succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The power of place

I have never felt particularly tied to any geographical area. My family never operated that way - born in PA and NC respectively my parents met in TX, spent grad school in MN, and had us kids in WV. My aunt 'ran away' to Paris during a break from her freshman year of college. Immediate family is currently settled in TX, FL, and MA. When it came time to do the job hunt and everyone asked 'where?' that question hadn't even occurred to me. I have the luxury (and, let's be frank, the misfortune) that no one has a strong enough claim on me to ask me to stay or go to a specific place.

Moving to CA is exciting, but I keep having these bouts of nostalgia related solely to place. Driving home today, and pausing at the railroad crossing, I am reminded that that used to be my landmark for the turn to April's place. Nevermind that April moved back to Boston years ago.

I'm thinking about this, in part, because Dad is losing his job. And I keep trying to move him in to the place where he is happy to leave a job that has steadily made him miserable for the past five years. But on the phone last weekend he reminds me that he has walked in to the same lab for 32 straight years, and one day in July, he will walk out, never to walk in again.

I don't have an answer for that.

To me, WV is the place my mostly metropolitan, progressive, aging hippie parents moved to be responsible, have jobs, and raise kids. It never fit them. Pretty much since I started seeing them as people, outside of their roles of Mom and Dad, I assumed WV was a temporary stop in their lives, the quintessential place to raise kids, but surely not where they would spend their 'golden years.' With my brother and I out of the house, and off their ledger, surely they would move back to the sort of bustling city that suited their personalities.

Silly me for not realizing that their 32 years in WV is the longest either had spent anywhere. No wonder it seems to me like they fear change. It may not have started as their place, but after three decades, how could it be anything else?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The gang over at BitchPhD have been exploring Yes Means Yes, with authors Jaclyn and Jessica doing some guest posting. M. Leblanc just responded with this incredibly moving and important post. It's well worth clicking over to read in entirety, but I want to call attention to this comment:
But no woman is "lucky" in this regard. We are not "lucky" when we are subjected to date rape instead of stranger rape, we are not "lucky" when we are subjected to attempted rape instead of completed rape, we are not "lucky" when we are subjected to groping instead of rape. Even those who experience none of these things aren't "lucky."

Having your bodily integrity respected isn't luck. It's a fucking basic human right.
Amen sister.

Either I'm following Cliff around or he's following me around - I've eaten at two of the four restaurants recently reviewed in CL, and ordered similar food at each of those places.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A little experiment

I watch waaaay to much television. Nevertheless, here's a little test of how my regular shows stack up on the Bechdel Test.

Brothers and Sisters - Pass. Despite its soapy story telling, with nearly 50% of the cast female, they frequently discuss topics other than men (examples include careers, money, and kids, though I suppose this last could technically also include discussing men).

House - mostly fail. Occasionally two of the three female characters will discuss a case, but they so rarely speak to each other that this one has to fall in the fail category.
The Closer - ditto.
Trust Me - ditto.

Fringe - mostly fail. Again, occasionally the two female characters will speak to each other, and then, almost always, it's about a case (and even better, often about cool computer or math geekery), but nevertheless, the two rarely speak, and it's only the two of them! Ok, there's also the creepy woman from Massive Dynamics, but she hardly even qualifies as a series regular.
Leverage - Pass. There are still only two main females, but they often discuss the case and/or acting (and never men).

Lost - Mostly fail. A predominantly male show, the ensemble cast still includes quite a few powerful women but when they speak to each other the topic is still most often men.
Life - Fail. Only one interesting female character, and she is rarely if ever given the opportunity to speak to another female character.
Damages - Pass. The two most interesting leads are females and they frequently speak to each other about a variety of topics. Granted, they are also frequently out to get one another, but still, conversation often centers around non-male subjects.

Bones - Pass. The cast is about 50% female with many opportunities for women to speak to other women about cool science topics.
Grey's Anatomy - Equal parts pass and fail. The predominantly female cast does have many opportunities to discuss medical cases with each other, but they spend nearly the same amount of time agonizing over men.
Burn Notice - Fail. Only two interesting, strong female characters (though there has been the addition of the occasional third) and they only ever speak to each other about men.

Flashpoint - Fail. Only one main female character.
Numb3rs - Pass. Despite a predominantly male cast, the three primary females often discuss cases and careers with each other.
Psych - equal parts pass and fail. Really only one main female character, but the chief of police is female as well, and occasionally she and the female detective discuss cases (and they never discuss men, which is nice).

Recent movies
Milk - Fail. Only one female character.
Frost/Nixon - Fail. Token female.
Rendition - Fail. Strong female characters, but rarely spoke to each other. Also, plot of movie revolves around husband, hence conversations center around him.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Fail. Two female leads, but entire plot revolves around relationship with men.

Leon's Full Service
(a review for my local readers...non-locals, my apologies)

The Brickstore Pub folks have opened a new venue, Leon's Full Service, and on this Thursday night it was well worth the 45 minute wait for a table. The food is extremely tasty, but given that most of us are on a student-esque budget, allow me to first tantalize you with the price - six beers + one appetizer of fries with dipping sauces + two entrees, each with sides = approximately $80 including tip!

Ok, it's the Brickstore folks, so it goes without saying that the beers were excellent.

It's a newly opened restaurant, so service could go one of two ways - slow, inexperienced, and poorly informed or excellently informed and over-eager. Our experience was definitely the latter. And we certainly didn't mind the extra friendliness and attention. Fries are fairly standard fair (not the thick steak frites from brickstore) but are more than made up for by the plethora of dipping sauces. The goat cheese fondue may sound most appealing, and is fairly tasty, but it's not a strong enough goat cheese to be much noticed over the standard greasy-ness of fries. Instead I highly recommend the curry which is perfectly complementary to fried potatoes. My partner for the evening had the pork osso bucco, which was tender and well flavored, but, in my opinion, it was the squash and kale and whatever magical seasonings were in that sauce that made the dish exquisite. I had the open-faced brisket sandwich. Still no competition to the best brisket ever (provided at A and L's wedding in Mississippi) but quite good nonetheless, and quite well complimented by crusty bread and fried onions. My side of curry flavored vegetables did not dissappoint, most importantly by maintaining the crispness of the veggies while still being pleasantly warm and steamed. Raisins and nuts rounded out the Indian flavors. (I enjoyed the whole thing, though I must confess that compared to authentic Indian flavors it could be found lacking)

None of the desserts knocked our socks off, so we swung by Chocolate Bar on our way to the car, which, of course, did not dissapoint.

Happy dining!

Kids these days

My initial reaction to this article was "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" but then this blog post pointed out the potential different interpretations of these quotes:

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

Robert, over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money does a good job of parsing the language.

I think what this all boils down to for me is that there are just some things that you are not going to be good at. And that's ok. No matter how often mommy and daddy told you how special you were, there are going to be some things that even with hard work you just may not get. In college, and especially in graduate school, hard work and conscientious effort should never automatically translate into a good grade.

Depending on the subject at hand I have worked my ass off to scrape by with a B- and similarly slacked my way to an A+. Both grades were earned, and both reflected the amount of work that was required of me in that particular subject to earn that grade. Just because I worked really, really hard in my theory class - attended every lecture, completed every homework assignment, attended office hours (i.e., met the standard requirements of the course) does not change the fact that I could not successfully derive higher order taylor series expansions of some expressions. Or that I struggled to keep the properties of various members of the exponential family straight. Awarding me with a higher grade, because I worked really hard, would not only be a totally inaccurate reflection of my comprehension of the course material, but would seriously undermine the higher grades legitimately earned by my peers, who more successfully mastered the material.

Think for a moment what you're asking for when you claim that effort should be rewarded with higher grades. Do you want a doctor who passed his/her boards because she studied diligently but still couldn't diagnose appendicitis? Do you want an airline pilot who works really hard, but struggles with spatial imaging and therefore can't land a plane? Do you want to send your kid to daycare with a teacher who attended every cpr class but couldn't pass the final exam?

Hard work is a necessary component of success, but it is not sufficient. You must also be talented. And you aren't necessarily talented at everything you try. That doesn't make you a bad person. It just means you haven't found the right fit yet.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This is pretty awesome (populism and Rachel Maddow are both pretty awesome, as far as I'm concerned).

In other news, I'm grumpy - handyman came to the house this morning to fix two leaks. The same two leaks he allegedly fixed before xmas. In the process of fixing one, he flooded the ceiling in the kitchen, sending gross water cascading across the countertops, floor, and cat's food dishes (he did a mediocre clean-up job). Plus, he still hasn't fixed the damn thing, so my water remains turned off, and I need to do laundry!