Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Bonobo Blues

They say the web is responsible for higher divorce rates. We've heard this before. Everything from the corner bar to cars to smoking to television to golf to ham radio has contributed to the divorce rate over time. This time it is the ease of using a web service or Google to Yahoo with old lovers. The press can blame the web like it once blamed the telephone or notes left in hollow trees, but these are just means to ends. Why do we do it? We just do. We're mammals.

Monogamy is a hard row to hoe for the mammals. While the current popular media excorciate males for it (see Nip and Tuck) and celebrate it for women (see Sex in the City), it is the oldest non-story in the literature. Cultures regularly phase in and through causes and choices of victims and vary in the importance of fidelity to a spouse. Mammals, on the other hand, haven't changed in recorded history. It is likely we won't in the future.

Get over it.

It isn't that nature is cruel; nature is whimsical. When the male is at his most flighty, the female is at her most determined to build and hold a nest. Chaucer got it right, Dudes: it's about sovereignty.

You have your fling and the mama bird might ignore that, but the first time the other bird shows up with a gleam in her eye for your home or your children, get ready for trench warfare. There is a reason they call it "no man's land". If you don't understand that, you are among those poor helpless guys at the corner brew pub claiming that you don't understand women but you sure do like 'em. So with almighty ignorance as your motto, you pursue and persuade and beg on your knees to please. Hit it once, you can get away, but hit it twice and you're there to stay. Why? Because you like it.

Dudes, you are dogs, and a dog with a steak within reach is a stomach without a brain. It gulps it down and feels guilty but just as satisfied. Women count on that. As Nora Ephron, the finest director of chickFlix said, "God, I hope he doesn't want me for my mind". Only keep in mind that the married lady you are flirting with at work won't trade down and if you are a trade up, you're not a loaner. No one gets out alive.

Get ready for it.

If the kids are what you care most about, then just say no and do what you do when you're alone. As the child of a very large His Hers and Ours, I know first hand what the great ping-pong match of wife versus ex-wife does to children. I think that economics is the deal but men wonder about the economics of unlimited supply. On the other hand, the laws of economics have not been suspended, just your calculations.

What goes up must come down. True for trading markets, tents and elephant's trunks. Where the trade is legal tender, the tenderness goes out of the trade. If the equation only has an X and a Y, maybe you can juggle the numbers for better results. A street walker depends on X increasing while Y stays constant and in mathematical terms, that's a linear equation with no slope. A call-girl has a limited clientele but each one is selected for their conformance to ever higher standards of reward and that is a linear equation with a slope. Quality is a hill you must run up and you might not be the fastest runner in that herd. A married couple attempts to increase the value of X AND Y. That is a power law so maybe this all comes down to power. Whoever has the power also has the least number of Xs or at least knows Y.

Get down on it.

I'm not so sure we wouldn't be better off if we took a page from one of our close genetic cousins, the Bonobos and just got it on without too much ceremony. As they say in the song, "a little less talk and a lot more action". But by the time women get to this stage of the game, men are entering adulthood or at least their second marriage and don't care nearly as much about the score. That's another one of nature's whimsies. Science is extending the game time with all kinds of miracle drugs and the marketing seems to indicate that this is what men want but really it is what women want and once again, sovereignty outs. Nature is whimsical.

Get on with it.

Somewhere in all of this, you might think I have a point to make, but I don't. Life among the mammals has taught me that everything we do doesn't have a reason behind it. It might have a cause, it definitely has consequences, but if you believe that mammals are rational and all stories have a denouement followed by a happy ending and fade to the credits, well, you don't understand. Why do mammals want their old lovers? Because they haven't had them in a while.

That's it. That's all. It is as the hip say, a Jones, a hunger, a thirst, a need, a habit. Is it bad? No but it can make for a bad scene and unless one wants to go through life moving their stuff to new places, think twice. Stuff is just stuff but a relationship builds a craving and cravings last longer than stuff. It might be better if women treated men less like territory and men treated women less like applicances. Men would keep more stuff and women would have fewer cravings.

Get past it.

Sex is a never-ending story and like soap operas, the story arcs never quite conclude the action; they just cross fade or jump cut and new actors are on camera delivering the same old lines. Later, they might pick back up where they left off and the soap opera starts a new season, but the plot varies not at all. Is there a reason?

No. Nature is whimsical. Get used to it. That's life among the mammals.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Winning The Game

If you like to think like the thinkers who think command and control is hierarchical by nature, but intelligence is networked by design, here is a good article:

Winning the Game

Years ago, some of us feasted on chaos and complexity theory, information systems, and game theories such as tit-for-tat as discussed in Scientific American. For me, I wrote the Information Ecosystems paper you see referenced in the left column which is as Dave Winer said, tough reading. To write clearly, one has to really understand what one is going on about and when I wrote that, I barely did. I think some of the bloggers are in about that same place, but they do have values that match their objectives, so big points for that. When I wrote the blog on Surviving Outsourcing, I was after a similar theme: if you want to blow a system to pieces without too much risk, find the interfaces and slow them down. The evaporating energy budget does the rest.

The problem with the American elections is that there is far too much energy available for that strategy to work. Truth is the weapon of choice, but as my Dad used to tell me, they aren't interested in the truth; they want to hear about the deal you're making. If Kerry wants to win, he has to go straight for the jugular. The Republicans wrap themselves in the flag and promote fear.

1. Al Qaeda though dangerous is still a street gang. They have trouble with travel, transport, and financing. They can always replace members so just killing them isn't enough. Make it harder and harder to pay for goods and services.

2. If the Republicans want to keep us safe, why did they out covert agents names? They want power and don't care who or what they risk to get it. Make sure that is remembered. The real flip flop is the flipping of values for convenience.

3. Watch the History Channel presentation of "Nazi America: The Secret History". It provides the classic example of how propaganda with a minimum population can create a generational movement, even one that is abhorrent on the face of it. Note that Hitler actually understood that and did his best to put a pudgy bland face on it.

4. Democratic values aren't enough. Not enough people vote and in a system that elects electors, very small numbers can outweigh the power of the majority. Human values aren't enough. The German Bund sold 'decency' as the cornerstone of its values. Values that match objectives are. Until the Democrats are crystal clear about how their values are supported by their objectives, they will lose to the financial players and the rock hard discipline of the Republicans. Note that such discipline was the cornerstone of the German Bund and note the use of youth camps. If you don't find these today, it is because you are looking for swastikas and they aren't that dumb. Look at the hard right wing church camps.

Bush and the Republicans have achieved one thing I did not think possible: they have made me watch Christians with an eye toward an enemy. Not Christianity, because the teachings of the Christ are pure truth and beautiful, the word of God. No, I mean just as the Nazis hijacked the teachings of decency while preaching a mystical connection with higher powers, these guys have hijacked Jesus and put him on their dashboard. There is an old Arlo Guthrie song about that.

Where are you, Arlo? We need you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Arnold Speaks

That is quite possibly the scariest speech I've ever seen. Skipping over the obvious cheap shots, any politician who cites Richard Nixon are the fount of his political consciousness obviously is neither a smart politician or an action hero. I voted for Nixon because we needed an S.O.B. to dig us out of the biggest mistake of American politics, and one made by Democrats: Vietnam. I don't think I'm going to vote for another bum who got us into another Vietnam even at the urging of a guy who used steroids to bulk up and then married into Democratic royalty after years of groping his co-stars and calling anyone with intelligence, girly-men.

Even Cheney looked uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure a lot of people watching did. On the other hand, after watching the local TV station interview people in this most Republican of states, not too many people were. That's too bad. That raised arm at the end sure made me squirm.

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