Chapter 75
Texas Book Festival 2010
01a - Introduction
01b - The Mysterious Ski Rack
01c - Wheres the Other Half of That Moose
01d - Scorpions Scorpio
01e - The Waiter Who Didnt Yall
02a - Can I Get a Diet Soda
02b - Riding Into the Sunrise
03 - Modesty at Any Price
04 - Driving Down to Houston
05a - What Does That Sign Say
05b - The State Tree
05c - They Call It the Sunbelt
05d - Just Follow Your Nose
06 - The New House
07a - Billboards
07b - Billboards Again
08 - Stereo Upgrade
09 - Local Wineries
10 - Unintentionally Left Blank
11 - CBW in TX
12 - Ice House Radio
13 - Goats and Cotton
14 - Dig We Must
15 - Dan Moody
16 - Dry Heat
17 - Dead Animals We Have Known
18a - Bookstore Culture
18b - On the Open Road
19 - Weather
20 - Sightings in Bertram and Buchanan
21 - Too Many Birds
22 - Road Hazards
23 - Sightings To And From Houston
24 - The Great Wall of Train
25 - In the Heat of the Day
26 - Bite Me
27 - Bid on This Skeleton
28 - Willie Al Fresco
29 - Rural Countryside
30 - SUV SUX!
31 - Kinky on the Texas Monthly Hour
32 - Strange Yellow Sky
33 - Football is a Serious Enterprise in Texas
34 - Remember the Alamoo!
35 - What Was That on the Radio
36 - Trip to Houston Through Small Towns
37 - Shoe Story
38 - Unintended Fireworks
39 - Flash Flood Warning
40 - Sin City
41 - Live Music in Austin But Not in Clubs
42 - Fear of Overpass
43 - The Big Sneezy
44 - New Texas
45 - Front Ended by the French Fry Mobile
46 - Dirt Farm
47 - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2008
48 - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2009
49 - Central Time Sucks
50 - Temple Texas
51 - Christmas in Austin
52 - Pennants in the Wind
53 - The Road Less Traveled
54 - Texas-size Thunderstorm
55 - Cool Van
56 - Your New House is That-A-Way
57 - CSI Austin
58 - New MTV Game Show
59 - Equine Technology
60 - Look at That Prairie
61 - Get Your Water Here
62 - Corporate Anniversaries
63 - College Sprawl
64 - Hire These Guys
65 - Preparing for Winter
66 - Careful What You Overhear
67 - Bonnie Raitt
68 - Perfume
69 - Questionable Skills
70 - All-American Day
71 - Read Me
72 - Weird Fog
73 - Overpackaged Food
74 - What Town Was That
75 - Texas Book Festival 2010
76 - Bulletproof Roof
77 - The Oldest Photo
78 - Cheesesteaks Part 1
79 - Cheesesteaks Part 2
80 - Sure We Got Culture
81 - A Message to Gyno-Americans
82 - The cathedral of Junk

Just a few choice tidbits

20101026.1000CT Saturday, Back to Life: Humanizing Medical Mysteries

Two books: sleeping sickness epidemic and the Henrietta Lacks story.

  • Narrative in science writing makes it much easier for people to follow, but accuracy is more important. Distinguish the definitive from the possible.
  • The most stealth disease: the sleeping sickness epidemic in the 1920s. Her [the author's] grandmother had it, slept for 180 days, doctors didn't know if she would ever awaken. She never did recover fully from it, did not finish school.
  • When she started to do research for the book, there were zero books on the topic. Not one.
  • You can't judge human experimentation back then by today's standards.
  • Sleeping sickness probably shadows some other contagion, like the 1918 flu epidemic or strep. Still unknown.

20101017.1600CT Sunday, Sam Harris, "The Moral Landscape"

  • Reasons not to criticize religion? Not the existence of God. Usually the argument is that religion is "the only way to think about morality."
  • Is there such a thing as a universal "moral truth?" There are cultures that do not try to maximize well-being for all. For example, consider the treatment of women under the Taliban in Afghanistan. He talked to a seemingly otherwise reasonable person who didn't think that there is any moral problem with that. He asked, Suppose there were a culture that removed the eyes from every third child. Would that be okay? Answer: well, sure, if their scripture said it, like "Every third one shall walk in darkness" or something like that. This is not a hypothetical. This was a real person, a woman. A bioethicist, no less.
  • Separate facts and values. There is no framework we can use to judge values as there is for facts.
  • What is the moral spectrum like? The worst possible misery for everyone all the time is at one end of it, so there is a clear direction toward better moral situations. [I don't buy this argument. It is not a one-dimensional spectrum with clear uphill-downhill direction. It's a multi-dimensional space, not well-ordered.]
  • Can't define well-being? Can't define health, either. Is it just life expectancy? It's a pretty flexible concept, but this is not thought to be a problem. No one challenges the underpinnings of medicine.
  • There's no right answer to the question, "What is food?" But the difference between food and poison is clear. Well, mostly. There are always exceptions, e.g., peanut allergies.
  • Requirements of any plausible method of argument: respect for evidence, logical consistency, intellectual honesty, understanding of the way the world actually works, and parsimony.
  • The moral landscape has peaks and valleys. And there are anomalies like the happy Nazis at Auschwitz.
  • Religious extremism is not necessarily a problem by itself. However, the *ideas* in some religions are problems by themselves. Examples:
    • Infidels are fit only for the fires of hell: either convert them or put them to the sword.
    • The best possible life is to die defending true Islam.
  • The Catholic church is more concerned about stopping contraception than about stopping the sexual abuse of children.
  • Look at people's behavior to understand their beliefs.