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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Saint alert: Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall was born in 1934 in Bournemouth, England; her father was a businessman and her mother a novelist. When she was barely one, her father bought her a lifelike chimpanzee doll, which she took everywhere with her. (She still has that toy today, though it is now completely bald.) She also had a dog, Rusty, with whom she bonded. After reading Dr. Dolittle and the Tarzan books as a young girl, she dreamed of going to Africa some day.

During World War Two, Goodall's father served in the British Army as an engineer. When he returned, her parents divorced. Goodall lived with her mother and grandmother in Bournemouth, though she visited her father in London frequently. When she graduated from high school in 1952, there wasn't enough money to send her to college, so she got a job as a typist at Oxford.

In 1956 a friend invited Goodall to visit her family's farm in Kenya. Jane was thrilled. She quit her job in London and moved back to Bournemouth to work as a waitress in order to save the money she needed for the trip.

While in Africa, Goodall met paleontologist Louis Leakey and went to work for him, first as a secretary at the Coryndon Museum in Nairobi, then at Olduvai Gorge, helping him dig up fossils. Leakey had been looking for someone to study wild chimpanzees, thinking they might yield clues about mankind's earliest origins. He saw Goodall as the perfect candidate, and in 1960, she went to Gombe National Park in Tanganyika to observe chimpanzees for two years.

In 1962, Leakey arranged for Goodall to go back to Oxford to get a Ph.D. in ethology; she obtained that in three years (much of which was spent at Gombe) despite not having a BA. After obtaining her doctorate, she spent much of the next two decades at Gombe.

Going off to Africa to study chimpanzees was something young British girls simply didn't do back then. It took courage, independence, and intelligence.

But what really set Goodall apart was her patience, serenity, and self-sufficiency. At 28, an age at which most young women were fretting about whether they would get married, or, at least, what parties they might be missing back home, Goodall was content to spend her time in the company of chimpanzees, studying them and making observations about their behavior that had never been made before.

She was no Margaret Mead, who came back from her years in Samoa with a head chock full of misinformation after having basically been put on by the locals. Goodall merely observed quietly, and reported on what she saw, without bias. She had great affection for the chimps, but reported the bad along with the good, including their often violent nature and the way they sometimes killed each other (and each other's babies). Goodall was the first to observe that chimps used tools and hunted other animals as well. She was also the first human to ever be "adopted" by a tribe of chimps, although she was eventually driven out by a new alpha male.

Goodall must have been a remarkably soothing presence, because she was never seriously attacked by chimps, which can be vicious when they feel threatened.

She was married twice, first to Hugo van Lawick, the National Geographic photographer sent to cover her; they divorced after seven years. Her second marriage, to Derek Bryceson, director of Tanzania's national parks, ended when he died five years later.

One indication of a person's character is how willing they are to spend time alone: how un-needy they are. Goodall seemed the epitome of of calmness, and self-sufficiency.

Yes, it's somehow easier to attribute good qualities to a beautiful woman; as Tolstoy pointed out, "It is amazing how complete the delusion that beauty is goodness." But there are plenty of beauties who radiate maladjustment and discontent and, sometimes, outright hostility. Goodall exuded serenity.

 Dian Fossey, who devoted her life to studying and protecting gorillas, and Goodall were evidently friends; both had been started on their careers by Louis Leakey. (A third woman, Birute Galdikas, was sent by Leakey to study orangutans in Borneo.) Fossey was also an admirable woman. Yet she never gave off the same vibe as Goodall; she did not have a happy childhood, constantly smoked, did not get along with her assistants, was always on the lookout for men, and liked to joke about her vibrator keeping her company in the wild.

While it's hard to imagine Goodall joking about a vibrator, she was not without a sense of humor. From Wikipedia:

One of cartoonist Gary Larson's more famous cartoons shows two chimpanzees grooming. One finds a blonde human hair on the other and inquires, "Conducting a little more 'research' with that Jane Goodall tramp?" Goodall herself was in Africa at the time, and the Jane Goodall Institute thought this was in bad taste, and had their lawyers draft a letter to Larson and his distribution syndicate, in which they described the cartoon as an "atrocity". They were stymied by Goodall herself when she returned and saw the cartoon, as she stated that she found the cartoon amusing. Since then, all profits from sales of a shirt featuring this cartoon go to the Jane Goodall Institute.

Today Goodall, 79, spends her time raising money for preservation of wild lands for chimps and other environmental causes. She reportedly owns only two sets of clothes (she wears one while the other is being washed), and travels around the world lecturing and raising funds for preservation. Looking at the pictures of her now, she is still a beatific presence:

She's let herself age gracefully; plastic surgery would have been entirely out of character for her. She still seems completely at peace with herself, if not with a world which is encroaching on wild animal habitat.

It is precisely because she doesn't seem to care all that much about herself that she is a saint. She cares about the future of the chimps and other wild animals, not about her own legacy. (Contrast this to Mother Teresa, whose entire life seems to have been an active, conniving campaign for her own sainthood.)

Goodall is not a religious figure, so she won't be canonized. (When asked if she believed in god, she replied, "I don't have any idea of who or what God is. But I do believe in some great spiritual power. I feel it particularly when I’m out in nature. It’s just something that's bigger and stronger than what I am or what anybody is. I feel it. And it's enough for me.")

I do hope she'll at least be memorialized at Westminster Abbey.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sociopath alert: Wendy Davis

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has been in the news recently for having stretched the truth about her past.

Her campaign website says, "Mine is a story about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat. It's a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity to work her way up in the world. It's a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance. And you're damn right it's a true story."

(If I hadn't heard anything about this story, that last sentence would still have given me pause: why add that it's a true story? Nobody had accused her of lying when she wrote that. The lady doth protest too loudly.)

Davis claimed to have been a divorced single mother living in a trailer at age 19 who put herself through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School.

The truth was a bit more complicated. She was 21, not 19, when she got divorced. And she lived in a family mobile home for only a few months before moving into an apartment with her daughter.

So far, these seem like fairly benign misrepresentations. Perhaps she was separated, if not divorced, at age 19; and she did live in a trailer, if only briefly.

But, according to Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News:

A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.

Davis got a man to support her. So, from age 24 on, it was no longer quite the story of "resiliency, sacrifice, and perseverance" that she had painted. And she certainly didn't "put herself" through Harvard Law School.

But even there, the misrepresentations seem more like exaggerations than lies made out of whole cloth. After all, she did have to support herself from age 19 to 24. So far, the "scandal" seems a bit overblown.

But lying -- or at least stretching the truth -- about one's past always emits a faint odor of sociopathy, and a closer look at Davis' life leaves little doubt about her character.

First, her explanation for the misrepresentations came across as more devious than her original fibs: "My language should be tighter. I'm learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail." This is the kind of lawyerly, Clintonian evasion which is meant to imply that her faulty statement was a matter of semantics, with no dishonesty involved. (It is a peculiarly sociopathic trait to not admit guilt even when one has been caught red-handed.)

Her second husband, Jeff Davis, liquidated his 401k in order to finance her education, then eventually took out loans as well.

According to Slater:

Jeff Davis said that [their separation] was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.”

This would indicate that her primary interest in him was financial. Gold diggers tend to be at the very least narcissistic, if not outright sociopaths. And leaving the day after he finished paying off her loans speaks of a coldness that goes beyond mere narcissism.

Wendy Davis did not even try to get custody of her children:

According to Jeff Davis, “She said, ‘I think you’re right; you’ll make a good, nurturing father. While I’ve been a good mother, it’s not a good time for me right now.’”

Note how she said she was a good mother -- as if she can be a fair judge of herself on that score. She undoubtedly kept her children fed and clothed and bathed. But did she give them the greatest gift a mother can give her children -- love? No, not if she could give them up so easily. If you really love your children, it's always a good time to be with them.

(Merely entering politics, just like being a Hollywood producer or being a corporate CEO, seems almost a yellow flag for sociopathy these days. Having these occupations obviously does not mean you're a sociopath; but you're far more likely to be.)

Davis didn't even enter politics with a clearcut political vision. She started out as a Republican, then switched parties. This implies that her career was driven less by political feeling and more by personal ambition. (There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, but cloaking that ambition with a patina of platitudes about how you're doing it for "the people," or other noble reasons, is exactly the kind of thing that sociopaths do.)

While researching this post, I stumbled across a video of Davis in which she said, "I love this state," referring to Texas. What exactly does Davis mean when she says that? Does she love the actual territory that is in Texas until she comes to the Oklahoma border and then all of a sudden the ground there holds less appeal to her? Does she love all Texans? People who aren't sociopaths know that you can only truly love a few people in your life. But sociopaths don't truly love anybody. So they tend to throw the word around promiscuously, as in, "I love you all!" or, "I love this state." It's a ridiculous concept, but Davis stated with full-throated conviction, as if she really, with all her heart, loves…a state.

Sociopaths often give themselves away with that kind of false emotionality.

Here's a picture of Davis when she was at Harvard Law School:

And here's a more recent picture of her:

(Her political opponents now call her "Abortion Barbie.") I couldn't find a picture of her torso when she was young, but large, immune-to-gravity breasts sprouting out from the bony chest of a 50-year-old woman usually mean implants. And her face is barely recognizable.

Again, plenty of non-sociopaths get plastic surgery; but a sociopath is far more likely to get it.

I was also struck by this picture of Davis:

As I've pointed out elsewhere on the blog, sociopathic inmates looking for penpals often pose with animals in an attempt to look warm and affectionate. (Here's another such murderous poseur, at the bottom of this post.) But when someone's on Death Row for murder, posing this way is obviously just an attempt to mislead. I couldn't help but be reminded of those pictures when I saw this photo. (Here's a picture of another sociopathic politician posing the same way.) Maybe Davis really did feel an overwhelming amount of affection for this dog; but given her attitude toward her own children, that seems doubtful.

To pose this way with a dog is really a form of manipulation, to pull at the heartstrings of true dog-lovers. Note that her smile is directed not at the pet, but at the camera.

Davis initially gained a modicum of national attention for her eight hour filibuster against any restrictions on late term abortions in the state legislature. Filibusters have been around since the time of Roman Senator Cato the Younger. And in the past, they have been an effective diversionary legislative tactic. But the opportunity to filibuster also seems to attract those who want attention, and who want to appear heroic.

It can attract those who don't otherwise seem sociopathic, like Rand Paul. Or it can attract those who do, like Ted Cruz or Wendy Davis.

Verdict: between the fact that she exaggerated her background, never really owned up to those misrepresentations even when caught, left her husband the day after he finished paying off the loans he took our for her education, didn't want even partial custody of her own daughters, and displays false emotions, it's pretty clear Davis is a sociopath.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pig's kin

I was amazed to find out in this morning's NY Post that the NFL actually has tax-exempt status, along with the NHL and the LPGA.

How can tax exempt status possibly be justified when commissioner Roger Goodell is paid $29 million a year?

It's a perfect example of how corrupt our special interest system of government is.

Coincidentally, this morning a friend just sent me this Daily Beast article about how former quarterback Vince Young has declared bankruptcy. Young was paid $34 million over six NFL seasons up until 2011.

An excerpt from the article:

According to a 2009 study, 78 percent of former NFL players file for bankruptcy or are under severe financial distress within two years of retirement.

That's a mind-boggling statistic. You have to wonder what's going through the 78 percent's heads while they're active. They must all think that they're going to never get injured, or cut, and that as soon as the world recognizes their greatness they're going to be raking in major endorsement deals. So in the meantime, why not flash some bling?

On top of that, a lot of players have poor relatives to support, and because of their lack of financial savvy, they get taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents, managers, and lawyers. 

It's a witches' brew of optimism, narcissism, generosity, innocence, and stupidity.

NFL players often represent a combination of extreme physical power and extreme lack of caution and common sense.

Lottery winners are given the option of a longer term or lump sum payout. Most opt for the immediate money, and most, like professional football players, go through their winnings fairly rapidly.

Maybe pro footballers should not be given that option. With a slower payout, fewer would get into financial trouble, and, frankly, fewer would have the opportunity to get into the kinds of trouble they tend to get into during their playing years. 

Maybe Roger Goodell could partially justify his bloated salary by instituting such a system.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sociopath alert: Jordan Belfort

That Jordan Belfort, whom The Wolf of Wall Street was about, is a sociopath is hardly a revelation. Anybody who orchestrated a con like Stratton Oakmont, his glorified boiler room operation, would have to be a sociopath.

But it's always gratifying to see the number of ways in which a sociopath gives himself away, and Belfort demonstrated practically every distinguishing characteristic of a sociopathy.

The movie, by the way, is a little reminiscent of Catch Me If You Can, which also starred Leonardo DiCaprio, in that it essentially celebrates a sly devil whose trickery and success the audience are supposed to identify with and revel in. Hollywood has a tendency to present sociopaths in a misleadingly sympathetic light -- especially given that those sociopaths themselves had exactly zero sympathy for their victims.

Belfort was obviously a natural salesman (read: manipulative), as he showed right from the start of his career. He imparted his sales techniques to the over 1000 brokers he hired for his firm, and now makes a living as a "motivational speaker" (read: teacher of same sales techniques).

To be a convincing salesman, you must come across as if you believe completely in your own product, even if you know it's a complete sham. You can't have any telltale tics, you can't have a catch in your voice, and you can't appear nervous. (In other words, you can't feel guilt.)

Jews tend to look down on Anglos for their excessive drinking; and they tend to take fewer recreational drugs as well. Belfort, though Jewish, showed no such discipline. He developed a serious addiction to Quaaludes, and if the movie is accurate, snorted a lot of cocaine as well. It takes a certain impulsiveness to allow oneself to become addicted like that, and impulsiveness is a hallmark of sociopathy. (This is why sociopaths are more likely to be substance abusers.)

Nor did Belfort have any inhibitions about sex, as his frequent use of prostitutes demonstrated. (Sociopaths are generally more promiscuous, and far more likely to claim "sex addiction.")

We all like money, but Belfort practically worshipped it. Money equals power, and sociopaths are always power hungry. It goes beyond that, however; practically every sociopath I've ever known seemed to almost worship money and imbue it with an almost talismanic quality, and was willing to do anything to get more.

Belfort was a great believer in conspicuous consumption, as befits a narcissistic personality. His helicopter, his yacht, and the "most expensive house on Long Island" (according to the movie), were all his way of declaring his greatness to the world. (Sociopaths always seem to have a strong need to make this declaration.)

The yacht later sank because Belfort disregarded his captain's advice not to sail into a storm. (Sociopaths are fearless as well as reckless.)

Perhaps the most telling giveaway of Belfort's sociopathy is how he enjoyed himself while the scam was going on. Sociopaths have an almost preternatural ability to party and have fun even while they are in the midst of propping up a house of cards which must inevitably come crashing down. They have absolutely no compunctions about their victims, and seemingly don't even worry about their own future well-being. They simply live it up, in situations where most of us would be worried sick.

Part of Belfort's partying evidently included dwarf tossing, which was briefly a fad during the heyday of Stratton Oakmont. This "sport" usually took place at bars, and its appeal seemed to be precisely that it was so obviously wrong. The concept is almost funny, in a sick sort of way; but actually doing it requires a complete lack of concern for others. Stratton Oakmont was certainly an appropriate setting.

At the end, after the feds closed in, Belfort got a more lenient sentence because he became a government witness, i.e., testified against his former friends and colleagues. (Sociopaths are often the first to turn, unburdened as they are by any feelings of loyalty.)

He ended up serving only 22 months for having swindled innocent victims out of over $100 million.

To hear Belfort now, you'd think his life was one big morality tale, with a character arc of the type you generally see only in the movies. The picture he draws is of a guy who was essentially seduced by the Wall Street lifestyle, as if he were almost an innocent victim himself. According to the DailyMail, he now says, "I'm a wolf who became a more benevolent character. I refuse to glorify my past" -- as if a sociopath can ever change his stripes. (And as if the book and movie are anything but glorifications of his past.)

As part of his settlement, Belfort was ordered to make a total of $110 million in restitution to his victims; so far only $11.6 million has been recovered, mostly from the sale of his forfeited properties. The agreement he reached required that he pay 50% of his income until restitution was complete. But in the past three years Belfort has been paid $1.7 million, mostly from book and movie rights, yet he has paid only $243,000 to the authorities in the past four years. Whatever benevolence he claims to have achieved evidently does not extend to his victims.

He also told Reuters in 2007, "I believe I have a shot at being redeemed by leading a good life today." He also told them that he is trying to right past wrongs. (Well, maybe he's just not trying that hard.)

Sociopaths are forever claiming to be turning over a new leaf; but they never do. That they expect people to believe them, even after all their lies, is another peculiarly sociopathic quirk. Because they've lied successfully in the past, they always seem to believe that they can continue to do so for as long as they wish. The fact is, sociopaths are as likely to grow a third arm as they are to develop a conscience late in life. Sociopathy is incurable.

The "Early Life" section of the Wikipedia article on Belfort doesn't contain any revelations. He came from a middle class family in Queens; both parents were accountants, and his mother later became a lawyer. My guess is that because both parents worked full time during his early years, he didn't form as strong a bond with either as he might have.

Belfort says that he came from "a good family," as if it is a big mystery how he could have ended up doing what he did. But there are many outwardly respectable families which are in one way or another dysfunctional. I know nothing about his parents other than that they spawned him; whatever else they were or weren't, they certainly bred sociopathy.

(The movie, by the way, is actually quite enjoyable; it's just that as a character study it's misleading.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Filial respect, Part II

We saw The Wolf of Wall Street last night. Afterwards, I asked my son if the movie made him want to work on Wall Street. He said no, but it did make him want to party more, and maybe take drugs. I warned him that cocaine (which along with Quaaludes is prominently featured in the film) was addictive. He asked where I'd rank it on a one to ten scale of addictiveness. He explained, "You know, with heroin as a ten. And a one would be, say, burning your hand on a stove -- or reading Just Not Said."

Maybe it's just my skewed perception, but filial piety seems to be lacking in my son. His favorite names for me are Colonel Raisin Balls, Vagisaurus Rex, Emperor Menstruatious, and Ovulato. (Seriously.)

Earlier this week I took him to Macy's to buy him a sport coat; he expressed his gratitude by saying, "Jesus Christ, all this enforced togetherness time is really making me crazy."

When he first got back from the Army, I made the mistake of telling him a couple times, "I'm so happy you got back safe and sound from Afghanistan."

His response to that usually ran along the lines of, "My god, you are the worst buzz kill ever. There's absolutely no one who can so totally ruin a good vibe like you. I'm having a good time, I've got everybody laughing, and you have to spoil it by saying that."

He would then imitate me in an exaggerated sad sack voice, and add,  "Great, another Downer Dad Attack."

There are times when he's kinder though. Why, just two days ago he said, "You know, looking at your wrinkles and emaciated body, I realize what you are: my own personal memento mori." (A memento mori is a reminder of one's mortality).

Hiroo Onoda, RIP

Lt. Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who didn't come out of the Philippine jungle until 1974, when his former commanding officer from WWII flew to Lubang to personally inform him that he was relieved of duty, died two days ago in Japan.

There are two ways of looking at Onoda. One is to admire his indomitable fighting spirit. (This is what the Japanese did upon his return in 1974.) The other way to view him is as a representative of a peculiarly Japanese form of fanaticism and craziness.

Onoda wasn't the only soldier who refused to give up. He was originally part of a group of four. One of the men surrendered to Filipino authorities in 1950, another was shot and killed in 1959, and another was killed by the police in 1972.

Another Japanese soldier hid out on Guam until 1972. And there were others who held out for years after the end of WWII.

Onoda and his men killed approximately 30 Filipinos after the war. Technically, this makes him a serial killer, which would be yet another way to view him. From a psychological viewpoint, though, he was the opposite of most serial killers.

What Onoda did by not surrendering was extremely admirable and extremely stupid at the same time. His never-say-die spirit and resourcefulness in wresting a living from the jungle showed a tenacity most people couldn't dream of. At the same time, you have to conclude that his actions were not those of a reasonable man.

I'm half-Japanese, and I see this fanaticism -- and stupidity -- in myself. For instance, this blog: I've now written over 1600 posts since 2008. Why? I don't get paid for it, and the blog averages only 600 readers a day, which doesn't compare to some of the more prominent blogs. It seems pointless, but I've stuck with it anyway.

I'm almost 60, and still swim competitively. I took the sport up at age 14, and have never given it up. I could talk about the health benefits that come from exercising, or the camaraderie of masters swimming, but the truth is, even without those things, I'd still swim. It's another pointless, profitless activity. So why do I do it?

Because I'm an obsessive half-Japanese.

It's not much of an explanation, but it's the best I can come up with.


Friday, January 17, 2014


Human skeletons have long been a staple of Halloween and haunted houses.

It is only just now occurring to me that there is a good evolutionary reason why skeletons -- or just skulls -- are such a scary sight: they often signify that there is something in the vicinity which can kill you.

Maybe it's a nearby tiger which has developed a taste for humans. Maybe it's a nest of vipers which live close by. Maybe it's a poisonous water supply. Maybe it's a serial killer. Whatever it is, it represents a potential danger to you.

The skeletons themselves are obviously not dangerous to you, though some people seem to find them creepy in a ghost-like, zombie-like way. It's the fact that they signal a potential danger lurking nearby which proved fatal to the person that skeleton used to be, and which could prove fatal for you. (This is why we don't feel the same jolt when we see a longhorn skeleton, for instance.)

Evolution works in a logical way, but the instincts it breeds may not necessarily seem so. For instance, the sexual instinct has been bred into us as a means of procreation. But when you see an attractive member of the opposite sex, you do not think, ah, I really want to procreate. Your thoughts are more along the lines of, I want some sexy fun with that hottie. It doesn't matter that you're not thinking of screaming little tots; your instinctive desires will result in them, and that's all that matters.

Likewise, when we see a skeleton, we don't have to run through the possibilities of what may have caused that human to die. All we need to feel is a desire to flee, and if we think that it's the creepy skeleton itself which is dangerous to us, no matter: the important thing is that we flee.

So, over the millennia, we developed an instinct to feel scared when we see a human skeleton.

There are a lot of different types of people who have taken advantage of this instinct. It's why the pirates used the Jolly Roger, with its skull and crossbones, as their flag: to scare merchant ships into quick submission. It's why guys who want to appear badass will get tattoos with a skull and crossbones motif. It's why hazard signs will sometimes also feature them: to instill an element of fear so that you take their warnings more seriously. It's why skeletons are featured in horror movies.

Evolution has selected human beings to react appropriately when a sign of danger appears.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Misnomers in education

A lot of universities refer to their undergraduate programs as "the college of arts and sciences." Fair enough; some of what these colleges teach is science, and some better classified as arts.

Browse through any list of majors and you'll find listings like "materials science" and "food science" and "computer science." Those teach you about real, quantifiable things. You'll find biology and chemistry and physics, none of which need to append the word science to their titles, since they so obviously are sciences.

You'll also find English and Architecture and Music and Philosophy, all of which are perfectly fine majors as long as you're not overly concerned about getting a good job when you graduate.

The problem is with the fields which want to cloak themselves in respectability by calling themselves sciences, when they're plainly not. For instance, where is the science in political science? (Maybe this is just early training for the kind of misleading spin that poli sci majors tend to spew.)

"Social science" may be worse. Sociology is as squishy a subject as you'll find.

If universities were businesses, the Better Business Bureau could sue them for false advertising.

People with the most advanced degrees are called Doctors of Philosophy. PhD's do not heal philosophy. (If you meet one who insists on being called "Doctor," you can be sure he is a twit.)

I might as well call myself a doctor of blogology. Or a veterinarian of swimming. Or a nurse of stock trading.

I actually am a bachelor of arts. (Or do I just have one? I'm not even sure.) When I received it, sure enough, I was still a bachelor. But I wasn't much of an artist.

To get a "masters degree" in a subject implies a certain mastery of it. But I seem to know a lot of people (including myself, with my masters in business administration) whose masterfulness seems questionable.

Maybe this is just a querulous Andy Rooney-style quibble about long-standing semantics that nobody takes all that seriously. But the subject is still worth a moment's thought, since it summarizes so well what academia is about so well: meaningless labels and degrees.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Confessions of a beta male Part XIX: Fatherhood

I haven't written any new posts in this series since July of 2012, but I recently realized that my beta male mindset affects my relationships with my children as well as my peers.

Monday was a fairly typical day for my daughter and me. I woke up early, and made a copy of the NY Times crossword puzzle for my daughter.

I then washed her dishes from the night before, and did a load of her laundry.

After she woke up I paid her spring semester college tuition.

I then offered her a ride to the Y, which she declined; but she knows she can alway borrow my car anytime it's not in use.

Later on I helped her with some clues with the crossword puzzle and complimented her on how well she'd done with the other answers.

That evening, when we had our usual game of family Jeopardy, I complimented her when she got some answers which I hadn't known.

After the game was over, because she found it annoying that I had complimented her, she hit me in the arm. (Hard.)

I guess I won't be swimming well at my masters meet this coming weekend.

But my primary concern is: how can I be less annoying to her?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nature, red in tooth and TV

I watch a fair amount of the National Geographic Channel. One of the most striking things about it is how many of its shows appeal to guys who like gore: Built for the Kill, Caught in the Act, Australia's Most Deadly, Secret Life of Predators, and so on. Many of those shows focus on animals killing each other.

I sometimes get the feeling that if they could get away with it, the National Geographic Channel would stage the fights themselves. Think of some of the dream matches: for instance, between a polar bear and a tiger. Or between a wolverine and a hyena. Or between an alligator and an anaconda.

It's not the National Geographic Channel's fault that human nature is so ghoulish. If you doubt that, just look at the most Youtube statistics. This cobra vs. mongoose video has gotten 59,414,095 views. This video of a python vs. an alligator has garnered 42,567,476 views. Battle at Kruger, showing the herd of Cape Buffaloes rescuing a young buffalo from a pride of lions, has gotten 73,546,597 views (although this one, admittedly, has a heartwarming aspect to it).

On the other hand, this video of a water lily blossoming in fast motion has gotten 54 views.

The folks who run the National Geographic Channel are not unaware of this disparity. They have a network to run, just like any other channel scrambling for viewers. And they, like any good shopkeepers, know that the  customer is always right.

I'm certainly not claiming to be above any of this. I too like my nature porn. Give me a video of a lion vs. hyenas and I promise not to switch the channel. A show about raindrops, on the other hand, will hold my attention for maybe two seconds.

The nature show audience is not unlike an ugly sports crowd: we want blood!

And the National Geographic Channel obliges.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"Kim Jong Un 'fed uncle to pack of 120 ravenous dogs'"

You've probably heard about this already; in case you haven't, you'll probably find it interesting.

When a country puts "People's Republic" into its official name, as with all those formerly communist countries, it's pretty much a guarantee that it's anything but. Likewise when a country calls itself a "Democratic Republic."

When a country crams both words into its official title, as with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, you know it's really gone to the dogs.

Friday, January 3, 2014

All kinds of roads lead to Rome

This blog doesn't allow me to see who has looked at it (which I'd love to be able to do). But it does allow me to see how many page views it has gotten on any given day, which posts people have gone to, and what they typed into their Google search bars to get there.

Some of the searches that lead here are a little surprising. Many are actually Google Image searches, which explains a lot. I've kept a list for the past week, just to be able to post about them:

"Topless FEMEN protesters." A lot -- an awful lot -- of people search for images of the FEMEN protesters. I'd like to think they come here or here or here because they want to re-read my wry and witty takes on the hypocrisy of the protesters. But realism compels me to admit that they are just looking for pictures of half naked beautiful women to masturbate to. (When I mentioned this to my son, he said, "That must be just 14-year-old boys. Older guys tend to jerk off to much more depraved stuff than just a picture of some woman's boobs.")

"Men sucking women's boobies." Honestly, I can't think of a post where I broached that subject.

"Hottest girls currently in prison." I did write about that at one point, although my focus was on their personalities and not their supposed hotness.

There were searches for "Jada Pinkett feet" and "Thandie Newton feet" on the same day. I'm guessing both of these inquiries were from the same guy. Then, several days later, "Willow Smith feet." I did have a picture of Jada Pinkett's foot in this post, though the emphasis of that post was on her sham of a marriage and not on her feet. With Newton, I focused on the beauty of her face. In any case, I can only hope my blog brought this searcher to the point of fruition.

"Nude male veterinarians" somehow leads them to this blog. For life of me, I can't recall writing about that -- or including any pictures of such.

"Good-looking swimmers" leads them here. "Daniel Craig nude" will also lead them to this blog; the closest I came to that was including a picture of him in his bathing suit in a post about the various actors who'd played James Bond. Just this morning I got "gay top" and "guy with muscular body type." (I hadn't started out intending to make this blog a gay mecca; but since it has become such, I embrace the identity.)

"Gay Club Med" is another frequent search that leads here. I hope my somewhat pointed description of the various types of gay men won't discourage any of them from embarking on one of those vacations; those fellows really did look as if they were having a good time.

On a fairly regular basis, people Google "just not said," which I am happy about, since it means they actually want to read my blog, and not just jerk off to it.

Or, maybe they just want to see how much of a jerkoff I've been recently.

"Stereotypes woman athletes face" is another frequent search. How disappointed -- or enraged -- the women must be when they find that I pretty much agree with the stereotypes.

"Racist whites." I actually get fairly frequent searches from people who are probably surprised to find that, at least according to me, "racism" cuts both ways.

"My conscience is bothering me." After reading this post, they may realize that in fact their consciences really aren't bothering them that much.

I get a lot of inquiries about "socialpaths" -- evidently from people who aren't that familiar with the concept. I can only hope they find this blog educational.

"Can sociopaths kill?" Yet another inquiry which indicates a certain unfamiliarity with the breed.

"Bill Clinton sociopath" is another common search, this one from people who are familiar with both the syndrome and Mr. Clinton himself.

A lot of people also ask if Steve Jobs was a sociopath.

"Why laugh at own jokes?" Various forms of this question are obviously from people annoyed by narcissists.

"What is best fighting dog breed in world?" That question has no definitive answer, though I take a stab at it here.

"Is Obama gay?" That question. which comes from those with more finely attuned gaydar than me,  leads to a more definite answer.

It's been interesting finding out exactly what people are curious about. Or, at least, what they want to jerk off over.