All things weird and wonderful, 50

29 01 2015

Calceolaria uniflora, photo by Thomas Mathis

The website from which a got this image, Strange and Wonderful Things (a title after me own little heart), compares these funky little flowers to “little orange penguins marching over the rocks”—and yeah, I can see that.

But I see a bunch of old aunties in wide hats toting their bins back from the fields, or maybe the market.

Clouds are masses of frozen liquids suspended in the atmosphere, and one can use SCIENCE to determine how they form and what their shapes say about conditions in the atmosphere and that’s all for the good. Similarly, one can use the tools of SCIENCE to discover that c. uniflora is “distantly related to Foxglove and Generiads”, and that the flower is pollinated by birds who eat the white bits of the bloom.

But sometimes clouds are castles or armies or profiles of Abe Lincoln, and sometimes flowers are little orange penguins or bin-toting old aunties in wide hats.

~~~

h/t PZ Myers, Pharyngula





Talking ’bout what everybody’s talkin ’bout

27 01 2015

There’s an awful lot of shit about which I have opinions (informed and otherwise) that I think about writing about but end up not writing about because I am lazy and I’d rather not write uninformed thoughts which others who are informed have said better but mostly, mostly, because blogging is not my job.

It’s too bad, in some ways, because I’d really like (but not enough to do much about: lazy) to write for a rent check or two, but in other ways, saves me—mainly, from having to have an opinion about what everyone else is opining about. I get to say ehhhhh. . . in response to GamerGate or the NYPD or what that one guy said that time about a thing.

Again, I have opinions oozin’ out me pores, but most I get to save for an enjoyable session of barstool bullshitting rather than having to labor to turn them into something coherent enough for a blog.

No, that may not be a high standard, but it’s one I try (most days) to reach.

Anyway, all of this is a prelude to/apology for commenting on the the Jonathan Chait anti-p.c. piece. It’s not very good, but it is long, so. . . there’s that. Jia Tolentino, Amanda Marcotte, Angus Johnston, and Lee Papa all have good responses, so in the spirit of laziness non-repetition, I, uh, won’t repeat their arguments.

But, in the spirit of value-added, I will, uh, add this: JESUSHCHRISTTHISISSOOLD STOP STOP STOP!

Not enough value? How about: this whole p.c. thing has been around for so long—not the twenty years Chait complains about, but at least thirty—and that’s just using the term “politically correct”: as Erik Loomis pointed out on another LG&M thread, “such circular firing squads have existed for the entire history of the left.”

And yeah, the p.c. of my experience was indeed a lefty phenom—a term used by some leftists (who needed to work  or sleep or go to class and thus couldn’t turn out for every fucking rally) to mock those who’d condescend to those who needed to work or sleep or go to class and thus couldn’t turn out for every fucking rally as insufficiently committed to The Cause (it doesn’t matter which one), and who (the condescenders, not the rent-payers) didn’t shower, to boot, and. . . where was I?

(Can you tell this is a post written under the influence of Wonkette?)

Oh, yes: it was a term of mockery of the left-pure by the impure-left.

Guess which side I was on?

At some point, apparently, “p.c.” became a sincere rather than a snarky tag on the left, which was unfortunate, as it allowed those on the right to pick up those snarky remains, rearrange them, and turn what had been a dart into an axe. Good for them, I guess.

In any case, I don’t want to criticize the sincerity of those who worry about microagressions or trigger warnings or whatnot, but, like Papa, I don’t have much use for those worries, either. I also don’t see the problem with having some folks worry about microagressions and trigger warnings and whatnot, because sometimes the folks who worry about things which are often dismissed are right to say, “hey, wait a minute!”

And, yes, sometimes they’re wrong, and when they’re wrong, one has the option of ignoring them or refuting them or mocking them—just as the worriers have the option of ignoring or refuting or mocking the dismissers.

This is what the bloggers, above, note—so, yes, I guess I did repeat what they have to say. But I also want to extend this, to note two more things:

1. A lot of this is coming out of campuses and college-age students, which is unsurprising.

College is the time of boundary-setting and boundary-trespass in terms of ideas and identities, and often in quite extreme ways. This is the age and the setting in which someone can be utterly and completely given over to a cause (of whatever sort) and, importantly, find that cause in common with others.

You can be passionate and not alone, and for a fair number of students, this is the first time in their lives that they don’t have to choose between the two.

That’s an astonishing moment, a kind of coming-into-oneself during which one is finally free to see where and how far she can go. After a time, some of us go through this moment, some go too far into or beyond it, and some, having found themselves in that moment, decide to remain right there.

Most, I think, pass through in some way or another—grow up, sell out, burn out, whatever—so freaking out about twenty-year-olds freaking out about boundaries—their own and others’—is pretty much akin to Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds.

2. To extend something which Tolentino, et. al.  point toward: a lot of those bitching about the p.c. boundary patrol are often powerful in the ways that the patrollers themselves are not.

Chait worked for The New Republic and now works for New York Magazine. Hanna Rosin writes for The Atlantic and Slate, and Sullivan, well, is Sullivan. They get to be irked by others taking issue with their words—who isn’t?—but to say there’s a right way and a wrong way to criticize is its own form of boundary patrol, and one most often deployed by those with more power against those with less power.

This is something which staunch free speech advocates (and it’s always “staunch”, isn’t it? never “rigid” or “unbending”)—and, sure, I’ll count myself among them—too often overlook in their defense of words: that words matter.

Of course, they get that “words matter”—hence the defense of words—but words can have more or less juice to them, depending upon who’s speaking or writing them. Pointing out microagressions or tone policing might be annoying as all get out, but they’re also ways to poke holes in those juiced-up words, to drain them of a bit of their power.

Or, more to the point, to poke holes in those who supply the juice, to drain them of a bit of their power—over others.

Again, annoying (especially if you don’t recognize yourself as having power over others) but not illegitimate on its face. It is, in fact, a fight about the rules of the fight, which those who are used to setting the rules would rather not have—and certainly not with such ardent critics.

And, again, as a tits-forward kinda gal and a rigid free-speecher, I think there are all kinds of criticisms to be made of p.c. policing, and all kinds of arguments to be made in favor of loose words.

But you can’t just bitch about having to make those arguments—you gotta actually make ’em.

~~~

*h/t Scott Lemieux and TBogg





And I said “shit”

27 01 2015

May I present to you the [next Republican candidate for the] President of the United States, former Governor of the great state of Arkansas, former Fox contributor, and current fan of Ted Nugent, Mi-chael D. Huckabeeeeee:

“In Iowa, you would not have people who would just throw the f-bomb and use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting,” Huckabee said. “In New York, not only do the men do it, but the women do it!”

That’s true: in New York—and only in New York—both men and women swear, and on the job!

He continued: “This would be considered totally inappropriate to say these things in front of a woman.” But “for a woman to say them in a professional setting,” Huckabee went on, “that’s just trashy!”

Whoo-hoo—I am trashy! Thanks for the tip, Guv!

Then again, when my freshman typing teacher Mrs. G. accused me (rightfully) of having a garbage mouth, she got there first.

h/t Wonkette





Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

26 01 2015

Yes, it’s January in New York, so cue the surprise at the prospect of snow.

I snark because I care.

Anyway, WNYC had a half-snarky/half-serious segment on the impending deluge, during which they asked what folks are doing to prep. One woman bought flowers.

Me? I’ll be hitting the gym in a few hours, as there might be issues* in getting to it tomorrow.

And milk, I need milk: I dunae like dry cereal.

Other than that, it’s winter in New York.

*The train system really does make a difference in my indifference: I don’t have to worry about the state of the roads in my travels. That said, the MTA is apparently planning to shut down some of the express lanes tomorrow and use them for train storage. (No, I don’t know what that’s about.) And while CUNY’s semester begins Wednesday, my class doesn’t meet until Thursday, so, again, I gots no reasons to fret.





God bless America

20 01 2015

I liked Charlie Pierce’s suggestion for the State of the Union address (even if it was missing a “boot in the ass” reference)—and for about half of the speech, it kinda followed that spirit.

Unfortunately, there was the other half. Not that it was bad, but Fata Morgana did it go on and on and on. At one point I thought This is like that last Lord of the Rings movie, with ending after ending after ending.

Shorter. Shorter shorter shorter. Almost no one ever complains that a speech is too short, and those who do, are wrong.

Update: And then, of course, there’s this:





Everbody knows that the captain lied, 16

19 01 2015

This seems like a singularly bad idea.

I mean, sure, the airlines are more than willing to screw over the lumpenproletariat mashed like potatoes into the cheap seats, but how will they deal with the haute bourgeoisie up front who number too few to gain priority over other flying buses?

And will they do these on an absolute or relative basis? Total number of first class seats sold or percentage of First-to-last class? Total dollar amounts spent on first class?

Or maybe this could be the greatest selling point (from the airlines’ point of view) for first-class seats since the invention of first-class seats: pay more to increase your odds of landing before the fuel runs out!

Now that’s service.





My dog reminds me of this whole world

19 01 2015

Death sucks.

I mean, I don’t what, if anything, it’s like for the dead, but for those who live past the dead, it sucks.

Two and a-half weeks ago, Jon Katz announced on his blog, Bedlam Farm, that his charming and ornery mule, Simon, had died.

Shortly thereafter, he noted that Lenore, the “Love Dog”, was out of sorts; she died less than a week after Simon.

Then, this morning, I popped over to Love & Hisses and found Robyn Anderson’s obit for her beautiful 5-year-old tabby, Corbie.

I cried for each of these creatures.

Yes, these are animals, not people, and these are not my animals—I had never met nor expected to meet any of them—but they were familiar to me, a presence, and now they are absent.

Such absence, of course, puts me in mind of my own critters—Chelsea and Bean, Jazz before them, and the family pets before them—and made me sad all over again.

While Katz doesn’t believe in the Rainbow Bridge, as Robyn does, he does believe that his animals will have a life beyond this life. I have no such belief in life beyond life—tho’, as an agnostic, I can’t/won’t completely rule it out—but understand the desire to believe that those who were here are not gone forever, but simply moved on to another place.

As a general matter, I consider death simply a part of our condition as living creatures: we are born into life and leave it at death, or, more succinctly, everything living, dies. For some it may come too soon, others, too late, and for some, as a relief.

I would like to live a while longer, but not everlastingly longer, and to have some sense of my death, when it does finally come. It will be my end, and I will be no more—a closing, not a loss.

No, the loss is for the living, when others are no more.





Smile, everything is all right

14 01 2015

Are you afraid of pit bulls?

I’m a little afraid of pit bulls.

(Have I ever been bitten by a pit bull? I have not.)

(I’ve been bitten twice by dogs: one was a Doberman, and the other, a German Shepherd.)

(I am afraid of neither Dobermans nor German Shepherds.)

I’ve been trying to get over my fear by asking to pet any nearby pit bulls—their people almost always say yes—and that’s been working pretty well.

But this?

Adam Rifkin.

How could I even think to be afraid of this pup?

~~~

h/t Cute Overload





You’re bad for me I clearly get it

13 01 2015

So Mike Huckabee, who just quit his Fox gig to maybe kinda consider reflecting on the possibility of perhaps running for president, demonstrates his credentials for the post by criticizing not only Malia and Sasha Obama’s musical tastes, but her parents for allowing her to listen to  “mental poison”.

Who is the fiend behind such neuro-toxin?

Surely you know by now, but in case you don’t: Beyoncé!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given that he had recently wondered if Jay-Z weren’t a “pimp” exploiting his “incredibly talented” (tho’ apparently intellectually-venomous) wife.

Max Lockie has the appropriate response to this.

On a not-unrelated note. . . man, I am so looking forward to the Republican primary.





It’s too late, baby

12 01 2015

Not only am I lazy, I am also a bossy broad.

Bossy and lazy: and I wonder why I don’t date!

Anyway, Amy Klein writes in aeon about her reluctance to tell her 42-year-old friend that it’s too late to begin thinking about freezing her eggs:

What I really want to tell my friend is that if she is serious about having a baby, her best bet would be to go out to the nearest bar and hook up with a stranger – during her 36-hour ovulation window, of course. But I won’t tell her to sleep with a random guy, I won’t ask if she ovulates regularly, nor will I say anything else about the state of her ticking – nearly stopped – biological clock: it’s too delicate a subject.

To which I can only say: if someone brings up her ovaries to me, then I’ma gonna go ahead and tell her that thinking and freezing are not going to get the job done—although I’d recommend a sperm bank rather than the local pub.

Will I also tell her that chances are she’s already infertile? That would depend on the course of the conversation, and, in any case, I’d tell her to talk to her OB-GYN.

Klein is right, however, that most women don’t know that, for most of them, the fertility window is closed by the early forties, and that it begins closing in the late-twenties/early-thirties. Fertility rates do decline throughout the thirties (entering a period of greater variability in the late thirties), but, again after 40 the decline is precipitous.

And IVF won’t help—not if you didn’t create embryos before entering your fifth decade. Yes, some women do conceive their own children throughout their forties, but, as Klein points out, all of those well-known women birthin’ babies at 48 or 50 are either using embryos frozen some time ago or someone else’s eggs. Liza Mundy has more about this in her terrific book, Everything Conceivable:

Studies show that among ART [assisted reproductive technologies] patients who are forty years old and using their own eggs, there is a 25 percent chance of pregnancy over the course of three IVF cycles. The chances diminish to around 18 percent at forty-one and forty-two, 10 percent at forty three, and zero at forty-six.

In 2005, a group of doctors at Cornell surveyed IVF patients over forty-five who had attempted to conceive using their own eggs. Among women between forty-six and forty-nine, not one get pregnant using her own eggs. (p. 42)

And, it should be noted, the odds are even worse for poorer and non-insured women of every age, who may have had untreated medical problems which interfere with or nullify their fertility.

Mundy and Klein both note that a previous attempt by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to raise awareness that the biological clock only has so many ticks in its tocks caused controversy among (hangs her head in sorrow) some feminist groups (well, the National Organization for Women), for the “pressure” such information would place on women, making them “anxious about their bodies and guilty about their choices”.

(Do I mention here that loooooong ago I was a member of the Sheboygan chapter of NOW? Those women, who fought to bring Planned Parenthood to the county, who had been harassed and threatened, would have hooted then-prez Kim Gandy out of the room for thinking they would have been afraid of a little information.)

Klein quotes Naomi Cahn, author of Test Tube Families, who notes that

‘the politics of reproductive technology are deeply intertwined with the politics of reproduction’ but ‘although the reproductive rights issue has a long feminist genealogy, infertility does not’. Discussion of infertility is threatening to feminists on two levels, she contends: ‘First, it reinforces the importance of motherhood in women’s lives, and second, the spectre of infertility reinforces the difficulty of women’s “having it all”.’

That is not any reason, however, not to spread the word as far and wide as possible:

‘Shunning that information about the relationship between fertility and age, however, ignores biological facts and, ultimately, does a disservice to women both in terms of approaching their own fertility and in providing the legal structure necessary to provide meaning to reproductive choice,’ writes Cahn.

. . .

‘It is only with this information that reproductive choice becomes a meaningful concept,’ Cahn writes. ‘Choice cannot mean only legal control over the means not to have a baby, but must include legal control over the means to have a baby.’

Exactamundo.

It is sometimes pointed out that it is unfair that men have no legal say in whether a women chooses to continue or to end a pregnancy—and maybe it is, but it’s also how it is. Similarly, maybe it’s unfair that men remain fertile throughout their lives but women do not—and maybe it is, but it’s also how it is.

So better to say how it is (and the earlier the better) than pretend otherwise, so women have the knowledge, and the time, to make the choices that make sense for them.

And if we’ve got to be a little bossy to get the word out, well, then that’s how it is, too.