Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My main symptom is RAGE.

At the pharmacy, in search of cold medicine in the post-meth-paranoia era. The rack of pseudoephedrine-containing medicines is cunningly hidden from view, so you have to play guessing games:

Me: Do you have Dayquil caplets?
Lady behind pharmacy counter: Uh, no, we don't have those.
Me: (hoping for generic) What do you have that's equivalent?
LBPC: I don't know, I'd have to ask the pharmacist. (query, then: who the hell are you and why are you behind the pharmacy counter?)
Pharmacist: What are your symptoms?
Me: Stuffy/runny nose, sinus pain. I have a cold. (Which I know, because I know who gave it to me.)
Pharmacist: Well, we have this, which has a decongestant and an antihistamine.
Me: That will make me sleepy. Do you have anything that will not make me sleepy? I have a cold, not allergies.
Pharmacist: (goes back for yet another box) We have Claritin-D, that's non-drowsy.
Me: I DO NOT HAVE ALLERGIES. I HAVE A COLD. Besides, I have Claritin already. Do you have any Tylenol Cold? Or Advil Cold?
Pharmacist: Here's Advil Cold.
Me: (debates asking for generic, gives up) Okay.
Pharmacist: That will be fifteen dollars. (proceeds to spend five minutes figuring out how to process out-of-state driver's license)

It makes me want to make meth just to spite someone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No clever title

This whole discussion is fascinating in so many ways:

- If you intermarry with a member of the majority, the kids get raised with the minority traditions. Fight the power, resist assimilation, etc. But what happens when two minorities hook up?

- Childrearing, David Bowie style: You're afraid of Americans! (Even if you're an American or American-raised immigrant!) How to keep your American-born kid from turning into an actual American, especially if you live in the most quintessentially Ugly-American of places, Texas? You'll have to ship them off to Hogwarts or something.

- Why are there so many Jewish guy/Asian girl couples? Why so few Asian guy/Jewish girl pairs? Asian guys have it rough.

I'm not religious. I like Christmas trees, as long as they're fake. Prudie's an idiot and, like the NYT Ethicist, is a reliable indicator of the wrong answer in just about any situation. Put up your tree, lady.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I got your noble savage right here!

IOZ on Douthat on Avatar:
Cultural conservatives imagine some kind of attack on the "theistic" cosmogony, even as it is their own confused fairy tale that posits a pre-civilizational Eden as the natural and primordial state of man. Meanwhile, the merely narrative appeal of making every ancient tribe and alien civilization into nature-worshipers is simply this: despite what every dork with a World of Warcraft avatar and a pile of Frank Herbert books believes, creating a unified, coherent, Tolkienian, fictional universe is very, very hard. It may have taken James Cameron a half a billion dollars to make the blue titties of his forest babes jiggle just so, but it took old J.R.R. a whole lifetime to invent his elves. Mere primitivism is a problem in storytelling not so much because it fetishizes false notions of indigenousness, nor because it attacks the received moral order of the Christian universe, but because it is bad storytelling. And isn't that likewise the problem with the Times editorial page and all its compeers? Not that they're so fucking wrong, but that they're so goddamned lazy.
If the Times replaced that constipated-looking baby face with this, I might read their editorial page more often. As it is, the Very Thoughtful Beard is swiftly replacing the Mustache of Understanding as most repellent NYT facial hair.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dinner Party Dishes

Some favorite dinner party dishes, slanted slightly to the pescetarian side:

Soup: This Provencal fish soup is lovely, as is a mushroom soup of the light broth variety.

Appetizer: Onion tart. Easy, popular, tasty. Or mushroom strudel (which can be a good main course for a less formal meal---just make one big one instead of little ones).

Salads: I'm a fan of fennel salads (with proscuitto, pomegranate, watercress, or supremed grapefruit/blood oranges---go nuts) or this chanterelle and frisee salad.

Main courses: Halibut is nice and filling, and fish cooks quickly, which is good for time-pressed party prep. Or just roast a chicken and some root veggies.

Desserts: Creme brulee with an herbal twist is nice, or the cake/pie of your choice. Or a cheese plate and dessert wine, if you're sick of cooking.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Securing his manhood 'cause he's a real man.

Wesley Morris and Alyssa Rosenberg are musing on the absence of Real Men (TM) from modern movies. Specifically, is it the case that the current male pantheon of American actors are markedly deficient in traditional manliness?* If so, how has this come to pass?

Alyssa is right that the Morris piece suffers from its lack of an articulated definition of manliness. But his piece and hers do sketch the outlines of a relatively coherent type: someone who may have little truck with conformity to society's expectations, "keeps himself collected," and exemplifies "self-possession, competence, sex, and just a whiff of arrogance." Preferably under 40, and not too remote, cheeky,** or somnambulistic.

Is this vision of calm, confident, unironic masculinity fundamentally at odds with the reality of modern manhood? Are the indecisive, lassitudinous, neurotic boy-men who saturate our movie screens the natural consequence of rejecting hidebound gender roles? Is there any American actor out there who can do "thoughtful, reflective, and yet secure in himself" and "sexy beast"? Or are we doomed to watch guys on film?

*George Clooney excepted, everyone acknowledges that Clooney is Old Hollywood come again.

** Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man is a bit too much on the cheeky, ironic side. And he spends too much time pottering in the garage with overgrown toys. Frivolity is for cloaking your vulnerability, not for a full-time job.

Love as thou wilt, casual sex edition.

Now I am by no means condemning casual sex, but this study, from what you can glean from the linked article, doesn't say that casual sex != emotional damage. It says that the people having casual sex in this sample were not significantly more (or less) emotionally damaged than people who were not engaging in casual sex at the time examined by the study.

It could be the case that some people can't handle casual sex and that's why they stick with committed relationships. The reason why those people can't do casual sex may be based in patriarchy, cultural norms that privilege committed relationships above all, norms that denigrate people who engage in casual sex as sluts or emotionally disconnected players, or something entirely different. But it's no good to say that casual sex is not damaging, because for some people it is. If you can't check your expectations at the door, even the most lighthearted fling can turn fraught and weighty.

I applaud the study insofar as it combats the Laura Sessions Stepp "casual sex is always and everywhere BAD" position, but there's no need to stretch the results to cover more than they can support. Some people are happy having NSA hookups, but others might be better off recognizing that they need to either shed some baggage or refrain from casual sex.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Betcha can't get out of traffic tickets based on WoW, though.

How MMORPGs are just like Freemasonry:
The World of Warcraft (and the Worlds of MMORPGs) are in many ways novel and radically disjunct from past human experience. But the appeals of constructing an avatar - of stepping out of daily life, of starting fresh, of finding a community, of achieving status and respect, of a separate and shared language - these are as old as the urban and urbane, as the metropolitan and cosmopolitan.

Freemasonry took hold in Europe in the early modern age, just as cities boomed and filled with young men. In this country, the golden age of fraternal orders in the late nineteenth century coincided with urbanization. These groups were the MMORPGs of their day. Members dressed in costumes, acted out dramas in a parallel world of symbology, and attained rank and position. But the core of their appeal lay in the camaraderie they offered, and the community they created.

TNC's observations appear to suggest that digital role-playing is returning to these analog roots, after a long period of growth. Fraternal lodges provided a framework for interaction, bringing together young men who might not otherwise have met, but who shared much in common, and providing them with social connections that they often drew upon in the outside world. That's happening again now - as online romances attest. The development of guilds and groups within these games is particularly striking, and parallels some good social science work on the tendency of communities to limit and self-divide into manageable units in which social intimacy can be developed and maintained.
This is especially funny to me since the dudes I know who are Masons also tend to be a bit on the D&D-playing-nerd side. And of course from some religious POVs, it's all Satanism.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Going Gaga

I like the original video more, but this is rather amusing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giant Cats!

I think Snape needs a new friend who could boss him around.

Let's you and her fight.

This is the very definition of pearl-clutching. Oh my! An obscenity!* That brute! (Really, she invokes "brutishness." Am I the only one who thought that was out of line?)

* Not shouted, shouting is in all caps. I actually read it in more of an under-the-breath, exasperated tone. Since he's fed up with the passive-aggressive careless misspelling of his name, you see.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Depositions are fun.

One of my friends works in a legal industry but is not a lawyer. Ever so often he emails me incredulously about crazy things he sees. I am jaded and find them hilarious but not surprising. For example, this deposition transcript he sent, paraphrased to protect the innocent:

Q Did you put on pants today?
A I don't recall.
Q You're wearing pants now, are you not?
A I'm not sure.
Q I'd like you to look at exhibit 1, your pants, which are on your body below your waist.
A Ok.
Q So are you wearing pants.
A It appears that I am.
Q Does this refresh your memory as to whether you put on pants today?
A No. Someone must have put pants on me, but I don't know if it was me.
Q I'd like you to look at exhibit 2. Do you see the part that says "I, Deponent, put on pants today?"
A Yes.
Q And is that your signature?
A Yes.
Q And today's date?
A Yes.
Q Do you remember signing this?
A Not specifically; it appears that I did sign it.
Q Would this not indicate that you put on pants today?
A I wouldn't want to guess what the person who wrote this meant.
Q Do you know who wrote this note?
A I do not recall.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Girls on film

It must be quite a high to see yourself depicted, sympathetically and by an appealing actress, on the big screen. My friends have already decided who should play me.

Commenting Issues

Sorry about the wonky comments. I'm trying to get things restored to minimal functionality, i.e. the Blogger commenting system installed with no loss of prior Echo and Haloscan comments. But JS-Kit is not making this easy. In the meantime, if you want to comment, click on the post title and you should be able to post via that page.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The myth of the big-tent Federalist Society

In law school, I was in the Federalist Society. At that time the HLS chapter was in a phase of incredible growth (some of which was probably growth for growth's sake, in compensation for a preceding period of shrunken, fallow membership). On of the things stressed during this boom period was that the Fed Society was a "big tent": the members had a wide variety of political opinions, internal disagreement was frequent, etc. And to a certain extent this was true, although it didn't take long for me to be put off by some of the more common points of internal agreement, e.g. big-government conservatism with a generous helping of theocracy.*

The Fed Soc did put on a range of informative and interesting events, including many panel discussions reflecting the wide range of its members' positions. This was assisted by the refusal of many liberal faculty members to take part in Fed Soc panels; sometimes it's easier to invite a criminal-justice-skeptic libertarian to speak than to coax a left-wing professor thirty feet out of his office to defend a position he normally embraces. I assume they didn't want to validate the other panelists by participating in the discussion. Or something.

But the real problem with the Fed Soc is that even if the members go around telling themselves (and potential recruits) that it's ideologically diverse, nobody on the outside knows that---or buys it. So you get stuff like this, where a single line on a resume results in the hiring partner projecting heaven knows what onto a candidate. Might it be inconsistent, as one commenter noted, to hire someone at Legal Services who believes funding for Legal Services should be eliminated? Of course! However, it's not like joining a club in law school requires a blood oath to support everything that the organization supports, or what its prominent members support. (Maybe the applicant is a Ninth Amendment fan, or a gun rights maven, or pro-life---none of which are incompatible with the idea that poor people deserve legal representation or with BIGLAW litigation practice, and all of which are perfectly common reasons to be drawn to the Fed Soc.) Most people, though, don't think about that, or don't care. So whether the Fed Soc actually is a big tent is irrelevant; it's not perceived as one by outsiders, and so you can't count on that as a defense to any untrue suppositions people might make. You'll never get a chance to present that defense. The reviewers are just looking for a reason to toss your resume.

But what do I know, I'm just someone who quit disclosing** my Fed Soc membership*** after the first dozen times someone was flabbergasted to hear that I didn't support prayer in schools, sodomy laws, flat taxes, or hard time for drug users.

* By no means was this a universal position, but it was common enough to be troubling.

** This was not even the worst resume one-liner for me. The Harvard Law School Target Shooting Club was far more alienating. That got struck after EVERY single callback in NYC featured lengthy and fascinated/horrified discussion thereof. In the callbacks I got, that is.

*** Actually, I think my membership has lapsed.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Recipe: Mushroom Barley Soup

Nice for a snowy winter day.

10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 c. water until softened
1 medium onion, diced
1 handful baby carrots, sliced
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper
5 cups vegetable or beef stock, or water

Saute onion and carrot in oil 4-5 minutes, then add sliced mushrooms. Cook until mushroom liquid is almost gone, then add barley. Cook until barley is almost brown, then add tomatoes and thyme. Reserving porcini soaking liquid, chop porcinis roughly and then add both to pot, with salt and pepper. Add stock. Bring to boil, then simmer until barley is tender, 20-30 minutes.

Friday, December 04, 2009

In which I complain about bars

I am not a big drinker. In fact, I'm an incredible lightweight and cheapskate. This means, though, that when I do go to a bar and order a drink, it's important to me that it be good, since I will probably only have two chances to order. Since I don't drink a lot, I often ask friends who are more versed in the cocktail scene what I should get.

So why is it that I can never get a good drink? It always plays out predictably:

Cocktail buff friend: You should really try a [something more obscure than rum & coke]. They're very good.

A, at a bar, later: Could I please have an [Interesting Cocktail]?

Server: What's in that? (giving me the stink-eye)

A: (Er. Thinks, if I knew everything that was in it, I'd probably just make it myself.) Uh, maybe [liquor]? And [liqueur]? And some muddled [not particularly unusual fruit]? I'm not 100 percent sure.

Server: Well, I'll check. (Ten minutes later, comes back with something that bears only a passing resemblance to the drink in question, or the news that the bar doesn't have any of [that fruit]* and what can I order instead? This usually ends up being something incredibly basic, like a gin & tonic, which they also somehow screw up, probably out of spite.)

How hard would it be to 1) ask the bartender what's in something and if they can make it (hint: you can cheat and look it up, guy), 2) come back to me if they are missing an ingredient and ask for a reorder? If it's something that doesn't have a standard recipe, just come back and say, "We make our [Interesting Cocktail] with X, Y, and Z. Is that okay?"

I would go to bars much more often if I could easily order drinks and discover really enjoyable cocktails. But the constant grilling and eye-rolling and whatnot are driving down my booze expenditures. Is it unreasonable to expect to be able to order something for which you have not memorized the recipe? Isn't that why bartenders have guidebooks?

*Happens most often with Old-Fashioneds, which, hello, oranges are not that weird, also by definition it's not a cutting-edge obscurity.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The further Jezebelization of the feminist blogosphere

Sabrina, Jennifer, and Dave left the party and headed into the rain. The party had been unremarkable, only this time Sabrina had allowed the open bar to get the better of her. She knew she was completely wasted. What she didn’t know was that a predator was watching her every move.

“I can barely stand,” Sabrina said, swaying innocently on the soggy sidewalk. ... She was 24 at the time, a magazine writer.

Jennifer said, “O.K., I think she needs to go home.”

Dave, who was 29, said, “Let’s go get another drink!”

“I wanna go home,” Sabrina warbled.

“O.K., I’ll take her home,” Dave said.

Jennifer gave Sabrina a “WTF?” look and said, “I’ll take her home.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Dave said, hailing a cab and then bundling Sabrina inside.

“I woke up with a condom still in my vagina,” she told me.
So what just happened here? Sounds like a man took advantage of a woman who was too drunk to stand or remain conscious, much less consent. Pretty much your classic date rape.

But if you're the NY Observer and the parties' genders are switched, it's fodder for snickering coinage of nicknames like "cheetah." And if you're a D.C. feminist or male ally, that's ripe for criticism on the ground that one mustn't "scold women for daring to have sex."

Funny, I think we should scold ANYONE who calculatedly lies in wait until their friend gets too drunk to fight off an assault and then has sex with them while they are passed out.

Six Fantasy Books That Suck


Gormenghast: "impenetrable dated prose," "phallocentric" (I have no time for this), and one-third posthumous mess.

Little, Big: You have to be high to like this book. Turgid, indulgent, meandering, full of fey females viewed through smeary vaseline.

Winter's Tale: Misogynist magical realist wish-fulfillment wankage by a Luddite jerk.

The Sword of Shannara: Widely hailed as beginning of the multi-volume-epic-fantasy extruded-Tolkien-product phase of fantasy publication. I've never even tried to read this book, but I did get partway through Magic Kingdom For Sale--SOLD!, also by Brooks, and had to stop because if it was in earnest it made me want to vomit and if it was parody it was poorly executed. Worse than most fanfic by native English speakers.

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Maybe the first really successful dark fantasy series, but reads like something written by a zitty, embittered teenage boy studying for the PSAT. There was a blog a few years back where two girls read Lord Foul's Bane a page at a time and discussed it. Can't find it, but it was hilarious.

The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe: Transparently didactic crap. Made it easier for fantasy to be dismissed as kids' stuff.

ETA: The problem with lists like this is that people make rookie mistakes, like mistaking "greatest of all time" for "thing I enjoyed the most when I was 13" or "greatest novel" for "greatest collection of short stories." Magic for Beginners is very good, but it is not a novel, and has not been out long enough for the perspective sufficient to determine whether it is one of the greatest of all time.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Consider the raisin

Interesting article on female sexual dysfunction in the NYT Mag. Main focus is on a researcher who combines CBT techniques with Buddhist "mindfulness" to encourage focus on the body. She's guided by the theories of a colleague, who argues that for many women, "desire follows arousal":
So a typical successful experience might proceed something like this: first a decision, rather than a drive, to have sex; next, as Basson puts it, a “willingness to be receptive”; then, say, the sensations of a partner’s touch; next, the awareness of being aroused; then the “responsive desire” along with increasingly intense arousal; and at last the range of physical and emotional payoffs that sex can provide and that offer positive reinforcement
Other scientists believe that being turned on from the start is more normal and Basson's theory is "distorting the truth of most women’s erotic lives and diminishing the relevance of basic randiness."

There's some strange inconsistencies in the piece---perhaps chiefly the simultaneous premises that there is a dearth of research on female desire and a BigPharma-driven juggernaut cranking out studies to legitimize pathologization of low female desire levels. Although I can't help but wonder if any drug that makes you want to have more sex or makes sex more enjoyable could get FDA approval or widespread availability. We already have drugs that make life more fun. They're illegal.

Also of note is the coda at the end on testosterone, which is known to stimulate female desire, albeit at the cost of nasty side effects. Women given T often experience a "spike [in] sexual interest"---but so do women given a placebo. And the control group also experienced the masculinizing side effects. Are we so convinced that randiness is the province of men that we can be tricked into feeling and looking more like a Randy?

Monday, November 30, 2009

No Popeye's Chicken is a Serious Failing, Though

When someone asks you if you want fried food, you ... say ... YES!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Shakers disappeared for a reason.

Total pie fail. Filling didn't gel, a pain to cut, crust lacked integrity. Luckily this was just for me and there was no holiday pie shaming.

Back again

With pecans, Meyer lemons, and a satisfied taco-consumption quota.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm so contrarian I should write for Slate.

Challah is just bad brioche.

ETA: Is there any good reason for the convention of putting the currency symbol before the number it relates to, e.g. "$20"? We don't say "dollars twenty." We say "twenty dollars." So why not "20$"?

Monday, November 23, 2009

"We love the money in Jesus Christ’s name! Jesus loved money too!”

I don't even know how you could deal with people like this. God wants you to have a house you can't afford? God wants you to buy a flashy car? The parishioners have NO ATTACHMENT TO REALITY. How do you get by in a largely secular society when this is your starting point?

"Hi, I'd like to get the limit on my credit raised."

"We'll, you're already in massive debt and have no job. We're going to deny your request."

"But ... God told me you would give me an extension on my credit line."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Bake: No-Knead Bread

So I tried making this. What a disaster! Too much water = giant sticky mess. And the yeast was old. Still turned out edible, though.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No, I'm not going to the movie.

Although young men do often fail to bathe for other reasons, I can't help but think that Robert Pattinson's decision to reek is a form of unconscious coping with the constant pressure of his squealing fanbase.

Here's an article on the Twilight phenomenon that most of us can get behind. Someone post it to the Twilighter boards!

ETA more interesting links:

- Comparison of stalking scenes in Buffy and Twilight. Takeaway:
Buffy quickly establishes control in each potentially dangerous situation while Bella is perpetually cast as the damsel in distress. Stalking, spying and over-protective male behavior is present in Buffy's world but it is always framed as creepy or inappropriate and is often the subject of ridicule. The same type of male behavior in the Twilight series is framed as romantic, sexy and a sign of "true love."
- Long examination of abuse issues in Twilight.
Edward is an emotional batterer, and Bella is constantly and persistently victimized by his actions. What makes it sad is that the author herself seems to have no idea that she was writing about an abusive, codependent teenage relationship.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Endless night

It has been so dark all day, I feel like it's Alaska or something. Perfect staying in bed and sleeping weather. Alas.

There's some discussion elsewhere on the advice column linked in the post below, mostly on the duties we owe to our partners.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A lesser injury is still an injury.

It's not obvious to me that all of the advice in this column is off-base.

Denying someone's rape is egregiously wrong, especially when it's obvious that they were assaulted: really, drunk physically forceful boss on a business trip who won't be pushed away? Rapist. But is it so straightforward that her husband, who left her after she decided not to abort the child that resulted from the rape, is a "total dickwad"? Maybe leaving is not the ideal reaction, but---without denying the very real injury the letter writer suffered---is it an incomprehensible moral wrong?

Even many pro-life people are understanding when a rape victim wants an abortion. Any child born as a result of such an assault could be a constant reminder of the crime---imposing an obligation to raise the offspring of someone who has committed an unforgivable offense. Some (I for one) cannot even imagine doing such a thing.

The letter writer was put in a horrible position through no fault of her own, but she made the decision that she was strong enough to go through with a pregnancy that she didn't want, by a man who violated her. But those of us who are pro-choice should acknowledge that our choices affect others. If we opt to follow our lives down certain paths, some of those we walk with may not be strong enough to follow.

It is not relevant that there are "hundreds of thousands of men who throw their entire souls into parenting adopted children and step-children, and ... dedicate their free time or careers to helping kids." Those men are making choices to form new, blended families or to devote their time to children in need. But here there was no decision on the husband's part to even potentially create a new life. This pregnancy was imposed on him---on their marriage---and just as many women could not in similar circumstances, he could not stomach the idea of raising a rapist's child.* It is not about being "charmed" by a child. It is about whether you could be a good parent to a child that is a constant and visceral reminder of your beloved being forcibly violated.

It is baffling to me how the same people who would (rightfully) snap if a female rape victim was told not to abort her pregnancy because she'd love the baby as soon as it was born, or that tons of women are stepmothers or social workers and thus raising other people's kids is no big deal, are incensed at the idea that a man might not be able to embrace this situation.

Is the idea that they are married and so any kid she opts to have is his responsibility without exception? Because that's not the law, from what I can tell, and there's no indication from the letter that the writer relied on a marital presumption of paternity (which both spouses know would be a lie).

Is the point that he made a vow and thus he's in it for better or worse? Whether or not you can parent another man's child, especially the child of someone who raped your wife, strikes me as a pretty irreconcilable difference.

A pregnant woman has the right to choose to abort or carry to term, and her husband can discuss it with her but not choose for her. But husbands are not obliged to follow their wives, nor wives their husbands. If one spouse chooses a life that the other finds unbearable, they are permitted to part. And if their reasons are understandable, I don't know why we should judge them harshly for doing so.

* In one of China Mieville's books, there's an outcast character we are told for nearly the entire book was brutally punished and cast out of his tribe for "choice theft." In the last few pages Mieville reveals that this was rape. Without failing to recognize that the letter writer was more greatly wronged, we can acknowledge that this theft of her choice also effectively stole the choice of others.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Further adventures in Ethiopian cooking

Red lentils = TOTAL FAIL. It tasted like nothing. My kingdom for a good mesir wat recipe.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I can see! Sort of.

As Kitty would say, "Say goodbye to THESE!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No famine jokes.

I have been trying my hand at DIY Ethiopian food lately, with decent results. (Injera I get from the bakery ... no way I will be able to make that at home.) This recipe for Kik Alicha is nice and simple.

Ethiopian Yellow Pea Stew (Vegan/Vegetarian)

1 tablespoon of Berbere Spice Mixture
2 tablespoons fresh salsa (go for the tomatoes, onions, & jalapenos)
3 cups water plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt

Boil 3 cups of the water and the peas in large saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; cook until almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices; cook 1 minute. Add remaining 2 tablespoons water; cover. Cook on low heat 3 minutes. Add mixture to cooked peas; stir in salt.

Simmer until peas are very soft, about 30 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings.

I think next time I will soak the peas a bit. But first I think I will make some shiro wat. (N.B. No Ethiopian grocery I have been to actually labels anything; it's all just in plastic tubs with prices. The shiro powder is yellowish. The berbere is dark red. The rusty red powder is the stuff for dipping kitfo---very hot.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shelf Appeal

Double X's home decor blog notes a new trend:
I'll admit I own a few coffee table books that I've never even cracked, or books I bought at the flea market just for the cover and couldn't tell you the author or title. But the books I've really read and enjoyed over and over? Penguin paperbacks. An acutely observant editor friend noticed a recent trend in shelter mags in which decorators/stylists are turning books around on the shelves so you can't see the spines. So now we can add "book shame" to the list of subcategories to status anxiety!
The idea that you should not only hide the titles of your library from onlookers out of embarrassment but also actively undermine the books' utility (because how are you supposed to find a volume with the spines turned away?!?) to follow some decorating trend fills me with rage. If you are doing this, it means you don't really care about the books at all, or use them. So why do you have them at all? Because you like the look of stacked paper?

I respect people who are honest about their reading tastes. You know what a house full of pristine classics with unbroken spines or outdated federal reporters* says? You're boring and pretentious. And a shelf of pages with no visible titles says you're a cringing phony too lazy or stupid to even nod toward what a wall of books is for.

* One of the WORST things about How I Met Your Mother was the scene of the law student character studying for exams out of a federal freaking reporter. There is no reason to keep this sort of stuff unless you're an attorney without Westlaw access. And even then you're dancing on thin ice by basing your work product on potentially overruled case law.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Weekend Bake: Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

Last night's lovely blogger dinner party was concluded with slices of this tasty cake. It's easy, it's quick, and you can make it with whatever kind of berries you have on hand. I used an 8" springform and drizzled it with raspberry syrup, which made it a little moister than one might prefer.

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (56 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (146 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large (57 grams) egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz), plus extra for syrup

Preheat oven to 400. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in vanilla and egg. Whisk remaining dry ingredients together and add to mixing bowl a bit at a time, alternating with buttermilk. Smooth batter into pan and poke raspberries into the top. Sprinkle with reserved sugar and bake for 2o minutes or until tester comes out clean.
Optional: Puree raspberries, strain out seeds, and drizzle resulting syrup on top of cooled cake.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The boy is mine!

Really fascinating discussion on Tiger Beatdown on girl-versus-girl pop songs.
AMANDA: [T]hese “other women” are romanticized and demonized in song. the “other woman” song is an interesting thing to talk about from a feminist perspective I think. for example, when Dolly Parton is begging Jolene not to take “her man,” she exerts ownership over another human being and even attempts to control another human (jolene) in order to keep that ownership. instead of being like, “fuck it,” which maybe would not have made for a very compelling song, i guess. and so, perhaps you could give a feminist reading to “Girlfriend” and “You Belong With Me” in that these are women reminding other humans that they aren’t property.

SADY: welllllll… possibly? i think both are actually ABOUT competition over territory (territory = actual human dude). in one case you are trying to lure a dude away, and in another, you are trying to keep hold of him. but, weirdly, i don’t think that is so feminist? because what a lot of these songs do is sort of make the dudes not responsible for who they cheat on you with / who they date, in order to transfer all of the animus onto another woman. women are always sort of the villains, even if it’s a dude who is making the choices you disagree with. compare this to one of my favorite dude-finds-out-his-lady-cheated songs, “take a letter, maria,” in which a dude rolls into the office, tells his secretary his wife’s been sleeping with another dude. then, asks her to draft a divorce letter. then, tells her she’s his girlfriend now. like, the dude just kind of keeps rolling on. the lady is STILL the villain, even in songs about cheating ladies sung from dudes’ perspectives. not the guy his wife slept with. (emphasis added)
Now I love basically all songs in this genre, and have a few disjointed thoughts on them.

The urge to put it all on the other woman instead of the man who makes the choices ... is there something that discourages women from being directly aggressive toward the men? Power dynamic, maybe? Patriarchal hangover? Men could (and maybe still can) get away with de facto polygamy, and women sometimes lack the physical, economic, and social leverage to enforce their objection. But women can much more easily control things within the women's sphere. Shades of Edith Wharton.

SADY: well, i think the vast majority of dudes would get a case of The Creeps if we were all under their windows performing dance-offs about them. which DOES kind of make the whole “you belong to me” genre weirdly feminist: it’s women being suitors, not desired objects. granted, it’s in some kind of wacky “i could totally fulfill all your needs better than she can” way, but WHATEVS.

AMANDA: right, and weirdly enough, the guys are hardly humanized.

SADY: exactly. like, it’s not about how dreamy they are or whatever. they’re not singing the dude’s praises. they’re just like, “WANT DUDE! DUDE MINE!”

AMANDA: it’s possible that these “empowering” other-woman songs are just co-opting the worst aspects of traditional male courting behavior. one of the things that irks me about both You Belong with Me and Girlfriend is the assumption that, well, the guy belongs with them.

The assertion of ownership does have the effect of minimizing the man's agency. But part of meaningful choice is full information. Is there really something dehumanizing about a woman laying out the case for why she's awesome? "You may not have been aware that I have the following desirable qualities! Compare this list with your current situation and the choice is clear!" Although it is a little too much like shopping for phone service or something.

And isn't the blanket condemnation of this genre a little dehumanizing itself? Women are people, men are people. Sometimes a person is in a relationship with someone who's all wrong for them: value mismatch, personality clash, no chemistry etc.* It's not sexist to say "Hey, your girlfriend never really understands your Monty Python jokes and gets all mad when you say her mother smelt of elderberries. Maybe you should date somebody a little dorkier."** And it's not sexist to put yourself forward as an alternative.***

The reason the songs aren't singing the guys' praises is because the guy presumably knows that's he's awesome ... the point is that he's overlooked the girl-next-door**** in favor of someone flashier but with less appropriate substance. (Or perhaps is with someone drab and boring out of habit and needs to make a change.)

I feel like there may be some country songs that have this gender dynamic in reverse: dude-on-dude, "your husband doesn't appreciate you/is a cheating cad, you deserve better in the form of my love" sort of songs, but nothing's coming to mind right away. Also some along the general line of "that dude you're cheating with, he sucks, please come back!" but generally in a mournful, non-aggressive, pleading, Jolene-ish way. Maybe because dude-on-dude aggression ... not so much manifesting with the singing, more with the breaking of jaws.

* Maybe s/he's a hot jerk. Or you're not really into them but you're trying to force it because you two get along so well. There's lots of reasons folks get involved with people who're obviously mismatches.

** Or, if you like it better, "Your girlfriend keeps dragging you to SCA events and gets mad when you don't want to go. Maybe you should date someone less dorky."

*** Whether it is jerky and wrong for other reasons, i.e. social norms against interfering with established exclusive relationships, I leave aside for now. It probably is.

**** Which is probably its own subgenre, cf. "Why Not Me?"

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What would Pete think of Stringer?

From MetaTalk, an interesting proposal:
Oh man, if there's anything white people love more than The Wire, it's Mad Men.
I have often enjoyed wondering what the characters from The Wire would think if they sat down to watch Mad Men. And vice versa.
That might actually get me reading the Freakonomics blog again.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

If you were John Galt, you wouldn't be wasting time on the internet.

A couple of new Ayn Rand bios are out. The NY Mag review notes Rand's injunction that "one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner." You know who doesn't fake reality, it turns out? Depressed people. Objectivism as a worldview involves either grandiose narcissism or depression.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Final Girls

Do you ever muse about who would be eaten first* in a horror movie starring you and your friends? I would probably try to be all logical about the situation and then be abruptly devoured like Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea.

* Not that eaten first. (link fixed)

I understand they also have walk-in Botox.

When I call my GP to get an appointment for an annual exam, there's usually a 2 month wait. When I discussed correcting my lazy eye with a doctor, he said it would take a month just to get on the surgical calendar. But when I called up the Lasik center here in town, they had me come in for a consultation/screening exam within 4 days. At that appointment, I was told that I had thick, burly, strapping corneas and am therefore a fine candidate for laser eye surgery.

"Great, let's schedule it now."

"Our first available appointment is ... *taps keyboard* ... Thursday."

"THIS Thursday?"

"Yes, can you come in at one?"

However, since I wear contacts every day and you're supposed to let your eyes go naked for several days prior to Lasik, I had to demur. For a whole week.

I'm not sure to what degree this super-efficient service is profit driven (probably a lot), the extent to which it's enabled by the lack of any insurance paperwork (presumably they take insurance for more necessary procedures, so they still have billing clerks and all those other insane flapper-jobs), or how much stems from the fact that the procedure takes TEN MINUTES,* but the whole thing blows my freaking mind. I have friends who live abroad who tell tales of similarly speedy medical appointments, but that is of course at the opposite end of the public/private spectrum.

Of course, now I only have a short time to fret over the giant packet of consent forms, most of which seems aimed at making you aware that if you inadvertently rub your eye soon after the surgery, your corneal flap** will wrinkle and everything will be ruined.

* Now think about how many procedures this doc can do in his two days per week of operating. Payment due in full prior to surgery.

** Despite being raised with OR anecdotes as dinner-table conversation, thinking about corneal flaps makes me want to throw up. And tie my hands down for weeks after Lasik.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Books I Don't Read: +1 Degree of Separation Edition

Jonathan Safran Foer has apparently written a book on meat-eating. Jessa Crispin doesn't read it so I don't have to:
It was bad enough when he was writing shitty novels, but now he's indulging in my least favorite form of nonfiction: the "I have never thought about this thing before until now, and despite the fact that other people have thought about this for years and wrestle daily with the implications, I think my brand new thoughts should be shared with the world." Whatever the topic -- religion, marriage, gender, food politics -- the books are always shallow, yet for some reason a lot of people take them seriously.
The proper place for deep thoughts on issues that you just started examining but which have already been exhaustively discussed by more informed people is a blog. GYOFB, Jonathan Safran Foer.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

But this photo of us/It don't have a price

I was, fortunately, the only Lady Gaga at my party last night. (There was a late-night change to Eeyore, though, because who can play charades while covered in balloons?) UNfortunately, this was not captured for posterity. But it did spark a serious debate on whether I would look good as a platinum blonde.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What not to wear.

There was a hapless guy at at Party City last night buying a Breathalyzer costume. Guess he didn't read this article.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Should we care about middle-school lesbianism?

I'm reading this Savage Love article about a mother who found out that her 12-year-old daughter has romantic feelings for a sleepover friend, and the friend reciprocates. Mom wants to know how to handle this---she wouldn't let a middle schooler boyfriend sleep with with her daughter, but what's the appropriate response here? And I'm wondering ... what is she afraid of happening? The girl will not get pregnant, almost certainly will not get any diseases, and if she's got access to the internet or even decent sex ed, she knows how to be safe. Heartbreak could happen regardless of physical involvement. So why does this ping our radar?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No jetpacks, but lasers are pretty cool.

Monday I have a consultation scheduled for Lasik! Maybe the next time I go on a beach vacation I will be able to open my eyes underwater and see stuff.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stuff I Like

Sometimes I like things! It happens. And I feel like sharing some of those things with you in a giant lump, because working them into random conversations makes me feel like a pod person from television commercials.

1. Mint.com

Mint is the best way to keep track of your spending and saving that I have found. No entering in deposits. No keeping receipts to log. Just all your income and outlays, tracked automatically. The access is read-only, so even if someone hacked Mint, they couldn't suction out all your money (downside: you still have to log into your individual credit card or bank websites to do manual payments and transfers). It gives you shiny graphs of net income, assets, net worth, etc., all broken out by category, time period, or whatever you need. The budgeting software is nice, too, especially the recent update that lets you roll over budget items from month to month, so you can account for infrequent expenses like car insurance. And it's free. Pretty good stuff.

2. Amazon Visa and AmEx Blue Cash*

Groceries, Gasoline, Drugstores: AmEx (5%)
Restaurants: Amazon Visa (2%) (The Costco AmEx gets 3%, but I am not a Costco member, and lots of restaurants don't take AmEx.)
Online stuff: Amazon Visa (3% on Amazon)
Everything else: AmEx, 1.25%

* All of this is if you are not carrying a balance. If you have a balance, find the best interest rate. Pay off your highest-rate balance first. That debt snowball thing feels good but it loses you money.

3. Virgin America

I like flying on with purple neon. They sent me a link for 20% off for ten friends, which you can access here.

The Mister

Neat article on the challenges of being the first same-sex congressional spouse.

Friday, October 23, 2009

You came from somewhere, so write about that place.

Via Alyssa Rosenberg, a comment on modern movies that is right freaking on.
There's a whole big country where people parent, fall in love, find career success, get their hearts broken, get sick and die...I'm so tired of stories that take place in the same three neighborhoods in New York or LA. I'm tired of young white people and their love problems. I'm tired of FBI agents. I'm tired of movies that are set in a New Yorker or LA person's stereotyped idea of what other parts of the country are like. And for the love of all that is holy, putting glasses on a pretty woman makes her a PRETTY WOMEN WITH EYEGLASSES, not a hopeless frump.
Reminds me of books I don't read. Can we also add: stories with 20- to 35-year-olds in Brooklyn floundering in ennui, cosmopolitan Mary Sues fretting about sex in the city and their extra ten pounds, or (though it doesn't support the regionalism point) paranormal detectives?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Nudity: Get Off My Lawn Edition

Via Radley Balko: Police arrest Virginia man for indecent exposure after two people cutting through his yard at 5:30 in the morning saw him making coffee in the nude. So, folks: if someone trespassing on your property could see through your kitchen window, don't walk around in the buff, or you might end up here.

Wild thing, you make my heart sing?

Playing catch-up post-NYC. Also sick (cold, not swine flu).

Lots of good-seeming movies out right now. Any recs?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Advantage: Amber!

I will never be pilloried for posting a photograph of myself wearing a tank top.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Orgy of Consumption!

In NYC with Belle Lettre, stimulating the economy. It's awesome.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kids today!

College kids using the Kindle have many gripes. Unfortunately, most of them are dumb.
[S]ome students are finding they miss the decidedly low-tech conveniences of paper -- highlighting, flagging pages with sticky notes and scribbling in the margins. ... Becerra tried typing notes on the Kindle's small keyboard, but when she went back to reread them she found they were laden with typos and didn't make sense. After a month, she says she takes far fewer notes and relies on the Kindle's highlighter tool instead.
Have you considered taking notes ... on your computer? Or on paper? Are marginalia scrawled in a textbook really the best study aid? If you need to link your notes to the text, use the location markers.
Other students struggled when professors had them read documents in PDF format, which doesn't show up well on the Kindle. Users can't zoom in or make notes on them, and diagrams sometimes get separated from notes explaining them.
Before the Kindle, you would have printed out PDFs or looked at them on your computer. Try that.
Students were also impressed with the "electronic ink" screen, which Amazon touts as far easier on the eyes than reading off a computer monitor. But it can't be backlit, disappointing one student who wants to read during dark early-morning bus commutes.
Backlighting would cancel out the entire benefit of e-ink. Buy a book light.

It seems like these students would have a much better Kindle experience if they didn't try to use the device to replace their laptops as well as their textbooks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Slate is staffed by sociopaths?

At some point the Slate media empire imperative to be contrarian needs to yield in the face of humanity. Really, it's okay to abandon your roofied friend?

UPDATE: The columnist who gave this advice, Lucinda Rosenfeld, has 529 friends. Let's hope that even those who believe themselves closest are aware of just how much they can expect from her in a time of need.

UPDATE 2: Agree or disagree: Girl Code dictates that if female friends go out to bars together, you are expected to look out for one another (that you will leave together unless otherwise agreed, watch each other's backs/drinks for the machinations of skeevy guys, etc.). To blithely assume that a friend who never returns from a bathroom trip left on her own and then react to that friend's need to be picked up from the hospital after misadventure with anger ... it is incomprehensible to me. As one DoubleX commenter observed:
That anger [the "friends"] are exhibiting is pretty common among enablers who are annoyed that their friend's problem is becoming too obvious for them to continue to ignore. That anger is also pretty common among shallow people who really don't like having to deal with "downer" events (like rape-drug-dosing) in a person's life either.
Regardless of whether the letter-writer is a drunken mess who blacks out regularly,* the friends' conduct was beyond the pale. No matter how she got in that situation, she was frightened and in need.

* Things that make me skeptical of the "oh she's a hot alcoholic mess who pulls this crap all the time" theory: 1) presumably a hospital can tell the difference between drunk and roofied and 2) the mother's reaction is not indicative of frequent trouble.

Gray Booty Call

I am curiously taken with the idea of gray ankle boots this winter, for wearing with skirt+tights or jeans. Is this a bad idea?

Boot 1

Boot 2

Boot 3

Boot 4

Chunky heels are better for wintery days, I guess.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mini Book Review: Lamentation

This is a really solid fantasy novel. I hated A Canticle for Leibowitz, and strongly disliked Anathem, but the knowledge-worshiping monks in Lamentation manage to be interesting characters moving in a well-actualized and internally consistent world and are described in English, not cutesy SF gibberish. It is all setup for a new series, unfortunately, so the identity of a certain mysterious figure will remain unknown until Scholes comes out with more books. It's worth getting started, though. Recommended.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"The mustache is good for another ten pounds."

Old-tyme circus strongman >>>> My muscle fibers and veinz, let me show you them.

The '70s facial hair is deprecated, however.

Random Roundup, Mostly MeFi Edition

Great post on how to pick up women you don't know. Basically boils down to "Most of the time I don't particularly feel like getting to know strangers on the street because I'm trying to get shit done, and that if you're ignoring the signals I'm sending saying I want to be left alone, than there's no way I'm going to want to get to know you, because you ignoring my personal boundaries now indicates you'll happily ignore them later when I'm saying no to your sexual advances."

Amendment passed to protect recourse to the courts for sexual assault victims who work for government contractors abroad. You can read the Fifth Circuit opinion in Jamie Leigh Jones's case if you are not familiar with the background on this issue.

Hilarious ICANN brief. My briefs never contain gems like "We do not have a declaration from the president of the international association of imbeciles that his members are blankly staring at the Respondent’s website wondering “where did all the race baiting content go?”"

I didn't even know Playgirl still existed.

Follow instructions, then report!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Vague recollections of Church & State class

Without looking up his prior opinions again, I can't be sure, but is there something inconsistent* about Scalia's assertion that crosses honor Jewish (and other non-Christian) war dead? And doesn't a cross mean something? Like, namely that some fellow allegedly died on one for your sins?

* With his previous statements, not just with reality.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

So ....

The new header works. Everything else is borked. I'm limping by with an old Blogger default template until the kinks get worked out. Comments should be functioning.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Do not adjust your set.

In the next day or two there will be a fresh look for PTN. Same great taste, new shiny label. At least I hope so. Friends of PTN with CSS/Blogger skillz encouraged to contact me.

Those of you on RSS feeds, carry on as usual.

UPDATE: The specific obstacle to New!Shiny! is that Haloscan's automatic installer does not seem to be playing nicely with my new Blogger template. Previously, the PTN template was of the Blogger Classic, pre-Google era, and simple cutting and pasting of code sufficed to set up Haloscan. I cannot see exactly how Haloscan's manual install would work here.

If you are a friend of PTN and have experience with Haloscan comments and the upgraded Blogger templates, please contact me.

Take my plastic, please!

It seems pretty lame that no U.S. bank will issue a chip-and-pin card compatible with common international systems. One commenter noted the the AmEx Blue card originally had one of the embedded chips, but the newer ones have RFID instead (useless abroad).

This doesn't seem like a stable equilibrium. Surely one credit card issuer will seize the opportunity to market to international travelers. "Not all cards are created equal: Choose ___Bank Visa/MC for guaranteed acceptance overseas," etc.

When I travel I usually rely on credit cards and cash withdrawals at ATMs. There have been several instances of my credit cards not working but nobody ever fingered this as the problem.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

die die die

Spent most of the weekend on pantry moth eradication. HATE BUGS.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Miscarriage Tweets in Big Media

So Penelope Trunk, the blogger mentioned in this post, was interviewed on CNN about twittering about her miscarriage and planned abortion. I thought she highlighted some very good points:

- Women do not necessarily want every pregnancy to result in a birth. Sometimes women with kids, e.g. Trunk, don't want more kids! Trunk emphasized this by bringing up her previous miscarriage, which she did mourn: it was a wanted pregnancy, and she was sad that it didn't lead to a wanted child. (She later did have the desired second child.) But this recent pregnancy was not wanted, and would not have been brought to term regardless.

- Miscarriages are incredibly common and take place over an extended period, so women must go to work while they are miscarrying, unless they can just drop everything and take a couple of weeks off. (Shockingly, the interviewer was completely ignorant of how miscarriages happen---he seemed to think that they all are instantaneous, like a Hollywood version of a water breaking. Real-world evidence of the ignorance bred by keeping this topic outside public discourse!)

- You probably work/have worked/will work with women having miscarriages.

- In the case of a miscarriage or an abortion, you may need to take some time off for medical visits; Trunk said that she informed her board of the situation because she would have had to leave the state for two days to get the abortion she desired.

- The need for women to miss work for this reason is increased where laws make it difficult for them to procure abortions from a medical provider in their area without weeks of delay.

- If you are going to miss work, it might be best (depends on the workplace, I suppose) to provide your reasons for doing so.

Social media is, for better or worse, the preferred method for some people to share their experiences. As Trunk noted, this is part of the female experience. Perhaps some people might even prefer announcing a miscarriage on Facebook or Twitter to avoid the specter of repeated discussions with individual friends about an awkward topic.

I wasn't aware before that Trunk is also open about being a woman with Asperger's. As someone who scores highly on tests for that sort of thing, I enjoyed watching her interview.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not rocket science.

So apparently my car has been recalled because of a deadly floor mat. I know that stuck accelerators are bad news, and crashes are nothing to laugh about, but:

Deadly. Floor mat.

Cure: Remove floor mat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Commander Lott?

Fascinating anecdote from a filmmaker documenting an Ole Miss fraternity:
The day James Meredith integrated the campus (October 1st, 1962) there was massive rioting and violence in which two people were killed. The violence that took place that day is sometimes referred to as "the last battle of the Civil War." The next day, October 2nd, the FBI, acting on a tip, raided the Sigma Nu house and uncovered a stockpile of weapons (mainly rifles). The "Commander" or president of the house (Sigma Nu uses military [naval?] titles for house officers) at the time was Trent Lott.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stuff to keep in mind.

Roman Polanski had a rough life, what with the Nazis and the Manson family and all. Roman Polanski has made great art. And Roman Polanski is a child rapist.
[A]ccording to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.
This is after he got her drunk and gave her part of a Quaalude. A grown woman, in that state, cannot legally consent. A child, sober or not, cannot legally consent to sex. And even if the girl had been able to consent, she didn't. She said no. Repeatedly. Polanski is not a rapist because he succumbed to the seductions of an underage model and incurred a technical foul. He is a rapist because he raped someone.

So unless you think that 42 days in jail is an appropriate punishment for drugging and raping a middle-schooler and that those rich enough to evade punishment should get a free pass, don't be all "Free Roman!"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mourn, damn you, mourn!

Blogger gets pregnant. Blogger plans abortion. Blogger miscarries instead. Blogger tweets, roughly, "whew!" Blogger gets piled on by commenters for not having the appropriate grief reaction.

This reminds me of nothing so much as Melissa Lafsky's reaction when Kerry Howley said, no, she wasn't traumatized by donating her eggs. How dare women not act the way their social role requires! How dare they be honest about their feelings! Don't they know that every egg is sacred, whether you want a baby or not? (Do these folks think that every time a woman's period is late, she should rend her hair when it finally comes---just in case?)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wrap that rascal!

Although I've carried my Kindle 2 in my purse for months uncovered and have dropped it several times (or had it dropped---Lily plays the gravity game) with no adverse consequences, Matt Yglesias's little mishap has inspired me to seek protection. The flip-top design is handier but the other version is much prettier, and probably better made.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Roundup

- Indian girl starts one-woman revolution against forced tween marriage.

- It's easier to suspend disbelief in romances if the actors aren't megahotties. This is especially true when the troubled couple is of the classic Hollywood old/fat/ugly-dude-and-youthful-beauty mode. It's like, the solution to your problems is to walk out the door and pick up one of the many guys who would be panting for your bod, lady.

- Via Helen, totally awesome shoes. Are these what Princess Toadstool would wear?

- As zubon put it, "Someone read Laurell K. Hamilton and thought, 'I could so top that.'"

- Just finished this book, the sequel to Firethorn. Good writing, solid and creative fantasy worldbuilding, believable characters, but man, is the protagonist a cross between Ayla and the perpetual victim lead from this book. Rape, disability, torture, maiming, whoring, drug addiction ... what isn't inflicted on this girl? But perhaps that's inevitable when you're writing a fairly realistic account of a camp follower to a conquering army.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

May your two-letter-word victory taste of ashes.

This is how I learned to hate Scrabble.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Halloween costume for me?

So I asked this once on Facebook already and people told me "Bella from Twilight," which, NO, on top of which it's not even a costume, as I am already a pale brunette with a dejected air and scrubby clothes, and the only way to signal that I wasn't going as myself would be via spoilers from the latter novels, i.e. Alien-style abdominal ruptures. And please no Dorothy Gale (did that a few times already) and no Margot Tenenbaum (nobody got it last year).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Female Gaze

A while back I saw some article about the women's body types people thought were most attractive. IIRC, women picked the second-skinniest body, while men picked the skinniest. Of course there are contradictory data (maybe nsfw). But I don't care what men want! What do ladies want?

These are a bunch of photos of the same man at various stages of fitness. Which of these versions is the most appealing? (Note: decided lack of chest hair in these photos.)

I have, in conversation with Mike, compared bodybuilders with runway models: Both have body types whose characteristics are established by a group other than the opposite-sex target audience and are not actually attractive to the majority of women and men, respectively.* So which John do women (not other men!) think is the hottest?

* Did middle school boys typically cadge their mom's copy of W? Doubtful It's the Maxim pinups they want. Or wanted, before the internet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Every small woman's worst nightmare

Having your body found in a wall on what would have been your wedding day.

I normally don't get emotionally caught up in news stories, but this one fills me with a deep sense of horror. And even though you just know that whoever murdered her will turn out to be some spurned suitor or creepy stalker, it really brings home the fact that when you're a little woman pretty much everyone could kill you if they wanted to.


Do I want Lasik?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Note to self

Eating six lobster rolls in a row is not good nutrition.

Friday, September 11, 2009

There are white terrorists, you know.

Hey Philly.com: Could you manage to object to this totally ridiculous overreaction by the TSA without having a racist aside about how the kid doesn't "look" like a terrorist? thx. (via)

Runaway Slave

This is the best blog that I have read in a long time.* The series of posts about rape, from the rape joke post this summer to the present, are particularly thought-provoking. I've been meaning to link them for months now, but there's just too much good stuff to excerpt. So don't go all tl;dr on me. Actually read them and tell us what you think.

* I'd say it is the most psychologically insightful blog out there, but that is still reserved for the various incarnations of Is there no sin in it?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Abort, retry, ignore?

Can we start this week over? I need a redo.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

When tithing just won't cut it?

Why does the Catholic Church charge for annulments? If it is to recoup the cost of various courses and sessions ... does it also charge for the counseling and sessions couples do prior to marriage? For the education required to undergo confirmation? I'm not Catholic so I don't really know, but my impression is that they don't. When folks talk about getting married, they complain about the prices of flowers and podiums and centerpieces, but I've never heard anyone grouse about the cost of Pre-Cana.

Are there other things that churches charge for? Does your minister charge for acting as a wedding officiant? Scientology charges for everything beyond those lame "personality tests" but I thought that most religious services are free.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Give it up, GQ!

Given that the 1999 terrorist attacks in Russia were a big part of my decision not to live there and continue Russian-language studies, I'd really like to read this article.

UPDATE: Here it is! "Vladimir Putin's Dark Rise to Power," in English and Russian.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Legal Default for Adoption Gag Orders?

Maybe I'm a bit of a thickie, but I don't understand how this can be the case:
Jordan selected a couple, and when she went into labor, they attended the birth, along with her counselor and shepherding mother. The next day, the counselor said that fully open adoptions weren't legal in South Carolina, so Jordan wouldn't receive identifying information on the adoptive parents.
Surely South Carolina does not forbid adoptive parents from communicating with birth mothers or bar them from specific speech. Doesn't this really mean that South Carolina law does not mandate open adoptions and so adoptive parents have the ability to keep certain information from a birth mother? (I.e., the parents here are choosing to be jerks?)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Party to go down in no flames

Dear oven,

How am I supposed to bake a celebratory cherry pie this weekend if you don't work?

No love,


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

We need to talk about Kenny.

What to do with people who don't want to be helped? It might be much cheaper to just lock up fellows like this on their many, many warrants, but there's no room for them.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Survey Says

What's the cutest thing your SO ever did for you?

How often do you wash your bras?

Do U.S. measurement units breed pickiness and anxiety? My weight, like many women's fluctuates a bit from day to day, and sometimes it's just a source of needless drama. If I was N yesterday and N+2 today, have I really gotten fatter, or am I just bloated? If you plotted poundage on a chart, Hacker's-Diet style, you'd have this wavering line, even if you weren't trying to slim down. But if it was in kilos, it would look a lot flatter. Should we all just switch to metric? Similarly, is it really that big a difference between 72 and 74 on the thermostat, or are you just psychologically primed to think it is? Would we save energy on Celsius, or just mellow out?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

At least there was no venom addiction subplot.

I am a complete sucker for Amazon Kindle marketing. Free gateway books? Oh yeah. The amount I have spent on volumes 2 through N from authors who Amazon has provided free teaser novels dwarfs the sum spent on standalone books. This is how one ends up buying all three parts of the "Queen of the Orcs" trilogy. (Which, honestly, is a solid entrant in the gritty feminist fantasy subgenre, at least with regard to the first book. By the second, however, I realized that it has become mandatory in this subgenre to give the disempowered female protagonist a break from her relentless oppression and misery via discovery of interspecies oral sex. I've seen it done worse, but would have rather skipped that entirely. It helps that the orcs are essentially very large humans with yellow eyes and bumpy foreheads---more Klingon than goblin. Not much, though.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wilkinson/ Mansfield debate, anyone?

Will Wilkinson on masculinity:
I think part of the fascination for many white guys with the show Mad Men is that it is a window into an attractive (to them) world of white male dominance and privilege that has largely disappeared. It is still possible to create a traditional patriarchal household, but it’s harder than ever for men to find women who will happily play along. And, in any case, there is little assurance of the stability of this sort of arrangement, since the social esteem that was once accorded to it — which helped reinforce men’s and women’s confidence in their traditional roles within it — has largely dissipated.

To my mind, too little attention has been paid to reconsidering ideals of manhood in the age of equality. Since I was a teenager, I’ve found old-school machismo pathetic and somehow irrelevant to the problem of becoming a man. Without even knowing what or why it was, I was heavily influenced by gay culture, which provided me, and many other straight young men, a wide variety of templates for manhood that are at once unmistakably masculine, playfully ironic, aesthetic, emotionally open, and happily sexual. You can be manly and care about shoes!!! I’ll confess that I used to periodically regret my heterosexuality because there seemed to be greater scope for constructing a distinctive and satisfying male identity within gay culture. I think that’s telling. And the virulent homophobia that remains in most American dude subcultures has cut most young men off from the possibility of modeling their manhood after the delightful variety of types available to the homophile. And that really doesn’t leave them with much to work with.
I like Mad Men as much as the next girl, but I'd rather eat glass than trade what I have for some traditionalist Don Draper wannabe. For one thing, you don't have to be an emotionally distant macho patriarch to fill out a suit properly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oh my.

The State of Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham earlier this year for the murder of his three children by arson. Now it appears that they may have killed an innocent man. Some of the quotes from the article are just horrible.
According to four fire experts consulted by the Tribune, the original investigation was flawed and it is even possible the fire was accidental.
Willingham and his children were sleeping when he awoke to a house full of thick smoke.
With the electrical circuits popping, Willingham said he made his way to the girls' bedroom. He saw an orange glow on the ceiling, but little else because the smoke was so heavy. He said he stood up to step over the childproof gate, and his hair caught fire.

He crouched back down, he told investigators, and felt along the floor for the twins but could not find them. ... When debris began to fall from the ceiling, burning his shoulder, he said he fled through the hall and out the front door.

He tried to go back into the house, he said, but it was too hot. He saw neighbors and told them to call the Fire Department, screaming, "My babies is in there and I can't get them out."
Eleven days after the fire, a police chaplain who had responded to the blaze said he had grown suspicious that Willingham's emotions were not genuine.

"It seemed to me that Cameron was too distraught," said the chaplain, George Monaghan.
Too distraught. Over the deaths of all three of his children.
Firefighters thought Willingham's burns would have been worse if he had searched for the girls as he said he did. Though he had been burned on his shoulder and back and his hair had been singed, they noted that his feet, which had been bare, were not burned on the bottom.
The prosecution's case also relied on the neighbors who said Willingham could have done more to save his family and two fire investigators, assistant Corsicana fire chief Doug Fogg and deputy state fire marshal Manuel Vasquez, who testified that the fire was arson.
The case also included testimony from a junkie jailhouse snitch that Willingham "confessed." Modern analysis indicates that "[t]here's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire."
Willingham did not testify in his defense. His lawyers feared that he would not handle aggressive cross-examination very well and would not present a good image for jurors.

"To me, he was not repentant," said Robert C. Dunn, one of Willingham's trial lawyers. "He had this attitude and air about him that he was wrongfully charged."


So Constant Readers know that I have had weird vision issues in the past. Over the past few months they have been acting up again, but last year's visit to the ophthalmologist* was pretty disheartening, since I was basically told that I could have 1) wonky prism glasses that might help, 2) keep wearing my old contacts, which might help (and did, sort of, for a little while), or 3) surgery which might make things worse or help a tiny bit. Fatalistically, I resigned myself to a lifetime of cocked heads and episodic double vision. But of late it's become really obnoxious, to the point where it's hard to read, so I started researching doctors with experience in correcting this type of problem.

A brief search yielded the name of a physician who specializes in treating my issue, is considered one of the best in the area, and was listed as in-network for my insurance. I called his office to make an appointment. He is accepting new patients: Score! But wait:
"We don't participate in [Amber's Insurance]."

"But the insurer website says you are in their network."

"Yes, the doctor's practice at [Giant University Hospital] is. He sees the babies there. But his private practice is not. You can submit the claim for reimbursement or we can submit it for you."

" .... Okay. [Throws up hands, makes appointment.]"
I called my insurance, and sure enough, half of the addresses listed for this doctor are in-network and half are not. All of the surgical centers listed on the doctor's website are also allegedly in-network, per the insurance website, although who knows---at least a hospital location is not going to have multiple addresses, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that somehow that doesn't matter. One of them is the giant hospital with the babies. Maybe anything that needs to be done can be done there? Clearly a question for the doc.

So basically I get to pay out-of-network (80/20) rates to see an in-network physician, and maybe out-of-network rates for any surgery he decides to do, because I am not a baby. Certainly I could try to find someone else, but this fellow apparently helps people who other doctors say nothing can be done for, and I'm tired of being brushed off with non-solutions when there are newer procedures that could potentially resolve the issue.**

* Not even the same ophthalmologist I saw in the immediate aftermath of Double-Vision-Fest 2007, who apparently moved and left all her patients to non-specialist-in-Amber-issue doc. And have I mentioned that I am still CURSING the random optometrist who lured me in with a coupon for a free eye exam and shiny frames and started this whole mess? I could cope just fine until then!

** Not that I have some principled objection to paying for care above and beyond the status quo as of N years ago, but having to pay because of addresses strikes me as perverse. Your doctor's in-network ... oh no he isn't! Grrr.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Phone-Sexual Assault

Am I crazy or is this kid essentially a serial rapist? Extorting sex by threatening to send SWAT teams to women's homes sounds pretty rape-like to me.

Movie Review: In A Lonely Place

In a Lonely Place gave him a role that he could play with complexity because the film character's, the screenwriter's, pride in his art, his selfishness, his drunkenness, his lack of energy stabbed with lightning strokes of violence, were shared equally by the real Bogart.
Being himself supremely confident of his own attractiveness to women, he scorned every form of demonstrativeness. When a woman appealed to him, he waited for her like the flame waits for the moth.

-Louise Brooks

This could have been a Lifetime Original Movie, were it not for the casting. Note to the ladies out there: Psychologically unstable old murder suspects with control fetishes are not marriage material! But as my fellow cinéaste noted after watching this movie, "this is slightly less misogynistic than the Twilight books," since [SPOILER] the female lead rejects his dominion. The idea that this controlling, violent, paranoid creature is a reflection of the true Bogart taints the rests of his films, though. Not recommended, if you'd prefer to maintain your enjoyment of Casablanca and such.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Public Nudity, French Pop Edition

The last woman seems like she's having the least fun, but the other two seem to be enjoying themselves. And contra some PTN commenters, nobody was overcome with lust and leaped on the nude women. (via)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inglourious Basterds [SPOILERS]

Very depressing film. Shoshanna's revenge is preempted by the Basterds, she dies for essentially random reasons, and the man who actually killed her family gets away with a nasty scar? The emptiness and pointlessness of it all is staggering.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Smack Talk, Online and Offline

Which would you rather have happen:

- Someone calls you nasty names on an anonymous blog.

- Someone in your social circle badmouths you directly to your significant other.

Which is more credible to the audience? Which is more likely to have a direct impact on your life? Which would cause more actual injury?

I've had both happen to me and it's clear which one hurts more.

(Note: This Port character sounds kind of nasty, so I'm not defending her fight-fire-with-fire approach, but I'm always skeptical of lawsuits based on internet smack, especially when it's not clear the plaintiff's life was materially damaged.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh, look, shiny!

These almost make me want a tattoo. The watercolor ones are really cool. It sort of reduces tattooing to its most fundamental essence: You're painting on yourself. Having a tattoo that's of a thing means you are burdened with its connotations and significance. This is pure body-as-canvas. Neat.

I recognize that this flitting about is flaky and have decided I don't care. Bikes! Tattoos! The plus side of being easily distracted by nifty things is it saves money---never enough time to invest in such passing fancies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bad Dads

You know, fathers aren't coming off very well in the NYT Magazine piece on women's rights abroad. In particular, they appear to be spending money on hookers and booze instead of feeding or educating their damn kids:
If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries. Girls, since they are the ones kept home from school now, would be the biggest beneficiaries. ...

[W]hen the men’s crops flourish, the household spends more money on alcohol and tobacco. When the women have a good crop, the households spend more money on food. “When women command greater power, child health and nutrition improves.”
For another example of bad fathering, note that the girl star of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire remains in the slums (at least until her father can sell her):
[H]er family's shack was demolished by city municipal workers and later rebuilt in the same spot, next to an open sewer and piles of garbage. She remains in the slums because her father, despite Boyle's offers for a new home, isn't sure he wants to leave. He also was caught in an undercover sting by a British newspaper where he allegedly agreed to sell her for adoption to a wealthy Dubai family for the equivalent of $290,000; he denies the allegation.
Another depressing data point: An Afghan girl on her way to school was badly injured in an acid attack and thousands were collected to pay for surgery. Although there was sufficient money to send her and a female chaperone to the U.S. for the procedure, her father refused:
[A]t 17, Shamsia was of marrying age. As an unmarried girl, her reputation had to be preserved at all costs. Traveling to the United States, with all its possibilities for corruption, was out of the question. So if she stayed, according to her father, she wouldn’t be able to marry because of her injuries; but if she left to go to the U.S. and have her injuries repaired, she wouldn’t be able to marry either. ...

“I want to help your daughter get medical care,” I said. “People have given me a lot of money for this purpose.”

“Why not just buy me a house,” Ali said. “Buy me a big house in Kabul.”

“The money is for your daughter,” I told him.

I was reduced to pleading. I suddenly felt like a parody of a wealthy Westerner, forcing charity onto an unwilling third-world subject.

“Just give the money to me,” Ali said.

Even Shamsia had changed her mind.

“We want to live in Kabul,” she said.

And so it had come to this. The Taliban, or someone who thought like them, had thrown acid in the faces of a number of girls, and a number of readers in the United States and other countries, filled with generosity, had given their money to take care of one of those girls and the school. And now the girl’s family, for reasons I could barely comprehend, was telling me, in effect, that they wanted something else.

I offered a compromise: What if we brought your daughter to Kabul and had doctors check her there?

Ali said nothing.

And if she needs surgery, I continued, would you consider allowing us to bring her to one of the better hospitals in India, an hour’s plane flight over the Himalayas?

“I will think about this,” Ali said.

I pressed some more.

“O.K.,” he said finally. “But you will need to put us up in Kabul.”
I'm not holding my breath on this one. The girl's eyes were so badly burned she can no longer see well enough to read. And yet priority one for dad is turning some of the funds people gave for his daughter's medical care to a new house. (It is possible that the girl is not being pressured by Pops to say she'd rather be blind in a big house in Kabul than healed in her home town, but I'm surpassingly skeptical.)