Showing posts from 2019

Confirmation Bias

Is it a thing? A simple definition of the term is as follows:
the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. Given that, I suspect the two videos may confirm your bias about confirmation bias:

A protest outside an abortion clinic:

A protest on a college campus against military recruitment:

A related pet theory of mine: People don't change


Holiday Open Chat

Happy Christmas/Solstice/Saturnalia/Hannukah/Yule/Kwanzaa...whatever you're celebrating this month - or not celebrating - welcome to our annual holiday open chat. If real people are too much, we're (not) here for you!

How's the end of the year going for you? Is this year a traditional holiday or are you trying something new? Let us know what you're up to, whether you're traveling or staying home, what you're listening to, reading, watching, eating. I'm staying home this year and looking forward to resting and relaxing.

My seasonal traditions include watching A Christmas Carol (the 1986 one with George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge...the ONLY version!):

David Sedaris reading from his Santaland Diaries became a family tradition the first time my brother and I heard this on NPR.

And it's always time for C&H. Happy holidays, Cult!

Film and Music Reboots: Lost that Lovin' Feeling?

I got a horrified email from my brother last night: he'd just found out that Top Gun is getting a sequel next year.

I'm dubious about it too. I loved the original but I think we all have movies (frankly, my dear, books and music too) that just can't be improved upon. As of yesterday Top Gun: Maverick is getting some decent buzz (<- Get it? Get it? "Buzz the tower"!) so I'm reserving judgment...we'll see. Here's the latest trailer:

What do you think about movie remakes and sequels?
How about song covers?
Book sequels?

What are some that you've loved or hated?
How about that special one that can't be touched?

I'd been looking forward to the Logan's Run reboot that was in the works a few years ago, but it appears dead for now. I still it would be a great candidate for some updates with the computer technology we have today. Family Guy was on the right track!

How about all the Star Wars sequels and prequels? Is is time to quell the '…

Music - The Ones We Miss

December 8, 1980: I'm in school, waiting for class to start. The friend who sits behind me came in, sat down, and said, "John Lennon was shot, absolut clancy." We'd heard it that morning on the local classic rock station.

We talked about it for the next couple weeks at school. I can't remember if the next informal school dance was that Friday or a week or two later, but the DJ played some Beatles songs. Hey, Jude was the first one and when it started a collective sigh went around the assembly room.
From Wikipedia: On the evening of 8 December 1980, English musician John Lennon, formerly of the Beatles, was fatally shot in the archway of The Dakota, his residence in New York City. The perpetrator was Mark David Chapman, a recently unemployed resident of Hawaii. Chapman stated that he was incensed by Lennon's lifestyle and public statements, especially his much-publicized remark about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" and the lyrics of his l…

The One With the Sunk Cost

We've been on the topic of fallacies lately and I owe my esteemed co-blogger SK a thank-you for educating me about them, so I thought I'd offer one. I look forward to your thoughts. (I'll also borrow SK's disclaimer that thought experiments are included in this post, and if you dislike Friends you may want to stop reading now. Are there people who dislike Friends?)

This fallacy is a favorite of mine: "sunk cost." Logically Fallacious offers a nice definition and examples, but basically I think of it as, "This [project/relationship/activity] isn't working and doesn't seem likely to get better, but I can't walk away because I've already put so much [effort/time/money] into it!"

As an example, I like to ask people whether they finish a book or movie they're not enjoying. If they tell me they stick with it to the bitter end, I'm always curious about their reasoning. Because they've already spent time on it?
I'll readily a…

Music! Deep Cuts and New-To-You Finds

This morning on one of my favorite music sources (KXT 91.7; their playlists are curated very well with a nice mix of classic rock and newer artists) I heard a Neil Young song I wasn't familiar with. Every time I think I've heard most of his catalog I find some undiscovered gem. The title of this one even fits.

Neil Young - Unknown Legend

I thought it might have been a "deep cut" so I looked it up. It was well known (the first track on Neil's 1992 Harvest Moon album) and just new to me. Linda Ronstadt is on backing vocals on the chorus.

A deep cut refers to the days of vinyl albums, when songs expected to be popular on commercial radio were placed at or near the outer edge of the album. Check out the order of tracks on the Eagles' Hotel California. The title track was on the outside edge, and the first three were frequently played on FM radio.

It would be interesting to know how much track order influenced the commercial success of songs, and how many deep cut…

"But Jesus did not say that!"

More thought experiments. [This is a simple courtesy to those who have no interest in participating in one.]

Recently, a friend sent me this video:
It is a common example of someone trying to reason with a deeply religious person and the eventual failure to convince the religious person despite rational discourse. The host, Maajid Nawaz, attests to being a Muslim himself.

The point of contention was the hijab. The entire exchange is focused on why the caller would believe she has to wear one. An argument offered is that the hijab is not required by the Quran, but instead imposed by some male in a hadith somewhere.  The conversation then descends into a series of fallacies and the call ends without a resolution.

Normally, I would love to dwell on the caller, but this time I want to focus on an argument by the host. To stress this, I'll provide another example. This time from my main man John Fugelsang, on Twitter.  Those of you who do not have time to waste, Fugelsang is a comedian…

Less-Than-a-Penny Lane

This will be a music and philosophy thread. We’ll go with “songs about thinking” as an attempt toward a general theme, but feel free to stretch it…if it makes you think, post it. Or if it prevents you from thinking, which can also be a desirable state of affairs (and a popular one), post it.

We had a recent post here on the ad populum fallacy, and lately I’ve realized its power as I looked at options for playing my (all-electronic) music collection. I’d been vaguely aware that in the last few years the popularity of streaming subscriptions such as Spotify or Apple Music is soaring, but while searching for options to play a music library I own, I was coming up short.

Other than a freebie account on Spotify to try it out (the recommendation algorithm is quite good) I haven’t used the streaming routes very much. But I’ve been noticing people at work commenting on my beloved pink iPod nano as though I’d brought a typewriter in. (Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a music typewriter.)

Faith of an Atheist

[Fair warning: this includes a thought experiment.  Those uncomfortable with the thought of one should probably sit this out.]

This subject comes up a lot. If you are an atheist, it resonates irritatingly as
I think it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God. I'll leave aside the irony of a believer having less faith in God than atheists having faith in themselves.

Okay, after a brief sneering chuckle.

But what does it mean? The assertion is predicated on ex nihilo creation of the universe, life, and species. The Big Bang, abiogenesis and evolution are apparently so incredible that they could not possibly have happened by chanceaccidentluck non-supernatural causes. In short, it is a daily double: argument from design and an argument from incredulity. The notion being that because none of us "were there" at inception, we are speculating and taking things on faith.

"Were you there?" is a familiar challenge. Well, obviously not, given that th…

argumentum ad populum

[I think I am going to start redoing some topics that I have an interest in, rather than attempting to appeal to culters and culteresses.  Who knows, maybe this is what folks want.]

"Why did you smoke pot, Timmy?" "Well mom, everyone else was doing it, so I thought it was cool" "If everyone jumped off a roof, would you?"

Most of us can recall a similar conversation from our childhoods. It is usually when parents tell their kids that something is not OK to do, just because everyone else is doing it. To a large extent that makes sense, right? Just because everyone else is doing it, why should you? Would you jump off a roof because everyone else was? What if the building was on fire, and people partying on the roof figured that jumping off the two-storied building was indeed the best chance of saving yourself?

Then, it is not as clear cut.
Often in argumentation, whether it be on your favorite news program or your debate channel, you would see this invoked: millio…

The Trouble with Platitudes

Well, those who know me or care to know me, know that I am not one much for platitudes. Wait, what’s a platitude?
plural noun: platitudes
a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.
"she began uttering liberal platitudes"

cliché, truism, commonplace, banality, old chestnut, bromide, inanity,banal/trite/hackneyed/stock phrase
"boring us with his platitudes" Yup, something that sounds good, but it only sounds good. It doesn’t do anything, and if you think about it a bit, it is irritating as hell. At least to me, it is.

For example, There’s no I in 'team'. Arguably emphasizing teamwork.
I like how Dr. House addressed that:

The point being, well, sometimes—more often than you think—there is a brilliant individual who is carrying more than her share of the load.

The common argument against my irritation is that such are basically harmless. T…

Thought Experiments and Hypotheticals

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it  ~ Aristotle, circa 350 BCE.
I like to conduct thought experiments because they are useful to understand how people think. But, almost always, I am disappointed because people get defensive and refuse to engage.

Perfectly understandable and often frustrating, but it does not faze me, I'll keep trying.

One way to conduct a thought experiment is to use a hypothetical situation. A key requirement for such is that the participant provisionally accepts the premise(s) and then reasons out the rest.

Albert Einstein used thought experiments a lot. They were useful to him to explain complex phenomena and to gain insight into them.  His book, Relativity, is filled with such. As an example, they shed light on how the same object falling from a moving train appears to take a different path depending on whether the observer is watching from the stationary platform, or from the train itself.

Such experimen…

Weekend good mood music

In a few weeks Canada will kick off its Awesome Music Project and related book launch with an evening of "songs, stories, and science" whose aim is to explore the emotionally healing power of music.
The Awesome Music Project Canada: Songs of Hope and Happiness brings you behind-the-scenes glimpses into the music lives of a diverse array of Canadians. Olympic skier Jennifer Heil reveals the soundtrack that brought her the gold medal in Torino; singer-songwriter Michael Bublé celebrates the way music cemented his bond with his grandfather; and mental health advocate Eric Windeler shares the poignant song that helped him through the devastating loss of his son to suicide.  These and other inspiring tales fill this beautifully illustrated tribute to the songs, musicians, and composers that comfort us, move us, and life our spirits. Rounding out The Awesome Music Project Canada are descriptions of the neurological research confirming the ways in which music is good for us. It imp…

Common Sense

I only wish it were not so common. That probably disappoints a lot of you, maybe even makes you wonder if I am being satirical.

Most assuredly, I am not. Plus, this is my second rodeo on common sense. I am not as certain that people will take it any more seriously, but I do hope that they'll.  It may be written rather flippantly, but I am completely serious.

Common sense usually serves as a proxy for obvious solutions to easy problems. Which then prompts people to recommend commonsense solutions to all problems. Consider some that you might have heard:

"If only we had some common-sense gun laws, we would not have these mass shootings.""Our healthcare system is far too complicated. What we need is to replace it with some common-sense solutions.""People losing their retirement savings in the financial crisis was sad. If only these investors had exercised some common sense and not bought houses they could not afford!""You do not need a Ph. D. to f…

Happy weekend, all!

Hi Cult friends!
Sorry we haven't been around much this week - a lot going on irl. This will be an open chat so please feel free to share music, comments, and gifs.

I'd like to share a couple topics I've been learning about online security. I know this can be a boring subject but it's VERY important, so I hope you'll read this and check the links when you have time. I'm not an expert but if anyone has questions I'll try to help in the comments.

First we'll talk about 2FA (two-factor authentication) and then a related topic involving a growing scam putting our mobile numbers at risk.

2FA is an additional login step after your username and password. The idea is that if your user and password are compromised, the hacker still has to enter a one-time code sent either to your phone by SMS, email, or an authenticator app.

(SMS isn't the best way to do this, but it's still worth doing - we'll talk about that in a minute.)

Here's a gif showin…

National Read a Book Day: "It took me years to write..."

Hi Cult friends,
How about a books and music discussion?

In recognition of National Read a Book Day in the US (Sep. 6) Newsweek lists the top ten books of 2019 so far. Post any songs you can think of about books or reading- and writing-related subjects and we'll listen while we discuss.

Have you read any of the Newsweek books, or want to? What else have you read lately that you liked or disliked?

What makes you decide on reading a certain book? For example, how important is the cover illustration or the title? Do you read both fiction and non-fiction? Both ebooks and paper?

I'm a little superstitious when I borrow books from the library. When I start browsing the first book I pick up often seems to be a clue about how I'll do that time. If I end up liking it I usually find more, and I go home with an armful (or a full e-basket). But if I don't like the first one I often end up not finding anything else either.

When you start a book and don't like it, do you finish …

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