a long time

Feb. 5th, 2016 09:46 am
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
"I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,
And accrue what I hear into myself.... and let sounds contribute toward me."

—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself


Jun. 7th, 2012 08:57 am
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I was very distraught to hear that Ray Bradbury died, though he did live a long and pretty great life. I think his essay in the current sci-fi issue of the New Yorker may be the last thing he published. For a long time after reading Fahrenheit 451 in high school, I kept a bookmark onto which I had copied the following quote:

Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that, shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.
clevermynnie: (mask)
I saw two inspiring fitness-related things recently, which I wanted to share, especially after having had a somewhat trying weekend. First, this great discussion at stumptuous about looking like a fitness model, or not, which includes these amazing images of female Olympic athletes for various sports. I reposted one of the images below but there are a bunch, with sport indicated so you can see how many body types there are for top-level athletes in various sports. The message is great too.

I am a normal woman. I am not a fitness model. I work out in slobby gym wear with no makeup, and I get dirty and sweaty and messyhaired. My breasts are not lifted and separated; they are mashed onto my chest by my cheapo sports bra. When I forget to shave my legs I don’t really care. I am in there to work hard, to lift some heavy shit, and to forget about how my body looks in favour of thinking about what my body does. After having had a few injuries and illnesses, I am happy that the old girl works at all! Can I get out of bed in the morning without pain and make it to the coffeemaker? If so, then yay body!

The other great thing was this article at Jezebel about training for your first marathon, which reminded me a lot of how my attitude changed while training for my first marathon two years ago. A choice quote:

During the process of training for the marathon, I noticed my attitude toward food changed. Rather than worrying a plate of spaghetti would go straight to my thighs, I started worrying that it wouldn't. I developed the appetite of a 13 year old boy after hockey practice, eating five or six times a day so that I could make sure I'd have enough energy to run 10, 12, 15, 20 miles and not keel over with exhaustion. My attitude toward my body changed as well. I stopped really thinking about how it looked and instead focused on getting shit done, realized that any physical changes I was seeing were happening because my body knew best how to shape itself to complete the task at hand. When a coworker commented that my enlarged calves made me look like I could probably dunk a basketball (even though I'm only 5'6"), I took it as a compliment. Fuck yes, I have huge calves. Fuck yes, I have strong legs. Fuck yes, my body got me through all 26.2 miles. And fuck yes I'm still running. And no I don't know how much I weigh, nor do I care whether or not I'm ready for bikini season. Am I ready for running season?
clevermynnie: (smile)
I have already mentioned that I am in the process of devouring the many Vorkosigan books of Lois McMaster Bujold (a process that is nearly complete, and which I heartily recommend). Her books are character-driven and fascinating, but also casually feminist in a way that I find refreshing. I was recently reading one of her earlier books, Ethan of Athos, and there was a more overt exchange between two characters that I really liked, which I'll copy out here:

I also read a great essay by her in Dreamweaver's Dilemma, a book that has short stories and essays, about fiction and worldviews. I liked it a lot, and although she is a sci-fi/fantasy author her points apply to all sorts of fiction as well as relating to others in general. The essay is here, and here's a quote from it:
clevermynnie: (smile)
I just realized that I had a dream about making graphene nanoribbons last night, where I was trying to have a lot of them in solution for dropcasting onto devices but their sizes were too varied. It's a weird thing to dream about, especially since I don't even work with graphene, but I suppose since the early work on it won the physics Nobel prize yesterday (completely prematurely, IMO) it was on my mind. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from an episode of Futurama that touches jokingly on what it is to be a scientist...

Farnsworth: These are the dark matter engines I invented. They allow my starship to travel between galaxies in mere hours.

Cubert: That's impossible. You can't go faster than the speed of light.

Farnsworth: Of course not. That's why scientists increased the speed of light in 2208.

Cubert: Also impossible.

Farnsworth: And what makes my engines truly remarkable is the afterburner which delivers 200% fuel efficiency.

Cubert: That's especially impossible.

Farnsworth: Not at all. It's very simple.

Cubert: Then explain it.

Farnsworth: Now that's impossible. It came to me in a dream and I forgot it in another dream.
clevermynnie: (Default)
I can't decide whether it fills me with tears or cynicism that if you google for the Martin Luther King quote "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear", you can watch in real time as people post and repost it to twitter.  It's moving but at the same time, it's so much easier to copy and paste than it is to live with that always in your heart.


Dec. 19th, 2009 01:04 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
"The optimist thinks the glass is half-full. The pessimist thinks the glass is half-empty. The engineer knows the real truth: that the glass is twice as large as it should be for optimum utilization of resources."

--from a New Yorker article about Stove Camp, building efficient low-pollutant stoves for developing areas.
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
More quotes from Whipping Girl, this time the ones that I especially liked which pertained to feminism.

*** )

Some might argue that it’s simply human nature for us to assign different values to different genders and sexualities. For example, if we tend to prefer the company of men over women, or if we find androgynous people more attractive than feminine or masculine ones, isn’t that assigning them a different worth? Not necessarily. There is a big difference between rightly recognizing these preferences in terms of our personal predilections (“I find androgynous people attractive”) and entitled claims that imply that there are no other legitimate opinions (“Masculine and feminine people are not sexy, period”). Similarly, there’s a big difference between calling yourself a woman or a genderqueer because you feel that word best captures your gendered experience and using that identity to make claims or presumptions about other people’s genders (e.g. assuming that “men” or “gender-conforming people” are your “opposites”).

Some might also argue that there is such a thing as a “bad” gender—for instance, a woman who feels coerced into living up to stereotypically feminine ideals. As someone who was closeted for many years, I can understand why someone might be tempted to describe genders that are enforced by others (e.g., stereotypical femininity or masculinity) as being “bad”. The problem is that there is no way for us to know whether any give person’s gender identity or expression is sincere or coerced. While we experience our own genders and sexualities firsthand, and thus are capable of separating our own intrinsic inclinations from the extrinsic expectations that others place on us, we are unable to do so on behalf of other people. We can only ever make assumptions and educated guesses about the authenticity of someone else’s sexuality or gender—and that’s always dangerous.

The thing that always impresses me about human beings is our diversity. Even when we are brought up in similar environments, we still somehow gravitate toward very different careers, hobbies, politics, manners of speaking and acting, aesthetic preferences, and so forth. Maybe this diversity is due to genetic variation. Or maybe, being naturally curious and adaptive creatures, we invariably tend to scatter all over the place, exploiting every niche we can possibly find. Either way, it’s fairly obvious that we also end up all over the map when it comes to gender and sexuality. That being the case, if we take the subversivist route and focus our energies on deriding stereotypically feminine and masculine genders, we will inevitably disparage some (perhaps many) people for whom those genders simply feel right and natural. Furthermore, by critiquing those gender expressions in an entitled way, we actively create new gender expectations that others may feel obliged to meet (which is exactly what’s now starting to happen in the queer/trans community). That is why I suggest that we turn our energies and attention away from the way that individuals “do” or “perform” their own genders and instead focus on the expectations and assumptions that those individuals project onto everybody else. By focusing on gender entitlement rather than gender performance, we may finally take the next step toward a world where all people can choose their genders and sexualities at will, rather than feeling coerced by others.

--Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
I loved Whipping Girl for several reasons, some having to do with its discussion and treatment of trans-ness, some having to do with its discussions and perspectives on gender, and most having to do with the great way that it integrated all of this information and thought into a cogent and interesting thesis. It is worth reading the whole thing, but below are some of my favorite (long) quotes from the book concerning trans-ness.

*** )

Let’s face it: If cissexuals didn’t have a subconscious sex, then sex reassignment would be far more common than it is. Women who wanted to succeed in the male-dominated business world would simply transition to male. Lesbians and gay men who were ashamed of their queerness would simply transition to the other sex. Gender studies grad students would transition for a few years to gather data for their theses. Actors playing transsexuals would go on hormones for a few months in order to make their portrayals more authentic. Criminals and spies would physically transition as a way of going undercover. And contestants on reality shows would be willing to change their sex in the hope of achieving fifteen minutes of fame.

Of course, such scenarios seem absolutely ridiculous to us. They are unfathomable because, on a profound, subconscious level, we all understand that our physical sex is far more than a superficial shell we inhabit. For me, this is the most frustrating part about cissexuals who express confusion or disbelief as to why transsexuals choose to transition. They are unable to see that their disbelief stems directly from their own experience of feeling at home in the sex they were born into, their own gender concordance. In other words, it is their own subconscious sex—and their inability to recognize it—that makes it difficult for them to understand why anyone would want to change their sex.

All of this reminds me of when I was growing up in the '70s and early '80s, when most straight people had a similar blind spot regarding sexual orientation. People often expressed an inability to fathom how someone could be attracted to the same sex. They said ridiculous things like, "It’s just not natural," "It must be a phase," and "I just don’t understand it." They actually had the nerve (or naiveté) to ask queer people, "But how do you know that you’re really gay?" without ever asking themselves the reciprocal question: "How do I know that I’m really straight?"

-Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I just finished one of the best books on gender and sex that I have ever read. It is Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, by Julia Serano. I first became interested in the book because I have seen it referenced on a number of feminist websites, and I have a very close and very old friend who is trans so I have been thinking about it ever since he told me he was going to transition. My initial response was to be supportive even if I didn't really understand, and I wanted to read this book to understand better. But it's been fantastic, because the book is very well and clearly written; the author is a good writer but also a biologist, and so has a good idea of both the cultural and biological components. I have to admit that a big part of the reason I wanted to understand trans-ness better is that, as I thought about feminism more, I moved further and further towards a gender deconstructionist view, that it's all social and can be torn down. But that philosophy erases trans-ness entirely, so it can't be right. This book came at many of the gender issues I've been thinking about, but from a completely different perspective. I would say the only other book that has, on its own, added this much to how I think about gender was The Beauty Myth.

I marked a ton of pages as I was reading for quotes that I wanted to copy down, share, and remember. So many, in fact, that it is taking awhile to transcribe them, and if I posted them here all at once no one would read them all. You really, really ought to read the book in its entirety. But here is a single quote to start with:

"I would argue that social gender is not produced and propagated because of the way we as individuals 'perform' or 'do' our genders; it lies in the perceptions and interpretations of others. I can modify my own gender all I want, but it won’t change the fact that other people will continue to compulsively assign a gender to me and to view me through the distorted lenses of cissexual and heterosexual assumption.

While no gendered expression can subvert the gender system as we know it, we are nevertheless still capable of instituting change in that system. However, such change will not come by managing the way we 'do' our own gender, but by dismantling our own gender entitlement. If we truly want to begin an end to all gender-based oppression, then we must begin by taking responsibility for our own perceptions and presumptions. The most radical thing that any of us can do is to stop projecting our beliefs about gender onto other people’s behaviors and bodies."

--Julia Serano, Whipping Girl
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
The 50th anniversary of a very famous Richard Feynman speech is approaching, which was called "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom". The speech is kind of famous in nanoscience because Feynman, in 1959, predicted a lot of the breakthroughs that would come: improvements in electron microscopy, miniaturization of computers, issues of energy dissipation at small scale, possibilities of nanoscale lithography, and other things. It's a pretty impressive speech, and it's fun because it's almost like watching someone brainstorm. The speech starts:

"I imagine experimental physicists must often look with envy at men like Kamerlingh Onnes, who discovered a field like low temperature, which seems to be bottomless and in which one can go down and down. Such a man is then a leader and has some temporary monopoly in a scientific adventure. Percy Bridgman, in designing a way to obtain higher pressures, opened up another new field and was able to move into it and to lead us all along. The development of ever higher vacuum was a continuing development of the same kind.

I would like to describe a field, in which little has been done, but in which an enormous amount can be done in principle. This field is not quite the same as the others in that it will not tell us much of fundamental physics (in the sense of, "What are the strange particles?") but it is more like solid-state physics in the sense that it might tell us much of great interest about the strange phenomena that occur in complex situations. Furthermore, a point that is most important is that it would have an enormous number of technical applications.

What I want to talk about is the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale."

If you're interested, you can read the rest here.
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I recently read Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, a collection of essays by Gloria Steinem. There were a few quotes I marked as I was reading that I want to share and remember.

"Only later did I understand that a need for external emergencies to justify 'unfeminine' work is common to many women. In fact, one measure of women's ingenuity may be the wide variety of ways we have found male authority, economic circumstance, or other good reasons to justify doing what we wanted to do anyway. This subterfuge allows us to maintain a passive, 'feminine' stance while secretly rebelling. Like most deceptions, it is a gigantic waste of inventiveness and time."

"[I am] stopped in the street by a truck driver who tells me that the woman he loves and has been living with for three years wouldn't marry him or have children because he didn't want her to go on working; then he heard some interview in which I asked men to consider how they would feel if they were exactly the same people but had been born female. He tried this exercise for a while, and changed so much that he and his friend were now happily married. He is thanking me--but the miracle is his own empathy."

"We've spent the first decade or so of the second wave of feminism no the riverbank, rescuing each other from drowning. In the survival areas of rape, battery, and other terrorist violence against women, for instance, we've begun to organize help through shelters, hot lines, pressure on police to provide protection, reforms in social services and legislation, and an insistence that society stop blaming the victim.

Now, some of us must go to the head of the river and keep the victims from falling in.


Clearly, these goals can only be reached a long distance in the future. We are very far from the opposite shore.

But the image of crossing a river may be too linear to describe the reality we experience. In fact, we repeat similar struggles that seem cyclical and discouraging in the short run, yet each one is on slightly changed territory. One full revolution is not complete until it has passed through the superficiality of novelty and even law to become an accepted part of the culture. Only when we look back over a long passage of time do we see that each of these cycles has been moving in a direction. We see the spiral of history."
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
"One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love... What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.
clevermynnie: (Default)
I've been reading The Gulag Archipelago off and on for awhile now; it's dense and not always easy reading. I finished what I had today and discovered that it is in fact three volumes, of which I have read only the first. I would like to finish it, but sometime in the future; I need some lighter reading for awhile.

It has a lot of details and stories about imprisonment in Soviet Russia, but is also pervaded by a kind of gallows humor and philosophy that made reading it more interesting than just reading a historical account. I marked some passages I liked as I read it, and have reproduced them here. There were a lot, which are certainly all worth reading, but I left my three favorites in front of a cut.


If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn't change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

Socrates taught us: "Know thyself."

Confronted by the pit into which we are about to toss those who have done us harm, we halt, stricken dumb: it is after all only because of the way things worked out that they were the executioners and we weren't.

Read more... )

Which of you is already crazy? And who is about to go insane?

In one moment, all the customs and habits of human intercourse you have lived with all your life have broken down. In your entire previous life, particularly before your arrest but even to some degree afterward, even to some degree during interrogation, too ,you spoke words to other people and they answered you in words. And those words produced actions. One might persuade, or refuse, or come to an agreement. You recall various human relationships—a request, an order, an expression of gratitude. But what has overtaken you here is beyond all those words and beyond all those relationships.

Read more... )

You listen to all this, and the goose pimples of rejection run up and down your spine: to you the true measure of all things in the Universe is so clear! The measure of all weaknesses and passions! And these sinners aren't fated to perceive it. The only one there who is alive, truly alive, is incorporeal you, and all these others are simply mistaken in thinking themselves alive.

And an unbridgeable chasm divides you! You cannot cry out to them, nor weep over them, nor shake them by the shoulder: after all, you are a disembodied spirit, you are a ghost, and they are material bodies.

And how can you bring it home to them? By an inspiration? By a vision? A dream? Brothers! People! Why has life been given you? In the deep, deaf stillness of midnight, the doors of the death cells are being swung open—and great-souled people and being dragged out to be shot. On all the railroads of the country this very minute, right now, people who have just been fed salt herring are licking their dry lips with bitter tongues. They dream of the happiness of stretching out one's legs and of the relief one feels after going to the toilet. In Orotukan the earth thaws only in summer and only to the depth of three feet—and only then can they bury the bones of those who died during the winter. And you have the right to arrange your own life under the slue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like without a convoy. So what's this about unwiped feet? And what's this about a mother-in-law? What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory—property and position:all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life—don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness: it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart—and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory!
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
I finished reading The Beauty Myth, the excellent book by Naomi Wolf. I strongly recommend it; it puts a solid frame around a lot of the emphasis on appearance that women experience all the time, and is passionately written. I didn't agree with every word, but I was moved. I found, though, I had some trouble describing it to people, what it was about and why it was worth reading even if you are already familiar with some of the ideas. To that end, here are a few long-ish excerpts that hit me especially hard. It's very well-written. And the later quotes are from the final chapter, which is very satisfying.

"Beauty practices are being stressed so that the relationships between men and women will continue, in spite of a social movement toward equality, to feel dictatorial. Placing female pleasure, sex or food or self-esteem, into the hands of a personal judge turns the man into a legislator of the woman's pleasure, rather than her companion in it. "Beauty" today is what the female orgasm used to be: something given to women by men, if they submitted to their feminine role and were lucky."

more )
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
Running sixteen miles was a nice way to decompress after listening to four hours of talks about solar cells. (And I only went to half of that symposium!) At first I was stressed, carrying too much, had a pain in my knee. And then I let go, and by the time I got home I felt great. A nice use of a Saturday.

"The thoughts that occur to me while I'm running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky as always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky. The sky both exists and doesn't exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn't. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in."

--Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
clevermynnie: (Default)
I have loved this quote for a long time, but I'm not sure I ever posted it here.

"She felt boiling with life, as if there were more blood in her veins than her veins could hold, and more veins in her body than her body could contain. She felt, as she sometimes did when reading a noble book, as if the earth and its glories were about to be spread before her and their deepest meanings made clear. Only tonight, the book was her life, not just the imaginings of some writer, and somewhere, outside this room, a new page was waiting to be turned."

–from Cress Delahanty, by Jessamyn West

at random

Aug. 3rd, 2007 11:04 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
I am doing pretty well with the whole hot summer thing, except on days when I get up early and go running. On these days I cannot convince my body to stop sweating until I get to my over-air-conditioned lab, which is sometimes 1.5-2 hours later. That is a lot of sweating, and it makes me cranky.

I got my jazz piano books, as well as a new book of Debussy. The jazz is fun but weird, since it's so against my training. It also doesn't help that I practically never learned music theory, I just play songs. The improv book is all, 'play the pentatonic scale in every key!', and I'm all, you can play it in different keys? And I'm bad at transposition and improv... I guess I play a lot by muscle memory. Well fine, to console myself I can play something from the Debussy book. Debussy is a composer that really resonates with me, and I find it much easier to know how his music should sound when I'm playing than with other composers. It has Jardins sous la pluie, La Cathédral Engloutie, and a lot of other pieces I've liked but haven't actually played (i.e., they aren't in my other Debussy book).

I urgently recommend the movie Amores Perros, which is like Pulp Fiction with characters you empathize with, sometimes funny but mostly brutal and tragic. It was so good, and really I spent the whole summer without Ben watching sad foreign movies. Strangely, I watched it in French despite its being a Mexican film, because the subtitles didn't work but I could change the audio language (from Spanish to French... no English). I watched Bande à Part and enjoyed it too, but in a very different way.

Franz pense à tout et à rien. Il ne sait pas si c'est le monde qui est en train de devenir rêve ou le rêve monde.
clevermynnie: (Default)

st paul's roses, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

"Travel is not a vacation, and it is often the opposite of a rest. Have a nice time, people said to me at my send-off. It was not precisely what I had hoped for. I craved a little risk, some danger, an untoward event, a vivid discomfort, an experience of my own company, and in a modest way the romance of solitude. This I thought mine be mine on that train to Limon."

--Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express
clevermynnie: (Default)
On the flight back to Philadelphia, I read the Feynman compilation The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, which was quite enjoyable. There were two quotes I really liked and wanted to share; the bolded part is something I agree with deeply.

"The guys at the graduate college were used to me looking like an idiot. On another occasion, for example, a guy came into my room--I had forgotten to lock the door during the 'experiment'--and found me in a chair wearing my heavy sheepskin coat, leaning out of the wide-open window in the dead of winter, holding a pot in one hand and stirring with the other. 'Don't bother me! Don't bother me!' I said. I was stirring Jell-O and watching it closely: I had gotten curious as to whether Jell-O would coagulate in the cold if you kept it moving all the time."

"Omni: As we came back to the office, you stopped to discuss a lecture on color vision you'll be giving. That's pretty far from fundamental physics, isn't it? Wouldn't a physiologist say you were 'poaching'?

Feynman: Physiology? It has to be physiology? Look, give me a little time and I'll give a lecture on anything in physiology. I'd be delighted to study it and find out all about it, because I can guarantee you it would be very interesting. I don't know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough."


clevermynnie: (Default)

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