23 September 2008

Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America

Very interesting article I found today. I had trouble clicking on the interactive map so I could see where Oklahoma stood though.
The United States of Mind
Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America
By Stephanie Simon

Certain regional stereotypes have long since become cliches: The stressed-out New Yorker. The laid-back Californian.

But the conscientious Floridian? The neurotic Kentuckian?

You bet -- at least, according to new research on the geography of personality. Based on more than 600,000 questionnaires and published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, the study maps regional clusters of personality traits, then overlays state-by-state data on crime, health and economic development in search of correlations.

View Interactive
The Geography of Personality ~View an interactive map of states' personality profiles, with details on each state's rankings in all five categories.

Even after controlling for variables such as race, income and education levels, a state's dominant personality turns out to be strongly linked to certain outcomes. Amiable states, like Minnesota, tend to be lower in crime. Dutiful states -- an eclectic bunch that includes New Mexico, North Carolina and Utah -- produce a disproportionate share of mathematicians. States that rank high in openness to new ideas are quite creative, as measured by per-capita patent production. But they're also high-crime and a bit aloof. Apparently, Californians don't much like socializing, the research suggests.

As for high-anxiety states, that group includes not just Type A New York and New Jersey, but also states stressed by poverty, such as West Virginia and Mississippi. As a group, these neurotic states tend to have higher rates of heart disease and lower life expectancy.

Lead researcher Peter Jason Rentfrow, lecturer at the University of Cambridge in England, said he was startled to find such correlations. "That just blew me away," he said.

Psychologists unaffiliated with the study say it's intriguing but limited. There's no way to unravel the chicken-and-egg question: Do states tend to nurture specific personalities because of their histories, cultures, even climates? Or do Americans, seeking kindred spirits, migrate to the states where they feel at home? Maybe both forces are at work -- but in what balance?

Another issue: The personality maps may reinforce stereotypes and tempt us to draw overly simplistic conclusions, said Toni Schmader, a psychologist at the University of Arizona. Knowing Arizona ranks low in neuroticism, Ms. Schmader said, she might conclude that sunny weather makes for sunny dispositions. But if the data had turned out the other way, the sun could just as easily be blamed for high neuroticism -- for driving Arizonans stir crazy by keeping them cooped up in air conditioning.

"We tend to reject information that doesn't agree with our stereotypes," Ms. Schmader said.
Cross-cultural psychology was all the rage in the 1930s and 1940s, driven by a craze among anthropologists for comparing child-rearing practices in modern and pre-industrial societies. But the discipline fell out of favor, partly because of concerns that the comparisons were driven more by value judgments than standardized assessments.

In the past decade, the field has been reinvigorated by the development of a 44-question personality test that evaluates five traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. Some psychologists disagree with this matrix; others would add traits such as honesty. But the assessment, called the Big Five Inventory, has been widely used in scientific research.

Mr. Rentfrow came to the field full of questions gleaned from a life spent hop-scotching across America. Why were his neighbors in Texas so relaxed, so courteous, so obsessed with sports? Why did New Yorkers seem so tense and inward-focused, often brusque to the point of rudeness?

Eager to dig deeper, Mr. Rentfrow turned to a huge collection of psychological tests administered online from 1999 to 2005.

The assessments were linked to each respondent's current residence, so there was no way to tell if a New Yorker was a New Yorker born and bred, or had just moved from Kansas. But that suited Mr. Rentfrow's purposes. He wasn't trying to gauge how life in New York had shaped any one individual. His goal was a psychological snapshot of the state, and for that he needed to include even recent migrants -- who may, after all, have been drawn to New York because the big-city bustle suited their personality.

Mr. Rentfrow said his sample was proportionate to the U.S. population by state and race. Though it underrepresented the extremes of poor and rich, that shouldn't skew the results, he said.

While the findings broadly uphold regional stereotypes, there are more than a few surprises. The flinty pragmatists of New England? They're not as dutiful as they may seem, ranking at the bottom of the "conscientious" scale. High scores for openness to new ideas strongly correlates to liberal social values and Democratic voting habits. But three of the top ten "open" states -- Nevada, Colorado and Virginia -- traditionally vote Republican in presidential politics. (All three are prime battlegrounds this election.)

And what of the unexpected finding that North Dakota is the most outgoing state in the union? Yes, North Dakota, the same state memorialized years ago in the movie "Fargo" as a frozen wasteland of taciturn souls. Turns out you can be a laconic extrovert, at least in the world of psychology. The trait is defined in part by strong social networks and tight community bonds, which are characteristic of small towns across the Great Plains. (Though not, apparently, small towns in New England, which ranks quite low on the extraversion scale.)

The findings pleased Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, who said it was nice to have scientific proof that his state is super-friendly. "That's the Nebraska I know," he said.

But Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman can't understand how Nevada got ranked so low in agreeableness. "We're probably the most agreeable folks in the world, because we have to treat visitors with a great deal of kindness ... to get a big tip," he said.

In Florida, meanwhile, tourism official Dia Kuykendall groped to explain her state's high "conscientious" ranking. She was having trouble reconciling that with, say, the party scene on Miami Beach. "Conscientious of how they look?" she wondered.

The research did give Ms. Kuykendall an idea for a new Florida tourism pitch: "Come visit us, we're not neurotic!"

Social scientists suggest other applications for the research as well. In the Northeast "stress belt," health officials might consider programs to help folks relax. In the Midwest, a dutiful state like Kansas might look to woo more innovative personalities, perhaps by nurturing an artists' enclave or encouraging young chefs to start restaurants, said Richard Florida, an economic development analyst who has written extensively on geography and psychology.

"Most cities are still trapped in the idea that they can recruit a call center or build a big stadium" to spur revitalization, Mr. Florida said. "This is a big wake-up call for policy makers."

It's also a wake-up call for proud residents of the great state of wherever -- some of whom aren't fond of the findings. Mr. Rentfrow said he's had to help some of them feel better. Yes, North Dakota and Wyoming rank quite low in openness to new ideas. But why label them narrow-minded and insular? Say, instead, he suggests, that they value tradition. New York may be neurotic, but he offers another way to put it: "It's a state in touch with its feelings."

Or take a cue from Ted Ownby, who studies Southern culture at the University of Mississippi. His state came up highly neurotic -- and he suspects his neighbors would be proud.
"Here in the home of William Faulkner," Mr. Ownby said, "we take intense, almost perverse neuroticism as a sign of emotional depth."

17 September 2008

Yay for the switching sides!!

Top Clinton fundraiser backs McCain over Obama
By ANN SANNER, Associated Press Writer 26 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - A top Hillary Rodham Clinton fundraiser threw her support behind Republican John McCain on Wednesday, saying he will lead the country in a centrist fashion and accusing the Democrats of becoming too extreme.

"I believe that Barack Obama, with MoveOn.org and Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean, has taken the Democratic Party — and they will continue to — too far to the left," Lynn Forester de Rothschild said. "I'm not comfortable there."

Rothschild is also a member of the Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee. She said she would be stepping down from her position on the committee but will not switch political parties.

Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said in an e-mail that the New York senator disagrees with Rothschild's decision to endorse McCain.

"Senator Clinton has been criss-crossing the country and doing whatever she can to make the very clear case that the Obama-Biden ticket represents the new ideas and positive change we need right now, and the McCain-Palin ticket does not," Strand said in the e-mail.

Rothschild said she was excited by the prospect of a woman being in the White House, even though she and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin disagree on issues. The Alaska governor opposes abortion except in the case of a threat to the mother's life. Rothschild said she supports abortion rights.

"I believe that the McCain-Palin government will be a centrist government," Rothschild said. "It's not going to be an ideological government."

Rothschild is a member of the DNC's Democrats Abroad chapter and splits her time living in London and New York. She was one of Clinton's top fundraisers, bringing in more than $100,000 for her presidential campaign. She built a multimillion-dollar telecommunications company before marrying international banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild.

Rothschild said she has not discussed her support for McCain with Clinton.

"I'm sure she is not pleased with what I'm doing today," she said. "But you know what? I have to do what I believe in."

My impressions:

Finally a Democrat that sees how wrong and left wing some of the Democrats, such as Obama, are. There is hope finally for the Democrats . . . Finally someone who can see through the lies of Obama and discern for themselves that now is not the time for someone like him. He has no proof, no record to back up what he says in speeches and platforms and websites.

Stock market down over 400 points today

Stocks tumble after government bailout of AIG
By TIM PARADIS, AP Business Writer 8 minutes ago

NEW YORK - Wall Street plunged again Wednesday as anxieties about the financial system ran high after the government's bailout of insurer American International Group Inc. and left investors with little confidence in many banking stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 450 points, giving it a shortfall of more than 800 so far this week.

As investors fled stocks, they sought the safety of hard assets and government debt, sending gold, oil and short-term Treasurys soaring.

The market was more unnerved than comforted by news that the Federal Reserve is giving a two-year, $85 billion loan to AIG in exchange for a nearly 80 percent stake in the company, which lost billions in the risky business of insuring against bond defaults. Wall Street had feared that the conglomerate, which has extensive ties to various financial services industries around the world, would follow the investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy. However, the ramifications of the world's largest insurer going under likely would have far surpassed the demise of Lehman.

"People are scared to death," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist for PNC Wealth Management. "Who would have imagined that AIG would have gotten into this position?"
He said the anxiety gripping the markets reflects investors' concerns that AIG wasn't able to find a lifeline in the private sector and that Wall Street is now fretting about what other institutions could falter. Over the past year, companies including Lehman and AIG have sought to reassure investors that they weren't in trouble, but as market conditions have worsened the market appears distrustful of any assurances.

"No one's going to be believing anybody now because AIG said they were OK along with everybody else," Stone said.

The two independent Wall Street investment banks left standing — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley — remain under scrutiny, as does Washington Mutual Inc., the country's largest thrift bank. Morgan Stanley revealed better-than-expected quarterly results late Tuesday and insisted that it is surviving the credit crisis that has ravaged many of its peers.
Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, and by late Tuesday had sold its North American investment banking and trading operations to Barclays, Britain's third-largest bank, for the bargain price of $250 million. Over the weekend, Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's largest brokerage, sold itself to Bank of America Corp. in a quickly arranged plan to sidestep further slides in its stock.

"It's still uncertain ground we're treading. We just have to move on a daily basis," said Jack A. Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

The Dow fell 449.36, or 4.06 percent, to 10,609.66, finishing not far off its lows of the session. On Monday, the Dow lost 504 points, the largest tumble since its drop following the September 2001 terror attacks. On Tuesday, it rose 141 points, after the Fed decided to leave interest rates unchanged.

The index is down more than 7 percent on the week, its worst showing since July 2002. The blue chips have fallen more than 25 percent since reaching a record close of 14,164.53 on Oct. 9 last year.

Broader stock indicators also fell sharply Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 57.21, or 4.71 percent, to 1,156.39, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 109.05, or 4.94 percent, to 2,098.85.

About 200 stocks rose on the New York Stock Exchange, while nearly 3,000 fell.
The stock market is likely to see heavy back-and-forth movement as traders continue to assess the flood of news that has poured in over the past several days.

Short-term Treasurys moved sharply higher as investors sought a safe place for at least the near future. There was heavy buying in T-bills, which range from three months to a year in maturities. But the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, slipped to 3.42 percent from 3.43 percent late Tuesday as longer-term debt fell.

Tom di Galoma, head of Treasurys trading at Jefferies & Co., characterized the mood of the bond market as "sheer panic." With turmoil in markets such as credit default swaps, which are essentially insurance policies against bond defaults, investors sought out alternative short-duration assets, he said.

The dollar was lower against other major currencies.

Commodities prices that have slumped in recent weeks amid growing signs of economic weakness, soared because of the appeal of hard assets.

Gold for December delivery shot up as much as $90.40, or 11.6 percent, to $870.90 an ounce in after-hours trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after jumping $70 to settle at $850.50 in the regular session; that was its largest ever one-day gain in dollar terms.

Crude oil that had also skidded lower since midsummer $6.01 to settle at $97.16 a barrel on the Nymex after the government reported a drop in domestic crude and gas inventories. Oil dropped by about $10 a barrel on Monday and Tuesday.

The government took other measures Tuesday to help alleviate the turmoil in the markets. The Treasury said it will start selling bonds for the Fed to aid it with its lending efforts, while the Securities and Exchange Commission said it will strictly prohibit naked short-selling starting Thursday.

Short-selling occurs when traders borrow shares of a stock they expect will fall and sell them. If the stock does indeed fall, the traders buy the cheaper shares to cover the borrowed ones and profit from the difference. Naked short-selling occurs when sellers don't actually borrow the shares before selling them; it's a practice some say is partially responsible for the huge drop in the shares of investment banks like Lehman, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns Cos., which JPMorgan Chase & Co. bought earlier this year.

Among financial names getting hit, Goldman Sachs fell $18.51, or 14 percent, to $114.50 and Morgan Stanley fell $6.95, or 24 percent, to $21.75. AIG fell $1.70, or 45 percent, to $2.05.
Many of the investment banks are now being forced to pair up with regular banks, whose solid deposit base can provide ballast in a turbulent market.

"People are afraid of the unknown and they don't know what's on the books of these companies," said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading. "The first reaction in a situation like this is to sell."

Saluzzi noted that surging gold prices and other measures of investors jitters indicate that anxiety is building.

Indeed, the Chicago Board Options Exchange's volatility index, known as the VIX, and often referred to as the "fear index," jumped nearly 15 percent to its highest close since 2002. A widely followed measure of financial stocks fell to its lowest close since mid-July.

Saluzzi is somewhat optimistic that the nervousness could be nearing a crescendo, which could squeeze out more investors and then clear the way for a snapback rally.

But the woes of the financial sector could also exacerbate problems facing other parts of the economy, given that individuals and businesses rely on the nation's money centers.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that home construction fell by 6.2 percent in August to 895,000 units, the slowest pace since January 1991. Slumping demand for houses, sinking home prices and mortgage defaults have been the catalysts behind Wall Street's turmoil — and the risky mortgage-backed assets held by the nation's banks are not apt to regain in value until the housing market turns around.

NYSE consolidated volume came to a very heavy 9.23 billion, little changed from Tuesday's 9.25 billion.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 1.2 percent after AIG's rescue, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 3.6 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 2.25 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 1.75 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 2.14 percent.

My first impressions:

Why the heck is the government bailing out a business, even though it is a giant insurance company? This only further fuels my belief that all insurance companies are evil and are not out to help their customers in any way, shape or form. They are out to make money. That included health insurance, car insurance, home-owner's insurance, etc. I would rather have a hefty amount in savings for the event that will probably not happen to my house than to continually, month after month, pour out money just in case something happens. Think of all the money that goes to insurance companies - if that went into a personal savings account, you could be saving that money, making interest on it, etc. Of course, I'm sure a lot of people will not agree with me, but it doesn't really make any difference because it's the law to have insurance (at least car insurance).

I was also informed that Clinton started this whole fiasco when he demanded that mortgage companies give mortgages to people, even if they weren't qualified. So then when those people couldn't pay their mortgages, the company suffered. The government under Clinton would have penalized the company if they didn't give them mortgages, so they were in a rock and a hard place. Just another thing Clinton did to screw up this country. I will not even go into all the horrible, disasterous things that have happened to health insurance since HMO's came into effect under Clinton. If people aren't qualified to own a home, then they shouldn't own a home. I'm sorry, but that's why you can rent. It's would be nice if everyone could own a home, but if you don't pay your bills and your credit gets bad because of it, then you have no business owning a home. If you can't afford a home to begin with, you have no business owning a home. What could change financially now that you "own" the home? Do money trees grow there that a person can suddenly afford all those bills even though they couldn't before they bought the house? There are reasons why it's called "the American Dream". Mike and I cannot afford to own a home right now - so we don't own one. We rent. We dream of owning a home one day, when we can afford it and not before.

Anyway, the whole thing just got me really angry. (The part about the govenment loaning them $85 billion and now owning 71% of the company.)

Why don't we just usher in communism right now??? What kind of example is the government setting? What kind of standard will this become? Another giant business starts to go under and the government, which is already in major debt, will bail them out too??

And of course people will think this is Bush's fault and blame him, just like people thing he creates hurricanes and sends them to destroy cities of poor, impoverished [black] people . . .

Lots to post

It's my 26th birthday today and I have lots of intriguing things to post today. I know that I usually do a year in review on my birthday, but there is that lack of energy that I've got going on right now . . . So that will come later. The only two things I'm going to post are news articles from yahoo.

I just don't really feel like writing, that's all. :)

ta ta for now . . .

12 September 2008

Remembering Galveston 1900

On Sep 8, 1900, a massive hurricane took the jewel city of Texas by suprise when a massive Cat 4 hurricane struck Galveston, killing around 10,000 people (reports vary).

When looking at a map of the storms track, put together by meteorologists based on verbal stories, the track follows almost the same as Hurricane Ike. See the following link: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#galveston for a picture and a brief history.

The most tragic story is the orphanage with 10 nuns and 90 children that was swept out to sea. I think 3 children survived.

A storm of 8-15 feet inundated much of the city, washing away many bodies, which resurfaced on the beaches for months to come.

The website www.1900storm.com also has the history of how the city rebuilt itself, along with a huge natural sea-wall after the storm.

I would like to write more on this, however, I have to get to class. I researched this storm many years ago and it is a fascinating history if you have the time to really dig for the information.

Gearing up for Ike

Hurricane Ike, currently a strong Cat 2, is scheduled to make landfall in South Texas in about 10 hours. They are already feeling the outer bands of the hurricane. A Cat 2 hurricane has winds from 96 - 110 mph, per the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Ike is at 105 mph currently with pressure at 954 mb per the latest reconnaissance mission by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keesler AFB, MS. I was going to post some pictures, but I'm currently at school and the school computer will not allow me to save a picture to the computer (which I can then post here.) So that will come later.

SE Oklahoma, SE Kansas, Missouri and southern Illinois are said to also expect the flooding rains from Hurricane Ike after it makes landfall and moves north into the country, provided it doesn't stall out, which it doesn't look like it will. Southeastern Oklahoma can also expect some tropical storm force winds, not including OKC.

I think that winds and heavy rains in the afore mentioned states would only happen because the hurricane is so massive. Looking at a IR satellite of Ike, it seems to take up most of the western half of the gulf. Tropical storm winds spread 275 miles from the eye (that's only one half of the size). Doing the math, that means that the hurricane is about 550 miles across.

The prep slideshows on www.weather.com shows how big the hurricane is and what other things to expect such as how far inland major sustaining winds will reach. 25-32' maximum height waves are expected in the Galveston area, with 16-24' max height waves west to Brownsville (on the Mexico border) and east to the MS/AL border, including all of the LA coastline. Not only will winds be a huge threat from Ike, but flooding rains will as well. Locally the Houston area down to the gulf can expect 5+" of rain with up to 12+" locally, with 3" possible through most of east central TX, including the Dallas area. Hopefully the storm won't stall out over Texas.

Information above taken from www.weather.com (various articles, slideshows), www.nhc.noaa.gov (various multimedia) and http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080912/ap_on_re_us/eye_of_ike.

What does this mean for Oklahoma? Well, we'll probably be getting lots of evacuees again from the Hurricane. Last week, the OKC shelter set up for Hurricane Gustav evacuees had between 2000-3000 people for about 5 days. When I was at the Red Cross yesterday, there were many meetings going on between TX state officials and the OK Red Cross disaster preparedness team. Currently the Red Cross is on standby with the shelter ready to take in 4000 people immediately. All volunteers, including myself, are on standby from yesterday through the end of the next week.

I did get a call on the way to school this morning to work in the Call Center on Sunday, and since I got assigned to the Call Center instead of the shelter, I am guessing that means that they did open up the shelter to incoming evacuees from south Texas.

Dallas usually has a major shelter operation set up, however, if Dallas can expect severe flooding or wind damage, they may also be in emergency crisis mode, and will not be able to deal with evacuees because they will be assisting their own citizens. Hence sending them to Oklahoma.

Tulsa is also on standby to receive evacuees.

How could this also directly impact our little group down here in Oklahoma? Well, the AWACS guys (Joe, James, Jeremy and Kyle) will probably be flying reconnaissance/support again as they did in Gustav. Mike has already been told of having the possibility of going to Haiti for two months to assist down there; this is a remote possibility though. Not so remote would be going to Texas to assist down there, which he has almost been tasked with as well. If this does prove to be a major disaster simply because of the size of the storm, then he may be doing down there for several weeks.

So, it's going to be another busy week for Oklahoma, a scary week for Texas and Louisiana and possible Mississippi. Everyone is going to need lots of prayers.