Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday evening roundup and ramble

Hi again! Sorry about the low-key posting week--it's been bananas, but I'll tell you all about it. But first, your roundup:

What is it the all the angry dudebros?

Embrace your inner ambivert:
What holds for actual salespeople holds equally for the quasi-salespeople known as leaders. Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little. They can overwhelm others with the force of their personalities. Sometimes they care too deeply about being liked and not enough about getting tough things done.
I will really miss 30 Rock but I appreciate its legacy.

Does the Les Mis film cheat the audience of irony?
The artist who deploys irony tests the sophistication of his audience and divides it into two parts, those in the know and those who live in a fool’s paradise. Irony creates a privileged vantage point from which you can frame and stand aloof from a world you are too savvy to take at face value. Irony is the essence of the critical attitude, of the observer’s cool gaze; every reviewer who is not just a bourgeois cheerleader (and no reviewer will admit to being that) is an ironist.
“Les Misérables” defeats irony by not allowing the distance it requires. If you’re looking right down the throats of the characters, there is no space between them and you; their perspective is your perspective; their emotions are your emotions; you can’t frame what you are literally inside of.

After all, the critic, and especially the critic who perches in high journalistic places, needs to have a space in which he can insert himself and do the explicatory work he offers to a world presumed to be in need of it. “Les Misérables,” taken on its own terms, leaves critics with nothing to do except join the rhythms of rapt silence, crying and applause, and it is understandable that they want nothing to do with it.
I love Jezebel for this inimitable phrase:
...non-calorie-related tasks such as playing the piano and going for a stroll in the magnificent springtime and pleasurably grinding upon one's handsome gentleman caller...
So, where have I been? On Tuesday, I went to see Fela!, which was amazing in every way: the music, the dancing, the energy, the power of the story! Also, the Shakespeare Theatre Company is very good to its subscribers, even the broke 35-and-unders, so I got a front-row seat from which I could see everything. Michelle Williams locked eyes with me. It did make some of the dancing asked of the audience more... risque... but it was awesome.

I also saw Stephen Adly Guirgis's "The Motherfucker with the Hat," which was very good and would have been excellent had it been just a bit tighter. Interesting ideas, great lines, lots of humor... just a bit to dragging/repetitive, particularly toward the end. This is not the set of lines in the play, but it's one of my favorites nonetheless, for obvious reasons:
I always thought yoga and fuckin' soy milk an' shit — they're for fuckin' assholes, right? ...Well, guess what? I'm an asshole, bro!
We'll close on that thought.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mom is not helpful

Mom: What's with the crazy weather?
A.: Today was actually warmer. But it was iced over in the morning so there was a delayed opening at work.
Mom: It was that icy?
A.: I don't know how icy it actually was--I didn't go outside until later in the morning--but it was supposed to be icy enough that they decided on the delay.
Mom: What did you do?
A.: I did my taxes.
Mom: How much did you owe?
A.: I broke even on federal and got some of the state taxes back.
Mom: Enough to cover the roof?
A.: No. The roof is going to be $9,000.
Mom: Ha! Do you know how much our house cost?
A.: I know how much your house cost in 1981.
Mom: The point is, that's a lot of money.
A.: I know it's a lot of money. What would you have me do?
Mom: I'm just saying, it's a lot.
A.: What's your point?
Mom: My point is, it's a lot of money.

I've been handling the roof thing remarkably well, mostly because it's pointless to get upset about it. It is what it is, and when you buy a house you accept that you can potentially end up spending ridiculous amounts of money on unpleasant surprises. The latest surprise: in the course of getting a leak fixed (for several thousand dollars), it was found that I don't actually have a roof; the membrane was laid directly over the rafters, with no insulation or anything else. So the whole roof--including the newly fixed membrane that I just paid for--will have to be replaced. Are there other things I'd much rather spend the money on? Of course. Can I handle this, because I have an emergency fund? Of course. Is stressing about it going to make it any less expensive? Is dwelling on just how much money it is--especially in proportion to how much whole houses cost in the early 1980s--going to make the situation any better, in any way? No? Then shut the f* up. Except I would never say that out loud to my mother.

The whole conversation reminds me of when mom first visited a few years ago. At the grocery store, she grabbed a real estate magazine and proceeded to flip through it and point out how much less all those houses cost, for how much more space. That they were out in the exurbs was not important to her--she just found perverse pleasure in rubbing in how much I had paid and would be paying to live where I live. To which I can only shrug; it's worth every penny.

Monday evening roundup

David Remnick's excellent piece on Israeli politics reminds me of a short comic film I saw years ago. The filmmaker, in response to accusations that he was oversimplifying and/or making light of a bad situation, said that the Israeli-Palestinian has been mired in despair from within and indifference from the rest of the world because people are just overwhelmed by the hopelessness and complexity, respectively. To revive the attention of the general public, which has reflexively zoned out, it doesn't hurt to humanize the issue in a light story that brings it back to the level of people. In that context, consider the falafel peace truck.

While we're on the New Yorker, there are lots of disturbing angles in Rachel Aviv's piece on child pornography and predictors of abuse, one of which is that the criminal justice system is apparently rife with singlism. Did you know that it's a bad sign to never have been in a live-in relationship for over two years?
When relying only on clinical interviews, mental-health professionals predict dangerous behavior at a rate not much better than chance. To determine John’s risk of committing a new sex crime, Ferraro used an actuarial instrument, the Static-99, and concluded that John was in the “high range of risk.” The tool... places individuals in classes of risk based on ten factors correlated with recidivism, including age, whether the defendant has ever had a live-in relationship that lasted at least two years, and whether his victims were strangers.


Speaking of wow: Metro, someone's been having a good, drunk time on your trains.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday evening rambles, in numbers

Six theater subscriptions (plus a ballet subscription), in case my Twitter followers were wondering. So going into boycott mode because other audience members can't behave themselves is not an option. I'm going to four plays over the next two weeks.

Ten Twitter followers, half of whom are confused. They're health enthusiasts who think, based on the handle, that my tweets are about weight. Have they realized that the account is just an outlet for my endless supply of snark?

Three pounds gained last week, in my attempt to gain weight. I made cookies to share, but they didn't turn out well enough to share, so I ate more of them than I'd intended. But then I got sick of eating cookies, and some of the weight came off.

Forty degrees is the high tomorrow (woohoo!!! That sixteen degrees $hit was not fun).

Five hours, approximately, to get power back to the neighborhood (700+ people) after a car rammed into a pole on Thursday morning, a few blocks from where I live. There was, after all, one inch or two of snow on the ground.

Thirty dresses in two closets (and one sink--those that were stained when the roof leaked). I know: I'm cut off. The overwhelming majority are work dresses; a handful are casual/lounging dresses and evening/cocktail dresses.

At least seven times this week I've listened to various versions of "L'Anamour." Gainsbourg's, Hardy's, and Ivy's. Can't decide which I like best. 

Sunday morning roundup

Jezebel calls out the mainstream media for conflating sexual assault with sex.

Killing may be a part of war, but that doesn't mean we should take it lightly. Here's a book on atrocities against civilians in Vietnam and another that's mostly about one soldier's story but touches on revenge killing.

MPD tries to cover its @ss, but don't buy its spin: the police made things worse for survivors.

Japan's school lunches are newsworthy.

I love this part of Steve Pearlstein's review of "After the Music Stopped," with regard to Binder's "affection for cliche":
There is an unwritten rule in the writing trade against quoting Bismarck on the making of laws and sausages, Dorothy on not being in Kansas anymore, Pogo on meeting the enemy and your grandmother saying, “Oy vey.” The same goes for expressions like “tooth and nail,” “with a vengeance” and “only time will tell.” Unfortunately, neither Blinder nor his editors seem to be aware of them.
When getting really drunk is detrimental to your junk.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More about this asker-guesser business

Since Wednesday's post, I've invited myself to crash on a friend's couch next week and to drop by other friends' house on short notice. In both cases, I knew they would either say yes or feel free to say no if they wanted to. If they had, I wouldn't have asked questions or expected explanations. As I wrote last time, being an asker means taking ‘no’ graciously. This isn’t just common courtesy; it’s the mechanism that makes asking a workable model. The whole point is, I’m just going to ask directly because if you aren’t interested or able to help me out, you’ll say no. I don’t need justifications; I don’t need to know whether it’s lack of interest or ability driving the ‘no.’ Asking isn’t about putting someone in an awkward position where she feels compelled to agree; it’s just about asking.

Now, askers sometimes keep asking because the askee makes excuses rather than just saying no, so the asker works around those excuses. They (we) don’t mean to be pushy; it’s just that what the askee just said doesn’t apply to our question/request/invitation. I’ll give you a really lame example in the form of my really lame ex-bf:

A.: Do you want to go wine tasting?
F.: No, because it’s cold.
A.: Would you want to go wine tasting when it’s not cold?
F.: Okay.
[Fast forward a few months to when it’s not cold.]
A.: Do you want to go wine tasting?
F.: Maybe next weekend.

Do you see how that’s not helpful? You don’t need huge balls to just tell your gf that you don’t want to go wine tasting (it’s just that you need some, and my ex had none; big note to self: only date dudes with balls).* But that brings us back to the more general issue: we askers would rather you say no than make excuses, because that throws us off; it makes it sound like the issue is open for negotiation, if certain conditions could just be addressed. So if that's not the case, just say no.

I mentioned the other day that my mom breaks this asker rule (i.e., taking no for an answer) by insisting and even getting angry at the ‘no.’ Let’s face it: no one owes anyone anything, not even your own family, not even someone for whom you have done a lot and/or given birth to. You don’t have a right to get angry at someone for refusing to do you a favor. It’s this thing called boundaries.

Mind you, respecting the right to refuse is about the content, and we’re talking about style. The issue here isn’t what someone feels entitled to; it’s how they ask for it—but the common thread is insistence. With mom, we also run into the insistence thing when it comes to giving. Same with RM. I do not want that shirt/those earrings/that box of chocolate/your waking me up because you think I’ve overslept. OK, that last one doesn’t really fit the theme. This is also the thing called boundaries: when I refuse something—even a gift or a favor—don’t keep pressing it. But I digress.

I’ve been thinking about another asker rule, this one based on my experiences with a hard-core asker friend: be realistic about the terms of your favor, to the extent possible, and do what you can to minimize the burden on the askee. Now, I have certainly been guilty of asking favors while underestimating how much of a hassle they would be. I am eternally grateful to all my friends who have helped me move into my house and make it livable: they went above and beyond, and probably didn’t know what they were getting into when they offered to help (or accepted my requests for help). So I’m not trying to set myself up as the saint of realistic assumptions. But I have a friend who is (1) a hard-core asker (HCA); (2) a hard-core underestimator of hassle; and (3) not one to go out of her way to minimize the hassle. Two examples:

Example one:
HCA: Could you drive me to the hardware store and then to my office to buy and drop off some plants? It’ll take one or two hours, no more.
A. Probably, but let’s go early because traffic gets really, really bad there on weekends. It could take four hours.
HCA: I take the bus around there all the time. I haven’t noticed that traffic gets bad.
A.: Well, I drive there from time to time, and driving makes you more aware of the traffic than taking the bus. Let’s just go early.

Of course, traffic was horrendous. The whole thing took more than four hours.

Example two:
HCA: Can I come by on Wednesday night to drop something off to store in your house?
A.:  Only if you come on the earlier side and make it really quick because I have a very early flight tomorrow morning, I’m exhausted, and I haven’t packed.
HCA: Oh, not a problem—we’ll be there at 7pm and it should only take a few minutes.

They weren’t there until 10pm and it took a lot longer.

Like I said, I’ve been on the other side of this: I’ve asked for many a favor that turned into many a hassle. This isn’t about demonizing my friend and exalting myself. The point I’m making is that we askers owe it to the askee to be as realistic as possible about the magnitude of the chore and to minimize the burden on the askee. But I suppose those rules apply whether you’re asking directly or guessing. Thought they apply even more when asking, because you’re more likely to snare someone who’s not necessarily game to begin with.

If I keep invoking RM and the ex-bf, it's not out of bitterness or resentment or to justify my own role. My mother always plays the “bitter” card, i.e., “you remember that? It was so long ago. You must be a bitter person.” But I just have a really good memory, and I particularly remember things that are interesting from the perspective of different worldviews or paradigms (say, asking and guessing). So when the paradigms come up in conversation or national discourse, the examples come to mind. I’m amazingly unbitter at my mother (given the things she has said to me, which are well-documented on this blog) and I could give a $hit about RM and the ex. They carry no emotional charge for me; I merely cite them to make a point. Writing about the ex’s lacking anatomy is not a dig; it’s merely a fact, and one that is no longer my problem.

I've been thinking about just how little the ex bf (F.) provokes emotion in me, because it’s stark. Recall Sarah Bareille’s line in “Gravity”:
Something always brings me back to you
It never takes too long.
That’s so true... until it isn’t. You go from wondering how you’ll move on when everything around you reminds you of that person in some way, and then, at some point, it just doesn’t. Not even the name! Did I tell you that a friend of mine who lives near him told me that she ran into F. at the polls, and my response was literally, “F. who? Who are you talking about?" And to the extent that things are reminders, you just don’t care, so the reminder evaporates instantly. There were two New Yorker cartoons (one in my desk calendar, one in the magazine) that would have made me sad over the summer, but this week just made me smirk. As it should be.

Saturday morning roundup

Somalia's come a long way but still has a ways to go (i.e., institution-building to do).

Containment is an obsolete concept.

Wow, some people really hate women.

Tom Philpott calls out The Guardian for vegan-baiting and oversimplifying the quinoa issue.

There are a lot of things in this world that can add to your costs, or that could potentially depress you about being single. There's no reason to be depressed about the combination of the two. I say that even after last night over drinks, I told a friend about my roof drama, to which she responded that if she were single, that kind of expense would break her. To which I shrugged--that's why we have emergency funds. That's why we make wise decisions about the house we can afford. If anything, being single forces you to be more careful with your finances. That doesn't mean spending less; it just means being more careful.

The other side of this credit card dispute issue is that some merchants could be more transparent about recurring charges.

People are turned off by having to read words?? Wow. Idiocracy is here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

I wanted to mention this Human Rights Watch report on DC the other day when I posted the article about India (police are part of the problem), but I wasn't sure when exactly it would be made public. I knew it existed for the most horrendous reasons: a very close friend of mine was interviewed for it. And her experience was DC police was bad--so bad that when I read that last India article (about how useless and abusive the police were), it reminded me of her experience.

I'm so angry/upset thinking about it that it's hard to move on to fluffier notes, but a roundup is a roundup. anyway: a non-drinker feels generally excluded.

Singers can tell that Beyonce sang

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup

Britain is skittish about immigration.

The fact that it's f*ing freezing does not defy the reality of climate change.

Gamma ray bursts and neutron stars or black holes, oh my!

Drivers, too, can be better at sharing the road.

Small fish are no longer generally sustainable as people food.

Watch out for food fraud.

Don't buy the hype; eat wheat

This is so true in general, and it's also true that "Russians are die-hard askers." My mother breaks the asker rule, though, by not being willing to take "no" for an answer; askerism is contingent upon the asker respecting the 'no' the first time around. And I've had to 'no' another Eastern European more than once on the same ask and found it highly annoying. Anyway, I was horrified a few months ago when a friend missed his plane out of National and didn't directly ask whether he could crash here (I told him, next time call, don't text, so I definitely hear it, but he explained that he wanted to give me the option of pretending not to have gotten the text). Conversely--I'm (usually) an asker but also an offerer--when I offer something, especially food, I only get annoyed when people hesitate to take it out of politeness (not taking it because they don't want it is fine). But yes: I've found this dichotomy (or spectrum) to be an issue with dating.

I'd like to add my two cents (no pun intended) to the Android-is-not-just-less-expensive argument. I love my SII and I do not want an iPhone, based on my experiences using other people's iPhones as well as using an iPad now. I've thought about it, but I just like Android that much more.

This column is generally hilarious but it brings us back to the issue at the heart of Facebook: it's a medium made for sharing $hit (no pun intended, again) no one else cares about. If you're on Facebook and you, too, share your own $hit, don't complain when other people share theirs or their kids.
Also: does anyone else think it's awesome that Jezebel has a "poop" tag?

Speaking of over-sharing and ironic tags, I thought about creating a tag on this blog for posts that address the size of my ass, but I thought better of it. I'm hoping we (mom, the GH) can just stop talking about it.

I don't eat anywhere fancy enough that photographing food is an issue.

I'm going to try washing my hair with baking soda.

What's your courtesy style?

Wednesday morning roundup

In the interest of balance, I'm leaning toward backing off the "how f*ed up is India" stories, but there are just so many of them.

Syrian Kurds are not pro-regime.

Egypt as Exhibit A: elections do not a democracy make.

In Venezuela, life imitates literary style.

Is outlining counterproductive unless you do it after you've drafted?

Listen to yourself before making a commitment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday morning roundup

To designate Eritria as Africa's North Korea is to say a lot.

Here are all the nasty things you would never have to do to your body because you have reproductive rights.

Bruni on human dignity.

Monday, January 21, 2013

On style

Robin Givhan's most excellent analysis of FLOTUS as fashion icon and influence-wielder:
Obama is a fashion icon — for all of the attention, discomfort and power that phrase might suggest. But she has been dogged by skepticism and disappointment in the fact that her work has not been substantive, that it has not been worthy of her educational pedigree. The fascination with her clothes has only fueled that debate.
But is substance being confused with controversy? Obama did not dive into the roiling seas of health-care reform as former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton did. But is tackling a pathology that threatens the life expectancy of generations of children any less significant?
and [yes, do note the misplaced comma, or else the "that"/"which" mix-up]

Style is dignity, self-respect and confidence.
While Obama did not invent the sleeveless sheath, she gave it distinctive verve by pairing it with lean, sculpted arms. Those arms, that powered her through celebrity push-up competitions and surely must have hugged a million White House visitors, set her apart from the generation of women who preceded her into the White House. Obama reveled in her athleticism, her physical fitness. Her arms continue to be a rallying cry for gym-going women who struggle through just-one-more-set of bicep curls. Style is a synonym for health and vigor.


Is there something to be said for parental match-making?

Does this letter to Carolyn remind you of any other parents you've read about? I feel for the letter-writer and commend her for standing her ground, i.e., liking herself the way she is. I also commend Carolyn for suggesting that she tell her parents where to stick their concern. I hope that's more effective for her than it ever was for me.

Sun worship

In some ways, I am my mother's child. Specifically, I love sunrises and sunsets. The sunrise is from a week or two ago; the sunset is from tonight. Both sets of photos were taken from my windows, so no ocean, or Paris, or Stockholm here, but the sky is still beautiful.

Monday morning roundup

India's child labor tragedy.

The mercury emissions treaty is adopted.

Rhino poaching is evil.

Self-awareness is an ingredient for success.

Manhattan is expensive.

So is this area (WashPo did a similar article a few years ago). As I take deep breaths to deal with some unexpected costs of homeownership, I have to remind myself that I'm still getting a better deal than renters.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday evening roundup

Oh, Greece; could your governance crisis be any more ridiculous?

When did "you" become the "you" we say now?

I've heard less offensive men (only slightly less offensively) echo Pat Robertson's statements here:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pat Robertson's Romance Advice
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

And I can *almost* understand one side of them if it weren't for the double standard. In other words--words that I write for not the first time--guys, who says you can let yourselves go?

Is it bizarro world? Why am I constantly finding myself annoyed at (some of) the people calling themselves feminists? I should be even more annoyed with the Post's framing of the issue: of course "feminists" are going to disagree because feminists are not a monolithic bunch. But there are a lot of bigger issues there--why denigrate the issues that MO chooses to champion? Why is health/anti-obesity unimportant?

That's all annoying; good thing we have Earl Smith's very inspiring story.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mmm, molasses

Ernessa, I absolutely love this "image" of the Higgs boson (or, rather, of markers of its debris). I was actually considering getting a Higgs boson watch since I'm having ongoing watch drama--and so I'm in the market for a new one--and because I have to pretend to understand physics for work, I thought I'd get something thematic. But there's a little too much going on in those moving hands. Same with this relativity watch. Either of those would probably horrify any actual physicist, and oddly enough, I have a few friends who fit into that category so I'd better not offend them with questionable imagery.

Speaking of physics, I was a bit disappointed with Lawrence Krauss's op-ed. I just felt like anyone could have written it, so why can't Dr. Krauss infuse some of his vast wisdom into the op-ed, like he did this summer. I did very much enjoy his video series from this summer, in which he expounds on the molasses metaphor and generally makes all the Higgs fuss vaguely understandable to the masses. And do check out his very recent "Higgs boson--what's next?" piece.

The debate rages on (also, Jay loves him some emoticons)

Jay: Wikipedia says "badonkadonk" and describes it as onomatopoeic, so perhaps that renders spelling moot?? ;)
Jay: Wiktionary lists badunkadunk as a variation... 
Me: But I'd have thought that bedonk... was more onomatopoeic than badonk...
Jay: Listen to the Missy Elliot song "Work it" (in fact, I think I'll do it now) :p 
Jay: I've told you I called my UK phone "Precious" like Gollum's ring? 
Me: No but I believe it. Does it convey powers of invisibility?
Jay: Well, it makes me oblivious to those nearby--the opposite effect I guess ;)
Me: You'd better hide it if we're ever near a volcano together.
Jay: Lmfao
Me: Speaking of which, got vaca plans? not that I'm not about to spend a few thou fixing my roof, but still, a girl's gotta live. 
Jay: I meant to ask you if you were up for a vacation... as long as there's hiking and other opportunities for me to whine ;)
Me: opportunities for you to whine=opportunities for me to beat you, so I'm game
Jay: Lol. Schadenfreude much?? ;) 
Me: that's not really schadenfreude; more, bloodlust
Jay: Rofl

Previous sessions of the debate here, here, and here

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup and ramble

What Hagel shouldn't have to answer for.

Most of us can't help but consuming the offerings of Big Food.

You have to work to keep your relationship healthy

Where's DC in this infographic of places disproportionate in singles of one gender or the other?

I'm one of the last people one would expect to get $300 headphones (and you may have followed my Bose saga on these very pages so I'll spare you the details here), so let me tell you that mine have nothing to do with Dr. Dre and everything to do with frequent air travel.

By this week--the third week of January--the gym is back to normal: just us regulars now. It was bananas the last two weeks, but, apparently, the resolutionary resolve only lasts two weeks.

I got a New Yorker cartoon desk calendar this year after very much enjoying some of the cartoons on my coworker's calendar last year. This year, we both have (the same) one. I let him know that I loved today's cartoon; he wrote back to emphatically agree. We talked about how it was very classic New Yorker cartoon, which in part means that it comes off as merely stupid unless you're used to New Yorker cartoons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Phone call and ramble

The iPad is still probably (or at least mostly) wasted on me, but it's revolutionized the way I talk to my parents. It has also encouraged me to keep my New Year's resolution to meditate more. Yes, I know the irony: you shouldn't need tools, lo- or hi-tech, to meditate; you only need yourself. That said, there's something about an app that records (and times) meditation sessions that just helps. But I digress.

Having an iPad means I can be more mobile in Skyping with my parents, which they love to do. It means I can indulge their preference to video chat while taking the focus off of me, by directing the camera at the cat. I can follow her around with it. But I didn't follow her to the litter box, which created a space for me to turn the camera back to me. Which, in turn, created a space for mom to comment on the zit on my forehead.

She did not comment on my hair, which is unusual for her. She commented on my hair with great concern the other day. Did I always wear it that way? Did I wear it that way to work?

I'm worried about my dad. I don't think he'll enjoy retirement. I asked him about how he was feeling about it; he said he was aware that he'd miss work, miss being useful. He'll feel that his skills, expertise, and experience are wasted. But now that his contract is definitively ending, he's disinclined to take a job farther from home.

I'm not sure why I'm not worried about my mom. I think I am, but it's gelled into acceptance, of "it is what it is." I feel so disconnected from her right now, largely because of her own ways, but I also don't resent her. When my boss told me today that I had a winning personality--and this is someone I've worked with for years, on and off--I graciously took the compliment, but I didn't feel like relishing in any "see, mom!" gloating. This is a good thing, in and of itself and in and of the source: I don't feel the need to validate myself against mom's critiques. But it's almost like the lack of all resentment and defensiveness created a vacuum that positive emotions haven't yet filled. Wait, that's not really true: there's been understanding, forgiveness, compassion: understanding that she is who she is and that the nasty things she says to me have everything to do with her and nothing to do with me; forgiveness for those things; and compassion, over her not being able to do any better.

But there's still a space--is there a part of me that misses mom as adversary? As a source of absurdity? "Misses" is the wrong word, but perhaps I expect it and I'm not sure what to do now that I've gotten to the point that I don't care.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday evening roundup

Olive oil is good for architecture.

Waxing or otherwise clearing one's nether-regions is a boon to public health.

What tips should I submit to : Vegans: Have tips on ingredients, recipes, strategies? I already left a comment here.

Meanwhile, here's a guide to plant-based eating for meat-lovers.

Someone's mother-in-law is as bad as my mother when it comes to being catty about other people's weight. Just as I was grateful, at my highest weight, that I never hated my body even as I would have loved to be thinner, I'm grateful now that I'm not obsessed enough to care or even notice what other people weight. Though I do resent nosy comments, even though I've never gotten anything as bad as this. Let's all live and let live.

Is moving on overrated? Ironically, once the chemical emotional burn of my last relationship had faded, it was surprisingly easy to let that ex go. I wonder whether that's because we were so fundamentally incompatible that even as I had to mourn the interpersonal connection, there was never a utopian, shared future to mourn, because any shared future would have made me miserable.

Anyway, I went on a date tonight. It was neither bad nor good, just blah. First one since the guy who thinks I'm batsh!t (mind you, I was out of town a lot since then). Point is, I'm trying.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday evening roundup

The Irish Potato Famine, like all famines, was a man-made disaster.

Fast forward to present day: food waste is rampant.

Red Square is not getting any less red.

Love it (the quote, not the silly article):
For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.
“If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”
I don't know about a week in advance, but forethought and effort are good.

Banana Republic's ancient history.

I watched the episode of "The Mindy Project" where Danny was taken to task for having played a bunch of music by "Jacob Dylan's dad."

Sunday morning roundup

I guess this is progress, but justice for women in India is a long road

Given the GQ links I posted the other day, the objectification style of 1915--wow, ankles--seems almost welcome. Is it progress that GQ wouldn't suggest that, in spite of our more rankable body parts, women aren't interested in policy?

Evolutionary biology has its limits.

The Panama Canal is expanding. I used to be really on top of Panama Canal issues, but it was probably the least exciting thing we saw in Panama.

Phone call

I'd been thinking about how it might be time to get over myself and visit my parents, as much as the very thought fills me with anxiety, even if I observed the self-established 48-hour limit. So, the other night, I looked at tickets and called my parents to ask whether a certain weekend would work. I also thought about inviting them here (not that that fills me with any less anxiety, but it is a thought, since dad is actually retiring, so weekdays would be open). But when I called, I got recordings saying their line had been disconnected. A day later, I reached them via Skype, at which point my mom launched herself on a rabid, hate-filled rant about how this--the disconnected phone--was the fault of unions and this is what Obama has done to America. Which reminded me how much what a toxic environment my mom created, even when it wasn't directly based on insulting me. That doesn't mean I shouldn't spend time with my parents; just that doing it will be very frustrating and dispiriting.

I had a horrible, selfish thought, as I thought about how dad was sacrificing his sanity--by not taking on more work to stay with mom--about how, well, he chose her. He had to know what he was getting into. Even he can't stand her rabid rants, even though he pretty much agrees with her on substance (well, not to the point of the president's personally keeping her phone disconnected). Regardless of whether I chose her, she is my mother, and I owe her something, even at some expense to my sanity. The issue is, what's the right balance?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday morning roundup

Dyes from coal are cancerous.

I watch neither show, but I think the Kardashian-Dunham comparison misses the point. Yes, both business models are based on oversharing, but one requires some talent. Yes, both shows are cashing in by helping to sell questionable stuff. But I still don't see it.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Before I continue, I want to tell you that I hate Blogger. I hate Blogger because I am writing this post twice, because it froze the first time without saving anything. I guess I had been warned, but I'd gotten that nasty error message before while writing, but it always did save or manage to post. But not this time. Perhaps I should be directing my ire at Firefox, because when I finally gave up, there was some updating action. Did Firefox crash my draft on purpose so I would hurry up and let it update? Those jerks. Anyway, here it goes again.

Do you ever have songs come into your head as if on cue? Like, whenever you're shopping at a certain place, you think of a song about that place? Or about shopping? Sometimes it's a good sign. When "Under the Milky Way" (Church) finds itself in my head, I'm usually looking at stars or thinking about stars, which means I'm usually traveling or camping (not a lot of stars to be had in this area). Other songs have less fortunate associations; "Send in the Clowns" (Sondheim) means I'm ruing my personal life; "Good Fortune" (P.J. Harvey) means I've gone into work hungover ("In Chinatown/hungover..."). Which was the case this morning.

See, we went to see the Big Band with Macy Gray at the Howard Theater. It was worth it just for her costume changes, though the last one was sparkly enough so as to be blinding. But the Howard Theater, unbeknownst to us, had a $10/person minimum, which was not an issue in and of itself, but was an issue because (1) we didn't know--didn't even know they served food--so we had eaten and drank beforehand and (2) there was nothing--NOTHING--on the menu that I could eat. Even the fries, according to my friends, were cooked in animal grease. So we got a bottle of wine, and left tipsier than we'd intended to.

I crashed at my friend's house--she lives near the theater and not far from work--and rode in with her the next morning, at the crack of dawn. And my head felt it.

I left work earlyish to go museum-hopping with Jay, who's in town for MAL (hint: it's neither woman- nor vegan-friendly). First, through the sculpture garden of the National Gallery, where Jay proudly, correctly identified a sculptor or two, we headed to the Sackler Gallery. Outside of which he saw something that looked to him like a cookie, which made him want to lick it.
An anthropomorphic stele in the Roads of Arabia exhibit

We came inside the building, where I took off my coat. Jay gasped in quasi-horror at my frame.

Jay: you don't even have a badonkadonk anymore! 
A.: [Horrified] I DO TOO! [Sticking out said badonkadonk]. I'm tweeting this. Did we ever agree on how to spell badonkadonk?
Jay: We agreed to disagree. You spell it differently.
A.: I thought we looked it up.
Jay: There were various acceptable spellings.
A.: Have we had this conversation too many times? 

This was one of those questions where if it has to be asked, the answer is yes.

Anyway, we proceeded to the exhibits, where we saw some Ai Weiwei and other cool stuff, and then we proceeded to the Hirschorn, where we saw some more Ai Weiwei and more other cool stuff. Much of which reminded Jay of other foodstuffs. From there, we went to the Archives, where there was, miraculously, no line and very little crowd, and there we saw (original) copies of the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution, as well as an exhibit on the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Afterward, we parted ways, Jay to a happy hour, my away from (a different) happy hour. I was more in need of a detox hour. I can drink more when we meet up again tomorrow.

Friday evening roundup

Can we leave the nazis out of gun control discourse?

Trolls are not helpful.

When it comes down to it, most people intuitively support reproductive rights.

Wow, this--or, rather, the discussed column--is pretty offensive, but also really boring. I could only skim as fast as I could to get to the offending sentence, because I can't be bothered to give a $hit about this woman's not-quite mid-life crisis. I'm surprised that the linking article didn't ask this of Ms. Wurtzel: if women supported by their husbands are prostitutes, does the same go for men supported by their wives? I would also ask her how she defines "completely equal" and, more importantly, ask her where she gets off judging other people's relationship dynamics, but it's not worth it.

What remains unoffensive: Musburgergate. Could some of the offended turn their attention to the rampant objectification in supposedly legitimate sources? When I suggest that we pick our battles, it's not in the sense that little things don't matter--they emphatically do matter:
This means that even apparently minor expressions of sexism or jokes about rape— like those made by a former Steubenville student in a now infamous video— can have an outsized influence because they imply that degrading women is acceptable and that rape is a laughing matter. By implicitly conveying such warped social norms, these “micro-assaults” discourage bystanders from standing up because they suggest that they won’t be supported in their attempts at deterrence and may even become targets themselves because their views stand out from the crowd.
But this means--if we're going to be vigilant about the little things--we'd best not distract with things that don't matter. Get up in arms when it counts.

A letter to Carolyn where both sides are misguided.

Whatever you're smoking, you really should ask first, and not so that it comes off as a rhetorical question.

Brown eyes, on men, are seen as more trustworthy.

Don't bother with the trends and just eat fruit.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday evening roundup

India is even more f*ed up than previously thought.

It would behoove the Cabinet to include women.

You know, I'm (among) the first to call people out for misogyny, but this ESPN/Webb thing is overblown. I just don't follow this "logic."

Mesh wrappers aren't so good for the animals.

The National Cathedral will host gay weddings.

Kathleen Parker is horrified by Honey Boo-Boo (and the fact that she has an audience).

Wednesday morning roundup

The humanitarian response to the Syrian conflict is struggling.

A priceless quote from an amazing story of strength and perspective:
I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.
If we take honor out of the equation, rape will still be horrible, but it will be a personal, and not a societal, horror. We will be able to give women who have been assaulted what they truly need: not a load of rubbish about how they should feel guilty or ashamed, but empathy for going through a terrible trauma.

On a lighter note: I love football players (who knew!) Take Chris Kluwe:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Chris Kluwe
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

and Bret Lockett.

The vegan diet is rated third-best against diabetes. And I can assure you that it's really not that restrictive. Really. I feel like macrobiotics gets a bad rap here, even though I abandoned macrobiotics early on. I now take the flexitarian approach to macrobiotics: it's a great way to prioritize whole foods rather than processed foods and to focus on what you can eat rather than what you can't when you become vegan. That is very valuable. But you have to wonder about anything that keeps you away from fruit.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Clever conversation

I have been known to serenade Gracie with "Baby Got Back," but tonight, for some reason, she inspired me to "Just the Way You Are":
I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I [love] you just the way you are.
Note: this newfound tolerance/appreciation does not extend to my dating life. In dating, I do want clever conversation.

I dated a guy over the summer (late summer/early fall) that I tried really, really hard to like, but he bored me. The dude--nice as he was--had nothing to talk about. I bring this up because a friend who is committed to regularly advising me about dating thinks I should call him back. But I went out with him five times and there was zero chemistry and zero conversation unless I made all of it myself. How is that fair? Even I don't like to talk that much.

The irony was, this guy really liked cats (the compounded irony is said friend mistrusts men who likes cats). He kept asking me about Gracie, only he kept calling her "Tracie." I kept correcting him, but he kept calling her Tracie. That was the last straw.

Tuesday evening roundup

Pigovian taxes have bipartisan support.

After a certain age, it's time to find a new designation for your boy/girlfriend.

Do all women, by definition, have curves? I'm all about embracing all body types... make that most body types, because if I'm going to be honest, I cannot find these beautiful. But I'm glad someone does.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday evening roundup

While we're all looking at India in disgust--as we have a right to do--let's keep in mind our own shortcomings in holding rapists accountable. [Note: that graphic has been discredited.]

Have you ever felt the urge to kill over grammar?

Universal compassion is not really in our nature.

Monday morning roundup

This article on Sino-Japanese relations is accurate but leaves me demanding more.

Tehran is plagued by smog.

Greece's governance issues run deep.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Quick Sunday morning roundup

Bad finances can and do happen to good, smart people; in fact, poverty encourages short-sighted financial decision making.

There's a lot that is interesting about being Jewish in name only, but this article misses (yawn).

Don't hate her because she was beautiful.

Guys have themselves to blame for being "friend-zoned." And women should proceed cautiously before embracing a cowboy.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Overthinking shouts and murmurs

More often than not, the New Yorker's "Shouts and Murmurs" section is forgettable. Once in a blue moon--usually when Paul Rudnick is involved, it's hilarious. I've also come to expect good things from Simon Rich, and I certainly won't describe his most recent column as forgettable--since it keeps coming back to mind, weeks after I read it--and I wouldn't describe it as unfunny, but I also can't wholeheartedly endorse it.

First of all, there's that unfortunate rape joke. Please consult Jezebel's guide to rape jokes for a refresher on when/how such things could possibly be funny. I'm really struggling to phrase this aptly, for obvious reasons, but here it goes: it's not that the rape joke in the column is offensive in and of itself, as rape jokes go; it's that rape is not funny, and he's making a joke about it, in a humor column. Yes, it's in the context of making the perpetrator sound like even more of a douche bag, but it just mars the whole column in terms of being humorous.

That aside, the overall message of the column--yes, yes, I'm reading too much into it--just doesn't sit well with me. I read that message as, "women don't mind dating men who are kind of dumb as long as they are kind. They prefer dumbness to pretentiousness." Okay. Nobody likes pretentiousness. But is it unreasonably picky for a woman not to be attracted to someone who's dumb as hell? I'm not trying to date Nobel laureates, but a basic grasp of spelling and grammar shouldn't be too much to ask, right?

Saturday morning roundup

Many Syrians are on the fence. In the spirit of finding humor in everything, you've gotta love this:
One young man, Nour, said he gave up on revolution when he tried to join an Islamist brigade, Al Tawhid, but was rejected for wearing skinny jeans.
Do laugh, because nothing else about that article is funny.

Russia's latest victim: Radio Liberty.

David Brooks urges patience and compassion for the less quick. I'd agree, not least because I've certainly been on both sides. I also agree with Mr. Brooks in his assessment of Midwesterners as ridiculously nice. They're so nice I don't know how to deal with them.

Don't embrace obesity quite yet.

Behind the Google ruling.

Gail Collins has an interactive quiz for you.

Which place comes ahead in the battle of the Washingtons?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday evening roundup

A heart-warming series of charts from the meat industry.

Why would kids be too young to understand veganism? We could argue that kids don't naturally understand eating animals.

Oh, and if you can't handle a vegan wedding, you're the one with the problem.

Just a few days after I lambasted Room for Debate (for being a vapid waste of space), The Frisky reinforces that assessment. Unlike the dissenting women in that article and this one--and both make excellent points that I absolutely agree with--I don't wear makeup (well, I hardly wear makeup). And I don't need telling men that they approve of, or prefer that look. But let's not let the makeup debate (or the "what guys think about makeup" debate) get in the way of how vapid these entries are, especially those equating make-up with taking care of oneself. I say this as someone who regularly argues that people should dress well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wednesday morning roundup

My body has yet to get the "back to work" memo, i.e., waking hours are 5am-10pm, not 8am-midnight. Anyway, your roundup:

China's famine survivors don't know what to do with the era of obesity, nor does the government:
And the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention makes vague references to “health promotion” and providing “scientific guidance for healthy diets,” but nationwide campaigns about eating healthfully and exercising are not evident.

In fact, pushing the population to lose weight, exercise and cut back on unhealthful foods seems to strike a discordant note to some inside the government, French says. “When I talked to government officials, their argument was: Right now we’re trying to tell them to do and not do a lot of things,” such as not spitting on the street, not dropping trash everywhere and not driving “like complete idiots.”
Oh, communism:
In Laos, opposition to government policies is often squelched. The director of Helvetas, a Swiss development organization, was expelled on 48 hours’ notice last month, accused of an unfriendly attitude to the government. The director, Anne-Sophie Gindroz, had raised the issue of the government’s forcing peasants to sell their land at very low prices, a practice that is now seen as mainly serving the interests of Chinese-financed developers.
Latvia bore its austerity and came out ahead, but it's too unique to serve as a model.

If you're after energy, eat food.

Changing the food system will take patience and tradeoffs:
Well-cared-for animals will necessarily be more expensive, which means we’ll eat fewer of them; that’s a win-win. They’ll use fewer antibiotics, they’ll be produced by more farmers in more places, and they’ll eat less commodity grain, which will both reduce environmental damage and allow for more land to be used for high-quality human food like fruits and vegetables.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Phone call

I called my parents to wish them a happy new year. They wished me one back; dad elaborated, at which point mom murmured something about how she would have added one or two things (work on my disposition? meet a guy?) but thought better of it.

They asked me what I did. I said I went to two New Years' parties. Mom than interrogated me about the nature of the parties.

Mom: Where were these parties?
A.: One was north of DC, one west.
Mom: I mean, who hosted them?
A.: Friends.
Mom: Which friends? When I tell you where we go, I don't just say friends.
A.: That's because I know who your friends are.
Mom: Well, how do you know these friends?
A.: The first is a former coworker, the second a grad school friend.
Dad: Are a lot of grad school people still in DC.
A.: A fair amount. I picked up one on the way from the first party to bring to the second.

And at the second, I was reminded that this friend and I had a problem: our names rhyme. This is a particular problem because we have a number of mutual friends, so we're often standing together at events they're hosting, and we're in a position of introducing ourselves one after the other. Or--I have a car, she doesn't, so we often arrive together--we walk in and introduce ourselves. At which point we sound like the cutesy twins. We've been through it enough that we'll make a conscious point of standing at opposite points of a room, but eventually we end up back at one another's side, and introduce ourselves consecutively, again, in verse.

Anyway, each parent asked whether I overstuffed myself--I think they forget that I'm vegan. Not that a vegan can't overstuff herself--I did it all last week--but at both parties, the only non-vegan fare was fruit and vegetables, so I just had those, and a little bit of champagne and wine, respectively. Then I got home--having dropped my rhyming friend off at the Metro--and had a big bowl of pasta, followed by some wine and chocolate. Because I eat carbs ;).

Oh: I'd like to point out that the vaunted Google Maps (i.e., the app on my phone) twice led me astray by directing me to turn left at no-left-turn intersections (from 14th Street (northbound) onto Constitution, and then from 16th Street (southbound) onto Harvard Street). Especially to the first party, I got the impression that my phone was taking me by way of the Ganges (though that was preferable than taking me by way of Wisconsin Avenue), but it did recalculate quickly when it was clear I didn't make the turns it initially told me to make.

New Year's morning roundup

Was the first Gulf War the unvarnished success it came to be in legend?

Minimum wage laws may lower costs for businesses by reducing turnover.

The Times goes ironic with a lame trend story about trend stories.

A recipe that combines three of my favorite things: lentils, butternut squash, and balsamic vinegar.

I have very mixed feelings--resulting from conflicting convictions--about sexy PETA ads. Most of the ads are about fur, some about food, and we can have other conversations about how compelling they are (does it surprise anyone that Holly Madison would rather go naked than wear fur? wouldn't she rather go naked than wear anything?). But I digress, let's get back to food. Consuming fewer animal products is good for everyone, but do the ends justify the means if the means are based in unnecessary body ideals? I'm not interested in taking sides between the ethical and health bases for plant-based eating, because both are valid--and both reinforce each other, since there is a questionable but reasonable argument that ethical-only vegans are more likely to quit because they don't consider nutritional realities. There's a middle ground (and also a double standard: non-vegans can fail to thrive as well): mostly whole foods is the way to go. When I first started out, I went for macrobiotic because that was my way of not falling into the junk-food vegan trap. I still prefer to eat unprocessed food most of the time, but I've come to abandon some of the key tenants of macrobiotics (for example, I embrace fruit, chocolate, and wine). Point is, it's not all brown rice, all the time vs. all Boca burgers and oreos; make it at least 85 percent real food, and you're good.

On that topic: Your guide to vegan booze, and Dr. Barnard's TED speech.