Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jack LaLanne: 1914-2011

I never met Mr. LaLanne, but I am a Board member of the Berkeley YMCA where he was a long-time member and supporter (emeritus). I certainly watched him on television, as a kid, and always marveled at his 'feats of fitness'. Our society owes him a huge debt of gratitude for helping to lead the way to the importance of a fit and healthy body.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Angry Uncle Beats Nephew For Being A Gangster On FaceBook


This is an example why parents need three hands. One hand to keep the kid from running, a second hand to train the belt onto the wayward backside of a dependent knucklehead, and finally, a third hand to hold up his own temporarily belt-less pants.

I don't agree with this man's language, but he is making a point I can get behind. Note: this was not a beat-down, but rather an old-fashioned whipping, with more ritual and embarrassment, with a side-order of pain, to get and keep young man's attention to the message.

James C. Collier


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Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Are Europeans In Such A Hurry?

The average work pace of an employed German citizen is faster than anybody else on the planet. Irish people walk faster than everybody else. The Swiss have the most accurately set, and re-set, timepieces, and across all measures they live life at the fastest overall pace. So says the research of Professor Robert Levine, of Cal State Fresno, author of "A Geography of Time" (here).

So why does this matter? Life is not a race, is it? Well, it kind of is. Living at a faster pace is like speeding in your car. Speeding safely requires that the driver look farther down the road, with more accurate anticipation of what lies ahead. So, the skill that makes Lewis Hamilton a champion Formula One driver is his ability to see, think, and react ahead of his 200 mph race car, better than the competition. Speed and great anticipation go hand-in-hand in societies, as well as speed freaks.

Historically, when fast-paced societies meet up with slower ones, the faster folks easily dominate. When all difference is accounted for, the ‘early bird’ does indeed get the worm, the girl, the nice house, the fancy car, the fat paycheck. The speedy get the upper hand and never release their lead, unless the rules of competition are somehow changed. America is slowing down. Mexico is dead last (of those the professor studied) on the speed of living scale, according to Levine’s research observers. African countries and their transplants seem to compete with Central and South Americans for slowness.

Mind you, being fast does not make you better, per Professor Levine (or me), it just makes it easier to master your domain and dominate others. The Swiss, German, or Japanese ideals arguably leave much happiness on the table, while their people speed about their lives. I recall searching a toy store in Frankfurt airport for my son - not a model Porsche in sight. Nevertheless, the influence of pace is uncontestable. The next time you see lateness or earliness in yourself, or others who look similar or different, take a moment to consider how the speed and pace, and horizon, of different cultures plays into who is on top, and who is not.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do Black People Avoid COSTCO?

This past Sunday in the late afternoon I went shopping at a packed working-class Costco in Richmond, CA. I was surprised by the scarcity of African-American shoppers. While I waited in line, I counted 100 similar waiting shoppers, but fewer than 10 Blacks. As background, Richmond has a ton of Black residents (36%), as does nearby West Berkeley and North and West Oakland. Black employees looked to be more than 50%. I checked my perception with a friend I ran into, and he confirmed it.

So, why so few Black shoppers? From an economic standpoint, the deep-discount and bulk savings available would seem a natural draw to economically-constrained Blacks, similar to working-class Latinos, Asians, Whites, and everybody else, but t’is not the case. I could be off by a bit, but I peg my savings, over standard grocery retail, at 25-40%, and well worth the long lines and the $60 annual member fee, regardless of income level.

Maybe Black folks are in church all day on Sunday, making me just another heathen who picked the wrong day to notice, but I have another theory. It has to do with time-horizons - that degree to which someone looks ahead, relative to their peers. In order to shop effectively for grocery items at Costco, one must plan at least a month into the future, and have the desire to stick to the economic and dietary script they have created. My own mother did this very well thirty years ago, with a big freezer and pantry in the basement.

I was told, by more than one Black person I have since asked, that most (not all) Blacks cook, eat, and grocery shop, on a much shorter time-horizon by comparison to other groups, which does not lend itself to taking advantage of the significant discounts and savings of longer-term shopping at places like Costco. This thinking is consistent with studies on wealth and inequality (here).

If my observation is correct, Black folks need to go to school on the benefits of stretching a dollar by stretching their dietary time-horizons. This is the opposite of the current saturation of Black and low-income neighborhoods with fast-food establishments, with the host of obesity health issues in tow (here). Nevertheless, I remain skeptical about what I saw at Costco. I wonder if I am just missing something. Perhaps one of this blog’s astute readers can help?

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

I verbally tore into my teenage son last weekend because he failed clean up the yard, as he’d been assigned. The Christmas tree, that went begging all week to be taken down and properly disposed of, compounded my angst; another task he and his vacationing sister had been given.

I grounded him, not because of the magnitude of the error, but rather due to his casual approach to his responsibilities. This same kid can be a great student and state contender in the high jump if he puts his mind and body to the tasks, but we will see. However, unlike the Ivy-League “Chinese” mother in the WSJ article of the same name as this post (here), I do not plan to browbeat the boy into his potential. I will set high expectations and expect him to meet them (with support), and sometimes punish him to make the point. If he chooses to sit on his butt, I will not manhandle him, except that he will get no extraordinary help from me once self-induced mediocrity takes over his life.

I believe parents should make kids do some things, while allowing options, as well. My daughter could have been a top swimmer, but did not have the drive. Forcing her to swim was a consideration that would have had us all miserable. Alternately, I still remember the tragedy of her 9th grade algebra tutor; a straight A Asian kid who seemed happy until the day he hung himself. Within their pain, I am sure his parents felt many things, and superiority was probably not one of them. My daughter’s (and son’s) shot at long-term fullfillment is much more important than youthful championships. I try to walk a finer line than the “Chinese” mother, because true happiness is poorly described by academic achievement or athletic achievement alone.

What I sometimes have to remind myself is that what I really want are content, well-adjusted young adults – not trophies to my great parenting skills or good genes.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Acting White: Asians and Blue Eye Color

I was asked, from my earlier post (here) on Blacks and Blue Eyes, if Asians, as well, can have blue eyes. I was not sure. Cannot say that I have personally witnessed this, but the answer is yes. Additionally, as you see in the picture, Asians can have red hair too. The reasons this can happen are the same for why it can happen with Blacks and others. Whites have no proprietary genetic ownership of certain eye colors, hair colors, skin hues or other features. Mutations, syndromes, or just simple random breeding, along with the influence of the varying environments of the globe and time make everything possible. (Click on picture to enlarge).

I have also been asked about natural blond-haired blacks. I found many examples, including this one.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ten Ways to Know You Are NOT a Mama’s Boy

I have been researching matriarchal societies/cultures and the degree to which they result in males with dysfunctional attachments to their mothers, including the havoc this rains on the family. This has me thinking and writing about my own mother, and I figured she might get a chuckle out of some of my thoughts, given her most recent health events.

You are NOT a mama’s boy if…

1. The day you broke your arm playing little league baseball, the ER nurse called your house and your mother’s first words were, “I don't care how much it hurts. Don’t cut that shirt off that boy, it’s brand new!”

2. After you blew out the candles on your 16th birthday cake, your mother exclaimed, “only two more years and you are out of here!”

3. Your mother said these, or similar, motivating words, “you better learn how to do something, or no woman will ever want you." (I assumed this included her too)

4. As a little league football running back, you could count on your mother to sprint the sidelines yelling for you to run faster, because, “they’re catching you!”

5. When you got stitches for a bad cut on your face, your mom comforted you by saying girls like boys with scars, because it means they are tough. (Kind of hard to whine after that little bit of comfort).

6. Your mother was famous for saying, “wait until your father hears about this”, knowing that you would fill in the sobering blanks with, “he is going to whip your behind, good!”

7. Only once did your mom ever bring home a package and tell you to put it in your closet and not open it until she said the ‘coast was clear’.

8. She called you one day in college, out of the blue, and asked you if you were being a ‘nice guy’, and said that if the answer was no, then you better “straighten-up, and go back and apologize, before it’s too late”.

9. Your mom has never ridden shotgun in a car which you were driving, and that also contained your fiancé, or wife.

10. After suffering a mild stroke, she demanded that you stop calling her every day, ‘just to check in’.

Good health to you mom! (I love you)

James C. Collier


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