Jan 27, 2008

Blind Date Blindfold

My good pal MA posed this hypothetical question: “If you were to be set up on a blind date and could choose who you went out with based only on their occupation, what would be your top five occupations?”

Any assertion suggesting that one's job choice is self-defining is commonly met by blushes of timid unease; especially in a town where outsized costs of living require all sorts of aspirational compromises. Though many people relate to those blushy moments few could deny that the choice to spend a majority of one’s waking hours fulfilling a singular work function doesn’t say something, if not a lot, about who they are.

Quick draw answers I've heard to this "what if" dating psychology question fall into a few simple categories. (1) Occupations that describe a particular physical archetype: professional football player, yoga instructor, exotic dancer, or underwear model. (2) Jobs that typify a specific lifestyle or socioeconomic status: investment banker, travel journalist, art gallerist, or bass player for a well known rock band. (3) Careers that exemplify a certain brand of intellect or creativity: architect, philosophy professor, sculptor, or film director. There’s also the separate question of whether you generally seek a “partner in crime,” someone with similar creative/professional inclinations, or a person who you believe is your complimentary contrasting opposite.

My own answers combine ideas mentioned above with two addendums which I'll briefly describe. The first is what I call "Reincarnate Regret." It's the idea of being drawn towards people who chose a path you pursued in a former life, once considered, or still now consider. My other choosing variable is a hybrid of the response categories listed above. Based on silly generalizations (this is a somewhat silly exercise after all) I start with the world view, aesthetic sensibility, and physical appearance desired in a mate then interpolate to careers where one might find a high density of these idealized characters.

My top female blind dates knowing only their occupation:
1. Comic Book Illustrator
2. Hatter / Milliner
3. Contemporary Dancer
4. Furniture Maker
5. Field Anthropologist

{Extra credit list}

If I had lived during the 1920s:
1. Switchboard Operator
2. Hatter / Milliner
3. Confectioner
4. Costermonger
5. Bluestocking

If you'd care to indulge me with your own lists be aware that answers like French Maid, Slutty Nurse, or non-English speaking Pool Boy Hunk don’t apply. Sorry MA.

Jan 20, 2008

Brunch Wheelbarrows in The Weimar Republic

The scene is reminiscent of media depictions during chaotic months following the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse. Hordes of hungry people waiting in endless lines, clamoring to purchase bread, flour, eggs, milk, and other dietary staples. The only difference is that this isn't post-communist Russia, it's a typical Sunday morning steps outside my New York City apartment.

Surrounded by female clothing boutiques, vintage nic nak shops, and a truly fabulous eyeglass store sits the unmarked 9th Street Market, one of Downtown's elite brunching institutions. Elite in that hungry Manhattanites routinely wait for more than hour to secure seating at one of their 10 coveted tables. The menu boasts a stock array of hearty New American seasonal fare: Banana walnut pancakes, French toast dusted with confectioner's sugar, Goat cheese omelettes, Steel cut Irish oatmeal, etc. I've had the pleasure of dining there on multiple occasions, a few times for weekday breakfast and once for their lesser known dinner offering. The food is undoubtedly good but given the preponderance of quality restaurants in the vicinity it's astonishing to me why anyone would wait an hour and a half for a plate of Migas and roasted potatoes. If you’re considering a peak time Sunday meal here just think how silly you'll feel standing in the freezing cold amongst a restaurant-full size group of uninformed brunchers, clogging the sidewalk, and trying to ignore our incredulous stares. Do yourself a favor and opt for one of these lesser known neighborhood alternatives: Angelina Café, La Palapa, Quhnia, or Tree.

Jan 13, 2008

Party Notes from a Tribeca Loft

ST’s sms impression coincided with the surprise of revelers’ that the Queen of Spain’s pied-a-terre was actually “a sports bar.”

ES opined credibly on the political economy, explaining how asset markets would react to the results of the 2008 electoral season. Regarding his job search he profoundly admitted to knowing “what strategy WAS but not knowing what WASN’T strategy.”

LM padded her “cross-pollinating” stats by introducing D to KH for the 5
th time then took a brief break from her second night-in-a-row of preoccupiedness to dance to Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now.’

GB was still recovering from mopping mashed up Bushwick chocolates from the previous night’s piñata thrashing. (Thought bubble) “What am I supposed to do with all this mirrored plexiglass now?”

S quickly retracted his congratulatory record scratch hand motion after mistaking random shuffle cds for KH’s phantom dj debut.

Atop the great sushi pyramids E described NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN as “glib” but KH and HP couldn’t figure out why (HP saw the film TWICE). E got drunk with power after a triumphant 80s music coup deluded her into believing that “Come Sail Away” by Styx was actually a good dance song.

KY cutely posed for a mock Air Italia ad, not missing a beat after slip sliding on Johnson Street until the wee hours of the previous night.

Aided by CB’s coat hanger divining abilities, HP showed off her pipe cleaning skills while eloquently defending Paul Dano’s performance in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. KH then appropriately punned that “there will be bud.”

CB obliged to HP’s request for his digits only under the condition that calls would be strictly for “business.” CB admitted to being given the open door but decided to “unscrew the hinges instead.” KH found it odd that HP was ordering pizza so late in the evening despite all the available leftover food.

VLA tried to give the impression of disappointment when Louie the Chimp "copped a feel or two;" BL matter-of-factly remarked that Louie “puts all these girls to shame;” and KH never figured out how much you're supposed to tip a chimp in a tuxedo shirt.

KH wondered where all VLO’s pent up dancing energy came from and why ST and JR don’t take her out more often.

KH was simultaneously shocked, relieved, and happy that CL, the cabaret singer of 'Toothbrush Time', was a PHD in economics. CL and KH sniggered at the fact that Daffy’s, the retail source of KH's sweater and other "Bargains for Millionaires," actually has layaway.

KH wishes AT a happy 30
th birthday.

Jan 12, 2008

One Siren's Song

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, oh how many times you’ve tricked me! You sit in the back of my cupboard unbound by expiration dates, whispering to me, wanting me to want you. Something you said to me as a child keeps me coming back, keeps me wondering why I haven’t heard the maraca shake of your slim corrugated blue box for so long. I’m willing to put aside the bad times we’ve had together and give it another chance. Did I add too much milk last time? Should I have boiled your elbows in salted water or used margarine instead of butter? Is one packet of bright and dusty cheese powder really enough? Was I using the high altitude directions by mistake? You’re right, there isn’t enough pasta in this box for a growing young man like myself; I’ll just make two batches for good measure. Wait a second … No … I won’t do it! Your wily charms have fooled me for the last time! I know you’re the cheesiest but I don’t care. Your conniving nature and stomachache-inducing artificial flavors are the reason I don’t like girls who eat American cheese. I'll get my calcium elsewhere, thank you very much. And don’t think that I’ll aid in propagating this vicious cycle by donating your non-perishable wares to the local food drive. You’ve ruined enough lives already.

Jan 8, 2008

Q Square, 5 Circle, or 7 Diamond?

Thousands of New Yorkers make this decision every day. Is it faster to take the sure thing incoming local train or wait for the no-where-in-sight but most times expedient express line? Given a few set variables most grizzled locals can quickly spit out an answer calculated by the subconscious algorithm they've built on years of commuting experience. I've always wondered what one can infer about another's personality based purely on their subway platform decisions.

Riders are continually optimizing multiple considerations each time they swipe their Metrocard: travel time, comfort, safety, surety of destination, crowd, view, etc.
Not knowing how each person prioritizes this list makes predicting their behavior and thus inferring anything about their personality quite difficult. Many make choices considering only travel time. Others don’t mind taking the scenic local track in exchange for a luxurious lumbar supported seat. One might ignore their normal intuition to politely stalk an attractive fellow traveler (where do you think all those “missed connections” come from?). Misgivings on whether express trains are operating normally through unfamiliar terrain force even experienced New Yorkers into suboptimal decisions.

There are certain moments during the week where the variable of travel time is undoubtedly paramount to train riders.
5:30pm on a Friday in Grand Central Station is one of those moments, and I occasionally have a front row seat. Observing waffling straphangers as local and express trains simultaneously approach seems akin to the curious wonder of watching a lab rat in a maze. Why do people so commonly duck into the local train, wait a few nervous moments, then dart out the door across the platform onto the express track? Should I feel guilty for smirking when a merciless conductor punishes their indecision by leaving them stuck trainless on the platform? But what happens when a local train approaches during rush hour and you have a multiple express stop distance to travel. Are you the type of person who will just take the sure thing or will you bank on the experience that waiting will get you there faster? I'll spare you the details of my decision making neurosis and just admit to being a local kinda guy. I'm rarely in a rush, choose people watching scenery over speed, and just earnestly enjoy taking a long subway ride.

So which are you? Express or local?

Jan 6, 2008

Yoga Pop: Volume 5

Designed to play for the duration of a 75 minute vinyasa practice.

Song. Artist. Album
(Order is important)

1. The Birdman of Ec1. Saint Etienne. Tales From Turnpike House
2. Behind The Bushes. The Knife. Deep Cuts
3. Steady State. Andrew Peckler. Cue
4. ...Passing By. Ulrich Schnauss. Far Trains Passing By
5. Veridis Quo. Daft Punk. Discovery
6. Flying Officer. Skalpel. Konfusion
7. Building Steam with a Grain of Salt. DJ Shadow. Endtroducing
8. Arp She Said. Lindstrom. It's A Feedelity Affair
9. Loud Pipes. Ratatat. Classics
10. Paddington. Hauschka. Room To Expand
11. Cruel Girl's Beauty. World's End Girlfriend. Ending Story
12. Big Milk. Dan Deacon. Spiderman of the Rings
13. What Do You Go Home To?. Explosions In The Sky. All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
14. Alone. Adrian Klumpes. Be Still

Jan 4, 2008

Wasting Time Weighing The Weather

The following Reuters news story triggered an involuntary facial twitch I haven’t felt in a while.

“Landmark Communications said on Thursday it was exploring the sale of its publishing and television businesses including cable network The Weather Channel. Privately held Landmark wants more than $5 billion for The Weather Channel and its Web site, according to a New York Times report.”

“The Weather Channel reaches more than 95 million households in the United States and its Web site is one of the most heavily travelled. With 32 million unique visits a day, it has more hits than Facebook or MySpace.” The National Post

The amount of time and mental energy focused on spectating and anticipating weather in this country is a never-ending source of personal frustration and befuddlement. I never knew how bad it was. $5 billion dollars, that’s how bad. That’s how much those five minutes of your attention are worth on every local, national, and international nightly news station. That unmissable five minutes hosted by a woman of demographically tested and approved looks, tucked between your local high school football recap and the idiotic animal related personal interest story.

Travelers and the very unfortunate who get in Weather’s angry path have a bone fide reason to use this service. But besides them who watches The Weather Channel? 97% of this country wakes up in a house, walks into a garage, gets into a car (many of which could glide through five foot tall rushing streams), drives to various other roofed structures, then back into a car, repeat, repeat, repeat. If it’s cold outside wear a jacket. If it’s raining take an umbrella. A thermometer / barometer combo placed right outside your window not only displays the temperature but also helps you make the crucial determination of whether there’s a HIGH or LOW pressure system afoot (Big red “H” and big Blue “L”). For the the FULL effect attach a magazine cutout of some buxom blond or slick back haired tan guy.

You know what? Go ahead and watch your stupid channel but PLEASE stop annoying me with all the inane weather chatter at work. I am FULLY aware how cold it is outside. It’s January in New York City and we both walked into the same building within minutes of each other. How could I not know?

Jan 1, 2008

Koppenhaver's Precept of (Un)Attractiveness

- Circa 1999 -

The setting was pretty common for a Sunday afternoon in Ithaca. A group of guys lounging on the porch of a soon-to-be condemned house slouched over tattered 1940s era furniture in their underwear. It's a photograph that rarely makes it to the final press of college brochures but one of the few images I can vividly remember from those four years on the hill. We partook in the age old tradition of attaching meaning to our lives by ways of inane and pointless conversation. The gawking of passersby brought up the regionally important "Why are there so few attractive women in Ithaca?" conundrum, a subject of conversation that came up at least once a day. Normally the issue was put forth, met by a few nods of agreement, and then left quietly undisputed. But that day Ithaca's most disappointing truth turned into something different. Something important.

WK was a freckly fine arts major armed with a fiery, outspoken demeanor. His artistic
tendencies provided well-needed contrast to the pragmatic white collar aspirations of his housemates. But on that afternoon he set down his paintbrush and unbeknownst to him, began speaking like a doctorate in sociology. He started outlining qualitative evidence for his theory that the people of the world, not just Ithacan women, were generally unattractive. His accompanying numerical rating system, which I've dubbed Koppenhaver's Precept of (Un)Attractiveness, accurately fit this dim outlook for aesthetic beauty.

Scienticians are always building models for the purpose of fitting and predicting observed data.
A normally distributed set of data, also known as The Bell Curve, is one of statistics' most recognizable assertions. In a normal distribution a majority of observed data is grouped around the mean (or average) with fewer and fewer data points symmetrically trailing off in either direction. For example, if you asked a group of American Caucasian males their height you'd likely find the results to be normally distributed, with most respondents grouped around the average answer of 5'9" and very few people registering below 5'0" or above 6'6". If you charted the results of this survey you'd see a bell shape resembling this chart's blue line (vertical Y axis = % of people who responded within the corresponding height range, horizontal X axis = height). But not everything fits neatly inside a bell shaped normal distribution. The also popular lognormal distribution is defined by more parameters, making its asymmetric shape capable of fitting other complex natural and sociological phenomena. A good example of this distribution is American annual incomes. From a range of $0 to $1,000,000,000 it's not hard to imagine many data points gathered around $40-50k with fewer and fewer points trailing off towards higher sums. The red line on the chart shows a generic lognormal distribution that would resemble the graphed results of this data set (vertical Y axis = % of people who responded within the corresponding annual income range, horizontal X axis = annual incomes).

WK's simple yet poignant assertion is that human attractiveness, much like American annual incomes, is described by a lognormal distribution, not normally as is commonly believed. The classic method of rating one's attractiveness is by use of the simple zero to ten scale with ten being the most attractive. Without giving it much thought people typically gravitate towards a normally distributed scale, assigning ratings that have a central tendency around the middle grade of five. In WK's distribution a five should consider a career in modeling. According to Koppenhaver's Precept of (Un)Attractiveness most people register in the two to three range, with exponentially fewer people occupying slots approaching ten. "I've never actually seen a seven in person, and a perfect ten probably doesn't exist," he asserted that afternoon.

From that point on I decided to adopt this rating methodology. Fortunately, the superficial exercise of attractiveness rating comes up less and less often as you get older. Imagine having to explain to your girlfriend why a rating of four out of ten is actually quite flattering! After logging almost eight years in New York City I now wonder if I've ever seen an eight or a nine in the flesh. Whenever I overhear someone make a comment like “She’s a perfect ten,” or “He’s just a six, nothing special,” I think back to that sunny Sunday and laugh.