Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The likability factor of Lebron James and others

I'm always interested in NBA playoffs. This whole season I have viewed the Miami Heat as overhyped and overrated. The Heat signed all the talent money could buy and still they didn't have the best record in the league. I have viewed Lebron James his whole career similarly as overhyped and overrated. Because of these two points, as you might imagine, I didn't want the Heat to go far in the playoffs. I wanted the 76ers to take them out. I did get some sense of satisfaction that at least it wasn't easy for the Heat to take out the sixers. Then I really wanted my Celts to knock off Lebron, but that obviously didn't happen. Now I'm glad the Bulls worked the Heat in Game 1 (and look to continue throughout the series) and it's made me wonder: What is it about human nature that wants to tear down something that is hyped up?

I watched the movie More than a Game and I'll have to admit that my perception of Lebron changed for the better. In the movie, Lebron comes across as very likable. He's just a kid who grows up just like everyone else, has struggles, and eventually starts succeeding - big time. But even as he is starting to really become famous, people at the same time are starting to tear him down even in his own town. This phenomenon happens with all sorts of types of people from movie stars to musicians to politicians. They are interesting as they rise, then once they are at the top, people crave more interest and so they try and expose faults, making them less likable. But why do we as people want to tear down something that has been propped up?

I think it has to deal with jealousy on our parts. We get happy initially for someone's success. It inspires us that we can also be successful. But then we don't want them to be better than us, we want them to appear more human, so we look for ways to tear them down.

As I mentioned, I am not as anti-Lebron as I was because I want to appreciate his talent. He has already done some incredible things in his career. Think about him with the Cavs. He basically had no one else on his team, and they won 66 games one season, 61 games another season, get to the finals, play in the conference finals. That is impressive. What's funny, is that he follows that up with 58 wins season with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Now that all my teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, I am now throwing my support behind the Mavs. My brother is living in Dallas this summer, so for his sake I am going to be cheering them on.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How I would change the written English language

One downside of putting spoken language to print is that inevitably the same emotion cannot be adequately expressed. For the most part, I think that a writer can do a pretty good job in English. But there is one area that the English language struggles and may very well be in need of a new symbol: emotional emphasis. A lot of times, putting certain sentences to print with a mere period punctuation makes the sentence look as if a robot is saying it. This is undesirable, especially when the subject matter is emotional.

So how most people compensate for this is by using an exclamation point. The exclamation point definitely has an emotional emphasis, but too often it is used with excitement, rather than just to stress heartfelt emotion. Imagine the context of me writing a letter to my professor. The words of appreciation with a period make it sound not very grateful, or robotic, or not very genuine. "Thank you for writing the letter for me." But because the whole tone of my email is serious and professional an exclamation point is out of place: "Thank you for writing the letter for me!" Keep in mind that I don't want to communicate excitement here, I just want to let her know that I am really grateful. If I did send her the exclamated sentence, she might be like, "Whoa buddy, you're getting a little bit excited there."

Another example is in the most recent Ensign magazine. Elder Quentin L. Cook, referring to women, wants to really express how wonderful he believes women are. But the editors of the Ensign clearly struggled with the same idea. Here is the text.

I echo that sentiment today. Our LDS women are incredible!

By reading the text of this excerpt, it would appear as if Elder Cook was raising his voice, or at the very least has an excited tone. But the video shows quite the opposite; the tone is very level, the exclamation is merely being to infuse emotion into his words.

So there's the dilemma. You want to sound emotional, but not overly excited. To solve this problem, we should come up with another symbol to distinguish the two cases. The exclamation point should be used in contexts of high excitement, like when you are at a basketball game or rock concert, while another symbol should be used for emotional emphasis. There are quite a few symbols available on the keyboard that we don't commonly use in English print, but the checkmark symbol √ seems most appropriate. The checkmark is simple, and it gives the reader the impression that you are giving emphasis to this sentence. And that is usually the context of when the exclamation point is inadequate. "It's nice to meet you.√" I'm really happy to meet you, I'm not bored and I'm not a robot, but I'm also not one of those overly excited types either.

There may be times when the exclamation points can be combined with checkmarks. For instance, what if you were trying to stress emotional emphasis and really excited at the same time. You could couple the checkmark quite easily with other punctuation; the checkmark will just come last. "I love you!√" This is like combining question marks with exclamation points, completely acceptable. For example, "Are you serious??!" But most often, the checkmark symbol will stand alone, I imagine.

The exclamation point is currently used to stress emphasis. However, because the exclamation point is also used for excitement, this leads to a confusing conundrum. That is why introduction of the new emphasis symbol, the checkmark, is so vital. I really think we should adopt this system.√

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The dilemma of the Provo dater: A guy’s perspective

In my college physics class, my cousin Andrew and I came up with a theory on the ideal age for a guy to tie get married. We based our theory on the assumption that guys want to marry the right girl at the right time in her development. To support our theory, we compiled two graphs. First, there are three characteristics that a guy is looking for in a girl, to one degree or another: pretty, interesting, and spiritual. These characteristics tend to increase and decrease at different points in a girl’s life so the goal for the guy is to maximize. Second, the availability of girls diminishes rapidly due to the environment of Provo. A perplexing tension thus exists, our theory held, for the guy to choose between the girl’s ideal age and her availability. Here are the data:

Graph 1. The x-axis represents age, and the y-axis represents an arbitrary scale from 1-100. You may be wondering why my graph starts at the age of 17. There happen to be 17-year olds that attend BYU. I have a story about that.

The first characteristic that every guy looks for to some degree in a girl is physical beauty. This characteristic peaks in the early twenties. However, it remains remarkably stable for a long period of time, well into the early thirties. There is a big window of opportunity for a guy looking for prettiness in a girl.

The second trait is the spirituality. The guy wants a girl who he can go to church with for the rest of his life, someone who can help bring him up when he is feeling down and vice versa, and also help him raise kids in the gospel. Generally the late teens and early twenties are a period of finding oneself. Away from family for the first time, the Utah valley culture and influence of the church provide opportunities to learn and grow and be challenged in ways they never have before. This leads to much spiritual growth during these years. After a few years of this, many girls choose to serve a mission, which further increases the spiritual factor. This spiritual growth tends to plateau as missionaries come back home to enter the real world, graduate from college or otherwise head off to get absorbed into a career or grad school. Rather than being encouraged to keep up their spiritual lifestyle, they tend to get influenced the opposite direction. Unless they have great faith, they will tend to throw out tenets of their belief system. After a few years, however, of once again finding oneself outside the bubble, the girl recognizes that in some regards she “threw out the baby with the bath water” and finds again elements of her beliefs. After this second period of finding oneself, steady spiritual growth ensues.

The final factor is how interesting the girl is. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of guys—having a funny personality, having an ability to carry on interesting conversation, an being able to play an instrument, or just having a passion in something. The graphs show that girls’ level of being interesting generally increases throughout their lives as they accumulate experiences, talents and other interests. As the guy’s “interesting” factor increases, this in turn increases the girl’s interesting factor. It takes interesting to perceive interesting.

To the observer of this graph, it would appear that the ideal age at which to meet and marry one of these girls would be 29 years old. At this time, the factors are maximized at a central point. But here the second graph is introduced, which changes the selection dynamics altogether.

Graph 2. The x-axis once again represents age and the y-axis represents the percent availability.

Starting out, there is near 100% availability. As you can see by the following graph, Provo is a unique environment where girls start getting into serious relationships very young. Starting at age 19 and continuing until the age of 26, the availability of girls decreases exponentially. This in turn leads to fewer odds of finding that special someone that matches the guy’s traits.

Thus the paradox is that the longer the guy holds out for the ideal age for the positive traits, the less he has to work with and thus the lower these characteristics actually are.

Guys for the most part know about these graphs intuitively, but the majority of them don’t know how to resolve the tension. They don’t know when to hold out until while still getting a pretty good deal. That is why many of them do not get married for a while.