Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday roundup

Grey lady, paper of record: it's the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. You can say the name at least once (in place of "the 1987 treaty"); your readership can handle it.

The Fragile Five's issues are minor compared to the economic clusterf* in Argentina.

As toxic mafia trash overflows in southern Italy, one sentence sums up not only that country's predicament but a microcosm of those who can keep perpetuating the problem because they have no stake: "you idiot, we'll drink mineral water."

Snowy owl gets authentic DC experience, gets hit by a Metrobus.

Can't say I'm a fan of Greta Van Susteren but when she's right, she's right
The Frisky's piece on The Nation's "toxic twitter wars" piece:
On Twitter, by contrast, women of color, trans women and other people who feel silenced can amplify one another’s voices, talking back to people with power in an unparalleled way.
That doesn’t mean, though, that social media’s climate of perpetual outrage and hair-trigger offense is constructive. “There is a problem with toxicity on Twitter and in social media,” Cooper says. “I think we have to say that. I’m not sure that black women are benefiting from the toxicity.”
Online, however, intersectionality is overwhelmingly about chastisement and rooting out individual sin... An elaborate series of norms and rules has evolved out of that belief, generally unknown to the uninitiated, who are nevertheless hammered if they unwittingly violate them. Often, these rules began as useful insights into the way rhetorical power works but, says Cross, “have metamorphosed into something much more rigid and inflexible.” One such rule is a prohibition on what’s called “tone policing.” An insight into the way marginalized people are punished for their anger has turned into an imperative “that you can never question the efficacy of anger, especially when voiced by a person from a marginalized background.”
Similarly, there’s a norm that intention doesn’t matter—indeed, if you offend someone and then try to explain that you were misunderstood, this is seen as compounding the original injury. Again, there’s a significant insight here: people often behave in bigoted ways without meaning to, and their benign intention doesn’t make the prejudice less painful for those subjected to it. However, “that became a rule where you say intentions never matter; there is no added value to understanding the intentions of the speaker,” Cross says.
“What’s disgusting and disturbing to me is that I see some of the more intellectually dishonest arguments put forth by women of color being legitimized and performed by white feminists, who seem to be in some sort of competition to exhibit how intersectional they are,” says Jezebel founder Holmes, who is black. “There are these Olympian attempts on the part of white feminists to underscore and display their ally-ship in a way that feels gross and dishonest and, yes, patronizing.”
Case in point: white feminist takes down White Feminists.

In Dawn Stover's words (on a different topic), "it's time to stop wasting ammunition on friendly fire." That's not to say you can't make your forces more inclusive and respectful of their diverse components parts; it is to say, save the rancor for the opposing forces.

You know, I can't actually disagree with this guy, but let it be known that I haven't forsworn bikinis:
Or in the words of one 38-year-old (single) male discussing the cons of pursuing women over 35 on an internet dating board, they are “less humble, overly picky and demanding and also have a real bad attitude and bitterness towards dating.”
People of both genders who have been dating for a while have bitterness toward dating; dating--and relationships--are hard, and can bring out the worst in even good people. So I don't blame these older guys for wanting to date younger, less bitter women, but knowing all the awesome older same-age women that I do, I can also say that they (the guys) are missing out.

No one really needs supplemental protein.

As if they don't have enough to answer for (ahem, static electricity and multiplet states), those people have to go and mess with my namesake.

Here's a reason not to lose faith in humanity.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Syria talks: is open arguing something that's better than nothing?

Even Lebanon's unofficial social service providers have neglected to deal with garbage disposal.

What about genetic modification that directly targets the pest?

Climate change and tea, and, oh, bitch, I drink tea out of bags (sometimes) and I am very, very discerning when it comes to tea so shut the f* up.

Some of this is bullcrap--vegan food is no more processed than animal-based food--but people do feel better when they cut back on animal products.

Take zinc, not vitamin C.

You wouldn't want your daughter to grow up hating her body, so why hate yours?

My vote for dealing with online mysoginists is reporting the behavior to their mothers, but whatever works (including all-of-the-above).

We all use both sides of our brain.

I can't believe in this day and age that talking to kids about reproduction is an issue; do check out Julia Sweeney's hilarious video on the topic, which I posted earlier.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Two things

Every year, I question whether I can be bothered to host an anti-valentine's day party and whether I'm sufficiently motivated. And then the obnoxious ads start and I know I'm in.

A week or so ago I caught up with a family friend who, to my confusion, tried to convince me to "forgive" my mother. I had to explain that forgiveness was never an issue; lack of forgiveness is not why I don't/won't visit my parents more. The issue is toxicity: mom is just so venomous. I cannot be the person I want to be when I spend much time around her. In fact, having the conversation--with the family friend--made me realize how f*ed up I've been just from having spent a week with mom over the holidays. Being $hat on for the better part of that week took a toll on my sense of self. It's very hard to have someone criticize your every move and every choice without starting to question yourself. You may also lash out at other people, even though I don't think I have. The point is, I'm not spending "less" time with mom out of some punitive sense of bitterness; I'm minimizing my exposure to mom for my own sanity.

Monday roundup

Cow's milk (or other animal-based milk) is not a nutritional necessity.

Two of my least favorite things--confined cows and static electricity--make for an explosive combination.

How do we feel about Monsanto cross-breeding for more nutritious veggies (without genetically modifying)? Syngenta's doing the same, through genetic modification.

The "ideology" of "gender" is a threat in Poland (seriously, read that--that $hit is hilarious) and "all your daughters will become lesbians" is a "surprisingly powerful" line of argument in Russia against Westernization (read that, too; it's Anne Applebaum's column on the myth of color revolutions).

Providence is the least bible-minded city in country.

responds to the Chua op-ed with many, many excellent points.

Yeah, marriage doesn't solve existing issues.

I'm not going to go around telling other people how to look, so I'm not arguing with the request not to tell the writer she looks better without makeup, but I'm going ot take issue with some of her assumptions--and with Matt Smith's (even though I generally appreciate his post, which I also linked to the other day). I can't speak for anyone else, nor do I claim to, but makeup is not an expected part of my professional uniform, and if it ever has been, I've chosen to ignore that expectation. (She acknowledges that it's not a part of every woman's, so I guess we hear each other.) As for Mr. Smith:
I do not need to spend tons of time putting on make-up every day.  Many women don't have that luxury.  And I don't have to spend all the money those cosmetics cost.  That's my male privilege.
It's also the privelege of every woman who says "f*, no, I'm not wasting time or money on that $hit." And yes, per the earlier post, I realize that not everyone has equal say in the matter, but that seems much more job-specific than gender-specific. I guess, along those lines, every woman can also say "f* no" to his next point, which is having to take greater precautions--or self-imposed limits--for safety, but that is much more gender-specific and the trade-off that everyone must make for herself, between limits and risks, is very real. No matter where any of us step on that spectrum, we're constantly reminded of our choices. Makeup is just not that salient (I realize that neither writer is suggesting that it is, but the point I'm making is that women don't have to wear makeup).

Makeup belongs more along the spectrum of things people try to sell us by fabricating imperfections. Case in point: eyebrow implants are a thing (certainly not one I have any need for).

I remember when I stopped weighing myself. It was long after I stopped caring--for a while, I weighed myself out of habit (and some curiosity). And then I really stopped caring. Now I weigh myself when I weigh my cat (I weigh us together and then myself to subtract my weight to get hers).

Sloths are so f*ing adorable. Each is also an ecosystem in and of itself.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday morning roundup

Will another peace deal in Mindinao lead to... a more peaceful Mindinao?

The Ukraine is on fire.

Can Ethiopia make growing global demand for teff work for its farmers?

This very long but interesting and important piece on gay-male misogyny touched on some very resonant points. The fashion industry is not the most important of them, but it's one of the more... intersecting, if you will (there are areas where homophobia and misogyny intersect--for example: hate crimes, sexual violence, and the restrictions that either can impose on the target group) and there's what is a bizarre objectification of women that's almost unique to gay men (not all of them, of course). Even though it's not sexual objectification, it's still objectification (just as reducing a woman to an incubator is non-sexual objectification, reducing a woman to a fashion plate--even an asexual one--is objectification). Why do (many) gay men--apologies to the Michael Kors of this world; it's the Karl Lagersfelds that I'm talking about--see women as hangers for their artistic creations? In case you're thinking "first world problem!" it's that mentality that enabled Isaac Mizrahi to sexually assault Scarlett Johannson on camera without it occurring to him that there was a person attached to that breast. It's a microcosm of the bigger issue of objectification, and if you have any doubt that it's endemic and real, check out the stories on Everyday Sexism. And if you're tempted to dismiss them as " boys will be boys" and women need to get over it, keep in mind that that's not how women work. That's not the answer; the answer is a sociocultural shift where the tone shifts and women are routinely referred to as human, i.e., not objects.

Renewable energy can and should be a common-sense, nonpartisan issue.
In case you were confused, black holes are still a thing (but event horizons may not be).

I see some truth and a lot of interesting points in the Tiger Mom's op-ed, thought some of her conclusions inspire skepticism. In terms of conversation starters, there are these ideas of "what is good enough?" and "what is worth aspiring to?" Or, conversely, "when is it time to keep pushing yourself and when is it time to recover?" That's addressed in the context of physical fitness here, and I see both sides in that post as well: there is virtue in health, achievement, and challenging oneself. Isn't it good to grow and thrive? And even though I'd argue that it's better to grow and thrive on your own terms and based on your own priorities, there seems to be such a thing as healthy competition and inspiration.

So when is keeping up with the Joneses a recipe for disaster (sorry, still no sympathy for the McDonnells; cue Janis Joplin's "Mercedez Benz") and when is keeping up with the overacheivers in your ethnic group a healthy source of motivation? I'd say it's when the thing you're striving for is meaningful (education) rather than superficial (a rolex).

By the way, as Carolyn points out in the virtue in health post, run the f* away from people who deal by disengaging.

It's okay to be direct with chatty seatmates.

Classic literature would look very different had the publishers been out for click bait.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Big Saturday morning roundup

Syria is so much about resources, which are so influenced by climate. Even corporations that have historically not given a shit are waking up to the impacts of climate change.

Bill Gates sees a future where no country is poor.

Antivaxxers have made people sicker.

In memory of Juan Gelman.
His work was not routinely translated into English, partly because he was interested in exploiting nuances of language that were difficult to capture in other tongues... The independence of languages and the relation of language to life were issues he addressed often, notably in “Translations III: The Poems of Sidney West.”

Tom Philpott on GMOs. SciAm on the non-controversial variety. Grist qualifies whether they matter. The Onion on picky (boring) eaters.

Rules for babies in restaurants.

Have I mentioned that physicists seem to be obsessed with cats?

Practice, at a certain point, only really matters if you're actively thinking about what you're doing.

Anais Nin apparently echoes my thoughts on decluttering (or, rather, I echo hers).

Blow quotes Rich on writing columns. Someone forgettably rambles about how long-form is form over function, which is too bad because there's some truth to that. I say that as an erstwhile loyal reader of the New Yorker who's sort of had it.

People are increasingly turned off by shallow, ostentatious displays of luxury by public figures, from kings to governors (or their easy-to-hate spouses). Which brings us to... more conversations about women (which are best had under the assumptions that we are human and can hear you and will write about you). After all, we are people and we own our own bodies and sexuality.

On that note, did I miss this photovoltaic swimsuit the first time around, because I totally want one. And yes, we can engage in what is ostensibly beauty myth crap for ourselves (or for someone else) without having to explain it or reconcile it with a higher philosophy. But--I am a simple woman--will need to explain to me how "submission" (rather than the normal compromise and division of roles that every couple grapples with) isn't a "matter of superior versus inferior."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuesday afternoon roundup

It's very long, and too much of it is mundane, but more of it is worthwhile and interesting, even though very little is earth-shattering. It is David Remnick's profile of the President. Foreign policy starts around pg. 10; race and income inequality, a little before that. Hell, start from the beginning and just gloss over the comings-and-goings.

The Ukranian government stalks and intimidates protesters by cell phone.

This is not the first time I've found this guy incredibly annoying (I've also caught factual errors at the basis of some of his arguments, but whatever). All I have to say here--other than enjoying the references to Alan Lightman's book just as I did this morning--is, just like only a dude could have come up with and believed in an idiotic concept like penis envy, only (some) physical scientists are self-important and sanctimonious enough to go on about physics envy.

I've never loved Jon Stewart more:

Tuesday morning ramble

First-world problem alert: these snow days hit at very inconvenient times. I was very upset to learn this morning that I wouldn't be able to go to work. I'm over it now--I do sort of need another day to recover from the weekend--but there's just so much to do there. It's that much more infuriating when I don't see snow on the ground, even though I know how fast a lot of it can fall.

My consolation--apart from just needing to rest after a few days of activity--is that I'm reading a great book that's also easy to read. "Snow" (Orhan Pamuk) was a great book, but it was slow-going. It's not what I would have wanted to read, ironically or not, on this snow day. "Americanah" goes down a lot more smoothly.

This matters so much more now that I have a hard time reading, unless I'm on the metro (or on a plane, or otherwise planted in one spot). It's not so much that I have a hard time reading per se as... I have a hard time sitting for long periods of time. My mind can focus, but my body feels like moving.

With that, I'd better go do something productive with myself. Maybe I'll make corn tortillas from masa... haven't done that in ages.

Tuesday morning roundup

How to be helpful amid others' trauma.

I like this Caroline Kennedy. Although,
Who knew! People are mentally better off when they know they can access medical care! Note also the stats on behavioral factors (40%) as a factor in health. $hit can happen. but we have quite a bit of influence over our health.

"Humane" is preferable to inhumane, but it's even more human when you don't kill them at all.

All the morons posting pseudoscience about radiation from Fukushima had better pay more attention to actual pollution from Asia. And, surprise! "Coal-burning factories were the biggest sources of pollutants."

Reflections on science and belief, from Alan Lightman.

An articulate analysis of why Jezebel needn't have picked on Lena Dunham.

An articulate analysis of how some dudes just don't get it.

Never mind the larger points here (which Carolyn nails); I can't help but fixate on the sacrifice of moving to the exurbs. I don't think I could ever love someone enough to move to the exurbs; I can imagine loving someone enough to move to another city, state, or country, but not to the exurbs.

Selfies help us gauge our own facial expressions, about which we are otherwise clueless. Misreading ourselves and others speaks to the 'bitchy resting face' phenomenon: what we express doesn't necessarily reflect how we feel.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Our bodies, ourselves

After Kate Upton graced the cover of Elle's September issue--and complained in an interview that she was sick of getting hit on by often-married, middle-aged guys who had no business hitting on her--a letter to the editor appeared in the October issue slamming her for having brought that kind of thing on herself. What does she expect--asked the letter-writer--when she makes a living off of her body? She expects to be treated like a human being, i.e., she deserves dignity and respect, rather than objectification, no matter how she leverages her own body to make a living. That's right: she may lead with her boobs--and she does--but she is still a whole person.

I had to establish that--the concept itself, and how strongly I believe in it--because what I'm about to write may seem contradictory to that concept, and I want to make it clear that it's not--that this post is not concern-trolling, nor is it driven by humorlessness, naivete, bitterness, or jealousy. Taking those one at a time: 
  • humorlessness: we all need our distractions, be they kittens picking their noses or celebrities picking their noses; abstaining from cat videos and celebrity gossip is not going to bring peace to Syria, South Sudan, or Central African Republic.
  • naivete: we are all--or at least most of us--drawn to formidable posteriors, among other things. Physical attraction or at the very least admiration is a thing.
  • bitterness or jealousy: I'm more than happy with the butt I have; remember when my butt made a dent in an SUV? Trust me: I'm not intimidated or made jealous by anyone else's ass. (I will spare you the complete list of odd but apparently complimentary comments people have made about my physical appearance, but I'll throw out one more for the purpose of my argument: a masseur recently told me that I had a "perfect back.")
One more thing: I wholeheartedly believe in self-care, including exercise and strength training. Put another way, I see exercise and strength training as self-care, rather than an exercise in narcissism or vanity. Not only that, but I've covered, more times than I can be bothered to go and find links, the nexus between weight consciousness and feminism

And yet, I'm just... perplexed by the Jen Selter phenomenon. Not just because it's not particularly useful to look at someone else's butt for inspiration, because her body is not your body, but because I just don't get it. I will stand up for JS's right to lead with her butt just as I'll stand up for KU's right to lead with her boobs--and by that I mean the right to maintain one's whole humanity while marketing oneself based on a body part or two--and I'm as glad as I am perplexed that a few people are taking better care of themselves as a result. But I wouldn't recommend it (i.e., leading with a body part), at least to anyone who isn't going to make a living off of it. JS and KU don't need my advice, but if I had a little sister or something, I'd say, "make yourself strong and get some light-hearted enjoyment out of how good that strength makes you look, but, more importantly, go read a book or something." I'll find inspiration in my formidable ass or perfect back, or anyone else's, when it alleviates a humanitarian crisis. Even then, I'll go read a book.

Monday morning roundup

You can revitalize the Awakening Movement but there needs to be lasting reconciliation and enfranchisement rather than bait-and-switch, convenience-based alliances.

A non-profit offers medical care for underserved, fearful communities.

While journalists of either gender get ad-hominem attacks, these attacks on female journalists feature objectification. I never expected any class or human decency from the anti-vaxxers, but the food movement should have none of that.

Meditation is usually helpful.

Money and virtue, together, can lay the groundwork for happiness.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

William Deresiewicz on art and science

I loooove this:
Austen knew, in other words, that human motivation is enormously complex. Reducing it to any single factor—well, for that you need a social scientist. Great literature has the power, through painstaking art, to fashion a convincing representation of human behavior in all its inextricable, mysterious, and endlessly ramifying mixture of sources. That is why it never becomes obsolete. What does become obsolete are the monocausal theories of people such as Chwe. Literature puts back everything the social sciences—by way of methodological simplification, or disciplinary ideology, or just plain foolishness—take out.
and this:
...what really bothers me is that his titular idea is the kind of effluent that contaminates the cultural water supply.
and this:
There’s a reason that art and science are distinct. They don’t just work in different ways; they work on different things. Science addresses external reality, which lies outside our minds and makes itself available for objective observation. The arts address our experience of the world; they tell us what reality feels like. That is why the chain of consilience ruptures as we make the leap from material phenomena to the phenomena of art. Physics can explain chemistry, which can explain biology, which can explain psychology, and psychology might someday tell us, at least in the most general terms, how we create art and why we respond to it. But it will never account for the texture, the particularities, of individual works, or tell us what they mean.
 Okay, one more:
Art is experiential. It doesn’t just speak of experience; it needs to be experienced itself, inhabited in ways that proofs and formulae do not. And experience cannot be weighed or measured; it can only be evoked.

On boundaries

Ironically on the surface, but fittingly upon reflection, the reason I've devoted so much ink, of late, to harping on the serial boundary-impingers in my past is that I'm really ready to make less use of my overfed sense of boundaries. Boundaries are like mistrust: they are often necessary, but they're not the best lens for every relationship. Just as trust--something that has to be earned--is a healthy basis for healthy relationships (once you decide to trust someone, you needn't, shouldn't verify; if you can't trust him, you don't let him into your life, at least not in a capacity where trust matters), you shouldn't have to assert boundaries in a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, you're on the same team; when you're on the same team, you don't need to constantly assert, "you will not cross this line," because the lines are shared. Your teammate decides to engage (or refrain from engaging) in a given behavior that affects you based on how that behavior makes you feel, because you're in this together and that person wants you to be happy.

Sunday morning roundup

Look at how income levels are defined in this map of where people live, by income level. Of the other maps that explain the world, check out the ones on income inequality and slavery (actual slavery, not other kinds of labor that may resemble slavery). Among the not-depressing maps, the nutella, place-name, African languages, and word-for-bear maps are especially cool, too. With that, I have to acknowledge that Max Fisher is good for something, even if he did retweet Tom Gara's derogatory tweet about vegans (not that I'm impressed with Lena Dunham's favorite foods or the Times' tone).

It is very true that “ cannot rely on a snapshot of reality at any given time in order to plan your strategic needs," but everything in the column I linked to yesterday is even more true.

Your move, West Virginia: heed the wake-up call, or revert to politics as usual?

Sam Polk on recovery, particularly recovery from the addictions of Wall Street.

Vitamin D for fibromyalgia.

Paria canyon is trippy and stunning. Also: this is the most beautiful jellyfish I've ever seen. Space is looking good, too.

It's a stew of humanity out there.

Aw: Spaceballs 3, the search for new physics. We ain’t found shit. Experimental High Energy Particle Physics PhD, University of California and I repeated the words “story,” “community,” “culture,” “engagement,” and “narrative” over and over until they lost all meaning. Education and Advocacy through Narrative, Hiram CollegeStorytelling in Community Memory and Cultural Construction

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday afternoon roundup

There are lots of reasons that lots of scientific research is wrong (in its reported results); one is that the math behind the statistics is getting more and more complicated to the point that many scientists aren't learning it and so not applying it correctly in their research. And also the incentives (for publishing at all versus getting something right, for example) are skewed.

Is it just me, or have SciAm blogs become awfully self-indulgent?

Only read these if you're prepared to be infuriated. If that's the case, also read the Human Rights Watch report about what's been happening in DC.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and her guest cite feminism as a national security threat.

Wow: a winning political strategy in literally bringing the first stone.

The Rover has some pictures for you.

Words to live by: " any human endeavor, military or civilian, the key to success is the people, not the hardware."

Don't bother eating according to your blood type.

HuffPo has been insulting to vegetarians but these are mostly spot-on.

I've gotta be honest, nothing about that video makes me think, "I'd like to be more like her." But to each her own.

Jezebel succeeded in bringing out sympathy for the overexposed, somewhat overrated Lena Dunham. The balance of the comments may change, but when I checked, nary a commenter appreciated the stunt.

Those are some bull$hit baby names.

Today from LOLmythesis:Telling kids they can’t improve their intelligence is a really shitty thing to do
Psychology, University of Edinburgh
Improving academic performance: Do social-cognitive methods have an effect? An analysis on Dweck’s theory.”
Also: There’s not enough good water to go around in the Middle East, and everyone’s being an asshole about it.
Political Science and Environmental Studies, University of Pennsylvania

On dickishness, double standards, and listening

It wasn't the first time that BE said or did something to annoy me, but it was probably the first time he said something so dickish that I realized definitively that I couldn't respect him: he referred to homeless people as 'bums.' Specifically, he referred to the residents of the homeless shelter where I volunteer--as we sorted non-perishables that he'd brought me, because he thought they were valuable, but that I would turn over to the shelter--as 'bums.' I wasn't just offended academically; I was offended viscerally. I interact with those residents (there's turnover, obviously, so it's not generally the same residents); they are people. Incidentally, BE (and I think I told you guys this) also took a fatherly tone and suggested that I stay out of homeless shelters. Which also pissed me off, for different reasons, but I digress.

Saturday morning roundup

There's still (substantiated) hope for political solutions in the very failed state that is Central African Republic.

Actually, imprisoning journalists generally harms a country's reputation far more than anything those journalists publish.

Sometimes a column punches so, so far above its weight (or space), and "Sometimes 'nazi' is the right word" is that column.

Just as some recently thought it uncouth for a woman to be so public about her illness, some think it's uncouth to be public about poverty. I'm gonna tie that right in with this piece--specific to religion but generalizable to all kinds of things--about how eroding privelege can be spun as opression.

Have times really changed since these shame-driven ads for women's products.

Gail Collins kindly asks that you pay attention to the spending plan. You can start by reading up on the IMF situation. Also, here's an economics study that doesn't lend itself easily to practical recommendations.

Target's security was ridiculous.

By now, you probaly don't need me to direct your attention to the priceless Fallon-Springsteen Christie parody, but if you do, it's here.

It's true that "natural" isn't always better than synthetic, but let's still keep formaldehyde and its parent chemicals out of our personal care products. The bigger point is, consumer awareness makes a difference. The sub-point to that is, make sure that you're an aware consumer and not just a vocal one.

Exhibit A of when natural isn't better: please don't buy stuff made from endangered species.

Scientists do have a right (and obligation) to speak out for the public good.

In college, we'd go sledding on garbage bags; they worked well.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday evening roundup

India wins this one: what a bunch of assholes these American diplomats are. And also, idiots:
“One week in country and I already miss STEAK,” Mr. May, head of embassy security in New Delhi, stated in one post among many that caused outrage. Cows are venerated by Indian Hindus, and slaughtering cows is illegal in many places. In another, Ms. May, the embassy’s community liaison officer, responded to an article that claimed nonvegetarians were more prone to violence. “It’s the vegetarians that are doing the raping, not the meat eaters — this place is just so bizarre,” she wrote.
Or maybe they were just playing dumb and going out of their way to get out of the country? If I were the Foreign Service, though, I'd kick them out of that, too. Don't they have some kind of training about not posting offensive $hit on the internet?

What a mess the Daily Mail is. Aren't we at the point where this kind of thing has no meaning? Is there a natural limit to what we can find to be imperfect about women's bodies?

The thermodynamics of cuddling puppies.

Detailed, black-and-white animal portraits. This water-drop stuff looks pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday evening roundup

Tunisia has turned a corner.

Maybe two white dwarves crash to make a certain type of supernova?

I'm a big believer in people understanding things in general, so I'd agree that atheists should understand theology (then again, I personally find theology fascinating, so it's easy for me to get into it).

I call on my fellow Virginians just a county or two over to just say no to this horse$hit.

When you manage toxic chemicals, people can drink water and snails don't get transed.

Food policy rewards irresponsible corporate behavior:
Producing and selling as much as possible is the way to go here, since the penalties for damage your product does to human and animal health and to the environment (including climate) are virtually nonexistent. You can treat the animals as you like and damn the consequences, from salmonella contamination to antibiotic resistance to water contamination to, of course, cruelty. There are even incentives, in the form of subsidized prices for animal feed.

If indeed one in fifty Americans is vegan, restaurants and other business have a lot of work to do. Other food factoids at the link (and even more in the full (PDF) Meat Atlas report).

BTW, I eat my (vegan) pizza by hand, not out of principle but because I really can't be bothered to cut it up.

Couples therapy, in a book.

On mistakes, humility, and forgiveness

Over (and just after) the holidays, I commented quite a bit and linked to others' comments on the slew of recent foot-in-month incidents, including Justine Sacco's offending tweet, Nottowaygate, maybe Beyonce's non-apology for using the Challenger disaster, tastelessly, in a song, and the MHP incident. It was Nottowaygate on which I spent the most time; it was the most complicated. To reiterate my position: I agree that Ani was absolutely wrong to book and initially keep the venue, and also to hedge in her first statement. But I also thought that the statement nonetheless made some valid points, and I thought the online vigilante response, while mostly right on substance, was often counterproductive in tone and interpretation. And this was my (but not uniquely my) thought on the whole series of "scandals."

It is not the end of women

You know, I was primed by the tweet that brought my attention to Gregor Smith's column on how feminism serves no one to be offended, but it's honestly so silly, poorly written, and absurd, that it's just not worth it. But in case anyone out there is wondering whether feminism is, among other things, pointless, consider these:
Tangentially-related bonus: Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson are awesome.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tuesday evening roundup

Shrimp is super unsustainable.

On alternatives to GMOs (in terms of agricultural technologies to invest in).

I love Twisted Sifter's collection of unintentionally profound quotes.

Alexandra Petri on the rise of the concern troll.

Seriously, what is it with the butt photography?

Guys have been sold a bill of goods:
But yeah I don't know why guys are being told that their looks don't matter. Because that is some bullshit. I'm not sure why that's even a thing. Where did this myth of female indifference to looks come from?
Ffs, no one wants to spend their fancy night out hearing your kid scream; unless you're sure it'll be quiet, leave it at home.

Tuesday morning roundup

Pope Francis is shaking up the Vatican's power structures.

Is society really bestowing animals with the dignity and compassion they deserve?

Christie has more to answer for even just in traffic nightmares than that one jam; did New Jersey need policies that supported more sprawl?  He's generally been bad for the environment, and still is, in spite of the stakes for his own state.

But who cares about protecting people from environmental hazards when it means regulating businesses? West Virginians are coping with their environmental disaster by praying with its arms down.

That link was the first that I saved to the blogger app on my iPad, and I saved it right after writing to Anne with the French keyboard; French autocorrect turned "praying" to "praline."

What scientific tenets are obsolete?

A reddit dude experiences two hours as a woman online, can't take any more than that.

Check out this racist, sexist video from 1969 where Donald Duck explains family planning to the common man. Then check out the crazy app that Apple and Google are selling. Here's the Apple version:

It's official: vegetarians (not just vegans, as they tried to make it seem) are not welcome at La Bastille, so Alexandria vegetarians can take our business (and that of our friends) elsewhere.
There are so many variations of vegetarianism? What in the world?? Do you even have a single vegetarian, much less vegan, entree on your menu? That's all it takes.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday evening roundup

There's no denying or skewing the fact that cows are terrible for the environment. Also: eating beef kills wolves. (Then, there's the whole antibiotics thing).

Here are some reasons for plant-based baking even if you don't give a $hit about animals or the planet.

For better or for worse (I'll go with the former), I fail at many of these marks of a food aficionado.

I keep telling you guys to get over the kale hype; don't over do it, or anything else. Also, some things are really bad for you even "in moderation," and added sugar is one of those things.

ICYMI, the Kellers have stepped in it.

It's true enough that just as introverts aren't necessarily awkward, extroverts aren't necessarily obnoxious. But boy have I dealt with some obnoxious, narcissistic extroverts.

Can I invite this beautiful goby fish to keep my lawn in check? I won't be inviting thispeacock spider anywhere near my home, even though it's beautiful, too. (Also spidery and beautiful: the Tarantula Nebula).

Female monkeys flirt by throwing stones.

I don't recommend crushing egg shells to keep the demons out.

Awesomest silly study ever (h/t @gnumoon).

Awww, some confused dudes still think that feminism is about bitter ugly women. I mean, there are some crazy bitter, in-fighting women out there, but let's not call them feminists. Seriously, though: what is it about strong women that turn some people into raging dickweasels? Vocal women really intimidate the $hit out of some people.

"'Splain" is its own suffix now.

Chewbacca speaks (and posts).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Quick Saturday afternoon roundup

Egypt becomes less free, but does anyone (within) seem to care? Daniel Byman and Tamara Cofman Wittes argue that the crackdown will come at a cost.

Pakistan's tribal badlands are coming around to vaccinations (how wonderful to not have Jenny McCarthy as an obstacle to progress).

On authoritarianism, media, and the internet.

On the topic of the end of men (see this morning's roundup): few divorced women have regrets about leaving, whereas the guys do. That's the statistical; here's the anecdotal (second letter).

Don't read this book about writing under the influence, but revel in Yardley's colorful assessment of it:
That is pretty much the poisonous icing on the inedible cake of this dreadful book, an exercise in narcissism and irrelevance from first page to last.

Sunday morning roundup

More studies are neither here nor there when we already know the answers for mental health care.

What a great organization D-Rev is. It is always about adapting to local conditions, logistical and sociopolitical.

Condo fees are screwing elderly residents.

It's the CEO's, or any other leader's, job to impart values.

Alom Shaha finds aggressive atheism to be a lost cause.

Dudes brought about the end of macho all on their own (even though Ross Douthat may disagree). Except, drag queens helped:
lolmythesis: Drag Queens fuck up your macho bullshit.
Political Science, Hobart College 
'Throwing Shade at Gender Politics: Drag Queen Performance as a Form of Resistance'
Sleep is essential.

Get to know your moon.

Thrift shops are a great way to go for sustainable clothes shopping.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday morning roundup

Things are up in the air in Turkish politics.

If indeed “One thing is clear from this: If this country, with 1.2 billion people, if they come together for a cause, justice is inevitable,” this being the Khobragade case, maybe people in India could turn that passion for justice to the gang-rape-as-sport epidemic? I mean, who am I to question another country's priorities, but I'm just sayin'.

West Virginia can't use its water, or coal: the gift that keeps on giving.

Carolyn points out that emotionally unhealthy people take things that are none of their business--such as your choices--personally.

WTF, Gates Foundation? Who decided that what Africa needs is KFC?

Wonkblog on the chicken and kale markets (chicken is consolidated; kale is not as much of a rising star as the hype makes it out to be--it was bigger, earlier).

Most of these are eye-rolling, but HuffPo nicely sums up the environmental case for eating plants:
The massive number of domesticated animals that have to be raised every year contributes to severe ecological problems including rising temperatures, the mismanagement/depletion of Earth's resources and the destruction of water supplies. The meat industry also uses up massive amounts of oil, as the process requires "more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein while yielding animal protein that is only 1.4 times more nutritious." On top of these things, the super-viruses caused by pumping mass-produced domesticated animals with antibiotics are also no fun.
Just sayin'. But what the HuffPo gets wrong is its characterization of "The Kind Diet," and it's wrong in a pernicious way. It would be one thing if they just didn't like the recipes, but it's not fair to dismiss the book as only of interest to vegans. The whole points of the book is to show everyone how to include more plant-based foods in their diet, and to show how tasty these foods are.

WTF, society? Girls are internalizing bull$hit, early. Bikini bridges may or may not be a thing here, but alphabetization does seem to be a thing in Korea.

I've never liked "Girls"--either the show or the characters--so I'm glad I have official permission to ignore it. But let's continue the conversation about whether female characters have to be or should be likeable.

The latest evidence that we really do believe what we want to believe, in Jesse Meyerson's and Dylan Matthews' policy advice for millennials.

In space, water will boil before it freezes.
You can ride the subway in your underwear tomorrow without sweating the health implications.

Few will miss the Times' pagebreaks; would the New Yorker please follow suit?

Two awesome LOLmythesis entries:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Keeping the scorpions out

The icestorm tantrum has been on my mind not just for its general lessons about conflict resolution, but because I've been thinking about how much easier it is to be a "better" person absent agitating stimuli, such as those abundant in the presence of my family. Yes, I do fundamentally believe that we alone are responsible for our actions, including our responses. And I believe in "The Saint and the Scorpion"--that it's my dharma to act as the kind, compassionate, demure person I choose to be, regardless of external stings. I aspire to that, but I'm not there yet. In the spirit of "relapse is part of recovery," I'm not going to beat myself up for snapping at either parent over the holidays; I'm only going to make a point of trying harder not to do it next time around. I'm also going to make a point of limiting my exposure to scorpions.

In which I had a toddler tantrum at my dad...

...because there came a point where I couldn't handle his utter lack of common sense.

Note: I drafted this at my parents' house around xmas, and then let it go. But I keep thinking about it, so here it is:

We took two cars to the mechanic's so that we could leave one there and go elsewhere. By the time the car was ready to be picked up, lots of snow had fallen and stuck (but none had been plowed or salted), and driving conditions were bad. The car I was driving skid just at the end of the first block (luckily, I left myself lots of room). Then, it was fine, at least on the bigger roads, but as we got closer to home, my dad idiotically took the scenic route and I idiotically followed him (primarily so that he wouldn't worry), and the car would skid a little almost every time I braked. So I drove slowly (and got annoyed every time I saw that dad had stopped to wait for me--it was obvious by then that I knew the way back--as I didn't want a car in front of me. Finally, I made it to the driveway and backed in. But dad felt the need not only to get out of his car and signal, but to get right up next to the car. So I felt the need to roll down the window and started screaming at him.

Thursday roundup

Rory Stewart on humanitarian intervention, among other things.

Plant milks (as plant products overall) are much better for the environment than dairy milks.

Not a lot of people care about GMOs but those that do care, really care.

Ever so true:
Did anyone else miss the moment when butt photography became a thing?

Lots of dudes are sporting beards now, even outside Brooklyn, but gossip has it that royals ought to keep clean-shaven.

Also, from LOLmythesis:
You might have important things to say about the world, but a Justin Bieber YouTube video will always get more views than you.
Communication, Wilfrid Laurier University

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wednesday evening roundup

WOW! Step away from the political focus of much of the media and go straight to the source; there's much substance in Gates' memoir.

Marion Nestle on GMOs (as a proxy issue for corporate control of the food supply). Also, media-heralded GMO "breakthroughs" often end in less-reported disappointments.

Lots of fish are biofluorescent.

One reason men snag higher pay: "men are twice as likely as women to overestimate their true ability level."

Procrastination is counter-productive.

F* California.

This does starkly show how silly "Girls" is:

Wednesday morning roundup

The Middle East's pluralism crisis.

Turkey's scandals keep getting crazier.

Texas officially reduces women to mere incubators.
Gabrielle Giffords inspires with every move.

Prosecutors get creative (on JP Morgan) to help Madoff's victims.

FTC determines that get-thin-quick schemes are officially fraudulent.

I love these words of wisdom from Carolyn:

Changing what you want is wrenching, but possible. Ask people who have broken out of ruts of all kinds — generally you’ll find one of three catalysts at work. One is necessity, where someone dumps you or dies or fires you, or you become seriously ill, or life otherwise cuts stasis off your list of choices. Another is the surprise appearance of a healthy alternative. A course-changing opportunity can end a 15-year drama inside of a week.
The third is achieving a state of self-loathing — or just abject boredom with your own stalled self — that inspires you to tear the list into little bits and just do something.

On first-world non-problems, I hope none of you are affected by the Velveeta shortage. At the very least, if you're not sick of the $hitty puns that have been flying around to describe the weather, the Velveeta crisis inspires even $hittier ones.
Speaking of cheesy, I usually roll my eyes at proposals, but this one is amazing and tasteful.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Crop diversity is a better solution for nutrition than enriching foods.

Stuck icebreakers don't debunk climate change, ffs.

This smart column treats veterans like the fully-functioning adults they are and not a special category in need of kid gloves... and also has good job-hunting tips for everyone.

I was hoping this column would capture my thoughts on the umbrage-and-apology cycle; it doesn't, but it makes some reasonable points. And links to a better column on the unjust systems we can't help but support now. And, holy $hit, Glenn Beck said something truly awesome.

Tom Philpott is still skeptical in spite of the weekend GMO buzz, and the food industry is looking for GMO labeling on its own terms.

Smugglers send cocaine to a German supermarket by accident.

Watch out for solar flares.

Prof. Strassler explains heat and cold and our perceptions of temperature. As for me,  I ended up one of the shruggers today (granted, I really bundled up--so as to get through the morning--to the point that the afternoon felt positively balmy). Luckily my pipes made it; we met with someone today whose pipes froze. 

Smug couples are just insecure about their own lifestyles.

A not-bad Shouts and Murmurs about dialectic differences and a better one about toddlers and silly lists.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday evening roundup

I was gonna make a joke about this based on the headline but the racial slur aspect makes the whole thing really not okay; disdain for misbehaving children on airplanes should be colorblind.

Also not okay: online harassment.

Also on kids: how to help them not grow into obnoxious $hits.

General relativity is more complicated than a deformed rubber sheet, which is too bad 'cuz I was about to make some decisions about using spacetime based on what I knew about rubber sheets and not this gobbledygook. And while we're on the topic of $hit I don't understand: dark matter peaks in March, whatever the f* that means.

Monday morning roundup

Wait, why isn't fairness in sentencing retroactive?

Poverty in the U.S., mapped.

War photography can have a numbing effect.

Make your regrets work for you.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday morning roundup

On human rights, Bangladesh, South Africa then and now, and hope in South Sudan.

Nobody should have to live in hiding for who he is.

I'm changing my position on GMOs. I mean, not really; I've always told you (and others) that the science is on the side of their being safe. And I still have the same concerns about consolidated corporate control--and I think that article oversimplifies the reality of Monsanto's bullying of farmers (just because a lawsuit was never initiated, doesn't mean none was threatened, etc.; there are other ways of bullying). I also reject the "feed the world" argument, not only in its own right but as a basis for sustainable food policy; supply is not the issue. And I still maintain that people have a right to know what they're buying and have a say in what goes into the food system, so GMOs should be labeled. But all of that has been well-covered on this blog. None of the facts about GMOs has changed, but I've changed my position, so to speak, because I'm seeing more and more that GMOs (not unlike locavorism) are a red herring among some activists for what's wrong with the food system. And GMOs are not, in and of themselves, the core part of the problem. If we want to talk about corporate consolidation, overprocessing, and waste, let's talk about those things directly.

The gun community eats one of its own because he dared to question its all-righteousness.

Scott Adams is correct that I'm going to quibble with some of the things he said about diet: he's bought into the protein myth. But he himself says not to focus on those details, but on the message to substitute willpower with knowledge, and I couldn't agree more:
The most important thing to know about staying fit is this: If it takes willpower, you’re doing it wrong. Anything that requires willpower is unsustainable in the long run.
Needless to say, I'm gonna hafta read "Little Failure."

Space cats is possibly the dumbest f*ing thing I've ever seen.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Really, guys?

Who does that judgy bitch (pg. 17) think she is to tell me I can't fat-shame my cat? BTW, Gracie's lost a lot of weight, not that it's anyone else's business.

In case we had not already established that (some) guys will (try to) f* anything.

Also: Greg Behrendt on making men do some work (and on not ceding your power). See also my very popular "do not call him" post.