Rant/Ramble of the Day: Thoughts on Plan B (not that kind)

Warning: too long and mostly un-edited.

After reading this post (read it, especially if you’ve every wondered why not to get a PhD), and then this one (also read it), something very particular stuck out to me:

You didn’t have a Plan B and that was stupid. What did you think would happen?

This strikes me an intellectually dishonest on the part of the people asking this question. Our society rewards drive, single-minded pursuit, having one over-arching mission of life (or at least appears to reward, in such a way as to discourage individuals from having many different goals and interests). The heroes in our society are the ones who(se narratives suggest they) dedicated their lives to achieving one great thing. Martin Luther King. Steve Jobs. Amelia Earhart. We don’t have any renaissance men or women anymore, not really. If we do, we have Noam Chomsky, and even he’s more of a two-trick pony. It is both impossible and dispreferred, in this day and age, to excel in multiple fields. No longer can a single public intellectual (or private intellectual, or academic) write and speak with authority and respectability in disciplines ranging from ethics to economics to ecology.

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Guns, Sex, and Social Stories

There’s always time for a quick revelation.

Like when after reading way too many takes and post-takes and post-post-takes on the Aziz Ansari incident (I won’t even bother linking), you finally read one that reminds of you of something totally not related and yet totally exactly the same that you’re like, holy shit, this is a sociological pattern if there ever was one.

I’ll quote directly, because that’s how I roll. I will also add the caveat that I actually have not read the entire article because this connection is too obvious to let a commentary go even five minutes stewed.

The Aziz Ansari case hit a nerve because, as I’ve long feared, we’re only comfortable with movements like #MeToo so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack. Once we move past the “few bad apples” argument and start to suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize. To insist that this is is just how men are, and how sex is. (Lili Loofbourow in The Week)

Let me repeat for effect: “… so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack … [once we] suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize.”

What does this pattern — the pattern of separating monsters but normalizing systemic violence — remind you of?

Anyone?

Anyone?

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Stories from the Job Search: Will You Still Feed Me?

(Drafted Jan. 1)

Job Search, Day 3 (ish):

I understand companies want to recruit the best, most qualified candidates. It also seems like they want to recruit the hungriest. Here are a few of the snack food-related offerings I’ve seen from job postings I’ve looked at in the last few days:

• Bacon
• “pots and pops” aka coffee and popcorn
• Fresh fruit
• “healthy snacks”

New idea: companies should just hire folks based on snack food preferences, thereby avoiding food-related office disputes and making an incredibly easy application process. I, for one, tend to eschew snacks but if I am going to snack, it’s cheese and crackers, and/or apples. Who’s hiring me?

Dispatches from the Field: Steamboat, Day 1*

the one pair of clean socks I have

*It is always at the most inconvenient times (when is it not inconvenient) that the airport loses your luggage. And not just luggage. But literally everything. On Day 1 of a 10-day ski trip I have in my immediate possession:

1 pair ski boots
1 ski jacket
1 pair goggles
1 pair mittens
1 pair ski socks
1 pair dirty underwear
1 pair dirty leggings
1 dirty sweater
1 dirty tank top
1 toothbrush
“sorry-not-sorry” toiletries kit from United
phone, laptop, chargers, planner, and everything to make it look like I am well-equipped for a working vacation (which I always am)
1 shitty stretched-out underwire bra

The list of what I do not have in my immediate possession is longer and most frustrating:

1 pair K2 Missdemeanors with BD02 bindings
1 pair Icelantic oracles with Hammerhead bindings
1 pair shitty poles (don’t care, United can have them)
1 pair G3 skins cut to K2-size
1 pair snowpants
2 pair my favorite Prana “kara” jean
4 pair ski socks including my favorite Dahlgren alpaca socks
1 North Face softshell
3 mid-layer cold-weather knits
2 UnderArmour cold gear spandex shirts
3 cold-weather spandex pants including really nice Mizuno running ones
3 pair spandex shorts (sweat-wicking, highly necessary)
4 or 5 pair various cold-weather socks, including alpaca, Smartwool, Wigwam
11 pair undies
4 favorite sports bras of various provenance
1 soft, thin cotton towel I brought back from Istanbul 😥
1 pair crappy Reef sandals (see ya, don’t care)
Some t-shirts and other things I guess I don’t care too much about but they are not replaceable.
2 bathing suits I quite like which as everyone knows is a hard thing to find

On the plus side, I am totally equipped to ski, so long as skiing does not take place on snow and does not, in fact, involve skis.

Stay tuned — there is still a possibility it may arrive on a flight today, but I am not holding my breath.

Lobster vs. Oyster: Bottom Feeders or Bivalves?

2017 might have felt like the year of the oyster (thanks for nothing, Eventide + Island Creek), but according to 16,000 words I harvested from nationally-circulated magazines and blogs*, “lobster(s)” were mentioned 35% more frequently than “oyster(s)”.

I guess Maine is still Maine and people are still unduly obsessed with the mealy mush the upper crust insists on considering “gourmet”.

*Text from 14 sources (i.e. individual articles, not 14 publications). Find me more text and I’ll find you more data 🙂

More to the point, this is actually a kind of interesting piece of information. If we assume my corpus is decently representative of the kind of travel/food writing that potential visitors to Maine might read (sources include Bon Appétit, Travel and Leisure, Vogue, and Zagat, among others) and we assume that this relationship will scale if the corpus is made larger (i.e., the basic relationship between chatter about oysters and chatter about lobsters is not an outlier), then we have a good sense of what tourists might want to eat when they come to Maine. Because everyone just goes where and eats what the NYT 36 Hour thing says, anyway.

And if we know what tourists might want to eat, all one or two million of them per year, we know which fisheries will continue to be in demand, which restaurants and neighborhoods will be popular, and where all that damn money is going. Because it’s certainly not going towards snow removal or pot hole repair 😉

Chalk this one up the Maine Lobster Council (or whatever), but their brand power is on point. It’s 2017, the year/decade of Eventide (who, by the way, had the most mentions in my corpus … duh), and even they can’t out-lobster the lobster. (But, they do have lobster on the menu, so they’re not helping the oyster cause, either.)

I’m interested to compare the trends in local food writing to the national ones. Is my personal sense that oysters are out-classing lobsters these days just a function of my distaste for lobster? Or are oysters more popular with locals, and lobsters more popular with tourists? Or am I just totally hallucinating?

So resolved

Ah, the void. We meet again.

Resuming (which is generous) posting is always onerous. Something about retrospectives and grand plans for the future, all colliding in the face of an empty page/screen, à la a magnificent celestial vision for realities that would fit inside a mouse’s teacup.

In lieu of promising anything great or anything grand, or “resolving” (unfortunately it is just about the New Year) to post on a regular basis or on any particular theme, it is time to recognize the reality that is the futility of cohering this amalgamation of my life into anything more than what it is. An incoherent amalgamation into which any member of the public with internet access is unfortunately welcome to delve at their own peril.

That said, here are some things that have engaged me recently: cookbooks, being angry about narratives in food writing, and having lots of plans to start projects that either get started or don’t, but rarely ever get farther than that. I suppose “grand plans for my blog” (which is a disgusting word, truly) fall under the latter category of engagements.

Other not-yet or barely started projects include coordinating pop-up shops of local makers, and “doing” a data-driven project looking at the language of restaurant reviews with respect to demography of restaurant owners. See “things that have engaged me recently”, item #2.

I also spent a not-insignificant number of hours today applying for and/or finding interesting-looking jobs in the computational linguistics and affiliated universes, so that was something.

On Facebook Activism, and Armchair Activism. Or, Social Networks for Beginners.

As I’m sitting here by the fire with a glass of wine and the hipster-ass local radish salad with lemon juice and parsley that I just made, I’m reflecting on the current momentum in various activist circles, new and old, and the role of Facebook and social media as a whole in these dialogues. I’m reminded of pictures of Tahrir Square, of thousands and thousands of people brought onto the streets of Cairo through messages passed through social media, and to be honest, at the time I was pretty skeptical. Surely no one really uses Twitter that much and that seriously, right? Continue reading