Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday roundup

Which is it, notallmen? Are you going to keep repeating that women needn't treat every man as a potential predator, or are you going to blame women--as some of the commenters here do--for not treating every man as a potential predator? I hate to keep having to go over this, but drunkenness doesn't amount to consent to sex; letting someone inside does not amount to consent to sex. When a woman asks someone to walk her home, she's asking for someone to keep her safe; she's emphatically not consenting to sex.
Many women will lose access to life-saving medication because politics--we'll get to that in a minute--and there's more arsenic around because politics.

A detailed chemistry of glass and some amazing pictures of Saturn and it moons. And some cool photography.

Let's hope that the success African writers are experiencing is more than a trend.

What has to happen so that we pay more attention to women's substance than their style?

Now for the Hobby-Lobby debacle... let's start with this,
Today, five men on the Supreme Court said that women's reproductive health care is less important than a woman's boss's superstition-based prudery and moral trepidation about fornication for female pleasure. They ruled that it doesn't matter if birth control actually causes abortions; it only matters if business owners sincerely believe that birth control causes abortions. They ruled that it's okay for a corporate person to discriminate against a female semi-person and dictate that she not spend her compensation on stuff that might possibly be enabling sex without consequences, if they believe that God thinks they should.
and then just turn to Twitter:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mom's obsession with my weight may be back (to stay)

Over Skype:

Mom: have you put on weight?
Dad: why do you say that?
Mom: I caught a glimpse of her belly. She's put on weight.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Follow-up ramble

Having thought a bit more about last night's mini-dates, I found myself conceptually dividing the guys into two categories: the natural conversationalists and the cliche-ridden interviewers. I'll elaborate in a minute, but let me tie this even more directly into the last post, in which I meant to state--but only implied--that there are dates that help you get over the other guy, and there are dates that make you think that no one will be as right for you as the other guy. Now, align the two left-hand categories--the conversationalists and the helpers--and the two right-hand categories--the interviewers and the regressers. Even if the conversationalists are not for you, they at least remind you that dating can be fun and interesting; the interviewers remind you that it can be brutal.

Saturday ramble

Where do I even start? Starting chronologically would take us back to the holidays, when my mother--who, by the way, is coming to visit this week (as is my father)--was relentlessly hammering me for being single. That offered some motivation, in an unintended way: I thought, if I'm not single by the next holidays, maybe I'll get out of spending them with my mother. So when I saw a Groupon for speed-dating, went for it (upon recruiting a friend to join me). And then I escaped from mom's hammering and felt no motivation to redeem the Groupon, until a month ago, when I figured I may as well use it before it expired (which it did yesterday).

Let's jump out of chronological order for a minute, to yesterday morning, to a panel event on technical things that you may or may not care about. On my way out, another attendee whom I know--the president of a company--asked me if I was okay. I realized later--I'd just said yes and we moved on to talking about business--that it might have been because she saw me go for my third cup of coffee in the course of the event.

Saturday roundup

The resounding responses to the sexual assault epidemic are, "enough is enough" and "you're not alone."

The only possible response to the kissy-sounds form of street harassment is "what the hell is wrong with you?" I experienced this particular form relentlessly in Nicaragua. It was disgusting.

To elaborate on my subtweet to this idiocy:
Isn't he making Suey Park's original point: women aren't allowed to have body confidence; if they do, they're giving themselves away. And she's calling bull$hit (and so am I). Let's pair this with another topical tweet:
I touch on how (American) women aren't supposed to revel in their beauty here, where I also talk about how people need to stop being dismissive and derisive when things (like food) are different in other countries (I maintain the right to be derisive about particularly nasty forms of street harassment). But before I get to that example of WTF? let me point out that some people accuse vegans of a sense of entitlement when we hope for/ask for at least one vegan option at a restaurant. I mean, it's so doable and easy, and it just makes sense in this day and age. And by not providing a vegan option, you're not just losing my business but that of my friends and coworkers; I rarely dine out on my own, so entire groups of people decide where to eat based on where there's something to eat for me. But enough about that and onto what is actual entitlement: complaining about the lack of tex-mex in India. C'mon, dude; if it's as easy as you say, make your own. Or, since you're in India, have some Indian food. It reminds me of that Post journalist who was shocked to find Russian food in Russia.

One-hundred years after World War I broke out, let the analyses begin.

Chinese communism, and the patronage system inherent to it, is (ironically?) exacerbating income inequality in Hong Kong.

A sunken kingdom emerges in Wales. That article actually made me kind of miss Wales, for which I have less nostalgia than other places I've lived. I've lived in some phenomenally beautiful places.

We know that Pablo Escobar's hippos have taken to Columbia because they're having lots of sex.

In honor of ceph week, check out some gorgeous cephalopods.
In honor of the exchange student getting stuck in the vagina sculpture in Germany, check out another
Vagina-like structure in Germany (my commentary here, toward the end of that post).

In the accupuncture debate, I'm on team "if it (for example, the placebo effect) helps, embrace it."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Pesticides are linked to autism (among those most exposed).

Of all the BS anti-immigration arguments, the most ridiculous--and one I've heard in person--is "why don't they focus on making their country better?" I don't know where to start with that one; there are so many possible responses. Like, how do you make your country better when those who thrive on the status quo, make a show of killing people who try to make the country better? And besides, do you appreciate that immigrants can make--and have made--your country better? Oh, and here's one response to that question, in the context of the World Cup.

The key take away from this article on Latin America's middle class is,
And though living standards have improved for millions in Brazil over the last decade, some here contend that grouping so many into the middle class is misleading. “There are families now who can afford to buy flat-screen televisions but who still live in places without treated sewage,” said Lena Lavinas, an economist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “We shouldn’t confuse the formation of a society of mass consumption with the expansion of the middle class.”
The key take-away from this interview with Belle Knox is,
...this is what we do to young women. We catapult them into fame, or more often infamy, based on the ease of ridiculing, shaming or objectifying them. We reward them for their bodies, not their brains — and the reward is so often meted out like punishment.
Not mutually exclusive: literacy and an enviable badonkadonk.

I am so sorry for the sad, confused people who found these pictures offensive. What a pathetic existence they must experience.

Did you know there's a lake on Titan?

Sean Carroll tells philosophy-hating physicists to check their cluelessness:
I don’t know about all those other folks, but personally I did not fall in love with science as a kid because I was swept up in the romance of finding slightly more efficient calculational techniques... Part of that is knowing how to do calculations, but another part is asking deep questions about what it all means.
I'm a huge fan of newspaper mulching.

Your brain on creativity.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday roundup

The Middle East is not a lost cause; it's just a really rough patch. It's a long road, also, for Egyptian women.

A foreign policy victory in a message to Uganda: homophobia is not okay.

Anti-semitism in France (and other parts of Europe) is either growing or becoming more open.

Milbank on Politico's whitewashing of the Heritage mob.

Watch the video associated with this Chinese artist who walks a cabbage.

Everyone calm down about the gravity waves. It's not backtracking; it's part of the process.

You should think twice before going for that doctoral degree, but if it's what you really want, go for it.
On one hand, I think it's great that a St. Louis paper dropped George Will for his abhorrent column, but on the other hand, I think that column was a huge public service, in the sense of what Ruth Simmons said about opposing voices making ours stronger (linked to earlier). He's so, so wrong, but his column started/continued an important conversation and created the impetus for other columnists to directly, explicitly rebut his troglodytic bull$hit.

We can't let cyberbullying drive women off the internet. Nor should we let fat-shaming drive women out of science.

This isn't about which gender has it harder dressing for a given profession, or what's reasonable professional dress. I mean, I have to wear a blazer when I interact with anyone outside the building (or from outside the building). There's reasonable advice about what's work-appropriate, and there is WTF in WTF terms, like the idea that your hair channels your personality. (If that's true, I'm in big trouble).

Pair with this study debunking the myth of the trophy wife with not-quite-review of a book urging successful women to date "beta males." Also: evolutionary psychology is a poor way to understand our sexuality.

Parents can and should read:
But here’s the secret most people don’t tell you because they want to be parenting martyrs: babies don’t DO anything. FOR MONTHS. They sit (or sleep, if we’re being real) where you put them. They don’t talk back. They don’t ask to go to the park or demand craft time or need deep talks about the whys and wherefores of life. They’re consumed with wonder at the fact that they have toes. And you know what I did while my twins discovered their appendages? I read books, sometimes while holding a baby in one arm and a book in the other.
How do you find time to read when you have kids? You fucking make it, because it matters. I want my boys to recognize that mommy (and yes, I mean specifically mommy) is a fully-developed human whose life is not entirely composed of them. I say I want them to understand that reading is important to mommy (me) because no one ever asks my husband how he finds time to pay attention to his hobbies now that he’s a father.
Lupita N'yongo's Vogue cover and interview.

Um, it's legit to criticize a place for not having vegan options. It's really not too much to ask in this day and age. BTW, I was at Penn Tavern last night and was very pleasantly surprised at (1) their veggie burger; (2) their not-bad happy hour house wine; and (3) their crowd management during the World Cup. And I wouldn't have experienced the other stuff had it not been for their having a veggie burger.

As I keep saying, just eat food.

This is amazing:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday roundup

Postpartum depression is neither uniquely postpartum, nor uniquely depression.

Julia Ioffe in Donetsk.

I'm aware that the expression is overused, but it hits the spot: I just can't. Same goes with Princeton Mom.

Another way the financial system fails the poor (and those breaking out of poverty).
This article should be less about millennials being priced out of DC and more about people doing important, underpaid work--e.g., serving the homeless--being priced out of DC.
Disruptive technology isn't always what it seems, and grit is overrated.

GMOs haven't been all blessings for Hawaii.
Pregnant women: please don't start overconsuming fish. Even Marion Nestle neglects to offer up the flax-seed option.
This piece on poison ivy would have been more helpful with some pictures of poison ivy.

These relationship principles may seem obvious or second-nature to some, but they're worth sharing nonetheless. The overarching principle: operate as if you're on the same team. Once you're not, there's no point. On that note, within reason, start with the benefit of the doubt and engage rather than withdraw.

Shonda Rhimes' commencement address at Dartmouth is brilliant. If I have time later, I'll excerpt from it, but really just read the whole thing.

More about magnets.
Which brings us to science, or how some scientists need to (1) chill the f* out and (2) get their facts straight (yes, you, too are prone to butchering reality). For example, this piece on particle accelerators is soooo oversimplified in so many ways, which is unnecessary because they needn't exaggerate to make their case that accelerators are important. The case is there. Conversely, here's a smart, nuanced article about how technological advances can enhance (but not ensure) nuclear safety. Also, to the sanctiscientists: it's not fair to appropriate or claim a monopoly on language. Non-scientists have as much claim to those terms as you do. It would be different, and more valid, to say that when non-scientists (or even non-specialists in the science in question) need to understand that the way they're using the word colloquially isn't true to how it's used in the science it came from. Which is really more about misusing the science and not about misusing the word. Finally: get over yourselves, because stories do matter. They always have and they always will. You can't and shouldn't reduce the world to data.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, go make some mathematical salad dressing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Quick Sunday ramble

Happy Father's Day. You guys know I appreciate my dad every day, and it's not lost on me for a second that I pass for a well-adjusted human in large part thanks to his influence.

I've had some time/regained my momentum in "Americanah," and got to the parts that made me realize I'd read (and loved) excerpts in the New Yorker. People say it's a brilliant study on race, but I also find it to be profoundly insightful with regard to immigration.

I went on the most bizarre bike ride this morning. It was not one of those bike rides where everyone politely yielded to each other; in fact, there was a bit of passing without warning, and even one douche canoe who wouldn't get back into his own lane even when he saw me coming the other way (and I called him on it). But what was super-bizarre was this woman who rolled up behind me and gently asked me whether I was comfortable with my saddle "so high." Um, my saddle is exactly where it needs to be--such that my leg is fully extended on the downpedal--so I said, "yes." She pedaled away, but not before saying, "well, if you're not comfortable, you should think about lowering it." I couldn't figure her out. Had she never seen a hybrid--was it my more upright position that was throwing her? Her clueless busybodiness was--by definition, I guess--so well-meaning and so misguided.

I had another JHLA sighting this week. It's getting ridiculous. If I had his phone number, I'd disregard my own advice--which brings more people to this blog than anything else--and call him.

Sunday roundup

Stop using coal for class warfare; coal kills poor people.

This father's day, two dads who lost two sons to Sandy Hook remind us that guns also kill people, and that enough is enough.

Holy crap:
In a country where half the population does not have enough to eat, Jang was burdened with too much food. In addition to the standard rations for a member of the elite, he received a weekly package of imported goodies pilfered by the state from humanitarian aid donated by the United States and other countries. (In the 1990s, famine in North Korea claimed the lives of more than 1 million people.) Sometimes Jang received milk powder intended for starving babies. “Because we were given so much,” he writes, “it was a chore to collect our regular rations.”
Daniel Byman sums up the futility of going after governance crises with military solutions (and the challenges of going after them with governance solutions):
Quite often, the allies we’re seeking to help are themselves deeply flawed: corrupt, sectarian and repressive. And even worse, they are so by design — their problems are fundamental to the functioning of their politics. In such cases, U.S. assistance can help only on the margins. And that is precisely the case with Iraq today...
By encouraging democratic reforms in these circumstances, the United States threatens the national government’s power. By encouraging minority rights, we undermine the privileges and biases of the dominant community. By calling for an end to corruption and for transparency in government, we threaten the leader’s ability to control and reward his base. And by pushing military reform, we risk making the military the only functioning institution in a weak country and making a coup more likely.
And, wow (in memory of Andrei Mironov):
“I refused, of course, and then they made a rope from a towel. Two of them took my hands so I couldn’t resist, and another one started to strangle me,” he said. “Just before I fainted, I felt relief, strangely enough, and I lost hate towards those guys, because I felt they are weak and I am strong. . . . When I regained consciousness, I saw their faces — they were extremely scared . . . and I was not. After that, I realized they had no more instruments to manipulate me.”
Which reminds me of this priceless wisdom from Maya Angelou, as adapted by Maria Popova:

When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
There's so much to say in response to this idiocy, much of which is said here, but I just can't believe people think evolution is prescriptive, among other things.

You've almost gotta feel bad for these hopeless dudes.

Another epic fail from the Daily Fail:

Ruth Simmons reminded everyone that the truth doesn't collapse at hearing opposing views.

Journal citations are a poor metric for scientific achievement.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Phone Call

I can't believe that the conversation I'm about to report happened days ago and you're just hearing about it now. I've been that busy/distracted.

Over Skype:
Mom: Have you put on weight? I think you've put on wait?
A.: [Shrug]
Mom: You've put on weight.
Dad: How has she put on weight? I don't see it?
Mom: Look at her arms. Her arms are huge.
Dad: I think that's muscle.
Mom: There you go--always defending her! It's no wonder. No matter what, you always jump to her defense.

This went on.


Dad: What was that thing you'd offered me for Father's Day last year? A phone?
A.: A tablet.
Dad: Right. And I said I didn't think I'd use it. Anyway, I'm thinking of getting one.
A.: I'd be happy to get you one.
Mom: You turned down a phone? You're always making decisions without consulting me!
A.: It wasn't a one-time offer. I thought he could use mine when you guys visited and see if it's something he'd want.
Mom: Always making decisions without asking me!
A.: If this is what we're going to talk about, I have to go. I have things to do.

Thursday roundup

We know that George Will is misguided and confused, but also know that he uses faulty math. As do the other two assholes who wrote a misguided op-ed in the Post this week. On a related note: #yesallwomen critics are basically making #yesallwomen's point. Also--I know I've said this before--but WTF, David Frum? 

Also: Still unclear on the concept of mansplaining?

And while we're on the topic of misguided: check your China-Iran analogies.

For the sake of balance, here's some not-misguided math.

Re: Miss Indiana--it's all in the comments: normal is not the same thing as average; Miss Indiana is not far from normal; and it's understandable that beauty contestants--if we're operating within that bullshit construct anyway--are going to be somewhat slimmer than "average."
I do wholeheartedly agree with this post on not raising children in fear.

Kentucky has already taken steps to diversify its economy away from dependence on coal.

Food in America, in maps.

Um, this probably wasn't on your list of things to learn more about.

Curiosity's had its troubles, but it's still on its way to Mount Sharp.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday roundup

Poland's over us

ICYMI: meat is bad for the environment.

The sun is not as bad for your skin as previously reported (well, it could be--it depends on your skin tone).

MRAs are scary and PUAs are scary and pseudosciency.

I'm not entirely endorsing this view, i.e., I wouldn't say men don't get a say in feminism; just that it would behoove them--i.e., feminist men--to listen first, more, etc.

Why do people, including women, slut-shame?

I'd underestimated Katy Waldman; this piece on transgender admission women's colleges is insightful.

Childless women don't need your sympathy. Other people's kids don't need you to police their parents.

Newsflash: people eat trends to be trendy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tuesday roundup

The Tiananmen massacre was complicated.

North Korea, among other states known for their free and fair elections, sent observers to Syria.

Neo-nazis are mindful of their grammar.

Vegans, don't be stupid, especially when the national discourse seems to be turning a corner:
For starters, unlike other recent high-profile cases of male athletes allegedly raping women who lack the football status of their abusers — Steubenville, Ohio and Florida State University, for example — authorities appeared to take the charges seriously from the day after the crime and actually seem to have made an effort to conduct a thorough investigation. Authorities shouldn't be applauded for doing their jobs, but given this country's embarrassing history of prioritizing sports achievement over the right of women to not be raped, when police actually give a damn, I reflexively feel like I should applaud. That's how low the bar is. Secondly, community response — at least that which is glean-able from the murk of internet comments and social media proclamations — has been overwhelmingly supportive of the female victim and condemning of the entitled, monstrous fuckery of the three accused, athlete status be damned.

And yet, in some states, WTF?

Another sign of the idiocracy upon us, as predicted: so much trash, it's mixing with rock.

Oaklandia overreacts. PS: death threats are never appropriate or helpful, much less in this kind of situation.

Men don't mind having sugar mamas (but women can mind being them).

Some asshole tried to patent pi.

Remember how I complained that "Particle Fever" featured too many close-ups of philosiphizing physicists at the expense of potential science education? Here's what it would have been nice to have learned from a mere few minutes of fewer close-ups.

You remember better when you take notes the old-fashioned way.

Maya Angelou on modesty (and humility):
“You see, I have no patience with modesty. Modesty is a learned adaptation. It’s stuck on like decals... You don’t want modesty, you want humility. Humility comes from inside out. It says someone was here before me and I’m here because I’ve been paid for. I have something to do and I will do that because I’m paying for someone else who has yet to come.” 
Pair with these pieces on self-promotion:
As a sometimes self-promoting academic myself, I try to remember not to believe the hype. I am still a flawed human being, no better and (hopefully) no worse than my friends and colleagues. On any given day, there will be many people who are much more impressive than me, who think more deeply, write more beautifully, and do more for the world than I ever will. I try to be pleased with what I have accomplished and strive for the best in the future. And I send my alma mater a note about my new job.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday roundup

Hey guys! I'm exhausted so this is gonna be quick, which is a shame, because there's a lot to write about.

Gotta love how this article about maritime tensions in Asia has not one but two schoolyard-kid analogies.

Anne Applebaum ably parses the Euro-elections:
Yes, the French and the British were protesting their ineffective establishment parties. Yes, the European Parliament itself, with its halfhearted mandate and wasteful spending, isn’t an institution people care about. Yes, the European elections have often been a vehicle for flaky protest votes. And of course it’s true that the European Union itself has made terrible decisions in recent years, including the creation of a currency union that devastated the economies of several of its members.
Today an ambassador was sworn in on a Kindle.

Do you feel the need to know about biofuels in your products?

The Farm Bureau hates the Chesapeake. The Post's editorial board has drunk the GMO koolaid. Also: having discovered, I'm using it for this horse$hit about how there are more women writers because women are basically moochers.

Organics have benefits but are not a panacea

AnnaLynne McCord speaks out, ends on this important note: "don't let the polite lies of society silence you."
WTF, Frank Bruni? Et tu? The guy had a manifesto. Ross Douthat gets it and you don't (even though he misses the point of sex-positivity, particularly as it pertains to the relevant cultural issue). I'm reminded of how a couple of my male coworkers thought Beyonce's halftime show performance was "very slutty," all while finding Seth MacFarlane's despicable Oscar opening hilarious: women's sexuality is appropriate as long as they don't own it. This is why Beyonce is such a threat to some guys: she embraces her sexuality, and owns it.

Charles Blow gets it, but that's no surprise. And yes, it is about men.

Some of this Shakespeare-Galileo connection is overwrought, but it's worth it for this:
At the heart of his argument is an ambitious effort to offer empirical assurance for what we all intuit — that art and science need each other, inform and inspire one another, and are branches from the same tree of the human longing in a universe that is more like a mirror of meaning than a window of understanding, beaming back at us whatever imagination we imbue it with.
I've only started reading this explanation about how English came to have gendered pronouns, but it's interesting.