Retroactive resolutions!

It's time once again for the retroactive resolutions, the things that I totally meant to do all along last year. (This idea from hsifyppah, who has the good ideas.)

  • Do all that stuff the physical therapists suggested, so as to be able to walk/run/speed skate again

  • Don't start smoking

  • At least show up for the indoor marathon on January 26. I was able to walk without special equipment. But not without a bit of a limp. I walked 8.8km in 2:11 before deciding that was plenty. That was either my worst or best marathon, depending on how you look at it.

  • Go speed skating on my birthday. It wasn't very speedy, but I was on the skates, skating.

  • Get a new bicycle!

  • Run the half marathon on June 14. 1:49:48 was pretty good for only four months since first being able to sort-of run again.

  • Run the half marathon trail race without throwing up this year! Better time, too! (The better time is closely related to the not throwing up thing.)

  • Go to speed skating camp so I can learn to skate less badly

  • Finally begin to really acknowledge my not very conforming sense of gender expression. While it's probably not been all that well hidden anyway, it is still very different to stop trying to hide.

  • Don't break any more bones by crashing into things!


The double standard!

There are plenty of recent examples (the president's daughters come to mind) but surely eleventy-billion further examples come readily to mind of women being harshly criticized for dressing wrong or being slut-shamed or blamed as 'asking for it' on the basis of whatever they were wearing. Men, on the other hand, not so much. I've always been aware of that but lately I've been exploring, well, either deliberately attracting attention to myself or just generally dressing not-entirely-conventionally in public, and that well and truly pounds home the double standard.

Generally, the women being criticized for dressing wrong are not showing up to the quarterly staff meeting at the office wearing a thong and no top.  Not at all.  We live in this culture, we know what's considered basically normal, if you have working vision you've looked around and know what is well within the range of average.  They're being told they're asking for it because they showed up at a party wearing a just-above-the-knee skirt and a top that shows a bit of the space between the breasts and they did something fancy with their hair.  Like all the other women at the party.  They're wearing a skirt and leggings and two layers on top and moderately fancy shoes.  They are well, well, *WELL* within the usual range of usual.  They're getting stuff shouted at them while wearing blue jeans and a turtleneck.  Putting a lot of care into looking "normal" and by any sort of rational comparison to the average succeeding at looking "normal" by no means prevents angry abuse.

Me?  Oh, I can wear paisley leggings (oh, and with no pockets, also a bag slung over one shoulder, and yes, that's a purse, though it's black and yellow recycled plastic from "Mountainsmith" and all properly masculine-hiking-gear-looking)  to the coffee shop like literally no other obvious-boy-person-with-a-beard this week or probably this decade and not one single person says one single word.  The only way people say stuff to me is if I wear a kilt.  Seriously, how close to the average man's outfit is a boy-skirt?  It is not close at all.  It is very very far outside the range of normal dude clothing.  And people don't slut-shame me, rather, some women can't resist making jokes about whether or not I'm wearing underwear, and while that's actually sort of uncomfortable, it's not the same thing.  Apparently someone who looks like me can dress like roughly 0.01% of the people who look like me without a big problem but if you look like a woman just because you're dressed like 20% of the other women doesn't mean you are safe.

Fellow men: Think about that.


I have not been making much music lately, and have not been to many of the local house filks, either.  That's partly because I'm often busy with something else, partly because now that I don't have my traveling companion around I don't feel like going anywhere on a Saturday night.  I did go to filkart's gathering last night, though, and I had a great time.  It was nice to be back among the music friends again.

Also, what was basically the first thing that happened?  I was asked to sing something I hadn't practiced in probably two years.  In German.  Sure, why not!  Actually, I practiced the German language songs a whole heck of a lot when I was first learning them, so, fortunately, it was pretty well lodged in the brain.  aryana_filker, you get your songs requested in Wisconsin. 

Shouldn't be so hard

There are some anti-street-harassment videos circulating at the moment, and you know what they say about reading the comments. Yeah.  That.

I'm reminded of the heyday of the voluntary waterboarding. Remember that? Macho Tough Guy ™ writers and TV personalities told us all that this notorious means of torture, used by notorious torturers for centuries, didn't sound so bad to them. In fact, they were going to show us it's not so bad by having themselves waterboarded. Not, you know, first being kept awake for two weeks, having a leg and and an arm broken, no food, genuine fear of death, and so on, just a quick, gentle waterboarding administered by friends of theirs, with a safeword, and paramedics standing by, just in case. The least possible dose of the torture. What did they discover? Wow, this notorious means of torture is really, really awful to experience! Who knew?

Well, yeah, the rest of us didn't have to try it to believe it, though I'm sure they have an appreciation for the true experience the rest of us don't have.

"Stop being oversensitive." "Technically, what that guy shouted is a compliment, can't you even take a compliment?" "I'd love to have women shouting at me."  Some people are capable of just believing people who say that they don't like being harassed.

Deliberately setting yourself up to be harassed to see what it feels like is a dangerous game.  (And harassing someone to teach him a lesson is a dangerous game.)  I can't really recommend it.  But I can assure you that wearing a kilt in public will get you some comments that will teach you something about what it really feels like.  Comments from women.  Technically, that's the straight men's fantasy of having women yell stuff at them.  I already believed that having drunk people shout stuff about your underwear would be uncomfortable, I didn't really learn that.  But I have a new appreciation for it.

And while I'm on this topic, while dressed in, well, attention-attracting ways, I have had people say things that were absolutely wonderful and delightful comments and compliments, and I've had people say things that I honestly believe were intended as complimentary and funny but which were nevertheless somewhat uncomfortable.  I've also had drunk women behave like drunk people, which was never really going to be good.  I did learn from this.

People like to post selfies on facebook with their new outfit or new hairstyle or new eyeglasses or whatever.  I do.  Let's be honest, we're fishing for compliments when we do that.  Now I think very hard about what I write.  Most especially with women who I don't know very, very well.  I very specifically want to avoid writing something that could be edited down to "I'd like to make use of your vagina."  There are times and places for that kind of thing.  Other times, "that pattern is fantastic" is much more appropriate.  A woman once asked me about my boots in the toothbrush aisle at the drugstore.  That was not a bad experience but it was odd.  Two women at the grocery store told me they thought my (exceedingly colorful) pants were fantastic.  Said in a very quiet voice while passing by, giving me the option to just say thanks and move on or else strike up a conversation, which is what we did do.  It can be done comfortably, but you'd best be very, very careful.  Now, at a party where everyone is all dressed up fancy?  Different thing.  Seriously, think about this stuff, don't just go out being Captain Awkward: Straight Dude Of Cluelessness. 

Didn't get out so much back then

Last weekend I went to my high school class reunion, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy charter class of 1989.  I had a great time!  It was very odd to visit the school and walk through the building I spent so much time in and feel the contrast between the parts that haven't been changed and the parts that have been completely remodeled.  The strange feeling of remembering a specific window but not really recognizing anything around it.  This is a residential school, it was literally home for three years, so it was a very familiar place back in the day.

I had assumed that as I drove toward the school things would start to look at least a bit familiar as I neared it.  Nope.  Not at all.  Lots of things, of course, have changed in 25 years. Leaving in the afternoon, though, driving past everything one more time (and from the other direction),  I recognized a bunch of landmarks that hadn't changed too much to recognize.  The most surprising thing, really very surprising, was how very, very close to the school many of them were.  One or two kilometers.  From my adult perspective, it's hard to imagine how I didn't pass by some of that all the time, how it could have seemed like something in the far distance.  These days, I'd be running back and forth for exercise, or bicycling through on the way to, well, whatever is past there.  But we were kids then, and this is the outer edge of the outer asteroid belt of suburbia, not a very walkable, pedestrian-friendly, attraction-filled place.

They did let us out, and I did get out.  But we were kids, after all, and had to sign out, listing a destination and an expected time of return.  While in practice you might be able to get away with (I did this) saying something to the effect of generally to the west by bicycle, for about an hour, it nonetheless wasn't a setup encouraging aimless wandering just to see what's out there.  Indeed, I  clearly remember us all getting a good talking-to/yelling-at when a group went on a journey on foot that was judged have been unwise.  At least the way I remember it, the main issue was them walking at the edge of a giant road.  Remember, outer suburbia, you don't always get a sidewalk.  No Google Streetview in the eighties, how would you know you'd end up walking in a ditch except by showing up and finding out the hard way?

Thinking about this, I went to Google maps to have a look.  Looking with my adult eyes, the place is not nearly the isolated little-schoolhouse-on-the-prairie that it sort of felt like.  There are many things very near by.  Now, sure, some of that is new, but clearly some of that was always there.  The river was always there, those forest preserves are surely not new, and while businesses come and go, some of those places were always occupied by something.  Even dialing the radius of movement way down to something I would have been more comfortable with back at age 15 or 16, there is much more around there than I had realized.

Of course, I did what we do now, having Google highlight the bicycle-friendly routes in green, dragging the Streetview guy onto roads and intersections to see whether they look like a fun place for a kid on a bike or not so much.  We didn't have Google in the eighties.  I pulled out my DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer from 1991, which at the time seemed like a very detailed and exhaustively complete set of maps.  I spent lots of time when I was in college planning bike rides outside of Champaign, and later planing out rides and also automobile journeys in Wisconsin.  Having just been scrolling around Google Maps, it suddenly seemed like a vague and sketchy marginal source of information.

I wonder how much the students there now get out around the area.  Now they can easily make detailed Google-Earth-aided plans, and there are phones now.  Back in the day, as soon as we went out the door we vanished into the great big way out there, for better or for worse incommunicado.  On the other hand, our societal level of paranoia is ever rising.  Can high school students be allowed to walk around a suburb unsupervised these days?

Bunny Savvy / holes in the floor

Recently I've been seeing little rabbits while out cycling. I'm pretty sure these are not members of a species of small rabbits, but rather regular rabbits who are still young. I say this partly because I don't see any little rabbits in winter, mostly because these little rabbits have no escape-savvy whatsoever.

Big bunnies, when they see me coming, immediately disappear into the tall grass. These little guys, they run directly down the center of the paved trail in the exact same direction I am traveling. It turns out, the top speed of a small rabbit is right around 22km/hr, plus or minus a few. After a few tens of meters, they realize that this is not working and veer off into the tall grass and vanish. In a few months, bigger rabbits will just vanish off to the side right away. I think those are the exact same bunnies, a few months older, bigger, and having finally learned something that seems obvious but evidently isn't.

Before you think, wow, rabbits are dumb, think back to the things you did in high school. You were really stupid, weren't you! I know I was! My classmates will all remember "I came here to work with the best kids in the state, and here you are burning holes in the floor!" That was us! Now that we're all 42 or 43 or so, it never enters our minds to burn an anarchy symbol into a carpet, but back then we were apparently as dumb as juvenile rabbits.

Body image

I had some thoughts I was pondering sharing, then I saw this which displays some of it very well:

From time to time a sexy-underwear-for-men company sends me a catalog. (I suspect it's really the sexy underwear for gay men company, but they don't ask or anything, they're happy to sell to someone who is hoping to impress someone with a little tiny penis nestled in amongst all those glorious folds, too.)

Anyway, as I leaf through the catalog, I think, wow, I really do not look like an underwear model. But, you know, women encounter photos of underwear models all the time whereas us dudes, not so often. And basically no one is going to tell me I ought to look like an underwear model, or insist I'm valueless because I don't. And, other important thing, even the underwear models don't really look like that. Aside from getting the job specifically because they don't look like average people, and even aside from the Photoshop job on the photos, those are very carefully posed. Hair fussed over, arms and legs positioned just right, kleenex stuffed in there to get the bulge just right (they do that, you know), this thing sucked in and that thing pushed out, a hundred photos taken and the best one selected to proceed to do the Photoshop job on. Even those guys don't look like that when they're just slouched on the couch at home leafing through a catalog. Remember that.

The Google exercise card

One of the random things recent Android versions do is the Google exercise card, which at the start of the month displays the phone's guess at how many hours you spent walking and cycling last month.  I understand that it's not exactly a high-accuracy measurement.  They are a little vague, I guess based an an occasional sampling of the jostling as measured by the phone's accelerometers plus intermittent location fixes.  Anyway, um, yeah, not a high accuracy number.  The phone is always with me on the bike.  It thinks 6 hours in May and 7 hours in June.  The Garmin 910XT data is a whole lot better.  That totals up to 35 hours (and 706km) in May and 25 hours (and 577km) in June.  So in other words, the exercise card is basically worthless.  I don't log plain old walking, but I'm guessing the 5 hours isn't any more believable than the cycling number.  

Perfluoropolyether / James Bond Villain

I was looking through the vacuum pump section of the Scientific Instrument Services catalog and saw the solution to two very different problems you might have.  Do you need a very inert fluorinated vacuum pump fluid for use when pumping highly reactive gases?  Are you writing a story with a character like a James Bond villain and you need a suitable name for that character?  Either way, the answer might be FomblinOr alternatively, the competing brand Krytox!

Let's over-analyze the TV show

On cable TV something calling itself the "Science Channel" runs a show called "Outrageous Acts of Science."  This consists of video culled from YouTube of people hurting themselves, with a panel of experts with various recognizable credentials in science or engineering commenting with a mixture of science (this happens because of conservation of angular momentum) and snark (I like this video because it illustrates the flow of heat from an idiot into a heat sink).  As someone who enjoys the effects of ethanol on the central nervous system, I think this show is an excellent show to watch while drinking, because alcohol makes TV funny.

I have no particular knowledge of the mechanics of putting the show together, but it appears as though each expert is individually brought in, sat in a Comfy Chair,  they record a bunch of science/snark, and eventually it's all edited  together into a series of episodes.

Something about having people sit in Comfy Chairs brings out differences in posture.  (Somehow I've gotten sensitized to this and notice it.)  The men mostly-in varying degrees-sit back and sprawl out, seemingly trying to fill as much space as possible, in time-honored gender-stereotype manner.  The women perch at the front, legs crossed tightly, leaning forward just a bit, filling much less space.  One of the men is more tightly curled than the others, though.  Carin Bondar tends to sit with her legs up on the cushion, cross-legged or sitting on one.  In that respect Carin and I are very much alike.  (Otherwise, we're not so alike.  She's a biologist studying entire animals.  As a chemist I stick to molecules.)  (On the third hand, like Carin, I like talking about penises. So if you see someone curled up on top of a chair talking about penises, it could be either of us.  If you saw it on the Science Channel, however, it was her.)