Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday roundup

Poland can do better than coal.

It's not too late to walk the dog back (in Crimea), but it's all about institution-building.

Valenti on rape culture.

As discussed in the next thread (see Cancel-Colbert, below), censoring conversation is not the answer, and Theater J is not the enemy.
The incident is but one of many examples of how the Jewish community labors under a not-so-hidden loyalty test regarding what one can and cannot say about Israel...
I understand what’s behind this atmosphere of fear and retribution. Israel is increasingly treated as a pariah nation despite being the only true democracy in the Middle East and having a far better human rights record than its neighbors. While powerless to change the antipathy of so much of the world toward Israel, some Jews try to demand of their co-religionists a loyalty to the country that allowed the Jewish people to reconstitute itself after the Holocaust. Yet with the passage of time, fewer and fewer Jews carry these memories, and their ties to Jewish solidarity weaken. Attempts to enforce communal discipline and to require a non-critical assessment of Israel not only cannot succeed in America, they also are likely to alienate the very Jews the community hopes to engage.
One gift Nelson Mandela gave the world was the understanding that no healthy nation can be built on the back of a historical injustice without a process of truth and reconciliation in which all parties come to grips with the past. There is plenty of blame to go around on all sides. Until the parties to the Middle East conflict are ready for such a process, perhaps art will have to suffice.
Maryland's motto has some interesting language. Actually, that story speaks to what has turned into the Cancel-Colbert debacle (or what sparked it: language needn't have been nefarious or known to be so at the time a name or phrase was coined, but names and phrases should adapt with the times). But, back to cancel-colbert, I will quote Erin Gloria Ryan:
This isn't to say that fights against perceived racism or injustice should only be fought if they're guaranteed to succeed. But, you know, is this the hill you want to die on? Trying to get a guy who owned the shit out of President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Dinner fired from a 9-year-long Emmy-winning show because you don't understand how TV show Twitter accounts work? Good luck.
People have contexts that extend further than the paragraph containing a sentiment. Colbert, for example, has starred on a show that has run for almost a decade, four nights per week, with scattered breaks. His show exists to poke holes in the absurdity of sexism, racism, the media industry, American imperialism, celebrity, warmongering, homophobia, and every other archaic -ism most left-leaning people would be glad to see banished from society. He succeeds 99% of the time, which means he's better at comedy than most doctors are at medicine. He's on our team. Sometimes people on our team make, or appear to make mistakes, or have some growing to do. That's okay, because no person is 100% perfect all the time.
While we're on the topic of giving people a break, even Kathleen Parker says everyone should back off of Michelle O.

Steven Pearlstein devotes an entire column to the idea fact that it's really not cool to shut down the nation's capital every time it snows.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday roundup and ramble

Note that special Chinese airline food for elite government officials is... largely plant-based.

Whither NATO?

It's not a bad thing that our policy interests don't align perfectly with those of Saudi Arabia.

Art institutions better f*ing care about the labor conditions behind their buildings.

If I did want to actually reason with my mother, I'd send her Fareed Zakaria's column.

Shockingly, there are gender-biased implications in the Christie bridge report.

It's unconscionable to send tons of perfectly edible peanut butter to a landfill.

Yay! We'll soon have a methane policy/strategy.

It's time for another installment of "I can't believe you people have me defending this person" ("this person" has previously taken the form of Kate Upton, among others). Today, it's Gwyneth Paltrow. Like most people, I find GP tiresome and insufferable; she's smug, overrated, and interchangeable in just about everything she's done (with the possible exception of "Sylvia"). She was once a legitimate style icon, but once she realized it, she started donning clothes that wore her, other than the other way around. Her lifestyle advice is an unfunny, tone-deaf joke. All this to say, if people didn't love to hate her, she'd be a non-entity; there would be no reason whatsoever to pay attention to her.

But, all of that said, what's so wrong with the idea of conscious uncoupling? What's wrong with amicable divorce and looking inward to heal and grow, rather than to fall back on bitterness and resentment? Furthermore, is it really accurate--much less fair--to characterize an ended marriage as "failed," if that marriage was happy for most of its duration? Is a more successful marriage one that endures past its healthy point for either party? Just sayin'.

I picked up my new phone the other day, but I haven't had time to set it up. Here are the last pictures from my old phone (not including the ones at Silo, which, btw, has a lovely house wine).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Phone call

I was pretty upset last night after talking to mom. As in: "it might actually be too much work not to hate you; it takes an active effort, and I've been making that effort, but you are determined to undermine it at every turn, so maybe I should save both of us the trouble and just hate you?" Ironically(?), giving myself that option gave me the freedom to come around to, "meh, it's not worth it. I'm sorry, as usual, that you can't help but be this way; you must hate yourself, much of the time. You affect me a little bit--enough that I realize how important it is to ration my exposure to you--but I don't need to hate you."

STFU, Princeton Mom

I haven't had much to say about Princeton Mom's uber-misguided ('offensive' goes without saying, but is not the point) comments about rape, mostly because everyone else has said it better. But there's one point I want to emphasize. I'm not sure that no one's said it (particularly in this context), but it's worth repeating: to the extent that she has a point, that point is part of the problem.

Let's dissect this concept that the woman is ultimately responsible for her own safety, just as--in her example--the pedestrian is responsible for looking both ways, even when the pedestrian has a green light. Or, rather, it behooves the pedestrian to look both ways, even if it's the pedestrian's right to cross the street. Leave aside for now the fact that this is a fundamentally flawed analogy, because in that scenario, the cars are innocent passerby, going about their business, perhaps somewhat distracted. You can't always control for human behavior; a driver may be changing the station or yelling at his kid, or whatever, so you'd better look both ways. But a rapist is not a distracted driver; a rapist is willfully looking to assault the victim. That analogy would only work if drivers were going around trying to strike pedestrians. And that analogy is dangerous, because putting the onus on the pedestrians would help the drivers get away with it. It would create a culture where offensive driving were the norm, because a smart pedestrian would watch every step. Hell, a really smart pedestrian might not ever leave the house.

There are lots of things that a pedestrian who truly cared about her safety might never do: never go out, never trust anyone, etc. Not that that would really keep you safe; someone could jam a car into your house. But what taking this uber-flawed analogy into absurdity gets us is, the secondary effects of rape culture: the limits that women impose or are expected to impose on themselves to stay "safe." And let's be clear: they are limits, and limits have a price--an opportunity cost, if you will. Of course, there are things that all of us do all the time (such as looking both ways), but there are things that we do--or consider doing--at a cost. And it is bullshit to expect women to continue to bear that cost by implying that, if we try to shift it, whatever happens is our fault. That bullshit has a name, and it is rape culture.

Wednesday roundup

The invasion of Crimea has brought about, among other things, the rest of the world's bizarre confusion about Russian women.

And Americans, for one, have no excuse for being confused; Gloria Steinem has been rocking powerful and beautiful for decades.

It's not just you; most people think women look better with less (or no) makeup.

We don't know the full story, but--all while some girls aren't allowed to wear leggings--this girl wasn't feminine enough for her Christian school.

Beauty pageants are for chickens.

For the gazillionth time: industrialized meat production kills many more animals than the ones that get eaten. Eat the stuff on these gorgeous maps instead. Also: the Austrian study is full of $hit.

Hold that champagne... but only if your champagne was for inflation (of the cosmic variety).

SciAm takes on the other two-body problem.

Got a cold that won't go away? You're in good company.

About privilege, can we distinguish between "let your voice take a backseat to those who are affected" (good) and "shut up and listen" (not helpful)? And yes, I agree that body shaming (and body confidence) doesn't correlate to condition the way other things (race, gender, etc.) do.

If you don't know how to start or hold an meaningful conversation without insulting or offending someone, the problem is not that you're too interesting for your own good. Also, if you get sanctimonious when someone asks how your wife is (after she just gave birth), the problem is your head up your @ss, not the people asking after your wife.

Mmm, I love this:
I have seldom met an individual of literary tastes or propensities in whom the writing of love was not directly attributable to the love of writing.
A person of this sort falls terribly in love, but in the end it turns out that he is more bemused by a sheet of white paper than a sheet of white bed linen. He would rather leap into print with his lady than leap into bed with her. (This first pleases the lady and then annoys her. She wants him to do both, and with virtually the same impulse.)
I'm normally not above gwynethfreude, but I just can't bring myself to rejoice at someone else's breakup (no matter how annoying that someone). The mitigating factor is that it's always appropriate to smirk when a sanctimonious lifestyle pusher is brought down to earth--and I certainly did so when one of The Rules ladies got divorced... but all I can say here is, 'meh, it happens.'

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday roundup

Read McFaul's piece and--for a much longer read--Meek's piece to better understand what's going on with Russia. Do not read this piece, characterized by missing nuance so much so that it's painful (and disappointing from a publication like the Christian Science Monitor).

Whither Bangladesh?

Humaira Awais Shahid writes about how much it truly sucks to be a woman (or girl) in rural Pakistan.

Try to read about Jeff Bauman's post-Boston Marathon bombing recovery without tearing up. Then tear up at this giraffe's goodbye kiss to a dying zoo worker.

Today's wise words from Carolyn: "Justified anger is no less corrosive than other kinds."

Feminism does not preclude thoughtfulness.

Does anyone else identify with the "wealthy hand-to-mouth" phenomenon?

Ugh. It's true that we'll never know who was the biggest jerk in the T fat-shaming episode but I tend to have less sympathy than Jezebel or The Frisky bloggers for whomever is taking up more of a seat than is his/hers. If you can't fit in a seat, don't try to take it. Standing is also an option, and a better one than sitting on someone else. If you do end up sitting on someone else, don't get upset if the person you're sitting on takes issue with what you're doing.

Dean Burnett tries to make science, sexy.

Times trend stories: ironic on purpose?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Solopsistic Sunday ramble

As I get ready to say goodbye to my phone of two years--and, naturally, overthink the events of those last two years as coexperienced by that phone--I have to wonder (or admit) that I'm easily amazed, and definitely caught off guard by the passage of time. This sometimes manifests itself in silly, basic ways--every week, as I empty my vacuum canister, I'm amazed at how much dust and dirt accumulated in my house since I so thoroughly cleaned it the previous week. And now it's manifesting itself in a more profound way, as I go through the photos on my phone, wondering which are worth keeping (and what had kept me from deleting some earlier). These aren't all the pictures I took; my iPad, once I won it, became the tool of choice to capture the garden (and Gracie), and I continued to take vacation/travel pictures with my actual camera. But my phone was there when I didn't think I'd need a camera; it captured everything incidental about the last couple of years.

So here's what my phone saw, in the order that it saw it:

Sunday afternoon roundup

Geoengineering (with iron ore) is not the answer.

The extent to which quantitative analysis adds value to messy things like conflict is a longstanding debate (or wedge issue or open question) in the international affairs community. You can consider that in conjunction with this review of books on the brain: how much can looking at brain areas tell us about what goes on in the mind? I've sort of regretted not taking more (any?) neuroscience in college--I was more interested, like the reviewer, in the social psychology stuff--and I wouldn't mind getting back into it now, but not out of the sense that I missed out. Anyway, you can also pair that piece about consciousness with this piece on whether a corporation has concsiousness.

Tell people who tell you to smile that they're being culturally hegemonistic.

The spawn of the Title IX generation is full of fighters... in pink. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but let boys have their My Little Pony, too.

Baby-showerzillas are the new bridezillas.

Dr. Peiris said it best about the Daily Fail's epic fail:
I deeply pity the sort of person who can watch a report about ground-breaking news on the origins of the universe and everything in it, and see only the gender and skin colour of the panellists.
Well, there goes a major plot point in "Avenue Q." BTW, I once had to suffer through a pack (gaggle?) of physicists at a party debating whether Spider Man would ever reach terminal velocity.

Remember my review of "Particle Fever," which included past references to the idea that it behooves us all to understand complicated things--and for those who understand them very well to help us understand them a bit, instead of dismissing us as a lost cause? That's why Phil Plait wants you to tell your kids why the sky is looks blue.

You'll cringe at the corny batman theme stuff, but Karen Salmansohn's take on toxic relationships is spot on. Recall the truest words ever uttered, by Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe it." But so many of us spend a lot of time making excuses for other people.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hair, or If it's not one parent it's the other

When Skyping with my parents, I prefer to keep the camera on Gracie. Not only is she far more interesting, she also understands no Russian and, as such, is in no position to react to mom's critiques of her "inadequate" tail, among other things. I, on the other hand, am expected not only to understand when mom asks me what's wrong with my forehead, but also to respond. This is a challenge, because I don't believe there's anything wrong with my forehead (and "I don't know" is not a satisfactory answer as far as mom is concerned).

Unfortunately, after a healthy stretch of pointing the camera at the cat, I was asked to reverse the camera.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday roundup

Turkey's attempted Twitter ban is adorable and the responses are priceless.

Germany's reaping what its short-sighted energy policy hath sown.

Japan is unique.

As I discussed yesterday and earlier this week, we--our society--has a nasty tendency to define women by the men in their lives (or deaths). At that last link, Alyssa Rosenberg discusses that phenomenon in terms of what's on TV.

Yesterday I also touched on the brutal truth about bacon. Today we can complement that with the brutal truth about dairy.

There's more to Andrew Solomon's book than this, but to touch on just one thing: parents have a hard time not projecting their missed opportunities on their kids.

Was the late Lawrence Walsh the Old Man or the Marin?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday rambles: phones and me

It's been two years since I got my first smartphone, and my contract is up. The phone that so enamored me at first has revealed itself to be a piece of $hit mechanically: it freezes often and even spontaneously shuts off occasionally, which is not okay. I'd be perfectly happy with my S2 if it worked reliably, but it doesn't. I'm up for a newer model not because it's snazzier and newer, but because... it will more likely stay on and load $hit. And at this stage of my life and at this stage of what I pay for my phone, that phone had better load $hit.

So I started shopping. Did you know that smartphones are really f*ing expensive? Like, really f*ing expensive? WTF? Yeah, I know they're really pocket-computers, and I probably wouldn't mind if the people in China working on them got more of the spoils, but they're not, so I do mind.

Thursday roundup

You have to do some terrible things to get bacon.

Very balanced and nuanced Tymoshenko profile. Also: it's becoming clear that once you go European--even with seemingly minor things like temperature gauges--you never go back.

A pretty spot-on response to the idiotic NPR blog post about which region is worse for women.

In most cases, the answer to "how to talk to your kids about something difficult" is to tell them the truth (in this case, that truth is that there are better ways to help the homeless than by giving money to panhandlers).

Ooh, Schopenhauer on style:
Just as neglect of dress betrays contempt for the society in which a man moves, so does a hasty, careless, and bad style show shocking disrespect for the reader, who then rightly punishes it by not reading the book.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday roundup

Stephen Walt's take on Crimea.

Please take the following in the context of my having preached the case for civil internet discourse. That I believe in civil internet discourse only lends credence to what I'm about to say, which is, f* you, Washington Post, for the headline, and f* you Terrence McCoy, for "the blond model." What the f* does that have to do with anything, dipshit?? You people call that journalism? F* you.

Don't blame women for assuming the worst or erring on the side of caution; other dudes have trained us well. And yes, RAINN's perplexing dismissal of rape culture is misguided.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Crimeans might look to South Ossetia as a cautionary tale.

Here's a brief history of the universe (seriously).

Bloody hell. I have nothing more to say about L'Wren Scott being defined as someone's girlfriend than what everyone else has already said, but bloody hell. The f*ing Times did that?? Really? I did find it interesting that, unlike the Post, the Times' headline for its obituary of Bunny Mellon included no mention of her being Jackie O's confidante.

I don't know why this next discussion reminded me of the earlier one about doxxing--perhaps the uniting theme being about women's bodies being coopted. I think I've already linked to Nora Ephron's essay on breasts, and here's another along the same lines. I got really frustrated by the comments: it's not personal-- identify with neither "extreme"--but I naturally resent it when someone deems herself the arbiter of who belongs in a conversation (and who, conversely, should GTFO (in her words). FFS, complaining about the opposite experience is not humble-bragging; it can be problematic to the point where people have to get surgical reductions or have other issues, not least with regard to objectification. Mind you, some comments were spot-on.

Close-ups of waves are pretty.

Um... NSFW. And:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday afternoon roundup

Professor Strassler explains the BICEP2 readings and why they matter.

Botox is not the most dangerous way to look younger, as Phil Plait claims; you can stick your head in a particle accelerator to literally freeze the age of your face.

I'm displeased to present another installment of STFU, Jezebel, based on a somewhat less annoying but still off NPR blog post. Let's start with the first one: Who's pressuring American women to conform to an unattainable ideal? And who cares if someone perceives you as wrong? I don't know where to start with this stuff; the sad thing is, there's some value in the point they're trying to make, which is that beauty standards can be oppressive. But millions of women also just opt out of them and go their own way. Instead of attacking the standards, we should be raising girls to not give a $hit.

Snowy Monday morning roundup

Can Uganda's government (or its tabloids) explain why anyone should have to live in fear?

The conversation about the value of organic foods has to factor in the impact of pesticides (and fertilizers) on farm workers and their children.

Sensitivities aside--and Carolyn was right to mention them--no one should have to pretend to enjoy every minute of parenting a baby. You can appreciate something--and the LW does--without loving every minute of it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday roundup

One of the concerns about the privatization of science funding is the focus on targeted innovation rather than on the basic research that so often lays the groundwork for innovations no one knew to look for.

"The Hard Thing about Hard Things" looks to be full of useful insights.

Some background information to help you understand tomorrow's announcement on gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background.

Contrast the Times story about inherited wealth with Michelle Singletary's piece on the financial woes of millennials. Guess which is the source of this:
The same story plays out a thousand different ways: Hardscrabble grandfather makes the money, Junior sustains the business while living well all his days and then the Third, softened by a charmed life, fails in his duties as scion. “There’s a phrase: ‘Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations,’ ” says John Davis of Harvard Business School, who studies family wealth. “I’ve worked with families in 60 countries. They’ve all got some version of the same saying.”

The Times' ethicist takes on the Woody Allen conundrum.

Take the Russia analysis you see with a grain of salt, especially that of the "I told you so" or "look at me!," i.e. "when I was at this big important meeting..." variety. I actually do find the Five Myths about the Cold War helpful and fact-based.

The deal with Ecuador.

Well, that's one (NSFW) use of pi I've never seen before. BTW, on Friday night, I accidentally (and, ironically--since I'd just tweeted about how everyone had another 92 minutes to get pi out of their systems) discovered that my Droid has pi on the keyboard; tonight, I found that my iPad does not. Just sayin'.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday afternoon writeup

Central African Republic's miracle baby story is as sad as it is miraculous, but it's also a microcosm of how some humanity endures in every conflict.

Kurkov writes that Ukrainians have come to the end of agreeing to disagree, but for Steven Soter and Corey Powell demonstrate that for (good) scientists, it's the only way:
True, Bruno takes a big step forward from Copernicus in speaking explicitly about the infinite, and about the existence of other planets and suns; but he takes a big step backward by interpreting the universe more in theological than mathematical terms. You justly write, “It does not matter in the least where correct scientific ideas come from,” but my point is that Bruno’s cosmology was not a correct scientific idea, nor was it even a “guess” as Cosmos asserts. It was a religious and philosophical statement, one that sparked a great deal of stimulating debate in the 17th century but not one that advanced the broader cause of rationalism.
That is why I say that religion, not science, caused Bruno’s deadly clash with the Church. And that is why I spoke up on behalf of the forgotten British astronomer Thomas Digges. Digges, far more than Bruno, built on the tradition of Copernicus and sought to bring more of the universe into the grasp of math and geometry; far more than Bruno, he sought to create a whole community of Copernicans who could keep that process going. Digges at least banished the angels to the distant, starry realm. Interestingly, he was also the first to consider how the night sky can be dark in an infinite universe (a question now known as Olbers’ Paradox).
Back to where we agree: “Freedom of thought is the life blood of science.” I admire the way Cosmos tells this aspect of the Bruno story—and just to be clear, I greatly admire the entire Cosmos project, which is why I am being so critical here.
I just wish that, with this rare opportunity to present a pivotal historical era to a broad audience, Cosmos could portrayed Bruno not just as a victim of the “thought police” but as a complex, inspired, paradoxical participant in the grand struggle to create our modern view of the universe.
Meanwhile, Phil Plait's defense of pi (against tau) is lost on me. Here's a roundup of why anyone even cares (and a warning that next year's pi day is going to be out of control).

On talented writing.

Win (draw), lose, lose

I hadn't called my parents since Monday--and on Monday, I only talked to dad, as mom was asleep. He told me that she'd been going ape$hit over Crimea and lashing out at family friends who disagreed with her or held more balanced views. I worked late on Tuesday and Thursday, and went out on Wednesday and Friday. I mean, I didn't work so late that I couldn't call, but I worked late enough (and enough in general) that I knew no good would come of talking to my parents. Mom pushes my buttons on a good day; why am I going to call her when I'm tired and cranky, if it's going to end in my snapping at her no matter how determined I am not to?

So I didn't call during the rest of the week, and I didn't call in the morning since I had to get out of the house and had planned on calling this afternoon. But they called me and gave me $hit for not having called. That was the first loss by winning (i.e., not having talked when I was likely to have snapped). The second one hasn't happened yet, but the morning call has positioned me for it.

They asked where I was running off to, and I said I'd tell them later, hoping they'd forget to ask. I generally don't love telling my parents where I'm going or where I've been, because (1) mom has a criticism for everything ("why are you out so late?" or "that's expensive") and (2) I just don't like reporting to anyone about my comings and goings. But I especially didn't want to tell my parents that I was going to get a massage. I mean, if mom gives me $hit about paying for a haircut, you can only imagine what she'd have to say about a massage.

The truth is, like a good haircut, a massage is as much necessity as luxury. It's not about the spa experience; it's about releasing the $hit out of my insanely tense muscles. Every time I get a massage, the masseur or masseuse says something along the lines of, "what the hell are you doing to yourself?" I carry groceries; I carry a handbag, with my lunch in it, to work; I do yardwork and housework. And I end up with lots and lots of knots as a result.

As ridiculous and predatory as many groupons are (botox, BS weight-loss treatments, etc.), groupons have made massages affordable. I actually no longer use groupons because I've found a couple of really good providers (and once you go regularly, there are often savings in that, too). But groupons let you try different places at a lower price. Anyway, massages are not cheap, but they're worth paying for. But that's not something I'm going to even try to explain to my mother, so I have to think of something else to tell her if she asks. I don't like lying--especially not to my parents--and I don't do it unless it's just better for everyone. And that's the case at hand.

Saturday roundup and rambles

The Rohingya crisis is brutal inside and outside Burma.

Aaron David Miller points out you don't have to be a Ukraine expert to point out some gaping flaws in logic.

In a similar vein, I tend not to comment on--either to defend or critique--that which I haven't watched, but I don't have to have seen "Cosmos" (the remake) to agree with some critiques--like this one about the hagiography of science "martyrs"--and disagree with others, like some of the neither-here-nor-there articles linked from that one. I particularly don't like the demanding to know why "Cosmos" didn't turn its attention to more recent victims of anti-science dogma (um, because they're not relevant; maybe feature them in a documentary specifically about the victims of anti-science?). And I really didn't like these nit-picks, especially--and I cannot f*ing believe I'm defending physicists when they get called out for non-science, since I'm often calling them out for physical-science chauvinism against the social sciences, but here it is--the second item on the listicle, which argues that the multiverse is not science:
Any time a scientist begins a sentence with “Many of us suspect,” it is codespeak for “we sit around and discuss it at the bar.”
There’s nothing wrong with that. Should you get the chance to join them at that bar, please avail yourself of the opportunity, because there are few occupations where the participants are as funny and engaging as scientists.
Um, in this case, "many of us suspect" is actually codespeak for "this has been solidly demonstrated on paper, i.e., by math." Which is  how physicists theorize. There's a big, big, big difference between sitting around at the bar, and doing the math. In case this guy missed it, someone just got a Nobel Prize for doing the math that led many to suspect something that they could then demonstrate experimentally.

I repeat: it feels really bizarre to be defending physicists. That I'm taking the time to do it is a testament to how f*ed up that "codespeak" argument is.

Moving on to other people I'm surprised to find myself defending: fit mom. And I'm not defending her entirely, as I think shaming has no place in "inspiration." But I think there's a middle ground between her argument and this bullshit from Jezebel (Jezebel, you're making me a little bit libertarian, which is up there with my defending physics and fitmom):
This includes the excessive use of antibiotics given to patients, especially children, and to the animals that we end up eating; the presence of other fattening hormones and medications given to animals that most other countries wouldn't touch;
Newsflash, regarding "the animals that we end up eating": you don't have to eat those animals. No one is forcing them down your throat (or anybody else's). The animals you end up eating, at the expense of your health and that of the planet, are very much a factor within your control. And if enough people stopped eating them, the industry that puts all that stuff in them may just respond. 

Here's the thing: just as it's defeating for fit-mom to ask women what their "excuse" is, it's just as defeating to send women the message that their fitness is out of their control. In a warped way, fit-mom counterbalances the Selter perspective, which is that you'd better live at the gym. I've written in detail about Jen Selter before--or, rather, about my non-hating confusion about why she's a thing. The common thread is that she, too, sees herself as a source of inspiration for other women. Except that, unlike fit-mom, she emphasizes how much time she puts into sculpting herself.

So I'm going to offer myself up for non-shaming, non-obsessive inspiration. My physique is not that of either fit-mom or JS, but it's not too far off. I'm not going to post profiles of my ass online, so you'll have to take my word for it for the point that I'm trying to make, which is that you, too, can get fit without spending lots and lots and lots of time at the gym. I work out three times a week or so, for forty-five minutes each, and throw in a long bike ride or two when it's warm enough. That's really all it takes to get you to a pretty decent place. Because if you think you'll have to live at the gym, you're not going to do it.
Oh, the other thing that would help: stop eating those animals.

My friend and I walked out of "Water by the Spoonful," her saying, "how did that win a Pulitzer??" I shrugged; bad plays get good prizes all the time. We weren't the only ones who were unimpressed; during intermission, we overheard others giving their impressions from before and after they fell asleep. It started out oddly compelling, but the dialogue overwhelmingly rang false and there was just too much (unwitty) banter. There have been sooooo many plays of late about addiction (and recovery and relapse), which speaks to what a ubiquitous theme it is, but the fact that everyone is writing about it means that yours better be good. It had better add value to the conversation. Otherwise, go find yourself another topic.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Film review

I didn't dislike "Particle Fever;" it was entertaining... and, also, disappointing.

It was really cool to see the equipment up close and at scale, and what was meaningful was the story arc of decades of work and doubt and errors along the way eventually paying off. But I wanted more; I wanted to better understand the science behind the discoveries. Instead, I got a very well-done human-interest story, with lots of close-ups of philosophizing scientists.

This has been my complaint with many a documentary: too much of people talking--too little showing, too much telling. Biographical documentaries are the worst--lots of contemporaries sitting around, talking about how wonderful the subject is. Who watches a film of any sort--even a documentary--to hear people sit around talking? "Particle Fever" was at least not that; there was plenty of action. But, not to put too fine a point on it, I wanted and expected more.

Mind you, who the f* am I? Apparently, not the intended audience. You'll love this film if you're a physicist and you already understand the science, don't need the documentary to help you understand it. Or maybe if you're a teenager wondering what to study. Or if you know nothing at all about the topic, and wonder what all the fuss was about and why people were concerned that about a black hole outside Geneva. But if you're like me--if you have a basic understanding of particle physics but want to know more without going to night school to brush up on your differential calculus--you're $hit out of luck. "Particle Fever" will show you the molten magnets without telling you what the magnets are for in the first place. A voice will tell you that the Higgs particle grants mass to some particles, but won't tell you why some and not others. The known particles will quickly flash on the screen, but no one will explain them. Don't say, "but you wouldn't get it," because (even) I do. There are lots of things that were unsaid but implied in the film that I already knew, but I wished would be explained in greater depth.

Also off-putting was the idea that there's nothing out there worth studying. Interviewee after interviewee talked about how they came to their career choices because no other field answered any question that mattered. To which I recycle an old excerpt about how there's more to the world than math:

Physics’ capacity for universal mathematical laws, doesn’t yet fit all of life.
The mathocentric faith of Galileo’s disciples can be unwise. Wisdom means knowing how to choose rightly, for example picking the thinking tool fittest for each task. Economists who rely mainly on numbers to define rational behavior unwisely ignore that we aren’t by nature calculators. Math takes training. Maximizing narrow monetary self-interest isn’t a fit proxy for evolutionary success (for a highly interdependent species).
Numbers and mathematics have no monopoly on precision or truth. Words, logic, images, and patterns can be qualitatively exact. Only poor-quality thinking ignores that mathematics can’t yet be counted on to add up to the sum of all human wisdom. Reason and prudence dictate that we keep different kinds of thinking tools in our cranial toolboxes.
To recycle another old post, in which I complained about physical-scientist exceptionalism, the link in this one actually had a better approach: when people ask questions, answer them. Don't cop an attitude based on the idea that they wouldn't understand the answer; answer the question in a way that's meaningful to a non-expert. People in all fields do it all the time. It may be poetry in translation, but it's still poetry. And "Particle Fever" has its moments, but it also misses a lot of opportunities.

Thursday morning roundup

China's Ukraine dilemma.

A crisis really brings out governance and transparency issues (see: Malaysia).

Kristof: the industrial food system is unhealthy.

WTF?? The world needs to be more safe for women.

This letter to Carolyn really resonates: abusive moms operate by trying to invalidate your senses (does "no, you're not cold" or "you're being too sensitive" sound familiar?). As Carolyn pointed out the other day, it's not your job to focus on making other people comfortable at your expense (or, rather, to avoid making them uncomfortable).

I have mixed feelings about banning bossy, but I do, as always, advocate applying the standards and terms equally to both genders--but Charles Blow makes an excellent point about Princeton Mom: that $hit is as insulting to men as it is to women. See Laurie Penny's wonderful take on the attempted reduction of women to meaninglessness, or my excerpts of that column together with other discussions of the same issue.

Elephants can distinguish aspects of human language.

Wow, the midwest leads in wind power.

I have to run, but tonight, I'll review "Particle Fever." In short: 'meh;' entertaining, but guilty of missing a lot of opportunities to be more educational. Also guilty of scientist-idolatry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday roundup

Is it legal to throw out a judge?

Much needed commentary on Beyonce's feminism (and more here). Lemme excerpt for now and maybe over the weekend I'll have more energy for analysis. Here's the line that sums it all up:
Why is a woman’s appreciation for her body and her astronomical levels of self-confidence painted as indecency and immorality?
And, from the second article,
These appraisals are perplexing amid a wave of feminist ideology rooted in the idea that women own their bodies. It is the feminism of SlutWalk, the anti-rape movement that proclaims a skimpy skirt does not equal a desire for male attention or sexual availability. Why, then, are cultural critics like Freeman and Petersen convinced that when Beyoncé pops a leather-clad pelvis on stage, it is solely for the benefit of men? Why do others think her acknowledgment of how patriarchy influences our understanding of what's sexy is mere "lip service"?

Dr. Sarah Jackson, a race and media scholar at Boston's Northeastern University, says, "The idea that Beyoncé being sexy is only her performing for male viewers assumes that embracing sexuality isn't also for women." Jackson adds that the criticism also ignores "the limited choices available to women in the entertainment industry and the limited ways Beyoncé is allowed to express her sexuality, because of her gender and her race."
Side note: I don't care much for Beyoncé's music, but I respect her as a successful businesswoman who owns her art. Just like I've always found Ellen DeGeneres tiresome as hell, but I've respected her success. And just like you may not like Kate Moss's "art"--I personally admire her style and her self-branding--but you've gotta respect her economic power. Ironically, I do love the music of the (black, female) artists that the writer goes on to describe as lesser commercial successes:
Solange, Beyoncé's sister, who has gone for a natural-haired, boho, less sexified approach to her music, remains a niche artist, as do Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, and Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes, like so many black female artists before them. Grace Jones, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, Meshell Ndegeocello—talented all, but quirky black girls, especially androgynous ones, don't sell pop music, perform at the Super Bowl, or get starring roles in Hollywood films.
On another note: feminism and meaningful, nourishing relationships are anything but mutually exclusive:
During an interview with Oprah Winfrey before the Life Is But a Dream premiere, Beyoncé spoke passionately about her partner of more than a decade, saying, "I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man." This comment prompted Dodai Stewart at Jezebel to write, "Wouldn't you like to believe she'd be amazing whether or not she went home to a man? (She would be.) It's a much better message when she talks about how powerful she is as a woman and what a woman can do—without mentioning Mr. Carter."

Surely a woman can be powerful and simultaneously admit that her marriage is profound and life altering. Beyoncé did not pronounce herself useless without marriage. On the contrary, she has said she was in no rush to marry the man she met at 18. "I feel like you have to get to know yourself, know what you want, spend some time by yourself and be proud of who you are before you can share that with someone else." 
President Barack Obama, made a very similar claim about his spouse post-2008 election: "I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years...Michelle Obama." 
To sum it up:
We are, even the most diligent of us, influenced by gender, race, and other identities. And we make personal and professional decisions based on a variety of needs and pressures. Judging each other without acknowledging these influences is uncharitable at best and dishonest at worst. A tiny top and a traditional marriage should not be enough to strip a woman otherwise committed to gender equality of the feminist mantle. If we all had pundits assessing our actions against a feminist litmus test, I reckon not even Gloria Steinem and bell hooks would pass muster. Women must be allowed their humanity and complexity. Even self-proclaimed feminists. Even Queen Beys.

The Onion on the secret to interacting with women.

My regular readers, however few, know that I often quote Carolyn Hax. Her advice is not only spot-on in and of itself, but her magic is in seeing (and explaining) the specific issue at hand in a broader context. She does it expertly here, just the other day:
“How can I handle this without upsetting my daughter” — so much in this one phrase. Your job on this earth is not to get through your days without upsetting people, as abuse often conditions people to believe.
Your job is to figure out who you are, and what being that person requires of you. Then your job is to stay true to that as kindly as possible without compromising any of your core; how your efforts are received is beyond your control. Good people consider and care about others’ feelings, yes — but please don’t confuse that with being beholden to them.
Wow. So unbelievably valuable, particularly in light of a follow-up letter from someone who doesn't see what the big deal is. But Carolyn misses the mark, in my humble opinion, in today's letter: yes, everyone has annoying habits, but isn't there a middle way? Might have Carolyn included in her advice, "why not find a solution that is satisfactory to you both? Clearly, this habit bothers your wife; a bigger question is, why are you taking it personally, and what are you taking it personally? Her issue with the grocery bags, or the way she communicates that issue to you?" Because there needs to be a way, in any relationship, to say, "the way you do this is really problematic for me. Can we find a different way that works for both of us?"


A diver beautifully helps an injured dolphin.

Pronunciation--itself a commonly mispronounced word--needn't be an indicator of status (or, literally, a shibboleth). But please, please don't go saying "nucular." Just. Don't.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday roundup

Self-determination is a complicated issue (and OMG is Kosovo a terrible example).

It doesn't have to be this way; the world doesn't have to be hostile to women.

This speaks to the issue of our bodies being ours, no matter how we choose to use them.
Yes, there’s a paradox here in that I willingly engage in work that reduces me to a few sexual facets of myself but expect to be seen as a multifaceted person outside of that work. I participate in an illusion of easy physical access, and sometimes the products associated with that illusion — the video clips and silicone replicas of my sexual organs (seriously, and they’re popular enough to provide the bulk of my income) — do, in fact, exist without attachment to a person with free will or autonomy. 

And then there's the LiesToldbyFemales abomination.

Nonprofits are playing a bigger role in the economy.

Antibiotics make animals fat.

As tragic and horrific as the Atalissa story is, it should surprise no one that institutionalized cruelty to animals translates seamlessly into cruelty to people.

On a related note, it is utter bullshit that vegans are unaware or unconcerned with the welfare of farm workers (especially any more so than any one else? really?). I appreciate the overall message and some parts--that one needn't shouldn't have an opinion about everything--but I wish the columnist had told the letter-writer where to shove her vegan hatred. It's just silly and misguided to accuse vegans as a whole of being more obnoxious than anyone else; it's got to be people projecting their own internal conflicts and insecurities on people who make different choices.

A friend asked whether I'd seen or planned to see any movies, and I told her about a documentary I wanted to see--Particle Fever. She asked me what it was about... and then the conversation got interesting.

A.: Do you remember that particle that was found in Switzerland--
M.: They didn't know it was there and they found it?

A.: No--they'd theorized it mathematically, and then found it--
M.: Where did they find it? In a mountain?

A.: No... it's really small and it decays fast. They had to make it by throwing protons at each other near the speed of light...

It didn't get better from there. To be clear: I'm not criticizing my friend; she has no particular reason to have known what I was talking about. It was just a funny conversation.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday ramble: soulmates and straight hair

There's a definition of soulmates--I think it's Arielle Ford's--that really resonates to me: 
A soulmate is someone you can completely be yourself with... and when you look into each others’ eyes, you know that you are home. 
Note that she says "a soulmate." You needn't limit yourself to one, or even one at a time. It's a sense--a relationship--I've described in the past as 'family,' which is wrought with irony (because my family). I've been blessed at various times in my life to feel a part of other people's families, with whom I've felt more at peace than with my own.

Whatever you want to call it, it's a wonderful thing. I had brunch with friends last weekend whom I hadn't seen in ages (well, months), and one of them remarked that no matter how long it's been, we always seamlessly pick up right where we left off. That's family. I could, I suppose, go into how I don't feel more alone by virtue of being single, because I have so many soulmates and families, but that's a topic for another post (I wouldn't be surprised if it's the topic of an existing one).

During the shutdown, I missed my work family, and when we came back, it felt like being back amid family. I have another such family that's off my radar most of the time: my grad school family. Not just my classmates from the same year, but the entire community, including those I haven't met. I hosted a reception for my graduate program last night, and it reminded me just what a family it was: every time I'm around fellow alums or current students, including those I'm meeting for the same time, it just feels like home. They're my people. The current students are inspiring as hell--they're bright and interested in ideas and in awe of the world around them. It's a wonderful family to be a part of.

The reception was in my house, but I merely provided the space and invited a handful of alums (they randomly invited others). Two of my friends/fellow-alums showed up, and it was great for the current students to see the lasting, close friendship--ten years after graduation--between the three of us. One stayed afterward to catch up. And this is where we transition from family, to hair.

"I say this as someone who has curly hair and defends curly hair out of principle..." she said.

For years, she's been my partner in standing up for curly hair. We've shared tips about managing curly hair, including stylists who can handle it. [On a separate note, the local Smith alum listserve was abuzz this week after someone asked for recommendations for a stylist who knew how to work curly hair.] It's really an issue: when you have thick, textured hair, it can become unmanageable. It's not just an issue of making it look great; it's an issue of making it look not-horrible. As much as my mom might have chosen her words differently in telling me that I had Hagrid hair, she wasn't far off in the way of substance.

But I digress; back to my friend, who went on to say, " look really, really good with straight here. Like, you look amazing with straight hair." 

And all I could say was, "Yeah, I look like a different person with straight hair."

Mind you, I'd had my hair cut earlier in the week, so my hair looked better than I could ever make it look on my own--but nonetheless, I've come to notice that even when I take a few minutes to flat iron, it makes a huge difference. I would go as far as to say that it takes a minute for people I know to recognize me.

Maybe you've followed by musings about getting a flat iron--actually, here's an excerpt that covers both "extended" family and flat-ironing:
I (re)explored Prague on my own the next day and met up with my roommates mid-afternoon to get ready for the celebration. I liked them a lot, and, as close-knit as the three of them were, they welcomed me without pause. As we dressed for the wedding, I asked whether either of the ladies had brought a flat-iron. I felt the need to explain--the absurdity hitting me even as I spoke--that I'd long resisted getting a flat-iron, considering it a form of selling out to The Man, but that I came to see how it really was a quick fix for the mess that my hair could be. Yup, there I was, inkless government employee, justifying my embrace of the flat-iron to a tattoo-covered bar owner. Who embraced it long before I did (but, alas, had not brought one).  
Deciding to get a flat-iron really was an identity-fraught dilemma. "Was," past tense, years ago. These days, I use it more and more. It's like so many other things that I long resisted--like plucking my eyebrows--where you just kind of decide that it's worth it. (I'm not there with make up and don't want to be). Which brings us back to the bigger issue, explored here specifically with regard to hair removal, but we can extrapolate it to all kinds of preening:
She starts off by saying that "[we're] pretending that the culture isn't influencing how we think about body hair, and pretending that it's just a personal preference. For me, [that] is doing more harm to ourselves than good..." 
Rachel's argument rests upon the premise that most of her choices do actually exist in a vacuum, uninfluenced by culture, and that there are simply some choices that are influenced by a single, monolithic cultural force ("patriarchy"). But there's nothing about claiming that you had agency in shaving your hair off that says that the choice was free of cultural influences.
The other premise that Rachel's argument rests upon the idea that being influenced by cultural factors makes that choice less valid.
and (with some context missing, but you get the point)
This has led to a queer culture in which accusing others of false consciousness is seen as a serious faux pas. Similarly, demanding to hear someone else's reasons for their sexual preferences or their gender expression, and refusing to accept, "because, I like it this way, this feels authentic to me, and I can't explain it beyond that", tends to be seen as rude, at best.
Which is how I see that kind of thing: my 'beauty' choices aren't that complicated. They're not a conscious identity statement, so much as an 'eh, it's not that much work, so I guess it's worth it, most of the time.' I could find you many more links, but I have $hit to do. I could tie this in with so much other stuff--Jennifer Oullette's new book on identity, for example--but I have $hit to do. All I'm saying is, I've been straightening my hair a lot recently. Come take my feminist card (if you have nothing better to do).

Quick Saturday roundup

The Ukraine incursion was impromptu and Russia can't afford it, but no, Strobe Talbott, Ukraine is emphatically not the heart of Russian culture. Are you serious, or were you misquoted?

Everyone's talking about toilets and almonds, but what really sucks the planet's water is meat production.

Don't tell women to smile because we're not your decorative objects.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Massive Friday roundup

Hey, guys! I realize I haven't blogged since Monday. I also haven't showered since then; it's been that kind of week. So let's catch up on what's happening, starting with...

...the Ukraine. Here it is in pictures. Here's something about how there aren't a lot of Russia experts out there anymore. Here's Tom Friedman's take, with which I do not entirely agree (I do agree that it's not a wrestling match and chest-thumping is not the answer, but--it has come to this--Henry Kissinger says it better.

I think that might be it; I mean, there's plenty out there, and Carnegie has probably done the best job. But let's move onto... governance in general. Specifically, corruption and how problematic it is.
This often inadvertent impact of U.S. policy—facilitating and exacerbating government corruption abroad—is of course a values issue. But it is also a security issue, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan. Every country that harbors an extremist insurgency today suffers from kleptocratic governance, including long-established U.S. allies like the Philippines and Thailand. Al Qaeda foundational literature stresses the corrupt capture of natural resources by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, and the U.S. role in enabling and benefiting from it, as a rationale for violent actions against Americans. Every government that faced significant mass protests during the 2011 Arab uprisings perpetrated acute corruption on behalf of narrow cliques that included top government officials and their close relatives. Acutely corrupt governments in Latin America make alliances with transnational criminal superpowers, enabling their expansion.
There’s a huge economic cost to all this too, as “rent”-taking governments that violate their own regulations distort entire markets. Corruption acts as an accelerant of just about any other problem troubled countries have, from environmental degradation to humanitarian crises. Taking acute corruption into consideration is, in other words, a matter of principle, but also of vital U.S. national interest.
Don't believe everything you read, even from credible sources (especially when it's self-serving).

Onto... children. Don't ruin yours by letting them get away with obnoxiousness. Also: "use your words" is great advice for all ages.

Much has been said about the dude who took issue with his female pilot, so all I'll point out here is that it's another datapoint in the unbelievable correlation between misogyny and poor grammar.

You may be sick of my blogging about beauty, but I'm going to have to do it again. It's just so incredibly tied in to everything, including how we as a society manage women (and how some people throw acid at them). J-Law is being dismissed now for, among other things, having "the body and the face and the wardrobe that conforms to dominant beauty ideals.” Beauty can be quite the burden for some people, and Lupita Nyong points out that it doesn't feed you (and, more importantly, that it still matters but it's something that you have to validate yourself).

Whatever you've done to get rid of body hair, I hope it didn't involve cat poop.

Also by now, you've discovered your John Travolta name and probably read about how that's Slate's greatest hit ever.

What in the hell... do let me know if you've tried any of those.

That's all for now; I have to go, because I'm expecting people.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Impact bias

After brunch out, I brought some friends over to see all the crazy repairs and renovations to my house. I also tried on a fabulous dress that they gave me--"no more dresses" only counts for dresses I'd buy--but that's a post for another day. As I showed them around, I thought about how much better everything looked--the bathrooms I'd painstakingly painted, the floors I'd painstakingly paid for--in the context of how none of that pain mattered now. All I could think as I was going through it was, "will this ever end? Will the house ever look and feel normal? Is this all a waste of time and money?" and all I think now is, "wait, I used to hate this bathroom? I used to think, every day, this color is depressing me?"

I've been there with jobs (or, rather, applications of all kinds--applications to grad school, applications for jobs, applications for promotion): all you think at the time is, "this sucks, and it may be all for naught," but all you think if or when the prize materializes is, "wow, that was worth every minute of pain."

So why, why can't I apply my understanding of that reality toward dating? Because I'm really f*ing done dating. I just hate it.

In this context, I took in Maria Popova's latest post:

In another section, Stanford psychology Ph.D. candidate Michael Schwalbe turns to the intricate dance of risk-taking and the fear of failure. Citing the work of psychologists Daniel Gilbert, whose exploration of the art-science of happiness remains indispensable, and Timothy Wilson, whose work has revolutionized the way we think about psychological change, Schwalbe reminds us of the “impact bias” — our tendency to greatly overestimate the intensity and extent of our emotional reactions, which causes us to expect failures to be more painful than they actually are and thus to fear them more than we should. Schwalbe explains:
Gilbert and Wilson highlight two phenomena to explain this bias. The first is immune neglect. Just as we have a physical immune system to fight threats to our body, we have a psychological immune system to fight threats to our mental health. We identify silver linings, rationalize our actions, and find meaning in our setbacks. We don’t realize how effective this immune system is, however, because it operates largely beneath our conscious awareness. When we think about taking a risk, we rarely consider how good we will be at reframing a disappointing outcome. In short, we underestimate our resilience.
The second reason is focalism. When we contemplate failure from afar, according to Gilbert and Wilson, we tend to overemphasize the focal event (i.e., failure) and overlook all the other episodic details of daily life that help us move on and feel better. The threat of failure is so vivid that it consumes our attention. This happens in part because the areas of the brain we use to perceive the present are the same ones we employ to imagine the future. When we feel afraid of failing at a new business or anxious about the shame of letting investors down and what our peers will think, it’s hard to also imagine the pleasure we will get from our next venture and the other everyday activities that are a necessary and enjoyable part of life.
And yet Schwalbe reminds us that social science has invariably recorded that what people regret the most as they look back on their lives isn’t what they attempted and failed at, but what they never tried in the first place:
Of the many regrets people describe, regrets of inaction outnumber those of action by nearly two to one. … We are left with a paradox of inaction. On one hand we instinctively tend to stick with the default, or go with the herd. Researchers call it the status quo bias. We feel safe in our comfort zones, where we can avoid the sting of regret. And yet, at the same time, we regret most those actions and risks we did not take.
The solution, as a wise woman poignantly put it, seems to be: “Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”
Fair enough. But I still will not apply that to dating.

Monday evening roundup

If you're unclear as to what Russia's after... so is the Kremlin.

Um, this may be a valid point
The Lenin statues have been treated by Ukrainian protesters as a stand-in for Russia itself. And while it surely is a captivating media moment and will perhaps galvanize like-minded protesters, it isn’t likely to play a positive role in helping Ukrainians to come to terms with their complicated past and it is certainly not going to change the reality of Ukraine’s geographic happenstance, sandwiched between Russia and the European Union.
Once historical sites and statues are gone, they do not come back. This is not just unfortunate for historians and museums but also for those whose history (whether glorious or uncomfortable) is being destroyed. It precludes the possibility of a public place for contemplation and psychological recovery. Ultimately, eradicating history in the pursuit of a revised national narrative represents a lack of confidence that past traumas and current debates will be fairly sorted in the future.
But I'm going to say, go ahead and trash those statues.

On an (accidentally) quasi-related note: materialism's not necessarily a bad thing when the stuff has meaning.

Aggressive dudes in bars know perfectly well that they're being douche bags.

Monday afternoon roundup

Charles King points out--in a very reasonable article that nonetheless calls for its grains of salt--that "some things are not wrong just because Russians happen to believe them."

Refiners don't understand why they should have to adjust just because the way they now do things, sickens people.

Space photography leaves a lot to interpretation.

Ladies, careful leaving the house if you're going to go ahead and look very pregnantm. No one needs to see that $hit.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday roundup

You can't foment a climate of hatred, mistrust, and bigotry and then act all confused when massacres ensue.

It's harder to govern than to overthrow, and the times is on it. But, seriously, there's a great point in there about how it's not change if the only thing changing is the political leadership, while the social structures, like rule by oligarchy, remain intact.

By the way, Ambassador McFaul's timing was impeccable. I'd think he wouldn't have looked back, but he shares some observations here.

How are these kinds of prison conditions only possibly unconstitutional?

Fear for humanity, even in Annapolis.

The Tyson's economy of chicken.

Groceries around the world.

You're not doing your kids any favors by trying to hide reality from them. They're smarter than you think.

This may be a good place to reference my post earlier this week about how Americans might quit rolling their eyes at Russians' comfort around beauty and sexuality. Instead, roll your eyes at this bullshit.Those insisting that someone live with the consequences of her decisions: what are those consequences, or why do there have to be consequences? Whom have her decisions harmed? Is she a drunk driver or sex offender? Her decisions are personal in nature and not criminal, so maybe try compassion and humility? I'll leave out "forgiveness," because in this case, there's nothing to forgive.

What you'd see in the night sky from Paris and other cities if they turned off their night lights.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday evening roundup

If you want to understand what's going on in the Ukraine, turn off your TVs now; David Remnick and Masha Lipman actually know what they're talking about. Also, check out these maps.

I think I forgot to tell you guys about Ag Gag passing in Idaho.

Oh ffs... actually, it's almost better to say super-offensive $hit in super-offensive terms that reveal exactly how obnoxious the underlying beliefs are.

I've been saying for years that men will f* anything, but it's one of those things where I wish I were wrong. But I'm more right than I'd thought.

I'm kinda ready to be done with the end-of-men stuff, but this is so resonant. The language is a bit corny (and it's written by a guy!), and it applies to unmarried couples as well:

She has no choice but to LEAD if you’re not trying

By “lead”, I mean being the one who chooses to OWN your part in the marriage and the household. So many men will complain about their “bossy wife” or their “nagging wife” or their “disrespectful” wife. Why? …because they deserve it. Your wife will rightfully expect and appreciate some leadership from you! Leadership is an important part of the attraction formula. Many men allow their women to lead everything...
It’s no wonder these guys find themselves begging for morsels of respect and physical affection. They don’t deserve it...
This type of leadership will finally allow her to feel safe, trusting, and relaxed because YOU have stepped up. A woman lucky enough to have a man like this doesn’t have to resort to nagging or bossing. With the right level of leadership she will respect you, partner with you and be proud of you.