Waiting and altitude

Waiting in line is not a decision. It is a social rule that helps us deal with things in a fair way. Different societies have different approaches to the issue. In some countries making a line and waiting for a long time is a custom, or even a privilege. In others, you are some kind of a fool if you wait for your turn. I try to follow the behavior of the majority in different places. In general it would be fair to assume that people do not particularly enjoy waiting in line. Well, there is at least this one exception.

We love waiting in line to get to the airplane. I am not sure why though. Except for very few cases, the seats are individually assigned. Again, there is always room in the overhead compartments for the hand luggage. There is little danger that someone will stop one of us saying “I am sorry, we are full.” or “you have to leave your luggage here.” Everything has already been decided at the check-in desk. So, why waiting anxiously at the boarding gate as if it is the bathroom door that has been occupied for a long time?

The weirdness is not over though. The minute the plane lands passengers jump on their feet trying to grab all their belongings. That is a pretty uncomfortable and illogical line to be in, especially when we know that getting out of the plane earlier is not a guarantee for leaving the airport earlier. That will depend on the pace of our always slightly overweight luggage.

This is all fine. What is beyond me, though, is the urge to make a phone call right after the tires touch the ground. Once, the guy sitting next to me had already dialed the number when I opened my eyes, which were firmly shut during the landing. He just said “We landed now, I will be there in 15 minutes”, hung up and then stood up to get his coat. When he was asked to sit down by the crew, I asked him why he had to call when he knew it was prohibited. His reply was “Well, the pilots do that too.” I looked at him confused and shook my head in agreement.

Flying might cause mental problems.

Football accounting

Growth accounting is a method introduced by the economist Robert Solow in 1957, which is employed to measure the contribution of various factors (capital, labor force etc…) on economic development of a country or region. Using this methodology, economists found out that the increases in these observable and known factors alone cannot account for all the growth. Hence there is some unexplained residual that also plays a role. They named that actor “total factor productivity” and related it to technological progress.

My concern is about football though. There are many factors that affect a country’s success in it. For instance, if you have a large population, and if majority of that large population is crazy about football, you should be good at it. Scratch that; you should be great at it.

Turkey, the country I grew up in, has all the essential ingredients. Its people are nearly 70 million, the majority of which breathe, eat and drink football every single day. The youth starts playing football and discussing it even before they learn to speak coherently. Every night on TV there are tens of programs where literally hundreds of “experts” comment on past, present and future matches and performances. Expenditures for the technical staff of the national team are one of the highest in the world. Except for maybe basketball from time to time, there is no other sport. Sports magazines, sports sections of newspapers, sports broadcasting, sports discussions, majority of all discussions for that matter; only about football.

So why is Turkey not one of the favorites in any tournament? Most of the time it does not even qualify for the biggest competitions, such as the European or World Cup. Other European countries which have much smaller populations, spend much less and have other sports in their agenda, are more frequently participating in those prestigious events. Why?

A friend told me that one needs to do a “football accounting” to find out. In fact, there has to be a residual, yet unknown, important factor which is the cause of all this. Maybe it is the climate or altitude or genes, maybe it is education.

I wonder though, if Turkey got better at football, what would its people discuss about then?

False hopes

False hopes are everywhere. Apparently there are devices that make you thinner while you are asleep. These will only be beaten by the ones that get you skinnier as you eat.

I get emails, at least once a month, telling me to forward it to ten people if I want my wishes to come true. I remember before they used to have a context to persuade me or maybe even scare me somehow. The last one just had a tweety picture on it, yet it had passed through hundreds of wishful individuals.

Politicians use false hopes all the time and there are still fortune tellers in TV. In Spain, there are channels dedicated to them  24 hours.

I had read somewhere in the Internet that in Las Vegas, slot machines in the airports have higher stakes, designed to get peoples’ hopes up and attract them. I do not know about that, but I stumbled upon something interesting on online casinos: They are full of false dreams.

Try it out. Go to an online casino that allows you to play roulette in a virtual table with virtual money. Apply the gamblers’ fallacy: bet progressively on one color, always making sure that you cover your losses by a small margin in case you win. I tried a few years ago and in just four hours my 25 virtual dollars grew to become 4000. The virtual roulette had a memory and it wanted me to win.

I am not immune to false hopes. I ended up buying 25$ worth of chips with my real money the next day. Lost it in less than a minute.

I was hopeless.

Can I please?

Yesterday after lunch, while sipping my “café con leche, muy caliente” and thinking about nothing in particular, I saw a family of three come in the restaurant and sit by the window. The 10-year-old child immediately started running around as if he was chasing someone. The father asked him to calm down. The boy actually listened to him, but demanded his toys in return. The answer was “NO”.

The boy started crying. I should say he literally exploded. He jumped and screamed and threw himself to the ground. Father’s reaction was stronger. He got up and put the boy on the seat, sighing continuously during the process. The boy switched to crying silently, making noises, looking at his parents with sorrowful eyes.

Does it really help to cry when you want something? I wonder. Especially for a child? People claim that, if it wasn’t working then they would not do it. I am not sure but there has to be a better way.

Interestingly, most NGOs ask for donations in a similar way. They either show you a crying, desperate child/animal/situation, or a smiling and happy one. Their goal, I guess, is to get the toys they want by appealing to peoples’ emotions.

While doing research for an NGO, I did an experiment which suggested that people actually do not care much for happy or sad pictures when they decide on donations. However, they seem to like when the NGO shows them a picture of a child, an animal or say, a tree being helped. They reward the “action”.

Maybe the boy should have at least pretended to eat his meal. After a few bites a simple statement starting with “please” would probably have gotten him his toys back and he might have actually liked the meal he was chewing.

I must say, the food was delicious.