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brilliant ideas in a big font… often gay interest or political topics.

Archive for the ‘opinion’ Category

Grower vs Shower

Posted by bert5 on 23 November 2014

In cold climates and waters, penile shrinkage actually prevents heat loss and might have led to survival advantage. My guess this was an evolutionary development.

Posted in evolution, opinion, science -ish | Leave a Comment »

Amazon vs Hachette

Posted by bert5 on 1 October 2014

A publisher served as a gatekeeper for expensive printing resources. If you have e-books which cost nothing to make, and a good writer is just a good writer — with or without the editor who only affects the quality around the margins (pun intended) — doesn’t getting rid of the publisher make sense?

Worst case, the author hires an editor on her/his own.

Posted in economics, opinion | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Why Chinese Males are less hairy and less brawny

Posted by bert5 on 8 February 2014

Chinese culture appears to be more chauvinistic and female suppressing than average in the world. For example, during Song dynasty many women’s feet were bound and basically crippled. It was said to enhance beauty, but it also meant women were completely dependent on men and could also not run away easily.

Also from Wikipedia: “In China, arranged marriages (baoban hunyin, 包辦婚姻) – sometimes called blind marriages (manghun, 盲婚) – were the norm before mid 20th century. A marriage was a negotiation and decision between parents and other older members of two families. The boy and girl, were typically told to get married, without a right to consent [emphasis mine], even if they had never met with each other until the wedding day.” In combination with male chauvinism, I believe women had little influence on who they married and had children with and because of physical impediments they may have been unlikely to cuckold their husbands.

So say we accept at face value that Chinese culture is more chauvinistic and arranged (actually: forced) marriages were very common. What does this mean to selection — in an evolutionary sense? It means the Chinese man did not have to prove himself worthy to the woman in a physical sense for many hundreds or even thousands of years. I believe this is significant.

Elsewhere in the world, men would prove themselves to women in terms of size, strength and physical attractiveness (not to mention courageousness and chivalry). But in China, men would not have to show these traits. And because of this, the genes for these traits were not selected for and exited the gene pool. What came in its place, perhaps genes that would appeal to parents (mostly the father, in such a paternalistic society) making matches: obedience, diligence, and perhaps brains. While these attributes are great, they don’t compete as well today when Asian women have ability to select for pools which are stronger for other very important or even overriding attributes.

Over time, even Chinese males began to appear more feminine and youthful as only attractive female appearance traits were heavily selected in an evolutionary sense.

The Chinese can only perhaps fault themselves. Their sons cannot compete well for mates outside of China, but their daughters do exceptionally well.

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What is the right amount of taxes?

Posted by bert5 on 26 November 2012

Let’s say we had to choose among several options:

  1. Pay a flat fee as an American citizen every year for gov’t services
  2. Pay an income tax as a flat rate of income
  3. Pay a progressive income tax with rates which increase on income exceeding certain thresholds
  4. Pay a wealth tax based on wealth and property owned

Rich people would love 1.  Why don’t they go for that?  Civil war and rebellion, perhaps?  Rich people propose 2, but they should rightly worry about the same thing.  Poor people are not all that unintelligent.  The truth is that for many years the US has had stability with a combination of 3 and 4.  Yes, we have some amount of 4 in many states where real estate property and upon death wealth is actually being taxed.

I’ve had many arguments with people who say, how is 3 fair or “paying their fair share” for the rich?  Actually, if you get right down to it, 1, is arguably  “fair” as well, but we don’t accept 1.  So something different from the most simple thought about “fair” is in play for taxes. Earlier this year Senator Elizabeth Warren brought into the picture the idea of community enabling people to get rich — the roads, the workforce, the education. That’s part of the responsibility of a person who got rich to give back (sort of like tithing). We have in fact made it compulsory, though rich people often do whatever they can to get out from paying this ‘share’.  A share that society deems is a fair tradeoff between incentive to make money and not having vast numbers of people as beggars on the street.

So again, what has worked in the past in the US is a combination of 3 and 4. As far as I know, I don’t see rich people finding it a grave injustice which needs to be rectified, and I don’t find them intelligibly arguing to go to regime of 1 or 2 (i.e. how would the lost revenue be made up by poor people without causing demonstrations and collapse of society a la Greece).  So long as we’re arguing, we only arguing about percentages. How does one say that 35% is fair and 39% isn’t?

Posted in economics, opinion, Politics | Leave a Comment »

The heroes and disappointments of Gen X, some in light of recent news

Posted by bert5 on 19 August 2012

Potentially with slight liberal political bias.  I’m including birthdays from 1964 (which excludes the current POTUS, Michael Jordan, Tom Cruise and Roger Clemens as too old) to 1982 (which excludes Mark Zuckerberg, Edward Snowden, and Ezra Klein as too young [They’re millenials.]).

  • Heroes or like: Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, Tom Brady, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Google and Yahoo! founders, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer, Chris Rock, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Leonardo Dicaprio, Will Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon, J. J. Abrams, Andy Towle, Frank Bruni
  • Mixed: Fareed Zakaria, Jonah Lehrer, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Julian Assange, Niall Ferguson
  • Disappointments: Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan

Anyone have suggestions for GenXers that I missed?

Posted in journal, opinion | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Jared Loughner’s Todo list (sarcastic)

Posted by bert5 on 11 January 2011

[It’s a strange thing but virtually all searches coming to this post are asking if Loughner was gay.  My personal opinion is this is extremely unlikely.  No gay guy would make himself bald when he could obviously easily have a full head of hair.  Similarly, the (hideous) teenage long curly locks is a style only a straight guy would wear.  Besides something like Loughner being gay would have gotten reported on immediately, just like they reported it in the cases of PFC Bradley Manning (alleged Wikileak source) and Steven Slater (the [ex-]Jet Blue flight attendant).  The recent finding by police of Loughner’s pictures of himself in a red g-string aren’t gay because it’s the straight guys who love women’s panties.]

Todo

  • Prove the army wrong: that I’d actually be very good at shooting people (done)

  • Finish Sarah Palin’s request (she’s so hot, by the way) to eliminate the 20 democrats who voted for damn gov’t takeover of health care so that Tea Party candidates will take their places (partial, harder than I thought)

  • Show Pima college that I’m not crazy (not yet done [don’t know how to start])

Posted in gay, journal, opinion, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Robert Putnam @Stanford: American Grace

Posted by bert5 on 16 November 2010

[Author’s note: americangrace.org/press.html has labeled my blog as reactionary.  I had to look it up, but reactionary means conservative.  Sorry folks, this is a radically liberal blog.]

I found Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’ fascinating, so I was fairly enthusiastic to hear Putnam talk at Stanford about his new book ‘American Grace’ even though it has to do with religion, and I’m an atheist.  He seemed to talk liberally about the contents of most of his book in his roughly 90 minute talk which was interspersed at times with anecdotes and self-deprecating humor.

Putnam shows a graph which shows that Americans are quite religious, far more than any other developed country and slightly more religious even than Iranians!  He then described how the sexual revolution earthquake of the early 60’s resulted in a reaction by some (older) Americans into a stronger embrace of more extreme (evangelical) Christianity.  He says this stampede to ‘family values’ actually caused another aftershock of younger folks into being non-believers in reaction to what they saw was promotion of extreme conservative beliefs and invasion of the political sphere by the ‘religious right’.   Both of these effects have conspired to empty much of the mainline Protestant churches.  The resulting polarization might predict religious war.  However, as I had heard him state earlier in an interview (I think it was on PBS Newshour) and again in today’s talk, surprisingly Americans are tolerant of other religions and non-believers/atheists.  As evidence of this more than 50% of very religious people believe that persons from another religion or even non-believers could go to Heaven (despite this being quite contrary to almost every strict religious teaching)!  He says this is probably precisely because of the religious diversity in the US.  Americans are highly likely to have a friend or even to have married someone from another religion (or non- religion).  Once again demonstrating the principle that it’s difficult to demonize people you know.

One very surprising finding is that in America the group people view most positively out of all religions or non-believers is Jews.  Jews have something like a >80% approval rating, just besting Catholics.  (I think we should not let it be said that Jews are an oppressed minority, at least in America.)  Non-believers are at slightly above 50% approval, actually above Mormons which are below 50%.  Buddhists and Muslims are also in the 40’s below Mormons.  (I think opinions on Hindus were not requested.)  He was not terribly troubled about what appeared to be anti-Muslim sentiment because the Buddhists and Mormons had been lumped in roughly together with them.  He said it was essentially fear of the unknown.  People did not have a Buddhist, Muslim or Mormon friend.

Virtually as a side comment, Putnam mentions that people become more religious as they get married and have children (carrying on a religious/cultural tradition?) and puzzlingly around the age of 60 they also are increasingly religious.  I immediately thought of Heaven as a reason at the same time Putnam then mentions he hypothesized that people might be attempting to: ‘cover the bases’.

Linking back to Bowling Alone, Putnam then states that actually the number of friends you have from church predicts the amount of volunteerism, donations of money and time, and community involvement regardless of the type of religion it is.  This is in a way a measurement of the public good of religion (which I guess is not the source of all evil after all).  He then posed the question: what’s special about the ‘church’ friends that makes this happen, saying that he didn’t know the answer.  In the Q&A, no one really addressed it, but I think the obvious answer (which he probably would have thought of, too) would be that if you go to church and you believe you want to get into Heaven, you are supposed to be doing good deeds.  I.e. good people do good deeds, and besides you want to get the word out that in your religion, people are actually trying to get to Heaven and doing good things, it’s like peer pressure, advertising and competition all wrapped together.  Anyway, that was my guess.  Will there ever be a secular organization to do good like churches?  I believe there could be as soon as they stop being distracted by the assault by the religious on the separation of church and state (a principle which I think is all important to atheists).  Atheists, secular humanists motivation in such a group may be to prove that people can be moral (have compassion, show kindness, etc) despite not believing in religion.

The Stanford Daily coverage.

Posted in opinion, Politics, psychology, religion, science -ish | Leave a Comment »

You’re disgusting! No, you are!

Posted by bert5 on 14 November 2010

If you’re a polite person, you don’t go around saying other people are disgusting and not to their face.  You think you’re being honest and saying something ‘obvious’ that everyone else must feel.  But no, this is not polite, and you’re not being a nice person by being ‘honest’.

This is not something I have been stunned by many times, but I can say that whenever it happens I am struck wanting to say something untrue in return.  Like: ‘Nooo, you straights are the disgusting ones!’

What’s interesting is that it is actually untrue.  You would think that as a gay male, to me it would be gross to see heterosexual sex (or as close as Hollywood gets to a simulation of it) on screen.  But it’s actually okay.  I mean, Hollywood sex generally targets the woman, and I’m not attracted at all, but I find nothing objectionable about it.  Mind you, it’s not something I go out of my way to see, I mean, the steamy Hollywood sex scenes focusing on the woman generally in the missionary position.  But I specifically must say, I do not feel disgusted.

So now you straights for the coaching you need:  The correct response when seeing a gay kiss or gay sex scene is to applaud, but failing that to simply be quiet and appreciate a different human condition.  Later, whenever you speak of the scene you saw, you will say exactly what I said: “I wouldn’t go out of my way to see that, but it was okay.”  If you are feeling brave, maybe you could say it was “interesting”.  If you are my friend, I will never hear you say it was otherwise.

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Populism: negative naming, sound bites, and story telling

Posted by bert5 on 4 November 2010

I am amazed at how the Republican machine has been able to fairly consistently add a negative tint to the health care law by calling it ‘Obamacare’, even though if you examine what the legislation does, it actually is very beneficial to the general population and even the economy/deficit.  (The only real losers might be the health insurance companies.)

I wonder how and if the Democrats could counterattack with a consistent messaging against the Republicans.  “The Republican strategy-of-no leads to ‘No care’.” (Surely, paid consultants can come up with something snappier.)  Despite all their smarts, I think the Dems don’t have a good slime generation machine or even a smart sound bite strategy to counter the Republicans.  In addition, this President in particular is eloquent, but in long-hand.  People don’t have that much time to invest in watching him.  I think he needs to shorten, shorthand, simplify, and over-simplify.  They need to hire some Madison Avenue people to do some branding and marketing.

Posted in opinion, Politics, psychology | Leave a Comment »

Two Gay Drama Queens, One Gay Hero

Posted by bert5 on 11 August 2010

Steven Slater: the Jet blue flight attendant who had enough of rude passengers.

Bradley Manning: the army pfc who irresponsibly leaked a ton of secret US documents about Afghanistan.

Not very outstanding examples of the gay community.

The weird thing is how quickly it was revealed that these guys are gay.  Could it be a new media bias toward revealing people’s sexuality if they do something bad, but not revealing it if they do something good?

Along the same lines, it was not widely revealed that Judge Vaughn Walker was gay, until after his ruling when Prop 8 opponents rationalized the ruling against them because of it.  I haven’t heard too many wildly complimentary articles on Walker.  I wonder if it might be because he isn’t a straight.  I guess I straight guy coming to Walker’s conclusion might speak more directly to impartiality, and nominally straight oriented, but liberal media would have embraced him more heartily and hailed him as a hero.  It’s surprising to me that he hasn’t been treated that way.

But I think Walker is a great hero, no matter what happens down the road with the appeals.  Walker went for 136 pages to describe the evidence and conclusions to make an ironclad case for unconstitutionality of Prop 8 and in fact any barriers to same-sex marriage.

Posted in gay, media, opinion | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

What’s up with white guys with (east) asian girls

Posted by bert5 on 13 July 2010

I know at least one asian guy who is very bothered by this, and a few others at least puzzled by it.  It seems that most of the interracial (heterosexual) couplings between asians and whites are of the white male, asian female variety and not the other way around (though I definitely know some counter-examples).  [Edit: See this for % rather than income  http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/interracial-couples-who-make-the-most-money/]

I previously had a theory on this, but what reminded me of this topic is some new scientific data on why this might be: a stressful environment causes men to look for mates with different genetic background, ostensibly to have offspring with better survivability.  Of course, one might assume this applies to asian males as well.  It then follows for this to be true that white males must be under more stress than asian males (could it be the peaceful Buddha-like outlook?).  Since I don’t believe that last part, I think I must fall back on my previous theory which I will now explain.

East asians are known for their rounder facial features, slim body types, and being somewhat shorter than Caucasians.  Of course there are counter-examples, but let’s assume everyone agrees this is true.  All of these traits unfortunately run against the asian male being selected by a white female, and we all know the females call the shots in modern heterosexual life.  In studies, females generally like men to be tall.  There are studies which show that a shorter male has to make significantly more money (talking in the range of $150k+ more) to be equal in attractiveness to a significantly taller male.  Now let’s take the round face thing.  Asians in general look youthful perhaps because their generally darker skin is better protected from sun exposure, but also because of their rounded facial features.  This is a benefit to asian women because they look younger than they actually are.  It is well known that men generally like younger women because youth is associated with being more fertile.  But women like dominant looking men.  Generally this is marked by testosterone fueled features, like heavy bones, strong jaws, angled noses and thicker, heavier facial and body hair.  Here even if asian men have normal testosterone levels they are disadvantaged by their rounded features, slim frame, and sparse body hair as a genetic starting point.  And so, many asian males are doomed by their genetics plain and simple.  [Why are Asian males less physically impressive?]

All of these physical attributes led me to my conclusion several years ago as to why the white guy asian girl matchup seemed to happen more than the other way around.  Now please feel free to comment on my brilliance.  [Before despairing, what silver lining there may be is that women are not so totally into looks as men are.  So, if straight asian males were to acquire some compensating factors like fancy car, watch, clothing, confident attitude perhaps all is not lost.]

Later on, I came across another article about how women tended to chose men with different immune defenses than their own — based on smell (presumably if all other aspects were equal, studliness, height, status, etc).  This is analogous to the argument made above about men under stress: while this explains the leaning asian women may have toward interracial mates, it still begs the question of why asian guys aren’t seemingly pursued by white females with equal fervor for the same reason.

On top of the genetics argument, there is one other thing.  East asians in the Americas (and Europe) are a minority.  It is fairly well documented in sociology texts that those of minority races tend to have lesser status than those in a majority.  It is also somewhat understood that women tend to view status as important in men, if only in consideration of the environment the prospective children would encounter.  So asian males are disadvantaged here too.

# # #

What does this all mean for gay matchups?  Not much exciting or unexpected happens there, but I leave it as a logical exercise for the reader.  Hint: George Takei.

Posted in gay, opinion, psychology, science -ish | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

New fangled: iType

Posted by bert5 on 4 April 2010

In a parallel universe, the laptop was never invented.  Instead all we had were tablet computers where we pressed on screens to input what we wanted like we do at kiosks at the airport.  It was mightily slow, but it was all we knew and we were happy.

Then, a company called Apple comes out with a new fangled product called iType with something called a keyboard which allowed you to key in input.  It allows you to input data quickly for media creation.  There are even function keys and keyboard shortcuts to speed up interaction.  It had a large screen for media consumption.  As well, you wouldn’t have to block your screen while you were inputting data with your fat fingers and get fingerprints all over it.  The screen was held up by a hinge which through sufficient friction held the screens position relative to the keyboard plane and your head position.  Apple even licensed something from IBM called a trackpad, which allowed you to accurately point and change the computer focus so you could do more than one thing at a time: i.e. multitask.  You could surf the web, watch movies, listen to music, watch dvds, even read a book on that machine.  Now that would be an mind-blowing machine.  I wish we had those in our universe and a great amazing company called Apple to invent that thing.

Now, okay, you’re right the sarcasm is unwarranted.  Many people never learn to type properly and many get confused doing more than one thing at a time.  They don’t care to surf too much, they just want the simplest possible interface to the web without the hassles that even a modern computer has which we (tech savvy folks) sort of take as normal: the viruses, the crashes, and the idiosyncrasies of web-browsers.  So Apple has come up with a simpler computer appliance which expands the customer base for computers.  Brilliant.  Apple is obviously not run by an engineer.  As an engineer,  I wouldn’t have thought of dumbing down a computer.

~ ~ ~

And now there is evidence that tablets cause neck injury:  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/really-using-an-ipad-can-strain-your-neck/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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