December 31, 2008

The thinking man's sex symbols -- yeah right

While looking for a list of sex symbols across the ages, I stumbled across this list of Thinking Man's Sex Symbols. I've never seen such shameless fawning over ugly, simpleminded, and annoying women. (Tina Fey's OK.) And they're almost all really old too. Perhaps the author Toure is trying to argue that a man starts using his brain when his dick no longer functions. But what he ends up demonstrating is laziness of both the mind and groin.

I'm not going to waste as much time as he did thinking up a better list -- let alone spell out why his lists sucks -- but here are a few. I'll even stick to over-30 women, since presumably that's who his audience wanted to see.

Jennifer Beals, the chick from Flashdance. Got into Yale before she became famous, though she majored in American Lit. Cute as a button -- especially compared to her peers. And she was born in 1963, so she gets bonus points for belonging to the disco / punk generation. Main drawback: black-white biracial, so may have a huge chip on her shoulder. Could be totally wrong about that -- just noting the possibility.

Pardis Sabeti, human genetics researcher who studies recent natural selection. Super-smart, plays in an alternative rock band, and is Persian. She could hold her own among actresses, but compared to female academics, she's probably #1. Main drawback: belongs to Generation X, and her deep concern about getting more women into science still sounds like a 1993 late-night conversation among college sophomore activists.

Danica McKellar, aka Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years. Math wiz who co-authored a proof in mathematical physics with a professor when she was an undergrad at UCLA. She indulges her nurturing instinct by writing books to help middle school girls -- the smart ones, anyhow -- get through the bewildering jungle of math after arithmetic. Main drawback: also Gen-X, and gives off a slight ball-busting vibe.

Jennifer Connelly, the clever and courageous girl from Labyrinth. (No matter how many other movies I see with her in it, that's who she'll always be.) Studied at Yale before transferring to Stanford. Although Gen-X, she doesn't show it, from what little I've seen. Main drawback: now has a man-jaw, but she's 38, so it's not unusual.

Probably several more, but this off-the-cuff list just shows how clear your mind can be when you don't lick the rancid crotch of feminist ideology.

December 30, 2008

Cell phones didn't cause decline in crime, plus a rant on pundits

Steve Sailer floats the idea that the greater presence of cell phones could have been a key factor in the '90s crime decline. Here is a graph that shows the number of cell phones per capita (data here), along with the homicide and violent crime rates (data here). Click to view full size.

The crime rate isn't measured on the same scale as cell phones per capita, so I divided the crime rate data by its maximum. The curves look the same as the original ones, but now they fit onto the same graph as the cell phone curve. Here is a table of the cell phone data, to better see the small numbers early on:

year cells/cap
1984 0.0004
1985 0.0014
1986 0.0028
1987 0.0051
1988 0.0084
1989 0.0141
1990 0.0212
1991 0.0300
1992 0.0433
1993 0.0621
1994 0.0927
1995 0.1286
1996 0.1660
1997 0.2067
1998 0.2561
1999 0.3156
2000 0.3890
2001 0.4507
2002 0.4888
2003 0.5458
2004 0.6203
2005 0.7011
2006 0.7783

The crime rate slows throughout the late '80s, peaks in '91 - '92, and declines afterward. Cell phone prevalence increases steadily from 1984, but not to a high enough level to affect crime. Between '92 and '93, only about 5% of Americans had cell phones, and these were obviously the richest 5%, not people who would frequent the bad sides of town to report crime in progress. Most victims wouldn't have had one.

Remember the 1995 movie Clueless? A running joke is that in Beverly Hills, people are so filthy rich that everyone has a cell phone. And in the 1996 movie Scream, the police make a big deal out of a suspect who has a cell phone -- it being very unusual. In fact, a contemporary review of the movie describes the character as "Sidney's cellular-phone-toting boyfriend Billy," as though you're as likely to carry a cell phone as a gun. None of the victims have cell phones to call for help. If they were still considered queer through 1996, they couldn't have been common enough to affect crime much.

What percent of people need cell phones before they could make a dent in crime rates? I don't know, a little less than a majority? Between 2000 and 2001, 40% of people had cell phones. In the 2000 movie Urban Legend 2: Final Cut, many of the characters have cell phones, and they're just normal college students this time. They all try to call for help using them when the killer is approaching. But by this point in time, the bulk of the decline in crime had already happened.

In general, the problem with every guess about why crime declined in the '90s is the it can't account for why crime declined in the '30s through the '50s, why it rose during the 1910s and '20s, as well as during the '60s - '80s. See this graph of the homicide rate during the 20th C. Crime rates rise and fall periodically, so we don't need an ad hoc explanation for why crime decline or rose in a certain period -- it's just going to. It's like asking why a pendulum went left, stopped, then went right -- there's no outside intervention, that's just what pendulums do. The interesting question is why do crime rates rise and fall?

For that, we build a system of differential equations that models how criminals, police, and victims interact with each other. It's pretty easy for such models to show oscillations like we see in the crime rate. They don't have to, though. It may be that only if the parameters satsify some inequality, there will be oscillations -- the parameters being things like "the average cost criminals incur when caught," or "the average benefit criminals reap by getting away with a crime," or "the size of the police population," etc. I'm sure there are people doing this, because physics and biology are too overcrowded, and mathematically trained people are starting to spread into uncolonized lands -- uncolonized by anyone who knows how to keep track of flow rates, that is.

Some criminologists are just dumb. Others are smart and know a lot more about the literature than I do. It must be that this kind of thinking -- look right before X happened to find its cause, and find a separate cause for each effect -- is hardwired into us. It probably didn't pay much in Darwinian terms to build models of crime rates, or other things that are complicated and need a fancy model to understand. Our brains are designed to answer simple cause-and-effect questions like, "Why did Bungo die? He was hit with an arrow." Or "I touched that plant, and then got a rash."

For some reason, anything that oscillates, we can't understand intuitively, even when it's really simple. Take fashion -- fashions change just to be different from what was popular before. Nothing more. And yet, most people ignore that truism and seek some deeper immediate cause -- women are wearing low-rise jeans as a reflection of their sluttier behavior (the purported cause didn't happen), or sideburns on men are fading away because they want to look cleaner. No, they don't want anything -- except to look different from how they looked before.

But why don't most people who get paid full-time to understand crime not get it? The reason is that a clever theory is sexier than figuring out how something works, and People who Publish are 99% attention whores who just want a big audience. So, sexy trumps correct.

It's the difference between what a priest does and what an auto mechanic does. Who gets more props? And who actually knows what he's doing, and can prove it? We don't want our social world to be dissected like a car engine, so we ignore people who can figure stuff out. We look at social life as a precious living thing, something that has a deep secret essence that only a select few can peer into. We call them priests, pundits, or whatever, and listen in rapt attention to their charismatic tea-leave readings.

Luckily, modern states have neutered the religious priesthood from fucking stuff up, were their visions taken seriously. Unfortunately, our punditocracy get to hobnob with those in power, whisper their visions into their ear, and get us into a big mess. Once I'm elected dictator, I'll choose policy advisers like I would engineers for a nuclear power plant: if you can prove you know what you're talking about, and you're better than chance in predicting things, you're hired. Otherwise, Smithers, release the hounds.

December 28, 2008

Data show young people want to grow up faster than older people want them to

The idea that kids these days don't want to grow up, but instead remain irresponsible adolescents, is wrong. I've already shown that young people are OK with 14 - 16 year-olds growing up by having sex, while older people want them to wait forever to make that transition. In fact, 18 year-olds would gladly surrender their iPods and digital cameras if it meant they could live in "my own apartment" with "my own stuff" -- omg, that would be like SO rad. (I don't know if they'd trade in their cell phone or Facebook, though.) That's why college students try to move off-campus, buy their own home decorations, and cook their own food as soon as they can.

In 2002, the GSS asked respondents by what age a person should have made a variety of transitions to adulthood -- getting married, working full-time, etc. To get decent sample sizes (more than 40 people), I've pooled people into six-year age groups, each one represented by the halfway point: 20.5, 26.5, 32.5, 38.5, 44.5, 50.5, 56.5, 62.5, and 68.5. Below is a series of graphs that show the percent of a certain age group that thinks young people should grow up "fast." One answer is given by most people, so I consider "young" to be any answer before that age. For example, across all age groups, the most common response to "when should people get married?" is 25. So, I count any answer below 25 as "getting married young."

For "being able to support a family," the "grow up fast" responses are pretty constant across age groups, except for the very oldest respondents. For all other major adult transitions, the "grow up fast" responses decline as you go from college-aged people to middle-aged people. For some, the oldest respondents are actually more in agreement with the whippersnappers than with the middle-aged. Because the question was only asked once, I can't separate age effects from generation effects.

None of the responses reflects narcissism or materialism -- they are about real adult responsibilities -- moving out on your own, working, having children, and so on. So it's just false that young people would prefer to enjoy the benefits of adulthood without paying the costs, e.g. by sponging off of their parents while having their own car, no curfew, etc. Most young people find it humiliating to live at home past a certain age -- broadcasting to everyone in their larger social group that they've basically fucked up.

Call them cocky and reckless, but young people want to become adults as soon as possible, and they understand that you have to pay to play. It's hard to escape the conclusion that all of the talk about adolescents wanting to just play with their toys forever is the same old self-serving, fact-free, "kids these days" whining that aging people are prone to.

At the risk of spewing up psycho-babble, perhaps the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers are simply projecting their own generation's anxieties about growing up onto a different age group. The youngest age group in the data here were 18 - 23 in 2002, and so were born between 1979 and 1984 -- too young to be Gen X, which ends with those born in 1978. This doesn't cover Millenials, who are born no farther back than 1987, but I recall the bitching and moaning about perpetual adolescents back in 2003, just a year after this survey was done.


December 25, 2008

Bush and Obama to divert more public funds for covering uninsured illegal immigrants

Remember that whenever you hear about "the uninsured," it's usually a euphemism for illegal immigrants. The American health care system may not be the best in the first world, but it's hard to be completely without health care -- unless you're here illegally.

So when I read the headline for this NYT article, I immediately suspected to find the usual circumlocutions that tell us a whole shitload of public money is going toward the project of keeping illegals here, rather than give them incentives to go back. Perhaps because they expect most readers to be too distracted by Christmas and New Year's to read the newspaper, they're actually quite frank about who stands to gain the most:

In Nashville, United Neighborhood Health Services, a 32-year-old community health center, has seen its federal financing rise to $4.2 million, from $1.8 million in 2001. That has allowed the organization to add eight clinics to its base of six, and to increase its pool of patients to nearly 25,000 from 10,000.

Still, says Mary Bufwack, the center's chief executive, the clinics satisfy only a third of the demand in Nashville's pockets of urban poverty and immigrant need.

"Immigrant need"? If we don't get to cast votes in Mexican elections, their citizens aren't entitled to our health care programs. If you're soft-hearted, then just send them medical supplies, allow their doctors to be trained here, or pay for them to relocate to a less pathogen-infested part of the world.

Anything but bring them here, which carries the lovely externalities of having their kids join gangs and run amok, paying for bilingual accommodations, and having a larger fraction of our population that isn't smart enough to get through life without continual support from the government. The welfare state should be like a shot of adrenaline pumped into a failing heart, not a steady flow of heroin into the veins of an incurable junkie.

In Mr. Bush's first year in office, he proposed to open or expand 1,200 clinics over five years (mission accomplished) and to double the number of patients served (the increase has ended up closer to 60 percent). With the health centers now serving more than 16 million patients at 7,354 sites, the expansion has been the largest since the program's origins in President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty, federal officials said.

Well with a fine pedigree like that...

"They're an integral part of a health care system because they provide care for the low-income, for the newly arrived, and they take the pressure off of our hospital emergency rooms," Mr. Bush said last year while touring a clinic in Omaha.

With federal encouragement, the centers have made a major push this decade to expand dental and mental health services, open on-site pharmacies, extend hours to nights and weekends and accommodate recent immigrants -- legal and otherwise -- by employing bilingual staff. More than a third of patients are now Hispanic, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

In light of all the care they require, Third World immigrants are rather like zoo animals in the minds of the Stuff White People Like crowd. They don't want to actually be around them most of the time, but hope that large sums of public cash will be there to prop up these ghetto zoos. When they get the urge to gawk at the exotic, they can drop by and -- while clamping their noses shut -- sample the Mexicans' culinary sleeper hit, bathtub cheese, their bodies soon feeling all warm and tingly inside as they succumb to tuberculosis.

At $8 billion, the Senate measure may be considered a relative bargain compared with the more than $100 billion needed for Mr. Obama's proposal to subsidize coverage for the uninsured. If his plan runs into fiscal obstacles, a vast expansion of community health centers may again serve as a stopgap while universal coverage waits for flusher times.

I guess that answers Steve Sailer's question about whether or not the benefits of Obama's public works will be restricted to U.S. citizens. But I mean, the fundamentals of our economy are like totally sound -- and so if the government could just get into the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Mexiraguans. Hell, we've already bailed out enough other morons who made risky business decisions -- why not give everyone a big do-over?

December 22, 2008

In hard times, pets of economically unfit owners suffer

People who can't find a way to shave $50 off of their monthly budget to take care of their pets are simply abandoning them. There's a 1/2 chance that these will be euthanized.

When I am elected dictator, not only will the stupid be prevented from breeding, but they won't be allowed to be in charge of animal life either. As humiliating to the animals' self-esteem as upper-class pet fashions may be, at least they're not in the pitiable state that animals in lower-class areas are. If you've been through a poor area and seen the scrawny dogs and cats whose fur is stained by filth, you know what I mean.

How long will the recession last -- two years, if it's as bad as the early '80s? So you go into minor debt at worst for two years, and then pay it back in better times. I'm sure your pets will be thankful when they're still living. Goddamnit, what's next -- abandoning your kids because you can't afford diapers for two years?

If there's any justice in the world, the abandoned pets will sense what's up, turn on their owners, and feed off of their obese carcasses until they can find adopters.

December 21, 2008

Recession slays Bridezilla

If the NYT had any sense of humor, that would have been the headline for an article in the Fashion section about brides slashing their bloated wedding budgets during the recession.

As the financial condition of the country worsens, the wedding industry, so long considered recession-proof, is seeing fairy-tale weddings stripped of their sprites, their sparkle and everything else that suggests splurge.

That's interesting if true. If something is recession-proof, that's usually a code for having a short shelf-life, so that whether you like it or not, you have to keep buying it. Gas is a typical example: you may decrease gas spending during a recession, but you still have to go places, so the average person will still be buying a fair amount of gas.

You see the opposite for things with long shelf-lives, like cars. During a recession, you don't need a new car because the old one is fine, maybe with a few repairs, and anyway, you can buy a new one in five years. So the average person really cuts down on their "new car" spending. That's why the American auto industry has been clobbered harder than American oil companies.

If weddings used to be recession-proof, that means that the average bride and groom viewed it like filling up their car -- like gas in the tank, the fulfillment that the wedding provides won't last long. They'll view it as something comparatively cheap and disposable. And if weddings are now getting rocked by the recession, that means the typical couple view it like buying a new car or new house -- one of those Really Big Purchases that is supposed to fulfill you for a very long time. Since when has a wedding been considered a font of boundless joy?

A search of the NYT shows that the term "Bridezilla" surfaced once in 2001, and became common only when we came out of the dot-com recession in 2003. The phrase "bachelorette party" in its current usage first turns up in 1990, but only becomes common after 1995. So despite the hype that has always gone along with weddings within the past -- I don't know, 50 to 100 years maybe -- it does seem like outright wedding mania is a very recent cultural shift. But since the article doesn't mention anything about longer historical trends, for all we know, we're returning to a pattern of 200 or 300 years ago.

At any rate, if you're going to get married, now is the time to do it on the cheap and have an easy excuse. If your wife eventually complains about how her right to have a glamorous wedding was violated, and how you definitely need to have a second, ostentatious wedding -- at least you get a clear signal that the marriage is doomed and that you should eject, or at least start dating a refreshing younger girl, if you must stay together. It's better to figure this out by getting one obvious signal rather than having to read into a million subtle signals.

December 18, 2008

Disapproval of teenage sex across the lifespan

We always hear about how young people don't want to mature, against the best efforts of their elders to make them grow up. This is wrong. Young people themselves are eager to become adults quickly, while their adult supervisors wish they would remain in limbo forever, preferably by overeducating or otherwise overqualifying themselves.

I have more graphs to back this up, which I'll post soon, but for now let's just look at how approving people are of sex between teenagers who are between 14 and 16 years old. By disapproving, the person is saying that they're not adult enough -- that they should delay growing up, despite being capable of growing up now. It's like, "Yeah, you can work full-time right now -- but you should wait 5 to 10 years until you're through with your education." The GSS asks people the following question (TEENSEX):

What if [a male and female] are in their early teens, say 14 to 16 years old? In that case, do you think sex relations before marriage are always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?

Most people say "always wrong," so I'll just look at that response and how it varies by the respondent's age, from 18 to 85 (click for better view):

No surprise that responses are highly predictable by age for a question about what a certain age group should or shouldn't do. The Spearman rank correlation is +0.96, two-tailed p less than 10^(-6). Those hotheaded 18 year-olds are the only demographic group I could find where a majority don't think teenage sex is always wrong. You can project the line to the left to see how the 14 to 16 year-olds themselves would respond. Hey, if the so-called victims don't think it's wrong...

This is just one case of the elders wanting to shield anatomically adult people from the harsh realities of Adult World, but there are similar trends for the proportion who think that people should get married young, should have children young, and so on. Older people don't want people passing any such milestones while young -- they'd prefer if young people delayed becoming adults -- while young people are eager to pass them sooner rather than later.

I'll also post a follow-up to this post at, looking at how disapproval of teen sex varies by four indicators of social class, and why it varies the way it does.

December 17, 2008

No more serial killers?


While reading the news about the police naming Adam Walsh's killer, I was struck by the date -- 1981 -- and tried to think of the last time there was a high-profile serial killer. The Beltway Snipers... and that's about it. Son of Sam, the guy who killed Adam Walsh (Ottis Toole), and Jeffrey Dahmer at the latest.

So I went to Wikipedia's list of serial killers in the US, and it seems like most of them operated in the 1970s and '80s, peaking in the early '80s, with some in the mid-late '60s and early '90s. In other words, during the upward portion of the most recent cycle of violent crime. After looking through all of the American serial killers' entries, by a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I estimate that the period from 1940 to 1960, and from 1995 until now, show only 40% - 50% as many serial killers as you'd expect if they occurred at a constant rate.

That may not seem surprising, since the crime statistics show these trends for homicide and forcible rape, and serial killing is a special case of these. Still, serial killers just seem weirder -- they're not stabbing a guy to get his wallet or shooting a rape victim to keep her from testifying. And it's not an in-the-heat-of-the-moment murder like when a barroom argument escalates. They also tend to target marginal groups who can't easily come forward to the police -- children, the elderly, prostitutes, etc.

This shows that the recent decline in crime is not primarily due to putting more cops on the beat, which would only deter crimes like barroom brawls, street-corner drug deals, and so on. An academic article on the decline in all forms of child abuse since the early '90s stresses this point. (Follow-up data show the downward trend has continued after the article was published.) They also emphasize that the increasing use of the death penalty doesn't explain it either, since most crimes that declined were not punishable by death, or even close to it.

It's like there's some infectious disease that spreads and burns out like an epidemic. It doesn't have to be germs of course -- although it could be. Interactions between predators and prey, or hosts and parasites, can show cyclical behavior, and criminals and the law-abiding population are an awful lot like parasites and hosts. The point is that it's a single, general thing that spreads and burns out -- not a million different trends in crime, each with their own particular causes for rises and fall-offs.

Update. Here's a graph showing how often the phrase "serial killer" has appeared in the NYT, as a fraction of all articles during a year:

The first time the phrase appears is 1981, but doesn't really take off until the late '80s. It stays steady throughout the '90s, and increases more still after 2000. As with other examples that I've discussed here and at (such as "sex predator" and "pedophile"), this is more consistent with a delayed reaction -- by about a decade or so, and without checking crime statistics to see if the increasing coverage is justified by an increase in the crime rate. [End update]

Further evidence for the decline in serial killers is that no one makes movies about them anymore. The Wikipedia entry for slasher movie shows that most were made in the 1970s and '80s, that they peaked in 1983, and died off in the early '90s. The only ones since then are movies about previous slasher movies -- real serial killers are so out of the public mind that we can only make movies that are "meta" and self-referential. Yeah, there are those movies like Saw that aren't like that, but they're not common -- compare to 1984, when A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Silent Night, Deadly Night came out, among others.

I remember as a middle-schooler staying up late at friends' houses to watch Sleepaway Camp or My Bloody Valentine on Showtime, and just attributed my lack of interest in those types of movies afterward to growing up. But the teenagers who followed didn't seem to dig them at all. Someone who's 25 now was still in elementary school when the crime wave began subsiding, and throughout their adolescence and adulthood, they've known nothing but safety. It must be hard to sell slasher movies to a generation of young people who aren't terribly afraid of that stuff happening in real life.

The slasher movies, where teenagers are always running off into the woods to fuck, also show how much more widespread adolescent sluttiness was back then, whereas it has been declining since at least the early '90s. The worst thing now that could happen to teenagers making out is that someone might film it and upload it to YouTube. Why, back in my day, we had to keep one eye over our shoulder to look out for the ax-wielding maniac! You spoiled kids.

December 16, 2008

Eating other people's junk

Eco-friendly people delight in putting down the deep-fried, greasy, sugar-soaked convenience food that provides most of a lower class American's calories. If only we could open our minds to the simpler ways of the uncivilized world, we would enjoy the many benefits of living off of leaves, nuts, and berries.

Nevermind their words, though -- judge them by their actions. Just plop them in a foreign restaurant and see how their chosen foods compare to KFC, Whoppers, and glazed donuts. Without exception, they will be more deep-fried -- falafel, samosas -- more greasy and messy -- gyros -- and sugary -- gulab jamun, baklava. But don't forget: it's another culture's deep-fried, street-vendor junk food, so wolfing it down your piehole is not only OK -- it's enlightening.

Let's face it, though: some of your middle and upper class peers won't get it, so you'll need a little PR to keep them from asking too many annoying questions. For example, rather than describing the taste as "salty," go for "savory." And instead of "sugary," use "decadent." Nothing is "greasy" or "artery-clogging" -- it's "hearty." In place of "deep-fried," try "kettle cooked." Using this term in particular will score bonus points because of its sophisticated, wary view of technology. You see, an electricity-using deep fryer is too stained by the legacy of modernity, while a kettle harks back to the Eden of honest cooking when peasants huddled around a cauldron full of sludge at dinner, for want of tables.

What if the food doesn't have any taste at all? That's OK -- just call it "artisanal." By valuing the purity of the process rather than the yumminess of the result, you'll tap into your friends' views on everything from standardized testing to bad lovers. Indeed, how it got made is so important that many corporations include a mission statement on the container about how organically it got into your supermarket:

Our pupusas come from completely free-range, soy-fed Salvadoreans, 100% guaranteed to be free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Unlike corporate farmers, we place our consumers first: our artisans are carefully inspected for cholera and dysentery before hand-crafting your pupusas. Expect no less from Applebottom Valley Organic Farms.

You might naively think that the food of any old rural culture unspoiled by the dominant, mainstream culture would do -- but you would be mistaken at your next dinner party to serve the cuisine of West Virginia. The chow of Italian bumpkins is permissible, but you should really munch the slop of a dark-skinned community, just to be safe.

December 15, 2008

Dying her hair blond as a way to cope with aging?

Read my post at GNXP that shows that older Playboy Playmates are more likely to have blond hair than the pretty young things. Comments closed here; take it over there.

December 13, 2008

You were cuter in high school -- the data prove it

Steve Sailer, Half Sigma, and Razib have all commented on a new national, representative sample of body measurements in Americans. Read the study's tables here. So far, they have only focused on race and sex differences. You probably wonder why I focus so much on age -- well, no one else does. Due to how segregated our social groups are by cohort, age is one of those invisible variables for most people -- especially regarding people under 25 and over 70. I'm here to lift that veil.

Even though I have regular up-close-and-personal contact with teenage girls, I was still a bit surprised. After perusing the graphs below, you'll understand why it's so easy to find flattering pictures of a young girl, no matter how unprepared she is, while even 20-somethings struggle to look good -- let alone once they begin tumbling down the jagged cliff of the 30s and beyond. In the recent collection of Catalan girl pictures I put up, they're all 16 to 19. And these are just pictures that they've snapped at random during their daily routine -- no need for a huge room full of NASA engineers hammering away at their computers while darting their eyes back up at the big screen, and all starting four hours before her picture is to be taken.

But just in case you're curious why a 28 year-old guy would rather be around teenagers than women his own age, here are four graphs that show the ripening and dessication of the female body across the lifespan. I've already written about personality changes elsewhere (search this blog for "staying girly").

The dots are medians, and the lower and upper bars are the 25th and 75th percentiles. Each year has a point from 12 to 19, though unfortunately after that, everyone within a decade is smooshed into a single point. There are data for as young as age 2, and as old as 80-somethings, but I'm interested in pubescent and pre- or barely menopausal females. The teenagers aren't broken down by race, so I used race-neutral data for all ages. But age is not like IQ or income, which correlate with race, so there's no harm.

The median teenager is normal weight, and through age 16, the middle half lies in the normal range. Late teens are still mostly normal too. Even by a woman's 20s, the median woman is pushing right up against the normal / overweight barrier, while the 75th percentil is pushing against the overweight / obese barrier. By their 30s, the median woman is now clearly overweight and remains so, while the 75th percentile stays clearly obese. If you don't want to lose your hand in rolls of lard when you squeeze your girlfriend's ass, it's best to date young girls.

And talk about expanding waistlines -- up through 16, the median girl's waist hovers around 30 inches, which already is a bit big for someone who's 5'4 or shorter. By their 20s, the median woman has a 33-inch waist, and it just gets worse from there. I don't have anything against dating a girl who's taller than I am, but she can't have a bigger waist than I do (29 - 30 inches).

About 5 or 6 weeks ago, I was sandwiched between 4 or 5 teenagers, all very petite, and I could fit my hands around a fair amount of one girl's waist, while she gave me the motor-booty treatment. All guys will tell you there's something thrilling about being able to pick up a girl and hurl her body across the room. With older women, you're deprived of that thrill -- you might as throw on a yoke and haul her fat ass around.

Weight shows a disappointing trend after 20 as well. As with waist size, I would feel strange dating a woman who weighed much more than I do (135 pounds). Now, if she were tallish and was packing most of that weight into a jungle booty, then fair enough. But such females are genetic freaks, and therefore rare. The typical heavy woman is the reason why Wal-Mart aisles are so yawningly wide -- to accomodate the girth of their scooters.

Guys who aren't desirable enough to get girly girls love to brag about how chasing after man-women proves how macho they are -- "Well, only the most masculine guy could date a 6'3 bodybuilder with chest hair and a 5-inch clit." Yeah, you enjoy that there, buddy. In fact, any time I've ever seen the topic come up on the internet, tall guys who are desirable usually say they like petite girly females just like everyone else. I mean, when you pick up your girl and spin her around, you want her to sail in the air -- much easier when she's 130 pounds at age 16 than 155 pounds in her 30s.

Most guys don't care about a girl's height, but for those who do, they've already attained their adult height of 5'4 by age 15, and it's not easier to find really tall girls by looking at older ones (the length of the bars is about the same after 15).

If we cared about finding supportive husbands for all women, we would burn these graphs into their minds during high school health class, with a warning to get married before you turn into a giant slug by your late 20s. But we live in a society where adult supervisors see the 20s as a time for exploration and "finding yourself," even though teenagers themselves think they should grow up faster than that.

I still find it amazing that they hardly do any exercise -- even when they have a free gym membership -- high school gym class -- they refuse to take advantage of it, obviously because they don't really need it. Hang out with teenage girls for awhile, even if it's just tutoring or volunteering, and you'll hear them complain about how ugly they look without make-up or having washed and done their hair. You won't notice at all. It must be nice to just roll out of bed and look hot. I guess they still have to shave their legs and underarms, though. Still, it must be a sweet deal being a young pretty girl.

Well, this data on adult women is pretty depressing -- luckily I'll be hitting up the teen dance club tonight where I can block it all out. And anyhow, I won't have to worry about aging for at least another 30 or 40 years.

December 12, 2008

Forecast: eternal youth

Tonight while cooling off on the club's patio, some guy came up and started small talk, and pretty soon got to "How old are you?" I couldn't tell if he was gay and good at hiding it, due to the conservative environment of the Mountain Time Zone, or if he was sent by some girls who were too shy to ask themselves.

Guess, I said.

"Uh, 21?"

Pretty close.

"Ummm... 20?"

I told him, no, other way, but pretty close, and then interrupted the interrogation by asking how old he was.

"I just turned 23."

Now, I could see if he was a teenager who had no experience with 20-somethings. But at 23, he should be able to spot a guy in his late 20s. I usually hear 22 or 23, but it's always a treat -- even if it's from a guy -- to hear a year or two younger. I can't believe he went lower when I told him 21 was only close.

I don't really worry about the pretty young things finding me attractive -- they'll do so even when I'm clearly over 40. But if they view you as too far out of their age group, they'll only be into you as an exciting fling. Nothing wrong with some college girl booty on the side, of course, but I don't want for my only steady dating options to be with women over 25.

That must be why the lead singers of rock groups have so many willing young groupies -- there are other good-looking, famous guys in their late 20s and beyond (such as actors and athletes), but the lead singer is full of energy, confidently performs in front of a crowd, and sings about things that teenagers not only relate to, but feel as if the singer wrote the song for them. "i mean, he may be kinda old, but i feel like he gets me. i dunno, y'know? plus he's pretty cuteee."

They'd not only fuck him for fun -- they crush really hard on him, just as though he sat in the back of their math class. It's too bad the dumb shits tend to marry women their own age, often older, surely out of laziness. Billie Joe Armstrong, Gerard Way, John Lennon, Paul McCartney -- what a waste of potential. When I become a professor (or whatever I end up as), there's no way in hell I'm marrying an academic my own age. There will always be those cute students who feel that they share a special connection with you, god bless 'em.

Getting to tag tight-bodied 20 year-olds when you're over 30 must be pretty sweet, but the young ones are also really affectionate and romantic toward their crushes, as their mothering genes haven't been switched on yet. As I always say, nothing wrong with women getting all maternal, but you should be getting kids out of the deal. Otherwise you only suffer the costs of their changing hormone levels and enjoy none of the benefits.

December 10, 2008

I'm not freeze-spirited

This week it snowed fairly heavily. On my way to campus, I couldn't believe I saw someone braving the possible accusations of stuffiness by bringing an umbrella. But he -- a grown man -- compensated for it by wearing Bermuda shorts and knee-high socks, in the middle of the snowfall, and a windbreaker instead of a coat.

Still, I've yet to see someone top the guy last year who, while it was snowing so hard that you couldn't see 30 feet ahead, wore loose athletic shorts, ankle socks, sneakers, and a hoodie. You can look informal -- I'll look non-hypothermic.

Shabby people pride themselves on not following fashion, but they're kidding themselves. They're slaves to their own silly trends, like shorts during a blizzard. If they valued usefulness and comfort, they'd be bundled up, not stripped down -- all to convince the crowd that they're an authentic, organic commoner.

When they bury their hands into their pockets to avoid frostbite, offer them your gloves and watch how anxious they get. They cherish their street cred more than an indie rock geek who refuses to borrow your iPod because it has some Metallica on it -- "what if someone saw?" Wearing gloves in winter would be like when their mom forced them to put on that stupid bike helmet when all my friends were looking.

If you're like me and your Christmas shopping plan is to just loot the mall while it's a complete ghost town, here are three simple things you might pick up, which I couldn't survive the winter without:

* Thermal underwear from American Apparel. The most comfortable kind I've ever worn. Not too prole, yet not too fabulous.

* Angora scarf from J. Crew. According to Alan Flusser, having light skin and dark hair, I need something with a bold pattern and high light-dark contrast near my face.

* Umbrella from Brooks Brothers. Go ahead -- be an asshole and take up lots of space. Those collapsable ones are so small that they barely cover you -- might as well just hold a newspaper over your head. Recession-time bonus: this is the cheapest stick umbrella I could find.

December 9, 2008

More evidence from prostitutes that women are most bangable around 23 to 24

Before I showed that the average porn star is 23 years old, judging from LA Direct Models, which represents the more famous ones. The average beauty pageant winner in recent years is 21, though. (And of course, sex symbols have been getting steadily older for as long as we have data.) So now let's look at a group of women who are also chosen almost entirely based on looks, though probably for having a daring and calculating personality too: prostitutes.

I happened upon this data after reading an NYT article on how the global recession is affecting demand for Czech prostitutes. The brothel profiled allows guys to pay an entrance fee and have sex with the women there, who get paid wages plus commission per act. They're filmed for an internet audience, whose subscription fees provide the brothel's revenue. Here is their website's list of girls. From this list, we get the following distribution of ages:

The average girl here is 24 (median 23.5), and the distribution is highly skewed (skewness is +2.96 S.E.). That is, most of the girls are in the lower end, with just a few in the upper end. No surprise there: younger is better, even when almost everyone is under 35. And look at how many are 18 -- about 11%. If you imagine what the graph would look like with ages 15 to 17 included to the left, it's obvious that those bars would not have negligible height -- and certainly not zero height. There is clearly a big demand for girls that age. After all, that's why there are laws against under-18 prostitutes: finding no minors at all among prostitutes is not a situation that would happen naturally in a libertarian society.

In fact, for 16 and 17 year-olds the bars would probably stand taller than those of the over-30 women. I'm going to sell motivational posters for over-30 women who are still "exploring their options" on the dating market: it'll be a stern-faced picture of me, and under it, "You were hotter in high school. So settle already." Take a lesson from your treasured retailers and think up some sort of "buy one, get one free" offer involving your enabler -- er, best friend -- to make sure you get married to someone before your assets evaporate.

Lastly, it's interesting that the beauty pageant winners are quite a bit younger than porn stars and prostitutes. One misgiving I have about chasing teenagers is that, as tight as their skin is, and despite their indefatigable energy level, their asses can't compete with those of a girl who's about 23 to 24. These girls have more raw fuckdoll appeal than the younger ones, who specialize more in being cute and enchanting.

A girl who's 23 is at or near the age when the average woman would've had her first child in most places and times for our species. So, she's the one you want a one-night stand with: she's decided to have a kid, and all you need to do is be there and leave some other guy to raise it. To get her for a greater length of her salad days, like before 23 as well as during her mid-20s, you have to invest more in her, since she's not quite as promiscuous as she'll be in a few years. Because guys would rather not invest anything, they must be tricked and manipulated into doing so -- and youthful charm, plus super-firm flesh, is one of the few weapons that young girls have to get past a guy's resistance to commitment.

(Again, a note to any women planning to go husband-hunting after 30: it's like trying to rob a bank with water gun.)

December 7, 2008

Hanging out and partying with young girls: a recession-proof investment

Everyone over 25, and especially over 30, is having a nuclear meltdown over the nuclear meltdown of the economy, understandably. On the other hand, my undergrad friends, and the high school people at one of the dance clubs I go to, couldn't be more oblivious of what's going on. It feels better more than ever to be around them.

It seems counterintuitive, but when there's basically no one in adult-world to reassure you that things are OK -- other than those who are completely delusional -- you have to rely on the blissfully ignorant to ease your nerves. Soldiers in wartime must feel the same way watching their little daughters dancing around the house, unable to appreciate what daddy is going off to face pretty soon.

When Wall Street went into free-fall, I figured that within a few months at the latest, I'd be in some sort of Last Days of Disco situation. Sure, the young 'uns aren't too integrated into the national or global economy, but their parents are -- wouldn't they stop giving their kids $10 to go out dancing every week? And any jobs they may have themselves are likely to be in sectors that "fell off a cliff," as they say, such as retail.

So far, though -- nothing. They're still going out in about the same numbers as before, except for the sketchy illegal Mexicans, who I believe I've seen fewer of recently, thank God. They're still as upbeat, as willing to sandwich me, toss their hair, and all those other wonderful things that make a guy feel great.

Best of all: no annoying small talk about the things they're doing to save -- "I've completely given up my weekly spa appointments" -- or their half-baked theories about what caused the crisis and how we can get out of it right away, usually parroted from some numbnuts in the mass media -- these must be the "intelligent conversations" that I've been told older women are superior at. A girl who's happy to have no opinions is better than a woman who's happy to have stupid opinions.

December 5, 2008

Rich vs poor gap in Republicanism as a function of state wealth

Audacious Epigone has a post on the rich vs. poor gap in voting for McCain, as a function of the state's level of McCain support, and as a function of the state's wealth. For wealth, he used gross state product, which seems more difficult to measure than median household income. I took his index of the rich - poor gap in voting McCain and plotted it as a function of median household income:

As you can see, the richer a state is, the smaller the gap between rich and poor in voting for McCain. In poorer states, the rich are far more likely than the poor to vote Republican, compared to in richer states. (Spearman's rank correlation is -0.38, p = 0.008). This is as strong as the correlation A.E. found between the rich - poor gap and the percent of a state that voted for McCain. So, how rich a state is still tells us something about the size of the rich - poor gap: we explain 14% of the variation in the rich - poor gap by making it a monotonic decreasing function of state income.

A.E. defined "rich" as earning more than $100K, and "poor" as earning under $50K. Andrew Gelman, one of the authors of Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State, showed similar results by cleaving the rich and poor as those earning above vs. under $50K. See here and a follow-up here.

December 3, 2008

Aging, feeling joy, girls, and religion

Using GSS data, here's the average number of days in the past week that people felt "excited" or "overjoyed" as a function of their age (grouped into three-year bins):

Everyone's more likely to feel excited than overjoyed, perhaps because overjoyed implies that the thing you were excited about actually worked out the way you'd hoped. Age is not correlated with feeling excited -- good news -- but it is with feeling overjoyed. * It declines from the late teens to the early 40s and levels off afterward.

This pattern serves young males because it builds team spirit among their coalition of desperate risk-takers, which older independent males don't have to worry about as much. And it serves young females because it makes them cute. When was the last time you saw a 30 year-old woman give a guy one of those run-jump-hug thingies?

When I'm 50, I hope I'll be self-deluded enough to say things like, "Well, I've been there and done that, and I don't need a girl who's overjoyed so often -- too much drama. I need someone who's calm and still." Probably I won't be, if my current inability to repress ugly facts is any guide.

Middle-aged guys get fired up themselves when they're coaching a winning team, as they watch their junior foot soldiers overwhelmed with emotion. And what father doesn't light up inside when his daughter is on cloud nine and runs up to give him one of those "Daddy!!!!" hugs for no apparent reason? Obviously we continue to value this trait in our close friends and family members as we age.

The only reason we say at that age that we don't want a romantic partner who's easily overjoyed is that for most of us, that type of partner -- namely, a young one -- couldn't be farther out of our league. It's better for the ego then to make believe that it's not what we really value and just get on with life. (See this related post on how guys' attitudes toward girls change over the lifespan.)

Since your own level of joy will probably hit bottom around age 40, you'd better have an outside source to give you a daily shot in the arm, probably from interacting with young people. Hopefully that means you'll have a 20 year-old wife. But even if not, working with young guys and especially young girls should do the trick. (One of the few fringe benefits of teaching.) And then there's having kids of your own -- although they're not exactly going to be a reliable source of joy in your life until they leave for college, those exceptional moments aside.

As for 40+ women, don't do this. Working with high school or college girls every day will just depress you as you become unable to block out how pretty you used to look when you were their age. And the young guys will mindlessly blurt out something about you being old, or make you the object of their fantasy where you'll be an easy lay, unlike the girls with annoying high standards their own age. There's always the religious life -- many middle-aged women seem to get a lot emotionally out of that, rather than going to church just because they have to.

I wonder if that's why Jesus is so much more popular than other central Christian figures -- having died relatively young, he can't be imagined as an aging man. Women can view him either as their surrogate son or as the not-too-young rockstar whose undivided attention will make them feel young and special again.

Look at any painting of Saint Paul, though, who lived into his 60s -- he always has either a widow's peak or a bald head, a wrinkled face, and other signs of age. Not the joy-spreading performer type who women will naturally turn to in order to feel younger and fulfilled. Some psychologist must have studied the frequency of women having erotic dreams about Jesus vs. other important Biblical figures.

I'm sure this is why flaky Gaia worship will never convert more than a tiny percent of middle-aged women: there's no younger dude to look upon and speak to you.

Whatever you turn to, plan ahead so you can ease into it gradually. Born-agains and the creepy old guy in the club appear more unhinged than their same-age counterparts who've been at it for awhile.

* Pearson correlation is -0.58, two-tailed p = 0.012.


December 2, 2008

South Africa and Zimbabwe continue their spiral into oblivion

Zimbabwe is rocked by a cholera epidemic because the government hasn't been maintaining sewage pipes.

Relief workers said the near breakdown of urban water systems in Harare and other cities was an important factor contributing to the disaster. "Water and sanitation infrastructure have deteriorated significantly," said a spokesperson for Oxfam, the UK agency. "Sewage pipes have been allowed to deteriorate significantly and are now leaking directly into drinking water. The infrastructure has been crippled."

Nor have they maintained the necessary chemicals for treating water.

A shortages of the chemicals needed to treat water has also hit services. The managers of Harare's Morton Jaffray water works stopped the pumping on Monday, mainly -- according to the pro-government newspaper, The Herald - owing to shortages of aluminium sulphate, one of four chemicals used to treat water.

Just as a reminder, Zimbabweans already have no food, though white farmers recently won a legal case against Mugabe:

A group of white Zimbabwean farmers scored a rare victory against President Robert Mugabe's regime on Friday night when a regional court ordered it to halt a programme of land seizures that has contributed to bringing the country to the brink of starvation.

The cholera epidemic may well spread to South Africa, where another government has failed to maintain waste treatment facilities.

In the decades since the 1980s, spending on treatment works, pump stations, reservoirs and other items has fallen sharply.

Look at the graph to see how sharply spending has fallen, to basically nothing right now. Three guesses for what is meant by the circumlocution "in the decades since the 1980s." Give up?

This fall, says Mr Turton, was matched by a skills shortage. Qualified engineers, most of whom were white, were not replaced by younger, men and women.

Many are now close to retirement age, and younger whites, says Mr Turton, have been discouraged by affirmative action and many have simply left the country.

And in case you'd forgotten about how awful AIDS is in South Africa...

Harvard University scholars estimate that the policies of Thabo Mbeki, the previous president, were responsible for 365,000 additional deaths as people were denied anti-retroviral drugs and other treatment. It is nine years since Mr Mbeki began his catastrophic embrace of dissident scientists who denied that HIV causes Aids, while his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, espoused herbal remedies and traditional healers instead of conventional medicine.

The whites who really have blood on their hands regarding southern Africa are those who demonized the colonialists, making criticism of black successor governments impossible. Sure, you can criticize this or that extreme policy, but not the underlying fact that life was better under white rule, leading us to conclude that we should allow them to rule rather than their successors, if we value the welfare of the citizens above the party cronies who, on the other hand, have had a pretty nice life since decolonization.

And you can't even criticize the "moderate" policy of affirmative action, since that's sacrosanct here already. When whites are the majority, the top 15% of them is still a large number, and a few of them losing their deserved spots to AA quotas won't cripple the system -- it'll just be like living in Atlanta. But when whites are a minority, the top 15% of them is a pretty small number. When these few are shoved aside for AA quotas, the entire society collapses.

A Martian ecologist with no feelings toward human beings would note the parallel between these events and a parasitoid species whose population size was too large relative to the size of the sustaining host species.

Watching them grow up

As part of the ongoing effort to make this place a little easier on the eyes...

She's 18 and in that "taking pictures of your feet" phase that arty girls go through. Most of the things that people do in order to "find themselves" are silly, but so are a child's first words. It doesn't make them less cute. And how else are they going to master speech?

Growing an emotional attachment to a girl depends heavily on observing her while she's blossoming from an adolescent into a young adult. The faster a person changes, the more often we have to update our mental profile of them. Since we don't just erase our previous profiles, more frequent updates means a richer record that we have of them, like a wall filled with ticks marking the progression of her height, which accrues hardly any new marks after age 20 or so.

If I know a woman from when she's 25 to 30, I don't need too many pictures to capture how she's changed in appearance (or personality). But to see her development from 15 to 20, I would need a shoebox overflowing with polaroids, just like the ones that parents keep of their children before they reach a certain age. With more pictures for my mind to run its fingers over, the young girl's profile makes me feel that I know her more deeply than someone my own age who I've known for the same length of time.

Fortunately for us, girls don't need to see us change and mature to bond with us -- otherwise 27 year-old women would have crushes on developing teenage boys. They want someone who's already pretty unmovable to stand guard while they're going through their little metamorphosis, when they're least able to protect themselves -- their "I don't care what anyone else thinks" cocoon notwithstanding.

The skin stretched tight over their newly fattened thighs, or large eyes that leap out of their sockets, appeal to the libido -- admittedly a huge piece of falling for someone. But these signals about "look at how I've changed!" threaten a man's psychological independence even more, as a rich record of memories can't be as easily thrown out and replaced as a snapshot of high, supple buttocks. For this reason, you probably still remember your crushes and girlfriends from high school or college more fondly than the last random piece of ass you got.

PS -- anyone who plans to work with teenagers should bear this occupation hazard in mind. Unless you're a grade-A, Angelina Jolie-worshiping girl-hater, the crafty little devils will find a way to get you attached to them. The trick is to get them attached to you too. I was blessed for my interactions on the job with teenagers to have been mostly of the "unspoken love" / "forbidden lust" quality, running in both directions. I can see, though, how other guys would be driven crazy by working with adolescents.