Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve ramble

Yesterday, when I was looking for videos of Russian children's music for my Сиди дома не гуляй post, I came upon other childhood favorites like the very classic Голубой вагонIt's about the passage of time, very fitting for New Year's. The poetry is lost in translation (you can find the original lyrics and a poor translation at that link), but here are some excerpts (with my translation):
Медленно минуты уплывают в даль,Встречи с ними ты уже не жди.И хотя нам прошлого немного жаль,Лучшее, конечно, впереди.
Slowly the minutes flow into the distance,
Don't hold your breath waiting to meet them again.
Although we're loath to let go of the past, 
The best, of course, is ahead!
and for good measure,
Может мы обидели кого-то зря,Календарь закроет этот лист.К новым приключениям спешим, друзья...

Maybe we needlessly offended someone
The calendar will close that page.
To new adventures, friends!
Here's another thing I inadvertently came upon for New Year's: a stack of old letters and cards. Dad handed me a binder of papers to sort through, which he'd described as old 403b statements. There were some of those--together with my GRE scores and some old pay stubs--but there was a lot of personal correspondence from over a decade ago, when I lived in the area. It was all addressed to Boston--I'd kept the envelopes--but I'd left it here for whatever reason. It struck me how prolific my friends and I were, on real paper. It was back in the day when letters were really a thing. Exhibit A:

We wrote on cards, we wrote on stationery. We sometimes apologized for our penmanship, even though it was always impressively legible, We asked about each other's jobs, dates, moves, grad school applications, etc., and asked after the same. We wrote of various events going on in our respective cities, and plotted visits, some of which materialized. In which case we reminisced about those visits in later letters.

There was also a holiday card from one coworker, in which she thanked me for mentoring her, and another card from another coworker, in which he apologized for having made me uncomfortable by having made known his feelings for me. I know why I kept the first card; I don't know why I kept the second, but I'm glad I did. I meant the guy no ill will, bore him no resentment--I just didn't return his feelings. I appreciate now, in a way that I didn't appreciate at all at the time, the explanation in his heartfelt apology, that I made him nervous. 

Over a decade later, I've been hit on a lot more dudes for whom I don't have feelings. I've been counseling a friend on the same, now that I've come to recognize the pattern (at least the dude who wrote the card was upfront about it; none of this sneaking into a date through an ambiguous, potentially date-like situation). I've experienced my own self-sabotage through nervousness. 

I, we experienced many more moves, job applications, dates, jobs, etc. Most of us migrated to email, but not all of us. I received a long paper letter from one of those friends a month or so ago, and wrote her back on paper as well. It's always interesting to look back through the past, to remember what was going on then. Especially on New Year's Eve.

Various insults with no direct translation

I vacuumed, (re)packed, yoga'd, washed my hair, and sat down to check in and print my boarding pass. There was some messiness; nothing serious, but I needed to concentrate (for example, to not get stuck between refreshing check-in screens).

Dad: I found this...
A.: Just a second, please.

A minute or so later, mom comes by.

Mom: [Ranting about something]
A.: Just a second, please.
Mom: No. Listen, now.
Dad: She's in the middle of something.
Mom: The sooner you just listen, the sooner you can finish.
A.: The sooner you stop talking to me, the sooner I can finish, and then I can listen to you.,
Mom: Bitch!
Dad: She's merely asking you to keep quiet for a few minutes.
Mom: In that tone of voice?
Dad: What tone of voice?
Mom (to me): You are dead to me! Never again show your face in this house! You don't exist for me.
A.: Okay.
Mom: I mean it! This is my house! I'll talk when I want! Bitch! [Various insults with no direct translation.]
A.: [Shrugs, completes check-in.]

In which mom offered me a pair of 3X Angry Bird lounge pants

Dad, to his credit, keeps his promises. After I gave him my cleaning tool for small spaces because the radiators each have their own colonies of dust bunnies--and I made him promise to actually use it--the radiators are spotless.

Mom won't let anything be tossed; it has to be done when she's not looking, and even then, she'll dig it out of the trash (or recycling bin or compost bin). She took the old phone books out of the recycling bin because the paper could be useful for sitting on, for example (dad plans to put them back just in time for them to be collected). She argues that clearly moldy food items, aren't, and even tries to eat them. In her defense, she's confused about what things are. In my defense (for getting frustrated with her), I have a built-up reaction against her trying to buy useless things and often foist them on me. Last night she tried to foist upon me a massive pair of Angry Birds lounge pants.

Mom: Do you want this? It's very cozy.
A.: No, thanks. I'm not taking any warm clothes.
Mom: I mean, not now; next time.
A.: We can talk about it then.
Mom: It's very cozy.
A.: They're 3X... they'd fall right off of me.
Mom: It's meant to be loose. It's like a [muumuu].
A.: Mom, they're pants.
Mom: No, they're not.
A.: Okay. In any case, I'm not taking it with me.
Mom: Suit yourself.

I'd get annoyed at dad for letting her buy them in the first place, but I know it's useless to argue with her once she sets her sights on something. I'd get annoyed with dad for taking her to that store, but what is he going to do? We barely talked her out of it the other day, when we were nearby for a walk. It's the same one where she gets all her discounted cleaning products. Of which this house doesn't need more.

Take my vegan card if you want it

I'd recently blogged about Bad Jews the play and bad Jews the thing, in which I wrote,
Never mind that Jews--even American Jews of Eastern European origin--are not unlike feminists, which is mostly to say that although we're perceived by our respective haters as some kind of organized cabal, we're not only not monolithic, but we in-fight, question each other's credentials, and otherwise undermine each other. 
We can easily include vegans in the same analogy, with the vegan police at one end and chegans like me at the other, with sanctimonious vegansplainers at various points in between (eg., "don't talk about health! it's about the animals!" or "don't eat processed imitation meat! it's too salty").

Could you all just shut the f* up? Nobody cares. There's no cabal; it's not a cult. It comes down to whether you see 'vegan' as a useful, pragmatic shorthand--more useful for food than for people--than as a statement of identity. I recently wrote,
about how don't love the labels vegetarian/vegan not because, as suggested in the article, some vegans are jerks (guess what: some omnivores are jerks, too) but because I choose not to define myself by the way I eat. There's a fine line between "I don't eat animal products" and "I'm a vegan," and it's the line between "this is what I do" and "this is what I am."

So I don't understand the fuss over what people call themselves, over this nonexistent vegan badge of honor:
Because I eat oysters, I shouldn’t call myself a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there’s an even more awkward word to describe my diet. At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. 
I'm not here to argue oysters; I'm here to argue labels. And Christopher Cox makes the labels point in his article about oysters:
There are dozens of reasons to become a vegan, but just two should suffice: Raising animals for food 1) destroys the planet and 2) causes those animals to suffer. Factory farms are the worst offenders, but even the best-run animal operations can’t get around the fact that livestock are the largest contributors to global warming worldwide and that the same amount of land used to feed one beef eater can feed 15 to 20 vegans. Animals are terribly inefficient machines for turning plants into food, and an inefficiency of this scale is disastrous. 
And here, he makes the chegan point:
And when I pick out my dinner, I don’t ask myself: What do I have to do to remain a vegan? I ask myself: What is the right choice in this situation? Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest... 
David Shiffman missed that point when he posted that article to his Facebook page with a snide comment:
Apparently it's ok for vegans to eat oysters because their harvest is sustainable and because they don't suffer. Ok then.
I thought that Mr. Cox effectively made the point that it's not helpful to talk about sustainability as "is it okay" or not. It's, what's the best choice in this situation. There are probably surely vegans who argue for purity and who suggest that a plant-based diet is impact-free; I'm not one of them. All diets have an impact. When we eat, we cause environmental damage. If we care enough, we can choose to minimize that environmental damage. And it's less about labeling oneself and losing nonexistent badges of honor, and more about the cumulative impact of individual choices. Jonathan Safran Foer said it very well in an interview about "Eating Animals"
I care about the environment, I try to buy good appliances, I certainly turn the lights off when I leave rooms, and so on and so forth, and yet I also fly. So should my getting off the plane say ‘Okay, I know that was bad, so I’m now bad, I’m going to leave lights on, I’m going to let my car idle.’ It’s nuts. I wish people would talk about food in a way that was more similar to how we talk about the environment. The question of ‘Are you an environmentalist or not?’ is nonsense. It just doesn’t make any sense.
And this is why rampant vegan-bashing is so mysterious to me. Cox wrote,
When I talked about this article with my editor at Slate, she said, “I won’t lie—you’ll be attacked viciously for being a vegan, and attacked equally viciously for not being a strict enough vegan.”
And indeed, look at the comments on the Facebook post and the replies to the tweet. Also, see how omnivores react with disdain at new vegan options--for example White Castle's vegan slider. It's kind of like dudes reacting with disdain to products for women; it's like they don't realize it's not about them.

I'm traveling tonight, and over the next few weeks, to places where vegan options may be hard to come by. I'll do my best, because I want to and not because I'm afraid the vegan police will pull my vegan card.

Possibly the dumbest conversation, ever

Mom: You should have a baby. It would contribute to humanity.
A.: Are you saying Gracie doesn't contribute to humanity?
Mom: She does. But a baby would contribute more. You should have one.
A.: You should get a cat.
Mom: I keep asking for one!
A.: You have to agree to clear a path to the litter box.
Mom: Get me the cat, and we'll have a conversation about getting to the litter box.
Dad: You'd have to teach the cat to fly.
Mom: Please.
Dad: Have you been down there? It's impassible.
Mom: Cleaning products are a good thing. The more, the better.
A.: That's just not true.
Mom: How is that not true?
A.: You know how whenever you visit, you talk about how clean my house is, and you ask whether I hire professional cleaners? I can keep it clean with minimal products and because I don't have a lot of stuff.
Mom: Don't tell me what to do! If you don't like dirt, don't visit! You keep your house your way and I'll keep mine, my way.
A.: Do whatever you want; I'm merely telling you that you don't need that many cleaning products and that the cat you want has no way of getting to its litter box.
Mom: This is my house!
A.: It is, indeed.
Mom: Then what is your problem?
A.: If you want a cat, you're going to have to sacrifice some cleaning products.
Mom: Don't tell me what to do!

Wednesday morning roundup

Putin's pipeline deal fell apart in large part because he underestimated the West's response to his aggression in the Ukraine.

Norwegians question their dependence on Statoil.

Tom Philpott on the limits of Big Data:

No one who has seen fertilizer-fed algae blooms in Lake Erie—or had their municipal tap water declared toxic because of them—can deny that the Midwest's massive corn farms need to use fertilizer more efficiently. Des Moines, Iowa, surrounded by millions of acres of intensively fertilized farmland, routinely has to spend taxpayer cash to filter its municipal drinking water of nitrates from farm runoff. Nitrates are linked with cancer and "blue-baby syndrome," which can suffocate infants. 
But as Quentin Hardy suggested in a recent New York Times piece, Big Data on the farm can also steamroll an extremely effective conservation practice: crop diversification, which can slash the need for fertilizer and herbicide, as a landmark2012 Iowa State University study showed. 

There's a creepshot pornographer or two or more on the Metro.

TV evolved in terms of women and sex.

Check out Play-Doh's now-recalled extruder.

Mom's ranting

Well, mom seems to have found her bitter self this morning. The good news is, I'm leaving tonight.

Mom: Did you hear about this? The planned protests at Copley?
A.: Yes.
Mom: And?
A.: And?
Mom: What do you think?
A.: ...
Mom: Idiots!
A.: Why?
Mom: These are people with nothing better to do, on welfare. Thieves, jerks.
A.: How do you know?
Mom: Of course I know! All decent people know.

At this point, mom launches into some bitter, rabid name calling.

A.: Maybe lay off the "idiots!" first thing in the morning?
Mom: It's my house! I'll do whatever I want. I won't talk to you at all. I only talk to you because of dad. [Pause.] All decent people know. Except for the idiots. [Pause.] Of course. You voted for that idiot. Now manage the consequences.

Mom: I've dealt with the police once or twice and it's always been a positive experience.

First of all, this isn't true. Mom has ranted about police corruption, nepotism, etc. before, including in this town. Second of all, police being a positive experience for white people is not the point, and a decade ago I would have argued with her but there's no point in reasoning with mom at this stage.

Mom goes on another bout of name-calling, goes on about the state of things under this president. I ask her to stop. She insists that she'll say whatever she wants because she wants to.

Now she's ranting about how everything's in the wrong place. It's going to be a long day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday roundup

How ebola came to decimate entire families, villages, cities.

James Fallows' long read on the military. The tl;dr version:
The harshest [assessments] came not from people who mistrusted the military but from those who, like Webb, had devoted much of their lives to it. A man who worked for decades overseeing Pentagon contracts told me this past summer, “The system is based on lies and self-interest, purely toward the end of keeping money moving.” What kept the system running, he said, was that “the services get their budgets, the contractors get their deals, the congressmen get jobs in their districts, and no one who’s not part of the deal bothers to find out what is going on.”
Father Yakunin has left this world.

I had to have this conversation with my parents (i.e., the "there's a lot to worry about with regard to our oceans, and radiation from Fukushima isn't it). But who are you calling a nuclear power nerd? Oh, who am I kidding.

Ah, another mom who doesn't think her kids are capable of their own reactions and feelings. It's been a while since mom pulled that on me, but it's hard to forget all those "you're tired? what do you have to be tired about?" and "you're hot, take off your jacket,"

Had I thought about it, there would have been no doubt that the very mediocre Alexandra Petri was basic. Does she still have a column, and if so, why?

FWIW, I'm not normcore.

Eat mushrooms, they're good for you.

Сиди дома не гуляй

This visit has been going as well as can be expected, and much better than I actually expected. Mom's been on her best behavior. But her best is still her.

As I previously told you, she has been playing her "this doesn't belong here" game, but up until this morning she hadn't told me I was harsh or that I emanated coldness. And even though she did say it, she said it once and then dropped it. She did ask me, last night, if I was the only one among my friends who hasn't had kids, and--though I told her I wasn't--she reiterated that this was a travesty.

And she gossips and name-calls (I keep telling her I'm not interested in other people's dirt), and dwells on terrible things. I think this time last year she was dwelling on the last days (and tragic childhood) of a friend of hers who'd passed away, and now she's dwelling on the AirAsia crash. Which means she doesn't stop talking about these things, and continues to repeat herself about things that needn't be dwelt upon.

She asks me whether it's "calm" where I'm going; I tell her it is. She points out that it's not really calm anywhere; I agree. There are risks everywhere. I cross streets in DC.

There's an old Russian folk song--actually, it's actually a song from an old Russian cartoon version of "Little Red Riding Hood"--that permeates my mentality and my responses to mom's questions about such matters. I started quoting it--the shorthand was enough--in response to her over a decade ago, when I was headed to Nicaragua. The shorthand being, Сиди дома не гуляй (sidi doma, nye gulyai) or "sit around at home, don't wander." The song starts out by saying, if you wander for long enough on a path, you'll reach some natural wonders: mountains this high, rivers this wide, hippos and rhinos. But...
Но конечно, но конечно, Если ты такой ленивый, Если ты такой пугливый, Сиди дома не гуляй. Ни к чему тебе дороги, Косогоры, горы, горы, Буераки, реки, раки, Руки, ноги береги. Зачем тебе море вот такой ширины, Зачем тебе небо вот такой вышины. 
But of course, if you're so lazy, if you're so scaredy, better sit around at home; don't wander; those paths aren't for you; nor the mountains or rivers. Mind your hands and feet! Who needs seas this wide, skies this high?
Here you go:

Песня Красной Шапочки 
Музыка: Рыбников А. 
Слова: Ким Ю. 

Если долго, долго, долго, Если долго по тропинке, Если долго по дорожке Топать ехать и бежать, 
То, пожалуй, то конечно, То наверно, верно, верно, То возможно, можно, можно, Можно в Африку прийти. 
А-а, в Африке реки вот такой ширины, А-а, в Африке горы вот такой вышины. А-а, крокодилы, бегемоты, А-а, обезьяны, кашалоты, А-а, и зелёный попугай, А-а, и зелёный попугай. 

И как только, только, только, И как только на дорожке, И как только на тропинке Встречу я кого-нибудь. То тому, кого я встречу, Даже зверю, верю, верю, Не забуду, буду, буду, Буду "здрасьте" говорить. А-а, здравствуйте реки вот такой ширины, А-а, здравствуйте горы вот такой вышины. А-а, крокодилы, бегемоты, А-а, обезьяны, кашалоты, А-а, и зелёный попугай, А-а, и зелёный попугай. 

Но конечно, но конечно, Если ты такой ленивый, Если ты такой пугливый, Сиди дома не гуляй. Ни к чему тебе дороги, Косогоры, горы, горы, Буераки, реки, раки, Руки, ноги береги. Зачем тебе море вот такой ширины, Зачем тебе небо вот такой вышины. А-а, крокодилы, бегемоты, А-а, обезьяны, кашалоты, А-а, и зелёный попугай, А-а, и зелёный попугай.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday roundup

Political campaigns are getting creepy with your data.

FFS, Fox News.

We have a buttplant epidemic. No joke; there have been fatalities. The answer (in reference to the woman who said, "you're never happy with your body") is to create a culture where we are always happy with our bodies. If that fails, at least be happy enough to not endanger or permanently disfigure yourself. Yeah I know it's a different issue for exotic dancers, but still.

I'm not quite with the haters on this one--i.e., on whether having a child is a luxury--although I half-joke about it so I guess I'm half with them. It's less financial than etiquette-based: if you can't have a child without being an asshole (i.e., blocking a metro escalator with a stroller), don't do it.

Laurie Penny on nerds, entitlement, and privilege. TL/DR version: don't blame feminism for the impacts of toxic masculinity:
Feminism, however, is not to blame for making life hell for ‘shy, nerdy men.’ Patriarchy is to blame for that.
Maybe read the original comment and some of the back-and-forth. It kind of comes down to this part of the response:
Privilege doesn't mean you don't suffer, which, I know, totally blows.
Scott himself doesn't mansplain, but a lot of the other commenters do, and continue to blame women and feminism for the state of things. Mansplaining, of course, comes down to explaining away other people's experiences (or knowledge). It's the line between "this is what I went through," which is always valid by definition, and "let me tell you about what you went through and why." And some of the commenters excel in that.

Dating, or at least dating well (i.e., mating) is also becoming a luxury. I'm certainly not in the 5 percent; we in the middle range have a harder time finding men who are worth it.
For women, the marriage calculus is pretty simple: you can only reap the full benefits of today’s optimal marriage when your partner is an equal who pitches in and treats you well.
I don't love strollers on public transportation, either, but I admit that they may be necessary. Manspreading, however, is not.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


This afternoon, dad and I took turns making parts of dinner while mom played her two favorite games: (1) picking up random objects and going on about how they didn't belong there and everything got moved behind her back and (2) going on about how everything good this family ever came by was because she found it and insisted on it. You can't say or do much without triggering that speech.

A.: It's a nice day for a walk.
Mom: This is such a beautiful area. And everything is at our fingertips: grocery stores, discount stores, places to walk. Everything about here is great. I bet you don't have access to such great stores. [Pause.] I'm so glad we bought the house when we did. Your father had his doubts--he said it was in terrible shape, needed too much work--but I consulted my coworkers and they insisted that we get it. And aren't you glad we did? [Pause.] Everything nice in the house, I insisted that we get. Your father never wanted to buy anything.

Also while I was making dinner, between bouts of "what is this doing here? this doesn't belong here?" she kept asking me whether I like to cook. This is a trick question for mom; it's ammunition for her to go on about how I spend too much time on food, which is inevitable because of my crazy "diet." It's especially ironic because I have to spend so much time here cooking, to use all the food that mom insists on buying.

After the walk, we went to my least favorite store--the one that would give me anxiety attacks were I prone to them. The aisles are narrow as hell, and mom insists on making a bad situation worse by using a cart rather than a basket. And by overthinking things in the aisles. It was actually relatively uncrowded today, and it was still a nightmare. To make things extra worse, mom heads straight to the discount produce--not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but she stocks up on stuff regardless of what we already have plenty of (and of its condition). We have plenty of apples and avocados, but she grabbed a bunch of shrink-wrapped, very bruised apples and avocados. She said, "but they're a dollar" and I said "why don't you just flush those dollars down the toilet, and then we won't have to find space for rotten apples?" It turned out that dad and I were on the same page, because when she got distracted we put two of the three packs back. I didn't have the cart at that point and it still took me ages to get through all the people in the narrow aisles of the relatively uncrowded store.

Then, "what a great area, don't you wish you had all this" all the way home, and then "this doesn't belong here" all the way up to dinner. Then, at dinner,

Mom: When are you seeing your friends tomorrow?
A.: In the morning.
Mom: Who has what kids? Why don't you have kids? God said go forth and multiply.
A.: That was thousands of years ago.
Mom: I don't understand--can you not just buy some sperm???

Sunday roundup

Retirees are starving in Donetsk.

The world is not as f*ed up as it appears.

Gendered violence is often a prelude to more violence.

The limits of reductionism.

We're obsessed with physical human beauty, in spite of ourselves.

Sigh, continued.

Mom: Talk to me about what to do with the timeshare. I know more about it.
A.: We already agreed that we're done talking about it for today, mom.
Mom: Why?
A.: Because it's Sunday so we can't do anything.
Mom: I can give you the details now.
A.: I'm reading the paper now.
Mom: Will you be reading the paper all day?
A.: No.
Mom: When will you be done?
A.: Definitely not while you're talking to me.

I finish reading the paper, go into the kitchen.

Dad: What are you having for breakfast?
A.: Oatmeal.
Dad: You eat oatmeal on Sunday, too?
A.: I certainly don't eat herring.
Dad: No vegetables? The pepper's already going bad.
Dad: I thought I was going to use it sooner.
A.: It doesn't hurt to refrigerate things. At least not vegetables.


The conversation I transcribed last week about conditioner was tragicomic. Its comedy needs no explanation; its tragedy lies in how it reveals dad's stubbornness and unwillingness to take in new information. He does things the way he's always done them, and believes in long debunked ideas. He and I have had this fight about other, sometimes more pressing matters. The conversation always goes the same way. Example:

A.: Dad, you can't just leave [that] outside the fridge.
Dad: Sure you can.
A.: No you can't. It will go bad.
Dad: We did that when I was growing up.
A.: Where it was colder.

Sure enough, said thing goes bad, and dad is surprised, over and over again.

This is increasingly becoming a problem as mom becomes less and less able to take care of herself and keep herself safe. In some cases, dad's inertia isn't driven so much by stubbornness as a lack of imagination or resourcefulness. He won't acknowledge the problem, let alone come up with a simple workaround. He's often negligent about little things that would quash bigger things.

Example 1: we went for a walk yesterday. It's my favorite walk--a loop around art of the river, where I used to run back in the day, in all weather, when I could be bothered--a few minutes' drive from my parents' house. There are a couple of places to park near the route, and we've taken to parking at the one nearest to us, which has stressed me out the last few times we've been there because mom is terrible at crossing the street, and it's a terrible place to cross the street. There's a light/crosswalk near there, but she insists on crossing in the middle of the block. And she won't pay attention, will stop in the middle of the street. So, on the way to the walk yesterday, I suggested that dad drive on to another spot. He didn't. I pointed out that mom is bad at crossing the street. He agreed, but a simple workaround wasn't in the cards. And this happens all the time,

Example 2: My parents have a timeshare, which is never a good idea--it was probably a wash when they actually used it, and it's nothing but a waste of money now (because they still have to pay maintenance fees). They're very difficult to get rid of, but slightly less so if you're not trying to make money off of the sale. When I first found out this was an issue a few months ago, I did some research and told dad what steps to start with. Did he do anything? Of course not. I continued to remind him, Nothing. It came up yesterday, and mom wouldn't drop it. Of course, her proposed solution is to stop paying them because we don't owe them anything. Which makes no sense whatsoever, but she just keeps saying it. And she woke up this morning saying it. And dad tries to reason with her, to explain why we just can't do that, and I just tell her to drop it because it's taken care of. But it would actually be taken care of had dad taken care of it.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Language lesson

I picked a jar of marinated mushrooms to open.

A.: I picked wrong; too much mucus, and too much cloves.
Mom: You don't understand. You don't have that deep connection to the Russian soul. You're doing it wrong. You have to have them with boiled potatoes and wash them down with vodka.
A.: No amount of vodka will erase the mucus and the cloves.
Dad: It's the type of mushroom; it lends itself to excessive mucus. And yes, this marinade is pretty heavy on the cloves.

Mucus on marinated mushrooms is actually described with the word сопливыйи, but its root, сопли, literally means snot, not mucous. It doesn't translate well, because 'snot' has a dry connotation, and these mushrooms were dripping with mucus. Some people love it. You've probably guessed that I do not.

Saturday morning roundup

China's crossroads.

Black police officers deal with the worst of both worlds.

Pair this with what I wrote about the other day: god as metaphor.

You can probably skip The Interview.

Saturday morning

I asked dad if he wanted the Times article on Putin; dad went off on how the Times is biased and full of misinformation, and only Fox News gets it right [though, on a brighter note, even my Fox-News watching parents have reached the point of, "why do so  many police have to go killing black people?"].

Then, breakfast, which has long been a source of strife in this household. Should I even bother to link to earlier versions of mom's Saturday morning temper tantrum? Mind you, mom's reliving that tantrum on a daily basis now; whereas she used to come into the kitchen and espy, for example, the parsley I was about to cook and whatever kitchen tools I was using, and proceed to throw a fit because that didn't belong there and all she ever did was clean up after everybody because all we ever did was leave stuff all over the house and never clean up after ourselves; now, she just does that with everything, all the time. She spent a good part of yesterday discovering things, yelling about them, and then moving them to some nonsensical place. It keeps coming back to this: now, she has a medical reason, but she's been pulling this shit her whole life.

There was no fit this morning, but there was the usual.

Dad: Mom's about ready for breakfast.
A.: That means she'll be ready for breakfast in an hour.
Dad: She seemed ready.
A.: If I make the oatmeal now, she's just going to complain that the oatmeal's cold.
Dad: She'll eat cold oatmeal.
A.: You know she's going to complain that the oatmeal's cold.
Dad: [Shrug.]

Mom comes downstairs, I ask her if she's ready for breakfast, I start making the oatmeal.

A.: Mom, food's ready.
Mom: Just a minute. [No indication of coming into the kitchen]
A.; It's going to get cold.

Several minutes later.

A.: Mom!

Five minutes later, mom finally comes into the kitchen and sits down.

Mom: This is cold!
A.: Of course it is.
Mom: Why?
A.: Because I told you it was ready, almost ten minutes ago.

Dad heats up some cream and pours it into the oatmeal. Mom finishes it, and reaches for some smoked fish.

Dad: There's a fork in there!
Mom: I like to eat with my fingers.
A.: You're never going to get that smell off your hands, and then you're going to go touching everything, and everything is going to smell like fish.
Mom: You know, somehow I've managed in my life, and I somehow managed to raise you.
A.: I grew up with every object in the house smelling like fish.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Mom: And do you know why [the neighbor] is an imbecile?
A.: [For the fourth time] Could we do without 'imbeciles' over dinner, please?
Mom: Fine! I won't talk to you at all. Don't talk to me at all.
Dad: Huh; you usually get to that faster, like, in the car.

He actually missed the first instance, which was maybe a little bit my fault (or at least my diversion from the high road).

I arrived at my parents' house at 5:20pm, exactly three hours after I left my own house--later than planned, but earlier than I would have, had I remembered that JetBlue had moved to the main terminal at National. As it were, I went all the way to the old one, only to have to walk all the way back, dodging families and strollers much of the way. I don't, for the life of me, understand why parents don't take the opportunity for a teachable moment and teach their kids (and themselves) to not take up any entire walkway. But I digress.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Xmas eve roundup--religion edition

Two books on the origins of European and Christian anti-semitism.

Our schools ought to be able to educate about religion and rituals without teaching religion.

I can see how thanking god can come off as self-centered at best and insensitive at worst, but it doesn't have to. It can also come off as a statement of humility (in victories and successes--acknowledging that outside forces contributed to them, rather than just one person). I use the words "blessing" and "blessed" to mean exactly as much. "I'm blessed to be healthy and to have a roof over my head" does not imply that god is less concerned with cancer patients or the homeless; it is merely an acknowledgement that I am grateful for these things--and these things cannot be attributed to any particular person to whom I can express that gratitude. Similarly, "there but for the grace of god go I" doesn't mean he or she there isn't worthy of god's grace; it merely means that I could have been there, and it wasn't (at least not entirely) my own doing that kept me out of there. And maybe it wasn't a single person or set of people; maybe there were circumstances, for which I'm grateful, and for which "god" is shorthand. It means, precisely, that I'm no more deserving of these blessings than someone who doesn't share in them.

Now, it's another thing to count your blessings out loud in front of those who don't share them, which is definitely a $hitty thing to do, even when the intention is to relate or connect. You can stop at, "I'm sorry you're going through this $hitty thing" without tacking on, "I'm lucky I've never had to deal with that" (or, worse: "let me tell you about when I had to deal with something similar").

I find this column even more objectionable, which isn't surprising, since it's objectivist, but I agree with some of it. For example, I don't see why giving need be seasonal, so I can support the idea that this shouldn't be the season of giving. I'd also agree that, generally speaking, nobody owes anyone anything. Just because someone needs or wants something, and you may have it, it doesn't mean you're under any obligation to hand it over. This goes for aisle seats on planes, or conversations with strangers, or even spare change. But I draw the line (see above, re: "there but for the grace of god go I") at deeming anybody else worthy. This is where I'll use "god" as shorthand: we're all god's children. Every human being is worthy of a roof over his or her head. 

But how you go about contributing to that--which the writer argues is not something you have to do--is debatable. I don't think giving money to homeless people on the street is generally a good idea or the best use of that money, but I do donate money to shelters and if I were better at keeping myself in cash, I'd be better about buying Spare Change.

So I do see charitable giving--as much as I hate the word "charity, for reasons apparent once I'm done here--not as generosity but as outsourcing. Just as I pay someone to replace my flue pipe, because I can't do it myself, we can help pay aid workers for humanitarian work, because they're doing it on our behalf. I don't have the skills to do anything about ebola, but I can help support those who do. I guess I don't have to, but--here I go again--they're doing god's work. I guess you don't have to support organizations just because there's a need (in fact, none of us can support all of them); you certainly don't have to support anything because "it's the season." But if you lament the imperfect world we live in as well as your own limitations in manually making it better, giving is a way to help other people make it better. It's not charity; it's payment for services rendered.

Wednesday roundup

There's hope for the world's forests.

Egregious animal abuse at a dairy farm.

PETA's heart is in the right place but its tactics are not.

Twitter doesn't think rape or death threats constitute harassment. Some told Lindy West that it was just a joke, to which she replied,
It’s the kind of “joke” told by people who think rape is funny, who think rape is a punchline for them to wield for sport, who think the threat of sexual violence is a fitting punishment for mouthy women. It’s not a joke that skewers the atrocity of rape. It’s not a joke that somehow exists in a contextless vacuum, unrelated to the climate of dull, throbbing fear that circumscribes women’s lives. In fact, this “joke” is entirely dependent on the weight of the word “rape” and the sick flutter it stirs up in women’s chests. It says, “Quiet, sex thing.” It says, “Your humanity is illusory, it is conditional, it is ours to mete out as we please, and we can take it away if you don’t behave.”

Dudes, we were just talking about this: our style choices are not about you, and we've had it with the body-shaming. Yes, I know the other end has it tougher and may actually care, which I don't, but since someone bothered with 'You Did Not Eat That' or whatever, I'm gonna say it: I did eat that, I am a size (double) zero, and I will be frolicking on the beach in a bikini very soon, so suck it. Better yet, deal with your own body acceptance issues instead of attacking others.

If the headline concerning a study--or an inferred conclusion of the study itself--is too stupid to be true, it probably is. Here are some not-true things that went viral.

You don't need to take control of other people's circuses.

A relationship ends when one person isn't getting what he or she needs, and stops trying.

Satan doesn't care how old you are.

Fools Do Art may be my favorite thing, ever.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On hair

Those of you who know me in person may be thinking, "you have terrible hair! why are you writing about hair?" Those of you who maybe don't know me but have been reading the blog for a while may be thinking, "your mom calls your hair, Hagrid hair, and you don't deny it." The more astute among you figure this will be about the sociology of hair, especially as I hinted at it the other day in my theater notes. Indeed, "Bad Jews" did not put too fine a point on it: the symbol of distinction between the two opposite women was their respective hair, and the character who symbolized turning one's back on one's religious identity, admitted that he couldn't stand the sight of his cousin's very Jewish hair. But I've already covered all that on these pages. I'm not interested in getting into, once again, whether this calls for a revocation of my feminist card because I've bought into the patriarchal paradigm of what looks good. So I'm going to share pro-tips from someone who actually knows what she's talking about.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday roundup

The New Yorker profile of Samantha Power.
Power rejects the facile narrative that presents itself—the education, the chastening. “The way that kind of story is told is ‘She wrote the book, she was critical because she didn’t really understand how hard it was,’ ” she said. “And then the assumption is Eliza Doolittle learned how hard it is, and then that makes her less critical, or more accepting of crummy outcomes.” She argued, “You learn in government what the obstacles are. But that’s not so you can go take a nap. It’s so you can figure out how to scale them or work around them. Does one get a better sense about context and about impediments and about trade-offs in government? Absolutely. But those are not alibis—those are problems to be solved.”

Side note: I was in grad school with Jeremy K., saw him last year at a reunion of sorts (not the big one). Didn't realize he was heading up that office.

Coates on police reform.

Hurting animals doesn't have to be as bad as hurting people for us to look to avoid it. Really, with this?
The vast populations of cows, pigs and chickens exist only because we raise them for food. A world of vegetarians would be a world without such animals because there would be no economic reason to raise them. The claim that non-existence is morally preferable to one that ends in premature abattoir death seems, at the least, debatable.
Someone's not that familiar with the factory farming system. As for,
Unlike these authors, I am more cautious, tending to clap the phrase "animal rights" in scare quotes. That's because I'm committed to a model of rights that is simultaneously inalienable and defined by their reciprocal relationship to social duties. Accordingly, I'm not sure I make sense of a concept of "rights" that doesn't include "responsibilities". My rights are the limiting case of how society must treat me; my responsibilities are the structures of obligation I owe to society. The two necessarily go together. If animals have rights, what are their responsibilities?
That just doesn't hold. Babies have the right not to be abused; do they have any responsibilities? If we're going to question the term "animal rights" on semantics, consider the semantics of "human rights." The very concept refers to inalienable, unearned rights that we have by virtue of being alive. Do animals not have a right not to be tortured?

On a lighter note... lower gas prices aren't keeping people from public transportation.

Don't let anyone tell your childrent that they're "superior." Carolyn explains:
When kids hear repeatedly that they’re wonderful, it actually inhibits their willingness to try hard and risk failure; they become invested in preserving everyone’s image of them as smart or superior. Instead of building up their self-esteem, such praise has the inverse effect of eroding it.
The research leading to this conclusion also supports giving praise for hard work, which encourages a child to invest in that instead. Bonus, you get to become the next set of parents routinely using the word “grit” even when not eating shellfish.
As I keep telling the ladies: do not call him! I can't believe the denial that goes on in some people's heads (actually, I can). Again, Carolyn explains:
Hope, meanwhile, does nothing for you. It not only holds you in a place the facts don’t support, but also actively talks you out of accepting what the facts are saying. Fact: He chose not to keep dating you. Fact: He has not taken any steps to reverse this choice. Fact: Breakups don’t have to be fair or logical.
But here’s a different kind of fact that’s actually in your favor, if you choose to embrace it: What makes a relationship “wonderful” is two people who mutually, gratefully seek each other’s company.

Theater notes

"Bad Jews" was phenomenal. It was, above all, compelling. The dramaturg's note said that the stakes couldn't be higher, which isn't really true, but it felt like it was.

The other day, I wrote that Tony Kushner's "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, by Tony Kushner" was not compelling.
The show ("iHo" for short) was mostly watchable but less than compelling. It was "Rock and Roll" (Tom Stoppard) meets "Major Barbara" (George Bernard Shaw) meets "Torch Song Trilogy" (Harvey Fierstein), with a tinge of "Osage County" (Tracy Letts). Torch Song was longer than "iHo" but didn't feel like it; it flew by. "iHo" dragged... and dragged... and dragged, without adding any value. It was over three hours of people--family--arguing. Which gets really, really old, even if it's the point. It's like pauses: use them sparingly in theatre, as a few seconds' pause on stage can feel like an eternity. Three hours of bickering is too much bickering. I don't regret having seen "iHo," but I wouldn't have missed much if I hadn't seen it. There were some great lines and some very entertaining moments, but not enough--absent a compelling plot--to carry the play.

I would have regretted not seeing "Bad Jews;" "iHo"'s stakes were technically higher, highest--i.e., life or death--but you didn't think for a minute that anything the characters said or did could influence them. The characters were just bickering and spewing philosophy, and that academic babble got in the way of the story, nearly drowned it out. "Bad Jews" was based on philosophical disagreements, but the characters lived them; it didn't feel like they were just saying things (even though you could tell that they were saying variations of those things their whole lives). And the "Bad Jews" actors were strong; they carried it.

Both plays were marked not only by family squabbling, but over broadly unsympathetic characters, each insufferable in his or her own way. It would have been too easy to take sides in "Bad Jews," to identify with Daphna were she less racist and judgmental, even if she were just as overbearing. For better or for worse, she took on the role--the trope--of the substantive woman against (the trope of) the uncomplicated one. It's "The Way We Were" all over again (even though, here, it wasn't about dudes): straightened, sleek hair vs. crazy curls, blonde vs. brunette, ambitious vs. ditzy and worshipful of the man who would support her. We've seen it over and over--I saw it in another, forgettable Studio play a couple of years ago--Holly Twyford was one of the complicated ones--"Time Stood Still." And the opposite trope--the basic, agreeable (younger) woman--was literally defined by the way she didn't overthink the menu when she went out to eat. With the complicated women, everything is so... complicated. Who needs that $hit?

In "Bad Jews," the complicated woman was especially shrill,the simple one was especially airheaded.
Note: both plays were written by men. But so was Biography by S.N. Behrman, decades ago, and he'd successfully avoided that trope (I blogged about it at the time because I was so pleasantly surprised).

That issue aside, "Bad Jews" reminded me why I love theater (whereas "iHo" reminded me why I started opting out).

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday roundup and ramble

Meat processors treat their workers like more meat.

Why the sun isn't rising any sooner (yet), even as the days get longer.

What is time? See also the conservation of energy.

There's plenty wrong with me, but that's not the point.

Yesterday I googled Theater J to figure out the closest Metro stop--I've mostly gone there on weeknights, when I've walked from work--to find out that Ari Roth had been fired for daring to discuss Israeli policies openly and not with blind acceptance (although, according to the Times, the DC JCC denies it). After the show--Tony Kushner's “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures”--the cast read a letter, cowritten by Mr. Kushner, denouncing the apparent censorship. The audience overwhelmingly applauded.

The show ("iHo" for short) was mostly watchable but less than compelling. I tweeted that it was "Rock and Roll" (Tom Stoppard) meets "Major Barbara" (George Bernard Shaw) meets "Torch Song Trilogy" (Harvey Fierstein), with a tinge of "Osage County" (Tracy Letts). Torch Song was even longer than "iHo" but didn't feel like it; it flew by. "iHo" dragged... and dragged... and dragged. Without adding any value. It was over three hours of people--family--arguing. Which gets really, really old, even if it's the point. It's like pauses: use them very sparingly in theatre. A few seconds' pause on stage can feel like an eternity. Three hours of bickering is too much bickering. By the way, tonight I'm heading out to watch more theatrical family bickering... and later this week, I'm heading out for some IRL family bickering of my own, but more on that in a minute. As for "iHo," I don't regret having seen it, but I wouldn't have missed much if I hadn't seen it. There were some great lines and some very entertaining moments, but not enough--absent a compelling plot--to carry the play.

[I'm going to sneak in another playwriting tip here: don't start with stuttering and interruption too soon unless your actors can really pull it off; until the audience has a sense of the characters, the interrupting will come off as artificial.]

Now then, my IRL family bickering. I'm already having bouts of anxiety about it. I'm already getting flashbacks of Mom being difficult, mean, manipulative, and insufferable. It's going to be a long week.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Quick Saturday roundup and ramble

Psychologists on the dark side.

Surprise! McDonald's treats its workers like $hit.

Misty Copeland on overcoming her struggle with body acceptance.

There are, unfortunately, many ways to be an annoying vegan (just like there are many ways to be an annoying omnivore), but disease-shaming people has got to be the worst.

I allowed myself to get into a Twitter pissing fight with a lesser variety of sanctivegan last night. I'd tweeted my love for Native Foods' vegan cheeseburger (in response to @vegan's tweet about research into a vegan cheeseburger). Which prompted someone to helpfully inform me that home-cooked "whole" food is healthier. OMG. ya think?! I was getting a (vegan) bacon cheeseburger thinking it was a superfood! She specifically called out the salt content--as more than is ever healthy. So I pointed her to summaries of the latest research on salt:

It's Time to End the War on Salt - Scientific American 
No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet -
Is salt really so bad for you? - 

But emphasized that the more important point was that it's good to indulge sometimes. I crave healthy food most of the time, but once in a while, a vegan cheeseburger really hits the spot, and it would be a pain to make at home.

I had this conversation in a less contentious setting earlier in the week, at happy hour. A very health-conscious, omnivore friend was disappointed with Native Foods because she'd hoped it would be healthier. She acknowledged that they had healthy offerings, but thought you could get better vegan at "regular" restaurants. Yeah, you can do pretty well at some regular restaurants... but sometimes a vegan cheeseburger really hits the spot. I get that that's hard to understand for someone who can just get a nonvegan cheeseburger whereever. For her, she was looking to 'vegan' as a proxy for healthy; to me, it's a proxy for more sustainable and less cruel. That's why Native Foods is for people like me.

I also don't dismiss the importance of nutrition for vegans in general. If you don't mind your nutrition, you risk ending up one of those assholes who vocally determines that veganism is unhealthy and that you immediately felt better upon eating animals. But the opposite can also be true: if you artificially limit your vegan diet with junk science (i.e., if you also try to eliminate gluten even though you don't have celiacs; if you eliminate salt because you're convinced it's bad; etc.) you also risk becoming one of those assholes who vocally quites veganism because you find it too limiting.

So do whatever works for you, but spare me the vegansplaining.

Dad blog

It's not so easy to type with a cat on my lap, especially as she's kneading my forearm, but I'm going to try. This was a couple of nights ago; as always, it took me some time to realize how insane it was, because it's just what I know.

Dad: You use conditioner, right?
A.: For my hair? Yeah.
Dad: How do you use it?
A.: I put it in my hair and wash it out.
Dad: Like shampoo?
A.: Yeah, but after shampoo.
Dad: So you can use it on hair, and you use it like soap.
A.: Yes, but no... I mean, it doesn't clean your hair so don't use it for soap.
Dad: Oh, I'm not going to use it on my hair. You know how you and mom are always telling me to do something about my eyebrows? I'm going to condition my eyebrows.
A.: That's not going to help. You need to trim your eyebrows.
Dad: Oh, no--you can't trim eyebrows.
Mom: You really can't.
A.: Yes you can.
Dad: They'll just grow back.
A.: So what? Conditioning them isn't going to do anything.
Dad: It might help.
A.: Try trimming!
Dad: You can't trim eyebrows!
Mom: Your father is right on this one.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday roundup

Yoani Sanchez on Cuba.

Another woman tells her story.

MIT scientists go on Reddit to answer questions; get asked about their bra sizes and told to make sandwiches. That's being a woman on Reddit; here's being a woman on Twitter (see especially Twitter's mansplainy dismissal).

Slate's outrage essays are hit or miss, but it's telling that people keep jumping down Anna Holmes' throat. Also, why the acrimony toward the vegetarian, and can't she just pretend what for grandma's sake?

This white collar/blue collar dynamic is so different in many immigrant communities, because underemployment is rampant and--I'm not going to say no one's judgy, but nobody I grew up around was. You just kind of knew that people didn't have the kinds of jobs they had before they immigrated.

On that note: I was thinking about how I instantly disliked a friend's then-new bf because he said something shitty to a waitress--specifically, as she was trying to minimize the confusion about the bill as people were leaving our large party and she had to close it out because her shift was up, he said, "don't worry, you'll get your tip." What a dick. He probably didn't think he was being a dick; he probably didn't know any better. But even my classist dickhead ex-bf--who said shit like, "I hope I get my raise so I don't have to shop [at ReStore]," didn't take his classism out on people to their faces (well, except me, I suppose, since I did shop at ReStore). But my point is, that kind of shittiness thrives when one segment of the population sees another as a servant class, and not as people. I can't speak for all immigrant communities--in fact, I know of some where the disconnect is even worse--but in mine, people were people.

I don't give a f* either way about Mayim Bialik, but I couldn't agree more with Phil Plait:
Yes, Bialik has beliefs unsupported by science. But so does everyone. I imagine if we dig into the histories of the other four women shown in the picture we’ll find all sorts of things that go against the foundations of science, just as you would if you examined anybody’s thoughts. I have met my fair share of scientists who believe in one thing or another without evidence, or despite it. Heck, you can find Nobel scientists who fall into that category, ones who have supported clear crackpottery. 

Here's someone who disagreed, and didn't see a problem with putting Bialik in the same category as a serial rapist.

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that I've never actually assaulted anyone over a screaming baby on a plane.

Mainstream self-tracking apps are confused by women.

Amazing compendium of corrections in the media.

Check out these ice formations.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday roundup

Tragedy in Pakistan.

China's coal overdose takes a toll on the health of its people.

Change in Cuba.

Methane on Mars.

China's slowdown will impact Latin America's extractive, commodities-based economies.

Science on rape and PTSD.

Don't read the comments and don't feed the douchebags.

The Economist: Those who enforce the law should also obey it.

Woman who was in a coma gets screwed by punitive welfare regulations, infrastructure.

Race and The New Republic.

Would it be more productive to talk about exclusion than about privilege? See also. I know this is specifically about race, but here's a good extrapolation beyond race: it's never good to invalidate someone else's experiences.

Blow on America.

Fisherman won't attribute the decline in fish to climate change, blame regulators instead. Even crazier climate denialism here and related bull$hit here.
What not to say to the vegans in your life.
Try without trying too hard. Appreciate material things without centering yourself around them.

Where I live.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Phone call

I don't feel strongly about not having children, but I feel pretty good about not having them. I'm at that liberating age where, if time is running out, it already has, and if it hasn't, it hasn't. I took my friend's toddler to dinner last night and thought I'd lose my mind if I had to eat every meal like that. It almost made me understand sanctimommies and mommyjackers. Anyway, a good time was had by all, but I was ready to give the kid back.

I yell you this because mom just called and berated me about how another friend had a grandchild, and she's jealous. I told her to be happy that she has Gracie. She asked, can you find no one to have a baby with? I don't think either she or dad understands how uninterested I am in finding a random partner with whom to mate. Last year, dad offered to set me up with the son of a friend of a friend, in another state, merely because he (the son) wanted children. No, thank you; I'll mate on my own terms or not al all.

Massive Saturday roundup

Holy $hit, the torture report. And the political responses.

Why better policy needs data:
As scholars Dara Kay Cohen and Amelia Hoover Green argued in the Journal of Peace Research in 2012, such figures persist in part because there are incentives for advocacy groups to base their campaigns on dramatic claims. Assuming that a global public is ever more inured to tales of horror, it becomes tempting to choose the most shocking number over the most accurate one. This is not to say that advocacy groups maliciously distort known data, but to warn that the periodic fixation on extreme cases necessarily means that responses are less consistent than they could be, and may fail to address the social and conflict dynamics that lie beneath shock figures.
The challenge for policy professionals is identifying when sexual violence is being orchestrated for the purpose terror, and when it is a spontaneous criminal act. On the one hand, they must deal with gaps in data and the considerable complexity of sexual violence across diverse settings, and on the other, they cannot allow ongoing debates over that complexity to stand in the way of concrete action.
This tension between knowledge and action can in part be resolved by seeing reliable research not as a distraction from, but as in fact integral to, effective policy. Organizations — whether governmental, non-governmental, or inter-governmental — need to invest in knowledge.
It's been a big week for blaming victims, with Bob Jones University coming in worst, followed closely by Princeton Mom. Sexual assault isn't something anyone "deserves" in spite of what you may find even in literature (oh, when writers we admire disappoint). So yeah we can train women to be prepared with language, or we can move toward a yes-means-yes paradigm because the onus is not on them, not on 'no.'

Lena Dunham speaks out on speaking out. Patton Oswald on Bill Cosby.

Also--in reference to some of these comments--it's not up to any of us to tell victims how they should feel.

Ironic that we're talking about what is about ethics in journalism; fact-checking isn't optional.

That's also, as we know, an issue in science, and press releases matter.

Toronto man is arrested for banking while black.

In appreciation of Michel Du Cille.

The cromnibus is bad for food. Organic farming really does deliver, but the certification system is broken. Wheat is very sustainable.

A teacher is fired for speaking out about dairy.

Very few chickens are humanely raised.

This is a more interesting discussion than I have time to address right now, but I've written on these pages about how I don't love the labels vegetarian/vegan not because, as suggested in the article, some vegans are jerks (guess what: some omnivores are jerks, too) but because I choose not to define myself by the way I eat. There's a fine line between "I don't eat animal products" and "I'm a vegan," and it's the line between "this is what I do" and "this is what I am."

Also on atheists and vegetarians.

I'm not advocating baking with animal products, but here's some interesting science-of-baking info.

We're coming up on the year of the pulses.

The prof took it too far, but we should hold restaurants and other establishments more accountable for posted prices.

There's even more plastic in the oceans than you thought.

Note that people who suffer from kids on planes complain about the parents, not the kids. Probably these parents (but not the last one, who is awesome).

What do you call the DC-area airport in Virginia that does not suck.

Penguins with iPads (because they improve their sex lives!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday roundup

The better side of TNR, on Gaza.

We still believe Jackie, because.

Police killings of unarmed people of color are not isolated incidents and we need systemic reform.

Why do we excuse bad behavior (especially) among people who really don't benefit society?

Ladies, watch the ostentatious breastfeeding.

A former Burger King CEO crosses over from "the dark side of food."

People care about their food more but do those newer egg farms still ground up male chicks?

There are some things you can't just scale up.

Maggie Simpson got published, but I'm pretty sure she would have written a better paper.

Women diet but won't admit it but know it's not a cool-girl thing to do. So much to quote:
As with men announcing that they love the “natural” look while actually preferring women in make-up, what’s really going on here is men asserting their privilege both to have good-looking women to fuck and to be kept in the dark about all the bothersome work that goes into it.
It’s good to stop shaming people for being fat, but that doesn’t excuse shaming people who, for their own reasons, prefer to eat a certain way and exercise heavily to keep their weight lower.