Sunday, August 30, 2015

Big Sunday roundup

Refugees face a harrowing journey to and through Europe.

Lebanon's governance crisis demonstrates that even people enured to dysfunction, are limited in what they can tolerate.

Also on governance: pair what's going right in Guatemala with the article I linked to earlier about how Brazil's instutions are keeping the country together.

Surprise! The company behind the Tianjin tragedy made money from endangering people by flouting regulations.

This is a great article about Russia and its but you can take the line about how "Hints, insinuations, and doublespeak are the weapons of the weak" as applying to both the personal and political (see last week's ramble). An excerpt (from the article, not the ramble):
Professor Barbara Geddes, a prominent researcher of authoritarian regimes, classifies Russia as a "personalist autocracy," as distinct from a single-party or military autocracy that exists elsewhere in the world...
Most personalist regimes are less durable than single-party dictatorships and more susceptible to economic and exogenous shocks, because a “heaven-sent leader" must continuously prove his ability to turn water into wine and multiply loaves of bread or fish. Any difficulties must be temporary in nature. Also, personalist regimes need to continually buy off their elites: when the rewards for loyalty run out, the ranks of supporters suddenly evaporate.
Replicability issues are not unique to the social sciences. Case in point.

I rarely agree with Gary Taubes, but it is a no-brainer that starvation is unsustainable. This is behind the misconceived interpretation of research--that weight loss doesn't work because people gain it back; they only gain it back if they were starved, because of course few people will starve themselves in the long run. This is not to say that sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes won't help people drop pounds.

Pair Dr. Nerdlove's wise words about boundaries--

  • People who assume (or try to take) a greater level of intimacy than they actually have are creepy because they’re ignoring your boundaries.
  • Respecting somebody’s boundaries, on the other hand, is a mark of respect as well as social calibration. It shows you that you value their comfort and respect their social, emotional and physical safety. 
  • Once again, this is boundary-pushing behavior; by insisting that you are somehow “owed” something, you are saying that the other person does not have the right to decide their own actions or responses. If you already are demanding things of strangers – even something as relatively innocuous as a smile or a “hi” back – you’re establishing a precedent where you expect more of your desires to be reciprocated, regardless of whether the other person is interested or not. 
 --with all my RM posts and this piece about approaching women in public. And these pieces on rape culture.

Also on boundaries--in the sense that some people like to deliberately flout them as a power move--as well as other essential relationship skills that we value: you can bypass the need for them by going the sugar route. [This is an exceptionally well-written piece and I highly recommend that you read it in its entirety.] Some excerpts:
Drama, according to Thurston, includes taking your time to decide whether you want to have sex, having any motive beyond the one you stipulated up front (which was greed), and a presumption that you will be courted. No, sir, Thurston's courting days are over.
“A lot of them are very lonely and they don't have time to go through traditional dating because they're so successful. And they really don't have time to woo a woman or to like, you know, answer your phone calls.”

The other interesting thing about the article is the equivalence with housewife-ism (to counter the default equivalence with prostitution)--isn't it all on the same spectrum? I'd argue--without judging either of the three--that there is a difference: spouses with unequal incomes are each contributing in different ways to a shared goal; there's a relationship there, and the health of the relationship is something both parties have committed to sustaining. It's not transactional. This article makes it clear that, in sugar relationships, each party is in it for him/herself and wants no part in the work it would take to have a relationship. And there's nothing wrong with that, since the terms are clear; everyone knows what to reasonably expect.

PSA: existing with breasts =/= trying to distract with one's cleavage. Another PSA: do not clean your lady parts with lysol (or anything else). Remember what Doctor Gunter said: they're a self-cleaning oven.

This Times thing about narcissists reminds me of mom, although she's not quite as bad as any of these (or at least hasn't always been).

Serena Williams is amazing, but we knew that.

Mostly agree with the inadvertent coiner of 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl,' except I'd argue that Zoe Kazan brings it on herself (I've had the misfortune of watching two of her films--which she herself wrote--on planes). She revels in the MPDG, and thus is part of the problem.

Great video about actual vs. stereotypical vegans.

Meditation is good.

Stunning photos of bark.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday roundup

Trans women of color are being killed and it has to stop.

Well-written obituary for Jacob Bekenstein.

Poignant interview with Stephen Colbert and his embrace of gratitude. Pair with Megan Feldman Bettencourt's book on forgiveness and Tara Brach's meditation on embracing whatever comes your way.

Science: brought to you by humans.

Sunday ramble: ethnicity, directness, and people skills

A week or two ago, I was (surprise!) complaining about children. Actually, I was--we all were--complaining about tourists. Specifically, those who stand on the left. My coworkers were saying (though this could have been any and every conversation anywhere and everwhere in DC) that the Metro needs to put up signs, like the Underground in London does, telling people to stand right/walk left. I said I'd read that Metro won't do that because they don't want to formally encourage people to walk on the escalators, out of safety/liability concerns (even though everyone does it anyway). I added, "is there not a safety concern about my fist coming down on a small child's head?" A coworker, who knows the former Soviet Union well, said, "that's the Russian in you coming out."

True enough. Russians don't beat their children any more than anyone else does (and my coworkers know that I wouldn't actually hurt a child), but they certainly don't coddle them in some ways that Americans do. They'd teach them to get out of the way on the Metro, because they know that no one will be making way for them.

[Note a propos of nothing: an elderly or pregnant person standing is a sight unseen on public transportation in Russia; it's a sight I experience nearly daily on Metro.]

This is all a very round-about way of rambling (again) about communication and relationship styles. You see, perhaps I overattribute certain attributes to my ethnicity (or other ethnicities), most commonly directness. My people don't do indirect communication. I don't do indirect communication, and I have a hard time interpreting it when others do it. Let me tell you why this has been on my mind.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday roundup

Blogger has crashed on me multiple times, so I'm trying to recreate the links from memory and Twitter...

The too-tragic-for-words murder of Mr. Palmyra.

Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric is inspiring violence.

Idiot thinks she'd be a better parent because she has a nicer house.

On food news: Meat is the leading cause of extinction, grass-fed is just as bad, meat waste is worse, and the big one: "Corn Wars":

Also, Julia Ioffe explains how anyone from St. Petersburg could trash food.

Veganism isn't elitism; it's popular among low-income populations.

I'd rather be single than in a relationship that hinges on a sandwich.

Truly amazing newspaper corrections.

And now, the Carolyn roundup (much of which was lost):

On how people project their insecurities:
I find that sometimes I can’t win in conversations with relatives and casual friends. If I even mention events in my life that the other person cannot afford, I’m “bragging.” If I admit that something in my life is bugging me, I’m “whiny.” If I redirect the conversation to the other person’s life after a modest non-answer, I’m being “secretive.”

I realize that tone of voice and exact wording are very important, but I have come to the conclusion that some people will see bragging or whininess regardless of my tone and words.
A similar occurrence, in terms of imposing, manipulative gifts:
People determined to upset themselves will find ways to do it, no matter how much thought you put into words meant to stop them.

You know you're in the right relationship when you're not always second-guessing it.

The line between healthy compromise and unhealthy people-pleasing.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday roundup

Incredibly powerful essay on caregiving.

You can care about animal welfare without "believing in" animal rights, but animal rights is also a useful construct.

Meat eating leads to worldwide species extinction.

Remember the Chik-Fil-A assault on "Eat More Kale"? Burker King has that beat.

The response to the Vanity Fair article on Tinder--particularly Tinder's--is more worthwhile than the article itself, but the "fuckboys" aspect is exactly what I was talking about re: "Trainwreck":
A “fuckboy” is a young man who sleeps with women without any intention of having a relationship with them or perhaps even walking them to the door post-sex. He’s a womanizer, an especially callous one, as well as kind of a loser.
My earlier point being, Amy in "Trainwreck" is merely a female equivalent, and I don't think that's progress. It wouldn't have been an issue per se, except that it was being promoted as some kind of feminist revolution. There's also a good take on the expectation that the women make these guys a priority, when they're (less than) an option. Note: Jezebel says "fuckboy" doesn't mean what Vanity Fair says it means. Not interested in semantics here, just the concept, but nevertheless.

We stay in bad relationships even when we know they're bad.

No wonder parents can be so sanctimonious and insufferable; they're miserable.

How pseudoscience spreads.

Here's some social-science terminology that's frequently misused.

The Target troll was amazing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday roundup (brought to you by films from the library)

Because until I get a DVD player, I have to get on the laptop to watch DVDs.

The Petrobras scandal, explained.

Moscow: cosmopolitan on the outside, totalitarian on the inside.

May we all be "fussy, stubborn, unyielding bureaucrats" like Frances Oldham Kelsey when lives are at stake.

I woke up to a Progressive Twitter at war with itself, with Berniesplainers on one side and BlackLivesMatter on the other. I'm going to embed one tweet from Mina Hong, but please click on it and read the entire thread.

Another key point that was made over and over again--I'll share Roxane Gay's articulation--was that no one owes you a cookie for your allyship. See the embedded tweet as well.
I've witnessed less intensive flare-ups, as well as full-out character attacks. For example, one (black) woman I follow is being hounded for having worked for a bank before she changed careers in the direction of reproductive rights. Good thing I don't try to be progressive on Twitter; goodness knows what the sticklers would make of my career choices.

I don't have anything to add beyond what's in the tweets embedded and linked above, except that this is why I stood with Jon Stewart when he was attacked for promoting civility and common ground over ideological purity. Twitter brings out anger and defensiveness, and sometimes that's merited, but common ground is how you actually get things done. That's a dig at Twitter finger-pointing, not at actual protests, which also get things done.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday roundup

Butter is bad for you and also cruel, even if the dairy industry can buy The Onion.

I could have done without the author's quoting a sex offender at the end, but this live-tweet of a hyena sex-fail is otherwise amazing.

I'm not a fan of parental oversharing; must be because I'm uneducated.

Interesting piece about teaching masculinity. I've just disengaged from a Twitter discussion with someone who commented on my "Trainwreck" post. I disengaged because dude was repeatedly missing my points, although I did mean to eventually direct him to Dr. Nerdlove, who has written extensively about toxic masculinity and about how gender stereotypes hurt men, too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday ramble: tone-policing

I woke up to a tone-policing email from my dad. I won't compare that kind of individual, unsystematic, non-ethnic/racial tone-policing to the kind that Chanda Prescod-Weinstein so aptly calls out here; I'm in no way suggesting it's the same. But there are common threads--in particular, why should I be gracious when someone is insulting, just because she means well and doesn't realize she's being insulting?

Tuesday roundup

Richard Hass's foreign policy lessons from the first Gulf War, including, "limited goals are often wise."

Beyond Cecil: social issues in Zimbabwe.

China is outsourcing... to the U.S.

Eating animal products: bad for the planet, bad for you.

It would be wrong to concern-troll women who feel the need to pay thousands of dollars for a post-baby-delivery stylist, but I'm really f*ing glad I'm not one of them. Same for women looking to correct their Bitchy Resting Face. I love my BRF and I won't have the concept appropriated from something that allows women to be ourselves to something that has to be corrected.

This is a generally great response to the idea of 'never foods' (remember, I called out HuffPo for writing that you should "never" eat white rice). The article also supports the idea that nutrition is about everyday foods, not gimmicks. 

Bill Nye's video response to trolls is delightful.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


After I published that last post, I turned off the lamp near me and stumbled, in the dark, toward the room light. I tripped over my bike and knocked over a vase in the process, shattering it. I can't decide whether I'll miss it--it was pretty enough, but it was given to me under circumstances I came to resent, if not regret. It wasn't a big deal either way. Not quite a decade ago when I was stumbling around in the dark, I lacerated my forearm (I still have the scar), so a shattered vase is progress.

Sunday ramble: brand-name causes and very low bars

Which global injustices gain your sympathy, attention, and money? Rarely the most deserving. For every Tibetan monk or Central American indigenous activist you see on the evening news, countless other worthy causes languish in obscurity. 

I have to admit that before I was against the 'whataboutism' over Cecil-the-Lion's assassination, I was mentally engaging in it myself. Of course I was horrified by the killing, and I couldn't fathom what sick bastard would want to murder an animal for sport and then pose with its corpse. I thought of Jon Stewart's 2004 graduation speech, in which he told the graduating class that, "If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don’t give the thumbs up you’ve outdid us."

Not that I'm equating people and animals. In fact, my internal whataboutism was confined to the animal kingdom: why the outrage over Cecil and not the everyday poaching? Why Cecil and not the factory farming system? It didn't cross my mind to compare Cecil-outrage with (the supposed lack of) Syria outrage, as Max Fisher did. Which prompted me to wish that Mr. Fisher would stick to making simplistic maps and leave attempts at journalism to people with critical thinking skills, but nobody asked me. Then I saw a counter-intuitive racial divide in my Twitter feed: black people were expressing horror over Cecil and white people were complaining that white people were more outraged over a lion than over the epidemic of police violence against black people. Eventually, everyone was tweeting a bit of both.

I'd like to think that people are not actually less outraged about humanitarian crises and police violence; that the Cecil outrage is merely more vocal, as suggested in the first link, because it's clear-cut gratuitous and achievable: it's easy to channel outrage at a very wealthy man who went out of his way to brutally murder an animal who was minding his own business. Then I read Pia Glenn's piece about a friend of hers who hadn't heard of Sandra Bland, and understood where the 'whatabouters' were coming from.

I'm generally wary of whataboutism and outrage olympics because we can't afford to shut down attention to one issue, because there's something more pressing. There's always something more pressing. It's a slippery slope to, for example, "shut up, women in America; women in Afghanistan have it worse." But it would behoove us to look beyond brand-name causes and perfect victims, not for out outrage but for our activism and daily choices and voting behavior. By all means, sign petitions to extradite the lion-murderer, but let's also agitate for police reform. As for Syria, I've got nothing. I care, but I just don't know. That's why they're called complex humanitarian emergencies.

But let's move on (at least to the next stage of the lion saga), as we wait for CNN to "apologize for labeling Thailand as Zimbabwe," and talk about another issue that's been gnawing at me. I'm going to borrow Larry Wilmore's term, which he coined in reference to police violence, and talk about women in film: it's a very low bar.

I didn't mind "Trainwreck," but FSM help me if I have to read one more think piece or tweet about how it's a feminist revolution. First of all, it's not a great movie. Amy Schumer--this isn't fair, because it's not like she set out to be--is no Nora Ephron. Nora Ephron could write movies about women that were good--believable, witty, smart. "Trainwreck" is more like "Bridesmaids": farcical, crass, and feminist only in the very-low-bar sense. I don't mind crass, when it serves a purpose, but I don't need crass when it's there in the Ariel Levy sense: women needn't be crass to demonstrate that we can out-crass the guys.

Similarly, women's empowerment doesn't lie in being as emotionally stunted and dickish as men are stereotypically thought to be. I get that there's virtue in subverting stereotypes--in fact, the movie is great for showcasing men against stereotype. Hell, the best parts were those with LeBron James. But if the big feminist draw is that Amy is sex-positive and uninterested in commitment, why not showcase an emotionally healthy woman who is sex-positive and independent? Rather than a woman whose sex-positivity is tied to her commitment-phobia, which is in turn based on her immaturity and fear of failure at relationships? Which, in turn, is something to be cured as she meets the right man? Women (and men) can engage in casual sex without treating their sexual partners like shit; why do we celebrate Amy's dickish treatment of the guys she hooks up with? Women can be independent and complete as human beings--we can be happy without commitment--without being afraid of commitment. We can contradict stereotypical expectations without falling over ourselves to conform to stereotypes of men.

"Trainwreck" was a mediocre, watchable, mildly entertaining movie. We can do better.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday roundup

Medical research on fetal tissue saves and improves lives.

Just say no to orphanage tourism.

Cacao has a child labor problem. Seafood and pet food have a slave labor problem. Pork has a murderous manure problem (but let's keep fetishizing bacon and painting the food movement as elitist). Beef has an overall environmental problem.

What you eat really matters, and eating plants (not animals or their products) is a good thing to do. It's much harder to make a difference when it comes to buying clothes.

I probably need a whole blog post that I don't have time for right now about Cecil the Lion and the backlash and backlash to the backlash, but for now, this is a good start and so is this. This one's less 'whatabout' in general and more about what about other animals, but I don't agree with all of it because trophy hunting really is bad.

Wow, people actually complained about photos of an interracial family.

Gifts are hard to get right.

How to make your man fall for you? Skip the Glamour piece and go straight to Dean Burnett. It's science.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm forgiving of parents who make an effort. Still, some great excerpts here, starting with this:
Kid-haters are also correct, because they did not choose to live in a dystopian nightmare where children are now, if not welcome per se, at least present in bars, high-end restaurants, and other places I would never even think to take my child.