This week I went to Sitka for work. I’ve been wanting to go there ever since I read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, which takes place in an alternate-reality Sitka inhabited by Jews displaced from all over the world. I liked the book but had some reservations about it, due partly to its implicit political message and partly to the fact that I’m just not that into gritty detective stories. Anyway, as I had expected, the real Sitka is a very pleasant little town and not gritty at all.
October 31, 2014
September 27, 2014
My dad died seven years ago today. Ever since then, my mom has had a tradition of going camping on September 27th, usually with her sister or one of her friends. This year, I took a few days off to come down to Albuquerque to go camping with her. We didn’t actually go camping today, since she’s teaching Sunday school and wants me to go with her tomorrow to help the kids build a sukkah (which it’s a little early for, but whatever). It’s also just generally more pleasant to go camping during the week since it’s less crowded. So we’re going down to Oliver Lee State Park next week, which should be nice since that’s a part of the state we haven’t spent much time in. After we get back we’ll go to Yom Kippur services at the synagogue, then I’ll fly back to Anchorage.
Anyway, since we weren’t going camping this weekend, tonight we went to see This Is Where I Leave You, which my mom has been wanting to see for a while. It’s about a Jewish family that gets together to sit shiva after their father dies, which wasn’t actually the main reason my mom wanted to see it but made it a particularly appropriate choice for today. I wouldn’t call it a good movie, exactly; it’s certainly formulaic and sentimental, and the plot is weak and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Still, it’s kind of sweet, and the parts about the various siblings and their personal struggles definitely struck a chord with me.
This has always been a difficult time of year for me, for various reasons, and the past few weeks have been very busy and stressful, so it’s nice to take some time off and do some different things for a change, and it’s definitely nice to spend time with my mom.
August 31, 2014
Not a whole lot of major interest to report this month either, but I’m still doing well. Work has been busy, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of some of my new responsibilities and am less stressed out about it than I had been.
July 31, 2014
I’m still busy with work, but at least I’ve been traveling more lately than I had been for a few months. This week I went to McCarthy, which was very interesting, and I have a couple more trips coming up in August and a lot of stuff going on in September. So yeah, things are going well.
June 30, 2014
I know almost every post I do here these days is a variation on “I’m really busy,” but that’s pretty much my life. This time I’m also sick with a pretty bad cold, which is getting better but did prevent me from going on a camping trip over the Solstice weekend, which was disappointing. Overall, though, things are going fine. I’m busy but feeling quite productive, and a lot of stuff at work that I’ve been working on for a while seems to finally be getting real results. So that’s nice.
May 31, 2014
The aftermath of the Isla Vista shooting has led to a lot of welcome discussion of gender relations, misogyny, and the idea among many lonely, resentful young men that they “deserve” sex with women of their choosing. I think the underlying concept in the latter is what I would call “Sex-as-Prize,” and it joins two other conceptualizations of sex that I also hate and have been thinking about for longer: “Sex-as-Conquest” and “Sex-as-Performance.” The former is pretty closely related to Sex-as-Prize, but with the difference that it involves the assumption that (in a hetero context) the man will pursue the woman actively with the goal of having sex with her, regardless of her initial opinion of him. It’s all over romantic comedies and so forth, and shades rather obviously into rape. Sex-as-Prize is similar but the assumption is that the man doesn’t even have to put in the effort of pursuit; the woman will just fall into his lap as long as he’s a Nice Guy or whatever. This is also fairly common in the media. Sex-as-Performance is somewhat different, and less obviously gendered, but still quite widespread. You see it in stuff like the idea that being “good at sex” is a quality someone (usually a guy, again in a hetero context) can acquire as an independent quality not tied to the preferences of any particular sex partner. I think it finds its most extreme realization in strip clubs, where there isn’t even any actual sex, just performance.
I hate all three of these concepts, for what I hope are obvious reasons. I don’t have as pithy a term for my preferred way to think about sex, but it’s basically just that it should be fun and both parties should be totally into it, without all the other baggage associated with the other concepts.
April 30, 2014
Things are still pretty hectic at work, but I’m getting a better sense of what my new responsibilities are and how to handle them than I had a couple months ago. I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which is a nice change of pace after a few months of not traveling for work at all, but still exhausting. There have also been some additional changes that I think are very positive overall but have added yet more work for me. This time I think I have a pretty good sense of how to rebalance my workload, and I also have some ideas about things I can accomplish in the near future. So yeah, still busy, but less stressed-out about it than I was a while ago.
March 27, 2014
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake, the most powerful in recorded US history, which caused immense destruction in Southcentral Alaska and permanently reshaped the economic geography of the region along with its geology. Two years ago I wrote a post about the quake and earlier ones in prehistoric Alaska that may have had comparable effects, so I won’t go into the details now. It was an important event and this is an important anniversary, however, so I figured I should at least note it.
February 27, 2014
Not a whole lot to report lately except that I’ve been very busy. Some recent developments at work have increased my workload, and figuring out how to deal with that has taken up a lot of my time lately. I think I’ve recently figured out how to deal with it effectively, so it shouldn’t be as frustrating going forward as it has been at times. There have been some potentially positive developments in my social life too, but it’s too early to tell how well all that’s going to work out. So yeah, I’ve been busy.
January 6, 2014
This comic strikes a chord with me, and not just because I’m often not sure I like having fun. From time to time people say things to me like “women aren’t magical creatures whose motives can’t be figured out by mortal man” and “if you think a girl is into you, you’re probably right,” and, fair enough, I’m sure those are true as generalizations. With respect to the second in particular, though, my experience has been that I’m actually a terrible judge of whether a girl likes me or not. The thing is, while it’s certainly true that a girl who likes a guy is likely to try to give signals to that effect, it’s also true that women are socialized to be nice to guys in general, and it can be really difficult (for me) to tell the difference. It’s also true that some people flirt just for fun without meaning to imply any actual attraction, so even obvious flirting isn’t a surefire sign that someone is interested.
The upshot of all this is that when a girl is friendly and flirtatious toward me I am not at all confident that she’s actually into me sexually. The only way to find out, of course, is to make an explicit move myself, but when I’ve done that in the past the result has usually been that it turns out she’s not actually interested and was just being friendly or whatever. The most depressing examples of this dynamic were in college, where I would get this sort of rejection from girls that I wasn’t actually all that into myself and was only pursuing because I was so lonely. This happened several times, and it was a major blow to my confidence and disincentive to trying to hit on girls from then on. Putting your arm around someone and having her recoil in horror is an awful experience and it makes you not want to end up in that situation ever again. In retrospect there have been several very clear opportunities since then that I’ve foolishly passed up because of that lack of confidence.
The problem really began for me in high school, but it was in college that it manifested as a clear and consistent pattern. One obvious inference from this is that I didn’t go to the right college for me in social terms, but it’s hard to imagine how I would have been able to figure what would have been the right one given the information I had available when I was making the choice.
Ultimately I think this can all be classified under “patriarchy hurts men too.” The expectation that the man will make the first move means that the only thing a woman can do if she likes a guy is send whatever subtle signals she can, but to a lot of socially awkward guys those signals are indistinguishable from the routine signals women send to ingratiate men in general. If women weren’t required to send those ingratiating signals, and if they were able to make the first move themselves if they were inclined to, this would be much less of a problem. (Online dating does remove a lot of these problems, but it adds some additional difficulties and frustrations of its own, so while it’s better on net, it’s still kind of a pain.)