I see in bridal shop windows.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday roundup

A politician tells a woman who was carrying a severely disabled, probably unviable fetus that she should have carried it to term. A child-rapist and a very old man tell women that contraception and comedy, respectively, diminish their femininity. Facebook rejects ads that educate people about breast cancer if they show actual breasts, but is happy to allow images promoting rape.

Online dating takes off in India.

Food safety starts with food workers. Go Oxfam for a great program!

How you know when you've had too many McNuggets.

Hundreds of cities see protesters against Monsanto.

We get happier with age.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday evening roundup

Externally-driven regime change has a poor record.

Something important happened in math world.

They're sneaky about it in this one, right at the end there, but there go quantum mechanics, declaring themselves unparalleled geniuses. See this old roundup for a more... ahem... scientific analysis of brain surgery vs. rocket science (or a link to one).

Ladies, work stress is apparently diminishing our sex appeal. But fear not; take comfort in the reality so artfully articulated by Susan Jane Gilman as, "Men will fuck anything." If that doesn't fit your criteria for artful, see what Joseph Campbell and Jacob Bernstein have to say (yes, I know I've titled to disparate posts "On Beauty," but they're different kinds of beauty).

Kilstein on Dawkins:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

Powerful human rights photography.

Itching is its own thing and it SUCKS (I say this as I'm winding down from another bout of poison ivy/oak).

From the "Seriously, Science?" blog: this is a silly study on which to base how you talk to women.

On beauty

I got a chance to read the excerpt of "Religion without God" in the New York Review of Books and wanted to excerpt from the excerpt, but first I'm going to excerpt from a Phil Plait article that threw me, titled "Galaxies Are Weird and Weirdly Beautiful":
Galaxies, on the whole, are very pretty. I find that interesting, actually; we didn’t evolve to see galaxies with our naked eyes, and they exert no selective pressure on us to breed, so when we find them so attractive it must be coincidence. Their shape, color, and structure just so happen to fit our definition of beauty. Appreciating the art of the Universe is a collateral benefit of evolution.
Um, there's a whole lot in this world--much of it on this planet--that is beautiful with no evolutionary advantage to itself. Where does this leave appreciating the art of the earth?

Which brings us back to "Religion without God":
Many millions of people who count themselves atheists have convictions and experiences very like and just as profound as those that believers count as religious. They say that though they do not believe in a “personal” god, they nevertheless believe in a “force” in the universe “greater than we are.” They feel an inescapable responsibility to live their lives well, with due respect for the lives of others; they take pride in a life they think well lived and suffer sometimes inconsolable regret at a life they think, in retrospect, wasted. They find the Grand Canyon not just arresting but breathtakingly and eerily wonderful. They are not simply interested in the latest discoveries about the vast universe but enthralled by them. These are not, for them, just a matter of immediate sensuous and otherwise inexplicable response. They express a conviction that the force and wonder they sense are real, just as real as planets or pain, that moral truth and natural wonder do not simply evoke awe but call for it.
There are famous and poetic expressions of the same set of attitudes. Albert Einstein said that though an atheist he was a deeply religious man:
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.1
Let's skip ahead to Richard Dawkins' attempted take-down:
Richard Dawkins says that Einstein’s language is “destructively misleading” because clarity demands a sharp distinction between a belief that the universe is governed by fundamental physical laws, which Dawkins thought Einstein meant, and a belief that it is governed by something “supernatural,” which Dawkins thinks the word “religion” suggests.
But Einstein meant much more than that the universe is organized around fundamental physical laws; indeed his view I quoted is, in one important sense, an endorsement of the supernatural. The beauty and sublimity he said we could reach only as a feeble reflection are not part of nature; they are something beyond nature that cannot be grasped even by finally understanding the most fundamental of physical laws. It was Einstein’s faith that some transcendental and objective value permeates the universe, value that is neither a natural phenomenon nor a subjective reaction to natural phenomena. That is what led him to insist on his own religiosity. No other description, he thought, could better capture the character of his faith.
I think my favorite line is,
[Religious atheists] accept that nature is not just a matter of particles thrown together in a very long history but something of intrinsic wonder and beauty.
1Albert Einstein, in Living Philosophies: The Reflections of Some Eminent Men and Women of Our Time, edited by Clifton Fadiman (Doubleday, 1990), p. 6.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup

In this rather disjointed piece about how the military's sexual assault epidemic is merely a microcosm of society at large, an excellent point:
American women are born into a society in which the "importance" of beauty and sexuality is emphasized in their personal and professional lives. Despite great achievements in gender equality, sexism persists in the United States and frequently goes unnoticed because it is so deeply engrained in our culture. "It seems to be increasingly difficult to talk about sexism, equality and women's rights in a modern society that perceives itself to have achieved gender equality," writes Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, which uses social media to measure sexism faced by women. In truth, the United States remains far from gender equality: last year, it was ranked 42nd on the Gender Inequality Index, which quantifies and analyzes reproductive health, political and educational empowerment, and participation in the labor force.
Despite progress in many areas, American culture remains bluntly sexist -- and has become increasingly sexualized. The Disney princess movies, which are still a childhood staple of most American girls, convey that beauty and sexuality are key to "happily ever after." The music industry is no different. A 2012 study by Cynthia Frisby and Jennifer Aubrey found that female artists are increasingly using sexual imagery to brand their products and that "young audiences may interpret these sexually objectifying images as important ways to be seen as attractive and valuable to society." Natasha Walter, author of Living Dolls, wrote that, as a result, women are confusing sexual objectification with empowerment. Of course, men also face daunting social expectations to be powerful, strong, and "manly."
In this context, read up on the controversy over Beyonce's Ms. cover. And Barbie's full-scale "Dream" house. And "Reductress" (seriously, it is awesome). But not "A Thinking Woman's Guide to Cleavage," which I won't link to.

So much to say about Jennifer Weiner's case for likeable characters (and the other issues she touches on, such as the lowbrow idea that books should be readable). I agree Claire Messud that there's a double-standard, that male characters aren't as easily dismissed as unlikeable. I am going to stay away from the "Madame Bovary" example just because I don't want to deal with it, and maybe I'll also stay away from Don Draper. But yes, I personally enjoy reading about characters I identify with. They don't have to be perfect--they shouldn't be--but shouldn't they be likable enough that you feel like you have a stake in their story?

Honey Boo-Boo crosses the Atlantic.

I get it, you people are talented, but I am nonetheless triggered into a daze by the mention of quantum anything. You know how straight guys go into a daze when women talk about shoes? Same thing.

This guy nails it and is also hilarious:

He is also a vegan:

He, too, is my hero. (See: "I'm just trying to do what I think is right; why would you give me shit for doing what I think is right?")

On that note, I'm going to disagree with Mark Bittman:
I can see three scenarios that might lead to universal, full-time veganism: An indisputable series of research results proving that consuming animal products is unquestionably “bad” for us; the emerging dominance of a morality that asserts that we have no right to “exploit” our fellow animals for our own benefit; or an environmental catastrophe that makes agriculture as we know it untenable. All seem unlikely.
This much is known, now: We produce most animal products in deplorable conditions, and some of our health and environmental problems can be traced both to dominant production methods and our overconsumption. But we like to eat them, and they’re a pleasurable and even healthy part of many traditional diets and even sound agricultural practices.
First, let's parse. I agree with the first half of the second paragraph, and I'm agnostic about the second (I, personally, don't like to eat them). What I disagree with is that "environmental catastrophe that makes agriculture as we know it untenable" seems "unlikely"; what it seems is upon us. Also, I have mixed feelings about the "right" to exploit our fellow animals for our own benefit. I think we sort-of do have that right; it's natural for many animals to eat other animals. I don't think it's inherently wrong. But I find it wrong enough that I choose not to do it, when the choice is mine. I understand that the matter at hand is "universal" veganism, for which I've never argued. But I don't buy any of what he says as a reason that one, personally, might not choose to be vegan.

Pesticides are back in full force (shocker: bugs adapted to genetically modified crops).

You can eat your beauty products, or you can make your own beauty products out of food.

Wednesday morning roundup

Friedman on Syria (and Yemen and Turkey).
China's one-child policy (and its enforcement) is horrifying.

The U.S. has depleted two great lakes' worth supply of groundwater since 1900.

Sometimes cutting down trees is the right thing to do.

Um, I appreciate the attempt at explanation, but I hardly think this country has a monopoly on conspiracy theorizing.

I'm going to have to read the late Ronald Dworkin's "Religion without God."

The science and history of excrement.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday evening roundup

How the pink ribbon cult ran away with its cause.

Go ahead and be energy-efficient; it won't be lost in rebound effects.

This very good article about dementia evoked very mixed feelings, especially the part about how the worst stage is the one where one is sort-of aware of the decline. Things apparently get better when that awareness fades. It reminded me of that line in "33 Variations," where Katherine complains that because her brain remains at full capacity, she gets a first-row "view" of what's going on with her body. 

On a lighter note... I love these Tumblrs for foreign policy nerds, especially this one. I also love Zoolander references where you least expect them.

The real issue with breadwinner syndrome

Kids are dangerous.

Animals are cute.

Tuesday morning roundup

Rios Montt evades justice again.

Is Syria Hezbollah's Dien Bien Phu?

The AP "scandal" from the perspective of the Justice Department.

As the Church eats its own, we can only hope that this will rile up a sense of injustice in Ms. Hale's former students; may they grow up with a personal passion for tolerance.

Courts turn to Urban Dictionary, in one case to adjudicate a given shortened version of "Tahoe" on a license plate.

Dave Brooks reads too much into shifting language patterns.

Kevin Williamson is my hero. A handful of other people have agreed. I wonder why theaters aren't doing more to rein in their audiences, since poor audience behavior is driving away other theatergoers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mom update/rehashing

I found myself angry at my mother for the first time in many months. I was angry on behalf of dad and not on my account. The apparent dissolution of our family is upsetting to him and he is trying to save us, as a family. Which means trying to reconcile mom and me, which is a lost cause as long as mom wants it to be. Which is why he’s going about it in the wrong way, because he’s after what I said to mom—or even what she thinks I said to her, or what I did say that she took the wrong way. But what I said or how she took it isn’t the point; the point is, mom is stewing in her resentment and acrimony because that’s what she does. She needs an excuse to do it, so she invents one or blows an event or statement out of proportion or context to feed her acrimony. The issue is not the event or statement; the issue is mom’s response.

Let’s review the last year or so in mom drama (it's a year if we start with Memorial Day weekend, when mom threw a fit and decided not to talk to me because I balked at taking the Chinatown bus to Boston). She chose to take that as “I’m not worth $30 to you” rather than “400 miles of the Chinatown bus is a terrible idea.” Nobody who wasn’t looking for an excuse to get offended would take what I said the way she did. She got over it when I did visit (by way of a quite expensive flight), and things were reset until I visited for Labor Day weekend. Over the five or so says that I was in Boston for Labor Day weekend, mom hammered me relentlessly about my hair, skin, extremism, lack of warmth, and other crimes. Toward the end of Day 4, I snapped and said something $hitty to my mother.

That I was only throwing back at her what she’d said to me is not important; I’m the adult here, and I choose the high road. But after four days of hammering, among other factors, I couldn't see the high road. As I wrote earlier, the more determined I am to take the high road, the more mom pushes to drive me off of it.) So, to mom’s “you will never find a partner,” I said, “if you did, anyone can.” This was $hitty because it hit a nerve. She was trying to hit one of my nerves by saying it to me, but she missed, because I knew it wasn’t true. I was at peace with my role in the demise of my last relationship (my behavior wasn’t saintly, but it was human). Anyway, I’m not proud of what I said to mom—but, again, I'm human. I didn’t say it under logical consideration; I said it because I snapped. Under enough pressure, I snap. So as mom threw emotional grenades and kept missing, I threw one right back at her, and probably hit. She shrugged it off at first (“me? What do I have to do with anything?), but I don’t know whether it registered. I later apologized; she essentially told me to f* off, told me I was dead to her. She continued to lob grenades until dad took me to the airport the next morning. She didn’t talk to me again until I called her on her birthday about a month later. After that, things were more or less normal until February.

In February, mom remembered or imagined a grave offense that I apparently committed against her, and hasn’t talked to me since. Dad has been trying to get to the bottom of this, but she won’t tell him what I said, so he’s been asking me. I’ve cooperated fully; I've repeated every statement I’ve made to mom that could be interpreted as unkind, starting with the actually-unkind one I relayed above. He said, “no, that’s not it.” He’s continued to ask her about it; she’s continued to demure. We talked about it again last night. He said he managed to get out of her that it was something that happened when they last visited me (which was years ago). I suggested that it was maybe the side table (that mom offered over the phone, and which I specifically told her not to bring, but she decided to bring it anyway in case I changed my mind and then called me an ungrateful pig when I said I didn’t want it). She added that it was much nicer than the one I had and that I had terrible taste. I acknowledged her opinion but pointed out that hers was nonetheless too big for my space. I brought this up because saying no to mom with regard to “gifts” has been a repeated source of tension. In fact, last Labor Day Weekend, she got angry because I wouldn’t take a skirt that she’d bought me. All I can say—as with RM—you can’t just shove things I don’t want at me (particularly things I specifically ask you not to give me) and then get indignant because I don’t just accept them graciously. It’s called boundaries: If you keep doing something I ask you to stop doing, you’re not going to get a “thank you, I now see the light.”

What did happen when mom and dad visited was that mom would not for a second stop criticizing me or the house. When I called her on it, because it was grating, she retorted that I was too sensitive and it was of her essence to just say what was on her mind, and that if I couldn’t deal with it, we shouldn’t talk. She cited (Nina’s dad)—he shrugged it off after she berated him for bringing her a mask from Georgia that didn’t suit her style. That’s why they’re friends: he understands her.

That is who my mother is—I understand her, too—and I’m not angry or resentful at her for the constant barrage of criticism. That is the only way she knows how to be, and it hurts her more than it hurts anyone else. But it just makes it all the more rich for her to then hold against me whatever I may have said to her or did say to her, not least because I forgive her for the $hitty, often abusive things she says on a regular basis. And this is why Dad’s barking up the wrong tree—the tree of what mom thinks I said; the right tree is mom’s choice to hold on to whatever this is, because (she thinks) it serves her. You can’t assuage someone who feeds off of acrimony by addressing an actual issue; you have to address the fact that the person feeds off of acrimony. If dad could persuade mom to change the way she feeds—then, and only then, can we be a family again. Otherwise, she’ll always find something to feed her acrimony. The fact that she’s ailing doesn’t change any of that.

Monday evening roundup

Tragedy in a photo essay: child laborers in Haiti.

The future of coal-fired power plants.

A marine's two cents on umbrella-gate (see the text below the cartoon).

The vitriol of trolls (do say that five times fast) never ceases to amaze me, but what's predictable is their wrath at women taking control of their lives. They're so threatened by the fact that women have choices, including the choice not to respond to (much less date) assholes.

Check out the last of these images and then read about ostrich sex.

Practice won't make you great at some things.

I love science and I just like the sound of the word "positron," but these Japanese videos are scary.

Stars are just like us (because we're made from the same stuff).

The food industry explains it all.

Dierdre Imus takes to Fox News to endorse veganism. It's awesome, but I wonder whether she knows her audience, given that she's citing environmental arguments.

Rom-coms alienated women to their own detriment.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday morning roundup

Pakistan's rail clusterf* is a microcosm of its broader challenges. [That article is long, but please read it not only because it is interesting, but also in support of journalistic freedom; the writer, Declan Walsh, was expelled from Pakistan by its Interior Ministry.] On that note, Hong Kong offers a treasure trove of books and magazines considered illicit in mainland China.

Bill Gates on global health care challenges.

I'm hoping the Post has a more comprehensive obituary of Kenneth Waltz. I'll keep you posted.

Britain's alleged manliness crisis.

American food is making immigrants sick.

Kiera Wilmot is free to do science.

Paying students for performance has no measurable effect on grades.

I love the invention of mushroom-based plastics. As for eradicating the scourge of plastic bags, I appreciate DC's bag tax if only because the cashiers don't automatically plastic-bag your stuff. The other day, when I said--in a shop in Virginia--that I didn't need a bag, the cashier said "the bag is free" and proceeded to put my one, very portable item into a disposable bag. It was annoying.

I went to a meditation led by Tara Brach many years ago, when she guest-led at the Unitarian Church in Columbia Heights. It was truly amazing. That article touches on the appeal of 'spiritual but not religious':
Her teaching awakened “much more compassion and understanding and openness . . . which to me, that’s what God is about,” he said.
“So much of religion is about following some creed or dogma, and by and large, people aren’t looking for that,” he said after Brach’s recent class. “They’re looking for something much deeper.”
And yet:
For some, meditation’s spread raises questions. More conservative religious groups reject the idea that healing comes from within and not from God. Even some new spirituality sites — whose readers are likely familiar with meditation — have run articles in the past couple of years with such headlines as “Is meditation narcissistic?”
I may read that at some point and I hesitate to pass judgment on the article until I do, but I can address the question itself: aren't we more attuned to others when we're at peace with ourselves? Is exercise narcissistic? Why does an act of taking care of oneself have to smack of narcissism?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday morning roundup and rambles

Coke from the tar sands sits in Detroit.

What is now a joke in the former Soviet Union is a reality in 21st-century Venezuela.

When you know how to write, the dictionary is what it should be: a tool, not a boundary.

On the topic of knowing how to write... it's kind of awesome that these uber-misogynists are so illiterate; it says so much about them. I wonder whether addressing the literacy issue will either make them more literate misogynists or also address the misogyny issue.

Yes, it bugs me, too:
I don't remember whether I've blogged about the VB6 concept. I'm of two minds about it--and the basis for both is that I'm not qualified to be anyone's nutritionist and I'm not interested in being anyone's food police. To the extent that people are interested in eating more plants, for any combination of the reasons known to humanity and summarized by Mr. Bittman, VB6 is one way to accomplish that. It is not the way for me--I am quite happy being vegan all the time except when it's not really feasible--and even if I were to be a part-time vegan, I would find the VB6 model frustrating. I'd sooner recommend the vegan-5-days-a-week thing; that way, you give your body more time to adjust to and appreciate not having animal products, and you may be surprised by how well it works for you. If you're just going back to eating anything every day, you may feel deprived during the day.

But I do subscribe to the overall message, which is that it's important to allow "cheating" in some way or another. The surest way to crash and burn with any dietary restriction is to be of the mindframe that you "can't" have something; you'll only crave it. Opt instead for the "I choose not to eat this" mentality, and give yourself the leeway to have a life (travel, etc.) without sweating it. The idea that your head or the planet is going to explode if you have a piece of goat cheese is far more detrimental to your health than anything in any food.

Hobie and Monk on picky-eater kids. Hint: if you're catering to them, you're part of the problem.

My roses are blooming up a storm!
That's one shrub of three. I really pruned them back in the fall... and they really came back around.

Two straight men--not one, but too--correctly identified the dress I wore the other day as zebra print. I wouldn't have ever figured out it was zebra print except I glanced at the receipt, which used that descriptor. And yet, guys--who are not supposed to know teal from lime--spontaneously got it. Is the world getting more metro?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

Where the racists are (or appear to be).

Alexandra Petri's handy guide to responding to critiques on the internet (hint: it includes ALL CAPS). Here's another case-in-point, from Jezebel.

This $hit is part of the body-hatred problem.

There's nothing wrong with leveraging animal sex to get people interested in science, but I agree that the world could use more critical science journalism.

Math is hard; let's go shopping.

We can add to the list before this list--to the categories of people who get asked annoying/intrusive/presumptuous questions--vegetarians (and vegans). Like "where do you get your protein." Actually, that one's just stupid. Of course, tone matters a lot. Asking with curiosity rather than incredulous accusation works. But if you're not prepared to ask an omnivore how they meet their nutritional requirements, you needn't ask a vegetarian.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup

Look at all the plastic bags and cigarette butts, among other things, that end up in the ocean. Then check out these sea butterflies.
Another way in which coal kills.

Save the planet (and help food security): eat bugs. You can also help food security by reforming the food aid system.
Do hurry up and get this awesome food-transparency app fixed for Android. I'm heartened by the traffic surge: people really care about what they eat! Is it also for other stuff?
Just because a celebrity does something doesn't mean that thing is best for everyone.

Where to start with this dress-for-success distraction? I do advocate the "plain-Jane look," but not suspenders. I faux-apologized to my coworkers today for wearing open-toed flats and no make-up, particularly outside the building. They faux-critiqued me for misrepresenting the organization.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013


I did not fall off the ladder, but I did fail to replace the ceiling vent. Several times. There were tears.

I've also failed to unscrew the rusted bolts on my toilet seat, which I need to replace (the seat itself has fallen off; the lid remains bolted, rustily, to the bowl).

I haven't started recaulking. I think I'll call it a home-improvement day.

Friday roundup

Slovakia's (somewhat-self-) ghettoized Roma.

Texas still doesn't get the point of safety regulations. Oh, and there's a drop in inspection of imported food (and a rise in infections from it).

Okay, just as scientists needn't stoop to the attempted thought control of some religious proselytizers, people promoting religion--and protecting it from aggressive atheists--needn't stoop to this:

...especially because "believe what you want" is not a criticism of religion... or, this:

There's got to be a way to reconcile food safety and sustainable farming.

Whole Foods may have had vegans eating chicken.

Jezebel's take on the Kiera Wilmot travesty says it perfectly:
I don’t know about you guys, but I certainly don’t reflect on my own high school experience and think, “If only I had been forced to live under a constant threat of arrest for being an idiot and/or being bad at science!” (I would have gotten life on both counts, for the record...)
Actually, KW isn't bad at science (and, actually, I was only bad at once science, which is, ironically, the science at the forefront of my job). But that's not the point. The point is, that school is becoming an international laughing stock. I wonder how Florida taxpayers feel about this use of the state's resources.

Speaking of being an idiot... I've had a glass of wine but I have stuff to do around the house. Is it a bad idea to get up on a ladder?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

While we're all condemning worker safety standards in Bangladesh, look at this California strawberry farm that expected its workers to not run from a fire.

Everyone's filling up with respect for Charles Ramsey for eschewing a hypothetical reward, which is fine, but we really ought to respect him for manning up to help someone in need, no matter who she was.

More low-level science vs. religion debating (and more sad signs of religion taught as science) but my rant from this morning (was it this morning?) holds: scientists are to take the high road, which means sticking to what's true and not telling people how to think (and what to think of GMOs). If you have a problem (as the author in the second link does) with the imposition of religious beliefs on society at large, deal with the imposition, not the religious beliefs. Ironically, a few science blogs have recently addressed the importance of story-telling to the human experience (but not in any way that was worth posting), and there's also this gathering of eminent scientists--some of whom are rabid atheists--discussing the importance of storytelling. So let people have their stories, as long as they don't pass them off as science.

You may be wondering where I get this stuff--where I've been getting this stuff--and the short answer is, mostly Twitter. The long answer is, I use Twitter to follow things of interest for work (I do not, however, in any way associate my Twitter account with my employer). Anyway, if you looked at my Twitter feed, you'd come away with the impression that scientists own Twitter. Anyway, this is how my attention, since I really figured out how to use Twitter, has been drawn to sciency stuff.

Ladies and dudes can now wallow in our collective (or is it respective) hormonal afflictions together.

Is it scariest that the banana bunker (1) exists; (2) sells; or (3) is absurdly phallic?

Thursday morning roundup

Scientists share their own blow-ups in support of Kiera Wilmot.

People have a right to know what they're eating, period, whether or not their "fears" are founded. Some people are allergic to MSG, so MSG should be labeled. Look, I'm the first to get annoyed at ubiquitous "gluten-free" advertising, but I'm not going to declare myself the arbiter of what it's okay to keep from people. People also have a right to know how their clothes (and electronics) are made, but make sure your conscious consumer efforts don't backfire (Bangladesh needs a garment industry; it just needs a safe one). On a related note, Stephen Hawking can boycott whatever he wants to, even though that particular conference may strike us as an odd choice.

China has a tragicomically absurd legal system.

Immigrants do assimilate.

It's not hard to guess that mom fits the "all up in your business" variety, and the diagnosis fits:
Description: She was all up in your biz all the time — what you ate for lunch, who you talked to at lunch, what you wrote about lunch in your private diary (which she went through your drawers and read). She had an opinion on what you should do and how you should do it all the time: HER WAY! This was her way of showing she cared, even if it felt overbearing.
Your Issues: Because of all this attention which was unwanted at times, you need lots of privacy and alone time. Freedom and independence are as essential to you as oxygen. You freak out when anyone tries to get you under their thumb and you’ll always find a way to wriggle free.
Your Strengths: You got a lot of attention growing up, so you’re not looking for any from the world. You’re self-assured, confident and you don’t need anyone’s approval about anything.
But here's a more empirical mom article that also has explanatory power: tiger mothering backfires. I was so glad to see that article because I had actually been wondering (and feeling appropriately cheated)--if mom was so critical, shouldn't I have more to show for it in the way of skills and success? I thought maybe mom just wasn't tigerish enough, but it turns out that all that criticism does not engender achievement after all.
It was raining yesterday so I thought about taking a bus to the Kennedy Center. It takes not-quite 45 minutes to walk there from my office, and I found out that the bus would take perhaps 5 minutes of walking to and from bus stops and 28 minutes of bus time (with 21 stops!), assuming nothing went wrong (which you never assume on DC buses). That's a difference of less than ten minutes, with lesser flexibility and reliability: DC buses in a nutshell.

"The Sun Also Rises" was very enjoyable. The dancing and music were phenomenal, and the audience was pretty good about letting you actually enjoy it. At times if felt more like scenes from "The Sun Also Rises" than a coherent story ballet, but that did not detract from the overall quality of the show.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday morning roundup

Why the case for intervention in Syria is still anything but clear. And what Hezbollah's up to there.

Yemen's water crisis.

We can't afford to cut back on economic diplomacy.

Paraguay and a failed Aryan experiment.

WTF? A woman (and a senior military official) decided that the woman's perspective in am "alleged" sexual assault was valid but not relevant to the case? And then there's this guy (senior military official) who thinks it's a hookup culture thing.

This dude has literary insecurity issues if he cares about what his wife is reading (and what people think of what his wife is reading).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday morning roundup

Syria castles revert from heritage sights to fortresses.

Mongolia balances its respective needs for foreign investment and meaningful development.

The Russian orphanage system is plagued by the Soviet mentality that institutions are the answer.

Africa's rhino poaching problem is at a crisis point.

Soviet Jewish WWII veterans remember.

Bruni on slut-shaming.

Commander Hadfield's photos (from the ISS) of the week.

Worst child-naming trend yet?

PETA brings you an educational video: 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday afternoon roundup and response to comment

Pierre Carreau's photos are just f*ing amazing.

Did you know about the Retraction Watch blog? Good thing to check before you cite research.

In search of compatibility between faith and science. I've been thinking about how I find aggressive atheists even more tiresome than aggressive evangelists; this is especially true for scientists. Your job as a scientist is to help people understand what's there, not tell people how to think. One can argue that religious professionals are also more effective when they stick with what's there and let people decide for themselves, but this principle is even stronger when it concerns scientists.

Response to comment: now I get what Protein Bar meant by 'highest non-meat protein.' Thanks for clearing that up!

Saturday morning roundup

A history of hacktivism.

On Cecilia Muñoz and immigration reform.

We're all bad listeners, but men are measurably worse listeners than women.

This whole review was over my head--I'm so far from high-end restaurants that pervade the foodie culture described in the book is lost on me--but I have to take issue with this:
The food movement ran into trouble when it began insisting that good taste was also capital-G good: Food that is good for the environment, for animals, for workers, for community-building, and for health will also taste the best. The argument is seductive but specious—what tastes good to one person won’t taste good to another—and dangerous. In the final section of her book, Pearlman notes that food-focused publications have increasingly covered issues related to environmentalism, labor, and politics over the last decade—but only “as problems to be solved not by collective political action but by individual shopping choices—in other words, consumption.” If consumption is virtuous, only those with the economic means to consume discriminately can have virtue. Which is how restaurant menus became infected with the elite farm brand-names and modernist amuse-bouches that proclaim how much less accessible they are than the food of the masses. The less accessible, the better.
What food movement is this? My food movement (which does insist on those things) is different from the celebrity restaurant food culture. My food movement emphasizes cooking and using basic ingredients (see Michael Pollan's and Mark Bittman's most recent books). My food movement emphasizes sustainability and fairness.

That said, I absolutely agree that conscious consumption will only get you so far, especially when so much public policy and subsidy drives our food system. I guess my issue with the paragraph is the confounding of the two issues and the slam on the people who are actually trying to do something about the food system. I ranted the other day on the flaw in the argument regarding "only those with the economic means to consume discriminately can have virtue." It doesn't mean that people who do have the economic means shouldn't consume discriminately, first of all, but it also presumes that sustainable food is more expensive (please compare the prices of my chickpeas against a very subsidized burger... the chickpeas will still win). But can't you also make the argument that the same people who are too busy wondering where their next meal is coming from--and so cannot "consume discriminately"--are also too busy to engage in collective political action? You think those people are more likely to agitate for food system reform?

Look, I was raised by people who grew up poor and survived a famine. Just, logically, do you think I care about food because of that or in spite of that? I fundamentally reject the idea that you have to be wealthy to care about food or want to do something about the food system. And just because having choices about what you eat is a privilege, doesn't mean exercising those choices for the betterment of your neighbors is an act of depraved elitism.

Now that we got that out of the way... blood facials are bull$hit.

Sand is not going to save my clay-laden soil, and it looks like nothing else would, either.

Saturday morning ramble: "Other Desert Cities" and quinoa

"Other Desert Cities" was eventually very, very good. The second act was excellent; the first, particularly in the beginning, was plagued by poor-quality dialogue, albeit brightened up by the occasional very good line. I kept thinking, this evidently WASPy mother seems so Jewish, so I smiled when that issue was cleared up. As the play grew on me, I appreciated the universality of the family dynamics. And then I heard, first, the words more applicable to RM:
Relationships are hard-earned things. They have a reason and a logic to them.
And then, more importantly, words I probably have said (well, not words--I would have been less articulate) to my mom:
Mother, when you criticize and find fault in every last choice I make, for some reason, that's how you were made, and I know you tell yourself that it's because you're pushing me, you only want the best for me... You make it impossible for me to see the love in that. All I see is a bully who has lost touch with gentleness and kindness...
I. Can't. Bear. You. We have earned that relationship... it is entirely organic...
Right?? Does Jon Baitz know my mother??

The audience was relatively civilized--I find occasion to review the audience as well as the show: ten times more civilized than the average Washington Ballet audience, but not as silent and attentive as your average Studio Theater audience. The thing is, every disruptive audience is dysfunctional in its own way. There were only one or two candy wrappers rattling in this case, but there was quite a bit of unnecessary commentary. At one point--at the reveal about the estrangement in the family--one woman loudly said, "he's gay!" Spoiler alert: he's not gay, but in any case, please keep your epiphanies to yourself. I think that was the last out of her, but the people behind me kept repeating the lines, as if one person didn't quite catch them. You're not in your living room, people: if you missed something, let it go.

The metro was not civilized. It took me forever to get home. It would have taken me less than twenty minutes to drive home, but I had walked to the theater straight from work. Probably for this reason alone--the logistics of getting home from SW--I won't renew my subscription to Arena. I'm so tired.

On the way to Arena, I stopped at Protein Bar for a vegan burrito (I wanted to consume it in the Sculpture Garden, but, alas, it was closed, so a random bench on the Mall would have to do). As I waited for my burrito, I got stuck on a sign hanging in the restaurant; something like, "Quinoa: it's the highest non-meat protein."

What does that even mean? Leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that it's not true (because to get to how it's not true, we need to figure out what it means). I'm guessing they're trying to say that quinoa has more protein per something-or-other than any other plant food. But what is that something or other? Ounce? Cup? Serving size? Calorie? Any pulse will have more protein per any of those measures than quinoa, and wheat will, too. One serving of quinoa--half a cup--has 4 grams of protein and 111 calories. One serving of pasta (about the same amount) has 8 grams of protein (and probably about 200 calories). Half a cup of black beans has 7 grams of protein at 110 calories.

Maybe Protein Bar was emphasizing that quinoa's a complete protein? That's a bunch of BS, anyway; you don't have to try to balance your amino acids if you eat real food. If you're not convinced, the very burrito I purchased had black beans and whole wheat, which balanced them for me. Those two ingredients provided far more protein than the quinoa. The quinoa just made it messy to eat on a park bench.

Tofu has 10g of protein per half cup and 94 calories (actually, it varies by type of tofu, but roll with it); tempeh has 15g of protein per half cup and 150 calories.

If you like quinoa, by all means, eat quinoa. If you're concerned about what it means for the subsistence of the communities where it's grown and cultivated, see Tom Philpott's column. I don't have an ideological opposition to quinoa; I just need people to get their facts straight and quit promoting it as the protein be-all/end-all. I'm thinking that next time I need an after-work, pre-theater dinner that I don't have time to make myself, I'll hit Teaism for a seitan stirfry. Now that's protein (and kale, and walnuts).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Phone call/status update

Dad asked if I were planning to visit; I asked whether mom would let me in the house. He said not to take anything she said seriously--that she realized on some level that her version of events, whatever it is, didn't hold up. Mom has apparently invented a fight in which I gravely offended her (in February). Dad doesn't recall any such thing, and neither do I. Which brings me to the rationale for not visiting: I don't think it would help anything. It would be one thing if being on "my best behavior" could guarantee a peaceful visit, but we all know that my best behavior is a threat to mom--she doesn't know what to do with it--so she just hammers at me more until I snap. When someone feeds on anger and indignation, she goes out of her way to create the conditions for anger and indignation.

And, as I mentioned, I'm going out of my way to do the opposite: to not feed on anger or indignation, no matter the fodder that mom provides. I found myself in a lesser-evil thought this morning, as I was contemplating actually visiting or having my parents come here. I thought about their past visits, which are always fraught for various reasons, including the planning. In particular, I thought about the last non-visit: the time they had planned to visit for Thanksgiving but at the last minute decided it was too rainy to make the drive. Because they hadn't thought about that before. I suggested they fly, which revealed that they had also gotten a better offer (from a family friend). Which was annoying in and of itself--I was stranded, having turned down other plans, and I was having the shittiest week ever (the culmination of a series of shitty weeks) but then mom kept on wasting my time (it was a really rough time at work) by calling me to pretend that she was still looking at tickets and to explain that really, it was for the best that they didn't visit. She just kept insisting that I agree with her--that her decision was of no inconvenience to me--which I did, but she nonetheless kept me on the phone, justifying it.

That may be the very kind of thing I'd do best to let go of but in a way, I hang on to it because it's a normal family annoyance, and I relish it for that reason. That's the kind of thing you're supposed to resent your parents for; not the more abusive, unhealthy bullshit.

It's like any addiction: substituting a less unhealthy substance for a really unhealthy one.

But I really just want to let all the resentment go cold turkey. Not saying I'm there yet, but I'm choosing to start.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

I'm supposed to be practicing non-judgment, but what kind of shitty person do you have to be to not give up your seat to pregnant or elderly people?

Parent complains that Anne Frank's memoir is too graphic... in terms of anatomy.

Being vegan makes some choices easy.

I'm gonna stay away from the 'innocence can't be proven' and 'white privilege' aspects of this Amanda Knox article, but I want to second the idea--as a white woman who studied in Europe, if it matters--that people should be able to f* around in their youth without that f*ing around impinging their character. Yes, I pulled (minor) $hit that people with darker skin couldn't get away with, like realizing, half-way to France (on the bus to go food shopping), that I didn't have my passport on me and not going back to get it, and I was aware that it was a privilege. Did that change anything? More importantly, I pulled other stupid shit in my 20s (unrelated to race) and was able to live it down, which is the whole point of that article. Or is the suggestion that odds of arrest are greater when one is not white, so getting away with stupid shit in one's 20s is never unrelated to race? I can buy that, but that doesn't detract from the point about slut-shaming. So, turning this into a coherent thought: although it is a true statement that one can't know for sure whether someone is innocent or guilty in the absence of quality physical evidence, youthful behavior is not evidence of guilt, and--a corollary--it's unfortunate that people of color may find that laughable because it's more of a privilege for white people to get away with youthful behavior, shouldn't we remedy that by expanding that privilege to everyone, rather than denying it?

I really love this letter to Carolyn, which gives us so much to talk about, but, together with another of her columns from not too long ago, it makes me think she's missing guys' basic tendencies to stay in relationships in which they're not happy. Didn't Sharon Stone have a brilliant quote about that: "Women might be able to fake orgasms, but men can fake a whole relationship." And why not? They don't have to do anything and presumably they're getting sex out of it, and they lack the anatomy to get out. This is why (as I said in my comments on the earlier post) I (expert in these matters that I am) absolutely discourage women from pursuing men: of course they're going to play along, whether they're interested or not. But if you let the guy do the work at the beginning, that's how you know he's actually into you (at least that's one sign). I also disagree with this:
...“despite my multiple attempts at and encouragement of honest conversations.” That sounds to me as if you were looking for reassurance that he loved you, and people don’t do that unless they sense on some level that the love isn’t there.
Really? Maybe you're just checking in. But let's get back to Carolyn and talk about the stuff that resonates:
...the first thing you can do is become attuned to your insecurities, to a need for affirmation."
Yup. If you're insecure about something, there's nothing anyone else can do to alleviate that, no matter how they tip-toe around you.
We are all revisionist historians to some degree, and minimizing (or exaggerating) past feelings is a specialty.

I aced Pew's science test and got just the last question wrong on the religion test, but I had a similar experience: I was less sure of the religion answers (even those I got right).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup

Sometimes accidental shootings are funny (i.e., when a dude shoots his junk off) and sometimes they are stupidly tragic.

Norway's first-world environmental problem. Seattle's fake superhero problem.

The less you know, the stronger your opinion.

Things that give us hope in the nation's youth: a kid who got an asteroid named after an Ancient Egyptian deity. Which brings us into the travesty of defunding science. Which brings us to how I'm too dumb to appreciate IBM's atomic film. Also, did you know that the ancient Babylonians found Pi?

Boots bets that girls will choose pink over science. Girl gets charged with a felony for science and "bad" judgment. Diane Sawyer slut-shames Amanda Knox and questions her about being clueless in her youth. Good for Ireland Baldwin for holding her own (though I would be lying if I didn't say I wished for better grammar; still, she's 17... she has time to develop it). Can't kids f* around anymore and figure themselves out without seriously life-altering consequences?

GMO has bred superweeds but has not driven farmers to suicide. PS244 goes all-veg. If you eat ground turkey, you don't want to know what Consumer Reports has found. Food workers fight for their rights.

Your brain on meditation.

Someone tried to name their kid 'Anal.'

Giles Harvey on the rise(?) of the failure memoir.