Clueless Guys Can’t Read Women

More often than not, guys interpret even friendly cues, such as a subtle smile from a gal, as a sexual come-on, and a new study discovers why: Guys are clueless.

Further proof guys are morons when it comes to understanding and interpreting non-verbal communication.

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The good old days @ CBS News: Sunday Morning

No insult to Viacom, Sumner Redstone, Larry Tisch and Co. but in the time that all those different media interests were tied up, Sunday Morning has become hostage to the synergy everyone ‘thought’ might exist between CBS and Viacom. Meaning we get celebrity interviews with Serena Altshul or celebrity interviews with Martha Tieschner or celebrity interviews with Rita Braver. Or we get editorials from Ben Stein.

What you don’t get are those long ‘set’ pieces, slice of life as it were called Postcards from Nebraska and Postcards from Maine. Roger Welsch and Tim Sample were the epitome of the Charles Kuralt style “On the Road” story-tellers. You could fine out more about what the USA was like just by letting these guys pick a topic, script it up, shoot the stand-ups and atmosphere shots, then do the voice over narration. By what I read in Wikipedia just now Tim did 100 stories and Roger did 200 stories. I cannot tell you how much those little insights to a geographical local did for me. I felt like I knew the places they talked about, like I had actually been there.

There is no other program on Cable or Broadcast TV that can hold a candle to the good old days, not of just Charles Kuralt but a good part of the time Charles Osgood was around too. But 2002 marks the end of the good old days for me. That’s when there was a decidedly strong move to redirect the appeal to a younger audience. MTV properties/personalities crept in to give the program a broader appeal. But how young really? Do kids today even watch MTV or remember “Week in Rock”?  Similarly there’s a segment that started this past year in a kind of breathy sciency, whiteboard kind of way that tries to explain things. It in fact has a whiteboard as it’s theme. Where one guy animates what the other guy narrates in an over fast-paced overly distilled and grossly simplified kind of way. It’s not very good, not very educational and comes off almost kind of as an infomercial for ‘saving the environment’. I dislike it, and flip the station the minute I see the white background show up with two shoulders high headshots of guys in dress shirts(that’s the visual cue their segment is up next).

And then last but not least I sadly have watched the erosion of that wonderful ending segment before the credits roll and trumpet blasts one last time. Just like the Postcards segments the shots at the end of scenes from around the U.S. usually in a state or National Park were to die for. They were so beautiful, austere, serene and I held my breath waiting to see how long it could last. In the days of Charles Kuralt it seemed to go on forever. Birds chirp, wind blows, leaves rustle and creeks babble along with just heart breakingly beautiful shots of this land. This land. Now all that we get is about a sum total of 1 minute quickly cheaply shoe horned in and then those credits fly by, and I mean fly. It’s as if you were trying to read a billboard from the Concorde flying at tree top level. It is a joke how fast the credits fly by. If you had any hope of reading any attributions in the credits, forget it.

Every year that goes by I tell myself, Sunday Morning is getting worse I should just stop watching. But the habit is so ingrained into my own Sunday morning. It has become my Sunday copy of the Washington Post. I don’t read the newspaper any more, but I would set apart 90 minutes every Sunday to watch the car ads, the investment ads and now a lot of pharmaceutical ads just to see what the busy people at CBS had cooked up and edited together in the last 7 days. I do not for a moment think I could do better. Any kind of TV production is in a word a non-trivial task. And doing it roughly 52 weeks (even with some repeats) is a challenge. I applaud the folks who have been there still since the days of Charles Kuralt and do what they can to keep the erosion from wiping out the whole program. Kudos to those people. But to everyone else who has had a part in the small, slight ever so subtle ‘accomodations’ made to management you have done more to harm Sunday Morning than to help it.

And in the spirit of the good old CBS News: Sunday morning it too leave you today with poem. It’s by Robert Frost and you may remember it from your middle school days before the time of ‘whole language learning’. It’s about a fleeting moment of something not so much seen, but felt, barely perceptible:

Others taught me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths--and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness? 
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

And so too, CBS News: Sunday Morning was once that whiteness. For once, then, something.

Equal Opportunity Fascism

it’s good to know that the government isn’t only illegally wiretapping the phones of regular american citizens, they are also illegally obtaining protected passport information from senators, both democrat AND republican (though the person who accessed mccain’s file was NOT fired… hmm)

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Feds Tout New Domestic Intelligence Centers

What’s the best way to bury a press conference? Don’t invite the press. But if you’re the folks from Threat Level you’ll attend a government sponsored conference on Domestic Surveillance. Read now, the plans for the future of Fusion Centers. These are the cooperative offices where FBI, police, and yes even military officials can all share intel.

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FBI fumbles Terrorist Watchlists and Domestic Surveillance

Not only can the FBI not be trusted to handle warrants for domestic wiretaps, they cannot even manage their own terrorist watch list. Over time the list has gotten longer, more full of errors, and more likely to inconvenience someone who is totally innocent. There is no procedure to manage the list over time, other than to just let it grow bigger. If the FBI was a retail outfit, there would be an email carpet bombing campaign being conducted over at Gawker Media’s “The Consumerist”.

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Following up on Impulse Control,…

When I was much younger, naive and foolish I made the mistake of believing there were no consequences for my actions. How little did  I know. When applied to my time working for a lumber yard in Virginia I made a few enemies. This memory was made all to relevant given my recent discovery of Gawker Media’s “The Consumerist”. Oh the complaints about bad customer service! I resemble or used to resemble that I’m afraid. Especially with at least two especially difficult customers that last Summer of my employment at that Lumber Yard.

I was brought in twice. Spoken to by management, asked “Why do you do things the way you do them?” Why do you walk so slow when you help out customers in the Lumber Yard? Why don’t you smile more. I never considered the ‘appearances’ to be all that important in doing the job of loading vehicles with the stuff they purchased at the counter. It shows how much I know. Anyways, I never took those meetings as a warning and that was another big mistake. I went for two months not knowing I was in trouble with the manager. And worse yet, I was going to totally upset at least two very difficult customers one of them being the busiest day of the week, Saturday. You cannot believe how many people come to the Lumber yard in Summer on a Saturday. I would just go and go trying to keep up with the long line of cars waiting to pick stuff up. Occasionally I would cave in and grab two cars and send them in opposite directions. Eventually I would catch up to the people who wanted their cars loaded. It was a no win situation when one guy did the work that in previous Summers we did with 5 guys in the warehouses.

The first Summer I worked there I was brought on before the Summer break. Just after my 16th birthday I joined up along with another High School student. Another fellow who taught High School came in at the same time too. We three were the weekend part-timers. I worked just Saturday, and occasionally once a month on Sunday. That Summer every Saturday the manager we had then put all five of us out in the Lumber Yard to handle the load better. We never got overwhelmed even on the busiest days. We all took turns everyone got an equal number of customers. But each passing Summer things got worse. Managers would front load the counter staff, and let the yardmen fend for themselves. I was brought up front once and was very stressed out and eventually went back to the Lumber Yard. I had put in 3 Summers and worked weekends all through High School. I got too big for my britches, I admit.

No matter what you never, ever take your frustrations out on the difficult customers. You have to smother them with love. I didn’t believe that then, but the older I get the more I feel it’s the only way in retail sales. And the Consumerist brought that point home stronger than ever. Treat everyone equally well the good and bad customers and you will never have to explain yourself or get the Manager to step in.

Impulse Control & Little Differences

I watched an interesting show on NOVA last night about the differences between apes and humans. In the 2 decades or so after KoKo the gorilla was taught sign language, more and more Psychologists have attempted to observe the ‘natural’ tendencies of Bonobos and Chimpanzees in the wild. Chimps not only use tools, they hunt. That’s right they make weapons and hunt bush babies in the wild. They had first hand video evidence of this weapon making and hunting behavior. So researchers have wondered how come if Chimpanzees have gotten so far evolutionary speaking, why haven’t they advanced even faster like we did some million or so years ago.

In the case of Chimps, impulse control is paramount in measuring any animal’s ability to cooperate. Bonobos are more willing to cooperate to receive a food reward. Chimps, will not cooperate if there is no equal reward for both animals. Bonobos cooperate and reason who ever gets to the single reward the fastest wins and gets the reward. I even saw video where one chimp will punish another chimp for ‘taking’ a food reward away from another chimp. The sense of justice is very strong in chimps.

Last, the propensity for teaching seemed to differentiate us from all primates. While chimps, bonobos will mimic on another, they don’t actually teach as such. There’s no ability to focus attention on a third object and ‘show’ the technique or ‘trick’ to doing something. Instead, primates just blindly duplicate what they see or what they think they see and hope for the best. In teaching, researcher describe the ‘magic triangle’ of attention of the student, focus of the teacher and the third item of the subject or ‘thing’ being taught. Human babies point at things they want, but they also will point at things they find interesting that they want others to see. Primates do not do this at all.

The final conclusion of all this research is that primates are farther along in culture development than we ever thought. But, there are small, subtle differences that sharply differentiate us from them. As they continually said in the program last night, it is the small differences that make the BIG difference.

Here’s an interview with Amy Saxe at MIT

And the last Q & A is incredibly interesting:

Q: What do you think is the key to this huge difference in what humans have accomplished?

Saxe: I really don’t have the answer to that. One possible key is the ability to transmit information and ideas and innovations from one generation to another, both nonverbally through imitation, through teaching, but maybe also specifically through language. We create records and describe new ideas in ways that can be transmitted across long distances and into new environments. In order to learn a new skill, you don’t have to go sit beside somebody else who already knows it. You can read a book about it and learn it wherever you are. Maybe that’s one key to this big difference.

So here we have evidence that while mimicking can get you pretty far, it is FAR too rooted in the here and now. I can mimic you now, and be successful at hunting termites. And my memory of past attempts may help me improve my ability to hunt termites in the future. But as a primate, I cannot ‘transcend’ time and communicate what I have learned to ‘future’ primates to learn how better to hunt termites. Once you have language, then you have writing, and once you have writing you have ‘history’. Which takes us on an interesting circular turn towards George Santayana’s old saw, “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” Well nothing is truer than this when looking at the slow evolution of primates vs. the much swifter evolution of humans. We unlike chimps live beyond the here and now, both here in the past and in the future all at the same time. Now that’s a small difference that does make a big difference.

I don’t remember things being like this

Being a kid watching political competitions I remember Primaries and Caucuses being such a foregone conclusion there was no such thing as real competition. I used to see good candidates get passed over for the smooth talking good looking well funded insiders. It happened all the time in 1980 especially. I kind of wish Howard Baker had been President in the early ’80s. Who knows how that would have turned out. And why pray tell me did Democrats think Mike Dukakis and Walter Mondale represented the best the party had to offer in the ’80s? I’m still disappointed by that time period. But the real point is this, starting in 1980 and going onwards the Convention had no role whatsoever in determining who the party chose as its candidate. It was more or less a week long free press opportunity for the party to show off and get its message out before the election. Now, this year things are different, everything is in the air more is at stake, and it’s looking more and more like the Convention is going to be the device by which the candidate is selected. In particular for the Democrats it appears as though the Rules Committee may decide who gets the nomination based on if they change their mind and let Florida and Michigan delegates participate in the Convention. Michigan and Florida’s decision to disobey and move their primaries up in the calendar is more likely to upset the usual Convention party held once every four years. And no doubt everyone in the Democratic party is so out of practice with an old fashioned REAL convention, nobody really knows how to handle the maneuvering and delegate counting people used to do back in ’30s and ’50s when things weren’t sewn up by the time of the convention. These are truly interesting times.