Saturday, April 29, 2006

Going South

No sooner does South Park put on some brilliant season openers, than quicker than you can say "You killed Kenny! (You Bastard!)" the humor quotient plunges below Peter Griffin's IQ.

I know it's all Meg's fault, like always, but my friend has a different theory. His take is that ever since Comedy Central decided to censor the Muhammed episode, Matt and Trey are trying to kill the show by writing crappy episodes.

Thank Seth MacFarlane we still have Family Guy. And The Simpsons still manage to pull off some good ones. Let's hope my friend is wrong, and South Park can get back to cleverly offending multiple people on many levels at the same time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Double Take

I love studies in evolutionary biology. Inevitably we find that, though totally screwed up in interpretation, Freud had it right in the fundamentals - it's all about sex and death.

A friend tipped me off to this Nature article (thanks Jamie), in which we learn that men lose a large negotiating edge immediately after seeing pictures of attractive women in bikinis.

Now, to me, this seemed obvious. A bit like conducting a study to see if people grew nervous when confronted with an axe-wielding lunatic.

But, as I read further, it turns out there were some interesting new revelations. (And no, that's not a pun. I'm trying to give those up.)

It seems that the level of impact on negotiating ability in men is related to the man's level of testosterone. More testosterone - bigger impact. (The article doesn't mention whether or relative blood flow to the head was measured before and after seeing the pictures. And stop that - I said I'm giving up on puns!)

"Pictures of landscapes or elderly women, or handling a t-shirt, had no effect on the men's steely bartering power," according to the article. (Again, details were lacking. Was this a wet t-shirt? Were the elderly women Mrs. Robinsons? Were there any Miami Beach landscape shots?)

And although the data is clear, interpretation is varied.

Do men with high testosterone just get stupid when aroused? (I asked one of my cute friends this question, and she just giggled, patted my arm, and whispered breathily into my ear, "I don't think you're stupid." I lost track of what she said right after that.)

The study's authors come to a slightly different conclusion.
The sight of a potential mate might therefore actually make men more sensible, Van den Bergh says. "Since a few coins is better than no coins at all, men thus become more economically rational after exposure to lingerie or sexy women," he says.
So really, Freud almost had it right.

Sex. Death. And Money.

Understand those, and you understand men.

(And women, according to my post the other day...)

Monday, April 17, 2006

What Ruins Your Weekend?

You wake up, hungover from Friday's "Happy Hour" that turned into a "Way Too Happy All Nighter". You don't recognize the room. You don't remember your host's name.

You get dressed (but can't find one of your shoes) and limp out to look for your car in the freezing rain, which you finally find but didn't recognize at first because of the broken drivers side window. So you leave, thinking about the only thing worse that could happen right now is to get into a wreck. Distracted, you get into a wreck.

So you're standing in the McDonald's parking lot in the cold rain with one icy wet sock on your foot and you call your friend to come get you, but he can't because he left for Las Vegas last night and didn't you get his message that he had an extra ticket for you?

As you weep silently, your girlfriend calls and wants to know where you are because she's been waiting for hours at your apartment to help you do your taxes, which are due on Monday.

Now all this was fine, except for one thing. The idiot at McDonald's put M&Ms instead of Oreo in my McFlurry. I can't stand that. It ruined my whole weekend.

Sugar Mommas

Read an interesting tidbit in New Scientist about a soon to be published study.
Fhionna Moore and her colleagues at the University of St Andrews, UK, analysed questionnaires from 1851 heterosexual women between the ages of 18 and 35. They found that as a woman's level of "resource control" increases - in other words as they become more financially independent - so does their preference for physical attractiveness in potential partners.

Women who had low levels of control over their cash rated the financial status of a man over his looks. Those with a decent source of income rated physical attractiveness more highly.
So basically, girls really are just like guys when it comes to picking a mate. As long as they don't have to worry about the mortgage, it's all about looks. And hot sex.

I'm actually seeing this among friends. One friend, recently divorced but financially secure, prefers men 10-20 years younger than she is. If we go to a bar with people over 40, she wants to move on.

Another friend is the same, going for the 25-35 set. She's not really even looking for a boyfriend - one of her new playmates is her "toyfriend" as she terms him.

We went to see a band the other night, and my friend was going to introduce me to the lead singer. When I asked how she knew the lad, she said he was living with one of her girlfriends. Seems that her friend (let's call her Mrs. Robinson) had this guy's band playing at her 40th birthday party, wherein Mrs. Robinson fell in lust with the lead singer, promptly divorced her husband, and now lives with her new toyfriend.

Now, I'm speculating here, but my impression was that the divorced 40-year old woman is financially secure, and that the young band guy is not. It's been a cliche for sometime that men act this way in their "mid-life crisis," dropping their middle-aged wives for some hot new babe. Turns out that men and women are more alike in this regard than previously suspected.

And it's likely not just limited to women "of a certain age." Just look at Paris Hilton, whose regular "he's hot" is the epitomy of praise for her myriad of partners. She's not seeking financial security - she already has it. She wants toyfriends.

This is all pretty consistent with old Maslow's hierarchy of needs, although we may need to tweak "Love" to "Lust."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Forget WMDs - It's about Freedom!

You're in the reserves. You're returning from your second tour in Iraq (after a generous 2 month visit with your family after the first tour).

You made it. You're back in the U.S. The home of the free, the land of the brave. You take a deep breath. Can you smell it? Freedom! This is what you've been fighting for!

But wait...they're not letting you board the final connection home... Why?

They think you're a terrorist!

Your name is Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown. And somehow that freedom thing you've been fighting for just isn't working out like you'd hoped.

Article - Minnesota Marine on terror watch list

Friday, April 14, 2006

WE will decide what's funny

"South Park" Censored - Yahoo! News

The layers of irony here are thick enough to armor the Iron Giant.

The media, enshrined by our constitution as the last bastion of free
speech, in this article not only shows no outrage at the censorship
of a cartoon, but goes further to actively and one-sidedly condemn South
Park for poking fun at the Christian religion. (Although the outrage appeared to be lacking when the show previously showed Mohammed in 2001, or made fun of Scientologists - or even it's weekly poking fun at Jews).

And this for an episode which was entirely devoted to demonstrating how
the media and cartoons were the last bastion for free speech. And
where the forces of disingenuous special interests work to supress
free, if offensive, expression because they really just don't like the
cartoon and want it cancelled...and where, in the end, the brave
network doesn't cave in to terrorists and special interests...but hey, that's the fantasy of a cartoon, right?

"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its
freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it
values more, it will lose that too" - William Somerset Maugham

(or if that is too heavy handed, how about..."A mind is like a
parachute. If it doesn't open, you're fucked!" - Don Williams, Jr )

[This post was written by manatees. If you have any complaints,
you'll need to take it up with them.]

UPDATE: Here is a clip from 2001 when South Park depicted Mohammed. When Comedy Central had guts.

Here is a link to the original post I did on the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy. I posted the image of the comics. I'm sure I caused a huge riot, but it just didn't make the papers...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What's In YOUR Email?

I received an email last night that caused a severe allergic reaction. Here is an extract.
I usually don't get too worked up over things but check this out.

AOL is BLOCKING all email INTO aol email servers that has this link:
Also, if you have an aol email account they won't let you SEND an
email with that URL in it, they block it but they don't tell you
they blocked it. They just EAT the email and say nothing.
So, AOL is deciding I don't need to GET an email or SEND an email
based on CONTENT they don't like.

The link contains an "open letter to AOL subscribers" that is in opposition to an "certified email" program that AOL is advocating. From the "dangerous" website...
Subject: An Open Letter To America Online

We wish to express our serious concern with AOL's adoption of Goodmail's CertifiedEmail, which is a threat to the free and open Internet.

Apparently because AOL objects to the content of this web site, it eliminates all references to it in both incoming and outgoing emails that go through the AOL servers.

Here is what AOL tells it's subscribers when the link is blocked.

There is at least one URL in your email that is generating substantial complaints from AOL members.
I'll be kind, and merely call this "disingenuous" at best. (After all, I wouldn't want to rant and have someone block this content, sue me for libel, or blacklist me for job opportunities.)

So the question of the day is: What is in your email? (And the follow-up: How do you know whether or not your email has been censored by a commercial entity that just doesn't like the content of your "private" email?)

UPDATE: Article in LA Times

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Suicide by Blog

I think I may have lost a job opportunity as a result of this blog. (Either that, or they found that porn flick I did back when I was young and needed money).

Either's disappointing. I also happened to read an article in U.S. News where blogs are costing professors their tenure and graduates their job offers. So I can take solace (if not income) from the fact that I'm not alone.

What I take away from this event is that employers (some, anyway) would prefer the devil they don't know to the devil they do. In other words, the less they know about someone's personal life or beliefs, the more comfortable they are in hiring the person.

Here's what I've found out about people over time:

  a) everybody has issues

  b) everybody has parts of their life they'd prefer to keep separate from other parts

  c) everybody is a freak (in some way or another that somebody else out there would characterize as "weird")

  d) most people don't like someone very different than themselves

I imagine the reason that large corporations are able to function (to the extent that they do) with all these freaks working for them is that most people really don't know their coworkers very well. "Personal" life translates to "Secret" life. And ignorance is bliss. "If I don't know that your beliefs and actions outside of work offend some deeply held prejudice of mine, then I can work with you just fine. But if I do know, well, I just can't look at you - or work with you - the same way again."

I guess I'm just going to have to start my own company again. For a couple reasons.

  1) So we can have more employers that respect (even admire) people who aren't mundane; and

  2) So I can eventually have an income again.

UPDATE: I received an email from a friend asking what's probably the obvious question - "Why don't you just take down your blog for now?"

I thought about it, but have reached a point in my life where I no longer want to work with, or subsume my values to, a group of people who don't value vigorous intellectual debate and diversity of opinion. Not only is that environment unattractive, but I've been at enough companies to recognize that those groups will never do more than "B-team" work. Mediocrity becomes the watchword of the company.

So in a sense, this blog will continue to serve as another self-selecting filter in my life - attracting those of wide interests who like a good argument, and repelling those who seek only others who match and echo their own beliefs.

I may end up moving into a double wide, but hey, at least I'll have my principles... :-)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Attack of the Talking Cows

I miss Gary Larson. But this helps.

(The video has been replaced with a link so that the singing cows will not keep annoying those who come to view later posts...)

Singing Cows

(I'm not a PETA advocate btw - I think most extremists are nuts, and most PETAs I've met are extreme. Don't believe me? Who else could come up with a video like that?)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Man Boobs

Another in an endless supply of absurd lemming-think examples...

Why is it OK to show a man's breasts on TV? asks Bennett Haselton

Oh, to tap into that "because everyone else says I should" think for profit and gain - bwa ha ha ha!!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Question Authority (at your own risk...)

A while back I wrote a post Question Authority, where I railed at the abuses of power and how citizens should fight back.

I still believe this. But it comes at a cost.

I read this story back in February, but didn't post it because to get the full impact, you need to watch about 20 minutes worth of video. (Fact: 20 minutes is the upper end of adult attention span. For web based articles, lengths of over 20KB are considered too long to maintain an adult's attention. This is likely why this blog has such a high exit rate...)

In the videos segments of reporting done by the CBS news affiliate in Miami, you can see the police of various precincts reaction to a citizen who wants to file a complaint against police, ranging from pleasant cooperation, to stonewalling, to outright intimidation and threats.

As a result of the story, the individual doing the investigation is now on the wanted list by the Broward County PD. (Broward PD also tried to get an injunction to squelch the airing of the story.)

This sort of power fungus can only be cleared by the harsh light of public exposure and censure. And vigilance - what's going on in your backyard?

"People shouldn't be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." - V in V for Vendetta

Social Links

With mucho time on my hands, I've been playing around with social networking sites and technologies. I'll post more later on any profound conclusions (should be a short post), but a couple of quick comments here.

Humans are social animals. The need to interact with other humans is a constant compulsion. Given a technology, we will find a way to turn it into a way to socially interact.

It's not just sites designed for social networking. Video games evolve into MMOGs, adding text and audio (VOIP) ways to interact realtime with others. Cell phone SMS and cameras grow into moblogging, and then tap into the video game and social networking sites (article today in WSJ - requires subscription).

Sometimes these techologies, when adopted for social networking, merely replace or extend an existing mechanism. (Dating sites replacing personal ads in papers. Voicemail replacing phone calls. Email replacing voicemails. IM, SMS replacing each with a strange mix of the immediacy of phone calls with the time-shiftability and history of emails.)

Sometimes these technologies create new social phenomena altogether. I wrote a while back on the transparent society created by the MySpace/Facebook crowd. (Tangent: interesting blog post on why some of these succeed and others fail). YouTube's sharing of video is creating novel interaction. I'm also finding's use of tags is also novel and interesting. Tagging as a concept is being expanded and adopted for means of social interaction that isn't dating, and isn't preformed "birds of a feather" groups like Meetup or Tribe. This is a kind of "self-forming" group dynamic, kind of like MySpace but different.

I recently read (although I wish I could remember where so I could link to it) an article that described the tipping point phenomenon among kids using SMS in the party scene. It goes like this: say there are about five parties going on tonight that you are aware of. You pick one at which to begin your evening. If it's good, you text your friends to come over, "hey, it's happening here!" If it's bad, you text your friends "where are you?" so you can go where it's happening.

While the distribution across the parties starts out fairly random and even, it rapidly coalesces to one party to which everyone converges. As your friends come to join you, they text their friends, and so on, until one party becomes quite large and the other die the death of insufficient energy.

Why didn't this happen with just cell phones? It probably did, to an extent, but if you're in a loud party you may not hear your phone, or may consider it rude to answer it while talking to others. SMS is there, available quickly but when you want to look at it, and you can check it fairly surreptitiously.

The net result: a new phenomenon, introducing the physics of the inverse power curve (Pareto Distribution) into the party scene of the 15-25 set (where SMS and IM is ubiquitous).

I think this space is just like the search space was some years back - it will go through a consolidation sometime in the next couple years, but there is a heck of a lot of innovation and experimentation that will go on before that happens.

It's a fun place to play right now.