Mortgage sluts

Fascinating article in Business Week reveals the seedier side of the now near dead mortgage broking business:

It may seem like ancient history now, but not long ago the mortgage industry was turning ordinary people into millionaires. One of them was Sharmen Lane, a high school dropout who, like many other young women during the boom, found her way into an obscure banking job with the clunky title “mortgage wholesaler.” Her experience—and the experiences of other wholesalers like her—offers a glimpse into the recklessness and indulgence that drove the industry to ruin.

The rise of mortgage wholesalers from grunts to rainmakers is one of the more curious developments of the housing bubble. Wholesalers work for banks and other lenders. The wholesaler’s job is to buy loan applications from independent mortgage brokers so that lenders can turn them into loans. Wholesalers are paid on commission: the more loans they generate, the more money they make.

…But as the housing bubble inflated, wholesalers—though hidden from public view—became high-earning superstars. Lane, a manicurist before joining now-defunct subprime lender New Century Mortgage in 1997, says she brought home $1 million in 2002 and $1.2 million in 2003.

Eventually the deal-making turned frenetic. Multiple wholesalers began inundating mortgage brokers with offers for the same applications. Some brokers chose to exercise their power by asking for something extra in exchange for their business: sex.

Dozens of former brokers and wholesalers say the trading of sexual favors was so common that it came to be expected. Lane recalls one visit to a mortgage brokerage near San Jose (Calif.) in which the manager lewdly propositioned her in his office. She says she declined the advance, and he didn’t sell her any applications. But other female wholesalers didn’t have the same qualms about crossing the line. “Women who had sex for loans were known very quickly,” says Lane, who left New Century before it failed in 2007 and now works as a $200-an-hour life coach and motivational speaker in New York. “I didn’t want to be a mortgage slut.”

Read more at Sex, Lies, and Subprime Mortgages – BusinessWeek

The ultimate back-up: Yourself

Tim Ferriss’s latest post coincided perfectly with something I have been thinking about recently:  Making a back-up of myself.

In a post entitled “How to Store Sperm in 4 Steps – Just in Case”, he writes :

“I never thought I’d visit a sperm bank.

Perhaps it was flipping a motorcycle at 90 mph on Infineon Raceway.
Perhaps it was tearing my Achilles tendon in jiu-jitsu practice, then getting thrown on my head.
Maybe having my scuba mask fill with blood at 120 feet underwater in Belize?

That could have done it.

Or perhaps is was just crossing the 30-year age threshold and having friends who didn’t make it. 9/11, suicide, accidents — bad things happen to good people.

I’ve came to realize in 2007: it’s really not that hard to die. And that’s when I started thinking about storing my genetic material.

Yes, my little swimmies.”

I have already have a will and a Living Will , so this is the next step in an ultimate back-up.

Since I am absolutely certain that I would like to have children, there are two advantages:

1. I have a back-up in the event anything happens medically to prevent me from being able to have children. The massive rise in male infertility means that it may already be too late, but if it is not, best keep healthy sample of the “troops”.

2. In the event I die unexpectedly my partner would be able to have my children if she so chose (and I would hope she would).

Now my growing interest in the Quantified Self led me to consider getting my genes analysed, it seems logical to make a back-up too.

Wilson defects to the Group Selection Squad

It was only a matter of time before there was a big name defection – and this is it.

The Group Selection Squad led by Howard Bloom now welcome into their fold the great O.E. Wilson.

In his new book  – “The Superorganism” – he accepts that widely accepted theory of kin selection doesn’t explain the origin of altruism.  For the Boston Globe:

It is a puzzle of evolution: If natural selection dictates that the fittest survive, why do we see altruism in nature? Why do worker bees or ants, for instance, refrain from competing with those around them, but instead search for food or build nests on behalf of their companions? Why do they sacrifice their own reproductive success for the good of the group?

In the 1960s, British biologist William Hamilton offered an explanation in a theory now called kin selection. When animals, often insects, help siblings or other relatives survive, they are enhancing the odds that their shared family genes will be passed on. In other words, the genes, not the individual or social group, are what counts in evolution.

Hamilton’s idea was eventually accepted by most biologists, and found an enthusiastic backer, at the time, in Edward O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard evolutionist.

That was then. Now, Wilson has changed his mind, startling colleagues by arguing that kin selection does not lead to altruism.

Kin selection is a scientific crutch, a “very seductive” idea that “doesn’t tell us anything decisive about how altruism originated,” Wilson says. He adds: “We need a whole new way of explaining things.”

He has one. Wilson posits that altruism evolved due more to ecological circumstances than the influence of genes.

In his new book “The Superorganism,” out today, Wilson and his co-author, Bert Holldobler, argue that natural selection operates on the group, not just the gene. The lavishly-illustrated volume examines the complex systems that help insect societies survive, from an intricate array of communication signals to the elaborate architecture of nests. But Wilson – though not Holldobler – goes further, saying altruism occurs not because animals share family ties, but because certain altruistic acts have become useful for the overall survival of insect groups.

“The close kinship of the members of these groups is a consequence, not a cause, of their evolution,” says the ever-genial Wilson in an interview at his home in Lexington. He believes altruistic (or eusocial) societies developed in ecological conditions where food was plentiful enough to allow insects to practice “progressive provisioning,” in which a mother leaves its offspring with food, as some wasps or bees do. This creates a need for others in the insect society to stand guard over the young.

Given these conditions, Wilson postulates, an insect group experiencing a single beneficial genetic mutation – such as the ability to distinguish nest mates from outsiders, a trait many insects possess – might adopt altruism as a useful social behavior.

This is a huge boon for the brilliant Howard Bloom (The Global Brain) and his allies like David Sloan Wilsion (Darwin’s Cathedral) and Kevin Kelly (Our of Control).  Even Steve Pinker came out and supported the possibility of group selection in his “Dangerous Idea” for Edge question 2006.

Look out for a follow-up post with comprehensive links to Howard Bloom resources and podcasts.

E.O. Wilson Returns to the Hive With Superorganism Tome – Wired Magazine

‘Superorganism’ book launch features authors, adventures – Arizona State University

A Brief History of the SuperOrganism – Part 1

A Brief History of the SuperOrganism – Part 2

The considered life hits the mainstream

The Washington Post has picked up on the lifelogging/lifestreaming/quantified self phenomenon, albeit from somewhat lurid and mocking angle: From the WP’s article Bytes of Life:

When San Francisco couple Brynn Evans and Chris Messina heard of a new Web site called BedPost, they registered an account before the site was even out of beta. BedPost was created to map users’ sex lives online — everything from partner to duration of the encounter to descriptive words, which could later be viewed as a tag cloud.

Relationships and one-night stands alike, condensed to spare, inflexible data in a way that might make the average user uncomfortable. Or simply baffled.

But for Evans, a grad student studying cognitive science, and Messina, a Web entrepreneur, the site was just what they needed.

After all, they already use project-management site Basecamp to chart the nonsexual parts of their relationship.

They use location tracker BrightKite.com to study where they’ve been.

They track their driving habits on MyMileMarker.com, their listening habits on Last.fm, and their Web-surfing habits, to the minute, on RescueTime.com.

“Brynn uses a service to track her menstruation,” says Messina helpfully. (Two of them, in fact: MyMonthlyCycles.com and Mon.thly.info). Some of these trackings are visible to other people, but mostly the couple monitors the information just for themselves.

Before BedPost, they’d been using an Excel spreadsheet to track each interlude since the beginning of their six-month relationship, though they found the interface limiting. They saw BedPost and thought, “Oh, look, this guy’s doing this, too, and he’s actually making plots of it. Plotting was cool,” says Evans.

Yes, plotting was cool.

The ability to visualize trends over time.

This is one of Kevin Kelly’s big themes. I found this article via his blog quantifiedself.com.

Finding the gay "switch"

Homosexuality may persist because the associated genes convey surprising advantages on homosexuals’ family members.

If there is one thing that has always seemed obvious about homosexuality, it’s that it just doesn’t make sense. Evolution favors traits that aid reproduction, and being gay clearly doesn’t do that. The existence of homosexuality amounts to a profound evolutionary mystery, since failing to pass on your genes means that your genetic fitness is a resounding zero. “Homosexuality is effectively like sterilization,” says psychobiologist Qazi Rahman of Queen Mary College in London. “You’d think evolution would get rid of it.” Yet as far as historians can tell, homosexuality has always been with us. So the question remains: If it’s such a disadvantage in the evolutionary rat race, why was it not selected into oblivion millennia ago?  Psychology Today: Finding the Switch

Thanks to Abelard for the heads up.

Marked-up birds become sexier, exude testosterone – Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON (Associated Press) – A little strategically placed makeup quickly turns the wimpiest of male barn swallows into chick magnets, amping up their testosterone and even trimming their weight, new research shows. It’s a “clothes make the man” lesson that — with some caveats — also applies to human males, researchers say.

Using a $5.99 marker, scientists darkened the rust-colored breast feathers of male New Jersey barn swallows, turning lighter birds to the level of those naturally darkest.

They had already found, in a test three years ago, that the marked-up males were more attractive to females and mated more often. This time they found out that the more attractive appearance, at least in the bird world, triggered changes to the animals’ body chemistry, increasing testosterone.

Marked-up birds become sexier, exude testosterone – Los Angeles Times

So here we see a classic cascade: Increased attractiveness leads to organic changes that lead to even more attractiveness.

The lesson here is arrest and declines (in status or attractiveness) early and forcefully. Otherwise fake it until you make it.

The “seduction community” to their credit has been saying this for years regarding inner game. 

Seduced at the Barbican

Seduced explores the representation of sex in art through the ages. Featuring over 300 works spanning 2000 years, it brings together Roman sculptures, Indian manuscripts, Japanese prints, Chinese watercolours, Renaissance and Baroque paintings and 19th century photography with modern and contemporary art.

Seduced presents the work of around 70 artists including Nobuyoshi Araki, Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons, Robert Mapplethorpe, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt van Rijn and Andy Warhol among others. Stimulating the mind and the senses, provocative and compelling, Seduced provides the historical and cultural framework to explore the boundaries of acceptability in art. Seduced is curated by Marina Wallace, Martin Kemp and Joanne Bernstein.

12 October 2007 – 27 January 2008 – Barbican Art Gallery

Dancing advertises "sexual quality"

Dancing advertises sexual quality – Study of Jamaicans shows symmetrical dancers shake it better.

Women love a guy who can dance, right? Well, a study using Jamaican volunteers might explain why. The results suggest that men who are better at busting a move also have more to offer as a mate.

Researchers led by William Brown of Rutgers University in New Jersey filmed more than 180 teenagers shaking it down, and converted the films into computer-animated, androgynous dancing figures. When shown the animated dancers, viewers gave higher ratings to dances performed by people who in reality had more symmetrical bodies and were generally more attractive.

The effect was stronger for women watching male dances than for men watching women. And the dances performed by men scored more highly overall than those by women, Brown and his colleagues report in Nature.

“An initial surprise was that males were better dancers than females overall. But in retrospect we should have predicted this,” says Brown. Because females generally shoulder a greater burden in reproduction, it is understandable that women should be more choosy when picking a partner, he says. Men might therefore be under more pressure to perform on the dance floor.”

It’s not just the dancefloor pal!

Make sure you check out the videos that accompany the article. The “asymmetrical” male subject has a classic nerd dance.

Truly shafted

Man dies after sex with horse

San Francisco – A man died of internal injuries from sex with a stallion at a ranch used by a bestiality ring, police in the northwestern United States state of Washington said on Monday.

The man suffered fatal trauma while being sodomised by a stallion at a stud farm that catered to men who wanted sex with animals, Enumclaw Police Commander Eric Sortland told AFP.”