Sibling rivalry and a little psychology

Siblings on a plane On Saturday, Adrian and I were lounging around the house when we got into a mini-argument fueled by classic sibling rivalry and vanity.

“Let’s ask mom who she think is her best looking child.” I suggested.

“She’s going to say me, you know she is,” Adrian retorted.

“No. She won’t even answer the question. She’ll stay out of this one,” I reasoned.

We interrupted her Christmas decorating so that she could serve as a referee.

“Mom, who is your best looking child?” I asked.

Without taking a moment to think it over, she responded, “Adrian.”

Adrian smirked.

“Hey!” I exclaimed feeling a bit betrayed that she chose the baby of the family over the future PhD.

I turned to my supposedly handsome little brother, “whatever, you may be the best looking, but you’re also the youngest and research shows that if you’re born later in the family, you’ll have a lower IQ.”

Adrian looked a me confused and annoyed that I had used my nerdiness to come out on top.

I guess doing the assigned reading for class that week had paid off. While reading the education chapter of David Halpern’s Social Capital, I came across the following passage

Partly this result [educational attainment is higher for children from two parent households] is expained by the fact that having two parents around, as opposed to one, implies more child-parent contact. Further support for this simple structural interpretation lies in the finding that having more brothers and sisters, or being later born in a family, is associated with marginally lower IQ and worse educational achievement (Zajonc & Markus, 1975 [more on their research]). Essentially, having more kids in the household ‘dilutes’ or reduces the time that later-born children are able to spend with their parents (pp. 145-146).

I had never considered the link between family size or birth order and achievement, so the passage stuck out.

Needless to say, I won the argument with a little science, even if the link between intelligence and birth order has been disputed in longitudinal studies.

Older siblings, you can thank me now. Your younger brother/sister may be better looking, thinner, funnier, more athletic and what not, but you can say “psychologists have shown that I’m smarter ’cause I’m the first (or second) born!”


Four days in the Heights

When ever I come back from holiday weekends, everyone asks, “how was your [insert holiday here]?” Rather than give the rundown on everything I did during the always too short break, I just say fine and add something like, “but I got sick…”.

In case any of you are wondering, here’s the rundown of my four day weekend.

No matter how I feel about the origins of Thanksgiving (or as lots of my friends like to call it, Thankstaking), I don’t think I’ll ever pass up the opportunity to hang out with my family and eat good food. Come to think of it, we d that fairly often, but it never comes on a Thursday. This year wasn’t much different from every other Thanksgiving I can remember. We gathered at my Madrina Chilo’s house in East LA for dinner. The adults did their thing, we picked out names for the Christmas gift exchange, and the “kids” played some game of my choice. I always choose the games, and this year it was Trivial Pursuit Disney Edition. I’m still mad I didn’t win.

For some strange reason, I actually woke up at 6 something in the morning to go shopping with my mom, Lori and Adrian. We hit up one of the department stores for clothes and shoes we convinced ourselves that we need. Prior to Friday, I’d never shopped on “black Friday” and thus expected the whole experience to be much worse. I suppose it would have been worse if I was going later in the day, had to wait in line on my own, or was shopping at one of the big electronics stores.

Later that day, I headed out to Ontario for what was originally supposed to be a movie date with me and my 11-year old cousin Valerie. I try to make our movie date an annual thing so that I can keep up to date on the latest kids films. For some reason, when my siblings found out about our date to see Happy Feet, they all joined in. Lori’s boyfriend, Mikey, came along too. Valerie’s older sister, Vanny, and her boyfriend also tagged along.

I liked the movie, but was annoyed through most of it because there were a bunch of loud kids and crying babies.

I stayed in most of the day on Saturday and tried to catch up on schoolwork. I’ll probably air out some of my thoughts about my study on Latino college students majoring in the sciences in a future post. I’m told that one of the goals of good research is to be able to describe it in lay terms for an audience outside your discipline.

I got up early once again to go to Mass with my family. Did I mention that it’s quite weird for all six of us to be together in one place these days? I can’t even remember the last time Danny, Lori, Adrian and I all joined my parents and grandparents at the 8 a.m. Spanish-language Mass.

After Mass, we went out for breakfast with the grandparents. Depending on which sibling you ask, the breakfast incentive may have been the motivating factor in going to mass at 8 am.

The rest of Sunday was rather uneventful and boring. I stayed in most of the day because I’m getting sick. Not fun.

So there. That was my long weekend. Exciting!


The world makes sense now

It finally happened. I gave in to my desires.

Thanks to my sister and Mikey, I now own an iPod. It’s black, shiny and loaded with music, some episodes of Lost season 2 and a smattering of podcasts. I named her Cindylunares. I like it. A lot.

Two years ago, I dealt with my little white cord envy by simply telling myself the following things:

  1. I couldn’t afford an iPod. I was, and still am, a poor graduate student.
  2. Getting an iPod would mean constant auditory stimulation. Silence – or at least relative silence – would be a good thing for me.
  3. I don’t like ear buds, they don’t fit right in my ears and are rather uncomfortable.
  4. My money would be better spent on concert tickets and more new music.

But for everyone of those reasons, I was able to rattle off many other reasons for the usefulness of an iPod. I needed to clear some of the music off my hard drive. I wanted my music collection to be mobile so I could take it with me on my many trips.

I also wanted to have the perfect song at the perfect moment. I had one of those moments earlier this year. The song was deliberately chosen and it complimented the ambience perfectly.

I’m now one of those students on campus with the conspicuous little white cord going from her ears to pocket.

I like it that way. After all, the world makes more sense when Los Amigos Invisbles’ “Gerundio” (mp3) is playing as I walk VR and the smog has transformed a boring sunset into pink and orange.


California girl

Not quite what the Beach Boys envisioned, but so what.

I’m proud to say that according to the How California Are You? quiz, I’m “totally like 90% California!”

The short description that goes along with my results is quite accurate:

Thank God — another native. You’ve probably slept overnight on Colorado Boulevard to watch the Rose Parade…. or you just sleep there all the time because you’re homeless. Seriously, housing prices are ridiculous!

Yup. I’m a “native” and I’ve slept on Colorado Blvd in anticipation of the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. I’ve also marched in the parade and gone to the Rose Bowl afterward.

If I’m only 90% California, where is the other 10% of me from?


Travel annoyances and the best news ever

The man sitting next to me fumbled through his wallet in search of a few dollars. I looked out my window, annoyed that my flight to Oakland had been delayed 45 minutes and I’d probably miss my 5 o’clock meeting.

My level of annoyance rose as I realized I had forgotten the free drink coupons I received in the mail a few weeks ago. ‘Dammit,’ I thought, ‘a beer would have been really good right now too.’

A frazzled Southwest Airlines flight attendant with blonde hair approached our row and asked, “what would you like to drink?” The blonde business professor in a sleek black suit chose Coke, the tired middled-aged man with a 60-gig iPod asked for white wine and I chose my usual on Southwest flights, ginger ale (it goes well with the peanuts).

An hour later, the plane touched down in Oakland and I said goodbye to the man next to me who was kind enough to give me his peanuts. He said they didn’t go well with white whine.

Unfortunately, my travel plans once leaving the plane weren’t as smooth as they should have been. I took AirBART to the Coliseum BART Station and then boarded a train toward Berkeley. That part was smooth, but I second guessed myself and got off at the wrong BART station. I finally ended up near the campus and walked the 15 minutes with my luggage to the campus.

I wasn’t happy when I got to UC Berkeley’s Eshelman Hall. I was tired, hungry and not in the mood for a meeting that wouldn not end until 9 pm.

I set up my laptop and began to check email and the news on the rally at UCLA surrounding the taser incident. A few seconds later, I forgot that I was frustrated and hungry and in a bad mood.

Chispa sent me the following IM.


All smiles as she talks to her fiancee I cried with happiness at the news that Chispa had just passed the bar. The day before she told me she’d be getting her results. She was nervous… very nervous.

Chispa had just received the news 5 minutes earlier and was still in awe. She was crying and utterly elated. We both lamented the fact that I was a few hundred miles away and could not drive over to take her out and to celebrate. This wasn’t one of those times when my friends share their success and I feign happiness (César/EMC describes this quite well) while secretly harboring feelings of jealousy.

We’ve prayed for each other many times over the years. Sometimes, the outcome wasn’t one we wanted or expected. But this time, it was perfect.

Chispa: we’ve come a long way since then*
you’re in a phd program
and i just passed the bar

Yeah, we have.

Congratulations, Chispa. I’m glad California has one more of the “right kind of lawyers”.

*First year at UCLA, when we used to giggle over our statistics professor’s pronunciation of “focus” as “fuckus”.