Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tuesday roundup

Kids are bad for the climate and climate change is bad for kids.

I woke up to headphones trending on Twitter:

This is the best response to the provoking article.
By step 4 I’ve learnt that you can’t understand a basic body language brush-off and are therefore a direct threat to my personal safety. My brain is in fight or flight, checking for escape routes, it’s trying to figure out just how aggressively you’re going to react to any further action I take to extract myself from a situation entirely not of my own making and it is praying they use a flattering photo of me on the news, not that one when my front-facing camera went off accidentally that time.
That's largely in response to what can be summed up by this:
Women love to test guys to see how confident they really are and a favorite test of women is to ignore a guy’s attempts to converse with her and see what he will do next. Will he walk away in shame, or will he remain calm and continue talking to her in a confident, easy-going manner?
Um, no. Fuck no.

On the topic of yesterday's post, in which I excerpted a response to the "women drink because the patriarchy" article, which noted the fact that it's hard to separate what's ours from what's socially imprinted: the author noted, as an example, that she prefers her legs hairless. Is that because of the patriarchy? Who knows.

I have spent a lot of money lasering my legs to the point of hairlessness, and I'm fairly confident that it's not because of the patriarchy (though--I take her point--who knows). So today I was pinged by this dude on OKC, and what I love about OKC is that there are questions--questions that allow you to instantly disqualify troglodytes or others who are full-out unacceptable. So this dude had asserted in his answer to a question that, yes, women do have "an obligation" to keep their legs shaved. Bye. Bye and fuck you. My preference for hairless legs does not make your notion that women are obligated to do anything regarding their appearance, less revolting. You can have a preference; you may prefer women with hairless legs. That does not translate to an obligation. Bye and fuck you.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday roundup

Has Saudi Arabia really wrought all that it is accused of having wrought?

Is China censoring Canadian citizens/residents? Wait, Canada can’t/won't protect its citizens from harassment by agents of a foreign government??

So someone sent me the original trending article, and my response was very similar to this:
Perhaps it’s because I’ve never had a drug or alcohol problem, but for me, drinking with other women isn’t just coping or complacency. 
But I also appreciated this:
Like most women who call themselves feminists, I know that living in a sexist world shapes my life and choices. It’s probably why I feel “cleaner” with shaved legs and like to wear bright lipstick. In one specific instance, I’m pretty sure it’s why I was denied a promotion. In most cases, though, when it comes to decisions I make, it’s difficult to separate what is and isn’t related to the patriarchy. Do I feel more powerful with short hair because of the patriarchy? Do I pick my cuticles when I get nervous because of the patriarchy? Do I have a distant relationship with my mom because of the patriarchy? Did I get drunk last night because of the patriarchy? Who knows.
As I've previously stated, I don't have long hair because of the patriarchy; I have long hair because it's the only way my hair works. It's less work when it's long. But this also evokes the strong-is-the-new-skinny debate. I'm the first to argue that even skinny isn't about the patriarchy; women prefer skinny for themselves and not for men. Oh, first, an aside:
Every woman should feel free to hit the beach. I have mixed feelings about the speedo ban (satirical or otherwise) because at heart, body-shaming is always wrong. But the double-standard is palpable: if men feel free to hit the beach in their doughy states, so should women.
I found the backlash to the idiot who hated on the gymnastics team's abs refreshing but also fascinating. He has every right to not find the gymnasts' abs attractive--we all have things we find attractive or not--but his sin was presuming that those abs were their for his consumption. If you consider the reactions to the original picture, they're along the lines of "goals" and "wow" (and wow indeed); they're not about impressing dudes, as this woman astutely points out:
And that is the key point: these are our abs; bless you if you find them attractive, but they sure as hell aren't about you either way.

And that's how I feel about strength/muscle tone: you can like it or not, but it's not for you. So--even if we accepted the premise that skinny was a thing of the patriarchy, and I don't--strong is even less so. Strong is for us, and if dudes want to admire it that's their call. But it's not about them--and it sends a message that it's not about them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nerdy Wednesday roundup

Very insightful analysis of the various dynamics in Syria and a pretty good takedown of wishful backward thinking.

We're not moving nuclear weapons to Romania.

There's no scandal about meeting with Mohammed Younus, etc.

How badly do certain things hurt?

Don't negotiate a big decision and then fall back on your part of the commitment.

South Africa: mundane thoughts and light anthropology

The other guide mentioned Trevor Noah, I don't remember in what context. I asked him (the guide) what his (Mr. Noah's) accent was. He said 'white South African' of the Johannesburg variety. I would have liked to ask him what South Africans thought of him overall (I'm a fan) and what their reaction was to his getting the show, but we were on our way to the airport at the time.

There were many accents, some of which you could tell were class-based. South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, and 9 "black" languages. I was surprised to hear that the indigenous people (e.g., Khoisan) spoke Afrikans as a native language. In Cape Town, there was also a population of ethnic Malays and Indonesians--descendants of the slaves imported by the Dutch. Everything was in English--the airline didn't bother to announce things in Afrikaans--and that English was pretty poetic and polite. And interesting. "Thank you" was often followed by "may you be blessed with many children," which to me sounds like a contradiction in terms.

I've been to developing countries on every continent, and South Africa was the first where you could be completely isolated from the fact that you were in a developing country. Everywhere else--throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, India, Russia--even in the rich areas, you always knew you were in a poor country. In South Africa--the most unequal country in the world--you didn't, unless you were driving past the shantytowns. Stellenbosch the town could have been Palo Alto or Wellesley; it was visibly affluent and full of white people being rich. Cape Town boasts the highest standard of living in the country and also the starkest divide between rich and poor. 

We were in the most touristed areas of the country and didn't even pretend at the authentic experience. In Cape Town, we had Thai every night (and it was perfect). We did wash it down with high-quality South African wine. Like I said, I wasn't about to have bitlong.

One of the guides asked who among the group was taking malaria pills, and--when a handful of people raised their hands--more or less laughed at them. In winter, in the most developed parts of the country, malaria was not really an issue. I've also heard (from trusted sources) that, unless you're living in the malaria-prone place, it's a better bet to skip the pills and, should you contract the disease, seek medical help upon returning home. The pills are pretty awful in and of themselves.

It's odd to be back; things feel different. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

South Africa

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
 --Crosby, Stills & Nash
This wasn't my first Southern Cross, but it hadn't lost its magic and never will. I couldn't get a picture of it, but I guess that's the other poignant thing about stars--you have to revel in them in the moment. This moment was perfect--perfect weather; the last time I saw mind-blowing stars was from the freezing-cold, glacier-level campsite on the Inca Trail. Just as stunning, much less comfortable. Much less suitable to presence, in the zen sense; it's hard to stay in the now when you're worried about losing your toes. But Saturday night was mild and perfect. We'd just past a family of elephants, including a couple of babies and a teenager or two, who were playing.

And then, a couple of hippos, who dunked their heads back under water. We stopped by the water and enjoyed some amarula.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday roundup

For this election, chickens came home to roost.

Baltimore's police competed with DC's for mistreatment of sexual assault survivors.

It is (still) unconscionable to abandon Afghan translators by slowrolling their visas.

Second-Amendment people aren't crazy.
Many gun owners I know, especially those who are most passionate about defending the Second Amendment, take pride in reminding others that they are law-abiding. They are responsible for their conduct and for the safe handling and storage of a firearm; they try not to lose their tempers, and to argue their ideas with facts and civility. Trump, in this sense, is harming them; by suggesting that, to use his phrase, “Second Amendment people” would turn to violence because their favored candidate loses an election is an insult to gun owners everywhere. By feeding a caricature, Trump is effectively advancing the case of those who would seek to curtail access to guns. Truly protecting the Second Amendment means identifying those who are misusing it for their own political purposes.

Please talk about women in the Olympics as full human beings rather than in terms of their bodies and relationships with men.

Don't get excited about your free-range meat; it's still polluting as f*.

There's lots of physics to pole dancing, which may be why I struggled with it.

All about neutron stars.

The only hair tips for DC.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Saturday roundup

Meet Tegla Loroupe, of Team Refugee. Also, meet this refugee jeweler.

"Harry Potter" readers know a dangerous demagogue when they see one. Although you have to admit that this is awesome:
Trump once even expressed a wish during the Reagan years to lead the negotiations with the Soviets to reduce strategic nuclear weapons. At a reception in New York City around 1990, he ran into the U.S. START negotiator, Ambassador Richard Burt. According to Burt, Trump expressed envy of Burt’s position and proceeded to offer advice on how best to cut a “terrific” deal with the Soviets. Trump told Burt to arrive late to the next negotiating session, walk into the room where his fuming counterpart sits waiting impatiently, remain standing and looking down at him, stick his finger into his chest and say “Fuck you!”
Even as the overall reality is not. So here's what to do:
To inspire democracy abroad, we must of course practice it better at home. But we should reject the moral relativism that says because our own union is not perfect, we are no different from the despots.
That was Amb. McFaul. This is Sarah Vowell:
 ...[Hillary Clinton] isn’t contributing to the climate crisis by spewing the sort of unconstitutional nonsense about Muslims that keeps the religion scholar Reza Aslan driving from one TV station after another to re-explain that about a fourth of the world’s population might not be comprised entirely of murderers.
Pig shit: it's what's in your water. Meat is killing you; even the protein.

Ed Yong on microbes.

The real finding about flossing is that people don't know how to interpret studies.

Philosophy majors actually do pretty well.

Even parents bristle at parental entitlement and parental smugness.

Oh, these quotes about heartbreak.

As someone who has had little trouble learning languages, most of Lauren Collins' piece did not resonate with me. But this part did:
In addition to being French and American, Olivier and I were translating, to varying degrees, across a host of Steiner’s categories: scientist/artist, atheist/believer, man/woman. It seemed sometimes as if generation was one of the few gaps across which we weren’t attempting to stretch ourselves. I had been conditioned to believe in the importance of directness and sincerity, but Olivier valued a more disciplined self-presentation. If, to me, the definition of intimacy was letting it all hang out, to him that constituted a form of thoughtlessness. In the same way that Olivier liked it when I wore lipstick, or perfume—American men, in my experience, often claimed to prefer a more “natural” look—he trusted in a sort of emotional maquillage, in which one took a few minutes to compose one’s thoughts instead of walking around, undone, in the affective equivalent of pajamas.
and this was interesting:
Schnapsidee—the way a German would describe a plan he’d hatched under the influence of alcohol. Pilkunnussija—Finnish for “comma fucker,” a grammar pedant. In Mundari, ribuy-tibuy refers to the sight, sound, and motion of a fat person’s buttocks. Jayus, in Indonesian, denotes a joke told so poorly that people can’t help but laugh. Knullrufs is Swedish for “post-sex hair.” Gümüş servi means “moonlight shining on the water” in Turkish. Culaccino is the Italian word for the mark left on a table by a cold glass.