Sunday, May 29, 2016

Friends By the Numbers

I was driving to the store the other morning and happened to hear on morning talk radio that there is a study that now claims that the human brain can only handle FIVE "best" friends and 10 "close" friends.  HMMM...In this particular study they did an analysis to determine how a person's brain size dictates the number of friends one can have at any given time. Mind you they aren't calculating things such as time constraints, organizational abilities, or the fact we may or may not be a nasty human being.

I, of course, like to think of myself as having at least a normal size brain and being a relatively nice person about 95 percent of the time. (depending on driving conditions and customer service issues that percentage may dip or spike a bit).

WELL as I was saying about this study..... it occurs to me that before starting the task of paring my friend list down to 5,  maybe I would research it a bit further.  Wouldn't want to be accused of being a friend hoarder or misclassify my pals into the inappropriate categories

I think in today's world, even determining the difference between acquaintances and friends is a bit of a dilemma. Wouldn't you agree that it's all gotten a bit confusing as to who our friends are?  The word is so overused at this point that it has become diluted.  Does the word "friend" even imply some type of actual emotional connection? Do the people you refer to as "friends" really make the cut in terms of being part of a support system for you or you for them?

Back in the early 1990s, a British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar did a major study on the number of people that could realistically be in an individual's social sphere.   His research was predicated on the idea that the size of a primate's brain (yes...we are talking monkey's brains here) and it's later evolved human brain dictated the number of people that could effectively be in a monkey/human's social group. That "supposed" number of people that one can call friends is around 150 which would become known as the Dunbar's Number.  Well..that used to be the number but I will be getting to that in a moment.

As studies go..this study was pretty dull reading (or in my case, pretty dull skimming over it). Dunbar used a bunch of algorithms to figure out how primates formed social groups and how that led to humans doing the same.  The primates depended pretty much on social "grooming" as a way to bond with other primates and become friends. Actually, I find this rather surprising that nowhere in the study was the idea that monkey sex, was used in forming social groups.  Of course,  maybe that comes after one gets de-flead and de-ticked.

Thankfully man evolved, talking became a thing, and we started collecting confidantes. Turns out talking smack about other people is far more satisfying that picking bugs and such off of them. Actually, Dunbar wrote a whole book Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language  explaining his theory that speech evolved because early man was needing an easier way to bond with others beside using social grooming.  Makes you wonder, which came first, the social greeting like "UGH!" or some prehistoric pickup line that amounts to "you want some of this?"

BUT as I was saying...Dunbar and his cohorts had to re-visit the original study and start readjusting his results to allow for the digital impact on friendship.  Starting in 2007 they began tracking the data from 6 BILLION cellular phone calls by 35 million people to figure out the layers of "best friends" within the speculative 150 friends a person has. According to the study they tracked people that make between 10-40 non-business related  calls a day because the deemed that frequency of calls has something to do with the strength of the bond between the caller and the callee. (Far be it from me to think there are a few serial nutjobs in the group or some of those people were calling into 1-900 numbers--or is that considered a "business" call? ) 

To be fair, later in the study they did include Facebook as part of the research. In that portion it was noted that a lot of Facebook friends don't fit the criteria of being real friends. (OMG..I hope that didn't shock anyone)

Also, I can't help but be a bit disappointed that it didn't tell us in the results how many of the test participants lost their friends due to the extreme over usage of their cell phones. Forty phone calls a day seem a bit excessive but then again, maybe none of my friends think our friendship is "40 calls a day" worthy.

Matthew Brashears, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University - See more at: FOR THE RESULTS...after crunching all the numbers over the last 9 years or so, it turns out that while we might have a 150 people that we "call" our friends, our human brain latches on to about 15ish people we really bond with....and 4 or 5 of those that are very close confidantes.
Me being the cynic I am, I am not sure how one would calculate the level of "closeness" assigned to an individual's friends nor take into account a extroverted person's numbers compared to an introverted person's numbers but I think it does bring up  an interesting conversation of  "who do you consider a true friend?" So you think 5 BEST friends is a reasonable number? Do you have a 150 people in your support group that you could honestly say are your friends and not just an acquaintance? AND if you are making 40 non-business related calls a day, do you have time to do anything else?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

They Made Me That Way

Recently I passed a pet store that had a great big sign in front stating they sold "designer" puppies. Yes, that is a term now being used for puppies that are hybrids of two or more species of purebred dogs,  which by the way, make for ADORABLE puppies. While these "mixes" might have been called mutts in another time, that word is probably quite offensive to the canines of the world in this enlightened age. We, humans surely have evolved to the point we are watching what negative slurs we sling toward our doggy friends. The reason I am bringing this up is that I now will be referring to myself as a "designer human being".
This would be me in my native Sardinian dress.
Yes, today I will be speaking of evolution.  Did I mention that hubby and I sent off our saliva to a company to get our DNA tested? No, we weren't trying to prove or disprove that our kids belong to both of us and verify they are the only two children either of us are responsible for.  I know this probably shouldn't have to be pointed out,  but judging by all the daytime programs that have cropped up to check out "who the baby daddy is or isn't", evidently this is a gray area for a lot of people.

As far as parentage goes...I seem to have a lot of unknowns. I didn't expect any major surprises in my DNA results but growing up I never had the opportunity to ask questions related to my heritage.  My poor unfortunate hubby got to go along for the bumpy ride of me tracking down my biological mother when I was in my early 20's.  That was before computers and I can't begin to tell you how difficult it is to track down a mother in particular.  Females by the very nature of how "surnames" work load the deck in a very negative way if you don't know what the heck their last name might be. Perhaps, at some point I will do a complete post about that process or the day I met her at the bus station only to realize, I had NO idea what she looked like.  HMMM..thousands of people milling around the bus terminal and yet no earthly idea what she looked like at her current age.  (I had a picture of her in her youth.) Obviously, luck was on my side and I figured it out.  The rest of the visit went downhill in a hurry. Ahh but another story for another day. I was saying...We sent our saliva off to a company named 23 and Me for genetic testing. We figured it would be interesting and potentially give us more material to tease each other with.  I was fully prepared for this to give hubby the upper hand on "teasing material" as his family goes back multiple generations in the Netherlands.  Both of his parents were from the Netherlands and he still had family there when we got married. I, on the other hand, assumed I must be some sort of a descendant of Scottish and Irish heritage because of my maiden surname and my mother's maiden surname were Irish and Scottish respectively.  Past that...not a clue.

The results came in a couple of weeks ago and we are making our way through the reports. We added an extra layer to our reports because we sent the raw DNA data files to another company called Promethease.  Over at Promethease they take the raw data and further read about any variants you have in your DNA.  Without writing a whole thesis on genetics...which by-the-way, would be impossible as I am not a geneticist, I will tell you that basically that report will tell a person what medical conditions they might have "markers" for and how their DNA mutations might respond to various pharmaceuticals.

As for the results...My husband is 100 percent Western European. BUT, in fact, he is only 99.4 percent Dutch.  It did turn out that there was  a little British, French, German and Scandinavian in that .6 hanging out there.  It, also, comes to light that all of that assorted DNA came from his mother's side of the family. Guess someone went rogue out of the Netherlands way back when.  Surely they didn't understand how cool of place that was going to turn out to be. 

As far as my results go.... I am actually quite surprised to find that I am 99.2 percent Western European.  While some of it is just listed as "broadly" northwestern European, I can live with that. (like I get a choice)  Perhaps "my people" were so inbred that the DNA can't even be sorted more definitively than that. The actual report shows me as  40.2 percent British/Irish, 30 percent Broadly Northwestern Europe, 14.8 percent French and German, 10.5 Scandinavian,  2.9 Southern European, .7 West African, .1 Broadly Sub-Saharan African, .6 Iberian and .2 Sardinian.

As for my variants, I don't seem to be a carrier for much in the way a major health issues.  I carry a gene for fructose intolerance.  Yes, while others deal with having markers for horrible diseases such as cancer and heart disease,  I might give my descendants the inability to eat apples.  Nowhere on the report does it address my inability to drink alcohol due to alcohol intolerance so I am not clear if that has a genetic component...or maybe I haven't found the right tab on the report that talks about it yet.  I am sure at least some of my future family members will be hoping that isn't genetically transmitted. does say that I have the genetic ability to smell asparagus in urine and taste a "bitter" taste in cilantro.  Good to know, huh?

Another little bit of a surprise was that the test came back that there are 290 variants in my DNA that have a link to Neanderthals from the Neanderthal Valley of Germany give or take about 50,000 years ago.   So now when I see pictures of some of the assorted "bits and pieces" that have been excavated,  I can say that just might be my great-great-great-great-great-great (times 250 or something like that) ...grandfather.
I see the family resemblance.

One of the other things that I can't blame my "genes" on...I don't seem to carry a gene for obesity so if I would ever gain weight it is strictly ON ME both figuratively and literally.

So there you have my little excursion into the genetic pool.  Do you know where your ancestors hailed from ?  Are you linked to kings or heroes...or ordinary cavemen that helped start a race of people that still are walking the earth millions of years later? If you came out of the Neanderthal Valley, maybe you and I are cousins 250 times removed.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Generational Divides

I was reading the newspaper this morning and saw a review for a book named
Old Age: A Beginner's Guide. there is a book that I should read to know how "getting old" works.  All this time, I thought that I would just catch on to it.  Clearly, not.

Lately, there seems to be a lot of stereotyping and finger pointing at the various generational divides.  The current political campaign isn't helping to alleviate some of those stereotypes when various polls/pundits/people regularly use age related descriptors when describing how different age blocks feel about issues or how they will be voting. Amid all the imagined "whose going to vote for whom" there also is a steady stream of blame on which generation is running things into a ditch.

Because of varying sources and date discrepancies, there seems to be some over-lap.

I am pretty secure in saying that every generation has done some good things  and some  bad things. Even the "Greatest Generation" wasn't 100% great all the time.  Nor was the "Silent Generation" silent. ( be fair, I wasn't born yet so I might be jumping to conclusions on how quiet it was between 1925 and 1945.)

I am part of the Baby Boomers generation.  While collectively, many of my generation like to think nostalgically of the Boomer years in the same vein as TV programs like Leave It To Beaver or  Happy Days, clearly not everything that happened during the 1950s and 1960s was "cool" and "groovy".

If you from the X and Y generations don't be too quick to be pointing your guys aren't off the hook either as far as some missteps. Sure...each generation has some bragging rights, but no generation hasn't had to walk the walk of shame, either. At this point maybe only the Z generation can be left somewhat blame free. As they are often called the Boomlets, they really are so young they haven't had enough time really to cause to much of a global ruckus, have they?  Seriously, a generation that have the names Tweens and much damage could they have done far?

Currently the real blame game seems to be evenly divided between the Millennials and the Boomers because they are the two biggest generational groups in the U.S.  The Millennials actually surpassed the Boomers in size last year with 83.1 million people compared to the Boomers at 75.4 according to the US Census Bureau.  AND as depressing as this is...the Boomer population will be down to 16.6 million by mid-century.  (Fun fact, huh, Boomers?) I was saying...lately I have noticed a lot of articles, books, TV programs and even movies that seem intent on categorizing people into age groups but in "real" life there seems to be no real common denominator within any given age.  What 40, 50, 60 or 70 years of age looks like or acts like,  on one person doesn't seem to look like or act like 40, 50, 60, or 70 years of age on another person.

There seems to be a great divide on how people age. While I am not prepared to go so far as to say the "60 is the new 40", I am willing to say that it's getting more difficult to guess what a person's chronological age might be.  That is especially true,  if we were to buy into the generalizations given to different age groups.  Surely, not all Millennials feel entitled and need a trophy for just showing up NOR are all Boomers resistant to technology and incapable of mastering a smartphone.

As I have talked about here at TAOBC a number of times, a lot of how we think or feel about things is closely tied to our perspective at any given time or circumstance. People's perspectives about what constitutes "old" seems to be quite varied.

For example: a couple of years ago when our grandson was a kindergartner, we were talking to him about what he was going to do when he grew up.  He told us he was going to buy a big house.  When we asked if we could come and live with him, he calmly said no.  "NO? we say. You won't let your grandparents live in your big house?  He answered, "No because you'll be dead."

I, totally understand why he would think that.  I lived with my grandparents at that same age and I thought of them as old.  Now as an adult, I realize my grandmother was around 47 when I was a kindergartner. A couple of years ago when she passed away at 101, she not only could have lived with her granddaughter (me) she could of lived with her great-granddaughter (my daughter). Instead the last couple of years of her life she lived with my uncle who was at the time of her death in his late 60s. I am sure she thought of him as her baby.

While my grandson might think a 30 or 40 year old is OLD and someone in their 60's should probably be getting their affairs in order,  I would think that my grandmother would have thought someone that was 60 as being young.

How people perceive age is really a mixed bag.  Because I teach computer classes to seniors, (I struggle with that word..but am hard pressed to find another word that is in any way better) I find myself fascinated at how people age. There are several 90+ year olds in the class that are amazingly youthful while I have met 60 year olds that appear elderly.  It's hard to separate how much of the perception of someone's chronological age is related to their physical appearance versus there mental and emotional "appearance".

Other than a few absolutes such as the AARP magazine magically showing up in your mailbox when you turn 50, there doesn't seem to be much else that is predictable as far as aging goes. 

Take for example, this month's issue of AARP features Janet Jackson on it's welcome to the Big 5-0 page at the same time she is telling ET that she is in her second trimester with her first baby.  Why wouldn't we be getting confused about what constitutes "old"?

As it is with most things, I am conflicted about where I am as far as aging goes.  I am now into my 60s but I haven't noticed any limitations to anything as it relates to my age.  Last year a 92 year old completed her 16th marathon.  I have never managed to complete a marathon.  It's not related to my age though.

I don't think age should ever be an excuse to not do something but concede that bodies age differently and health issues might impede  people from accomplishing things.  Such a slippery slope though.

I meet with a personal trainer every week and at the same time I am at the gym, an 87 year old is working out with another trainer.  Is he still fit because he is a lucky 87 year old or is he a healthy 87 year old because he is still working out? 

Another person, whom I consider a good friend is 91 and swims every morning.  She is very involved with a lot of activities and seems very youthful.  Is she just genetically programmed to look and feel far younger than 91, or is she youthful in spite of being 91 because she's so active?

OK, so I think I maybe should study up on how to age.  Perhaps, I do need that book. 


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Molehills and Mountains

You have heard of that old adage "making mountains out of molehills", right? I have noticed quite of few stories in the media over that last few weeks that seem to be "fight worthy" causes for some people (mountains) while being less than significant to others (molehills). It is an interesting time in our culture when people can take a random "cause" and elevate it to national bylines at least for a week or so before someone elses  perceived "wrongs" make the national news. 
Within the last few months, for example,  Starbucks was served with not one but two new lawsuits. Before we discuss these most recent suits, you have to recognize that Starbucks has a history of being sued. Much like a lot of big corporations, Starbucks has pretty much had a never-ending parade of lawsuits levied against them. The most popular being that their hot drinks are HOT.

Well..supposedly their hot drinks are TOO hot.  Sadly, for some of the litigants the strength of those  particular suits are disappearing into wisps of smoke (or dissolving hot froth) because one of the more notable cases was dismissed last year which set a precedent for the 1200+ pending suits that they may be left fighting an uphill battle. 

Anyway....Starbucks, undoubtedly, had some pretty experienced lawyers on speed dial for that suit as well as the bevy of other lawsuits that included being sued for discriminating against the deaf, against dwarfism, for spiking drinks with heroin, for copyright and trademark infringement, sexual harassment, unpaid overtime, for one man's penis being crushed, and a laundry list of other slights that have made their way into the court system. 

Poor Jeff Rossen...paid to create drama where none exists.
I am sure you will be happy to know that these hard working lawyers over at Starbucks have some additional job security thanks to two newer lawsuits.  The first was filed in mid-March by two Californians that are asking for a class action suit to be brought before the court for "unspecified damages" with the demand for a jury trial for what they deem as millions of people being short changed by under-filled lattes.

While they might actually have a case due to all the people that are now dumping their 16 ounce Grandes into calibrated beakers to determine how many ounces of brew they are being screwed out of...there is a lot of debate about the science of whip and foam. Not to be the devil's advocate, but what if 2 ounces of milk that is whipped doesn't always measure exactly the same due to humidity or air pressure.  Is "whip" by it's very nature always the same volume? 

Then when you think it can't more unjust in the world of $6.00 coffees, a Chicago woman has brought a $5 MILLION dollar suit to Federal court saying that Starbucks is filling her iced drinks with too much ice.  According to Stacy Pincus, iced drinks cost more than heated drinks but you only get half the product because the other half is replaced by ice.  Starbucks is countering her claims with the comment, "Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any 'iced' beverage." (NOTE TO STACY: Heads up if you want to prove this in it fast before the ice melts!)

I guess we have to assume that some of those lawsuits and complaints are legitimate. Yes, just given the law of averages,  in some cases there were probably "wrongs" that were committed against employees and customers...., but  couldn't we, also, assume that some people are overly sensitive and making something "bigger" than it needs to be.

The Internet has a way of taking an innocuous events and turning them into a cause.  Remember the Red Cup promotion at Christmas? 
Yes, the infamous RED CUP CONTROVERSY aka Red Cupgate and #itsjustacup became big news on the Internet.

Because Starbucks failed to  put a "Christmasy"  motif on the seasonal cups, the Internet went wild with accusations that Starbucks was anti-Christmas.There was a video made my an Arizona preacher, Joshua Feuerstein, that went viral claiming that Starbucks hates Jesus.  (Seriously?)

Another example, of a recent flare up on social media is related to a NOVEL with the title Meternity.  Meghann Foye, the author of Meternity writes a fictional story about a woman named Liz that is mistakenly thought to be pregnant by her coworkers. Liz takes advantage of the situation, starts wearing a fake baby bump with the end game of being able to take some "me time" off for renewal and reflection.  Somewhere between the "it's only a fictional story" and the ensuing sh** storm that is playing out in the media, was the fact, that Meghann said in interviews that the idea for her book was based on the fact she feels it's unfair that non-mothers don't get some time off.

Poor obtuse, Meghann.   Clearly she has lost her mind to link the phrase "time off" and "maternity leave" in the same sentence, then actually say it out loud and not expect some controversy.    Even way back when...when I was a young mommy, maternity rights were a hard-fought battle and it's a very sensitive issue. (NOTE:  Meghann, you poor naive thing...don't go there. You have no idea how cranky an overwhelmed, sleep deprived, hormonal, new mommy can be. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

BUT...back let's circle back to the concept of people latching onto some individual's agenda and either making it into a  fight or trying to elbow their way onto the soap box. Whether it's under-filled lattes, unadorned red cups or an author's cluelessness about what a maternity leave is,  should we expect that every opinion  has the potential of going viral?   Is there any thought that could be thought in today's Internet driven world that doesn't have the possibility to be so incendiary that it could spark hot debates over all the morning news, the daytime talk shows and Internet comment sections?

I am fairly certain that not only will the irritated moms get past caring about what Meghann thinks and go about their busy lives but another NEW cause will take it's place. Yes, indeedy...the idea of Meternity leaves has already spurred a new cause. If moms get maternity leaves and non-moms want time off, then pet owners need equal treatment. Can we hear a "Woof Woof?"  That idea  prompted  Lindsay Putnam of the New York Post to write an article last week asking for implementation of Paw-ternity leaves in the U.S.

Paw-ternity leaves are actually a thing in Britain.  Five percent of the employers (so it's not a BIG thing..just a thing) offer paid time off for pet owners that need to take care of their pets. Of course, it could be pointed out that in Britain, women get paid maternity leave for sometimes up to a year, so it would appear that they are a quite a bit more generous with their "time off" policies than the U.S.

Perhaps, I should take some "me time", move to Britain and buy some cats....
OR, I could just stay here and think of a cause that would benefit me in some wonderful way and make it into the next big national debate. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Buyer Beware

Drunk dialing has evolved.  Most of you of a certain age, might remember way back when...before the Internet became our BFFs... when it wasn't uncommon to hear about some moron in a flash of brilliance (drunk)  making an ill-advised phone call.  Sometimes this involved calling an ex and reinforcing with great clarity why your are now their ex. Other calls would be just be "prank calls"where the  caller would randomly call someone out of the white pages (remember those?)  with some "hilarious" joke. Of course, most of these calls were stupid and only the caller was amused. For the unfortunate people that had any type of odd name, I am sure they weren't laughing along with the
caller.   In our hometown there was some poor lady with the unfortunate name Ester Burnie. Now I realize that name should be a leap as far as being inundated with rogue  phone calls but, of course, we are talking about phone calls from inebriated people so we can't really get caught up on the idea of "rationality", can we? Maybe in a drunk, foggy mind, Burnie and bunny are easily confused.

Anyway... recently..I happened upon a couple of articles and a "news" clip about the "sip and click" phenomenon.  What?  You haven't heard of this?   According to a number of surveys, studies and other statistics that probably are the exact opposite of "accurate",  sales climb over 48 percent after 2 AM on Friday nights on Internet shopping sites. (that particular number comes from Lyst, a fashion e-commerce site.)

Seriously?  There are people shopping at 2AM on the Internet and we are being told it is a sizable  number of people at that!  It's very hard for me to relate to "shopping" being fun even if one was hammered.

I have mentioned on many occasions that I HATE to shop.  I routinely shop for food because people have to eat to live.  Every other type of shopping takes effort on my part. I would say that maybe being drunk would help as far as making shopping more tolerable but then, as I have also, mentioned in the past, I have alcohol intolerance.  I can't drink. 

Given the fact I don't drink and hate to shop, I guess it could be said that I am breaking the rules about "writing what I know", but I do "sort-of", "kind-of" follow marketing trends.  I find it rather interesting there is a whole segment of marketing that depends on people getting drunk. I am sure there are a number of ways that marketing firms could take advantage of the idea of "selling by inebriation".

This trend is popular enough that it has acquired it's own acronyms. Just among the articles I read,  it has at least three acronyms and a catch phrase. Sip and Click is also called SUI (shopping under the influence) or BUI (Buying under the influence). There was, also, another coming from a study that  British marketing firm, Conchango conducted.  They did a study on drunk purchasing and coined the acronym BLOTO (Buying Loads of Tat online). Sadly, BLOTO doesn't translate all that well in America as we don't use the word "tat".  Here we might want to call it BSWDN (buying sh** we don't need) but I recognize that as acronyms go that one doesn't have much appeal.  Accurate..sure but

In a book To Buy Or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop And How to Stop written by April Lane Benson, counselor to the shopping-addicted said,  “From the comfort of your own home, you can jump online and spend a small fortune on alcohol-induced purchases, many of which you neither need nor can afford."

Besides asking the obvious question of why April made the title of her book so ridiculously long, I would be curious as to what qualifies one as a "counselor for the shopping addicted". Is there a need for an entire professional category of therapists to treat the shopping addicted?  I guess we can assume there is as "hoarding" is now a recognized as a mental disorder and is a protected disability under the ADA. (Americans With Disabilities Act)  I do find a certain irony if someone tried to collect disability payments for that, they could use it to fund their disability. 

The idea of companies needing, wanting and hoping for people to drink and shop struck me as interesting from a marketing perspective.  If you have a product to sell, perhaps you need to sell the idea of enticing people to have a few  cocktails first.

For those of you that want to participate in SUI,  but don't want to actually wake up with a hangover tomorrow there is an Internet site just for you.  There is a site called Drunk Mall.  Now to be fair, Drunk Mall isn't really an e-commerce site as much as a site that will get you connected to the types of things that you would buy when you are drunk.  A drunken middleman of sorts. In the event you are looking for a Trump Voodoo doll, for example, you might want to click on the Drunk Mall site before they are sold out.  If you are rooting for Trump, pretend the doll isn't selling well.

While reading the articles (and there are a LOT of articles on this subject), it was rather fun reading about the array of things that people have bought under the influence.  The studies, for the most part, say women are buying high-end clothing, jewelry and shoes and men are buying sport related items, collectibles, and CDs.

BUT..there are a number of lists of "things I bought while drunk" that reinforce the idea that "when you are drunk you are one quick leap away from a bad idea."

You want one, right????