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.
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.”
...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.
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.
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. 
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.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Saturday roundup

If you've ever heard someone say there's no such thing as rape culture, point them to this finding:
Indeed, experts note one last trait shared by men who have raped: they do not believe they are the problem.
And to this:
When the entire culture of a place is lewd, it makes it impossible to tell which men are dangerous. The raunchiest man in the kitchen had no part in the assault, but a quieter cook apparently did. In the din of dirty kitchen-speak, I could not have told you the difference between them.
Gray areas are what perpetuate the idea of plausible deniability, which in turn emboldens predators.

Charles Blow gets it.
We have to stop, listen and receive other people’s experiences, validate those experiences and honor the feeling with which they are expressed. And we have to center the speaker and not the listener, center the person who lacks the privilege and not the one who possesses it.
So does James Fell.

When Christian rehab turns out to be forced labor

Speaking of forced labor, some threads on Robert E. Lee. 

I dislike Max Fisher but I'll give him credit where it's due, and this isn't it. This needs to be said--
 In their zeal to find a simple solution to the complex problem of political change, they overlook their heroes’ flaws, fail to see the challenges they will face in power, and assume that countries are the products of their leaders, when it is almost always the other way around.
But it's a shallow analysis. FP did it better, years ago.

Surprise! Monsanto (among others) is screwing over farmers who don't buy their shit.

Drezner's complete 'toddler thread.'

CEOs, including Ruth Simmons--who was at Smith when I was--talk about showing up and doing the job you have.

I'm glad this plutonium soap is vegan but I wonder why they chose Pu-244.

Don't let anyone tell you that exercise doesn't help with weight.

Cultivate self-esteem, not narcissism, in your children.

I'm an xennial.