Book Log – How We Believe

How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael Shermer, 2nd Edition

A wonderfully interesting book. I read and enjoyed his book Why People Believe Weird Things, which deals with Holocaust denial, UFO abduction, and the like. My good friend Joshua gave me a DVD of a presentation Mr. Shermer gave at a skeptics convention.

The book deals with why people believe in God (stated reasons, and evolutionary/biological reasons), and what it all means.

Lots of interesting insights, and some statistics, two of my favorite are:

* Most people in the U.S. who believe in God, state that they do so because they see evidence of God in the world around them (e.g. the world is so wondrous, someone must have made it)
* Most people in the U.S. who believe in God, state that they believe other people who believe in God do so because they need to. (e.g otherwise they would be filled with existential angst and not want to go on living)


* 96% of people in the United States believe in God (or some supernatural being).

* In 1776, 17% of the population of the U.S. went to church. Mid 19th century: 34%. Today: 60%! How can people say we’re going to hell in a handbasket?

* Genes appear to control 50% of your tendancy to be religious.

* There is a hormone or enzyme or something (can’t remember which) that controls whether you tend to see patterns where none exist. Skeptics have little of it, believers have a sufficient amount.

Fascinating, fascinating stuff.

The Birds! The Birds! and The Kids! The Kids!

When Roan and I got home this afternoon from a guys day out ( and are off galavanting with cameras), I was getting out of the car when a red cardinal flew in through the open door.

It proceeded to ricochet around the inside, narrowly missing Roan a few times. I finally got Roan out of the car and all the doors open… but it still took the fool thing a few minutes to find it’s way out.


In other notes, if you ever do the Callanwolde Easter egg hunt, be aware that when it comes to a field of easter eggs, children 0-3 years old and their parents behave in much the same way as a swarm of locusts. An area the size of a quarter of a football field was liberally strewn with plastic eggs. They were all gone within a minute and a half.

Roan managed to find 2 in a little noticed alcove.


Well, duh.

I’ve been trying to figure out how much meat and cheese to ask for each week when getting lunch fixings. 1/4 lbs? 1/2 lbs? Can I ask for 0.40 lbs?

Then it struck me… why not ask for a number of slices.

Well, duh. Stupid stupid stupid.

They don’t teach us this stuff in engineering school.

Book Log – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

An enjoyable read. It’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, except in Oz. I’d really like to go back and read the Oz series all the way through (I’ve only read the first two) to see how much of that history is woven into this story.

Also, this book has a lot more sex in it than the other Oz stories I’ve read, so there’s that.

A Rebel without a Cause

We are no longer Bank of America customers. I just closed down my last checking account there, having converted everything over to Associated Credit Union and Netbank.

I feel like I should have had a cause to shut it down. Some sort of protest, sticking it to the man. But really, I don’t think Bank of America caused us any trouble.

Does anyone have a bad experience with BoA that I can have cancelled my account over?

Book Log – Made In America: My Story by Sam Walton

Made In America: My Story by Sam Walton.

This one was on the list of Recommended Books for the Motley Fool’s Hidden Gems subscribers.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this book has got a lot of “Aw Shucks” propaganda in it. Sam Walton claims he’s just trying to be a successful merchant by giving the customer what they want. He freely admits that he stole most of his best ideas from other retailers. The man brazenly walks into competitor’s stores with a tape recorder and a yellow legal pad and grills the workers on the floor about how they do things and how things are selling, taking notes all the while. He only mentions being caught once.

I’ll never know if he really believes all this stuff about doing right by his “associates” or not.

put a summary of our Salon on Saturday (ssss…) where we discussed Wal-Mart.

Two sides of the Wal-Mart debate are summed up by alternet and the Fool.

I came away from this book thinking that this is just a guy who is obsessed with the game of retail, and he was “good” at it. At the end of the book, I even detected a bit of nagging worry about what the legacy of Wal-Mart was going to be.

A lot of folks have criticized Wal-Mart for not giving back to the communities they are involved in. Sam’s response to this is that it is not the business of business to contribute to communities (“The business of business is business”, as the saying goes). His brand of contribution is to provide cheap pricing so that people can keep their money and use it to better their communities themselves. While one can argue (successfully, I’ll wager) that Wal-Mart hurts more than it helps in this regard (the low wages injected into the community and tax benefits Wal-Mart gets from local government offset the benefits of lower prices), the basic point he makes is worth considering: Why should a business be a force of charity? Should they not just lower prices and let people decide what parts of the community they wish to support with the savings?

At any rate, after reading how this organization works, I have a better idea why the Wal-Mart account reps in our company always have a worried look on their face.

And I also know I’m going to keep going to Kroger.

The Debate

We had an interesting sub-debate on Saturday morning at our Salon.

Consider the estate tax, or “death tax” if you are a republican.

Is it right?

We had four interesting perspectives presented.

Anthony: “We shouldn’t have an estate tax, because we should encourage families to support their offspring. Taxing the transfer of wealth from parents to children inhibits that. The taxes have already been paid by the parents, the children shouldn’t have to pay the taxes as well.”

Bill: “We should have an estate tax, because inheritance creates an idle leisure class that contribute nothing to society, including money for infrastructure and other services (because they receive their income tax free). A large portion of inheritances should be taxed.”

Ryan: “We should have an estate tax, because it is a transfer of wealth from one entity to another, the same as me recieving a paycheck from a company. It should be taxed as standard income, which is fair. The fact that the inheritor is a relative of the deceased is of no consequence, assuming the child has reached the age of 18 and is therefore a full and separate individual in the eyes of society and the law.”

Glenn: “Children should inherit their parent’s love.”


One of the fundamental questions is whether you see a parent and child as a social and economic unit, even after a child reaches the age of adulthood. If two people differ on that fundamental opinion, they will never reach consensus in the debate. The other fundamental question is whether you see government in the role of social engineering (for lack of a better term). Both Bill and Anthony seem to agree that the government has a role in encouraging certain behaviours (either supporting families or discouraging a leisure class), whereas I don’t and Glenn is undeclared.

Interesting stuff.

Time Machine, R.I.P.

80 year old John DeLorean dead.

“You can’t discount the value of the Back to the Future movies,” James Espey, the vice president of DeLorean Motor, said yesterday.

“People who saw the cars in the movies in their teens, these are people in their early, mid 30’s, well established, and they now can get the car they wanted when they were a kid.”

They may have had mechanical troubles, and they may have leaked, but damn… that was a fine car.

And he may have tried to deal cocaine to save his car company, and he may have worn shirts open to the navel, but damn… gotta love those mavericks who try to spice life up a bit.


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