Saturday, November 5, 2022

Odds & Ends: November 5, 2022


Here is today's Depot Pond picture. Obviously, it is cloudy and, not so obviously, windy. Wind gusts are possible up to 65 mph this morning according to the national weather service. It is 62 degrees though, so it is not cold yet. It is supposed to be in the high 50s to low 60s this coming week and that is nice for November. No complaints here.

Faith in Institutions

At lunch last week we discussed the phenomena of TikTok “advertising” and its affect on book sales. I mentioned that I saw a magazine at my library that had an article about TikTok success stories. One of our lunch crew doubted the validity of the book sale data. I replied that the data was from Neilsen Bookscan. The discussion went off on a tangent, morphing into a discussion about statistics, monopolies and bank statements. It got a little off-track.

I trust some institutions. I trust that Neilsen Bookscan reports book sales as accurately as they possibly can. There are gaps – for example, Amazon does not report non-ISBN self-published data to Neilsen. But if a book has an ISBN and is sold in bookstores or online, odds are good your sales are being reported by Nielsen. I trust that my Morgan Stanley investment and bank statement are correct. I trust that when I go to a Dow Jones or Bloomberg website that the stock market information is accurate. I do not see how I could live life under the assumption that every institution is lying to me. I cannot function that way. I make choices about which organizations I trust and which I find questionable. I have to trust some of them or go crazy.

Statistics can be manipulated. Statistics can be interpreted. Anytime I encounter statistics I should be wary. Polls are a great example. I find them not only useless, but annoying. However, a statement – be it a bank statement or statement of a particular book’s sales numbers – is not a statistic. A statistic is a value calculated by a sample. A statement is a sample size of 1, so even if you were to consider that a stat, your statistics 101 class taught you that it would be invalid.

Trusting a news organization is a little trickier. I am more comfortable with numbers, but news reporting is slipperier. I subscribe to the Washington Post. I trust their reporting is accurate and fact checked. They tend to publish a lot of political articles, which interest me less and less. Plus, I get no local news at all. These are problems for me, and I should subscribe to a local paper to alleviate those issues.

Lastly, what about faith in churches? I was raised Catholic. It is difficult to be a Catholic now in my opinion. There are the pedophile incidents. I find the Catholic support for Trump befuddling. I am not part of any religion currently.

I am comfortable with the idea of a creator. I cannot fathom how everything got here, so that seems like a possible explanation. But I do not think the writers of the Bible (or the Koran or any religious scripture) had any more insight into the nature of the creator than I do. I do not believe the Bible’s authors channeled the word of the creator. I do not think the creator cares about us as individuals. We are on our own and most days I do not think we are doing a great job of managing things.

These are some of the things I believe. I might change my mind depending on what happens. I have changed my mind before; it is quite possible I will again.

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