Saturday, December 25, 2010

Word for 2011

I'm concerned about my word for 2011, because I am not noticing any themes or repeated thoughts about what would be a good focus for next year. There are still a few days left of the year, or perhaps I won't identify my word until after the new year starts.

If you have a suggestion for a word for me, please leave it in the comments or email me. Maybe you've noticed something I've missed, or have an insight to share.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Judging people on public assistance.

It's wrong.

When you see someone at the grocery store wearing a nice coat and owning a cell phone, but using public assistance to buy food, don't judge them for making bad choices. Maybe they used to have money and a job, and have held onto the luxury durable goods of their previous lifestyle while being unable to maintain that life on their new, lower income.

ernnunos writes:
Many people will be poorer, but will cling to the few trappings of wealth they accumulated in better times. And I won't hold that against them. That is one of the benefits of durable goods, after all. Once you have them, you can enjoy them for a long time, regardless of changing circumstances. You may not be able to afford heating oil thanks to inflation, but the flat screen TV you bought years ago still works. Selling it wouldn't get you enough to heat for more than a few weeks, and then you'd be cold and have no TV. You may be unemployed now, but the Le Creuset cookery you bought when you had a good job still works, and still makes eating inexpensively at home a joy. Which is good, since you probably aren't eating out much anymore.

So be kind when you see these sorts of incongruities. In fact, you might want to think about acquiring a few durable luxuries yourself. The lifestyle of a shabby aristocrat still beats the lifestyle of a straight pauper who never had luxuries to enjoy in the first place.

I've been that person in the very nice clothes, using foodstamps to buy beans and rice and maybe a steak once a month (well, okay, I was a child but I was there in the grocery store when it happened). And there were days we didn't eat, or had as our only meal the free lunch at school, even though I had nice clothes and manners (all from my Nana). But having a few nice things made it possible to hope for and work toward having a better life; without that hope, I couldn't have made it out.

I like these.

20x200, affordable art prints starting at $20. I found some I really liked, ranging from primitive impressionist portraiture to graphic modern art.

Make your own mustachioed Christmas balls. To hang on the tree. Er...

I love going fast (in a car or plane) so I'd like to visit the racecar-themed amusement park in Abu Dhabi that GirlHacker posted.

Apron Revolution suggests returning to the 1950s for gift wrapping ideas. Nice tickles to the creativity in the reproductions of magazine pages, including a penguin-shaped bottle cover (for wine or olive oil or homemade liqueurs).

Gothic Charm School provides a recipe for and photos of gingerbread bats.

Friday, October 22, 2010

When art and usefulness collide

Bubblegum 4 Breakfast is making a dress inspired by Mondrian.

There are matching cake slices (scroll down) at Home Run Ballerina, along with some other clever cakes.

I'm not sure I'd want to walk in these Alien-inspired high heels designed by Alexander McQueen.

And this DIY billfold at Bag'n-telle is very maker-ish.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Internetly social

I'm a relative newbie on the internet compared to some of my friends, who helped define Eternal September when their comfy in-jokes were overrun with new college students; I am part of the crowd the early AOL brought online, learning about online social interaction in AOL chat rooms and graduating eventually to Usenet. It was a wonderful outlet late at night when my kids were in bed--I could talk to other adults without getting a sitter or even getting dressed up! I didn't even have to be in the same time zone--the conversation would still be going when I got up, and the next day, and next week.

Then the web became the big thing and blogging started, first as individual home pages (I had one on my local ISP, where I even kept the FAQ for a Usenet group), then as individual blogs, then the social platforms like Myspace and Livejournal with their own aggregated feeds and privacy settings. People started treating web pages like news--regular updating, sometimes with long essays about ideas and other times with personal tidbits. Other people were blogging, linking interesting stuff around the net and discussing it in detail, sometimes responding on their own blogs and sometimes in comment sections on the original blogs.

Facebook and Twitter (and a host of other narrow, targeted applications) are creating a different niche and possibly changing the way I define and think about my social groups. Facebook is getting a lot of press right now, because there are two movies in release right now about how Facebook affects lives. One is, of course, a fictionalized version of the creation of Facebook, and the other is a movie about how some people react to Facebook. I haven't seen either, and probably won't see them, but I'm still going to discuss them.

The first movie is The Social Network, a movie that purports to tell a true-ish story about the founders of Facebook. Apparently it's been tweaked quite a bit to present a fairy tale about how a lonely social climber who was rejected by a cute chick unlocked the privileged halls of Harvard to produce the meaningless lifestyle of the popular guy, with fast cars, fancy meals, and women throwing themselves at him to use and objectify. There's been a lot of criticism from feminists about the portrayal of women as paper-thin negative stereotypes, some defensiveness from men that it was an intentional choice to support the point of view of the main character, and good responses from the feminists to the effect that other media (e.g., Mad Men, a television series set in the early 1960s) manage to show that men underestimated women and treated them badly while at the same time showing fully-developed women characters and how they resent the bad treatment.

The second, more interesting, movie is Catfish. In Catfish a young man goes on a treasure hunt for the pretty girl he's been socializing with on Facebook for months, hoping to turn their virtual relationship into a meatspace one. Although it's being advertised as a horror or "twist" movie, The Last Psychiatrist explains it's hardly a surprise when:
The truth is that "Megan" is really "Angela": a middle age, middle America homely housewife with a facebook account. What does it all mean? Cue obligatory "on the internet, no one knows you're a dog."
Violating the social boundaries is a signifier, an important signal that the violator is a potential danger. Or possibly in danger:
Don't be sucked in by the perspective, which in the movie is all theirs. Pretend you're the coroner: two people are reading the other's potentially unreliable online information, and one of them starts driving towards the other. Is that the version you saw in the theater? That's the real plot of the movie, and when you're able to see it like that you see that the true problem of online contact isn't what's posted online but who is reading. If a murderer posts a fake bikini facebook photo, and you show up at his house with suntan oil and a inflated expectations, you're the problem.
So the young man goes off on a road trip, filming all the way. He's trying to tell his own story, but he doesn't seem to realize that he didn't write this one. He didn't hire these supporting cast members, they're all writing their own lines and it's not going the way he planned. This movie is really an exploration of narcissism, and the best part is that it seems to be unintentional.

I don't do Facebook, mostly because I don't like the interface, and a little because I don't like the shenanigans the founder has played with privacy. I don't mind being completely unprivate (I have this blog, for example) but I mind falsely being told I have some control over who sees my stuff by someone who retroactively and without notice or my consent changes the terms of our agreement. But Twitter tempts me, it has a lot of potential. Clive Thompson agrees:
When I see that my friend Misha is "waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop," that's not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me.

It's like proprioception, your body's ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.
You can use Twitter to get the kind of intimate association sense you have with people you live with, or the co-workers who sit next to you in the office. And that's valuable:
A buddy list isn't just a vehicle to chat with friends but a way to sense their presence. Are they available to talk? Have they been away? This awareness is crucial when colleagues are spread around the office, the country, or the world. Twitter substitutes for the glances and conversations we had before we became a nation of satellite employees.
So there are possibilities with Twitter (I think much the same as with Facebook) to improve your social connection to others in a way that more closely approximates how we already do it in meatspace.

That's going to be a good fit for some people, but others (I'm one) enjoy and maybe even prefer the arms-length transaction style of Usenet and blogging. Good thing there are different tools for different kinds of people.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fat and Genes and Morality

Noli Irritare Leones objects to the limited gene argument in discussions about fat and health.

here’s an argument that gets framed as if it’s an argument over whether people who are overweight eat more and exercise less than people who are in the normal range of that (much hated by the fat acceptance movement) BMI chart, or whether they’re genetically predisposed to be heavier.

This seems to me a false dichotomy, since there’s an obvious third possibility that’s been left out. Maybe you eat too many donuts (if donuts happen to be your food of choice, or what’s handy to eat) because you’re genetically predisposed to be hungrier than I am. Genes that make one person put on more weight than another can, after all, work in several ways. They might involve differences in metabolism, but they might also involve differences in appetite (or predisposition to be more or less sedentary).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What it's like

Ampersand drew a terrific cartoon on what it's like to walk on the streets as a woman.

I've had those experiences. It's not fun, it's frightening, frustrating, and annoying.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Links to ponder and appreciate

Some people really aren't like you and me. I've read some horrifying stories that convince me. If you haven't, here's one that is relatively benign:

Poisoned by Celebrity
A man called Graham Young poisoned several people, some to death and others only to near-death, in the 1960s and 70s in England without any pecuniary motive, indeed without any obvious motive at all, starting when he was thirteen or fourteen years of age. Among his victims (who did not die) were his father and his sister. It is probable that he poisoned his step-mother (who was devoted to him) to death.
The story is told by his sister, who proves that just as there are sociopaths, there are good people:
Furthermore, the goodness of the author herself is obvious, precisely because she is herself so unaware of it. Not only was she reluctant to believe evil of her brother, but even when that evil became manifest to her she did not cast him into outer darkness. Her love, the ordinary love of a sister for a brother, exceeded her condemnation of him: which did not mean, however, that she sought any legal exculpation for him, or made any excuses for him. She loved him as a brother, but as a citizen she knew that he had to be punished and the public protected from him.

James Hance has a series of prints featuring an alternate-universe Christopher Robin whose Hundred Acre Wood is full of creatures from Star Wars. Wookie-the-Chew is his Biped of Very Little Brain and the Piglet-analog is R2D2.

Both hat tip Isegoria, which is well worth reading.

One of the readers at Get Rich Slowly asks what he, as an 18-year-old, needs to know about finances? In addition to a good reading list and a set of general suggestions (about budgeting, learning a work ethic, etc.), the comments include such gems as:
Don’t sign up for a credit card just to get a free t-shirt or gift card.
Choose your friends wisely. It’s so much easier to fall into debt yourself when your friends are all putting bar tabs and iPhones on their credit cards.
Curb or eliminate “bad habits:” alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, coffee, binge eating, etc can eat up your savings pretty fast. During my senior year of school, I discovered that I was spending 1/4 of my work study salary on coffee drinks! Sleeping more helped my bottom line.

I Want a New Left explains why he's taking on his own side:
I’ve noticed that there isn’t much solidarity among liberal and leftist academics. It’s true that they can often have pleasant conversations because of a shared hatred of Bush, Sarah Palin, and conservatives generally. But beyond that, there can be a lot of anger towards other liberals and leftists.
* * * * *
As for giving aid and comfort to the enemy, as a self-critical leftist that is the sort of thinking I’ve left behind. I agree with conservatives on some things and disagree with them on others, and I don't feel a bit inclined to keep quiet about this.

Outer Life examines vocabulary and philosophy in the word "disillusioned."
I suddenly saw it as if for the first time. Dis-illusion. The removal of illusion. What is so disappointing about being freed from illusion? Why isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t disillusion be a happy word?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Remembering my dead, planning my future

The year is rolling around again toward that great change, the high holy days in which we celebrate creation and mourn destruction. It's traditional at this time of year to visit the graves of loved ones, and if I could visit my mother's grave, I would. I can't, because there isn't one: she was cremated and her ashes scattered in the ocean. I want to eventually set up a memorial stone somewhere; my rituals help me a lot, and I need one for remembering my mother's death.

Another tradition, and one I've observed since becoming a Jew, is that of self-examination. I'll be reviewing my goals and growth over the last year and thinking about where I want to improve myself during the next year. I'll also be offering apologies to friends and family, and even acquaintances, that I may have offended since this time last year, and granting forgiveness to people who ask it of me.

I so look forward to fall. It's the season I'm at my best in every way.

To my teachers

I didn't have many memorable teachers--or maybe I just didn't make many memories about them. School was my haven, but it was hardly memorable compared to the trauma of home life. Still, a few of my teachers made their marks on me, and I remember them fondly.

Miss Mershon, who took in a know-it-all 5th grader and helped me make friends in a group of kids that had been together since kindergarten.

Madame Bray, the cheerful French teacher who worked hard to change my Moroccan accent (courtesy of my second-year French teacher, Monsieur Bonfiglio, who gave the girls an A for every day they wore a skirt and told us all we had bedroom eyes) and worked extra hard with me so I could take the French AP exam.

Mr. Berk Moss, who tried to trick us into buying extra periodic tables by offering them "one for a dime, two for a quarter," and helped clean up the glass when we broke a test tube in his chemistry class. Mr. Moss, your class was the only science or math class in which I wasn't made to feel inferior or adjudged incompetent to do the work simply on the basis of my sex.

Mr. Bill Presley, the man who really taught me how to think. Bill, I can never thank you enough. The critical and analytical skills you helped me develop have been the most useful thing I learned from the official school curriculum.

I had other good teachers, but these four really made a difference to me.

Twitting the twits

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit reports on the apparently too widespread assertion that President Obama is a muslim.

Obama famously described himself as a blank screen onto which others projected their impressions. This worked for him for a long time. Now, it’s working against him.

But what if the people answering the surveys aren't sincere? One of his readers, William Kuhle, points out:

Surely some of those polled are against Obama and would respond in a way that would publicly tweak Obama, even though they know in their heart of hearts that he probably isn’t muslim. This polling behavior is, effectively, tit-for-tat, as Obama frequently does the same to his opponents

I think this is plausible, and a timely reminder that polls aren't always reliable guides even when you want them to be.

Monday, June 07, 2010

What I've liked lately.

Raincoat most likely to invite frotteurs.

Getting fit for the zombiepocalypse.

Helen Thomas loses her mask, reveals her Jew hatred, and then makes a non-apology.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to use Google WAVE

I use Google WAVE a lot.

I don't use it as a collaborative tool much, though. I use it as a combination idea board and research file.

I have waves for subjects, like "sewing" and "health." I store links, snippets of text from articles I've read, brainstorming, to-do lists, questions, etc. in the subject waves. I can look at my waves from anywhere I can log on--at work during a break, at home, on my laptop while traveling. I can drop links in a wave for videos to watch later, articles to read later, stuff to buy later; I can drop a line of text that's tickling my thinking for writing a post later. I've got a wave for books I want to get from the library.

Try it, it's a useful tool.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Facebook: where everyone knows you're a dog.

Unlike the rest of the Internet, Facebook's founder believes you should not deny your true canine nature.
“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

No more sharing your Saturday night plans with only your friends, you must also tell your mother...and your mother-in-law. It's a lack of integrity not to tell your boss about your private life. At least if Facebook is in charge.

Mr. Zuckerberg has never been stalked, and wanted to hide his online life from the stalker. He's never had an intrusive parent violate his boundaries. He's never been annoyed by dozens of A/S/L requests (and worse) from random strangers. You're not allowed to strive to be a better person through "acting as if" in his world, you have to show everybody exactly who you are right now, all your faults and flaws and mistakes published (if at all) to everyone you know.

If you used to keep your hobby private from your co-workers and employer (after all, it was neither pertinent to work nor anybody's business), Mr. Zuckerberg believes you have no integrity. He floats in a world without context and without boundaries, where every thought and action can and should be shared with every member of your various communities--and where there are no dangerous consequences from so doing.

He has the right to impose his standards on you, since you use his service free. If you don't agree, you're free to stop using it and delete your account. That's what I'm going to do.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I reread.

As explained by Jo Walton:

Even when I have plenty of books, and access to libraries, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to put my hand on the kind of thing I want to read this minute.
[. . .]
My ideal relationship with a book is that I will read it and love it and re-read it regularly forever. Sometimes I will know ahead of time that I’ll love it, other times it’ll be a surprise. Some books lay around for years waiting for me to get to them became favourites. More often I’ll pick up something because it looks interesting and then immediately read all of that new-to-me author’s backlist as fast as I can find it.

Jo wrote a wonderful poem about how in heaven there's a bookshop full of *more* books by her favorite authors, books presumably written and published after their deaths. That's the heaven I want to enter.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Making my way around

How to send a floral arrangement to a guy.

TMI greeting cards.

Real programmers use *nix.

Somebody stole plants from my garden AGAIN. Wish I had one of these.

Why are we having so many earthquakes?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Chess, Morals

Amazing chess set (including hand-carved table) after the illustrations in Through the Looking Glass.

Jane Austen and ethics.
Austen's value system can be thought of as a sphere with layers. The innermost core might be called "morals," the next layer we could call "sentiments," and finally the surface "manners." Morals are the fundamental principles: self-knowledge, generosity, humility, tenderest compassion, upright integrity.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Time Travel Pharmacy, for all your time travel needs.
We pick up our mail in the 1800s.

The Emergency Room argument is false. Even people with insurance prefer to go to the emergency room because it's more convenient or they couldn't get a doctor appointment the same or next day.

Mental Multivitamin is tired of being told to Get Real.
Why is it considered more “real” to focus on the difficulty than to focus on the good stuff? I mean, I can’t be the only one who finds it more tiring (and tiresome) to read one narrative after another of the “Life [parenting, marriage, homeschooling, friendship, relatives, etc.] is hard” variety than to read about the triumphs, celebrations, tender moments, and, yes, fun.

Interesting discussion on sewing pattern sizing versus ready-to-wear clothing pattern sizing at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing. Since last summer I started sewing some of my own clothes, I've learned how little I know about fitting, ease, and vanity sizing.

The Introvert's Corner (at Psychology Today) on introverts, extroverts, and flow state.
I ... doubt any of us do our best thinking in free-for-all brainstorming sessions. If I find myself in one of those, I tend to retreat into my own head to see what's there rather than rolling around in other peoples' ideas. I wonder if anyone listens to anyone else in sessions like that. They're too busy shouting out ideas. It's like Twitter--a bunch of people bellowing into a crowd.

Gothic Charm School on Bat's Day at Disneyland, how to talk your dad into letting you dye your bangs blue, the aging (20s) goth versus the egl or sweet Lolita trends, and a PG-rated explanation of why are there so many octopi in steampunk.
Has your father said why he doesn’t want you to dye your bangs blue? Is he worried that it would be damaging to your hair, or that it would cause a mess? Ask him what his concerns are, and give him information to reassure him that you won’t be setting yourself up for disaster.

And, because food cost has been a recent topic around my house, the Hillbilly Housewife's "$45" emergency menu for 4 to 6 for one week.
There isn’t much meat in these menus. That’s because meat is expensive and beans aren’t. Beans provide lots of good protein for growing children and hard working adults. When beans are combined with certain other foods their protein increases. The amino acids in grains like flour, pasta and cornmeal or milk products cooperate with the amino acids in the beans to make an extremely high quality protein. Don’t worry about the lack of meat, there is more protein in this menu than you can shake an expensive protein bar at.

This menu does not assume *anything* in the pantry and includes a shopping list and all recipes, as well as a daily work plan. Unfortunately that $45 price is from February 2006; in March 2009 dollars the same week's worth of food was $70 (she has a comparison price list in the entry). Still a great resource.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A slave and a child

Doctor Zero has a grabby start to his essay, To Keep and Bear Arms.
Twenty-five years ago, a little after sunrise on a Monday morning, the front door of my house was kicked in by a man who had blown his mind with crack cocaine. He marched my family upstairs at gunpoint. When I reached the top of the stairs and turned around, he put the gun in my forehead and pulled the trigger.

You can tell he survived, though, because he's writing this blog post. He makes the usual (and valuable) point that when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.
The police arrived at my house several minutes too late to play a role in my attempted execution. They made excellent time – there happened to be a unit in the area. If things had gone a little different, they might have arrived just in time to avenge me. * * *

The people of an orderly nation surrender the business of vengeance to the government, replacing it with the rule of law. They cannot be expected to surrender the right of defense. The right to protect yourself, and your family, from injury and death is an essential part of your dignity as a free man or woman. Without the First Amendment, you are a slave. Without the Second, you are a child.

But the right to keep and bear arms, protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, isn't entirely or even primarily about self defense from an intruder. It's about self defense against an oppressive government.
Sometimes liberals sneer at the idea we might keep arms against government tyranny, because a bunch of pistol-packing Tea Party types have no chance of repeating the success of the Revolution against a modern military force. This completely misses the point. A disarmed populace has little choice but to obey orders. If the population is armed, a tyrant’s forces have to do more than just brandish their weapons… they’d have to start pulling triggers. Victory for a righteous populace would come in the military’s refusal to pull those triggers. Tyranny should never be easy. Of course, it should never come to that again, in the United States. As long as the population is armed, this is an understanding, and a duty… not an assumption.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Benefits of religion?

I am a religious person--I converted to Judaism when I was 19 or 20 (don't remember which). I've never claimed being religious was necessarily good or bad, though, except for me. I have known ethical people who were agnostic and atheist, as well as ethical people from other religions than mine.

Isegoria points to a review of Guenter Lewy's Why America Needs Religion: Secular Modernity and its Discontents, a sympathetic atheist's view of religion.

In the introduction Lewy states:
The prevalence of secular humanism and moral relativism are said to have undermined the meaning and significance of human life, to have created a debased world of modernity in which there are no firm values and nothing is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong.

I started this book with the intention of refuting this thesis....

I remain a religious agnostic, but, unlike most atheists, I not only am not hostile to traditional religion but consider it a highly valuable, not to say essential, social institution.

In his review, Taylor first explains why he's reviewing the book:
Theoretically, there is no reason why atheists can't teach morality and socialize children well. However, in practice, Christians have been taking this problem seriously for ~2000 years. In contrast, atheists have shown up late to the game, and too often with a cavalier attitude.

and then points out his major objection to the analysis in the book:
My more serious complaint (putting on my engineer's hat) is that Lewy never clearly explains the criteria by which he judges moral doctrines. We have to have objectives before we can carry on an intelligent discussion of whether our objectives are being met.

However, he still concludes that religion (at least as it is practiced in the US and Europe) is better than atheism at providing moral guidance:
There are blind spots. Religion, when it's working correctly, orients the mind's eye so that the blind spot points in a direction that doesn't matter very much. Atheism doesn't cure blindness, it merely allows the blind spot to be oriented in whatever direction is currently fashionable.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When I get rich...

What will you do when you get rich? Erica Douglass writes at Get Rich Slowly about how she changed her life after becoming rich.
Over the next three months, I proceeded to blow over $50,000. Oh, don’t get me wrong — it was fun! I bought a new car (that I still drive), some really beautiful artwork from artists I loved (that looks great on my walls), and thousands of dollars in clothes, new furniture, and other indulgences, such as $4,000 custom hand-made stereo speakers (that I’m listening to right now.)

It was fun…for a couple months. Then it got boring.

She was retired and didn't know what to do with herself. How could she use her money to make her life better?
I made a point of trying to achieve greater states of happiness on a daily basis. Instead of being merely content — or even apathetic — with my current state of being, I realized I could be happier daily. And suddenly it hit me: I understood what I wanted to do with my money. I wanted to outsource pretty much everything I hated doing.

In order to live a simpler, calmer, but more effective life, I had to drop the shackles of wanting to do everything myself. To allow time to meditate, think, write, and create, I had to get rid of the drudgery of daily tasks. I realized my money could serve a fantastic dual purpose: To allow others, whose passion is cooking, cleaning, or assisting in various ways to help me — while I supported them by giving them income to do what they loved.

She hired assistants (virtual and meatspace) to do all the stuff she didn't enjoy. And when she became ill with celiac disease, she substituted a personal chef for some of her restaurant meals. Even her relationship got better:
I treat my staff members well, and they love the fact that they can work from home and get paid great wages ($3/hour in in the Philippines is equal to about a $65,000/year wage here in the U.S.) They are happy — I can see it in their emails and text chat messages.

My partner Richard and I fight less. There’s no scrapping over who will do a certain task. If no one wants to do it, we work together to figure out how to hire someone.

Bottom line: money's not important, it's what you can buy with it that matters.
For me, even more important than holding onto my money tightly was to learn to let it go — to give it to others in exchange for work well done, and to trust that they could do tasks well. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Capitalism at its finest! She could only accomplish these things because she built a business and then sold it.


A great post on disguise at Isegoria:
During the Great War, navies learned that they couldn't hide their ships through camouflage, because the background shifted so drastically with every change in the weather — but they could razzle-dazzle enemy range-finders with what painter Norman Wilkinson called dazzle painting

Illustrations and photos, some even in color.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Revolutionary Road: Spoilers included

I watched Revolutionary Road, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, yesterday. Be warned, spoilers below.

A woman and a man meet at a party; they both have a spark of creativity and the urge to express the greatness in themselves, to dare to be something different. But they get married, have children, and a few years later wake up inside the nightmare of mediocrity that was the US suburbs in the 1950s. The movie conveys the dreariness of giving up your dreams to live in the suburbs because you accidentally got pregnant too soon after marriage. The drudgery of housework on one hand and a mid-level cubical job on the other. Taking out your frustrations on your spouse to avoid acknowledging your betrayal of your own dreams.

The wife plans their escape: they'll sell the house and move to Paris, where she can support them working as a US government secretary in the relief/rebuilding effort. He can discover himself: study philosophy, think, figure it out. The kids will be fine--Europeans raise kids too! She talks him into it and for a brief summer they take steps to change their lives: tell all the friends, put the house up for sale, begin packing.

But she gets pregnant (with a third child), which would make it all impossible. She wants to abort the pregnancy, even gets the instructions and apparatus to do it at home, but when he discovers the means (tucked away in a linen closet) he won't let her--won't agree to it, tells her to give up the dream, that it was a foolish, immature fantasy after all. Work has just offered him a raise and promotion; he'd miss his affair with a secretary there; all their friends and family have ridiculed them for aspiring to be pink monkeys instead of brown ones. In a bitter, desperate, tawdry scene she, too, commits adultery.

And then she performs the abortion anyway. It's past the "safe" 12-week deadline and she bleeds out and dies. He sold out and she gave up.

The acting was excellent, the sets and costumes good. But the story! I'm stunned by how bad it was, how it ignored every bit of analysis and information published in the last 60 years about what life was like in the post-war boom of the 1950s; I'm struck by the pristine naivety of the presentation of these two lives, as if they were extraordinary. I'm frustrated because it ignored the structural social issues that made these two people so desperate.

It was like the backstory for any feminist movie, without ever referencing anything feminist.

Instead it was a purely personal movie, as if these two were just misfits and it was their own fault. Everybody else seemed to be happy. Caving in was rewarded with the good life, in a best-of-both worlds sense: the widower moved into the City (New York City), spent more time with his kids, and yet had a job that paid him enough to do that. And who paid for this? The woman who was wife and mother and more, whose choice field was so constrained by circumstance and the decisions of her husband that the only way out she could find was the way into death. Her self-sacrifice was ultimate: her dreams, her goals, her health, her happiness, and even her life, all burnt into a pleasing odor on the altar of society's order, to keep chaos at bay.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More on fashion and size

At Fashion Incubator Kathleen Fasanella has started a discussion among industry insiders on the question "What if plus sizes made up 80% of the market?" The comments section includes speculation about shapes, manufacturing, examples of businesses exploring expanding their offerings to plus sizes, and how some retailers have changed the range of their sizing already to accommodate changes in their target market.

The discussion continues in a following entry, illustrating many of the challenges through comparing plus size women's clothing with the model of mens' suiting (a range of sizes like 40R or 42L that are assumed to need tailoring at the store after purchase).

Well, what did they wear?

Footpath Zeitgeist asks, what did fat chicks used to wear?

I began to ponder this question when thinking about how I just don't even bother trying on dresses in vintage stores, because I know they never fit me. Whenever I visit an exhibit of historical garments, I never fail to marvel at how small they are. And Hollywood actresses are invariably bird-thin, regardless of the body shapes in vogue during the historical periods they portray.

She's just outlining the bare bones of her curiosity and beginning to plan the research. I look forward to her reports.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learning to manage

How do you teach students about organizing (government, e.g.) when you don't have much information? How about a scenario game right out of Charlaine Harris's True Blood series, where vampires come out of the coffin and demand to be recognized as citizens with equal rights?

That's what Robert Farley at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky did. The students were divided into groups (like Department of Justice or Department of Defense) and let loose to come up with policy recommendations.

Each group was tasked with developing an organizational response to the imminent public declaration of the existence of vampires. I gave each group a few general questions, then set them lose. CIA and DoD each received a bit of additional information. CIA had been aware of the existence of vampires essentially from the point of its founding, as had most major foreign intelligence organizations. The CIA even employed vampiric agents from time to time; a CIA vampire killed Salvador Allende. DoD's relationship was even longer and more extensive. In its previous incarnations as the Departments of War and Navy, the US military had employed vampires since the Civil War.

They thought of a lot of the same things I would, like reviewing laws for vampire-specific provisions (including human on vampire hate crimes) and some I didn't, like whether to extend the service requirement qualifying a vampire for retirement benefits (because they live so much longer than humans).

In previous years the policy project focused on Godzilla, zombies, and the aftermath of the movie Independence Day.

Hat tip Isegoria.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Finding role models

Watch for the ones who leave your mouth hanging open. Study them, find out what they love and what they fear. Dig the treasure out of their soul and hold it to the light. ... Then be like them.

Ken Scholes, Lamentation (Tor, 2009 hardcover ed., p. 109)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

You might like these, I did.

Best letterhead ever.

"Radiation treatment for a brain tumor left Adam Cohen temporarily unable to read, an alarming change for a Shakespeare scholar who had forged an intimate relationship with words. He soon found, however, that the experience gave him a new way to appreciate William Shakespeare's writings for the stage."

Faces in our stuff.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Word for 2010

I've given a lot of thought to what word to pick for 2010. "Bravery" kept bubbling up out of my thinking, but never fit very well when I tried it on. A few times I thought "Calm" might be a good pick, because I needed a lot of ability to calm myself over the last year, so many things happened that were out of my control. Even the choices I made required frequent calming, because my life and my family's lives have gone through a lot of new experiences. My husband was laid off in the spring, my older son and his wife had a second child, and I was diagnosed with some severe allergies which required a completely different way of eating and a new medication regimen. In addition I took up sewing and learning to play the piano!

I'm going to embrace "change" as my word for 2010. I've resisted most change in my life since I was very little, and made a point as an adult of drastically eliminating stress in my life whenever I could identify a source of stress that I had control over. During 2009 for the first time in a long time I chose to make major changes, over and over. And I've managed quite well, seldom retreating from an overloaded life or breaking down emotionally or physically--in fact I've been sick less often in the last year than any other year of my life.

I'm finally able to change on purpose, with intentionality, and enjoy the effects of my changes. This year of 2010 I hope to claim this trait and make it solidly part of my identity.