Saturday, September 27, 2008

prius goes mainstream?

in the past week i've seen a zipping-in-and-out-of-traffic prius driver, a reckless prius driver, and a smoking-while-driving prius driver.

none of these behaviors are things i associate with goody goody prius drivers :)

the prius is going mainstream, and that's a good thing. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

high school musical in my head again

i have been listening to the high school musical soundtrack, once again. the music is so standard, but so candy!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

i'll take your money

today i encountered a young women on a street corner asking for donations to a charity. the charity was an sf homeless charity that supports homeless people. here's the pitch:

charity girl: in sf, 5 homeless shelters were shut down or nearly shut down because of budget cuts...
omar: mmm yes yes
charity girl: [more details about the shutdown].. we are looking for donations.
omar: no doubt.
charity girl: $160 would support ...
omar: i'm not giving that much!
cg: you can give just $40 to support...
omar: nope.
cg: well, you could give even $5 and we'd mark your name here in this list with a $ sign, indicating that you gave.
omar: thanks, but no thanks.

that's where it ended. now, the reason i couldn't stand this is because she was implementing a standard method, used before the dawn of time but outlined nicely by the psychologist robert cialdini. she was making me somewhat sympathetic, throwing out a wildly ridiculouslous number that few people would support based on a 2 minute explanation, and then reducing that number to something that sounds reasonable ($40, $5..) when compared to the ridiculous number ($160). i was immune to this tactic because i have read about it, and frankly feel that i need way more information before i'm giving these people any money.

so, i started to tell this story to a friend. turns out, this friend gave the same girl $40! oy. total affirmation of the technique. my friend was trying to justify it ("even if it's a rip off, the girl could use the money.. if not, the charity gets useful money," etc..) but the fact of the matter is it's almost certainly the case that my friend got manipulated, and didn't even know it. this is a friend who i think of as highly analytical, which i think is yet more proof that such an action was prompted by behavioral responses that were manipulated.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"just wake up!"

after my moving time in the session on gay marriage, i wandered into the debate i was supposed to moderate. there were a number of new faces, and i looked forward to hearing what people had to say about the conflict in south ossetia and georgia. i certainly didn't know very much!

almost immediately it became clear that we had a heckler, and the night was going to be a bit tense. to my right sat an old man, with wispy white hair, giant, thick glasses, and a penchant to refill his wine glass every 10 minutes, all the way to the brim. 

the drunk old man was clearly dissatisfied with pretty much everyone in the room. he would mutter, sometimes quite loudly, saying things like "oh god..." or "stupid stupid stupid." i tried to quiet him down a few times, but then realized that ignoring him was probably the best mode of attack.

at the end of the debate, we go around the room and see who supports, rejects or abstains on the resolution before the group. when we got to drunk old man, he said he had only one thing to say, something that was said to him by his mentor aldous huxley (he seemed to toss that one in there). he said "wake up!" and he kept saying it, quite loudly. "just wake up! everyone in this room." 

i reminded him that "wake up" was not one of the options we typically give at this point in the debate, but, when he said he had no other opinion to offer i reminded the house that we don't force a decision on anyone. so i gently put his shouts of "wake up!" to bed and finished the debate, withstanding a few more "oh gods.." from drunk oldy

at the end of the debate, our old, drunk friend had to be helped out.

wake up!

human effort, human dignity

yesterday i went to the commonwealth club to moderate a debate on the war between russia and georgia over south ossetia. i arrived a few minutes early and there were still people sitting in our room, so i wandered into a discussion on the latest proposition to ban gay marriage in california. i sat right next to the door, expecting to slip out when my room was free.

as i sat there an obviously very sick man, unclear if he was old or young, hobbled with his cane to the door. i opened the door for him and stood out of his way. he beckoned to me and i followed him outside. he then asked if i would write his question for the speakers (questions were only taken in written format for this event). i said yes, and he began to speak most eloquently, but stilted, with obvious physical exertion, on basic human rights, the decay of roman and greek societies correlating with increased sexual freedoms, human dignity ... he let it all loose. 

i couldn't keep up with him, and told him as much. we managed to piece together one question on human dignity that wasn't too long and really probed the psychology of a voter who would decide to vote for the proposition banning gay marriage. i told him that i had to run this up to the podium before they stopped taking questions. the unnamed man shuffled slowly back to his seat, and i submitted the question.

then, i waited. we waited. i wanted, i so badly wanted, our question to be read. the sick man had his head flopped over in his hands at his seat. he looked exhausted. he had put in a lot of energy coming to me and working out a question. the moderator continued lobbing questions at the panel. one, then another, then another. the moderator finally said that she only had time to read two more questions.

the first wasn't ours.

i so hoped that the second would be. i waited. i crossed my fingers.


it wasn't our question. i was late for my event and couldn't bear to see the sick man. i stood up and left.

Monday, September 01, 2008

i love my torn jeans

because i tore them. the damage is all me. frays. rips. fading.

it's a piece of clothing that captures a lot of history. i need to buy a new camera so i can show you!

i saw such a torn up pair of jeans on a friend recently and asked him if the tears were his. he replied 'no', they were designer.

i want to meet the designer who can personalize tears for me better than me. i'll salute that genius.

ok, now i have to fish my keys out of the inner tear in these jeans.