Perspectives

Yesterday there was a man in the dining hall who is not normally there. In fact, it was probably the first and last time he would be there. Picture a stereotypical Buddhist monk. That’s close to what he looked like. I don’t think he was actually a Buddhist monk though. He had a bunch of food in plastic packaging arrayed in front of him, and a white pentagonal wagon covered in red letters. I don’t remember the exact words, but the message was something about peace and love. Also, a brief mission statement. That was a subject that he was happy to talk about when asked.

He told me that he had decided to walk across the entire world, living only off the generosity of others. He would accept gifts of food, water and clothing, but never money. Not a single penny. “But,” said I, “how do you intend to walk the whole world? You would need to cross an ocean eventually to do that.” To that, he said this: “in ten years, I will be in Argentina. There, I will get on a sailboat. No motor, no pollution. I will sail across the ocean once.” I asked him how he could justify his stock of plastic-wrapped food if he were concerned about pollution. He said that it was a necessary evil: he couldn’t get food otherwise. He said that humans were a necessary evil. He told me that, confronted with the evil of his existence, he once tried to kill himself. Now, he seeks to correct a decadent society. He told me that humans were too concerned with their own pleasure – that they had lost sight of their purpose, and that they had lost sight of a simple truth of the universe. He told me this: everything is alive. Every rock, every tree, every molecule, even the empty space between atoms or between worlds. I was a little skeptical of that part, but “life” isn’t as well-defined as I’d like to think. Gesturing wildly, he told me these things.

The last time I saw the man, he was still in the dining hall, talking to a pair of security guards. He was gone this morning.

Earlier this evening, I was running along the shore when a different man cried out to me from the beach. Maybe beach is the wrong word. Beach implies sand, while this was more of a rocky slope down to the ocean. English ought to have a word for that. Anyway, this robust-looking bearded man was showing a thick, wet rope to me. He said this: “this is a basket.” I probably looked a little confused, so he explained further. He was collecting rope that had washed up on the shore. Then, he was going to make it into baskets. I agreed that it was a good idea. He told me this: “any gesture is important, even if it’s just symbolic.” Then he thanked me for attending the Standing Rock protests. That struck me as a little odd, mostly because I never actually did that. So I told him that I’d donated (which was true) but hadn’t been there in person (also true.) He said it didn’t matter that I hadn’t been there in person, and thanked me.

After that, I ran through Point Ruston. It looks like a fairly high end neighborhood, but the construction work makes it difficult to navigate. Then, I went up a hill and turned back toward campus.

The Bachelor

The Monday night before coming back to campus consisted of me sitting, wrapped up in layers of blankets, drinking tea, and attempting to correctly answer Jeopardy questions. It was the 9th of January and 574 miles away, in her hotel room, Emily happened to be watching the same episode. We both knew the final Jeopardy question answer (“Calling him a red-headed madman, in 1889 a group of his neighbors signed a petition to ban him from his home in Arles, France.”) and my attention faded away from the TV as advertisements began to play.

Somehow I didn’t change the channel before the next show began to play. Somehow Emily didn’t either. My previous knowledge of The Bachelor extends only to the excerpts on the cover of the drama-centric magazines that are on display in the queue at the grocery store. But that night Emily and I got caught in the show, both of us amused by the antics of the participants. I sent her a text in all caps asking, “WHO EVEN IS CORINNE” and I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

On the first day back of classes, we sat side by side in the back row of our Economics of Online Dating class. We were put in small groups and read articles about different forms of online dating — I read up on the Japanese speed dating trend of wearing surgical masks and Emily discussed match.com’s pop-up store. She turned to me near the end of class, “We need to watch the next episode of The Bachelor.”

The professor heard her and said, “Yes. We should talk about that in class on Thursday.”

Under the guise of watching it for class, we gathered with Nathan and Thomas to watch the episode. We refrained from having high expectations and were all impressed. Nathan fell off the couch from laughing and we were all jealous of the amount of time Corinne spent napping.

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In class on Thursday I explained the premise of the show and used my knowledge of the show to create my own model of Nick’s choices.

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I then computed the expected utility of each activity to determine who Nick should spend more time with. The math is as follows:

The expected utility of spending time with Corinne:

EU = (.01)(3000) + (.25)(-25) + (.74)[(.30)(60) + (.40)(40) + (.30)(30)]
EU = 55.57

The expected utility of spending time alone:
EU = -10

The expected utility of spending time with another girl in the house:
EU = (.45)[(.13)(-150) + (.79)(70) + (.08)(3000)] + (.30)[(.95)(-10) + (.05)(-5)] + (.15)[(.55)(-30)     + (.45)(20)]
EU = 120.06

The model makes a specific set of assumptions, specifically that Nick’s personal motives within the show are to find a spouse and not someone who he will have a short romantic relationship with. Each possible outcome has been determined by previous occasions on the show (i.e., during one episode, Corinne presented Nick with a bouncy castle, so they could spend time in it together). Actions were given a positive utility if Nick appeared to enjoy them and a negative utility if Nick seemed uncomfortable in the situation. Corinne’s nature makes her a less probable future spouse; however, Nick will gain the same amount of utility from falling in love with her as he would from falling in love with anyone else in the house. To optimize his individual choice and increase his chance of falling in love, Nick should spend time with girls other than Corinne.

Given that the expected utility of spending time with Corinne is 55.57, the expected utility of spending time alone is -10, and the expected utility of spending time with another girl in the house is 120.06, Nick will gain the most utility from spending time with girls other than Corinne.

In my research for the show I found that the bachelor makes upward of $100,000 per season; however, none of the contestants are paid. In fact, some women spend upwards of $40,000 on their wardrobe for the show, which makes the entire ordeal that much more fascinating. Theoretically, for some women, spending thousands of dollars and finding a spouse within the span of a few months is a positive balance of cost and benefit. 

Emily and I have managed to work in Bachelor references in every unit our Economics of Online Dating class has covered so far. In our last discussion, which was on cheap talk, Emily brought up the fact that contestants on the show have been telling Nick exactly what he wants to hear, for fear of being eliminated. The video below is reenactment of an example of a drunk contestant attempting to connect with Nick. Her attempts, as you will see, were rather peculiar (adding to the “,, ???” factor of the show) and immediately following this conversation she was sent home.


Although a good portion of The Bachelor is centered around cheap talk and putting your best self-forward, there are specific opportunity costs which validate some of the cheap talk.

  • From the perspective of the females on the show: almost every one of them has stated during the show, “Do you think I would go through this if I wasn’t here for the right reasons?” Combined with their lack of funding for participating in the show, contestants literally pause their life in an attempt to find “the one.”
  • From the perspective of the bachelor: approximately once an episode, the rose ceremony occurs. Every girl Nick hands a rose to stays on the show and the few he doesn’t hand a rose to are eliminated. There is an opportunity cost to giving a girl a rose and it reinforces the idea that she might be “the one.” At least she is more likely to be “the one” than the girl who was just sent home.

However, the continued presence of “the villain” (i.e., Corinne in this season) calls into question the motive of the bachelor. Is he taking the show seriously if he continues to give a rose to the girl who continually disrespects everyone else? If he’s not taking the show seriously, then what’s the point? Moreover, if he’s spending a majority of his free time with Corinne and not the other girls, is it merely cheap talk when he tells other girls that he feels as if they have created a bond? But, even if he is being serious, out of 19 seasons of The Bachelor there is only a 16% success rate and a a 5% marriage rate. (For a full list of outcomes from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, see here.)

We’ve watched the show every week and have mostly dropped the pretense of watching it for class. There’s something therapeutic about watching a stupid television show with friends and getting caught up in the drama — you don’t need to think while watching the episode and everyone groans at the same moments and you’re all there watching it together.

Four Weeks In…

These past four week I’ve been so preoccupied with school, that I hadn’t realized how quickly time has gone by. It only felt like yesterday were we rolling our luggage’s across the asphalt in front of the Wheelock, across campus to our home away from home. Unpacking a little piece of home that has travelled with us across the skies. But so much has happened since then.

Four weeks in…

We celebrated the Lunar New Year.

Chinese New Year, the year of the rooster, fell on January 28th. Celebrating the new year away from home has always been a bittersweet moment. It makes me happy when I follow the traditions of the new year because it reminds me of home. But that always leads to me missing home. It’s always difficult to celebrate the new year away from family, but it’s easier when you can celebrate it with others. Every year the Chinese department holds a lunar new year celebration. Within the Chinese department, student and faculty gather together to decorate the 2nd floor of Wyatt, paint calligraphy, and eat food together like a family. Then there was a separate celebration from the public that was held in the Rotunda, where people could partake it different arts and crafts. And the night ended with a performance from Jesse Appell, an intercultural comedian and Fulbright Scholar Alumni who researched Chinese comedy.

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We had our first snow fall of the year.

Since freshman year, I have been waiting for this moment. For those four years, I have been waiting for the snow to come. And come it did. It was a magical winter wonderland. Everything was covered in a blanket of white snow. Growing up in California, there was never any snow. Unless you drove 4 hours north to Tahoe. So, I took advantage of this opportunity. Just like freshmen year, my friends and I had snowball fights, built snowmen, and just admired the beautiful sight that was all around us.

Plus, a bonus to the snow day was having classes cancelled aka two days where I didn’t have to go to my 8 am O chem class!

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Friends & Spaces

Friendship is one thing, and living with a friend is something else. It’s often when you live with someone you learn more about them than you did before, a lot more and sometimes that can put a strain on your relationship. You see them a lot more voluntarily making plans and involuntarily due to the nearness of your living situations. Or you could see someone a lot less, take it for granted you would hang out and see each other a lot even if its in passing getting ready in the morning or going to bed at night. But one thing’s for sure, proximity to friends influence your relationships with them.

Little Birds

This morning, I was walking home from the sub. I’d just gotten breakfast. Most people on this campus do that. On a weekday morning, most of those people would have then headed off to class. It is, however, Saturday. Some people immediately run off on trips with friends after breakfast. I am not one of those people. Some people walk directly back to their houses or dorms after breakfast. That’s a bit closer to what I did this morning, but I did not take the shortest path. There is an argument to be made that the shortest path is the most efficient, but that is nonsense. It’s the most time-efficient, but one sacrifices exercise.

Also, if I’d taken the shortest path I wouldn’t have seen the birds this morning. I was swinging around the northwest side of campus to enjoy the nice, rainy weather when I saw them. If I were a birdwatcher I could have identified them, and if I were diligent about photography I might have photographed them, but I did neither. They appeared to be less than half a foot in length and darted about with the speed and agility of insects. As they hopped about beneath the shelter of the trees, the birds didn’t seem to care that it was raining. They didn’t care about anthropology or mathematics or philosophy. They certainly didn’t care about politics.

If this were another era, I might say that we can always have faith in little birds. That though kings and empires might rise and fall, the little birds would always be there. But I can’t say that honestly. Not now. In a time and place where Wrath has come into vogue, it’s hard to be optimistic about the future. Still, I liked the little birds. If I were a more brazen writer, I would dedicate myself to saving them on the spot. As I am, I merely pledge to remember them.

Eventi

August 2015 I sat upstairs in the sub while Chili took a panorama picture of our group and Maddy wrote a semi-joking review of Eventi in the app store that read: “It hasn’t finished downloading but it will be the best app I have ever downloaded. Now I don’t need to stop my trudge down the stairs to stare at tiny print on posters. Instead I can simply look on this app. Thank god, for the Chillster.”

Before this, I knew Eventi as “this thing” Chili was working on with “this guy” named Banji. Over the course of the semester, my knowledge of Eventi and its developers would dramatically increase. I spent hours next to Banji as he made mock posters and worked on android development and I watched as Eventi morphed from a rough idea to a concrete application Puget Sound desperately needed.

Posters are one of the first things visiting students notice about our campus. A girl in one of my classes last semester claimed they were part of the reason Puget Sound immediately felt like a home. Yet, posters come with side effects. After being surveyed, many liberal arts schools in the Pacific Northwest acknowledged they face extreme poster blindness when advertising events. Students don’t see individual events, instead they see a wall littered with posters.

For each event, it is recommended that 100 posters be printed. With dozens of advertised events occurring every week, poster printing quickly multiples. It’s estimated that over 14,500 posters are printed every semester. For a campus proudly claiming “Loggers Live Green,” it seems like we have developed a habit of unsustainable advertising.

Eventi offers a simple and manageable solution. Instead of wasting paper and club budget money via poster advertisements, clubs and departments are now able to upload their event poster and information to Eventi. Users are able to view posters by day or by category (i.e., Math & Computer Science Lectures or Athletics). Once an interesting event is found, a user can choose to favorite it and add a notification before the event occurs.

Figuring out what events to attend and how to find event information has been simplified and made functional by Eventi and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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To find out more and upload event information, see: http://eventi.pugetsound.edu/.

Download Eventi for iOS or download Eventi for android.