Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday roundup

STEM isn't everything.

Gwyneth doesn't understand why people think she's full of shit. Hint: because she is.

Certain jobs require or at least benefit from certain looks. I'd like to think I'll never botox--especially after reading Holly Milea's piece in Elle--but I can see why other people would. I do identify with the (above-linked) writer's statement that sometimes a procedure just takes care of an issue or makes something better, and it's okay to be happy about that.

On a related note, I think Trevor Noah's take on Machado-gate: yes, she was Miss Universe; yes, Miss Universe is bullshit and more pertinently, it's a contest of conventional beauty standards that include thinness, so, yes, it's legitimate that thinness is expected. But there is nonetheless no virtue in humiliating and fat-shaming anyone. There's also no virtue in stiffing your vendors.

Women can't win in the framework some people are trying to stick us in:
I get the point, not that I didn’t get it before. If I speak up, I’m a shrill nag. If my weight fluctuates at all, I’m a gross, inconvenient fatty. If my husband cheats, it’s on me. If I try to defend or salvage my marriage, I’m a stupid dupe. Men like Trump and Giuliani have advanced ideas like these so the women in their lives will be cowed, thin and complaint, while if they err, they’re swashbuckling and strategic. The idea that we should trust men who hate us in private to protect us in the public sphere is the ultimate insult to our intelligence.
Also: let women have our angry face and every other face.

I did not know about the subversive conceptual art on Melrose Place.

Ask Polly comes through again, especially with her advice to "stay the fuck away from this person, because life is too short to align yourself with a human dirty bomb." Also spot-on:
This is one reason why, from my casual observations, very rich children often develop incredibly long-lasting addictions: Mommy and Daddy swoop in to save them over and over again, so there is no rock bottom, and the addiction just embeds itself in their veins. There is no moment of reckoning where the addict is sucking cock in a gas-station bathroom for some coke. Instead, there are gorgeously designed spaces by the sea in Malibu where people tell you you have to change, but everything around you says THINGS WILL ALWAYS LOOK THIS GOOD NO MATTER WHAT THE FUCK YOU DO. 
It doesn't surprise me at all that fitness trackers are not helpful. Theories include,
So perhaps the monitors resulted in less motivation to move, Dr. Jakicic says. It is possible, he says, that when those wearing the trackers realized they would not reach their daily exercise goal, they simply gave up, leading to relatively low caloric expenditure on those days, and less weight loss overall than among those not using the technology.

The people using the monitors may also have assumed that, in some roundabout way, the technology removed responsibility from them for monitoring their energy intake, Dr. Jakicic says. “People may have focused on the technology and forgotten to focus on their behaviors” and ate too much, he says.
It comes back to finding food and exercise that feel as good to you as they are for you. I was thinking about this (again) last weekend on my bike ride: I was exhausted that morning and didn't feel like exercising, but I really felt like cycling. However many hundred calories wouldn't have motivated me to get out, but the feeling of being on the bike and amid all that natural beauty, did.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday roundup

Dollar General is rightly paying for stupid, horrible treatment of an employee.

Young men are loving video games. Work, not so much.

More wise words about the single life.

I love Ask Polly's answer about women and fertility (among other things):
A lot of the best things in life are things that you have to work really hard for, but you STILL have no control over them and have no guarantee of success. Finding someone to love can be like that, too. No one likes to work hard and still have no control over the outcome. No one likes to be invested emotionally and WHAM! “Sorry, too bad. Try again!”

When you’re in hell, you know the kinds of things people say to you? They tell you in very cheerful voices how fertile they are, how every time they fuck another beautiful healthy baby pops out. I spent a few months casually, inexpensively trying to get pregnant, I had one miscarriage — chemical pregnancy, really — and I never really felt that envious or traumatized, because I had it easy. But to this day, when I hear someone talk about how amazingly fertile she is, I want to say, “Look, that’s cool, but you can’t really take credit for it.” If you’re fertile and someone else is fertile, that’s just a happy conversation. But telling someone who’s trying to get pregnant that it was super-duper easy for you to get pregnant is like walking around a cancer ward saying, “Wow, that’s weird, it’s been SO EASY for me NOT to get cancer! I just eat lots of fucking kale, guys! Have you tried eating kale, you sick dummies?”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday roundup

Hell hath frozen over: Jennifer Rubin is spot-on.
...“creative destruction,” the rise and fall of businesses and entire industries, which is an intrinsic part of a dynamic free market. If you’re not a hard-core Libertarian, the average conservative has considered the solution to this problem to be a safety net and tax, education and other policies that allow workers to rebound; it has never been to halt the marketplace or shift to a government-planned economy... The coal town is depopulated? Yes, that’s sad, but why are they not moving — as immigrants do — to where the jobs are?
You don't have to agree with everything Hillary Clinton has ever said or done, or every position she holds now, to acknowledge that she's a lot better than just "not Trump."

It was a refugee who took the photo of the bowl of Skittles. 

Well, apparently I've been ahead of my time in balking at turning over $10/day for lunch. That's $2,500 a year, people--more than what either of my trips to the Southern Hemisphere this year cost. I guess I am--as that dude I went out with the other night puts it--"frugal."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday roundup

Plan Colombia may have catalyzed the peace process, but it didn't staunch the drug trade. The only way to do that is to eliminate the superprofits--either by reducing demand or legalizing and regulating the trade.

It's awesome that stories about people struggling to make ends meet inspire donations that change lives, but it would be more awesome if we had a social safety net so that the people in need didn't have to rely on press--and so that people in need who didn't get press, got help, too.

This has a cool map of TV apartments in New York City, from "The Jeffersons" to "Sex in the City" to "Broad City."

Here are some (links to) vegan cheese recipes.


I blogged the other night about "Bitches Get Stuff Done" and the inverse: Stuff Getting Done = Bitches. I clarified that by "bitches" I didn't mean "assholes," and wrote about the disconnect between a result (stuff getting done) and the work it takes to get those results. For example (specifically, the example I harped on): the food on one's plate has to be prepared, from ingredients that are purchased.

Another example came to mind by way of an otherwise/mostly not-bad date I went on the other night (it was initiated before I decided to take a break). The dude asked me what I did on Saturday, and I told him that a friend and I hit the Mile-Long Yard Sale. I didn't buy much; most of the stuff was overpriced for what it was and the condition it was in. My friend, who has a toddler, got a bunch of children's books. In response to this, and maybe some other comment I'd made (maybe about something being expensive), the guy noted--not in a derisive way, in his defense--that it sounded like I was "frugal." Would I agree with that?

I don't know. It's a silly question.

I live in a high-cost area and want to do things with my life--many of which cost money--so I manage my money and prioritize my spending. Is that frugal, or is it just savvy? Is looking for good prices and making trade-offs such a foreign concept to some people? I don't spend money on things that are unimportant to me (cable, cars, take-out) so I can spend money on things that are important to me (living where I want to live, travel, etc.). I don't deprive myself of experiences or stiff other people. Does this balance really require a label?

So an apt response to this dude who lives in a one-bedroom in west Arlington asking me whether I'm frugal would have been, Bitches Get Stuff Done. Stuff is, in this case, being able to buy a house in Alexandria on a modest single income. I'm not frugal enough to stomach living in west Arlington; to save the money to live where I want to live, I choose to be frugal about other things. So am I frugal? Who knows.

Stuff is, two vacations of a lifetime in one year. One year of not buying coffee at Starbucks covered my trip to South Africa. Maybe that's frugal, or maybe it's just living according to my priorities.

All of this got me thinking about other examples of BGSF. Maybe stuff is, one's goal body composition. It's the opposite of Gillian Flynn's "cool girl," who "jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2." Dudes (not all dudes) love a woman who eats anything, as long as she stays slim. We as a society tend to crap on people who eat nutritiously and/or hit the gym, but Bitches Get Stuff Done. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday rambles

I went out last night with a few friends, all guys and all physicists (my physicist organizes these outings and introduced me to his grad school friends a while back). Sometimes more people (other coworkers of mine and his) join, but this time it was just the four of us. It was interesting to be among guys discussing relationship issues (specifically the issues of the only single one). I'd been in the presence of other men discussing relationships, but less mature men--back when I carpooled with a bunch of pups who were right out of college. That was eye-opening, but less interesting. These were sober (well, not physically), adult men interpreting things that I usually hear women interpret ("why hasn't she texted?"). I guess we're really not that different.

I showed the guys the Douchiest Text Ever (I took a screenshot because it was that amazing), and they agreed. They wanted me to get back in touch with this guy so they could get together with him and discuss physics. Tell him that the giveaway--that he didn't know what he was talking about--was that no one finds that shit "fun." And also, no one says "chaos/string." Those are two very separate things. Even I knew that.

I summarized the story of the horrible date, and two of them didn't understand why I didn't just walk away in the middle of it. I thought about it, but I didn't want to be rude, and also, there's always, in a woman's head, the awareness that a dude can turn dangerous.

I told you that I had a "bitches get stuff done" ramble/rant brewing... and I still haven't quite made it coherent, but I'll see if I can tie all these indirectly related things together.

For better or for worse, I will invoke RM. One of the reasons that it so galled me when RM referred to my "meal plan," was that he was speaking from a very entitled cluelessness. For those of you unfamiliar with RM's antics or at least this antic of his: he was convinced that I followed a strict dietary regimen, even after I explained to him that I was just planning out what I was going to eat for the week. For example, he once asked me if I wanted to get dinner with him, and I declined, mostly because I couldn't stand him but also because--this is true--I'd just bought and cooked a bunch of food, and needed to eat that instead of buying more food. RM wasn't convinced; he'd seen me make lists of what I would have for lunch and dinner on a given day, and his warped mind translated this into an eating plan that had to be adhered to at all costs. To me, it was the necessary planning underlying the act of purchasing and cooking one's food. To him, it was a pathology. And his warped mind was prone to this way of thinking because the man never cooked his own food. At home, he had a wife. Not at home, he had per diem. He bought things at restaurants and ate them. I was not on per diem, and I didn't have a personal chef. I did (still do) have a mortgage. I bought food, cooked it, and portioned it out for the week (still do). See also: bitches get stuff done.

Saturday roundup

Russia's intense outreach imperialism by other (i.e., religious) means.

The world needs sustainable farming.

In case you had doubts, it's safe to raise vegan children.

I blogged the other day about cultural appropriation, and I come down about where Robin Givhan does: it exists but not everything is it.
Creative people regularly dive into treacherous cultural waters. And they should be prepared for backlash. They should know what they are doing and be able to explain their choices. They should be sensitive and respectful.
And observers should remember that not every cross-cultural moment is cause for outrage. Jacobs’s models were a mixed group of women: black, brown, white. Should all the models have been black? Why? How would that validate pink dreadlocks? The clothes were a punk, street, cyber, sparkle fest. Hate the clothes or love them. But the outrage just seems like an exhausting exercise in misdirection.
Innovation takes a village:
Evolutionary biologist Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia, who recently wrote a book on the role of culture in the success of our species, expects that will indeed turn out to be the case. “I think the idea that innovation depends on individual geniuses is misguided. History shows that inventions invariably build on earlier findings that are recombined and improved upon. Most of the things we use every day are inventions that no single human being could ever design within her lifetime,” he observes. “Rather than the product of individual innovators, these inventions can be thought of as the product of our societies. Innovations rely on individuals learning from others—in that way, human society functions like a collective brain.”
Astronauts and Olymic cyclists (and other women) don't need your mansplaining.

This woman actively talked to her sons about consent, but they still don't entirely get it

Women have a right to be complicated, too. Even before "Mad Men" came up, I thought of Don Draper (and also the TV version of Bill Masters) while reading this article. I also thought, the reason we're so turned off by Lena Dunham's character in "Girls" is because she's perfectly horrible. Is that necessarily a gender thing? Hannah H. is no Don Draper.

On maintaining your values and being single:
pursuing the things I genuinely care about is more important to me than hiding who I am to remain “datable” for a man who may or may not show up.

Dating in D.C. had been fine, meh, whatever. But despite my feminist sensibilities, I was lonely. No, I didn’t need a partner to be whole, and yes, I’d rather be Forever Alone than with the wrong person. But I’d never planned on being single THIS LONG.
On dating with cats:
Why do single women get judged for having cats? Society has a bad habit of scrutinizing women for how we live and whom we love. Replace “cat” with “dog” in any of the above instances, and I’d be considered hot — a catch even! — rather than crazy. If I were in a relationship, I’d be one half of a cute animal-loving couple.

And if I were a man, I’d be a magnet for women. What does America call a man with three cats? He’s just a man. Women are held to a different standard than men, and cats to a different standard than dogs.
Alicia keys on the tyranny of makeup. Her detractors prove her right.

I am willing to have a child if she grows up to be anything like this one.

This so reminds me of RM! He would always question me about what I did at work or what I did at work on a given day, and never got the hint that I had nothing to say on the matter.

There are people in DC who can afford exhorbitant tasting menus.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday roundup and some quick rambles

Female bonobos collectively shoo off men who threaten or harass females. Take that, every evolutionary psychology study that pushes the idea that women only compete with each other.

Social media company that goes in thinking technology can solve all of society's problems, throws its hands up at complex social issues that can't be resolved with an algorithm.

Man who's not hating on women for not shaving their arms, doesn't get why we don't do it.

I wish Lionel Shriver weren't so wrong about so much, because she's right about a few things. The cluelessness, though, of a white, heterosexual, able woman claiming that ethnic and sexual identities are not identities--and offering the world access to German cultural stereotypes to "appropriate"--is stark.

That said, I agree about a few things (I do garden in a Vietnamese conical hat; is that appropriation? No. Neither is eating food from other countries). Katy Perry in a geisha outfit and Iggy Azalea in general, however, are appropriating.

Contrast with this piece on pho--which does not, notably, claim that white people shouldn't eat pho. It is intriguing that Bon Appetit didn't bother to consult Vietnamese people about pho.
Much of the anger centered around the choice of a white person to authoritatively speak about an Asian food. As the chef shared his personal insights, he never mentioned his fondness for the soup, his personal connections to it. That omission was an editorial mistake. Treating pho as merely a fashionable food negated its rich role in Vietnamese, Vietnamese-American, and now, American culture.
Pho has always been unpretentious and democratic, inviting everyone to experience and appreciate it. However, pho also represents the history of Vietnam and its push for self-determination. Born during the French colonial period, this dish persisted through political upheaval and economic hardship, then resettled and flourished with Vietnamese immigrants all over the globe.
I get the overall idea behind this article on automatically saving money, but the percentages (examples, I know) are ridiculous. First of all, is this pre- or post-tax income? It must be post, because it's about what to do with each proportion of one's paycheck (but then it includes 401k??). How would I apply those proportions to myself? For one thing, 85 percent of my (pre-tax) income is spoken for (including 401k and other retirement savings, as well as taxes, monthly payment, and utilities). What can I really save out of the other 15 percent (take out another 10 percent for groceries, car, pet, donations, and miscellaneous but not-quite discretionary expenses (eg. home and garden, gifts, etc.); that leaves 10 percent). So that leaves 5 percent of my income for fully discretionary spending. I'll spend it on travel and local recreation (theater, restaurants, watersports, what have you). I'm not saving for a wedding, as suggested. Should I agree to be someone's womanservant for life, I'd prefer to sign some papers and call it a day.

I have a rant brewing around the concept of "bitches get stuff done."  Inspired most recently by the South Africa trip (my friend and hotel-roommate was decidedly less Type-A than I, which was fine for this kind of trip but not one that entailed planning), and before that by an ex. It's the same principle as the RM food issue: the man was never responsible for making his own food in his life, so everything I did seemed extreme and overplanned. When you have to get things done--when you're responsible for your own food, your own itinerary, etc.--you have to get things done. That means being Type A, being anal, being a bitch if need be.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Lighter Monday roundup

I just couldn't talk about this stuff in the same post as those horrendous stories.

Apparently the majority of women think there's something wrong with their bodies (including their breasts).

I wrote the other day about how Rebecca Traister's "All the Single Ladies" was a snapshot into my life. The Times today ran a piece that could be called "All the Single Ladies: China edition."
“Because they are highly educated, they hold well-paid jobs, they lose the financial incentive to get married,” says Zhang Xiaobo, a professor of economics at Peking University’s National School of Development.
OMG, this is my life:
Suitable mates are simply hard to find, said Ms. Cheng, who describes many men her age as “not mature or irresponsible.” Referring to another former boyfriend, she said: “When we wanted to do something, or go for food, he only liked to act cute and say with a smile, ‘We’ll do whatever you like.’ It made me feel like I had a son.” 
It reminds me of that line--Lili Taylor's line--from Mystic Pizza: "I'm not going to marry an asshole! It's the 80's! Why would I marry an asshole?" My sentiments exactly.

Changing topics, this piece about the Mediterranean diet pinpoints--I never could--what I hate about the word 'foodie.' Someone called me that once, and I recoiled.
“There is no word for ‘foodie’ in Italian. Food is central to everyone’s life here. It’s normal to care deeply about food.” Quality and taste are held to a high standard in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean. There is a great respect for the craft of food production, and although dishes are often prepared simply, excellent ingredients are valued and shortcuts that compromise quality shunned. It was an important reminder of the wisdom of moving away from low-quality, hyper-processed foods — which are often laden with unhealthy additives, sodium and sugar — in favor of top-notch ingredients, served close to their source and simply prepared.
In the same way that I hate when people (eg RM) obsess about how "healthily" I eat. I just eat food. The best pinpointing of that was in the article about how France has never embraced superfoods, which have less appeal when people just eat food.

I guess at the root of it, it's weird to see people fetishize or exoticize something that's second-nature to me. Almost in the same way that it's weird to see high-end Russian food sold for a fortune. I've been making Russian beet salad every weekend--to last the week and at a cost of a few dollars. The Russian food that goes for a premium at restaurants is similar to what's derided as "poor people food" (another term that shocked me, for various reasons, the first time I heard it years ago).

RM isn't the only one who associates nutritious eating with some kind of cultish mania. There are people who legitimately think that eating healthily is a sacrifice. I have a morbidly obese family friend who just can't get past the idea that, at heart, I really want to eat animal products and my dietary choices are based on preternatural restraint. In fact, I don't believe that sustained dietary habits can be based on restraint; you have to truly love and enjoy your food. And I do. I eat my beet salad (which is really a salad of root vegetables), and my very flavorful pasta, and I feel for the paleos or other carbophobes who don't allow themselves those foods.

While we're on the topic of things people don't get: style is not only a personal thing, but a body-type thing. Clothes made for larger women don't work for smaller women, not just because of proportions. Larger women can pull off bolder, more experimental things. (I cannot.) This was a constant battle with my mother before she lost her mind: she would constantly try to foist on me clothes that would look awful. She insisted that they were very trendy, etc., and they well may have been but they wouldn't have worked on me. My first rule of clothing (and shoes) is, wear the clothes and shoes; don't let them wear you.

Heavy Monday roundup

Drug trafficking is never a victimless crime, but these crimes against humanity are abominable.

The Khmer Rouge's crimes against humanity also reached far and deep.

Donald Trump's confusion about women in the military betrays a broader confusion about the military:
But worse were those comments that fly in the face of our core values. You cannot underestimate the importance of honor, of virtuous conduct, among military people. Mr. Trump said that the United States should “take the oil” from Iraq, citing the adage that to the victor go the spoils. When he said this, there was a muffled gasp in the room. This is called plunder. Stealing the national resources of another sovereign country is effectively a war crime.
What the hajj is all about.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Thursday roundup

The horrifying food waste you see is just the tip of the iceberg.

Factory farming is making UTIs harder to treat.

I rarely agree with Kathleen Parker on anything, but she's spot-on here: a Trump presidency would be brutal for animals.

Immigrants correlate with a reduction in crime.

FFS you can't change reality by not talking about it. Everyone else still knows it's there.
Critics worry that Mr. Obama’s statements undermine the United States’ image as an intrinsic force for good in the world — an image that, to them, is central to American identity and power.

Jeremy Shapiro, the research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said this idea, though widespread in the United States, is something of a fallacy. Only Americans believe that the United States’ power is inherently virtuous; elsewhere, people see this idea as not only false, but dangerous.

“The disjuncture in the way that this is seen abroad and at home is one of the huge problems in U.S. foreign policy,” said Mr. Shapiro, who is American. “This is an image that Americans have of themselves but is simply not shared, even by their allies.”

I studied linguistics as an undergrad and never bought into the Chomskian universal language stuff. That's a huge reason that I didn't pursue it further. Turns out I wasn't alone.

Dudes have dating issues, too. Including this one being clobbered on Twitter as we speak.

Words matter, but often there's no set of words that's harmless to everyone. Not everyone--within a given group--is going to agree on the connotations of terms. Ana Mardoll says it perfectly.

Did I already post this article on Alaska's Russian heritage?

Robin Givhan is a national treasure.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pictures of my mother

With her good friend Emma, who is also in a nursing home right now

Always a badass

The 80s were a good look on no one
We didn't look alike then, but my face now looks like hers then. Even the expression on her face here is my bitchy resting face. Same corner of the mouth tucked up asymmetrically. Same bitchy resting face.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I would not say hard

I blogged yesterday, not for the first time, about my struggles with dating. I've blogged before about specific terrible dates and about how dating, generally, sucks. To quote Moira Weigel from that article, it “often feels like the worst, most precarious form of contemporary labor: an unpaid internship.” Paradoxically, it may be what sucks most about being single, which makes it tempting to opt out. We date because we hope that there's something worth it on the other side.

So you'd think I'd have wholeheartedly agreed with this piece, and though I hear her, I don't identify with her plight (and some things are objectively incorrect--for example, it's statistically easier to stay fit and eat well when you're single). I don't necessarily agree that being single is harder. There are things about being single that are hard, and there are things about being partnered that are hard. Making a marriage work is hard. Divorce, from what I hear, is really f*ing hard.

As Rebecca Traister and others have expertly pointed out, women are increasingly staying single because it's never been easier. We're good at life. We partner up only for the right reasons, and not because society makes it impossible to stay single. The calculus of being in a less than optimal relationship has shifted dramatically over the decades. For example,
For women, the marriage calculus is pretty simple: you can only reap the full benefits of today’s optimal marriage when your partner is an equal who pitches in and treats you well.
One reason that it's hard for me to date successfully is that I love my life--almost everything about it--and I'm not willing to give those things up (especially for a less than optimal relationship). I'm not willing to move to the suburbs. I'm not willing to commute. I'm not willing to eat meat. Clearly, I value the opposite--living in the city, having an easy commute, eating according to my values--more than having an easier time dating. But even as I fucking hate dating. If anything, I've learned to be pickier in various ways. Because the issue isn't that being single is hard; it's that I have reason to believe that having an optimal relationship is worth the work of finding it. It better be, because the search is a bitch.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Dating in DC

Can I take a break from dating? I so hate it. Every part of it and every kind of it: e-dating, speed dating, irl dating. There's an element of it that's interesting--it's an insight into these other humans. Humans of DC. Human males of DC. The stew of humanity that is DC.

The guy at speed dating who looked bored until he could talk about his cat--specifically, his cat's litter-box habits--at which point he perked up and didn't want to talk about anything else.

The guy who messaged me, who, in his profile, writes about how much he loves animals. And also hot dogs. The guy who goes on about how he can't stand pretentious people, only to follow up with pretentious quotes and other lines. This is also the guy who started his message to me with "oh snap" (if it matters, what followed did not work with 'oh snap'). The guys (I told you about these) who think women are "obligated" to keep their legs shaved.

The guy who talked about how he wouldn't shop at Whole Foods because they didn't have 'normal' ketchup. He's very serious about his ketchup and will only buy the best known brand. He puts ketchup on everything so it really matters to him. This is also the guy who kept glancing down at my chest periodically, presumably to make sure it was still there.

The guys who declare themselves "cute" or "attractive" (um, isn't that a subjective measure? a designation to be determined by someone else?). The guy who has the arch at Auschwitz among his profile pictures. The guys who are married but looking to cheat.

The more I date, the more I lose hope. I think I need a break, a reset. A short one (I know all about opting out for too long). The stew has been too much and I need to dry off for a while.

Sunday roundup and ramble

Household responsibilities are everyone's responsibility.

Do let--no, encourage--people to study the liberal arts. Key quote: it's “incredibly elitist to say that the masses cannot have the intellectual leisure and curiosity of an elite education.”

The communication challenges that come with dementia make it hard to get the pain relief that patients need.

Caregiver burnout is very real and I keep reminding dad to take care of himself.

Mom is doing better. She's been taken off one particularly harsh drug that was clouding her head and slurring her words. The kidney stones seem to have passed, and she's not in constant pain. I'm hoping she'll be able to walk again soon.

When I got home, I looked at old pictures of mom. The thinner both our faces are, the more we look alike; we have the same cheekbone structure. She's been eating poorly lately, and her face has been thin. She has perfect skin. She may well have fewer wrinkles than I do, even though she's twice my age. All that from not believing in sunblock (or, at least, growing up where it was irrelevant).

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Mom is in a pain- and drug-induced stupor at a rehab facility. Two or so months ago, she was taken to a hospital after holding my dad hostage and nonetheless managing to wander off and have 911 called on her. She was there for a couple of weeks for testing, to see whether she would be responsive to various drugs, when she got up in the middle of the night, fell, and broke her hip. Fast forward to a couple of hospitals and bladder infections later, she hasn't really moved since. She screams when we try to adjust her pillows (we're not sure if it's actual pain or fear). There is actual pain--in fact, the latest is that she has kidney stones--and she's been on opiates nonstop for over a month.

That, in short, is why I was in Boston but didn't blog any mom stories. I guess I could have blogged a couple of dad stories (particularly an argument over whether socks could or should be recycled--I found a very dusty one somewhere as I was cleaning--as usual, I removed about two canisters of dust from the house without really trying). Dad insisted that the sock should be recycled, and couldn't understand why it wouldn't be.

Dad is exhausted and overwhelmed. He drives an hour each way to see mom (I'm nagging him to find a closer facility, but we're limited to those that have memory care, available beds, and Russian-speaking staff). Mom isn't saying much (except "oh what pain!") but when she does talk, it's in Russian. Did you know that nursing homes run $10,000 a month and are not covered by Medicare? So there's the fun of figuring out how to pay once the rehab period runs out in a couple of months.

At first I was relieved when mom was institutionalized; I'd been nagging dad for over a year. She was a danger to herself and to him, and also an emotional strain. I'd come to accept the fact that she would be miserable and angry for the rest of her life, but it was an additional blow to see her in such pain. I hope she recovers to the point where she can at least be physiologically at peace, if not emotionally.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday roundup

People who couldn't understand why I recoiled against RM would do well to read this:
acts that might best be described as “sexual microaggressions”—small acts of boundary-pushing and coercion that might be easy enough to brush off in isolation, but in aggregate teach women that their bodily autonomy is revocable, and that violations of their boundaries and sense of safety aren’t just tolerable, but utterly and completely normal.
Women get socialized to put their needs second and make other people happy, and too many men get socialized to ignore rejections and relentlessly pursue whatever it is that they desire. 
And also, "The Gift of Fear."

This story of loss ends on an ironically light note, but the take-away is real: the internet would do well to quit stalking us. I don't want Google automatically uploading all my photos (which is why I can't even access my own Google photos on my own iPad; I refuse to log in and grant Google permission to my photos). I have no choice on my Android, and I'm horrified to find my pictures automatically uploaded, even if they're not shared.

I don't want Shutterfly guessing at what I did last year, or proposing a photobook for me. I mean, who do they think they are?

These are all minor cases that don't compare to the intrusion of being reminded of a miscarriage (there was also last year's story of a man whose daughter's death was made light by an unsolicited Facebook attempt at a calendar). There were the Google April Fools mic drops that intruded into people's obviously complicated lives. Why didn't Google think about that? That not everyone would appreciate a mic drop? That some people might be planning funerals or recovering from miscarriages, or applying for jobs or emailing about sensitive issues? That a mic drop may not be appreciated? Is it really such a stretch?

There's the ethical issue of social media respecting our privacy, but also the audacity in overtrusting in algorithms. Our lives are complicated; you can try to guess at a pregnancy or an event or whatever, but I doubt anyone would appreciate it (I'd find it creepy). Maybe back off?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday roundup

There's a cost to holding on, says Carl Richards:
There is an actual cost to holding onto things we should let go of. It can come in the form of anger, frustration, resentment or something even worse. The question is, can you really afford to keep paying the bill?
The faster we learn to drop our emotional dead weight, the more room we create for something better. I’m talking about everything from stewing about the guy who cut you off in traffic this morning to still refusing to forgive an old friend for an event 20 years ago. 
And also to abusing our power, says Ask Polly:
For example, I got into it with a troll the other day. He wasn’t remotely worth my time, but I like a good fight. Afterward, though, I felt guilty for being prideful and for smashing his face into the ground. Who even knows what that guy is going through? Who knows how lonely or angry he is, thanks to being treated without empathy his whole life, thanks to his habit of never, ever, treating himself with empathy? I abused my power. I’m a happy person who’s procrastinating. But he’s a guy who’s so unhappy that he’s looking for trouble from strangers online. I could’ve tried to reach that guy, but I didn’t help him at all.
I constantly have to remind myself to be kinder to people who are clearly insecure. The manifestations of their insecurities are, in the immediate sense, asking to be smacked down. Why should I validate their one-up-manship, for example? Because why the f* not? They clearly need it.

Rebecca Traister, brilliant as always, on weinergate part one million.

Dear lord, are we still, in 2016, fighting over shaving and make-up? FFS, you don't have to follow trends. I never have. I don't not wear make-up because it's trendy now; I won't wear make-up if it becomes trendy again. I don't wear make-up because I don't give a fuck (and yes, I have pretty good skin). I couldn't honestly tell you whether I'd be inspired, much less compelled, to wear make-up if I had lesser skin. So I don't understand how trends can "exclude," because trends are optional. Beauty standards are always exclusionary. Which is why feminism isn't about about pushing new trends or standards; it's about empowering women to do whatever the fuck they want, regardless of trends or standards.

How safe are GMOs really? Not all scientists are convinced. I personally maintain that the publicly perceived risks are overblown, but (1) agree that longterm effects have not been exhaustively tested and  (2) benefits are even more overblown, in that low-tech farming methods yield better returns to struggling farmers.