Monday, July 28, 2014

Gender bender

From Google's Ngram viewer, the percentage of books published in the US, by year, that contain the term "sexes" and that contain the term "genders". Both terms are plural to facilitate the making of an apples-to-apples comparison (the verb form of "sex" thus being excluded).

If sex/gender is more than just a social construction, perhaps it can still be reduced to little more than a surgical construction? Just don't look at brain scans, musculature, waist-to-hip ratio, height, vocal inflection...

Oh yeah, you're a woman trapped in a man's body, are you? Prove it!:

As the concerns of gays and especially lesbians get trounced by trannies, one wonders what even more marginal, less consequential group's hyperbolic concerns will displace those of the gender benders.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Everybody loves Jews, Jews most especially

Some findings from a recent Pew Research report entitled "How Americans Feel About Religious Groups" follow.

Allow a few technical considerations to be run through beforehand. The (ir)religious groups under consideration are not defined in the questions Pew posed to survey participants, so the somewhat nebulous terms "Jew" (is it an ethnicity, religious persuasion, either/or?) and "Evangelical" remain open to interpretation by survey participants. The groups Pew inquired about include Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Atheists. 

There is a glaring hole in the lack of a category for non-Evangelical Protestants who are often referred to in surveys like these as "mainline" Protestants. However, the questions don't imply that the groups are either mutually exclusive or exhaustive, so this is an issue of missing data points, not overall data corruption. The results that are gleaned come primarily from the data on page 14, which reports self-described feelings on a scale from 0-100 (higher = better) towards the various religious groups with the responses from those being asked about their own group backed out.

- Jews receive the most positive overall ratings among the eight groups. This holds for white and Hispanic men and women of all ages, though blacks put Jews in second behind Evangelicals. Thomas Sowell's Black Rednecks and White Liberals is validated once again. Nice to see Hispanics assimilating to some American norms, anyway!

- Whites put Muslims at the bottom of the pile. Blacks and Hispanics place atheists there.

- Despite being--or perhaps because they are--the living embodiment of the 1950s middle class America ideal, Mormons aren't rated very favorably by anyone. Among whites and Hispanics they come in ahead of only atheists and Muslims. And among blacks, in front of just atheists.

- Understanding that SWPLs like religions they weren't born into, it should come as no surprise that Democrats put Jews in the #1 spot with Buddhists trailing just behind in second place. Given the tepid response from blacks towards aspiring bodhisattvas, Buddhists might even beat out Jews among white liberals, though it's difficult to say for sure because the data aren't broken out by both race and partisan affiliation. 

- The differences between men and women are marginal. Women are slightly more amenable to the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths--Christianity, Judaism, and Islam--and a bit less friendly towards the polytheistic and irreligious stuff--Buddhism, Hinduism, and atheism--than men are.

- Atheists give as good as they get. While Evangelicals only give atheists a 25, atheists give Evangelicals a similar 28. In contrast, there's a lot of love (and overlap?) between Jews and atheists, with Jews giving atheists a 55 and atheists returning the favor with a 61 score for Jews.

- There's a clear trend for relatively greater affection to be expressed for Muslims and atheists among younger cohorts than among older cohorts. As America becomes more multicultural, non-American traditions are increasingly embraced. Notably, Mormons buck the trend--older cohorts are more accepting of Mormons than younger cohorts are. White America, won't you die already?! Relax, Tim, much of white America is slashing at its own wrists, though Mormon stock is going up, up, up. Ethnomasochism isn't an affliction Mormons suffer from.

- Because everyone loves a Jew sandwich, we'll finish by focusing on the chosen people again. Jews think Jews are the bee's knees. They give themselves an 89, the single highest rating recorded in the entire survey. They despise Evangelicals, however, reserving their lowest score of 34 for those atonement-obsessive gospel goons. Yep, Jews expressed slightly more positive feelings towards Muslims than they did towards Evangelicals, the same Evangelicals who salute the white, stripe, and baby blue. Evangelicals duly turn the other cheek, rating Jews more highly than any other group save for other Evangelicals. Parenthetically, the lowest score was the aforementioned 25 given to atheists by Evangelicals. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hey Andy, two-point conversions all season

Steve Sailer recently pondered over ways the NFL might make the point after touchdown (PAT, or "extra point" in the vernacular) attempt a little more exciting by making it's outcome less predictable. Over the last five regular seasons, PAT attempts were successful 99.20% of the time. For people other than Americans or Canadians being introduced to the game, it must seem like a bizarre waste of time. The long break in meaningful action following a touchdown can easily last six or seven minutes: Touchdown; PAT attempt; commercial break; kickoff (often resulting in a touchback); commercial break; action finally resumes from the 20. A feature if you're a spectator who needs a poop break but a bug for everyone else.

The league toyed with and ultimately rejected--at least for the time being--the idea of moving the PAT back significantly, all the way to 25-yard line. For the first two weeks of the preseason, however, PAT attempts will be spotted at the 20-yard line, instead of at the usual 2. The mean success rates for equivalent field goal attempts at the two increased yard line spots, 25 and 20, are about 78% and 83%, respectively. From the 20, that means nearly 1-in-5 PAT attempts will fail. Hypothetically, a game in which a PAT attempt is missed will presumably become rather commonplace, even expected, occurring at some point in two-thirds of games played assuming six touchdowns scored per game on average.

If real PAT success rates fell to around 80%, the productive approach for a team to take over the long term would simply be to nix the extra point try and make a habit of attempting two-point conversions instead. Over the last five regular seasons, the two-point conversion success rate has been a rather impressive 47.87% (135 conversions out of 282 tries).

That is higher than I would've guessed. The expected return on extra point kicks and two-point conversion attempts are almost identical as is .992 and .957, respectively*.

Many high-powered offensive teams could presumably see their own two-point conversion rate crest over the 50% mark if they employed it regularly throughout the course of a season. A team that made two-point conversions standard operating procedure would force the opposing defense to be on the field an average of an additional three or four plays during the course of a game--an additional, if marginal, benefit. Like the paucity of 4th down conversion attempts being made, it's probably a combination of convention and the desire to avoid the flak that inevitably comes from gambling unsuccessfully that keeps from NFL coaches from trying this approach.

Moving the kick back 18 or 23 yards, though, will render the expected return from extra point kicks lower than that of two-point conversion attempts. Well, of two-point conversion attempts from the 2-yard line, anyway. A CBS sportswriter insinuates that the preseason shakeup will increase the incentive to attempt a two-point conversion, but that only makes sense if the nature of the post-touchdown attempt has to be decided prior to the ball being spotted. Obviously a two-point conversion attempt from the 20 is unthinkable unless the team attempting it is down by 2 with very little time left in regulation. An write up says the same as the CBS guy, so maybe the nature of the post-touchdown attempt will have to be announced beforehand (ie, no lining up for a fake PAT attempt as can be done in the case of a field goal or punt).

Here's to hoping that the PAT kick attempt eventually gets spotted farther back than is currently the case (and/or that the goal posts are narrowed, an upper crossbar is added to make kicks more blockable as Steve suggests, etc) so that extra points become rarer and two-point conversion attempts correspondingly become more common. Having realistic 3-, 6-, 7-, 8- and the occasional 2-point scoring increments would be an improvement in the dynamism department over the current 3- and 7-, and in rare instances 2-, 6-, or 8-point sequences. As anyone familiar with the game will attest, two-point conversion attempts are exciting in and of themselves on top of the fact that they expand the number of potential scoring outcomes in a game.

The importance of special teams is regularly overblown by sports media mooks. This third facet of the game is not of equal importance to offense or defense. The latter and especially the former have greater influences on the outcomes of games than special teams typically do.

* To make expected average returns the same for two-point conversions (from the 2-yard line) and extra points, the ball would need to be spotted on the 10-yard line for PAT kick attempts.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Donovan and Carter don't know jack about Jace

In his third Start the World podcast, Jack Donovan and Paul Carter discuss a whole range of topics loosely tied to the concept(s) of masculinity in the contemporary Western world*. Summarizing very generally, the conclusions are mostly of the variety the manosphere is known for arriving at--the modern world, especially WEIRD societies, are not conducive to the mental (or physical) health of men. The more masculine the man, the worse the situation. Donovan's message resonates with me, though when I detect an eagerness for the shit to hit the fan, as the expression goes, I immediately hear Hobbes whispering in my other ear and begin thinking one should be careful what he wishes for.

Anyway, my point isn't to offer novel insight into the ongoing debate since I have none to offer. Instead, it is to lay a couple of critiques on Carter.

First, on the question of living an adventurous life, Carter points to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) as a self-evident illustration of modern men wasting away, vicariously trying to do what they should be doing in first person. The intention is to call to mind something akin to this--nerds spending a Friday night giggling and snorting as they move little pieces around a board while imagining they're partaking in a life-or-death adventure. As a polemical device, that's fine. But then, apparently to make his argument more contemporarily relevant since D&D hearkens back a generation or two, Carter then swaps Magic: The Gathering (MTG) as a stand-in for D&D and proceeds to refer to it for the duration of the conversation (the two talk about it enough to merit the inclusion of "magic the gathering" as one of the six tags to a nearly 90-minute podcast).

It's clear that neither guy is anything more than superficially aware of at least MTG. The point is to allude to an archetype of an under-achieving, aspergery, high IQ waste-away. I get that. But Donovan is too serious a thinker to be so intellectually lazy (in fairness to him, Carter is the one who drives the discussion towards the games and their presumed connotations). D&D is low-tech fantasy role-playing. The reason it dates Carter and Donovan is because it has largely been supplanted by MMOs like World of Warcraft, which meet the same demands, albeit on a much larger, more aesthetically-engrossing scale.

MTG is a conducted exclusively through the use of playing cards^. It is a rigidly structured, competitive game, no more or less arbitrary than any iteration of poker. In fact, a useful analogy for understanding what MTG is: Chess is to checkers as MTG is to poker. Jon Finkel and David Williams aren't aberrations--a large contingent of top flight poker players are also professional MTG players. Playing both makes it obvious why this is the case. There is no dungeon master coming up with obstacles and interpreting how those are dealt with in MTG. The Tolkienesque themes (or, in the most recent set, Greco-Roman themes) in MTG are entirely flavorful; they have no bearing on actual game play.

That something like MTG attracts competitive people who are both good at and enjoy thinking statistically--like poker, at its most essential, MTG is about managing probabilities--means it is going to disproportionately bring in Ice men who tend to lack a similar comparative advantage in more physically-oriented activities (though there are plenty who enjoy both), but that's a process of identifying a demographic profile, not creating one.

What makes Carter's pummeling of MTG the more grating is that he launches into it right after talking about his time in the IT field. In summary: "IT guys are existential wastrels. They're the same guys who play MTG, and MTG players are wastrels." However, Carter was in IT but he isn't a wastrel today, nor was he a wastrel when he worked in IT. But if you play MTG, well, he doesn't need to hear anything from the likes of you, wastrel! Uh huh.

Parenthetically, players of the relatively new EDH-variant of MTG probably better approximate the D&D stereotype of thirty years ago.

The other critique of Carter (and Donovan) comes in their prescribing that men find something they enjoy doing and make a living out of doing it. They proffer this relatively conventional advice through the prism of masculinity, and as such, it's unobjectionable as an aspiration--getting paid to do something you'd gladly do for free is a heck of a gig. The problem comes in the insinuation that this is an experience that has somehow been lost over time, and that in modern society men are forced to spend all their time running on the consumerist treadmill unlike our ancestors did.

This might be conceivable if the putative golden age occurred prior to the onset of agriculture, but over the last 10,000 years or so, there is probably no time like the present--or at least no time like the last half-century, though it may have peaked a couple of decades ago--in which people are able to (and are doing) just that. For the vast majority of human history, most men barely had the capacity to travel to the next town over or ever do much of anything beyond attaining mere subsistence provisions and mundane household upkeep. Over the course of history, very few men have had the possibility of living the life of a Henry Bolingbroke. Today, if they so choose to do so, all people in the developed world who aren't stuck in underclass can craft such an existence for themselves. Most elect not to (although some do)--and that's really what Donovan and Carter are getting at.

* Donovan distills the definition down to four essential qualities: Strength, courage, honor, and competency (or skill, as in maintaining and developing one's own skill set). When I first heard him speak, I instantly became better able to articulate why Gladiator is my favorite movie. Strength and honor, strength and honor.

^ With the exception of the use of a random number generator to determine who goes first, and, very rarely, in certain game state conditions.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Exodus, er, Parenting 3:14

In another virtual context, Jayman posed the following question:
Is it possible to believe that parenting (beyond the primary functions of keeping your kids healthy and safe) has no long-term impact on children's intelligence, personalities, values, or life outcomes - which it in fact has none - and still engage in most parental activities for fact that they bring joy to all involved and no other reason (or, at least, for the reason that they give your children fond memories of childhood)?
The answer seems self-evidently to be an emphatic "yes". I say "self-evidently" because the same set of questions, only slightly altered, could be posed to one's self, and the answer for virtually everyone will be the same "yes". There are a countless number of ways I can spend my leisure time, none of which are going to have much impact on how I influence the social statistics on income or heart disease rates or how my data point figures into a certain population's average IQ or personality trait profile. Yet how I spend that leisure time is not meaningless from my own subjective perspective. To the contrary, it is the essence of my existentialism.

We live our lives quite subjectively, even those of us who make a concerted effort to look at the world around us as objectively as we are able to.

My response to a question like this dovetails well with my response to the question of free will because, if one takes a moment to dwell on them simultaneously, it becomes apparent that there is a lot of overlap. We may not believe that we have free will, but we all act as though we believe that we do. Subjectively we have it, even if objectively we do not. Existentially, it doesn't matter much one way or the other, especially when it comes to the day-to-day activities that, collectively, constitute life as each one of us experiences it.

We may not think what we do to our children or to ourselves has much--if any--long-term impact on the way their or our lives turn out, but we all act as though our behaviors and decisions do. Paradoxically, knowing that the parental approaches game is one with pretty low-stakes allows a person to engage the parental role with enjoyment--memory-making and the like--as the goal, rather than anxiously agonizing over every deceptively malleable moment of it.

The die is cast. Cross the Rubicon without regret!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Muddy snowflakes

In response to a study showing that phrases like "hive mind" quite aptly describe the political left generally and SWPLs in particular, Jokah commented:
The only problem is that "liberals" does not just refer to white liberals, right? Does this then undercut the hypothesis that the coalition of the diverse will eventually fracture due to, er, divergent interests?
First, the percentage breakdowns of self-described political orientation by race in the US. For contemporary relevance, all responses are from 2000 onward:

All non-White31.941.626.5

Even though among Democrats non-whites tend to be less liberal than whites, on net non-whites are more likely to describe themselves as liberal than whites are. When I last watched tv news a decade or so ago, I recall that it was common among mainstream right pundits (Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly) to describe the US as a "center-right" country. More accurately, white America is a center-right country. Non-white America, not so much.

Unlike the racial and ethnic confounds that render useless a Swedish study on the connection between fertility and incarceration, the opposite is the case here. The racial angle accentuates the broader pattern. For all the racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity the Left boasts, its members quite reliably tow the ideological line.

Those on the alternative right often point to the potential fissures in the leftist coalition that seem likely to occur along those same aforementioned racial, ethnic, and sexual fault lines, yet there is broad overall agreement on major political, cultural, and economic issues among the demographically diverse Left. That suggests that ideological conformity among Leftist sub-groups--white liberals, gay liberals, black liberals, etc--is even stronger still.

SWPLs = lockstep; Liberals as a whole = mostly lockstep; Conservatives = relatively ideologically diverse; Alternative right = herd of cats.

GSS variables used: YEAR(2000-2012), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(15-16)(2-16), POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7)