Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A suggestion for the updating of citation practices for historical scholarship

In this great age of looking stuff up online, is it really that helpful anymore to use the date of publication of the particular edition that you happen to be using in your citations? I am always coming across citations like (Locke 1987) in academic articles, and each time, it gives me pause to wonder how it could be that John Locke published a book in 1987. Particularly when the argument is a historical one, these citations intrude on one's internal sense of chronology and destroy the already minimal atmospheric setting that articles or books about previous centuries create. Here we are, in the midst of the English Civil War, and suddenly, nope! It's 1956, 1981, 2003! I understand that subsequent editorial decisions matter in shaping the way that books from the English Civil War or whatever are presented, and especially translated books, but if we must note that, can't we bury it in the bibliography instead of the body of the text? Is it more helpful for a reader to know that the author was looking at the 1982 Penguin paperback reprint of Hobbes's Leviathan when he composed this article, or that the book itself was published in 1651?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Living in the future

It is high time to revive my old blog-tag, "the future is nigh," and put it in the service of all things southern California. Because if Joan Didion and (for different reasons) crazed techno-progress optimists are right, here is the beginning of tomorrow's America. But I have been exiled here from today's America (Washington), yesterday's America (Chicago), and also the day before yesterday's pre-America (Boston). And like Phoebe in New Jersey but with a slightly shorter (two-leg) commute to school, I am ambivalent to say the least about my new surroundings. But, as a matter of the public service to which I am so unwaveringly devoted, I bring you what you have to look forward to:

Of course, the traditional "Halloween tan." How could you forget?

Overheard in coffee-shops:
"I am a nature-ologist."
"Have you heard about design-thinking? Yes, design-thinking. It's a new way of solving problems that's, like, replacing the scientific method."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sex math is hard

I promise maybe this is the last post about sex week, but the articles are just so great. So, this problem could be posed in the simplest of terms: when there are fewer lesbians than straight women, it's harder to find lesbians in any given population of women. Check. But it could also be posed in this amazing baroque way as the world's greatest math problem:
As a pansexual, Jinadasa expresses a desire to have relationships with both men and women, but she says that the small dating pool of lesbian and female bisexuals makes it much easier to date men. “It’s math: Let’s say I’m attracted to 50 percent women and 50 percent men. Let’s say there are 40 people in a room and I’m attracted to all of the guys and all of the girls. There are nine guys who are gay and one girl who is queer.”
Ok, peeps, let's put our thinking caps on. So there are 40 people in a room, and you are attracted to all of them, every last one, but you're still a woman, so the nine gay guys are not attracted to you (annoying! why can't they also be pansexual?), which leaves 31 people to potentially sleep with. It could work out with one of the girls, but that seems so...paltry. You are hot stuff, you desire everyone, can't a girl get some play? What about the other 30 people? Are they men or women? Now your calculator is giving you "variable undefined" as an answer. Maybe they are also pansexuals, so it's irrelevant? Or maybe they are all having sex with each other while you're busy doing this math, and by the time you finish and go back into the room, you'll discover that they all got tired and left, including that one queer girl you could've met instead of doing this complicated sex-algebra? Then, you'll realize that all you needed to satisfy your vast pan-desire was one person, queer or not, and in spite of being attracted to 40 people simultaneously, you're still stuck going home alone.

If only this epic story could one day appear as a word problem in the math textbooks of future children.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Like the weather

Right now, I am in the UCSD library surrounded by people wearing tank tops and shorts and others wearing sweaters and coats. In my previous lives, some of these people would have been clearly wrong while others would be clearly right. It would be either too cold for shorts, or it would not be. This was not a matter of your preference, but of uncontrollable climatological circumstance. You do not decide the weather; it decides you. In San Diego, this is not the case. Temperature is an entirely subjective judgment. "Too cold" and "too warm" are not applicable categories.* Would you like to wear shorts today? A winter coat? Done, or done. Or perhaps done and done, as is the case in the common combination of t-shirt, shorts, and Uggs. Yesterday, for example, I wore knee-high leather boots over bare legs with a sleeveless dress. Sure, I felt silly, but I passed at least half a dozen women who'd made the same choice of weather, and many people who had made diametrically opposed choices, and then I decided that I choose my choice** and felt pretty good about it. A few more months here, and I may reach the pinnacle of liberal theory's autonomy. Then I will start making my own laws, and that will be a great day for everyone.

*"Too hot" remains, however, a real and problematic state of affairs, usually announced when the temperature exceeds 75 degrees, at which time, those who would choose to wear coats that day are subjected to physical discomfort and thus have their choices unjustifiably foreclosed.
**Four years on, it's still one of the best article titles I've come across.

Overheard at Starbucks:
Woman on phone with her brother, who feels sick: You're probably just dehydrated because of this heat. You need to drink a LOT of water.
It is, again, 79 degrees.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Barrel shooting: sex week

I have long been a skeptic about histrionic college shenanigans like Sex Weeks, but having read the recent Crimson coverage of its own Sex Week, I must say, I was not only convinced but inspired:
The more that people know about consent and the importance of respect in sexual relationships, and the more that sex is seen as a positive, affirming thing, the more likely people are to practice consent and respect.
Ok then! Drawing on this, I have created the official advertisement for Miss Self-Important's forthcoming First Annual Drunken Brawling Week:
The more that people know about fist-fighting and the importance of violence in social relationships, and the more that drunken brawling is seen as a positive, affirming thing, the more likely people are to practice fist-fighting and violence.
Incidentally, Drunken Brawling Week will also feature an event called "Unsupervised." I will leave you to infer what will take place at this event. The spokesperson, however, will take her cues directly from the quoted Planned Parenthood staffer and will provide the following reassurances to the audience at the event:
“We, as a culture, are not comfortable about drunken brawling. We are violent beings; it’s part of our nature...Drunken brawling is not bad, it’s not evil, it’s just risky...One out of four drunken brawlers in our country have a broken nose. ”
All of this is entirely true, and also value-free. We organizers of Drunken Brawling Week, we are not judging you and your drunken brawling proclivities. We just provide information and raise awareness. It's up to you to do what you will with it. We want you to have a good time, but a safe good time. Remember to drink lots of water and wear padding.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

On competitive consumption

I have been in the market for a new carry-everything bag ever since my cat, in order to demonstrate his displeasure with our cross-country move, peed on my old one, which was falling apart anyway after three years of constant and edifying use. (Incidentally, this bag was one of the best gifts I've ever received.) I've been hauling around my grad school tote ever since, but since it is emblazoned with the logo of a university in Boston, I do not want this to alienate my populist fellow-citizens of the UC-system, whom I would like to have as friends (please be my friends, UCSD-ers! I am not a snob! I am a yokel from the Midwest!). More importantly, it looks like a potato sack. So, I turned to the land of endless cheapness victories, Ebay, to solve this difficulty.

What I learned was that, unlike buying shoes on Ebay, another of my unrepetantly frivolous hobbies, but one which is conducted in a comparatively civilized manner, buying designer bags is like a pitched battle, if not total war. Bags starting at $5 end up selling for $95, and my shoe-buying strategy of bidding a dollar more than the previous bidder (cheapness!) is generally steamrolled by the more zealous within minutes. Moreover, I am inevitably outbid 15 seconds before the end of the auction by these same zealots, who raise their bid by just enough to cause me psychological money-spending hesitation ("should I really spend more than $60 on this thing?") that lasts just long enough for me to miss the last bid ("ok, ok, yes! I will spend! oh no! I have already lost!"). This in turn makes me even more obsessed with tracking the last five minutes of every auction, and more upset at losing every one. In short, I have lost about 10 auctions on potential new purses over the past three weeks, and each loss had made me crazier and more bitter.

But today I finally won! I adopted the strategy of the zealots, offered $20 more than the highest bid at the last second, and scored my still-under-$60 bag. And I felt a momentous and completely irrational sense of Great Victory, like what I imagine men feel when their sports teams win, even though they personally did nothing to contribute to the victory except to watch it on TV. Eat it, other Ebay bidders! I dominate! In principle, I could win every auction without this stressful competitiveness by just bidding $300 on each item, but that is inglorious. For that money, I could just go to the Coach store and buy a new bag, but that's the lazy rich person way out. Glory is when you find it, win it, and still get a deal.

Now let's hope this bag is as awesome when it arrives as my inflated perception of myself right now.