Friday, February 25, 2011

What I learned on Facebook during a snowstorm on 2/25/11!

(Facebook has taught me sooooooo much.)

All quotes were copied and pasted from Facebook exactly as they were written.

Ruthie M. G. agonizes with “'s true, I never know what I'm gonna be in the mood to wear...The shoes are easy, black and brown sandals and flip flops in 2 colors...AND my Nikes for my long morning walks !!!” 

I hear ya Ruthie M. G.  I have a similar problem.  I’m particularly partial to my Nine West retro wooden platform sling-back with 5" heel and 1" platform with stud accents for grocery shopping.

Anna V. R. announces “Day 1 of my raw food lunch deliveries - sushi and kale chips and cauliflower rice! With wheat free sauce!” 
Congratulations Anna V. R., you have apparently developed the perfect low-cal, low-carb, low-fat, and absolutely taste-less, meal.  You should write a cookbook full of these recipes, but make the pages ink-less as well.
Cathy F. offers “Start with the end in mind and the journey will be easy. Clear your mind of the obstacles, focus, have a clear vision of how it would be or look like. You must Dream big, be clear on your goals and remember I m possible.
Have an AWESOME day FRIENDS !!!” 
It used to be “I’m OK.  You’re OK.”  But apparently the new mantra is “I’m possible.  You’re possible.” 
Elizabeth L.-A. says “There are 2 types of people in the world, those that sit at home on the couch watching TV, eating popcorn and gaining weight by the minute, And then there are those that read books like "Success in 10 Steps" so they can learn the skills to be successful in Network Marketing.
Help me out here Elizabeth L.-A.  In which of these categories do the peasants of Ethiopia, or the rebels in Libya, or the monks of Tibet fall?
Issaree S. says “There's only TWO types of people in the world; the ones that entertain and the ones that observe. Well baby, I'm a put-on-a-show kind of girl. DON'T like the backseat, gotta be first!"
OK.  Now stop.  Issaree S. and Elizabeth L.-A. need to get together and decide once and for all how many types of people there are in the world.  However, if what Issaree S. means by her second category is that she reads Elizabeth L.-A.'s book, then there would be only three types of people in the world.
Lark M. warns us “If you hoot with the owls, you can’t soar with the eagles.” 
I’m totally confused now.  I thought if you walked with turkeys you could not fly with eagles.  Besides, owls are thought to be really intelligent and wise; eagles are big dumb brutes.  No thanks Lark M.  I’ll just keep on hooting.

Doc Karen P. L. puts us on noticeGive me a little time. I'll be poking some people soon. Hope you've got what it takes to receive it.”

Judas Priest!  I really like this Facebook friend, but this was totally unexpected, and it seems inappropriate for a university prof.  Besides, my wife will not like this at all.

Alice B. wonders “why can't people understand how to use a traffic circle? Clearly posted is a yield sign not a stop sign! This means you don't have to stop unless a vehicle is already in the circle and you cannot enter safely...Idiots!! Now that I've vented hope everyone has a Happy Friday! ♥”
Yea, I wonder about this all the time.  When I approach a traffic circle, I usually zip directly to the inner lane, go around the entire circle three or four times as fast as I can to build up centrifugal force, and then fling out into the outer lane before exiting the circle light-headed and giddy with excitement.

Heather S.just loves the sort of people that only have time for you when they want something and as soon as they have it, you no longer exist!”
Now that I have your Facebook quote Frank, POOF!, I have already forgotten your name.

Tara R. J. likes this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What I learned on Facebook on President’s Day 2011!

(The stuff you hear on Facebook is enough to make your ears burn.)

All quotes were copied and pasted from Facebook exactly as they were written.

Daphne C.-H. told us that she “Just participated in the Free Preview of "Flabulous to Fabulous in Fifteen" With The Fitness Angel Free Online Class ...IT WAS GREAT”  

I love alliteration as much as the next guy, but the flabulous to fabulous thingie is a little off-putting.  I suggest this Fitness Angel change her slogan.  What about “Tonnage to Funnage in Ten”?
Peter G. describes his whereabouts by the nano-second, when he says “it is a spectacular day here in los angeles. out on the boat in marina del rey. the ocean is glistening and santa monica bay has never looked better. off to speak tonight in thousand oaks. tomorrow in redondo beach and tuesday in pasadena. and new york for cbs. hope everyone is having a great and well deserved weekend”  
I think we get it; you’re in California.  Man, this guy should be a Travel Correspondent.  Oh, he is.
Marwa W. El-F. stated that: نطالب المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة المصرية التدخل الان قبل غدا لحماية الجالية المصرية في ليبيا من بطش شديد من النظام الدموي الليبي .. لقد سمعنا جميعا التحريض السافر في خطاب نجل العقيد القذافي علي المصريين المتواجدين في ليبيا .. نكرر الوضع خطير ويجب التدخل الان قبل غدا، حفاظا علي ارواح اكثر من مليون ونصف
مواطن مصري
منقول - برجاء النشر
Aside from the misspelled words and poor grammar in Marwa W. El-F.’s statement, I refuse to marry a woman who whines incessantly about needing a man.  (P.S. There is no way anyone will know who this woman is, given the way I abbreviated her last name.)
Paula O. sent me and 76 other friends this one: 
“A new fortune cookie has been delivered to you.
Click the cookie to find out what it says!
Read your fortune: Click here”

Thanks Paula O.  But if you don’t mind, I am going to save this and not open it until I have dinner at the Peking House on Friday.

Lorraine D. informs all of us who never took an astronomy course: “However long the night, the dawn will break.” African proverb
Carol D. brags that “my ferrets have run of the house. also have a very big walk in run and living quarters. they are totally loved and cuddled.”  
I’m not impressed.  For 30 years, the mice from the forest surrounding our house have had the run of our house, and I don’t have to take the time to love and cuddle them.
Narine H.  advises “Always act as you are waring (sic) an invisible crown.”  
I tried this yesterday, and it worked.  The pawn broker looked at me like I was crazy, and refused to give me any money for the diamond-studded thing I told him I had on my head.
Wesley S., a former student of mine, announced “Hi all I went to a party at 7pm and I am still drunk please comment when you see this.”   
Given that it was only 7:05pm when Wesley S. posted this, it must have been one hell of a party.  And what comment could I possibly offer?  Drink slower!
Ruth S. puts all men on notice with “Whatever u give a woman she will make it greater. Give her sperm, she will give u a baby. Give her a house, she will give u a home. Give her groceries, she will give u a meal. Give her a smile and she will give u her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what she is given. So if u give her crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit. Hope 2 see every girl on my friend list repost this :)”  

But I’m not sure this system Ruth S. describes is all that fair.  I have given my wife sperm thousands of times, and she has given me only three babies.

Cathy K. and 6 others like this.

Article first published as "What I learned from Facebook on President’s Day 2011!" on Technorati.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What I learned on Facebook the weekend of 2/19/11!!

 (Facebook.   You gotta love the banter.)

All quotes were copied and pasted from Facebook exactly as they were written.

Kelly Z. had Edward Abbey over for dinner, but I wasn’t invited.  Besides, I thought that guy died a couple of decades ago along with the rest of the Monkey Wrench gang.  Bon appétit.

Patricia H. told everyone “Good night…..xoxo”.  

I love getting kisses from strangers, as long as the tests don’t come back positive.

The Toronto Raptors reports that “DeMar DeRozan put down two impressive dunks in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday, but it wasn't enough to the finals, where Blake Griffin took the crown.”  
I had been wondering about this event for months, wrote it in my appointment book, but then forgot to watch it.  Nice reporting Raptors.
Sherry C. R. told us that “Marie Antoinette was beheaded for less….” in response to a political outrage by another FB poster.  That poor French girl’s head has been used in this way for 200 years.  I suggest we let the poor thing rest in peace and not use her “la tête” for a while.

Darcie G. warns her friends “who so kindly insist on setting me up with their dear friends: I will make it easy. Think Denzel Washington, Luis Miguel, Adam Rodriguez and Mof Def all wrapped into one. Ready, set go ... ; )”  
I had to google Mof Def to find out who he is.  But then I learned that Darcie G. misspelled his first name.  It is Mos Def, but I still didn’t know who he was.  Here is the scoop:  Darcie G., you will not get fixed up with a cool guy if you can’t remember his first name.  Guys are funny that way.
“DO NOT COPY or download to your computer without prior written permission from Jack R. B.”  
This guy had a nice photo of a male Hooded Merganser, but I can’t show it to you, due to his warning.
David A. warns Sean:  “Sean, look at what the GOP House is passing. This is what they'll do if they win the Presidency and Senate. These aren't cosmetic differences. They're the difference between neoliberal (admittedly bad) and batshit insane.”  
Now, I’ve been a mammalogist for about 40 years, but I knew nothing about bat shit making you insane.  Exactly how does that work?
Mark L. asks “Anyone remember what this green stuff underneath the snow is called?” 
Mark L., you must be a student who never sees any money, but you were lucky enough to find a $20 bill.  Way to go buddy.
The Ottawa Senators tells us: “Just a reminder to bring a pack of diapers to tonight's game against the Bruins & win great prizes! Check out this amazing cause by learning more at:”  
Are you kidding me?  I quit carrying diapers around more than 25 years ago, and I’m not starting up again now.  This is why I never attend hockey games.  They are as insane as batshit.
Susan S., Margaret H., and 77 others like this!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is the behavior of sports fans explainable?

 (Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the world champion Green Bay Packers.  Hang out with this guy to really enhance your status.)

I warned you in my first blog about 18 months ago that we would eventually get to some gritty topics about human behavior.  Up to now, we have been mostly just messing around with the humorous aspects of the human condition.  But I want to tackle some fascinating elements of our species (at least they are fascinating to me, and this is my blog, and you are not the boss of me).  And although I am not a professional card-carrying behavioral ecologist, or sociobiologist, or evolutionary psychologist, I have followed this literature for nearly 40 years.  It is about the most interesting non-fiction reading there is, in my opinion.

My closest colleague at Cornell, Paul Sherman, does carry a valid card of the type listed above, and I have been strongly influenced by his thinking.  He proved to me that asking questions about animal behavior (humans are animals) and then posing possible answers by thinking about how natural selection works can be productive and stimulating.  I think it is a fun type of thought experiment.

I have been in wonderment for decades about the motivation of those who so passionately root for and idolize their favorite football or baseball team.  I just don't get it.  Sure, I supported my teams in high school, and hoped they would win the regional or state tournaments.  I wanted the football team to win rather than lose when I attended Ohio State University.  But as those years passed, I found that I couldn't care less if any particular team won or lost and, in fact, I got to the point where I can't stand to watch any sports on tv.  So I am naturally curious about this conspicuous human behavior displayed by tens of millions of people worldwide, and which enables a relative handful of star athletes to become famous and fabulously wealthy.

In particular, it is curious how a person can become so emotionally vested in a team on which you have never been a player, or excited about the outcome of a team from a school you never attended, or remain overtly loyal to a team from a city in which you have never even lived.  To a behavioral ecologist, this is all extremely interesting.  (Realize that this little essay is not about the person who loves the game of baseball or football or basketball so much that they could watch any two teams play and love every minute of it, and not even care who wins.)

I don't have a lot of data on which to build a little theory about this fascinating behavior of humans, but there are some observations about which we can probably all agree.  Here they are:

1.  the majority of fans that follow most teams are men; most of the most passionate fans are men

2.  the most avid male fans are of prime reproductive age (15-50)

3.  the passion is so elevated that in many (or most ??) cases, fans of one team literally hate other teams and/or hate the fans of opposing teams, hurl incredibly insulting epithets at them, etc. (for spine-chilling evidence of this, check out the numerous Facebook fan pages of sports teams, but don't let your young children read them)

4.  in many (or most ???) cases, fans advertise their commitment to their favorite team by wearing jerseys, jackets, ball caps, or belt buckles, and put team bumper stickers on their car

This behavior is interesting, because we ecologists are always analyzing what organisms do in terms of cost-benefit analysis.  So in this case, how do fans benefit from supporting their favorite team?  They must get more than it costs them in terms of time and money, or it seems unlikely they would continue their support?  Aside from the fan who bets money on the outcome of a game, most fans stand to receive no immediate material benefit from their team doing well.  So where is the reward?

Now, most of you are not students of natural selection, I assume.  So, you are probably saying that people follow their teams because "it feels good", "it is enjoyable", or "I feel a sense of pride when my team does well". But the behaviorist wants to know why it feels good.  If it is enjoyable, then it almost certainly serves some other purpose biologically.  Why do we like sugar?  Because it is sweet.  But biologists then ask why does it taste sweet?  The biological answer is that it tastes good to us (and probably to most mammals) so that we will seek it out and ingest certain foods that contribute to our nutritional well-being and, thus, our survival.  The same kind of answer follows the question about why sex feels good.  If sex were painful, humans would have intercourse less often and, presumably, have fewer children on average compared to a group of humans where the act was pleasurable.  I am simply asking the same question about why so many humans follow their favorite sports teams so passionately.

At this point, I need to introduce the concept of "status", which has a special meaning in biology.  There are many factors that can contribute to an elevated status in humans: wealth, notoriety, physical beauty, intellectual acumen, physical prowess.  Status is important, especially for males, because females are attracted to men with high status.  High status males have more mates during their life, copulate more, and leave more children (or at least they did before the era of easy access to contraceptives in developed societies), which is the all-important currency that drives evolution.  Thousands of scientific studies show this relationship for non-human animals.  The data for humans are more difficult to obtain, but if you search Google for scientific studies by P.W. Turke and L.L. Betzig 1985 (Those who can do: Wealth, status, and reproductive success on Ifaluk), E.A. Smith 2004 (Why do good hunters have higher reproductive success?), or R.L. Hopcroft 2006 (Sex, status and reproductive success in contemporary United States), you will find convincing evidence that status matters a great deal to humans.  But you already know that status is important to humans, and that we try to raise ours all the time.  This is true of humans in every culture and society everywhere in the world.  And if I asked you why we seek status, you would probably say something like "because it feels good".

There is little doubt that professional athletes have high status.  The Super Bowl that I watched Sunday exhibited some of the elements that contribute to the status of the participants, aside from the obvious financial payoff.  The President of the United States watched the game at home, and a former President was in attendance at the game along with numerous high-status movie stars.  Then, there is the presence of the U.S. military, which I have never understood.  Regardless of how that association ever got started, the military pageantry just before the game, the singing of the National Anthem, the military fly-over, and the segues to our soldiers in Iraq who watched the game lend credence to this football game as an important event in America.  That is, the Super Bowl is a really big deal, watched by more than 100 million viewers.  As Michael Douglas stated in that somewhat emotional segment before the kickoff, "This is so much bigger than just a football game."  If you think that the "head man" or chief of a Paleolithic village of a couple hundred people had high status among his villagers, then the status of the quarterback of the winning Super Bowl team must be off the charts.

What then about the fans?  I have long thought that the idolization of celebrities that is so common among humans is a status-enhancing behavior.  Or, at least it is a behavior that is a vestige of an age-old desire to be close to the source of power, wisdom, or wealth.  Perquisites that enhanced survival and/or reproductive success must have flowed to those who were confidants of the clan or tribe's chief throughout most of human history.  Today, if I were a close friend of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates or the Queen of England, I would likely obtain some tangible benefits.

And so we are strongly attracted to famous, wealthy, and powerful people, even if it is from afar.  We celebrate them, idolize them, dream about being with them or at least seen with them-------of somehow having our lives and our fortunes touched by theirs.  To help prove this point, imagine that you flew from New York to LA, and you happened to sit next to Angelina Jolie on the plane.  I will bet you my next three Social Security checks that the first words out of your mouth when you joined your spouse or friend at the terminal would be: "Guess who I sat next to on the plane?"  It would probably be the most significant event that happens to you all month, and you would talk about it with whomever would listen.  Importantly, your status would be enhanced, at least for a little while, because of this experience you had with the famous celebrity.

We may not be conscious of the possible enhancements to our well-being if we were to be befriended by one of these high-profile people, but that lack of awareness does not lessen the potential benefits of such an association.  Anyone with higher status than ours is a person with whom it is worth fraternizing, so in a global world the number of such people is extremely high.

It should be obvious by now that my hypothesis is that our tendency to follow a sports team, and to advertise that fact to others, is just another example of attempting to enhance one's social status.  It is a cheap and easy tactic to use; being a sports fan is the poor man's approach to bettering your position.  But there are certainly other explanations for this behavior.  For example, maybe people (essentially men) become a visible fan of a team because nearly everyone else in their social group or community is already a fan.  By NOT being on board, you could be viewed as a weirdo and, of course, your status would suffer accordingly.  But that is essentially the same idea; namely, maybe your status will not soar because you became a fan, but it might decline if you do not.

I have not discussed how we might test this idea or other predictions we could make based on it, but this blog is already too long.  Another time. I could be dead wrong about all of this, and I strongly invite your alternative explanations.  However, as I have long believed, the wrong hypothesis is better than no hypothesis at all.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not the Super Bowl again!

(Maybe the Super Bowl frenzy is all about the snacks you get to eat while watching.)

This year I am trying to get pumped up for the big football game.  I guess the Steelers and the Packers are involved. 

You see, I hate football and I just can’t watch it on tv.  I tried to watch a couple of Super Bowl games over the years, but I never seem to make it past the first quarter.  I think I have watched maybe two football games in their entirety in the past 40 years. 

I know there must be something wrong with me, and I am seeing a specialist about this.  But she just doesn’t know what to prescribe as an antidote.  So I have taken treatment into my own hands, before I go so far as to check myself into the Mayo Clinic to find out what is wrong with me. 

My wife and I are ready.  I cleaned the tv screen with Windex to make the image as inviting as possible.  I vacuumed the carpet in the living room so I am not distracted by lint on the floor as I sit there during kickoff.  And I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought some great snacks.  We are going to have shrimp cocktail, one of my favorites.  I wonder if this is how most people make it through a game---they just buy lots of comfort foods and gorge themselves for three hours until the final gun.

But I am simply tired of being left out of conversations in public places.  This next week, everyone will be talking about the fumbles, the TDs (I just googled TD and found out that this is short for “touchdown”), the interceptions, and the half-time show. 

And anyone who did not see all those highly-touted commercials that cost $3,000,000 is considered un-American.  During WWII the Allies would ask an intruder who won the World Series.  If they didn’t know, then they were assumed to be a German soldier.  I have always worried that I might be stopped by some authority who would ask me to describe the Bud Light commercial on last year’s Super Bowl.  But because I would not know, I would be arrested as a subversive terrorist from Yemen.

So I have my snacks and my cleaning supplies at the ready.  I also have a little cheat-sheet with the names of the two teams and their colors written down to avoid confusion when the two lines of players run together and get all mixed up.  But as a backup plan in case I run out of snacks, I am checking HBO to see what movies might be showing Sunday evening.

Article first published as Not the Super Bowl Again! on Technorati.