Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thursday roundup

Venezuela is starving.

Meat production means water scarcity.

Rest in Peace, Vera Rubin. Pair her restroom story with that in Hidden Figures.

Serena Williams on fighting racism and sexism.

Those we lost were fighters, too:
In 2016, we lost artists who showed us how to be irrepressible black men, unruly women, joyful and unashamed sexual beings and tender and tough all at once. And we lost them in a year when racism crept out of the crannies to which it had been consigned and an unrepentant chauvinist was elected president of the United States while sharing a ticket with a man who has appeared to believe that homosexuality could be cured.

I've dated the very squeamish, unassertive guy:
I’m more interested, though, in the gap (or two) between your comfort level and your fiance’s. He doesn’t know you’re assertive like this? He doesn’t advocate for himself likewise? Are there other areas where you’re mismatched and/or this unaware of each other’s natures? 

There may not be too many VERY fancy dinners in your future, but his discomfort exposes something that’s consequential to your daily life together. If simple assertiveness is just how you roll, then both of you will want him to be okay with that. Not just okay — you want a life partner to embrace the qualities that are germane to who you are.

He was also, unsurprisingly, this guy:
He resents you because he doesn’t know how to express his true needs and desires the way you do. He doesn’t ask for what he wants. He watches things go badly, shakes his head from the sidelines, and blames you for it. He’s not an adult yet.

Garfield was never about humor, always about crass commercialism. And it worked.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Xmas eve roundup

Two perspectives on Allepo.

Why there's nostalgia for the Soviet Union in spite of its victims.

Evan Osnos on tyranny:
Tyranny does not begin with violence; it begins with the first gesture of collaboration. Its most enduring crime is drawing decent men and women into its siege of the truth.
Our horribly unjust justice system.

Just two excerpts from Coates' must-read "My President Was Black."
Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 were dismissed by some of his critics as merely symbolic for African Americans. But there is nothing “mere” about symbols… Burning crosses do not literally raise the black poverty rate, and the Confederate flag does not directly expand the wealth gap.
Historians will spend the next century analyzing how a country with such allegedly grand democratic traditions was, so swiftly and so easily, brought to the brink of fascism. But one needn’t stretch too far to conclude that an eight-year campaign of consistent and open racism aimed at the leader of the free world helped clear the way.
Why I still haven't managed to muster compassion for Trump voters:
But the istina of the 2016 campaign is that Trump’s base was heavily dependent on racists and xenophobes, Trump basked in and stoked their anger and hatred, and all those who voted for him cast a ballot for a man they knew to be a racist, sexist xenophobe. That was an act of racism.
That and this (on the Jewish family that did skip town early because they were smeared by Fox and Breitbart).

Would we have Pizzagate had we responded to gamergate?

You--provided that you'd rather live--want a female doctor.

It's hard to undo climate rules, fortunately.

I recently had reason to revisit these two articles, which I blogged about at the time. This reminded me of the second in particular, in that... the Post wants me to feel bad for these people and I kind of do but I don't. I have trouble responding with compassion (and outrage) to the man who pushes wheelchairs at National and sometimes can't afford to get home. But "I'm a stay-at-home mom of four and can't afford xmas gifts for my kid?" Get a job. If I had four kids I couldn't afford shit either; we all make our choices. And the mom who's kid wants a Playstation? Guess what? I asked my parents for a Nintendo when I was a kid; they told me to make the money for it myself, and by the time I did, I changed my mind (and more importantly, learned that things have opportunity costs--not a bad lesson).

I do and don't hear this. I think vast differences in income can be a challenge on either side. I've not been in a serious relationship where I've vastly outearned the man--I've probably been on any number of dates where I did, but no information would have come out to broadcast that fact. I don't agree that men, generally, are turned off by ambition and outspokenness; plenty are, but who needs them? Also, her other article on 'manly men' is awful--there's a clear line between manliness and intrusiveness and disrespect for boundaries.

Everything about this screams red-flag, even as I don't doubt the benefits of nursing.

More things not to do when dating or trying to.

Dr. Nerdlove on how not to text and other dating truths:
When it comes to dating in all of its forms, there’s one universal sin: being boring... There should be substance behind your texting – something meaty that the other person can sink their conversational teeth into. It could be something crazy that’s happening or a question that prompts a conversation. You could even be texting just to flirt, because flirting is inherently fun. But if all you’re doing is just killing time, then you’re killing the attraction as well.
Rolling into the conversation cock first is a signal to others. Under the most charitable reading, you’re someone who’s so blind to social conventions and emotional intelligence that it’s amazing you’re allowed out of the house. At worst, it’s a giant neon sign that you don’t see the person you’re texting as a person. For all intents and purposes, you’re signalling that you see them as an especially elaborate sex toy and you’re hoping to jerk off inside them.
Pair with this from Ask Polly:
What you experienced is a very personal form of terrorism: Some coward (or group of cowards) resented you and your friends because you had the audacity to take up space and behave confidently while also being sexually attractive. You had more power than they could bear. They hated you for that power, and hated that you didn’t give a fuck how they felt about you.
And while we're reading Ask Polly:
I also think it’s important and smart to invite single people to so-called couples gatherings. That’s just normal, honestly, even if a world of lazy couples tends not to see it that way. Single people need to get invited to do “boring” things, too. A lot of single people love boring shit, but because they’re single, they’re forced to go out on the town a lot, sometimes much more than they actually want to. Supporting single people no matter what, embracing and including people without kids when you have kids — this is just part of being a solid friend. And not to sound harsh, but none of us know when we could end up single again. Shit happens. Defying the stupid-ass ways our culture sorts us into categories is important. The more you break those boundaries and shake things up, the better your social life will be.
To give better gifts, don't overthink it and focus on longterm utility rather than immediate reaction.

See my thread on how (for the bzillionth time) "kasha" DOES NOT mean buckwheat.

I leave you with some holiday thoughts with the extraordinary J. K. Rowling (click and read the whole thread):

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday roundup

One take on Taiwan.

Aasif Mandvi on what PEOTUS could tweet.

Should we just let the red states go to shit, since they asked for it, while preserving democracy in the states that voted to?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday roundup

Before Taiwan, there was Pakistan. And holy shit.

Sicily has a forced labor problem, particularly among migrants; don't buy olives or olive oil from there.

Can we get to a food system where food workers can afford to eat well?

The Miami Herald's obituary of Fidel Castro short history of Cuba.

Remnick on Obama.

Chait on Brooks (and the moving goal-post that was 'center').

On what didn't happen in Indiana.

What PEOTUS wants.

Is the (global) west moving away from democracy?
A fairly balanced piece on why some people have a harder time as vegans. I will note that every failed-vegan confessional I've ever seen more or less takes the form of, "I gave up animal products, then gluten, then carbs, then food, and then--what do you know--I started eating (meat) again and felt better."

Everyone loves J.K. Rowling.

This story about a doctor who wouldn't give up on kids with a rare form of cancer--and the parents who helped her succeed--will restore your faith in humanity: perseverence, ingenuity, compassion, and much more. It's worth the long read.

Fascinating think-piece on signaling.

Pair this advice from Carolyn with my numerous musings on askers and helpers.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving roundup

Signs that your democracy is under threat and why it's worth stopping. The press needs to be on the job, too. And you can help people being harassed by bigots.

Self-enrichment is something politicians do in a third-world kleptocracy.

Trump voters don't deserve the empathy of those they've screwed over. Why do rural voters get such disproportionate power? And why do the people who fought hardest for the country, get the blame for the result?
The world has never lacked for young, spoiled white people (perhaps mostly men), who grumble ungratefully at their parents (perhaps mostly moms), who’ve done the work of putting food on a Thanksgiving table, and instead return to their onanistic gaming aeries with loaves of bread (no roses) and an absolute assuredness that they know better than everyone else and that one of the great injustices of the world is the ban on them saying whatever vulgar thing they’d like to.
I couldn't spend Thanksgiving with the only Trump supporter I know.

Shrinking the federal workforce is more complicated than it may seem.

MRAs are dumb.

You, too, can (and should) pardon a turkey.

Sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated. First, Robin Givhan on dress:
Our choice of attire is a measure of our respect for those around us and our own personal dignity.
Also, exercise is good for you.
The pooled results persuasively showed that exercise, especially if it is moderately strenuous, such as brisk walking or jogging, and supervised, so that people complete the entire program, has a “large and significant effect” against depression, the authors wrote. People’s mental health tended to demonstrably improve if they were physically active.
There's no aloe in drug store "aloe."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday roundup

Ethan Coen's post-election thank-yous.

Harry Belafonte on how much we had (have) to lose.

Mercantilist "feminism" isn't really.

This love didn't manifest itself on Election Day but it's still there.

DC Metro is a mess.

Please don't be problematic, Trader Joe's.

It's okay to talk about your life

I see a thinkpiece/twitter-war pattern. I've seen it for ages, at least since Barbara Ehrenreich wrote “Nickeled and Dimed” nearly two decades ago to a bizarre backlash from the argument that, unlike the writer, some people don’t need to artificially experience poverty; they live it. But Ms. Ehrenreich acknowledges as much in her book, which was not an attempt at authentic slum tourism; it was a scientific study in whether a person could actually make ends meet on minimum wage (spoiler: one couldn't). Her book added value to a socially significant national conversation.

The same backlash emerges whenever anyone who is not actually poor writes about struggling financially. Take Neal Gabler’s very reasonable essay about being middle-class broke. He reiterates at many points that he owns the life choices that have left him broke, and that he’s among the lucky ones: he is not poor, he has a roof over his head, etc. And yet, there's a slew of responses along the lines of "why does this man think he's poor." Is there really something wrong with exploring the disconnect between what’s supposed to be a middle-class lifestyle and one's own middle-class reality? Leaving aside the very broad definition of middle-class... I continue to see “some people have it worse” as a bad reason to not write about the middle class.

Regular readers of my blog, if any, know that I write about travel, including affording travel. You’ll recall my recent musings about a dude I went on a date with, who asked me if I was “frugal.” I didn’t understand the question. Like most people, I have finite funds at my disposal. Therefore, I spend them somewhat selectively. For example, I mostly make my own food (and tea and coffee), and I don’t have cable. Those two life choices help fund my travels. Now if you love going to restaurants and getting Starbucks, I wouldn’t tell you not to. And if you don’t want to travel, I’m not here to change you. I *don’t care* what anyone else does. I’m merely making a very simple choice-consequence connection: I don’t spend money on certain things that don’t mean a lot to me so I have more money to spend on the things that do mean a lot to me. I am also well aware that I have choices about how to spend money and that many people don’t. But I’m writing about the choices and experiences available to someone like me.

Hence my bewilderment when I came across a tweetstorm over an article about a 23-year old who blogs about travel. The headline was slightly inflammatory—she travels the world to prove that anyone can do it—the article less so, and the woman herself, not at all. She’s a cancer survivor who came to appreciate that life can be short, and chooses to do the things she loves in the present. She never says or even implies that everyone should travel—there’s no judgment in the interview—but notes that people put things off, think they can’t do it. So she wants people to know that there's no time like the present, and that they have more agency than they may know to make things happen.

"But not everyone can travel and she’s judging them! There’s an implied “what’s your excuse?”" Really, where? I don’t even see it implied. Yes, of course there’s implicit privilege, but there is in everything. There’s implicit privilege in “here’s a picture of my brunch.” There’s implicit privilege in how to afford college. Does that mean everyone should stop writing about it? 

Here’s what this article isn’t, as I noted in one of my sets of tweets: It isn't Gwyneth Paltrow (“here’s how you can ape my uber-expensive lifestyle, which is better than yours and I totally think I earned it but really I was born into great wealth and connections that propelled me in spite of my mediocre talent”). It’s not the douche who dips his balls in gold and so should you.

It’s “I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow, but I still make time and save money for travel, and here’s how you can if you want.”

Her tips are not revolutionary and her MO is unappealing (unless you know you’re dying, and maybe even if you do, why spend three days to fly to Asia and back for a three-day trip?). But I have a hard time finding her blog offensive.

At happy hour the other ngiht, we found ourselves talking about Australia and Australians. And how they’re everywhere. I noted—based on what Australians themselves have told me—that there’s a national perspective of, “we live on an island, we should get out and explore.” And yet, here, we have—from the left, no less—a national perspective of “travel is douchey and talking about travel is even douchier.” 

I get it: not everyone wants to travel, and many who want to, genuinely can’t afford to. But is it one’s imperative to not write because it makes people realize what they’re not doing with their lives? I don’t respond to things in the former category—things I don’t want, like a gala wedding or luxury car—with resentment about how people are judging me for not having those things. I don’t respond to things in the latter category—things I want but can’t have, at least not now—with rage at the people who are enjoying those things in their lives. There is maybe exactly one category of article or tweet that provokes the same reaction in me that this travel piece did in some people: articles that imply that everyone should wear makeup and it’s easier than you think. There is a real social pressure for women to wear makeup and I resent having to justify my decision not to wear it. So I get that sense of “where do you get off?” I also think we can just let people enjoy things that they enjoy that we may not, and if it’s something we do want, let’s try to channel our energy toward aspiration rather than jealousy.