Kharkov Speaks to the World

These are people in my city of Kharkov:

I have to say, if my people memorized such long texts in English, this must mean they really want to be heard.

Spain and Ukraine

Musa Djamilev, the former leader of the Crimean Mejlis and one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatars, confirmed today that only 32,4% of people in the Crimea took part in Putin’s referendum on the annexation of the region.

In the meanwhile, the integrists in Spain are using what happened in the Crimea to defeat Catalonia’s hopes for independence. The leader of the ruling party Mariano Rajoy says that the refusal of the international community to recognize the Crimean referendum is a foretaste of what awaits Catalonia if it were to vote to separate from Spain.

Of course, this is a forced parallel, if there ever was one, but I still hope the strategy works and Catalonians forget all this independentist talk.

Weight Loss

People are asking me to write about weight loss. I feel reluctant because I don’t know how to make such a post not boring but if readers want it, then here it is.

After gestational diabetes, people often develop Type II diabetes. My doctor was very sure that I was going to develop it and kept insisting that there was no way for me not to have it (which is why she isn’t my doctor any longer.) After my hormones came back to normal and I went off the medication, my fasting blood sugar (which is the measurement you take first thing in the morning) was 110. This isn’t horribly bad, but it isn’t good either. The normal range is under 100. And the only way to bring it down significantly is by losing weight.

I’m passionately opposed to developing diabetes, so I lost weight. And here is what I discovered in the process:

Physical activity has zero connection to weight loss. Going from an inveterate couch potato to intense physical activity 5-6 times a week (swimming, spinning, fitness, cardio, weights) didn’t lead me to lose as much as an ounce. I’m not pathetic enough to convince myself that it just seems like there is no change in weight because I’m gaining muscle. That big thing that follows me around wherever I go is definitely not muscle.

The only thing that helps lose weight is to:


And I mean not eat in a way where you feel serious and constant hunger pangs.

Unfortunately, I have what in psychology is called “food trauma”, and I don’t do well with hunger. So this has been a complicated process for me. But I lost 25 lbs compared to the pre-pregnancy weight. It took me exactly 5 months. And the blood sugar started creeping down slowly. Today it was 102. I will feel content when I get it to 89, which means that there is still a long way to go.

And now the most boring post known to humanity is finally over.

P.S. If somebody is planning to recommend that I use WeightWatchers, please don’t.

Online Learning Is Like Online Theater

So we went to the theater last night (driven all the way to St. Louis by yours truly, I might add.) And as I was watching the play, I imagined what it would feel like to watch the same play online.

Obviously, I’d get what the play was about and know what the actors looked like. But the entire experience of dressing up, driving there, being at the theater, feeling festive and anticipating the show, being surrounded by other theater lovers, being close to the actors, observing everything in a way no camera can replicate, experiencing the collective surge of emotions during the play, leaving the theater with other spectators, brought together by the shared experience of seeing the play, feeling slightly off-kilter as we reintegrated into the reality outside of the theater – none of that could even remotely be replicated by watching the play on a computer screen.

Everybody should get a chance to see a real play. Everybody should get a chance to be in a real classroom. Computer technology can be put to a multitude of wonderful uses. Let’s not use it to segregate.


We have finally entered spring, and this week I suggest we do an exercise that it makes sense to do at least once every year, especially for people of intellectual professions:


Every day, make an effort to change the ways in which you normally do things. These should be small, slight changes that don’t seem, at first, to have any crucial relevance. If you brush your teeth before taking the shower, try showering first for a couple of days. If you have coffee at breakfast and green tea at lunch, try tea at breakfast and coffee at lunch. If you enter the garage backwards, change the direction, just a few times. If you read before bed, watch TV instead. If you always leave the toilet seat down, leave it up a few times.

I, for instance, am writing this post on Monday morning instead of Saturday. And I will be going to my spinning class at an unusual day and time (Monday 10:30). I’m also doing my hair differently for the gym and plan to eat my lunch at the university restaurant tomorrow instead of bringing it to the office.

Of course, the older we get, the more iron-clad are our convictions that the only acceptable routine is the one we have developed for ourselves. The point of the exercise is to get out of this mind-set and to see that we are still flexible enough to deal with a small amount of change. I always mix things up in these seemingly unimportant ways before embarking on a new project, and this always helps to get to a place where I generate new ideas faster and better.

Readers in their 20s will not find this exercise particularly useful (or even very comprehensible) but people past the age of 35, often feel very refreshed after this small experiment. (And curiously, people over 80 don’t find it hard at all. The 50-60 year-olds are the ones who suffer enormously when they try to do the exercise.)

I’m also very interested in what specifically people try to change, so please share. I need ideas for small changes I could make to my own routine.

P.S. Another thing I just thought of: I will be putting the rings I normally wear on my left hand onto my right, and vice versa. If you are a habitual ring-wearer, you know that this will not be extremely comfortable, which is the entire point of the exercise.

“This Is Not a Cold War!”

In 2014, Russia will spend about 5% of its GDP on defense. Even the US spends a smaller percentage (4,4%).

All of this could have easily been avoided and we wouldn’t be facing round 2 of the Cold War today if in 1990s the leadership of developed countries hadn’t chosen to believe that the presence of a couple of ballot boxes just has to translate to democracy.

Nobody is capable of thinking long-term. In what concerns climate change, diplomacy, the economy, education, people are pig-headedly concentrated on the immediate and can’t see past what’s happening right now.

Monday Great Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

There were many really great posts this week, so I decided to nominate them all for Post of the Week.

Nina Mishkin, who is a very talented writer, has been sick and reblogged a beautiful old post about a Jewish family separated by history and immigration. If you aren’t reading Nina Mishkin yet, you absolutely should, she rocks.

J. Otto Pohl explains that “most of the votes in the UN in favor of the Russian position appear to come from states more motivated by anti-Americanism than by close relations with the Russian Federation.” He is another blogger definitely worth following.

Marty Klein hits it out of the ballpark (I hope I’m using the expression correctly and it isn’t some sort of an insult) with a talented post on Hobby Lobby: “You don’t see companies refusing to provide legally-required handicap parking or accessible bathrooms because of religious beliefs. You don’t see companies refusing to obey food safety regulations in company cafeterias or worker safety regulations on factory floors because of religious beliefs. No, “religious beliefs” are always about sex.”

Leah Jane wrote a brilliant post on why efforts to create autism awareness need to stop now.

Mind Hacks ridicules the silly “how genes are to blame for every negative characteristic you’ve ever had” fad.

Hattie is saying exactly what I’ve been wanting to say about our favorite magazine.

And Leah Jane delivers a crucial message about Ellen DeGeneres’s pro-seal campaign.

Emily Oster explains why the recent reports on the drop in child obesity rates should not be trusted entirely.

A brilliant post in Russian about an adult approach to voicing one’s opinions.

J. Otto Pohl makes a crucial point about the core of silence inside the today’s Leftist movements.

What is the best way for the Democrats to fire up their base? An important discussion.

My favorite film critic writes (in Russian) about Russia’s new plan to limit the number of non-Russian movies people in Russia will be allowed to see.

The Phytophactor explains that science isn’t about fairness, it’s about facts. A timely and important reminder.

Marty Klein debunks the myth of porn’s perfect bodies.

A famous article by a Russian dissident (in English) addressed to the people of the Crimea. Do read it, this guy is totally rad.

Blogger Z has an interesting (and I think entirely reasonable) theory about the developments in job interviewing.

Feel free to link to other brilliant posts you have either written or read.

Freedom Versus Opportunity

People have no understanding of the concept of free speech. Here is an example.

When my colleagues discovered that Alberto Gonzalez and David Perlmutter were being invited to our campus to speak, some of them objected because they find these individuals repugnant.

Other colleagues started vociferating, “Have respect for the freedom of speech!” They don’t seem to understand that the right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean that anybody has to provide opportunities for anybody to speak. I ban losers from my blog all the time, and they often whine that I’m denying their right to freedom of speech. Which is obviously ridiculous.

A discussion of who we, as a group, want to offer opportunities to speak is a legitimate one and in no way infringes on anybody’s constitutional freedoms.

Offensive Cartoon

Do I need to place trigger warnings or is the title enough?

A friend sent me the following cartoon with a tag, “Unbelievably offensive!”

israel cartoon

I immediately agreed that it was offensive but my friend and I soon discovered that we had differing opinions as to whether Israelis or Palestinians should be more offended with it.

To me, this was hugely offensive to the Israelis.

“Look,” I said, “the Palestinian woman is portrayed as powerful and important. She stands tall and proud, facing the enemy with her head held high. She is a leader in this family, and she stands her ground. The Palestinian man, in the meanwhile, is a good father. Even though he has a job, he has figured out how to take care of the baby. If this family weren’t doomed to perish (as evidenced by the explosives attached to their bodies), they could do great things. And now look at the Israeli family. The woman is kneeling behind the man. She has no presence and no role other than that of a terrified victim. She’s nothing without the man who is all alone in the struggle against the enemy. This is no compliment to the Israelis.”

Then we had a long debate about the importance of the authorial intention. And I’m sure that my friend is right, the author wasn’t trying to be complimentary towards Palestinians. What I find curious, though, is how in every image the first thing I see are people who are like me, women. This could work as a psychological test to determine one’s salient identity (in sociology, this means the identity among all of your many identities that matters the most to you.)