Sunday, March 29, 2009

Female Beautification Rituals

I need to get a group together and make a trip here. Ladies?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Your favorite children's book sucks.

There is a whole subset of "beloved" children's books* that I have always found unappealing and even dull, perhaps because I learned to read at too young an age to appreciate them. The first books I can remember liking were much heavier on words.

* Including Dr. Seuss, that Polar Express guy, stuff by Graeme Base, Babar, Goodnight Moon, and others.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You all know mine's full of sword and sorcery novels.

A commenter on Marginal Revolution wonders about Kindles and signaling:
Reading with a Kindle, the signal is relatively constant and, at the moment, is something like "I'm an early technology adopter and I like to read". As the Kindle gets more commonplace the efficacy of this signal will, I think, diminish. Compare this with the signalling effects of reading a traditional book, where you signal to people not only that you like to read, but crucially what you are reading.

I wonder if Kindle advocates are underestimating how important it is for people to show those around them not just that they like to read, but also what they like to read?
I read on my Kindle in public and often people will ask me about it, how it works, and such. But they never ask what I am reading. One of the things I like about the Kindle is that unshelfworthy books and books I'd be ashamed to read in public (looking at you, Twilight series) are accessible without consequences.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’"

What does what you drink say about you? I've acquired a fondness for Old Fashioneds, which I think says "I am high maintenance and expect bartenders to have fruit."

Monday, March 23, 2009


song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Open Thread

Talk amongst yourselves. Or tell me what to blog about. Or find me some cute clothes to wear to weddings* and recipes for your favorite not-too-bad-for-you dishes.

* That Birkin dress came in the mail and it is like WOW stretchy and skintight. Spanx to the rescue. I'm wearing it to somebody's wedding where I can get away with being a little scandalous. Last night I wore this, which was totally worth the almost-full-price I paid for it, so you should get one now that it's insanely discounted.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nowruz Bake: Lime Coconut Cake

Another Smitten Kitchen production:

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1 scant tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup lime juice, divided
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9-inch square springform pan. Toast coconut in a small baking pan in oven, stirring once or twice, until golden, 5-7 minutes (burns easily---buy extra coconut!). Beat together butter, sugar, and zest until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and 1/2 cup coconut. Stir together milk and 2 tablespoons lime juice (no idea why the recipe does it---it just curdles the milk). At low speed, mix flour and milk mixtures into egg mixture alternately in batches. Spoon batter into pan and smooth top. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool to warm. Whisk powdered sugar with remaining lime juice and spread on warm cake. Top with remaining coconut.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why I am boycotting Jezebel and you should too.

Imagine that you are a woman in a long-term relationship with a man you love. You have an extremely upsetting nonconsensual sexual experience with your boyfriend that leaves you questioning whether you should stay, even though you think that he may have transgressed out of stupidity and not malice. You go (anonymously) to a moderated, paid-membership forum with a reputation for providing good advice and ask for guidance. Many people say that you were sexually assaulted and should leave; others say that you may be able to work through this, if his action was genuinely inadvertent.

Megan, a blogger at (which compensates its authors based on the hit counts their posts receive) links to your story and uses it as a jumping-off point for a rant about rape in relationships. It gets huge amounts of attention and hundreds of people seize on portions of your account and attack your boyfriend. Members of the advice forum are upset that what many consider a personal account of a sexual assault has been given much greater publicity than the poster originally intended. They write to the blogger to ask that the post be taken down, out of sensitivity to someone the blogger characterizes as a rape victim. (The blogger herself has been raped: maybe she'll understand?) But she refuses, saying "oversharing can have consequences you don't expect."

Then you write to the blogger, saying that your original post didn't convey the full context of what happened---could she please put up a correction or take down her post? She initially agrees to publish an update, and you let the advice forum members know. But after you do, the blogger goes back on her word and refuses to correct or update the post. Why have nuance or additional detail when a slanted version draws so much more controversy?

So what's the takeaway? You've gone to a trusted forum for advice on how to deal with your sexual assault. A blogger from a supposedly feminist site is making money off your story and when you ask her to clarify or remove an excerpted version of the incomplete account of YOUR RAPE, she gives you the cold shoulder.

I'm usually on the side of those saying that information on the internet wants to be free, don't expect privacy for things you publish there, etc. But when someone asks you, one rape victim to another, "could you please take down your republication of the details of my assault?" and you effectively respond "sorry, I'm too busy raking in the cash all the page views are bringing me"---you're a contemptible, vile person. This isn't the first time this particular blogger has posted something in staggeringly bad faith, and she is not the only blogger on the site who has posted morally bankrupt things. But it's the end of the line for me.

UPDATE: Direct link to the OP removed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The right to be left alone?

In which of the following situations, if any, is Person A wronged?

  1. A's adoptive parents never tell A he is adopted. A has no suspicions and believes the adoptive parents are his birth parents.

  2. A asks the adoption agency for information about his birth parents. It has records that would reveal the identity and location of A's birth parent(s) but refuses to provide them, at the request of the birth parent(s).

  3. A uses legal or extra-legal means to pierce the secrecy around his closed adoption and, against the wishes of his birth parent(s), makes contact.

  4. A, who gave up a child in a closed adoption, seeks information about her child through the adoption agency. It has records that would reveal the identity and location of A's offspring but refuses to provide them, at the request of the adoptive parent(s).

  5. A, who gave up a child in a closed adoption, seeks information about her child through the adoption agency. It has records that would reveal the identity and location of A's offspring but refuses to provide them, at the child's request.

  6. A, adopted through a closed adoption, instructed the agency not to provide contact information to his birth parent(s). The agency does anyway and the birth parent(s) contact A against his wishes.

  7. A, adopted through a closed adoption, instructed the agency not to provide contact information to his birth parent(s). The birth parent(s) use legal or extra-legal means to obtain the information anyway and contact A against his wishes.
If A has been wronged, what right or entitlement was violated? If there is a right to contact, does it go both ways, and at what point can further contact be refused? If there is a right to certain information, should there be a similarly enforceable right to said information for non-adoptees?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A qualified defense of rejecting Reese Witherspoon lookalikes

A lot of folks are talking about this passage from Ross Douthat's college memoir:
One successful foray ended on the guest bed of a high school friend’s parents, with a girl who resembled a chunkier Reese Witherspoon drunkenly masticating my neck and cheeks. It had taken some time to reach this point–“Do most Harvard guys take so long to get what they want?” she had asked, pushing her tongue into my mouth. I wasn’t sure what to say, but then I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted. My throat was dry from too much vodka, and her breasts, spilling out of pink pajamas, threatened my ability to breathe. I was supposed to be excited, but I was bored and somewhat disgusted with myself, with her, with the whole business… and then whatever residual enthusiasm I felt for the venture dissipated, with shocking speed, as she nibbled at my ear and whispered–“You know, I’m on the pill…”
As one commenter noted:
What strikes me about that passage is that Douthat was almost precisely re-enacting the behavior of a sexually conflicted, conservatively-taught young woman who gets bedded while drunk (or even gets drunk in order to go to bed with someone) and doesn’t do anything about contraception because that would imply an intention to sin. Except his takeaway is that the partner who took responsibility for making sure there was no offspring is yucky.
Agreed. But a lot of the comments criticizing this excerpt are themselves really sexist: Men are perfectly within their rights, and perfectly normal, if they don't want to sleep with women who want to sleep with them. The reasons behind the refusal may be objectionable or gross (and here it sounds like they were), but the whole "real men never turn down sex" meme is itself pretty nasty.

Monday, March 16, 2009

In which I watch a Woody Allen film

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the movie equivalent of a book-club novel: calculated to inspire heated discussion in the aftermath, but ultimately lightweight. And is it too much to ask that a movie be able to deal with provocative romantic issues using characters who are not insanely wealthy? I'd be more interested in seeing how someone copes with terminal dissatisfaction when she can't just gallivant off the France for a month to think things over.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friend Drama: Wallow or Wiggle Away?

How involved do you get with your friends' lives? Do you support them in their time of trouble with a "there, there"? Take their side against all comers? Become emotionally invested in their struggles with third parties? I have a friend whose partner tired of her discussing the trials and travails of various friends and their drama, and sometimes I wonder if I too am too consumed with the interpersonal struggles of others. Does that consumption show that you're relatively caring and empathetic? Or is it just a waste of mental energy?

Unable to Comment?

I've had to ban some IPs recently, so if you have been unable to comment due to an inadvertent overlap between your IP address and a banned range please let me know and I will try to fix things.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


NYT hires Ross Douthat to replace Bill Kristol, which is an improvement in the same way that being punched repeatedly in the face is an improvement over being savaged by wild dogs.

Reactions from those of us who do not believe fertilized eggs are people or who are not part of the DC journalism mutual appreciation society are ... mixed. Many liberal males are happy because Douthat is a big-government advocate, and some conservatives are pleased that someone will finally give their retrograde social views a gloss of intellectual respectability via the Times. Libertarian women are, again, left screaming and shaking their fists impotently at the sky.

Matthew Yglesias called the hire "a very smart move," but my favorite reader sends an Yglesias quote and a question:
Obviously, insofar as Washington continually tilts toward one Pakistani party and against the other one, the leader of one party will become “a Western ally” and we’ll develop doubts about the priorities of the other guy. But I think Americans really ought to be asking ourselves about cause and effect here. As best I can tell, we’re substantially basing our Pakistan policy on the fact that Benazir Bhutto went to Harvard and befriended many important Americans while there.
Does he not see the connection to Douthat's promotion?
Perhaps the pithiest reaction comes from Radley Balko, who Twittered:
New NY Times non-lefty op-ed page covers spectrum from Brooks to Douthat! Like saying music taste ranges from Nickelback to Daughtry.
Someone once asked me why I don't like agreeing with Ross Douthat, even on something so simple as whether Crash sucks, and my answer remains the same.
I'd enumerate all the ways in which he's a symbol of the worst aspects of modern American journalism, the publishing industry, Ivy League privilege, conservatism and its attendant persecution complex, latent cultural misogyny, and pretentious jackassery, but that would mean I'd have to reread a lot of his blog to find citations for you, and I only manage to tolerate it in small doses. Most of his stuff would put me to sleep if it were not offensive both as prose and as politics.
I hesitate to call him a conscious misogynist, but he's anti-feminist in the extreme, and nearly every cultural tradition he vaunts would reduce female autonomy. Note his recent embrace of patriarchy (no joke!) as the solution to lower birth rates. His only objection to the author's thesis (which basically said cultures are doomed unless women get back in the kitchen, submit to their husbands, and make some babies) was that he wasn't sure that it would work, since kids don't always absorb their parents' belief systems.

The man's a menace.
I actually did make a brief and half-hearted effort to find citations to what I viewed as his more objectionable posts, but (conveniently) The American Scene archives prior to 2007 don't appear to support working links. Somebody at the Village Voice has links to some more recent posts. You can read an excerpt of Douthat's writing on birth control, with my comments, here. (Thanks to the Pandagon commentariat for bringing that post by Douthat on Andrew Sullivan's blog back to light.)

Reflecting on his prior writings does leave me with a few questions: Has Douthat put his money where his mouth is, i.e. sired at least one child by now? And does he believe in the existence of demons? And why couldn't the Times have hired Virginia Postrel?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maybe a dumb question

How is it that we can break all kinds of obscure codes and cryptography for intelligence purposes but still haven't translated all the ancient languages in the archaeological record?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Watchmen Question

So if the first trick Dr. Manhattan learned was reassembling the human body, and he can manipulate particles on an atomic level, why can't he reverse the cellular damage associated with aging and keep his female companions youthful and frisky?

Watchmen versus X-Men

Because I am lazy and like posting videos.

I blame cars. Also the universe.

In recent years I have become something of a soft touch, but every once in a while you read something tearjerking that isn't manipulative or cheap, but genuinely moving or heartrending.

Then you go sort out the recycling. That`s not part of it but it's still very important.

I hate this show, but this song is one of the funniest things I have seen in ages:

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Recipe: Amber's Baa-d Ass Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 lb. spicy Italian goat sausage, crumbled
Two large cans diced tomatoes
Handful thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
One small onion, diced
Four cloves garlic, smashed
Oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and sugar

If sausage is not nice and spicy, add some red pepper flakes to it. Brown the sausage in a little olive oil in a large skillet. Remove the meat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until translucent and brown, respectively. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, then remove cloves. Add tomatoes and seasonings: about a tbsp of basil, half as much oregano, a scant tbsp of sugar, some pepper, and a little salt. Add back the meat. Simmer for one hour or until the tomatoes break down. If it cooks down too much before that happens, add a little water back in. Serve with long pasta.

People I hang out with: Help!

I was going to sign up for a dyeing class on May 1-3, but I have this vague recollection that there is something going on already that weekend. What is it? Email is fine.

Friday, March 06, 2009

With great power comes great responsibility?

A commenter makes a good point regarding the actions of the vamp characters in the Twilight series:
So in the end, I was disappointed. I thought [Bella] would go out and help people, do great things, travel the world...but instead, she's all wrapped up into making out with her new husband.
Now granted, the Twilight books are romances, not adventure novels, but SOME interesting female protagonists, granted awesome powers and awareness of the predations of evil beings on humanity, would choose to fight the nasties. It doesn't even have to preclude lots of sex with your similarly superpowered mate.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


None of these are particularly spring/summer-wedding-appropriate, but: wow!

Beauty Queen Dress

Usherette Dress

Birkin Dress

N.B. Prices are in Aussie dollars. Oi! Birkin dress ordered.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

This blog is five. Five.

Happy fifth birthday, PTN!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Very, very sick. But lots of work to do.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekend Bake: Lemon Thyme Creme Brulee

This took a couple of tries. It makes enough for 6 shallow ramekins, I think ... there was some left over from my four.

400 mL heavy whipping cream
100 mL milk
5 - 6 twigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp lemon zest, minced finely
4 large egg yolks
70 g sugar
Turbinado sugar for caramelizing

Put 1/4 inch of water in a large baking pan and preheat oven to 300 with the pan inside. Heat the milk and cream just to a boil. Remove from heat and add thyme sprigs and lemon zest. Let steep for 15 minutes. Strain the resulting liquid; you can add back some of the zest and thyme leaves if you want.

Whisk together sugar and yolks, then gradually add the liquid. Do NOT do this until the liquid is relatively cool or the eggs will cook. Place towel in bottom of baking pan in the water to cushion ramekins, then place ramekins in the pan. Ladle liquid gently into ramekins. If there are bubble, make a quick pass over the ramekins with your torch until they are gone. Bake for 20 minutes, then check for doneness. They should wiggle a little in the middle but not on the sides. Remove from oven and refrigerate for 4-24 hours. Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar and blast it with the torch. Eat.