Friday, July 31, 2009

Mini Book Review: Daughters of the North

Stupendously readable dystopian feminist SF. Guaranteed to have absolutely no dragon sex. I went in blind and enjoyed it much more than I would have had I known where the plot was going. It's like [SPOILER] The Handmaid's Tale plus David Koresh plus global warming minus religion. I passionately love the north of England and bad ass women and post-apocalyptic scenarios. If you do also, read this book right now.

Things you apparently can't do in DC

- Get someone arrested for attempting to burglarize your house.

- Dance at the Jefferson Memorial.

- Say that you hate the cops.

I've only had to call the cops once in my life, and that was when I came home two days in a row to a wide-open door (both were unique and unrelated freak incidents---it only looked like someone kept breaking into the house). The police were very professional and cool about the whole thing. Of course, this was not in the District.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zombie Bamber?

So for my birthday I got a buckwheat pillow, making my sleeping arrangements even more deeply ridiculous: the four-inch thick foam topper on my mattress is much softer than my previous pillow, much less this one. There's no good reason for this; I bought a loveseat instead of a decent mattress when I moved into my house and the inertia is strong, sunk costs for the expensive topper are overly influential, etc.

(Also, I hate having deliverymen come after the altercation with the loveseat guys, who mysteriously forgot that the back came off the piece until I told them that their half-hearted attempts to get it up my stairs and proposal to leave it in my downstairs living room, for which I had already purchased a couch, meant that I was refusing delivery and they could just take the damn thing back.)

Anyway, with the too-thick mushy foam topper and the buckwheat pillow, my pillow is harder than my sleeping surface. Absurd. But the combination is not uncomfortable, as the pillow, with a little nestling action, does conform neatly to the head and neck. The only disconcerting part is that once the pillow is conformed to your head, it tends to keep you completely in place the entire night. I close my eyes while lying in bed on my back, arms at my sides, and wake in EXACTLY the same position. It's like I wasn't asleep at all, except for the remembering dreams and not being tired part. (I can sleep on my side with the pillow, but that is less comfortable; the cheek demands to be cushioned on something softer. On the stomach is right out, which is a pity since I do like that also.)

I do recommend these pillows, if you do not mind their incredible swipple factor and high cost.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Seen and heard

I see lots of people who were spanked as children and take the attitude that "I turned out okay, so it's good enough for my kids," and lots of people who were not spanked who are anti-spanking for their own children, and even a fair number of spankees who say they wouldn't continue the tradition. But is there anyone who wasn't spanked as a kid who decides, yep, corporal punishment is awesome?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Random Roundup

Rapists rape because they like raping.

An adventure in Italy. I was coldly abandoned by Alitalia when flying back from Venice some years ago. Upon finally arriving in Paris for my connection (long since missed), Air France did put me up in the Gallic equivalent of Motel 6.

The smallest bank in America

The dumbest criticism of Harry Potter yet?

Going Mad

Okay, this is pretty cool:

ETA: Better?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Best Blueberry Cake in the World

This is the only cake I can remember where the end product is more delicious than the batter.

2 cups (275 g) plus 1 tsp flour, 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white
1 tablespoon (10 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (6 g) table salt
16 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup (170 g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk 2 cups of flours, salt, and baking powder together. Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing briefly after each one. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk until all is combined. Toss blueberries with 1 tsp flour and gently fold in. Pour batter into 9-inch springform pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon for topping. Scatter blueberries for topping over batter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. EAT.

Elimination Follies

I usually don't read the comments on the Volokh Conspiracy, but these are worthwhile if you enjoy hysterical displays in response to sex-role challenges.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Via Mike, this is the stupidest thing I have ever seen from a Harvard Law grad. It's even worse than my classmate's plan to prevent gentrification by outlawing the sale of black-owned homes in Harlem.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad movies you love

It didn't show up on this list, but Nate & Hayes would have been my pick, except that I tried a couple of times recently to rewatch it and just couldn't hit my groove. Maybe it is a film best watched alone, or at least with my mother and lots of Brandy Alexanders.

I feel bad about my neck: dude edition

John Scalzi laments the neck equivalent of cankles.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mandatory arrest?

More criminal justice/police discretion discussion fodder: If both parties in a relationship initiate violence, what should happen? Lock 'em both up?

Resolved: disorderly conduct arrests are bogus.

This situation sounds totally FUBARed and obviously the cop should not have arrested Professor Gates, but I am befuddled by the number of people who seem to think that the 911 caller and the cop should have recognized Gates by sight. Cambridge is a densely populated urban area full of NPR-famous people. I'm sure that I passed many of Gates's stature while strolling about Cambridge and failed to recognize their august presences (ditto in DC). And one can't help but wonder whether these same people who are aghast that Gates could go unrecognized would take a very different line re: "don't you know who I am?!?" were this a similarly prominent actor or pro athlete.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Infertility is covered by the ADA.

Do sentencing discounts for parents amount to disability discrimination?

Friday, July 17, 2009


Anna Karenina is not a beach book, y'all.

Awesome books I have read lately: Public Enemies, The Judging Eye, Stone's Fall, A Quiet Flame, The City & The City. Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series is also pretty great. (His Dresden Files mysteries leave me cold, though.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not big on Bing

When I Google myself, I am the top two web results and the first image result. When I Bing myself, I show up at the bottom of page two in a result from a spamblog that copied the old Harvard Target Shooting Club officer list.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Montana is full of the murderous.

These maps are pretty cool. Counterintuitive, but cool.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ikea is totally awesome and Stephanie Zacharek is not.

I think that part of the reason people today demand cheap, disposable furniture is mobility. Paying extra for solid wood, heirloom-quality pieces is all very well if you're certain you won't have to spend hundreds of dollars moving them from place to place multiple times. I've moved over a dozen times in the last ten years. In the halcyon days of three checked suitcases for no extra charge, some of those were by plane, with assistance from U.S. Parcel Post and Media Mail. I can't imagine the hassle of not being able to cheerfully abandon or sell for a pittance most of the furniture I purchased during that time.

Incidentally, I'm sure the cute names for Ikea products serve a marketing function, but they're also functional. Can you imagine if their two dozen different coffee tables were all called something like "glass-topped 3 x 5 wrought-iron table" or "oak-veneer 4 x 2 table with storage drawers"? How easy would that be to remember when you got to the self-serve stacks at the end of the store?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

[Not emigrating]

Reading this made me curious: How do illegal immigrants get health care in Canada?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gossip Girl

I had no idea who "Jon and Kate" were until recently and still don't really know who "Spencer and Heidi" are, but I keep up with blogger romances in an almost unseemly way.

A dream deferred?

More blogfodder from Ta-Nehesi Coates's site, this time from the comments to his discussion of Steve McNair's death and the need for men to take more account of the risks of sexual and romantic activities:
The piece-on-the-side realized that she wasn't the ONLY piece-on-the-side.

I'm still waiting for them to reveal that she was pregnant.

Then again, maybe she was just a delusional 20 year old who thought she had hit the jackpot, only to be told, "We're just having fun."
That "then again" sounds right, but I don't like the subtle misogyny of "hit the jackpot." After all, men will use an implied promise of a better life and material wealth as a way of getting sexual access, then renege when they get bored/are done. At 20, you aren't delusional - you're just naive. ...

I have an open question for readers: the person who broke your hearts the hardest, whom it took you the longest to get over, were they higher on social and economic ladders than you? Or were they lower?
Part of the trauma of losing a relationship is the trauma of losing the imagined future with that person. One can mourn that miscarried future, and whatever security it might have brought, without reducing the beloved to a meal ticket or a leg up the social ladder. Does this reflect your experiences?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

God is not a fiscal conservative, apparently.

Why did we ever have Air Force jet flyovers of piddling local festivals? What is the cost of fielding a bunch of fighter jets, and why would anyone want to incur that cost to taxpayers for something so self-evidently unrelated to military readiness as this? The benefit to recruiting from these exercises cannot possibly justify the expenditure.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Commonplace genius and white supremacy

One of the best posts I've read lately.
Obama doesn't work as Mr. Smith because Obama is not just your local boy scouts leader from next door. Obama is a brilliant man. His talent can't give me faith that my neighbor is making good decisions in the voting booth because Obama is much smarter than my neighbor.

That's why Obama's triumph isn't a victory for the "democratic ideal".
I think this is a pretty solid argument. But it makes assumptions about the American experience that some of us simply don't share. More to the point this "democratic ideal" is really a euphemism for white populism, and from a black perspective, even white tyranny.

The history is helpful, here. For most of this country's history, being black and brilliant was not something that set you a part from other black people--it was something that could get you killed by white people. A study of this country's history reveals to not be hyperbole. This notion that white people of medium talents could rise to rule the world was not simply "the democratic ideal," it was the tyranny of our lives--with depressing, disastrous effects. The idea that mediocre white people could rise to incredible levels of power was not so much an ideal for us--it was the whole point of white supremacy.

We obviously live in a different era. But still, one of the most depressing things about being black and "making it" is the incredible randomness of it all. To the extent that intelligence is measurable, I sat in classrooms with people who were smarter than me, worked harder than me, and studied longer than me. ...

When you're black, and likely when you're Latino, and likely when you're a kind of white, you see brilliant people all the time--and they get taken out in the most horrific ways. They have kids too soon. They get shot on the way home from school. They get hooked on crack. They go to jail. And then there is that one kid who makes it, who despite the wages of race in this country, goes on and does something big. To many black people, that person is Barack Obama.

Perhaps if you are white, Barack Obama represents the end of the idea that your next door neighbor could be president. But you should consider that just because Barack Obama isn't your next door neighbor, doesn't mean he isn't mine.
I often like to tell the story of how I got into Harvard because of a cement-truck accident. Imposter syndrome, or just wry acceptance of the randomness underlying the alleged meritocratic ideal? We all know those kids---old friends, maybe---who were sharp and intelligent and somehow derailed. There but for the grace &c. And in their place, the privileged and marginally competent?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

more than one membership to more than one club

Trans folk hate forms. The real question, perhaps, is why any forms (except medical ones) should have an M/F box in the first place.

Plague Books

Have you ever disposed of "a book so bad [you were] reluctant to put it on [your] shelves, lest some of the suck leak out and infect nearby books [you] knew to be good"? I sold From Hell, but out of fear it would psychically contaminate my dreams, not because it would infect other books.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Kiss Kiss

Today is International Kissing Day. You still have a few hours to make the most of it.

Random Roundup

Zubon on Samuel Delany.

Greatest headline ever?

Blogger wedding.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Money can't buy me love

What are the ten most expensive things you have paid for? What are the ten things you have bought that made you happiest? Is there overlap? On both my lists:

International travel: Belize, Western Europe, and Japan especially.
Designer clothes: Because I am vain and it gives me great pleasure to look stylish. And because I like beautiful, well-made things with high uses to dollars ratios.
Furnishings for my current house: This is the first place that I have really made my own through choice of decor and furniture. I don't know why anyone would have a home with white walls in every room anymore.
My car: Not having your own car really sucks! And hand-me-down cars are fine, but it's great to be able to pick something out on your own, so that it meets your needs and wants.
Books: I try to go to the library but I've probably spent thousands on books despite my cheapskate intentions.

Basically, it looks like my best expenditures have been either experiential (reading, traveling) or expressive (clothes, furnishings, picking my car). You?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hands off my uterus legs

William Saletan: Bodily sovereignty is for suckers! Should I be reassured that he's also a paternalist when it comes to things other than abortion?