Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday roundup

Hi again. I got stuck in Boston through late Monday, and then had a lot of work (worked Monday from my parents' house, too, because deadlines). Anyway, here's your roundup.

It's fine not to care for the work or views or character of the departed, but you needn't vocalize your feelings on the matter immediately following their deaths.

We know that Richard Dawkins is an insufferable douche bag, so why hold him up as a moral leader? I said as much in response to a Salon article, and the writer of that article tweeted his response at me, which still doesn't address the issue.

I love not just that trees have social networks, but that lower-technology approaches can simultaneously save money, increase productivity, and conserve resources.
Barbie is now in many body types, but people are still arguing that slim people need Spanx, "too." How fucked up is it that no woman is allowed to go about in her own body as it is?

Good for their happy ending, but I can't stand small-talky texters (especially those supposedly trying to date you). I was in a week-long, intermittent text conversation with this dude I met speed-dating, and it never managed to get past 'how was your day'-level discourse.

Contrary to Tracy Moore's take on Adelle Waldman's piece on women's and men's respective value placed on the intellect of a partner--and my mother's and well-meaning friend's admonishments to me-- men absolutely do value intelligence. That is does not preclude their also valuing youth and attractiveness, even as she implies that it does. From Waldman's piece:
For as long as novels have been written, heroines in books by women have studied their beloveds’ minds with a methodical, dispassionate eye. The ideal mate, for Jane Austen’s heroines, for Charlotte Brontë’s, for George Eliot’s, is someone intelligent enough to appreciate fully and respond deeply to their own intelligence, a partner for whom they feel not only desire but a sense of kinship, of intellectual and moral equality.
Yes. And that is why women run into trouble--because of the shortage of such partners, and not, as Moore says, because dudes don't value the same. And yes, there are men out there who are intimidated by intellectual, successful women--and her example, which is Maureen Dowd's example, is more an issue of success than intellectual prowess being the intimidating factor--but that there's a shortage doesn't mean there's a generalization to be had.

I guess I see it more as 'there's a Jack for every Jill,' and there are men who could give a shit, as my well-meaning friend would say, about how smart you are--and there are women who are cool with that, regardless of how smart they are. And there are women, myself included, who absolutely need the men in my life to engage me intellectually.

Conversely--turning to social science as a supplement to the literature review linked to above--women not only don't mind, but want, to be admired for our appearance as long as that's not the only thing we're valued for. More precisely, we're okay with being objectified by committed partners, but I agree with Fusion's explanation: it's because in those cases our appearance is an aspect of our overall being, not the basis of it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Saturday night

I snapped at mom last night and felt really, really bad about it (usually, I feel mostly justified). I've written about struggling to adjust my response to her from "stand your ground, reinforce your boundaries" to "she's old and sick, let it go." I've managed to make the adjustment in situations where I'm thinking about it, but my gut reactions have yet to adapt to the new reality.

At happy hour a week or so ago, the conversation turned to therapy, and how it matters because your past infiltrates your present. In other words, your familial history informs the way you interact with everyone else. In my case, I think I've done a pretty good job of clearing mom out of my interpersonal interactions with just about everyone, except mom (and--see my 'Gift of Fear' posts over the last couple of weeks--other people who bring it on themselves). As I said in those posts, it is the right thing to do, when someone continues to do something you have asked them not to do, to reproach them rather than thank them, even if that something was "nice." For a while, that was especially true with mom, but now it's not.

Quick Sunday roundup

The only word to describe the mismanagement and environmental racism behind the Flint water crisis is "unconscionable."

Yeah, in theory... but I already spent last weekend hunkered down in recovery (from oral surgery) so I'm happy to be free to move about this weekend.

Rest in peace, Cu Rua.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday night

Mom continued to rant about how we should call off the evening, since who gives a f* about dad's birthday. At his age, why even bother celebrating with friends? Luckily--because mom tends to be on her best behavior when non-family is around--one guest (who couldn't stay) showed up early, which helped distract mom from the idea that dad's birthday wasn't worth celebrating .

Mom pointed out to the friend that my stomach was enormous, the friend said not at all. Just as that first friend was leaving, another couple (i.e., Nina's parents) showed up. Dad took their coats, and I asked him, as he was going to put away those coats, to grab a chair from that room. Mom took that as an opportunity to comment on my bossiness.

Mom: There she goes, just commanding people around. It's no wonder.
Nina;'s mom: Huh?
Mom: I mean, it's no wonder she's single. Who wants to be bossed around like that? Who wants to be around someone who's always right? It breaks my heart.
Nina's mom: You're imagining things.
Mom: Listen, I know what I'm talking about.
Nina's mom: I recommend that you get off her back.
Mom: Don't tell me what to do! I know what I'm talking about.
Nina's mom: I don't think you do.

Mom settled down as we all sat down to dinner, at which point she started telling everyone about her bear cub. Occasionally, she dropped a comment about the belly I'd grown myself. Statements on either matter confused the guests equally.

Occasionally, I felt bad, as I do, about being curt with mom, but as dad said over the summer, "her biggest issue really is that she's a bitch." We both try to make allowances for the fact that she's ailing, but the bitchiness is so continuous with her pre-ailment personality and we've both had it. I made a decision to shield myself from her emotional vampire antics, and the source of those antics doesn't change that.

Mom has a very astute observation

Mom: Your butt has gotten big.
A.: [Shrug.]
Mom: Uh-huh; it has.

It took her 24 hours after I got here to start body-shaming, but that's mostly because she wasn't talking to me yesterday. Dad picked me up at the airport on his own, and when I said to hello to her as I walked in, she coldly said hello back. A few hours later, apparently after I didn't close the door quietly enough, she threw a fit to dad about how I'm a despicable person whom she does not want in this house. This morning, she threw a fit at dad about how her decorative pillow isn't quite right and it's all his fault. She's spent the last 20 minutes suggesting that we call everyone who plans on coming over tonight--it's dad's birthday--and give them permission to stay home because weather (there is no weather in Boston; nothing but blue skies, and the roads are clear). Apart from that, there's just running commentary about whatever's on TV, and random musings about the bear cub she sees in a tree in the back yard (she points us to her nest--she's decided that the bear cub is a her).

She's at it again.

Mom: Everyone knows that he was born. Big deal. We saw everyone recently. I suggest we call everyone and tell them to stay home.
A.: Mom, it's not snowing here.
Mom: You don't know about later tonight.
A.: Yes we do. It's not going to snow here. The streets are clear.
Mom: I say we call everyone and say, thank you for caring, but really, you can stay home. So he was born; big deal. I would give everyone permission to stay home.

Rinse, repeat.

Quick Friday morning roundup

In India, even sleeping on the streets has its own economy.

Holy crap, this PUA story:
Attempting Game techniques in the real world didn’t always go smoothly, such as the first time he attempted a neg on a date. “This woman mentioned that she was the youngest, and I said, ‘Oh, that makes sense. You are kind of entitled and princessy.’ She got very offended and it totally blew up the date, and that was that.”
Rarely does industrial waste yield beautiful things, but break-ups often do.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday roundup

As I've been essentially grounded this weekend--I laid low to recover from oral surgery--I managed to catch up on all the tabs I opened over the last couple of months and hadn't gotten around to reading until now. So here we go, starting with the Middle East and moving onto science and then some Carolyn, with some other stuff sprinkled in between.

Two different but not conflicting perspectives on Saudi Arabia, and one on Iran in Syria.

Take North Korea seriously.

How many more elements could there be and how should we name them?

Don't buy anything with 'quantum' in the name.

What we now know about Pluto.

The meat industry doesn't want you to know how bad it is for the planet.

A conversation between garbage humans.

Jezebel rounds up the responses to the Times article and its own response on the sulking bachelors.

We've talked about this before, but it's worth repeating: when dudes demand "no drama," they're asking you to play the undesirable role of "the cool girl."

The same concept extends beyond romantic relationships:
If you can’t say what you really feel to a friend without fear of triggering a meltdown, then you can’t conduct the essential business of that friendship... Lies and stalling are low roads masquerading as courtesy.
Carolyn appears to know my mom.
Clearly she gains attention; behold her starring role in a drama where she’s the can-do gal in a family of slackers, incompetents and ingrates.

If instead your mother builds her sense of self from the rubble of everyone else’s... Mom (or anyone else) can’t meet your needs when her every word and deed is rigged toward feeding her own needs. Hoping or expecting otherwise from such self-focused people is the source of so much pain.
Love this:
Life kicks sand in all of our faces. The face full of sand (or the dune up to your earlobes) is an invitation to be a jerk, but not a license to be one.
No matter how constricting your situation looks, remember you still have choices, if not the ones you’d planned on having. You can choose to be wed to your diagnosis, or you can choose to be bigger than mere physical stuff. You have no choice about being in need, but you can choose not to be needy. No matter how reduced your circumstances, you still have a responsibility to be alive.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Blessings (a Saturday ramble)

Early on in my series of rambles over the last couple of months, I rambled about "The Blessings."
I think about how broken I was in Budapest and Prague and how my brokenness became part of the experience--it's what makes me look back on that trip as an adventure as much as a vacation, as an achievement in moving forward and persevering. I think I've quoted Dar Williams many times in reference to that trip (among other things)--in particularly, "The Easy Way," because I did keep the wine and laughter, and every path did grow up and ever after, and peaks and canyons and many great companions. I recently discovered another Dar song that's equally evocative of the same sentiment: "The Blessings": "the best ones were the ones I got to keep as I grew strong."
I'd focused then on how distant the pain looks once you're on the other side of it, how silly your then-overwhelming, intense feelings seem. But the converse is also noteworthy: "It's the things that you notice more," Dar adds. You feel the pain more intensely, but you also appreciate the little miracles that much more. I'm a pretty naturally grateful person on a good day, but I'm even more so in a rut. I was grateful--as much for the gesture as for the food itself--when my coworkers shared their garden veggies with me over the summer. I felt the same gratitude, even more intensely, when a friend shared garden veggies in January. It's not that you don't know--that the information isn't out there at any given time--that there are people in your life--who love you, who are thinking of you, who are there for you--but it's also comforting to have concrete moments to remind you.

Saturday roundup

Science isn't (mostly) about the facts. And throwing money at it isn't always helpful (stability of funding is more important than sudden, token infusions).

Cattle grazing is bad for the planet.

Oh Judith whatever, no, people shouldn't have to subsidize the lifestyle choice that is parenthood. The world does not need more people. The planet doesn't need more people.
Read this instead.
I understand that this was my female relatives’ choice. Yet I also know how infrequently you truly make the choice to sacrifice something you love; it’s more like a slow erosion. You give up one small thing, which makes it easier then to give up another, then another. After all, the men didn’t ask them to make these sacrifices — asking that would require their acknowledgment there was something of value to give up.
I'm all for no small talk. In particular with regard to dating, the more small talk, the worst the date.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Addendum to "The Gift of Fear" post

The takeaway is indeed that the social expectation that women be nice, accommodating, and receptive to interaction, is a precarious one. But I was slow to deal with those situations, and I'm not much influenced by social expectations. I maintain that, had I been under those influences, I would have gotten out worse. Even absent the social expectation, there was an interpersonal expectation: you don't need social pressures to not want to hurt someone's feelings. And manipulative people expertly exploit your very human inclinations to not confront them.
I've written about this exhaustively with regard to gifts: there's not only a social expectation to accept gifts graciously, but an interpersonal one. Nobody wants to throw a gift back in someone's face. I never thought I'd throw a gift back in someone's face, but when I did, it was the right thing to do.

Saturday roundup

I hate to do this, but we have to talk about nuclear weapons--specifically, "hydrogen bombs." The term "hydrogen bomb" most commonly refers to a two-stage thermonuclear weapon. SciAm has a decent description:
A thermonuclear weapon, or hydrogen bomb, uses a nuclear fission reaction to ignite a secondary hydrogen fusion reaction that makes greater use of the weapon’s atomic fuel, typically uranium or plutonium.
So, naturally, does The Bulletin:
A modern hydrogen bomb is a two-stage device that uses a fission bomb to drive the second stage fusion device.
As both pieces note, it is possible that what North Korea tested was a boosted fission bomb, which can be described by the term 'hydrogen bomb' but usually isn't.

Much of the media seems to be stating or implying that a thermonuclear weapon is fusion-only (making too clear-cut a distinction with a basic fission weapon) and/or stating that the difference in yield is attributable to the greater energy output from fusion versus fission, when really, it's more complicated than that.
For reliable information on North Korea's test, consult CTBTO's page.

Moving on...
The legacy of Willie Horton is holding back criminal justice reform, although great strides in screening (among other things) have been made since.
Vanilla-ISIS is confused by its own revisionist history.

Those hippies at Johns Hopkins have found that animal agriculture is really bad for the planet.

This is in reference to Richard Dawkins, in an otherwise forgettable article:
One of the most important and destabilizing things any of us can learn from social media is that some of the most widely respected people we know are, in day-to-day online life, difficult to tell apart from the least respected — the throwaway accounts having laughably predictable arguments in forums and comments sections. NITSUH ABEBE
I don't think all stories are the same.

You almost have to admire this couple for knowing themselves and being themselves.

In this day and age, there are social and personal pressures on single men of a certain age, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Notes on The Gift of Fear

I'd known about Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear" for a long time--I must have seen him on Oprah back when that episode aired, when I was (probably) in high school. Even then, the concepts were simultaneously eye-opening and intuitive. Over the years, various friends read it and recommended it. I wonder whether, had I read it earlier, I might have cut RM's antics off at the start. But I hadn't, and I didn't. I can say that I knew enough that I pared back RM's antics, which could have been a lot worse, and by the time I'd navigated RM's antics, I was better prepared for BE's. Even so, I didn't recognize the BE signs as early or clearly as I might have had I read the book.

You may be thinking, "neither of these guys were a danger to you," to which I say two things: (1) I don't know; RM might have been a danger to me had I been any less assertive, and (2) de Becker states explicitly that these are indicators of manipulativeness, not necessarily danger--and it's manipulativeness that can push you to ignore the instincts that might help you stay out of danger. Consider also the woman who tried to kidnap me--even she probably wasn't dangerous; she didn't intend to harm me. She merely manipulated me verbally into getting into her car, which allowed her to manipulate me physically into being her captive audience for an hour.

Sunday ramble part I: movies and customer service

I'd grown bad at watching movies; I liked them enough, but never got around to watching them. With theater, the tickets were purchased ahead of time so I had reason to go, no matter how little I felt like it; whereas you can always talk yourself out of a movie without swallowing a sunk cost. I don't have cable, so I didn't feel the need to watch TV even after I bought one last year to appease mom. But I got back into movies, starting a year ago on the way to and from Dubai and then on the way to and from Vienna (well, on the way to and from London). I even got in "Pitch Perfect 2" on the way back from Albuquerque (go Delta for having entertainment on a relatively short flight; can't say the same for either American or United, which had nothing on the way to or from San Francisco--although the lack of entertainment inspired me to read a good part of a very good short story collection). Once I got back into movies, I started taking them out of the library--and watching them on my horrible laptop, for lack of a DVD player, until I broke a month or so ago and bought one. And now I'm a regular at the library. Between in-flight entertainment and the library, I've caught up on lots of Marvel--"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is by far the best, "Ant Man" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" tied for second. "The Avengers" was an abomination.

Very quick Sunday roundup

Use positron emission tracking to inform how you fill your dishwasher.
I’m not convinced, for example, that modern methods of human interaction — say, showing off on Instagram or rat-tat-tatting away on sites like OkCupid — are really any better than the epistolary intrigues and conversational country strolls of the early 19th century, at least those depicted in her books. I also believe there is something — a lot, actually — to celebrate in the ways that Austen’s novels, particularly “Emma,” offer insight into the revolutionary changes for women that have taken place over the two centuries since publication. Such changes include a growing economic independence that has freed them from the pressures to seek both financial stability and long-lasting love in the form of one perfect person.
Regarding serendipity: I'm somewhere between an occasional- and super-encounterer.