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3:52 PM American Express, I declare, has the cheesiest commercials on television. I can’t seem to find two of their worst commercials online, but if I could share them here you’d know what I’m talking about. One is for the card that allows you save money into a savings account, where they have all these couples, one of whom says “Last year we saved…” and his partner interjects “not enough.” The other is the guy who calls in the morning for the card with no travel restrictions and stays on the phone with the AmEx lady until evening asking her questions about blackouts and convertibles before finally getting home in the evening and asking “How do we do this?”

5:31 PM Verizon Wireless’ average customer bill is $51. Source: Dennis Strigl, President and CEO, Verizon, as quoted on Fast Money, CNBC.

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9:49 AM Taken in Nako in India, near the China border.


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Oxford to study faith in God

From article:

University of Oxford researchers will spend nearly $4 million to study why mankind embraces God. The grant to the Ian Ramsey Center for Science and Religion will bring anthropologists, theologians, philosophers and other academics together for three years to study whether belief in a divine being is a basic part of mankind’s makeup.

“There are a lot of issues. What is it that is innate in human nature to believe in God, whether it is gods or something superhuman or supernatural?” said Roger Trigg, acting director of the center.

He said anthropological and philosophical research suggests that faith in God is a universal human impulse found in most cultures around the world, even though it has been waning in Britain and western Europe.

“One implication that comes from this is that religion is the default position, and atheism is perhaps more in need of explanation,” he said.

The study will be funded by the John Templeton Foundation, a U.S.-based philanthropic organization that funds wide-ranging research into questions that deal with the laws of nature and issues of spirituality.

According to the Wikipedia entry on the agency funding the study, the John Templeton Foundation has in the past been accused of right-wing associations and supporting intelligent design (as opposed to evolution-based) proponents.

Also from the Wikipedia article, regarding debates in the scientific community about this organization:

In 2006, John Horgan, a science journalist and the author of several books, wrote in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (reprinted in Edge) of his “misgivings about the foundation’s agenda of reconciling religion and science”. He claims that a conference he attended favored scientists who “offered a perspective clearly skewed in favor of religion and Christianity”, and says that a Templeton official “told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion”.

In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist) repeatedly criticizes the Templeton Foundation, referring to the Templeton Prize as “a very large sum of money given…usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion.” Concerning the conference that he and John Horgan attended, and to John Horgan’s resulting article, Dawkins comments, “If I understand Horgan’s point, it is that Templeton’s money corrupts science.”

The question for me is how this new venture will shape up. It’s not anything new – a debate between scholars of different fields coming together to discuss one of the world’s oldest questions. The financial sponsor is a corporate (albeit non-profit) entity which must have its own interests at stake. So, let’s see what comes out of it.

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Today, while putting milk and sugar in my coffee at Borders, I noticed a wad of fresh napkins in the garbage container. The idea arose in my mind, then, of a co-op coffeehouse where the cost of every single item is transparently accounted for. Everything would be stored behind the counter and the customer would pay for each item he/she chooses to purchase and use, including the cup and napkins. (It might be too much to charge for each teaspoon or bag of sugar, so I think a flat fee for sugar and milk would suffice.)

My reasoning is that the overall experience will probably be a lot cheaper for most people, because if you think about it, the coffeehouses (including Starbucks and Seattle’s Best) currently include the cost of each wasted cup and napkin into every drink they sell, so a person like me who didn’t use a single napkin paid for that wad of unused napkins in the garbage. Additionally, when people are aware of how much each little item actually costs, they’ll think twice before wasting them. I wonder if some such co-op or outlet already exists somewhere (maybe out in San Francisco or somewhere on the west coast most likely).

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Zeitgeist, The Movie

This is definitely stuff for thought, but it needs to be watched with a very open mind.

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