Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday roundup

A perfect letter to women-hating gamers (and an article about them). On a quasi-related note, oh some of the subtweets here... speechless,

One woman's Alzheimer's story (from the perspective of a caregiver).

It looks like one of Sarah Palin's crowning achievements may be undone (by common sense).

Fox News has some impressive commenters.

I miss Wales. I remember when I could take all those castles for granted.

Vanilla has terroir.

NSFW?

Yes: compromising and accepting your SO's faults are just the price of admission for the relationship; the key is whether what you're getting is worth the price.

Wow, women pull this $hit, too.

Just because you've paid for something, doesn't mean you can use it at other people's expense.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ramble (updated) and MA pictures

I did better at pole-dancing this week. I wish I could continue with the "straighter" stuff, i.e., that which doesn't involve twisting around the pole, which gives me motion sickness. Swings give me motion sickness. Oddly enough, moving vehicles do not, but I digress. In today's class, the teacher noted my "wicked upper-body strength," which was very exciting. She said later that everyone excels and struggles with different aspects of the activity at first: dancers often struggle with pulling themselves up on the pole; rock-climbers and lifters typically excel at that but struggle with remembering the routines.

Saturday roundup

Experts agree that calm and trust, not panic and quarantine, will end the ebola outbreak.

If you thought poachers weren't doing enough damage: their poisoning vultures is killing animals even more efficiently.

This week we lost three amazing people--Mervin Susser, Helen Bamber, and Ahmed Seif--who gave so much to the world.

If the President cares about the planet, he'd best reconsider steak night.

This tweet basically sums up the issue with "anti-rape nail polish,"
But you can find additional angles here and here, and if you're still skeptical that this pesky broader concept of rape culture exists, see here and here.

Sigh. There's nothing hypocritical about aspiring to a higher standard than you are able to achieve at any given moment (i.e., smoking even as you're trying to quit), much less wishing better on someone you love (i.e., discouraging your children from smoking, even though you're struggling to quit). See also the second letter re: apt responses to rudeness.

Speaking of rudeness: even if it's legitimate for you to be concerned about an unusual situation (and an interracial family isn't one), this is not the way to handle it.

Tuvalu profits from the growing popularity of .tv.

Is Americans' newfound willingness to rent things (anything from tools to designer bags) an indicator of decreased individualism or of conspicuous consumption made affordable?
 
Science cats! This is a good time to think about how we can pose Gracie for next year's contest. I'll entertain any ideas that don't involve Schrodinger's Cat, which is the most unoriginal, cliched science-cat combination ever. I can get Gracie close to anything (eg., a telescope, microscope, etc.) if I smear cat food on it. So get thinking.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Where did Libya's wealth go?

Go ahead, tell me more about how producing more food by way of improved technology is the answer to food insecurity, when so much is thrown away already.

Grain accumulates in North Dakota while oil monopolizes the railways.

Here's a doctor's perspective on animal testing for ALS research.

Alzheimer's eventually takes away one's ability to eat naturally, which also takes away a source of joy, comfort, and self.

This trashy, contrived PMS study does social science no favors.

Where people live, by profession.

Wealth, also mapped:

“No one beats up America better than Americans,” he wrote. “They openly debate their inequality, conduct rigorous studies about it, argue about economics vs. culture as causes…. And the debate is so fierce that the rest of the world looks on, and joins in lamenting America’s problems. A shame: we’d do better to get a little angrier at our own.”
A Brit wrote that, fittingly; Brits can be notoriously inept at criticism.

Restaurants (apart from their restrooms) are no place for pooping.

The vegan police help no one.

OMG! Playboy gets it right on catcalling.

Look at these amazing pictures taken from/by Voyager.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday night

Mom: A. really gets on my nerves, but it makes me sad to think that she's leaving tomorrow.
Dad: Who doesn't get on your nerves?
Mom: Nobody else does, really. You don't.
Dad: Ha!
Mom: I get along perfectly with everyone else.
Dad: Just keep telling yourself that.

This followed an epic fight over my having vacuumed. When I did yoga this morning, I observed the filthiness of the floor in all its glorious detail, but didn't have time to do anything about it. But when I got back from my friend's house and looked for something near the floor, I saw all the dirt again and had to vacuum. So I did. Mom rolled with it until I rolled over a small piece of packing foam.

Mom: You're going to break the vacuum!
A.: No, I'm not. 
Mom: That's it! Turn on the TV!
A.: No, let me finish.

I vacuumed the living room and the stairs, and upstairs hallway. And collected an impressive amount of dust.

Mom: Turn on the TV!
A.: I'm busy!
Mom: You're not achieving anything!

Everything looked cleaner already.

Mom, watching me empty the filter: That's all from when I vacuumed the other day.
A.: Okay.

I didn't tell her that I'd emptied the filter before starting. All that dust was new dust.

There aren't enough lotus flowers in the world

What I've learned from my four full days here is that all I can take is four full days here, under the best circumstances; three are better.

The best circumstances: it's nice out, so it's easy to get outside; I saw three different friends (one, twice) and spent a good chunk of three of the four days away from my parents. And they're still driving me up the wall. Yes, they.

We got out for that walk just in time (mom got over herself about when I finished the last post). Mom had a fit because she didn't like where dad parked, so she had to yell at him about it in the street for at least five minutes, but then we went for a nice leisurely walk. I wasn't quite nervous as we were getting back to the car, but I was annoyed by mom's dilly-dallying.

Dad: She'll just do it on purpose if she senses that you're in a hurry. You know she loves to dilly-dally at other people's expense.
A.: Yes, yes I do.

I know that dad deals with a lot of crap and I need to keep cutting him slack, but I'm just continually frustrated with his inability to deal with things. Like dust. Can he really not get a real vacuum, and vacuum? This lack of domestic skill manifests itself in particular with food. You've heard me complain about how he doesn't refrigerate things as needed and how he makes bread stale faster. But it's only partly about food; it's more about not listening.

We got back exactly fifteen minutes before a friend was going to pick me up, so I took the opportunity to start cooking chard for dinner (I'd just turn it off and leave it covered when I left) and set tofu to drain. When I got back, the tofu was back in its water, but whatever; dad couldn't know the purpose of bricking tofu. I set the chard aside into a bowl so I could use the pan for the tofu.

Dad: I'm going to try the chard.
A.: Okay, but it's not very good as it is. I'm going to mix it with the tofu when it's done.

Dad tries the chard.

Dad: It doesn't taste like much.
A.: Okay, mom.
Dad: It needs more seasoning.
A.: Right?
Dad: I'm just telling you my opinion.
A.: And I'm telling you that I just told you that it wasn't going to taste like much yet, so why are you telling me that it doesn't taste like much?

Yesterday, the same thing happened with corn tortillas.

Dad: These aren't very good.
A.: [Eye roll] I told you to wrap something in them. Corn tortillas are only good plain when they're fresh.
Dad: They're just really bland.
A.: What did I just say (for the second time)?

***
The phone rang. Dad told mom not to answer it, but she did. With the TV at full volume. Who does that? That was a rhetorical question; they do it to me all the time (or even call me when it's on) and I have to tell them to turn off the sound.

As we speak, my parents are fighting over what to do over a repeat phone call from what may or may not be Capital One credit cards (the other possibility is that it's a phishing scam). I had to interject at one point with, "OK EVERYONE BE QUIET, NOW!" because I couldn't take it.

Mom: They're just around the corner; we can go talk to them in person.
A.: The bank is not affiliated (or very loosely affiliated) with the credit card company. The branch will be of no help to you. Here's what you're going to do...
Mom: But they're just over there.
A.: What did I just say? Anyway, when I get fraud-inquiry calls, they leave a message, and these guys haven't been leaving messages so I'm skeptical. But if there is fraud on your card...
Mom: Let's just go over there.
A.: I give up.

She's been going on and on and on--she's said "let's just go over there" ten times since I first typed up the conversation.

Mom: Why call? That just complicates things. Why not just go over there.

In between, she also got a rant in there about how dad moved the cans from the basement to the pantry.

Who cares that I'm not wearing pants?

I try to appreciate the moments when mom is not being full-out nasty, even if she's still being inappropriate or not helpful. I think I've mentioned before that her gossiping makes me very uncomfortable. I didn't want to hear about the pregnant neighbor's drama with the baby's father the first time around. I don't want to hear about other people's relationships, much less mom's theories about why their lives are the way they are. I just want to scream, "that's none of your business!" But I don't.

The recurring theme this morning was mom's trying to talk to me--about these things, among others--as I was trying to do things. Which would have been fine, except for the constant "are you listening??" and the requisite annoyance when I snap the fourth time I answer that question. It culminated when I was dying my hair. Mom started on about a friend's daughter ("she used to sing terribly...") as I was mixing the henna and continued as I had to leave the room to get the gloves, etc.

Mom: Are you listening??
A.: Yes, I'm listening. I can hear you from the next room.

It reached a level of absurdity when I was washing the henna out of my hair, which I did with the garden hose (trust me, it's much more efficient than using a shower nozzle, and you don't get henna all over the shower). And I have the whole henna process down to where I do it in normal clothes without worrying about getting it on them.

So, I'm standing there, spraying water onto my head.

Dad: The water falling into the bucket is green.
A.: Right.
Mom: I never liked that guy. You should hear the way he talks to her!
A.: Why is the flow so weak??
Dad: Oh, it's adjustable. I can adjust it.
A.: Please do.

So now there's a stronger spray of water hitting my head.

Mom: Do you hear those dogs? They're really cute, but they're not the dogs I would get. I prefer full-sized dogs. We can go for a walk to look at those dogs. Do you want to see the dogs.
A.: Later, mom.
Dad: You still have some henna-mud on this side.
A.: Thanks.
Mom: I don't mind small dogs; I just don't want one for myself. Do you want to go see them.
A.: Maybe later.

***
Mom kept going on about the neighbors. Dad and I went to the store, came back. I noted that if we were going to go for a walk, we needed to go now because I had early-afternoon plans. Dad said to tell mom.

A.: Mom... why aren't you wearing any pants?
Mom: It's hot out.
A.: Shorts?
Mom: Whom am I bothering? Who cares? That's why I asked you to fix this (long) shirt.
A.: Fine. Anyway, if we want to go for a walk, we need to go now...
Mom: We'll go when I'm done.
A.: Then you and dad can go on your own.
Mom: I'M SICK OF YOUR ULTIMATUMS! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!

Twenty minutes later

Mom: I don't enjoy conversation with you. It's nothing but rudeness. Feel free not to visit again.

[Pause]

Mom: I don't find conversation with you enjoyable.

At least she's calmly muttering her insults today

Mom: I feel no joy when you visit. Any feelings I ever had toward you are dead. Only coldness emanates from you: the coldness of a know-it-all.

Dad and I thought today was shaping up to be peaceful day. At least she's saying these things, rather than screaming them.

I was doing yoga when mom came downstairs, but luckily, she went outside rather than talking to me (not before throwing a shirt at me so that I'd sew on a button, but still). I told her I'd get to it as soon as I was done. But then she started talking to me from the garden, through the window.

Mom: Come look at these flowers!
A.: Not now, mom. I'm busy. I'll look at them later.
Mom: Suit yourself.

Mom kept talking to me (i.e., to herself). She came in just as I was finishing up.

Mom: Have you finished?
A.: Finished what?
Mom: Sewing the button.
A.: I'm just about to start.
Mom: Get on it, because look at what I have to wear in the meantime.

Dad and I have had conversations with her about not going outside, even to the garden, in various states of undress, but she doesn't react well to these conversations at all.

I started looking for needles. Mom started rambling.

Mom: Yeah, dad just keeps moving everything around and I can't find anything anymore. I don't even try. Are you listening to me?
A.: Yes, I'm listening.
Mom: I need one of those brooms that inverts onto itself, so you don't have to... are you listening??
A.: Yes, yes I'm listening.

I find a needle and some thread, and get to threading it.

Mom: What side does the window need to be cleaned from? Look at it. Look at it!
A.: Mom! Do you want me to look at the window or do you want me to sew your button?
Mom: I can sew the button myself! Having to ask you to do it obviously costs me much more! You are so cold. The coldness of a know-it-all emanates from you, but I've told you that. I don't need for you to visit anymore.
A.: Here, your button is on.
Mom: Thank you.

Saturday morning roundup

Rest in peace, Simin Behbahani.

I have very mixed feelings about the stunt itself (especially given its success) and supporting medical animal testing (I have no issue with stem-cell research). I'd need to do more research on how unnecessary and ineffective it is, both scientifically and in general:
But if you really want to support medical research, get on the phone to your member of Congress and demand a stop to cutting the National Institutes of Health budget, experts say.
Galaxies!

Yup:
Finally, get comfortable with the fact that people will joke about your diet, talk about your diet in excess, criticize your diet and ask you questions about your diet. Remember that what you choose to eat is your business, and you don't owe anyone an explanation.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Still violently ranting

Mom is at it again. She's ranting about how dad has ruined everything, moved everything around. She arranged everything, and he moved it behind her back. Why are those papers there, why are things there. What did he do with the pantry? She's screaming her head off and just knocked a bunch of things, including my phone, off of a table. Dad left and went for a walk because he couldn't take it. I spent most of the day out of the house, and I don't blame him for needing to get out.  I keep telling her that everything is where it always has been, but she accuses me of lying. She's ranting about how he moved her papers, took cans out of the basement where it's cool. She's threatening to take everything and pile it up in dad's office.

Mom: Everything that's good in this house, I brought here. He only knows how to ruin things! I did everything good!
A.: Very good, mom.
Mom: Who asked you?
A.: Whom are you screaming at?
Mom: What else am I to do?
A.: Not scream?

She's still screaming.

Friday morning violent fit of rage

Mom: I already know that you're lost to me. You don't talk to me about anything. I already know. And I know that he's your dad and you'll defend him. I'll move. I'll leave the country.

[Pause.]

Mom: I think I have an apartment in Russia. I'll go there.

This came after an hour or so of mom's screaming at dad at the top of her lungs, calling him names, and accusing him of rearranging things behind her back--sometimes at night. That's right: dad gets up in the middle of the night to misplace things, out of spite to her.

Mom: I did everything. I bought everything in this house. I thought everything through. I made every good decision for this family. All he does is destroy things. Look at that TV: does it belong there?

At one point, she ripped a spice rack off the wall and threw it on the ground.

Mom: I used to think your father was a good person, but now I realize he just boosts himself up that way, often at my expense. I've lost myself. I've become dependent on him. And he benefits from having someone dependent on him. But I don't need that. I don't need his care, at my expense.

This is all so sad, because mom is justified in being frustrated at her loss of independence. It's just that, as with everything ever, she has to blame it on someone else and take it out on someone else.

Mom: The only way to find myself again is to leave the country.

Friday ramble

Mom is throwing a fit over nothing, as she does. She, of course, doesn't realize how counterproductive her behavior is and how it just trains us to ignore her and tune her out. The immediate trigger this time is that dad pointed out that she wasn't sufficiently dressed to go outside--this was a theme when she was at my house too (both the gardening in insufficient clothing and having a fit when I pointed it out)--but, as always, the root cause is that she feeds on throwing fits, and so she looks out for provocation or creates it.

Friday morning roundup

FFS, people. Also: perpetrators get away with their $hit by counting on shame. This one almost did.

Interesting perspective on science and religion, among other things.

Mom, to her credit, never fed me tapeworms.

Screens are making your kids socially inept.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lotus flower

I hate giving my dad crap because he means well, but sometimes meaning well isn't enough. Remember how I had a toddler tantrum at him in December because he continued to approach the skid-prone car that I was trying to park? All I could do was roll down the window and scream "GET THE F* AWAY FROM THE CAR! NOW!" and he still didn't. And I was already furious at him because before I got to the driveway, he (I was following his car back from the mechanic's) kept stopping along the way to let me "catch up" even though he knew I knew the way and I was deliberately trying to keep my distance because the car was skidding.

Well, this not unlike what happened this afternoon. In which, for a good half-hour or more, I worried about them and wondered whether something had happened.

We took two cars to go see Nina, so as to leave one with Nina to have while she's in town. Mom offered to ride with me, but I declined on account of not needing a backseat nag. I stated clearly that I'd be fine, because if they lost me, I'd just use the phone. They even saw me put Nina's parents' address into my phone just in case. I explicitly said, "do not wait for me. I will find it."

So, naturally, when I took a wrong turn, dad apparently decided to wait for me. Because that could possibly be helpful?? I didn't even realize he'd seen me miss the turn; he'd gotten through a light that I'd stopped at, so I thought they were far ahead of me. I took a wrong turn, realized it immediately, and got back on the right road. Because I have GPS on my phone and he knows that.

I got to Nina's parents' place, expecting to find my parents there. But my parents were nowhere to be seen. And it must have been another 30-45 minutes before they showed up. During which I wondered what could have happened. When dad told me that he'd stopped to wait for me I had a fit. Because WTF. I wouldn't have seen them anyway. I wasn't looking for them. I'd told them not to wait for me.

***
Mom declared the baby adorable. Everyone kept telling Nina what to do ("don't hold her like that," "I think she's cold," "I think she's hungry") and I couldn't help but tell everyone to shut up. When we left, mom asked me when she'd get her grandbaby, and then noted that the cat was all I was good for. It's almost enough to incite me to have a revenge baby just to keep it the hell away from her.

But wait, there's more

Mom: Why do you love Nina?
A.: I don't know, mom.
Mom: It's just interesting. Do you have something in common, or something?

I did not say, batshit immigrant parents who do batshit immigrant shit, like using urine as disinfectant and facial wash and broadcasting it.

WTF?? even by mom standards

This morning, Nina's dad called my parents. Nina's dad has been friends with my mom for sixty years.

Nina's dad: Nina's here... but she stepped out.
Mom: Yes, we know. A. wants to see her, for whatever reason. So, what do you think of the granddaughter? You can tell us now that Nina's out of the house, in case you wanted to share your unvarnished assessment.
Dad: Of his baby granddaughter??
Mom: I'm just saying.

Just now:

Mom: Why do you love Nina?
A.: What??
Mom: Why do you love Nina?
A.: I don't understand the question.
Mom: Why are you so attached to her? Why do you want to see her?
A.: [Speechless]
Mom: Seriously: why do you love Nina?
A.: Why does anyone love anyone?
Mom: I don't know. I'm trying to understand.
A.: [Shrug.]

Late Thursday morning roundup

This, not this (police perspectives on Ferguson). And The Onion for another perspective.

Birth control: it works.

Carolyn on the advantages of becoming less hurtable. And on how tip-toeing makes things worse:
It sends the message that ignore-ignore-boom, and holding an entire family hostage, is an acceptable way to behave.
How this applies to my mom: dad and I are both over catering to her because she's sick and obviously more out of her mind than ever. It just doesn't work when someone's persistently nasty.

Yes, yes, I get it, I can consider myself motherless

Mom went on an epic rant over breakfast. It was all over the place, with a lot of name-calling and conspiracy-mongering (did you know that Obama is deliberately inviting illegal aliens and granting them citizenship so that they'll vote for him next time around, once he abolishes term limits so that he can be president for life). I didn't engage her. She came into the room where I was reading the paper.

Mom: Did you know that he equipped Hamas with the best weaponry? Now do you see who's right?
A.: Not you?
Mom: Ha! Not me? You think you know everything. Only coldness and haughtiness comes from you. When you first cut me out of your life, I was hurt. I'd once lived solely to give you a good life, but no longer. I don't care about you anymore. You can consider yourself motherless. Well, at least you have a father. When your dad says he wants to visit you, I say I don't. He says, "how could you not?" I say, "because something inside me has died; I have no feelings for her anymore. I feel only her rudeness and coldness. That's all she has, all that comes from her."

Thursday morning roundup

Anti-semitism in Europe is getting more intense. Then there's Taiwan, or is that just cluelessness?

The new strategic deterrence.

Charles Blow on how to overcome our cowardliness in talking about race.

In good news: Dr. Kent Bradly has recovered!

A dark matter candidate other than WIMPs.

This is why they had to move the UFO from Long Island to Chicago.

Did you know that counterillumination was a thing? And that polarization isn't just for sunglasses?

Perfectly valid reasons not to vaccinate your kids (must read).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nina and me

Meanwhile, true to my prediction this morning, "you're dead to me/consider yourself motherless" has reached "pass-the-salt" levels of normalcy. In that, I was exaggerating this morning when I said that we were at "consider yourself motherless"/"yeah, okay mom lemme just finish this article" but by the afternoon, at the beach, we were pretty much there:

Mom [from out of nowhere]: Consider yourself motherless.
A.: [Yawn.]

***

Mom: Who are you seeing tomorrow?
A.: Nina.
Mom: Oh, right.

Now, take a minute to note that the last time we were at Nina's parents' place was right before they moved (in which the least f*ed up thing that happened was when mom tried to bully me into trying on a fur coat). But that's not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is that mom's nonchalance, even in her current mental state, is bewildering.

I'm looking fulsome, says mom

Mom: Have you been gaining weight?
Dad: If she has, it's not noticeable.
Mom: When she sits like that, it's very noticeable.
A.: Like what?
Mom: Just like that, in your chair. You look very... fulsome.

The big picture

The big reason that being around my parents will stress me out if I let it--in other words, the reason I have to actively make a point of not letting myself get stressed out--is that their lifestyle not only bewilders me but reminds me of my childhood. My parents--mom is egregious, but dad not only enables her but is also inefficient in his own right--just do things in suboptimal ways. And my whole lifestyle depends on optimization and efficiency. I'm not the only one to feel this way about one's parents.

Life-hacking, I think, is how the kids these days describe it: simple tricks and habits that make things easier or just make things work. Like throwing things away as soon as you're done with them, rather than placing them elsewhere in the house and giving your hoarder-spouse an opportunity to debate whether or not they actually need to be tossed (or recycled). And by things, I mean everything from mesh bags that held lemons to things that are broken or long expired to things that pertain to bigger things that no longer work.

Life-hacking: refrigerating vegetables, so that you're not surprised every time that they eventually go bad. And that one's all dad, and his mind is f*ing intact. And yet, every time, I tell him to put things in the fridge, and he's all 'nah' and then two days later is all, "huh, that went bad."

Life-hacking: getting your $hit together so you can leave the house in minutes, not hours (we were supposed to be at the beach by now). God knows what my parents are looking for. And here we come back to the clutter: it's not just annoying, it's an obstacle. When you have so much $hit lying around, it makes it harder to find the $hit you actually need, when you need it.

Life-hacking: paying your f*ing bills online. All of them.

Life-hacking: never being in the position to say something like, "I can find the left shoe for so many shoes, but no right shoe."


Pieces of mom conversations

Mom: Did one of your friends give birth again? Is that why you're here?
A.: Yes. Nina.
Mom: Oh.

I don't blame mom for not remembering; I blame her for not caring.

There are conversations I don't mind having multiple times, questions I don't mind answering.

Mom: What happened to your nose?
A.: A coffee pot fell on it.
Mom: How?
A.: There's a coffee pot that lives on top of my fridge. I opened the fridge door, and it fell on my face.
Mom: Oh.

I don't mind repeating that. It's this that I don't care for (not once, not ad nauseum):

Mom: You're not having that cookie?
A.: No.
Mom: Why not?
A.: It has dairy in it.
Mom: What did dairy ever do to offend you? Should we just let all the cows roam free?

***
There's so much that I leave out these days, because it's not even worth it anymore; mom has raised the bar for bloggable material. Unless it's egregious, I skip it.

Postscript

So mom was watching the news Fox News propaganda last night, and I was doing my best not to listen, but couldn't help it. It was painful--it was so clearly agenda-driven at the expense of being factual. They weren't even trying to report; they were just trying to spin. I kept hearing, "Is Eric Holder the right person to go to Ferguson given his comments about race?" Really??

Anyway, here's more on Eric Holder and race (and law enforcement).

Consider yourself motherless

Mom: Did you watch the news last night?
A.: I was sitting here when the news was on.
Mom: So you know what he did. Your hero. That dirtbag that you voted for...
A.: Must you invoke 'dirtbag' so early in the morning? I don't want to hear that word or others of that tone, and I'm not going to engage in conversations on the matter.
Mom: What if someone really is a dirtbag?
A.: That's not the point. It's not about the substance; it's about the tone.

[Pause]

Mom: I think I'll stop visiting you, or being happy when you visit. Your father will still be happy about you, I gather. But I'm afraid I've lost you forever. We have nothing to talk about. We have nothing to do. I'd suspected it, but now I'm sure. I wish you the best. But consider yourself motherless. It will be less painful for me.

***
Is it sad, or fine, that I didn't even blink? That mom's 'you're dead to me' schpiel has become so routine--as routine as 'you're fat' once was--that I shrug it off? That entire conversation took place in even, measured tones. Think about that: mom said, "consider yourself motherless" and I shrugged.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday ramble

It's been pretty calm, by which I mean, there's been little deliberate abuse. There's been plenty of agitation, from the moment I got in the car; mom feeds on it, can't turn it off. She doesn't know how not to be angry and doesn't want to. I managed to minimize the ranting during dinner, but there was still ranting. It's just what she does.

Meanwhile, I keep finding crap. As in, medicine that expired in 1985 that my parents nonetheless refuse to get rid of. I just don't understand how they can live like this, among the clutter (just like I don't understand why mom chooses to feed on anger). Obviously, I don't understand how people can watch Fox News. It's just. so. painful.

I guess it makes me appreciate my own (low-clutter, low-anger, minimal agitation) status quo that much more. I'm not OCD; my home isn't sterile or empty. But it's clean. And quiet--none of this loud TV in every room (which is not to say there's not music). And I'm not a saint, but I manage my anger and agitation. Otherwise I'd lose my mind.

Tuesday roundup

Boko Haram is still bringing hell to Nigeria.

Ireland is still treating pregnant women as subhuman vessels.

Yes, culture can discourage sexual assault.

Yes, yes, yes, this is what I've been saying all along: food security is not just about food production, and technology isn't going to affect distribution. I was disappointed to see DNLee retweet someone's uninformed sancti-scientist sentiment that it's dangerous to suggest we can feed 7-9 billion people with century-old technology, but it's not, because what I just said about technology, production, and distribution. See food waste. See Amartya Sen. See food security 101: it's not about food; it's about access to food.

Speaking of Twitter, it's both sad and comical when people don't realize that #notofeminism (ironic misandry is here and it's awesome) is a parody account (sad because there are enough earnest statements of equally ridiculous logic that nothing surprises anyone anymore; funny comical just because). But since I've followed it/retweeted it, I think some genuine anti-feminists have followed me. We'll see how that proceeds.

Oh and Doree Lewak's column is dumb beyond words and I'm not even going to link to it.

This article is sloppy and all over the place (surprise!), but transparency about food additives is an important issue. Why is it sloppy? It conflates additives and main ingredients (see: quorn); doesn't define its terms (what's processed? is pasta processed?); and doesn't distinguish between allergens (which are dangerous to some) and toxins (which are generally dangerous, but in a dosage-dependent way). In both cases, labeling is of the essence, but it would be good to be clearer.

Oh, Sainsbury, that's just stupid.

I know it's beneath me, but oh the schadenfreude that the McDonnells bring out in me! I keep thinking I'll get to the point where I'll just feel bad for them, but it hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday roundup

Ouch, big time, for Israel.

Also, Leonard Fein passed away.

There are limits to American power, but has the President overstated them? Aaron David Miller doesn't think so.

Ferguson's tensions were long stewing.

The Perry indictment, explained.

You don't need a gimmick to donate to charity.

Ed Yong rounds up the things to read about depression (among other things).

Mindfulness: not just for hippies.

Yeah, social science doesn't benefit from the Ashley Madison study, mostly because it's super-flawed.

Speaking of flawed: make sure you're not falling for pseudoscience.

Yes, this essay is a poignant reflection of Alzheimer's, but I can only relate to it from the opposite perspective: would that mom watch, take comfort in nature documentaries. I put on a bunch of them (well, for a few minutes each, until she balked) when she was here, after I bought the TV for her to watch. It got to the point where she said, "I don't want to watch the sharks!" even when it was a space documentary I'd put on. She wants to watch Fox News and feed her rage, stew in her bitterness.

Where people came from (to each state).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday ramble

It's been a rough few weeks (/months/years/centuries) in the world, so I know that my own rough few weeks at work amount to a picnic in relative terms. But they've been rough nonetheless. A roller-coaster, actually--not without its peaks. They culminated in a meltdown earlier this week, but even before that, they lead to an epiphany over the weekend, at Current Boutique: I was looking at blazers and thought, "you can never have too many blazers, but I'm past the point where a blazer can help or harm my career."

Thursday roundup

For Ferguson coverage, turn to Twitter. I haven't ready any full-length articles that get at the issues any better than the tweets do. I've been retweeting quite a bit, so check my timeline if you're not sure where to start.

Why arming Syria's rebels wouldn't have been the answer.

Koko mourns Robin Williams.

Speaking of spot-on tweets, one of the best I've seen with regard to Robin Williams' death was that depression isn't about the level of sadness, but about not being able to find joy. It reminded me of Jonathan Franzen's essay after David Foster Wallace's suicide (key excerpt on this blog, or search the New Yorker or follow the link within the link for the whole thing).

Two excellent pieces on outspoken former vegans. I don't agree with anything in either, but I've made the key point before: don't stop eating everything but air and then go write about how you felt better when you started eating meat again.

Okay, buddy, I don't disagree with your overall point, but I've got to call you out on some misinformation:
Agricultural production, too, is an area ripe for innovation. In most parts of the world, agricultural production accounts for a significant share of all water use. Short of asking humans to scale back on the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume, we are going to need new ways of farming and crops that aren’t as water-intensive or that take advantage of innovative new techniques for “agricultural water management.”
Fruits and vegetables are NOT THE PROBLEM. Do you know what the midwest mostly grows? Corn and soy (for animal feed, not for human consumption). These are important facts.


And two excellent pieces (well, one article, one comic) on the toll of harassment. I thought, as I was reading this and then another piece written by another survivor, how can anyone still not get it? Still not understand the space that women have to operate in? An excerpt:
There are plenty of things people do to rob women of their sexuality, though... There’s catcalling, which in essence is men making sexual demands of me without ever talking about consent, and reducing me to their sexual desire without ever asking or thinking about my sexuality or desire. The total goal, here, seems to be to make it so that women are empty sexual vessels, stripped of our own sexual identities and needs and wishes and fantasies, ready to give both our bodies and the way we think of ourselves over to what other people prescribe for us. They don’t want us to be less sexual, they want us to be less sexual in our own right.
There's a lot of sanctimony in this well-meaning essay, but there's more good than bad:
People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation.
On a lighter note, "side boob," among other things, is in the OED.  So are "mansplain" and "douchebaggery."

Most of the stars you see are still there.

Kristof on the humanities.

Kale is still popular.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday roundup

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This isn't your grandparents' South China Sea drama.

Anti-semitism in Europe is bad as ever.

I'm glad that interest in cashew apples is helping farmers, but I still don't believe in superfoods as a concept.

Heroin will f* up your life and the lives of those you love.

Alfred Nobel underappreciated math, but math got its prize.

Holy crap; there are some (women-)haters on the internet. And they're not very bright. And there's a debate about how to manage them.

The super-rich don't want to ruin their kids with money.

Speaking of which: this kid is going to have a rough life.

"Kevining": Mansplaining at a whole new level

I told a couple of friends about the conversation I finally had with a dude I met at speed-dating. You may recall that I wasn't particularly taken with any of the speed-dating dudes, but one of them was pretty intriguing, and I was willing to get to know him better. He and I connected through the speed-dating system, and then played phone tag for over a month (he was out of town, then either or both of us was working ten-hour days). Finally, this weekend, we got a chance to talk. And he threw up a red flag, i.e., he Kevined me.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday roundup

A poignant essay on having children in a f*ed up world.

A more comprehensive takedown of David Brooks' latest column (than the more basic one I wrote earlier).

I've always said, quantum mechanics makes my head hurt.
Here's some sloppy science writing: "Plasma" is undefined in the text, but defined in the video as ionized gas. Is that what plasma always is, because I don't think that that's how people refer to plasma in the son. Also, I don't think the solar system and the heliosphere are the same thing.

Scientists out of their field love to tell you that organics are pointless, but recent events indicate otherwise. Similarly, I'll answer this call to explain why "GMO denial" is different from anti-vaxxing: because vaccines are a known, proven solution to a real problem (i.e., disease). If the question is, "are GMOs harmful to one's health," than that's as useless a question as, "do organics have more nutrients." Those are narrow questions that don't get a t the actual issue. And global food insecurity is not a matter of more technology in agriculture.

The Supreme Court is backsliding on women's rights, even as other human rights issues move forward.

I cannot deny it: Maureen McDonnell evokes epic schadenfreude in me, even though she's so pathetic--as Robin Givhan bitingly points out--that she merits pity instead:
At the highest levels, the fashion industry produces much that is breathtakingly original, beautiful and inspiring. But it also churns out those products that serve far more crass purposes. They equate money with inherent value.  They offer a flimsy validation of self-worth. They exploit the superficial belief that power, ambition and success can be encapsulated by few rarefied brands that have — through cynical marketing and false scarcity — come to signify that one has arrived.
Read the whole column; it's spot-on.


I feel like I could write an entire post--and maybe I will, this weekend--about dudes who insist on doing things for you (even after you've asked them not to). I was recently talking to my WMF (search the blog if you care enough), and for whatever reason, BE came up. I was somewhat surprised at even her reaction ("and then you owed him something"); um, no, I didn't. I don't owe anybody anything, much less for continuing to do things I've explicitly asked them to stop doing, even if they're generous things on the surface. It's called, boundaries. I stood up to BE the way I stood up to RM; I wasn't about to let either of them bully me into friendship or more. But WMF also said, "ah, you friendzoned him." What?? I mean, I declined to date him. Because I had no feelings for him and knew I never would, and because he annoyed me. Why does refusing to date someone--a perfectly normal thing to do--get its own derogatory name? 

Anyway, thinking about BE--a serial mansplainer--reminded me of when he tried to mansplain me to me. This isn't the first time a dude has done this, and it's even more egregious than mansplaining something tangible (even if you know more about it). I.e., BE would try to mansplain to me the issue I work on (and he wasn't the only one). Anyway, BE once mansplained to me that I was attractive, but that my sense of democracy prevented me from acknowledging it. The only possible translation of that is, "you're not as much of a bitch as you might be, given how attractive you are, because you don't look down on ugly people." More accurately, I don't believe in the concept of ugly people, except in the proverbial sense.

But this speaks to a bigger issue: we're--to paraphrase Eric Holder--cowards in how we talk about attractiveness. So much so that we judge people who handle it better (I keep telling you guys that Russians don't have this hangup). 

Smile! Because dudes you don't give a $hit about think you should.

I was not so lucky as this woman (before she was ever on the receiving end of an obscene selfie), but I'm glad I didn't have to assess so many of them.

Parents: it's wonderful that you think your babies are adorable, but nobody else should have to deal with their $hit (literally). Seriously.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday roundup

If the Everyday Sexism feed hasn't been enough to take down your faith in humanity, here's Everyday Antisemitism.

Last week we established that other women's mammary glands aren't a threat to anyone's marriage. Even more importantly, Nicki Minaj's ass isn't a threat to anyone's children.

A very articulate takedown of "what-makes-women-attractive" list logic. Here's an excerpt from the first point:

‘Attractive girls’ are happier'

If he means, simply, “female humans whom I wish to mate with maybe” then who would care, unless it was mutual? Who is interested what features a random dude on the internet finds attractive in women (aside from me, I think)? And why does he think women should aspire to meet (only) his consideration of what constitutes attractiveness, instead of what makes them feel good in their own skin. I guess he thinks we’re not doing enough to make women ashamed of their bodies. Onward, brave soldier!
But, it’s safe to assume that because women are people (!), some will be happier than others.
Remember when Richard Dawkins was taken seriously? Same with David Brooks, who wrote a silly column about how we need to teach poor people character. Now, I'm all about character-building, but I don't think poor people have a monopoly on the need for it. 

Relatability (in fiction) is overrated.

Are the profound similarities in mythology around the world rooted in a common origin, or just universal humanity?

Tofu is obscene if you think about it the right way. I'm a proud chegan.

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