May 31, 2011

The Functionality of Clothes as Aesthetic

I've always been interested in fashion. Aware of clothes that looked good on others and why, yet, I never dressed particularly well myself. Until the day that the boss at my first job berated me via e-mail for my poor style and grooming habits.

I was mortified. Angry. Ashamed. And I called in sick the next day and went shopping for new clothes.

Ever since, I have been incredibly conscious of my appearance. And while looking back at that experience remains slightly traumatic, I am grateful for that wake-up call to superficiality. It was a reminder that dressing up isn't for you. It's for others.

If you don't care what people think of the way you dress, you should. Simply because of how powerful our blink judgments are. You are judged based on your appearance. You are treated differently based on your appearance. Your perceived intelligence is weighted based on your appearance. Whether you believe in the moral rightness of the fact doesn't change that fact.

May 27, 2011

The Problem with Everything is Girls Having Sex

Recently, I read an amazing editorial questioning whether or not the arrested development of this generation's males is caused by girls' willingness to have sex with them.

Here's the logic. Men want women, and do what it takes to get them. They dress nice, improve their grooming habits and obtain a marketable education to secure a high-paying job.

But, this only works in a competitive market. If girls are willing to sleep with guys regardless of merit - if expectations have lessened to the point where girls have sex without any prerequisites whatsoever - then a key evolutionary driver for the male species has been destroyed.

They're not lazy. They're simply getting what they want without the work.

May 26, 2011

The Playoffs Have Me Regretting Canceling Cable

Remember to comment on my post from Tuesday about figuring out what kind of intelligence I should be seeking, and where I should move to find it.

Tonight, the Bulls have their last chance to keep their hopes alive in the Eastern Conference Finals against the superstar-laden Miami Heat.

I have yet to watch a playoff game. This because I gave up cable. And while I love my Netflix and Hulu Plus via Roku, the Bulls games are only shown on TNT, not on local channels. This sucks.

If the Bulls happen to make the finals, I will get to watch the series on ABC. Until then, TNT has effectively monopolized the playoffs. At least during this series, they have been displaying the games online via TNT.tv. But, you are stuck watching a 4-camera angle (all of them bad) view of the game on your laptop. It's awful.

Can I call a Marx foul here? Should sports only be accessible by the wealthy? Won't someone think of the poor? Or at least the well off who thought they were being clever?

May 24, 2011

(Adjective?) Intelligence

I've recently come to the conclusion that I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

In the past, I viewed people on a single-axis scale from dumb to brilliant. And that theory is falling apart, without a replacement. That's why I need your help.

I am a firm believer that the only way to get smarter is to surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. And in a mark of true arrogance, I have recently considered moving. After all, I have delusions of grandeur for my life, and I wanted to know if, by moving near a community of high-intensity thinkers, I would more quickly maximize my potential contribution.

But now that I am working in higher education, I am running into a whole new heap of brilliant people that are redefining my perception of what "smart" is. Because some of these people are absolutely brilliant. Yet, it's a completely different type of intelligence from my own - what I will temporarily label micro-intelligence. Not that their intelligence is limited to an individual specialty, but that they choose to harness their intellect in this way. They spend 16,000 hours of their life mastering the Greek written language, in order to gain insight into a single paragraph of a historical manuscript and shine a small but meaningful insight on the author's original intention. They sit in a lab all day long, every day for 20 years, documenting the generational effects of cancer in a single chromosome of fruit fly DNA. It's awe-inspiring. And I would be absolutely awful at both tasks.

I believe I possess, what I will temporarily label, macro-intelligence. A unique ability to see things broadly - to question the minutia by understanding the whole. It's why philosophy, psychology and behavioral economics are so interesting to me. It's why I work in marketing. I enjoy understanding human behavior. In fact, my interest lies in discovering the "Human Physics" equivalent of the 3 Natural Laws. A string theory for how the human world is designed to work most efficiently - socially, politically, relationally.

But, I don't know how many people think in this way, and how many "smart" people would be as bored investigating this as I would be learning Greek. I would venture that those like Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Ariely would be mentor figures in this community? But is this type of intelligence much more unique than I think? Is that why I often feel so intellectually isolated? And what if I move to Manhattan or Seattle in search for this intellectual community, and run into a world full of smart that isn't my kind of "smart"?

Help me out here. What kind of smart am I? And how can I get smarter?

May 23, 2011

Incentive to Waste

My neighborhood no longer picks up our recycling bins each week. This new bi-weekly schedule is specifically problematic for my household, since we recycle more than we throw away.

By the end of the first week, our 50-gallon recycling bin is full to the brim. Yet, there's still a week to go. So what have we been doing? Throwing that week of recyclables into the garbage bin, which still gets picked up every week.

Now, I'm sure they made this change for a reason. I'm sure our household is not typical. But, I hate it. Of course, I could buy an extra toter for $130. But,
A) I have nowhere to store it (you get fined if you leave it outside)
B) Screw you! Go back to an every week pickup!

You're the mayor of my town. Any solution?

May 20, 2011

Smart Phones in the Hands of Dumb Children: Part Two

...(a Luddite-confessional continuation)

When I was in 3rd grade, a kid brought a Playboy magazine to school in his backpack. A couple of kids went and looked. I didn't want to for a few reasons.

1) The kid was creepy. And now, I imagined his dad as a horribly disgusting creature for actually owning a a magazine like this.
2) I had a strong fear of authority. I knew this kid could get in trouble for it (which he did), and didn't want to be involved.
3) Others would see me peek.

Looking back, this last reason was probably the most powerful out of all of them. I didn't want to be associated with this gross kid and his gross father. Yet, if as a 3rd grader, I had a smartphone at the time, I could have publicly kept an impression of moral fortitude, but later peeked under the guise of anonymity.

Was it inaccessibility that protected my mind? Today, children have no barriers to informational access. This is a wonderful thing. This is a dangerous thing?

May 19, 2011

Smart Phones in the Hands of Dumb Children

Yesterday, I was taking a run through my neighborhood. Past a group of kids ages 8-10, walking home from school. Cute kids. All huddled around one girl's smartphone.

"Look! See, it's spelled A-S-S-H-O-L-E."

After escaping my immediate shell shock, I hearkened back to my own 1st-grade experience on the bus. Through the condensation on the window, my friend wrote "F U K"

As a shadow of the copywriter I would one day grow up to be, I quickly corrected him by inserting the "C" and finishing the curse, satisfying not the rebellion but, rather the grammar warrior inside me.

He didn't believe me. The bus driver did, though. And I ended up running home crying to confess to my mother. If only I had a smartphone at the time. What a brave new world we live in. More Luddite-talk tomorrow.

May 17, 2011

PG-13 Version of Bridesmaids

If the recent Judd Apatow offering, Bridesmaids, had been rated PG-13, it may have become one of my favorite comedies of all time.

Kristen Wiig has been my favorite Saturday Night Live cast member for years now. Her comedic timing is simply incredible (the most essential ingredient in humor pie.) Also, before this film, I wasn't familiar with Melissa McCarthy, who stars as "Molly" on the CBS comedy, "Mike and Molly." She is out of this world good. Specifically, in regards to...well, timing of course.

The consistent dry, clever, SNL-wit of this movie is simply amazing. But equally interspersed throughout are weirdly gross attempts at sexual humor.

"You're such a prude, Eric." Maybe. Maybe that's all it is. But, I want to understand the goal of this humor. Is it akin to the F-word in stand-up comedy? Just a weird segue that makes stupid people laugh? If the sexual comedy was really clever, I don't think I would mind so much? It's not. It ruins it for me. And it also prevents an entire age bracket from gaining admittance to the film.

Would stupid people actually leave the theater disappointed if this comedic pornography were removed? Maybe. But, the film also stops short of being brilliant because it's there.

May 16, 2011

The Lady on Shark Tank Stole My Idea

This weekend, I watched the most recent episode of Shark Tank. It's a wonderfully edutaining show for the entrepreneurial-minded among us. The show format is that entrepreneurs pitch their company to 5 angel investors. And based on the objective value and potential of the idea, the investors choose whether or not to negotiate for an equity stake in the company.

This week (spoiler alert), a lady pitched her company, ONESOLE. Her product is a shoe base (sole) that integrates with beautifully designed and interchangeable straps. To minimize your shoe budget, color match your wardrobe and maximize the luggage space required when you travel. She got a $500,000 investment from the sharks.

It's a great idea. In fact, I thought so when I came up with it, and posted it on this very site, on August 17, 2006, nearly 5 years ago. Now, I'm not suggesting that my idea was intentionally stolen - simply that she thieved my collective consciousness.

Some of you may be wondering if I'm angry. I'm really not. I didn't want to own this company. I could never be passionate about women's footwear. I simply wanted the product to exist. Now it does, and I can buy one for my wife.

May 13, 2011

Keynes' Greenhouse

Let's finish up this fairly economics-heavy week in thought with John Maynard Keynes, the economic mind who most shapes our modern day macroeconomic decisions.

Keynes came to bring order to capitalistic chaos. To try and prevent massive roller coaster swings and depressions. The idea that the government could effectively intervene - regulating and monetizing stability to the ship that is the world economy.

Here's the problem. Let's try to do that in nature. We fear droughts, floods, weeds, enemies and more. And rightfully so. Letting nature take course is scary. So, we build a greenhouse. We think we're protecting ourselves.

But the epitome of beauty can not be found in a greenhouse. And the epitome of innovation will not be found within a Keynesian environment. It may be slightly less scary to be a plant living in the greenhouse. But, it's a lot less beautiful than letting environmental chaos create true art.

May 10, 2011

Learning From Others Necessary for Evolution of Man

I had a frightening feeling the other day that we're not learning from other's mistakes. That we not only expect kids to to make the same idiotic choices we made, but think they must in order to learn the consequences for themselves.

That's a ridiculous proposition, and one that will result in the forever stagnation of our society.

Your 10-year old should have more wisdom than you did at 21. It's not crazy. Have you seen the math 10-year olds do nowadays? I can't do it. We're just setting the bar way too low in other aspects of intellectual maturity.

May 09, 2011

Chase Bank vs. Karl Marx

Have you seen the new Bank of America commercials that show how you can deposit checks via ATM, and they'll print you out a receipt with the check image on it? Pssh. That's SO last year. This past weekend, I downloaded Chase's mobile banking app and deposited a check without leaving the house. I simply opened the app, used my phone's camera to take a photo of both the front and back sides of the check, and it was instantly deposited into my account.

My goal of never again having to leave my house is slowly becoming a reality.

But, as I am currently reading a biography of Karl Marx, I wondered what he would think of this technological innovation. Marx had a labor-based valuation theory regarding product, meaning that the value of the item is equal to the value of the labor that went into producing it. This would prevent greedy higher-ups from profiting at the expense of their labor force.

This method of valuation is at stark contrast to Adam Smith's, which contends that the valuation of product is equal to its utility. For instance, I could pay laborers to create a car that costs twice as much and works half as well as a Honda Civic. Marx's theory would place the value of this vehicle at twice that of a Civic. Smith's theory would place the value of this vehicle at 0.

Back to the bank. Chase's new app will surely have a damaging effect on the utility value of Chase's bank tellers. This is sad. But, if your job (reading a check and entering the values into a computer system, or even less, confirming what the user put down on the deposit slip), your intrinsic value as a worker is ridiculously small. Whether or not this innovation is a "good" thing, I won't even try arguing here. Even if it's terrible, you shouldn't be content having a job a free app can replace.

May 06, 2011

Minoring in Theo-logy


This is an example of perfect Facebook group interaction, where I temporarily forget that the world's not really full of awesome people like this.

May 05, 2011

Medicare vs. Global Care

Shouldn't Universal Healthcare be called National Healthcare? I think we may be giving outsiders too much hope with that naming structure.

For instance, when I question Federal spending on Medicare, my charitable friends often tell me that i'm putting a number on people's lives. I am. because that number exists. For $20 you can provide a person in Africa with clean water for 20 years. Or you can buy my grandmother 1/40th of a new walker. To which belongs our moral responsibility?

"Well, your grandmother's paying into it," my charitable friends retort.

That's a different argument - a claim for mandated (delayed) personal responsibility. But, you're really trying to claim shared responsibility. And if so, then why are we responsible for those within our nation alone? If we're simply trying to be charitable, and we look at the good done per $, we have to turn to malaria nets and micro-nutrients before virtually every U.S. ailment, right?

May 04, 2011

Birthday Scoop Liar

A few years ago, I signed up for Baskin Robbins e-mail club, but lied about my birthday because I didn't want to wait 11 months for the free scoop coupon I knew I'd be sent. (My real birthday had just passed).

I never cash this coupon in however, because the paranoid part of me believes they'll card me when I try to redeem it. Every year, that free scoop e-mail is just an awful weight on my conscience.

I beat the system. And I'm worse off for doing so.

May 03, 2011

E-Ching for the Day

"Blessed is the day when a man stops concerning himself about whether or not he is right, and starts concerning himself with what "right" is."

May 02, 2011

Relief vs. Celebration

I experienced relief upon the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Now, this relief is quite a different emotion than the happiness, or even jubilation that some seem to be having at the same news.

Osama Bin Laden was an evil man, who deserved to die. And, if given the chance mere weeks after Sept. 11th, I would have likely been elated at the privilege of pulling the trigger myself.

That reaction, however, would have been pure retaliation in rage. 10 years later, rage no longer occupies the mind space I had for the man. I am glad the man is dead. But it's hard to celebrate.