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Motes & Theories



The Journal of an Anthropology Professor



Modified: 2011-03-01T04:16:31Z

Copyright: Copyright (c) 2011, johnn
 



More "evolutionary" explanations based on studies of American college students

2011-03-01T04:16:31Z

This time the ridiculous speculation is delivered from Eric Johnson, a Columbia University business psychologist, on seemingly irrational loss aversion and its role in slowing the recovery of the housing market, via David Kestenbaum of NPR. Johnson thinks that the risk of "leopards in trees" in days past conditions this behavior among American homeowners. The problem is that, like the recent study of tears and sexual desire, and all kinds of other crazy theories, the research subjects were all American college students! If there were some comparable data on loss aversion from societies around the world, especially, in this case, some relatively egalitarian ones, I might begin to entertain a role for some evolutionary adaptation. Otherwise, I'm going to assume that the cultural logic of capitalism is the operative framework here....

This time the ridiculous speculation is delivered from Eric Johnson, a Columbia University business psychologist, on seemingly irrational loss aversion and its role in slowing the recovery of the housing market, via David Kestenbaum of NPR. Johnson thinks that the risk of "leopards in trees" in days past conditions this behavior among American homeowners. The problem is that, like the recent study of tears and sexual desire, and all kinds of other crazy theories, the research subjects were all American college students! If there were some comparable data on loss aversion from societies around the world, especially, in this case, some relatively egalitarian ones, I might begin to entertain a role for some evolutionary adaptation. Otherwise, I'm going to assume that the cultural logic of capitalism is the operative framework here.




the new BMW pizza boy's car

2009-04-15T23:13:20Z

BMW's new car really resonates with Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash; it would be a great vehicle to delivery pizzas for the Mafia in, don't you think? :-)...

BMW's new car really resonates with Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash; it would be a great vehicle to delivery pizzas for the Mafia in, don't you think? :-)

(image)




Twitter and Morality

2009-04-15T18:28:13Z

Thanks to my student Liz for this link: "Scientists warn of Twitter dangers" I think that Twitter per se is a strange focus for this concern, which is far broader and implicated in many forms of contemporary media. In the online world, many different surfing habits and affordances of information exposure move at a speed and a casualness that if worrisome. I'm not even sure that Twitter would rank very high on the list though....

Thanks to my student Liz for this link:

"Scientists warn of Twitter dangers"

I think that Twitter per se is a strange focus for this concern, which is far broader and implicated in many forms of contemporary media. In the online world, many different surfing habits and affordances of information exposure move at a speed and a casualness that if worrisome. I'm not even sure that Twitter would rank very high on the list though.




Craiglist and Prostitution

2009-03-05T19:38:04Z

Watching the documentary film 24 Hrs on Craigslist, we (students and I) always wonder how that amount of illegal activity, especially in the sex area, can happen. Apparently in Cook County, IL, the sheriff is starting to wonder the same thing: "Craigslist to be sued for sex ads"...

Watching the documentary film 24 Hrs on Craigslist, we (students and I) always wonder how that amount of illegal activity, especially in the sex area, can happen. Apparently in Cook County, IL, the sheriff is starting to wonder the same thing:

"Craigslist to be sued for sex ads"




bash-completion! (context...)

2009-02-05T01:16:47Z

Good lord. After fifteen years as a Linux user, I finally discovered the package and configuration that adds smart context awareness to bash command-line completion. Why doesn't my distribution make this automatic? Who wouldn't want this? I used to want it every day without knowing it existed. For example, cd . . .Why should I get tab completion suggestions for every file in the directory, as opposed to just directories that I could actually cd to? Or: acrobat . . . Should it just suggest pdf files? Well, yes, actually, but in Gentoo there are a bunch of steps to configure bash to do these intelligent things, and somehow I never stumbled across them before....

Good lord. After fifteen years as a Linux user, I finally discovered the package and configuration that adds smart context awareness to bash command-line completion. Why doesn't my distribution make this automatic? Who wouldn't want this? I used to want it every day without knowing it existed. For example,

cd . . .
Why should I get tab completion suggestions for every file in the directory, as opposed to just directories that I could actually cd to? Or:
acrobat . . .
Should it just suggest pdf files? Well, yes, actually, but in Gentoo there are a bunch of steps to configure bash to do these intelligent things, and somehow I never stumbled across them before.




Probably a stupid thing...

2008-11-13T08:14:59Z

I just did probably a stupid thing, which is to stick my two cents into an online student forum at another campus here at Claremont on a controversial issue seemingly in defense of an ultra-right-wing student with, I'm now learning, a long reputation for offensive speech. Oh well. Life has been too calm lately. What I weighed in on was not the content of the debate (gay marriage) but the fact that 74 comments followed a post by this student which had been promptly deleted by the editor of the forum as "discriminatory" and "misleading". It was the first response to a funny little satirical piece in support of gay marriage that was quite provocative and "offensive," in a way. There is something too sanctimonious to resist about students (and sometime faculty) who rise up to attack offensive speech, with complete freedom to lay out their arguments at great length on the premise that the original speech should not have been uttered, should be censored and removed from sight. Is there no gratitude for the opportunity? The editor and other forum staff returned several times to the ensuing debate, even quoting from the deleted post and on two occasions interpolating...

I just did probably a stupid thing, which is to stick my two cents into an online student forum at another campus here at Claremont on a controversial issue seemingly in defense of an ultra-right-wing student with, I'm now learning, a long reputation for offensive speech. Oh well. Life has been too calm lately. What I weighed in on was not the content of the debate (gay marriage) but the fact that 74 comments followed a post by this student which had been promptly deleted by the editor of the forum as "discriminatory" and "misleading". It was the first response to a funny little satirical piece in support of gay marriage that was quite provocative and "offensive," in a way.

There is something too sanctimonious to resist about students (and sometime faculty) who rise up to attack offensive speech, with complete freedom to lay out their arguments at great length on the premise that the original speech should not have been uttered, should be censored and removed from sight. Is there no gratitude for the opportunity? The editor and other forum staff returned several times to the ensuing debate, even quoting from the deleted post and on two occasions interpolating their opinions into the posts of the student. For me, as a scholar and fan of the Net, this is beyond the pale for an editor of such a forum.

I'm very sympathetic to arguments about a hostile environment for women, gay people, racial minorities, etc. and steps to protect them. But a self-styled campus "forum" in which an offensive statement such as this receives a rousing shout-down hardly establishes such an environment. And as several students argued on the forum, there is no right not to be offended by anybody else.

We really need public, accountable forums around campus for good, open debates. This student site could be one, and I have learned interesting facts and read well-argued opinion there in the recent past. But assuming such a role implies more civic responsibility than was exercised in this thread, anyway.

One follow-up to my post, challenged my "net-cred"...

i just don’t see a pitzer prof coming in to defend an arch-conservative cmc student without knowing the contents of his post.

...which is really the main reason I'm making this blog entry. Yes, I am who I say and I really did this probably stupid thing.

PS: It's also true that I do not know contents of the deleted post, beyond the wrong-headed but not "hateful" passages quoted by the editor in his justification. I also know that it was quickly labeled "homophobic" by Pitzer students I heard from. This, unfortunately, can mean anything.




MS Windows is unbearable

2008-10-08T02:36:29Z

I don't know why anyone who had a choice would put Windows on a computer used for public presentations. Every single powerpoint talk I have seen this semester has been marred by a nagging popup continually asking for a restart for whatever upgrade Windows had to download that day to fix some new security breach or flaw. Watching tonight's Presidential Debate in the Gold Student Center, we had to wait about eight times for someone to find the mouse and dismiss the window and reset the live videocast. There really doesn't seem to be anywhere to tell Windows not to bother us again with that warning....

I don't know why anyone who had a choice would put Windows on a computer used for public presentations. Every single powerpoint talk I have seen this semester has been marred by a nagging popup continually asking for a restart for whatever upgrade Windows had to download that day to fix some new security breach or flaw. Watching tonight's Presidential Debate in the Gold Student Center, we had to wait about eight times for someone to find the mouse and dismiss the window and reset the live videocast. There really doesn't seem to be anywhere to tell Windows not to bother us again with that warning.




Entomology Major for Pitzer?

2008-10-08T00:31:48Z

Since the end of August, the local populations of black widows (and also a lot of what I now know to be Steatoda grossa, the introduced European "false black widow") seem to have exploded. We have killed many on our stone-walled patio and along the outer corridor of our building. They seem especially partial to enclosed, wood-slat benches in the alcoves, making the students a tad nervous. Numerous extermination attempts have reduced their numbers, but I still see them everyday at Pitzer and Scripps and our friends' homes in Claremont. (The false ones are only mildly poisonous and prey on true black widows, so I guess I should look more closely before I squish and spray.) Here's the one that kicked off the action for us back in August: And a zoomed-in view: Yesterday, I saw this tarantula sauntering down the sidewalk between Mead Hall and the Grove House. These Aphonopelma species are all around this area, but no one can remember seeing one in town. I guess they mostly get squished by cars or killed by pets. I captured this one and released it the Claremont Wilderness. (Actually, some friends made the dropoff and say they saw another one...

Since the end of August, the local populations of black widows (and also a lot of what I now know to be Steatoda grossa, the introduced European "false black widow") seem to have exploded. We have killed many on our stone-walled patio and along the outer corridor of our building. They seem especially partial to enclosed, wood-slat benches in the alcoves, making the students a tad nervous. Numerous extermination attempts have reduced their numbers, but I still see them everyday at Pitzer and Scripps and our friends' homes in Claremont. (The false ones are only mildly poisonous and prey on true black widows, so I guess I should look more closely before I squish and spray.)

Here's the one that kicked off the action for us back in August:

(image)

And a zoomed-in view:

(image)

Yesterday, I saw this tarantula sauntering down the sidewalk between Mead Hall and the Grove House. These Aphonopelma species are all around this area, but no one can remember seeing one in town. I guess they mostly get squished by cars or killed by pets. I captured this one and released it the Claremont Wilderness. (Actually, some friends made the dropoff and say they saw another one on the road on the way. Like with the black widows, is this an OUTBREAK? An Arachnophobia-type event? Stand by for updates....) The sighting and capture created quite a stir among Mead residents! Oliver (our nearly-three-year-old) loved it and instantly added a tarantula-walk imitation to his growing repertoire.

(image)

Ready for transport:

(image)




Lúcio Flávio Pinto

2008-05-20T01:01:39Z

Excellent article in this past Sunday's Los Angeles Times on this journalist from Pará and his struggle to report on corruption and environmental destruction in this near-feudal Amazonian Brazil state....

Excellent article in this past Sunday's Los Angeles Times on this journalist from Pará and his struggle to report on corruption and environmental destruction in this near-feudal Amazonian Brazil state.




Cheney sisters insult Scripps students

2007-11-16T07:00:13Z

Liz and Mary Cheney gave a joint speech this evening in a "Public Affairs" lecture series funded by a trustee with an interest in bringing to campus "diverse ideas about public policy" or something like that, i.e., the occasional conservative. The address itself was a ridiculous and patronizing string of anecdotes about life on the campaign trail with not a single political idea in sight. (There was a lot of appreciative laughter, though, so maybe students didn't notice the affront.) In Q&A (more below), Mary (the lesbian) handled the predicatable but very real and meaningful question about why she would support a party that doesn't support gay rights: "Oh, I've never heard that one before! How original!" she chuckled. (Her answer: because national security is the most important issue facing our country, and I vote on that basis. Followup that never came because of the format (see below): So when the terrorist threat has subsided you'll vote for Democrats? Liz, the Middle East specialist and former State Dept. official, handled most of the rest, including questions on a solution to Iraq and waterboarding/torture, with intelligence, giving snippets of the public affairs talk she could have given. And then defended herself,... Liz and Mary Cheney gave a joint speech this evening in a "Public Affairs" lecture series funded by a trustee with an interest in bringing to campus "diverse ideas about public policy" or something like that, i.e., the occasional conservative. The address itself was a ridiculous and patronizing string of anecdotes about life on the campaign trail with not a single political idea in sight. (There was a lot of appreciative laughter, though, so maybe students didn't notice the affront.) In Q&A (more below), Mary (the lesbian) handled the predicatable but very real and meaningful question about why she would support a party that doesn't support gay rights: "Oh, I've never heard that one before! How original!" she chuckled. (Her answer: because national security is the most important issue facing our country, and I vote on that basis. Followup that never came because of the format (see below): So when the terrorist threat has subsided you'll vote for Democrats? Liz, the Middle East specialist and former State Dept. official, handled most of the rest, including questions on a solution to Iraq and waterboarding/torture, with intelligence, giving snippets of the public affairs talk she could have given. And then defended herself, probably quite well, against real questions. She gave pretty much the Party line, not surprising for someone currently advising Fred Thompson's campaign. There was a lot of concern coming from Pitzer College faculty in the week leading up to the event owing to the impression that only pre-screened questions would be put to the speakers. The Scripps Faculty Executive Committee issued a statement expressing their desire for open questions, but there was never any explanation given to the Scripps community of how questions would be handled and why. Students had submitted questions to a box in the mailroom during the preceding week, and note cards and pencils were handed out by a small army of Scripps students, some of which were seen to arrive in the hand of Prof. Dillon, who read questions from the front row. This in the same auditorium where for other events ushers happily scurry up and down the rows with wireless mikes so people can ask questions. The main interest from a free speech/academic freedom perspective is that questions be freely put. There are some advantages to having questions collected and read. A conscientious reader can make sure a full or representative range of questions is posed. One can avoid the long-winded questions and monopolistic follow-ups that everyone hates, and questions can be read clearly and perhaps slightl[...]



No, what's your real residence?

2007-11-07T19:39:20Z

One problem with living on campus that we have discovered is that the institutional address confuses many people and causes problems. The Los Angeles Times won't bring our morning paper to the apartment. Instead, I have to paw through the stacks of papers left outside the mail room, and sometimes others beat me to it. Another issue, it seems, is pricing. We recently had a Sunday birthday party for Oliver, which we had "at home," that is to say, at the student center in the next building. Leda ordered one of those bouncy, inflatable jump-room things and was quoted a price for the rental over the phone. When it arrived and they saw that it was a "school," they jacked up the price by 25%. As if Pitzer College students were going to be bouncing in it. As if we had some institutional budget for the affair or were using it for a fundraiser. Who knows what market logic goes into their pricing scheme? "This is where we live," Leda said and I repeated on the phone a couple of days later. "This is our residence. It was a private party." No joy. MEGAZONE INC. of Santa Fe Springs, CA...

One problem with living on campus that we have discovered is that the institutional address confuses many people and causes problems. The Los Angeles Times won't bring our morning paper to the apartment. Instead, I have to paw through the stacks of papers left outside the mail room, and sometimes others beat me to it. Another issue, it seems, is pricing. We recently had a Sunday birthday party for Oliver, which we had "at home," that is to say, at the student center in the next building. Leda ordered one of those bouncy, inflatable jump-room things and was quoted a price for the rental over the phone. When it arrived and they saw that it was a "school," they jacked up the price by 25%. As if Pitzer College students were going to be bouncing in it. As if we had some institutional budget for the affair or were using it for a fundraiser. Who knows what market logic goes into their pricing scheme? "This is where we live," Leda said and I repeated on the phone a couple of days later. "This is our residence. It was a private party." No joy. MEGAZONE INC. of Santa Fe Springs, CA ripped us off. (I'll erase this last sentence if they send us a refund check and say they're very very sorry.)




Two Talks

2007-11-02T02:42:18Z

George Lipsitz gave a media studies talk at Pitzer this week, "FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK: Popular Music and the Fierce Urgency of Now." He started with some passionate but vague exhortations to get engaged and active now, followed by nearly an hour of music video clips. Nice music, but all we were led to see was a kind of watered-down Black Atlantic hybridity. Later that evening, an excellent and funny talk by Walter Benn Michaels on his latest book, The Trouble with Diversity. Despite good publicity, Michaels was up against Bono speaking across campus, and the audience was small. He adapted his major claims about diversity and its distractiing effect from issues of real (i.e., class-based, for Michaels) inequality to Scripps, hosting the talk in its "Unequal We Stand" series. You lull yourselves into a liberal identity based on identity politics while really being a conservative or even reactionary force, he said. He proposed no more actual solutions than in the book, but in response to questions he argued that the best academics can do is to admit this and stimulate more public discussion of America's growing inequality....

George Lipsitz gave a media studies talk at Pitzer this week, "FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK:
Popular Music and the Fierce Urgency of Now." He started with some passionate but vague exhortations to get engaged and active now, followed by nearly an hour of music video clips. Nice music, but all we were led to see was a kind of watered-down Black Atlantic hybridity.

Later that evening, an excellent and funny talk by Walter Benn Michaels on his latest book, The Trouble with Diversity. Despite good publicity, Michaels was up against Bono speaking across campus, and the audience was small. He adapted his major claims about diversity and its distractiing effect from issues of real (i.e., class-based, for Michaels) inequality to Scripps, hosting the talk in its "Unequal We Stand" series. You lull yourselves into a liberal identity based on identity politics while really being a conservative or even reactionary force, he said. He proposed no more actual solutions than in the book, but in response to questions he argued that the best academics can do is to admit this and stimulate more public discussion of America's growing inequality.




Ten Canoes

2007-10-20T06:06:47Z

I finally got around to watching Ten Canoes, the 2006 Australian film shot with Aboriginal actors speaking Ganalbingu (with a English voice-over narrating part of it). It is filmed in Arnhem Land, where it depicts pre-contact Aboriginal society. It involves a goose-hunting trip through the swamps during which a younger brother covetous of his elder brother's youngest wife is told an ancient and tragic story about faithfulness and loyalty in a similar situation. Many of the scenes of the film are recreations of 1930s photos by anthropologist Donald Thomson, one of which - ten men poling canoes through a swamp - was the inspiration for film. I'm not too sure where the tale comes from, although director seems to imply, in response to the white-guy-makes-films-about-Aboriginal-culture criticisms in some interviews, that the actors created or retold it. It is a charming and beautifully shot film and I enjoyed it very much. It seemed reasonable enough as a fictional depiction of a hunter-gatherer/foraging way of life, and the story is dramatic and engaging. Some scholarly blog posts from earlier in the year when most people watched it are here: The Material World Transient Languages and Cultures Savage Minds and see the the...

I finally got around to watching Ten Canoes, the 2006 Australian film shot with Aboriginal actors speaking Ganalbingu (with a English voice-over narrating part of it). It is filmed in Arnhem Land, where it depicts pre-contact Aboriginal society. It involves a goose-hunting trip through the swamps during which a younger brother covetous of his elder brother's youngest wife is told an ancient and tragic story about faithfulness and loyalty in a similar situation. Many of the scenes of the film are recreations of 1930s photos by anthropologist Donald Thomson, one of which - ten men poling canoes through a swamp - was the inspiration for film. I'm not too sure where the tale comes from, although director seems to imply, in response to the white-guy-makes-films-about-Aboriginal-culture criticisms in some interviews, that the actors created or retold it.

It is a charming and beautifully shot film and I enjoyed it very much. It seemed reasonable enough as a fictional depiction of a hunter-gatherer/foraging way of life, and the story is dramatic and engaging.

Some scholarly blog posts from earlier in the year when most people watched it are here:

The Material World
Transient Languages and Cultures
Savage Minds

and see the the IMDB and the (pretty lousy, as of 10/19/07) Wikipedia entries.

It is reminiscent of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, another indigenous language film with a similar theme.

It is available on Netflix.




Radio Black Hole

2007-10-16T06:18:13Z

Surrounded as we are by cement and steel, we get the worst radio reception ever in the apartment. Even with a tv rabbit ears plugged into the stereo, the best NPR option is very static-y. We overslept this morning because our clock radio gave us nothing. We switched to one of the "sounds of nature" settings. I'm hoping that our Time Warner cable will give us radio stations, but I suspect that that formerly free little perk is gone with the winds of corporate greed. Maybe not. I'll dig a coax splitter out of storage and try it tomorrow. We don't even get the Claremont Colleges station, for crying out loud, and the tower is maybe 500 yards away. Maybe we can get them to hide an antenna or a booster or something in the rooftop garden! The Los Angeles Times hasn't figured out how to find us yet; the paper is still going to the Brighton Park apartment every morning, despite two calls to circulation. I think the call center must be in Bangalore, so my detailed descriptions aren't helping very much!...

Surrounded as we are by cement and steel, we get the worst radio reception ever in the apartment. Even with a tv rabbit ears plugged into the stereo, the best NPR option is very static-y. We overslept this morning because our clock radio gave us nothing. We switched to one of the "sounds of nature" settings. I'm hoping that our Time Warner cable will give us radio stations, but I suspect that that formerly free little perk is gone with the winds of corporate greed. Maybe not. I'll dig a coax splitter out of storage and try it tomorrow. We don't even get the Claremont Colleges station, for crying out loud, and the tower is maybe 500 yards away. Maybe we can get them to hide an antenna or a booster or something in the rooftop garden!

The Los Angeles Times hasn't figured out how to find us yet; the paper is still going to the Brighton Park apartment every morning, despite two calls to circulation. I think the call center must be in Bangalore, so my detailed descriptions aren't helping very much!




Bottle Rocket

2007-10-17T22:06:48Z

Almost every student we talk to asks us how we're handling life in the dorm and particularly the noise. I think things may get louder as students in our first-year complex relax more and start breaking in the space. Right now, with the last bits of construction still happening all around and the fresh and uninviting landscaping, habits haven't really been forged yet. We hear people on the stairs outside our living room quite well and also the occasional conversation right in front of our door. We can almost always hear people out and about, but so far it's not bothered us. Last Friday there was a very loud dance party just across the sidewalk, and we didn't sleep (or even try) until it was over, but it stopped right on schedule or even a bit before (1 a.m. quiet hours on weekends). The only real annoyance so far was this evening, when I was out after dinner kicking a ball around with Oliver and a green bottle rocket came whistling right over our heads from a Mead Hall dorm room across the street and exploded against the elevator shaft in the corner of North and East Sanborn. It could...

Almost every student we talk to asks us how we're handling life in the dorm and particularly the noise. I think things may get louder as students in our first-year complex relax more and start breaking in the space. Right now, with the last bits of construction still happening all around and the fresh and uninviting landscaping, habits haven't really been forged yet. We hear people on the stairs outside our living room quite well and also the occasional conversation right in front of our door. We can almost always hear people out and about, but so far it's not bothered us. Last Friday there was a very loud dance party just across the sidewalk, and we didn't sleep (or even try) until it was over, but it stopped right on schedule or even a bit before (1 a.m. quiet hours on weekends).

The only real annoyance so far was this evening, when I was out after dinner kicking a ball around with Oliver and a green bottle rocket came whistling right over our heads from a Mead Hall dorm room across the street and exploded against the elevator shaft in the corner of North and East Sanborn. It could easily have a) hit someone, b) gone right into someone's room and then (a), c) ignited the mulch which is everywhere, d) landed on the roof and smoldered a while, or e) gone over the building and burned down the Outback and probably the beloved Grove House as well.

Other than that little blip of mind-boggling immaturity, we've had a great time. Oliver gets two or three baby-sitting propositions an hour while he's outside.

There was a Horned Grebe in the pool all day today, diving forlornly for non-existent fish. He was gone at dark.


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