Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Phone call

I resent my parents my itinerary this morning, so that there would be no confusion. I called to say hi before leaving. Mom went on. And on. And on. about RCN.

A.: Mom, I have very little time and my phone battery is going to go any minute now.
Mom: I'll make it quick.

Then she goes on and on about RCN, again.

It doesn't occur to her that dad might want to talk to, until he asks who it is and she invites him to pick up a phone.

Mom: What time are you leaving again?
A.: I sent you my itinerary this morning.
Mom: Well, that's on the computer.
Dad: I printed it out.
A.: Thanks.
Mom: Are you getting flooded?
Dad: She doesn't have a basement.
Mom: Oh, alright then.
A.: It hasn't rained that much here, anyway.

I wasn't as tense talking about flooding as I was listening to the phone saga, episode ten million. I did want to talk to my parents before I left. I just didn't want to listen to twenty minutes of phone drama.

Everyone's feeling chatty today: I stepped outside, and my neighbor and I talked for a good ten minutes about yard work. Bless him, he kept trying not to say "and $hit," kept saying "sh... stuff." Then a friend called to wish me a good trip. And it was good to talk to her. But I had to get organized. Not that one is ever organized. Although mom seems to think I am.

Dad: Are you completely ready?
A.: As much as I can be.
Dad: Wow.
Mom: You know her, she's efficient as these things go.

Wow. Mom gave me credit for something. That's a good note on which to go on vacation.

Wednesday morning roundup

Another example of localwashing, as well as other misrepresentation in seafood marketing.

Wow, what an a$$hole. And let's be clear: he's also very wrong; it's not a question of writing something that people are afraid to say. It's about being incorrect, and obnoxious.

Maureen Dowd on more people who don't get it.

I love White House organic garden as much as the next girl, but I'm hardly chomping at the bit to read a book or twenty about it. I would probably read something by David Remnick and Ryan Lizza, at some point.

I feel for this woman; this is why my mother doesn't have my work number. Back when she did, no amount of "this is not a good time--I have to go" would get her off the phone. There was always 'just one more thing,' which was rarely urgent.

I bet the Post meant for this story, about a woman whose life goes to hell in less than a week and writes a letter to the President, to be inspiring because he wrote back; I think it's inspiring because soon, no one's going to hold off on getting their cancerous symptoms checked out because they don't have insurance.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Monday night's show is worth watching in its entirety, but I'll paste it in segments:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Moment of Zen - Glenn Beck Teaches Victoria Jackson
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Health Care Slime Machine
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

On an unrelated note, I'm not usually a fan of "Pearls Before Swine" but my friends and I were just talking about this: I'd rather have a butt that can repel an SUV attack than one that fits into skinny jeans.


I am now good to discuss facial hair. Asking for directions is beyond me, but I can tell you whether someone has a beard, mustache, or both.

Tuesday evening roundup

I generally frown upon playing with food, but that is immaterial, as there is no food to speak of in these creations. My favorite is the terra cotta (er, marshmallow) warriors.

On the topic of actual food, Trader Joe's will adopt sustainable seafood standards. Do not underestimate the woohoo!!! factor in this, and tell my mother when you see her that making sustainable seafood choices really does make a difference.

Unfortunately, you can't always be sure that the food you're buying is what the seller says it is.

I hadn't been inspired to post anything about the RNC's FEC filing until I came across Dana Milbank's commentary, which offers some great turns of phrase.

On fashion

There are women who know, care about professional sports. That I am not one of them is immaterial; while sports are a dangerous category for me in board games, so, often, is pop culture and TV. But I'm going to ask you to suspend your aversion to stereotypes (particularly that of men being more versed in sports language) for the sake of appreciating what Robin Givhan is saying here, because it's really interesting:
In the same way that some men use sports as a metaphor for another man's character, some women use fashion as a way of understanding another woman's sense of self. After all, if it's possible to extract deep meaning from questions like "Does he hog the ball?" then surely it's reasonable to dissect the difference between a woman who carries a Kelly bag and one who chooses a monogram bag from Louis Vuitton. Fashion serves as an insider's language that, to the uninitiated, can be as mystifying and aggravating as some of the political patois that passes for conversation in Washington. Was Rogers engaging in what one magazine editor described as "an arrogance of style" -- using her clothes for competitive one-upmanship rather than to exude personal creativity, self-confidence or self-respect?

Or could a city of wonks and political animals simply not grasp what Rogers was saying?

In federal Washington, after all, a modest Armani suit still can get one a best-dressed award. For that crowd, taking the measure of Rogers, a special assistant to the president, dressed in Prada and Jil Sander, would have been a bit like someone trying to make sense of an NFL team's strategy diagram based on their knowledge of Foosball.

Rogers pushed hard against the federal city's cultural stereotypes. And in her person, she became an emblem of a particular kind of change that was afoot. Fashion does not need to be something that fades into the background or that is worn with great trepidation. It doesn't negate the impressiveness of a résumé; it merely means that one is fluent in another cultural language.
We were just having a conversation about work about dress: it needn't be fashionable, but it need be respectful--act like you care. I'm not sure how different Washington is in terms of workplace fashion: when is it ever good to stand out and look really expensive?

But it's true: fashion aside, style is a language. For a year or so, my style said, 'I just bought a house and clothes shopping is the last thing on my mind.' I'm very happy to have emerged from that (especially as it coincided with what I found to be unfortunate offerings in the stores). There's something to be said for acting, dressing like you care.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday morning roundup

Some Indonesians envision their country becoming the new China, geopolitically.

Overqualified workers make the best of it, and their companies benefit.

Online reviews change the way restaurants and companies do business.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trip planning phone call

Jay: Hey.
A.: Hey.
Jay: So is it [unintelligible foreign word] time or [different unintelligible foreign word] time?
A.: Huh??
Jay: So is it [unintelligible foreign word] time or [different unintelligible foreign word] time?
A.: Are you asking me about meals? Or times of day? You know I've hardly learned anything practical.


Jay: So, Chad says that this castle is overrated--people like it because it has gardens and grass and $hit and that's hard to come by over there, but we're used to it.
A.: Oooh, ooh, I know how to say "grass"!
Jay: [Laughs, even though I wasn't kidding; that's what I have to show for myself.]

I'm also learning a lot of phrases that mean nothing to me. For example, from the picture, I think this means 'boy is flying a kite with the spool in his mouth,' but why the f* would they teach me that in the 'gestures' section along with coughing, sneezing and yawning? WTF??

Phone call

I forgot that whenever mom switches phone companies or buys something like a new computer, it's best to drop everything and wait at home for her to call. She's done both recently, and I was caught out and about when she called.

A.: Hello?
Mom: Hey. So you won't believe what they've done...

A., not out loud: Crap... do I sense a nascent complaint letter taking form? Should I stop her now before she gets too far into the details to let her know that I'm in no position to take notes or otherwise retain the key parts of whatever she's about to tell me? Because it's not like she'd ever ask, and last time she was livid after she got through the whole story, then informed me that I'd be writing a complaint letter, only to learn, when she let me get a word in edgewise, that I was out shopping, hands busy at all, and that she'd have to go over everything again.

Mom: ...they put in an eBay toolbar, and a Norton toolbar, but not a Yahoo toolbar!
A., not out loud: Oh, thank goodness! "They" is not Verizon.
A., out loud: Mom, that's easy to fix. Right-click on the toolbar...
Mom: No, that's not going to work... there's no way to fix it. Not only that, but there's all this stuff to set up--a password just to log in! Why would I need a password?
A.: You need a password...
Mom: What's that noise? Where are you?
A.: Outside... I can talk you through fixing the toolbar when I get home.
Mom: No, no-- I was just calling to vent. That's it. Bye.
A.: Bye.

On Beauty

There's a book by Zadie Smith called "On Beauty" sitting on my bedside table. I started it a year ago, in St. Lucia, and didn't get very far. Maybe I'll take it on vacation, for which I've also grabbed "The Fourth Hand" by John Irving, "A Home at the End of the World" by Michael Cunningham, and "Rooftops of Tehran" by Mahbod Seraji. It's going to be a long flight (and a long flight back). No, I don't want a Kindle or iPad. I like books. I even came to like "Away," which I'd slammed just last week. But I digress.

I haven't gotten to the part of "On Beauty" that actually addresses beauty, and I don't know whether it will, but it's a hot topic. "Reasons to Be Pretty," which we saw yesterday, was not as much about beauty as I thought it would be. In other words, it wasn't what "Night Sky" was to intelligence, or "Lawrence of Arabia" to power (or "Richard II"/"Henry V" to leadership). It was more about relationships than beauty; nonetheless, beauty was an undercurrent. The overt premise of the play--a woman learns that her boyfriend refers to her as 'regular,' in contrast to 'hot,' as his friend had just described another woman. And the guy means it in the nicest possible way, and she is nonetheless justifiably hurt. She tells him, later, that it's one thing to know that you may not be attractive, but you would still like to think that your partner believes you to be the most beautiful person in the world.

He just couldn't understand why she was hurt: he meant that she was so great that her 'regularness' didn't matter. I reminded me of "Little Children," when Kate Winslet's character asks her lover whether his wife is attractive, and he responds that she's stunning, but that it doesn't matter. To which KW commented, only people who have beauty would ever say that. I don't remember her exact words but it was a very apt comment--you only dismiss beauty when it's a given for you.

It also reminded me of "The Distant Land of My Father," by Bo Caldwell. When a girl reports to her mother that the woman for whom her husband left her isn't pretty, her mother responded that that made things worse: her husband liked attractive women, so if he's with someone unattractive, he must really care for her.

Which brings us to the whole commentary on the Tiger Woods/Jesse James infidelities: why would men cheat on unattractive women? Um, when haven't they? That's just it--people who chase attractiveness, chase attractiveness. And it's such a stupid question--it implies that it would be more understandable to cheat on someone unattractive.

During the intermission, we talked where I was going. Alex said that when he was there, he was "tall, fat and hairy" for the first time in his life (he is anything but any of the above), and that it was quite an identity shock. One's physical appearance is a factor in identity, so much so that it's jarring when it shifts. This is very true; I did not roll my eyes at Kendra Wilkinson when she said that discovering her post-baby body was a culture shock (well, apart from the misuse of the term.) You're used to being one way, and that one way is a part of who you are. It's dangerous to make something like hotness a part of your identity and sense of self: it's guaranteed not to stay with you forever. Power might, but it's known to use you and spit you out (see 'Lawrence', for example); intelligence might, but it, too, can be taken away (see 'Night Sky'). Beauty is bound to leave you at some point.

So can we really separate ourselves, our identity, from our physical appearance? In the New Yorker style issue out this week, Judith Thurman reviews wrinkle creams and talks about how she and her friends look at themselves in the mirror and see age as a sort of mask that distorts their actual selves, which they see attempting to poke through.

Sunday morning roundup

As if Congo doesn't have its own problems, the LRA wreaks bloody havoc.

The earthquake highlights, exacerbates the wealth gap in Haiti.

The Pope-to-be spent more time going after dissidents than abusers.

On a lighter note, gefilte fish hits White House servingware again. I, myself, will not be attending a Seder--had thought about going to Sixth and I's, but too much to do before the trip. Besides, I'm going to be a bad (i.e. even worse Jew) this year because I'll be traveling, with less opportunity to keep Pareve. I've never bought into the Ashkenazi restrictions on beans, seeds, nuts, etc.: as a vegetarian, I would starve. I'm good with eschewing the top five, but leave me my pulses and nuts, please.

"Reasons to Be Pretty" was very good. The audience was also surprisingly polite. Different demographic (somewhat younger, although mixed, age wise--but hipper), different setting. Alex said it was such a small theater that it would have been really rude for people to talk. I told him he'd be surprised. Anyway, go see it if you're in town.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oh for f*'s sake

There is nothing new in this article on millennials, apart from the tie-in to the health care bill. I'm going to say the same thing I've said in response to every trend story I've seen on this topic over the last how ever many years: these parents are making things way too comfortable. Like one of the women quoted in the article, I couldn't wait to get out of my parents' house. Those parents should be making their kids' lives hell, not helping them buy cars.

Saturday morning roundup

This is so, so wrong, and yet the Church seems to not quite grasp how wrong it is. There are issues--such as stealing food to survive that might merit compassion and moral relativism; sexual abuse, particularly against children in one's authority, is not one of those issues. It's not a 'we're all sinners' kind of thing.

Some might say that nuclear agreements don't matter in practice. Nonetheless, this is huge.

A new book explores how our literal baggage has become our proverbial baggage.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Phone call

Keep in mind that the following conversation would not be funny if it were not for two facts:

(1) Mom has a long and eventful history with Verizon, particularly with regard to switching to them in response to alluring advertising.

(2) Mom makes a point of wanting to know where I am at all times.

Mom calls, and goes on, and on, and on, about how she switched from RCN to Verizon because you have to keep these companies on their toes or they'll raise prices on you, and Verizon had a great ad offering a great deal. Then she went on about how she had to spend hours and hours dealing with the new phone line.

Eventually, she asked me what I was up to this weekend. I told her I was mostly getting ready for my trip.

Mom: When are you leaving, the 4th?
A.: This Thursday.
Mom: Oh, this Thursday. By the way, I saw some inexpensive tour packages for Costa Rica.
A.: Oh, if you'd like to visit, keep an eye out--there are some inexpensive flights out over the next couple of months.
Mom: Oh, I can't go anywhere next week, I have so much to do...
A.: I'm not talking about next week. I'll be abroad next week.
Mom: Oh, that's right. Anyway, did you want to go to Costa Rica?
A.: I don't know--I don't know when I'll be able to take another vacation.
Mom: Well, think about it.
A.: Okay.
Mom: Oh, the 4th is Natasha's birthday--call her...
A.: I won't be able to call her, mom, I'll already be...
Mom: Oh, you'll already be on vacation?
A.: Yes. Wish her a happy birthday for me.
Mom: Okay, will do.

Stephen Colbert started another trend... that he (i.e. his character) doesn't see race. And apparently, the issue of the day is who are white people? The Root's version of that question is, who are the blackest white folks we know?... and there are some surprising choices.

Friday evening ramble

Three more business days to vacation! Nothing like having a f*load of work to keep you focused through the last stretch.

It's also the last stretch for Rosetta Stone. I've actually learned some useful constructions, not to mention words. For example, I know the word for banana--it's 'banana'--so if I happen to learn the word for 'republic' within the next few days, I'll be able to talk about
(or at least name) my place of worship.

Rosetta Stone has grown on me, but the initial annoyance remains: the pictures are almost deliberately vague--androgynous and otherwise unclear. And there's nothing like trying to figure out what RS is trying to show you when there's a whiny little attention whore pawing at you.

Friday morning roundup

I was so horrified about the 'Jersey Shore' piece I posted yesterday that I neglected to post a David Remnick's much more interesting, important analysis on Israel. The Post has more.

Yes the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom. Now get those cranes out of the way.

BTW, awesome article (and awesome dress) in the Smith alum quarterly, Ernessa.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I heart my bike commute

Some say that profanity betrays a lack of creativity: if you're skilled with language, you don't need expletives for effect. Perhaps true, but I've never claimed to be creative, particularly with regard to describing physical things; painting a picture has never been my forte. Forgive me, therefore, for my deficiency; I can find no more effective way of saying what I'm about to say than this: it was a f*ing perfect morning for a bike ride. Not to put too fine a point on it: it was f*ing perfect. Perfect.

Saints Preserve Us

The last thing my people need is an airing of our collective dirty laundry on national television.

Thursday morning roundup

At last, some sanity. And comedy.

Moderate conservatives like Anne Applebaum and David Brooks parse the health care law. I've agreed with Kathleen Parker before, but not here. Meanwhile, tea partiers theaten and vandalize, and some politicians fail to denounce them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday morning roundup

People have had it with the Shabab. That won't grow that boy's limbs back, but there's hope.

Maureen Dowd on Sunday's vote.

I need a weekend for spring/pre-vacation cleaning, but I'm going to have to see "Reasons to Be Pretty.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday evening roundup

Virginia is making cuts in education, public safety and other social services in order to pursue this BS. On second thought, don't raise my taxes.

No more Sponge Bob scrubs at University of Utah hospitals.

As go portion sizes in real life... so go portion sizes in paintings of The Last Supper?

Tuesday morning roundup

India's troubled power sector.

Maryland's oyster war has evolved.

Never neglect your career, ladies.

I like peace and quiet when I travel, too, and I can't afford to travel first class. I'm not sure what class has to do with it: I like to watch my opera in peace and quiet, too, and the people in the orchestra seats who opted to comment now and then during Porgy and Bess last night were hardly hurting. But the best part of that article follows:
Last year, worried about how an impeccably pedigreed Tory candidate named Annunziata Rees-Mogg would go over with the hoi polloi, Mr. Cameron suggested that she might want to campaign under the name “Nancy Mogg.”

She refused, although, to be fair, another candidate, the spectacularly named Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, dutifully “de-toffed” himself by downgrading to “Richard Drax” on campaign posters.

Meanwhile, Ms. Rees-Mogg’s brother, Jacob, a banker who is also running for Parliament and who appears to believe he belongs to the “Brideshead Revisited” era, having once taken his childhood nanny with him on the campaign trail, went on television to denounce Mr. Cameron’s plan to get more women and minorities elected as the triumph of “potted plants” over “intellectually able people.”
This book is on my list; the introductory observation of the review is great: there's no mistaking that Russian literature is not French literature.

Some of these letters on the RSVP issue are just annoying, particularly the first one. I'm sorry everyone else bores the crap out of you, but no one requires you to actually grace others with your presence; merely let your host know not to account for it.

Umbra agrees: the dating pool is full of d-bags.

I'd better start following Ruth Reichl's food haikus.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

Oh, tea partiers... are you sure you're not a bunch of nativist morons? Kathleen Parker on hyperpartisanship.

Maureen Dowd on why the moral authority in the Catholic debate on health care reform goes to the nuns.

Machine translation is practical but limited in its application.

Enjoy the silence

The Shakespeare Theatre's expertly performed leadership repertory is so good that I decided to renew my subscription in spite of an otherwise disappointing season to date. "Richard II" and "Henry V" were compelling to listen to as well as to watch. The language was beautiful==complex but clear, thought-provoking, artfully articulated. I'd find myself immersed in the action--I could have believed I was observing the court of Richard II, and then Henry IV...

...until I was drawn back into full consciousness by someone's cough or throat clearing.

What's wrong with these people? Why is Washington acough? Could we get you people some vitamins, some cough drops (to unwrap ahead of time)?

So although the audience was less talkative than the week before, it wasn't quieter. There was perhaps one fewer phone ringing, and in the realm of unwrapping candy or rattling purses, it was probably a draw. But there was a hell of a lot more coughing.

And while there was less talking, there really should be none. This wasn't a school group; these are adults who should know better. I shushed the couple next to me, who weren't even whispering. It didn't keep them from exchanging a few words a minute or so later (thankfully, they were quiet for most of the rest of the play).

Is there a Rosetta Stone package that will help me effectively master "shut the f* up" in theatre-goer? Or in cat, for that matter? In child-on-a-plane, while we're at it?

Speaking of which, that child that kept me up on the way back from Hawaii has a lot to answer for--specifically, a lot of carrots. I'm still consuming the ten plus pounds of carrots I bought in my post-arrival daze. It seemed like a good idea at the time--I needed a few carrots for spring rolls, and the ten-pound bag at Costco looked like it would do the trick. And the several-pound bag of baby carrots would work for the crudite plate. They were organic, and I wasn't going to get to Whole Foods before the party. So went my jet-lagged, sleep-deprived logic. But I digress; the point is, we could all benefit from some peace and quiet.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ramble moved to new post...

It's kind of funny that I found myself in Key West during spring break and St. Patrick's Day. So this is what streets filled with drunk people are like these days (it's been a while since I was in Cardiff for the rugby world cup and Paris for the actual World Cup). I stuck to the boardwalk, from where I could see pretty water and fewer drunk people.

Thursday morning roundup

Bad is normal in Nigeria, and collective amnesia the defense mechanism.

Bad is getting incrementally better in Burma.

I loved Amy Bloom's "Come to Me," but I find myself hating "Away." Not just not getting into it, but hating it. It reads false. Is it my sensitivity to her writing immigrants, rather than who she knows, as in "Come to Me"? Is it the writing style? I don't know, but the book is annoying.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday morning roundup

Does getting into a public fight with Israel really carry political risks? There are Jews like my parents who would never vote for Obama anyway, and there are Jews like me and many Israelis who say 'bring it on,' make the Israeli government stop shooting itself in the foot. Whatever the case, could Sarah Palin please stay out of it? Oh, here we go: Maureen Dowd agrees.

Carolyn sums up the gifts issue in passing and touches on the "Christmas" card issue. I don't find receiving Christmas cards offensive, although I think those that both quote scripture and are meant for non-Christians are a bit much (and I've gotten those). I guess it would be different if it's a close relative.

The general consensus is, babies on planes can be pretty f*ing annoying. It makes a difference if the parents are trying. Here's another don't: don't bring distractions that are as annoying as a crying baby--I don't want to hear a rattle behind me, either. And for the commenter who said 'headphones are inexpensive enough'--they're not, and that's not the point. The kid that was keeping me awake on the way back from Hawaii--who was hardly a baby--would have overwhelmed the power of four more sets of headphones.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sappy Monday morning ramble

Believe it or not, my preference is to eschew solipsism (whether or not I succeed is another question). In any case, occasionally I feel the need to tell you, for context, Things About Me. Today those things are, I'm not a very emotional person, and my French is not bad. These Things About Me came together this morning when I called a friend in Europe, as I often do when I have the morning off (usually on account of leaving for a business trip later in the day).

I'd coordinated the phone call ahead of time, to check that it was a good time for Anne. Just e-mailing back and forth got me nostalgic, made me realize that it was ten years ago, for her brother's 30th birthday celebration, that I was last in France. That was such a good time, and it felt very natural, normal to be there. But it's been ten years since I've been there. I couldn't go to Anne's wedding, as it was the summer I moved to DC. I haven't met her husband, or her kids. Although I could never complain about the travel opportunities that have come my way over those years, I'd love to go back to France, even though I miss the memories as much as I miss the country. Anne understands my preference, in a world of limited resources, for exploring countries I know less well. And yet, in the course of our phone call, which felt like we'd last seen each other months ago--not a decade, a wedding and two births apart--I had this sudden urge to communicate the following: "even though it's been a while, I love you and miss you." It didn't occur to me to actually try to say this, directly. I just wanted her to know. And I wondered later whether the language barrier factored into my not having said it--would I have said it to Kate? Kate would know, anyway, but Kate and I have seen each other over the years. Maybe, hopefully, Anne knows, too.

Monday morning roundup

Unsurprisingly, it's come to anticipating the next active shooter.

From the 'ya think?' files:
“There’s been a lot of academic research suggesting that men think they know what they’re doing, even when they really don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

Women, on the other hand, appear more likely to acknowledge when they don’t know something — like the direction of the stock market or of the price of a stock or a bond.

Please raise my taxes. It's worth it.

I could have written this--I mean, not necessarily as well, but with as much meaning: it's so true. I blogged recently about how when I have a party, I don't expect people to do anything other than show up--and RSVP. You don't have to bring anything. Is it too much to ask to help me plan by letting me know whether you're coming? I'm considering no longer inviting people who don't RSVP ahead of time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday morning roundup

"Henry V" was excellent--the best I've seen out of the STC for at least a year. The audience was pretty well-behaved, too (less so than the one at "Alice in Wonderland," more so than the one at the ballet last weekend), although there were one or two people who thought that what they had to say was worth distracting those around them from the words of Stacy Keach (who was not Henry V--maybe that's why).

Great article on the vague art of political and ideological labels, although the might have brought up the Fox News proclivity toward the 'socialist/fascist' label. I suppose he opted to limit his analysis to actual journalism.

Speaking of labels: Toles on "procedural mechanisms" and conservative heroes.

The vindication of Ulysses S. Grant.

Gorbachev takes a break from hawking Louis Vitton to tell us nothing we don't already know.

Rich on Rove/Cheney revisionism. David Cole on why we really ought to thank them.

Girls in Chile grow up knowing they could be president.

Will Japan allow itself to go multi-ethnic to survive?

People won't buy an "abortion rider" for the same reason many people are pro-life--they don't think unwanted pregnancy can happen to them.

Ah, horrendous customer service. Which reminds me: ADT wants to charge me $140 to take a service that I never use (and never asked for) off of my account. They said if I didn't want it I should have thought of that at the time I signed up for my service. Because when I was buying a house, moving, and fighting with every other utility, I was thinking about the fine print of my ADT agreement. Jerks.

As someone who bought when the world was ostensibly going to hell, I'm glad I didn't listen to the "great time to buy" mantra of the preceding years. But yes, my realtor did always say it was a great time to buy.

On the topic of domestic matters: go easy on dishwasher and washing machine detergent.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

It's not news that Russia's elite drives by its own rules, but a deadly collision has unleashed unprecedented frustration and ire at the status quo.

Meanwhile, Russia's weapons industry isn't what it used to be. The article doesn't get into the huge geopolitical implications of that reality.

Okay, straight people can reject materialism and gooeyness, too. Nobody's making you get married--the issue is rights.

Even though the Beck-Massa debacle was amusing, Charles Blow reminds us that sexual harassment isn't funny.

Oh, tea party activists--since your platform is limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets, perhaps you'd like to take on agricultural subsidies?

The Washington area real estate market is picking up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday evening ramble

Something odd made its way into my Eat This, Not That newsletter:
There can be something slightly unnerving about turning your grocery cart into the frozen section. Will people think you're single and lonely? Or just lazy? Shouldn't you be loitering instead in the crisp produce and meat sections, planning out some Mario Batali-style feast?
Does anyone else not give a second thought to what people in the supermarket thing of them and what's in their shopping basket?

Someone commented in an Express poll that "We should be banning bikes from the streets not giving them a whole lane of traffic and making the cities slow traffic problem even worse." Because putting those people in cars is going to make city traffic a lot better. But I don't argue with morons unless I have to, so I'm just going to talk about how great it's been to get back on the bike, at least a couple of days a week. Even though it hurts when you've not been cycling regularly, but it's so much nicer than dealing with the crowded, noisy metro every day. Today, it wasn't even that crowded... but in the morning, these two women wouldn't stop yapping loudly (there's a tacit no-talking-in-the-morning rule, and you should at least keep it down). This afternoon, there was a screaming toddler and a seat hog. Yesterday, there was just fresh air, beautiful scenery, and peace and quiet once I got out of the city. A sore butt's a small price to pay.

Friday evening roundup

Honest journalists need to stand up to Fox News.

Infuriating food policy news out of NYC, of all places.

I could rail until the cows come home against homophobes with religious pretenses, but nobody says it better than Bishop Tutu. Take that, Cuccinelli! I dare you to write back to the good Bishop (even though, technically, he wasn't talking to you), and say, "why, yes, I do know the mind of God so well that I can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love." What's that? You're not sure you do? Then shut the f* up.

On the topic of people who might want to STFU, and also of what religion is not about, enter Glenn Beck. I don't know about you guys, but when I hear the term 'social justice,' the first thing I think of is fascism. Those Nazis sure did believe in ensuring opportunity for the most vulnerable in their society. By the way, check out Jon Stewart's suggestion for Glenn Beck's nightly sign-off:
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday morning roundup

Chile's earthquake impacts political dynamics.

High fashion in the DR Congo.

Really, Texas? I'm not sure what part of those proposals are most absurd (although the ones about including country and western music to the state's "cultural movements" curriculum are the funniest/most harmless). What are the poor normal people in Austin going to do if/when this craziness passes?

Virginia's governor actually mans up and defies his attorney general. Even so, New York antics, hilariously described here, would have kept us out of 'most messed up state' territory.

Pennsylvania Avenue will get dedicated bike lanes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday evening roundup

Here's another opera you'd have to pay me to sit through.

It's about time Google Maps shows cyclists some love.

The budget director makes some good points as he defends federal salaries.

This personal finance article on how wealthy surroundings--people and otherwise--can make you feel poor goes well with the news that Alexandria is just one of a handful of metro DC communities that makes it onto Forbes' list of wealthiest communities. The article is interesting, but the study is deceptive--that's an odd choice respondents are given. Would purchasing power stay constant? That would be a huge factor in my decision. The phenomenon she describes isn't limited to differences in wealth; it's also an issue of spending habits. Jay and I have a mutual friend who may or may not out-earn either of us, but who pays no attention to her spending, so that evenings out with her somehow end in exorbitant bar or restaurant tabs. I really don't care about splitting a bill evenly when it's a relatively small difference, but when one person ordered half the menu (the more expensive half, at that) and insists on splitting, that's just annoying.

Guess who partook in socialized health care?

Wednesday morning roundup

Well, I guess we now know who is buying a Hummer.

Reproductive rights threatened across the country.

Not softer, jackass: try "more effective." But that's not the point. More to the point is that we did have an election, and even more to the point is that those ads
could not be more off base.

You had me--or at least at the 'okay, I guess'/'to each his own' level--until, "...their events are no different from dinner parties where guests are asked to pitch in for the cost of the meal." It's not a dinner party if you ask guests to pitch in for the cost of a meal. When did doing so become not-rude in our culture? They say it as if it's perfectly acceptable, but it's just so wrong.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Don't shave your nether region and drive.

The Onion is so spot on

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

What Do You Think is also worthwhile.

I'm now known for my complaint letters??

Jay and I finally talked, after our weeks-long phone tag reached its lightning round. We trip-planned a bit but mostly chatted, commiserated over our whiny, fat, stupid felines. Smokey has apparently changed his pitch to make himself sound even more annoying; Gracie's always had that capacity, and she's adept at leveraging it exactly when her mommy is especially busy. We're an old double-single couple with our respective cats.

I was exhausted, but it was a surprisingly hilarious conversation, given the topics invoked. If you saw the Oscars, you'll have observed this remarkable Jewish characteristic of being able to laugh at past persecution--I mean, did you hear all the nazi jokes? It's a general capacity to bring it up inappropriately. In "Mommy Queerest," Judy Gold talked about how her mom's reaction to her middle school friends was, "Do you think they'd hide you?!"

Jay: Richard's learning phrases--are you still learning colors and shapes and zoo animals?
A.: I am. I've learned all sorts of animals now. Including giraffe.

Then, somehow, Chopin made it into our otherwise typically lowbrow conversation.

Jay: Wasn't he Polish?
A.: He... was.
Jay: I remember having this conversation with your mother--she was saying that Poles were all anti-Semites and had a lot of pogroms to answer for, and your dad said, 'they're not all bad.'
A.: Yes, this is a recurring conversation in my family: my mom makes sweeping generalizations about a nationality--mostly nationalities renowned for their anti-Semitism--and my dad answers with 'you can't paint an entire nationality with one brush.' But the Poles do have a lot of pogroms to answer for.
Jay: All this craziness--I can't believe you haven't written a book yet!
A.: Please--my friends don't even read my blog.
Jay: Oh--I know what else I wanted to ask you--American damaged my luggage--would you write a complaint letter for me? I know you have so much practice.
A.: [LOL]

Tuesday morning roundup

The U.N. gets a lot of undeserved flack, but in this case, there hasn't been enough accountability.

Even though Spain serves as an example of how not to embrace solar power, the town in question is still better off than before.

No one (at least not I) is saying that elections are everything or that the Iraqi elections, in particular, will solve everything, but I suspect these critics are just jealous.

Eugene Robinson on what I hope will become neoMcCartygate.

Google's translation tool have improved since the "green onion thing" days.

Frivolous lawsuits or not, immediate damage or not, eating at McDonalds is dangerous.

Students across VA protest against the Attorney General's BS.

The Zoo has a new, less cuddly baby.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday morning roundup

Big Sugar influences what was originally a conservation deal. On a related note, hat tip to Wendy for this striking graphic.

By structure and strategy, the French economy had fared well in the global downturn.

The Times urges against scoring cheap political points at the expense of the Constitution.

It's almost as if fish have aesthetic sensibilities.

Why a rough patch in your past can be a good thing.

Home ownership as a critical component of national identity.

I don't know whether I agree with Ross Douthat's point in general, but I know that yoga doesn't really fit the argument.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alice indeed

Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" is actually "Alice in Wonderland" meets "Chronicles of Narnia" meets "Lord of the Rings" meets "300" meets "Wizard of Oz," but I really enjoyed it. It could also be called "Don't Marry Him: The Case for Not Settling for Mr. Not Good Enough." Manola Dargis had actually called out a level of creepiness of the Mad Hatter's checking out Alice at one point, but is it lost on everyone that finally we have a strong female heroine who's action role isn't a vehicle for a skimpy outfit?

I recall an interview with Ricky Gervais, from years ago, where the interviewer asked him what he liked to eat in a cinema and he said he didn't: it's rude. Watch the f*ing movie. And I do have to say that while it's perfectly socially acceptable for people to crunch on popcorn and rattle candy wrappers in a cinema, it's still annoying, and I have to ask why we have to do it. Can't people go two hours without food?

One of the previews made me think, "if I want to see someone get hit in the balls, I'll just watch "Idiocracy.""

No need to share

I'm often under the impression that I should get out more, until I do, and remember why I don't.

I went to see the amazing Suzanne Farrell Ballet last night. I enjoyed it, even though the guy to my left--like the guy to my right on Friday night at Aurelie's Oratorio--seemed to think that his space included not only the entire shared armrest, but the space over my seat. I deliberately reasserted my space in both cases. I am not a spatial socialist; I do not subscribe to 'to everyone according to his need.' If you cannot, or choose not to, comfortably contain yourself in one seat, buy two.

And more importantly, shut the f* up. Why do I have to bitch about this every time I go out? Who ARE you people? What is so important that it cannot wait two hours? Does it even cross your mind, how rude it is not just to other theatergoers but to the performers? When a ballerina lost her balance and fell flat on her face in the final act, I wanted to blame the talkers, but I suppose that wouldn't be fair. There was a fair amount of shushing, and people were quiet most of the time, but why do they even need to be shushed?

More on this later, but I also wanted to mention that a number of elderly people came onto the shuttle bus from the Foggy Bottom metro when all the seats were already taken. I was already standing, but one young person and one not so young person got up to offer their seats. A very young woman just sat there. An older woman on the bus, wearing ginormous, dangly, real or very convincing diamond earrings, commented in French that the bus was awful and that they should have taken a metrobus, which was only fifty cents with a transfer.

Most of the people were going to "War and Peace." The music is supposed to be amazing, but you could not pay me to sit for four hours (not including intermissions).

Also: enough with the jeans and cuords: show some f*ing respect.

I may be the wrong person to ask why people feel the need to communicate during a performance. I mean, it would be rude in any case, but I don't understand the motivation. Then again, I go to the ballet by myself. I don't necessarily prefer to, but I don't mind. Last night, it was a last-minute decision and it was too late to even ask anyone if they wanted to go. But I've never been that much of a 'sharer.'

Except, obviously, I am, because I share articles with you guys all the time. Except I don't share on demand. I remember reading the New Yorker profile of Peter Orszag months ago, and RM was sitting in the same space (it was before I moved to my office). I laughed out loud, and RM said, "share! share!" and I just rolled my eyes. I don't want to share. I'd have to explain to much context. Read the f*ing article if you want. I offered a few sentences that explained nothing, and he fake-laughed. Similar thing happened when I was watching How I Met Your Mother and he wanted to watch with me, only to produce inane commentary until I glared at him to indicate that I was more interested in watching the show. I've watched TV with other people and enjoyed their non-inane commentary, but it's just different when it's forced. I guess the issue does come back to the fact that we weren't friends. But in any case, when you're at a ballet, you're not in your living room. Shut the f* up, and share LATER.

Sunday morning roundup

Finding inspiration despite tragedy.


A lost Jewish tribe appears in Zimbabwe.

Nicolas Kristof on industrial ag and the rise of superbugs.

Porn may be bad for you.

Frank Rich rekindles the Obama message debate; the Times profiles Axelrod; and the Post's Ombudsman steps in to mediate Rahm/Milbankgate.

Is my namesake book really all about math? That would explain why my parents like it so much.

I wish this were funnier, but it's still pretty good. At least we finally have a hilarious Shouts & Murmurs.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Do you want to hear something hilarious? I'm going on vacation in less than a month and I've done jack-$hit recently to plan for this trip, apart from play with Rosetta Stone. The last e-mail I sent Jay was a link to this:

Response to comment

Purvi, I totally appreciate the content of your post: my mom does that as well, i.e. calls and then gets frustrated that there's not much I have to say, at the time she opted to call me.

However, your comment brings up a more important issue: WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? Every time I see both you and Allen offline on google chat, I think maybe this is it. I mean, seriously, Baby--I know first babies tend to arrive late, but your mommy and daddy can't wait to meet you. Neither can I.

Saturday morning ramble

Like a good Jewish girl, I've been feeling guilty about snapping at mom the other night. That is, incidentally, just about the only thing that makes me a good Jewish girl, so I guess it's good for something. But I digress. Feeling guilty made me wonder about what had transpired and why.

If you'll abide a shameless mixing of metaphors, I'll tell you Thursday night was a perfect storm of snap-ready ingredients: just before bedtime of a long day of a long week, combined with mom's complete insensitivity thereto (as demonstrated by the timing of the call and screaming into the phone) and asking about my internet for the gazillionth time. I'm not kidding: see here and here, for example. I don't think I'm deluding myself: I've genuinely concluded that if my mother had 'met me half-way' by calling at a reasonable time and/or not calling to ask me the same question, I wouldn't have snapped.

Mom had no way of knowing that Thursday was a bad day, but, like equally obtuse RM, she might have understood by now that even though I'm not in bed by 9, I'm at least thinking about getting ready for bed, and I'm in no mood for BS conversations. I can talk substance; I can talk logistics; but I don't want to answer questions about my internet that I've already answered numerous times. I would not be annoyed if anyone called to talk about a problem or ask for help, but my tolerance for small talk plummets proportionally to my level of exhaustion.

Of course, I'm what mom might call the undeserving tired: it's not like I walked to work through ten feet of snow, carrying a fifty-pound handbag, and then performed any sort of manual labor before undertaking the same arduous journey home, only to make dinner for five kids before taking off for a second job. Nonetheless, there are some days when I'm just tired. Especially tired. As in, I'm-going-to-snap-at-you-if-you-come-between-me-and-my-bedtime-with-stupid-questions tired. Thankfully, the regular occurrence of that scenario declined when the live-in extroverted social idiot moved out, and even though I was almost that tired the night he put his hands on my feet, that would have been equally ridiculous any day. But I digress, again (hey, it is a ramble--that subject heading absolves me of any obligation to be coherent).

This also ties into mom's wondering why I don't call more often during the week, and I have to wonder whether she's made the connection--she did pick up on how tired I was. I'm not going to call when mom's being herself--which I've come to see as endearing--is going to push me over the edge. I'll call today to smooth things over. Because I'm a good Jewish girl.

I called home shortly after posting the above.

Mom: Have you done your taxes?
A.: I have--a while ago, actually.
Mom: Did you use software?
A.: Online version of Turbotax.
Mom: There are some free ones out there...
A.: My taxes were especially complicated this year because of the roommate, so it didn't make sense...
Mom: Didn't "make sense!" [Correcting my Russian]. You really need to take a night course in Russian or something--you truly are losing the language!
A.: Well, it didn't make sense.
Mom: I don't see what's complicated about having a roommate.
A.: It's a source of income not represented on a W2, and it entailed converting part of the property to a rental property. I wasn't about to f* around with a cheap tax program.
Mom: Whatever works. What else is up?
A.: Not much.
Mom: Work is fine?
A.: Yup.
Mom: Well, if you do anything else interesting, let me know.
A.: Will do.

Saturday morning roundup

How do you observe the strictest laws of Orthodox Judaism--a religion that originated in the dessert--under the weather conditions of snowmageddon?

Crazy people are coming out of the woodwork.

Virginia's attorney general doesn't think public universities owe legal protections to all people, but there's reason to believe most of the state is more enlightened on this matter.

Here's even more bull$hit coming out of VA's state government, and it's truly unbelievable. It's enough to make me want to march on Richmond with a wire hanger in hand, and I don't have a wire hanger.

Dana Milbank writes that Rove's new book reflects an alternate universe. Some conservatives accuse Liz Cheney of channeling McCarthy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday evening roundup

Is psychiatry a science? Either way, that's a great article.

WTF is wrong with these people? I.e., the neighbors, not the sculptors.

Take that, RM!

An awesome perspective on the settling debate.

I don't know what about Aurelia's Oratorio was family friendly, but it was a joy to watch.

For not the first time, I've caught myself in the same perverse thought: woohoo, it's going to be nice out--I can take my compost out!

Friday morning roundup

What about these real estate blurb would lead you to believe it relates to the People's Republic of China:
The spacious duplex comes with crocodile-skin bedposts, hand-carved bronze doors inlaid with Swarovski crystals — and a $45 million price tag.
“Look at this bronze door,” said Wang Yaodong. “That costs $50,000! Look at these Gaggenau appliances. They were made in Germany.” The glasses were imported from Belgium, the Jacuzzi from Italy. And don’t worry about losing your key, he said, “This lock can read the palm of your hand.”
I love Shanghai, but you get a lot more for your money in Tokyo.

David Brooks compares the Tea Party to the New Left of the 1960s.

Virginia threatened to close rest stops, too, to great popular revolt. Services cost money, people. And states raise money through taxes.

The FTA report on Metro's safety is scathing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Phone call

As you may gather, 9pm is not actually my bedtime, but my mother thinks it is. Sometimes she thinks it's 8pm. Basically, whenever I don't pick up the phone for whatever reason, after 7pm, she figures it's because I've turned in. So why she insists on regularly calling me close to or past her idea of my bedtime is beyond me. Why she insists on calling me past her idea of my bedtime to ask me questions to which we've discussed the answers many times, is doubly beyond me. And no, it wasn't when I leave for vacation or whether I've put on weight, but it was close enough to what should be my bedtime that I was in no mood for a regurgitated conversation.

A.: Hello?
Mom: Hello. [To my father, but into the phone] PICK UP THE PHONE!
A.: Mom, could you not scream in my ear please?
Mom: Must you take that tone?
A.: How many times have I asked you not to do that??
Mom: So?
A.: So, it hurts my ear. Please don't do it anymore.
Mom: Anyway, do you have cable?
A.: No.
Mom: No?? What do you have?
A.: Mom, we've discussed this. I don't have a TV.
Mom: I'm not talking about a TV, and so what if we've discussed it. How do you get internet?
A.: DSL.
Mom: What's that?
A.: You know what DSL is, and not only because we've had this conversation several times.
Mom: It goes through a modem?
A.: Yes.
Dad: So, you plug it into the phone jack?
A.: Well, I could, but I use wireless. By way of DSL.
Dad: I see.
Mom: That's all. Goodnight, then.
A.: Goodnight.

Thursday evening roundup

Broder on Rahmgate. Or should that be Milbankgate?

I'm ginormous by Japanese standards.


Thursday morning roundup

In Yemen, too, brave girls who have had enough, together with journalists, are catalyzing social change. Unlike in the tragic story I posted yesterday about India, at least in Yemen, the legal system worked.

A genocide is a genocide, regardless of whose country has the better paid lobbyists.

Documents left on floors to be picked up by journalists can be interesting.

The vote to censure Marion Barry reflects a paradigm shift in DC politics. Robert McCartney says it all in the closing lines of his column: "We can only hope that such enthusiasm for accountability and high standards will have real impact and ultimately spread to all parts of the city's government."

Political accountability is not the only kind lacking in the metro region: apparently, area dog owners aren't great about cleaning up after their dogs.

Project Runway comes to Wii.

Who knew: advertising on Facebook can be creepy.

What about Facebook isn't creepy?

I'm not on Facebook, because I don't need to know what my "friends" are doing every minute of the day, and I don't need anyone to know what I'm doing at the same frequency. I resent that I can't turn off e-mails from Facebook--it's one thing to get them from friends, and quite another to be invited to join not only by people you don't even know, but by people you've interacted with once. No, I don't want to be "friends" with a contractor I invited to offer an estimate for the gate. Linked In at least gives you the option of saying, 'I don't know this person.'

Google ads are too absurd to be creepy, but Picasa's facial recognition tool is cutting it close. Still, it was funny when it asked me to identify a statue of Buddha. I wondered whether, had I complied, it would have applied the formula to other pictures of statues of Buddha.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Post's Peep Show

I've made the case many a time that I am not a food snob (exhibit A being the lack of truffle oil in my pantry). Just because I eschew ingredients shown to alter the gender of frogs, doesn't mean I'm elitist in my food choices. True, I've become increasingly discerning over the years, particularly as age eroded my once-formidable ability to metabolize like a chinchilla. But there were a few foods that made me want to gag long before I found politics, foremost among them, peeps.

Now, I know one of you has admitted, on your blog, feeding peeps to your kids. I'm not proselytizing. I'm just telling you they make me sick. Unless they're used to recreate a murder scene from a musical. You have to admit, these are f*ing awesome (check out the fourth slide, for example). If you think you can do better, and you have a lot of time on your hands, you have just over a week to get your submissions in.

Wednesday morning roundup

The Saudi pot calls the Israeli kettle black.

I see both sides of the Kopassus issue, and they're not unbridgeable: you can have engagement and accountability.

India's 24-hour news cycle is apparently a force for accountability, at least if you're middle-class and telegenic. It's too late for one girl and her family, but it looks like the system is changing.

Our days have become just over a microsecond shorter.

What 16-month old would Jesus deliberately starve?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday evening roundup

I thought this guy was exaggerating until I read about this load of hippie crap. Nothing wrong with slightly processed foods. You can make your own tofu, whereas it takes a lab to make non-maple syrup. Staying away from high fructose corn syrup is self-preservation, not hippie crap. Meanwhile, some say obsession with healthy food, or orthorexia, is an eating disorder. But let's be careful with our terminology: the behavior described in that article does not constitute healthy eating.

On a related note: the cost of unsafe food.

Tuesday morning roundup

I know that the Grey Lady is busy exposing the misdeeds of New York State governors, for example, but the Times' coffee party coverage represents at least the fourth time, just by my informal count, that the Post has scooped the Times in the past few weeks. Nonetheless, it's a different angle, and an important one. I wonder if the coffee party will co-opt some of the non-fringe tea partiers.

While we're (figuratively) on the topic of hot beverages, I'm going to recommend Safeway's organic mint tea--it's quite good. I also really like Bigelow's Plantation Mint, which comes in decaf should you want to partake in the evening. I don't know what's out in LA, but surely there's a specialty store like Teaism that will have Moroccan Mint, maybe even in decaf.

This guy and his statue figure prominently in the New Yorker piece on Ukraine that I recommended yesterday. And even without that excellent article, the Times' oversimplification is striking:
Nationalists in the west speak Ukrainian and loathe Russian influence. In the east are Russian speakers who feel a kinship toward Moscow. With Mr. Yanukovich’s inauguration, Ukraine has gone from one pole to the other, and the question is whether a Yanukovich presidency can change this dynamic.
It's not East/West, Russian-speaking/Ukrainian speaking, nationalist/pro-Russian. There are threads of those things, but they overlap. If identity politics throughout Eastern Europe are complicated, they're ever more so in Ukraine. The country hasn't gone from one pole to another in an election. People didn't elect Yanukovich because he was pro-Russian; they elected him because the incumbents drove the country into the ground.

Now for another country with an identity crisis and one foot in Europe: Turkey.

The power of infrastructure, strong building codes. And poetry in the face of disaster.

The Rahm debate rages on. The pretext of some of the rumblings quoted in that article annoy me: what about leadership? I can't find it, but the other day Nancy Pelosi pointed out that governance was about more than ensuring reelection. Speaking of Rep. Pelosi, she comes up in Robin Givhan's piece on what the Italians have done for women's power dressing.

Virginia's governor accepts stimulus funds in spite of himself.

Whose benefits would Jesus deny?

Now next time mom yells at me and insists on calling me an idiot, every two minutes, for washing and drying clothes in a hotel room, I'll let her know that Paul Krugman does the same. Actually, his wife has a practical suggestion for more efficient drying.

Verlyn Klinkenborg offers practical suggestions as well (you'll learn how to better adjust your side mirror, which, with my Corolla CE, I have to do manually). More interestingly, he explores the idea that learning is about changing some very fundamental ways--by having bad habits first pointed out to you and then unlearned, and then replaced. This idea has been on my mind since I've started learning a language completely distinct from the ones I know. It's quite challenging to do something mindfully when you've been doing it intuitively for so long, but it's also fascinating.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday evening roundup

This post references the Atlantic article on Walmart I posted the other day. My obstacle is the same as the writer's: Walmart is just too far away, whereas I can walk to Whole Foods.

I know that some people don't feel the same way I do about walkability. If you'll recall, RM used to drive everywhere, and expressed amazement that I walked to the nearest supermarket, which was a five-minute walk and longer drive. Here's another guy who clearly isn't a walker.

It's not like we need health care reform. Who said costs weren't reasonable?

Monday morning roundup

Change may or may not be coming to Egypt. How change came and went in Ukraine. The latter article actually offers an insightful look at Eastern European identity politics, for those interested in that sort of thing. It also reminded me of an incident a few years ago, when the Y was my gym, and I found myself in the sauna with a woman who, like me, was annoyed at the head-up-the-ass parenting in the place (which was particularly visible in the sauna, where parents would let their kids jump up and down on the benches; they'd even open the door, even though others were in there, because the kids complained it was 'too hot.' But I digress). She made some sort of comment like, 'I'm European! We do saunas right.' Fair enough. I know that--a good friend of mine is Swedish, and her family, whom I visited years ago, has a sauna in their backyard. But this woman clearly wasn't Scandinavian. I detected an Eastern European accent, and, besides, you won't find anyone from France or Germany, or Switzerland (or pretty much anywhere in Western or Central Europe) calling themselves 'European,' at least not as an initial statement of identity. I asked her where she was from; she answered 'Ukraine,' and then repeated that she was European. Anyway, that article touches on Ukraine's Europe-or-Russia identity crisis.

Do we not have more seriously persecuted people to whom to grant asylum? I've read the Refugee Convention; I'm pretty sure it doesn't cover persecution on the basis of a preference for home schooling.

There is something very, very wrong about this incident, and it's not that the girl got off without charges.

Empathy and health care reform.

Working mothers don't have it easy in South Korea, which, among other things, has the largest gender wage gap in the world.

Learning Russian is hot again.

I alluded to resistance to antibiotics, as exacerbated by factory farming, the other day. Here's another biproduct of unsustainable agriculture, and it's choking the Chesapeake Bay.