Monday, August 14, 2006


I'm actually a little embarrassed that I just finished reading Freakonomics. Primarily because everyone is reading it - it's still in the top 5 on the Minnesota non-fiction list according to the Strib and the reprint has been out for over a year. I've never really been a top 10 reader, and the fact that my manager stopped by my office to tell me about how "We" really enjoyed it as a books-on-tape (in his defense, I don't think it was a royal We unless he refers to his wife that way) didn't help. I have an anti-authoritarian streak in me that extends right down to someone telling me a more efficient way to get to my cube. That streak has been reinforced in the last several days, and the fact that I'm doing the gem install for Ruby on Rails right now speaks to how desperately I want to break free of conformity.

Yet, despite all I'd heard and all I expected, I still enjoyed Freakonomics immensely. I don't think I've read anything so easy to read in quite a while, particularly given the amusement factor of each chapter. I think my favorite part was where Levitt discusses how names are cycled down from the rich, to the not so rich, to the no money at all, to oblivion, until the rich like them again. I've always been convinced this is somewhat how everything works, so statistical proof is just damn funny. What's even funnier is page 190 where Levitt notes (near the area where he talks about some poor bastard named shuh-TEED (Shithead)) that "We all know names fall and rise--witness the return of Sophie and Max from near extinction..."

I don't have one nephew niece named Sophie or Max, I have both, and they're both from the same family, and they are not poor, unless owning a cookie factory and a house in Chicago qualify you as not as well off as the Nabisco clan. As proof goes, that's strong stuff. But then my other nephew, Oliver, shows up in the richest white boy names, and a trend to Celtic/Irish names shows up as well (nephew Arthur, nephew Oliver, daughter Eryn?), and a tendency to replace i's with y's in the more well-off monikers (Er"y"n). I would be the first to admit that my clan is not poor. While we don't have million dollar houses, we do own an average of two houses apiece when you diivy up the rental property and cabins, and some of the rental property is worth more than the 1000' square feet per person my family inhabits (my liberalness quails at that space-to-person ratio - the only way I can justify is to note that my dining room/kitchen takes up over 1/3 of the house and that it has a table that cost me $0 as it used to serve as a meeting table for a local union), so there's no shortage of wealth, even if it is tied up in structures and not anything portable (we don't even own a flat screen). My niece A... doesn't show up on any of the lists, but she's named after a severely pretentious movie (that I like), so I imagine on some level she qualifies as well. There's just so much anecdotal evidence without leaving my immediate surroundings that it's like Levitt was hanging out somewhere in my house where I couldn't see him.

Which reminds me, LissyJo is sure that my niece is a genius. I fully believe this is so, despite the stair diving. But it's my job, as LissyJo's big brother, to burst her bubble (read the comments, people) when I get the chance because big brothers, well, it's their job to be pragmatic and f-ing annoying to a degree that's unattainable by others. And not annoying in the same way middle brothers are annoying, but intellectually annoying, or pseudo-intellectually annoying, which is all I really ever hope for, which you'd know if you were in my space for any length of time. Americans of an Asian heritage (AoaAH? that's so stupid...Happy Americans Pacifically Pre-Ancestored? At least that fits with Happa, but it's not much better) generally test at a 5-10% higher level than caucasians (so sayeth not only Steven Levitt, but various other sources of data)...doesn't that mean, in order to compete with other AoaAHs/Happas, my niece has to have a 10% greater vocabulary than your average kid, or she has to learn her vocab 10% earlier and maintain that lead in order to compete with others in her demographic? So, LissyJo should assess A...'s level and then subtract 10%, like some sort of golf handicap, in order to compare her to the other kids she knows, unless those kids are of a similar demographic.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it. Especially his theory about abortion and lower crime rate.

LissyJo said...

Yeah--You are annoying, it's true. It was more "f-ing annoying" in my younger days. I think some of it rubbed off--I have convinced our 4 year old neighbor kid that he needed to practice daily in order to learn how to lick his elbow. *That's* the kind of annoying you are.

As far as Baby's vocab handicap...Wouldn't it actually be 2.5%-5% because she's *half* asian? She only gained half the bennies of being such?

Scooter said...

I'm pretty sure that 2.5-5% comment means you just called C dumb...or at least implied he has stupid DNA.