Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve Roundup

It's even harder to climb out of poverty where public transportation is a mess.
Falling oil prices are having Saudi Arabia rethink its economic model.

A look at the people we lost in 2015, including people who literally saved and improved many lives.

Vichy gets a bad rap for events that were beyond its control.

Say goodbye to these sticky science myths.

Stand up straight; it's good for you.

There was a time when religious minorities actually acted upon our dissatisfaction with the hegemony of xmas.'' I have to say, as much as I think the school acted foolishly, I'd have chosen something else; I think it's generally in bad taste to have people unknowingly repeat religious statements. A friend of mine, who is Hindu, once told me she was uncomfortable in a yoga class where the teacher had students unknowingly repeat Hindu chants (in Hindi). It's the same principle. I wouldn't want to proclaim, for example, Jesus as my savior. In any language.
As I've written before, I've never cared much about authenticity when it comes to food, for reasons similar to those written by that chef: I grew up amid people--and of a culture--for whom food was scarce and not to be wasted. You made do with what you had; you improvised, you used leftovers, etc. If something might work, you tried it.

I guess I'm lucky (or I'm deluding myself) because I don't identify with any of these abusive-mother-induced attachment styles.

I really needed this Modern Love column--I've been feeling very much the same way, and I was just at an awful mixer where I felt literally swarmed (by the wrong dudes).

Monday, December 28, 2015

Better than dresses

For better or for worse, I love shopping. I love finding just the right thing (especially for just the right price). I relish the value for the money, and the item itself. I especially love shopping for clothes, and wearing them. The other day, I stumbled upon a stunning, super-flattering dress for a truly negligible price. That was a win-win. And I'm actually a pretty picky shopper: I don't turn my money over for just anything; it has to be just right.

So it surprise me every year--as I tell you this every year--how easy it is to turn my money over for donations. With no hot dress to show for it, it's nonetheless the easiest, most no-brainer spending of the year. When you consider how much angst I put into spending $20 on a dress, it's amazing how spending orders of magnitude more in donations has exactly the opposite impact. Not to put too fine a point on it: I'm f*ing vain and I f*ing love my hot dresses more than anything, so why am I so willing to spend many times more on things I can't even wear? Even as the social science is on my side, I'm almost baffled. And yet: even as far as my super-vain ass is concerned, spending money so that other people can do good things that help other people (and animals) is easily the best spending there is. There's nothing like helping people do good.

I gave to some local organizations and some international ones; here are some of the latter:

Oxfam USA
Medecins Sans Frontieres
Human Rights Watch
Women for Women International
Center for the Victims of Torture
American Jewish World Service
International Rescue Committee
International Planned Parenthood Federation

It is so awesome that these organizations do what they do, and I'm honored to be able to contribute in any way.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The last few months, in photos

Here's an assortment of photos from the last few months, in case you were wondering what I was doing between neglecting the blog and returning to brood on it. In no particular order.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Post xmas roundup

Meat is really bad for the planet.

GMOs can mean a lot of things.

Tried-and-true, low(er)-tech detective work, works wonders.

In break-ups, "out of sight, out of mind" is a huge gift, but with social media, it's less of an option. Enter the breakup industrial complex.

DC appears to be a microcosm of people making six figures and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Some examples are more understandable (children in private school and expensive activities, child support) than others (spending $2,000-$2,600 a month on "dining," perhaps for not knowing how to cook, or buying expensive cars or other status symbols).  Some are personal trade-offs that people can only make for themselves (some of which I make as well--paying more to commute less). But the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and lacking basic personal finance skills will bring people down without providing any value in return.

Here's a fun fact about xmas in America: if I did celebrate it, I'd celebrate in January.

Here's a fun fact about xmas in Catalonia: its nativity scene includes a pooping man.

Here are some fun and not-so-fun facts about what people stuck in their rectums (and other orifices) this year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Xmas ramble

I'm a day late in directing your attention to the classic xmas eve post from two years ago. I didn't get online last night; I spent the afternoon and evening setting up my grill. I'd ordered it in the summer, and it had sat in my living room, in a box, for months. The reviews noted that it was a pain to set up, so I'd left it there until I had time--and since yesterday was a forced half-day at work, I had time. I thought I'd steer into my non-celebration of xmas by making it that much sadder, but it was actually a lot of fun: an engineering project that I wouldn't have enjoyed a few years ago. I might have had a meltdown (there were a lot of parts and screws and nuts and bolts) or a lesser panic, but this time--maybe because this wasn't my first assemblage rodeo--I just got into it and enjoyed the process.

I'm not at my parents' for these holidays, which may disappoint some of you for the lack of blog fodder, but I gave you plenty to work with in June and October. I decided not to travel up there for a number of reasons--I have to work, I've been traveling a lot and my cat hates me, I was there just recently--and I invited my parents to visit me instead, and dad thought about it but ultimately deferred to mom, who of course said no.

I feel surprisingly unpathethic, considering that I spent xmas eve setting up a grill and half of xmas day doing yard-work. Upon reflection, some of my loneliest-feeling holidays were those when I was in a relationship (which says a lot about my relationship history). Spending the holidays with my parents is lonely in its own way--we don't celebrate xmas, obviously, but at this point we don't celebrate anything anymore and none of us really knows what to do. So if I'm going to be not-celebrating, I'm perfectly happy to not-celebrate on my own.

Xmas roundup

If any story merits a trigger-warning, it is this must-read case of misguided certainty of "false" accusations.

On shrimp and slavery.

Indonesia's transgender community.

Egypt's approach to treating Hep C.

Citizenship and dissent in UAE.

Science is the process, not (just) the discovery.

Students of color aren't there for the majority, but the majority benefits nevertheless.
No, produce isn't worse for the environment than meat. That study was misrepresented.

Carolyn counsels a woman after a breakup, with lots of wisdom crammed into a single column. One excerpt:
Or you can leave him mostly out of it and concentrate your mental dialogue on forgiving yourself — for picking the wrong guy, for missing signs that all wasn’t well, for not fully embracing upfront that having real feelings for real people is a messy business, that disappointments are inevitable — and that some slap us harder than others. Or just forgive yourself for caring so much, since it’s better than the alternative — even when it feels otherwise.
The artisanal chocolate that wasn't.

Airlines are deliberately making your experience worse. This time last week, I was flying back to the east coast from California, in crammed middle seat. I was surprised to have been offered the option to pay an extra $87 for a middle seat a few rows up.

Sometimes when you hear something, don't say something.

What should we call Xmas?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Another Saturday ramble

Of the myriad ongoing internet think-piece wars--for example, here's why millennials are useless vs. stop calling millennials useless--I'm going to unironically talk about the two solipsistic ones: (1) are selfies a sign of the self-absorbed apocalypse vs. why do people have such a problem with selfies?
(2) when a writer inserts herself into a story not about her (eg., about a conflict or a phenomenon), is it healthy or unnecessary? Just kidding; I have nothing to say about selfies (except 'why not') and everything to say about how it's natural to tell a story or explore an issue from your own perspective. Which is not to say that you shouldn't be careful about centering yourself in a story about a race, gender, or religion that's not yours--unless you should, because I'm about to.

Specifically, I'm going to talk about Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment. It horrified me after 9/11 and it horrifies me now--and it horrifies me beyond a theoretical, academic level. It horrifies me even beyond the concept that 'Jews should be especially horrified about discrimination,' even though we certainly should (see Jews are uniquely positioned to stand up against Islamophobia (Twitter link should get you around the paywall)). As should every American, as an American. But it horrifies me in my bones, because I've been there.

I went speed-dating last night, and you know I never come back from speed-dating without a story or two. In fact, I think the story last time was the (American) guy who tried to ask me where I was from without asking me where I was from. This time, a Latvian dude proceeded to mansplain the former Soviet Union to me. Without an inkling that, maybe, that was unnecessary. Ironically, the next guy, who was Russian, asked me where I was from the minute he sat down--and he didn't mean 'where in the United States.' He meant--because he then said--'your name is Russian' and you could tell he was thinking, you look somewhat Russian. So I told him, and we chatted in Russian for the five minutes.

Saturday ramble

If I can't stop ruminating over the body-weight-as-a-microcosm thing, it's because analogies are everywhere. I was reading some election-season article used the term "unforced error," and thought about forced and unforced errors in general, and of course, in weight management.

I'm mindful that we as a nation can't have an adult conversation about internal and external factors, and the interplay between the two, without reductionism and absurdity. I remember when Charles Blow--who writes about the system underlying factors behind poverty--ran a column about poverty and choices, he was accused of blaming the poor for poverty. The same goes for obesity: it's hard to talk about systemic factors, choices, and the interplay between the two without butting up against the perception of blame.

Saturday roundup

Immigrants enrich a small city in Maine.

Behold the is-Trump-a-fascist-or-just-a-demagogue thinkpieces.

Tibor Rubin was an amazing man with an amazing story.

Fatemah Mernissi was an amazing woman with an amazing story. Although, to this, I say the Western man can go f* himself.
“The Western man,” she wrote, “declares that in order to be beautiful, a woman must look 14 years old. If she dares to look 50, or worse, 60, she is beyond the pale. By putting the spotlight on the female child and framing her as the ideal of beauty, he condemns the mature woman to invisibility.”
Yeah, most multi-ethnic identities involve complex questions and deserves an answer that’s better than a simplistic recitation of ethnicity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday ramble: mixing metaphors

Would you allow me another solipsistic ramble about life lessons from outdoor adventures? It involves shrubbery (in the "Spamalot" sense):
...our heroes are stuck in a dark and very expensive forest, and their enemies--the very annoying 'knights who say nee'--demand, of all things, a shrubbery. Knowing they're in no place to acquire a shrubbery, they break into "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," only--in the middle of the song (well, toward the end)--to come across a woman coming through with... a shrubbery that she was getting rid of.
The moral, for our purposes, being that you can't worry about where your shrubbery might come from. You can't focus on the high unlikelihood of shrubbery, or at least you can't let that stop you from making your way through the forest. It's like that quote--of unknown origin, though often mistakenly attributed to Goethe--
"...the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Sunday roundup

The R. Kelly case teaches us about the tactics (and strategies) of sexual predators.

There are things that reduce gun violence.

On race and privilege.

Jews are uniquely positioned to stand up against Islamophobia (Twitter link should get you around the paywall).

Trump: classic demagogue.

Serious about what you can do about climate change? Eat less meat.

A woman considers divorcing her husband when he decides to become a vegetarian.

You can give effectively and emotionally; the two are not mutually exclusive.

We're naturally prone to fall for stories.

I love the story of how "Bohemian Rhapsody" made it into "Wayne's World."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday ramble explaining last Wednesday's ramble

I say this all the time, but today I'm going to explain why: when I write about weight, it both is and isn't about weight. Last week I rambled about weight, and it mostly wasn't about weight.

I used to work for Outward Bound, which both was and wasn't about outdoor sports. It was about personal growth by way of outdoor sports. It was (is) a value system that I still ascribe to, and a concept I continue to believe in. I worked in the offices--specifically, in the fundraising office--so it was my job to convey to donors the power of the concept, and I occasionally got to partake in short courses to appreciate it first-hand. It works.

Tuesday roundup

A former Guantanamo inmate fights for his country.

In memory of Bob Fletcher, a real American hero.

In memory of El'dar Ryazanov, whose films were truly classic and subversive. By the way, they should have interviewed some people who lived in the former Soviet Union. We have a gut-level aversion to lines.

Read this, not the silly Times op-ed it rebuts. Here are some more detailed resources for the hard-core.

Revisiting Jill Lepore's piece on reproductive rights.

You've (almost) got to feel bad for the serial swatter; how tortured do you have to be to inflict harm just for the fun of it?

Dudes have been mansplaining Harry Potter to Jo Rowling.

How good are we at detecting bullshit?

Women and men are from the same planet, brain-wise.

Think about labor issues as well as environmental issues when choosing cat food. It's hard, though.

Have we talked about meat and climate change?

I found the French Onion and it is amazing (as is the woman's Onion).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday roundup and ramble

Charles Blow on the epidemic of police violence against unarmed black people.

Afghan leaders have trouble convincing people to stay, since their own people have left.

Your beef habit is seriously destroying the rainforests and pretty much, the planet.

This spoof on the "nice guy" reminds me of a recent interaction on social media. I'd posted something about offering your seat on the Metro to anyone who needs it more--pretty basic principle, right? And some dude replied, "typical feminist."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday ramble

I ended my roundup with "Choose gratitude." Excerpts:
For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily.
Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. 

Monday roundup

Uncertain Journeys: A photo essay on refugees. Pair with George Packer's spot-on piece.

You can't say this a lot, but yes, in this case, the Holocaust is a legitimate analogy.

You know when you completely lose respect for someone whose work you can't help but admire? Scott Adams has lost his $hit.

A Canadian university nixed yoga for people with disabilities because cultural appropriation and I can't even.

A must-read profile of a woman who left the Westboro Baptist Church. Too much good stuff to excerpt.

Alana Massey on nude selfies.

Choose gratitude.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Saturday roundup

Roxane Gay on safety:
The freedom of speech, however, does not guarantee freedom from consequence. You can speak your mind, but you can also be shunned. You can be criticized. You can be ignored or ridiculed. You can lose your job. The freedom of speech does not exist in a vacuum.
Many of the people who advocate for freedom of speech with the most bluster are willing to waste this powerful right on hate speech...
There are some extreme, ill-advised and simply absurd manifestations of the idea of safe space... And yet. I understand where safe space extremism comes from. When you are marginalized and always unsafe, your skin thins, leaving your blood and bone exposed...
Those who mock the idea of safe space are most likely the same people who are able to take safety for granted... We are also talking about privilege. As with everything else in life, there is no equality when it comes to safety.
Paul Krugman on fear.
The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. 
On overcoming addiction:
Alyce would tell herself that she was quitting for her son or quitting for her mother. But any stop in her drug use was only temporary. “I had to come to understand I can’t do it for anyone but me,” Alyce said. “I have to want to live.”
 and, omg:
“My daughter said she wants to be president of the United States,” Alyce explained. “Therefore, I need to show her how you get there.”
Anne Frank's asylum request was denied.

Petula Dvorak nails the Starbucks cup controversy:
I’m willing to concede that there is a war on Christmas. The real Christmas.
If Christmas is about honoring the birth of an impoverished child to a homeless couple who must eventually flee a tyrant to keep their baby safe, then, yes, there is a war on Christmas.
If Christmas is about peace, joy, generosity, thankfulness and goodwill among people, then yes, there is a war on Christmas.

On the subtle sexism that adds up:
This flare-up is an example of the kind of thing that keeps happening whenever women try to point out microaggressions — all the little daily sexist slights that may not mean much individually but add up over a lifetime. Even well-meaning progressives sometimes freak out over discussions of "sexism," because they think they are being personally accused of being sexist. This makes people defensive, and it leads to the kind of bunker mentality that makes Weaver call Clinton's winking quip a "vicious attack."
Esquire's must-read books for men really are for men.

The impact of our food system on food workers.

Dairy: it's not good for you.

Why we care when people lie.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Big Monday ramble

I've written much, and linked to much, on this blog about beauty and about weight, and about both in relation to feminism. Just the other day:
This piece on beauty--specifically about being honest about it--leaves out the very important fact that [conventional] beauty may be power, but it is an uneven, unreliable, unwieldy form of it. 
Which I'll pair with this Ask Polly wisdom from a while ago:
The reason the beauty-industrial complex kicks up an acidic taste of contempt in so many of our mouths is that it can never quite capture the intoxicating magic of real-life intrigue and attraction and romance... Real-life beauty is a blur of motion, a flash of disbelief, an assured gesture, a long sigh that sings with intelligence and self-acceptance. We can't capture in two dimensions, or reduce to a series of numbers, the feelings that real human beings experience in the company of a woman with the confidence to own exactly who she is, to show where she's been, to listen closely and understand completely. A woman who loves her life, who can laugh at herself, but whose head isn't crowded and noisy. A woman who can focus and make room — real space — for you, and bathe you in her generosity and her compassion...
The guy who won't sleep with you because you're overweight is not a far cry from the guy who will only sleep with you because you've got a hot body. Either way, you feel like the main event, the REAL YOU, is a footnote... Everyone wants to be seen and loved for who they really are...
...You're looking for someone who is turned on by YOU — your charms and your flaws and all of the magic inside of you. Maybe there are only a few people out there who can really appreciate YOU.
I didn't discover the male gaze for myself until I was 35--that age where you're to stop wearing skirts above the knee--and I wasn't sure what to do with it. In my early 20s, I couldn't be bothered to manage my appearance in any way, until, in my late 20s, I observed how much more seriously people took people who looked put-together. I started dabbling in the put-together look and pulled it off until, around 30, I put on weight

I'd never thought I would care, but I hated being not-thin; I'd rolled my eyes years earlier when I'd heard Oprah say that losing weight was her most cherished achievement (or something to that effect). How could someone who accomplished so much, care about her weight? I came to understand the answer. Mom made my situation worse, but I was profoundly uncomfortable in my own body, in spite of "knowing better." I had it easy; I agonized, but I never hated my body. No one should hate her body.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday roundup

Hi, guys! I'm back, with a new laptop, so I should be able to blog more regularly.

I feel odd taking a cheery tone in light of the Paris attacks. I have nothing to say about those apart from what's already been said, except that, if you're wondering why those and not Beirut, etc.--all of that. All of the attacks are tragic and devastating, but it hits closer to home when it's a city you know and love.

That said, here's your roundup.

Read about the link between lead and crime and think even more about how the gasoline industry tried to buy/threaten scientists and hide the truth from the public in order to protect their profits.

The odd campaign to save Tim Hunt.

Maybe more on this in another post, but please check out this entire thread.
From the obituary of Rene Girard, renowned French social scientist:
Professor Girard’s central idea was that human motivation is based on desire. People are free, he believed, but seek things in life based on what other people want. Their imitation of those desires, which he termed mimesis, is imitated by others in turn, leading to escalating and often destructive competition.

His first work, published in French in 1961 and in English in 1965 as “Deceit, Desire, and the Novel,” introduced the idea of mimesis through readings of classic novels. Over time, the idea has been used to explain financial bubbles, where things of little intrinsic value are increasingly bid up in the hope of financial gain. It has also been cited to explain why people unsatisfied by high-status jobs pursue them anyway.
Look at the way people talk about, talk to, and refer to renowned economists who are women.

Look at the way people reduce renowned women (and the rest of us) to our reproductive status.
In the traditional worldview happiness is essentially private and selfish. Reasonable people pursue their self-interest, and when they do so successfully they are supposed to be happy. The very definition of what it means to be human is narrow, and altruism, idealism, and public life (except in the forms of fame, status, or material success) have little place on the shopping list. The idea that a life should seek meaning seldom emerges; not only are the standard activities assumed to be inherently meaningful, they are treated as the only meaningful options.
People lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity in part from the belief that children are the best way to fulfill your capacity to love, even though the list of monstrous, ice-hearted mothers is extensive. But there are so many things to love besides one’s own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world.
Love, love this:
And yet, when people ask me what I do, I’m sometimes tempted to answer “whatever I want.” This is not a boast — I have financial obligations like everyone else, and only myself to rely on for meeting them — so much as a statement of fact, and a reminder that I belong to the first generation of women for whom this can be a real truth. But it also feels like I’ve discovered some sort of secret — like, Oh my god, you guys, it’s so great over here and no one wants you to know about it.


Which is not to say it can’t also be really fucking hard to be alone, and sometimes deeply lonely in a soul-shaking sort of way. Inevitably there are the middle-of-the-nights when it is also terrifying. And sometimes it’s just plain exhausting. When you are the person free to do what you want, what you often end up doing is taking care of other people with less options. More than once in the past year I have crawled home to my empty apartment emotionally gutted and feeling like I’d been run over by a truck; thinking enviably it’d be worth it to be married just to have someone else who is obligated to deal with my family, and also cork the wine and load the dishwasher.

Fortunately, I’m old enough to know that people in marriages, and with children, feel all of these things (and how much worse is it to feel lonely in a relationship, which is something so few people talk about and so many experience) at one time or another. No matter how often we imagine marriage as the solution to women's problem, it is simply another way of living.
More--in continuity with last week's post--on women and sex.

I certainly identify with having done "so much holding," from this:
And why is it that the placeholders we choose — the dozen red roses, the fragrant white lilies, the long-stemmed French tulips — are so fleeting? Hold on to them for too long and you end up with a mess of petals, pollen and foul-smelling water...
This piece on beauty--specifically about being honest about it--leaves out the very important fact that beauty may be power, but it is an uneven, unreliable, unwieldy form of it.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween roundup

Laptop still acting up (maybe gone forever); blogging from the iPad.

By now, the regularity of toddler shootings is old news, as is this brilliant display of what's banned but not deadly .

On and from Svetlana Alexievich. also: love Marlon James.

When the default viewpoint is that male feelings take precedence over women's security.

On harassment in science.

If you really understand what I nonetheless appreciate to be a great explanation, more power to you.

I get not teaching kids gender roles but I'd tell this woman to chill the f* out.

How f*ed in the head do you have to be to ask cosmonauts how they'll manage without makeup.

An insightful set of perspectives about sex in the era of nobody cares.

I love, love this explanation of when it's controlling to make demands about your SO's appearance. Also love these two Ask Polly pieces (yes, I know I already linked to one) about being open about your needs and owning them (see also Modern Love). Actually, Tracey Stewart's profile speaks some to just saying no to people who don't accept you as-is, and to the ethics of eating animals.

The symbolism of Lisa's vegetarianism.

I never tweeted about my cat going down to the kebab shop; apparently I'm the only one.

Most vegetarians who eat meat aren't actually vegetarians.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday roundup

Walt on what makes a strategist.

Health research is often mischaracterized in the press, but the mischaracterization often starts with the press release.

Animals teach us unconditional love, and we start to expect the same from people.

So much truth in this Ask Polly column.

Are you setting up your kids for on-their-own success? Are you?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday morning roundup

The Central American refugee crisis is still raging, and our policy response is unconscionable,

Another pioneering scientist is outed as an abuser and harasser,

Jon Butterworth's very helpful explanation of neutrino oscillation, but I still have questions.

The weekend

I got a few more comments about my protruding belly last night, but there was mostly peace. There was, of course, complaining earlier in the day about the walk and about how we didn't spend enough time in her favorite store. This is because I had plans with friends during the day, and had told her throughout the morning that if we didn't leave "now," we wouldn't have much time for anything. But there was, nonetheless, a lot of changing clothes, etc. I tried to help her get dressed, but she kept yelling at me. I came down stairs and dad started lecturing me about how I had to be patient with her, but then he went upstairs to help her get dressed only to come downstairs and say, "ultimately, her greatest obstacle is that she's a стерва." I.e., bitch.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

You'll never guess what mom just said to me

Mom: Your belly has grown!
Mom: Yes, it has.

Earlier, over breakfast:

Mom: That hairstyle doesn't work for you.
A.: It's not a hairstyle; it's a mechanism for keeping my hair out of my face.
Mom: It doesn't work for you.
A.: [Shrug.]

Otherwise, much of the same: more dilly-dallying, more complaining about the walk, more ruing the lost treasures.


As usual, it took multiple attempts to get mom out of the house for a walk yesterday. Just when I thought she was ready, she came downstairs in a warm sweater. I asked if she had something underneath--the day before, which was not as warm, she'd shed a layer as soon as we started walking. I wanted to make sure that if she shed a layer, she had another one underneath. Also the other day, she kvetched the minute we got out of the car--about how she wanted to go on the walk at the dog park, and how I didn't know what I was talking about since I'd never been there. Then, she came around and started talking about how beautiful it was by the river.

Quick roundup and ramble

Why Svetlana Alexievich's Nobel Prize matters.

The affirmative consent concept is making strides but has a ways to go.

I'm not linking to the Times op-ed on meditation, which can be summed up by one of its own sentences: it's not snake oil but it's not a panacea. But I have to wonder--for example, as a vegan who is often surprised that people feel like I'm trying to "convert" them merely by talking about my own eating habits, mostly in response to their questions--whether people are really preaching to this guy or merely talking about what works for them. See also: people who interpret existing with breasts as showing off. Anyway, I think there's value in the column: not everything works for everyone and not everyone needs something that may really work for some people. I personally struggle with mindfulness, so I make an effort to meditate. If you don't struggle with mindfulness, more power to you.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday morning

Yesterday was relatively peaceful, by mom standards. I did have to leave the dinner table because she wouldn't stop political ranting and name-calling, but that's every day (even by phone). This morning, I woke up early--and fielded about 20 work emails between 6 and 10am--and tried to get my work out in before mom got up and tried to talk to me while I worked out. I need workout time to myself, so I can clear my head and better keep an unpained face while mom gossips about the neighbors for the 30th time. I got through about half the workout, which is something. Dad left for a medical appointment. Mom talked to me, and then wandered outside. I checked on her occasionally through the window. Just as I was wrapping up, she came back in and started yelling.

She had gone through the recycling bin and brought back all the paper--old circulars and junk mail, including a free calendar. She started screaming and pounding her fists about how dad throws out all her things without ever asking her, and about how everything that is good in the house, she brought or bought and dad never did anything. All he does is move things around and mess with her decor. I finished stretching, and--noticing visible dust--started vacuuming. In part to tune out mom.

I got my parents a new vacuum cleaner last time I was here, and almost instantly filled several canisters' worth. Dad promised that he'd keep vacuuming, but lately he said that it wasn't working as well. The house looked better than usual--the living room floor was not covered in a visible layer of dust, and dad said that he'd been on top of keeping that floor clean because since we cleaned it last time, he noticed the dirt that much more--but there was still dust everywhere. So I vacuumed the living room and the stairs, filling about three-quarters of a canister. Dad got home around that time and mom started screaming at him--holding up the calendar and asking why he tossed it, and saying 'good thing the good trash collectors noticed it and new it wasn't trash, and took it out.' She continued to yell as dad and I emptied the canister and shook out the filter. I took the vacuum cleaner upstairs and filled a full, heaping canister. It was disgusting. I don't understand how they can just breathe all of that in. I keep telling them both that they need to clean everything out and get to the places I couldn't get to because of all the clutter, but it's like talking to a brick wall.

As I was vacuuming upstairs, mom tried to offer me some blazer. I told her it was too big. She insisted that it wasn't. I asked her to let me finish vacuuming. Once I did finish vacuuming, I started dealing with the 14 work emails on my phone--and mom started asking me about the blazer again.

A.: I can tell it's too big.
Mom: I can tell it isn't. Just try it on.
A.: Can I finish with the work stuff?
Mom: Just try it on.

I tried it on. It was--surprise--much too big, but she started arguing with me and telling me it looked great. It is an 8/10, and I am a 00. I said no thank you and went back to work emails.

Mom: Well, you could show some appreciation instead of taking that tone as if I'm just trying to stick you with some piece of garbage.
A.: Thank you, mom. It's a nice blazer, it just doesn't fit.
Mom: Have I told you that your visits no longer bring me any joy?
A.: You have.
Mom: Okay, then.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Old is the new fat

Mom was in the middle of some political rant--probably the same one, about how everyone is getting shot because the President invited all the immigrants in so that they would vote for him--when she stopped and got that look on her face. That "what's wrong with your face" look.

Mom: You've aged.
A.: I wonder how that happened.
Mom: No, seriously: you've aged.
A.: Uh-huh.


Mom: You're looking old.
A.: It happens.
Mom: I don't know. Do I look like I've aged?
A.: Uh-huh.

My parents

On the coffee table next to me, there's a packet of hot sauce from 2003 and a package of sugar from god knows when. Over lunch, I asked what happened to all the decorative plates that were hanging in the (glass-doored) kitchen cabinets. Mom went on about how they were priceless and should never have been there--she even slammed her fists on the kitchen table, in anger, when I said they were always there. She said she would give them to me--she would give me everything--if I had a baby. I told her that was added incentive not to have a baby.

Clothes are piled over the guest bed. Some are torn, but she won't use them for rags or throw them out. Stuff is everywhere.

Oh, and the topic of discussion over lunch was how the President let in all the illegals so they would vote for him, and now they're shooting everyone.

My parents won't leave for the airport until I call them when I land, because they don't want to have to circle, which is fine. So I called them when I landed, and then called them once I was outside to let them know where I was. They said they were stuck in traffic; I told them to call me when they got to the Airport Roadway--it was chilly, so I'd go back in and then go out. So then they call me 20 minutes later to say they can't find me, and they have to circle. I don't care, but they hate circling, so if they just listened, they wouldn't be doing it. I get irritated because this is a microcosm of the bigger not-listening issue, but I guess I should just save the irritation for when it matters.

Thursday roundup

Hi guys! My laptop won't connect to the internet, so I couldn't post until now (I'm at my parents' house; post forthcoming).

Factory farming is a crisis in ethics, but "humane" farming has its own ethical issues.

I heart vegan athletes.
The women in MRA groups are just as f*ed up as the men. And--take it from a gynecologist--they're pretty f*ed up. Need more evidence (from a purely "factually misguided" standpoint)? Women aren't good for colliders, except we totally are.

Crass is not, in and of itself, funny.

I love this Ask Polly response about being your (complete, dark) self in a relationship.

Trevor Noah's "America's African President" is brilliant. As is the Nightly Show's "dick blow-off."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Some advice and the best video ever

Carolyn pretty much took care of most of the absurdity in this letter, but I wanted to add something: there is nothing wrong with the director of a non-profit organization being paid well. Non-profits benefit from excellent management, and that management should be appropriately compensated. To think that people in these positions should sacrifice as a matter of principle--and they are already usually paid much less than they would be for equivalent work at a for-profit--is in line with the other logical fallacies in the letter.

Potlucks are fine as long as everyone agrees that they're potlucks.

I f*ing love Amber Rose's Funny or Die "walk of no shame."

Sunday roundup

It's scary how easy it is to perpetuate internet hoaxes.

This sexbots conspiracy logic is... amazing.
On a quasi-related note: dating is not quite a numbers-game.

Rebecca Traister is a national treasure.
I love the Muppets. I love Kermit. I do not need to imagine his felted member encased by hog flesh. That, after all, is what the non-ABC-affiliated internet is for. (Seriously: Don’t Google Muppet sex.)
Animal ag is bad for poor people and the environment, not to mention the animals (yes, even "human" meat). And for public health.

Take care in how you interpret nutritional news.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday roundup

I mean to link to this a while ago, but the Ecuadorian embassy has had enough of one Mr. Assange.
The report continues in quite a critical manner as to Assange’s intrinsic “nature”, independent of his stressful situation, stating that his “evident anger” and “feelings of superiority” could cause stress to those around him — “especially the personnel who work in the embassy, mainly women”. 
I appreciate Dr. Nerdlove's treatise on how not to be an asshole in its own right--and for the choice examples--
But my conundrum is that, the column made me think of how my mom would love to go to McDonald's just to spite me, even when there were better options available. She would insist, because she knew it was unacceptable to me. The conundrum is that I'm trying really, really hard to focus on mom's more endearing side. But I keep getting distracted by memories of her lesser behaviors.

On the topic of children: John Oliver comes through as well:

On the topic of forgiving your parents: "Fuck Feelings" says, 'whatever'.
Stop trying to forgive your bad parents, they advise. Jerks are capable of having as many kids as anyone else—at least until men’s rights conventions come equipped with free vasectomy booths. If you happen to be the child of a jerk, that's just another obstacle to overcome.
In fact, stop trying to free yourself of all anger and hate. In all likelihood you're doing a really awesome job, the Bennetts argue, despite all the shitty things that happen to you.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

On attraction and double standards

I must have missed--I was in either Vietnam or Laos--Arthur Chu's response to MIT Scott's bitter-nerd essay, even as I blogged about some of the other responses. Chu's just came to my attention, and is worth excerpting here:
None of the pain Scott talks about came from things that happened to him. They came from things that happened inside his head. He speaks in generalities about “sexual assault prevention workshops,” or of feeling targeted by feminist literature — himself saying that he was perversely drawn to the most radical and aggressive rhetoric he could find, eschewing more moderate writers for the firebreathing of Dworkin and MacKinnon.
That’s how I feel when I look at Scott’s impassioned argument that the dating scene is set up to grind “shy awkward nerds” into the dirt while letting jockish “Neanderthals” have all the women they want. I could point out plenty of evidence, statistical and anecdotal, that this is not in fact the case, as commenters in that thread in fact do — but what would be the point? You can’t argue with emotions that deeply ingrained.
What’s striking to me is that this comes up because Scott very passionately wants to debate that nerds don’t have “male privilege” and that nerdy guys are the victims, not perpetrators, of sexism. He is arguing this to a commenter posting under the name “Amy,” who argues that shy, nerdy guys are in fact plenty dangerous on the grounds that she has been raped by a shy, nerdy boyfriend, and that in her life experience around shy, nerdy guys she’s seen plenty of shy, nerdy guys commit harassment and assault and use their shy nerdiness as a shield against culpability for it.
This is what Laurie Penny means — or one of the things she means — when she says that the harm the “patriarchy” causes women is “structural.” Not that all women have it worse than all men. Not that anyone gets away without getting at least a little screwed up by the arbitrary, unreasonable demands our culture makes of us. But that it’s women who disproportionately bear the burden of actual harm, of being directly victimized by other people.
Women get spurned, too, but do they go around throwing acid out of entitlement and spite? More often then not, women are told to suck it up and try to like the men who like them first. I know Reductress is satire, but it's eerie how close to home those satirical tips sound.

People are attracted to what they're attracted to. I wouldn't want to be in a relationship where attraction was an ordeal. Though it's true that, while men go on as if all women organize their lives according to their attraction), women are the ones (in heterosexual relationships) more aften asked to get over it, and even told that women aren't visual enough for attraction to matter. As Tracy Moore writes (first link in this paragraph),
The thing is—it is OK to reject people for dumb reasons, or, at least, it’s better to do that than to lie to yourself and that other person about what you want. To begin with: who has the right to tell anyone what their personal criteria for dating can or should be? Moreover, I think that A) men openly reject women for being fat all the time by never dating them in the first place, and B) women are, yes, just as picky, but it’s fine.

Here’s the thing: On some level we are all shallow when it comes to dating, and that’s nothing to apologize for because it’s how it works. We all like what we like. Attraction is sometimes something that forms out of a lifetime of exposure to one thing or another, the familiar or the novel. Sometimes what you like is inexplicable even to you, but it has a pull on you regardless. It’s all so arbitrary, so specific to the situations and relationships that shape us, the images we all see and embrace or reject.
I had conversations about this with two different friends last week. One was debating whether to go on a fourth date with a guy. She wasn't feeling it, but she wasn't completely not feeling it. Among his offenses was that he saw nothing wrong with watching Woody Allen movies. I directed her to the Ethicist's column on the matter, which she herself had checked out after their conversation and agreed with. [Note: perhaps prompted by that conversation, I got "Blue Jasmine" out of the library; I thought it was mediocre in its own right but fascinating as a remake of "A Streetcar Named Desire," which I hadn't realized it was supposed to be until I watched it.] Anyway, I advised my friend, not very helpfully, that she go out with the guy if she felt like it but, at this point, she wasn't going to like him any more that she did presently.

Later, I had dinner with a friend who just got engaged. She pretty much echoed the excerpted sentiments above: it's worth holding out for what you're attracted to, and you know when it's worth overcoming little things that might turn you off at first.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday roundup

Writers on the refugee crisis.

Michelle Knight's story of survival.

The Duggars' story of hypocrisy.

"White Feminism" analogous to Not-All-Meninism.

Breaking up with friends is just as traumatic as ending other kinds of relationships.
Friendship is not a pale imitation of sexual romance. It is a romance unto itself. I have not always loved as well as I could have. I am sometimes selfish in the wrong ways. There are women I still mourn—and I might always. 
How could Ashley Madison users not fall for a bot with a name like "toaster strudel".

Rebecca Traister nails it in her piece on Vanessa Williams.
Miss America... is open, in other words, to women who give the appearance of being imminently touchable, yet untouched, pleasingly sexual, yet pure. It rewards women who are alluring in a way that the culture demands they be alluring (thin, pneumatic, smiling, eager) but voids them — either by not including them at all, or as we know from Williams’s experience, by punishing them — if they have traded on that same allure in any way besides trying to be Miss America.
Never mind that the contest itself trades on them, that the ads playing alongside it on network television use bodies just like the ones competing to sell beer and cars. The rule is that the women themselves must never have used their bodies for their own pleasure or profit, must never have allowed anyone else but Miss America to use them either, must never have had those bodies used against their will.
Christy Turlington and Karlie Kloss give back.

Everyone knows that animals experience emotion.

When you read news about nutritional studies, always read the fine print. The press made it sound like you certain amino acids were only plant or animal proteins, but look at how small a difference it takes to get designated as one or the other:
Total protein intake was 85.1 6 23.4 g/d and protein contributed 16.2% to total energy intake. Of the 7 amino acids investigated, glutamic acid (3.2% energy intake) and leucine (1.3% energy intake) made the greatest contribution to total energy intake. Animal and vegetable sources contributed a similar amount to intake of arginine (52% animal), glutamic acid (51% animal), and glycine (55% animal), whereas intake of histidine (60% animal), tyrosine (62% animal), and leucine (61% animal) was predominantly from animal sources (Figure 1). Conversely, vegetable sources contributed more to cysteine intake (42% animal). Generally, correlations between the amino acids investigated ranged from 0.03 (glutamic acid and leucine) to 0.61 (leucine and tyrosine), although stronger correlations were observed between glycine and leucine (0.70) and arginine and glycine (0.77). 

Dear Abby's advice to this overbearing mother is priceless.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day roundup

Germany is leading on refugees. Now-establshed Vietnamese refugees in Canada are reaching out, too.

I hate this headline; Maria Gaidar hasn't changed loyalties; she's directed her activism to where it's needed.

The problem isn't social science; it's reductionism in social science.

I don't know if literature "beefs up your brain," but it does influence your personality.

Parenting--and growing up--amid job insecurity has an impact on childrens' attitudes.

The planet has a meat problem--one that we needn't recreate on Mars.

Punctuation has a long, interesting history.

Check out these absurd sanctimommies!

Ironically the graphic somewhat reflects my attitude toward men, but Laurie Penny's piece on the faux viagra does even more.

Dudes are hijacking equality laws to take down women's networking groups.

How to have a life without blowing your budget.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Big Sunday roundup

Refugees face a harrowing journey to and through Europe.

Lebanon's governance crisis demonstrates that even people enured to dysfunction, are limited in what they can tolerate.

Also on governance: pair what's going right in Guatemala with the article I linked to earlier about how Brazil's instutions are keeping the country together.

Surprise! The company behind the Tianjin tragedy made money from endangering people by flouting regulations.

This is a great article about Russia and its but you can take the line about how "Hints, insinuations, and doublespeak are the weapons of the weak" as applying to both the personal and political (see last week's ramble). An excerpt (from the article, not the ramble):
Professor Barbara Geddes, a prominent researcher of authoritarian regimes, classifies Russia as a "personalist autocracy," as distinct from a single-party or military autocracy that exists elsewhere in the world...
Most personalist regimes are less durable than single-party dictatorships and more susceptible to economic and exogenous shocks, because a “heaven-sent leader" must continuously prove his ability to turn water into wine and multiply loaves of bread or fish. Any difficulties must be temporary in nature. Also, personalist regimes need to continually buy off their elites: when the rewards for loyalty run out, the ranks of supporters suddenly evaporate.
Replicability issues are not unique to the social sciences. Case in point.

I rarely agree with Gary Taubes, but it is a no-brainer that starvation is unsustainable. This is behind the misconceived interpretation of research--that weight loss doesn't work because people gain it back; they only gain it back if they were starved, because of course few people will starve themselves in the long run. This is not to say that sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes won't help people drop pounds.

Pair Dr. Nerdlove's wise words about boundaries--

  • People who assume (or try to take) a greater level of intimacy than they actually have are creepy because they’re ignoring your boundaries.
  • Respecting somebody’s boundaries, on the other hand, is a mark of respect as well as social calibration. It shows you that you value their comfort and respect their social, emotional and physical safety. 
  • Once again, this is boundary-pushing behavior; by insisting that you are somehow “owed” something, you are saying that the other person does not have the right to decide their own actions or responses. If you already are demanding things of strangers – even something as relatively innocuous as a smile or a “hi” back – you’re establishing a precedent where you expect more of your desires to be reciprocated, regardless of whether the other person is interested or not. 
 --with all my RM posts and this piece about approaching women in public. And these pieces on rape culture.

Also on boundaries--in the sense that some people like to deliberately flout them as a power move--as well as other essential relationship skills that we value: you can bypass the need for them by going the sugar route. [This is an exceptionally well-written piece and I highly recommend that you read it in its entirety.] Some excerpts:
Drama, according to Thurston, includes taking your time to decide whether you want to have sex, having any motive beyond the one you stipulated up front (which was greed), and a presumption that you will be courted. No, sir, Thurston's courting days are over.
“A lot of them are very lonely and they don't have time to go through traditional dating because they're so successful. And they really don't have time to woo a woman or to like, you know, answer your phone calls.”

The other interesting thing about the article is the equivalence with housewife-ism (to counter the default equivalence with prostitution)--isn't it all on the same spectrum? I'd argue--without judging either of the three--that there is a difference: spouses with unequal incomes are each contributing in different ways to a shared goal; there's a relationship there, and the health of the relationship is something both parties have committed to sustaining. It's not transactional. This article makes it clear that, in sugar relationships, each party is in it for him/herself and wants no part in the work it would take to have a relationship. And there's nothing wrong with that, since the terms are clear; everyone knows what to reasonably expect.

PSA: existing with breasts =/= trying to distract with one's cleavage. Another PSA: do not clean your lady parts with lysol (or anything else). Remember what Doctor Gunter said: they're a self-cleaning oven.

This Times thing about narcissists reminds me of mom, although she's not quite as bad as any of these (or at least hasn't always been).

Serena Williams is amazing, but we knew that.

Mostly agree with the inadvertent coiner of 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl,' except I'd argue that Zoe Kazan brings it on herself (I've had the misfortune of watching two of her films--which she herself wrote--on planes). She revels in the MPDG, and thus is part of the problem.

Great video about actual vs. stereotypical vegans.

Meditation is good.

Stunning photos of bark.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday roundup

Trans women of color are being killed and it has to stop.

Well-written obituary for Jacob Bekenstein.

Poignant interview with Stephen Colbert and his embrace of gratitude. Pair with Megan Feldman Bettencourt's book on forgiveness and Tara Brach's meditation on embracing whatever comes your way.

Science: brought to you by humans.

Sunday ramble: ethnicity, directness, and people skills

A week or two ago, I was (surprise!) complaining about children. Actually, I was--we all were--complaining about tourists. Specifically, those who stand on the left. My coworkers were saying (though this could have been any and every conversation anywhere and everwhere in DC) that the Metro needs to put up signs, like the Underground in London does, telling people to stand right/walk left. I said I'd read that Metro won't do that because they don't want to formally encourage people to walk on the escalators, out of safety/liability concerns (even though everyone does it anyway). I added, "is there not a safety concern about my fist coming down on a small child's head?" A coworker, who knows the former Soviet Union well, said, "that's the Russian in you coming out."

True enough. Russians don't beat their children any more than anyone else does (and my coworkers know that I wouldn't actually hurt a child), but they certainly don't coddle them in some ways that Americans do. They'd teach them to get out of the way on the Metro, because they know that no one will be making way for them.

[Note a propos of nothing: an elderly or pregnant person standing is a sight unseen on public transportation in Russia; it's a sight I experience nearly daily on Metro.]

This is all a very round-about way of rambling (again) about communication and relationship styles. You see, perhaps I overattribute certain attributes to my ethnicity (or other ethnicities), most commonly directness. My people don't do indirect communication. I don't do indirect communication, and I have a hard time interpreting it when others do it. Let me tell you why this has been on my mind.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday roundup

Blogger has crashed on me multiple times, so I'm trying to recreate the links from memory and Twitter...

The too-tragic-for-words murder of Mr. Palmyra.

Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric is inspiring violence.

Idiot thinks she'd be a better parent because she has a nicer house.

On food news: Meat is the leading cause of extinction, grass-fed is just as bad, meat waste is worse, and the big one: "Corn Wars":

Also, Julia Ioffe explains how anyone from St. Petersburg could trash food.

Veganism isn't elitism; it's popular among low-income populations.

I'd rather be single than in a relationship that hinges on a sandwich.

Truly amazing newspaper corrections.

And now, the Carolyn roundup (much of which was lost):

On how people project their insecurities:
I find that sometimes I can’t win in conversations with relatives and casual friends. If I even mention events in my life that the other person cannot afford, I’m “bragging.” If I admit that something in my life is bugging me, I’m “whiny.” If I redirect the conversation to the other person’s life after a modest non-answer, I’m being “secretive.”

I realize that tone of voice and exact wording are very important, but I have come to the conclusion that some people will see bragging or whininess regardless of my tone and words.
A similar occurrence, in terms of imposing, manipulative gifts:
People determined to upset themselves will find ways to do it, no matter how much thought you put into words meant to stop them.

You know you're in the right relationship when you're not always second-guessing it.

The line between healthy compromise and unhealthy people-pleasing.