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.