Life’s Basic Unfairness

Have you noticed how obnoxiously easy it is for men to lose weight? As opposed to wen, I mean.

N has decided to lose weight. So we started taking longer walks than usual. A week later he discovered he’d lost 4 pounds.

If I wanted to lose 4 pounds, I’d have to sweat and starve myself for a lot longer than a week. And he just goes and does it. This is simply unfair.

Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

You gotta love Americans. Here is one complaining that because of bad, mean capitalism s/he has few food choices. When I read this kind of crap from spoiled over-fed drama queens, I always remember my childhood when I only saw cheese once a year and our mothers had to invest hundreds of hours into hunting after a sad can of peas. One has be really blind to what alternatives to capitalism look like to have the gall to whine about pizza with a wrong crust.

Russia: as homophobic as ever.

It’s completely ridiculous that the Trayvon Martin case is confusing people so much. An unhinged hysteric shot a person. Who cares what anybody called anybody else or what the victim’s friend looks like? We should all stop being so kind and understanding towards hysterics.

Dealing with fire drills while autistic.

Let’s prevent the government in Ohio from using Big Brother strategies to police doctors and patients.

How Egypt’s revolution was predicted.

No matter how hard and dull you find an activity, unless you can be fired from doing it or suffer repercussions for lousy performance, this activity is not a job. This is why a post that repeats ad nauseam that “parenting is a job” deserves the title of the most stupid post of the week.

Please, please beware of online diploma mills. Forget about all these stinky Phoenixes and DeVrys and go to a real university.

One more amongst the many egregiously offensive uses of the word “rape.”

A goose with mulberry sauce. Is this delicious or what?

Just one among the multitude of examples demonstrating that MOOCs are stupid and a total waste of time. Stop looking for an easy way out, people. Real learning takes real time and real effort.

Have monogamy and devotion become a symbol of success?

A Good Choice

A colleague invites me to her daughter’s baby shower and showed me around her big, beautiful house.

“This is what happens when you decide to become a lawyer,” my colleague said philosophically. “And to think the kid wanted to be a social worker. Imagine the dump where she’d be living now!”

DOMA Is Dead and I Missed the Funeral!

I’ve been so busy recently that I forgot to follow the news. As a result, I missed the best, most crucial development in a while. The barbaric DOMA is dead, isn’t it? This is absolutely phenomenal.

If the Supreme Court justices, who are neither very young nor very likely to welcome change and progress (with the exception of RBG), manage to realize that DOMA is a barbarity that should be done with once and for all, this is a great sign. Coupled with the news about activists in Texas, of all the scary places, rising against the attempts to defeat the gains of civilization, this news makes the future look very bright.

This is an enormous win for civilization and a death blow to barbarity. Let’s celebrate!

Banning Books From a Library

Are you as disgusted by this arrant idiocy as I am?

North Carolina State University will soon open Hunt Library, to the applause of many – it is clean, modern, full of open spaces… but devoid of books.

Time and Ploughshares Literary Magazine compare it to an Apple store. A quick tour via the library’s YouTube video displays bright rooms, full of crayon-toned colors and vaulted ceilings. There are more than 80 types of chairs in the library (from classic wooden models to poppy-red bubble chairs), but only a few sparsely placed bookshelves.

Instead, books are transported from hidden archives through a mechanized procedure called “bookBot.” This system, according to the library, frees space for “collaborative work.” The library features a “Game Lab” with a 21-foot-wide screen and 270-degree projectors. “No other students in the state will have access to as much technology as they’ve had access to here in the Hunt Library,” boasts the digital library’s Associate Director, Kristen Antelman.

Books are removed from a library to free up space for something called “collaborative work”? This sounds like a scene from a nightmare. Or from the Soviet reality. What is this but a totalitarian paradise where the solitary musings of an intellectual are substituted with the collective chirping of the brainless?

If this is happening at North Carolina State University, does that mean that taxpayers are paying for this monument to stupidity and anti-intellectualism? This sorry excuse for a university needs to be boycotted.

A Really Great Post

I just found this really great post that I wanted to share with you:

It seems like elite women who came of age in the 1970s made much more intentional decisions about their lives with respect to feminist values than women like me who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s. Are these elite families aware of the similarities between them and evangelical families in the way they’ve chosen to arrange their household economies and to allocate the labor of adults? Is the shared value of patriarchal privilege in fact a feature, not a bug, even among so-called “liberal” families?

The women and men I’m writing about are the same demographic that Sheryl Sandberg addressed in her recent book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. What, I wonder, do these elites tell their daughters about the importance of working hard in school and getting a college education? Don’t they ever wonder what kind of example they’re setting? Do they care? A woman at the reunion (no job, 3 kids) told me that a friend (no job, 3 kids) called her recently in tears because her daughter said to her, “Mom, if you went to such a great school, why don’t you have a job?”

I’m not the type to sympathize with a surly tween, but that’s not a bad question. What was the point of that college/M.A./M.S./Ph.D./M.D./J.D. degree if you’re not going to use it somehow? I can’t believe I’ve lived long enough to see my age-peers give credence to that age-old antifeminist claim that it’s pointless to admit women to college/professional school or to hire them “because they’re just going to get pregnant and quit. Why waste it on them, when their spot could go to a man who will use his education/opportunity?”

There is more, so make sure you follow the link and read it. In case you don’t like links, I will quote the most important part of the post:

Here’s a useful tip: if you have a college education and unemployment seems like a good idea, seek treatment. If you are educated for and capable of a decent job, the disinclination to work should be seen as a symptom of an underlying problem, not a lifestyle “choice.”

This is absolutely true. It is also absolutely true if we remove the “if you are educated for and capable of a decent job” part. Fear of being present in the public sphere is definitely unhealthy.

Why I Like Americans

A very modestly dressed couple in their fifties emerged from the local mortgage facility and approached the bus station where I was waiting for the bus. People who take buses like to share their stories, so the couple told me theirs. They were getting a second mortgage at the local facility.

“Now we need to cash the check they gave us but it turns out they have a fee of $5,” the man explained. “Like hell we were going to lose five bucks! So we are taking the bus to go downtown and cash the check at out bank for free!”

What I find very curious is that these are people of very modest means for whom $5 is a significant enough amount of money. Obviously, N. and I are in a very different financial situation. We, however, do not believe we can afford mortgages or any form of credit lines. The people from the bus stop, in the meanwhile, get mortgages and second mortgages.

N. also experienced cultural differences yesterday. His car’s engine died almost in front of his work. The owner of N.’s company was driving by in his BMW, spotted N.’s struggle with the car, got out, and helped N. push the car into the parking lot. Obviously, we do not come from a culture where owners of companies with branches in several countries do such things. Instead, they drive by, splashing you with mud.

These two episodes might seem very different but they point to a shared cultural trait: these are very open sincere people who trust the world and feel ultimately very comfortable in it.

Correspondence

Email 1.

Dear prof, here is the essay that was due on May 27. I know it’s a little late but I’m trying to catch up and was hoping you would accept it.

Email 2.

Dear John, the course ended last Thursday. The final grades have been calculated and submitted. You missed not only every assignment since May 27 but also the final exam.

Email 3.

Oh really?? So what grade did I get in the course?

Remote Sky Is Out!

Several promising Russian-speaking writers have decided to make their work available to English-speaking readers and have started a literary magazine called Remote Sky. Here are some excerpts from the first issue:

Arkady Margulis with a short story “Stagecoach for Lunatics.”

Hayk grinned, rustled grimly with a banknote in his pocket, and cheered up the small change by making it rattle. After all, he was a little better off, he could afford a teapot and baklava, sticking to the saucer, and a pack of cigarettes, certainly long ones. This always turned sad thoughts away. Yes, it did, but it didn’t comfort him. The most important thing was not to chew himself out because of the immigration woes – the irritating everyday routine and the oppressive difference between “there” and “here”. The sweet “before” – school-university-job – was opposed by the hateful “today”. The “today” was impossible to get used to.

Andrei Romanov with a short story “Marshal and Margarita.”

‘You’re mine, you’re mine’, my lips were whispering, while my hands were doing what they wanted without understanding what exactly it was.

‘Please don’t, comrade general, please don’t, my dear…’

Simon Kaminski with his absolutely hilarious “Wakeup Yordahk.”

‘What’s the p-patient’s n-name?’ I whispered, stammering.

‘Yordahk,’ she said firmly.

‘What? Who?’ My English is definitely worse than that of Faulkner or Mark Twain, especially since I felt so frightened and sleepy that I failed to understand a single word. ‘I… I not know…’

‘Yordahk’! ‘Yordahk’! Understand?’

Zinovy Sagalov’s fascinating “Prediction.”

It was a dim day of September 1951. Outside the dacha windows, a lazy autumn rain was drizzling; stormy sea reels were coming from afar. The night before Stalin ordered a fire to be started in the fireplace. When he was young, he had had tuberculosis, and it was now easier for him to tolerate frost than rickety dampness.

And also, Jacob Grinsberg from Israel with “Where Am I Going?”, Michael Blekhman from Canada with his bitter-sweet Reflection, Tamara Alexeeva from Russia with her tongue-in-cheek “I Have to Become a Girl,” Vladimir Khokhlev from Russia with his philosophical “Tsar Tales”, and Evgeny Verbitsky from Germany with his fascinating essay on Vladimir Nabokov and his son.

The magazine is available on Kindle and is absolutely free for Prime users. Let’s wish continued success to these talented and tenacious writers who are keeping Russian literature alive in spite of enormous odds.

As a special bonus, please find the enlightening story of the Fornicating Fanny under the fold. This is my favorite part in the entire first issue of the magazine. I was the one who came up with Fornicating Fanny and I’m very proud of her.

Continue reading “Remote Sky Is Out!”