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July 2008

And Just Like That...

If you're a parent who thinks you might be too paranoid because you worry about letting your children leave your sight, read one:

Stefan [and his sister] Tahisha ... began tossing a ball back and forth to each other. At some point, the ball rolled down a hill and toward two satellite dishes that were located on the grounds of the apartment complex. Tahisha went to retrieve the ball, and Stefan saw her for the last time when she walked down the hill toward the satellite dishes.  As Stefan watched Tahisha head down the hill, he heard their mother call to them to come inside. Stefan then turned around to go back to their apartment. He went upstairs with his mother and told her Tahisha had gone to get the ball.

Approximately 10 minutes later, about 7:00 p.m., Marianne told Stefan to find Tahisha, but he was unable to locate her. Marianne then checked at Meyers's apartment and at the apartments of Tahisha's friends, but Tahisha was not at these locations. Meyers estimated that Marianne came looking for Tahisha after 7:00 p.m., perhaps 7:30 p.m., and that it was starting to get dark. Marianne and other adults then walked around the entire apartment complex, yelling Tahishas's name, but she was not found. By this time, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Frank Mond, Marianne's boyfriend, returned home. Mond contacted the Barstow Police Department and reported that Tahisha was missing.

In the meantime, as it was getting dark on Friday evening, Michael Elston, another child who lived at the apartment complex, found Tahisha’s ball inside a fence surrounding the satellite dishes.

As you might imagine, it gets much worse.  (Via CAR.)

Gender Double Standards

I am a man.  If I wanted to become a woman, I could take estrogen to make me more feminine.

Why can't I take testosterone to make me more masculine? 

Women may legally use exogenous estrogen as a form of birth control.  Just go into a doc and get a script.

Men may not legally use exogenous testosterone as a form of birth control.  In theory, some doctors will prescribe it.  But based on my and others experience, I have two words for you: Good luck. 

Whose patriarchy is this, anyway?

Feminism 101: Women Hate Women

Unfortunately, the stock answer most feminists give to any problem woman has is patriarchy.  Why do women wear make-up?  Why, the patriarchy makes them!  This is stated even though most men I know do not like it when women wear make-up.

As a feminist why women take birth-control pills.  The patriarchy is to blame.  Again, most men I know would love to take birth control pills.  As a single man, being falsely charged of rape or having someone try to have your baby without your consent are real fears.  So if there were a pill for men, you can bet that many would take it.

A couple of years ago, there was the "models are going to die of anorexia scandal."  Feminists blamed (you guessed it!) men for this problem.  This devastating post shows the folly of that position.

Summary: Most men hate make-up, would love to be able to take birth control, and like women with meat on their bones.  So if you're a starving woman who is wondering why you're wearing make-up and taking pills that screw up your hormones, perhaps you should blame the responsible parties - other women.


I had just started my first year of law school when I walked into the cafeteria for breakfast.  "Did you hear the news," Brad asked me?  "Huh?" is all I could reply.  Our conversation continued:

"The World Trade Center had been bombed." 
"Oh, fuck.  Who do they think did it?"
"Bin Laden."
"Is that an eco-terrorist?"

I was college grad, in a professional school, and I had no idea who Bin Laden was.  I also had never seen an episode of Seinfeld, had hardly watched a movie in several years, and could not identify any of the numerous celebrities I encountered.  But, boy, did I read a lot.

I was tuned out.  In nearly five years, I may have watched 10 hours of television.  And I never really watched it.  Being in the room when it was on was as far as I went.  The only movie I watched was Pumping Iron; though I did watch that several times.  I rarely dated, viewing that as a waste of time, and instead had my needs met through occasional college-bar hopping.

Life was good.

People in college would always say, "How can you not know current affairs?"  My stock answer was pretty simple.  By reading the wisdom of the ages, I know more about current events than anyone who casually followed the news.  I might not know the superficial, but I had a deeper understanding of how the world worked. 

Then again, the world is simple.  People are apes.  Remember that and you'll never need to tune into the news to be reminded of what specific things the apes are doing.

And yet, it's years later and I'm informed.  I follow the news. 

Why?  Isn't following the news frivolous and pointless?

First of all, the news doesn't reflect what's really going on.  News is entertainment.  Every drooling fool watches some form of "the news."  So how can 8-minute sound bites be edifying?

Second, what is presented is usually inaccurate.  The media has never accurately reported issues I know a great deal about - whether it's something simple to understand like steroids (no, they won't make your nuts fall off) or something somewhat more complicated like a Supreme Court case.  It's all spin.

Third, even if I know what's going on, so what?  I'm not an activist, so if the media were educational, there would still be a reality disconnect.

Fourth, the Big News is the presidential election.  We have the following choice: A war monger who would rape our treasuries and ruin our economy by invading Iran.  Or a spendthrift who would rape our treasuries and ruin our economy through disastrous tax policies.  Why watch?

Besides, sometimes it's more fun closing your eyes when sledding down steep hills.  Since we're going to hit a tree with eyes open or closed, we may as well enjoy the ride down.

So lately I've been following little of what's reported in the news.  I don't read any newspapers, I only follow the links to the sensational items listed on Drudge (UFOs spotted in England!), and the TV is turned off.

I follow some legal stories, if only because that gives me some blogging material.  Some folks who I like actually like my blogging about legal affairs.  So I still look for good material.  Other than that, I'm becoming ignorant.

So ignorant that I've read three books already.  Even when working long hours, by not being an "informed citizen," I have lots of spare time to read.

You should trying becoming igorant.  By week's end you might find that you actually learned something.

Class By Paul Fussell

It's rare to pick up a piece of non-fiction that is fun.  Sure, learning is pleasurable.  Reading is fun.  Maybe, then, the right word is ornery.

But Class, while written in 1983 and thus outdated in some ways, is precisely that.  It's hard not to enjoy reading this book.  Fussell is Dennis the Menace whose sling shot is his typewriter.

Class's subtitle sums up the book, which is a "guide through the American status symbol."  Fussell notes the ways in which people in any of his nine classes walk, talk, think, and decorate the same.

He ridicules all social classes, skewering especially the middle class.  Quoting Lord Melbourne, he notes: "The higher and lower classes, there's some good in them, but the middle classes are all affectation and conceit and pretense and concealment."  On books, Fussell notes: 

As readers, proles [low class] are honest, never trying to fake effects or stimulate interest in higher things.  It's among the middle class that tastes in reading get really interesting, because it's only here that pretense, fraud, and misrepresentation enter.  The upppers don't care what you think about their reading, and neither do the proles.  The poor anxious middle class is the one that wants you to believe that it reads 'the best literature,' and condemnatory expressions like trash or rubbish are often on its lips.


Sadly, the author loses it at the end, going on-and-on about an X Category of people he belongs to.  He catalogs things that he and his friends find cool, and describes people who do these things as X Category people.  His X Category sounds like yuppie-hipster hybrid with a brain.

It's sad that Fusell is so insecure that he needs to belongs to a fake social class.  If he were as enlightened as he imagines X people to be, he'd realize that the great challenge in life is to become (without trying) one who does not belong.  One can only achieve actualitization after he has transcended his class and status.

Sway: The Pull of Irrational Behavior

Four word summary: People do stupid shit.  Of course, we all know that.  The question is: How much stupid shit do we do, and why do we do so much of it?  Sway, written by a Harvard-MBA-and-shrink team, examines those questions. 

The Brafman brothers blame much of our irrational behavior on loss aversion, value attribution, and diagnostic bias. 

Loss aversion.  We're are way more afraid of losing than we should be.  How many of us are afraid of losing things that, really, we'd be better off without?

Of course, the data says that loss causes us more pain than winning causes us pleasure.  So maybe it's rational to allow loss aversion to guide us.

Value attribution.  We tend to stick with your initial value judgments of a person or thing.  Why then call this value attribution?  That doesn't really speak to the issue of sticking with judgments.

I think it would be better to describe value attribution thusly: We have a human need to immediately assign some value to everything.  Because we do this quickly, we make a lot of bad decisions.  Moral of the story: Stop pre-judging.  (Except when it's rational to pre-judge.)

Diagnosis bias.  We tend to stick with our initial diagnosis of a person or thin.  (Yeah, it sounds like the same as value attribution.)  Our instinct to stick to our initial diagnosis is so strong that we ignore all contrary evidence.  The discussion of diagnostic bias was the most interesting part of the book.

In Sway, the authors note that when a player was drafted determines how much playing time he will receive his entire career - even when objective data shows other players are better.

I'm sure many of you have stuck with employee you should have canned a long time ago.  Unlike the sunk costs fallacy, you are not saying to yourself, "I have invested too much time into this employee.  I can't let her go."  Rather, you are - consciously or not - sticking by first impression.  "I knew this guy was something special when I first interviewed him.  I gotta keep with this winner." 

Sway examines the above themes and a few more.  I'm lukewarm about the book.  I've never been worse off after having read a book.  But  I can't say Sway rocked my world.

Incidentally, they have a blog.  It's written just like the book.  So if you like what you see there, you'll like the book.