Assorted Musings

Cheap shots, quick thoughts, bon mots. Many more quick thoughts at Twitter or thousands of my bookmarks at delicious.

1. Does placebo effect diminish if you know it's happening? That is, if you know the anti-depressant you're about to take might only produce a placebo effect, can you still enjoy the placebo benefit?

2. The robustness of a model is based on how well the model withstands a change of assumptions.

3. "Information overload" is an elite problem. (Most people don't have enough access to information.) And even then, it's only a "problem" for some. There are busy professionals who inhale information and, thanks to fast reading and writing and overall information intake speed, find themselves today at a huge advantage.

4. Some women have more male friends than female friends. Rarely do you find (straight) men with more female friends than male. What is this about?

5. Hold a microphone as if you're brushing your teeth, not eating an ice cream cone. Seriously. This makes a big difference.

6. When not on a teleprompter Obama starts a lot of sentences with "look." Take this sentence from his recent G-20 press conference: "In terms of local politics, look, I'm the president of the United States. I'm not the president of China; I'm not the president of Japan; I'm not the president of the other participants here." The word "look" brings attention to what's about to be said, and sounds authoritative. But I've also noticed it's a verbal tic that dogs arrogant people. So use it scarcely, if at all.

7. It's easy to underestimate the intelligence of someone when they're speaking a foreign language. If you perceive someone's IQ at X, add a few points if you're hearing them in their non-native tongue.

8. Why isn't there matchmaking on airlines? Seems like airlines should partner with dating web sites and incorporate match making into the "seat selection" web page when you check in.

9. "Fundamental and flagrant contradictions rarely occur in second-rate writers; in the work of the great authors they lead into the very center of their work." – Hannah Arendt on Marx

10. Is it possible to deeply learn about something that isn't interesting to you?

11. The research on cohabitation before marriage is mixed. Some say that if couples cohabit before marriage their marriage won't last as long (since it's easier to "slide" into marriage if you're already living together, making you think less hard about whether it's the right thing to do). Other studies say it's a good thing because you can do a test run on how compatible you are when actually sharing physical space. I recently asked a young woman whether she was living with her boyfriend of four years. She said, "No, I live in my own apartment. But basically, I live at his place." This struck me as the optimal point — technically you want to have your own quarters until marriage, but in practice you should be spending lots of time together and spending most of your time at one place.

12. We need more philanthropists who will invest in the very long term in causes for which there may not be a pay-off within their life time. Donating money and not seeing the immediate return when you're alive is the ultimate act of altruism.

14 comments on “Assorted Musings
  • Ah, well, here we go again. I’ve been on a series of anti-depressants. I wasn’t part of a double-blind trial, but I had no belief in their efficacy. I figure that’s part of why it took 2 years to find a combination that worked–the placebo effect didn’t work for me. My current favorite male friend, who is straight, probably has equal numbers of male and female friends, but at our school, the three of us like each other best–two female, one male. I think it has less to do with gender than with how fascinating each of us is–an artist, a musician, and a librarian.

  • I used to think that I had more male than female friends, then realized that I had deeper friendships with a smaller number of women. With the guys, talk is usually around work, ideas, and general fun. With the girls, there’s more everyday life, love, and big picture life stuff.

    I know some women who don’t have many or any female friends because they are too “full on” – very intelligent, intensely curious about themselves and the world, successful at work and at home, and don’t feel the need to apologize for it. These are my favorite kind of women to be around – and not just because I hope they will be a good influence on me.

  • I have many more female friends than male friends, and the majority of my male friends are in the same situation…maybe the reason is that men who have more female friends tend to get along with other men who are similar? And vice versa?

  • #1 – a recent study showed that it diminishes but it doesn’t vanish – I couldn’t find the cite;

    #2 – this is just the definition of robustness, is it not?

    #4 – women do not like their boyfriends/husbands to spend time with female friends. So for a straight man to maintain friendships with a lot of females basically precludes a romantic relationship. The converse is also true but perhaps less so. It’s also important in this analysis to distinguish depth of friendship.

    #10 – not if the standard of “deeply” is other people who are in fact very interested.

  • No.1 It worked for me. I started taking an anti-depressant, and felt an effect after three days, which is literally impossible. So I assumed it was just a placebo effect, but I enjoyed it anyways because it did what I was looking for (that is, not being depressed anymore).

    No.4 I second Jackie.
    And DaveJ has a point – I was quite effective at scaring off female friends of my respective boyfriends because I used to be jealous as hell.

    No.7 So true!

    No.10 Yes. Or isn’t that what school was all about?

  • #4 This doesn’t control for whether women are single or married. With single women and some married women, many of the men they think are friends have motivations other than friendship.

    As to your comment to DaveJ – it goes both ways. As a guy, if you start dating a woman and she’s calling guys she doesn’t work with, you’re going to tell her to cut it out, because unless they are gay, they are waiting for an opportunity.

    Sex drives are powerful and that’s the way they work. Some women like to think their personalities are stronger than guy’s sex drives and that the guys are happy just to be friends with them. That’s sort of like someone winning the lottery and thinking their new “friends” like their personality.

  • #2: For a non-exact model I would consider robustness to be kind of like a standard deviation from exactness.

    #7: And subtract a few IQ points from yourself, to account for the mental energy spend struggling to understand them(/me in non-English.) Variety is usually seen as a benefit but I think in languages it is one of the largest impediments to world peace and prosperity.

    #8: Would you want someone to meet you on a plane? Tight spaces, no way out, low air pressure, not a way to make a good first impression.

    Now that I give it a second thought though…. I like the idea. Especially non-romantic, if they just tried to match you up to an interesting conversation partner, or someone with a couple things in common.

  • The placebo effect is reduced, the more you “know” it’s a placebo. The more arcane and convincing the delivery and consequently the more room for doubt, the greater the effect.

    Which is why sugar pills are not as effective as acupuncture, or say, prescription Placebo(tm) Xtended Release Homeopathic Once-A-Day Capsules.

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