Monday, February 27, 2006

Matchmaker Matchmaker Make Me A Match

One of my side-interests, as anyone close to me can attest, is the study of - well - couples.

I'm just interested. What do we (as couples) fight about? What do we agree on? How do we (if we) cooperate in making decisions? How do we meet? How do we stay together? How often do we have sex? How do we divide our household labor? How do we divide market labor? How do we make decisions about money and, really, everything else?

This just fascinates me.

The most recent installment into this bank of mine is the article "The New Science of Love" in this month's The Atlantic. This is a great story about the online matching services and how they compete with each other to get ever more accurate matching algorithms for the love-seekers. went so far as to employ an anthropoligist, Dr. Helen Fisher, from Rutgers University to help with their algorithm.

It is Fisher's belief that chemistry between two lucky people is a constellation of factors that boil down to different hormones. Sex drive is linked with testosterone in both men and women. Romantic love is associated with elevated activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine and probably also norepinepherine. Attachment is associated with the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. (Warning: Seminal fluid has all of those chemicals in it, so Fisher warns : don't have sex if you don't want to fall in love).

For the online matching system, Fisher translated her work with nerotransmitters and hormones into discrete personality types:

Dopamine, "the Explorer" = motivation, curiosity, anxiety and optimism.
Serotonin, "the Builder" = modulation of one's degree of calm, stability, popularity and religiosity.
Testosterone, "the Director" = rationality, analyticalness, exacting, independence, logical, rank-oriented, competitive, irreverent and narcissistic.
Estrogen, "the Negotiator" = being imaginitive, creative, insightful, humane, sympathetic, agreeable, flexible, and verbal.

Under Fisher's guidance, is developing a database that I'd love to get my hands on. They require a 146 item compatibility questionnaire that correlates users' responses with evidence on their levels of various chemicals that they believe are associated with these particular personality types.

One question, for instance, offers drawings of a hand, then asks:

Which one of the following images most closely resembles your left hand?
Index finger slightly longer than ring finger
Index finger about the same length as ring finger
Index finger slightly shorter than ring finger
Index finger significantly shorter than ring finger

The relevance of this question might baffle the average online dater accustomed to responding to platitudes like, 'How would you describe your perfect first date?' But Fisher explains that elevated fetal testosterone determines the ratio of the second and fourth finger in a particular way as it simultaneously builds the male and female brain. So you can actually look at someone's hadn and get a fair idea of the extent to which they are likely to be a Director type (ring finger longer than the index finger) or a Negotiator type (index finger longer or the same size).

Another question:

How often do you vividly imagine extreme life situations, such as being stranded on a desert island or winning the lottery?
Almost never
Most of the time
All the time

Someone who answers 'All the time' is a definite Negotiator. . . High estrogen activitiy is associated with extreme imagination.

I love the biological/social mix of it all.

Recently, I read a summary of research on the kids of gay/lesbian parents that confirmed my suspicions of the FYO. They show that the only measurable difference among kids of homosexual parents as opposed to heterosexual parents is that some of the girls tend to be hyper-feminine. This, in addition to my observance that the FYO could literally be in make-believe-land 24-7 makes me think that she is status quo.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Welcoming Children Into The World

I'm really enjoying a CD that I got from a pal of mine from school, someone named after a famous mythical princess by the way, titled "Welcoming Children Into The World."

It is awesome.

There are tons of great songs, but one incredible one is by Sweet Honey and the Rock who I had the great pleasure to see in college, titled "On Children", which is this great prose by Kahlil Gibran.

Here it is:
Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

And He's Large

I was thinking of that song that Shelley Duvall sang as the character of Olive Oyl (singing about her boyfriend Bluto) in that 1980 movie "Popeye" with Robin Williams as we left the doctor's office with the ZeYo after his two-month checkup which, to be fair, occured really at 10 weeks.

Anyway, he is a whopping 15 lbs, 11 oz, and 24 inches long.

That, my friends, is in the 97th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height.

Given the nature and nurture of it all, I get the weight part but where'd that height come from?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Another Intelligence Whistle-Blower On the Iraq War

Check out this great article in the current Foreign Affairs by intelligence community former senior analyst, Paul Pillar on how "the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bush's Curious Funding Priorities

Increase funding for research on nuclear power, but cut the funding on many research initiatives such as the huge panel study planned on children in America, or cut funding entirely for ongoing research agendas like the Survey on Income Program Participation or SIPP.

See the below plea to not cut funding.

February 10, 2006

Dear Senator or Representative,

As economists and social-science researchers, we are concerned about provisions of the President's FY2007 budget that call for the elimination of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), effective in September 2006.

The SIPP is the only large-scale survey explicitly designed to analyze the impact of a wide variety of government programs on the well-being of American families. As a longitudinal survey that tracks the same families over time, it provides researchers with unique information on the extent to which programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Social Security, and unemployment insurance are successful in meeting families' basic needs and promoting upward mobility. It also tracks health insurance coverage, and provides more in-depth information than other government survey on work-family issues, such as maternity leave, child care, and child support.

The Census Bureau first fielded the SIPP in 1984, after over six years of careful design and testing. Since then, the Census Bureau and social-science researchers have gained extensive experience with the survey and worked together to refine and improve it. The SIPP has served as the basis for thousands of academic papers and government and independent policy reports on poverty, income mobility, and the effectiveness of state and federal government programs. Over the last quarter century, hundreds of millions of public and private dollars have been invested in the development of the SIPP and the capacity to analyze its data. This investment will be lost if the SIPP is eliminated.

The total cost of the SIPP is about $40 million per year, yet it provides a constant stream of in-depth data that enables government, academic, and independent researchers to evaluate the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of several hundred billion in spending on social programs.

We urge you to fully fund the SIPP so that we may continue to use it to evaluate the effectiveness of public policy in promoting the well-being of America's families.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Monday, February 13, 2006

Ghosts of Valentine's Past

I have a fairly romantic Twin-Cities Valentine's Day story to tell. At least we think it is romantic.

On our first date, I brought Biomom, on a lark, some chocolates from Maud Borup -- a St. Paul chocolatier.

When I brought them to her, she told me that her dad had always gotten her a small box of dark chocolate caramels from Maud Borup and that she loved them.

Of course, being the diligent partner-hopeful that I was at the time, I went directly to Maud Borup for our first Valentine's without passing "Go".

Upon reaching the store in St. Paul, I ventured in only to find BioMom's dad, whom I had not yet met, but recognized from pictures, getting his own Valentine a box of dark chocolate caramels.

I introduced myself, awkwardly, saying that I was purchasing his daughter some of the very same only because of the tradition he started!

I don't think he remembers this chance meeting, but I'll never forget it.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Crash Course in Leadership


Cheney Shoots Fellow Hunter in Texas Accident


Okay, Maybe Not Actually MARRY, But...

This just in from E in Brooklyn: Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Ex-Gay Cowboys

In this review, Dan Savage looks at two movies, Brokeback Mountain (where two straight men play gay male cowboy lovers who married but should not have) and End of the Spear (where one gay male actor plays a heterosexual male missionary).

Savage says:

Sometimes I wonder if evangelicals really believe that gay men can go straight. If they don't think Chad Allen can play straight convincingly for 108 minutes, do they honestly imagine that gay men who aren't actors can play straight for a lifetime? And if anyone reading this believes that gay men can actually become ex-gay men, I have just one question for you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?

Evangelical Christians seem sincere in their desire to help build healthy, lasting marriages. Well, if that's their goal, encouraging gay men to enter into straight marriages is a peculiar strategy. Every straight marriage that includes a gay husband is one Web-browser-history check away from an ugly divorce.

If anything, supporters of traditional marriage should want gay men out of the heterosexual marriage market entirely. And the best way to do that is to see that we're safely married off — to each other, not to your daughters. Let gay actors like Chad Allen only play it straight in the movies.

While I completely agree with Savage, I wouldn't mind our FYO getting through high school in some modified Grace (of Will and Grace) role: dating gay men. Not MARRYING them, mind you, but DATING them. As I may have mentioned earlier in this Weblog, she has a seemingly hyper vision of gender roles and, as a result, sometimes seems prematurely sexualized, referring to her male classmates as "boyfriends" or saying that she is "in love" despite clearly not understanding the full meaning of those phrases. So, if she could do this within an unusually "safe" context, well, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

It seems, lately, as though our wish may be coming true. During preschool she had a fascination (that was not unrequited) with a young man who, as soon as he'd come over for a play date, would run down and put on all of the FYO's princess dresses and flounce about the house (not that there's anything wrong with that. I recognize that there is a faction of men out there that cross-dres but are not gay. Nor, to be sure, is there anything wrong with being gay, please don't miss my point here. It was just funny to hear them refer to themselves as 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' in that context.). Recently, she's been begging us to let her invite two boys from her class to her birthday party. One mother admitted to BioMom that her boy "has only female friends." The father of the other boy told me that his son wouldn't mind being the only boy at a princess birthday party.

If the FYO plays Grace for a while, let's just say that I'm okay with that!

Gay Marriage: As I Suspected

I'm sitting here in a rocker, holding ZeYo as he enjoys his morning nap, reading the Sunday Papers online as I am too lazy to go grab the print version that is currently freezing out on our February stoop.

In today's Modern Love column "You're Not Sick, You're Just In Love" the column's editor,Daniel Jones, points out that in his observation as editor of the column for the past nearly two years, gay marriage is "yawningly" just like heterosexual marriage.


Critics of gay marriage predicted the unraveling of our moral fiber while some supporters went so far as to proclaim that gays might revitalize marriage in the same way they've gentrified run-down neighborhoods. But dispatches from the gay marriage front tell a far more ordinary story, that of devoted couples eager to affirm their life-long commitment, have children for whom they can provide a loving home, and claim legal rights and benefits.

Once hitched, they seem to engage in the same dull arguments about the inequities of sexual desire and domestic drudgery as hetero couples. So what's the difference? As far as I can tell, only this: Whereas today's straight mothers often face chronic criticism of their housekeeping and parental skills from their own mothers and mothers-in-law, gay fathers seem to get a pass on both, or at least are subjected to a different standard, and may be urged by their mothers to relax or even take a nap.

As I have always maintained, what's all the fuss?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

More on the Cognitive Reflection Test

An anonymous poster just left a comment on my weblog Cognitive Reflection and its Gender/Sex/Sexuality Dimensions that I thought deserved more attention.

See this link to Anonymous' weblog on the topic.

The Filibuster

A while back I posted a weblog about the FYO's attempts at working around our rules regarding sleeping in our room at night.

I didn't, however, expect her next iteration in manipulative sophistication, which occured this morning: The filibuster.

It was still so dark when I heard her voice in the door "Mama?" there was no looking to the evasive Minnesota sky to get some reference as to what time it was. And, with the baby waking us up periodically, there was no way I could reference my internal clock ["how long have I been sleeping?"] to figure out what time it was.



There's a pee stain in my bed.



Is it dry?


Okay. It won't hurt you then. Go to the bathroom and go back to bed.

But there's a pee stain.

If it's a stain, it won't hurt you, honey. And it's the middle of the night. We're not going to change the sheets right now.

But it freaks me OUT!

How are you SEEING the pee stain in the middle of the night? It's dark out!

I dunno. I just saw it!

Okay. Well, why don't you sleep in the top bunk?

But my blanket isn't there.

[Her blanket had been co-opted by us for use in the rocker while putting the baby to sleep. At this juncture in the FYO's sly manipulation, I had no idea that this sublte shift was actually going somewhere.]

Okay, just take your blanket. That's fine. Take your blanket and go up in the top bunk!

But then the blanket won't be here in the morning.

Me, not following in my sleepy haze: ?

If I take the blanket to the top bunk, it won't be here in the morning when I want to snuggle.

Oh. . . Well, just bring the blanket back with you in the morning then.

But I want to snuggle with you. In bed!

Okay, honey. That's fine.

So, I won't need the blanket then.

Right. That's fine. You can do whatever you want then.

Well, if I can do whatever I want, then I want to sleep with you now. In your bed.

It slowly dawns on me that I've now had a 15 minute conversation with the FYO at five a.m.

Thank god she's no Strom Thurmond. I'll worry if she comes in dragging the phone book.

I took the blankie to her bed to find a TINY little circle of what had to be saliva rather than urine in her bed, covered it with the blankie and tucked her in.

Now, ironically, at 6:50 with the baby crying out for milk and a diaper change, only minutes before her alarm will sound out, and, being that it is a Monday, a school day, and not a Saturday, a cartoon day, the FYO won't be woken. A silver-dollar-sized drip of salivary wetness yes. But an earthquake? No. Even an earthquake wouldn't rouse her this morning.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

JPOD Week 7


When Parenting is REALLY Fun

So, the FYO came home on Friday with an assignment to write about something that she is "curious about."



In actuality, I'm not sure if it is due on Monday or not, but we decided to go for it anyway.

So, what are you curious about?

Art or babies.

Okay. Well, which one do you want to really think about?


Okay. Is there anyhthing specific about art?

Yeah! Sculpture!

Amazing. So, today we went out on a "sculpture hunt" starting in our very own backyard with a little scultpure of St. Francis. Then we moved on to this gorgeous larger sculpture also of St. Francis by Paul T. Granlund called the "Dancing Francis" located at our neighbor's church. Then down to the Minneapolis sculpture garden to look at Deborah Butterfield's "Woodrow" [the cool horse that looks like it is made out of wood and sticks], Claes Oldenburg's "Spoonbridge and Cherry", Frank Ghury's "Standing Glass Fish" 1986, and Dan Graham's "Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth".

The search was to answer the following questions:
What is art? What is sculpture? Is sculpture art?

The FYO took snapshots of all of the sculptures and tried to describe them. Were they realistic? What were they made of? Was the size of the sculpture realistic? How did it make you feel?

The spoonbridge and cherry's enormity was, according to FYO, to emphasize the importance of eating healthy. Especially fruit.

This was a blast. I wish that I could have such hands-on learning in my own intermediate micro classroom.

The picture above was taken of the Graham piece. The FYO and I were separated by a pane of glass/two-way mirror to get that effect.