Saturday, March 07, 2009

Angry Camels

This is the funniest thing I saw all week:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Guest Couple

Today Mrs. G. and I were the guest couple in my family life class. This is an annual exercise, and is always fun. This time I suggested a few topics that we should be sure to hit on, and divided up which of us would talk about which. I wrote the topics out on an index card, going back and forth between us. This worked very well. Our discussion flowed, and we stopped ourselves in time to let students ask questions for half the class time.

One of the questions was whether we argued, or whether we had been married so long that we had already worked out those problems. Of course we do argue, and said so. I noted, as I have argued in class before, that marriage does not really change your basic nature, but you can develop work-arounds for the points at which husband and wife clash. Mrs. G. then pointed out that the index card itself was one such work-around. For the last couple of years she has had so many interesting stories to tell that we ran out of Q & A time. Having the topics listed on the card was a way in which we (I) worked out how we (she) would talk to make our (mostly my, but also her) class work better.

I had not really thought about the index card as a work around, but she is entirely correct. And because we have spent years metacommunicating about how to work around communication glitches and conflicts, this technique worked without creating strife.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lap Dancers Show That Estrus is Not So Hidden

Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan of the University of New Mexico have done a wonderful study to see whether human beings can tell when a woman is ovulating. Unlike most animals, people have "hidden estrus." One good consequence is that men pay attention to their mates all the time, whereas in other primates females only get attention when they are "in heat." However, human beings may be able to tell when a woman is ovulating in more subtle, even subconscious, ways.

Miller and colleagues asked eighteen lap dancers to keep track of their menstrual periods, work shifts, and tip earnings for 60 days - more than 5300 lap dances. The researchers noted differences between women who were on the pill and those who were not.

The result:
Average tips during ovulation = $335 per shift
Halfway through (luteal phase) = $260
During menstruation = $185

Women on the pill, by contrast, showed no ovulation peak for tips.

[Thanks to reader Brittany for the study]

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Women's Circular Business Plan

Last night Rebecca Kousky spoke at Centre College about her non-profit business, NEST. NEST makes microloans to women in poor countries to make traditional crafts. They pay back the loans with products, which NEST sells online and through craft stores. Kousky started this project at 24, fresh out of social work school - in other words, with no formal preparation for what she was getting in to.

What was most interesting to me was her description of her "business plan." She said that all of her male advisors insisted she write up a business plan, write up a financial model, then go to investors. She found herself unable to do that. Instead, she took all kinds of people to her favorite coffee house and told them her whole plan, including the whole process of how the idea grew out of her life. From these conversations she got ideas, business contacts, investors, and lots of relationships that form the real foundation of NEST today. It was only when she was applying for a grant months after she had gotten the business under way that she was able to write down what her plan was - in retrospect.

Kousky is conscious of being young and a woman. She has noticed how this makes a difference in how she can connect with the women they give loans to, to the in-country intermediaries that they work through, and with the many women on her staff and board. She sees her naturally developing "circular flow" business model as a more female alternative to the linear business model that she was counseled to use.

NEST is a case study, not a proof. It is still young, only in its third year, and is only one case. Still, Kousky's account of building a business based on relationships that flow into opportunities does match what I have read elsewhere about how women tend to think of their "careers" in general.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Sexual Non-Paradox: Women Don't Have to Choose Like Men

Throughout The Sexual Paradox Susan Pinker addressed the economists' "gender paradox": as women's economic choices and achievements increase, they diverge more from men. Progressive opinion expected that we would come closer to a 50/50 division of all money and power positions by now. They thought women would, on average, make the same as men. But reality is not heading that way. Some aging liberationists think that sex discrimination must be the main cause.

Susan Pinker, and many others, are documenting that women do not make the same economic choices as men -- and that is fine. Moreover, she concludes, “Devaluing women’s preferences is an unintended aspect of expecting the sexes to be exactly the same.” The gender paradox is a paradox only if you deny sex differences. If we see that men and women, as a group, are different from one another and make different choices, then there is no paradox.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Men Are More ADHD, But Are Less Handicapped By It

Susan Pinker reports that more boys than girls are diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This I knew. I did not know, though, that about twice as many boys get this diagnosis in North America as in Europe - 10% vs. 5%. Pinker says the Europeans regarded the idea of a disorder called "hyperactivity" as an American fad, though they are changing their minds and catching up to us.

One of the things I like best about The Sexual Paradox is that Pinker follows up on the boys she treated years ago to find out what they did as men with their various disorders. She found that many hyperactive boys found ways to turn their vice into a virtue by making their work more efficient. She tells the story of the man who invented e-tickets because he was so ADHD that he kept losing his paper tickets.

Men are more likely to find ways to work around handicaps and deficits if they see them as a competitive challenge. ADHD is more of a problem in school than in the world of work. Girls do better in school in part because they are less likely to be hyperactive, as well as being more socially compliant. In the work world, though, Pinker suggests, hyperactive boys are more likely than hyperactive girls to compete to succeed.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Most Men Don't Believe in a Personal God; Most Women Do

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has been parsing its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. They found that more than 2/3rds of Americans absolutely believe in God or a universal spirit. Women believe more than men, 77% to 65%. 2/3rds of this group of believers, or about 1/2 of all Americans, absolutely believe in a personal God. The female/male breakdown here crosses the 50% threshold. Of all American women, 58% report an absolutely certain belief in a personal God. Of American men, only 45% agree.

Pew report that women have stronger religious faith and practice across the board, not just on this item. In general, though, women prefer personal relationships to abstract concepts. This, I think, is the heart of the dispute between Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg about whether loyalty to people or loyalty to abstract concepts represents the highest level of morality.

I do not read the Pew data as showing that most men are not really religious. I read it as showing that men and women differ somewhat in how they conceive of God and therefore of what they have religious faith in.