Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guilt, Shame, the Internet, and You

Very interesting post on the function of the internet in displacing guilt and undermining internal controls on behavior. As a full-throated supporter of the capacity for the internet to swallow and incorporate evidence of past behavior as a method of developing more accurate and widely encompassing reputational data, this was an unsettling read.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winding You Up

As I do more and more dyeing and spinning, I realize that it would be useful to have a skein winder. However, they are rather expensive, especially considering they consist of a spinny thing with pins sticking up to hold the yarn and a crank to turn the spinny thing. I do have a spinning wheel, but cannot figure out how best to attach something to the flyer to harness the wheel's motion to allow for foot-powered skein winding. Ideas?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Right to Travel: Impeded.

Ah, DC. Which other jurisdictions so obsessively track you and force you to show papers proving you don't live there?

While parked legally on a street in DC this weekend, I received a warning notice for failure to register for DC tags. Since I already pay car tax as a resident of Virginia, DC can go jump in a lake. However, telling them to do so is going to be something of a pain. In order to not incur a $100 ticket, you must report to the DC DMV and prove you live elsewhere with your original lease, a recent utility bill, and your car registration. (In return, they will give you a six-month exemption, at the end of which the entire process repeats itself.) You can also mail this information to them, but the ticket also helpfully notes that the processing period associated with doing so may exceed the fifteen day grace period before which a ticket for failure to register is issued.

In contradiction to both this blog post on the problem and the DMV's own website, which make it sound like you only get these for parking twice within thirty days, the warning notice clearly states that "[y]our vehicle has been observed for the second time within a 180 day period parking without DC tags." So if you've parked in DC while shopping, visiting a friend, or doing business within the last six months, beware of that second trip. And heaven help you if you don't have a lease or mortgage or have your name on the utilities.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All the female libertarians

On the question of where they are, and the cause of their low numbers: I was discussing this at my last gaming session, in which an Objectivist-ish dude and I played War of the Ring (which is awesome, by the way). The following points seemed relevant to the persistent failure of libertarianism to attract female proponents:

1) To start out with, most libertarians are male. Whether this is because men or male brains are innately attracted to libertarian ideas or because libertarian ideas are more commonly found, and thus disseminated, in male-dominated social groups or tribes (SF fans, CS types, high school nerd clusters, etc.) is a separate question.

2) In opposition to traditional statist positions regarding the need for coercive intervention to prevent discrimination against women by governmental entities, corporations, and individuals, male libertarians often go so far as to deride the general goal of social norms of gender equality.

3) Women see this and recoil. The male domination of libertarianism continues.

If libertarianism is about free human flourishing, then why wouldn't you, a libertarian male, push civil society to allow for the self-actualization of half the population? Wouldn't you be concerned about the extent to which female* children are inescapably victim to the coercive inculcation of beliefs about gender that are destructive to their full personhood? Wouldn't you want to admit, for the sake of your female listeners, that even if you disagree with government intervention to remedy sex discrimination, you still think sexism is wrong? (If you want to say people have a right to be bigoted, it's prudent to condemn bigotry; cf. Rand Paul.) If libertarianism is to attract women and be viewed as more than "f*** you, I got mine," then a little empathy would go a long way.

* And male [PHMT genuflection].

UPDATE: Phoebe gets at what I was going for. If a libertarian man's default stance is to scorn attempts to control behavior and conventional wisdom, then you're going to throw out some feminist baby out with the bathwater. Oddly, IIRC this sort of juvenile oppositional posturing is one reason why Ayn Rand thought libertarians were not potential allies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What do Italian women want to be?

When I ask him how he understands the Presidente's political vision, he says, "He loves the idea of having fun. Fun is the mantra of Berlusconi. The politicians before him, they were just the brain. Just the head and mouth was moving, and the body didn't exist. Berlusconi is very physical. Just like Mussolini. Very virile. The smile. The body. The idea of having fun is so, so crucial. And he could make people dream. That's the typical side of the narcissist: Where I am, there is paradise."

If there's a distillation of that fun, an image that, along with the proud, bleeding face, explains why the Presidente survives, it is the famous old-man penis from the Summer of Love, the penis belonging to the former Czech prime minister. It is a normal penis, white, either semitumescent or caught in an upswing so that, captured there in the air, it looks semitumescent, perched above a pair of legs that are not the legs of a young man—a little skinny, a little short. But here in the world provided by the Presidente, this penis is allowed to swing in the bright Mediterranean sunlight, for once freed from the suit pants of respectable early old age, happy and carefree and unashamed, surrounded by friendly women in thong bikinis who love and accept this penis for what it is. You can be that penis, Italy. You don't have to pretend to be young or virile or world-beating; you can just be you, an aging, graying, stagnating nation, and still thrive in the world of fun.
Whenever I read an article about Berlusconi, I wonder: What is it like to be a woman in Italy these days? And how do women who support Berlusconi justify their decision? Regardless of whether one agrees with his policies, there is no particular reason why they have to be implemented by someone who actively undermines the significance of female political participation.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

So much worse than "ma'am."

On the advice of AskMe, I put Lily and Snape on an all-wet-food diet so Snape would drop a few pounds. This means I go through a lot of canned cat food. It apparently means that I look like a Crazy Cat Lady at the grocery store.

Me: (attempting to be helpful) There are 36 cans of cat food. They're all the same.

Cashier: ... So, do you feed ferals?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cool Stuff Watch

23 and Me extended their holiday sale through Christmas ... genetic testing only $99.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nothing "Bamber"

If I were a yarn company, what would I be called?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Problem: "[T]here’s not a ton of great art that completely refuses to communicate vulnerability (the oeuvre of Leni Riefenstahl notwithstanding)."

The 1585 guy is back. He's been trying something new lately:
So that was the project before me: never say anything insecure, ever. At least not in front of a girl, although I figured it would be good practice to avoid saying insecure stuff in front of guys too. This didn’t seem like it would be too hard. After all, we’re not talking about something subjective here, like comedy, where what one person finds hilarious another person might find offputting and vice versa. Everyone basically knows the difference between insecure and non-insecure, even me.

And with that kind of setup, you’re probably expecting an essay about how it turned out to be harder than it looks. But it didn’t. It turned out to be every bit as easy as I thought it would. Seriously, all I had to do was not say insecure things, duh. How easy or hard it was isn’t the problem.

Now you’re probably thinking that it didn’t work. You’re expecting me to say that I refrained from saying insecure stuff, but girls didn’t like me any better—either because they could still magically tell I was insecure somehow, or because it turns out that girls look deeper than that and aren’t really as shallow as I was making them out to be. But that’s not it either. Girls—and, to be fair, people in general—really are as shallow as I was making them out to be, and the simple practice of never saying insecure things worked amazingly well. To be perfectly honest, I had sex with more women this past September and October than during any year-long stretch of my life before, or all four years of college. And I didn’t even go out that much. So without becoming boorish here, let it be established that never saying insecure things really does work, and is incredibly easy. Those things are not the problem.

The problem is that, as far as I can tell, I no longer have a personality.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Threat or Menace?

Fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms: The most disgusting "edible" fungus known to man?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What (Not?) To Wear, TSA Edition

This sex worker (link NSFW; text only version here) decided to push the boundaries of the new TSA screening standards by donning a sheer camisole and panties for her trip through the security line. Of course, there's video. She explicitly sought to turn the tables on the workers who'd be searching her.
As a teenager, I had a conversation with an older activist who had been arrested many times over the years.  He told me his secret to staving off despair and stress during the whole process.  He said something like, "When you're in jail, and the police strip search you, their goal is to humiliate you into obedience, so it's your job to turn the tables on them.  I do a sexy striptease, spin around like a fucking ballerina, and tell them how hot the whole thing makes me.  It takes away their power and makes them the uncomfortable ones."
She didn't get arrested, unlike the San Diego guy who stripped down to his boxer briefs,* but there must be some point at which clothing is both sufficiently revealing to render patdowns superfluous and legal for street wear. Perhaps hot pants and a tight crop top? A dashing spandex superhero-style bodysuit? How about a snug Star Fleet uniform?

Relatedly: Now you have to get a backscatter scan or enhanced patdown if you're coming off an international flight---EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT CONNECTING?

* Who was instructed, according to his attorney "to put his clothes back on 'so he could be properly patted down,'" indicating precisely how security theater is about compliance with authority, not actual safety.

Twitter tag: #fauxho

Wow, this is like an R-rated issue-spotter for a law school exam.

Friday, November 19, 2010

ISO Certified Stupid Pork

If eating pigs is wrong because they are intelligent enough to anticipate their own demise, shouldn't we assuage our moral objections by breeding pigs selectively for dumbness? (If you'd eat a chicken but not a pig, would you eat a pig with the mental state of a chicken?)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recipe: Peanut Fried Chicken

I don't know why I don't fry things more, except that it's time-consuming and messy and bad for you.

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper

4 boneless chicken thighs or 2 breasts
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cups all-purpose flour

Food-process the batter ingredients until well blended. Cut chicken into 2-3" pieces and stab all over with a skewer. Soak in marinade in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably longer. Heat oil in a pot or skillet until a little flour sizzles when dropped in. Dredge chicken pieces in flour and place in oil, cooking 6-8 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. While still hot, drizzle very lightly with honey and sprinkle with salt and additional cayenne to taste. Eat. Eat some more. Figure you should just finish it off and eat the rest.

Protip: There will be lumps of the dripped-off batter in your flour. Fry these too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

We're from the government and we're here to judge your art.

Does anyone else have a problem with the idea that a secretive and unaccountable government entity gets to decide who is an artist and prevent people from purchasing homes if they don't make the grade?
The judges rejected a jewelry maker for producing work that was too commercial and a photographer whose pieces did not show enough “focus, quality and commitment.” Others were turned down for being a student, a “hobbyist” or an “interpretive artist.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'll never reconcile myself to Hermione/Ron.

An excellent question:
"[W]hy [is it] that so few of the intellectual female characters prominent in pop culture wind up with equally intellectual guys[?] ... It's true also that stable relationships make for uninteresting television or plot interest in a series of novels. But I can't think of many more examples in which intellectual heroines *end up* with intellectual guys either."
Is the perceived alternative for an intellectual female not the hot smarty but the "too brilliant to bathe" fellow? Are we unwilling to match up persons gifted along both axes out of some unconscious feeling that it would be implausible or even socially undesirable?

Perhaps relatedly: I was at a party recently where two women, upon hearing that my significant other exceeded me in height by a foot, commenced to rant about short women hogging tall men instead of leaving them for more statuesque ladies. (One asked in a peevish tone whether there was a word for that. I suggested "greed.") Of course, this crowding-out only occurs because women of height X typically want a man of height X+Y. Is it perhaps also the case that women of IQ X want men of IQ X+Y (or that men of IQ X+Y want women with IQ X)?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Wolverine + Fiennes = DO THIS.

This one's for Phoebe:
Are we as guys lucky not to be evaluated as stringently based on physical attributes as girls are? Sure, I guess. But the downside is, this can make us complacent about how we look. The best strategy is, even if we’re not being judged as harshly as women, imagine that we are. It’s this complacency that makes some guys think stupid shit like “Well, I am a sensitive writer, so not only do I not need to have a nice body, but I should actually avoid having one, because having one would mean that I am not a sensitive writer anymore.”

Look at it this way: when you see a chick who is wearing glasses and a pencil skirt because she is going for a Sexy Librarian thing, do you want her to not have an amazing body just because that is the look she is going for, or do you want her to be going for that look and have an amazing body? Obviously, you want her to also have an amazing body. There is no possible aesthetic for which the equation [given aesthetic] + [amazing body] = [even better] does not hold. So why would girls think of us any differently?
Read the whole thing. It's good, except the wrong Fiennes is pictured in the model equation. (via)

UPDATE: Phoebe's thoughts available here, with a focus on the idea that some men attract women specifically by being "too brilliant to bathe," which is less an aesthetic than a more abstracted mode of self-presentation or -conception---or perhaps an identity for which the idea that "physicality is stupid" is integral, not an auxiliary rationalization for being flabby.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Period Details

Is it really wise to invoke this particular quotation to rebut B.R. Myers's dismissal of Freedom as a  wannabe-Zeitgeist piece that "uses facile tricks to tart up the story as a total account of American life"?
Myers has little to tell us about beauty. For Flaubert’s contemporary Baudelaire, beauty was
made up of an eternal, invariable element . . . and of a relative, circumstantial element, which will be. . . the age – its fashions, its morals, its emotions. Without this second element, which might be described as the amusing, enticing, appetizing icing on the divine cake, the first element would be beyond our powers of digestion.
Does anyone really buy the idea that we cannot comprehend beauty without its being clothed in the fashions, morals, and emotions of our time? Does it make sense to embrace Franzen at the cost of ceding thousands of years' worth of literature? Modern trappings and language can ease understanding---or they can distract the reader from any underlying beauty by annoying the crap out of her. Some of us prefer our eternal themes without an exterior of contemporary Cheez Whiz. It's a little patronizing, actually, this notion that we can't digest your Deep Meaningful Literary Thoughts without the "icing." If any aid is required, I prefer trappings that invoke centuries of cultural development and history over instantly dated attempts to capture the details of How We Live Now.

On a related note, there's a nice little exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and photography at the National Gallery. Recommended.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bechdel Test for Statues

How many statues in D.C. include depictions of women who are not nude and/or metaphorical?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I always preferred Tom Petty

Via Tyler Cowen, a Russian's opinion of Springsteen:
My general take on Bruce Springsteen could always be briefly expressed as follows: Bruce is a very local phenomenon. I could actually stop right here, because everything that'll follow, both good and bad, will eventually come back to this first sentence, but I suppose I'll have to explain. Frankly speaking, I don't know anything about how much Bruce Springsteen is popular outside of the good old United States. To some extent, probably, mainly due to his grandiose career-supporting events and all kinds of propaganda campaigns and beneficial organisations he takes part in. In any case, in my home country people hardly ever know anything about him but his name, and it's one of those rare cases when I feel such an attitude is completely justified. I suppose I'll have to explain again? Should I?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Size Disadvantage?

According to a BU professor, the general public is nauseated by ... this figure?
In her new documentary, Picture Me, Columbia University student Sara Ziff chronicles her 4-year rise and exit through the fashion modeling industry, zooming her personal camcorder onto supposedly systemic abuses—sexual, economic, and emotional—suffered by fashion models. Among the many complaints launched in the film is an aesthetic that prizes uniformly young, white, and extremely thin bodies measuring 34-24-34” (bust-waist-hips) .... What’s the appeal of an aesthetic so skinny it’s widely described by the lay public as revolting?
Uh huh. Turns out the professor is also a former model. Does she actually think that the average person finds her body "revolting"? If so, how sad. But if not, why gratuitously insult women like herself? Does she think to gain points somehow?

Recipe: Homemade Spinach Pasta

I started out using this recipe, then lost faith and winged it. It came out quite tasty and toothsome. There would be a photo, but I ate it all already.
  • 1 large bunch spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • salt
  • 300 or so grams flour
Wash, trim, and blanch spinach. It should be bright green and just wilted. Toss in food processor and puree. Follow the above linked recipe, placing
  • 250 grams of all-purpose flour
  • one egg
  • an eggshell-full of spinach puree, and 
  • salt sufficient to cover the egg yolk twice 
in the classic volcano setup inside a large bowl. Realize that 1) there's a bunch more spinach you could add, and 2) the recipe is from an alternate dimension in which flour has unusual absorption properties. Add another egg, another 1/4-ish cup of flour, and the remaining spinach. Mix in food processor until horrible grinding sounds begin to emerge from the motor. Remove the dough back to the floury bowl and knead the remaining flour in by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide into three balls. (You should really cover it and let it rest for at least half an hour here.) During downtime, saute two cloves of garlic in olive oil until just golden. Roll out dough to maximum achievable thinness using rolling pin and cut into noodles of desired width. Cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Serve with garlic and olive oil.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Size Advantage

This honestly never occurred to me:
Having someone stand too close to us can feel like a form of intimidation, no matter what the person’s size. I can remember three occasions in which short, petite women made me uncomfortable by standing too close to me during casual conversations. In one case it was a colleague’s wife, and it was impossible to look down at her without being distracted by the cleavage being displayed by her provocatively low-cut dress. A petite woman once confessed to me that she sometimes liked to intimidate large women by standing very close to them. She was aware that being close to her tiny, svelte figure sometimes made larger women feel awkward and huge.

I wish I liked pupusas.

Tyler & Co. went to El Salvador. Although it has the highest murder rate of any nation, the economists felt quite safe. Then again, reference to this chart reveals that Belize is up there, murder-rate-wise, but it also did not feel particularly dangerous. It's worth digging into the data to see who's getting murdered, I suppose; traveling to a country with a high murder rate that chiefly applies to, say, members of drug gangs, seems like a better option than a place with a lower overall rate that includes more tourist victims.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Elite Are You?

There's a test to see how elite (per Charles Murray) you are.

1. Can you talk about "Mad Men?" Yes.
2. Can you talk about the "The Sopranos?" No.
3. Do you know who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right?" Drew Carey? Yep.
4. Have you watched an Oprah show from beginning to end? Yes, in high school.
5. Can you hold forth animatedly about yoga? Not really.
5. How about pilates? Nope.
5. How about skiing? Nope.
6. Mountain biking? I can't ride a bike. I can ride a horse. Western-style, so not elite. 
7. Do you know who Jimmie Johnson is? Nope.
8. Does the acronym MMA mean nothing to you? I know what it means and have (HLS grad) friends who like it.
9. Can you talk about books endlessly? For the non-elite definition of "books."
10. Have you ever read a "Left Behind" novel? No, I prefer more believable subgenres of fantasy.
11. How about a Harlequin romance? Harlequin, no. Other generic Fabio-cover stuff, yes.
12. Do you take interesting vacations? Yes, although of late I have switched to less "elite" (N. American) destinations.
13. Do you know a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada? No.
14. What about an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor? Where's that?
15. Would you be caught dead in an RV? I've been to Disney World in an RV.
16. Would you be caught dead on a cruise ship? Only if it's got sails.
17. Have you ever heard of of Branson, Mo? Yes, it's Vegas for religious conservatives.
18. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club? Do they even accept women? Oh, since the 19-fracking-80s? Bless their hearts.
19. How about the Rotary Club? See No. 18.
20. Have you lived for at least a year in a small town? My town turned from a small town to a suburb during the eight years I was living in it.
21. Have you lived for a year in an urban neighborhood in which most of your neighbors did not have college degrees? Probably not. Cumulatively, several months.
22. Have you spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line? Somehow I think "family" doesn't mean me on my own.
23. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian? I did. 
24. Have you ever visited a factory floor? Yes.
25. Have you worked on one? Yes.

Murray should know that only when like marries like can there be any happiness, but he's apparently distracted by the lament that elite men no longer have an easy and socially acceptable way of keeping in touch with what poorer, less educated people think and like. In any case, Murray's own observation that "few [elites] grew up in the small cities, towns or rural areas where more than a third of all Americans still live" carries its own rebuttal: most Americans (nearly two-thirds, by his account) don't live in small cities, towns, or rural areas. And nearly three-fourths of Americans are not evangelical Christians. Most Americans don't take any real vacations at all. The safe money says that a majority of Americans have not voluntarily watched a full episode of Oprah, either. I could go on. It's not even possible for some Americans to have certain of the traits he lists: older women were shut out of the clubs, for example, and the chance of non-Christian Americans (15-20% of the total) reading a Left Behind book except by mistake or ironically is practically nonexistent---for good reason.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pig Inflation

Wealth streams into a developing country, but social norms don't change:
Hamon Matipe, the septuagenarian chief of Kili, confirmed that he had received [USD 120,000] four months earlier. In details corroborated by the local authorities, Mr. Matipe explained that the provincial government had paid him for village land alongside the Southern Highlands’ one major road, where the government planned to build a police barracks. ... Mr. Matipe said he had given most of the money to his 10 wives. But he had used about $20,000 to buy 48 pigs, which he used as a dowry to obtain a 15-year-old bride from a faraway village, paying well above the going rate of 30 pigs. He and some 30 village men then celebrated by buying 15 cases of beer, costing about $800.

“All the money is now gone,” Mr. Matipe said. “But I’m very happy about the company, ExxonMobil. Before, I had nothing. But because of the money, I was able to buy pigs and get married again.”
Although some land in PNG is customarily held via matrilineal descent, even in those instances, men make the decisions about its use. I'm sure that there are better things that could have been done with proceeds from a sale of village land than for a seventy-something to purchase marry a teenage eleventh wife. I wonder: what did his ten existing wives do with the unspecified share(s) they received? Did the reporter ask?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Bake: Chocolate Buttermilk Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze

I am pleased to report that one can make doughnut holes using this recipe and a mini-muffin pan if one lacks a dedicated and specialized doughnut pan. (Who has a doughnut pan???)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

U.S. Const. amend. XXVIII: Valarin as Official Language

Terrific discussion on Ta-Nehesi Coates's blog on how inability to code-shift nearly smothered a burgeoning career:
[A] person who I'd written about (not an employee of Atlantic Media) came into the tent and aggressively challenged me on something I'd written about him.

We spent ten frankly embarrassing minutes jawing back and forth. That's fine. People should aggressively challenge you. Toward the end, Carr, wondering where I was, came in and saw me in mid-argument, which by this point had gotten heated. He gave me that "you damn fool" look and said "I'm going to be there, [whatever the restaurant was] either you're coming or not. But this is stupid." He left, and shortly thereafter I started walking away with Alyssa and few of the other bloggers who were hanging out. The gentleman kept after me, even following me out the tent, and by this point, taunting.

At the door of the tent, and I looked at him and said, "You really need to back off."

He looked back and said, "Or what."

I closed in on him, and quietly but seriously, responded, "You really want to find out?"

He walked back inside.

I think as a younger man, I would have been proud of that moment. For surely, I had adhered to Article 2 of the Code Of The Streets--"Thou Shalt Not Be Found A Punk." Had the gentleman stepped outside, I had already made the decision that I was going to swing. I didn't believe in threatening people and then not following through. Perhaps as 14 year old, on the streets of West Baltimore, back at Mondawmin Mall, the response would have been correct. In fact, I was a 33-year old contributing editor at a well-regarded magazine who'd just implicitly threatened someone on the property of my brand new employer.

Coates uses this embarrassing moment as fuel for a more general observation on the effect of a "culture of poverty":
I think one can safely call that an element of a kind of street culture. It's also an element which--once one leaves the streets--is a great impediment. "I ain't no punk" may shield you from neighborhood violence. But it can not shield you from algebra, when your teacher tries to correct you. It can not shield you from losing hours, when your supervisor corrects your work. And it would not have shielded me from unemployment, after I cold-cocked a guy over a blog post.

I suspect that a large part of the problem, when we talk about culture, is an inability to code-switch, to understand that the language of Rohan is not the language of Mordor. I don't say this to minimize culture, to the contrary, I say it to point how difficult it is to get people to discard practices which were essential to them in one world, but hinder their advancement into another. And then there's the fear of that other world, that sense that if you discard those practices, you have discarded some of yourself, and done it in pursuit of a world, that you may not master.

Some of the commenters, though, pushed back, asking

[W]hat about the other fellow? That is, what is it in his personality, upbringing, and so on that convinced him haranguing, provoking, and so on was a way to exact some sort of justice for whatever he had perceived as an insult worthy of rebuke.

With that reframing in mind, I read this comment with a different perspective:

I feel this ties back into "the ignorance of what's possible" thread in a couple of different ways. Most obviously there's the realization that the rules of the street aren't the bedrock of reality, that there are worlds of people where the threat of violence doesn't underpin the hierarchy.
The ignorance goes both ways. It's quite easy to muddle along in our WEIRD bubbles, but sometimes ignorance of what is possible---namely, that wrongdoing on your part may be met with more than just bluster---can be dangerous or even deadly.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend Bake: Lemon Raspberry Muffins

These are pretty great, especially in the mini-muffin version. The raspberry center forms a delicious little puffed pocket of pure fruit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

I am interested in educating myself about the Roma. Any suggestions for Kindle books?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recipe: Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce

I'm not a huge gnocchi fan, as a rule (potato often makes them unpleasantly heavy) but these are dreamy.

Ricotta Gnocchi

2 cups whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Drain ricotta through paper-towel-lined strainer in refrigerator for one hour. Then food-process ricotta for ten seconds, add egg, basil, salt, and pepper, and process to blend. Turn into a bowl and mix in bread crumbs, flour, and Parmesan. Chill mixture for one hour, then divide into eight pieces and roll each by hand on a floured surface into a 2 cm cylinder. Cut cylinder into 2 cm pieces, spread gnocchi out on board, and put in freezer for fifteen minutes.

Tomato Cream Sauce:

1 clove garlic, pressed
1 small can diced tomatoes
1 pinch sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped basil
2 tbsp cream

Saute garlic in a little olive oil until just beginning to color, then add tomatoes, sugar, and salt and cook down until thickened. Add basil and cream and stir to blend.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a low boil, spoon in chilled gnocchi with a slotted spoon, and cook until all pieces float, then for 2 minutes more. Toss gently in sauce and serve right away.

Sick Systems

Egyptian millionaire politician woos Lebanese pop singer, spending over $7 million on her. His mother refuses to consent to their marriage, so the pop star leaves him. He pays $2 million for a contract hit and has his ex murdered. Hometown reaction?
“She made him kill her, and she deserves it,” said Sherine Moustafa, a 39-year-old Egyptian corporate lawyer, an opinion that was echoed by every woman of dozens interviewed. “If he killed her, this means she’s done something outrageous to drive him to it,” reasoned Ms. Moustafa, who has no relation to the convicted businessman. Both her sister and mother, who sat next to her, agreed.
“We don’t want our daughters, sisters or mothers to be or look like her,” said one such woman, Soha Hassouna, a 38-year-old Egyptian banker. “I’m glad this happened so she can be an example to our children.”
I honestly don't know what to say. What is the lesson here? Don't become a Westernized pop star? That's not what got her killed. Refusing to be this guy's mistress after he wouldn't buck his mother and marry her is what got her killed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Adventures in Contract Law

Couple contracts with surrogate to carry fetus. Fetus turns out to have Down Syndrome. Couple invokes contractual provision allowing them to request abortion (failure to abort would mean the surrogate, not the couple, was on the hook for raising the resulting child). Surrogate balks (then has an abortion anyway).

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Testing the Harm Principle

So popular is the woodsy field below the ridge as a spot for gay sex (mostly during the day) and heterosexual sex (mostly at night) that the police have designated it a “public sex environment.”
Public sex is a popular — and quasi-legal — activity in Britain, according to the authorities and to the large number of Web sites that promote it. (It is treated as a crime only if someone witnesses it, is offended and is willing to make a formal complaint.) And the police tend to tread lightly in public sex environments, in part because of the bitter legacy of the time when gay sex was illegal and closeted men having anonymous sex in places like public bathrooms were routinely arrested and humiliated.
I wonder how this interacts with England's many footpaths (legal rights of way, dating back many centuries, that often take one through private land).

Friday, October 08, 2010

Writing what you know

I will admit, however, to feeling irritated by Ted Hughes poems that are about Sylvia Plath. One reason for this is that I already have a whole lot of very good poems about Sylvia Plath to read, and they are by Sylvia Plath. The other reason is the same reason I occasionally refer to The Birthday Letters as You Guys, What About MY Feelings: The Point-Missing Chronicles. Which is where we actually do get into the Feminist Anger At Ted Hughes Thing. Which, as with much feminist anger, and many cultural phenomena, is not so much about a terribly sad thing that happened to one family as it is about the terribly sad things that happened to the people who heard about it. ... And it went like this:
You’re talented. You’re really talented. You might even be a genius. And your gentleman, he’s talented too, though not to the degree that you are. But you type his manuscripts. But you go to his lectures, you nurture his stardom, you play the part of his loving support and fan club. But you are responsible for his domestic comfort. Oh, you have your own successes. He even encourages those. But he’s the talent; he’s the big man; he’s the star. And then you get tossed over, for someone who is nowhere near as talented and spectacular as you, because it turns out that the talented, spectacular part of you, the part that you thought made you a couple in the first place (“we kept writing poems to each other,” was how Plath described their courtship, “then it just grew out of that, I guess, a feeling that we both were writing so much and having such a fine time doing it, we decided that this should keep on”) was never enough to keep him interested. Was never essential to him, the way it was to you. Was never a part of the purpose of you — because he doesn’t need talent or spectacular qualities in girls, apparently. Because he prefers his girls to lack those. So you wind up with all the responsibilities — the kids, the house, the cleaning, the cooking — while he goes off to be a genius for some other girl who’s way more suited to play a supporting part in his life story. Who doesn’t have within herself the potential to eclipse him, to be the one that the story is actually about; who’s safer, that way. You wind up writing all your work — your work, your amazing work, your genius — at four in the morning before the kids wake up. Because that’s the only time you can write it. Because that’s what women do.
If The Fountainhead had been a story about Nick Francon and Holly Roark, I'd have been a happier and better adjusted teen.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


My hair is longer than it's been in ten years. I can almost do the Tymoshenko braid again---last time that was true was senior prom. If it was good enough for a Prime Minister, it's good enough for me. Do you feel pressured to adopt a more conservative hairstyle as you get older?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Serial Viewing

Am enjoying Dexter a lot more than anticipated, probably because I was expecting Rita to be more of a Lisa-from-Six-Feet-Under.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This country was not founded as a Nestorian nation!

I'd like to administer something like this to various religious figures in public life. For entertainment purposes only, of course.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Made of Wien

The Secession Museum in Vienna is, indeed, the best museum.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Realtime Rape Crisis Tweets

Once you've established the fact that a rape has occurred (which getting a tongue bitten off does pretty clearly), how much more context do you need?

The immediacy of tweets really makes the woman's circumstances resonate viscerally. People may not be willing to work for change unless the recognize the seriousness of the problem.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mail Mad

I currently have two packages in limbo, both USPS. Not sure whether this is sufficient to inspire a new feud with the mailman or not.

Unrelatedly: Bloglines is dying! Google Reader prevails! Is there some kind of widget to replace my "Subscribe with Bloglines" toolbar button to look up RSS feeds for sites and sign me up for them?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Color Lines

Check out this map of DC by race and ethnicity. Red = white, blue = black, orange = Hispanic, green = Asian.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Scent of a Bookworm

Interested in smelling like a bookstore? How about a library?

When I was but a wee Bamber, I always wore Escape, which boys seemed to like. Later I switched to Allure or Light Blue, but the last time I wore any it made me woozy and sneezy. Perhaps I should begin scenting myself again, though, with something more unusual this time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where's a 13th Amendment claim when you need it?

To me, the creepiest thing about this indictment is not the conduct alleged (although that is appalling) or the idea that it's somehow inappropriate to conduct a real inquiry into consent for such acts, but rather that the charged counts are as follows:

Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, or Coercion
Forced Labor Trafficking
Use of an Interstate Facility for Enticement
Document Servitude
Enticement to Travel for Sexual Activity
Transportation for Sexual Activity

Now obviously this is in federal court (even though all the defendants are residents of Missouri and the vast majority of the conduct allegedly occurred there), but the conspicuous absence of any charge that really cuts to the heart of the crime is almost shocking. If these guys are asked in the future what they were convicted of, will anyone really be able to make an informed decision about whether they deserve to be hired/shivved/given a first date, if these are the answers? Wouldn't some nice state law counts have been better? It's not like they'd get a light sentence if properly charged with those.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


So am I required to buy this for Halloween, or what?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It was my favorite part.

If you couldn't get through The Part About the Crimes in 2666, you probably shouldn't read this either.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Contrast and Compare

Today, I stopped at a 7-Eleven for a soda. Previously, I have purchased the 32-oz. Big Gulp. However, I realized that for less than 33% more, I could get 100% more soda by purchasing the Double Big Gulp. This drink is outrageous. It requires a special extra-long straw. A random man who witnessed me sipping it pronounced "That is too big for you." And yet because the marginal cost of the additional 32 ounces was minimal, I bought (and drank) the whole damn thing.

I have also been to Frozen Yo, where they charge by weight for whatever mix of yogurt(s) and topping(s) you desire. The containers are, in fact, large. But because you pay only for what you want, and larger sizes are not artificially cheaper, I was perfectly capable of getting just enough birthday-cake-flavored froyo to satisfy my jones without feeling embittered that I had to shell out some fixed amount for a portion size not based upon my appetite. Anyone disparaging this utterly logical method of dispensing yogurty goodness is 1) un-American and 2) a tool of the Vast Fattening Conspiracy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Why women like "flamboyant dancers"

Aren't bold dance moves just a proxy for confidence? If some guy is dancing flamboyantly, you can immediately assess the following:

1) Is this guy confident and assertive?(Yes)

2) Is this guy hot?

3) Does this guy know what he's doing or is he some awkward dork thrashing about?

With a guy doing some barely obvious rocking back and forth, you can really only assess #2. He could be a self-effacing milquetoast or a clueless schmuck. Which is a more efficient choice for targeted flirting, him or the Travolta wannabe?

Love Matches Kill Everything

And thus the storied firm of Montague & Montague folded.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Honorific Killing

On being ma'am'ed:
The argument that ma'am is a term of respect, and that women should be proud rather than ashamed of having reached a certain age, also falls flat. It's not that we're self-hating old people. It's that our non-nubility isn't something we feel needs to be acknowledged in a greeting, especially, as Angier points out, when men who are no longer fit 19-year-olds don't get a special term of address. I could think of any number of descriptive terms that would bring up other visible-at-first-glance qualities I'm not ashamed of but don't need announced: 'here, short person with very pale skin and very thick if frizz-prone hair, here's your iced coffee.'

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Recipe: Corn Chowder

A great use for summer corn.

10 ears fresh corn
4 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, minced finely
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
3 tbsp flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 red potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Cut 4 ears of corn in half and then slice straight down to cut off kernels. Put kernels aside. Grate 6 ears of corn on coarse side of a box grater into a bowl. Melt butter in large dutch oven and saute onion in it for ten minutes. Add garlic, saute one minute. Add flour and stir constantly for two minutes. Whisk in broth, then add potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, milk, and grated corn pulp and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are just soft. Then add cream and corn kernels and simmer 5 minutes or until corn kernels are cooked. Stir in parsley, salt, and pepper. Serve.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Born on third and think you hit a triple?

The amount of cultural capital East Coast UMC kids have over and above even UMC kids in other parts of the country is really amazing. It's the little things you're unaware of, despite thinking yourself well-informed. Even with two college-educated parents and attending one of the better high schools in the district, I had no idea how National Merit Scholarships worked and took the PSAT as a freshman and the SAT as a sophomore. Because the P stands for practice, right? :-/ (Yes, yes, I took them both again.)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Whatever I Like

This does nothing for me, but this is deliciously female gaze-y.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Women with small breasts are buying sexy lingerie and aren't ashamed of their bodies? Trend story!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I know the way we live now, what with living it and all.

Who cares if the NYT loves Jonathan Franzen?
A few years ago an independent study was done showing that a book review in the New York Times spikes sales for the book that was reviewed for just about twenty-four hours and then the sales drop right back down to where they were before. That’s true regardless of whether it was a good or bad review. I’ve had my work featured in the New York Times before. ... As far as I can tell my sales weren’t affected one way or another by the attention.

But when I got into Cosmopolitan, that was a different story...

My first review in Cosmo was exactly two sentences long. They said that Sex, Murder And A Double Latte was a “red-hot-read” and packed “more jolt than a Venti Frappucino at Starbucks.” That’s it. Two sentences next to a tiny picture of my book. Shorter than the paragraph the Times gave me.

On the day that Cosmo issue was released my sales rank on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon went from somewhere in the 5000 range to being the 18th bestselling book on their site/stores. Within days I was officially on Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Bestseller list and it wasn’t long before regional talk shows and radio shows were requesting interviews. When Cosmo actually printed a two page excerpt of my book Passion, Betrayal And Killer Highlights in their June issue a year later it got enough attention to piss off the religious right who said in an article circulated on the Christian Wire News Service that my sex scene was leading America’s youth into temptation. I was less surprised by the criticism than I was by the fact that the religious right was reading Cosmo because I’m pretty sure they’re not reading the New York Times.

But then again, of course they’re reading Cosmo because they know that Cosmo’s readers respect that magazine’s opinion enough to actually buy the books they tell them to buy just as Cosmo respects its readers’ tastes enough to review books that they might want to read. The Times doesn’t seem to care what their readers want from a book. In their effort to only review books that they think are deep and influential they themselves have ceased to be influential at all. So at this point I’m happy to let them review exclusively white male authors. It simply doesn’t make much of a difference.

Their loss, not mine.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Recipe: Easy Red Posole

This can be made with only a couple of non-pantry ingredients and thus is good for times when you've not been shopping in a while. My usual posole recipe requires a giant slab of pork and is fairly labor intensive. Adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

Easy Red Posole

1 large can hominy (get the Goya, not the southern-looking stuff, which tends to be gummed together)
4 cubes tomato bouillon (could also use broth + tomato paste)
3 dried guajillo or other large chiles, stems removed
1 small white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
fresh cilantro

Red Sauce:

generous dollop of oil
2 tablespoons finely diced white onion
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup / 2 oz / 50g ground red chile (not chili powder---I used ground arbol chiles)
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of one lime

Put 3 1/2 quarts/liters of water, hominy, onion, garlic, peppers, and oregano in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer. You can use some of the water, once it's boiling, to reconstitute your bouillon cubes in a small cup and then add them back.

While the big pot simmers, combine the chile powder with 2.5 cups water in a small bowl, gradually adding the water to get from a paste to a uniformly consistent slurry. Fry your minced onion and additional garlic and oregano in a small saucepan until golden. Add flour and cook until light brown, then add cumin. Then add the chile slurry and stir constantly until the mixture is combined and simmering. Simmer for fifteen more minutes, then add this sauce, a spoon at a time, to the soup pot, stirring well and tasting between spoonfuls. Once soup is at desired heat level, serve with fresh cilantro. Leftover chile sauce can be used for a faster version of the soup another day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And your Birkin too!

I am as prone to seeing the misogynistic side of pop culture artifacts and unsympathetic to the lament of the Nice GuyTM as much as the next grouchy feminist, but this condemnation of "Fuck You" is just out of hand. This is not a song about denying women's agency or some moral obligation to date broke guys or about shaming women for having standards. It is at best a song about a values conflict and at worst a song about making excuses for yourself.

Although all the facts are presented through singer-narrator's perspective and thus are not definitively true, what do we know about the characters in "Fuck You"?"

- Cee-Lo previously dated Girl. Cee-Lo, then as now, lacked substantial material resources and was forced to "to borrow, beg and steal and lie and cheat" in order to keep Girl. ("Trying to keep ya, trying to please ya/'Cause being in love with you ass ain't cheap.") Cee-Lo feels that Girl would have continued to date him if he'd had "been richer."

- However, it's not clear that Girl actually made these expenditures a condition of continuing to date Girl---it may have been that Cee-Lo felt pressured to provide these experiences or presents to Girl due to outside influences.

- Girl now appears to be dating Rich Boy, who owns a car, possibly a Ferrari, in which he drives her around town. Said driving includes trips through or to areas in which the impoverished Cee-Lo can see Girl with Rich Guy.

- Even though Cee-Lo thinks Girl plays games in an unfair way in relationships, he still loves her. He simultaneously wishes her the best and tries to dismiss her from his mind with a punchy insult.

Crucially, we do not have any certainty about why Girl broke up with Cee-Lo. The mere correlation between the financial position of her past and present paramours does not prove causation. But do we have affirmative reason to doubt Cee-Lo's narrative? If Girl does in fact value the Rich Boy's ability to buy fancy status objects more than Cee-Lo's love, is this not a value choice that we too might wish to condemn? Perhaps, if we are not obsessed with civility, even by telling her "fuck you"?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

I am crazy about being drunk,” he wrote. “I like it like Patton liked war.

Apparently Deliverance is a good movie. Who knew?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Thursday, August 19, 2010

For my bowling buddies

a poem written by a bear

let me go eat some salmon
why are there coke cans in the river
what if i wore a bullet proof vest during hunting season
i’m a bear; i walk in the forest and look at the river and the river is cold
i saw campers today and they ran away and i was alone and i destroyed their tent
let me go scratch my paw on a tree
let me go eat a salmon
last night i cried onto my salmon
the salmon was sad but it still wanted to live
it wanted to swim and be sad and i ate it under moonlight
i saw a moose scream the other day
it screamed quietly under a tree
i felt embarrassed and sad and i thought, ‘oh, no; oh god, oh my god’
sometimes i climb a tree and sit there and sing very quietly
sometimes i want to go to a shopping mall and chase the humans and claw them
i’ll ride the moose into the shopping mall and ram the humans
the moose and i will ride the escalator and i will hug the moose and the moose and i will cry
i will eat the moose
i don’t care
i will scream and throw the bubblegum machine from the second floor to the first floor
i felt compassion for the salmon and now i don’t care anymore
i’ll walk into a parking lot and chase a large human and hug the human and cry
i’ll walk into a house at night and push the humans off the bed
i’ll stare at the bed and i’ll feel fake

By the same author: The Levels of Greatness a Fiction Writer Can Achieve in America

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This article on electronic monitoring to replace incarceration sounds like a deficit hawk's dream. But it gets a little alarmist at times:
But the real purpose of any form of Panopticon justice—that is, the certainty of discovery and punishment—is to force the criminal to monitor himself. The Panopticon effectively outsources the role of prison guard to the prisoners themselves. And to be constantly on watch may wear at the psyche in ways difficult to predict.
I monitor myself all the time. It's called being an adult, or having a conscience. Eventually it becomes habit, and subconscious. And isn't that what we want? For people to have a habit of being law* abiding?

* Blah blah many laws are bad laws etc. I'd rather be monitored as punishment for breaking a bad law than go to prison.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: The Passage

I saw that my friend Alyssa was reading The Passage, and figured that a vampire novel she liked must be pretty good. I enjoyed it (although the ending! dammit!), but I can't quite figure out who to recommend it to. It's not really for the same vamp-loving audience that eats up Twilight* and True Blood, since the vamps are not intelligent or seductive. It's not a romance, and it fails as a hard SF novel (contra Alyssa, I found the invocations of magic poor, hand-waving cover for plot holes). What it seems like is nothing so much as World War Z + The Stand.

In fact, the vampires, which are never described in a really satisfying way, are really more like particularly cohesive versions of the recently popular "fast zombies" than they are typical blood-drinkers. Moreover, the parallels with King's opus were so common as to be distracting.** But it's still an unputdownable read, and left me panting eagerly for the next two books, if only to resolve the many dropped threads. Recommended.

* I refused to see that Scott Pilgrim movie, mostly out of curmudgeonliness, but feel vindicated upon hearing that it is Twilight for Boys.

** The military destroys the world through inadvertent release of an engineered virus. People are strangely drawn to a religious old black woman in Colorado. Others coher around a darker community near Las Vegas. Sara is a sort of Frannie proxy (and Theo for Nadine, perhaps?). Each has an old badass (the Judge/the Colonel) who flings himself into death. Anyway, I didn't see the point in hewing so closely to the prior work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why do I subscribe to Broadsheet again?

How is this not a completely obvious decision? At the end of the summer you can either 1) immediately start having sex, or 2) go on a diet. Which is more appealing? It's not like a summer without sex has much potential to be carried forward like weight.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Via Jared:

"Claremont McKenna College is the 9th best college in the country, ahead of Yale and Columbia, but most importantly, Pomona."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Most Dangerous LARP

This article on the most powerful group of prison gangs in South Africa is utterly engrossing.
And so the three camps were formed, each with their self-made philosophies of banditry and their collectively assigned roles. The 26s were to accumulate wealth, which was to be distributed among all three camps, and acquired through cunning and trickery, never through violence.
The 28s, in turn, were to fight on behalf of all three camps for better conditions for inmates. They would also be permitted to have sex, in their own ritualised manner, among themselves. They were never to touch a 26.

As for the 27s, they were the guarantor of gang law; they were to keep the peace between the three camps. They would learn and retain the laws of all three gangs, as well as the laws of the relationships between gangs. And they would right wrongs by exacting revenge: when blood was spilled, they would spill blood in turn.
The shared mythology, invisible uniforms, and detailed roles each group and subgroup within the gangs play are amazingly complex and complete. They even have their equivalent of boffers: Knives carefully wrapped to allow only a wounding length of blade to enter the body. I couldn't help but think that D&D would be a naturally popular and more enjoyable pastime.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

This lack of subtlety does not bode well for her fiction.

Is Ayelet Waldman writing a(nother) novel? Because I thought I heard her say she is writing a novel. When will this masterpiece be released? The European theater in World War II is such unexplored territory; I can't wait to see what she's doing with it. Apparently there will be efficient yet evil Nazis!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hypothetical Law Student Seeks Advice

A friend of mine is looking for career advice and thought this blog might be able to help. What should s/he do? Take it away, HLS:
-       I’m currently going into my 2L year at Penn Law
-       I’m a joint degree student at Penn’s government school
-       I’m somewhere in the bottom half of my class with a bunch on B-‘s (but also a bunch of high(er) grades (i.e. B+, A-)
-       The career service people tell me that I will probably not get anything during Fall recruiting.
-       The economy is really crappy right now
-       I don’t mind the prospect of being a lawyer and practice law
-       I have a great resume with lots of public interest work (DA’s office, 3 well regarded Hill internships, some policy work, etc…)
-       I’m mostly worried about the debt. I’m currently about $60,000 dollars in debt and will probably spend another $100,000 over the next two years financing my education.
-       I think having a Penn Law degree is great. But I’m worried about not being able to find a job and being $160K in the hole (and living in a box, etc).
-       I’m wondering if I should cut my losses at 60K and quit law school or push through and get the degree.
Should HLS stick around? What jobs should s/he look for?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Things that have been bothering me about Inception


Why is Mal on the opposite ledge in what appears to be an entirely different hotel room when she jumps?

Why do Dom and Mal leave limbo by laying down in front of a train rather than saying, "You know what I feel like creating with my mind right now? Two jumbo syringes of morphine! Or maybe a tank of laughing gas mixed with carbon monoxide!"? *POOF* AHHHHhhhh ....

Why doesn't Mal kill their dream-kids, if she was so convinced they weren't real?

Why doesn't Dom kill Mal in limbo rather than going to the trouble of incepting her, and why doesn't Mal kill Dom in "reality" rather than setting up an elaborate fake murder?

Why doesn't the team dream themselves up some awesome body armor like Eames dreams himself a bigger gun in the warehouse scene?

Why is Joseph Gordon-Levitt insanely hot all of a sudden? Must be the three-piece suits.

How is there ALREADY Inception slash fanfiction?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mini Book Review: The Folding Knife

It's a K.J. Parker book, so you'll know there will be incredibly elaborate schemes, crushing disappointments, and looming dread. In the mood for the Engineer trilogy plus quasi-Venetian mercantile intrigue? The parallels with recent financial crises and needless wars in impoverished and mountainous lands are a bit on the nose, but the book is nevertheless oddly compelling. Recommended.

ETA that apparently there is some debate about whether Parker is male or female. Upon first reading the Engineer books, I thought them some of the most stereotypically masculine stuff I'd read in a long time. But on further contemplation and after reading additional works, the carefully detailed sadism with which the male leads are set up and then hoist by their own petards militates in favor of female authorship.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shocking revelation

The sock you knit on vacation is every so comfy, whereas the sock you knit after long weeks of work is insanely, neurotically tight. Frog!

Friday, July 23, 2010


This regender widget is pretty entertaining.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I want my double dip with sprinkles. Of ash.

I was looking into running away for an extended weekend in Iceland, which was foiled after I saw Icelandair no longer flies direct from Baltimore to Reykjavik (boo). But a friend of PTN sent this article along, which confirms 1) nobody should go to Iceland in the near future because OH GOD THE BURNING; 2) we're all doomed. Basically, Iceland is going to explode and its bits are going to blanket half the world and ground us all for months and the world economy will crash again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I do not think it means what you think it means.

Most people would realize that someone who supports abortion rights, even if they don't personally like abortion, is pro-choice.
[Crist] has long called himself “pro-life,” doing so even in the interview last week. He is now quick to add that while he personally opposes abortion, he would not seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and supports abortion rights.
Sometimes I can't tell what's actual stupidity and what's carefully calculated stupidity aimed at the dullard vote.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just keep doing that.

My art instructor continually confuses me with the high school girl in the class. I suppose that is some small consolation.

Unrelatedly: This stuff is delicious.

Saturday, July 17, 2010



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why I am a bad nerd

- This only substantiated my theory that Doctor Who fandom is a baseless conspiracy by Anglophiles.

- I only like the monster-of-the-week X Files episodes.

- I never played D&D and have no understanding of how it could work. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What is seen and what is not seen

Perhaps relevant to our discussion below on why people buy luxury goods:
Real glamour requires a receptive audience. You can only be glamorous if others perceive you that way. Feeling glamorous, on the other hand, means that your mental picture of yourself is one that you would find glamorous. You become the audience for your own glamour, creating a image of yourself that veils your flaws. Defying the ultimate intimacy, you somehow manage to turn yourself into an alluring Other. As for actual others, they may see something different.
Of course, reading Postrel in the wake of The Last Psychiatrist puts a different twist on things.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Do you have an anger management strategy? I have taken to just saying "grumble grumble grumble." Also, pretending to be a dinosaur.

Friday, July 09, 2010

In defense of lawyers with expensive handbags

Normally I like Conor Friedersdorf's blog posts, but this is sexist bullshit:
[W]ere I ever confronted with a lawyer or an agent or some other professional carrying a small leather bag that cost $10,000, I’d immediately conclude that his or her value system is astonishingly perverted, and that he or she lacks the judgment, perspective and ordering of priorities necessary to do business of any sort with me. Even the most hedonistic spendthrift is preferable to the superlatively decadent brand name status whore.
Like Isabel Archer, I don't understand how "hedonistic spendthrifts" are morally superior to "brand name status whores." In many cases, brand names are a rough proxy for quality. To the extent that this is no longer true, the brands themselves lose cache---witness (easily faked) logo bags made from cheaper materials and the consequent demotion of former luxury brands.

And I eagerly await Conor's condemnation of male attorneys who drive shiny new Beemers. Surely a used Toyota or Honda sedan is more than sufficient to get you from point A to point B. And if anyone mentions nice leather interiors, be warned: Birkins? Also nice leather. Would Conor find attorneys with collections of trendy art similarly "whorish"? (Only if they're female?)

A Birkin, by the way, probably also holds value better than a new car.

This is all irrelevant to the actual question of whether the BIGLAW Singapore associate should bring her Birkin to work. (To the extent that it was viewed by any as a faux pas, Isabel's suggestion of attributing the purchase to a relative in retail is a good one.) The social connotations of high-end brands in Singapore are not the same as those conveyed in Washington DC.

Conor's view particularly irrelevant to judge how clients or colleagues in either location would react, as he is unlikely to ever pay BIGLAW rates for legal representation or to work as an associate in the sector. If, through some twist of fortune, he was put in such a position, he won't be able to ferret out the real "brand name status whores" among female attorneys he does encounter, since the most expensive and luxurious brands are unlikely to register on his radar. Instead, he'll be able to pick out marginally fashionable strivers who purchase brands with high name-recognition (or, as he acknowledges, false-positive purchasers of replica merchandise, who may not have bought a fake because they are poor "status whores" but because they like a particular style and lack the means to buy the originator thereof). Well done, Friedersdorf! Give the bourgeois what for!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The horror.

This is almost as wrenching as the factoids from the Gene Weingarten article on parents who left their children in hot cars.
[O]f the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.  In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.
Apparently this happens a lot. It almost happened to me when I was a toddler.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Team Emily?

Is it really healthier to switch from magazines that publish vapid stories about how to look like waif celebrities to blogs that publish vapid stories bashing beauty standards that are illustrated by waif celebrities?

I removed most of the feminist blogs from my feed reader a long time ago, when they started trading on their success by outsourcing content from their extreme fangirls and having few or no posts by the authors I liked and had read the blog for years for. Tiger Beatdown is still decent and Fugitivus (commenters, don't mess with Harriet!) is a constant stream of alternating awesomeness and gut-punching. Any other suggestions for solid new feminist blogs?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Oh look, more clothes.

I've been lusting after this dress for months with no respite, but it's ivory, and I can't wear ivory---it makes me look ill. But: what if I dyed it? Maybe gray or dark blue.

Also can't decide if this would be flattering to the small of bust or just call attention to a pitiful lack.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Internet forever.

I have had a sock on the needles for several months now because it's a knee sock and the prospect of tracking the increases overwhelms me. Should I take it off, knit its mate to the same point, and then do the calves two-at-a-time?

Unrelatedly, this blog speaks to me.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Create jobs; hire a maid.

 This particular form of anxiety seems especially common among male attorneys. Woman attorneys, not so much, perhaps because the burden we're outsourcing is our own.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I'd been looking forward to reading the new translation of The Second Sex for some time, as the original translation sounded like a waste of time. Alas, the recent translation is apparently just as bad, but in new and exciting ways.

What confounds me, though, is how this is even an issue. The new translation cost $50,000. That's less than the price of a new Cadillac Escalade. And yet decades went by without investment in a new English translation. Surely there's some poor, unemployed philosophy PhD who's fluent in French and would be thrilled to translate de Beauvoir. How long would it take for a Paypal passing of the hat? Is there no rich feminist out there who'd be willing to subsidize this endeavor?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Eyeball Update

So I went to Toy Story 3. GN: I could see the 3D. BN: Sort of. There was depth of field, but nothing really earthshaking or hyperrealistic. At no point was my lizard brain screaming "look out, it's COMING RIGHT FOR US!" Is this normal? Am I jaded or just still slightly defective?

Also, it was not nearly as sad as Up, since you know that the movie is not going to actually end with [SPOILER] the toys being incinerated and the very, very end is just sort of awkward and uncomfortable. Although I respect the Pixar writers for keeping the little alien toys around for the whole film just so they could be the deus ex machina.

No Bones About It

Busy week at work. Spent my spare time watching the first couple of episodes of Lie to Me, but the straight-faced dialogue about how a rape victim MUST be lying if she isn't displaying the typical emotional and physical reactions* made me want to throw the remote through the TV, so I'm in the market for a different brainless episodic forensics-related show, now that I've exhausted the Netflix Instant Viewing catalog of Bones. Perhaps what I really need is another show starring a nerdy, pale brunette who lives in DC?

Related: A friend recommended Gail Carriger, whose books I have enjoyed thus far, but I did chuckle a bit after realizing the heroine is defined against her society in part by her possession of (decidedly unfashionable!) voluptuous curves, rebellious curls, and tan skin. Three guesses what my friend looks like.

*Special fun bonus: She WAS lying! Way to reinforce harmful stereotypes about victims, guys!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Grandiose crafting ambitions brought low

Have been in the mood to spin several times in the last few weeks, but never in the mood to predraft. Thus, the spinning wheel is only decorative so far. Sigh.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One is silver and the other's GOLD, you buffoons.

With all the standard caveats about NYT fake-trend stories, I found this piece on why kids shouldn't have best friends sort of puzzling. Isn't it incredibly overstimulating to essentially require group interactions of all kids, introverts and extroverts? What would be the effect on privacy for a generation that never had a single friend to exchange confidences with? Is the expectation that these children not discuss their innermost thoughts and feelings or that they spill them to everyone? How do you develop a strong sense of loyalty where there are conflicts of interest between friends and all friends are on an even field? The society the educators in the article are trying to breed sounds like something out of an Ursula Le Guin novel.

As someone who was introverted and most commonly had just a best friend growing up, this would be my own personal hell.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beats the hell out of being raped by quarry miners.

Why your daughters should read Mill instead of (or at least before) Ayn Rand):
What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and capacities with reciprocal superiority in them — so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and of being led in the path of development — I will not attempt to describe. To those who can conceive it, there is no need; to those who cannot, it would appear the dream of an enthusiast.
-John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women

Monday, June 14, 2010

In which I roll my eyes re: the difficulty of finding a nice _____ girl.

The flip side of using ethnic or religious differences as a pretense for dumping someone: A dumpee's protest that "I loved you even though you weren't ____!" It's similar in that it reveals you're better off without the person.

UPDATE: A friend of mine weighed in via email:
I always figured it would be easier to find someone I get along with on the axes I consider most important to me (intellect, humor, modern liberal sensibilities) and adopt the few dishes and holidays I want to keep than it would be to find someone whose main identity is Vietnamese/Asian and hope that they fulfil the multiplexity of what I want in a partner. Unless it's really important to you to share language and culture and traditions, you're going to spend a vast amount of the day talking about things other than "hi five! we're both Vietnamese!"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Goat Watch

I exercised great discretion at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival and did not buy any adorable ruminants. But I will totally root for the goat in any contest against someone who doesn't know wool from mohair.

Swallowing crucifixes rosaries in the Benedict XVI papacy = Not edgy.

Is it just me or is the new Gaga video a total trainwreck? The song was always bad, but this makes it worse.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Yes, the Victim-of-the-Week's death IS sad.

Do all modern network television dramedies feature incredibly ham-handed, manipulative musical interludes and montages toward the end of each episode?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Recipe: Ob Goosht (Lamb Shank Stew)

I cannot lose this recipe, so it's being recorded here:

2 lbs lamb shank
3 potatoes (with peel)
2 tbsp tarragon
2 cans garbanzo beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can tomato paste
2 tbsp lemon powder
salt & pepper
1/2 onion, chopped

Put lamb shanks, tarragon, lemon powder, and onion in large pot with water to cover; boil. Add salt, pepper, and potatoes. Cook until tender (2 hours or more), covered. Add beans and tomato paste and simmer with lid off for 30 minutes.
Remove potatoes and skin them. Smash one up and return it to the pot. Remove shanks from the pot and shred meat from them while simmering stew. Strain broth from stew and mash or blend beans, etc. until almost smooth. Dish this into bowls, add shredded meat on top, and pour broth around it. Eat with bread.

Friday, June 04, 2010

For belles and beaus

Rehashed article on marriage rates has one interesting bit:
Of all 3.8 million adults who married in 2008, 31 percent of Asians, 26 percent of Hispanic people, 16 percent of blacks and 9 percent of whites married a person whose race or ethnicity was different from their own. Those were all record highs.
31 percent! That's a lot of company. Aspiring out-marriers should probably not follow the advice linked in this post, though.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

"Pop stars should be pretty"? Let's take this outside, truffle-eater.

I really enjoyed Lynn Hirschberg's takedown of M.I.A., but it seems like she just writes the same article over and over.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sometimes, something is a bad idea and you should feel bad.

Since when is it anyone's responsibility, when confronted with stupid, wrongheaded, destructive, or actively evil ideas, to refrain from calling out their proponents, keep mum, and come up with an alternative to sell? You don't have to be capable of brainstorming all-new policy proposals to see  weaknesses in existing ones, just as we don't expect critics in a variety of fields to also be creatives. And regardless of the origin of the bad ideas, challenging bad ideas is always and everywhere to be encouraged. The manner in which one does so may determine whether the proponents continue to socialize with you or not, but there are only so many ways to tell someone gently that s/he is making the world a worse place.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friends are a luxury that journalists can't always afford.

As a peripheral observer of the sort of incestuous journalism circles Conor Friedersdorf decries in his piece on the tyranny of DC, I note one gap in his critics' rebuttals. It may indeed be the case that vociferous criticism of a friend's writing and ideas is all in the game, yo, but that sort of camaraderie is derived from the existing social relationships. Even if you could absorb a takedown from a friend and fellow journalist with a weak grin because you know your pal will be buying you a beer that evening, you probably wouldn't take the same criticism from an outsider as lightly. The existence of these circles---and their importance for networking---creates entry bias and a disincentive for aspirants to unleash brutal honesty. Anyone not already ensconced has strong motivation to self-censor and muzzle himself, just as Conor argued. And once you've ingratiated yourself, you could write withering critiques of your friends' work, but isn't your motivation to do so lessened by the now-extant relationship? Even (especially?) if your buddy deserves the full force of "the tone Matt Yglesias reserves for Jonah Goldberg"?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Also, no Christina Hendricks in BSG

Ta-Nehesi Coates on the limitations of self-consciously gritty TV:
Looking back on it, I think I didn't enjoy BSG because I felt like it was never as deep as it thought it was. Every second I felt like I could hear the show's creators saying things like "this is sci-fi naturalism," or "this show is really dark," or "this ain't no punk-ass Star Trek."
Hearing about the finales of shows like Lost and BSG makes me glad that I never got into them in the first place.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mini Book Review: The Poisoner's Handbook

So this book?* Pretty good! Too short, in the way some nonfiction books are, but intriguingly broken down by poison and chronology. Upshot: Most poisons are really awful ways to die! Anyone know of some similar pop-science books?

* Not to be confused with the darkly hilarious Young Poisoner's Handbook, which was also based on a true story. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Big Damn Heroes

MeFites literally save two Russian students from falling into hands of sex traffickers. In realtime.

Original AskMe plea from American friend of the Russian women.

Subsequently posted MetaTalk discussion thread with additional context.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Me Generation(s)

The modern author's mistake:
assuming that readers will be interested in a bunch of spoiled, self-absorbed twits, who natter on endlessly about their desires and resentments and body parts.
Isn't that what blogs are for?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are those gametes kosher?

Proposed Israeli fertility-treatment bill is racist and gross:
Under current law, only women already undergoing fertility treatments can donate their eggs, but a new bill expected to pass the Knesset would allow many more young Israeli women to donate. In an effort to win support from the Knesset's ultra-Orthodox factions, the bill also has a provision requiring a woman undergoing fertility treatments in Israel to do so only with eggs from a woman of the same faith.
Sadly, this bill is positioned as a reform, and motivated by recent rabbinical rulings "that refer to the birth mother as an 'incubator' or to her womb as an 'external tool.'" Children born of mere incubators from non-Jewish eggs are, by those rulings, not Jews.

I'm not sure how the egg access works in this scheme for people who aren't Jewish by Orthodox law---whose eggs would the Buddhist daughter of a Jewish father and Christian mother get? How fine are faiths diced? Isn't this effectively condemning many infertile members of religious minorities to childlessness (unless they are willing to go overseas for eggs)?