Sunday, November 30, 2008

Abandon all hope ye who enter here

My dating pool has dried up ever since I moved out to Baltimore, so just for kicks and grins I signed up for one of those dating sites (that isn't eHarmony, anyhow). Just the free version, mind you. I've no intention of paying good money to get rejected by women, as I'm already getting enough of that for free.

In any event, I can understand why people are often as skeptical as they are about online dating websites. I imagine that some are better than others, but there seems to be common issues resonating on all of these sites, and it's more of a problem with the people than the sites themselves. Although let's face it, most of these sites do have the problem of being like a party where you see a bunch of people standing around and every time you try to talk to someone the host walks up and demands $5 before he'll let you chit-chat.

In any case, let's talk about the things that make these women's profiles so egregious, as I don't have anything else interesting to blog about lately:

This is clearly the biggest issue for your profile, as it's the first thing a guy is going to notice about you, yet also seems to be the one thing that people spend no time or effort on. Common issues include:
  • The eye gouger- Seriously, you couldn't find a better looking picture than that? You have one eye half shut and your tongue is hanging out.
  • The lonely shot - You wanted to get a quick headshot in, so you held your digital camera at the arm's length and took a photo. Since you're paying $20/month for this, you couldn't spend a little time to change out of your pajamas and get a friend to snap the photo for you?
  • The ex - Why in God's name would you post a picture of your ex-boyfriend licking your face to a dating website?
  • The woman of mystery - Okay, so you like the picture of you and all your friends at the beach. Since we can't tell which of the 13 women in the picture is you, we're just going to assume you're the one who looks like she got a once-over from Hannibal Lecter and move on.
  • The time warp - We can all tell when you're using a picture older than the children you talk about in your profile. You might want to give us some credit and post something that was taken since the advent of digital cameras.
The Profile
You get a bunch of multiple choice radio boxes and a 500 word essay to sell yourself to me. Why is it that some people can't seem to get this one right?

First, there's weight. Look, if you're not going to post a picture of yourself, it's just polite to fill this portion out. Unfortunately, the websites seem to be in the habit of letting people live in Imagination Land (TM), because most have four categories: Slim, Athletic, Average, and "A few extra pounds." From what I've seen, people who pick that last one are making quite the understatement.

Next come your activities. I don't know a lot of people who will say that they hate being outdoors, and I think all of us can find enjoyment if we're at a picnic and get roped into a game of volleyball or horseshoes. But don't tell me that you regularly enjoy kayaking, hiking, swimming, tennis, basketball, badminton, water polo, bowling, competitive dance, base jumping, and speed skating. You can't possibly partake in all of those often enough to call any of them a hobby, and you certainly don't look athletic enough for that to be believable anyhow.

The biggest hurdle is the free-form profile. Spelling is the most obvious issue; again, you're spending a lot of money on this to try to find a mate. Don't you think you could have spent 10 seconds running this thing through spell-check? The biggest thing I notice is the abundance of nonsense phrases. These can include, but are not limited to:
  • "Looking for someone who doesn't play games" - Like what, checkers? What does that even mean?
  • "I love to laugh/have a good time" - Phew. For a second, I thought you might have been a kill joy.
  • "Friends are very important to me" - Me, I'm just going to hang out in the Batcave all day and be broody and emo. Friends . . . pfft.
  • "I'm looking for . . ." - This list could go on for a long time. Basically, it involves any number of qualities that only the socially retarded will be lacking. Then again, this being the internet, perhaps those things can't go without saying. You know, things like "someone who's down to earth," "someone who is a good listener," "someone who will appreciate me," "someone who is confident in himself." They all seem like a good thing to say, but they mean absolutely nothing. Oh, and if you decide to say that you're looking for someone who "shares (my) interests," it would be a good idea to actually say what those are.
So there you have it. Internet dating . . . I'm willing to concede that it might improve once you're willing to spend money on it. Until I have that kind of disposable income, however, I'm going to stick with my usual strategy: Making awkward chit-chat with ladies on the train from work, then following them in the parking lot, get a face full of pepper spray, and then run off screaming something about coffee and phone numbers.

Perhaps it sounds painful, but how could it be worse than online dating?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is that an antigen you're presenting or are you just happy to see me?

I'm working on my PhD in Immunology, so I found this article fascinating on a few different levels (there's a long version and a short version). Recent research has found, apparently, that women are more attracted to men who are immunologically dissimilar (that is, their MHC* alleles are more distinct) than those who are similar to them. The interesting thing about this is that it is "detected" through scent. The kicker is that this trend reverses when a woman is on birth control pills; she is more likely to be attracted to immunologically similar men than not.

Of course, pheremone and other scent-based research often ought to be taken with a grain of salt, but if it's true, it's interesting. The authors of these articles (and the researchers) speculate that a lot of relationships may experience difficulty because a woman will find herself attracted to her partner while she is on the pill, but after they marry and she goes off of it she suddenly finds herself attracted to different scents. This does ignore the human element in every relationship, but it's certainly feasible that this might be a factor.

I've said for a while now that I think research is going to find, someday, that these birth control schemes are not as healthy for women as we think. It may not be overtly harmful, but there's a lot of subtle things happening in there, and it's going to be those things which get overlooked in short-term studies.

On a different note, perhaps I should figure out how to turn the clothing I wear to bed into a cologne. Apparently the ladies can't resist a big ol' wiff of your MHC.

* - For those of you not in the know, MHC stands for "major histocompatibility complex." The immune system uses it for presentation of foreign components in order to trigger an immune response as well as preventing the immune system from reacting to your own proteins.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Being Thankful

This is a strange year for me. It's the first year that I'll celebrate Thanksgiving away from home. When I was in college, I managed to get away each year to go home and enjoy the holiday with my family, but this year it's just not in the cards. I suppose I could curse my program for scheduling an exam the Monday after, but that's just the way the schedule turned out.

However, my parents and sister did come into town this past weekend, and we celebrated Thanksgiving together Sunday evening. It wasn't quite the same, but it means the world to me that they took the effort all the same.

There's no real point to this post, I suppose. I just wanted to share that story. Whatever your circumstances this year for the holiday, be thankful for what you have.

Bad genes are racist?

I'll admit that I'm pretty hard on college-age liberals. It's been my experience, by and large, that they're driven largely by passion. This gives them the illusion of legitimacy, but results in people who end up throwing their brains out the window at the behest of their "passions."

Like I said, sometimes I think I ought to give them the benefit of the doubt. Then I read stories like this:

OTTAWA - The Carleton University Students' Association has voted to drop a cystic fibrosis charity as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, supporting a motion that argued the disease is not "inclusive" enough.

Cystic fibrosis "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" said the motion read Monday night to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it. The decision caused heated reaction and left at least one member of council calling for a new vote.

Every year near the beginning of fall classes, during university orientation for new arrivals, students fan out across the city and seek donations from passersby. According to the motion, "all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their (sic) diverse communities."

I'm not sure I can accurately describe just how flabbergasted this leaves me. If you are so wrapped up in identity politics that you're willing to declare that "white" diseases unworthy of your dime, then perhaps we need to revisit the concept of "racism."

Yeesh. This is exactly why I don't like discussing politics on university campuses.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cool your jets

Woo! Everyone who has ever made fun of me for using this word can eat those words! I totally called this!

Er, um, ahem. I mean, uh, whatever. Who cares? Not like it's worth getting excited about or anything.

Which is kinda how I feel about the exam I have in 2 hours. Is it Christmas yet?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The One's Biggest Fan

Hanging out at the student center, I just heard CNN interviewing Oprah about Obama ("The One")'s election. She was near tears. I just had to laugh, though.

When asked how she felt, she choked back and told the reporter, "I just feel . . . like anything is possible, now."

Really? You have what is likely the highest rated afternoon talk show in the world, not to mention being a multimillionaire yourself, and it's this that makes you feel like anything is possible?

Some people lack perspective. Or a sense of irony. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Post Election Hangover

A lot of people think that we only end up with the government that we deserve. I typically hope that doesn't end up being the case.

While I'm severely disappointed that Obama ended up winning the election, I at least have a few good things to look forward to. Chief among them, I suspect President Obama will give me endless material to blog about.

Most importantly, though, I think a lot of people are going to have something of an "awakening," maybe even within the first year of Obama's term. Obama walked into office by telling each audience what he thought they wanted to hear, the only constant being his vapid and transparent appeals to "hope and change." Once he's in office, though, he actually has to get around to doing something. I suspect he'll attempt to pull off the radically liberal agenda he affirmed to some audiences and then denied to others. Whether he gets them past Congress is another matter, but mandating taxpayer-funded abortions and bankrupting coal-fired power plants may certainly raise a few eyebrows. If nothing else, he'll never live up to the promise that so many of his followers saw in him, and this will lead to disllusionment and anger. People will either feel that they were sold a socialist in centrists' clothing, or a centrist in socialists' clothing, but either way someone is going to have buyer's remorse.

One thing I especially want to hit on, though, is this hype about how "historical" it is that we've elected our first black President. Let's skip past the obvious line about judging someone by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Will the election of a black President change anything?

I could see it go either way. Perhaps those black nationalists that Obama associated himself with all these years will see a black man in the highest position of power in the country, see little change, and realize that perhaps the paranoid conspiracy theories about the government concocting AIDS to kill black people (among silly beliefs) are nothing but that. Perhaps they'll realize that things really have changed in the last few decades, and now it is more incumbent on people themselves to lift themselves up, rather than blame all their troubles on the malice of others.

Unfortunately, I find it just as likely that these people will be racist nutters no matter what happens. When President Obama doesn't immediately release the super-secret government cure for AIDS, spend government money to pay for all of their bills, and release every black man from prison, they'll conclude he's just another "Uncle Tom" and wait for a "real" black politician to step up and lead them to the promised land. Whatever that might be.

I don't know what the next few years will bring. I can only hope that we'll avoid lasting damage to this country and in the world at large before it's all over.