28 January 2009

Cup of Joe

"Erdos's unadulterated self was less real and less familiar to him than his adulterated self, and that is a condition that holds, more or less, for the rest of society as well. Part of what it means to be human in the modern age is that we have come to construct our emotional and cognitive states not merely from the inside out -- with thought and intention -- but from the outside in, with chemical additives. The modern personality is, in this sense, a synthetic creation: skillfully regulated and medicated and dosed with caffeine so that we can always be awake and alert and focused when we need to be.

On a bet, no doubt, we could walk away from caffeine if we had to. But what would be the point? The lawyers wouldn't make their billable hours. The young doctors would fall behind in their training. The physicists might still be stuck out in the New Mexico desert. We'd set the world back a month."
-Malcolm Gladwell, Java Man-

23 January 2009

Awards Season

Nominations and voting for the 2009 Bloggies have opened. I always check'em out because you can never have enough good blogs to read. This year, 8asians.com is nominated in the Best Group Weblog category. My friend Brian blogs for them but that's not the only reason to vote them up!

Also, this came out awhile ago but Fimoculous has a great list of "30 Most Notable Blogs of 2008." It was through his list that I found Molly Young, who reminds me slightly of technicolor.org. "[Molly] writes in that hyper-literate but still somehow accessibly intimate way that make all her blog posts read like entries in one of those diaries that score its author a publishing contract."
"Of all the bad things a person can be, 'boring' was my bete noire from the age of consciousness until mid-college. This is probably because I was so often paralyzed in social interactions, unable to think of anything to say or do. In fact, a good amount of the time I passed alone was spent stocking up on Things To Say. I used to keep a small notebook with reminders of funny anecdotes, news items, novelties and jokes to sprinkle into conversation. I even consulted the book (discreetly) during interactions to freshen my supply. It didn't work very well -- I often had to shoehorn unrelated sentences into topical conversations -- but it was better than being a blank.

Now things are more fluid up there, but only among those I know well."
-Public opinion is a tyrant-

21 January 2009

Don't be alone, it might suck

I have bad news for you/us unmarried people. A recent article I read is titled "Together is better? Effects of relationship status and resources on young adults' well-being." It's from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (possibly my new favorite site/magazine if I can somehow subscribe) and it says that married is better than single. I know, totally revelationary. How'd they come to this stunning conclusion? Allow me to summarize. First, a quote from the beginning of the piece.
"Marital status has long been viewed as an important marker with respect to several measures of well-being. For a variety of reasons, married people tend to have fewer psychological problems, are healthier, and more satisfied with life than the non-married.

The proliferation of alternative living arrangements (e.g., unmarried cohabitation, living apart together, or long term relationship without cohabitation) and the increase in divorce rates have blurred the once clear-cut distinction between married and unmarried adults. Marital status is still used as an indicator of people's relational involvement, although as [a researcher] suggested, this indicator may be inadequate to capture the effects of romantic relationships on subjective well-being in modern societies.

The ambiguity of marital status is particularly apparent for young adults, because young adulthood is 'a demographically dense period'. Young adulthood is a period of life when many transitions occur in a relatively short time span. In addition, given that forming romantic relationships is a primary developmental task, it is a period in which relational experimentation is widespread. Therefore, there is great diversity in relationship types among young adults, particularly in dating and unmarried cohabitation."
-Together is better?-
Through the course of the paper, it's revealed that single people are at the lowest rung of well-being because they don't have as many resources as those who are dating, cohabiting, or married. First, let's talk about what those resources are. There are three broad categories: material, social, and personal. Material resources are things like possessions, income, education, and employment. Basically we're talking money and the things that money can buy. Or resources that will allow you to get more money, such as education. Or quick hands and low morals.

Personal resources include things like self-esteem, optimism, or neuroticism. I've been looking for a definition of neuroticism and theirs is quite good: "Neuroticism can be considered as the lack of the resource of emotional stability." People with low neuroticism are better able to cope with stress and are less negative in general. Thus, personal resources are basically things that allow you to cope with stress and deal with how unfair life is. Neuroticism was measured with the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. I was too impatient to sit through all the questions so I have no idea what my results were. I probably got a C-, probably.

The last resource, social, can be simply explained by measuring a person's social web and social support network. It also includes anything that helps achieve "valued outcomes" in social situations. So if you want to be well liked, social resources can help you do that. Or help you be vilified if that's what you desire. Furthermore, there are two sub-scales for this: emotional support and instrumental support. "Emotional support taps the exchange of emotions of trust, acceptance, love, care, and empathy. Instrumental support focuses on tangible forms of support, like assistance with odd jobs."

With all that laid out, the initial hypothesis and resulting conclusion matched: Single people are sad sad people. See, it's all math. Two is better than one. More material, more personal, and more social resources are had when two people join up. The greater your access to these resources, the better off you'll be. In addition, a partner provides resources that are hard to provide for yourself. Yes, we're talking about sex. But also love and intimacy. You can love yourself but apparently that's not the same thing. After reading through the paper even I was halfway convinced marriage was the answer.

But then I got to thinking. In your previous relationships, has simply combining resources with someone actually made your life better? I mean, things like self-esteem, stress, and social circles can all be negatively affected in a relationship right? Where's the scale that measures the positive or negative effects of being in a relationship or being married. Currently my single friends are pretty evenly divided between the "I'm so happy I'm single" and "I'm depressed, I need someone" camps. The former group generally feels free and unattached, the latter group feels lonely. Clearly, the beauty of singledom is in the eye of the beholder.

While I don't want to discount the research done here, I'm philosophically opposed to its conclusion. Married isn't always better. Maybe for most people it is but some people don't necessarily want to get married. It could be possible to duplicate all of these positive resources in a single lifestyle by strategic use of friends and family right? I'd imagine that the longer someone is single, the more they build a network that provides them with resource sharing. But then again, as my mom likes to remind me, "What happens when all your friends are gone?" Um, I don't know. Buy some more? "With what material resources?" Hum, good point...

What I do like about this study is that it organizes some basic relationship needs into a simple triangle. By thinking about which of these resources you value, which ones you have an abundance of, or which ones you'd like in return, it could help you identify what your current (or future) dating life should be. I mean, I've never cohesively thought about whether or not I'm providing these resources to my partner. If I did, maybe I wouldn't fail so often? So while I must object to the "marriage is better" conclusion, I will take the study to heart and use its framework to find some answers.

Notice that the title of the study includes the phrase "young adult." That's key because this is a study that focused on young people, just like you and me. This was also done in the Netherlands and maybe those enlightened Dutch have different viewpoints than us ("The Dutch culture is rather individualistic and tolerant towards cohabitation.") so that could be a factor. Actually, the article goes through lots of moderating effects and possible flaws and exceptions but I'll gloss over those here. If you're really interested, email me and I'll forward you a copy of the thing for your own reading pleasure. But wouldn't you be better off using that reading time to hit the streets and finding that lucky someone to get married to? Happy happy joy joy...

This paper was provided to me by a friend who is in grad school and working on her fascinating thesis. I can't even talk about it because it's something so top secret and exciting that I don't want to blow up her spot. Let's just say that it's on a topic I'm very intrigued by. I can't wait till it's done. Until then, I hope to keep getting fed this sort of thing. I'll conclude with a few quotes I've recently come across. They kind of say the same thing but from opposite viewpoints.
"Girls aren't cool. They can be pretty or 'cute,' and with some serious dieting, even sexy. They can be nice. Dumb, but nice. But who wants 'nice'? You want interesting people around you. Has a girl ever introduced you to any new music or recommended a book you didn't already read in high school? Anything just slightly outside the mainstream? If so, she got it from an ex, her brother, her father. They just pretend.

Guys in long term relationships become so lame. They get sucked into this feminine sphere of TV series and nice dinners. They get less and less time to read and listen to music. Eventually they don't even miss it. They end up as understimulated, bourgeois retards."

"I think marriage is an insurance for the worst years of your life. During your best years you don't need a husband. You do need a man of course every step of the way, and they often are cheaper emotionally and a lot more fun by the dozen."
-Sex and the Single Girl-

19 January 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

Leave it to Ameer [High Entropy], my gadget guru, to once again show me the light. For the longest time the biggest impediment to proper iPhone moblogging has been its absolute inability to send more than one picture at a time. Aside from being annoying, it basically means you have to upload each individual picture, log into Blogger, mess around with copy pasting some code, and then re-jigger it all back together again to have it looking beautiful and presentable. The "mobile" in mobile-blogging was completely lost.

Dann [DLMOU] recently got a G1 phone and the thing I most envied about it -- not that I envied much, ahem -- was its ability to seamlessly send more than one photo at a time. His moblog could be truly mobile because he didn't have to sit down at a computer to mess around with combining multiple posts into one. I mean, he was moblogging from the slopes, he was moblogging from the bathroom, he was a moblogging machine. He stepped up the moblogging game like five notches (along with a little app that allows him to create captions and cartoons, dammit). I feared. Just a little.

But now Ameer has discovered the app that could change all that. Presenting "Multi-Photo," which allows you to send multiple pictures with just one email. So stupid that Apple doesn't do this already but whatever. For only $0.99, this was an instant buy and so far it's the only iPhone app I've paid for.

With this wonderful new tool, my moblog is coming back to reclaim the throne. Not that it had ever vacated the throne at any point actually...

My review of Multi-Photo: It's got a pretty interface, it works as advertised, and while I can forsee problems if you don't have good connectivity, it does everything admirably. Syncing up your email account is a breeze, picking out photos is easy, and overall the thing will probably change my life. Keep in mind I've only been playing with this program for like ten minutes. By this time tomorrow -- assuming I have something fun to go moblog about in the interim -- I might get down on one knee and propose. My only complaint so far is that the process could be streamlined but seeing as the app is new, updates could fix that soon.

One awesome thing about the app is that you can control the quality of the photos you're sending. Previously, you could only get 800x600 photos from iPhone to Blogger. Now it's possible to get full sized photos to your blog without syncing your iPhone. After setup, just go to General Settings and turn off the "Reduce Image Size" and crank up the "JPEG Image Quality." Voila, 1600x1200 pictures in all their glory.

I took the liberty of conducting some tests and it seems like the slider for the "JPEG Image Quality" thing is really more appropriately thought of as low, medium, high. Turning off the "JPEG Image Quality" option seems to be key because with it on you seem to be constrained to 800x600 regardless of the quality selected. While I don't want to blow people's eyes with 1600x1200 pics all the time, I do like being able to selectively put up bigger iPhone pics -- if only for Photoshopping afterwards.

By default, the images are set to be reduced in size and medium image quality. I left it on reduced but cranked up the image quality. I'd also highly recommend erasing the Default Subject and Default Body text, that stuff is just ugly. With this app and the right setup, there is no (technological) reason to not moblog anymore. I can renew my moblog evangelism straightaway.

I'm like all sorts of excited here. Can you tell?

Update: After further testing, I'm noticing that if you just send the picture through the iPhone's regular mail, it actually looks noticeably better than through Multi-Photo. Not in the detail but the color seems to wash out when it's sent through the app. A tad disappointing, but I can work around it. My settings were at full JPEG quality with reduce image size ON.

16 January 2009

Girl Power

Seven months later and America's Best Dance Crew is back for Season 3. I sort of tapped out of Season 2 because I hated the eventual winners, Super Cr3w, and figured the show was going downhill. Well, not so fast you know? While I'm sort of over actually watching the show on TV (I don't have DVR, I can't fast forward, it's totally killer) I did catch the first episode online. After watching all the groups, I gotta say, Season 3 might be pretty good.

I mean, last season it was gimmick after gimmick -- I take back all I said about Fanny Pak though, since they turned out to be dope and critics' darlings. They've sort of got that going this season with the the Ringmasters, the clogging group, and the Puerto Ricans but the other groups seemed to just dance without retarded gimmicks. And this year most of the performances were clean. I remember the first episode of Season 2 and everyone was incredibly messy.

Another awesome thing about this season: Rynan of Jabbawockeez replacing JC Chasez as the third judge. I don't dislike JC and I'll miss his sartorial splendor *cough*cough* but I like Rynan a lot, so that's a cool change. I kind of dig the clogging group too. I mean, it's so Riverdance but all that clippity clip clip is kind of fun. They probably won't last too many weeks so I want to enjoy them while they're here. Did you know I'm friends with a former clogging champion for the state of Ohio? It's true.

One thing that definitely sucks about this season is the team names. Fly Khicks, Dynamic Edition, Quest Crew, Strikers All-Stars, Beat Freaks? Way to be boring and unmemorable. Also, Lil Momma's hairstyle was horrendous. Go back to the baseball caps Lil Miss. Please.

The two best groups? Beat Freaks and Quest Crew. Beat Freaks are just fierce and have crazy great attitudes on stage. Their b-girls are pretty damn good too. They've got to be the early front runners and if they can keep it up, will become the first all female team to win. Steve knows Rino and he says she's "nasty" and the "best dancer from the competition." I'm throwing my support their way. Quest Crew is kind of ridiculous too though. The crazy over and under slide/flip thing they did? Geezes. Both groups seem to be creative and polished, I can't wait to see more.

Last thing, Team Millenia, who is back after being axed too early last year, plainly sucked. I don't know what that routine was but I would have been fine with kicking them right back out. After all the stink about how they got robbed last year too. Ugh, just a confusing performance.

14 January 2009

Life is in the details

So there's this guy, Nicholas Felton, who's been releasing his yearly "Feltron Reports" since 2005. It details in exquisite, well, detail, what he's been doing all year. It's life documentation at a super high level. It seems like he tracks everything he does, no matter how minute (average pocketchange collected each day, proper house cleanings, drinks enjoyed with company, iTunes tracks played, you get the idea) and then generates this neat looking package filled with numbers and graphs. It's some serious stuff. While I could hardly imagine this sort of thing being useful or all that interesting to anyone else (unless you were famous I guess), it does take my idea of a life spreadsheet to a whole new level. Well, a whole new universe actually.

Felton is a graphic designer and according to his bio, "spends much of his time thinking about data, charts, and our daily routines." The site that he's a part of, Daytum.com gives users the tools to track all of the things he does, allowing us to turn an infinite number of narcissistic mirrors upon ourselves. Awesome right? Daytum is in beta right now and I found out about it too late to get an invite at the start of the new year but when I get in I'm going to start tracking my minutiae too because it's a totally pointless project and thus right up my alley.

13 January 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Words I'd use to describe this movie: cloying, long, lifeless, pointless, and disappointing. I didn't necessarily head into this film with high expectations but most everyone who watched it said they liked it, just "not as much as Forrest Gump." I could do with a B-rate Forrest Gump. Instead what I got was a three hour meandering mess that sort of had the worst parts of Titanic, Forrest Gump, and (as Irene pointed out) The Notebook all mashed together. At the end of it I was hoping I'd be the one struck by lightning seven times.

I can't believe David Fincher (Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac) directed this. Aside from the tone and content, I just can't believe that he would have let this thing drag on so long -- he's usually tight with his running times. I love the idea of a character aging in reverse and the story had so much potential but it was all unrealized. I got quickly bored with the tired tropes, wished old Daisy would just hurry up and die, yawned at the pathetic attempts at greater symbolism, and got annoyed that there was no emotional pay offs. It also seemed like there were parts when Fincher forgot he was supposed to inject some universal life proclamations and so stuck them in with a quick voice over. Way to summarize buddy, try cutting the movie next time.

The whole thing made me appreciate Forrest Gump so much more as it was done with a hundred times the humor, charm, and originality of Benji Button. I used to love the word "button" but now it's been seriously tainted. For the record, I don't think Cate Blanchett is a great actress, not at all. Don't see it. Not here, not there, not anywhere.

11 January 2009

Doubt (2008)

Love Amy Adams, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, and kind of respect Meryl Streep. All three prejudices were handy since Doubt was pretty run of the mill as a serious actors' vehicle (adapted from the stage) and had all the things you look for in a decent indie flick. Some ideas to mull over, good dialogue, and a sense that you didn't waste your time or money. I expected just a bit more but in the end walked out satisfied if a bit confused. Everything at the end came quickly and the concluding revelations didn't click for me until a few minutes after the credits rolled. Not a bad way to use up an afternoon though, overall.

One thing that I have to discuss is the nasal drip coming from Mrs. Miller's nose as she cried and gave a passionate speech. While I'm all for realistic portrayals of anger and such, having stuff dripping out of Viola Davis' (strangely nominated for a Golden Globe) nose and settling on her upper lip was a bit much for me. Seriously, wipe that stuff off, it's distracting and disgusting on a thirty foot screen.

06 January 2009

Milk (2008)

You gotta wonder if this movie had been released earlier, before the November elections, if Prop 8 would have been defeated. Sean Penn is indeed stellar as Harvey Milk, and the message of the movie is one that I fail to see anyone not aligning with. Then again, millions of people apparently wouldn't agree and so California is stuck in man-woman marriage hell. The overall movie was quite good (I could have done with less marching) and all the performances were spot on.

I feel like I would have enjoyed a bit more detail about Milk's campaigns and his work but that's probably best left to Internet research anyway. It's tragic that thirty years after Milk helped get Prop 6 passed ("In 1978, Proposition 6 ('the Briggs Initiative') was the California ballot measure aimed at preventing gay people and supporters from working as teachers in public schools."), California has basically regressed. And for a film that challenges as well as illuminates, it's surprising that there wasn't a bigger national reaction -- good or bad -- to the film. It feels like it sort of slipped on by didn't it?

05 January 2009


"I never had any wild crush on her, and that used to worry me about the long-term future: I used to think -- and given the way we ended up, maybe I still do -- that all relationships need the kind of violent shove that a crush brings, just to get you started and to push you over the humps. And then, when the energy from that shove has gone and you come to something approaching a halt, you have a look around see what you've got. It could be something completely different, it could be something roughly the same, but gentler and calmer, or it could be nothing at all."
-Nick Hornby, High Fidelity-

03 January 2009

Frost/Nixon (2008)

This is the sort of movie you'd best Wikipedia beforehand to get the background story. Without much knowledge or perspective on Nixon (save his disastrous debates versus JFK), I needed to figure out who he was and why this interview was so important. Turns out, Nixon as played by Frank Langella is adorable, statesman-like, and oh so presidential. Like Lilly said, "We gotta stop watching sympathetic movies about Republican presidents!"

Overall, the movie was pretty good, with a smart script, a decent pace, and a sense that this is really really important. However, without my background research I'm pretty sure I would have been left wondering what the big deal was. The "chess match" that Frost and Nixon engage in isn't portrayed well and Nixon's motivation for admitting his role in Watergate didn't really come organically from within the movie. I wanted to see/understand why Nixon decided to apologize to America but the film doesn't provide that answer. Certainly the film version of Frost wasn't capable of pushing him over the edge.

Two actors/actresses kept bugging me because I couldn't remember where they were from. Matthew Macfadyen plays Frost's producer and was Mr. Darcy in the Keira Knightley version. And Rebecca Hall was Vicky in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. There, now you won't be annoyed trying to figure out who they are the whole time.