Book Review #18

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds

I am ticked off…. or rather, this book is ticked off the reading list challenge that I don’t follow.

It was originally published before I was born – more than a century before. It was first printed in 1841. The copy that I got on an inter-library loan was reprinted in 1980. It had 3 prefaces – the original, a slightly revised version when the author had it reprinted 30 years later, and yet another from the 1980 re-release.

The 1980 instigator was taking a University Psychology course, when he thought he heard the instructor speaking of an old book about The Madness Of Krauts. He didn’t realize that Germans were called Krauts, that far back. A check of the University library showed him his mistake, but since the copyright had long expired, he felt that he could make a little money by having it reprinted.

This book was a disappointment, yet also a delight to me. Even since the ‘70s, there have been great changes and improvements in psychiatry and psychology, but since I only knew of the 1980 publish date, I hoped to get some fairly up-to-date insights into mob behavior. The 1841 composer rendered none of that. He only provided recountings of historical events which were notable for mass delusion.

These included the likes of the monetary bubble, collapse of the Louisiana Investment scam/scandal, the sad failure of the earliest attempt at a German Crusade, and the ongoing hysteria of the witch hunts. While the historical details were interesting enough, he delivered them all with the long-winded panache of someone reciting a Life Insurance actuarial table.

With the German Crusade, 100,000 young men were said to have started out, but only a handful survived, even to reach Constantinople, because of fighting among themselves, and with the armies of states and countries they marched through and denuded for food and drink.

As usual, the section on the witch hunts provided the worst atrocities. It was both a Church and State viewpoint that, “Because of the seriousness of this offence, none who are accused of this horrid crime shall escape torture to make them confess their sins. It is better that a million shall die, than that one witch shall be allowed to escape.”

Even while trying to do good, the well-intentioned did bad. As the witch-hunt frenzy was ebbing, a minor member of British Nobility tried an experiment. He was unconvinced that torture-induced confessions, and especially the naming of other witches, was valid.

He was acquainted and friends with, two Jesuit priests who acted as judges at the torture trials. To convince them of his viewpoint, he used a woman accused and imprisoned as a witch. They all attended the torture chamber, and he acted as interrogator. He had the woman stretched on the rack, and afflicted with the gamut of horrible tortures. Within a day, she admitted that she was a witch. Skillfully using leading questions, he also had her claim that the two Jesuits were wizards, calling them by name.

As they left the building, leaving the poor woman to her undeserved fate, the senior priest said, “It is well that this was done by a friend, rather than by an enemy.” And so, the witch-hunt frenzy slowly died, but not before thousands of innocent people also suffered and died.

This book is old enough to display some of the some of the English language’s spelling shifts. Words like ‘showed’, and ‘shown’ were printed as shewed, and shewn. While it was not what I thought I was getting, still it was an interesting read.

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WOW #7

Dictionary

The Word Of the Week is a totally new one to me, and quite useful, psychologically.  It is

PARALOGIZE

To draw conclusions that do not follow logically from a given set of assumptions.

Paralogize entered English from Medieval Latin paralogizāre, from Greek paralogízesthai meaning “to reason falsely.” It’s been used in English since the late 1500s.

I’ve mentioned that the examples given, often do not relate well to the chosen word. One example for this word is;

“A brick,” he retorted, “is a parallelogram; I am not a parallelogram, and therefore not a brick …” “Charley Lightheart, you paralogize.” Stewart Edward White and Samuel Hopkins Adams, The Mystery, 1907

I would like to object that the conclusion drawn is valid, but must admit that the authors are British, and members of a group which uses the word ‘brick’ in a very different sense.

Brick – a decent, generous, reliable person (1830s+ British students)

So it is the assumption which is at fault here, although I can’t imagine why Charlie would object to being called one.

Like the ‘No True Scotsman Theorem’, this is a term that I can use to label the Religiously Restrictive, when they play the ‘Who’s Going To Be Saved’ game. They claim, “I’m Christian, and I’m good! You’re not Christian, therefore you are evil!

This is like Super-paralogizing.  Neither any of the assumptions, nor the conclusions, are valid.

This week’s candidate was caught associating with the likes of; whiffler, muckrake, bonzer, juggernaut, and troglodyte.

Show Me The Money

American money

A student’s request for extra money

A student called up his Mom one evening from his college and asked her for some money, because he was broke.

His Mother said, “Sure, sweetie. I will send you some money. You also left your economics book here when you visited two weeks ago. Do you want me to send that up too?”

“Uhh, oh yeah, O.K.” responded the kid.

So his Mom wrapped the book along with the checks up in a package, kissed Dad goodbye, and went to the post office to mail the money and the book.

When she gets back, Dad asked, “Well how much did you give the boy this time?”

“Oh, I wrote two checks, one for $20, and the other for $1,000.”

“That’s $1020!!!” yelled Dad, “Are you going crazy???”

“Don’t worry hon,” Mom said, kissed Dad on the on top of his bald head, “I taped the $20 check to the cover of his book, but I put the $1,000 one somewhere among the pages in chapter 15!”

***

Who is the Winner?

The father of five children had won a toy at a raffle. He called his kids together to ask which one should have the present. “Who is the most obedient?” he asked. “Who never talks back to mother? and “Who does everything mother says?”
Five small voices replied in unison. “Okay daddy! You get the toy.”

***

The Joy Ride

Bob was 16 and finally got hold of his driver’s license. In order to celebrate the special day, the whole family went out to the driveway and climbed into the car to enjoy his first official drive. However, dad went to the back seat, where he sat right behind his boy.

When Bob saw his dad he said “Dad, you must be fed up of the front seat after teaching me how to drive all these days Right?”

“Nope!” came the quick reply from the dad. “I’m going to sit back here and kick the back of your seat while you drive, just like you’ve been doing to me for the last sixteen years!”

***

Magic Penny

After putting their three-year-old child Brian in bed, his parents heard muffled sobs coming from his room one night. Rushing back in, they found that the child was crying hysterically when he saw them. He told his parents that he had accidentally swallowed a penny and was sure that he would die now. The father, in an attempt to sober him down, took out a penny from his pocket and pretended to pull it out from Brian’s ear. The child was really thrilled and stopped crying at once.

In a flash, he snatched the penny from his dad’s hand, swallowed it, and then cheerfully demanded, “Do it again, Dad!”

***

CLINIC’S NAME

Two elderly couples, (I’m not saying that one of them wasn’t The Archon and Mrs G.O.D.) were enjoying friendly conversation, when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was that memory clinic you went to last month?”

“Outstanding!” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques – visualization, association – it made a big difference for me.”

“That’s great. What was the name of the clinic?”

Fred went blank. He thought and thought, but couldn’t remember.  Then a smile broke across his face, and he asked, “What do you call that red flower with the long stem and thorns?”

“You mean a rose?”

“Yeah, that’s it!” He turned to his wife and said….”Rose, what was the name of that clinic???”

***

BTW!
This is the second time I’ve used this picture of American money, but the first time I’ve noticed that the photo includes a $2 bill in the lower left.  The featured President is Thomas Jefferson.

 

Adaptability (Humor In Business)

SITUATION ADAPTABILITY EVALUATION
FOR MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL

This test has been designed to evaluate reactions of management personnel to various situations.  The situations are based on actual case studies from a well-known educational institution, and represent a cross-section of test data, correlated to evaluate both reaction time to difficult situations, as well as the soundness of each decision selected.

There are 8 multiple choice questions.  Read each question thoroughly.  Place an X by the answer you feel is most correctly justified by the circumstances given.  Be prepared to justify your decision.

You have 4 minutes.

Do not begin answering the questions until you are told to do so.

1.  You have prepared a proposal for the Regional Director of Purchasing for your largest customer.  The success of this presentation will mean increasing your sales to his company by 200%.  In the middle of your proposal, the customer leans over to look at your report, and spits into your coffee. You:

(a) Tell him you prefer you coffee black.
(b)  Ask to have him checked for communicable diseases.
(c)  Take a leak in his ‘OUT’ basket.

2. You are having lunch with a prospective customer, talking about what could be your biggest sale of the year. During the conversation, a blonde walks into the restaurant, and she is so stunning that you draw your companion’s attention to her, and give a vivid description of what you would do if you had her alone in your motel room. She walks over to your table and introduces herself as your client’s daughter. Your next move is to:

(a) Ask for her hand in marriage.
(b) Pretend you’ve forgotten how to speak English.
(c) Repeat the conversation to the daughter, and just hope for the best.

3.  You are making a sales presentation to a group of corporate executives in the plushest office you’ve ever seen. The hot enchilada casserole and egg salad sandwich you had for lunch react, creating a severe pressure. Your sphincter loses its control, and you break wind in a most convincing manner, causing three tumblers to shatter, and a secretary to pass out. What you should do next is:

(a) Offer to come back next week, when the smell has gone away.
(b) Point to their CEO, and accuse him of the offense.
(c) Challenge anyone in the room to do better.

4.  You are at a business lunch, when you are suddenly overcome with an uncontrollable need to pick your nose. Remembering that this is definitely a NO-NO. You:

(a) Pretend to wave to somebody across the room and, with one fluid motion, bury your forefinger in your nose up to the 4th joint.
(b) Get everyone drunk, and organize a nose-picking contest with a prize to the one who make his nose bleed first.
(c) Drop your napkin on the floor, and when you bend over to pick it up, blow your nose on your sock.

5. You’ve just spent the evening with a supplier who invited you to an all-night boiler-maker drinking party. You get home just in time to go to work. You stagger to the men’s room and spend a half-hour vomiting. As you’re washing up, the Sales Training Manager walks in, blows cigar smoke in your face, and asks you to join him for drinks after work. You:

(a) Look him straight in the eye, and launch one last convulsive torrent at the front of his Hart Shaffner & Marx suit.
(b) Nail him right in the crotch, banking on the fact that he’ll never recognize your green face.
(c) Grasp his hand and pump it till he pees his pants.

6.  You are at a dinner with a customer and his wife, who looks like the regional winner of the Marjorie Main lookalike contest. Halfway through dinner you feel a hand on your lap. If you are resourceful, you will:

(a) ‘Accidently ‘ spill hot coffee in your lap.
(b) Slip a note to you server to have your customer paged, and see if the hand disappears.
(c) Excuse yourself and go to the men’s room. If he follows, don’t come out till you have a signed order.

7.  You’re on your way in to see your best account, when your zipper breaks, and you remember that you forgot to put on your underpants this morning. You decide to:

(a) Call on the customer’s secretary instead.
(b) Explain that you were trolling for queers.
(c) Buy a baggy raincoat and head for the school playground.

8.  You’ve just returned from Green Bay, Wisconsin, in January, and tell your boss that nobody but whores and football players live there. He mentions that his wife is from Green Bay. You:

(a) Ask what position she played.
(b) Ask if she’s still working the streets.
(c) Pretend you’re suffering from amnesia, and don’t remember your name.

Remember, there are no “correct” answers, except perhaps to take up Yoga so that you can practice bending over and kissing it goodbye.

 

 

Supermarket Psychology

 

Sriacha Sauce

 

Nah, I’m not gonna talk about how stores get you to buy stuff.  This is more a report on the amateur sport of people watching.  Since I can’t get home delivery of the Toronto Sun, I go out for it Monday to Friday.  There are closer places to pick it up, but I go to a supermarket a mile down the road, because they sell it 50 cents/copy cheaper, as a loss leader.  It’s also the store which installed carts which require a quarter, and I often get the paper free, or nearly so, by putting carts away.

Since I usually have only the one item, I stand in the “Express Lane” checkout line.  This store’s express lines are 12 items or less.  Occasionally I have to remind a clerk or a customer of that.  I stood in another store’s “8 Items or less” line one day behind an entitled bitch who checked out 28 items, for just over $73.  I asked the clerk whether she had trouble counting, or just trouble saying no.  “Well, sometimes when it isn’t busy….”  “There’s me, and four others behind me, all with one or two items.  I think that counts as busy.  Do you need help from the manager??”

Watching people checking out whole cart-loads of groceries is no fun.  They buy everything.  (Almost!)  The fun comes from seeing the one or two items that people absolutely, positively, need, right now, and trying to guess why.  In my first post, I wrote of an older gentleman standing in line with a small bottle of Scope mouthwash, and a pack of Certs gum.  I still think my guess of a hot date that night was a good one.

The wife was going to brown a frozen pie shell, and fill it with instant pudding, as a dessert.  A check in the freezer revealed three boxes of frozen tart shells, but no pie shells.  Quick, over to the store for a package of pie shells – I can see that.  I understand bread, milk, eggs, meat – but some of the rest???!

A woman this week checked out only one tiny bottle of Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce.  I guess if hubby expects chili for supper, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  A man the next day purchased seven (7!) small bottles of sliced olives.  Now why didn’t he buy one large jar??  Is it pizza day at school tomorrow?  So many questions!  So many chances to be told to mind my own F…. business.

I followed a couple of women out late one Friday afternoon.  I thought they might be more than just friends.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I was disabused of my suspicion, when the manlier of the two told her companion that one of the women she worked with, hoped the same thing.  She’d had to explain that, “No, no!  I don’t like girls.  I like guys.”

I thought of KayJai, and her parties.  Each of these gals checked out two 3-liter/quart jugs of Motts Caesar Mix.  The liquor store is just across the plaza.  A 40-ouncer of cheap Vodka apiece, and it’s on to a weekend to forget.

Just yesterday, a shopper left with two, liter bottles of hydrogen peroxide.  Somebody’s going blonde tonight.  I hope it’s somebody’s girlfriend, not the dark Chicano guy who bought them.  A 9-year-old boy, all by himself, checked out behind him with 9 individual Michelina frozen fettuccini meals.  Where are Mom and Dad?  Gone away for the weekend?  Or is the scout troop coming over?

A couple of the clerks are people-watchers like me, and are absolutely mesmerized by the stuff people rush in to pick up.  It’s like a floor-show, without the $8 cover charge and two drink minimum, although one clerk told me there are days she’d pay the eight bucks, and need the drinks.  Sometimes the combinations are, to say the least, intriguing.  One can of tomato paste, and a jug of drain cleaner – Hmmm, is hubby going to make it to tomorrow??

I hope that’s for a Boy Scout baking project.  Otherwise, how many kids do you have in your house, that you need four large boxes of Corn Flakes at three in the afternoon?  Shouldn’t you be buying milk with that?  A chocolate cake, and two mousetraps??  Just what are you trying to catch, hubby stealing a slice?

I was recently up unreasonably unusually early on a Saturday morning, to take the daughter and her friend to a strawberry festival to market their wares.  I stopped into my preferred supermarket shortly after 8 AM opening, and wound up in line  with a bunch of old people.  Huh?  Whazzat?  Who, me too?

The old codger in front of me checked out a jug of orange juice, and a spray can of Pledge furniture polish.  That dust can really sneak up on you.  The white-haired winner behind me had a round loaf of Portuguese bread, and what looked like a small slab of Feta cheese.

Ever nosy tactful, I asked, “Is that breakfast?”  “Oh yes!  Toast and cheese.”  Oh, great, something else to look forward to, not being able to think about things like eating, until hunger pangs hit.  Then they all go to the McDonalds across the street, and nurse a coffee till lunch time.  People-watching is fun.  Just ask the folks who watch me.

Book Review #5

Finally, a book I can be proud to admit I read.

The Author – Jonathan Haidt

The Book – The Righteous Mind

Subtitled – Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Review

4-The Righteous MindI might as well start with the book itself.  The dust cover is printed with what looks like a knife slash from corner to corner, with a black gap, showing how “good people” are “divided.”  Despite the subtitle promising to tell why people are divided, nowhere in the book is it explained.  That folks are divided on many topics is emphasised, and the How and Where is demonstrated, but the Why is never given.

On the blurb page, a promise is given to show how to win an argument against someone whose views you do not agree with.  I read it very carefully.  It involves empathizing with your opponent until you Become them, and then slowly and gently lead them away from their position, towards yours.

Sort of like, if I want my neighbor to stop kicking his dog, I bring him over to my place to watch me kick my dog, to show him how much the dog hurts.  I don’t want to lose my morals and empathize till I become the narrow-minded asshole I’ve come to hate.  I’d sooner use the direct approach, and just kick the neighbor till he agrees to stop.

The book itself is a hardcover, each page with twice as much printing as my little paperbacks.  A quick check at the back shows 420 pages, equal to 840 pages of my normal reading.  If I’m not careful I might end up learning something before I’m done.

But wait, it’s been a while since I read a book like this.  The final 110 pages aren’t actually part of the book.  A third of it is a list of people and their research that he stole from, to formulate his theories.  Another third is notes to explain how he twisted their square ideas to fit his round pigeonholes, and the final third is an index to guide you to where you can worship his multifaceted brilliance.

That leaves only 310/620 pages of real reading.  Perhaps I’ll only get a clue when I’m done.

The author is a moral psychologist.  This doesn’t mean that he gives a damn if you’re screwing the neighbor, drinking, drugging, or even dancing.  He’s the guy who explains why and how we make decisions about what we feel is acceptable and non-acceptable behavior, for ourselves and others, even in the face of conflicting opinions, or facts.

The Atheist/philosopher, Richard Dawkins wrote a book called The Selfish Gene, in which he claimed that evolution insists that everything we do, from love, to altruism, to charity, must somehow benefit the individual.

Haidt raises this thought a couple of levels by comparing human society to biological evolution.  Single-cell organisms united to create multi-celled ones, right up to humans and large animals.  Groups of specialized cells and organs allow achievements that single cells could not achieve.

Humans first grouped by family, then by clan, then village, right up to nation.  Things like sports, politics, religion and armed forces create focused groups through synchronized sounds – prayers, hymns, chants, etc., movements – dances, marching, calisthenics – rituals and sacred totems – salutes, uniforms, crosses, even cheeseheads.

Successful groups outperform, and absorb or drive out lesser ones, and can cause actions that are not beneficial to the individual (suicide bombing), but are, to the group (Islam).

To the scientist, for any group, hypocrisy is a good thing.  For the liar, whether group or individual, it gives them a chance to reap their desired ends and feel good about it.  That makes for more confident leadership and an increase in following and obeying.

About the strange, often conflicting beliefs of every religion, including Christianity, the author says:

The memorable nymphs and fairies and goblins and demons that crowd the mythologies of every people, are the imaginative offspring of a hyperactive habit of finding agency wherever anything puzzles or frightens us.  This mindlessly generates a vast overpopulation of agent-ideas, most of which are too stupid to hold our attention for an instant; only a well-designed few make it through the rehearsal tournament, mutating and improving as they go.  The ones that get shared and remembered are the souped-up winners of billions of competitions for rehearsal time in the brains of our ancestors.

Haidt shows that, once we learn something, even if it’s wrong, it takes more mental energy to unlearn it, than to merely absorb the correct information.

The researchers saw similar results when they told participants that pressing a button would reduce the chance of shock by as much as 90%. Those participants who had to make a proactive choice to press the button opted to leave it untouched about half the time, even though it meant they had to withstand shocks they themselves rated as highly undesirable.

It gave me a slight, momentary sympathy for those I’ve viewed as merely too lazy or bull-headed to accept apparently clear proof of their invalid stances.  Then, he went on to state that, having taken a stance, we will expend even more energy to come up with, sometimes very convoluted, justifications for it, all in the name of support from and for, “our group.”

Since there are limits to most people’s ability to reach outside themselves, there are limits to how large the groups may grow.  The book crystallized and explained why I am a non-joining loner, just shy of being a psychopath; yet rail at Quebec for not “joining” Canada, or the Baltic States for each wanting to rule their own little valley.

This was deep and enlightening reading.  My hopes for an informed quick-fix were soon dashed.  Rather, as I wrote in a long-gone post, if we can keep the momentum in the right direction, thousands, millions, billions of tiny steps and nudges may make mankind a better race.

I Can Read You Like A Book

I’ve read books all my life.  As I saw myself getting near to retirement, I laid in a stock to keep me interested, and my time filled.  There must be 25 or 30 lying around the house that I haven’t got to yet, with more arriving all the time. I promised poor Art Browne @ Pouringmyartout, that I would read his eBook by October, and here it is January.

I discovered blogging, and, composing my own pitiful output, as well as reading and commenting on what you guys write, has cut down on my book-reading somewhat.  The busiest year I ever had was 1977, when I read 72 books in the calendar year.  Usually I read about a book a week, or about 50 a year.  This past couple of years, the totals have been less.  In 2013 I read 31 books.  The following is a list of how I spent some of my time.

The first two batches are the community writing I posted about.  They are credited to a “James Axler”, but no such author exists.  Instead, 8 or 9 writers for each series, rotate publishing a book a month.

Deathlands Series:  Hell Road Warriors1-Hell Road Warriors

This is the book I had the most trouble with.  The action scenes are fine, but the story starts 50 miles from my home town.  Early in the book I was already saying, “That highway doesn’t connect to that one.”  Then it goes north across Lake Huron.  This is the passage where they got there early to get a good birth on the ferry, but forgot to chalk the wheels, and the breaks failed.

Then they went through the Soo Locks, to get into Lake Superior.  The “locks” are giant log and steel constructions, pulled across the river by 40 pairs of oxen, to prevent unpaid passage.  This ignores the 21 foot difference in water level between the two lakes.  Every chapter, sometimes every page had a word misusage.  This is probably the straw that broke this reader’s back.

2-Palaces of Light 3-Wretch Earth 4-Crimson Waters 5-No Man's Land

 

 

 

Palaces of Light – Wretched Earth – Crimson Waters – No Man’s Land

****

Outlanders Series:

1-Dragon City 2-God War 3-Gensis Sinister

 

 

 

 

Dragon City – God War – Genesis Sinister

***

One Day on MarsTravis S. Taylor – One Day on Mars

*

1-Grantville Gazette IV 2-The Eastern Front 3-The Saxon Uprising

Eric Flint – Grantville Gazette IV – The Eastern Front – The Saxon Uprising

***

4-The Tangled Web (Virginia DeMarce)

Virginia DeMarce – The Tangled Web

*

5-The Papal Stakes (Charles E. Gannon)

Charles E. Gannon – the Papal Stakes

*

1-Overkill 2-Undercurrents

Robert Buettner – Overkill – Undercurrents

**

1-Killing-Floor 2-Die-Trying 3-Trip-Wire

Lee Child – Killing Floor – Die Trying – Tripwire

***

1-Sinai Secret 2-Voodoo Fury

Greg Loomis – Sinai Secret – Voodoo Fury

**

Fire Ice

Clive Cussler – Fire Ice

*

1-The Knowland Retribution 2-The Lacey Confession

Richard Greener – The Knowland Retribution – The Lacey Confession

**

1-Tinker 2-Wolf Who Rules 3-Elfhome

Wen Spencer – Tinker – Wolf Who Rules – Elfhome

***

1-The Human Division

John Scalzi – The Human Division

This book was originally 13 long chapters, essentially short stories, published in an on-line journal.  They have the same general group of people, on and off the same interstellar spacecraft, but the paper and print compilation seems somewhat disconnected.

*

2-The Inquisitor's Key

Jefferson Bass – The Inquisitor’s Key

*

3-Deep Fathom

James Rollins – Deep Fathom

This is the first in a series new to me.  There are eleven more, and all available at no cost from an on-line library – if I can wrestle the Kobo away from the wife occasionally.

*

4-The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt – The Righteous Mind, Why good people are divided by politics and religion

This is the deepest and most educational book I read all year.  The author explains how and why people make certain thoughts and ideas “sacred”, even when others, or the evidence, don’t agree with them.  It gave some nice insights into puzzling behavior.  I’m almost proud of myself for reading this one.

We all read, because we all write.  Anybody else want to brag about a book or two you’ve recently read?