Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday morning write-up

Syrian refugees who get to Europe face a new set of challenges.

Taiwan embraces electronics recycling out of necessity but comes out ahead. Artists create beauty out of discarded plastic.

Charles Blow adds articulacy to what I've been trying to say about poverty and choices.

ISON one-ups Icarus, shows you can fly right up to the sun as long as you're made of the right stuff.

Carolyn and her readers on beauty.

Gail Collins' very amusing almost-end-of-year quiz.

The Post's parade of celebrity vegans.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday morning roundup

Why are small children dieting?

Hilarious dude live-tweets in-flight encounter with woman who thinks Thanksgiving is all about her.

Careful whom you butt-dial.

Yesterday's hilarious Speed Bump (Coverly).

There is so much that's interesting in this post about ending professional harassment by exposing it to light, some of which are broader than the issue itself. Here are just a few points:
I’d read Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals in college, and some of it stuck: treat people not as means to an end, but as ends in themselves. Don’t use them.
Later, however, I thought that the job of editors is to use writers to get stories, and the job of writers is to use editor to publish stories. Kant’s rule needs — and for all I know, has — a rider that says professionally, ok, use other people to get jobs done that you both want done. But personally, don’t use other people only to offset your loneliness and depression – she didn’t like me all that much either – and to fulfill your private necessities.
And I think this is the immorality of sexual harassment. Some idiot gets preoccupied with his private necessities, mixes up the personal and the professional, and forgets that other people aren’t there as a means to his own end.  Moral idiocy explains the feeling I’ve always had when being hit on, that the person is talking to himself, not me; that he’s seeing only his needs in a mirror.  He forgets that people have their own intentions and motivations and desires, that they are their very own selves, that they are to be respected as their own ends in themselves.  This moral idiot, Kant would hate him.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving roundup

Ukrainians are not taking this renege on the trade deal sitting down.

Grist redeems itself after this horse (or should I say "turkey") shit. There is no such thing as humane turkey; there just isn't. As I tweeted in response to the second item, if you're gonna eat turkey, eat turkey, but drop any pretense that it's humane.

How to raise comfortable kids for empathy and gratitude, and how to maintain empathy ourselves (in which Kristof alludes to the 'bad decisions' of the poor that I mentioned a couple of posts ago). I find a common thread in these discussions of poverty and discussions of obesity, where people taking sides either assign or absolve blame, which is beside the point from both perspectives. On a side note, I don't agree with the self-righteous "fit mom" but I don't understand why or how anyone should be kicked off of Facebook for that kind of thing. And I do agree with her that we can't pretend that obesity isn't a problem, and we shouldn't pretend that people can't do anything about it. I don't agree that shaming is the answer.

I'm with the second Slate take on the Times piece on breast cancer: the picture is appropriate.

Linda Greenhouse on corporations and the bedroom.
The science of why you shouldn't tap your beer cap before opening it (unless it's a mushroom cloud of beer foam you're after).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday evening roundup

Relationships change, says Saudi Arabia.

I'm sure you didn't fall for that "Iowa in the Amazon" propaganda, but if you did, go back and read the comments.

Families are no longer just straight white people with perfect teeth, two-and-a-half kids, and a dog.

Miss Manners thinks you shouldn't bother buying your own engagement ring.

Businesses benefit from interns as much as interns benefit from internships.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday morning roundup

Syria's epic refugee crisis.

The latest in neighborhood discord: Japan and South Korea, Turkey and Egypt, and India and Pakistan.

Speaking of Turkey.. will its leaders manage to strike a balance internally?

Some East African countries move to curtail press freedom.

Yup, like Indians, Russians somehow seem to reconcile science and technology with superstition.

Holy crap: in 2013, a judge--in the United States--deemed that a woman of absconded with a fetus when she moved a way from the biological father, who didn't want the kid in the first place, to pursue educational opportunities. What does it say when a woman's womb is legally determined to limit her freedom of movement? WTF? (You can kind of relax because her appeal was successful, but the WTF of the matter remains.)

While we're on the topic of rape culture, check out the stories of Potomac School and the Navy.

Views on Common Core aside, kids need to be challenged, not coddled.

A month ago I linked to a much more coherent article on "poor" decision making earlier, so the only thing I'll say about this one is, no, you don't need to eat meat when you're pregnant. As I'd written earlier,
I can totally see how poverty impairs strategic decision making and I agree that Jamie Oliver's contempt for the poor is ridiculous, but there's something to be said for acknowledging that even (first-world) poor people have some choice in what they consume
You don't have to be a psychopath, even if it's in your genes.

Bill Gates is funding on egg replacement R&D.

Sex: a legal review.
 
If you sometimes wonder whether the Mayan Apocalysers were onto something, here's a datapoint.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday morning roundup

It's not just the fashion industry that needs to quit making anorexia seem sexy.

Lots of people rightly pounced on the absurd Politico piece on "feminist nightmare" Michelle Obama, but not a lot of them addressed the issue that food isn't fluff (no pun intended).

On that note, the late John Egerton emphasized the social power of food.

China's environmental migrants are flocking to the countryside if they can afford it.

Ukraine... sigh.

The ancients made wine (and it had hints of cinnamon).


Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday morning roundup

Another, localized cruel irony of Haiyan: the typhoon crippled a renewable energy success story. But only temporarily.

This is grosser than gross, but is it that much grosser than other cheese?

That McDonald's across the street is a damper on quality of life.

Norway's military has the right dietary idea.

The GoldieBlox ad is awesome,

But let's continue to be wary of ads with pretenses of subversiveness.

Do respond to misogyny with humor and to crude proposals with cute animal photos.

Many good points here--the HuffPo set respondents up for failure, and the better point is that everyone likes different things--but it remains true that many dudes think women dress for them.

Even people with super-memories are prone to spectacular memory mistakes.

"Because" occupies more roles--more parts of speech--because internet. (Look! Japan has a beautiful new island because volcanos).

What kind of writer's block do you have? Either way, there's a way out.

This kind of thing--not to mention the last DC rent survey--makes me feel better about how much money I spent on my house this year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup

You gotta hand it Tom Friedman: when he writes what he knows, he really has a knack for boiling complex issues down to the core.

I love some of the quotes from Charlotte Zolotow's obituary.

Does your family have issues with science?

On ethanol.

Wow, Canada is really stepping up lately in the "we're no less ridiculous" category by fining a mom for providing her kids with a homemade lunch.

Is it contradictory to simultaneously agree with this--
and this--
Also, even Fox News is advocating that you eat less meat.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday evening roundup

The Times covers the Detroit sleeper cell sting gone wrong.

Ethanol is not the answer.

Nocera seems to think that environmentalists' standards are self-serving, as if it's for their own personal gain that they prefer things that are better for the planet:
A bridge fuel is precisely what many in the environmental movement don’t want, of course. After all, natural gas may be cleaner, but it is still a fossil fuel — and thus, in their view, part of the problem because they believe that an abundance of natural gas could delay their long-sought nirvana of a world powered by alternative energy sources.
Meanwhile, here in the real world, new wells are being drilled every day, natural gas is becoming more abundant and the country is coming to depend on it. There is simply no way America is going to turn its back on natural gas.
In the real world, natural gas has real consequences for real people, and so does climate change.

How did the elements get their names?

Dudes: seriously, we don't give a $hit what you think about how we dress.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday morning roundup

Whatever you think of the safety of GMOs and such, whether they are "the answer" to food security is a different issue. And that issue is central to the debate on food security.Stieglitz has more on food security and food policy.

Self-control is often really an issue of one's sense of timing.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Richard Cohen's aggregate pile of horse-$hit. [Note also that Lowder was the simpleton who urged vegetarians to get over themselves and have chicken broth.]

An aggressive crocodile has been renames Fidelio.

Does anybody complain when James Bond sleeps around, or question his credentials?

This Caps fan gives no-shave November new meaning.

But will the $500 milkshake come in vegan milks? Because if it does, I'm there with bells on (pun intended, and kidding).

The universality of story-telling as demonstrated by the history and science of Little Red Riding Hood.

I've never had more reason to roll my eyes at cupcakes:

You guys, I collaborated on particle physics cupcakes. @MaddiebirdCakes pic.twitter.com/SYUu6FhoLY

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday morning roundup

Turkey's stealth authoritarian turn.

It just goes to show that there's comedy even in tragedy: China's initial typhoon-relief pledge to the Philippines was $100,000. Didn't take the region long to fill the void.

Also not exactly stepping up: Imelda Marcos and her family, even though she is from Tacloban.

The DC City Council is pretty useless, but maybe even they can bring themselves to improve the Sexual Assault Victims Rights Amendment Act. Did you know--and yes, we're talking about DC, not India--that sexual assault that involves penetration is merely a misdemeanor, rather than a felony?

Coca Cola is trying to make it harder for you to drink tap water.

I've been railing about this for years and now the Times is on it: pumpkin-themed foods have little or nothing to do with pumpkin. Even when pumpkin is an ingredient, the spices overwhelm the delicate pumpkin flavor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We're back to this

Mom, rambling as we're tidying the kitchen:
Your problem is that you have more intellect than warmth or empathy, and that makes it difficult for you to relate to other people. You're quite harsh when people don't do things exactly as you think they should. Are you listening to me? 
If you're thinking of pots and kettles and whose cow should shut up, I am too, and not for the first time this morning. Mom has been continuing to draw me in to her usually-vicarious personal dramas, telling me about how someone or another (in the latest case, one of dad's best friends from childhood; a year ago, it was her own childhood friend--Nina's dad) is dead to her. She doesn't seem to recall that a year ago, I was dead to her; even if she did, she wouldn't deduce from that that I'm less than sympathetic to her versions of events. She's always mad at someone for something--for some perceived or exaggerated slight--and that's her choice, but the regularity of it all makes her an unreliable narrator. Maybe dad's friend was arrogant toward a friend of hers (whom mom admits is annoying). It's hard to say. But mom does love to take sides and turn her chosen side into a saint--into the innocent that can do no wrong--and the other side into a shameless offender. Even that aside, it's kind of shamelessly amazing for mom to go on critiquing someone else for being insensitive.

Tuesday morning

As I was reading the paper just now:

Mom: Do you pull your hair back when you go to work?
A.: Sometimes.
Mom: Because it looks better, you know, down.
A.: Uh-huh.

Last night:

Mom: Your jeans are too big. They're falling off.
A.: I know.
Dad: She can't keep up. (Pause.) I don't get it--I thought eating so much pasta would make you gain weight.
A.: You've been misled.

Tuesday morning roundup

Mauritania has been slow to deal with its slavery problem.

The epidemiological approach to combating gun violence.

Lots of people get urinary tract infections, says the Post.

Virginia's Attorney General vote-count is revealing the s&it-show that is the vote-counting process.

You can stigmatize single women all you want, but we do vote.

Bruni on the stratification of everything.

Monday, November 11, 2013

May anyone's cow moo...

Mom did bring up my hair today, but only once.

Mom: Do you put your hair up to go to work?
A.: Sometimes.
Mom: Because it looks better down.
A.: Okay.

You have to understand that mom fully believes in the power of manipulation. She admitted to it earlier--she was calling my name repeatedly when I didn't answer right away, because I was in the middle of a sentence in a conversation with dad, and she said, "you should have answered earlier if you didn't want me to keep calling you." But I digress.

Oh, I learned a new expression today: the Russian equivalent of "the pot calling the kettle black." It's "may anyone's cow moo, but may yours shut up." In Russian, this sounds better; it even rhymes. It came up because I asked why she had a gazillion bottles of glass cleaner lined up on the ledge, and dad said I should check the basement for more. To which mom responded that dad never cleans, so he shouldn't talk. This came up over and over again because we couldn't understand what she wanted at the hardware store, and in frustration, she kept saying that that was because dad never vacuumed.

Which is kind of true. But dad has been doing all the cooking since mom sort of checked out of that kind of thing a couple of years ago. They bicker about the fruit fly situation--dad accuses mom of buying more fruit than they can consume before it starts to attract flies, mom accuses dad of something tangentially related, and so on. I haven't been helpful--you have to understand that snark and sarcasm are very normal in Russian culture; I kept commenting on how the used up fly strips really add color to the kitchen. But I do turn on dad about food, because he doesn't listen. You may have heard me bitch about his bread habits: every time, I tell him not to slice the entire loaf at once because it goes stale faster, but no. This time around, I keep arguing with him about what to refrigerate and what not to refrigerate. He doesn't refrigerate peppers, but felt the need to stick tangerines in the fridge. Who does that? You never refrigerate citrus. I'm also trying to train him not to fry the $hit out of everything. This is a very Russian thing to do. He then tells me to use more oil; I point out that I want to taste the food, not just the oil. And so on.

***
Later

Dad: Why not watch [whatever crappy movie we stopped on when we got sick of flipping channels].
A.: I'd just as soon watch, on repeat, that video of animals urinating.

Monday evening roundup

The Times rounds up the stories of a few pioneering women in science.

Um--and I say this as someone who would never tell a host exactly how much basil to use--the basil analogy is a flawed one for talking about hookups. Also, Brown is having a rough PR week: first the question about an open environment on campus, and now the dude who doesn't give a $hit about pleasing his hookup. The Times is On It is not yet on it, but I hope they do get on it. Also, I hope someone tells that last woman quoted not to take too much pride in her accomplishments; it's been well established that men will f* anything.

Monday afternoon roundup

Understanding fluid dynamics can help you not piss off the women in your life.

Exercising while pregnant will probably make your kid smarter.

This about sums up how I feel:
Anyone that's walked into a CVS or turned on a TV since Halloween knows that the real holiday-related war isn't on Christmas; it's a war on November. And Christmas is the aggressor. Christmas is why K Mart employees aren't allowed to request Thanksgiving off this year. Christmas is why by the time December rolls around, I already want to build a time machine, go back in time, and punch Bing Crosby in the neck because I'm sick of hearing him crooning all over the place. Christmas is meant to be a holiday season that lasts a little more than a month, not one that facefucks you with tinsel for two months starting every November first. Christmas needs to chill the fuck out and wait its goddamn turn. I've got Thanksgiving recipes to Pinterest and I still have to figure out How to Hanukkah, since this year I'll be spinning the menorah or lighting the dreidel or WHATEVER IT IS THAT PEOPLE DO for the first time in my life. I don't have time for Christmas deals until at least November 25th.

Monday odds and ends

My hair was up all morning--I hadn't rearranged it since I put it up when I went to bed--and I took it down when we left to go for a walk, but mom didn't say anything either way. Maybe she got the message that I got the message?

***
My first day here, dad asked if I wanted herring (the only answer, for multiple reasons, was "of course not"). The next day, he asked if I wanted sour cream in my soup. Same answer. Mom asked what was wrong with sour cream; I said, "first and foremost, it tastes nasty." Really. When I order vegan quesadillas at Busboys and Poets I always ask them to hold the vegan sour cream; occasionally they get confused and bring me sour cream anyway because they think I didn't realize it was vegan sour cream. But I digress. Herring and sour cream are two Russian staples that I wouldn't eat if they were the happiest, most sustainable foods on earth.

Over lunch,

Dad: Do you want cheese?
Mom: Me, or A.?
Dad: You. A. doesn't do cheese.
Mom: That's right. What's wrong with cheese? What would you do with all the cows?
Dad: Either way, I wasn't offering her cheese.
A.: As [my friends say to their three-year old], "Aunt A. doesn't like cheese."
Dad: There's an old Russian joke: an alcoholic goes to the zoo and sees a camel in its enclosure. There's a sign that says, "the camel doesn't drink for three days." The guy says, "poor animal!" That's, like, an old schoolyard joke.

Yes, my friends: Russian school-children make alcoholic jokes like it's the most normal thing in the world.

Either way, there's nothing wrong with your body

The Guardian rounds up a list of the body parts you didn't know you had.

A thigh gap does not mean that your body is underweight. Everyone is built differently, and some people naturally have one. If we're going to declare war, can we declare war on superficiality and objectification, and not on specific characteristics? Let's acknowledge that the thigh gap obsession is Not a Good Thing without stigmatizing the gap itself or blowing it out of proportion. That last article gets it right:
No, it is not a widespread trend and, no, not every single female between the ages of 14 and 29 is obsessed with ensuring that their thighs don't touch any more than every single female thinks it is totally normal to wear 5in Louboutin heels every day (or ever). What it is, though, is an example of yet another form of body hatred that has been successfully marketed to vulnerable girls and women... 
and
But to suggest that there is a dichotomy between having body neuroses and being intellectually stimulated isn't fair and misunderstands the problem here... When I was a teenager in the 90s, I happily read Charlotte Brontë and Chaim Potok novels, but simultaneously became so obsessed with having a flat stomach when I was 14 that I pretty much stopped eating for a decade. Turns out that intellectual pursuits are no guarantee of good mental health. To reduce body obsession to empty-headed narcissism feels like yet another way to criticise women and girls.
 and
...I remember reading an article in US Vogue several years ago by a British writer in her late 30s about her devastation that she no longer had a gap between her thighs after having had two children. Incidentally, this writer studied at Oxford: clearly, as has been repeatedly proved throughout British history, that is no guarantee of intelligence or even common sense, but it does reinforce the point that intellectual stimulation is not a guaranteed medicine against body obsession.
To bring it home:
No one can stop women and girls hating their bodies, no matter how many novels they read. But what we – the adults who don't obsess over thigh flesh – can do is to keep reinforcing the message to young people that to be strong and healthy is a good thing and to be frail and sickly is dangerous, and that anyone who feels differently is not to be hated but to be pitied. And, most of all, we need to live by our words and set the example accordingly. Because, ultimately, a life spent measuring your thighs is a life wasted.

Adjusting

I am trying really, really hard to be more patient with mom. Of course patience is appropriate, and it doesn't seem so hard on paper, but it's not that simple in practice. Here's why:

  • I'm not only an introvert, but an activist introvert: I unabashedly believe in and actively defend my right to be left alone (see entire RM blog). It's habit, instinct at this point to recoil, out of principle and boundary-enforcement, when someone talks to me when I don't want to talk. So while there's that added logical step--if mom wants to talk, let her talk--my gut instinct is to snap.
  • Mom has been doing this (aggressively talking when I'm clearly in the middle of something) for ages--I alluded to this earlier with regard to mom's more tiresome habits, like critiquing my hair every few minutes--so making the above adjustment (if she wants to talk, let her talk) is more of a leap than it would be if this were a new habit.
  • I'm an introvert; it just keeps coming back to that. The first bullet was about principle, but this bullet is just about reality: it's an intrusion when someone aggressively talks to me. And when you try to resist snapping because it's the right thing to do or it's just not worth it, but the offending behavior continues, you only snap harder in the end. A friend and I were talking about that the other day in relation to significant others: you may know in your head that it's worth it to let something go, but if that thing continues to bother you, overlooking it will only backfire.
Mom insisted on talking to me as I did yoga yesterday and as I lifted weights this morning, and the yoga is obvious but the lifting less so; nonetheless, it's still 'my time,' i.e., the time that I don't want to talk to anyone. There's also a mom-factor there, in that she was (1) rambling and not getting to the point--and I kept trying to let it go and wait for her to get to the point, but she just wouldn't; and (2) being very negative about something or other and both dad and I wish she would let go of her past resentments and quit repeating them all the time. So she was going on and on and on and on, and after trying to let it go, I snapped. Not terribly, but it wasn't necessary. I mean, she is the way she is. I need to figure out a way to not snap.

Monday morning roundup

Are you people trying to make my head explode, and not just because you're counting your silly infographic as a separate article against my monthly limit? After already counting that useless Motherlode column about Harry Potter? A "heavy water plant" does not in and of itself make plutonium; it makes heavy water. A heavy water reactor sure can make plutonium, but so can a light water reactor (the former makes more, faster). Just f*ing say that. If you want a better idea of what the issues are, see this.

(Some) Chinese women embrace The Vagina Monologues.

Questioning science doesn't make you anti-science.

It's not Google's fault that its autofill makes me fear for society:
Do you have a designated eradicator? You never know when you'll need someone to hide your stuff.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday evening roundup and mom blog

At some point, elite colleges ran into a potential Jewish problem.

OMG new contender for most stupid-yet-awesome Tumblr (clicker discretion advised); I'd characterize this one as stupid but not awesome.

Speaking of stock photos, this model took the (absurd) situation pretty well. I guess 'to each her own' with regard to the absurdity of the question.

***
Mom is watching Fox News and alternating between commenting on my hair ("I get the impression that long hair is very 'in' right now") and angrily cursing Chris Christie.

***
A.: Why are you wearing sunglasses?
Mom: I couldn't find my regular glasses. I mean, I haven't looked... I'm too lazy to get up.

Cats: they're not just like men

I found myself having the same conversation that some well-meaning friends have with me, with regard to me, with my mom, with regard to cats. I've been urging my mother--both parents, actually--to get a cat, but they both cite their attachment to the dearly departed cat that I grew up with. Mom argues that she'll always compare any cat to her.

A.: Fair enough, but the new cat won't care; (s)he'll be happy to have a home and a family.
Mom: C. was just so smart. She was a brilliant cat.
A.: Perhaps, but it doesn't matter. My cat is an idiot, but I love her anyway; it would be nice, sometimes, if she were smarter, but overall, her idiocy doesn't detract from her value as a pet. It's not why I keep her around.
Mom: ...she was so smart. She always knew where we were... she always knew...
A.: But she's not here anymore, and there are cats that are here. You don't need them to help you with differential calculus; you need them to be there and look pretty.
Mom: I'll always compare them to her.
A.: It won't matter.
Mom: She was so smart.
A.: Smart is not important in cats. It's not what they're there for.
Mom: She was unbelievably smart.
A.: That's all well and good, but a dumb cat is better than no cat. It's nice if you get another smart one, but it's really just not that important.

And so on.

Later Sunday afternoon

Maybe thirty seconds or so after leaving the house to go for a walk:

Mom: Your hair looks better down.
A.: Are you going to keep talking about my hair in fifteen-minute increments?
Mom: I'll continue to talk about you get the message.
A.: You do realize that I'll continue to put my hair up to get it out of my face, as needed?
Mom: Do what you want, but your hair looks better down. With your hair up, you look... "unappealing."

***
Did I ever post that somewhat meh piece from last weekend about finding one's wording in a foreign language? I've been thinking about that a lot this weekend--for some reason, more so than I have during other weekends with my parents. There really are things that are too much work to phrase, such that by the time you phrase them, they lose their impact. There's a single word in Russian for losing oneself in thought: задумаца. On our way back from our walk, mom stopped in the middle of the street--she's always done this, or at least I remember her doing it decades ago and thinking, "could you please finish crossing the street and then continue philosophizing, or remembering whatever you just remembered?" Mom stopped in the middle of the street just now and called upon dad and me to behold the rich colors that the setting sun was casting, by interaction with the colorful leaves. I said, "I'll look at them when you're on this side of the road. I hate it when you get lost in thought in the middle of the street."

Hair, hair, hair

Mom won't stop talking about my hair. Actually, she just did again, as I typed this:

Mom: Your hair doesn't look bad like that. It looks much better like that than it does when it's up. Just sayin'.

I washed my hair and left it down to dry. And every fifteen minutes...

Mom: Your hair looks better like that. It doesn't look good when it's up.

Mom: Your hair looks much better like that than up.

And so on. Once, I replied that I was nonetheless going to put my hair up to get it out of the way as needed. She said, "it's your call, but it looks better down."

Lost in translation

In my parents' kitchen is a Halloween-themed bag of grapes. The packaging says something along the lines of, "no trick, just treat." And then, it says, "Aucune mauvaise surprise; rien que du plaisir." Really? That's the best you could do? (That translates to, "no unhappy surprise; only pleasure.") Which makes no sense. But whatever, laws are laws, I guess.


Sunday afternoon

We finally identified a functioning vacuum cleaner, and started vacuuming. I brought, from home, a cleaning tool specifically for getting dust and out of dirt out of narrow spaces, to clean my parents' incredibly nasty radiators. Mom watched in awe as I pushed the tool between the radiator segments, and dusts flew out. We then vacuumed it out. About ten minutes into this process, mom said, "now your hair looks fine; I didn't like it earlier, but as it is now, it kind of works."

My hair was still up, just disheveled from the cleaning. It was pulled back, but there were loose strands here and there. And that made it all okay.

Sunday afternoon roundup

Mental illness is... illness.

I saw this and thought blah blah blah STEM blah blah blah; it was blah-blah-blah even for STEM worship. Then I saw that it was Chevron-sponsored content.

Smith has come under fire for the same situation, and when I was there, my impression was that it was just conservative students being whiny--no one was actually censoring them or otherwise shutting them down. That said, you never know, and it behooves Brown to foster an open environment for debate.

Literally littered

A.: Of the gazillion vacuum cleaners strewn across the house, could someone please tell me which one(s) work(s)?
Dad: The house is literally littered with vacuum cleaners.
Mom: He wouldn't know which ones work; he never vacuums.
Dad: That's because every time I try one of the ones on the floor, it doesn't work.
A.: There was a decent-looking one in the basement.
Mom: That one doesn't work.
A.: Which one works?
Mom: I'll find one.

Sunday morning roundup

China's urbanization gone wrong leaves former villagers disoriented and lifestyles devastated.

The Times' matter-of-fact dig at Boston: "once a backwater." Well, it was once, literally.

Pet obesity is a thing.

College Candy boils the pesky feminist-identification issue down to a single determining factor.

Yes, this mom is missing the point of Harry Potter.

Here's a use of Legos I can believe in.

As Jamie Kilstein has been tweeting lately: your religious beliefs or lack thereof don't, in and of themselves, speak to your character. Nobody likes an asshole of any religious persuasion.
To demonstrate the other side of this issue comes Sarah Palin, with a new, inflammatory book.

Look, I love old, raw Paris, too... but I also love being able to find something to eat there, and the decrease in street harassment is nothing to be sneezed at (unless you're a guy, in which case it's not something you'd notice).

Sunday morning

I'm reading the news, in my pajamas. Minding my own business.

Mom: I have this sense that you looked better--prettier--with your old hairstyle. Are you doing that on purpose--pulling your hair back so tightly?
A.: I pull my hair back out of my face, yes.

I could tell her that I'm getting my hair cut the day after I get back, but then she'd lecture me about how I should just cut my own hair. But it's not about the hair; it's about always having something to say. I'm trying to reconcile the fact that while this behavior is legitimately annoying and also longstanding, it's up to me to manage my response to it, i.e., not snap at her.

Earlier, she was pushing a vase on me.

Mom: Can't you tell that it's unique? It's an object of beauty. I only managed to get it out of the Soviet Union because the customs officials didn't see its value.
A.: I would be afraid to transport it, and I don't really have room for it. It's likelier to break in my house, especially now with everything all over the place.
Mom: Unbelievable. You can't walk five minutes with it!

Mom is referring to my proximity to the metro. It's notable that it doesn't occur to her to argue that I should take a cab, given how unique this vase is.

A.: That's not the point. I don't have space for it. It would get lost in all my stuff.
Mom: Hmph!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tea and a movie

Over tea, from out of nowhere:

Mom: So, is that your usual hairstyle now? Do you always wear that hairstyle these days?
A.: [Shrug.]
Dad: Her hair was different two days ago when we Skyped.
A.: This is true.
Mom: Huh.

***
Mom said she had a headache because she'd slept poorly, so I suggested that she go to bed. Instead, she looked over my shoulder and told me I was using too much water to wash the dishes. This is a mom classic, but I get less of it than anybody else, because I try not to do dishes when mom is watching. When I went to Australia and visited a family friend, she asked me whether mom lets me use water to wash dishes. She also told me a story about how mom excoriated her, in their younger days, a day or two after she (the friend) was hit by a car and badly hurt. And she told me this in a very "nice" way, i.e., not to say, "your mother has issues," but to say, "sure, your mother has issues, but that's just the way she is." But I digress.

After the dishes, I moved to the living room and took to channel flipping. I don't have a TV at home--and mom is always harping on how do I get by without a TV--so mindless channel flipping is a rare, guilty pleasure for me. My brain is particularly fried this weekend, and I shouldn't have to justify my attraction to lowbrow entertainment to anyone. Anyway, there was a bunch of nothing on TV (the default channel is Fox News), so I eventually settled on Iron Man II, because that's perfect brain-dead entertainment. It's not my first choice; I can't stand Gwyneth Paltrow in an ironic way: it's so trendy to hate on her that I would like to be more original and actually admire her, but I can't do it. Also, that kale analogy is totally off; kale, like arugula, is an easy-to-grow, easy, healthy thing; it may be trendy, but it's not overrated. But I digress.

So here I am, trying to watch Iron Man, when mom comes in and starts running commentary:

Mom: Oh, something ominous is going to happen now. I can tell by the music. What's happening now? Who's that? Oh, I think he's going to fight with someone.
A.: Mom! Do you need me to leave and watch this somewhere else?
Mom: Oh, am I interfering with your very serious movie?
A.: You are interfering with my movie, for what it's worth. It's no masterpiece, but I'm watching it, so just let me watch it.
Mom: It looks dumb.
A.: I'm not watching it for intellectual stimulation.
Mom: It sure seems that you are.
A.: Does it matter?
Mom: [Shrug.]

Dinner conversations

Over dinner, from out of nowhere:

Mom: Your hairstyle is... neither here nor there.

I'm done saying, "it's not a hairstyle; it's my hair, pulled back." I figured that if mom was going to be bothered enough about my "hairstyle" to comment on it at 3am in the emergency room (see July mom blog), there was no reasoning with her over it. The "hairstyle"is her main thing now.

Dad pointed out, or I guess, commented, since we both already know, that mom just has to be harping about something at any given time. It's just what she does. It's what she runs on (with toxic byproducts), and it's lifelong, ingrained habit. It hit me as we were parking at that grocery store I so hate--narrow aisles and lots of yuppies, and mom insists on rolling a cart through it--when mom kept... if there's an English equivalent for what I want to say, it's not coming to me--it's визжать--which Google Translate renders as "shrill" and "shriek" about very minor things. Like parking--like parking in one spot over another. And she's always been this way, I guess--always created a lot of drama over very trivial things--but in the past I was always focused on how it made me feel. At this point, I'm able to let it glide right past me, and all I can think is, "it must be exhausting to go through life like that."

***
Also over dinner, in reference to a family friend who just had Lyme Disease, and then shingles:

Dad: There's a possibility that she has herbs.
A.: Huh?
Dad: She may have herbs.
A.: Erbs.
Dad: No, I'm not trying to say herbs. Herbs. H-E-R-P...
A.: Herpes!
Dad: Yes, herpes.
A.: Oh, no. I hope she doesn't have it.

But I guess it's a variation on shingles, so she may.

Oh, will you people shut the f* up about how misunderstood you are?

If I didn't have friends who were physicists... if I only knew physicists from the internet... I would have a hard time not concluding that all of them were characterized by this douchey, nobody-understands-us, ours-is-the-only-challenging-field arrogance. I'm the first to agree that any kind of mansplaining is annoying, but let me also tell you that you people don't have a monopoly on being subjected to it; in fact, as a social scientist, with an advanced degree (not a PhD, mind you) in international affairs, you think I don't get sick of people thinking they're as qualified (whatever that means) as I am because they read the paper? You don't think everyone, in every field, has similar complaints--of people oversimplifying what they do or what they study? Of wanting to know more about it? Yes, yes, your $hit is complicated. And I promise you that I'm not all of the sudden into it because it's trendy, as the post alleges; I have no choice but to develop a basic understanding in order to do my job. And yes, I find it interesting and want to know more, so I'm sorry that if I ever express that kind of thing to an actual physicist, the response is "who do you think you are to think you're remotely prepared to understand anything I might explain to you?" That may be true, but what I'm telling you, bitches, is that it's true to some extent about a lot of things, so get the f* over yourselves.

You've gotta love that there are public intellectuals--as there are in any field--going out of their way to say to people, "you can't afford ignorance in any field, including science; you don't have to understand it all, but understand what you can," and then this jerk comes along and says, "don't bother, sparky; it's too complicated for you." Never mind this:
Being the ignorant non-scientist that I am, am I still allowed to think that the following is cool, or is that usurpation? After all, I lacerate myself a lot, so it's nice to find some symbolism in all that bloodshed:

About that dehydrator...

By that dehydrator, I mean this dehydrator: one of the many small appliances to have traveled the busy northeast corridor in search of its rightful home.

Mom had mentioned it over the phone a week or so ago, told me to make sure to bring it. But then dad reminded her that she still had two, plus most of the disks from the one that she gave me. By gave, she means "like an idiot, agreed to give." This year it was okay to do with out; the mushroom harvest was modest. But in a year of abundant mushrooms, she's gonna need all the dehydrator space she could get. Nonetheless, I came away from that phone call with the impression that mom agreed I should keep the third dehydrator. I also forgot about it.

But she brought it up the minute I got here (yes, this is still preferable to bringing up my huge ass the minute I get here). She got very agitated, fast.

Mom: Like an idiot, I said you could have them. When Jay was here.
A.: Them? I only have one.
Mom: No! You have two!
A.: I really don't. I have one, with missing disks.
Mom: You have two!
A.: I don't have that much space, mom. I'd know if I had two dehydrators.
Mom: Well, I know what I gave him. Like an idiot! What was I thinking?
A.: You were thinking you already had enough dehydrators and that you could spare one.

Later

Mom: I can't believe you didn't bring back the dehydrator. What am I going to do when there are mushrooms?
Dad: You have two dehydrators, with fifteen disks.
Mom: I do not! He took two of them.
A.: One. He took one, and you took out most of the disks.
Mom: I only have one left.
Dad: You have two.
Mom: I do not!
Dad: Do you want me to find them and bring them up?
Mom: Yes. I'll believe it when I see it.
A.: Okay. But I'm telling you that I only have one.
Mom: Then Jay must have taken one.
Dad: I'm sure he locked it up in a safe deposit box immediately.

At which point we all burst out laughing. Dehydrator tension defused, for now.

Saturday roundup

Public service announcement to Danish nationalists: those immigrants are doing you and your kids a huge favor; embrace them. Keep pork and other meatballs out of your schools.

Is Bloomberg News self-censoring to maintain its access in China?

The British have thus far shrugged off the surveillance scandal.

Blame is separate from power; even when something is someone else's fault, we still have choices.




Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday morning roundup

The late Reverend Eugene Callender was an amazing man who had no trouble seeing the humanity in otherwise marginalized groups of people.

More people are going hungry and hungrier.

Does the Times have scientists among its editors? What the f* is this:
Would Tehran be willing to suspend construction of a heavy-water plant that would produce plutonium?

If I had no idea what that was about, that snippet would leave me very misinformed and maybe confused. As it were... I just don't understand why they can't add a few more details that would actually make that sentence more accurate and logical.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

Does anybody else think that it's hilarious that some guys think that maternal care has nothing to do with them?

Does anybody else think that it's hilarious that Silvio Berlusconi's family is comparing the "persecution" it's facing to that of the Holocaust?

Probably no one thinks it's hilarious that the Times is confused about dark matter and perpetuates that confusion among its readership.

Thursday morning roundup

The basis for "Do No Harm" in humanitarian aid is very real, but defaulting to it can result in preventable harm.

Friedman on China's growth-for-air-quality tradeoff.

It's risky life-threatening to be non-white in stand-your-ground states.

Sorry, guys... I'm all about encouraging everyone to learn a second language, but that didn't help mom in terms of dementia. Then again, maybe it did "significantly delay its onset."

Wow, this dude is man of the year:
For Mr. Sousa, beauty really is skin deep: “I say that inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.”
Hear that, everyone: you have to justify your existence, and plastic surgery is the way to do it. As for some of the ladies interviewed, who are thinking about it: do you really think self-esteem based on your bust size is self-esteem? Are there no more meaningful bases for it? Check out the mannequins. I think one might make a good surface for planting herbs, what with all that space.

And the man of the year title had a serious contender or two.

Blow on parenting. Thompson on reporting on Millennials.

I used to dread the prospect of mom's... momness in life events, but it is manageable.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday evening roundup

We still don't know how it ends, but after years of "f* you's" from Cuccinelli, women are saying "f* you" back.

The better we--especially women--are at what we do, the more we realize how much better we might do. Hence, impostor syndrome.

Good for Robyn Lawley for many things, including maintaining body positivity without resorting to body snarking.

How the meat industry is f*ing you over and getting away with it.

HuffPo's giffy list of $hit not to say/do to vegetarians is spot-on. I'm glad they captured the "when salad is the only option" issue; there is also its conversational corollary: when you doubt a restaurant's suitability for vegetarians, and someone says there'll at least be a salad.

Civil Eats tells Scientific American: we're not stupid or anti-science; we just have a Right to Know so we can make our own decisions.

Love Modern Farmer's vegetable-celebrity chart.

"Appropriate" is one to skip

I didn't resent "Appropriate" until the middle of the third act, when, shifting in my seat, my tights caught and snagged on the zipper of my boots. Even though it was clear long before that moment that the play was dragging, that there was too much of the same, that we get it already, it took another ruined pair of tights to make me regret having gone. That's largely because, in spite of its mediocrity and lack of originality, the play was vaguely amusing (enough). When I say lack of originality, I couldn't mean it more: during the first act, I thought I was watching "Stupid F*ing Bird" again--another play with characters who are caricatures of themselves. Another play that ran around in circles trying to come to an end. Didn't help that it was some of the same actors. Didn't help the sense that the characters were reused, that is.

Past the first act, I no longer thought of Bird but couldn't help but think the whole thing was a ripoff of "Osage County," so much so that Tracy Letts could probably sue. If you're going to write a okay about fucked up family dynamics that keep being revealed to be even more fucked up, in a way that stretches credulity, you've gotta make it good. Just like playwrights will abuse salty language for shock value, as a cheap substitute for a compelling story, they will, apparently, abuse fucked-up.

So save yourselves some time and skip "Appropriate" (playing at Woolly).

***
We decided before the show that a quick meal would have to do, so we hit Protein Bar, even though I'd said I wouldn't after the silly "highest protein" sign discussed earlier. The food wasn't bad, although, not for the first time, it wasn't warm enough. More importantly, the staff don't seem to get it. It being vegetarianism. My friend ordered the veggie chili, and one of the people behind the counter asked her if she wanted chicken in it. Apparently, this question came up several times in the ordering process. Really, Protein Bar?

***
Since this post has been all kvetch so far, let me end on a positive note: my new insulation is awesome. I can feel the difference; the house heats up much more quickly, and retains heat more effectively, on a noticeable level.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday morning roundup


Egypt heads toward unabashed police state.

Congo's prospects for peace are tenuous but better than ever.

"Reductress" is such a good idea; too bad it had to stoop to not-even-funny vegan bashing.

On that note, "journalists" once again deceive you about nutrition science. I mean, with a headline like "Women's Depression Linked to ... Pasta" you'd think that depression was linked--by research--to pasta. Instead, there's this:
The research team looked at the women's diets and discovered those who consumed more red meat, soda, and refined grains, like pasta, white bread, and chips, were 29% to 41% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who consumed more wine, coffee, and leafy greens,
Newsflash to Newser: there is such a thing as whole-wheat pasta. Not all carbs are "refined grains." And you might also want to notice that whole thing about red meat, which the last time I checked, did not qualify as a carb.

In dating research: dudes often resort to texting when they've stopped caring enough to want to actually talk to you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday morning roundup

Has everyone turned their clocks back? Has everyone engaged in a philosophical exploration of what it means to have few, if any, clocks that need to be changed manually? In any case, on to the roundup:

Syrian refugees are going very, very hungry. When I read the last lines of that article, I couldn't help but think of Jon Stewart's recent interview with Richard Dawkins. Then again, he's so obsessed with antagonizing Muslims that I doubt he cares about an individual Muslim woman finding comfort in the idea that the child she lost is with god.

On the topic of the Daily Show, check out Al Madrigal's delightful expose of gay acceptance in the Deep South.

Back to the rest of the world, though: Herat has an addiction crisis.

On a lighter but not entirely unrelated note, here's the science behind the wisdom of kicking werewolves in the nads. Not unrelated because this goes back to the problem with the Dawkins MO; scientists are here to explain the world--to conduct and communicate research--not to tell people what to think.

Oarfish are terrible swimmers, but they have neat superpowers, like being able to simply shed their assess when they become too much trouble to lug around.

Look, everyone: the nature of insurance is that we pay for other people's lifestyle choices. Don't want to pay for maternity care because that's not your life? Do I want to pay for lifestyle choices like smoking and eating lots of meat? Just sayin'.

As I was reading Jezebel's compilations of misguided reasons women eschew or qualify identifying as a feminist--mostly because of stigma that has little to do with the actual thing--I had to (1) wonder who benefits from perpetuating said stigma (hint: whoever benefits from the status quo) and (2) how veganism is fraught by a similar stigma.

Lots to talk about in this piece on marketing broccoli, including the figures on how much corn goes to feed:
Two of the corn industry’s biggest customers — livestock and dairy — have annual marketing budgets that add up to some $300 million, which has spawned a series of campaigns, with help from some of the biggest ad firms in the country, that continue to shape much of our diet: “Got Milk?” for dairy farmers; “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” for cattlemen; as well as partnerships with Domino’s and other restaurant chains that have helped triple our consumption of cheese.
Only a bad yoga teacher will tell you to push through the pain. Any teacher I've ever had--including the merely mediocre ones--have said, "listen to your body."

Oh, if you do want to visit that debate about the humanities, check out this video. And these Slate pieces questioning the research on whether reading makes you more empathetic. But also note that admissions officers are looking to weed out "linear, mechanical" thinkers, and I will personally continue to argue that reading literature challenges that kind of thinking.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday morning roundup

Did I promise you excerpts earlier this week? It's been a crazy few days and I've moved on. If you care (about the debate about the future of the humanities), you can read or skim all those articles yourself. I'm sure we'll return to the theme, and maybe I'll care enough again then. And now for your roundup:

The Times is about a decade late to the whole "Russians are trying to figure out smiling and other principles of customer service" thing. I mean, I read the same thing about Aeroflot, specifically, probably that long ago. Also, must the Times traffic in ethnic stereotypes (even if they're supposedly flattering ones)?
Finding attractive cabin crews has never posed much of a problem for Aeroflot. Training Russians to be nice to customers, well, there’s the rub for the Russian airline and many other Russian businesses.
This is not the first time in recent months that the Times has glibly played the "Russian women are attractive but not awfully smart" thing. Maybe dedicate more coverage to the Russian journalists and activists--many of whom are female--who are being attacked and jailed for their civil disobedience?

While we're on the topic of objectification and ridiculousness, what can I even say about the coverage of the Dutchess of Cambridge's baby weight?

Poland won't quit coal, in spite of its pollution crisis. Maybe look to China for inspiration and advice?

Veterinarians can quit antibiotics for farm animals when incentivized.

I didn't realize that the world's worst outhouse had burned down.

LEDs are increasingly the answer for those who can't stand compact fluorescents. Up to a week ago, I was in the same boat as that woman with the 15-foot lightbulb change conundrum.

High-protein diets are a sham.

Younger generations really are eschewing cars.
 
I can't help but think of Ani Difranco, in her intro on "Living in Clip," when she says "they were born six or seven times, these people."

The contents of my handbag are about a thousand times less valuable than those of "the average lady." I guess that's not true if you count my glasses, but apart from that there's... a repair kit for the glasses, floss, keys, badge, a magazine to read on the Metro, a zipped up reusable shopping bag, pen and notepad... and that's about it.

Quadriscuits are highly unstable and whole-grain, but are they vegan?

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