Thursday, 31 July 2014

Because they don't do the work, that's why

In which the New York Times goes into considerable length to ask a question for which the answer is staring them right in the face:
The new math of the ‘60s, the new new math of the ‘80s and today’s Common Core math all stem from the idea that the traditional way of teaching math simply does not work. As a nation, we suffer from an ailment that John Allen Paulos, a Temple University math professor and an author, calls innumeracy — the mathematical equivalent of not being able to read. On national tests, nearly two-thirds of fourth graders and eighth graders are not proficient in math. More than half of fourth graders taking the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress could not accurately read the temperature on a neatly drawn thermometer. (They did not understand that each hash mark represented two degrees rather than one, leading many students to mistake 46 degrees for 43 degrees.) On the same multiple-choice test, three-quarters of fourth graders could not translate a simple word problem about a girl who sold 15 cups of lemonade on Saturday and twice as many on Sunday into the expression “15 + (2×15).” Even in Massachusetts, one of the country’s highest-performing states, math students are more than two years behind their counterparts in Shanghai. 
Adulthood does not alleviate our quantitative deficiency. A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps. One study that examined medical prescriptions gone awry found that 17 percent of errors were caused by math mistakes on the part of doctors or pharmacists. A survey found that three-quarters of doctors inaccurately estimated the rates of death and major complications associated with common medical procedures, even in their own specialty areas. 
One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it. 
Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray. 
But our innumeracy isn’t inevitable. In the 1970s and the 1980s, cognitive scientists studied a population known as the unschooled, people with little or no formal education. Observing workers at a Baltimore dairy factory in the ‘80s, the psychologist Sylvia Scribner noted that even basic tasks required an extensive amount of math. For instance, many of the workers charged with loading quarts and gallons of milk into crates had no more than a sixth-grade education. But they were able to do math, in order to assemble their loads efficiently, that was “equivalent to shifting between different base systems of numbers.” Throughout these mental calculations, errors were “virtually nonexistent.” And yet when these workers were out sick and the dairy’s better-educated office workers filled in for them, productivity declined. 
The unschooled may have been more capable of complex math than people who were specifically taught it, but in the context of school, they were stymied by math they already knew. Studies of children in Brazil, who helped support their families by roaming the streets selling roasted peanuts and coconuts, showed that the children routinely solved complex problems in their heads to calculate a bill or make change. When cognitive scientists presented the children with the very same problem, however, this time with pen and paper, they stumbled. A 12-year-old boy who accurately computed the price of four coconuts at 35 cruzeiros each was later given the problem on paper. Incorrectly using the multiplication method he was taught in school, he came up with the wrong answer. Similarly, when Scribner gave her dairy workers tests using the language of math class, their scores averaged around 64 percent. The cognitive-science research suggested a startling cause of Americans’ innumeracy: school.
The article goes on (and on, and on, and bloody on) in this vein, asking why it is that Asian and other nations consistently outperform Americans in high-school and college mathematics. Not once does the NYT's author stop to ask exactly why Asian methods of teaching maths succeed where American ones don't.

As might be expected, I have something of a personal perspective on this. Until the 9th grade, I was trained in the American system of learning mathematics. I swung from really stinking at maths in the 6th grade- I was at best a C student in the subject- to being really, really good at it in the 8th grade.

Then I moved to Australia and started learning mathematics the way the Brits, and thereafter the Aussies, taught it. My word, what a shock. I went from being one of the best maths students in the class, to one of the absolute worst.

What happened? Did the teaching methods change? Well, yes. The American method emphasised the process of solving the problem, but never actually developed a formal method for doing so. The American method didn't care that you didn't understand something as basic and important as the Order of Operations- all that mattered was that you tried to solve the problem! Good doggie! Eat biscuit! Good boy! The American method was all about feeeeeeeelings, which ultimately is why it was useless. When it comes to a language as beautiful, complex, and yet ordered as mathematics, feeeeeelings don't cut it.

The Australian approach was to teach a systematic method for solving problems, and then expect the students to drill, and drill, and drill some more, until they figured out the system and applied it. Don't know the Order of Operations? DRILL IN IT UNTIL YOUR EYES BLEED!!!

It took me two long and painful years to figure that out. I had to spend hours of self-study, doing all of the homework problem sets, and then all of the problems that weren't in the homework assignments. I was never tutored by anyone other than my parents, but eventually, through sheer bloody-minded hard work, I got my scores up.

I got to be so good at it, in fact, that by the time I moved to Singapore and finished high school, I was one of the best students in maths in one of the best high schools in the world.

Today, I hold two degrees in mathematics from two of the best universities in the world.

Today my job requires the ability to think through complex problems, think outside the box, and figure out how to make broken things work again with the least amount of pain and resistance possible. It's not easy, but it is a lot of fun.

And all of this happened because I put in the work. That's all there is to it.

That is the difference between American students- who by and large do not put in the work- and Asian students, who put in the work whether they like it or not.

Think I'm exaggerating? In my first-year undergraduate economics courses, we would start applying differential calculus to utility functions constrained by income, and shifts in aggregate supply and demand. I was a first-year doing this stuff, and I was tutoring third-year American transfer students from some of America's best liberal arts and private colleges, who were shell-shocked to discover that they were expected to know how to differentiate functions in an introductory economics course.

There are valid criticisms of the drillwork mentality of Asian methods of teaching. When it comes to maths, though, that's the only method that works. Case in point: when I was about 8, my mum locked me in my room and told me that she wouldn't let me out until I could recite my multiplication tables up to the 12s.

In America, she'd have been arrested for child cruelty.

In Asia, her approach is normal.

It is also a big part of the reason why I am still pretty darn good at quantitative problem solving. (Certain mildly embarrassing slip-ups aside.) Hell, I work in a job that requires that I know how to pick apart complex technical problems and then put together solutions. I didn't get that way by being some kind of intuitive wunderkind- I'm not. I got there through dint of sheer hard work.

Hell, even the article seems to admit as much, albeit in a very half-arsed manner, by pointing out that street urchins in Third World countries who constantly have to do mental arithmetic are really, really good at it, but fall apart the moment someone tries to teach them a problem-solving approach similar to the way Americans are taught. The reason is simple: those kids have to do the same thing, over and over and over again, and so get to be really good at the processes of mental arithmetic. They do the work.

This is the fundamental lesson that Americans seem to have forgotten in this day and age. No matter what field you want to pursue, success comes from work. There is simply no other way to get good at something. If you want to get good, you have to put in the work.

It is tiresome. It is frustrating. It is irritating. It can really hurt if you're not careful. It is also the only way.

And as long as Americans continue to seek the easy way out, to look for the magic bullet that will cure all of their ills without having to sweat and sacrifice and work for it, they will never again reach their full potential as human beings and as a nation.

The wisdom wit of Nathan Fillion

Among sci-fi fans, there are several incontrovertible truths:
  • Firefly was cancelled waaaaaay too damn early;
  • The Fox network's decision to cancel Firefly showed that their management staff are apocalyptic dingleberries; and
  • Nathan Fillion IS the coolest sci-fi hero to appear on TV since, well, ever
And here is why:

Truthfully, I think Fillion made the show. It couldn't have become the cult classic that it is today without him. He is Malcolm Reynolds- it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing the character.

There is a lot wrong with the universe of Firefly. It's the usual equalitarian, pink-S/F nonsense that Joss Whedon is so good at writing and promoting. However, unlike most Pink sci-fi, Firefly tells a fantastic set of stories, with wonderful characters who truly capture the viewer's imagination. And that, ultimately, is why Firefly is still so hugely popular more than ten years after its untimely demise- because it does what good sci-fi is supposed to do: it captures the imagination.

Also, can I just say that Nathan Fillion has put on a ridiculous amount of weight in the intervening time, yet he is still charming, funny, and effortlessly hilarious. This, despite having to deal with either swooning fangirls or fat, slobbery (and probably closeted) fanboys. And his own silly sentiments about "solar roads" and other such fantasies.

Case in point: there is a particularly cringe-worthy point in the video where some berk walks up in a Mal Reynolds outfit and asks Fillion to sing with him. Fillion not only doesn't humiliate the kid, he plays along quite gamely and is really quite decent about the whole thing.

Basically, if you want to see what a truly funny, down-to-Earth, decent-minded, happy celebrity looks like, you can't do any better than Nathan Fillion.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Future cat lady in the making

I'm not exactly up on my pop culture references. I don't pay attention to pop music now that Billy Joel is retired*. So I'm not really sure who Katy Perry is, or why she's famous.

Oh. Right.
And normally, that would be the end of it. But when a woman staring down the barrel of 30, who is single and who has (apparently) had her heart broken numerous times by various Lotharios, goes and says something this monumentally stupid in a public forum- well, it's fun to pick that nonsense apart:
Katy Perry has had her fair share of romances and has headed down the aisle once already, but the singer says she is not going to let being single stop her from being a mother. 
The 29-year-old has revealed her 'five-year plan' and that includes the possible pitter patter of little feet. 
Starring on the cover of Rolling Stone, the singer told the music magazine that she hopes to have a baby in any way possible. 
But, the Teenage Dream star says she will not be getting pregnant for a few years yet. 
The Dark Horse star told the magazine: 'I want to be doing that in the right time and that's not in the next two years, you know? Maybe it's in a five-year plan, but I need to really be able to focus 100 percent of my attention on it.' 
Katie said she would have put her touring commitments on hold to focus on being a mother. 
'I don't really want to take the child on tour. Not until, like, birth through five is over.' [Didact: How wonderfully responsible of you, Katy! No doubt you'll be trying to avoid introducing the kid to alcohol and hard drugs until it's at least 8, right?]
While Katy is currently single - having briefly dated musician Diplo after splitting with long term boyfriend John Mayer - said she does not necessarily need to have someone of the opposite on her arm for this to happen, mentioning her friends Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka who had their children via surrogate. [Didact: Yes, because emulating homosexuals and their distinctly aberrant ways is of course the right thing to do...]
The 29-year-old said in the interview - which is on newsstands Friday: 'I don't need a dude. I mean, Neil and David, their twins are beautiful. 
'It's 2014! We are living in the future; we don't need anything. I don't think I'll have to, but we'll see. I'm not anti-men. I love men. But there is an option if someone doesn't present himself.'
So. Much. FAIL. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that there will be quite a few cats in this (not quite so) young woman's future.

Seemed appropriate given the subject matter
Let's ignore the fact that Katy Perry is a multimillionaire pop "star", with giant awesome boobs (and a face that would look decidedly less than awesome without all that makeup), and look at her as what she is: a woman who rode the Carousel, hard, and is now seeing her youth and fertility and therefore her entire biological function in life slipping away before her eyes.

Whether she likes it or not, this young woman is going to hit the Wall. Judging by her lifestyle and choices, she's going to hit it hard. And that will be a real tragedy- it always is. When she hits that wall, it doesn't matter how far medical technology has advanced, or how easily she can pay for a surrogate to carry a child for her. The fact remains that she will have let her prime years of fertility disappear. Her major currency- her youth and beauty and femininity- will have been wasted on hedonistic pursuits of fame and fortune.

She will be left with nothing but bad choices and regrets, because she insisted on dating, and banging, men like John Mayer and Russell Brand, who had neither interest in nor capacity for monogamy and commitment. Again, those were her choices, and she has to live with them.

Now it's fair enough that she would want to have a child. Most, if not all, women want to as they get to the age of 30 and beyond- after all, that is their entire biological reason for existing. It is practically hard-coded into a woman's genetics to want to be a mother- that is why the phrase "baby rabies" exists and has meaning. But reading her words above, I am reminded quite strongly of a recent episode of Tim Allen's hilarious comedy, Last Man Standing, called "April Come She Will".

In that episode, Mike Baxter's sister-in-law comes visiting and drops a bombshell on his family by announcing that she wants to have a baby- at the age of 40, after a lifetime of irresponsibility, partying, and mooching off her in-laws for monetary support. Mike and his wife, understandably, want nothing to do with it and refuse to support April's crazy scheme. Mike publishes a vlog in which he calls for a "background check" for aspiring parents- where applicants have to pass some not-particularly-difficult hurdles.

For instance- "are you a skanky dingbat who's never been able to hold down a job or a relationship?" In that case, you certainly aren't fit to be a parent. Parenting, after all, entails something called responsibility.

I wish I could find a clip that wasn't behind a paywall from that particular episode- it would explain everything wrong with Ms. Perry's "reasoning" far better than I ever could.

And if the best that Ms. Perry can do to claim to be responsible is to argue that she won't take her future child on tour until it's at least 5 or so, well, I'd say that she would automatically fail that background check.

I remember what my sister was like at 5 years old. She was a little terror who couldn't be left alone because she was so damn hyper. She turned out all right, to be sure- but she had a LOT of attention as a kid and she always had a loving and nurturing environment around her.

The life of a touring pop star is not loving or nurturing. A single mother who insists on taking her child along on tour is not someone with the best interests of that child in mind.

Then there's that nonsense about using a surrogate "just because" gay couples can do the same. Quite aside from the many, many problems associated with children being raised by same-sex couples, there is something extremely distasteful about listening to a woman with that kind of clout among impressionable (read: stupid) young people arguing implicitly that copying the deviant behaviour of homosexuals is somehow Right and Justified.

The simple lesson for young women everywhere is simple: DON'T BE KATY PERRY.

The (only slightly) longer version of it is: find a good man, be faithful to him, get married young, have children young, and DON'T BE KATY PERRY.

* I grew up playing "We Didn't Start the Fire" on continuous loop for hours. Now that was a great pop song.

Suddenly I'm liking her better

It's no real secret that I'm not exactly a big fan of "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey. I was actually rooting for Alexis Davis to beat her in UFC 175's co-headline event, but that didn't happen; in fact, that fight lasted just sixteen seconds. Davis basically threw a few punches, then stepped into Rousey's range; Rousey caught her and immediately took her down in a judo hold, and punched her like 9 times in the face, hard, before the ref stopped the fight. (Rousey actually tore open a knuckle in the process.)

So I was rather pleasantly surprised to discover an interview with Rousey where she unloads, with both barrels, on media whores like Kim Kardashian:

I am still not a fan. Rousey's fighting style annoys me almost as much as her mouth- despite having "Judo" Gene LeBell coaching her, a Rousey fight has no enjoyment or artistry in it. It's not like watching that classic between Jon "Bones" Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, or admiring the technical skill and finesse of the Weidman vs Machida fight.

All of that being said- I do have a lot more respect for her now. Any woman who has sense enough to tell her little sister to "take off those whore shoes!", and has no problem calling a spade a spade, does have some good points.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Paleo won't feed the world

If you haven't yet read John Ringo's The Last Centurion, I highly recommend it. For all of its flaws in writing style and narrative flow, it is a highly entertaining, very memorable, and quite enjoyable near-future military fiction novel. It is also a richly textured, heavily researched- and yet quite thoroughly profane- look into the stupidity and utterly unscientific nearsightedness of most liberals. It tackles many, many topics- including manmade global warming, the supposed "benefits" of diversity, and of course the question of whether or not an all-organic approach to farming is capable of feeding the country's population.

That latter question becomes quite important if you've dedicated yourself to eating right and eating hearty.

If you grew up eating what the world's "scientific authorities" told you was good for you, you are intimately familiar with this picture:

New USDA Food Plate Pyramid Replacement

And if you've been eating Paleo, or anything even close to Paleo, for any significant length of time, you know what a lot of garbage this is.

The emphasis on hearthealthywholegrains is very probably killing humanity faster than any other factor, for as any adherent of the Paleo philosophy knows well, our bodies just are not adapted to handle a modern, high-gluten, high-starch, high-grain diet at all. Genetically, we are still basically the same hunter-gatherers that we were a hundred thousand years ago, before the advent of modern agriculture; our various bodily systems are optimised to run on meat, vegetables, and fruits. Our natural inclinations are, and have always been, toward foods that are fatty, salty, and sweet.

When we work with those genetic predispositions, and combine the very best of good eating with really hard exercise, we tend to become what we were always intended to be- fit, strong, lean, active, and happy.

When we ignore or work against these simple principles, we become lazy, insipid, unhappy, bloated, and sick.

This mode of thought used to be common knowledge- otherwise known as "your grandmother's wisdom". We lost it in favour of a lot of nonsense over the last 50 years that has been shown, repeatedly, to be not only wrong, but deeply dangerous.

Increasingly, even mainstream scientists are realising that their entire profession has been based on a gigantic con. Even the once-ardent defenders of the status quo have begun to realise the errors of their ways and are promoting high-fat, high-protein diets that more closely match the food habits of our ancient ancestors.

And if you have spent any significant amount of time experiencing the joys of eating the way you were always meant to eat, you might find yourself wondering why we couldn't feed everyone this way. Anyone who has ever tasted a true grass-fed rib-eye steak knows full well what I'm talking about when I say that there is nothing like that taste to be found in industrial-raised meat. The difference in taste and texture is the same as that between night and day.

One might naively ask, therefore, why we couldn't just require everyone to eat this way.

The answer is really quite simple: it just isn't possible.

You cannot have a world with a population of some 7 billion people, limited arable land, and even more limited water resources, and expect to feed them all on a diet high in animal proteins and fats.

Think about it. In order to achieve the highest possible quality of food, you would need to set all of your livestock free. Cows, bulls, sheep, chickens, buffaloes- they would all need to be given vast amounts of space and virtually unlimited grazing ground in order to achieve the levels of taste and the health benefits that you would really want from high-quality meat.

The problem is that grazing space is limited. As are the resources required to sustain that grazing space. And that is before we account for the energy actually lost in moving up the food chain to the point where we eat the actual animals:

... diagram shows how much energy is transferred through a food chain
Yeah, I know, the pink is gay. It's the best I could do.
Think about that for a moment. More than 98% of all of the energy that goes into the food chain is lost* before that delicious steak or lamb rack reaches your dinner table. Sobering, isn't it?

That, incidentally, is exactly why meat is expensive relative to grains- and why grass-fed, organic meat is much more expensive than industrial meat. It simply comes down to a question of energy transfer. You have to understand that organic farming requires, depending on what exactly it is that you're trying to produce, roughly three times the resources for the exact same amount of food. And that is if you are really damn good at farming- I'm talking, as good as the Amish

So if we can't feed the world on properly raised meat, what about industrially raised meat? It's not nearly as good, being pumped as it is full of growth hormones, antibiotics, various other additives, and assorted nastiness, but surely we could feed everyone using that?

No. For the exact same reasons as above.

Even if you raised all farm animals in the most energy-efficient method possible, and spent the absolute minimum amount of time between the point where the animal enters the world and the point where it gets sent to the slaughterhouse, you are still losing most of the energy that goes into feeding the animal. The mathematics of energy transfer are brutal and inescapable in this regard. It simply can't be done.

So then, all that is left is to feed the world with grain-based products. Which is precisely what has been happening for nearly 10,000 years- ever since the dawn of the Neolithic Age, in fact, when agriculture came about and humans moved from being nomadic hunter-gatherers to agrarian herders and farmers.

Among paleoanthropologists, it is quite well known by now that this radical change in our lifestyles also contributed to an equally radical change in our health and well-being as a species- almost entirely for the worse. We became shorter, our bones became less dense, tooth decay became common, various cancers and illnesses that had never been seen in the anthropological record for our ancestors became relatively common. If you don't believe me, watch the excellent documentary "Fat Head" for details- right down the bottom.

How can we reconcile these two massive contradictions? We know, on the one hand, that agriculture contributed to a radical decline in human health and well-being. We also know, on the other hand, that it contributed to a massive boom in human populations, globally- several times, actually, as innovations in agricultural techniques and genetic research led to ever-greater crop yields, and genetic engineering of crops led to hardier, more disease-resistant and pest-resistant crops.

The simple fact is that we cannot. It is impossible to feed the world on a Paleo-style diet. It simply can't be done, there are too many of us and too few resources to do the job. Nor, for that matter, would most people necessarily acquiesce easily to eating in such a fashion- not everyone wants to eat just once or twice a day, or eat mostly just meat and fish and vegetables, or cut out all dairy products**. Most people today would not have sufficient wit or willpower to cut out processed sugars from their daily intake- they've gotten addicted to the stuff.

The only way to get the population down to the point where an organic approach to food is truly capable of feeding the world is genocide on a scale never seen in human history.

I think it is fair to say that most people would refuse even to contemplate such a horrific thing.

My own perspective on this is a bit unusual. You see, unlike most adherents of a Paleo diet, I have no problem whatsoever with genetically modified plants and foods. None. I don't consume them (much) myself, but I'm sure as hell not going to demand that they be banned. The reason is simple. Back in the 1950s, my country was just beginning to emerge from the shackles of colonialism and was trying to figure out- not terribly successfully, it must be said- how to feed a huge and growing population.

Then along came a brilliant scientist named Norman Borlaug, whose ingenious discoveries in plant genetics led to the creations of new strains of high-yield wheat and rice that allowed not only my country, but many others, to feed their people without any real problems.

I have no desire whatsoever to revert back to the days when my people were starving because they could not eat, at all- never mind that they couldn't get meat, they couldn't get food, full stop.

For a Western mind, the very concept of famine makes literally no sense- you people have never seen real hunger up close and personal at a national level.

I have. And I do not wish to see it ever again.

If genetically modified wheat and rice and corn is what it takes to feed my people, then so be it. I can afford better, so I choose to do better- but for those who cannot make that choice, I cannot in good conscience argue that they should simply starve. To argue this is quite simply inhuman.

Are the vast majority of the world's people therefore condemned to a life of sub-optimal health and well-being as a result of eating processed, mass-marketed grain-based foods, while a tiny minority of relatively well-off individuals instead dine on meat and fish and naturally raised fruits and vegetables?

Quite bluntly, yes. There is no way around this, and it is rather pointless even to try. Again, Do. The. Maths. The energy inefficiency of eating meat has to be measured against the health benefits of doing so.

So what is the young man of today to do, given these facts and given the evidence?

First, eat as well as you can afford. If you cannot afford to eat good high-quality protein and fat, eat what you can given your current budget. Never let the best be the enemy of the good. If you have to eat industrially raised meat, try to balance out the harmful effects of eating that with supplements that lower your triglycerides and boost your Omega-3 fatty acid intake. And if you can't afford meat at all, well, too bad. Do the best with what you can.

Second, don't pretend that eating "organic" suddenly makes you a supporter of the little guy. I see this with the tofu-heads that shop at Whole Foods all the time- these irritating hipster douchebags who think that paying a premium price for their "ethically raised" kale suddenly makes them morally superior to everyone else. Guess what: organic food is big business. Don't kid yourself about this. If you buy organic or grass-fed or ethically raised food, most likely you are padding some big corporation's bottom line.

I, personally, have no problem whatsoever with this. Vive le capitalism.

Third, and most importantly, understand that your personal choices are yours to make. Don't impose them on others. Here I am speaking primarily to the tofu-eaters who live in places like Nyack and Williamsburg and think that the world's problems would be solved if only we all started buying "organic" food all the time.

If you choose to eat meat, great, good for you- get the highest-quality meat and fish that you can afford, it'll taste great and you'll feel great.If you choose to be a vegetarian... well, you're an idiot, but that's your problem. If you choose to be a Vegan... check inside your pants to see whether you are in fact male, because you're clearly suffering from a massive testosterone deficiency. But again, it's your choice. I can't tell you how to eat. I have no right to tell you how your food should be raised, how it should be farmed or cultivated, and how it should be transported.

The beauty of eating Paleo, or something like it, is that you're eating the way your body was originally designed to eat. It feels fantastic to eat this way- you have endless energy, you feel happier, you exercise better, you can enjoy better sex, and you really taste things properly.

If you choose not to enjoy these benefits, because doing so would be too expensive, then that's fine. Nothing wrong with that- as long as you're willing to live with that choice.

* No lectures on the Law of Conservation of Matter, thank you very much, I happen to know something about it myself.

** I am something of an exception here. I am highly lactose tolerant, so as a result I have no problem whatsoever consuming large amounts of milk, half & half, cheese, yoghurt, and cream daily.

Monday, 28 July 2014

At least she's honest

As if there was ever any doubt as to what women want- and why you should never, ever take their delusions about their own sexual value seriously- this quite hilarious article caught my eye this morning:
Jacqui Lambie, an Australian MP who shares the balance of power in the upper house, has apologised after declaring in a radio interview that she is looking for a partner who is “well-hung” and loaded with cash. 
They don’t even need to speak,” said Ms Lambie, a 43-year-old single mother of two. [Didact: I will try to take the high road, for once, and will avoid inserting the obligatory dirty joke here, simply because that is just too easy.]
The outspoken senator, who took up her position earlier this month, is a member of tycoon Clive Palmer’s new party, which has three seats on the cross-bench in Australia’s senate, or upper house. The somewhat unpredictable and unruly party has so far proven an obstacle for Tony Abbott, who does not have a majority in the senate and has frequently counted on the backing of Mr Palmer’s party. 
In a radio interview in her home state of Tasmania, Ms Lambie told Heart FM that her ideal partner “must have heaps of cash and they’ve got to have a package between their legs”. 
Asked about her bikini line, she said: “Right now the state I’m in, you’d want to bring out that whipper snipper [garden lawn trimmer] first. [Didact: Thanks, lady, that's a great mental image...]  It’s a very scary area to talk about this morning.” 
When a 22-year-old listener named Jamie offered to date the MP, she asked: “You don’t have any diseases do you?” 
The exchange continued as James assured the former military policewoman he could handle her, which prompted her to ask: “Are you well-hung?” [Didact: S**t test. Which this guy is about to fail.]
When Jamie insisted he was [Didact: what did I just say?], Ms Lambie said she would consider a breakfast date [Didact: of pork balls and sausages?] before appearing to acknowledge that the banter may have tested the bounds of propriety. 
I can see my 24-year-old son now, he’d be cringing by now,” she said.  
The interview prompted claims that Ms Lambie was the beneficiary of double-standards and that a male who made similar comments would be excoriated. [Didact: Correct on both counts.]
I have to say, when I saw this, I very nearly fell off my chair, I was laughing so hard. And here's why:

Jacqui Lambie has continued her attack on Tony Abbott, after she said ...
I think there's a woman in there... somewhere...
Apparently the... thing holding up the wall in the middle there is the MP in question. Need I say more about female delusions?

Look, I get it, every woman would like to think that she's a catch, no matter how difficult it is for the rest of us to keep our lunches down when she wears a tight dress.

But if you're a woman in your mid-40s, with two grown-ass sons from two different men, and you think that someone like the fantasy male from the mommy-porn Fifty Shades trilogy is going to swoop in and give you a good rodgering while spending his money on you...

Well, I'm sorry to say that this level of monkey-s**t insanity is beyond the ability of any medicine to cure.

Especially if, as she indicates above, she can't even be bothered to spend the time to, uh, trim the shrubbery.

Now, the article doesn't give full details of the actual exchange between this particularly kooky example of feminine solipsism and her male interlocutor over the radio, so we can only go by what is actually written. And by that measure, this "James" character badly failed the test that even a butt-ugly woman like this gave him.

Instead of qualifying himself to her, by insisting that he was, in fact, "well hung", he should have thrown the challenge right back at her. Something along the lines of, "meet me for breakfast tomorrow and find out" would have been far more effective. When a woman questions your worth as a man, either walk away or turn the question around and put the burden of finding proof on her- but NEVER qualify yourself to her. I've made that mistake more times than I care to remember, and it is a mistake.

As for the double-standard from which Ms. Lambie here will unquestionably benefit- well, yes, it's absolutely true that she will, at least in the politically correct circles in which she moves. She would be able to call for the public castration of anyone who offends her and, among the intellectual elites and useful idiots of the Australian establishment, she would get away with it. Feminism won that particular Battle for Mt. Stupidity a long time ago, and they show no signs of wanting to relinquish their hold on that territory- I say we leave them to it.

However, among the Australian public, she will not be nearly so fortunate.

See, I've actually lived in Australia. It was a long time ago and things may have changed since then, but one major difference between Australians and Americans is (or was, anyway) that the Aussies have a far greater willingness to turn sacred cows into cheeseburgers.

Back when I was living in Sydney, my dad, who was becoming more of a rock & roll fan by the day- that's where yours truly gets his metalhead tendencies, by the way- used to keep the car tuned in to Triple M, the best hard rock syndicate in the area. The hosts of Triple M were the blokiest of blokes- they believed very strongly that if it was stupid or ridiculous, no matter who did it, it was perfectly fair game to take the mickey out of it.

(Note to you Americans: this is an English colloquialism, with which you are undoubtedly unfamiliar. The beauty of being able to speak English, my friends, is that you can actually mock things properly. You Yankees should give it a try someday.)

They even had a segment on their morning radio show called "Sucked In", in which they would literally crank-call people and either scare the living daylights out of them with BS lawsuit claims, or mock them to the point of reducing them to gibbering, incoherent slavering wrecks, or engage in furious argument with them for endless minutes, before finally revealing the con and giving the victim- er, winner- a T-shirt or a concert pass or something. By gum, it was hysterical.

So as a result, if someone like Ms. Lambie were to say something this boneheaded in a public forum- like a radio show- then she would unquestionably be hauled over the coals by the hosts of other commercial radio shows, and by her fellow Australians, for having all of the good sense and tact of a horny wombat. And rightly so, too.

It's just a shame that I'm no longer in Oz. There were a lot of things I didn't like about the country- but I would not mind being there right now, even if it is the middle of winter, just to see what mockery Ms. Lambie's delusions are subjected to by her fellow Aussies.


OK, let's be honest, I'm not THIS idiot
Question: What do you call a guy with two degrees in advanced mathematics who stacks, on each side of an Olympic barbell, a 25lb plate, 2 10lb plates, and a 5lb plate, and thinks it all adds up to 135lbs, and then wonders why the hell he can't lift it for an overhead press?

If your answer was any one of:
  1. The Didact
  2. A complete dumbass
  3. Both, since they're the same thing
... then congratulations, you're better at simple addition than I am.

True story.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The false prosperity of the banks

The last five years have certainly been... eventful when it comes to the world of high finance. In 2008, the world discovered that the geniuses to whom the public had entrusted trillions of dollars didn't really have a clue how to manage it responsibly.  There is plenty of blame to go around: people borrowed money that they couldn't afford to pay back, because the banks were offering absurdly low interest rates and astonishingly easy terms, because the Federal Reserve wanted to spur economic growth through artificial and easy credit, because the people of the West just couldn't get enough of cheap stuff. The cycle goes on and on, but it should be made very clear that much of the blame does reside with the banks and the products that they sold the rest of us.

You would think, then, that after five years of bailouts and record profits, the banks are doing quite well.

You would be quite wrong.

In the interests of transparency, I will go so far as to admit that I work for a very large international investment bank right now. I will also admit that my previous job was for another, similar bank.

Now, I'm not actually a bankster myself- a lot of people have this complete misconception of how banks actually operate, they think that everyone is either a banker or a trader, without understanding that the banking and trading units are actually pretty small cogs in the vast machines that are banks.

Being eyeballs-deep in the infrastructure side of banking provides a bit of a different perspective to those who (rightly) bash the banking industry for being a massive scam.

The reality of banking is that the industry is in severe crisis, has been for years, and shows no sign of getting out of it, now or ever again.

According to a recent analyst poll taken by the WSJ in the wake of some horribly embarrassing revelations about a certain bank's infrastructure problems, banking stocks currently trade at a roughly 30% discount to the rest of the market. And if you're working in the industry, it's not that hard to see why.

Despite the fact that banks currently have record amounts of capital on their books, they are facing possibly the most difficult and expensive environment in their history- and I can tell you from sometimes painful personal experience that not one penny of that extra capital is coming down to employees at ground level. Even the traders and bankers who generate the profits aren't doing all that well- many senior MDs are looking to leave to other industries because they're so sick of seeing their bonuses being subjected to draconian claw-back provisions.

The loss of talent within the sector is considerable. Fresh graduates are no longer looking at banking as their number one career choice (good thing too); they're now looking at tech companies like Google and Facebook, and various startups like Relationship Science- sort of like a Facebook on steroids for executives- instead. We're losing talent to other industries, and because of the draconian cost-cutting measures in place at almost every bank, it's becoming next to impossible to replace them. I personally have seen situations where we found good candidates for certain roles, but they turned down the offers because, well, we couldn't afford to pay them well enough.

All major expenditures are going towards regulatory initiatives, instead of building out new businesses. The regulations that were imposed by various regulatory agencies in the wake of the last phase of the current crisis have made business extremely expensive and very unprofitable in general. The prohibitions against proprietary trading are both stringent and very vague- indeed, the combination of the poorly defined "Volcker Rule" and the legislative Frankenstein that is Dodd-Frank have come together to make OTC derivatives trading in the US prohibitively costly.

Dodd-Frank, in particular, has been a truly ridiculous burden on the industry. The bill is some 2,000 pages long and yet still manages to be almost completely incomprehensible. It's a bonanza for accountants and lawyers, because they will be able to charge huge amounts of money to the banks for years to come in order to explain to the banks how all of this garbage works.

For banks themselves, Dodd-Frank's peculiar lack of transparency- in a bill aimed at restoring transparency in the market- has resulted in very costly and quite radical measures being taken to avoid its most absurd requirements.

Case in point: Dodd-Frank reporting requirements demand that every OTC trade that is "reportable" has to be registered in a reporting system within 15 minutes of execution. Furthermore, all OTC trades should, to the greatest extent possible, go through electronic trading systems like MarkitWire, rather than "voice" systems like Bloomberg or Reuters. And every trade that is eligible for "clearing"- a complicated idea that ultimately comes down to netting all of the various counterparty credit exposures through a central hub- has to be cleared with a registered clearing house.

The net result of all of this craziness is that non-US clients- a big part of any international bank's client portfolio- want nothing whatsoever to do with these regulations. So in order to avoid gutting their businesses, banks are switching their internal workings around so that, in accounting terms, their trades go through international entities rather than US ones.

Of course, this also means that the US loses out on a considerable chunk of tax revenue, because if a trade goes through a European entity rather than a US entity, it gets taxed according to European law, not American law.

Net result: American lawmakers passed a bill that harms American interests, and yet is so poorly written and so badly thought-out that the average American wouldn't have a snowflake's chance in hell of understanding it. Well done, Congress!

I should also mention that the Fed has been given expansive powers to regulate the industry, and has chosen to do so by beating up the banks on their P&L attribution processes. This means that the Fed wants to see, from every single business line of every single bank, a comprehensive breakdown of how they made their money every single day- X from rates movements, Y from credit spreads, Z from various volatility components, that sort of thing. The Fed demands that this is made possible for every business- including the securitised trading businesses that deal in highly structured products like collateralised and asset-backed securities.

The problem with all of this is that every bank has to figure out how to calculate all of these attributions, store them somewhere, and then pump the data for every single position down to the Fed.

The USD Swaps Desk at my bank alone has nearly half a million trades on the books. And we're actually not that big compared to some of the other players in the market. Just how in the name of all that is holy does the Fed expect to capture, process, and analyse all of that data?

Answer: it can't. No institution on Earth can. You could hook up as many supercomputers as you want to crunch all of those numbers, and you still wouldn't be able to use all of that data to figure out true systemic risks in the industry. You'd get a gargantuan amount of noise and no signal whatsoever- mostly because, as always, the Fed has no motivation or desire to see that the true systemic risk is not any one bank, but the Federal Reserve system itself.

It's not like the Europeans are any better, by the way. The next major regulatory change coming to the industry will be the implementation of Basel III- a set of regulatory standards that, among other things, requires banks to measure how costly a trade will be in terms of regulatory capital set aside against that trade. These regulations are supported and promoted by various European regulators, such as the UK's FinRA and Germany's BaFin.

The requirements of Basel III are so stringent and so difficult that if my previous employer had to meet them in 2010, it would immediately have gone out of business.

Even in 2014, after more than four years to prepare, most banks aren't ready for Basel III- and most of them can't afford it, but they have to anyway.

Some would argue that all of these regulations are a Good Thing if they make the system safer. Problem is, they don't.

Take the requirements about central clearing. This sounds like a great way to reduce overall systemic risk, because you avoid double-counting the credit risk between all of the various counterparties involved in a trade. Consider: if I have a 300M swap against you, and you have another 200M trade against me, without clearing we would individually measure our risks of the other defaulting and set aside capital against each side of our respective trades- let's say, 10% of each trade, which means that I would hold 30M in reserve and you would hold 20M. With clearing, we would simply net off our exposures, for a total of 100M, and hold capital against that. Both of us would then need to hold only 10M in reserve, thereby freeing up capital to use in other pursuits.

Sounds great, right? And it is- except for one rather thorny problem which the regulators in their infinite wisdom completely overlooked.

You see, clearing houses, like LCH.Clearnet, are funded by fees charged to their members. If ten banks all agree to participate in a clearing house, all ten pay a (not exactly small) fee to that clearing house for the privilege. Now, if one of those banks goes under, the exposure to all of the other banks is limited- but now the clearing house itself is at risk.

Instead of spreading out systemic risk, the new regulations have concentrated it. The system has been made more fragile, not less.

Regulators would counter this by arguing that no clearing house or exchange has ever gone bankrupt in the more than 500-year history of such institutions. To which I respond: by standard models the Crisis of 2008 could never have happened either.

Indeed, the costs of doing business are now so high that most European banks are abandoning the universal banking models that became so popular in the last twenty years.

Barclays is winding down its US investment banking arm and has separated its trading operations into "Core" and "Legacy" books- and amusingly, everyone on the "Core" side wants to go to the "Legacy" side because they get paid well to transfer over, and they get paid well again to unwind the "structured" and "exotic" positions that supposedly got Barclays (really, Lehman) in the first place.

UBS has essentially abandoned its trading and investment banking operations and has returned back to its wealth management and private banking roots.

Credit Suisse has done much the same, shuttering its mainline trading businesses and retrenching heavily throughout the US.

BNP Paribas is still dealing with the fallout of its acquisitions of Fortis and ABN Amro, and various legal wranglings that have pestered it throughout the last several years.

We are now in the very odd situation where American and European regulators are making it impossible for banks to do business- and yet have back-stopped and guaranteed the existence of those institutions through the implementation of rules concerning "Systemically Important Financial Institutions". There are several different types of SIFIs- Global, National, and Regional- and if a given bank is considered a SIFI, well, it pretty much has an implied "too-big-to-fail" tag.

The end result of all of this is that when the next crisis comes- and believe me, it is coming- regulators will face a demon of their own design. The banking sector is now in a mutually abusive relationship with the rest of society: whenever a bank mis-steps, it is fined and regulated and tied down so that it loses money no matter what it does, yet at the same time, society needs these institutions to exist in order to lubricate the engines of the massively inflated credit-based system that the world has become addicted to for the past century.

By the way, I don't want you to come away with the impression that the banks deserve much sympathy. They don't. They messed up horribly and are now reverting back to the levels that they probably should have been at in the first place. It's just that the process of retrenching back to that point is extremely painful and extremely costly- we're talking about unwinding truly gargantuan misallocations of resources, and that sort of thing always requires a significant amount of human pain to accomplish.

Bottom line: we are in very deep trouble, and most of us simply don't know it yet- we're just running around trying to plug the leaks in the dike wall, all the while ignoring the gigantic tsunami wave barreling straight toward us.

There goes my childhood

Goddammit, XKCD...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The perils of dating a gym bunny

Tim Muriello from (a fitness supplement and advice site for bodybuilders) has some rather amusing advice for men who think that the idea of dating a fitness-obsessed woman is a Good Idea:

As if that wasn't amusing/silly enough, there's another video of him talking over some other meathead about fitness chicks whose boyfriends don't lift, at all:

The second video is actually funnier, simply because Tim doesn't seem to know when to STFU. That said, the points that he raises are good ones.

The reality of dating fitness chicks is that they are obsessed with themselves and their bodies. They seek validation from other women, and of course from men. In my experience attending five or six different gyms in three countries, there aren't many of these women around- mostly because the CrossFit fad has fortunately not really reached the bit of the country that I live in, more or less- but that will change over time.

Fitness chicks also tend to embrace very stupid diet fads. From a man's perspective, food is very simple: meat, vegetables, fruit, and a few sensible indulgences in moderation. The end. No need to add all sorts of frilly nonsense about "Zone Diets" and "juice cleanses" and "carb cycling".

Bottom line: if you're going to try to date a gym bunny, just be aware of what you're getting into. And don't EVER date a girl who can lift more than you- you'll look like a complete tool.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

"Why won't they let us LIVE?!"

When I was 14, I read two books that changed my thinking and my life forever.

The first was a novel, based on real events, called Exodus, by one of the 20th Century's greatest writers, Leon Uris. It provided a fictionalised, but largely accurate, account of the birth of Israel through the life and times of two brothers, Yossi and Yakov Rabinsky, as they flee Poland and emigrate to Palestine, then under British rule. There, Yossi Rabinsky becomes Barak Ben Canaan and fathers a son, Ari Ben Canaan, both of whom become integral to the fledgling Jewish state as it wins its independence.

It is one of the finest novels ever written- breathtaking in scale and scope, visceral and unforgettable in its impact.

At the end of the book, upon learning of the death of a young woman much beloved of the Ben Canaan extended family at the hands of Palestinian fedayeen, the reader is stunned to find the stoic, resolute, physically unbreakable Ari Ben Canaan weeping in the small garden of his family home. Turning to look up at the skies, he screams the words of the title there up to the Lord. He begs his Creator to explain to him why an innocent, sweet, beautiful woman had to die so cruelly at the hands of those who sought to destroy everything that he had spent his entire life trying to protect.

That scene has stayed with me ever since I first read it. It comes back to me now every time I read of another Israeli boy or girl killed in the latest episode of violence in an already violent land.

The second book is O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre- sadly, out of print for a very long time. A much more detailed and very closely written historical examination of the state of Israel, it provides the perfect non-fiction complement to the writing in Exodus, explaining the historical background behind the events of Exodus in a way that the reader can easily grasp and understand.

What is remarkable about these two books is how closely they agree on the basic facts of Israel's existence. The first, a work of fiction, unambiguously presents the Jews as righteous and decent people who rebuild their historical homeland out of rock and desert, sweating and fighting and dying to give life to the ancient dream of a land of their own. The second, a work of investigative historical journalism, is far more balanced and nuanced, and presents a great deal of material from all sides of the Israeli War of Independence.

Ultimately, though, they both come to the same conclusion: Israel is the Jewish homeland by right, and the Jews have bought it, and their consequent freedom, through blood and steel and sacrifice.

So when the latest round of hostilities started up, yet again, I was reminded, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, just why it is that Israel needs to defend herself through any means necessary.

No matter how much the liblepr idiot rabbits of the Western media try to spin it, Israel is faced with a daily fight for its very survival. Its people are threatened not merely by Arabs who want their own homeland, but by a "religion" that demands their subjugation, their enslavement, and their destruction. They are daily confronted with a creed that values dead Arabs over live ones- and values dead Jews over all else. They have to deal with a people and a race that has shown exactly zero capacity whatsoever for developing and maintaining an advanced civilisation in the last two hundred years, despite the best efforts of the British, the Americans, the Russians, and even the Israelis themselves to push the Palestinians into something resembling a civilised society.

The useful idiots of the Western media and political elite constantly call for Israel to be investigated for "war crimes". They seem to forget that there has never been a military force in all of human history that has held such a crushing advantage in equipment, training, capabilities, and sheer badassitude over its enemies- and yet still goes to enormous lengths to avoid civilian casualties by warning its enemies to evacuate target zones before bombing them.

The fact remains that no army in history has ever obeyed the Laws of War as scrupulously as Israel's has. No nation in history has ever held such a one-sided military advantage over its enemies, and yet refused to use that advantage to conquer and colonise wholesale its defeated enemies.

It is well past time to end this pretence that Israel is somehow an unjustified aggressor in this latest phase of their never-ending war with Islam and its adherents. Israel has an absolute and completely legitimate right to defend itself from external threats; if hundreds of rockets raining down upon its citizens is not such a threat, then nothing is. Israel's incursions into Gaza are not only thoroughly justified, they are absolutely necessary.

Indeed, I will go rather a lot farther than this and argue that Israel has every right to be far more heavy-handed than it has been in the conflict thus far. The Laws of War dictate that enemy combatants must be clearly identifiable as such; they must wear clear markings to distinguish themselves from ordinary civilians; they must not use civilians to hide from invading forces; and they must adhere to honourable and lawful methods of combat.

The Palestinians have singularly failed to do so- indeed, they embrace openly dishonourable and distasteful methods of war by hiding their weapons among civilians, by telling civilians to stay put even when the Israelis go out of their way to warn those same civilians that an attack is coming, and by using civilians as weapons through the use of suicide-bombing tactics.

When an enemy violates the Laws of War like this, there is only one appropriate response: annihilation. No quarter given, no mercy shown.

In other words, the Israelis would be completely justified in not only occupying Gaza, but colonising it as well- subjugating it as a conquered land and forcing its inhabitants to fall in line whether they like it or not. There really is no other choice at this point.

The tranzis and libprogs of this world will undoubtedly scream bloody murder- but then they already see Israel as a neo-imperialist power as it is, so nothing really changes except that, in their eyes, a de facto situation becomes a de jure one.

The Islamists of this world will do the same- because they know that the one thing that destroys their credibility faster than anything else is the presence of a strong, vital, and powerful Jewish state. There is no clearer refutation of their "religion" than the presence of a Jewish homeland.

There is only one way to secure Israel's future, and that is to do what the Romans did to the lands of barbarian invaders at the height of their strength- take the fight to them, occupy and colonise their lands, and bring the invaders down through fire and steel.

And as for America? The best policy is to leave Israel alone to do its thing and survive as best as it can. America has plenty of problems of its own right now, there is no need whatsoever to go abroad meddling in the affairs of other nations. Especially not ones which, like Israel, can handle things just fine on their own.

The answer to the question that Ari Ben Canaan poses in Exodus, in his agony and grief and despair, is very simple: the Palestinian Arabs do not want to let the Jewish people live because to do so would be to admit that everything they have believed in for 14 centuries is a lie. To do so would be to admit that the Jews are capable of building what the Arabs are not, despite the many and manifest protestations of their so-called "holy book" that the Arabs and Muslims are the best of all peoples. To do so would be to admit that for a hundred years, the Arabs have rotted and decayed in squalor and misery of their own making, while the Jews actually built something worth preserving and protecting.

Israel's fight is its own; history can judge whether or not she fought it well. But it is a thoroughly justified and righteous one nonetheless.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Pay for your own stuff, woman

Mocking feminists is like drop-kicking chihuahuas-
not even all that much fun because it's just too easy
So there I was yesterday afternoon, walking down to the riverfront to eat lunch on a beautiful sunny day, minding my own business and generally trying to avoid getting run over by rude cabbies. It was looking to be a very good day indeed- work was keeping me very busy, there were lots of interesting things to do, I'd ordered lunch ahead so that I could skip the stupid annoying line, and I had a delicious juice smoothie in my hand. And later that night, I would be sparring with my fellow lunatics masochists students at the KM school.

Yes, life as I knew it was very pleasant.

Anon all of this was shattered irreparably by the loud, abrasive, obnoxious voice of an American woman behind me talking to her co-worker about his latest date. Unfortunately, I was forced to suffer the misery of listening to her drivel for the five minutes or so that it took me to reach the waterfront, at which point I promptly headed for the nearest seat along the river, out of earshot.

The conversation went something like this:
Woman: So how did your date with that girl go? 
Man: Went OK, I guess. Thing is, we went out for dinner and I actually sort of forgot to pay for both of us, so she ended up paying for herself. [That last part was said rather sheepishly.] 
Woman: OHMIGOD I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU WOULD FORGET TO DO THAT! YOU'RE SUCH A RETARD! I CAN'T BLAME HER IF SHE THREW A DRINK IN YOUR F***ING FACE!!! [Profanity was a big part of the vocabulary of this particular "lady". I have taken the liberty of "editing" the conversation somewhat. Plus I'm getting old- my short-term memory isn't what it used to be.] 
Man: (Cringing slightly) Yeah, I wouldn't either. But she was European, and I guess they're somewhat more independent and cool with that sort of thing... 
Woman: Look, I've been on, like, a TON of internet dates, and I can't think of a SINGLE time where I've EVER had to pay for my share of the bill- the guy has always paid for me. I can't believe you'd be such a jerk! How could you forget to offer to pay for both of you?!? I'm sure she thinks you're a total douche now! 
Man: Yeah- 
Woman: So I've got this one good friend- well, he's not really a friend, he's a few years younger than me, he's about 32, and he's, like, a TOTAL feminist. Like, MILITANTLY so. Every time I talk to him we get into these big arguments about how women and men should always split the cheque, and how we're all equal and stuff, and he always says that women should pay for their own side of the bill, and I'm like, "no, the man should always pay for everything"...
It was at this point that I managed to escape and eat my lunch in peace, although the day's pleasantness had dimmed considerably. And it gave me a chance to think and reflect upon what I had just heard, through the eyes and ears of a man who has learned quite a lot over the past few years about the realities of women.

What we have here is a classic example of an Empowered Modern Woman talking (down) to a Delta male. She checks all of the boxes:
  • Exaggerated and completely unjustified sense of entitlement;
  • Total inability to grasp facts, logic, and reason;
  • Shrill, grating, irritating personality;
  • Unrealistic expectations about her own sex rank in the SMP
That last part is crucial. Note that, by this lady's own admission, she is in her mid-thirties. I did get a chance to look at her before I finally managed to extract myself from having to listen to any more of this drivel- she was not unattractive, but the years had clearly not been kind to what was once a decent figure and a pretty face. She was thickening a bit around the waist, her face had numerous lines and creases, and her hair was clearly artificially coloured. She looked a bit older than mid-thirties, if I'm honest.

As with most modern American women working in high-powered corporate jobs these days (read: public relations, HR, sales, and in some cases actual marketing, which is in fact a real job- provided you do it right), this "lady" has a significantly overblown sense of her own self-importance in the grand scheme of things. She was clearly fairly affluent, judging by the jewelry she was wearing- as she said, she had been on many internet dates and clearly had not yet found "the Right One". (Meaning, an appropriately submissive Beta buttboy to put an overpriced ring on her finger and thereby cater to her every financial whim.) Yet, despite her professional success and clear affluence, at least some of which is surely founded on credit and debt, she still expected- nay, demanded- that all of her dates pay for her share of meals and drinks.

And of course, being a Modern Educated Empowered Woman*, she rather fails to realise that, on the one hand, she expects her dates to pay for everything; on the other hand, she offers them nothing useful in return. In the space of a few unguarded minutes of conversation, she revealed that she was petty, coarse-mouthed, and ignorant of the way a true conversation works- in other words, she had far less to offer than most women ten or fifteen years her junior, yet expected to be treated just like her younger contemporaries.

This is NOT wife material. It's not girlfriend material. It's barely even ONS or FB material.

Gentlemen, this is exactly what you should not do if you seek to get laid. It's about the stupidest way to go about winning a woman's affections in today's world.

This sort of thing used to work back when women were economically dependent upon men- about sixty years ago, roughly speaking. Back then, showing that you could support yourself and her financially was not really a bad move. Today, it's downright idiotic because women like this are already financially secure- according to themselves, anyway- and they do not need you to give them that security. They need you for other things, but in order to get those things- particularly the important ones, like, well, sex- you now have to pass a truly formidable bitch-shield in the process when dealing with deluded high-status types like the prime example above. You're not going to get past that shield by showering a woman with compliments and paying for everything.

Now let us turn to the statements made by the, er, "man" up there. I didn't get a good look at him, mostly because merely being within earshot of him was making my own testosterone levels drop rapidly, but as far as I could tell he was the Typical American Male- somewhat paunchy, slightly stooped over, a bit pasty-faced. In other words, he was your typical cubicle-dwelling finance type. Simply put, he was a solid candidate for some Red Pill 101.

He did, however, say one thing that I think is quite true. He was not necessarily wrong about European girls. A few months back I went out on a... well it's a bit of a stretch to call it a "date", but it was a pleasant evening even so, and I found the exact same phenomenon. When it came time to call it a night, I whipped out my credit card, she took out hers, and that was the end of it. I didn't have to say one word about who was paying for what, it was simply assumed that she would carry her end of the tab.

I have found this with both (Eastern) European and Asian women- but almost never with American women. I'm not sure what it is about American women that makes them so bizarrely entitled, given that in the cold light of day, most American women fail to compete with their Eastern European and East Asian rivals, but whatever it is, it makes for an exceedingly unpleasant, and expensive, experience when going out on dates.

If, that is, you do things the stupid way and insist on taking a woman out for dinner. If instead you keep things simple and cheap, you are likely to do much better, at far lower cost to yourself.

Gentlemen, this is how it is. This is the world we live in. The old rules do not apply any longer- they have not for decades- and if you play by those rules, you will fail. The new rules are simple:
  • Get strong and fit
  • Get a decent wardrobe
  • Create a lifestyle worth having
  • Get your finances in order
  • Go for simple, cheap dates without ever investing too much in any one woman
Obey them, and you will prosper. Ignore them, and you will suffer.

Ladies, I'm going to make this really simple for you. Feminism has won, so pay for your own s***. If you go out on an expensive dinner date, and your date expects you to pay for your half of the bill, take out your credit card and do it. Fair's fair, after all.

And don't blame us for this mess. This is what you wanted, or at least what you were told you wanted- are you happy now? No? Hey, guess what- you voted for the impossible, and now you have the disastrous possible instead. Well done!

To round this off- a Badd Popp classic:

*MEEW? The cat analogy is just too easy. I swear, it wasn't intentional.