Saturday, February 15, 2003

Dating Advice: There was a flurry of blogger dating advice for Valentine's day; see for instance Armed Liberal's sensible comments (there was much more which showed up in my wife's daily blog digest that she brings home to me on disk, but I can't find it).

The thing is, dating advice aimed at men (the kind that would interest me--if you're a woman, I would simply recommend that you smile, and I guarantee he'll like you) comes either from women, who can't be trusted because of the inevitable gulf between what they say they want and what they actually want, or from men who have great success with women. And the thing is, it doesn't do any good to get advice from men who have great success with women. What we need are people with a proven track record of taking losers and turning them in to ladykillers.

Look, I love taking people out to shoot, and I'm proud of the fact that my students are typically in the 90th percentile or so of the people I see at the range. I'm a pretty decent shooter myself, but my wife is a better rifle shot that I am, hands down, every day of the week. Even so, she's never taught anyone how to do it. So now: who do you want to be your teacher? The fact is my wife has a native talent which I don't have for shooting (maybe it's the lower center of gravity, maybe it's the female hip structure, I don't know), and I have a native talent she doesn't have for teaching. I'm a heck of a lot better at teaching physics than some of the Nobel Prize winners I've met, too, even if I'm nowhere near their level when it comes to research.

Getting women into bed--or into a white dress, pick your poison--is an area of endeavor in which native talent is distributed in a radically unequal fashion. Some guys have It--whatever It is, if I could tell you I would--and some guys don't. Armed Liberal is someone who clearly has It--why else would he suggest that it's better to get laid that watch porn:
I try and explain to my sons…who all have a healthy teenage interest in the female form…that it’s better to hold hands and smooch with a real girl than to jerk off to pictures of someone you’ll never meet, much less get to go to bed with.

That was one of the first posts of his that I ever read, back before I had my own blog, so I emailed him to point out the obvious--you can only hold hands and smooch--or go to bed with--a real girl if you can find a real girl who will have you. His reply was charmingly naive, the product of mixing irresistable chick magnetism with a decency and modesty--something about growing up in the '60's and not having trouble finding dates in that hippie era.

Hmm...I rather strongly suspect that there were guys in the '60's who had trouble finding dates. I doubt that any but a tiny handful of men actually prefer porn to real women. Speaking strictly for myself, I've always been much more turned on by the imperfect women who I met in real life than by the "ideal" women one sees in fashion plates. As a teen I was much more likely to fantisize about the slightly pimply girl down the street than the swimsuit model (a fact which annoys my wife to no end, given that the girl down the street might actually sleep with me, whereas the swimsuit model wouldn't). Nobody chooses porn, dude, it's just the only tail some of us can get.

So the problem--which, as a guy who attracts women easily, AL can't really address--is this: how do those of us who don't have It get women? Because it's obviously not just looks--ugly guys can get an amazing amount of action--or intelligence--lots of stupid guys get laid way more than I ever could, and I flatter myself with the notion that whatever I might be, I'm not stupid--and it isn't just being a nice guy--assholes also seem to get more than their fair share. Sense of humor, money, whatever, nothing seems either necessary or sufficient for success.

Armed Liberal's principal advice, besides not trying to cover a bald spot with a ponytail, was to be a good listener. I don't think that works: women may love to have AL listen to them as if they were the most interesting people on Earth, since they are attracted to him and flattered that such an exciting could-be-with-any-girl-in-the-room guy seems so interested in their lives. They also love to have me listen to them--since they know they wouldn't sleep with me at gunpoint, I make an appealing sort of buddy to whom they can pour out the troubles they don't discuss with AL, for fear of ruining their chances with him. Something about me invites rapid intimate confidences rather than intimate relations, rapid or otherwise. For those guys who are, for whatever reason, chick magnets, maybe listening is the greatest aphrodisiac ever. For those of us who aren't, the listening thing is more likely to land us in the "just friends" hellhole, listening to the story of her unemployed mullet-head failed-the-GED-six-times boyfriend coming home with lipstick on his collar and screaming to ourselves in our heads "What about ME you frickin' bimbo???????? Ever consider sleeping with ME???????"

We need advice not from a gold-medal-winning sprinter, ("If you want to win, run as fast as I do"), but from a sprinting coach--can anyone out there convincingly claim to have a winning record as a dating coach?

Postscript: I suppose the repeated mentions of my "wife" will have made some of you suspicious--obviously I had to have some success in my love life. You bet I did--and every morning when I wake up, I take a moment to thank God, fate, luck, whatever, that I've got such a wonderful girl next to me (except when I haven't gotten enough sleep, don't wake up at all, and she yells at me to turn the alarm off). I put it down to beginner's luck, like they guy who hits a hole-in-one with a walking stick and a rock--I wouldn't count on being able to repeat it, especially with someone so totally out of my league (and so tolerant of my foibles, which deploy in nothing less than division strength with organic engineer battalions to ensure that no obstacle prevents me from screwing up). Sometimes people ask me how it happened--I have no idea. None. It just sorta did. If I found myself single again, the only strategy I would know to try was standing around blinking, because that's the only thing that ever worked.
Out of the closet at last: It's time for me to come out: I'm a biathlete.

OK, that was a really, really terrible pun. I'm sorry. But it's true: today I skied in my first-ever winter biathlon (that's skiing and shooting). I've done a number of summer (running and shooting) biathlon events, and I've loved it. I love the winter version even more. Weather conditions were lousy, which is to say they were perfect: fresh, warm sticky snow falling the entire time. Sure, I got soaked and freezing, and sure, the slow show meant more work for me as I limped along for 90 minutes. But soft, slow snow also means less dangerous speeds on downhills, soft landings if you fall (I fell twice, in a 5-lap race, which I though quite impressive given that this was the fifth time I've been skate-skiing), and no nasty icy ruts to catch your skis and knock you over.

Why anyone would rather stay home and watch TV, I have no idea. My next biathlon challenge is convincing my wife to spring for the skis (I rented). (BTW, I hit something like 9 targets out of 20--I can't remember now--but one of them didn't count, since I, like a jackass, was shooting at the wrong targets).

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Budget: I, like Jane Galt, lack the time and inclination to delve deep into Bush's budget and make an informed critique. Here's one uninformed critique: it's way too much. But I'm a conservative, so you already knew I was going to say that. For more detail, see Ted Barlow (like you already hadn't).

I will, however, take a moment to criticize the entire process of deficit-mongering. Simply put, nobody has any idea what the deficit will be 5 years from now. Do you doubt me? Somebody dig up the budget projections from 1997 and tell me how they match up with the actual results from 2002. Remember how the "surplus" evaporated? For the most part, that was an imaginary ("projected") surplus being replaced with an imaginary deficit. And, although tax cuts did play a role, for the most part the cause was an economic slowdown which the Clinton White House didn't include in its projections (That's not a criticism of Clinton or his staff--they aren't clairvoyants, after all).

Of course, most of the time budget projections make assumptions which are favorable to the political allies of the projector (or are static), which renders them useless. I'm sure the OMB does its best; but "as good as possible" is not the same as "good enough."

Paul Krugman criticizes the White house for ceasing to make projections for longer than 5 years. It seems to me that they should perfect the art of the 5-year forecast before forging ahead (cf 1997-2002). There's a news station in Seattle that does 7-day forecasts so that you can always see the weekend. As someone who has spent much of the winter outdoors, I can say that any prediciton a week in advance is crap. For that matter, a prediciton 5 days in advance is usually crap. There's just no point in having the "weekend in view" if the forecast for the relevant days changes daily.

I'm no expert, so maybe these forecasts have been historically very reliable--but if you want to argue that, back it up with some darn good data. Until I see such data, I will maintain there is no point arguing about what the deficit will look like after the next election.

Why men hate Valentine's day: This is a visualization excercise for my female readers. Imagine that, one day of the year (call it St. Hefner's day), you were expected to fulfill your boyfriend/husband's fantasies in a big way. Suppose that every other TV commercial was wild sex in strange positions, swingers engaged in threesomes, and bondage leather. Suppose the man in your life expected the best orgasm of the year on some particular date. Is that a day you would look forward to with relish?

Well, that's what men face on Feb. 14: the demand to fulfill female fantasy--to make our women swoon with delight at our gallantry. We will be compared to the good-looking rich guy who gives his model girlfriend a huge diamond while riding in a horse-drawn carriage, inexplicably wielding a Sure-Fire to light up the stone (Oh, Rex! 5 carats and 225 lumens! How wonderful!). Our love will be measured, if not necessarily by our willingness to spend money on short-lived vegetative sex organs, then on our ability to read the minds of what are, after all, the most mysterious creatures on Earth (if your dog could talk, he'd never say "If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you!").

The pressure to perform is substantial; the consequences of failure are terrible. After all, if you try for sweep-her-off-her-feet romance and fail, the outcome may be far worse than simply claiming you forgot. Forget and you're an idiot--but most women already think most men are idiots (they're right--food, sex, sleep. It doesn't take a genius to be a man). But try to impress her and fail, and it means you "don't really know" her--and therefore you can't possibly really love her.

Most of the women reading this are probably shaking their heads and muttering "that's so wrong--it's the thought that counts!" Which, of course is the problem--because we can't read your thoughts, and if our thoughts don't match yours, then it counts very much indeed--against us.

The best strategy for men, I think, is to complain loudly about Valentine's day every year--inveigh against it as a conspiracy of the multinational greeting-card conglomerates. Make up some facts about unsanitary chocolate factory conditions and migrant workers who bleed profusely cutting roses. Bring up "conflict diamonds" if jewelry is suggested (Sadly, that isn't a joke at all, but a sickening truth). If your lady friend is a conservative--and less than swayed by these arguments--consider pointing out the virtues of a balanced budget or Biblical condemnations of adornments.

And then, every 5 years or so, get her something nice. Not insanely expensive, just something she might like (last year I tried to get my wife a pistol, but the store sold out and ruined what could have been the best Valentine's day ever). Make it a total surprise--don't let up with the I-hate-VD-schtick at all. You'll get more "romance points" out of a badly-engraved butter knife than dinner on a yacht if you set the baseline at zero. Heck, I got several years' worth of points just for telling my wife about my failed scheme to drive to the gun shop in secret. She thought it was cute that I had failed. She called me an "idiot" and laughed--you too can make incompetence your ally!

Oh, and start bugging her about St. Hefner's day. If we all do it, maybe we can get them to shut up about Feb. 14.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Light Blogging: My wife is out of town, which means my primary conduit to my blog is cut off (I write most of my posts at home and send them in with her--everyone take a moment to say "thanks," since without her, I wouldn't have posted a single thing in 2003). Anyway, I'll try to make it to the library, but with a full-time job, that's in doubt. See you Wed. or Thur.