Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday ramble

This is not the point of the article on how expensive and precarious it is to be poor, but this is actually terrible rather than fantastic advice.
I once read a book for people in poverty, written by someone in the middle class, containing real-life tips for saving pennies and such. It’s all fantastic advice: buy in bulk, buy a lot when there’s a sale on, hand-wash everything you can, make sure you keep up on vehicle and indoor filter maintenance.
My mother accumulated a decades' supply of food that went bad--cans that corroded, etc.--because she bought things that were on sale and/or in bulk. It's more cost effective to buy what you need (she says as much in the next paragraph).

More to her overall point: it's also terrible advice to hand-wash everything. It's more efficient, if you have an efficient washing machine, to machine-wash. But an efficient washing machine costs money, is out of reach to very poor people, who thus can't benefit from its efficiencies.

Like the author, I've spent a lot of money buying cheaper things I have to replace sooner. I'm not poor so it doesn't break me, but I can back up her point that it does cost more money. I've probably bought the cheaper toaster that just ends up breaking faster or some other appliance that doesn't meet my needs and has to be replaced. I just made the mistake of buying the wrong case for my iPad and had to order another one. I think in everyone's life there's that category of expenses for mistakes and not knowing then what you do now. But when you're poor, those mistakes can be existential threats.

My mother always advocated for buying the cheapest thing (if not many of the cheapest things). She could never see the benefit of spending a little more money upfront to get something that worked. When I was a child, she bought me numerous ill-fitting swimsuits instead of one decent one. As an adult just out of grad school, she berated me for buying a decent (but not expensive) new suit to interview in instead of the cheapest second-hand one I could find. She would continue to try to foist upon me thrift-store finds that just didn't fit; the idea was that I should try to make them work, because the price was right. It was an uphill battle to get my parents a functioning, mid-range vacuum cleaner that works very well in place of the dozen shitty ones littering the house.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Self-help tips from the NYT, followed by a ramble

Willpower is an uphill battle; try pride, gratitude, and compassion.
We too often think about self-improvement and the pursuit of our goals in bracing, self-flagellating terms: I will do better, I will muscle through, I will wake up earlier. But it doesn’t need to be that way, and it shouldn’t: Self-control isn’t about feeling miserable.
From the Times' piece on be happy by thinking like an old person, this stuck with me:
None went to a job he did not like, coveted stuff she could not afford, brooded over a slight on the subway or lost sleep over events in the distant future.
I thought about it again this morning, in response to a real dick move not on the subway but on an airplane. It was a full flight, and the woman boarding just ahead of me (but sitting at least a few rows behind me, it turned out) took up some premium bin space with a puffy coat. I asked her to take it out at least until I could get my bag in; she suggested that I try a bin a few rows back. I told her that bags take priority over coats in bins. The woman in the seat next to mine--already sitting down--told her that they've asked people not to put coats in bins. The offending woman took her coat and huffed ahead, who knows how far back into the plane. My seat-neighbor and I rolled our eyes in solidarity and mild indignation at the woman's entitled, dickish behavior. I started to take satisfaction in the indignation, and then I remembered the line from the Times story.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday ramble

I saw a preview, on YouTube, of the Tonya Harding movie, which I won't need to watch as I remember the whole episode from when it happened. Watching the preview, I thought, 'at least my mother was never that bad.' Which made me think--and for a second, feel guilty about thinking--how much less stressful the holidays are now that my mother doesn't say much at all. I have little to no anxiety about the upcoming visit, even more so because my dad and I had a breakthrough over mom issues earlier this year. I guess I forgot to tell you about that, so I'll do that in a minute.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

State of the Blogger (post-vacation staycation edition)

I'm awake. I'm yawning, but for first time in the near-week that I've been back, I haven't had that middle-of-the-night feeling during the day. That's a painful feeling, and it hasn't been awful this time around (for whatever reason--maybe because I'd adjusted more fully then and didn't have such a disorienting flight back--it was worse when I got back from Europe in June).

Normally, a full week off (my office closed this week) after more than two weeks off and before a few more days off might be too much for me, but I've really needed it. I did sign in to do some work today, and it actually felt good, and I've been periodically clearing out and dealing with work email. But I was such a mess before I left--the weekend before the trip, I...

-started Saturday morning with yoga, then
-swung by UPS to return half an order to Eddie Bauer, then
-swung by Ace to try to get a washer to fix my shower head, then
-participated in a parade, then
-dyed my hair, then
-delivered some pecans for the Smith club, then
-got my hair cut, then
-went to Home Depot, unsuccessfully, in further search of said washer, then
-got home and somehow tripped the fuse in my bedroom and adjacent room, which houses the internet router, and couldn't reset, and then spent the remainder of the evening trying to find an electrician who'd come out on a Sunday because I couldn't take more time off work before my trip.

-On Sunday, I ran a quick errand to stock up on cat food ahead to last my helpful cat-feeders throughout my trip, and asked the friend I'd be babysitting for whether she knew an electrician. She texted a friend whose husband was one, but he was swamped for weeks.
-Got home and cleaned, cleaned, cleaned.
-Friend dropped her daughter off around noon. I dropped off more pecans on the way to the playground.
-Friend picked up her daughter, and her friend offered her brother-in-law, who's also an electrician. He identified the issue (rogue lamp) and also fixed my outdoor outlet, and I didn't even care about the price because I was just happy to have power and internet again.
-Clean, clean, clean, clean, pack a bit. Crash.

The week, too, was a blur. I didn't pack each night as much as I should have, though I'd pre-packed (i.e., prepared stuff) a fair amount. I remember my dad asking me, maybe Tuesday night, whether I'd packed, and I remember saying, 'no but my kitchen is SPARKLING'). I got up early on Thursday and did laundry so I could leave the cat a clean bed, and then headed to the airport. I was on vacation.

Thursday roundup

Holy shit, Salma Hayek's Weinstein nightmare and the hell he put her through over Frida. The world is better for her having made it happen in spite of him.

Women are horrified but not surprised that men--especially male politicians--don't think sexual harassment is a real issue (via Melissa McEwan).
Abuse ranking is gross and "male politicians seeking higher office who have loathsome ideas about women, gender roles, and sexual violence is one of 'the real issues confronting the nation today.'"
Or, as Minnie Driver puts it,
“Men can rally and they can support, but I don’t think its appropriate, per se, for men to have an opinion about how women should be metabolising abuse. Ever.”

Rebecca Traister further nails it.
What makes women vulnerable is not their carnal violability, but rather the way that their worth has been understood as fundamentally erotic, ornamental; that they have not been taken seriously as equals.
Some journalists are really stupid about Russia.

FFS we're people like anybody else.

I've not yet read "Cat Person."

Don't just toss out that xmas tree. Not least because it's probably still in better shape than Rome's.

Where was Jesus really born?

This is a genius way to deal with phone scammers.

I did not know that high heels "were pioneered by horse owners in 15th-century Persia. Heels helped them stand up and stabilize in stirrups so they could shoot their bows with greater accuracy.

I find nothing (or at least not much) to mock in the Times' helpful list of life lessons.

Brighten your day with this thread, started and moderated by Merriam-Webster.

Kuala Lumpur

Leaving Borneo was bittersweet; we'd seen so much, and I wanted to see so much more but I was also ready to see KL. We got in pretty late--the airport is an hour from the city, and I think it took us as long to cross the airport terminal as it did to get into town. We'd planned to check out the night markets but we had some trail mix and crashed. As in Singapore, we opted out of the overpriced hotel breakfast (the other hotel breakfasts, apart from in Sandakan when we were on our own and bought some snacks from the supermarket, were included as part of the various tours). We picked up some samosas and fried banana balls from a street vendor on the way to our walking tour.




We started the tour in KL City Gallery, where the guide told us about how KL came to be and evolved over the decades. We learned that KL didn't get plumbing until 1962--until then, there were still people paid to collect waste in buckets from homes and businesses. We learned about how the press evolved and paved the way for Malay independence, which was negotiated rather than fought.

Gomatong Cave

Next stop: Gomatong Cave, aka bat shit and cockroach central. We were lucky to be there when workers were harvesting birds-nest soup. Made mostly of bird saliva. Retrieved from bat shit and cockroach central, and selling for exorbitant prices.

a miniature of the contraption used to harvest the birds-nest soup ingredients 
outside the cave



just outside the cave, abodes for the workers and/or security for the harvesters

Kinabatangan River

We stayed in Bilit, a village in the rainforest. It was so in the rainforest that pygmy elephants came foraging at some houses (not our lodge, for better or for worse) and left some droppings to remember them by.


We were very lucky to see pygmy elephants--they don't always come out of the forest. We saw three sets, including the foragers above.

Orangutans and sun bears (oh my)!

First stop was Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Our guide suggested that instead of watching the educational video before the feeding--the orangutans are offered food between 10-11am and again from 3-4pm--we go observe the young orangutans in their literal jungle gym. We're so glad we did this--and also that we saw the mama and baby orangutans come down for food in Semangoh in Sarawak--because no orangutans showed up at feeding time in Sepilok. It's fruiting season, so there's more fruit to be had on their own. Also, it was raining, and they don't like the rain (see one orangutan hilariously put beans on its head as rain cover). And some kids were screeching, and noise tends to scare them away.

Oh--one reason that orangutans need sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers is because palm oil plantations are destroying their habitat, so LAY OFF THE PALM OIL. Look at the ingredients in your processed food, and avoid it. That goes for you, too, vegans--oreos are vegan because they're made with palm oil. Earth Balance used to be made with palm oil but I think they've switched.





Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Turtle Island

There are three islands that make up Turtle Island National Park.


We went to Selingan. It was a beautiful, bumpy ride. The island just to the east of us was part of the Philippines, which cooperates with Malaysia on sea turtle preservation efforts.

All the turtle action happens at night--the turtles that hatched on Selingan decades ago come back there to lay their eggs.



turtle tracks from the night before
Visitors are called to observe the first turtle that comes ashore. Once it lays its eggs, the rangers move them to a hatchery, where they're safer from predators like monitor lizards. The soil temperature around the eggs determines the gender of the hatchling. Once they hatch, they scurry above ground, where the rangers put them into a crate and take them to the shore to be released to the sea. We get to watch that, too--and to help redirect any that seem confused (Alex got to handle a newborn turtle that kept trying to go the other way). Sea turtles have a natural sense of magnetism; they know which way is up. The rangers once tried to release them in the sea, where they'd be past at least some predators, but the hatchlings didn't know where to go from there so they were brought back to shore.

Sandakan and random musings

Sandakan was once the capital of Sabah, but it was destroyed during World War II and never recovered. The downtown is worn down, and the harbor is only beautiful from above,

Sandakan Harbor from the pool at the Sheraton Four Points

We look like a couple in this picture, which makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

but the floating houses are fascinating






and the city has its charms.


As everywhere else, people hang their laundry outside to dry

Kota Kinabalu and surroundings

We boarded a very early flight to Kota Kinabalu, where we were picked up from the airport by our tour guide and driver so we could head straight to Kinabalu Park, stopping at a couple of markets along the way.



Sarawak

Kuching, like Kotor, is named for its cats. Who knew I'd get to go to two cat cities--each with its respective cat museum--in one year? The city is dotted with cat statues.

And the cat museum is like nothing I'd ever seen before.






There was a whole Friskies display, which I'll spare you.

Sarawak is not about Kuching, but Kuching is a pleasant city.


Singapore

In planning for the trip, I'd seen Singapore described as "Disneyland with the Death Penalty" and a "shopping mall with a foreign policy," both of which miss the spirit of Singapore. There's no shortage of severity

"urinating in lifts" is very specific as prohibitions go


No fines for durians? Honor system?

or glitz,

Who doesn't want to ride in a gondola in the mall


 

but there's so much more than that.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Borneo: intro and logistics

Behold the pygmy elephant.
Now, for scale, behold a family of pygmy elephants foraging underneath someone’s house.


The (critically endangered) pygmy elephant is found only in Borneo, as is the proboscis monkey (well, there and in the Singapore zoo).

You can find orangutans (‘man of the forest,’ in Malay) only on Sumatra and Borneo.




Borneo is the third-largest non-continent island on the planet, after Greenland and Papua New Guinea. Indonesia has turned much of its portion over to logging and palm-oil plantations; Brunei takes up a small speck surrounded by Malaysian territory. Malaysia hasn’t eschewed palm oil entirely (or nearly enough), but it has managed to preserve a fair amount of wilderness.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday roundup, brought to you...

...my getting up before the crack of dawn so I can do laundry so that the cat has clean sheets to shed (and hopefully not puke on) while I'm on vacation.

We all pay a price for devaluing women.

Billy Bush's op-ed is good but not that good. He does succeed at framing.
We Americans tend to be, as a culture, skilled at telling and reacting to individual stories, and much less good at appreciating the systems that give those stories their broader shape.
At a conference in Iceland, gender stereotypes are reversed.

Mr. Prats Monné wanted to know more about the building, a striking modernistic structure, and someone pointed him toward a gentleman in a gray suit.
“The building manager or something,” Mr. Prats Monné explained after they spoke.
When I told him later that the man turned out to be the speaker of the Icelandic Parliament, Mr. Prats Monné laughed. “In this setting, when you see a man, you assume he’s the janitor.”
 When Petri's good, she's good.
There's a pretty clear line between something like this: A congressman's accuser: Blackballed and baby-sitting for cash and less power-driven flirting at work.
 It is completely within the norm of human exploratory romantic behavior for people to take steps—sometimes physical steps—to see if the other person reciprocates their feelings. It is OK to flirt with a person who you aren’t sure wants to be flirted with. It is OK to not be 100 percent great at reading signals. It is even OK to be grossed out by someone’s advances, as long as those advances stop once you make clear you aren’t into it. There are predators and harassers, even more of them than I thought, and there are some lines that are simple to draw, even if we haven’t been enforcing them until now... The difference between actions that can get you married and actions that can get you fired can’t simply be whether or not the person you are interested in is interested back. Careers should end when someone tries, and is rebuffed, and does not heed that rebuffing. Careers should not end just because someone tried. We’re not all attracted to the people who are attracted to us.
Kashana Cauley on patriotism.

Even artificial intelligence has to actively combat bias. I mean, look at that flow-chart with the cats and dogs!


Check out these bad bitches.


The Chicago Pile reactor was cool. Scallop eyes are really cool.

Some decent cleaning hacks for pet owners.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday roundup (brought to you by Exhaustion)

Because if I were less exhausted, I would be cleaning.

I wouldn't know what to say to people who have lost so much.

As North Korea missile explainers go, this is a very good one. And here's a good one on "gay" wedding cakes.

Just another way a country's xenophobia ultimately just fucks it over. Conversely, as I noted earlier this week,

The tax bill is, needless to say, horrendous.
The story of this Afghan filmmaker gives me life.

Rosa Brooks speaks for so many of us about why we let things go at the time.
They were so common they were forgettable. Inappropriate comments and the occasional drunken assault? They were only what every woman expects to encounter in the workplace.
You don’t get a special “survivor” merit badge when you’ve only gone through what every woman goes through, do you?
and
There’s a continuum of crappy male behavior, and it runs from the merely obnoxious and offensive all the way through to the clearly criminal... But none of it’s okay, and at every point along that spectrum from merely offensive to actually criminal, crappy male behavior is part of what pushes women out of the national security workplace.
This this this this:
The solution to eliminating sexual harassment is not to lock up women, but to hire and elect them. And ffs, listen to them.
And--this has been said but it cannot be said enough: this wave of accountability and reform must reach beyond white collar workspaces. All women in all workplaces must be free of harassment and assault.

This Veritas thing is amazing in its ineptitude. It's almost satire.

Also deserving of satire: the Times domesticated-nazi profile.

This is how you profile a questionable character (in this case, Jill Stein).

Well, that's creepy.

Getting more people to eat less meat is more effective (at mitigating climate change and saving animals) than getting fewer people to eat none.

Kids often have an intuitive sense that something's not quite right about meat. My stylist was just telling me that her young daughter is turning away from it and will say things like, 'poor chicken!' See also, this awesome kid.

Moving on to Large Adult children... it's amazing how absurd and silly the first children are.

This is a spring-2016 interview that I only recently came across; contrast what we see now with the graciousness here:
In some ways, when you struggle for a while, and you’ve had the ability of being an ordinary person and you’ve gone shopping, changed diapers and tried to figure out how to pay the bills and so forth, so that you’re not some overnight success. Then handling some of these issues ends up being easier because you have a better sense of perspective. You don’t sense somehow that this is because I’m just so special, or because I’m so much smarter than that other person. Because in fact you’ve known those other people who are talented and smart and capable. In some ways you got a break, you were lucky. And that, for me at least keeps me grounded because it reminds me that, you know, for all the blessings and privileges and responsibilities that I’ve gotten, I’m just representing a huge cross section of people who are talented and capable and supported me getting to where I came from.

Carolyn Hax rightly appraises this characterization as genius. I've been there.
I seem to be trapped in a producer role for an audience that doesn’t care but won’t leave the theater either.
Yep, this is how I feel about xmas music.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving ramble

Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays growing up; it wasn't religious, and so didn't make me feel either too Jewish or not Jewish enough. My family celebrated it with a set of close family friends they'd met in ESL classes, and whose daughters were my good friends. I hear the people who refer to TG as the genocide holiday, but I subscribe to a different perspective--one of little comfort to Native Americans, I know, but one of immigrants finding each other and finding their way.

My parents' friends became very successful. I recently talked to an admiral who described America as the place where if you immigrate here with nothing and work three times as hard, you can be as successful as your neighbors. It's my job as a voter to make sure that stays true, or becomes true again.

Starting my second year in DC (and in grad school), I started celebrating Thanksgiving with friends--one of them whom I'm joining this afternoon. Not unironically, the friend because of whom I opted out of another Thanksgiving celebration once asked me why I was such a "fag hag." Which Jay will point out that I'm not, but, you know, deplorables. I've celebrated many Thanksgivings with this friend who's hosting today, and I've been to a few countries with him. When we were in South Africa last summer, I reveled in the America that we were the face of, we being two gay men, four African-American women, a Chinese woman, and an immigrant. Traveling together, NBD; that's what makes America great.

***
I think of the few Thanksgivings I didn't celebrate, especially the one that my parents had planned to come down for but didn't. I thought about it yesterday as I shopped (unsuccessfully) for portabellas for my wellington, thought about all the food I bought and the invitation I'd turned down, and not so much how casually my mother opted out because the weather would be bad for driving, but how she continued to waste my time afterward to convince me that it was my decision.

I think about how my dad still does that kind of thing all the time, to a lesser extent, not out of not giving a shit (which was at least partly my mom's deal) but because he doesn't understand how things work. He doesn't understand that airline tickets get more expensive after a certain point (and there's no use in telling him, just like there's no use in telling him that vegetables will go bad if left out of the fridge). I try to cut my dad slack--he's a good person and I love him more than anything. But I also understand why he habitually drove my logistically-oriented mother batshit. I mean, it was partly her but also partly him.

I still hear my mother's voice in my head, nagging me. Usually it's when I'm running late, but today it was about the wellington: so much fuss for one dish! Which it wasn't, and besides, there's something to be said for putting time into something for a special occasion. I'm sure my mother knew that, but she didn't miss an opportunity to nag. She wouldn't have liked either of these dishes; she would have found plenty to complain about, and she would've tied her complaints into my overall lifestyle. In honor of my mother this Thanksgiving, I'm evicting her voice from my head. Here's my tempeh bacon and mushroom wellington. And for good measure, here's some vegetables I plucked from my own garden for a tofu scramble last weekend.



unrolled: caramelized onions, mushrooms, baby spinah, pine nuts


It will be more golden but it will need to be reheated




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Very random ramble

I don't remember which Bourne movie it was, but I often think about the scene: Bourne and his once-boss on a bridge in Paris, Bourne just said something along the lines of 'you pay me to kill.' His once-boss retorts, 'I don't pay you to kill; anyone can kill. I pay you to be invisible.'

That, my friends, is how I feel about technology (and probably some other things). I don't want it popping up all the time reminding me of what it can do or asking how it can help. I want my programs and apps to do their thing and leave me alone. I'm not talking about ads; I understand advertising. I don't understand apps and programs getting in the way of the things I'm actually trying to do on any given device, to broadcast their presence. That's not what I keep them around for. Take Clippy, the original interloper. It went away, but now there's Cortana. Go the fuck away forever, is how you can help me. Same with Bixby on my phone.

***
In the previous paragraph, I referred to "any given device." Because I'm now a person with multiple devices, though I was once a person with no devices apart from a computer. Sometimes I even use more than one device at a time. I--who five years ago didn't know I needed an iPad until I won one--am now shopping for a second iPad (in fairness, the first is getting wonky and Apple is no longer updating the OS).

That's why I blog so infrequently now; I live on my iPad and rarely fire up my laptop. I'm not bad at tracking stories I want to link to, but I'm somewhat bad at remembering original things I want to write about. Rather, by the time I've gotten to the laptop, whatever I might have wanted to ramble about earlier no longer possesses my attention.

***
Except when it does. All of this reckoning over creeps and predators has brought back memories of RM. In fact, even before the reckoning, I was telling a friend/coworker about RM and he kept asking whether I ever thought this guy was a physical threat to me. I don't know why I didn't, or if I should have; I think I fell for the bumbling-idiot act. which I never fell for thereafter. I wonder what ultimately protected me (RM did keep trying, but also stepped back every time my response denied him whatever bumbling-idiot-based plausible deniability he would have sought), and I wonder whether there were other women--perhaps those over whom he held power--who were not so lucky. I wonder whether those women have or will come forward.

I wonder about other bumbling-idiot men, like that dude I went on an terrible date with. He was so creepy, I still feel creeped out just thinking about him. Creepiness aside, that date is the opposite of how I wish dating would be; I wish it would be easy. I wish it would make sense.

***
For the second year in a row, I withdrew from a Thanksgiving gathering because a deplorable invited herself. It's not so much that I don't want to deal with her; it's more that I don't want to pretend that I don't think she's a terrible person. Instead, I'm going to another friend's (one with whom I've a long tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving). You may be thinking that's a cop-out, and that it would be better to show up and fight, but there is no reasoning with this deplorable (I've tried). There's only frustration. Last Thanksgiving, I stayed home and smashed the shit out of my old toilets (to get them into small enough pieces that the city would haul away). It was a therapeutic response to the election. This year, the most recent election was my therapy, and in the spirit of even more self-care, I'm choosing my own friendsgiving.

***
I've been pretty good about meditation, this thing that I've long known was a good idea but struggled to make time for. I've gone to a couple of meditation-at-work classes and downloaded their app. One thing that really sunk in after one of those classes, was the truth that the Vice Abbot who led our meditation class in Kyoto told us at the time: the benefits of meditation stem not from doing it well, but from doing it. Other meditation leaders (I got to Interfaith Meditation Initiative when I can, which isn't as often as I'd like) have made the same point: your mind will wander; that's what your mind does. You have not failed because it has. Anyway, I had a particularly fitful session at the most recent mindfulness-at-work class, and nonetheless felt amazing for hours afterward. The act of meditating, no matter how "poorly," benefited me. I didn't previously take it literally when people referred to meditation as "practice," but that's exactly what it is: you're practicing focusing on your breath and bringing your attention back to it. The practice itself will be imperfect, but that's the very point of practice.

I need meditation, and not just because I'm an inveterate schemer (what am I doing tomorrow, and more importantly, in five minutes? did I turn the stove off? did I forget something? what am I getting at the grocery store?). It's difficult for me to turn that voice off, even when I know how unhelpful that voice is (I've never forgotten to go to the grocery store; I'll either remember when the time comes or I'll write it down). If anything, focusing on the present rather than scheming, somehow clears my mind to make room for the reminders I need.

But I also need meditation because I'm my mother's child--my mother, who's always had so little control of her thoughts and reflexes that even in her demented delirium, she mumbles angry thoughts at the people in her head. I understand my mother; I want to tell people to fuck off pretty much every time I take metro (which these days is every day, but even when I biked to work, there were plenty of people on the trail who drew my ire). I'll never have the response reflexes of a saint, but I can do better than attending every verbal and/or mental fight I'm drawn to. To train oneself to pause in that moment between a stimulus and one's response--to manage one's own reaction--would be divine. To keep oneself out of the rabbit hole of obsessive thoughts--that's a life skill I aspire to. Let's see if I can get there.

Pre-TG roundup

As the Butcher of Bosnia is convicted, let's remember ongoing horrors (and recently vanquished ones).

How open-source analysts are figuring out what North Korea is up to.

There are many important points in Adam Serwer's piece on nationalist voters, including a rebuttal of the Calamity Thesis, but this was the part I wanted to excerpt:
From a different vantage point, what Trump’s supporters refer to as political correctness is largely the result of marginalized communities gaining sufficient political power to project their prerogatives onto society at large. What a society finds offensive is not a function of fact or truth, but of power. It is why unpunished murders of black Americans by agents of the state draw less outrage than black football players’ kneeling for the National Anthem in protest against them. It is no coincidence that Trump himself frequently uses the term to belittle what he sees as unnecessary restrictions on state force.
There is something seriously wrong with you if you can't avoid sexual harassment or assault without avoiding women. It's not that hard to be the good guy.

It matters that misogynists wrote the story of the last election (and have generally led political coverage).

I don't often recommend Jennifer Weiner, but I do today.

Do you need to generate an apology?

On fake Jews.

Look at the majestic red golden pheasant.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday roundup (brought to you by kitty poop)

I was going to rake this morning before Jay stopped by on his way down south, but I lost enough time cleaning up kitty messes that I decided to just get you your roundup sooner than later.

Polish nazis never really went away, and now they're not afraid to operate openly,

I don't agree with everything in this analysis of policy toward the Middle East as a whole and Saudi Arabia in particular (the author is a graduate school classmate of mine), but most of it is spot-on.


Hold sexual predators accountable regardless of political affiliation or talent, but focus on those in power. I don't quite agree with either of these takes on Al Franken's future as a Senator, but both are valuable.


OMG what the fuck is this:
“All I really know is that Christians will always be attacked no matter what,” said Pamela Hicks, an apartment manager who attended Mr. Moore’s speech on Tuesday. “It could be true, it could be false, but he’s led by God, and that’s all that matters.”
Rebecca Traister's piece is so good that I can't help but excerpt extensively.
Part of it is the decades we’ve spent being pressured to underreact, our objections to the small stuff (and also to the big stuff!) bantered away, ignored, or attributed to our own lily-livered inability to cut it in the real world. Resentments accrete, mature into rage.
and
Considering all of these angles, it’s easy to conclude that this moment actually isn’t radical enough, because it’s limited to sexual grievances. One 60-year-old friend, who is single and in a precarious professional situation, says, “I’m burning with rage watching some assholes pose as good guys just because they never put their hands on a colleague’s thigh, when I know for a fact they’ve run capable women out of workplaces in deeply gendered ways. I’m very frustrated, because I’m not in a position right now to spill some beans.”
and
...I couldn’t help but think of all the women who’ve wanted to be writers for 30 years, who’ve yearned to make the world a better place by telling stories of injustice, but who haven’t had the opportunity in part because so much journalistic space is occupied by men like Taibbi: dudes who in some measure gained their professional footholds by objectifying women — and not just in big, bad Russia. Take the piece Taibbi wrote in 2009 about athletes’ wives. “The problem with the Smoking-Hot Skank as a permanent life choice,” he opined, “is that she eventually gets bored and starts calling up reporters to share her Important Political Opinions.” Taibbi may feel demoralized because the hilarious misogynistic stylings of his youth are now interfering with his grown-up career, but lots of women never even got their careers off the ground because the men in their fields saw them as Smoking-Hot Skanks whose claim to having a thought in their heads was no more than a punch line.
and, about a former harasser
But here’s a crucial reason he behaved so brazenly and badly for so long: He did not consider that the women he was torturing, much less the young woman who was mutely and nervously watching his performance (that would be me), might one day have greater power than he did. He didn’t consider this because in a basic way, he did not think of us as his equals.

As for Lili Loofbourow's piece on The Bumbler, I will likely write a separate post about it because it is sooooo RM, but for now
The bumbler doesn't know things, even things about which he was directly informed.
The bumbler's perpetual amazement exonerates him. Incompetence is less damaging than malice... The bumbler takes one of our culture's most muscular myths — that men are clueless — and weaponizes it into an alibi.

The line on men has been that they're the only gender qualified to hold important jobs and too incompetent to be responsible for their conduct.

This is how the culture attempts to normalize this stuff: by minimizing the damage to women and the agency of men. 
Also on normalizing:


See also what Michelle Wolf has to say.

Beware the manspreader. He feels entitled to that space he's encroaching upon and he'll fight you for it.

So this is really not true.
Government analysts have always viewed open-source information, or OSINT, as it is called in the intelligence world, as a poor substitute for classified information. Intelligence officials often dismiss the importance of public pronouncements by foreign leaders, actions recorded by journalists, data collected by university professors, and discussions at open conferences.
Government analysts know where the good stuff is.

Milbank on Bernie Bernstein.

For the gazillionth time: your offspring is your responsibility. If you bring it out in public, make sure it doesn't destroy shit.
Parents are responsible for their charges. If one of them starts screaming, the little lungs have to be removed from the situation until they calm down. And under no circumstances should a child be allowed to roam a dining room unattended -- not with hot food, busy waiters and sharp knives in the mix. 
This is the parent's job, not the restaurateur's job. Teaching children good manners at the dinner table at home is the best way of making sure they behave in restaurants. Cooking a variety of foods is how you expose them to different cuisines. Other than that, if you have a 1 - to - 5 year old, get a babysitter.

And don't go crying mom-shaming; if you let your kid destroy shit, you deserve to be shamed. That is the function of shaming in society.

Flies are gross but they're also cool.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday roundup

Diana Nyad speaks out. Every time another woman tells her story you think you'd understood how endemic and pervasive sexual assault is, but holy shit, who knew it was so beyond pervasive?

How people in communities all over the country drastically reduced crime.

On some level, most of us want to be liked, but how random people react to us is a matter of them, not us.

Yes, I've previously thought/said this about exercise: it trains you in comfort with discomfort.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday roundup (brought to you by my heater not working)

Ethiopia's surveillance state.

If you've been wondering wtf is going on in Saudi Arabia.

Your regular reminder to never give to the Red Cross.

There's a special place in hell for those who endanger and cage animals.
“They have consciousness, empathy and understanding,” said Jef Dupain, an ape specialist for the African Wildlife Foundation. “One day we will wonder how did we ever come up with the idea to keep them in cages.”
Those (like Susan Sarandon and the Bernie bros) who forget history are destined to repeat it. Anne Applebaum reminds us:
Using a formula that would be imitated and repeated by demagogues around the world for decades to come — up to and including the demagogues of the present, about which more in a moment — he and the other Bolsheviks offered poor people simplistic answers to complex questions. They called for “peace, land and bread.” They sketched out beautiful pictures of an impossible future. They promised not only wealth but also happiness, a better life in a better nation.
and
The chaos was vast. But many in Russia came to embrace the destruction. They argued that the “system” was so corrupt, so immune to reform or repair, that it had to be smashed. Some welcomed the bonfire of civilization with something bordering on ecstasy.
and
As the philosopher Roger Scruton has observed, Bolshevism eventually became so cocooned in layers of dishonesty that it lost touch with reality: “Facts no longer made contact with the theory, which had risen above the facts on clouds of nonsense, rather like a theological system. The point was not to believe the theory, but to repeat it ritualistically and in such a way that both belief and doubt became irrelevant. . . . In this way the concept of truth disappeared from the intellectual landscape, and was replaced by that of power.” Once people were unable to distinguish truth from ideological fiction, however, they were also unable to solve or even describe the worsening social and economic problems of their society. Fear, hatred, cynicism and criminality were all around them, with no obvious solutions in sight. 
and
It may not be an accident that neo-Bolshevik language has so far enjoyed unprecedented success in Britain and the United States, two countries that have never known the horror of occupation or of an undemocratic revolution that ended in dictatorship. They therefore lack the immunity of many Europeans. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon world has its own advantages: the bonds of old and long-standing constitutionalism, the habits created by decades of rule of law and relatively high standards of living. It may be that as Americans and Brits slowly learn to recognize lies, they will become less susceptible to the fake nostalgia on offer from their leaders.
But some of us do learn, and we leverage our anger and fight back. And win. And change norms.

Changing topics: you don't need that much protein. And you should definitely watch this video of a shark head-butting a submarine.