Saturday, January 27, 2018

In which I ramble about my day and other things

But first, some context.

I probably have an over-associative mind. Everything reminds me of something else. Every place reminds me of the last time I was there. Every time of year makes me think about what was going on a year before.

This time last year, I was dating a dude and preparing to transition to a temporary gig. I was on the cusp of knowing the relationship was doomed; there was still room for hope, but also some concerns. Enough that I wasn't willing to leave stuff at his place--which was right near my then-office and not too far from my new one--between offices.

So now I have a week to go before I transition back to my old office. I was too busy at work to think about it--and too busy to gradually move any stuff back--but to be honest I thought it about it the whole time I've been there. Every time I crossed an iconic building, above or underground, I thought about how fleeting it was to *work* there. Every time I was either mistaken for an intern or addressed with disproportionate deference, I thought about how fleeting it was to be in this bananas mixing bowl of power dynamics. 

But it was Friday night as I left work that it hit me that I was down to a week. A very busy week, and not without Even More Drama than usual. But as I walked the tunnels to the metro, it fully hit me that I was down to a week. And even though I'm 90 percent ready to go back, I'm really going to miss everyone. And a lot of things. The sense of opposite-of-nostalgia was overwhelming. It stayed with me throughout the evening, and I woke up with it.

Saturday roundup

When the Times does not suck, it does not suck; and this is a good take on Qatar.

If I may say so, this is, overall, a very good take on the nuclear posture review.

And this is a very good take on how there is no "limited strike" on North Korea. Key excerpt:
Unfortunately, the tactical advantages of American stealth and surprise don’t produce a crystal-clear situational awareness and understanding of American intent for our adversaries. Wartime surprise does what it’s supposed to do: confuses and overwhelms the adversary. That surprise is intended to so discombobulate an opponent that they can’t formulate an effective response until it’s all over. But if you’re trying to prevent further escalation, confusion is exactly what you’re trying to avoid on the other side.
There is severe poverty in the United States.
Conversion "therapy" is evil.

On the amazing Judge Aquilina and how needed she is in a nation that refuses to listen to women.

I'm glad people are getting more involved and even running for office, but given how bad presidents can get, we need politicians to be more, not less, professional.

This man thinks that the main lesson from Hillary's defeat is that women belong in the kitchen, but a better take is that her candidacy was transformative. As the article says, "Look at all the breakthroughs women have made in the last century, and you’ll notice how many of them involved just making their presence in some new place seem matter of fact."

Look at photos from last weekend's second-anniversary women's march. Have no qualms about the lack of endorsement from the very problematic Linda Sarsour.

Enjoy some fine-art level trolling from the Guggenheim.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday roundup

Stalinism isn't here yet, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't put our guard up.

Yes, migrants commit crimes, too (though less so than non-migrants). Yes, optics matter; yes, it is a tragedy for Mia and her family. Is retaliating against migrants as a group a proportionate response? Or could we focus on why the threats and stalking weren't taken seriously? And promote cultural assimilation, to include making toxic masculinity a no-no.

Bret Stephens is so wrong overall that I hate to link to him even when he's right--even a broken clock--but this time, he's really right.

The new Kazakh alphabet doesn't really work.

If there has to be a split and the Women's March isn't interested in elections, I'm team March On.

How'd I miss this post from the woman who made Batali's pizza rolls?
Good baking requires an attention to detail and care that is hard to muster when you just don’t give a shit or you are distracted by your own rage.
It's official: women aren't allowed to be angry.
A 2016 study found that it took longer for people to correctly identify the gender of female faces displaying an angry expression, as if the emotion had wandered out of its natural habitat by finding its way to their features. A 1990 study conducted by the psychologists Ulf Dimberg and L.O. Lundquist found that when female faces are recognized as angry, their expressions are rated as more hostile than comparable expressions on the faces of men — as if their violation of social expectations had already made their anger seem more extreme, increasing its volume beyond what could be tolerated.
In “What Happened,” her account of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton describes the pressure not to come across as angry during the course of her entire political career — “a lot of people recoil from an angry woman,” she writes — as well as her own desire not to be consumed by anger after she lost the race, “so that the rest of my life wouldn’t be spent like Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s ‘Great Expectations,’ rattling around my house obsessing over what might have been.” The specter of Dickens’s ranting spinster — spurned and embittered in her crumbling wedding dress, plotting her elaborate revenge — casts a long shadow over every woman who dares to get mad.
If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.
There are many awful takes on Aziz Ansari out there. Here are some quite good ones.

I'm worn out, but remind me to write about "Lady Bird" sometime in the next week.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday ramble

I stumbled upon this article on how to handle unsolicited advice just as I was feeling guilty about being annoyed at my father's being himself. Most people dislike unsolicited advice most of the time (the author notes that there are exceptions), and--the author also notes--that even if the advisor is really just thinking out loud, it usually comes off as if (s)he thinks you're stupid. Did the people suggesting she get a passport (when she told them she was going to Europe) think she didn't know that? If they did, was it because they wouldn't have known that, or did they think that she, specifically, was clueless?

There are a lot of reasons that advice grates, one being that sometimes--most of the time--we just want people to listen. I tend to frame advice in the context of, 'this worked out well for me, don't know if this was already on your radar' or something similar. If anything, I tend to err on the side of assuming that people know things, where a suggestion might be helpful. But there is something super-galling about advice that presumes a greater-than-average level of ignorance.

And yet! Why should I care that, say, some random person on the street thinks I'm stupid? As the author said, if you want to change behavior, nodding or saying something generic won't get you there. I think with randos I do tend to smile and nod and whatever. But I digress. I was thinking about why my father's various antics so irked me. And, as with not appreciating it when someone presumes you're stupid, I don't appreciate it when my father implies that he's not impressed with how I'm living my life.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday roundup (brought to you by my frozen car battery)

Ukraine is a gangster state.

In Nepal, a young girl died sleeping outside because she was menstruating.

A Maasai woman stood her ground and improved thousands of lives
Finally, after nearly four years of dialogue, the elders in her village changed hundreds of years of culture and abandoned cutting. She had persuaded the men, and with them the village, that everyone would be healthier and wealthier if girls stayed in school, married later and gave birth without the complications cutting can create. 
Ms. Leng’ete — whose neighbors wouldn’t speak to her because she wasn’t cut — became the first woman in history to address the elders at the mountain.
In 2014, they changed the centuries-old oral constitution that rules over 1.5 million Maasai in Kenya and in Tanzania, and formally abandoned female genital cutting. 
In pushing to overturn a cultural commandment, she found that her own cultural pride was her strongest argument.
Here are some wise words about Poland from my former professor.

Will Modi try to cover for his mistakes by fomenting ethnic tensions?

Without an American security guarantee, the freedom-loving people of the Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — would almost certainly be gobbled up by the authoritarian Russians. These Eastern European countries were occupied by the Soviets until the end of the Cold War, and they’ve lived in fear of Russian invasions since Peter the Great. To guard against their annexation, they were invited to join NATO in 2004. 
In a chilling story that posted overnight, two former administration officials tell the Daily Beast that a senior National Security Council official proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump presidency. “While the proposal was ultimately not adopted, it is the first known case of senior aides to [Trump] seeking to reposition U.S. military forces to please Putin — something that smelled, to a colleague, like a return on Russia’s election-time investment,” Spencer Ackerman reports.
Here are some things that actually improve border security.

Two of the best responses to failed Ann Coulter:

How international papers covered 'shithole.'

This thread!

Milbank on Animal Farm.

I'd watch a gorilla channel.

Nursing homes can be very shady.

The Oprah for president moment is OBE, but this is an important point.

I live near a McDonald's and have to pick up trash all the time.
In denser living, a trash dump or a park next door affects the value of your parcel.
The sexual revolution made a vast number of previously unavailable sexual choices available. But it took place in a society that struggles to agree on what freedom actually means. And without a consensus on what constitutes a free choice, sexuality is bound to remain a domain wherein the powerful are able to exploit the less powerful — and call that freedom — even in a putatively liberated world. 
Quoting Hobbes, then 
In other words, calamitous circumstances don’t diminish a person’s ability to choose freely ; they just change the available choices. In this mind-set, non-physical coercion may not be decent or seemly, but it doesn’t invalidate the freedom of the choice that follows. 
Moira Donegan speaks revolutionary basic truths.
The spreadsheet was intended to circumvent all of this. Anonymous, it would protect its users from retaliation: No one could be fired, harassed, or publicly smeared for telling her story when that story was not attached to her name. Open-sourced, it would theoretically be accessible to women who didn’t have the professional or social cachet required for admittance into whisper networks. The spreadsheet did not ask how women responded to men’s inappropriate behavior; it did not ask what you were wearing or whether you’d had anything to drink. Instead, the spreadsheet made a presumption that is still seen as radical: That it is men, not women, who are responsible for men’s sexual misconduct.
This Ask Polly is long and I wanted to excerpt but there's too much that's too good.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday ramble

I've been watching the horrendous "Iron Fist" just to round out the Defenders universe (I have to wait until March for more Jessica Jones); I was horrified--but shouldn't have been surprised, given the show's consistently, stupidly horrendous handling of racial issues--by the show's discussion of meditation. Danny describes meditation as a route to turn off feelings; weapons don't have feelings, he adds. Fair enough about the last part, I guess, but the show is perpetuating a harmful myth about meditation. Meditation doesn't turn off your feelings; it trains you to manage them.

Watch the second half of Trevor Noah's interview with Dan Harris and read this article--not specifically about mediation--about working with, not against, your mind. I've been listening regularly to guided meditations on an app I got through work--the work program also included live sessions, though I could only attend a few--and between those, and sessions I've attended in the past, the overarching theme is that it's human to wander, and that you don't beat yourself up for being human. Mediation is hard enough for people to make time for, without people making it harder by spreading misinformation. Like that awful Times op-ed that I didn't link to here.

I've been much better about meditating, and the difference is noticeable. On Wednesday as we were stuck in crawling traffic on the way to the airport, I should have been a wreck. I didn't anticipate traffic (I specifically booked a flight late enough that we wouldn't be driving in rush hour) and didn't allow a ton of time. I had a meeting that afternoon that I really needed to be at (it was scheduled after I'd booked my ticket), and I'd brought a suit with me as superstition/insurance: if I had a suit with me in the unlikely event that we landed in time for me to make the meeting straight from the airport, I wouldn't need it; I'd arrive in plenty of time to get home, unpack, and head to work.

Quick Saturday roundup

Rest in peace, John Young.

It should be no secret or surprise that Woody Allen is creepy AF.

It's true that some people are more used to the cold, but DC gets hit hard so shut the f* up.

The Flash would do better to eat plants.

"Thou," "yea," and "nay" meant more than their present-day synonyms.

On Twitter, men even mansplain to men
And of course to women

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesday ramble

I've rambled (here (with wisdom from others), here, and here) about realizing--while in or just out of a relationship in which I was happy--that being in a relationship is nonetheless not magic. When I've been in a relationship that's started to go downhill, or even on a date that's going nowhere, I've thought about how deceptive it is to walk down the street with someone and appear to the world as a functioning couple. I remind myself of that every time I get the sense, walking down the street, that everyone else seems to be in a seamless, functioning relationship. I wonder about the experts--bartenders, waitstaff, others--who must develop a sense of who's a happy couple, who's an unhappy couple, who's on a good date, and who's on a bad date. I think about how often people have assumed I was partnered with someone I was just traveling with, especially a gay someone. I did, after all, earn the moniker 'Mrs. Jason' in India. And a number of people, looking at my photos, asked whether Alex and I were a couple. In their defense, we do look awfully couple-like in many of those photos, but Alex is also very, very gay. At the highest level of wondering, I wonder whether people think 'I wonder if she knows that her boyfriend/husband is gay.'

Apparently, many women wonder whether their significant other is gay (according to Google), when they should be wondering (according to experts) whether their significant other is depressed, or an alcoholic. It does prick a hole in the 'everyone else is in a perfect relationship' bubble--it's not that I find satisfaction in the problems in other people's relationships; but there is something comforting about idyllic appearances being deceiving. Relationships are complicated; snapshots are misleading. It's comforting even to consider--this is the opposite of schadenfreude--that fraught relationships bring their joys or whatever. I guess what's comforting is escaping the perception that it's so easy for everyone else (and its corollary: what's wrong with me, then?).

Tuesday Roundup

Most of us don't know much about the Korean War.

Time's Up is a much-needed initiative whose time has come.

POTUS #44 has an inspiring tweetstorm for you on the people who made 2017 better.
Add: the woman who tracks down 'fire cats.'

My mother might have written this letter, but probably not because she wouldn't have had the self-awareness to even doubt that her negativity could be a problem (though it seems like the letter-writer, too, is merely seeking validation; good for Carolyn for reality-checking her). You should be able to be happy for other people and share in their happiness without immediately feeling the need to rain on it with 'what if's.' My mother, like the letter-writer, would fall back on 'but this is who I am and I'm sorry if you can't handle me.' Yeah, I am too, if those are the only choices.

See also:
The criticism of your parenting and the fixation on kids in danger both suggest your mother’s “negative force” has an anxiety component. And instead of managing this anxiety from within, she tries to calm herself through control of the environment — or attempts to, at least. It’s an ugly and wrongheaded way for her to manage it, yes, but it also means you can’t “broach” the problem away.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

The Atlantic has the market cornered on smart Iran analysis.

People are bat-shit.

If you're like me and you don't like to watch videos, i.e., you prefer to read your news, you'll have to read about how the UK is drowning in plastic in Russian.

Here's what people shoved up their asses (and other places) last year. And other stuff that must have hurt.