Category Archives: I Just Went All Margaret Mead On Your Ass

The Internet, A To Z, Part Two

Back in February, we used the Google Suggest feature (“As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time . . . Our algorithms use a wide range of information to predict the queries users are most likely to want to see”), to see what the first terms Google suggests if you type in just one letter, from A to Z.

Today, we’ll repeat the experiment to get the latest snapshot of the web (June 12, 2009, 2:40 p.m. EDT):

best buy
gmail (was: “google”)
irs (was: “imdb”)
orbitz (was: “orkut” — inexplicably)
quotes (was: “runescape”)
southwest airlines (was: “sears”)
usps (was: “utube”)
verizon wireless
xm radio (was: “xbox 360”)
zillow (was: “zappos”)

The Internet, A To Z

Using the Google Suggest feature (“As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time . . . Our algorithms use a wide range of information to predict the queries users are most likely to want to see”), here are the first terms Google suggests if you type in just one letter, from A to Z. This was done around 2:10 p.m. EST, February 27, 2009, so a snapshot of the web today (do this every week and you could have a Library of Congress exhibit, or at least a high school-level art project):

best buy
verizon wireless
xbox 360

*Go JC Penney! Didn’t know that was still around . . .

**Google’s “orkut” feature beats out “office depot,” “obama,” “old navy” and “orbitz” . . . sounds like it’s rigged!

***What, no “sex”? Anyway, go Sears! Bricks and mortar, baby . . .

****Does this count as double dipping? Beats out “ups” “usps” and “united airlines”

Matski in RIVET

The Prof, in print:

The irony is that for most of the, oh, let’s say 72,000 years we’ve been human, close contact like this has been much more normal than our modern conceit of “personal space.” In fact, we’re supposed to be highly tuned to live in groups of 50 to 150 people. The Right ripped Ms. Clinton when she wrote It Takes a Village. While I agree she missed a bit on the particulars, socio-biologically speaking, she was spot-on.

Read the whole thing.

I, For One, Welcome Our New Female Overlords

Jon Rauch explains the coming age of Matriarchy:

Whatever the reason, the result was a new educational gender gap, this time favoring women. There is little sign that it will close: Projections by the National Center for Education Statistics show a 22 percent increase in female college enrollment between 2005 and 2016, compared with only a 10 percent increase for men.

In 2006, according to the Census Bureau, about 27 million American men held a college degree; so did about 27 million American women. This is a tipping point, however, not an equilibrium, because male college graduates tend to be old, and female graduates tend to be young. Among people age 65 and older, men are much more likely than women to be college-educated. Middle-aged men and women are at parity. Among young adults ages 25 to 34 years old, the college gap favors women almost as lopsidedly as it favors men among their grandparents’ generation.

In other words, today’s young people already live in a world where, among their peers, women are better educated than men. As the grandparents die off, every year the country’s college-educated population will become more feminized. In a couple of decades, America’s educational elite will be as disproportionately female as it once was male.

With the recent hubub about Hillary’s “emotions” on display in New Hampshire, it shows we have a ways to go before sexism is completely eliminated. On the other hand, the progress women have made in the last 30 years has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Furthermore, from my own experience in white-collar America, it seems to me that most of these jobs, from law to medicine to management, are at least as well-suited — if not better-suited — to women than to men. The one exception I’ve encountered is sales, which is still to mired in a hunter’s mindset and inundated with testosterone.

This is also fascinating:

Women will have a comparative advantage at both parenting and breadwinning. Many women will want to take time off for child-rearing, but the cost of keeping a college-educated mom at home while a high-school-educated dad works will be high, often prohibitive.

I’m not sure how this squares, though, with other data that shows people increasingly marrying their educational peers. Will these women actually marry “downward,” or just not marry? Listen to

Steve Nash Is Not As Good As You Think

Oh Lord*:

An academic study of the National Basketball Association, whose playoffs continue tonight, suggests that a racial bias found in other parts of American society has existed on the basketball court as well.

A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”

. . .

. . . [T]hey write, “we find that black players receive around 0.12-0.20 more fouls per 48 minutes played (an increase of 2 ½-4 ½ percent) when the number of white referees officiating a game increases from zero to three.”

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price also report a statistically significant correlation with decreases in points, rebounds and assists, and a rise in turnovers, when players performed before primarily opposite-race officials.

“Player-performance appears to deteriorate at every margin when officiated by a larger fraction of opposite-race referees,” they write. The paper later notes no change in free-throw percentage. “We emphasize this result because this is the one on-court behavior that we expect to be unaffected by referee behavior.”

Mr. Wolfers and Mr. Price claim that these changes are enough to affect game outcomes. Their results suggested that for each additional black starter a team had, relative to its opponent, a team’s chance of winning would decline from a theoretical 50 percent to 49 percent and so on, a concept mirrored by the game evidence: the team with the greater share of playing time by black players during those 13 years won 48.6 percent of games — a difference of about two victories in an 82-game season.

“Basically, it suggests that if you spray-painted one of your starters white, you’d win a few more games,” Mr. Wolfers said.

*I blame Steven Levitt.

Heard It On The (K)X(PK)

In a development that is sure to make Tom Tancredo stew and bitch and moan and twitch, for the first time ever a Spanish-language outlet is the top rated radio station in the Denver area:

For the first time in Denver radio history, a Spanish-language station has finished atop the Arbitron ratings.

The fall 2006 ratings, released this week, show KXPK 96.5-FM first among listeners ages 18-49 and 25-54, radio’s two most- watched listener categories.

KXPK, known as La Tricolor, recorded an 8.5 share among 18- to 49-year-olds and a 6.1 share among 25- to 54-year-olds, a tenth of a point better than KBCO 97.3-FM. A share is the percentage of people listening.

Mario Carrera, KXPK’s general manager, said that the news came to him as no surprise. “It’s been in the works for some time,” he said. “The idea is to stay there.”

The station’s all-Spanish music format is country, “KYGO in Spanish,” he said. It includes the rich Norteño tradition, the hybrid music of northern Mexico that features guitars and accordions.

. . .

Leonel Salazar isn’t surprised that La Tricolor is now No. 1 in Denver. Eleven years ago, he opened Cristina’s Records, at West Colfax Avenue and Irving Street in Denver, to carry popular Norteño, Banda and Cumbia CDs among its 10,000 titles. As the demand for Spanish tunes grew, Salazar opened two more stores, in Aurora and west Denver.

La Tricolor “should have already been No. 1,” said Salazar, who is originally from Durango, Mexico. “I listen to [popular morning-show host Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo]; he makes me laugh. Sometimes I have it on all day.”

Tricolor is the only station played in the kitchen and prep area at the Olive Garden at West Alameda Avenue and South Wadsworth Boulevard, where Cesar Valdovinos is an assistant manager. Valdovinos was surveying the instrumental music at Cristina’s Records on Tuesday and said romantic music is his favorite.

“It’s great music (on Tricolor), and they have good commentary,” he said.

Behind the meat counter at Mercado Gigante, a few doors down from Cristina’s, Enrique Santamaria listens to Tricolor all day.

“For me it’s been No. 1,” he said. “It makes the day easier, and it’s entertaining.”

Family, Inc.

New York Magazine’s great piece on burnout reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about the last couple of days — the idea that raising children replicates the entrepreneurial (necessarily entrepreneurial?) impulse in us. Specifically, if:

Of all her studies both in Israel and abroad, [Ayala] Pines found that the most-burned-out people were nurses working in children’s burn units — “It was too painful” — and the least were serial entrepreneurs, those metabolic wonders creating companies as if they were baking cakes.

. . . and this follows:

To me, the most beguiling data to emerge from burnout research are the profiles of the people who experience it most acutely. In her early work, for instance, [burnout researcher Christina] Maslach found that younger people burn out more often than older people, a finding that turns up again and again both here and abroad. (In fact, that study from the University of Michigan explicitly said that younger surgeons burn out more quickly than older ones.) This conclusion may seem counterintuitive, because we associate burning out somehow with midlife disillusionment. But not if we think of burnout as the gap between expectations and rewards. Older workers, as it turns out, have more perspective and more experience; it’s the young idealists who go flying into a profession, plumped full of high hopes, and run full-speed into a wall. Maslach also found that married people burn out less often than single people, as long as their marriages are good, because they don’t depend as much on their jobs for fulfillment. And childless people, though unburdened by the daily strains of parenting, tend to burn out far more than people with kids. (This, too, has been found across cultures; in the Netherlands, a recent survey by the Bureau of Statistics showed that twice as many working women without children showed symptoms of burnout as did working women with underage children.) It’s much easier to disproportionately invest emotional and physical capital in the office if you have nowhere else to put it. And the office seldom loves you back.

. . . then it seems to me that having children in part satisfies an entrepreneurial urge!

BYO Punchline

Research confirming the factual basis for the artistic genius of Quest for Fire* is set to be published:

Scientists have found new genetic evidence that they say may answer the longstanding question of whether modern humans and Neanderthals interbred when they co-existed thousands of years ago. The answer is: probably yes, though not often.

In research being published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists reported that matings between Neanderthals and modern humans presumably accounted for the presence of a variant of the gene that regulates brain size.

Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago, the report’s senior author, said the findings demonstrated that such interbreeding with relative species, those on the brink of extinction, contributed to the evolutionary success of modern humans.

Other researchers in evolutionary biology said the new study offered strong support for the long-disputed idea that archaic species like Neanderthals contributed to the modern human gene pool.

. . .

In previous research, Dr. Lahn and associates discovered that a gene for brain size called microcephalin underwent a significant change 37,000 years ago. Its modified variant, or allele, appeared to confer a fitness advantage on those who possessed it. It is now present in about 70 percent of the world’s population.

The new research focused on the two classes of alleles of the brain gene. One appeared to have emerged 1.1 million years ago in an archaic Homo lineage that led to Neanderthals and was separate from the immediate predecessors of modern humans. The 37,000-year date for the other variant immediately suggested a connection with Neanderthals.

Dr. Lahn said it did not necessarily show that interbreeding was widespread. It could have been a rare, perhaps even single, event.

For those of you wanting a pretext for making a crude comparison in the aftermath of the midterm elections, consider this a big, juicy slow-moving curveball across the heart of the plate.

*And who among us can forget the sexual education a beguiling Rae Dawn Chong (who’s your daddy?) gave our forefathers (or at least the forefathers of perhaps 30% of us, that is)?

Pope Benedict’s Speech

While it’s true that the Pope’s speechwriter could have found a better quote to make his point, I’m not really sure what all the fuss is about.

Read the Pope’s speech.

Here’s the offending text (approx. 3% or so of the total speech … I’ll describe after you read):

In the … conversation … [Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus] touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor [a “learned Persian”] somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death….

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: “For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.”

Benedict’s speech is lamenting the demise of formal logic in discussions of theology, particularly in the European university.  The point he’s trying to make here is that it’s a central tenet of Catholicism that God is known only through reason (“logos“, for Benedict), and that to move away from reason as the path to God is to step further down a slippery slope away from humanism.

Benedict continues:

In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology’s claim to be “scientific” would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by “science” and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective “conscience” becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter.

This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.

Benedict spends far more time in this speech criticizing Kant and Protestantism than he does Islam; ironically — while it’s not explicitly stated in Benedict’s speech — the parallel between Islam and Red State Christianity is implicitly drawn.  Whether God is experienced personally (as in Protestantism) or considered “beyond reason” (as in Islam) the result is the same — subjective interpretation of the Law and the end of universal ethics.

Liberalism IS humanism, and is critically dependent on a shared set of cultural values.  It’s for this reason that European liberals like Pim Fortuyn reject the idea of a “society within a society” as Europe struggles to integrate.

Sure, Benedict might’ve chosen his words more carefully, but I see his point. In any case, the furore over an esoteric philosophical conversation sort of proves the point about the necessity of reason, don’t you think?