About jt20

If you know me, then I don't need to tell you. If you don't know me, then I don't know if I want to tell you.

National b(L)I(N)Ke to School Day

Regarding the title: http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/

Now, moving on to business as usual.

DrumpfTaking a cue from the NPR game show “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” here’s some of the latest absurdities to start us off.

The Jordanian Airline Making Money Off the Laptop Ban (Alice Su, The Atlantic, 25 March 2017): At least one airline is doing something right (and not by jacking the prices on renting you a janky, overpriced DVD player for the duration of your flight).

Meet the Everyday People Who Have Sued Trump. So Far, They’ve Won. (Vivian Yee, The New York Times, 29 March 2017): “One of the reasons I came here [from Iran] was because I thought, here we’re going to have the freedom of speech and religion and all these. But if I don’t have those freedoms, then what would be the point of staying here?”

“In a funny way, even though I’m discouraged about how they’re vilifying Muslims and using the presidential seal of approval to vilify Muslims, the lawsuits and people’s response has made me feel even stronger about this country…In any other country, when the president wants something, he gets it…The fact that a lowly judge somewhere can basically stop the most powerful man on earth with a simple ruling is gratifying, and it shows what this country’s all about.”

Religion and PoliticsMostly serious, a few silly, some liberal, some conservative.

The president as pharaoh? Trump is turning up in Passover seders. (Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, 9 April 2017): And I quote, “Anti-Trump activist group Indivisible Nation BK’s online Haggadah…replaced the traditional hunt for the afikomen, a piece of hidden matzoh, with a hunt for Trump’s tax returns.”

Soul-searching at Princeton Theological Seminary (Jeff Chu, Religion News Service, 12 April 2017): “Is feeling unwelcome the same as not belonging? Does having your beliefs questioned threaten one’s sense of belonging as much as having your identity doubted or devalued?”

“Humility might help us see how the attempt to honor Keller felt like dishonor to those long marginalized by the church. Humility might help us understand how we try to outshout or ignore voices who disagree with us theologically. Humility might help us resist the temptation to rank our suffering ahead of others”

Joy I Cannot Share (Serena J. Poon, Inheritance Magazine, Issue 53): “Coming out didn’t make me lose Jesus — it led me closer to Him because in experiencing the fullness of myself, I could more fully see how God loved and accepted all of who I am. I felt that I was finally fulfilling His designs for me. In this, I found joy and wanted to share in this joy with my family and friends — including my parents … A few years later, I came out again — for the final time. I endured harsh and desperate words from my parents: I would die, because if I get sick, God wouldn’t heal me; I was a terrible daughter; I gave my mom cancer as punishment for my sins; and my greatest pride was their deepest shame. Those last words hurt me the most. As an Asian American, bringing pride to my parents is one of the few ways I get to make them happy. Bringing shame to them and our family is one of the worst things that I could’ve done.”

The American Health Care Act’s Prosperity Gospel (Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic, 5 May 2017): “Although public-health circles might want to believe that the view of sickness as a curse has been supplanted by epidemiology, it’s very clear that prosperity gospel has stuck around as one of the major pillars of American health policy.” (This article presents an interesting possible explanation of one aspect of the red state paradox.)

The Passion of Southern Christians (Margaret Renkl, The New York Times, 8 April 2017): “Partly this divide comes down to scale: You can love a human being and still fear the group that person belongs to.”

“My people are among the least prepared to survive a Trump presidency, but the ‘Christian’ president they elected is about to demonstrate exactly what betrayal really looks like — and for a lot more than 30 pieces of silver…But I also believe in resurrection. Every day brings word of a new Trump-inflicted human-rights calamity, and every day a resistance is growing that I would not have imagined possible, a coalition of people on the left and the right who have never before seen themselves as allies. In working together, I hope we’ll end up with something that looks a lot like a Christian nation — not in doctrine but in practice, caring for the least among us and loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

(More on the red state paradox.  Also, don’t jump to conclusions about this article just because it was published by a typically liberal paper.)

A Brief Note on Mike and Karen Pence’s Dinner Arrangements (Katherine Fritz, I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog, 30 March 2017): Yes, this is a problem because after-hours “mingling” is how you get the metaphorical (and literal) seat at the table in DC, and this categorically excludes 50% of the population from that opportunity to influence one of the most powerful people in the world, a person who is supposed to represent all Americans, not just those with a penis and not a vagina.  However, I do think the media/interwebs in general had its heyday over the wrong issue here: he doesn’t have this rule because he wants to be a misogynistic asshole (even if you think he is), he has it because of his religious beliefs (even if these may make him, in your opinion, a misogynistic asshole).  Being an asshole (perceived or real) isn’t the problem: there are lots of asshole politicians.  The problem is when a politician’s assholery impinges upon his or her ability to govern fairly and effectively.  And that’s the biggest problem here.

“Mike Pence’s religious beliefs, like the religious beliefs of many Americans, aren’t always great for women’s rights and freedoms — even though a lot of women are happy practicing those same religious beliefs…So as long as Mike Pence’s religious beliefs don’t get in the way of his ability to govern effectively, we don’t anything to worry about. He is free to dine with whomever he wants, believe whatever he wants, and pray however he wants, so long as he is governing according to the will of the people, and not to the canon of his religion.”

Also, relating to another article up and coming, “Muslim religious beliefs sound a whole lot like the religious beliefs of most conservative Americans.”

When Conservatives Oppose ‘Religious Freedom’ (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 11 April 2017): “After 9/11, some prominent evangelicals denounced Islam. But overall, a review of responses to the attacks noted that the Christian right is ‘refusing to vilify Islam after September 11 and remains committed to an alliance of “orthodox believers.”‘…There are several potential explanations for the growing Christian conservative hostility to American Muslims. One is surely the endurance of jihadist terrorism and the bitter failure of America’s wars in the Middle East and South Asia, which has left conservatives both scared of Muslims and skeptical of their ability to embrace ‘Western values.’ A second, less obvious, factor may be the weakening of the social conservative agenda that might have bound Muslims and conservative Christians together.”

Polarization Is for Magnets, Not for People: Also, rhetorical and political literacy is really important!

The Tricks People Use to Avoid Debate (Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic, July/August 2015 Issue): “Want to avoid a debate? Just tell your opponent to check his privilege. Or tell him he’s slut-shaming or victim-blaming, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or Islamophobic, or cisphobic, or some other creative term conveying that you are simply too outraged by the argument to actually engage it. Or, on the other side of the coin, accuse him of being the PC thought police and then snap your laptop smugly.”  I really really wish this argument had been developed further, but alas, the limitations of printed(!) media.

Checking Privilege Checking (Phoebe Maltz Bovy, The Atlantic, 7 May 2014): “To call someone ‘privileged’ is to say that his or her successes are undeserved. It’s a personal insult posing as social critique.”  Sense a theme?  So maybe the person you’re criticizing is wrong/is being insenstive/doesn’t realize they’re the beneficiaries of societal mechanics: so tell them that and why, not just that they’re privileged.  Or maybe they aren’t, and you (probably plural) need to spend some time listening and not talking.  Don’t shortcut your arguments, folks!

UC Berkeley Declares Itself Unsafe for Ann Coulter (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 20 April 2017): “Her critics would have done well to deny her attention by treating her scheduled appearance with the ambivalent yawn every provocateur most dreads. Instead, they began playing into her hands, situating her appearance in a paradigm where free speech is cast as being in conflict with anti-racism—a wrongheaded frame anathema to civil-rights heroes and marginalized protesters the world over. It guarantees either that bigots like Coulter will be seen by many as occupying a moral high ground, or that free speech will suffer, hitting marginalized groups hardest in the end.”

People don’t like paying taxes. That’s because they don’t understand them. (Marjorie E. Kornhauser, The Washington Post, 14 April 2017): I have never thought about taxes this way before.  It’s an enchantingly straightforward solution to a complex problem, sort of like fluoridating tap water to prevent cavities.  Sure, people still get cavities for a lot of reasons (eg, genetics, drinking acidic beverages, not brushing teeth), but it’s a start.

Identity

I Am Not Your Muslim (Nesrine Malik, NPR, 6 May 2017): “to frame everything in terms of refutation is the opposite of empowerment.”  (Could also go under the heading about religion and politics, but I think this has more to do with identity politics than the sort of politics mainly featured in that section).

‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks (Kat Chow, NPR, 19 April 2017): This is a really really good summary of why anti-Asian racism was/is fundamentally different than anti-Black racism, and why using Asian Americans (a fraught definition by itself) as a measuring pole for anyone else with not-White skin is terrible for everyone.

Reporter’s notebook: Riots or uprising? 25 years since the Rodney King verdict, a Korean American story (Juju Chang, ABC, 29 April 2017): Despite being a West Coast Asian, this is an event that frankly I hadn’t heard much about growing up.

Feminism: Yes I said the F word.

seriously, the guy has a point (Greg Fallis, gregfallis.com, 14 April 2017): “But here’s the thing: you can completely agree with the woman who responded to my comment AND you can still acknowledge that Arturo Di Modica has a point. Those aren’t mutually exclusive or contradictory points of view.” In brief: The girl statue is nice.  The girl statue derives its power from the bull statue.  The presence of the “fearless” girl implies the bull represents something fearful (eg, patriarchy, aggression, misogyny).  The bull’s artist did not intend it to represent fear; it was supposed to represent positive things (eg, strength of the American market, hope in America).  Thus the girl subverts the bull (duh, that was the girl’s creator’s intent).  This makes the bull’s artist upset because that’s not the story he wanted to tell, not because he’s a misogynistic asshole.  (This could also go under polarization but that section was huge already.)

As a woman in science, I need to conceal my femininity to be taken seriously (Eve Forster, Vox, 4 May 2017): Ugh yes.  I’m thankful not to have experienced too much of this (I work in a female-dominated sub-specialty having to do with primarily women’s health issues), but even in university coursework, the mansplaining was never incessant but almost always present.  Student-to-student, student-to-TA, even student-to-freaking-professor.

One More Barrier Faced by Women in Science (Lily Cohen, The Scientific American, 21 April 2017): “It’s not that this challenge was career ending, and after a day of over-hydration, I would not have to repeat my urination re-education. However, this charade took time that I would have otherwise put towards improving the data logger program for a precipitation monitor in the Arctic, testing our new snow depth probe, or otherwise forwarding my career. No individual’s discrimination or hostility directly led to me peeing on myself; it’s just one more challenge of being a woman entering roles that are historically held by men.” Before someone uses this as an excuse to argue that women really are just pansies, that’s not the point.  Women (and men) who are dedicated to their field don’t let things like the lack of a loo inhibit their research or work; they find a way to work around it.  Women just have more to work around than men do, sometimes at high personal, financial, or even chronological cost.

‘Penis Seat’ Causes Double Takes on Mexico City Subway (Sopan Deb and Marina Franco, The New York Times, 31 March 2017): Why is catcalling harmful?  Why is creepily staring at/leaning over/leering at/repeatedly talking to random women not okay?  Because it’s uninvited, intimidating, and just plain creepy.  How do you feel about a sculpture of a dick on a subway seat?  Because that’s about how I feel about all of those behaviors.

The pros and cons of male athletes lending support, appreciation to their female counterparts (Michelle Smith, espnW, 1 May 2017): “I think people struggled to find a woman to compare me with, so they went to men as the default. And that’s fine, but I also want to be compared with Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird and players like that.” (Kelsey Plum, UW point guard with too many accolades to name, number one draft pick 2017)

“But we also need to do a better job of promoting our stars. We want people to see that Diana Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne are great players, and not just because Kobe said so. Right now, more girls in Seattle want to be Kelsey Plum. And we’ve got to continue to push, to get the exposure and the branding and the media coverage.” (Lindsay Gottlieb, head coach at Cal)

Tangentially related, for all the bros who trash on the WNBA: if star NBA players appreciate it, why can’t the average guy?

Women in Sports: Feminism reprise

Analyze This (Sue Bird, The Players Tribune, 10 March 2016):  Wins prize for favorite narrative article.

“The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring. Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game.  Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.  There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league.”

“But Dee deserves it, too. And so does Maya. And so does Elena. We all do, and so does this league.  One day, I won’t even have to tell my niece about how great Diana Taurasi was.  The numbers will speak for themselves.”

Sports, equality, numbers.  Can Sue Bird get any more awesome?  I don’t think so.

50 Years Ago, Doris Brown Put U.S. Women’s Distance Running on the Map (Roger Robinson, Runner’s World, 21 March 2017): “One of America’s greatest distance running talents had one major flaw: She was too fast for her time.”

“She’s the first woman known to have run 100 miles a week. ‘When I read that Jim Ryun was running twice a day, I tried it, and immediately my times improved, even at sprints,’ Heritage said.”

I am incredibly thankful that I got to interact with Doris just a little through my high school program.  Even more than her running accomplishments, her character and optimism is an inspiration.

Science Is Cool: One of my favorite pastimes at work is to read a weird paper (usually from Science, Nature, etc) and then drop a “So I was reading this paper…didyaknow?!” randomly in conversation.  It never fails to throw people for a loop.

Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird (Rae Ellen Bichnell, NPR, 20 April 2017): The naked molerat exhibit was always my favorite at the children’s museum growing up (much to my mother’s chagrin.  “But they’re so ugly!” cried she.  “Nuh uh, they’re cute!” retorted me.)  They (usually) don’t get cancer.  They resist pain.  They change sex.  And now they…use the environment to regulate body temperature? (Warning: lots of paywalls).

Octopuses and squids can rewrite their RNA. Is that why they’re so smart? (Ben Guarino, The Washington Post, 6 April 2017): Next in line for the Weird Animal Award are octupus and squid who in addition to being proteges of Harry Houdini have now also been found to edit their mRNA.

Octogenarian Couple Donates $10 Million Insect Collection (Camila Domonoske, NPR, 24 March 2017): “‘He would like me to know more about weevils,’ she said. ‘But the more I know about weevils the more I have to help him.'” I hope by the time I am in my 80s I have accomplished a fraction of this, both professionally and personally.

Science and PolicyThe weird parts are cool but science is also serious sometimes.  We’re not just crackpot academics up in an ivory tower; the stuff we study has very real political and social consequences.

Accidental therapists: For insect detectives, the trickiest cases involve the bugs that aren’t really there (Eric Boodman, Stat, 22 March 2017): Wins prize for favorite non-narrative article.

“But it wasn’t hard to see how this creature could potentially shape-shift in her mind, from a harmless half-inch garden-dweller to something much more sinister: an uncontrollable swarm. Already, these few bugs had taken up residence in her thoughts. That could happen to anyone.  And Ridge knew just how fragile the boundary could be between the insects in someone’s house and the ghostly insects of the mind…’Insects are most often not the problem,’ she said.  The problem is us.”  This is science journalism at its finest.

The ban on mentally ill people buying guns wasn’t ever based on evidence (Jeffrey Swanson, The Washington Post, 10 February 2017): Depolarize!  The world is complex!  “The gun restriction rule is a well-meaning policy that gets some things right, notably its support of federal efforts to improve detection of risky people who should not have legal access to guns. But despite its good intentions, what the policy actually does is take away the gun rights of a large category of individuals without any evidence that they pose a risk of harm to self or others, and without legal due process protections commensurate with abridging a constitutional right…When the government takes away people’s rights, usually they have a hearing, a chance to contest the proceedings, and legal representation. None of those is provided when a person is assigned a money manager by the Social Security Administration, nor would it be feasible to do so routinely. But when such a determination is later leveraged for a totally different purpose — suspension of a person’s Second Amendment rights — the lack of process becomes a legitimate civil rights concern.”

Kathryn (David Muller, The New England Journal of Medicine, 23 March 2017): “From their very first shadowing experience to their first foray in the lab; from high school advanced-placement courses and college admissions tests to grade point averages and the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT); with helicopter parents, peer pressure, violins and varsity soccer, college rankings, medical school rankings, medical licensing exams, and the residency Match, we never let up on them — and it’s killing them.”

March (Link) Madness

Before we begin: Here’s a helpful graphic that’s been circulating the interwebs lately in a few permutations.  We can quibble over exact coordinates of different points, but it’s a good starting place.  Please share with your hyper-partisan and/or cluelessly naive friends and relatives to encourage open and honest dialogue.  Fight Fake news. Know who is reputable.

Now, by theme.  Many of these broader topics bleed into each other, so I’ve tried to organize the individual articles within the headings such that they form a sort of continuum both within and between categories.

Science (jokey to serious)

Science’s Love Affair with The Lord of the Rings (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 13 May 2015): Two of my favorite things–science and LOTR–in one article.

An Ice-Age Squirrel Found by Gulag Prisoners Gets Its Scientific Due (Sarah Jang, The Atlantic, 2 March 2017): All my next favorite things–Russian literature, rigorous science, and cute fuzzy animals.

Trump’s Hair Inspires Name for Newly Discovered Moth Species (Alejandro Lazo, The Wall Street Journal, 20 January 2017): More on taxonomy.  Scientists may be stereotyped as geeky introverts in birkenstocks and  un-ironed shirts, but they can get pretty fiesty when they need to (c.f. the social media handles for Alt National Parks, NASA, EPA, etc.)

 To Catch Prey, Frogs Turn To Sticky Spit (Madeline K. Sofia, NPR, 31 January 2017): This is almost as cool as when they figured out how cats drink.  (“Almost”, because I like cats more than frogs.  Nothing against the research, of course).

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on my CV (Adam Ruben, Science, 18 January 2017): I work in basic research lab in a clinical department at a major university hospital, and this is the constant frustration of the PhDs.  All of us–including the people with PhDs–refer to “real doctors” and “fake doctors” and everyone knows what we mean.  On a more serious note, I’ve heard plenty of women with PhDs introduce themselves as “Doctor Abc Xyz” in rooms full of mostly men–in situations where none of the men introduce themselves as Doctor Anything–presumably in attempt to get people to respect them a little more, even subconsciously.  The glass ceiling is a lot higher than it used to be, but it’s still there.

I’m a doctor who wants to treat addiction, but the rules won’t let me (Douglas Jacobs, The Washington Post, 18 January 2017): Exhibit #78915483, Why Evidence-Based Practice is Really Really Important.

Vaccines Work. Here Are the Facts. (Maki Naro, The Nib, 15 December 2014): This longform informational webcomic has been floating around for a couple years, but lately it’s received a new wave of attention due to comments made by the current president and his campaign staff/administration.  This one is also worth sharing with your honestly vaccine-skeptical or vaccine-uncertain (but probably not vaccine-hating) acquaintances, friends, and family.  It’s written at an understandable level for the lay public, but doesn’t come across as condescending or demeaning to people for having fears or concerns.  This been one of my biggest quabbles with the scientific/medical community in the whole anti-vaxxer fiasco: poor science communication!  Metaphorically SHOUTING at people, calling them stupid, dismissing their views, or even appealing to authority without explaining why doesn’t help.  I understand that after 4 years of college, 4-8 years of grad/med school, and possibly 2-7 years of postdoc/fellowship, it’s hard to accept being questioned about a field in which you are literally an expert by all conventional standards.  But to a worried parent who’s afraid that a vaccine will cause their child to have [bad disease terrible side effect big scary words ahh run away], it’s not just degrees that matter: it’s also personal experience, perceived trustworthiness, and relatability.  This is why mommy blogs have so much power to persuade.

How Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Distorted Vaccine Science (Seth Mnookin, Scientific American/STAT, 10-11 January 2017): On the other hand, there are also a lot of people appealing to authority and using it in complete opposition to evidence-based practice, all too often successfully.

What can the anti-vaccination movement teach us about improving the public’s understanding of science? (Jeanne Garbarino, PLoS, 5 January 2017): At the risk of harping too much on the importance of science communication, “At the risk of oversimplifying the issues related to vaccine hesitancy and rejection, people’s decision’s for themselves and their children might have less to do with the message, and more about how — and in what context — the message is delivered…While it may feel counterintuitive, perhaps we should stop trying to win arguments using the traditional academic approach, with data, error bars, and p-values, as these risk strengthening the emotional appeal of anti-evidence, anti-scientific viewpoints. Instead, we can present data-based conclusions in compelling and effective ways, keeping in mind the connections and disconnections between human emotion and rationality.”  For specific tips on effective ways to talk about (note: not debate) vaccines or other issues of evidence-based practice, see The Debunking Handbook.  For hear some thoughts from someone whose career is dedicated to science communication, give this episode of The Prism podcast a listen.

The Rise and Fall of a Shrimp Biologist (David Scholnick, Scientific American, 9 January 2017): “I guess the moral of my story is that when you mix science and politics, it can be just as cliquey as high school, and if you disrupt the social order, you had better be ready for some lowbrow playground antics.”

How Trump’s refugee ban hurts health care in places that voted for him (Alvin Chang, Vox, 6 March 2017): And the saga of the red state/blue state paradox continues…

Home

The Story Behind TIME’s Year-Long Multimedia Project ‘Finding Home’ (Kira Pollack, photography by Lynsey Addario, Time, 19 December 2016): “Lynsey is a powerhouse—a fierce journalist with a fiery passion to tell the truth about the great injustices of the world. Lynsey is known as a brave war photographer, and has received accolades for her front-line reporting, but day in and day out, she has documented the lives of some of the most voiceless women in the world.”

A Yazidi Refugee, Stranded at the Airport by Trump (Kirk W. Johnson, The New Yorker, 28 January 2017): This wasn’t okay on January 28.  It’s not okay today.  It won’t be okay tomorrow, or the next day, or any time in the next four or eight years, or ever.  Don’t let what was crazy and absurd and wrong yesterday become part of the new norm in the future.  Don’t let it become just another political issue that us regular folks can’t do much about.

Facebook post by Samuel Director (28 January 2017): Thank you for taking a stand, even though, sadly, it puts you at risk of derision and criticism in some Christian communities.  <rant> Unlike another post I recently saw by a pastor of MISSIONS (i.e., the person in charge of reaching out to and caring for people who are not like us) of a church I used to attend basically arguing that Trump’s ban wasn’t that bad at all and didn’t contradict Christian principles of hospitality, love for the other, and generosity to the cast down of society because 1) all the verses in the Old Testament about taking care of widows/orphans/foreigners don’t apply to modern America and 2) if they did, we should take care of them in their own countries but sure as hell not here.  My response was somewhere between a muffled yell and a groan of “don’t confuse exegesis and eisegesis, have you forgotten everything you learnt in seminary??”  </rant>

The Lawyers Showed Up (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 28 January 2017): I’m about as far from a pollyanna as you can get, but at the very least, where there’s a shadow there’s a light.  For all my snide comments about the profession of lawyers, there’s some good ones out there.

Strangers in Their Own Land: The ‘Deep Story’ of Trump Supporters (Shankar Vedantam, NPR, 24 January 2017): Although my opinion on the current administration is probably quite clear by now, this can’t be a one-sided conversation.  People want to come to the US to find home, but there are also people born here who don’t feel at home anymore.  This doesn’t negate the rights of the first group or dismiss the conversation; in fact, it should elevate the dialogue.  And before the liberal-leaning crowd points out that “not feeling at home” is very different from “fleeing from ISIS”, I know.  That’s the point, and also why you should read this article/listen to the podcast.

Meet Me in the Middle

Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job (Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, 11 January 2017): I’ve been skeptical of IATs since I first learned about them in Intro Psych.  This article does a good job of articulating some of the problems with the test itself and also of conclusions drawn from data amassed from the test.  From personal experience, back in Psych 100, it seemed like it wouldn’t be too hard to “trick” the test, so I took one on the internet and found that indeed, it wasn’t too hard to skew consciously.  Could this then have the effect of double-tricking the test?  Yup.

How the FBI Is Hobbled by Religious Illiteracy (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 26 February 2017): Getting a PhD in [xyz religion] studies is useless you say?  Think again.  Clearly, the FBI needs more of such people.  My favorite line of the article: “Although he loves Judaism, actual Jews are a problem.”  Also, moderately related, one of the weirdest things to me about the rising anti-nonwhite (and often anti-non”Christian”) sentiment in the country lately is that it’s being directed at both Jews and Muslims.  I know intellectually that historically both have been targets of bigotry by both Catholic and Protestant Christianity, but the attacks, sometimes physical, on both Muslim and Jewish people and places of worship or gathering has struck me as strangely ironic and tragic.

Why Conservatives Mistrust Even Modest Efforts at Gun Control (David A. Graham, The Atlantic,  2 October 2015): I know that firearm violence and accidents amount to what is effectively a huge public health crisis.  I know that a lot fewer people would be dead if we had no guns or even fewer guns.  I know that in some states guns are much too easy to get, even for many conservative-leaning folks.  But I also am deeply appreciative of the culture of the rural west, which has bled into many people’s (rural or western or not) protectiveness of their ability to own and use firearms.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well to the legislative halls of urban state capitals or the bench of the Supreme Court, much less thirty second sound bytes on cable news (liberal or conservative).  I don’t know what the answer is other than that as with most things, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.

These Pro-Lifers Are Headed to the Women’s March on Washington (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 16 January 2017): Can we please just converge to the ideal that less abortion is better in general but also that banning it/doing everything but banning it doesn’t actually make it be less.  I think most people–both on the left and on the right–could agree that we would want the fewest women possible to be in the position that they feel like/think/know they need an abortion, but for the ones who do make that decision, it should be safe and accessible (presumably, by being legal).  Minimize need –> minimize abortion.  Everyone is happier and more morally satisfied.  Aka, evidence-based practice.  And so we circle back to our first them of the day.  WE CAN DO BETTER, FOLKS.

Light

When Metal Goes Acoustic: Disturbed On Covering Simon & Garfunkel (Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR, 15 January 2017): Since a lot of the links are pretty heavy, this is a little lighter.  As light as Disturbed can be, anyways.  Fun fact: David Draiman trained as a hazan (like a cantor in Jewish synagogues) and also almost went to law school.  He also has had some pretty interesting interactions with skinhead fans who don’t realize he’s Jewish–perhaps the epitome of “meet me in the middle”.

Merry Linksmas

I promise I’ll work on the titles.  Also, sharing something doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with it, just thinking that it’s an interesting/thought-provoking argument.

*articles that consume from your monthly quota from that publication are marked with an asterisk

Tuba Christmas

Tuba Christmas (Living St. Louis, Nine Network): Yup, Tuba Christmas gets an entire heading of its own.  Events consisting of musicians playing instruments in the tuba family in public spaces are held nationwide in December.  See video from local PBS station for more history and some music.

Tuba Christmas 2016 at Galleria Mall (Brian Siegfried, Youtube): You can’t quite see me (I’m hiding by the escalator), but here’s the entire video of the performance in which I played.  This has been one of my favorite Christmas-time events since I moved to St. Louis (I didn’t learn of them until the end of senior year in high school, so I never played at the Seattle one).

Things That Might Seem Obvious but We Should Still Study

Military-Trained Police May Be Less Hasty To Shoot, But That Got This Vet Fired (Quil Lawrence & Martin Kaste, NPR)

Patients Cared For By Female Doctors Fare Better Than Those Treated By Men (John Henning Schumann & Sarah-Anne Henning Schumann, NPR)

History is a Circle

Trump isn’t Hitler. But the United States could be another Germany* (Richard Cohen, Washington Post)

What Makes Today’s America Different From the Country That Incarcerated the Japanese? (Emma Green, The Atlantic)

LGBT Issues

When Eve and Eve Bit the Apple(Kristen Scharold, The New York Times): I’ve heard iterations of this story over and over.  Honestly, I don’t know where I stand theologically on this; I’ve heard so many good arguments (and plenty of bad ones too) from both Side A and Side B that I don’t think I’m any farther along than when I started thinking.  (Sometime, I hope to put up a list of reading from both “sides” that I’ve appreciated).

‘Don’t Sneak’: A Father’s Command to His Gay Son in the 1950s (Nadine Ajaka & Patrick Haggerty, StoryCorps/The Atlantic): Animated short published by StoryCorps.

Words Matter

Unfollow: How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs* (Adrian Chen, The New Yorker): Highly recommended.  Possible spin aside, it makes a good point about the value of social media and honest, thoughtful (gasp) communication.

BuzzFeed’s hit piece on Chip and Joanna Gaines is dangerous (Brandon Ambrosino, The Washington Post)*: I’ve been saying this for years.  “Conservatives,” you aren’t guiltless; “liberals,” you aren’t guileless; everyone, be nice because one day when you aren’t seen as the victimized minority (or aren’t the empowered majority), the other side will use the same dirty tactics on you.  Also, I think this is a case of the extremes of both sides being the loudest and drowning out all the “regular folks” in between.

Things Googled While Watching Harry Potter

I cram-watched the Harry Potter movies for the first time this weekend.  I enjoyed them, and it was interesting to see them as an adult after hearing so much about them as I was growing up (not dissimilar to my experience listening to the audiobooks for the first time a few months ago).  I did like the books more, though, which is often but not always the case for me.  I think in this instance, I particularly missed the extensive character development J.K. Rowling builds in the books that can’t be easily portrayed in a movie of a decent length, since it would be unreasonable, say, to show every instance of Snape being an jerk to Harry, even though all those moments are important for providing context for the entire Snape plotline.  This stands in contrast to, for example, how I see the Lord of the Rings books and movies.  Although character development and relationships are important in LOTR, the series uses characters to fulfill a quest, rather than a (series of) quest(s) to explore characters.  This, in some ways, is more suited to a movie audience that doesn’t wish to camp in a theater for a 6 hour movie.

But anyways, I went back through my Google search history and called all my HP-related queries from the last three days:

  • harry potter and the philosophers stone vs sorcerers stone
  • lucius malfoy actor
  • durmstrang admits girls
  • emma watson speaks french
  • bone of the father unwillingly given
  • why does voldemort not have a nose
  • short professor at hogwarts
  • how do you get out of a pensieve
  • how did the sword of gryffindor get in the lake
  • why did jk rowling choose the name hermione

Linksgiving

Explicitly Poltical

Museum Condemns White Nationalist Conference Rhetoric (Press release, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 21 November 2016): “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.”  (Sorry, Godwin).  The adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is nice but not always true.  And yes, although I’m a “model” minority, I’ve personally noticed an increase racially-tinged (or just blatantly racist) comments and insults both online and in public spaces.

Why We’re Saying ‘White Nationalism’ Instead of ‘Alt-Right’(Isolde Raferty, NPR/KUOW, 21 November 2016): Language and diction are important.  Words have meaning.  That is all.

Senator Elizabeth Warren: President-Elect Trump Already Broke Promise to “Drain the Swamp” (Elizabeth Warren, Senator Elizabeth Warren Youtube channel, 17 November 2016): This speech is perfect in so many ways.

If You Voted for Trump Because He’s ‘Anti-Establishment,’ Guess What: You Got Conned (Paul Waldman, The Washington Post, 11 November 2016): I want to say “I told you so,” but that also still seems enormously inappropriate and/or immature given the stakes.

Chris Christie’s Career Has Quietly Ended as Trump has Imploded (Alex Wagner, The Atlantic, 25 October 2016): Chris Christie’s jagged journey through the political world in the past few years has intrigued me, and I’d be interested to hear the author’s perspective post-election.

HOLY SH*T (You’ve Got To Vote) (Rachel Bloom et al., Funny Or Die Youtube channel, 4 November 2016): I’m a little late with this one, but I still like the concept and execution of the song enough to share.  It’s hilarious, but also very NSFW.  And although Godwin may be rolling over in the grave that he’s not yet in, “Look, obviously only Hitler’s Hitler…But break up Mein Kampf into tiny parts, and it reads like a Trump rant on Twitter.  And if you need a refresher on post-World War I Germany, they had an authoritarian political outsider stoking xenophobia in a nation where the poor felt marginalized and blaming complex problems on scapegoated minorities.” On a lighter note, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “syphilis” sung with that much vibrato (1:42).

First Lady Michelle Obama live in Manchester, New Hampshire | Hillary Clinton (Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton Youtube channel, 13 October 2016): Also too late to the game.  Still an extremely important message aside from the overtly election-related parts.  For example, “Let’s be very clear: strong men, strong men—men who are truly role models—don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.  People who are truly strong lift others up.  People who are truly powerful bring others together.”  As a woman, another thing I’ve noticed recently (in addition to racially-motivated insults) is an increase in sexually-motivated comments.  Hear something, say something.

The World is Complicated

Running While Female (Michelle Hamilton et al., Runner’s World, undated): This has always flummoxed (in addition to startling/frightening/irritating/angering) me.  Do men think they’re complimenting me?  Actually wanting a (positive) response?  Just teasing?  Being immature?  Trying to be dicks?  Are inherently pervy?  Worse?  Just, why?  (Also, a great counter from Randall Munroe of xkcd: http://xkcd.com/1763/)

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told My Family to Go Back to China (Michael Luo, New York Times, 9 October 2016): I’m as Wasian/banana/twinkie/whatever-other-jokingly-“derogatory”-term-you-can-think-of as it gets, and yet this is still so real.  Sometimes, it’s like I’m living in between worlds; like Arwen or Luthien in Middle Earth, but at least they had choice to embrace one existence or the other.  Even if I could choose, neither world would believe it.

My Muslim Father’s Faith in America (Mohammed Naseehu Ali, The New Yorker, 24 October 2016): “The reason [Allah continues to bestow his blessings on their country, my father] said, was very simple: Americans were the ones doing Allah’s work, by steadfastly upholding the Islamic tenet of zakat—a form of alms-giving that makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam. ‘Their government welcomes people who are seeking a better life,’ my father said. ‘They shield and protect the weak, the poor, and the persecuted from all over the world, and, the most important of all, they support orphans and protect the rights of women, as instructed by the Prophet Muhammad in his last sermon.'”  We would do well to note this.

Here’s What Happened When I Challenged the PC Campus Culture at NYU (Michael Rectenwald, The Washington Post, 3 November 2016): *sigh*  Let’s just say I’m glad I’m done with the hypersensitivity that is undergrad.

Julie Rodgers Keynote: The Reformation Project in Los Angeles (Julie Rodgers, The Reformation Project Youtube channel, 27 October 2016): Julie Rodgers speaking on LGBT issues, the Church, and most important, Jesus.  I admire her because she’s not afraid of hard issues and has the courage to be honest–even when it meant publicly explaining why her belief about same-sex marriage in the church changed over time.  Some call it flip-flopping; regardless of the before/after positions, I say it’s critical use of intellect and a conviction in faith.

On a Lighter Note

US Mental-Health Chief: Psychiatry Must Get Serious About Mathematics (Alison Abbott, Nature, 26 October 2016): These are both things I care a lot about.  Math isn’t impractical and useless theory all drifting about in the stratosphere, and psychiatry neither a bunch of oogey-boogey BS made up by Freud et al. nor a branch of medicine for people who couldn’t get residencies in anything else (besides, Freud was a psychologist, not a psychiatrist.  Which isn’t to hate on psychology as a field–it’s important too!–just to point out that misconception).  And, finally, as we saw from the disaster that was pre-election polling, the significance of knowing how to collect, interpret, and use statistics cannot be overstated!

What Do Professional Apple Farmers Think of People Who Pick Apples for Fun? (Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, 5 November 2016): The craze for apple picking has befuddled me since moving to the midwest, kind of like people who buy blackberry plants for their gardens (you’re intentionally introducing a weed?), the alleged “dumplings” in chicken and dumplings, and the game of cornhole (it’s beanbag toss, you freaks: “cornhole” sounds disturbingly euphemistic.)  Apples are the state fruit of Washington; in fact, Washington produces about 60% of the apples consumed in the US and exports enough that they’ve become a status symbol of sorts overseas (while visiting India, I did in fact observe Washington apples for sale at several open-air markets in New Dehli).  But I digress.  While you can go various types of berry picking in Washington, and I’m sure there are places one can u-pick apples somewhere in the state, there is nothing near the cult-like obsession with apple picking I’ve seen here in Missouri.  Berries at least kind of make sense to me: the bushes/plants are small enough that you usually don’t need a ladder or picking gadget, it usually takes a decent amount of time to get an amount of fruit worth the trouble, and most people do it for the sake of canning/preserving cheaply.  But apples?  Even small trees warrant a stepladder by the time they reach fruit-bearing age, it’s much faster to pick 5 pounds of apples than it is to pick 5 pounds of blueberries (or, God forbid, blackberries) so the 45 minute drive and from the orchard makes a lot less sense, and most people apparently go…just for fun?  Which is valid, but still weird to me.

Elite Runners Ryan and Sara Hall Add Parenting to Their Workouts (Lindsay Crouse, The New York Times, 3 November 2016): I look up to these folks so much as runners, parents, and people of faith.  The writing in this article is tons better than the article in Runner’s World by Amby Burfoot, so even though it “costs” you one of your free articles, I’d go for it.

My Mother’s 10-Year Quest To Feed Me From 5,500 Miles Away (Alina Selyukh, NPR, 21 November 2016): As the cultural heritage of food wasn’t a particularly strong part of my upbringing, I’ve surprised myself in the past few years by becoming more and more interested in learning how to cook the food of my country of birth, even if neither myself nor my family or close friends speak the language or eat foods familiar to the region.  But something about this article spoke true–perhaps I superimposed the author’s Russian mother onto the doting Chinese mothers I’ve encountered throughout the years, “Are you done already?  Eat more!  You’re too skinny!  Don’t waste food!  Here, take some with you!”

Trump Make America Great Again Red Cap Collectible Ornament (Amazon): The comments!  Go to the comments!

Link Farming

Here is a compilation of blog posts, news stories, videos, podcasts, etc. that I’ve encountered over the past few months and found compelling.  Note that this does not necessarily that I agree with all or even any of what they say (although I have noted at least some cases where I do), just that thinking is good and these made me do that.  Take it or leave it.

Olympics

“Mara Abbott: My Ride in Rio” (Mara Abbott, WSJ, 19 August 2016): Beautiful grace–and beautiful writing–in the face of heartbreak that only a true athlete and competitor can experience.  (For the interview she references, see http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/mara-abbott-her-fourth-place-finish).

“Kristin Armstrong: Gold ‘the result I want to end with'” (Kristin Armstrong, NBC, 10 August 2016): On a happier note from women’s Olympic cycling, Kristin Armstrong is an incredible athlete. Also, for all the haters who argued about her place on the women’s road race team, let up on it.

“One Month Later, Abbey D’Agostino Reflects on Rio, Her Olympic Fall and Her Rehab From a Torn ACL” (Jonathan Gault, Letsrun.com, 16 September 2016): Let there be no doubt, I am still not a fan of letsrun.com as a whole (that’s a topic for another post…), but the followup on one of the biggest character stories of the Olympics is nothing less than I’d expect from all I’ve heard through the running (and Dartmouth, indirectly) grapevines. (For an interview by Julia Hanlon of Running on Om with D’Agostino, see http://runningonom.com/2015/11/18/roo-161-abbey-dagostino-on-integrating-faith-into-life/)

Culture and (Unfortunately or Not) Politics

“Why Abby Wambach Doesn’t Want To Be Known ‘Just As A Soccer Player'” (Terry Gross, NPR/Fresh Air, 14 September 2016): Listen to the podcast if you can, but the transcript isn’t bad either.  Honesty and badassery.

“Making Sense of Modern Pornography” (Katrina Forrester, The New Yorker, 26 September 2016): This is a good example of a piece that demonstrates balance in perspective and yet still has an actual argument.  Worth one of your free articles in my opinion.

“Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?” (Tania Lombrozo, NPR, 22 August 2016): Sociology, psychology, R/C parents, and helicopter parents.  *cue whirring vocal sound effects and spinny hand gestures above my head*

“When Katie Couric Became a Single Mom” (Hillary Frank, The Longest Shortest Time, 20 July 2016): Yes, I listen to a parenting podcast even though I have no desire to have mini-me’s of my own.  Katie Couric is one of the few mainstream celebrities (mainly my “heroes”/”role models”/whatever are athletes and scientists…surprise surprise) about whom I think to myself, I hope I could do half as much as she has/be half of who she is when I grow up.

“Commentary: An Iranian Refugee on Becoming American – Legally, Then in Spirit” (Roya Hakakian, Reuters, 24 August 2016): My favorite lines–“The oath of allegiance, however significant, is often only a ceremonious hour, not one of reckoning. But watershed events and crises offer shortcuts through that journey to belonging. September 11 for instance. By 10 a.m. on that day, my 75-year-old father who until then had been composing poem after poem about his yearning for Tehran had hung an American flag from the railings of the fourth-floor balcony of my parents’ Queens apartment. It remains the only illicit act he has ever committed here, for he knew well the co-op board did not approve of exterior displays.”

“The Coddling of the American Mind” (Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, September 2015): I recently graduated from college.  I think that’s probably enough to say before someone on a side (or someones from both/multiple sides) of this argument comes after me with a hatchet.

“The Scarlet A” (Hillary Frank, The Longest Shortest Time, 17 February 2016): Think you’ve heard everything about the abortion debate (regardless of which “side” you’re on)?  Think again.  This helped me think about lots of things I’d never considered, or if I had, in different ways.

“This Christian Community Opened Its Heart to New Muslim Neighbors” (Upworthy, 9 September 2016): I am skeptical of how Upworthy presents its stories (and don’t get me started on their clickbaity titles…), but that doesn’t make the stories bad.

“An Armistice for the Culture War” (Ezekiel Kweku, MTV, 15 September 2016): I’m not sure if I’ve ever read something from MTV so seriously before.

Explicitly Election (yuck)-Related Politics

“Fear of a Female President” (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, October 2016): Independent of my views of Clinton herself, this is a thing I have actually been concerned about.

“Hillary Clinton and the Resurrection of Old-School Hysteria” (Nora Kelly, The Atlantic, 26 September 2016): This was fascinating and not a thing I ever would have thought of on my own.

“Why Voting for Hillary is Not Voting for Abortion” (Gungor, Facebook post, 8 October 2016): Thank you for constructing an actual argument, for respectfully and thoughtfully engaging people including those who disagree in ways that are not always respectful or thoughtful (comment section = bravery), and most of all for wrestling with nuance and tension and all the tough parts of being a being endowed with reason.

In a Tense Election Year, Laura Bush Picks an Interesting Ally: Michelle Obama” (Krissah Thompson, The Washington Post, 16 September 2016): Might be a feel-good story (though I suppose this might depend on your opinion of Trump, and possibly to an extent the Bushes and the Obamas…but mainly Drumpf), but hey, I think we need it.

 

Keeping the Blog, Changing the Title

Well, after hiding and un-hiding the blog and then making a few changes, I’ve decided to keep it (for now).  However, I am thinking about changing the title/URL, so if anyone has suggestions that would be dandy.  I was hoping for “Sleeping in Seattle” since that’s been my handle for a few other things on the interwebs, but unfortunately the URL is already occupied.