Sunday, December 17, 2006

Corny exam answers

Some of the answers to a question on my final exam this semester were rather corny. But then again, maybe I shouldn't be talking since I had written a question on the diffusion of hybrid corn among U.S. farmers.

By the way, it would make it so much easier if only students could finish their exams in alphabetical order. ;)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Extreme niche Christmas gift suggestion

Today, a letter arrived from the Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education offering me the option of giving two subscriptions as Christmas gifts for $20.00. That is a very nice value--and a very tempting proposition--but I wonder how many people on my list would find this a good match.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stamping out intellectual sloth

For some time, I have been fighting a passionate battle to stamp out the term "etc." from student papers. Frankly, when I see the term, I have very serious doubts as to whether the writer really has any idea at all of what kind of substance is being replaced by the term. I have gone so far--quite far by the standards of a prude--to say that I consider the term fouler than the F-word. At best, its use represents intellectual sloth. More likely, it reflects incompentence and an attempt--conscious or not--to deceive the reader.

Even if a slothful "etc." does not ruin your day, it may significantly reduce one's confidence in personkind.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bringing back delight

Many of my more recent entries have been a bit negative, perhaps reflecting some of the injustices of the world. Now, let me move on to a more delightful subject.

This is finals week. The sad implication of this, of course, is that many students may be somewhat bored from next week until early January. On the positive side, however, I get to give an extremely beautiful final examination on Friday. This time in the semester, I am a firm believer in the idea that it is better to give than to receive. I really hope that the students will appreciate the tremendous treat they will receive. As I have always said, a beautiful exam can be almost as beautiful as a beautiful woman!

For many years, it has been tradition to feature the marketing needs of rap musicians--often named after the school mascott--on my exams. This year, Trojanexcellence has released a new album entitled My Marketing Professor is a Genius.

Disgusting psychopaths

It is getting very tiring that disgusting psychopaths continue to attempt to post spam messages to my guest book. I clearly state that the book is moderated and that spam messages will not be posted, but it appears that someone of them either do not bother to read, think that I may just be bluffing, or are under the illusion that I will be so impressed with their message that I will make an exception.

Ironically, even if the spam had actually been posted, the effort would have been wasted anyway. People who read my web sites and sign my guest book tend to be decent and respectable folks who have no interest in obtaining male performance enhancing substances anyway.

What a waste!

Friday, December 01, 2006

She had a dream

Standing in line today, I overheard a conversation between two women. One reported that she had dreamed about French fries the night before. This obviously gets the attention of a marketing professor. Interestingly, from what I could understand, there were differences between the fries offered at Del Taco and at Baskin Robbins.

Could it be that it is actually dreams that are stranger than fiction?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Is the time dimension optional?

Recently, I woke up to a brief account on National Public Radio on a meeting of theoretical physicists at U.C. Santa Barabara. Some of the string theorists had proposed the idea that there may be certain parallel universes that do not have a time dimension. I found that idea rather disturbing. Perhaps my discomfort was heightened since I had not fully awoken and, at the time, I got the impression that the statement had been to the effect that the majority of parallel universes probably did not have the time dimension. After checking out NPR's web site, I am relieved that the contention did not go quite that far. No agreement was reached that there are actually any such potentially deficient universes around. And, when I think about it, maybe I am letting my earthnocentrism get the best of me. Maybe my thinking of a time dimension as essential results from lack of flexibility in my perspective.

Superstring Theory fascinates me, and I will admit to the reality that it does so in part because I do not understand it. The idea that the universe must have at least nine or ten dimensions for certain mathematical to play out appeals to me. Even if those dimensions have, for all practical purposes, collapsed, having those extra dimensions seems rather cool to me. Wasteful, perhaps, but still rather cool.

The idea of certain universes lacking a time dimension is more disturbing, however. Were they always there, or does that question even make sense? It just does not seem morally wrong--or at least overly stingy--that these universes have not been endowed me a time dimension.

When I reported the idea of members of my family at a recent celebration of my Grandmother's impending birthday, none seemed particularly concerned. In fact, no one even showed any discomfort at all. Maybe they did a good job of hiding it, or maybe the idea needed to sink in before it had any impact, but I was rather disappointed with everyone's apparent lack of empathy for these poor universes.

A number of years ago (on a trip to China, if that has any significance), I discussed the idea of parallel universes with someone who had a background in physics. He suggested that if we would not be able to detect such universes, perhaps they do not really "exist." [The quotes are mine.] That, too, seems rather cold.

Why are these universes known as parallel universes rather than, for example, perpendicular ones? It may be that there can only be a finite number of perpendicular universes, but if other universes may have a different number of dimensions from ours, maybe that is not a relevant question. Also, it is my understanding (admittedly a rather vague one) that in certain forms of non-Euclidian geometry, the term parallel takes on a somewhat different meaning, with all lines meeting at some point in space (presumably because of some relativity like space curvature), so maybe the distinction is not that relevant. If it is, however, could it be that there are both parallel and perpendicular universes? If so, what at there differences between the two kinds?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is it cheaper to be a Republican?

In political communication--as in any marketing task--it often comes down to efficiency. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal and an episode on CBS News reported reseach which demonstrates taste and other differences that tend to help predict political inclinations. Specifically, it was found that whereas Wal-Mart shoppers are more likely to be Republicans, those shopping in Target are more likely to be Democrats. Those who go to Starbucks are more likely to be Democrats; Dunkin' Donuts is more likely to serve Republicans. Republicans are more likely to prefer Bourbon; Democrats are more likely to go for gin. Perhaps not surprisingly, gun ownership and a Wall Street Journal subscription tend to predict Republicanism. It is important to note that although the predictive validity of each variable is modest, in combination, this has proven quite effective in allocating political campaign resources. Unfortunately, the Bush campaign credits--although I would discredit--this campaign for the Bush victory last time. I am not happy that my profession gets that credit. ;) It may be that sunscreen use in the neck area would be a better predictor. Republicans would probably use much less.

Although Republicans are more likely to spend money on guns and ammo, and on a Journal subscription, in the long run, it may be cheaper to be a Republican. I am sure about the relative liquor prices, but, in the long run, discount store shopping and coffee is likely to be cheaper.

The variables did not do all the well for me. It is true that I do not have a gun, but I do subscribe to the Journal and I do frequent Wal-Mart. Admittedly, when I do go for coffee, I favor Starbucks, but the occasion is rare. I don't touch either liquor.

Would I be happier at Target? Maybe I should check out that chain more closely.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Seven pounds of onions?

A local supermarket chain's advertising circular is featuring seven pounds of onions for a dollar. As an avid bargain hunter, I can't argue with the value. However, who in his or her right mind--except for restauranteurs, caterers, and institutional food service administrators--would want seven pounds of onions? Yuck!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You have the right to consult with a marketing professor

In the Miranda vs. Arizona decision, the Supreme Court mandated that individuals under arrest must be informed of their right to avoid self-incrimination. Although this decision has been criticized by some over the years, even the late former Chief Justice William Rehnquist--who generally was not very sympathetic to efforts by criminal defendants to keep evidence out of court--ended up writing a majority opinion that the Miranda warning by now had become so much part of "the American psyche" that it could not be excised from constitutional protections.

Most diet programs and nutritional product labels insist that the user should consult with a physician before implementing any dietary change or exercise program.

Why is it, then, that nobody reminds people of their right and duty to consult with marketing professors--the wisest people on Earth?

Don't get me wrong. I know that attorneys have by far the most accurate technical information on how to address the legal aspects of criminal charges. If arrested, one's first call should probably be to one's attorney. Soon thereafter, however, it might be a good idea to contact a marketing professor to discuss the best ways to maintain one's reputation while being unfairly charged.

We also need to keep in mind that although anything that a criminal defendant says after being advised of his or her Miranda rights can be used against him or her, in non-criminal situations, what you fail to say can work against you. Remaining silent can mean passing up a nice opportunity for profits or--better yet--even supernormal profits. Marketing professors can inspire you to say truly profitable and meaningful things!

Many people don't realize that marketing professors know about much more than just business. If you are ever wondering who to marry or have other important questions on ways to live your life, I cannot think of a more well-rounded and thoughtful person to consult than a marketing professor. Accountants, car mechanics, surgeons, dentists, rock stars, or electrical engineers? I don't think so! Maybe, in a pinch, a management or psychology professor could do, but "the real thing" is invariably best.

And shouldn't you have the right to have a marketing professor present during your marriage proposal in case you have any last minute issues for discussion or if you need to respond to proposalee's response to your question? The right to have one present during any questioning by the proposalee’s parents certainly seems like an essential one!

Will society ever come to realize the injustice of the current situation that communication with attorneys, medical professionals, and member of the clergy are privileged while communications with marketing professors generally are not? How can people be comfortable disclosing information that is important in resolving their situations if the marketing professor can be caused, by misguided prosecutors, judges, and civil litigants, to disclose sensitive information?

I have now doubt that history, in the long run, will vindicate marketing professors and give us our clearly deserved--but long denied--recognition. It's just painful to think of all the people who, in the mean time, will fail to fulfill their potential and will live much less happy lives than they would if would access the guidance of a marketing professor.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Betrayal of Pluto

Back in the late 1990s, it was a matter of tremendous sorrow to me that some severely misguided astronomers wanted to demote Pluto from its rightful status as a planet to a mere asteroid. I couldn't believe their nerve! I was quite surprised how many people seemed to agree with me, and I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally announced that the bozoes would not proceed with that lunacy (pun intended!) after all. It is now clear that my sigh was premature.

The rotten psychopaths have now completely gone off the deep end and have proceeded to recommend that Pluto actually be demoted afterall. This is a clear case of both intellectual and moral bankruptcy! Granted, there is at least one other body that is bigger than Pluto which has not yet been recognized as a planet. Why not promote that planet instead? There is nothing sacred about having fewer than ten planets. Why be so stingy? Is it necessary to have more commandments than planets in the solar system?

As an eccentric individual, I am truly offended that the bozoes have so callously chosen to target the only current planet with a truly eccentric orbit for this treatment. Have they no shame?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Trying to fool the public...

The other day, I had an appointment with the Department of Marketing Designated Administrator in Charge of Faculty Photography at the Marshall School of Business of the University of Southern California (DMDACFPMSBUSC) to have my photograph taken for the faculty description board.

For standardization, the photograph was taken against a door. The light was modest, so it was only after we returned to the department office with three photographs taken that it was noticed that my shirt collar was misaligned. The DMDAFPMSBUSC suggested that we take another photograph, but I pointed that since the picture was intended to show reality and that it would be more likely than not that an absent-minded professor would be found with a collar astray, it might be more realistic to keep the original pictures so that people could recognize me in real life. After some thought, the DMDAFPMSBUSC said, "Then we'll play a trick on them!" I was happy to go along since I never pass up a good prank. ;)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Selling One's Soul on eBay--commentaries

For some reason, I thought of the phrase "sell your soul on eBay" and ran it through Google. I wasn't sure that I would get any hits at all, but amazingly, there were seventy-eight unique references (wtih a total of 168 with duplicate instances within the same site being counted). [1] Fortunately, most of the sites deal either with why this should or cannot be done. One person indignantly states "That's basically stealing someone's money." Others are more cynical--one person denies the possibility because "You have to become a politician or a lawyer first. "

One person actually did try to sell his soul, but eBay would not allow this listing. If you want to find out how he did it, check out;bp=t .

With a slight adjustment, the phrase becomes "sell my soul on eBay." This results in 80 unique hits. Among them: "
I'm going to sell my soul on ebay. Well, not quite. I am going to be selling a lot of little goodies there though. I'm not sure what exactly yet, ...." A disappointed individual reports: "I tried to sell my soul on ebay, no bids. Bummer." Then there is the more contemplative: I actually intend to sell my soul on eBay at some point in the near future."

Yes, I admit it--the thought of trying to make a quick buck on a seminar entitled something like "Getting the Most for Your Soul on eBay" did cross my mind--I was thinking of a price somewhere in the neighborhood of $149 (with a possible group discount) for a half day session. (Unfortunately, those of us on academic salaries may need to supplement our salaries in ways that may be a bit distasteful.) While I am at it, "Beyond Online Auctions: Profit Maximizing Venues for Soul Vending" might make a nice title for an academic paper.

As marketers, we have to think of innovative products and services. The idea of selling one's soul is quite worn by now, and many people find the practice rather objectionable. This is where a contrarian staregy might come in handy. Some segments might be more receptive to the idea of saving a soul. These consumers might more willingly pay for a report entitled "Soul Saving: Ways to Maximize Interest Yield." Does $169 for a thirty page report sound reasonable, or would I need to include some kind of bonus with the offer?

[1] Technical footnote: Since the search was done with the text in quotes, this count does not include other related phrases such as "selling..." in the gerund (resulting in another 26 unique hits and 146 total instances with duplications across sites allowed). If quotes had not been used, there would have been a lot of "false hits" (irrelevant sites using the words in other combinations) and certain intelligent substitutions would be used--e.g., "souls" in the plural would have sufficed.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Life and Thinking of a Prude

The other day, in response to an utterance by my nephew, I asked him if there was any real difference between holy and profane excrement. When he drew a blank, I asked him, then, why he explictly [pun intended!] referred to the former, specifically.

Monday, May 15, 2006

These Dreams...

Most of us probably have strange dreams every now and then. My dreams may be a bit stranger than most, but, as I am fond of saying, if you do a log transformation, I am not that much of an outlier. ;)

This week-end, I dreamed that former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms was taking one of my classes at George Washington University. The timeline involved is not clear.

Recently, I dreamed that an American student wanted to make a call to France from a landline phone in a classroom during class and--to add insult to injury--wanted the class to be quiet during the conversation!

Sometime ago, I dreamed that my sister Anette, a veterinarian, had been appointed Secretary of the Interior (despite the fact that she is probably even more liberal than I am, making a Bush nomination unlikely).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Spammers, Mistarget Marketing, and Streamlined Bigamy

One of the spammers' newest tools to escape e-mail spam filters is sending an e-mail whose visible text actually takes the form of a graphic--thus, current spam filters can't catch references to aphrodesiac substances, mortgage refinancing, and other popular spam topics. (These messages probably contain some text to confuse the filters, but this text--if it is present--is not readily visible.)

These spam messages usually contain some rather strange subject lines. I recently received one ostensibly about "streaml[ining] bigamy." I admit I am rather curious about what this idea entails, let alone how it can be done. Yet, sending this type of message to a prude like me seems like a gross instance of mistarget marketing. It is almost as wasteful as the times when a disgusting, sleezy outfit calling itself Adam and Eve has offered to send me its filthy catalog! Yet, of course, efficiency is not important to most spammers.

This is the second time I have received a graphic (literally, not figuratively) message whose subject heading contained the word bigamy. One hypothesis is that words that occur in the news may be more likely to get through spam filters since a lot of people now subscribe to news alerts.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Don't Know What I'm Missing


Copyright © 2006 Lars Perner

By Lars Perner, Ph.D.

As a person on the autism spectrum, I am at least “sort of” human--at least some of the time. This means that I am subject to many emotions that most ordinary people experience. My experiences may not be typical, but they are human—or at least near human—experiences nevertheless.

Most people have is the drive for attachment. For evolutionary reasons, there are good reasons why people pair up. In my life, I have experienced something akin to love several times. I have fantasized about romance many times and dreamed about finding the perfect match for me. Truth be told, I know that perfection is impossible, and I would be perfectly happy for settle for someone who is merely super-human. I have been deeply touched by hearing about other people’s experiences. I will even admit that I have felt by the experiences of fictional people. When I read novels by Danielle Steel many years ago, I had perhaps too much empathy for some of the characters.

Yet, in my own life, I have never advanced far into relationships. There is only one woman with whom I have had more than one date. One of the reasons here, of course, is that finding the right person is hard work and that the match has to be mutual. To many of the women that I saw as a possibility, I would not have been a suitable match. Many women who would have been intrigued by an “adorable eccentric” like me would not have been suitable for me.

Another issue, however, is whether having a relationship, when we add up everything, really comes out as a net positive experience. Yes, this question sounds very autistic, but I am constantly surprised to see the rather constant conflict between people who actually both like and love each other. Relationships also involve challenges that, to me, are rather frightening. Spontaneity is one of the more terrifying realities of many relationships. It is very difficult for me when decisions are still “up in the air.” I dislike discussing options for things to do with no knowledge of the likely outcome. Or the possibility that a change of plans will be suggested. It may be true that “imaginary lovers never disagree” and “are always there when you need” them, but most people are, for better or for worse, real or—worse yet—fake. As the singer Dann Rogers put it, “Love’s a slice of Heaven—and little Hell.”

Having never had a lasting and significant relationship, I literally don’t know what I am missing. I don’t really know much about the reality of the plusses and minutes of a relationship. I have felt a tremendous attraction to a sequence women in my lifetime. One could call my feelings attraction, love, infatuation, captivation, or any number of other terms. As a sincere and committed prude, lust would probably not be a suitable description, but other word choices abound. The bottom line is that I know the feelings of attraction and longing. Yet, I don’t know if being successful in finding a match would turn out to be a blessing or a curse. Yes, I am intrigued by the possibility of having someone “whisper something soft and kind,” but would the experience really be all that satisfying when push came to shove? In some ways, I am perhaps even more of a “world class hopeless romantic” than Joan Wilder, but I also have an acute sense of danger and strong drive for self preservation! Do I really want to “know what love is?”

Having been alone for so long, I value my freedom. Outside work, I usually do not have to coordinate with anyone what to do and when to do it. Giving up this freedom seems a major sacrifice. Yet, maybe something really worthwhile could result from love! I know this is not rational, but I am human after all.

In a sense, I would like to experience mutual love. It is human to want this. Yet, although I know that a feeling and acting on an attraction are an evolutionary necessity for the species, it is much less clear that this is really in the rational interest of the individual. In the old days, a relationship provided for an important division of labor. This is not as necessary any more. Some people would argue that you don’t need a rational reason for everything in life, but, at the very least, I would really like to hear a truly persuasive irrational reason!

On the issue of children, many people started out like me. In their youth, they had no need for children. As one mature woman, who now had a daughter she loved said, the “very word used to scare [her].” At this point in my life, I no longer doubt that I have made the right decision—or at least avoided making the wrong decision—in not having children. I do not question that many people get genuine joy out of having children. Yet, there is no doubt that I would resent the burden. I believe that my writings can contribute much more to the world in helping parents understand their autistic children and autistic people understand themselves than having children of my own ever could. I do not miss children. I get tired all of a sudden and would resent having to take care of a child. I would also intensely dislike the conflict that inevitably results even between the best parents and children. I rather doubt that I will ever wake up one day and regret I did not have children. I may come to increasingly understand that there would have pros and cons, but I rather doubt I would ever conclude that squandered an opportunity.

The question of love is different, however. In my daily life, I do not usually feel deprived in not having anyone. There have been instances when I have longed for a particular woman, but this comes and goes. When the crisis is over, there is no great void. Love is not easy, and the downside can be considerable. As the singer Ed Bruce put it, “If it [were] easy, everyone would be in love.” So many marriages end in divorce, sorrow, or both. But still, some marriages turn out to be very happy.

Dr. Tony Attwood has commented that many people on the autism spectrum may need a “thimble” of socializing instead of the big oversized sixty-four ounce gulper that many “normal” people seek out. Social interaction, in moderation, is important to me. Perhaps I need a thimble of love, but does love fit into thimbles? Flexibility is not my strong suit, but perhaps—albeit with marked reservations— I could even go for a small cup. I just worry that it might flow over.

Am I avoiding something that is highly overrated and, in reality, likely to be distressing, or am I missing out on something that would truly enrich my life? I don’t know.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Questions about Asperger's Syndrome

Today, I have received a number of inquiries about my writings on Asperger's Syndrome. This may be because of the coverage on "Dr. Phil's" show (which I have heard was not very favorable). Here are some questions that one person sent me along with my answers:

I just read your page. All I have are a few questions.

1. Are you for real?
Yes. ;)

2. No, really, how solid is your Asperger's diagnosis?
Since I have moved several times, I have seen three different psychiatrists and two psychologists who have confirmed the diagnosis.

3. I know nothing about it, does the medical community really know more than I do?

Individual differences between individuals with AS tend to differ a great deal, so you really need to know more about the individual than about AS per se. A lot of research has been done about AS in recent years and we are learning more and more.

4. Are there other individuals, such as yourself, who fit into the DSM-IV definition, but who are also fairly successful in life?

Yes. Temple Grandin has designed more than one third of all cattle processing plants in the U.S. Vermon Smith received the Nobel price is economics a few years ago.

5. Is Aspergers a gift or a curse?
It is probably a bit of both. For many, it is more of a curse. I do not know what life without AS would be like. For some people who have more severe problems, it is much more of a curse.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Two tiny bits of additional waste?

Earlier, I have commented on the "seemingly wasteful universe" with so much matter floating around out there with no apparent use for us. Yes, I know that this is an Earthnocentric point of view, but I will admit to have always been a bit Earthnocentric. I did have to make allowances for the Sun--which sustains life on Earth--and reluctantly for Jupiter, since this giant planet apparently shields the Earth from objects that might have collided with us if they had not been grabbed by Jupiter's gravity.

Now it has been announced that Pluto has at least two more moons--for a total of at least three. Previously, I had not expressed much concern about Pluto--the planet is so small that this amount of waste seems rather immaterial compared to the rest of the universe. Two more puny moons probably won't make the situation much worse, anyway. It is entirely possible that Uranus and Neptune do some good, too, but I am more skeptical here, and their number of moons might be a bit mor excessive...