Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday roundup: Part 2

It's couples like this one that make Jesus weep. If they're not a threat to the very concept of family, what is?

We should probably read "A Fort of Nine Towers."

Greece's agricultural revival.

What bird-talk can teach us about human language acquisition.

Small claims court is one option for holding the travel industry responsible when they really screw you.

Sunday roundup: Part I

Sorry, guys; I wanted to get you Part I before I left, but I had to get biking, and made the right choice: it started pouring it down a few minutes after I got home. Anyway, here we go:

The colonial legacy in Bangladesh continues to haunt its justice system.

Wondering why everyone's rallying and rioting? Tom Friedman explains it all for you. As always with Friedman, though, take it with a grain of salt. To say "it's not about the 9 cents" (with regard to Brazil's bus fare increases) is to overlook what nine cents is to the people taking the buses.

Why hate freedom when you can celebrate?

The decline of car culture in this country.

Dudes have been right all along and there's no use denying it any more: it's all about them.

This is a stupid, stupid question. Eating healthily doesn't mean that every single thing you eat has to be healthy. If I go to a fast food restaurant (which, mind you, I don't), I want the fries, not the salad. If I want a salad, I'll make it myself.

I'll be back with the Post and maybe some other stuff later. It's that time of year... and I've dedicated most of the day to dealing with the CSA veggies. The bok choy has been sauteed into tofu scramble, as has some of the parsley; the chard and beet greens will be sauteed with vinegar and sunflower seeds, and plumped raisins if I can be bothered. No f*ing idea what I'll do with the kohlrabi, even though it was just featured somewhere (none of those ideas appeal to me). And I still need to figure out what to do with the fennel. Maybe I'll roast it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday morning roundup

Bhutan's hidden refugee crisis.

You've gotta face your history, even especially when it's as awful as the Cultural Revolution.

My bad, having reminded people of the "world's problems", when it's the weekend and people probably want to play golf or something. So tacky of me.

I loved this distinction between healthy and unhealthy narcissism (from Holly Millea's "Mired in Desire," which is not yet online:
"That's healthy narcissism--really wanting those good things that babies demand, which is a person being so happy to see you that he just lights up when you walk in the room. When you don't get enough of that, you get the unhealthy narcissism: being contemptuous of other people, jealous. Health narcissism is [being] happy to be where you are." --Dr. Stephen Snyder, Manhattan sex therapist.
The other Elle article you should read, and which I'll post when it becomes available, is the interview with Nathanael Johnson, in which he talks about finding balance--and thus sanity--in eating well/healthily/naturally. The bottom line is that it shouldn't be all or nothing; your choice is not all kale juice versus all twinkies.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday evening roundup

I see her point, but I've never thought of lentils as austerity food. I mean, I know that's because I don't have to/never have, but my parents have lived through hungry times and I don't think they see lentils that way. Ironically, what my dad does associate with starvation is (powdered) soy milk.

The egg-labeling clusterf* continues.

What are Catholic celiacs to do?

All those internships and things, and college graduates are not really employable yet?

Thank you for acknowledging that while it's understandable for kids to be assholes, parents can do a lot of damage control by acknowledging that a given behavior is disruptive.

This Ancient Egyptian statue wants beer.

OMG red pandas are the cutest thing ever, this week.

Quick Friday morning roundup

Eminem ponders (or, rather, the Onion does for him).

Yes, Carolyn writes, we should show gratitude, but it's time to reconsider the giving of stuff, as a society.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

(One of) my dahlias

Thursday evening roundup

Turkey may be prone to conspiracy theories, but it's not alone. Kim Ghattas, at a book reading earlier this week, talked about how that mentality pervades the Middle East.

Primates have feelings, too. Cats are more aloof.

How Detroit's industry contributed to the demise of the city. More on the math of cities here.

I have to admit that Kate Roiphe's piece on accusing writers of misogyny based on their characters was too boring for me to read in full, largely because I haven't read the writers she mentioned. I felt that I should try to understand her point, since I've slammed Junot Diaz more than once in that way, and I maintain that his later work is somewhat misogynistic even if he isn't, but more importantly, it's just "so what?" because it all runs together.

Ladies, are you really spending $4,000, even over a lifetime, on mascara? Really? In any case, you do know that the people selling you your insecurity have a stake in maintaining it?

Winstead on Perry:

Yeah, tell your friends when they're dating a turd. I rolled my eyes when people who had encouraged me to overlook my issues with F. later said, "yeah, that was concerning" after the breakup.

I didn't know that Amazon tracked its funniest reviews. Mizuno sneaker reviews are up there, and they're getting lots of attention in general.

Food (and liquor) fraud is rampant.

See how the Times headline implies that "carbs," writ large, are the problem? Good for Time magazine for specifying that it's refined carbs in the article and acknowledging as much even in its tweet on the matter:
The science of pearls.

Another reason to eschew Facebook (though I have wondered how LinkedIn knows that I was once in touch with people no longer in my contacts).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Mom Madness, I know, is not as much fun as it used to be, but I can't help but think about what I'll hear about when my parents visit in two weeks. Here are your brackets/bingo squares:

(1) House
  • Furniture is too dark
  • Why do you live here?
  • You need a house with a basement
  • All your appliances are wrong
(2) Body
(3) Food
  • You're an extremist.
  • What's wrong with tomatoes?
  • Why do you feel that you have to spend so much time on food?
  • Vegetables will make you fat.
(4) Personality
  • This is why you're single.
  • Men like women who are more feminine/delicate and less muscly/intimidating/opinionated/shrewish.
  • You talk too much/think you know everything.
  • You're just a horrible person; I don't know how I spawned you.

Wednesday evening rambles: customer service edition

A friend/coworker of mine is in the process of adopting internationally. Some of the institutions involved are being less than helpful and efficient to her and other parents who are looking forward to being with their children.I should mention that this friend first tried to adopt locally, but DC was a big clusterf* that turned the whole process into a torturous mindf*, so said friend opted to go the international route.

I mention that this friend is only a coworker because when we discussed the latest adoption challenge the other day, we talked about how we are not the people you f* with... not because we have power associated with our positions, but because we are professional nit-picks who read the fine print and figure out where to complain until we get our issues resolved. We're not (necessarily) lawyers, but we're trained to pour through the driest, most confusing crap to get what we need.

My friend’s issue is anything but a first-world problem; there’s a lot more at stake there, and the people slowing her down had better get their $hit together.

My issue is sort-of a first-world problem (it involves health insurance, so we can debate whether that in and of itself makes it a proverbial first-world problem but not technically one): my health insurance is covering the emergency services related to my immersion-blender incident out of a health fund, and they are billing that health fund more than the hospital billed for the services because the insurance company’s negotiated “member rates” are higher than those billed. Which in and of itself is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our health care system, but that’s another story. I have sufficient money in my health fund, so the cost to me from the discrepancy (of nearly $700) has not been realized. But since the fund rolls over, and since I may one day incur additional medical costs from the fund, the discrepancy may one day matter—I may have to pay that difference. And I feel that I should fight this on behalf of people who are not as programmed to fight this kind of crap, so that the companies get the sense that they’re less likely to get away with it.
I called a few weeks ago when I first noticed the difference, and was told that I shouldn’t have to pay the difference and that I would get new paperwork in a week. I called again to say I had gotten no new paperwork, and was told that I would have to formally appeal if I didn’t want to pay the difference.

Fair enough; I am appealing. And I’m not yet calling out my insurer on Twitter, though I will do so if they rule against my appeal, because the whole situation is pretty silly; why would they pay amounts higher than what’s billed? That’s just bad business.
Have I mentioned that I saved the insurer additional money by having the stitches removed in my office, by a friend?
Speaking of customer service complaints, Adam Grant's tips on cold-contacting people who could help you are (1) so true (2) got me thinking about how much some of these apply to dating (variations of them, at least) and (3) how it can be hard to appreciate the value of these tips from the other side if you haven't been on it (I started appreciating what a difference technique makes when I first screened resumes/interviewed applicants, many years ago).

Which made me think about how much this stuff applies to home ownership, or purchasing the many services one does as a homeowner. Not to put too fine a point on it, but homeownership can definitively shift you from the camp of always defending the proletariat because their jobs suck to wondering why you can't get good help these days ("I don't care if cleaning houses sucks; if I'm paying you to do it, please do it right.") Constantly purchasing services made me increasingly attuned to what does and does not constitute good customer service, what's more likely to have me consider, much less, go with a certain vendor. So here's my list:
  • Be willing and able to provide some sort of estimate without seeing the problem for yourself. I don't care if it's a range; I don't care if it's full of disclaimers, including "may be [this much more] if it's bad." But if you can't even provide any kind of upper limit based on a generic description, it's over.
  • If it's a big enough thing that you have to see it (and it's a lot of money), provide a detailed, itemized, written estimate. Someone once--I $hit you not--texted me an estimate for thousands of dollars of work.
  • Answer questions. The guys who did my roof (Lyons Contracting) were great about this--I had a lot of questions and they provided very good answers, both about technical issues and potential sources of additional costs. [And, back to the first bullet, even for a complicated, expensive job, they were able to provide a rough estimate over the phone; the actual estimate, once they saw the roof, came in slightly lower.]
  • Keep me posted. If the work is delayed because you're waiting on parts, let me know that you haven't forgotten about the job.
  • Listen. If I hire you to clean my house right after I move in, and I specifically tell you not to bother making my bed with hospital corners but to instead focus on things like the grease on the kitchen walls and the greasy dust on the ceiling fans, I don't want to come home to hospital corners and greasy ceiling fans (which is exactly what happened). If you're above cleaning grease, don't take the job.

Big, huge Wednesday evening roundup

Let the pipeline from South Sudan be a win-win-win (please).

It's a happy day for equality and the Twitterverse and other satire:

Apparently Melinda Henneberger hasn't considered the details of the proposed Texas law or public opinion, nor understood the heartbreaking stories of women with unviable fetuses. Also, Christina Hoff Summers strikes again.

Sucking at math could cost you.

China is becoming increasingly herbivore-friendly, responding largely to home-grown demand.

Apparently The Atlantic cover story is some inane argument for low-fat junk food, and since it doesn't appear to merit a link, I'll just point you first to Tom Philpott's take-down (and then another). And I'll excerpt the possibly most-absurd part:
First of all, the "real food" we push includes—gasp—fat. "Many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement," Freedman frets, "are as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King." He reports watching aghast as Bittman, appearing on the Today Show, whipped up a "lovely dish of corn sautéed in bacon fat and topped with bacon." He adds: "Anyone who thinks that such a thing is much healthier than a Whopper just hasn't been paying attention to obesity science for the past few decades."
I'm the last to glorify or defend bacon, but I'd argue that it's not obesogenic when you have to put in the effort to make it yourself every time rather than pick it up on the cheap at a fast food place. And don't even get me started on the scourge of fake guacamole; what's the point? It's just green goo. Trader Joe's is guilty, too--last time I visited my parents, their local store was hawking "lower-fat" "guacamole." They made it lower fat by mixing in Greek yogurt. Gag me.

And keep your taxes off my avocados and pistachios.

If you read only one thing here, make it Erik "@vegan" Marcus's take on why Michael Pollan's often wrong, but he's the best we can do right now (with Paula Deen at the other end of the spectrum). Also, here's a reminder about how meat of any provenance, in large quantities, is not sustainable.

Eating plants helps you avoid tricky flatware etiquette.

I appreciate this perspective on (not really) toxic chemicals in food, but I really need something similar with regard to skin and hair care products.

Turn off your routers when you're not using them.

I stand by my complaint that quantum physics is confusing as hell, but bring on the more efficient solar panels and the animated TED-Ed lessons. Also, I'll tolerate anything that involves (vegan) pasta and electromagnets, even when they don't look like lady-parts. Especially when they lead to this awesomeness:
And many were convinced Brookhaven scientists were using the cover of darkness to transport a UFO.
For decades, there has apparently been a persistent rumor that scientists at Brookhaven once responded to a UFO landing and have been secretly housing an alien spacecraft. The Muon g-2 ring, wrapped in white and covered in flashing lights, did nothing to dissuade these rumors.
“That’s a spaceship,” one man said. “I’m telling you. That’s a spaceship.” And he would hear no other explanation.

This kind of Facebook "advice" confuses me. I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: Facebook is a tool for people to overshare, show off, and post baby pictures; why are Facebook users offended when that's what their Facebook friends do? And what is it about other people's fabulous vacation pictures that are so threatening to you? Maybe channel some of that bitterness into planning a fabulous vacation for yourself? I'm not on Facebook, but I'm guilty of many of these behaviors on this blog. I try not to be overly solipsistic, but you've heard about my wisdom teeth drama (specifically mentioned in that article!) and my travels and my first-world problems. Look, if you don't want to read about it, don't read the blog.

Whether or not you're interested in the concept of the monomyth... I think this is my favorite thing, ever (this week):

Wednesday morning roundup

Brazilians have had it with soccer spending at the expense of public services.

A win for Texas women, for now.
Bittman's WTF on Monsanto's prize:
Never mind that Monsanto is a sponsor of the prize (and that the list of other backers reads like a who’s who of big ag and big food), or that we never get to know the names of either the nominees or the nominators. [1] Never mind that we’re not feeding the seven billion now, or that we’re sickening a billion of those with a never-before-seen form of malnourishment. Never mind that we already grow enough food to feed not only everyone on the planet but everyone who’s going to be born in the next 30 or 40 years. And never mind that, despite the hype, there’s scant evidence that the involvement of genetic engineering in agriculture has done much to boost yields, reduce the use of chemicals or improve the food supply.
“De Schutter’s promotion of agroecological solutions,” says Lappé, “is rooted in the understanding that the chemical approach breeds debt and dependency on costly inputs like fertilizer, chemicals or genetically engineered seeds. As he told me a few years ago, ‘We have failed to end hunger using the traditional recipe that saw hunger as a technical problem, requiring only that we produce more. We’ve failed because we’ve underestimated the need to empower people and hold governments accountable.’”
Speaking of Lappés, Tom Philpott, a food and agriculture writer at Mother Jones, brings up Anna’s mother, Francis Moore Lappé: “Her central insights in “Diet for a Small Planet” — that growing grain to feed animals for meat is grievously inefficient; that the world already produces more than enough calories and the real problem is economic inequality — have become so commonplace in alternative-ag circles, so accepted, that we forget where they came from. (Now if policy makers would only listen!) She is an unsung intellectual giant, and her work remains vital today.”
Vernon Klinkenborg on why we can't afford to neglect the humanities:
That kind of writing — clear, direct, humane — and the reading on which it is based are the very root of the humanities, a set of disciplines that is ultimately an attempt to examine and comprehend the cultural, social and historical activity of our species through the medium of language.
Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.
No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy, and I doubt anyone ever will. But everyone who possesses it — no matter how or when it was acquired — knows that it is a rare and precious inheritance.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday evening roundup

China, Russia and Ecuador are such bastions of civil liberties and press freedom.

I really wish that people would quit framing the human rights and animal welfare aspects of agriculture as mutually exclusive; let's all care about and fight for both.

A person of the kind we need in elected office has no interest in staying. But these Texas legislators warm my heart.

The normally non-judgmental @vegan meets his match:
I'm just looking at the bright side (i.e., people boycotting Smithfield).

Check out this carbon footprint calculator and note what a difference forgoing meet makes. And this dude has no agenda.

If nothing else matters to you, care about climate change for the wine.

Care about the Great Lakes, too; in lieu of microbeads, exfoliate with pumice, oatmeal, apricot or walnut husks.

So, the upside of my expensive roof debacle was that I got a white roof, and I can definitely feel the difference. That article (yes, I know slide format is annoying) is actually quite useful; I learned stuff and I'm pretty aware of home energy-saving tips (having done volunteer weatherization in the neighborhood, etc.).

GM wheat was not planted by anti-GMOers.

Some parents are so entitled. Your childcare needs are your problem; exams are stressful enough without screaming babies.

Have we talked about how telling your kids that they're fat isn't helpful? Leave it to the commenters to miss the point; you can/should still talk to your kids about their weight; just do it the right way. Also, I know that wanting for others what one values herself may be seen as cultural imperialism and such, but I want for women to free themselves of body issues. It's amazing. I know how much easier it is to say, especially when you're on the other side, and I occasionally have relapses (I've been eating a lot of olives, which pushes my gut out half-way to the moon) but I want you to have a healthy relationship with food because it's feels awesome.

I'm with Miranda Kerr on this one: I don't want to wear the pants in a relationship (hell, I don't want to wear physical pants, either, but that's not the point). The pants are a relative, shifting concept--it doesn't connote dominance (not to me, anyway). I'm not gender scholar, either, but I don't think it's a bad idea for guys to take the proverbial wheel.

Spend your money well:
One of the biggest mistakes we all make with our money is that we fail to use it in ways that maximize the amount of time we spend engaged in activities that make us happy. Instead, we often accidentally use money in ways that seem like they will make us happy, but instead doom us to unhappy time.
Take buying a nice house in the suburbs. It seems like a great idea. In fact most Americans see owning a house as a key part of living the American dream. And when you buy a house in the ‘burbs, you’re thinking of all the family barbecues you’ll have on the lawn. But what you’re not thinking enough about is the fact that you’ve just doomed yourself to a two-hour commute—in heavy traffic—every day for the rest of your life. Would having a large house be enough to make you happy at the end of a long day when you’d spent two hours in standstill traffic?
It's a trade-off, of course (not size vs. proximity, because that's an easy one; location vs. lower prices in general), but most of the time I feel that paying a crazy proportion of my income to live where I live is worth it.

It sucks when poop falls from the sky.

If this isn't a cautionary tale against drug use, I don't know what is. In other "your junk" news, it doesn't get its own subway seat. I could add other etiquette breaches to that list (and people can encroach when standing, too; some dude encroached into my territory this morning).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Phone call

Dad: Could you just make sure that mom is comfortable?
A.: Of course. Any suggestions as to how to make that happen?
Dad: Just, you know, make sure she feels comfortable.
A.: Specifically?
Dad: I don't know. She likes to lie down after dinner.
A.: There is plenty of furniture for her to choose from. All of it is comfortable.
Dad: I mean, just generally. Make sure she feels at home.
A.: I don't know what you mean.
Dad: Just, generally.
A.: Okay.
Dad: Do you have any projects for me?
A.: Not really. I may ask you to figure out a better system for storing the vacuum cleaners and mop and broom. They're kind of in a corner in the utility room and I'd like to have them hang from the wall to have more room in there. I'm not quite sure how to best engineer it.
Dad: You could do what we do, which is have a vacuum cleaner in every corner of every room. The house is clean, but there are vacuum cleaners everywhere.
A.: No, thank you, and remember that you're not bringing me any crap.
Dad: Well, if we do, do what you will with it but just don't call it crap to her face.
A.: Do. Not. Bring. Me. Any. Crap.
Dad: Okay.
A.: And one way I will not make mom feel at home is by sticking vacuum cleaners in every corner.
Dad: You know what I mean.
A.: I don't, but we'll figure it out.

Monday evening roundup and rants

Can Mamphela Ramphele save South Africa?

Considering Snowden a refugee undermines the whole system for protecting refugees.

Marketers are finding that "meat" is a dirty word.

This poor guy. I wish I could make a joke--the situation begs for one--without doing so at his expense. I do have to ask: how does one crush one's testicles in one's sleep? Is that a thing?

Dear Abby('s daughter) has some f*ed up perspectives.

I can't believe this article on the economics of globalized cuisines left out Bruce Cost's "Asian Ingredients." And the plethora of Ethiopian places throughout the DC area. Which reminds me... where will I take my parents? Afghan? Ethiopian? Just about anything else (except Chadian... he's probably right on that one).

Speaking of restaurants, my "I'm sure they'll have a salad" coworker struck again, this time with a variation on the salad theme.

Coworker: By the way, I was at Vapiano, and the had plenty of vegan options.
A.: Oh, yeah. I've been there, but I wasn't impressed with their vegan options.
Coworker: Really?
A.: I had the pasta once and it wasn't very good.
Coworker: But they make everything right in front of you, so you could get a pizza and have them hold the cheese.
A.: I could, but why would I want to??
Coworker: Well, the vegetables are good.

So, I would get a salad, on bread.

A.: That's just not enough food. I'd rather go somewhere with real vegan options.

I should be touched that he thinks of me when he tries restaurants--that he thinks in terms of whether they have vegan options--but I don't seem to be able to get it through to him that the presence of vegan options does not equal good vegan options. Just because I can eat something, doesn't mean I'd want to.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quick Sunday afternoon roundup

So much to ramble about and I only have a minute! I'm merely home to switch my laundry and feed the cat, but I know if I don't put some of this down now, it will lack ardor later tonight.

First of all, I have to tell you that I loved "Biography" at The American Century Theater. Loved it.This shocked me, because I shrugged through the first twenty minutes of it two weeks ago, when I saw them for the first time. The rest of the play was precluded by an unfortunate power outage, and I had to reschedule. It was probably just as well, because I had other things on my mind, which is maybe why I hadn't loved it then. I even loved that opening scene this time around. But I loved the whole play, and the production--the acting was consistently excellent. The characters were rounded and interesting, and the dialogue witty and smart. There were worldly themes and light jokes. I loved, loved that the script didn't pit the women against each other, and both women are brilliant. If you're in the area, go see it; you have a week.

I didn't love one thing: the woman behind me kicking my seat. I said something to her at the beginning of the second act, just before it started, actually, at which point she said to her husband, "I only kicked her seat once; she doesn't want to take any chances." So I turned around and informed her that she'd kicked my seat for the last twenty minutes of the first act. I didn't mention that they'd also whispered and unwrapped candy. All this after they were very indignant that another couple had "taken" the seats they'd saved with programs (the other couple politely found new seats, but this couple continued to stew).

On the way to the play, I stopped at MOM's and dropped off my electronics. I'd preloaded them into the car, which was out back so I could unload the mulch I'd picked up yesterday. Anyway, it's lovely to be rid of them.

Did I have anything else to tell you? If so, it'll have to wait. Ciao.

Sunday morning ramble

As you know, I spend a lot of time lamenting my pathetic, meaningless single life eating and drinking with friends. It's actually exhausting. I'm serious. And the place we ended up at happy hour--Poste has no vegan options, so we left--had crappy wine, so I ended up getting a margarita. I had to make up for it with extra red wine last night. Gotta keep myself young. On Thursday, I ordered right (pinot noir) but unfortunately my friends did not (Asia Nine apparently has crappy, mix-based mixed drinks). Tuesday worked out, too--Fado's house red has gotten better since I last had it (their prosecco, however, did not impress those who ordered it; it wasn't even bubbly). But I digress, and I'd better get to the point, because I have a series of places I need to be today.

Part of the point is tangentially addressed in the last article I posted a minute ago:
But this does not feel like much of a victory, since the female subjects we meet in passing talk mostly about what is wrong with their relationships and feelings and partners. Surely women could have been found who were not so bored and miserable, and if they had been, the book — which is making a valuable point — would have felt more balanced.
I know married (and otherwise partnered) women who are not miserable, who don't spend every waking moment complaining about their husbands. I also know guys who are not Junot Diaz characters or laundry-ad stereotypes of bumbling idiots. And I would argue that those stereotypes harm men more than they do women (even though there's a belief out there that women are deluding themselves if we don't see guys as naturally promiscuous, commitment-phobic, and shallow).

I would be remiss to leave race out of this discussion, not only because it's such a factor in Diaz's characters, but also because it was a big part of the conversation over dinner the other night. All I can do with that is report to you what other people have told me; I obviously can't speak from experience. My (African-American) friends said that the situation (i.e., commitment-phobia, infidelity, etc.) was even more egregious among African-American men, which made them and other African-American women even more hopeless. [Note: they--and I--are UN daters, but one's own demographic isn't irrelevant to this discussion.] They talked about studies and surveys, and said that there's a general sense of "why bother"? They've also talked in the past about how the higher an African-American woman's academic achievement is, the less likely she is to marry. So they've just about given up. And every time I hear about a woman who have given up because they've had it (myself included), I can't help but think, there's a guy out there who's really missing out. Which is not fair, because that guy is not one of the bumbling, cheating guys who drove us to opt-out.

Dudes. collectively, used to get away with relationship murder, because women needed them more. At least back then, women got some financial support in exchange for being housekeepers and social secretaries (I'll leave parenting out of this, because it's complicated). I don't need to re-post all of the studies and articles about how women are increasingly independent in terms of finances and fertility, among other things, but I'll repeat that that makes it easier for us to say "f* it." Not because we've given up on the idea of a healthy, fulfilling relationship with a great guy, but because that's not what we're seeing on the market, and we're unwilling to settle for less, no matter what what's-her-name tells us.

That's all for now. I'll come back at some point and put some links into that last paragraph, but I have to get going.

Sunday morning roundup

Stay classy, European far-right parties. And Saudi Arabia's justice system. And Yahoo! News.

Who knew that an iPad and a dictionary definition could defuse an international incident.

Is there hope yet for a two-state solution?

People do have an inclination to overcome their differences. [Note: if you search on the author's name in the Post, where I read the review (in print), nothing comes up at all. Excellent business practices, WashPo.]

Here's some bioengineering we can believe in.

Drugs are not the best way to deal with chronic pain.

That stale, leftover cigarette smoke can still harm you.

The psychology of spending.

Kathleen Parker had a deadline and thought the Zimmerman jury might make a timely topic, but she failed to come up with anything coherent. Seriously, what is that? Does she have a son in middle school who wrote it for his school newspaper, and graciously offered it to his mom, who was apparently in a bind?

Metro picks its battles and goes on the offensive against the blight of broken escalators. Kidding! Metro goes on the offensive against a gardener.

Michelle Singletary doesn't want you to blow money you don't have on a wedding you can't afford. But does her newspaper realize that it's bad business to run a partner's story in print but make it impossible to find on its own site online? (The story, in case you care, is about the etiquette of electronic wedding invitations).

Yes, yes it would be easier if we could just lay eggs. But (also) yes, women do care about sex.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday morning rambles

First-world problem alert: I'm going to ramble about how I haven't had pasta with olive oil in a week, and I realized--reading the Slate article I posted last night--that I miss it. I had pasta on Monday, but it was leftovers from a potluck I'd gone to the day before, so it was a more complicated olive-oil based concoction than what I usually do. Ethiopian on Tuesday, Mexican on Wednesday, Thai on Thursday, french fries and hummus (not together) last night. All very good (those fries were cooked in rosemary-garlic oil) but I miss my pasta; I don't know when I'm going to get it (meeting friends pre-dinner tonight and don't know if I'll have time to go home before the next place I'll need to be).

All of this got me wondering where I'll take my parents when they visit in a couple of weeks. Yes: my parents are visiting. At first it was just dad--we'd gone back and forth about who should visit first and I explained to him that he had more flexibility, being retired, since he could come during the week (I'll take time off, but not as much as I'd need to if I were to travel there). This way, I can take half-days. Dad didn't want to leave mom alone for too long, which was fine, but she's also been driving him crazy and he needs a break. Nonetheless, dad insisted that I visit because in spite of mom's behavior, she actually wanted to see me. The breakthrough came in the form of a two-day airfare sale, i.e., incentive to quit debating and just buy tickets. So dad agreed to be the one to travel. It was the threat of actually getting his ticket that got mom to agree to join him. So mom and dad will be visiting. I'll go to work almost as much to preserve my sanity as to get work done. I'll send the parents out to museums and parks, and then join them when I get out.

My parents are not natural restaurant-goers but they'll have to get over it. They'd probably like Ethiopian, but I'll take them to Afghan, first. Then Thai? Mai Thai for the view or Asian Bistro for the better food? Pita House for sure, and I think a new Vietnamese place opened up on Cameron (unless it's been there a while and I've missed it). Mom may insist on going to McDonald's every day just to spite me, and that is her choice. I don't actually care if she does.

Which brings me to my next ramble: I'm more determined than ever to ignore mom and let her barrage of criticism and negativity wash over me. I know I've been there before, but I'm even more there now. I'm not at all on edge as I was for their other visits; she won't be as cranky, not having driven for 8-10 hours. I won't be premenstrual, which, let's admit it, is a very significant, if not the most significant, factor in whether I snap at people. I expect constant criticism--I have every time--but this time, I really, really don't care. Not only do I not care how she feels about my house, appliances, furniture, hair, skin, gut, and butt, and not only do I fully expect her to share her feelings about all of those things in rotation, but there is nothing in me that is threatened remotely about her feelings or the way she is. Let me restate: last time (or last times), I wasn't bothered about the opinions, but there was something in me that resented that mom felt the need to spew her opinions non-stop. Now I'm more than ever at peace that her spewing has nothing to do with me--I've known that for a while--and there's no way to manage it. I've never been in a better position to just ignore her. Before, I was threatened by her: I thought that her negativity would poison me, even as I'd actively worked on not becoming her. But now I know I'm stronger than that: she can spew poison all she wants; I'm immune. Before I'd also harbored the delusion that our relationship had been salvageable; that there was a code I needed to crack for us to get along. The code I'd settled on was taking a lot of her shit but still trying to get her to tone it down. It was liberating to see that the relationship could never be saved, that she wouldn't give an inch; this shifted the relationship into subsistence mode, as far as I was concerned: I will tolerate you because you're my mother, but I'm not going to try to connect with you. Really liberating.

One thing that I anticipated might stress me out is the disorder that will infuse the house during the course of their visit. I am not the least bit OCD, and I recognize that when people visit, the sense of order that I generally enjoy gets thrown into chaos, and I enjoy the chaos as well. But I'm not about to let temporary chaos seep into permanent clutter. I've told my dad that if mom tries to bring anything for me to keep--any gadgets, small appliances, etc.--ya vikyinu k chortovoy matyeri. There is no way to translate that, so I'll let you use your imagination.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday evening roundup

Luttwak's rules for arming rebels in Syria. And the legal case, in case you cared (courtesy of Rosa Brooks).

Can GMO defenders make their case without smearing their opponents as anti-science? Some excellent excerpts:
Moreover, the more scientific understanding the public has, the more sceptical they tend to be. This is because they have a sophisticated understanding of how scientific claims to certainty arise, and the more they know about science the more they recognise that it is not a simple process.

Debating science reveals the uncertainties that inevitably exist, and the public can quickly work out that there are social influences on how conclusions emerge. They recognise that who funds science, for example, will have an impact on its outcome. The results of clinical trials in medical research become biased if pharmaceutical companies don't publish negative results. Telling the public that industry-funded research finds GMOs are wonderful isn't going to convince them, because they recognise that they have every incentive to say that.

As a result, if you want to get the pro-science, technically sophisticated UK public to change its mind about a technology it is deeply sceptical of, you don't imply that they are stupid, unpatriotic Luddites who don't care that babies in developing countries will starve to death. By being so clearly in favour of a particular outcome, rather than being seen as an honest broker for a wider public debate, the minister may well have set the whole debate up to fail.

It is a bad idea to take a debate about the politics of food, and the politics of the global distribution of the risks and rewards of innovation, and narrowly focus on questions about risk. The issue isn't just risk, but about how risks and rewards are distributed. With medical genetic technologies there are obvious risks, but the public sees very obvious benefits for sick people and is very supportive of innovation. But with GMOs in agriculture, the social distribution of risks and benefits to the public and to farmers in developing countries is far less obvious. On the other hand, the benefits to large firms (whom the public don't trust because they made such a hash of the GM debate last time) is much clearer.
Speaking of risks: something to think about before you indulge in that beef jerky.

And speaking of shady science and interpreting research: chickens aren't smart, but neither are the people who thought they were based on that study.

The Chipotle case demonstrates the value of transparency--all sorts of things come out when companies have to be straightforward about their ingredients.

I (almost) always have my pasta with olive oil.

RomComs aren't what they used to be.

I would say that not being a martyr is an excellent relationship rule under any circumstances (in this case, it's about participating in the other person's hobbies). Why do you think your presence would be worth your whining?

Everybody's different, but I'm sure glad I didn't marry young, even though it wasn't a planned-out decision. As that article says, "We can’t all snap our fingers and have a good marriage and a stable career in our 20s because that’s the “optimal” age to have children." Of course, out come the trolls who delight in excoriating women for their independence.
Then perhaps we can push back against attitudes that women are “waiting too long” because they’re deluded or selfish or career-obsessed. That won’t be easy, though—there are comments even on Twenge’s piece like, “one thing is choosing not to have babies and another one is to wait too long and then complain that an IVF costs too much or think that your miscarriages are treatable with some sort of ‘cure’. Nope!”
Who are these people? I think at least some of them must be like my coworker (see yesterday's post). I was thinking about how maybe she's reverse-projecting, since she's moving across the country to follow her husband as he takes a promotion. I don't have an opinion on her decision--who is anyone else to say what's right for someone else's family--but perhaps she's not thrilled with it, so one way of justifying it to herself is by feeling sorry for the single ladies, who don't have to move for a partner. I also, for example, didn't have to negotiate my location with anyone (for example, move to the exurbs because that's what a spouse might have wanted). I maintain that if you're happy with your life, you don't have to crap on other people (especially not on the internet).

Friday morning roundup

Why make things even more torturous for pregnant women with nonviable fetuses.

World on fire, Brazil edition.

We can't afford the abandonment of the two-state solution.

Dave Brooks adds nothing new or interesting to the debate about the humanities (I say this even as I agree with him) but I bring him up because I take issue with his headline. As an ardent supporter of the humanities--including literature--I'm averse to the idea that literature centers on a predetermined set of must-read books.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday roundup

Killer Buddhists demonstrate that violence prefers no denomination.

Violence against women is a global epidemic.

In this debate about the "seriousness" of women's magazines, can we first establish that gender-neutral magazines are not men's magazines? Sure, Glamour isn't the Economist, but neither is Maxim.

Who the hell are the people sending misogynistic hate mail to Rebecca Watson? (Besides Richard Dawkins; that's a given.)

Past research about the decline in women's fertility (with age) is flawed. Our bitter friends are right, we (women) have been sold a bill of goods, but it's not that we can have everything; it's that we can't.

Lisa Murkowski has competition for most moving change-of-heart statement. WOW. That is some seriously heart-felt, meaningful stuff.

Less (meat) is more (food security).

I agree with a lot of this, but I'm still for labeling (for reasons I feel no need to repeat).

Tom Sietsema really did not like this La Tagliatella. Especially since he warns us that it's hard to avoid cream and pork there, I'll take his word for it.

The significance of Whole Foods in Detroit.

The perils of treating obesity as a disease:
A recent review of studies on conditions like addictions and other psychological problems that can have genetic causes found that such classification generally does reduce the blame heaped on people with the disorders, both by themselves and society. But the labels also increased pessimism about recovery, probably because people assume that as diseases with biological and genetic bases, they are immutable. One study on alcoholism, for example, found that the more people bought into the idea that addiction was a “chronic relapsing disease” over which they were “powerless,” the worse their relapses were. Although the label didn’t increase relapse itself, it made it worse if it did occur— and the majority of people with alcoholism will relapse at least once.
Dunkin' Donuts doesn't care about people like me:

Another interesting comment on the science and humanities debate echoes what I've taken issue with: science may be a tool for understanding the world, "But while that tool can produce very good data, it can't really tell us exactly what we should do with that data, or how we should think about it."

See also Adam Gopnik's piece on Galileo (yes, I know Gopnik is not my favorite writer, but the substantive/factual part of that article is very good, and pertinent to our discussion of science and philosophy).

Of all the Times trend stories, this is the one I got to experience for myself?

Um, no, weddings are not about fundraising for one's life.

A cool map of place names made literal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday evening ramble

Do you guys remember that askers vs. guessers divide we talked about in January? What I'm about to ramble about is only indirectly related to it. One of the points was that if you're going to ask someone about something directly, which is my preference, you're not going to press it; if the person is not interested, you let it go and back off. You do not change the conditions of the question; you don't push as to why the askee is demurring; you just drop it. Well, the same goes for things that are not asked. It comes down to how nobody owes you anything, and so nobody owes you an excuse for not doing something you've asked. A simple "no" suffices. If I were less lazy, I'd search for some Miss Manners links to back me up on this.

I bring this up because one of my coworkers called me out today in a really appropriate way. There was a goodbye-lunch for her last week--she's relocating--and I didn't go for a variety of reasons, including that (1) she's not a close friend; (2) I didn't have time; and (3) there wasn't anything for me to eat at the chosen restaurant, and the chosen restaurant generally stinks of friend seafood. I shouldn't have been put in a position to justify my absence. but, today, I was. First, she mentioned that there had been a lunch (among our issue group). Then, she told me that my teammate was there--implying that she knows I didn't have a meeting at that time. Then, after asking how the work was coming along, she repeated--implying that we couldn't be that busy--that my teammate was taking lunches. It was really awkward, but I still didn't feel that I owed her an explanation. And now I feel even better about not having gone. I don't need to tell you that I could have had other meetings that my teammate wouldn't have been a part of (it's not unusual at my place of work to have multiple commitments or plans), or that just because my teammate decides to take lunch on a busy day, I may make a different decision based on what I have going on at or outside of work. More importantly, I don't need to tell her, because I don't owe her an excuse or even an explanation.

You may have figured that, based on my mom experience and, to a lesser extent to my RM experience, I have an over-developed sense of boundaries. In that I am very, very attuned to incursions. I'm also very attuned to attempts at manipulation, but that's not an issue here.

A few weeks earlier, this woman--the one whose luncheon I skipped out on--came into my office and told me that her heart went out to me because I was single in DC. She meant well; her angle was, "I think you're awesome, and it's unfortunate that you're in a place where awesome women outnumber suitable men." That is a fair statement. But the way she said it was extremely condescending, as was everything she continued to say in response to my responses to her (see above about knowing when to stop pushing.

My first response--and it was genuine--was, "actually, it does not suck to be single in this city. I mean, it is difficult to meet men, but it's a good city in which to have a life in the absence of a date and significant other. I suppose my odds would be better in North Dakota, but would the dudes be better, even though there are more of them?" But she insisted and persisted, and things got weird. She started talking about a friend of hers who, at her age (our age) was finding the dating pool full of divorced dudes, and those dudes have issues, so it's best to date widowers. At least they don't have issues, she said; they were our best bet. What do you say to that? I let her know that, really, I was okay. She continued to try to convince me that my life sucked and that I deserved her sympathy, but I'll spare you the details.

I don't need to tell you that I need no one's sympathy. I was just thinking--independently of that weeks-ago conversation that I only just recalled in light of this afternoon's conversation about the luncheon--about how awesome it was to live where I do and have the opportunities that I have. To be surrounded by awesome people from various aspects of my life. I hope from party to happy hour to dinner with friends to play to discussion group, etc. I have fascinating conversations with fascinating people almost every day. I feel loved and connected and full of love toward (specific) others almost every day. Which is not to say that it wouldn't be awesome to be in an awesome relationship, but it is to say that I am living an awesome single life, so I don't need anyone's sympathy. Save it for someone who's unhappily married or unhappily single or unhappy for any other reason. May your heart go out to me for reasons other than condescension.

Wednesday evening roundup

This nurse's story will make you cry but you should read it anyway. So will Lisa Murkowski's op-ed, in a different way.

This description of the Wall Street Journal editorial on sexual assault in the military will make you scream.

The science of doubting the victim.

Really, CNN? Really?

You can drink a little while pregnant.

You can go ahead and study the humanities.

The tetraquark has been confirmed.

Guys can be funny.

Wednesday morning roundup

Friedman's dispatch from Istanbul.

Wait, I thought lung cancer was (often) caused by smoking?

Overspending parents actually benefit all parents.

I disagree with Carolyn on this one, given my experience with my own toxic mother. Just because someone isn't well, doesn't mean their toxicity doesn't have consequences. Doesn't mean their continued manipulativeness needs to be your problem.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Small household appliances

What with the dehydrator debacle, I found myself thinking about all the household appliances that have traveled between Washington and Boston, sometimes round-trip, sometimes in the company of other people. There was the LePresse that I asked a friend to lug up on his way to a wedding we were both attending (I was going camping first and wasn't about to lug it along) that mom then forgot she asked for. There was the kitchen scale--she accused me of losing hers, so I bought her a really nice one, at which point she told me to take it back because she already had one. There was the vacuum cleaner that she insisted on bringing down (I'm recycling it at MOM's this weekend). There's the Magic Bullet (same story as the dehydrator: she pushed it on me and then insisted that I took parts of it that were hers).

Could that possibly be all? I feel like there were others. Not that it matters.

Tuesday evening roundup

Piracy is alive and well on the West African coast.

Latin America is awash in renewable energy potential.

Cleveland gets peer-pressured into processing rape kits; ends up solving lots of crimes.

Britain's got some interesting politicians, too. Maybe not as many?

From the paleo-is-BS department: red meat is a diabetes risk factor.

Vogue editor fails veganism. I hate to invoke Darwinism, but it seems to fit her husband's predicament. 

Why test on animals when you can model on computers to better results.

A crazy-moving essay about a different kind of fatherhood.

I have a bitchy resting face and one of these days I will physically assault someone who tells me to smile.

High heels will hurt you. BTW, I think I've been to that podiatrist.

Tuesday morning roundup

Blackmailers in China turn to Photoshop to enhance their extortion rackets, at the expense of credible transparency. But the whole system is fed by public expectation of corruption and distrust of politicians.

The European Commission gets snarled by a Slovakian coin. I shrug; it's not going to kill (or in any way threaten) secular Western Europeans to see Christian symbols on their currency; it's not like Slovakia is insisting that creationism be taught in science classes (because who does that kind of inane bull$hit?), and it's not a slippery slope. Meanwhile, Slovakian nationalists need to shut up and take stock of how much European Union money has built up their country. This all underscores how essential separation of church and state is to freedom of religion: I don't have a stake in what you believe as long as you don't try to incorporate it into the legal system. That's not "radical secularism;" it's just common sense.

The phenomenon of "first-language interference" doesn't surprise me, but wouldn't it be more accurate to call it "native-language" or "primary-language" interference? I'm not the only one whose first language is not my best language.

Dave Brooks atones for his earlier slam of psychology:
At the highbrow end, there are scholars and theorists that some have called the “nothing buttists.” Human beings are nothing but neurons, they assert. Once we understand the brain well enough, we will be able to understand behavior. We will see the chain of physical causations that determine actions. We will see that many behaviors like addiction are nothing more than brain diseases. We will see that people don’t really possess free will; their actions are caused by material processes emerging directly out of nature. Neuroscience will replace psychology and other fields as the way to understand action.

These two forms of extremism are refuted by the same reality. The brain is not the mind. It is probably impossible to look at a map of brain activity and predict or even understand the emotions, reactions, hopes and desires of the mind.

T. Colin Campbell doesn't accept the vegan/vegetarian nomenclature. I appreciate his "whole-foods, plant-based" focus, but I personally feel no need to cut back on fat or salt, as he recommends. Plant fat has very different effects from animal fat. And--this analogy is extreme--but I would liken his 10-10-80 plan (proteins/fats/healthy carbs) to cutting of your breasts: even if it does work, only do it if you have a family history or if you're walking back an existing illness. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, so this isn't health advice; it's life advice: just eat food. And by food, I mean mostly whole and plant-based food. Don't drive yourself crazy with counting things. The reason people see results with the bullshit paleo diet is because it's still preferable to the uber-processed, uber-trashy standard American diet. If you go from eating a lot of Twinkies to eating a lot of grain-fed beef, you'll feel better.

But man-oh-man is the paleo guy full of shit. Wow. "All vegetarians" have elevated levels of homocysteines because of B12 deficiency? Vegetarians who are not vegans have plenty of sources, and any vegan with a brain takes supplements or consumes supplemented food. I invite you to test my zinc, iron, B12, and omega-3s, mother-f*er. I am deficient in nothing but excess lard, so go f* yourself and your bullshit research. (Note how Isa Chandra yawns while he's blabbing and then calls him out on his boorishness.) But Isa Chandra's point is the one I make above: we're not here to debate the finer points of medical research; we're just here to tell you from personal experience that plant-based food is delicious, manageable, and good for you.

I'd like to have a word with the vegans now: let's say your an ethical vegan (like me) and you're not in it (primarily) for the health. It's still important that you take care of yourself, that you don't subsist on vegan twinkies. You don't want to be giving those silly people fodder. Eat well, for the planet and for the animals. As Isa Chandra says, sickness helps no one, deficiencies help no one.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday roundup

Have we mentioned that (1) humanitarian intervention and (2) Syria are complicated?
Wow for both letters to Carolyn.

I'd argue that even if you do know what someone's going through, it's not necessarily helpful to say it. There's a lot of value in, "what you're going through is difficult." Period.

A Brown student feministizes Taylor Swift.

There are two different things going on here: women aren't indifferent to the appearance of men's bodies, but it's just a different response.

Ag gag threatens more than animal welfare:
"It's absurd," said Amanda Hitt at the Government Accountability Project. She said she couldn't believe that an industry that has been so regularly recorded breaking the law "would then have the audacity to come to any state legislative body and say, 'Hey, we're sick of getting caught doing crimes. Could you do us a favor and criminalize catching us?'"
Check this out:
But Berman's rhetoric comes off as positively mild when compared to the email Tennessee state Rep. Andy Hoyt sent the HSUS when his ag gag measure passed: "I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women. You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as 'tape and rape.' Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it's true intent."

Do you live in a vegan-friendly city?

I'll have you know (and my readers do know) that I don't scare monger about GMO safety even as I advocate for labeling. But the science case is not as clear cut as some would argue. 

Does anyone edit this stuff for logic? Foods with "more fat, protein, and carbohydrates"? What else is there (besides water)?

What people drink where: an infographic.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mom: keeping it absurd

Did I tell you guys about the dehydrator?

I was considering buying one--a lot of vegan (nut and seed) cheese recipes, among other vegan recipes, call for one--and asked my parents what brand they had and whether they liked it. Both mom and dad insisted on giving me one of theirs. They thought they had two, but upon checking, dad found that they had three. I was just as happy buying my own, but agreed to take one of theirs in the interest of reducing the amount of extraneous crap in my parents' house. Which is a lost cause, but I digress. So Jay stopped over to pick it up before he came down for anti-Valentine's day.

When Jay was over, mom suddenly decided that she needed that dehydrator but grudgingly agreed--at dad's urging--to turn it over to Jay. After removing over half the shelves, because she needed those. Then she turned the dehydrator over to Jay and he brought it down.

Meanwhile, my dad has been encouraging me to visit, and I've been reminding him that mom won't talk to me, so why doesn't he visit me, instead. Take a break from being driven nuts by mom. We've discussed this for a while, but today he said that mom is practically chasing him out the door--she wants him to go and get the dehydrator back. She needs it.

I told him he could have it back. He shrugged and said they didn't need another one but it was easier to get it back than argue with mom. He insisted on buying me another one. I told him that it was okay but that he really should come visit.

Sunday morning roundup

I'm still not sold on intervention in Syria.

Factory farms are getting a green light to keep polluting.

It's amateur hour at the Post. Where is the substance, the analysis? You can't just say something without backing it up. You really think the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Turkey are basing their domestic policy on U.S. responses to Russia? Could you provide some actual evidence or analytical rigor? And, what "more" steps? Man, could I get an op-ed published in a major newspaper by just putting unsubstantiated ideas out there?

At least another Post op-ed calls out a silly idea (specifically, that cyberwar is on par with nuclear war).

What a very smart dad wants for Father's Day.

Rat dads have paternal instincts.

It's not easy being married to an astronaut.

Einstein and Freud debate the nature of war.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday evening roundup

Al Madrigal on ag-gag:

Eat plants so that your son will have a healthy penis.

Eat plants because,
And in case you got bitten by the wrong tick.

Eat food not drugs.

I'm cool with this pro-industry argument for GMO labeling.

Snowden is no Ellsberg.

Rosa Brooks on public vs. private-sector surveillance:
Government data collection, as such, isn't really the problem -- at least not in a world in which practically everyone is collecting data on practically everyone else. The problem, insofar as there is one, is not a privacy problem at all, but an accountability problem, and we reasonably expect our government to be more accountable than corporations. Given the current lack of transparency, we don't know what rules govern who can see what data, under what circumstances, for what purposes, and with what consequences. We don't know if this sweeping data collection has led to mistakes or abuses that have harmed innocent people, and we don't know what recourse an innocent person would have if harmed in some way.
It's reasonable to worry about those questions and to expect government officials to offer a little more clarity. (And, no, this won't somehow "tip off" the bad guys; the bad guys will assume the U.S. government's lying and doing far more than it admits anyway.) If there are innocent individuals who have suffered some real injury as a result of these government data-collection programs, there needs to be a mechanism to remedy the damage and impose appropriate consequences on government wrongdoers. If these data collection practices (or any similar past practices) lead to innocent people getting stuck on no-fly lists, or getting harassed by federal agents, or ending up wrongly detained, there should be a prompt, transparent, and fair means for them to challenge their treatment, see the supposed evidence against them, and get the problem fixed.
The mere fact that large quantities of data are collected by the government isn't an outrage in and of itself, however, and it shouldn't be any more troubling than the fact that countless non-governmental entities also collect (or can gain access to) our "private" data. We should worry about how the data are used, not whether it's collected.
Patton Oswalt on understanding rape culture:
First off: no one is trying to make rape, as a subject, off-limitsNo one is talking about censorship.  In this past week of re-reading the blogs, going through the comment threads, and re-scrolling the Twitter arguments, I haven’t once found a single statement, feminist or otherwise, saying that rape shouldn’t be joked under any circumstance, regardless of context.  Not one example of this.
In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim.
I’ve never wanted to rape anyone.  Never had the impulse.  So why was I feeling like I was being lumped in with those who were, or who took a cavalier attitude about rape, or even made rape jokes to begin with?  Why did I feel some massive, undeserved sense of injustice about my place in this whole controversy?
The answer to that is in the first incorrect assumption.  The one that says there’s no a “rape culture” in this country.  How can there be?  I’ve never wanted to rape anyone.
Do you see the illogic in that leap?  I didn’t at first.  Missed it completely...  
...just because I find rape disgusting, and have never had that impulse, doesn’t mean I can make a leap into the minds of women and dismiss how they feel day to day, moment to moment, in ways both blatant and subtle, from other men, and the way the media represents the world they live in, and from what they hear in songs, see in movies, and witness on stage in a comedy club.
There is a collective consciousness that can detect the presence (and approach) of something good or bad, in society or the world, before any hard “evidence” exists.  It’s happening now with the concept of “rape culture.”  Which, by the way, isn’t a concept.  It’s a reality.  I’m just not the one who’s going to bring it into focus.  But I’ve read enough viewpoints, and spoken to enough of my female friends (comedians and non-comedians) to know it isn’t some vaporous hysteria, some false meme or convenient catch-phrase.