Sunday, August 26, 2007



Cologne was one of my favorite cities in Germany. Cologne has a reputation in Germany as being the place where people live it up to the fullest, laugh the loudest and longest, and generally have a greater joy for life. It's somewhat the San Francisco of Germany because it also has the country's largest and most active gay community, plus a free and legal sex trade.

Cologne also has its own beer and style of drinking beer (called "kolsch") that is unique and very different from the Bavaria style that most Americans are used to. Most Americans think of Germany beer coming in the big, lidded steins. In Cologne, however, they drink their kolsch in Because the local dialect is also called Kolsch, there's a joke that Kolsch is the only language you can drink.

To the right is a pic of me with Mucca (manager of the SQL Server team for Quest in Germany), Christiana, and Mucca's girlfriend (who's a nearly perfect double of Winona Rider) at breakfast in Cologne.

The thing that Cologne is most famous for is its incredible gothic cathedral called the Dom. It was reputed to be the site of the relics of the Three Wise Men, which made it a huge site for pilgrimage. Plus, it's the site of St Ursula's demise at the hands of Attila the Hun in 383 AD. So there were lots of reasons for medieval Christians to seek a pilgrimage there. Today, it's simply the most stunning cathedral (and the tallest) ever. In fact, it was the tallest building of any kind until the modern age. Mercifully, it was spared the bombings of WWII.

You may not be able to tell, but the pinnacle of each tower has what appears to be a small, ornamented cross. That cross is, in fact, about 12-16' tall (pictured at left)! I couldn't even get the pinnacle into a single frame of my camera within 50' of the things. As you can see from the picture at left, they're huge!

The area all around the cathedral was swarming with people. There was really interesting street art and performances happening all over the place. One thing that was really neat was the chalk-mural painters working for tips. It was really pretty stuff.

After visiting the cathedral, we spent the afternoon and evening in the restaurant district, eating and drinking. I discovered some interesting things. For example, Cologne is THE place to have a bachelor or bachelorette party in Germany.
But they do their parties a little differently. First, every one in the party gets a commemorative polo shirt to wear. Sometimes they're silly and sometimes they're just a polo shirt or t-shirt with the person's name and a date, and possibly some kind of slogon on the back (if it's a t-shirt). Second, the bride or groom usually has to wear something extra silly. For example, one group of bachelorettes were wearing black & yellow striped polo shirts and the bride had to wear honeybee gloves and antenna to complete her costume. Finally, bachelorettes will sell all kinds of crap (shots of booze, flowers, candies, etc) at inflated prices from little baskets all day long to finance their partying all night long.
It's overpriced, but everybody knows its for a good cause, so they buy from them. Kind'a like we do here in the USA for kids selling stuff for their school programs, except in Germany, it's mostly for getting sloshed. LOL!
Some enterprising Cologner developed these bike-bars that are all the rage there. A bunch of partyers chip in to rent the bar, then peddle all around town, drinking, blowing horns, and generally having a mobile party until they're too drunk to peddle any more. Amazing!
Such a fun trip to Germany. It certainly exceeded my expectations on every level.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007


Munich and Hamburg

After a more leisurely time in Frankfurt and Berlin, I had a lot of rushing about to make it to Munich and then Hamburg on time. There wasn't much time for site seeing, unfortunately. But the people were as friendly and helpful as ever.

In Munich, I joined my Quest colleagues Fabian Fulle and Dirk Muller. Then we headed out to BMW for a sales call. After that, we went to a suburb to the Microsoft offices to speak to the Bavarian SQL Server user group. We also had the pleasure of being misdirected 4 or 5 times by the navigation system in our rented BMW. (I'll never use that one, I'll tell you that much!)
The local user group in Munich is headed by my friend, Helmut Knappe, and he arranged a nice dinner event for us after the seminar. I'd never had spetzel before, but I wish I had. It was wonderful. (I'd been to Munich a couple years ago, and I believe I've already posted some pictures of that experience here on the blog. So I won't post any here today.)

Hamburg was quite an amazing city. The city is quite big and very wealthy. I think this comes from Hamburg's history as a major city in the Hanseatic League of medieval times. The Hamburg SQL Server user group was composed of people from many different industries, including some huge shipping companies with many large ships. After the user group meeting, a large group of us were able to enjoy a wonderful evening on the Binnenalster ("Inner Alster") lake where some sort of big festival was taking place (pictured above).

We ate Italian food on a very nice restaurant/house boat right on the Binnenalster. Towards the end of the meal, around 11:00 pm, there was an extraordinary fireworks display right over the lake. What a finally for the evening! (The houseboat is right in front of the church steeple in the picture.)
I very much enjoyed the evening there in Hamburg, as well as the day in Munich.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007



The Brandenburg Gate is perhaps one of the best known architectural monuments in all of German. It's a beautiful 19th century stone structure that was built to commemorate Prussian victories over their enemies and was originally named, ironically, the Peace Gate. It was incorporated into the infamous Berlin Wall during the years of the Cold War, but is now a stand-alone structure again.

Berlin was a surprisingly easy town to navigate on foot. A brief walk from the Brandenburg Gate took us to the Reichstag, Germany's new Parliament building, moved from Bonn after the Reunification of East and West Germany. It was a stunning building mixing elements of the older classical architecture with the very modern new dome seen rising from the top. You can also make out the 3 hour queue to get in for a tour of the building.

I had the supreme pleasure of being accompanied and guided throughout Berlin by

my Quest colleagues, Christiana and Timo. Timo, who stands 6'4" and is rather slender, bears a striking resemblance to Shaggy, if you ask me. Christiana's parents had lived in Berlin at one time, so she knew the place really well. They both took pains to explain German customs and sayings, as well as pointing out good food and history of the locals. And of course, we drank LOTS of good German beer.

I found it rather hard to get over the German habit of not running the AC. Of course, I understand that summers there are unreliable and can be quite cool. In some ways, it's a lot like summers in the USA in states like Wisconsin or Minnesota, where many people still buy cars without air conditioners. But I never really got used to the Germans even carrying coats with them and undressing/dressing for whatever the temperature might be.
Of course, no visit to Berlin is complete without a visit to the old Cold War vestiges such as Checkpoint Charlie and the few remaining chunks of the Berlin Wall, which are mostly sites for murals these days. We also visited a lot of museums and monuments, and basically wore our feet out trapsing all over the city.

One of the really fun idiosyncracies of Berlin are the East Berlin traffic crossing lights. The little men on the lights have very conspicuous noses and hats. Too cute!




Tuesday, August 21, 2007



I'd been going from 6 am to midnight (and even much later) all week long at PASS. So when a meeting with a colleague on the PASS board of directors was delayed by about 10 minutes. I totally crashed. So when my friend, Rick Heiges, arrived, I was completely, totally, and deeply asleep.
I can't wait to get some rest!


Monday, August 20, 2007


A Day in Frankfurt

I wish I could say that this has been an easy trip. It started off badly last Friday with my flight from Nashville to Newark circling for about 1.5 hrs before diverting to Norfolk, Virginia to get more fuel. We were only supposed to land for 20 minutes, but ended up staying almost 2 hours. Once back in the air, we circled some more and finally landed about 3 hours late. For some reason, I wasn't terribly worried about missing my flight especially since the flight attendant mentioned that everything else out of Newark was running equally late. (Pictured on the right are the Deutch Bank buildings in downtown Frankfurt.)

Of course, when I landed in Newark I came to find out that only the international flights went out on time. I had no choice but to wait another 24 hours before there was another flight to Germany. So I then proceeded to spend the next 5 hours in various lines getting new flights, trying to find my luggage, not finding my luggage, waiting for a lift to the hotel, waiting in line at the hotel, etc. I was at last in bed at the Newark airport Holiday Inn at about 12:30 am. I slept in the next morning since my flight wasn't until 7:40 pm that night and spent another hour in line, upon arriving at the airport, just to ensure that my luggage was headed the same place I was. They assured me that it was. (Pictured on the left and below is the Frankfurt Opera House.)

On the flight that night, I had the pleasure of sitting next to two very rude German youths who, evidently, had not been informed of something called bathing. Peeeu! Natually, since everything else was going wrong, I didn't get any sleep on the flight. Tired and bedraggled, I also came to discover the Continental had indeed lost my luggage. Aaaaagh! I should be happy - I only wasted 1 hour waiting for my luggage and filing more reports.

The hero of the day, though, was my friend and PASS colleague Christoph Stotz. Christoph picked me up at the airport and proceded to fill my day with a ton of fun activities. He even put up with my intense, post-jetlag sleepiness. The weather was beautiful - sunny and in the low 60's - though later that day we had sprinkles and even thunderstorms.

Christoph was quite the host. We enjoyed breakfast at the Frankfurt Opera House and strolled the area. A nearby park was having a really fun little kiddie fair with some of the cutest and most imaginative little rides I'd ever seen. We also went to the observation deck of Frankfurts tallest high-rise and viewed the entire area. (Frankfurt is an odd mashup of beautiful old structures, ugly 60's and 70's concrete, and more attractive modern high-rises.) From there we went to Saalburg, an ancient fortification that's been there since Roman times. Saalburg marked one of the northernmost fortress towns of old Roman Gaul, built to protect the empire from the fierce Gothic barbarians. It was really cool to see and they had an interesting 'bread' day describing how the Romans made their bread and used it as payment for their soldiers.

After Saalburg, we stopped in at Christoph's office were he lent me a cell phone. (Thanks again, Christoph!) And enjoyed some gorgeous views of the countryside. One thing I like so much about Germany is the vibrant greenery and rolling hills that remind me so much of my beloved Tennessee. They even had quite a few of the large wind generators lazily turning in the breeze.

Finally, Christoph and I cruised over to his brother's house where we enjoyed a big meal of meat, meat, and meat plus a couple kinds of appetizers and potatos. Christoph's brother and sister-in-law, Dominic and Muriel, have the most adorable little 1.5 year old daughter named Leah. She was an active, intelligent, and very sweet girl who had me pining for my own babies. (I miss you, girls!) The only mishap of the evening happened when I tickled Leah and she bonked her head trying to escape. She cried and that was just about enough to make me cry too! But as kids do, she quickly recovered and, much to my relief, seemed to forgive me. Of course, I don't speak German. So she might've said "I never want to see him again" but her body language was much more forgiving.

Well, today starts my whirlwind of activities here in Germany. Wish me luck that I retain my sanity.




Saturday, August 18, 2007


Aunt Mary

I got the terrible news that my Aunt Mary Dalton passed away early this morning. Aunt Mary hadn't been very healthy for nearly as long as I could remember. She suffered from diabetes, severe arthritis, and a bad heart condition. Nevertheless, this was a very unexpected and sad shock.

Aunt Mary was my dad's youngest sister. She was a vibrant and loving woman. My dad often said that she was the most normal of his generation because she'd married Uncle Scotty so young (he was 17 and she was 14) and got out of their mother's house young enough not to be incurably scarred by her emotional problems.
I got to spend several visits with her and Uncle Scotty over the years, mostly because campany headquarters wasn't too far away, so I'd sneak in a visit while I was in Orange County. I even got to bring Dylan and Emily out to meet them, something I'm proud of. And I always enjoyed hearing her stories about my dad, Aunt Carole, and their family life back in the day. They weren't always happy or fun stories, but it was very enriching to hear how their formative years were spent in the tough times of the war years.
She and Uncle Scotty moved to Abilene a couple years ago to be close to their daughter Dawn. I fear that I'll never have a chance to pop in these days, since business never takes me out to that part of Texas. Still, I'm crazy about my Uncle Scotty and hope to be able to visit with him again soon.
I love you and miss you, Aunt Mary!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Just one of several reasons why I hate Larry the Cable Guy

Larry the Cable Guy is a lame comedian. Many of his jokes are very old, stolen from comedians a generation or two older than him. And, he's a total poser. Take a look at him before his "Larry" days:

Kiss off, Larry - or should I say Dan?


Monday, August 06, 2007


Another Quest Video and Some Book Reviews

Well, Quest has turned around another video of me touting a new white paper. I think that I look better in this one, but sound worse. Of course, I'm horribly embarrassed by all of these videos. So, no matter how good I look, I still feel uncomfortable about them.

On another note, I've read a few books in my most recent travels that are worth mentioning. First, are two books from Christopher Moore - The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove and Fluke. Moore is best known for concocting interesting characters and situations, then turning them into slightly wacky laugh-fests. BTW, the topics are rated R adult issues. So don't share his books with your teens or pre-teens. I found Fluke to be a good read, but certainlt not my favorite. The Lust Lizard, OTOH, is now my second favorite Moore book after The Stupidest Angel.

Moore's books often vear into supernatural, magical, or sci-fi territory. For example, in Lust Lizard, the title character is a Godzilla-like monster with the unique hunting technique of eminating brainwaves that make all the mammals within several hundred yards, well, horny. It sounds weird, or maybe even stupid, but it is in fact totally hilarious as long as you're willing to suspend disbelief.

I also read two really fantastic non-fiction books that I thoroughly enjoyed. The first is a best seller called The Ghost Map. This is an amazing true story of the horrible London cholera epidemic of 1854 and the two great minds that were able to decipher the true cause of the epidemic and rise above the mistaken scientific theories of the day, which placed the blame of the epidemic on "miasma", that is, the bad smells that were ubiquitous in pre-sewers London.
One of Steven Johnson's key assertions in his book is that genius comes from intelligent people who have a broad and encompassing understanding of the world, rather than those who know a single topic in every minute detail. I rank this book right up there with my other all time favorites, such as Connections by James Burk and Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.
Another fantastic non-fiction book that I recently enjoyed was called Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. This very interesting book provided a very detailed scholarly discussion of all things related to the development of the bible as we have it today and helps cut away the copious layers of unsubstantiated tradition and legend that simplify a faith that is sophisticated and nuanced. I've always understood that the Bible was a growing and developing document. So this account was very interesting, especially because it explained how the latest scholarship is affecting the shape and text of our holy scriptures today. The biggest shocker? That the very famous passage of Jesus and the adulterous woman (you might know it best as the scene in which Jesus says "Let him among you without sin cast the first stone.") was actually a later addition to the text of the Gospel in which it appears and was not present in earlier versions of the same Gospel. At the end of the day did the book rattle or change my faith? No, not at all. But it better informed my faith and helped me to see that Christianity is not a simple system of rules, but a more complex and on-going revelation of God to man.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

[Kevin: Agree or disagree? I'd like to hear your response to this article.]

Why most suicide bombers are Muslim, beautiful people have more daughters, humans are naturally polygamous, sexual harassment isn't sexist, and blonds are more attractive.

By:Alan S. Miller Ph.D., Satoshi Kanazawa Ph.D.

Human nature is one of those things that everybody talks about but no one can define precisely. Every time we fall in love, fight with our spouse, get upset about the influx of immigrants into our country, or go to church, we are, in part, behaving as a human animal with our own unique evolved nature—human nature.

This means two things. First, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are produced not only by our individual experiences and environment in our own lifetime but also by what happened to our ancestors millions of years ago. Second, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are shared, to a large extent, by all men or women, despite seemingly large cultural differences.

Human behavior is a product both of our innate human nature and of our individual experience and environment. In this article, however, we emphasize biological influences on human behavior, because most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists see human nature as a collection of psychological adaptations that often operate beneath conscious thinking to solve problems of survival and reproduction by predisposing us to think or feel in certain ways. Our preference for sweets and fats is an evolved psychological mechanism. We do not consciously choose to like sweets and fats; they just taste good to us.

The implications of some of the ideas in this article may seem immoral, contrary to our ideals, or offensive. We state them because they are true, supported by documented scientific evidence. Like it or not, human nature is simply not politically correct.

Adapted from Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa, to be published by Perigee in September 2007.

1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)

Long before TV—in 15th- and 16th- century Italy, and possibly two millennia ago—women were dying their hair blond. A recent study shows that in Iran, where exposure to Western media and culture is limited, women are actually more concerned with their body image, and want to lose more weight, than their American counterparts. It is difficult to ascribe the preferences and desires of women in 15th-century Italy and 21st-century Iran to socialization by media.

Women's desire to look like Barbie—young with small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes—is a direct, realistic, and sensible response to the desire of men to mate with women who look like her. There is evolutionary logic behind each of these features.

Men prefer young women in part because they tend to be healthier than older women. One accurate indicator of health is physical attractiveness; another is hair. Healthy women have lustrous, shiny hair, whereas the hair of sickly people loses its luster. Because hair grows slowly, shoulder-length hair reveals several years of a woman's health status.

Men also have a universal preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio. They are healthier and more fertile than other women; they have an easier time conceiving a child and do so at earlier ages because they have larger amounts of essential reproductive hormones. Thus men are unconsciously seeking healthier and more fertile women when they seek women with small waists.

Until very recently, it was a mystery to evolutionary psychology why men prefer women with large breasts, since the size of a woman's breasts has no relationship to her ability to lactate. But Harvard anthropologist Frank Marlowe contends that larger, and hence heavier, breasts sag more conspicuously with age than do smaller breasts. Thus they make it easier for men to judge a woman's age (and her reproductive value) by sight—suggesting why men find women with large breasts more attractive.

Alternatively, men may prefer women with large breasts for the same reason they prefer women with small waists. A new study of Polish women shows that women with large breasts and tight waists have the greatest fecundity, indicated by their levels of two reproductive hormones (estradiol and progesterone).

Blond hair is unique in that it changes dramatically with age. Typically, young girls with light blond hair become women with brown hair. Thus, men who prefer to mate with blond women are unconsciously attempting to mate with younger (and hence, on average, healthier and more fecund) women. It is no coincidence that blond hair evolved in Scandinavia and northern Europe, probably as an alternative means for women to advertise their youth, as their bodies were concealed under heavy clothing.

Women with blue eyes should not be any different from those with green or brown eyes. Yet preference for blue eyes seems both universal and undeniable—in males as well as females. One explanation is that the human pupil dilates when an individual is exposed to something that she likes. For instance, the pupils of women and infants (but not men) spontaneously dilate when they see babies. Pupil dilation is an honest indicator of interest and attraction. And the size of the pupil is easiest to determine in blue eyes. Blue-eyed people are considered attractive as potential mates because it is easiest to determine whether they are interested in us or not.

The irony is that none of the above is true any longer. Through face-lifts, wigs, liposuction, surgical breast augmentation, hair dye, and color contact lenses, any woman, regardless of age, can have many of the key features that define ideal female beauty. And men fall for them. Men can cognitively understand that many blond women with firm, large breasts are not actually 15 years old, but they still find them attractive because their evolved psychological mechanisms are fooled by modern inventions that did not exist in the ancestral environment.

2. Humans are naturally polygamous

The history of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous. Polyandry (a marriage of one woman to many men) is very rare, but polygyny (the marriage of one man to many women) is widely practiced in human societies, even though Judeo-Christian traditions hold that monogamy is the only natural form of marriage. We know that humans have been polygynous throughout most of history because men are taller than women.

Among primate and nonprimate species, the degree of polygyny highly correlates with the degree to which males of a species are larger than females. The more polygynous the species, the greater the size disparity between the sexes. Typically, human males are 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than females. This suggests that, throughout history, humans have been mildly polygynous.

Relative to monogamy, polygyny creates greater fitness variance (the distance between the "winners" and the "losers" in the reproductive game) among males than among females because it allows a few males to monopolize all the females in the group. The greater fitness variance among males creates greater pressure for men to compete with each other for mates. Only big and tall males can win mating opportunities. Among pair-bonding species like humans, in which males and females stay together to raise their children, females also prefer to mate with big and tall males because they can provide better physical protection against predators and other males.

In societies where rich men are much richer than poor men, women (and their children) are better off sharing the few wealthy men; one-half, one-quarter, or even one-tenth of a wealthy man is still better than an entire poor man. As George Bernard Shaw puts it, "The maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession of a third-rate one." Despite the fact that humans are naturally polygynous, most industrial societies are monogamous because men tend to be more or less equal in their resources compared with their ancestors in medieval times. (Inequality tends to increase as society advances in complexity from hunter-gatherer to advanced agrarian societies. Industrialization tends to decrease the level of inequality.)

3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy

When there is resource inequality among men—the case in every human society—most women benefit from polygyny: women can share a wealthy man. Under monogamy, they are stuck with marrying a poorer man.

The only exceptions are extremely desirable women. Under monogamy, they can monopolize the wealthiest men; under polygyny, they must share the men with other, less desirable women. However, the situation is exactly opposite for men. Monogamy guarantees that every man can find a wife. True, less desirable men can marry only less desirable women, but that's much better than not marrying anyone at all.

Men in monogamous societies imagine they would be better off under polygyny. What they don't realize is that, for most men who are not extremely desirable, polygyny means no wife at all, or, if they are lucky, a wife who is much less desirable than one they could get under monogamy.

4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim

According to the Oxford University sociologist Diego Gambetta, editor of Making Sense of Suicide Missions, a comprehensive history of this troubling yet topical phenomenon, while suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, when religion is involved, it is always Muslim. Why is this? Why is Islam the only religion that motivates its followers to commit suicide missions?

The surprising answer from the evolutionary psychological perspective is that Muslim suicide bombing may have nothing to do with Islam or the Koran (except for two lines in it). It may have nothing to do with the religion, politics, the culture, the race, the ethnicity, the language, or the region. As with everything else from this perspective, it may have a lot to do with sex, or, in this case, the absence of sex.

What distinguishes Islam from other major religions is that it tolerates polygyny. By allowing some men to monopolize all women and altogether excluding many men from reproductive opportunities, polygyny creates shortages of available women. If 50 percent of men have two wives each, then the other 50 percent don't get any wives at all.

So polygyny increases competitive pressure on men, especially young men of low status. It therefore increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates. By doing so, they have little to lose and much to gain compared with men who already have wives. Across all societies, polygyny makes men violent, increasing crimes such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors as economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy, and political factors in the region.

However, polygyny itself is not a sufficient cause of suicide bombing. Societies in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are much more polygynous than the Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa. And they do have very high levels of violence. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from a long history of continuous civil wars—but not suicide bombings.

The other key ingredient is the promise of 72 virgins waiting in heaven for any martyr in Islam. The prospect of exclusive access to virgins may not be so appealing to anyone who has even one mate on earth, which strict monogamy virtually guarantees. However, the prospect is quite appealing to anyone who faces the bleak reality on earth of being a complete reproductive loser.

It is the combination of polygyny and the promise of a large harem of virgins in heaven that motivates many young Muslim men to commit suicide bombings. Consistent with this explanation, all studies of suicide bombers indicate that they are significantly younger than not only the Muslim population in general but other (nonsuicidal) members of their own extreme political organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. And nearly all suicide bombers are single.

5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce

Sociologists and demographers have discovered that couples who have at least one son face significantly less risk of divorce than couples who have only daughters. Why is this?

Since a man's mate value is largely determined by his wealth, status, and power—whereas a woman's is largely determined by her youth and physical attractiveness—the father has to make sure that his son will inherit his wealth, status, and power, regardless of how much or how little of these resources he has. In contrast, there is relatively little that a father (or mother) can do to keep a daughter youthful or make her more physically attractive.

The continued presence of (and investment by) the father is therefore important for the son, but not as crucial for the daughter. The presence of sons thus deters divorce and departure of the father from the family more than the presence of daughters, and this effect tends to be stronger among wealthy families.

6. Beautiful people have more daughters

It is commonly believed that whether parents conceive a boy or a girl is up to random chance. Close, but not quite; it is largely up to chance. The normal sex ratio at birth is 105 boys for every 100 girls. But the sex ratio varies slightly in different circumstances and for different families. There are factors that subtly influence the sex of an offspring.

One of the most celebrated principles in evolutionary biology, the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, states that wealthy parents of high status have more sons, while poor parents of low status have more daughters. This is because children generally inherit the wealth and social status of their parents. Throughout history, sons from wealthy families who would themselves become wealthy could expect to have a large number of wives, mistresses and concubines, and produce dozens or hundreds of children, whereas their equally wealthy sisters can have only so many children. So natural selection designs parents to have biased sex ratio at birth depending upon their economic circumstances—more boys if they are wealthy, more girls if they are poor. (The biological mechanism by which this occurs is not yet understood.)

This hypothesis has been documented around the globe. American presidents, vice presidents, and cabinet secretaries have more sons than daughters. Poor Mukogodo herders in East Africa have more daughters than sons. Church parish records from the 17th and 18th centuries show that wealthy landowners in Leezen, Germany, had more sons than daughters, while farm laborers and tradesmen without property had more daughters than sons. In a survey of respondents from 46 nations, wealthy individuals are more likely to indicate a preference for sons if they could only have one child, whereas less wealthy individuals are more likely to indicate a preference for daughters.

The generalized Trivers-Willard hypothesis goes beyond a family's wealth and status: If parents have any traits that they can pass on to their children and that are better for sons than for daughters, then they will have more boys. Conversely, if parents have any traits that they can pass on to their children and that are better for daughters, they will have more girls.

Physical attractiveness, while a universally positive quality, contributes even more to women's reproductive success than to men's. The generalized hypothesis would therefore predict that physically attractive parents should have more daughters than sons. Once again, this is the case. Americans who are rated "very attractive" have a 56 percent chance of having a daughter for their first child, compared with 48 percent for everyone else.

7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals

For nearly a quarter of a century, criminologists have known about the "age-crime curve." In every society at all historical times, the tendency to commit crimes and other risk-taking behavior rapidly increases in early adolescence, peaks in late adolescence and early adulthood, rapidly decreases throughout the 20s and 30s, and levels off in middle age.

This curve is not limited to crime. The same age profile characterizes every quantifiable human behavior that is public (i.e., perceived by many potential mates) and costly ( i.e., not affordable by all sexual competitors). The relationship between age and productivity among male jazz musicians, male painters, male writers, and male scientists—which might be called the "age-genius curve"—is essentially the same as the age-crime curve. Their productivity—the expressions of their genius—quickly peaks in early adulthood, and then equally quickly declines throughout adulthood. The age-genius curve among their female counterparts is much less pronounced; it does not peak or vary as much as a function of age.

Paul McCartney has not written a hit song in years, and now spends much of his time painting. Bill Gates is now a respectable businessman and philanthropist, and is no longer a computer whiz kid. J.D. Salinger now lives as a total recluse and has not published anything in more than three decades. Orson Welles was a mere 26 when he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane.

A single theory can explain the productivity of both creative geniuses and criminals over the life course: Both crime and genius are expressions of young men's competitive desires, whose ultimate function in the ancestral environment would have been to increase reproductive success.

In the physical competition for mates, those who are competitive may act violently toward their male rivals. Men who are less inclined toward crime and violence may express their competitiveness through their creative activities.

The cost of competition, however, rises dramatically when a man has children, when his energies and resources are put to better use protecting and investing in them. The birth of the first child usually occurs several years after puberty because men need some time to accumulate sufficient resources and attain sufficient status to attract their first mate. There is therefore a gap of several years between the rapid rise in the benefits of competition and similarly rapid rise in its costs. Productivity rapidly declines in late adulthood as the costs of competition rise and cancel its benefits.

These calculations have been performed by natural and sexual selection, so to speak, which then equips male brains with a psychological mechanism to incline them to be increasingly competitive immediately after puberty and make them less competitive right after the birth of their first child. Men simply do not feel like acting violently, stealing, or conducting additional scientific experiments, or they just want to settle down after the birth of their child but they do not know exactly why.

The similarity between Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, and criminals—in fact, among all men throughout evolutionary history—points to an important concept in evolutionary biology: female choice.

Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

8. The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of

Many believe that men go through a midlife crisis when they are in middle age. Not quite. Many middle-aged men do go through midlife crises, but it's not because they are middle-aged. It's because their wives are. From the evolutionary psychological perspective, a man's midlife crisis is precipitated by his wife's imminent menopause and end of her reproductive career, and thus his renewed need to attract younger women. Accordingly, a 50-year-old man married to a 25-year-old woman would not go through a midlife crisis, while a 25-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman would, just like a more typical 50-year-old man married to a 50-year-old woman. It's not his midlife that matters; it's hers. When he buys a shiny-red sports car, he's not trying to regain his youth; he's trying to attract young women to replace his menopausal wife by trumpeting his flash and cash.

9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)

On the morning of January 21, 1998, as Americans woke up to the stunning allegation that President Bill Clinton had had an affair with a 24-year-old White House intern, Darwinian historian Laura L. Betzig thought, "I told you so." Betzig points out that while powerful men throughout Western history have married monogamously (only one legal wife at a time), they have always mated polygynously (they had lovers, concubines, and female slaves). With their wives, they produced legitimate heirs; with the others, they produced bastards. Genes make no distinction between the two categories of children.

As a result, powerful men of high status throughout human history attained very high reproductive success, leaving a large number of offspring (legitimate and otherwise), while countless poor men died mateless and childless. Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty, the last Sharifian emperor of Morocco, stands out quantitatively, having left more offspring—1,042—than anyone else on record, but he was by no means qualitatively different from other powerful men, like Bill Clinton.

The question many asked in 1998—"Why on earth would the most powerful man in the world jeopardize his job for an affair with a young woman?"—is, from a Darwinian perspective, a silly one. Betzig's answer would be: "Why not?" Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it.

What distinguishes Bill Clinton is not that he had extramarital affairs while in office—others have, more will; it would be a Darwinian puzzle if they did not—what distinguishes him is the fact that he got caught.

10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

An unfortunate consequence of the ever-growing number of women joining the labor force and working side by side with men is the increasing number of sexual harassment cases. Why must sexual harassment be a necessary consequence of the sexual integration of the workplace?

Psychologist Kingsley R. Browne identifies two types of sexual harassment cases: the quid pro quo ("You must sleep with me if you want to keep your job or be promoted") and the "hostile environment" (the workplace is deemed too sexualized for workers to feel safe and comfortable). While feminists and social scientists tend to explain sexual harassment in terms of "patriarchy" and other ideologies, Browne locates the ultimate cause of both types of sexual harassment in sex differences in mating strategies.

Studies demonstrate unequivocally that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women. In one now-classic study, 75 percent of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agreed to have sex with her; none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger did. Many men who would not date the stranger nonetheless agreed to have sex with her.

The quid pro quo types of harassment are manifestations of men's greater desire for short-term casual sex and their willingness to use any available means to achieve that goal. Feminists often claim that sexual harassment is "not about sex but about power;" Browne contends it is both—men using power to get sex. "To say that it is only about power makes no more sense than saying that bank robbery is only about guns, not about money."

Sexual harassment cases of the hostile-environment variety result from sex differences in what men and women perceive as "overly sexual" or "hostile" behavior. Many women legitimately complain that they have been subjected to abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment by their male coworkers. Browne points out that long before women entered the labor force, men subjected each other to such abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment.

Abuse, intimidation, and degradation are all part of men's repertoire of tactics employed in competitive situations. In other words, men are not treating women differently from men—the definition of discrimination, under which sexual harassment legally falls—but the opposite: Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007


A Giving Heart

From AllProDad, an inspiring story about Tony Dungy. I knew he was a cool guy, but this blows me away:

Coaching the Grief-stricken
By: Bryan
by Rick Reilly

Maybe you could use a happy story after what happened at Virginia Tech, and maybe I've got one.

I have this friend, an Iowa truck driver named Mark Lemke. Last July he wrote to SI, nominating his 19-year-old son, Cory, for FACES IN THE CROWD. Said the kid set all kinds of golf records and he'd been meaning to write for a long time. Said he was finally doing it now because Cory had just died in a motorcycle wreck.

Well, I wrote a column (Aug. 21, 2006) about how I got Mark on his cellphone as he was driving his tractor trailer on an Ohio highway and how he wept while talking about losing his best pal. And I don't know if it was from thinking of my own 19-year-old son or what, but it's the only time I ever cried while I wrote.

And then we made up a FACES IN THE CROWD box for Cory and stuck it at the bottom of the column.

Anyway, a couple of months go by, and then Mark gets this call: "Mr. Lemke?" the voice says. "It's Tony Dungy."

Now, Lemke, 51, is just an ex-jock with a simple life that a motorcycle drove a hole through. The most he hopes for when he gets off the road is his wife Maud's sloppy joes and his favorite couch and maybe a frosty root beer and a Vikings game to take his mind off Cory for a few hours. So, naturally, he figures the call is a joke.

"No, it is Tony Dungy," the voice says. "I'm just calling to offer my condolences to you and see if there's anything I can do to help you."

Now, you've got to understand, this was in October. The Colts were into the teeth of their schedule, the most critical season in Dungy's life, not to mention Peyton Manning's, not to mention the millions of Colts fans'. They figure if their team doesn't win it all this year, the genie goes back in the bottle.

But Dungy has his own sorrow to swallow. His 18-year-old son, James, hanged himself three days before Christmas in 2005. And Lemke knows this. So maybe Dungy, who's the same age as Lemke, is a guy who can relate. So they talk, and the coach tells Lemke to keep in touch.

"The hardest thing for me is, I sit in that truck all day, and all I do is think about him," Lemke tells him one day. "You're lucky. You've got so many people around you to get you through the days."

"Yeah," Dungy says, "but it doesn't get you through the nights."

And pretty soon they've got this bond going. Dungy has a wife, five kids, the monster job, numerous charities he works with and a thousand things to do, yet he takes the time to answer every Lemke e-mail, gives him his cell number and returns every call. They go deep sometimes. Lemke gets hot at God for taking Cory. Dungy tells him that's normal, but he adds that if they keep their faith, "we'll see them again."

Then it's the playoffs, and Dungy is apologizing for not replying to Lemke right away. Sorry about not getting back to you, he e-mails Lemke one day. Sometimes I can go a few days without getting on my computer, especially if our defense is not playing well.

I ask you, who is that nice?

Next thing you know, the Colts are in the Super Bowl and Dungy is inviting a man he's never met, a Vikings fan, no less, to be his guest there. So Lemke finds a load that needs hauling to Florida and a load that has to come back, and he drives his 18-wheel rig to Miami. The day before the game he meets Dungy in person at the team hotel. They hug. They visit. They pray.

The next day Lemke takes his seat in Dolphin Stadium and watches his new buddy win it all.
And this is only one stranger whom Tony Dungy has befriended. There's the former high school coach in Wisconsin whose son committed suicide. There's the young kid in Indianapolis who lost his mother and brother in a car wreck. Heartbroken people all over are suddenly getting a hand up from a man who himself should be a puddle but is instead a river of strength.

Yet Dungy refuses to talk to the media about these good deeds, which only makes them better.

"I'm awfully grateful to him," Lemke says. "He helped me keep my faith. He taught me that he and I- we're not alone."

After two weeks of hearing about how low man can sink, isn't it nice to know how high he can rise?

Tony Dungy stands as a reminder to every parent who's grieving right now that there is a way through the pain. And that way is through each other.


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