Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bad Math Strikes Again!

We all probably know by now that a woman in California just had octuplets...and we all probably have our opinions on just how foolish her life choices have been. I'd like to strike a few blows, however, at the ignorant statements made in this story by Dr. Charles Sophy, whose title is "medical director of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services," according to the article.

Dr. Sophy was quoted as saying the following:

Sophy said the expense of raising 14 children will likely be prohibitive, citing studies that estimate it costs roughly $2.5 million to raise a child to adulthood. Using that math, raising 14 children would cost roughly $35 million.

"And that's basic stuff," he said. "That doesn't include swimming lessons and things like that. It's very costly and hopefully the planning that needs to be done was done upfront."

Sophy continued, "14 is a large number of children, so yes, it'll be 14 times the stress."

Let us examine his math.
  • First of all, it is true that $2.5 million times 14 = $35 million.
  • $2.5 million per child to adulthood? Let's assume that this spans 22 years (graduate from H.S. at 18 and then 4 years of college). We then have an average cost of $113,636 per child per year. This works out to a cost of $2185 per child per week, or $312 per day. Are you really telling me that it costs an average of $312 every day to feed, clothe, and care for my child?
  • I have four children. Do I really need $454,545 every year to care for them? If so, I'm in big trouble!
  • And if my kids need swimming lessons, piano lessons, and the perfunctory trip to Disney, should I budget $500,000 annually?
  • Why did they not tell us, in this article, what "studies" Dr. Sophy cited? I'd like to know.
  • Do all kids produce equal quantities of stress? Dr. Sophy implies that they do, and that, furthermore, stress increases incrementally and consistently. Is the difference between the stress of 2 children and the stress of 3 children equal to the difference between the stress of 12 childen and the stress of 13? How would he know? How would anyone?
  • How many children does this gentleman have? How did he get to be a "director," and do his responsibilities include budgeting and/or accounting? [OK, those aren't really math questions...]
The moral of the story, as always, is to be cautious with the numbers that are thrown about in the media, as if they were serious, accurate statistics. They often are not. For example, consider the numbers Congress is throwing around right now...they have NO idea what they are talking about!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Abomination of 2009 Draws Nigh...

I am going to refer to the stimulus bill, working its way toward passage and the president's signature, as an abomination. The word "abomination" refers to something vile, shameful, detestable; and is usually something hated or despised, or which generates disgust.

If you have been paying attention to the contents of this enormous bill, and you have any understanding of American history, you will recognize that this bill does two things in a grand way:

  1. It spends nearly a trillion dollars of money that we don't have, thus generating enormous additional debt.
  2. It generates dozens of new government programs, contributes to the bloating of others, and will make it harder to kill off programs which were never part of the umbrella of governmental responsibilities.
It will almost certainly pass, given the makeup of Congress and the current state of politics. Any Republican (or Democrat, for that matter) who votes for it should be exposed as a traitor to his party's values and be drummed out of office at the next available opportunity. It is an abomination. It should be treated that way.

There is precedent for this. The tariff bill passed in 1828 was called the "Tariff of Abominations" by southerners who had contempt for the impact it would have on their antebellum economy. Their predictions were generally on target (the economics lesson involved is both worthwhile and simple). President John Quincy Adams signed it and then lost his re-election bid six months later.

Perhaps that last thought is a glimmer of hope...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bring On Digital TV!

I think I've finally had it up to here [image: Hand slightly higher than forehead, angry face] with this analog-to-digital TV switch issue. I am in agreement that, in the end, a switch to digital TV signals is a net improvement for all involved. But the following elements irritate me:

  • The government has handed out tens of millions of $40 coupons for converter boxes that cost little more than $40. This billion-plus-dollar subsidy is being paid for by me and other taxpayers. The number of coupons issued has already exceeded the number of homes which still receive TV signals via antennas. The Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves.
  • Despite a barrage of advertising, news items, reminders, etc., etc.—the original law was passed in 1996—there are apparently still some people who have not gotten the message that the transition goes total on February 17. How can you miss this? If you have and use a TV, you should have learned this by now. And if you use your TV and missed this, maybe you should be away from TV for a time??
  • Hawaii was the first state to make the switch, which took place several days ago (something to do with the mating season of an endangered bird which lives in/near the volcanoes on which transmission towers rest—gotta love those environmentalists). And what happened? According to many articles, including this one, there were hundreds of confused people calling TV stations and the FCC wondering what was going on!
I am the sort of person who looks at people who have been told the same thing several times and then ignore it without so much as a whiff of pity. They must learn their lesson and then deal with it. And let's be honest—You Can Live Without Television! Many people really ought to try it, quite frankly.

Then yesterday's paper comes...

In which our president suggests that in order to avoid inconveniencing the foolish, the transition to all-digital be moved back four months! Instead, the inconvenienced will include broadcast stations, who stands to lose millions and millions of dollars with a delay; public safety operations, who are counting the days until the switch, when they can use their improved communication capabilities; and wireless companies who have already purchased the freed-up spectrum for their own business purposes.

Never mind the fact that four more months of public service announcements about the switch will be horribly irritating...

Today's Sign The Apocalypse is Upon Us

Oh, my....At The Villages retirement complex in Florida, the largest of its kind anywhere, it is reported by the New York Post and that (a) the female-to-male ratio is 10-to-1 in its population of 70,000, and (b) lechery and indecency is a major problem.

Behavior like the article describes (summarized below) would be condemned—and properly so—in the younger generation, but when you read that the elderly—the supposed wiser segment of the population—are behaving like alley cats, it has a nauseating effect. With the understanding that there are no doubt virtuous people among that population, here is what we learn about some of the others:

  • There is a black market for Viagra.
  • Both men and women are looking for opportunities. One woman was quoted, "A lot of the men down here are cheaper than heck," she says, "and a lot of the women are extremely brazen. Some girls will go into the parking lot with a man and come back a half-hour later like nothing happened!"
  • Sexually transmitted diseases are a growing concern. Referring to one local gynecologist, "she treated more cases of herpes and human papillomavirus at The Villages than she did when she worked in Miami." Other STD's are also becoming more common.
  • Local law enforcement "just tries to keep up."
The "Greatest Generation" will get a black eye from this.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hymn of the Week: We've a Story to Tell to the Nations

The story of the gospel of Christ is what the world needs to hear today. The world knows all about war and famine, about evil, about politics, and even that we in the U.S.A. have a new Secretary of State.

I wish our country could have an emissary that goes throughout the world telling about Christ, and the good news about how He died for our sins so that we could have salvation. The kingdom of God has emissaries like that—us!

Are we telling them?

We've a Story to Tell to the Nations

We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of peace and light,
A story of peace and light.


For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright;
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
The kingdom of love and light.

We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
A song that shall conquer evil
And shatter the spear and sword,
And shatter the spear and sword.


We’ve a message to give to the nations,
That the Lord who reigns up above
Has sent us His Son to save us,
And show us that God is love,
And show us that God is love.


We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
Who the path of sorrow has trod,
That all of the world’s great peoples
Might come to the truth of God,
Might come to the truth of God.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Anniversary of a Day of Infamy

Not December 7, 1941....that day only killed a couple of thousand innocent Americans. The greater day of infamy was January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court gave free reign to those who believe the murder of the unborn is a constitutionally protected privilege. Since then, something like 50,000,000 innocent Americans have been slaughtered in the cruelest and vilest ways imaginable.

In lieu of exercising my writing abilities, I will gladly request that you read this article by Nick DeLeeuw of, who both addresses our responsibilities as Christians and as citizens where this matter of abortion is concerned.

It saddens me that we now have a president—and a majority of Congress—who have no intention of changing the status quo. May God have mercy upon us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Would You Like To Buy This?

From the makers of Chia pets comes this new product: Chia Obama. This product, like all similar products, involves the sprouting of green plant life on the top to look like the hair of the, um, living species it is trying to, um, imitate.

Chia Obama comes in two varieties: Happy Chia Obama and Determined Chia Obama (I would describe this second product as more "Philosophical" than "Determined," but perhaps that is why I am not in marketing?). You should check out the website just to see the little presentation by the salesman.

Is it a bit disrespectful? Yes. Did President Obama approve it? I have my doubts. Is it amusing in an odd little sort of way? Somehow, yes...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts for the New President

Here are an assortment of thoughts I have for the new president:

Put Christ first in your life. If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, Mr. President, please do so today. Then let the first stanza of this hymn remind you of some of your presidential obligations:

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

—William D. Longstaff

Remember that the man who preceded you was a class act. So was his father, and so was Ronaldus Maximus. Do the same, even though you, like they, will be reviled by ignorant and crass people.

Do what is right. Sometimes you just have to accept the scorn and make the decisions that good leaders make.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hymn of the Week: Victory Is Nigh

After seeing the jubilant winners of today's football games (Go Steelers!!), I wanted to choose a hymn with a victory theme. This one crossed my path.

I am not familiar with the tune, or the author (F.H. Shaul), but the words convey an optimism that spiritual victory—a far more important type of victory than more mortal football—can be had if we "follow our Captain" as "we are faithful to our duty." Note the optimism!

Victory Is Nigh

Marching on to battle ’gainst the hosts of wrong,
Following our Captain with a happy song,
Heeding not the many who are loit’ring by,
For victory is nigh, yes, victory is nigh.


Victory is nigh! yes, victory is nigh!
Shout with voice triumphant to the vaulted sky;
Victory is nigh! yes, victory is nigh!
We will win the battle for the King on high.

Shouting loud hosannas as we onward go,
With determination sin to overthrow;
Satan’s hosts are trembling, foes before us fly,
For victory is nigh, yes, victory is nigh.


“Volunteers are wanted,” hear the Master say,
Will you be enlisted in the mighty fray?
Ev’ry Christian answer, saying, “Here am I,”
Then victory is nigh, yes, victory is nigh.


Faithful to your duty, halt not by the way,
Keep the banner floating for the King alway,
Great reward He’ll give His soldiers by and by,
For victory is nigh, yes, victory is nigh.


Book Review: "How the States Got Their Shapes" by Mark Stein

If you are the kind of person who is fascinated about why Maryland has such a funny shape, or why Texas is so much bigger than the other states around it, or why Delaware has that semicircle on its northern end, this book is for you.

The fifty chapters of this book each detail how a particular state got its "shape:" Why its boundaries were located as they were. There are some very amusing vignettes and some seldom-noticed details (did you know that the border between Iowa and Missouri actually curves? The surveyor goofed. And he wasn't the only one). There are explanations of often-asked questions (Why two Dakotas, instead of one? There aren't that many people in either, are there?). There were even quite a few "border disputes" throughout the history of our country; the most recent one was not settled until 1998.

I would recommend this book to any lover of history or geography; it is an insightful look at many little details of American history. Its only flaw is its organization. The author chose to arrange the book alphabetically by states, instead of chronologically. This is great if you are trying to find out why Michigan has that upper peninsula or why the northern border of New Jersey slants like it does, but generates redundancy when the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia is explained twice (in the chapters for each state), or when early treaties in our country's history (such as the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819) outlined what would eventually be borders of several states.

Nevertheless, it is a great read for the casual or serious student of American history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

George W. Bush: Final Report Card

I am a teacher. One of my jobs is to assign grades [Note: Students earn grades; the teacher's job in this regard is to calculate and record, not "give"].

George W. Bush, on the whole, did well. Here is a subject-by-subject breakdown:

Environment: A-. Ignored the environmentalists most of the time, jettisoned the awful Kyoto treaty. Tended to be a bit too accommodating with them.

National Security: A. Guantanamo Bay was, is, and ought to continue to be a good idea. How many terrorist attacks have there been on American soil since 9/11/01?

Support for Israel: A. Heaven help the president who doesn't get an A on this one...never mind. That help won't come.

Foreign Policy (general): A-. Few mistakes. So what if a lot of countries don't like us? I learned young that when you do the right thing, you ruffle feathers. Bush ruffled feathers.

Handling of Iraq: A. It was the right thing to do six years ago. And even though there are always mistakes made in wartime (what would a perfect war be, anyway?), the surge took care of a lot of them. It's a reasonably safe country least as safe as Chicago or Washington DC.

Education: D. No Child Left Behind was a well-intentioned terrible idea. Federal spending on K-12 education went up...a lot. The federal government needs to leave public education up to the states.

Federal Spending: D. For starters, four words: "Medicare prescription drug benefit." To summarize, two words: "Stimulus package." Bush would have been wise to use his veto pen on any number of occasions. Part of his legacy will be the inexcusable swelling of federal deficit spending.

Judicial Appointments: A+. I'm not really sure this grade is high enough.

Integrity: A. Faithful to wife. Tried to do the right thing. Man of his word. Class act. Courteous to those inferior to him (even the next president).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Economic Ignorance: An American Problem

According to this story about a survey of Americans, the following facts have been gleaned:

"Four out of five Americans think debt — government and personal — is ruining the nation's economy, and half feel the bailouts and billions of dollars in government spending to stop the economy's decline has the country drifting away from capitalism and heading toward socialism.

A FOX News poll released Thursday shows large majorities of Democrats (78 percent), Republicans (82 percent) and independents (80 percent) think debt is ruining the economy."

Thus reads the opening two paragraphs of the article. I was pleased to read that overwhelming majorities of each major political category have the good sense to realize that debt, in a word, is bad.

A couple paragraphs later, we read:

"In a speech last week President-elect Barack Obama said "only government" can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift the country out of the current recession. The poll finds many Americans disagree. Voters are more than twice as likely to say the most effective way to help the economy out of recession is spending by individuals and businesses (52 percent) rather than government spending (19 percent)." [Emphasis mine]
Again, I found this encouraging. I read this next paragraph, and my spirits began to sink:

"When asked specifically about Obama's proposed economic recovery plan a 58 percent majority says they support it. Majorities of Democrats (79 percent) and independents (60 percent) say they support Obama's new plan, and a slim majority of Republicans (52 percent) oppose it." [Emphasis mine]

Put together, we see the following fact: Although a majority of people realize that debt is bad and that government spending is not the sure road out of economic hard times, a majority of people support debt and government spending to get America out of economic hard times. Even, I am ashamed to say, many Republicans.

Read that again if necessary. This is the logical equivalent of saying, "I know leeches won't heal my blood disease, but go ahead and bring them on anyway." There was a day when that error was practiced, but it has been debunked; leeches are no longer part of medical practice.

On the other hand, there is a mountain of evidence debunking the "government must spend into debt so that the economy will become healthy" theory, so why are Obama and many in Congress practicing it? Why aren't they embracing and encouraging other, wiser ideas?

More to the point of this entry, why are some of the American people embracing the abomination of a "stimulus package" that is about to come steamrolling out of Congress? Some ideas that crossed my mind:

  • These Americans are only looking out for themselves, and perceive that there is something in the stimulus bill that will help them and/or give them an advantage over others.
  • These Americans lack basic understanding of economics.
  • These Americans are, in a word, stupid.
The quick conclusions from this list are that these Americans are either greedy, ignorant, and/or foolish. This is not encouraging from a sociological, spiritual, or practical point of view.

We need to do what we can to spread the word to everyone that there is a better way. Unrestrained, inefficient government spending is not the answer. And neither are greed, ignorance, and foolishness.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Common Tax Mistake? Really??

Timothy Geithner, whose nomination as the next treasury secretary has hit a bump with revelations that he did not pay self-employment taxes in 2003-2004 while employed by the International Monetary Fund, has made a "common tax mistake," according to the Obama transition team.

Keep in mind that the author of this post is a trained tax preparer.

There is also a question about his housekeeper and the required paperwork she needed to be in the country. That I can understand, and I would not expect that to stand in the way of his nomination. However, it appears he did not pay (on time) the required withholding taxes for the housekeeper during the 2001-2002 period.

All of these taxes have since been paid, with penalties and interest.

The phrase "common tax mistake" is being used to describe this "oversight" during Geithner's IMF days. And, indeed, many individuals do not know that if they had income as a self-employed individual, as well as certain other categories of income for which no Social Security taxes were withheld, that they must identify this on their 1040 and settle up by April 15.

Any good first-year tax preparer should know this.

The IMF, being an international organization, probably does not withhold United States taxes on income. They may not be required to; I do not know. The simple solution, which Geithner certainly had to know, was to declare this on his properly-filled-out 1040 and pay up by the subsequent April 15. Therefore, the only reasonable causes (listed in order of likelihood) for this "common tax mistake" must be the following:

  1. He lied. He intended to evade paying his taxes.
  2. He employs an inept or dishonest CPA/tax preparer. (And if so, he'd be justified in demanding a refund of his tax preparation fees. Few people in his tax bracket prepare their own taxes.)
  3. He really is ignorant about the basics of personal income taxes. According to one news report I heard today, he did his own taxes in those years. And if so, his ignorance of basic tax law is worrisome.
The fact that the mistake is common only makes it more likely that a competent tax prepaper will avoid making it! Is this who we want in charge of the IRS and the Treasury Department?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Most Uplifting H.S. Football Game

This story is an article from Rick Reilly already forwarded to me in two different e-mails. It details how Faith Christian, a high school in Grapevine, TX, invited the team of players from Gainesville State School—as in, a prison school—to bring their team of 14 to play a football game.

This was not done just so the 7-2 Faith Lions could stomp on the 0-9 Gainesville Tornadoes (although Faith did win, 33-14). In a move that clearly surprised the road team, which in the parlance of college football does not "travel well," about half the Faith folk sat on the opposite side and cheered them on. They made a spirit line for them to run through when they took the field. After the game, they gave each of the Gainesville players a bag of food for the ride home, a Bible, and a letter of encouragment from one of the Faith players.

This is a great story of Christian love for a group of people who rarely see it. I encourage you to read it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hymn of the Week: Stand Up and Bless the Lord

If you read through the book of Revelation, you will notice that there are heavenly beings whose primary purpose and function is apparently to praise and bring glory to the Almighty God in their midst.

It is clearly one of the purposes of man to glorify the God Who created him.

This song reminds us of a variety of ways in which we can and should do just that. We should not only follow the advice, we should pray and ask God to make it all the more possible for us to praise and glorify Him upon this earth.

May God bless you as you do just that.

Stand Up and Bless the Lord

Stand up and bless the Lord
Ye people of His choice;
Stand up and bless the Lord your God
With heart and soul and voice.

Though high above all praise,
Above all blessing high,
Who would not fear His holy Name,
And laud and magnify?

O for the living flame
From His own altar brought,
To touch our lips, our minds inspire,
And wing to heaven our thought!

There, with benign regard,
Our hymns He deigns to hear;
Though unrevealed to mortal sense,
Our spirits feel Him near.

God is our Strength and Song,
And His salvation ours;
Then be His love in Christ proclaimed
With all our ransomed powers.

Stand up and bless the Lord;
The Lord your God adore;
Stand up and bless His glorious Name;
Henceforth forevermore.

Modesty Takes a Small Step Forward!

According to this article, the small Caribbean island nation of Grenada has "recently began enforcing an indecent exposure law banning bathing suits away from the beach, as well as saggy pants that reveal the underwear." The law allows for fines of up to $270 or six months in jail; some locals have been fined (and aren't happy about it). Some cruise ship tourists have been instructed to return to the ship to get something with which to cover themselves.

Wouldn't it be nice if all local jurisdictions had some basic modesty laws like this, so that we weren't forced to look at half-naked people?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Review: "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey

Yes, this is the book by the increasingly-well-known get-out-of-debt guru. I like this book.

There are two main premises to Dave Ramsey's philosophy:

  1. Debt is bad. Avoid it.
  2. You must plan to be a financial success. Failure to plan (e.g., budgeting) leads to poor long-term financial positions.
The bulk of the book details the seven steps Ramsey suggests to long-term financial freedom, so that you can live in a way that others cannot.

Both premises are firmly rooted in fact, philosophy, and reality. This book is more of an attempt to convince you of the wisdom of the plan, and to encourage you to follow the plan, than it is a nuts-and-bolts analysis of financial decision making. His earlier book, Financial Peace, apparently (because I have never read it) has more of that kind of content.

Nevertheless, this is a must-read book for anyone who has debt (of any kind), for anyone who lacks long-term financial planning, and for the young—they are the ones who can, in the long run, benefit the most from it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Trillion-Dollar Deficits As Far As The Eye Can See...

So we are forewarned by the president-elect! Never mind the unimaginable recklessness and stupidity of spending such vast sums of money; never mind the unseen but undoubtedly chaotic long-term effects this will have on our economy—Mr. Obama thinks this will be good for us.

I don't like debt, and I don't like the already-bloated federal deficit. I avoid debt in my personal life and encourage you (and my representatives in Congress) to do the same. The entire "we must go deeper in debt in order to help the country" argument is wanting. Badly.

Furthermore, the thought that Obama's plans may be inexorably pushed on us by a willing media and a willing Congress is depressing. It seems like his honeymoon may be long...far, far too long.

And then a ray of light shows through the depressing news: This quote from Kent Conrad, Democrat Senator from North Dakota; the quote came in an article discussing the fact that Congressmen are divided on how to respond to the economic news right now:

"Doing things that would have a permanent effect when we face trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see is just unwise."
And he is right. We do not need to be adding more government programs right now. We still have New Deal-era programs hanging around (quick—How many can you name?) from seventy-plus years ago. Have these been needed for the last sixty years? Have they gone away? Will they be leaving us soon?

So if those programs are still with us, will the Obama legacy also be "government programs that will last further than our eyes can see"? Will our grandchildren be able to ask us fifty years from now about these programs—If we can remember their genesis, or predict their demise?

The only remaining ray of hope (found so far) is that, as we saw last fall, congressmen will realize the rage that will inevitably result by a vote for trillions of dollars in new spending and debt. Maybe they will realize that their meal ticket will be jeopardized by such a foolish vote. Maybe. I can hope.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Commendations to Israel!

Israel, for some time now, has been under attack from cowards in the Gaza Strip. Eventually their patience was tried and they recently began to attack those who have attacked them.

For this, they face a great deal of international condemnation and complaint.

I think Israel should be commended for the high level of restraint it has shown so far. Israel is fighting an enemy that hides among civilians; this enemy has said (rough English translation from Arabic) that Israel should be driven into the sea/driven into hell/murdered after raping their women. If I were the leader of Israel, my inclination would be to wipe out the enemy and end any discussion about self-rule in the Gaza Strip for at least the next 275 years.

Instead, I hear that Israel is sending courtesy phone calls to people whose homes are minutes away from being bombed, and doing its best to minimize civilian casualties. Israel should be commended.

Pray for the peace of Israel.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hymn of the Week: Another Year is Dawning

I saw this hymn today in our church hymnal and thought it was perfectly appropriate for this week, as the new year has just begun.

These lyrics were written by Frances Havergal, who is better known for quite a few other hymns; the tune to which this is sung is the same tune as The Church's One Foundation. Havergal wrote at least 80 hymn lyrics, and according to this brief bio, "She learned La­tin, Greek and He­brew, and mem­o­rized the Psalms, the book of Isai­ah, and most of the New Test­a­ment."

May this be part of your prayer for the new year.

Another Year Is Dawning

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Review: "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell

By its own admission, Blink is a book about the first two seconds after you observe something for the first time. This book is full of interesting (indeed, often fascinating) anecdotes about how certain people viewed something and almost instantly "knew" key things about it—whether artwork was fake, perhaps—or whether these first moments were befuddled by bias and confusion.

There are three things I would like to note about this very readable and interesting book:

1) According to the final pages, there are two lessons. The first I will quote: "...we are often careless with our powers of rapid cognition. We don't know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don't always appreciate their fragility." The second comes in the next paragraph: "Too often we are resigned to what happens in the blink of an eye. It doesn't seem like we have much control over whatever bubbles to the surface from our unconscious. But we do...." Most of this book gives examples of both.

2) In the various examples throughout, it is the experts—those with a deep knowledge and understanding about their topic of expertise—who typically come up with the correct initial conclusion in those first two seconds...yet generally cannot quickly explain to others a "rational" explanation for it. The art expert instantly recognizes a fake...but can't immediately put his finger on why it is fake. The military commander who knows what maneuver must be made in the next moment...yet cannot explain the choice or decision until well after it is done. I found it interesting that in my case, as a math teacher, I can spot an erroneous answer on a homework paper almost instantly...but I often need to review the entire problem before I can nail it down.

3) This kind of cognition also applies to the identification of quality/popular music; examples from both current popular genres and symphonic orchestra are given.

I found these last two points to be particularly interesting. It also gives me more confidence to trust the insights of someone who is an objective expert in a particular field.