html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Question for you guys.

I am responsible for organizing a 1-2 day meeting for our grantees this spring. They must attend; they'll be giving their first annual reports at this meeting. There'll be 30-40 people there, of the environmentalist persuasion. My boss wants this to be fun, in addition to work. He will give me a lot of leeway; we've talked about renting campgrounds or a houseboat or an entire hostel over in Marin.

My goals:
Opportunities for both formal and informal information exchange. I'm a big believer that a lot of the work done at conferences happens during the gossip in the corridors. Might as well facilitate that.
I would like to have information rich sessions. I think that panels give out more information than a single presenter, but wonder if you agree, or if there are better options than either of those.
I would love to ban PowerPoint. My boss will back me, but I'm a little worried it will cause an uproar.

Given those goals, do you have suggestions for making this a productive gathering? Any of your thoughts (length of sessions, format of sessions, structure of meeting, tips or techniques you've liked before, potential California venues (not Asilomar or Granlibakken, we can't afford those)) would be welcome and helpful. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

By raking, I mean leaf blowers. Except for me, 'cause I actually rake with a rake.

It is raking season here in Sacramento. The elms and sycamores that hold hands over our streets start rustling around in October; by November they’ve loosened up enough to shed those itchy leaves. Leaves cover lawns and sidewalks deep enough to form drifts. If you rake in the morning, when you come home from work your lawn will be entirely covered again. My long time readers already know that I cap off a year of not mowing my lawn by not raking my leaves, but I do try to keep the sidewalks clear.

The people who do rake, however, get the benefit of one of my favorite things about Sacramento. Sacramento has no greenwaste containers; instead you can put any amount of greenwaste out in piles on the street. Just like that, huge piles. This time of year, you’ll see piles four feet deep and ten feet long of leaves. On your trash pick-up day, two guys come along, one driving a truck to hold the green waste and the other driving The Claw, which scoops the pile up and puts it in the truck. The Claw drivers are deft; I’ve seen them get awkward piles with branches and stuff out from under cars with no problems. If you happen to be riding your bike on Freeport Boulevard at six in the morning, you’ll see a line of Claws leaving the yard, orange lights shining in the fog. Love ‘em.

I love that you can just put your greenwaste out on the street. I took advantage of that just last week. I hired a friend to dig out the front two islands between my sidewalk and the street and build long beds*. He probably put a couple cubic yards of roots and grass out on the street. I think they’re not supposed to pick up straight dirt, but I know the guys who drive the Claw and truck for my street, having waved at them several times. They would pick up my dirt, for sure. Saved me the expense of a dumpster.

My love for Sacramento’s pile pick-up puts me in conflict with Sacramento’s bicycling advocacy community, whom I would otherwise agree with all the time about everything. And, truth told, now that I’m biking through dark, wet streets with my hands in my pockets to keep them warm, I am becoming less fond of large, barely visible obstacles. Much as I hate to disagree with the bike crew, I’ll hold out for a little longer before joining the anti-pile crowd. I just love the Claws and piles of leaves bigger than cars that much.

*I’m thinking rudbeckia, Shasta daisies, geums, bat-faced cuphea, coreopsis, lavenders, salvias, and sages. What am I missing? Has to be lower than three feet tall, not thirsty and I prefer cutting flowers. I have lots of space.

Oh yeah! White japanese anemones, too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Some nice flood pron for you guys.

These are from a presentation we got from the National Park Service, for the November 2006 Mount Ranier Flood. According to the presentation, on November 6th and 7th, Mount Ranier got 18 inches of rain in 36 hours.

Heh. That's the flood operations center during the flood. And right after...

A 5,000 foot landslide...

Do you see the picnic table in the middle of the logjam?

Took out a road.

And another one. Chewed up the banks pretty good, too.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Anderson County schools had this problem for the first time in 2005?

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - An Anderson County teenager has filed a lawsuit over her temporary dismissal from a weightlifting class by a principal who feared male students might try to rape her.

[Asshole principal] McCracken said in a deposition that he was afraid [female student] Phillips might be sexually assaulted in the class.

"Having a female with 35 or so male students in an isolated area from the school, it sets a very liable situation in my opinion," [sexist pervert] McCracken said in the deposition.

Three days after kicking Phillips out of the class, [you know he mulled over the problem in great detail and at much length, several times] McCracken changed his mind and reinstated her.

"She is up there with a bunch of football players, a 24- to 25-year-old coach, the only girl — there is a safety issue there. It was a hard call for the principal to make," [ignorant school district council] Knight answered. ...
There are so many things wrong with that story that I am at a loss for where to begin. Most of the problem rests with the jackass principal who corrects an as-yet non-existent problem by removing the potential target, rather than preventing the potential bad behavior at the source. I’m real skeptical about a principal whose thoughts turn to rape that quickly, too. Krista, from whom I got the link, points out another problem: why is there only one female athlete in the weightlifting class? But my deep conviction is that this whole mess was completely unnecessary.

I have been the only girl, then the only woman, in the room my whole life. TKD, math/science school where your female Asian-Am classmates weren’t allowed to go out at night, PE classes, engineering classes, very occasionally Ultimate? Me in a room with a bunch of guys is a familiar and comfortable state. I have, in fact, been in the very circumstance Phillips was removed from; for two sequential Fall semesters I took a PE class at the local community college that turned out to be the conditioning class for their baseball team. Three mornings a week I was the only woman in a class of seventy early-twenties men*. I have always found the same thing. Dedicated athletes who show up for a difficult conditioning workout tend to be very interested in getting their workout in. In my experience, they are not simultaneously erotically interested in the woman in the class, or looking for opportunities to haze or assault her. I felt insignificant in those classes (as is appropriate for one student among many), but never threatened.

I would love to see that principal spend some long squirmy days in rigorous sensitivity training. I hope that court case sets precedents that will inform other school district lawyers that reinforcing nasty stereotypes of men and women is potentially costly. I hope Phillips is kicking ass in college, lifting heavy things and running fast.

*That class was hard and all agro boot-camp-like, with an old-school instructor who would repeatedly cuss out his students and call them girlie, then remember me and apologize for using bad words. We did forty minutes of abs, three days a week. Man alive, I was in good shape those months. The baseball guys were annoying; in two sequential fall semesters, not one of them voluntarily spoke a word to me. I had to be noticeable; I was the only person there who wasn’t on the team. When we paired off to do medicine ball work, I would stand there, mostly amused, as the guys turned to each other and the last guy slowly realized (after approaching other pairs of guys) that he was going to have to work with the girl. I could understand if I were slowing his workout, but I used the same weight medicine balls and was at about the 35th percentile for speed drills. So they favored slower guys over me. I’ve had people tell me that baseball guys are real traditional jocks; all that time in the dugout selects for manly-types who like manly bonding. Anyway, they were young and pretty, not in the least friendly, and I loved the workout, which is what we were there for.

Was that too much? I never know.

I revisited my Nerve/Salon/Onion personal ad last night, so I could write to a guy whose profile I liked. They've added some new questions. Tell me the truth, y'all. Should I leave the following answer up?

25 years from now, I see myself
Divorcing my devoted husband, who never saw it coming, and running off with his brother.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

How many years 'til they turn sweet again?

I always think my fourteen year old sister and twelve year old brother are perfect, although I have to admit that right now they are perfect in a jarringly noisy, faux-cool, annoying way. Their same-age cousins are here. The bickering is endless and more foulmouthed than I think I am supposed to overhear. Such beautiful, energetic children... so constantly aggrieved, so alert to every hint of injustice, so damn loud.

Directly addressing the bickering is pointless, because each list of grievances is endless and all of them are too inane to listen to. She dunked her fork in your water two days ago? And you didn't quietly get up and get yourself new water? But you hit her now, in partial revenge for that and the fact that she looked at you? Oh. Not one of them ever lets anything go.

When I have the energy to step in, I find that directing all four of them in some all consuming task eases the squabbling. They actually do very well when they are taking care of my sister's babies. A PG version of the game where I offer two choices works pretty well too. ('Hit your brother or kick your brother?', and I like to ask 'would you rather have a tattoo or a motorcycle?' when the parents are listening.) But that takes a fair amount of work.

I don't remember this kind of squabbling when I was a kid, although I also didn't have cousins. I suppose that it is normal, and the kids will remember this trip fondly in several years. Either that, or they will remember that the one deliberately took shotgun even after the other called it even though she had shotgun on the way over and it totally isn't FAIR!!. It could totally go either way.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The early Police Story series with Michelle Yeoh? Oh man.

Back when I went to Cal, the UC Theater played two Hong Kong movies every Thursday night. If I didn’t shower after workout and ran to the theater, I could usually catch the last fight of the first movie and the whole second movie. I went every week my senior year. The theater was always packed full; all of Wushu, Judo and HapKiDo would already be there. Some TaeKwonDo folks came when I did. I usually knew forty or fifty people in the crowd, so the break between the movies was for waving to people and chatting. My ex was wooing me then; he always saved me a seat.

The entire crowd was regulars, so there were lots of conventions. When the phone rang, the whole audience would answer “Wei?”. When any star appeared, you shouted his or her name. Smaller groups who knew the movies better would prepare bits; I remember fifteen people singing the Darth Vader theme as a bad guy dismounted his horse and strode into the temple. At Jackie’s first appearance in a movie, we’d go apeshit cheering for him. I would walk home all but hopping from adrenalin, wishing I could run across telephone wires.

I’m at my Dad’s house, and he has one of those magic boxes with the little people in them. Tonight, Tony Jaa (in Ong Bak) was in the box. Tony Jaa truly is the heir; jesus, he’s a beautiful fighter. To my eye, his fighting looks all circular and twirly, but it sure seems to work. His technique is so clean; he returns to stance so unbelievably fast. I’m in awe of Tony Jaa, but he doesn’t rip the breath from my body and own my heart the way Jackie did. I miss Jackie Chan’s sense of humor and his amazing realization that a weapon is a link between opponents. I miss his freakin’ badass female co-stars, who were genuinely useful in a fight. I miss seeing the stunts full size. I also miss watching gorgeous fights in a noisy theater packed with cheering friends. I was so lucky to be there then.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

See you Monday! (Or before, if you live in LA and want to hang out.)

I'm heading home for the holidays, where my Dad always makes a batch of stuffing with no turkey fat or sausage for me. There will be lots of family and lots of kids and lots of food.

It'll be a quick trip but email if you want to hang out, Angelenos.

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone. I'm thankful you exist.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Always did.

I was a pretty good kid in high school. I got good grades and didn't fight with my parents and made it home by curfew. I was the older kid, and still remind people to bring sweaters in case it turns cold. In general, I still follow rules and expect to work within the system. People like me? HATE the story of the Prodigal Son.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm already dreading your comments.

I was hanging out with a friend on Saturday who is an inveterate punner. I have a couple friends like that, who pun all the time. They clearly love it; on Saturday, he told me that wordplay is one of his true oral pleasures. Since they are otherwise good people, I’m reluctant to say this so plainly. But? I hate puns. Hate them. Puns, I decided on the train ride home, impose work on the listener.

You and your buddy are chatting along, exchanging information, when the punner disrupts the flow of conversation by throwing out a pun. The listener must then figure out the pun, make a response, and if she was interested before, direct the conversation back to the topic. I don’t want to do any of those things. I just wanted to be chatting, especially if I was thinking about what we were saying. Since I don’t want my friends to pun around me, I try not to reward that behavior. No grimace, no reaction, just a return to the conversation. Then they prompt me!! As if I didn’t get it! I got your pun; I’m trying to graciously overlook it, which is also work.

People are clearly of different minds about puns. One of my punning friends insists that the ladies flock and giggle when he puns. Fie on my sisters for encouraging him! I suppose punners think they are being playful, inviting the listener to joke along with the pun. I sincerely hope for them that they find others who enjoy that, and pun right back at them. When they get to that part of the conversation, I’ll suddenly have to leave the table to check on dessert. Perhaps with their mouths full of cookies, the punning will stop.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I've never forgiven the guy who made us watch Beijing Bicycle.

This morning, about about 4:45am, a man walked by shouting at someone on the busy street outside my bedroom. He was pissed, but it took me a while to hear why; he shouted at someone behind him "What you need to do is, you need to remember where you fucking left the car." She kept saying, quiet and near tears, "The car was here. I didn't forget. It was here.". I heard them half an hour later, and fifteen minutes after that. His tone was still vicious. The last thing I heard was her, still near tears. "I know you are angry, but I didn't do anything wrong."

When I first moved to Sac, I lived in a triplex. My bedroom was adjacent to my neighbor's; one night I woke up to her sobbing and pissed and shouting at her boyfriend. (I'd been shocked as hell when she started dating him. I'd have confidently bet you money she was lesbian.) "How could you?! On my birthday?! With my best friend?" He said, "Well, it was going to be a surprise party...", but I thought her next point, that you have to arrange for the birthday person to show up at the surprise party, was a good one. Failing that, you also shouldn't fuck her best friend while you're waiting to surprise the birthday girl. She'd walked in on them, I gathered. After a fair amount of this exchange, she started whaling on him, hitting him hard enough to hear through the walls. I gave some thought to calling the cops, but couldn't really work up enough concern for him to get out of bed. He left; she sobbed for the rest of the night.

I will never understand going to see sad movies. Never. The world is full of sad people, people who don't know why things never work and why they are looking for their car at five in the morning with someone who hates them and how are they going to make it with one more thing gone wrong? I can barely stand overhearing pieces of muffled grief and desperation. Two hours of seeing their faces, too? Paying money to do that? Never, never, never.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fall League tournament tomorrow.

I loved, loved, loved my league team this season. My 'no assholes' draft policy was a huge success. We had great spirit, moved the disc well, spread the scoring around. However, my prediction for tomorrow is that we won't be in the finals. I'm hoping to go 2-1.

Nope. 1 and 2. It was a fun day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I got your permission right here.

I was talking to a friend the other day about meeting for lunch this weekend; he replied that he would see if his girlfriend would let him. I have heard this construction before and usually assume it means one of the following entirely reasonable things:

I’ll check in with my honey to see if we have plans I wasn’t aware of; or
I’ll check in with my sweetheart to see if we have been spending so much time apart that we should make seeing each other more of a priority than hanging out with other friends.

But I think my friend meant it more in the sense of permission. I think my friend meant “I’ll ask my girlfriend if she will allow me to have lunch with a (single female) friend.” I know that happens, but it is another for the long list of things I just don’t get. I’ve seriously dated, but I cannot ever remember having a sense that I needed to get permission to see anyone. It would never occur to me to ask my honey whether I could do something, including meeting up with friends who are men. I have always been in relationships where, within the bounds of considerate notice to each other, the default was trusting freedom. I can’t imagine living in monitored doubt, occasionally granting or receiving limited freedoms.

Since my friend’s girlfriend can’t restrain him, when he asking for permission to meet me for lunch, what he is really saying is “please may I go for lunch with her and not take too much shit from you when I get back?” Somehow, they have both accepted that notion, that permission is required to see friends and sulking is appropriate if permission wasn’t granted. In retrospect, I think my first boyfriend would have liked us to have a permission-asking relationship, which I didn’t notice for a long time because the idea was so preposterous. He would say a couple times that he wanted to go to dinner with some girl and I would assume that he was letting me know so that I could otherwise fill my evening. I would tell him that I had plans with the guys and if he sulked when I got back, I would figure that his dog was sick or he was moody or something. If I remember right, I was so astounded when he explained that he would like me to ask if I could hang out with my guy friends that the topic never came up again.

I’m good with whatever makes both people in a couple happy. If they enjoy that dynamic, more power to them. It isn’t for me, though.

I would also like a pony.

You know what else I know exists, but can’t understand? I can’t understand the women who decide their men are done having female friends now. I’ve had these discussions with my girlfriends, and the justification is: “I trust my honey, but the flesh is weak. Why tolerate any temptation when the stakes are so high?” And I am all “Because he is a grownup whose life would be richer for having more friends.” And they say “His life doesn’t need to be rich. He has me.”

That bugs me, because I would like to be friends with men who have wives or girlfriends. I have never been on either end of cheating ever, and when I find myself tempted by someone’s husband, I decide not to be around him for a few months until the feeling fades. I am responsible, dammit. Good men are too, and that’s who I associate with. I know there’s no changing this one, but I still wish it weren’t so.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I felt like a piece of meat, that's why.

This comment at Unfogged set off the “why I hate modeling” rant I promised you months ago, back when I hated lawyers or something.

Regarding economic modeling. Any model is a simplification of reality which hopefully captures the essential features of whatever you are trying to study. So there are two issues. Are you correctly describing what will happen given the simplified situation? And have you included enough? I think the main problem with economic modeling is that it can be difficult to include enough to reasonably represent reality and still have a simple enough model that you can figure out how it will behave.
On further thought there is another big problem with economic modeling, that it is often hard to test the results. This makes it hard to devise reasonable models and hard to be confident in their predictions.

No no no no no! Those aren’t the main problems with any complicated modeling. The main problem with modeling is that any complex model encapsulates dozens or hundreds of the modelers’ assumptions, none of which are necessarily wrong, but many of which could be interpreted differently by reasonable people at the next meeting. That is fine, and it has to happen for the model to be built. But it is impossible to document all of those assumptions, which happen over years, and permeate every step of the model. Those assumptions are in the data collection and cleaning, in the equations that run the engine, in the interface between models, in the output presentation. Good modelers flag the big assumptions, but you can’t get them all and they aren’t irrelevant in the aggregate.

Or maybe they are irrelevant, but you can’t tell! Because complicated models aren’t transparent. They can’t be. You can ask for the code, but only another modeling wizard can read it, if she can, because after six years of graduate students, well, that code isn’t so clean anymore. You could ask for the hydrologic record the data is based on, but that has also been groomed within an inch of its life, and all the insider modelers know that of course they had to decide that we can’t really include 1927, because that was a ridiculous year that makes all the models go haywire. All the modeling wizards DO know that some records have asterisks, maybe for good reasons, but those are still agreements made by knowledgeable insiders.

So far models hide too many assumptions to be neutral, and they can only be understood by a priest class, but then, the outputs can’t be useful. I saw it! How when the model predicted outrageous things, everyone just agreed that the model was broken. It had to be, because the things it said were hugely out of scale. But that means, by default, that the only acceptable model output was output that agreed with common sense and conventional wisdom. But I already knew what common sense said! Fuck! Pay me all that money, and I can tell you the range that model answers are allowed to fall into! Shit, I can get that done in the next hour or so.

As far as I can tell, complex modeling is good for two things. First, if you get results that support your agenda, you can wave the model around and people will believe it more than they believed you. Second, it trains graduate school modelers to think very hard about a complicated topic and learn it in detail. That is good, because they will likely grow up to be managers who have to deal with hard policy questions.

I am not altogether opposed to modeling, because I think it is mostly white collar welfare and it supports sexy graduate students. I think it is not worse than many other ways to discuss hard questions. But modeling is as crude and biased and well-intentioned and fallible as, for example, crafting legislation. It should only be used with a constant awareness of its limitations. Modelers are often good about that; people using models to discuss policy are often not.

(To his credit, my professor who had me working on a large scale engineering-economics model of California water was also a skeptic. He was the first to tell me that “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” Had I stuck around, he would have supported a paper I wanted to write testing my idea that model output isn’t better than conventional wisdom. I wanted to interview a dozen or so of the big players, and ask them to quantify their gut feel for the same things our model was predicting (what agencies would sell/buy what water at what price) and see how their aggregate opinion compared to the model output. I thought of that before Wisdom of Crowds, I’ll have you know.)

I can't even see the box from here.

Years ago, in mediation class, we took a personality quiz to determine our conflict styles. As I expected, I was a profound avoider. At our next class, the teacher grouped us with our own types to do an exercise. The set-up was that we were on a board of directors for a company. An old friend, who happened to be on the board of directors for the rival company, called up to say that there was a opportunity that would bring large benefits to both companies if only the companies could overcome their historical squabbling and work together. Because of the rivalry, this offer couldn’t be made formally; the friend was using our personal relationship see whether there was a way to use the opportunity.

The assignment was to figure out how you would bring this opportunity to the rest of the board. The hypothetical included profiles of the other board members. One was argumentative but influential; if you won her over, everyone would follow. A couple were mild-mannered followers. One would want tons of information to make a decision, but had a reputation for being open-minded. There were a couple others I don’t remember now.

So we sat in a circle in class, the rest of the avoiders and me. Should we give a presentation at the next board meeting? Should we round up supporters first? Which ones? We spent ten, fifteen minutes fidgeting and deciding whom to approach first. We were getting tense, but not from the discussion. As I remember, there was no disagreement at all about how to approach the other board members. We all thought exactly the same about approaching people in order from mild to scary. We still felt worse and worse until I said “Or, we could not approach any of them and not call our friend back.” Oh, the smiles of relief. Of course. That’s what we’ll do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Down with montage quarters!

I just saw my first Colorado quarter. I like it. Good choice on a clean landscape. I don't like any of those montage quarters at all. The California quarter is ok, I suppose, although I don't know why that pterodactyl is attacking John Muir. I was hoping for the waves and sunset quarter, 'cause I liked the abstraction and emphasis on the Pacific. I hated, hated, hated the ugly miner coin that won the popular vote. Why would we use extractive industry to symbolize our state?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Meetings all day today.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I understand better.

Man, when you read the comments on JMPP's blog, you start to understand why she assumes the worst of people.

I'm so glad I'm not confronted with that worldview often.


Just say what you mean.

4. You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong person (really!), so say something to them and get it over with.

Capella asked for advice for the people who really are tied up in knots; this was the most freeing thing I’d seen in a long time. It really is true that you can’t say the wrong thing to someone who already has a crush on you. One sweet mechanical engineer printed out some complex graph and the code he had written. He gave it to me because he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done and he wanted me to see it. Very, very sweet, and then I kissed him. If she thinks you are adorable, she will like whatever you blurt out; and tease you about it when you go out to breakfast a few months later.

If she doesn’t already like you, you cannot be so eloquent and clever that she will be convinced to like you. I remember a great, great card I got, with a friendly, home illustrated poem about taking me out for a sundae. I liked the poem and the effort, but I just wasn’t into the guy. I still cringe to think that I was too chickenshit to thank him properly and say no. It was a great card; it deserved a better response than I gave him.

Say something. Say anything. It cannot be wrong or it can’t be right; the only way you can lose an opportunity is by saying nothing.

Hey ladies. To help convince gawky college boys to say something, would you please leave a comment with the goofiest comment that earned a guy a kiss from you? (Or guys, if you have a good story.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

More about asking nicely.

I am addressing this to sweet but clueless young men who want to approach someone nicely for sex, which is nearly all of them. I’m gonna state my assumptions explicitly, because I’m tired of comments pointing out the obvious exceptions. For the purposes of this post, this is a situation between peers, more or less, with no large power differential. There is underlying respect and goodwill between the two, if not crushes or love. So here you go, Ben. To get between making eyes at someone in class and creating the possibility of sleeping with her, I want you to do three things.

I. Assume that she is an adult who likes sex and can handle herself.
B. Pay enough attention to her to judge whether she is interested in you.
3. Ask her explicitly if she wants a kiss, or touch, or sex.

Step A.
Trust her. Women aren’t any more fragile or delicate than men. They will not be damaged by a respectful request for sex. (They might be scared if they feel trapped into saying yes, but since you are far more likely to blurt out an abashed “Um, I like your hair” while staring at your feet, you shouldn’t worry about that.) Trust her enough to bear half the burden of arranging sex. Maybe, because of outdated mores or insufficient interest, she isn’t going to take the step of initiating, but in that case, decency requires that she do the other half, which is to accept or decline politely. Got it so far? You will not do her any harm by nicely asking her out, or nicely asking her for sex. Even more, because she likes sex, you are doing her a favor.

You guys know this, right? That women like sex. They want to have sex. If you are a sweet, gawky college boy, awkward college girls would like to have sex with you. I can’t tell you how many dorky college boys I had lurid fantasies about. Those boys probably never knew, but I would have freakin’ loved it if one of them had been friendly and forward, and made it easy for me to live out those fantasies. I had to kiss every one of my naïve boyfriends first; it would have been nice of them to make the first move.

Part 2.
Be interested in her. Get a sense of whether she is interested in you. Here are some ways to tell if she wants you bad: in a crowd, she listens for what you are saying; she laughs a lot when you talk; she sits next to you and doesn’t move away; she touches your arm; you find yourself alone with her. I’ve said this a couple other places, but it is worth saying again. People involuntarily face what they are interested in; their chests and shoulders will be square to the target of their attention no matter where they’ve turned their heads. When people like you, their bodies will mirror yours. Look to see whether you are both leaned forward, holding drinks alike, crossing arms or legs alike.

The part about finding yourself next to or alone with women is an important clue. Sweet young men, you may not know this, but women scheme. Sometimes it is coincidence that she shows up at the dining hall at the same time you do, but sometimes she went to a lot of trouble to learn your schedule and walk to class at the same time you do. If you are coming back from some group activity, and the two of you just happen to split off for somewhere? She arranged that shit and you never saw it. She did that because she likes you, and would like to have sex with you. Now do your part and put the moves on.

The actual words aren’t as important as the attitude it is coming from. For casual sex, be friendly and respectful. Be easy with any choice she makes. It would be fun to have sex; it would be fun to make out for a while; it would be fun to do neither and keep talking. Do what you have to, so that you aren’t desperately wanting her to say yes. Know that you will have lots of other opportunities. If you would rather be more serious about her, be sincere and straightforward about your feelings, and still ready to hear either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

The actual asking? Try to initiate some casual touch, like leaning on each other, letting your thighs touch when you sit next to each other, or letting your arm rest on her somehow. If she doesn’t move away, you’re in. Ogged’s recommendation, to ask to kiss her, is a very good one. It is both sweet and erotic to say “May I kiss you?”. If she already wants to, she’ll completely melt. If she doesn’t, she’ll say no, and you are easy with her choice. Once you are already kissing, you can always say things like “Do you want me to do this more?” or “Do you like that?” or “What do you want to do next?”. Those are entirely appropriate questions, regardless of how experienced the partners are. You can murmur them all naughty, if you like, and they will still work as a way to check in with her.

You can do this. You should do this, as a kindness to awkward college girls who are just as tied up in knots as you are. It will get easier as you practice. When you are a little older, both people will have learned some skills for exactly this situation, and that is easier still. You have no idea, gawky college boys, but you are adorable; someone is thinking impure thoughts about you right now. Easy and straight and respectful. Go.

(A lot of this is a synthesis of Unfogged comment threads I can't find now. Other smart people should take credit for much of the good stuff here.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Batting .500.

On Tia's blog they’re talking about the troubles you can run into while looking for affectionate casual sex, and that reminded me of something I’ve wanted to write up for a long time. Here, my friends, is a long overdue ode to very slutty men.

There is a certain type of very promiscuous men that is just wonderful to be around. I don’t mean “players”, and I certainly don’t mean those guys consciously following techniques to score with women. But I’ve run across a few promiscuous men who simply love women; they respect women, and want to sleep with lots of them, and are easy and open about all of that. Those guys are cheerful great company, sleep with them or not*.

I’ve met maybe four of those guys in my life, and they have all shared three characteristics. First, they love women. Love to be around them, love to talk to them, love how they look and smell. They love women. Second, they pay a kind of attention that I have never seen in any other context. No matter what they are doing, they are also always keeping track of me and ready to help. At a wedding a couple summers ago, I had finished my drink and was starting to think of another when the slutty groomsman brought me another of what I’d had the first time. We weren’t there together and he hadn’t gotten me my first drink. He wasn’t even working on me; he was after the hot bisexual bridesmaid. But I was a fuckable woman in the room, and that meant that he knew, all night long, what I was drinking and whether I was due for a refill. In college, I was at a medium-size party, talking to a group of friends. I asked some question out loud, but my group didn’t have an answer. From across the room, the slutty guy looked up over his pool cue, mouthed the answer to me and returned to his game. I wouldn’t even have thought he could hear us, but he was paying attention to me at every moment.

The third thing those guys do that other men don’t is that they ask to have sex. They ask straight, and they ask nice. They know that women want to have sex, and they know that women want to have fun casual sex. They would rather have sex, but they don’t mind if they don’t, because they’re just happy to be around you, a woman.

I don’t meet these guys often, but I always like them when I do. They are great in bed, because they are paying attention and have a lot of experience. I’ve seen them stay faithful in long relationships, but they are completely straightforward about sleeping around when that isn’t in the picture. They make every part of casual sex (saying yes, saying no, trying things, staying over**, leaving in the morning) easy and nice. I think they’re great, and want to send out big props to all of them.

*I was talking about this with Sean, and he said that he would say exactly all those things about promiscuous women. Great company, like men, like sex, easy and fun to be around.

**One slutty guy in my old co-op kept an entire drawer full of unused toothbrushes, travel contact kits and saline, and condoms. None of those would be the reason an evening got cut short. We counted one time. He slept with nine (9) of the twenty-seven (27) women in the house. (Not me, actually.) Respect.

Stilettos or fuck-me boots?

League was great last night. We kept our heads and our spirit against a fast, experienced team; we went on a run in the second half to give them a challenge. Everyone played great. I ran a nice buttonhook in the endzone for a score, and threw a backhand assist to a beginner woman in the back corner. Fun.

After the game, we went to the bar. Readers, it got raunchy. You will be shocked to hear that a bunch of Ultimate players sat around drinking and talking about sex, but it just happened. I got some unusual results last night. (My preferences are excluded; they didn’t insist I answer before I went on to the next question.) There was unanimity about preferring receiving oral sex to giving oral sex, which I’ve never seen before; it usually trends toward giving. Every single person at the table preferred an A cup bra size to a D cup, and they can all fuck themselves. The good people of Ultimate preferred “is fit” to “looks fit” by a wide margin. Some people chose cheerleader over librarian at first, but then I demonstrated taking off the glasses and shaking my hair loose from a bun, and they changed their minds. People were fairly evenly split between tying someone up and getting tied up, girl on top or girl on bottom, morning or evening fuck. Everyone, bar none, enthusiastically preferred doggy style to any other position. There was an unusual amount of discussion about sheep or goat. TM thinks the wool gives you something to grab on to; SL thought goats have more personality. Valid points both.

UPDATE 11/25: While the crowd at the bar that night had a slight preference for fuck-me boots, the search terms that lead to this post are overwhelmingly in favor of boots. The Internets prefers hooker boots by a mile.

UPDATE 3/20: My internet friends who get to this post after googling "f*ck me boots", I am sorry to disappoint. But, why aren't you doing image searches? Surely that would get you to your goal much faster?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gin & tonics? Another reason to be happy right now.

  • We drove all over the east foothills of the Coast Range today. I live in the most beautiful place in the world.
  • Madame Speaker of the House. Madame Speaker. Speaker of the House Pelosi. Madame Speaker of the House. Do you know, I cried for joy when I heard that Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State. Madame Speaker of the House Pelosi. Respect.
  • Sage knows where the emergency key is, and leaves things in my house. Beautiful things, that he made himself. They are sparkly and so pretty that I gasped when I saw them. And when my gorgeous shiny blue wheels are put together with my anodized blue chain and the sparkly blue handlebar tape, I am going to have the most princessy fixed-gear ever. When she’s put together, I’ll post a picture and then you can blind yourself, so that such perfect beauty will be the last thing you ever see.
  • Ali left me a note, on the outside of the book JMPP sent me. Thanks, JMPP! Men, this is all you have to write:
    Don’t you ever come home early? I’ve been enjoying my new porch since ~3:15, watching the yellow leaves rain down and tumble across the road, making one of my favorite noises (I mean, other than your laughter, of course). Maybe you’ll get here before I eat my arm off, and you can cook some yummy first dinner, or maybe I’ll have to suck it up & go cook some mediocre mish-mash I find in my cupboard. Ewh. Man, get here soon, so you can cook some food and I can sit in your kitchen and watch you wiggle your butt. I MEAN, work diligently while enjoying our conversation and drinking gin & tonics. Oh yum.

    P.S. Is this the porn I recommended? I didn’t know you could get it on Amazon! Amazin’!
    I told you she is moving in with me, right? We’ll never leave the house.

UPDATE: I am at my library RIGHT NOW, and holding in my hands The End, Book the Thirteenth in a Series of Unfortunate Events. I cannot wait to see how it ends, and how a Variable Frequency Drive is going to save everything!

Mostly YAY!

I'm in the field today, with a soil scientist and a native plant botanist. It's like a fantasy come true.

Speaking of which!

YAY!!!! for the House! Yay!! for a woman Speaker of the House!!! Maybe YAY!!! for the Senate!!! And a huge, great big YAY for sending Pombo home. We'll keep the Endangered Species Act, thank you.

Thank God for No on 90!!! We'll be funding levee repairs, and shelters and schools, and, coincidentally, my job.

I wish Doolittle and his stupid Auburn Dam had been sent packing. I'm sad that we passed putting GPS devices on sex offenders. They are not animals to be tracked.

But mostly... YAY!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lovingkindness, motherfuckers.

If you are going to expose yourself on the Internets, you will need to have some way to respond to criticism. I can't say I consistently manage this, but it is good to reach high.

In the same way, monks, others may use these five modes of speech when speaking to you — speech that is timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, with a good or a harmful motive, and with a loving heart or hostility. In this way, monks, you should train yourselves: 'Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to that very person, making him as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.' It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.


Lipstick is not the answer

My sweet sister sent me this, and said I could post it.


Meggie is best when she’s just being Meggie. Lipstick and skirts is all just superficial stuff and would make her feel uncomfortable, and awkward, like she’s trying to be someone else. Obviously, you want to look good and you should put effort into that, and sometimes it’s fun to push the boundaries of how you feel comfortable dressing. But you’re already pretty, so that part is a slam dunk. If you try too hard and wear makeup & clothes that you’re not comfortable in those big blue grey eyes will just open wider and you’ll look like a deer in the headlights instead of an easy-going girl who’s out because she wants to have a fun time.

Is it possible to stop looking? Somehow I feel like looking = doomed because then every interaction is too heavy and overloaded and weird and both parties pick up on that and it tires everybody out.

I’d say just keep making yourself sort of open and available. Be friendly and playful and smart and kind and listen to what other people are saying without judging them. don’t make fun of them until you know they get your sense of humor. Also, don’t assume you’re smarter than somebody you meet right off the bat. Because you want them to surprise you.

Learn from your time at SLO… instead of not liking it there, try to appreciate the best parts of the place. I know it wasn’t up to your standards for diversity or “interesting” foods, but you could have learned to surf or body board or hiked or camped or rode horses or gone wine tasting or something. Just say to yourself, “well, I’m here now, might as well make the best of it and find a way to have fun”

If you like engineers then go where the engineers are. Take a class at Davis for passing the PE exam. I’d also take a cooking class, because you love to cook and you definitely want to hook up with a dude who’s taking a cooking class. And when you go to a party make sure you’re not setting yourself apart like you’re judging it or comparing it to other parties otherwise you’ll seem like you’re disdainful or superior.

Maybe go more places alone? Because when you’re already in the middle of a group of girls that might feel sort of unapproachable to some guys.

I don’t know. Just relax and keep having fun and doing things you like to do, because that’s attractive. Teetering around in high heels isn’t. I’d say use some hair product, though.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Disc never lies.

There’s this thing we do. I think it is a profoundly human thing to do, so human and so fundamental that only the saints and enlightened are free of it. I believe humans feel a constant need for reasons, and for cause and effect. Much of that type of thinking, a ferocious need for reasons is incredibly useful. It keeps us from being eaten by lions and teaches us to wash our hands before surgery and can be combined into fabulous heavy machinery. But there is also a space where that type of thinking gets turned on each other and ourselves; in that space, hunting for reasons not just pointless, it is destructive and hurtful.

If you need reasons and you need justice to exist in the world, your mind will make both up. Did someone fall sick? There must have been a cause, like his diet, or her decision to live near a factory, or not taking care of himself, or maybe just impure thoughts. Is someone poor? There must be an internal cause, like laziness, or bad judgment, or some choice you would never make, like being born to the wrong parents. Did she get raped? There must have been something, something she wore or someplace she was, or something, something, something that you can refuse to do, so rape will never happen to you. In our human minds, the existence of a bad outcome is enough to prove that there must have been a reason, and knowing that reason can keep you safe from that fate.

This thinking is bad enough. It lets us condemn and hold people that bad things happen to separate from us. It gives us a false sense of control. Our constant habit of finding fault requires constant reminders; wonderful people fall sick and suffer; decent people never have opportunities; she did nothing wrong; chance is not justice. But there is another way this hunt for causes can send us wrong and that is when we turn it on ourselves.

As I’ve been single for longer and longer, I become more and more desperate for a reason, something I could change about me, anything I could fix so that I could please not have to do this on my own anymore. Fixing whatever thing about me is broken, so that men keep not choosing me, would be worth nearly any effort. On the nights when I’m scared, I’ll run through every old encounter, looking for the thing I did wrong, or the thing he said that would tell me what would make me a person that someone would marry. ‘Cause shit, if I could find that, I could make this all better. And friends, let me tell you, the world is fast to tell a girl that broken thing is her weight.

Here is the secret, friends. There is nothing wrong with me, not my looks, not my demands or beliefs. I am single by the chance of not meeting someone I could love at a time when he could love me. That’s all. There is nothing I can fix or do better. This is hard to believe about oneself, but here’s a trick. It is easy to see in your friends. On any day, I can look at my stunning friends and think “She is such a beautiful, phenomenal person. There is no explanation for why she isn’t extravagantly loved.” Reader, I can even say that about you. Please, if you do this, this hunt for the wrong thing about you, stop and be gentle to yourself. Be as gentle to yourself as you would to the people around you. Be your best self and show her to the world. When you are loved, it will be for the person you already are.

I should have said when I first posted it that I've come to this line of thinking out of conversations with Chris and with Sherry. The good parts are probably from them.

Question for you.

Part of the reason I am profoundly reluctant to shut anyone out here is that I have a sense of my blog as having a duty to the public, like inns and common carriers. Anyone else think of their blog that way?


My honor is intact. Sadly, for the most part, so is my virtue.

You can delete this mean spirited post, but someone has to defend your honor.

No! No one needs to defend my honor. I don’t even need to defend my honor.

Look. Who I am is well represented here. There are many, maybe even hundreds of words here, telling people what I notice and think of things, and what I do. People who need to form a judgment about me have months of my writings to base that on.

My honor is not vested in my weight. Here on the blog, there’s honor in catchy posts with as few errors as possible. There’s honor in creating an atmosphere that makes really neat, smart people want to hang around. There’s honor in being welcoming to all comers, and looking for value in the content or the intent of their comments. In real life, my honor lives in the type of friend, sister, daughter, citizen, teammate, neighbor I am. My weight is a mechanistic function of my eating and my exercise. There is simply no honor in that equation.

You know what puts my honor at risk? Hosting a forum where people single out one person for abuse, or bash women for their weight or their appearance. We demonstrate that we are not savages by not ganging up on outsider opinions; a studied decision that some statement is not worthy of reply is all the response necessary. Like all women, I live under a gaze and judged by my looks in all of my public moments. Perpetuating that here, to the detriment of any other woman, would make me ashamed of myself. I will not have it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Home is...

Home is where your predictions are accurate.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Eating in time.

I like eating seasonal and local produce. I think the food tastes better, because it was picked ripe and didn’t take a long time to get to me. Fruits and vegetables are cheap in season. I enjoy the process of going to Farmer’s Market and chatting up the vendors. But more than all of that, I enjoy the way my food changes throughout the year.

Maybe this is an artifact of having eaten seasonally for years, but I now find that my tastes in food, without my conscious guidance, match what is available to me. In the heat of summer, the cool lightness of a tomato cucumber salad is all I want. It won’t keep me warm in the fall, though, so just when tomato-based meals start seem frivolous and inadequate, squashes and root vegetables show up to be roasted. In spring, just when I want to taste something fresh and green, asparagus and peas taste like new growth.

Eating seasonally doesn’t feel like deprivation. Food out of season has a dissonance now; eggplants aren’t hearty enough for January; beets too dense for July. The fact that some foods are ephemeral is excuse enough to indulge; better get another flat of berries while they last. If you believe in the Paradox of Choice, as a seasonal eater I’m experiencing a slowly rotating series of constrained choices, which adds variety over time and keeps me happy throughout the year.

There are times when following the seasons takes dedication. There is very little fruit available after the citrus finishes in April and before the stone fruit show up in June. Eating seasonally drags in February. But just when I think that I have had it with root crops, brassicas and leafy greens, the first asparagus shows up. If I really wanted to, I could always go to the hippy co-op and pay a lot of money to get an organically grown cucumber from somewhere. Still, each year, I haven’t wanted something out of season enough to do that.

Eating with the seasons makes me aware that time is a cycle; the first borscht, first apricot, first grilled zucchini, last tomato are all markers that remind me of the same times every year. There are small, melancholic markers that time is passing, like the end of peaches. I can always look forward to something I love, persimmons or pears, about to return. It is specific to the place I love and belong to. It is an attentive, gentle way to be connected to the earth. It makes my life richer.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Without ever once saying the word "sustainable".

I am afraid I’ll never be able to discuss each point you guys are bringing up in the comments to my post against globalism. I’ll try to do that on work time today. But, I’ll flush out some of my baseline assumptions here, in hopes of pre-empting some lines of discussion. I’ll even number them, for easier reference.

1. I value a thriving environment and ecosystem as much as I value human existence. If there are people, I want them happy and fulfilled and not suffering. But if forced to choose between no people and a healthy world and lots of people and a broken environment, well, I’d start looking around for a coin.

2. I am not real impressed with efficiency in the abstract. Economists are all “But if you go to a Pareto superior position, you can use the gains in efficiency to compensate the losers. And the winners keep some! More overall! For everyone!” and I am all “Yeah, but that doesn’t actually happen. All the gains in efficiency very often go into some already-rich-person’s pocket, adding little to their utility. If you aren’t actually sending a check to the losers, with the Memo line reading ‘Pareto payments’, I am not interested in a move that increases efficiency at the expense of widespread utility.” Unrealized utility is crap.

I know my darling readers would never do this, but in case some strangers stop by, I’m also listing some arguments I don’t want to hear:

3. “Megan, your position, taken to an extreme, would be so inconvenient that even you wouldn’t live by it. In fact, you don’t live by all of its tenets now. You are a HYPOCRITE! Because you are a hypocrite in some way that negates some of the benefits of your practices, you should abandon all of them and not even try. We shouldn’t either, so keep your banana-fascism to yourself.” Well, yes. Of course I am a hypocrite and I can’t live up to my ideals. That means I try harder, not that I shouldn’t try at all. When I lapse, I remind myself why it is important to me and try to do better next time.

4. “If you understood basic economics, you would understand why you are all wrong.” I am solid on basic economics and graduate-level resource economics. I didn’t agree with all of it while I was learning it, either.

5. I don’t want to get sucked into a number of people vs. resource consumption debate. So that we are clear, I want radically fewer people, consuming far, far less than Westerners do.

And, more specifically, for food:

6. “Why food, when localism could as well apply to anything?” Because I know and understand food. If I were a transportation engineer, I’m sure I would be equally committed to a different set of issues and actions, and eat mangoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I start with food.

7. “Why should I pay more for local food, in money or time or effort?” Because with a direct link to your food, the way your food is produced becomes transparent to you. You can assess for yourself whether it is grown in a way that you want to support. Most Americans are fanatically devoted to inexpensive food, but there is an intrinsic cost to producing food the way I want (food production that isn’t mining soil fertility or old groundwater or depleting the pollution-absorption capacity of the air, that pays its laborers enough to live with dignity and get their kids out of the fields, that isn’t damaging rivers, or…). If I do not pay the full cost of producing food the way I want at the cash register, someone else will pay it somewhere. That cost will get taken out of the environment, and likely, out of a very poor brown person’s wellbeing. It is wrong for people who are wealthy and aware to shift the burden of their existence to poorer people, or to our ecosystem.

This is enough for now, and I’ll go back to your real comments, and not just the ones I made up, in a bit. Tyler, are we still friends?

You people rock.

Bob V. took Peter to task for suggesting a solution in the comments to my post on wanting a girl boyfriend; Bob V. has learned that sometimes, people are only looking for empathy. Then there was a long conversation that went like this: blah blah blah practical blah blah listening blah men, women, blah blah solutions good sometimes blah blah blah sympathy and understanding.

In the meantime, other readers sprang into action! I got kind letters of encouragement. An amazingly smart and gorgeous couple wrote to ask if they could introduce me to their smart and gorgeous friend this weekend. YES! I like meeting your smart and gorgeous friends. Hook me UP! A guy who lives north of me did what any right thinking person would do in our circumstance. He gathered data! We love data! He even talks about his methods. He is a man after my own heart. And Justin. Sweet Justin sent me a link to a video of his handsome self! Climbing! To take my mind off my sorrow and into a higher plane, where beauty walks in human form. Climbs in human form. Hot human form.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tyler's review reminded me.

I should have liked Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma better than I did. My main objection to it was simply that I am already in the choir; I was bored reading a book intended to convince others of a food policy I’ve held for many years. I’ve mentioned before that in addition to being vegetarian, when I am preparing food, I eat strictly local and seasonal produce. We are nearing the end of tomatoes; when they go, I won’t eat a fresh tomato until next July. I haven’t had a banana in years and I don’t expect to eat another until I visit the tropics. I’ve bought my vegetables from the same growers for the eight years I’ve lived in Sac. Should I have a question about how they are produced, I’ll ask the guys when I see them Sunday. I would like to have that kind of direct link and transparency with all of my food purchases.

I can afford my freako food policy because I live in one of the great breadbaskets of the world, where something ripens every month of the year. When people from cold climates hear of my food policy, their first objection is that they would get no fruit or vegetables for all winter and spring. I don’t argue with people in person, but my absolutist stance is that no one should live in a place that cannot feed its people year round. Yeah. I truly believe that. Living in a physical system imposes limits on people and severing the link between landscape, food and people allows people to deny those limits. Northern hemisphere people eat a cherry in November as if the world hasn’t turned on its axis away from the sun, in thoughtless defiance of shortening daylight and cooling nights. Eating seasonally acknowledges and submits to the real restrictions of the natural world and most people in developed countries could use a lot of practice doing that*.

The next objection that people raise is that not everyone can move to places that can feed them. My response is that there should be radically fewer people. I read the blogs that are worried about countries with declining birthrates and for the life of me, I cannot understand why that is a problem**. A society of people individually and voluntarily choosing not to replace itself, partially because their quality of life is so high? That isn’t a problem, that’s the fucking solution. I want every population in the world to move to that stage as soon as possible, skipping the consumerist phase, if possible. I would love a return to a world with a low human population, clustered in richly productive lands with adequate water supplies, marginal lands and cities and industrial agricultural and global trade ensuring a supply of cheap plastic toys abandoned. I think a population crash is inevitable and I hope we take a soft path to get there.

I don’t talk about this stuff much, largely because I don’t expect to convince people to change their eating habits. If I could though, I would wish that people knew where their food comes from. I wish they made an aware choice about where they put their food money. I wish they were willing to pay for all the costs of their food production. If Pollan encourages that with Omnivore’s Dilemma, more power to him.

*I’m sure you can find a lot of food porn rhapsodizing about the joys of eating each thing in its season. I also think like that, but I’ll leave you to find some ode to a ripe peach elsewhere. After all these years, I no longer consider my food choices constrained, but that may be comfort with my habits. Over a year, I likely eat a broader range of produce than people who don’t follow the seasons.

** Because of the loss of a culture, like in France and Italy? Those cultures developed during centuries when the population was vastly lower than it is now; above some threshold, it isn’t that you need a number of people to sustain a culture, you need isolation so they don’t go intermarrying the hot Asian boys.