Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What makes for a good test?

I gave a midterm last night, which got me thinking again about how to construct a test. Above are three principles that I try to incorporate into making any test.

1) Variation in test scores. It's best if the test is difficult enough to produce variation in students scores; i.e., some get high and some get low scores. Otherwise, if students are all bunched up in a narrow distribution, a student making a small mistake could end up with a much lower grade. This principle, taken alone, would argue for tests that range from 0% to 100% right. That's what I tried when I first started teaching, but I soon ran afoul of the second principle.

2) Students must view test as fair. For better or worse, students perceptions of a test will affect their future learning. If they view it as too easy, some will decide to study less for future exams. If too hard, some will become alienated from the class and disengage out of frustration. This requires a test the falls within the bounds of students' definition of appropriate, though this definition is influenced by both the objective difficulty of the exam and the subjective presentation of it.

3) Motivates students to study harder. Most of the test-related learning happens as students prepare for it (rather than taking it). As such, I have started emphasizing tests that require a lot of preparation. I'll post how I do this another time, but this is becoming my main goal. Again, test difficulty comes into play. Too easy, they don't take it seriously. Too difficulty, they don't even try. As I've posted earlier about classwork in general, I aim for students doing lots of modestly difficult work in prepping for a class.

What else?

For additional essays on teaching sociology:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The use of photographs in blogs

It seems that if we use other people's photographs, we should reference them just as we would if we were to use their words in a quotation. There are various ways of doing this--I've started putting links to photograph sources at the bottom of my posts.

What do you think? Is this something bloggers should do?

Monday, February 26, 2007

The problem with moral nostalgia

As someone who studies society and is interested in matters of religious faith, I get irritated by what I call moral nostalgia.

I'm not against nostalgia, per se, though having come of age in the late 70s, early 80s I don't have much to be nostalgic about (disco?). Moral nostalgia, however, holds that things used to be more moral, more right than they are now. The Christian version of it says that American society used to be more "moral" and "Christian". Expressed negatively, America is undergoing sever moral decay and who knows if society will survive. For a hilarious example of moral nostalgia (from Trrish).

Here's the problem with moral nostalgia... it's just plain wrong. Not a little wrong, a lot wrong. Sure some things have changed for the worse, but a lot more things have changed for the better. This is demonstrated in a series of social indicators complied by Michael Kruse. He makes a compelling case that 1981 was the worst year in recent history and that things have been getting better since then.

So, in the past quarter century, things have gotten better in terms of less poverty, longer life expectancy, less crime, less suicide, less abortion, and fewer high school dropouts.

Things are getting better. Deal with it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Visualizing world inequality

As a way of demonstrating the profound inequality that exists in our world, Google has put together a powerful site.

Google's gapminder
shows one- and two-variable plots of international data. Want to know the international distribution of across nations? No problem. Want to know how life expectancy varies by nations' wealth? There it is. Want to know how life expectancy has changed over time for a specific country? Easy. For a 1 minute tutorial.


(Thanks to Jay Livingston)

How to feed the homeless?

This video demonstrates a hilarious (and probably illegal) way of feeding homeless people.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

UConn BB trash talking

A fun thing about being at UConn is following the basketball teams. I particular enjoy Geno Auriemma, the coach of the women's basketball team. Every few years he adopts a hilarious strategy that goes like this:

If it is a big road game and he has a young team, then he'll trash talk the other team's fans to get them focused on him and off the team.

On Monday the women's team plays Rutgers away. The women's team is very young (no seniors) and if they win, they'll be undefeated in the conference (assuming they win today) and have a good shot at a #1 seed in the NCAAs.

So, what does Geno say? Recently he said that the Rutgers fans are "born miserable" and "stay miserable." Asked yesterday if he wanted to back off those statements, he instead amplified them. "They're ignorant" and "They have trouble putting sentences together." Also this gem: "Everybody loves me except those people."

My prediction for Monday night: The Rutgers fans will go nuts yelling at Geno while his team quietly wins the game.

Update: Tuesday, 2/27. The Rutgers fans booed loudly whenever Geno stepped onto the court, and they also held up signs denouncing him. The opposing coach said that it was a circus. UConn won 70-44.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why my papers gets stuck at revision

For whatever reason I get stuck at the same point with many of my papers--right before a submission (or resubmission) to a journal. From a rational perspective, this makes no sense in that a little extra work will get the manuscript to a journal where it might be published. In thinking about why I have this tendency, I realized that what I enjoy about sociological research happens *before* submission to a journal--formulating the ideas, analyzing the data, and putting together in draft form. From there out it's just work. The problem is that the professional rewards don't start until *after* journal submission (and acceptance).

Here's a graph that illustrates what I mean:
I'm not sure what it means for my future research. On one hand, I have trouble getting articles out the door; on the other hand, I'm keenly motivated to do research. This problem has become more apparent with tenure when I have lost a strong external motivator.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Real family dinners?

In Making Room for Life, Randy Frazee makes the case for a rather ambitious evening activity—the two-hour family meal, seven days a week. He suggests making it the time for families to connect as they prepare, share, and clean-up the evening’s meal. It also means that all work & homework has to be done by 6 pm, and nothing else is done between 6:00 and 8:00.

I’m not entirely sure what I think of this idea, but I think that I like it. (I’m more used to the eat-fast-and-go-in-different-directions model of dinner). I raised it with my family, and their response surprised me quite a bit. I figured that my 13-old-son would object, for that’s time he could spend IM'ing with friends, playing X-box, or whatever else eighth-graders want to do with their time. Instead he was the most enthusiastic about the idea. He immediately said that he wanted us to do it every night of the week and that we should start the next day. (My six-year-old also liked the idea, perhaps because the 13-year-old did). It was Cathy and me who were hesitant. Somehow that feels like a lot of work.

We’ll see what happens, but I think that I’ve underestimated the importance of family time to my soon to be independent son.


Winter tree

My six-year-old and I went out last night to take pictures, and we ended up with this shot of a tree at sunset. Kind of pretty, huh?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wright's rule of statistical use

I recently posted about Christians' misuse of statistics. A comment on it, by Ryan King, told of the U.S. Attorney General using fabricated statistics. That got me thinking about how we could generalize this tendency to exaggerate with statistics when it comes to important issues:

The greater the social significance of a topic, the greater number of inaccurate statistics will be created for and used about it. Why? Two reasons come to mind. 1) The more significant a topic, the more people will measure it, so there will be more statistics about it anyway. 2) The greater the significance, the more people will have incentive to either create or use misleading statistics that best represent their perspective.


Eszter's blog

I have started reading, and enjoying, Eszter Hargittai's blog. She is a sociologist at Northwestern who studies the internet. (What a great topic for study... "Eszter, put down that issue of ASR and start surfing the web"). Her blog provides many links to interesting websites--sort of like a one-person She is also very techno-savvy, and her blog is a good technological example of how to blog. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Doing more by doing less

I've been posting recently about personal productivity. Along those lines, I've come across an interesting series by Craig Groeschel at He makes a compelling case that in order to be productive we have to spend a lot of time thinking and planning for what we will *not* get done as well as what we will. His experience leading a large, growing church has given him lots to think about on this issue, and his posts put forth basic principles that could apply to anyone's life.

In defense of creationists, sort of

In writing about stereotypes of Christians last week, I read through various items about Christian creationists: People who reject the ideas of human evolution for a more biblically-literal account of *how* humans & the world were created. Think everything done in 6 days, no dinosaurs, etc.... Now there is a group that needs a new PR agent. They get hammered in blogosphere and conventional media.

My own beliefs about this matter look to the bible for the "who" and "why" questions of creation and to science for "how." But, in defense of creationists, they may have things a lot less wrong than some of their critics. Here's what I mean:

*IF* there is a God/creator along the lines posited in Christianity, then creationists get a small portion of science wrong (i.e., evolution), but they get life's most basic assumption right. Many critics of creationism would be the opposite--dead wrong (so to speak) about perhaps the most essential aspect of reality. Irony anyone?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Why do Christians use statistics badly?

In a recent issue of Christianity Today’s magazine Books & Culture, Christian Smith, sociologist at Notre Dame, discusses the misuse of statistics by evangelical Christians. He writes: “American evangelicals, who profess to be committed to Truth, are among the worst abusers of simple descriptive statistics, which claim to represent the truth about reality, of any group I have ever seen. At stake in this misuse are evangelicals' own integrity, credibility with outsiders, and effectiveness in the world.”

I don’t know that Christians are the worst abusers of statistics. Just about any advocacy group has examples of manipulated statistics, e.g., activists for the homeless, gays, poverty, sexual assault, drugs, guns, and eating disorders. (For a discussion of these, see Joel Best’s Damned Lies and Statistics). In fact, the evening news can be an exercise in statistical manipulation (to make viewers afraid and therefore willing to watch).

Still, as Smith implies, evangelical Christians may be the most ironic abusers of statistics. Christianity is based the reality of spiritual historical events (especially the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus) and their implications for people today. Given the centrality of “objective truth” in Christianity, it’s more than a little ironic that we settle for made-up and manipulated “facts” about Christianity today. (As a digression, sociology emphasizes the construction of subjective truth. This makes the attempted integration of sociology & Christianity such an interesting challenge).

Why do Christians misuse statistics? As Smith and others have pointed out, people with strong beliefs in a cause will manipulate information to advance their cause.

Another reason involves Christianity's emphasis on teaching. Every congregation has one or more designated teacher (i.e., pastors, bible study leaders) and most meetings of Christians dedicate substantial time to teaching (e.g., sermons). As such, there is ample opportunity for information abuse.

Perhaps seminaries and other places of Christian training can add a few lessons on being an informed consumer of statistics. A few basic principles, such as thinking about sampling and how the data are presented, can winnow out a lot of bad statistics.


This week's sign that I am not a spiritual giant:

Lent is the period of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter during which many Christians practice some discipline as a way of preparing for Holy Week. E.g., pray more, give up something, try to give more to others. Well, this has been a good thing for me in the past, so I thought that I would do it again this year. So, last Wednesday I started my Lenten vows and all was going well until my sister, a power Catholic, told me that in fact Lent didn't start until this week.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A simple weekly schedule

I just finished reading Making Room for Life, by Randy Frazee (thanks Ben & Vince for the recommendation), and Frazee suggests and interesting way to organize one’s weekly schedule.

Monday – Saturday:
6 am to 6 pm, work (both employment and work around the house)
6 pm to 8 pm, family supper
8 pm to 10 pm, whatever (e.g., hobbies, reading, play, tv)


The basic idea here intrigues me. Somehow this schedule would create more time for work, more time for family, and more time for rest than my existing schedule. Makes me wonder what I am currently doing!

I also like the routine, habitual aspect of it… I spend a lot of time wondering about what to do next, but if I follow such a set routine, then it seems like working/ family time/ rest would come more easily.

Obviously life is more complicated than this schedule (meetings, homework, sports, outings, etc….), but I am interested in using it as a baseline routine.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Playing video games with my son

As a way of spending time with my 13-year-old son, I am learning to play video games on his X-box. I've never been much interested in video/computer games, for I have trouble suspending disbelief--I'm aware that nothing is really happening other than colors moving around a television screen. I don't mind playing them, but it's nothing I'd do on my own.

Well... my son's favorite game is a space-alien shoot-em-up game called Halo (apparently it's a pretty big seller for MicroSoft), so that's what we play. Being new at this, here are the things I do best:

1) Accidentally shoot my son's character

2) Fall off cliffs/ledges/buildings

3) Get stuck in corners. Sometimes I have the visual orientation facing straight up, so when I'm in a corner the roof just spins and I move around. The first couple times this happened, I shouted to that I was in some sort of whirlpool... My son suggested that I back out of the corner.

The only thing that weirds my out a little is the moral shift in role playing. In the Star Wars game, sometimes we're the rebels (yeah!) but sometimes we're the empire (booh!). Yesterday we fought Ewoks :-(


Friday, February 16, 2007

The problem with effective work

A week ago I posted about getting my work done in five hours a day. Here's my biggest fear with that approach (seriously!):

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Negative stereotypes of Evangelicals II

As a follow-up on yesterday's post, here is another example Christian-slandering. This one comes courtesy of New York Times critic Stephen Holden. In his review of "Jesus Camp," a film about a (rather extreme) Christian summer camp in North Dakota, Holden concludes:

"It wasn’t so long ago that another puritanical youth army, Mao Zedong's Red Guards, turned the world’s most populous country inside out. Nowadays the possibility of a right-wing Christian American version of what happened in China no longer seems entirely far-fetched."

Let's see, a nutty summer camp in the Great Plains = genocide that killed about 50 million people. Wow, New York Times writers must have had some really bad experiences in summer camp!

Imagine if he linked any other group to the worst genocide of the 20th century? He would have been fired before the ink was dry. Christians? Evangelicals? They're fair game.

Here, then, is what I propose: When the right-wing Christian youth take over the country, they should march down the streets of New York City, pull Stephen Holden out of his cellar, and give him a wedgie. Not just any wedgie, a real good one. At least that's what happened at my summer camp.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Negative stereotypes of Evangelicals I

Cruising through, I came across this video entitled: "Why Evangelicals are Scary." (A clip of Christians speaking out in favor of creationism). What struck me was how easily the author of the post labeled all evangelicals as "scary" and that no one in the comments objected.

Imagine the response if other groups were similarly denounced. How about:
"Why Muslims are Scary"
"Why Jews are Scary"
"Why African-Americans are Scary"
"Why Asians are Scary"
"Why Disabled People are Scary"
"Why Gays are Scary"
"Why (fill in the blank) are Scary"

I would hope that fair-minded people would object to this kind of labeling, but somehow slander of Evangelicals is pretty much accepted.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mitt Romney, a character from Seinfeld?

If the old Seinfeld show has a character playing the President, wouldn't he have looked a lot like Mitt Romney? What do you think?

(I don't know if this is good or bad for his candidacy).

Teaching sociology: Generating relevant examples

There is nothing like teaching to make somebody feel old. I am constantly making cultural references that my students don't recognize. Anything from the Seinfeld show? Forget it, they were 9-10 years old when it went off the air. OJ Simpson? That was 13 years ago. Furthermore, I don't get many of their cultural references. Rap music? I think that means Run DMZ. Current TV shows? I don't watch much TV, and I watch different shows.

Here's the problem, though--I want to use culturally-relevant video and sound clips to illustrate concepts in the course.

To do this, I gave my students an extra-credit assignment (worth 2 points on a class scale of 100) in which they had to identify a scene from a film or TV show or song that illustrated a theory, concept, or finding covered in the course. They then had to explain why the clip fit the class material. This got them thinking about sociology outside the class, and it gave me a lot of ideas to incorporate into my future classes. For example, did you know that Sponge Bob Squarepants had an episode entitled "Life of Crime" that wonderfully illustrates rational choice theory of crime? I didn't either, but I do now.

For additional essays about teaching sociology.


Monday, February 12, 2007

What kind of Christian am I?

After church one Sunday, I was talking to a first-time visitor who was a retired pastor, and right away he asked me what kind of church were we. I knew what he meant--among Christian churches, were did we stand on various issues and with whom did we affiliate, but I thought I'd have a little fun. "A Christian church," I answered. His face had a look of "du-h-h-h", so he came at it from a different angle, and he asked what we believed. "Oh," I answered, "we should love God and love others." At this point he was getting a little frustrated, so I stopped harassing this poor visitor and went and got my pastor so that he could properly situate us in the constellation of American Christianity.

I suppose that we're all driven to categorize each other while at the same time resisting categorization ourselves. While I was taking a walk yesterday, I wondered how I would label myself as a Christian. While the most accurate answer would be that I'm not a particularly good Christian, for I regularly miss the mark in both what I do and don't do. Nonetheless, a more analytical answer might go like this.

I was raised in the Catholic church, from which I learned to love social justice and the liturgy of the mass. In high school, I had a born-again experience in an evangelical youth group (Campus Life), and I was drawn by the idea of Jesus as a person and the evangelical sense of mission. After five college years in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, I moved to Southern California to be involved in a charismatic church, The Vineyard. There I became fascinated with the Kingdom as something happening now, not just a long time ago. Off to graduate school for marriage and a charming little Episcopal church. Here in Connecticut I have been hanging out in non-denominational community churches while regularly going to noon mass.

So there you have it: I'm your basic Catholic-liturgical-charismatic evangelical.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Map of religions over time

I'm a complete sucker for maps, especially cool ones. I have several outside my office, and I'd say about every 15th or 20th student who walks by will stop and stare for several minutes.

Here's a cool map that shows the historical unfolding of religions across geography.

I found it on Russell Smith's blog.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Let's have a clambake!

Here are pictures from one of my all-time favorite days.

Several years ago, good friends Hans and Carrie Franzen invited us for a day of sailing on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, with Carrie's parents. That was certain fun enough, but halfway through, we stopped by a small island and went clam digging! Wow, I loved it. There weren't many clams close to shore (figured other people had gotten them), but about 6-10 feet deep there were a ton. I spent a couple of hours diving, scrapping, and pulling up clams. It reminded me of the many days growing up when we'd play games at the pool involving diving to the bottom to fetch as many objects as possible.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My best two months of research

After classes ended last spring, I tried a remarkably successful experiment with scheduling my work. This experiment was informed by two observations.

1) About five hours. Let’s see, I had seven years of graduate school, two years of being a post-doc, and eight years of a faculty position. That’s 17 years of sociology (which makes me wonder why I still feel new to it?). I think that it’s time for me to admit that I can’t do much more than about five hours of “real” research a day. By this I mean solid, focused research-related writing, reading, or data analysis. Oh, in a pinch I can do more for a day or two, but day in and day out, it’s probably five hours--tops. I wish that I could do more. I think everyone else can do more. I try to do more. I’m a bit embarrassed that it’s not more, but this is my reality.

2) Parkinson’s law. Parkinson's law states that work expands or contracts to fill the time given to it. That is, if you have a day to get a project done, it takes a day. If you have a week, it takes a week. (Obviously there are bounds to this in terms of feasibility, e.g., planning to get a Ph.D. in a month probably wouldn’t work).

Last spring/summer, when I was done with classes but the boys were still in school, I decided that I would do five hours of “real” work a day and nothing else, only research—reading, analyzing, and writing. No lecture preparation, no committee work, no surfing the web. When I was done with this, I was done for the day and could do anything I wanted, which usually meant building a patio or otherwise working in the yard (two things I really enjoy).

Going into this, I thought that I wouldn’t get much done but that I would be happier. Wrong. I got so much done! I used the time to go through old research projects, most in draft form (where I too often leave them), and get them submitted to a journal. I got five papers submitted in two months! I would write from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., knock off, and come back the next day ready to go.

I have been thinking about this because since then I have fallen into a routine of nine hours at the office a day, and I’m getting much less done. Obviously I’m teaching now, but still—my productivity is much less, so I’m trying to figure out how to structure my time better. Maybe one day for teaching (plus showing up for classes on other days, of course), one day all service work, and three days for research.

The operating principle here is one of managing energy rather than time. On various occasions I have gotten tons done in a short period of time—usually right before a deadline or after a relaxing three-day weekend. I want to recapture that on a regular basis.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

The 28 deadly sins

You know, if there are seven deadly sins, that implies 21 possible pairs of them. This greatly expands our sin options. This chart shows all possible combinations of the seven sins--it underscores the many behaviors they encompass.

This comes from by Jessica Hagy. She posts insightful & humorous graphical illustrations of everyday live.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Teaching sociology: Illustrating social conflict theory

Every once in awhile I'll use clips from feature films to illustrate ideas that come up in class. Here's my (and my classes!) favorite. The third scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail involves a long discussion of class conflict, and, ultimately, a demonstration of it. How can this not be shown in every intro sociology class? Here's a sample of the dialogue.

WOMAN : Well, how did you become king then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, [angels start singing] her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops] That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around saying, "I was an emperor just because some moistened bink had lobbed a scimitar at me" they'd put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you hear that, did you here that, eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn't you?

(I turn on the subtitles so that my students can follow the dialogue.)

For additional essays on teaching sociology

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Another reason to stay faithful in marriage

There are many good reasons to stay faithful in marriage--keeping one's promises, loving others, being moral, for the joy, etc.... Here is yet another one:


Monday, February 05, 2007

Why blogging makes you more likeable

A basic principle of social psychology is the "mere exposure effect." Developed by Robert Zajonc and others, this principle states that the more we are exposed to something (or someone), the more we develop positive attitudes toward it. "Familiarity breeds liking more than contempt. Things grow on us and we acquire tastes for things over time and repeated exposure (cite)"

The evidence for the mere exposure effect is convincing... In 1968, Zajonc (JPSP) did a study randomly showing people various Chinese characters and asking them to guess the meaning of the character. The more often respondents saw a character, the more positive the meaning they attributed to it.

This logic has been applied to advertising (show the product over and over) and to love (we become more attracted to people who we see more often). Let's apply this to blogging. What is blogging other than making others more familiar with who we are, what we think, what we're doing? As such, the mere act of blogging should make us more likable to others. If you blog, you should be more liked by more people than if you don't blog; furthermore, blogging should make people who already know you like you all the more.

This explains why, for me at least, most bloggers seem to be pretty likable people. It can also explain the popularity of blogging networks. Blogging should foster a sense of community—the more that we interact with someone, the more we like them, the more we want to interact with them.

This also explains why blogging advice often calls for posting photographs of ourselves. (For an example, and good advice about blogging in general). E.g., the photo above may be a desparate attempt to invoke the mere exposure effect.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Cartoon about faith or works

An enduring theological issue in Christianity is the theological integration of faith and works. This cartoon summarizes an insightful perspective on the issue.


Bowling alone but blogging together

A recent article by the economist Jan Brueckner found that people in suburbia talk with their neighbors more than those in urban areas. This got me to thinking about how computer is reforming social ties, and that any analysis of social ties, such as Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, would have to take into account virtual ties.

This raises the question an interesting question: How does blogging (and other web-based communication, such as instant messaging) change the nature of social relations?

One way that comes to mind has to do with the selection of whom we interact with. With blogging I can spend my time interacting with whomever interests me, and they usually end up being people with similar activities and backgrounds as I have. In addition, if I tire of interacting with someone, I just stop, so I have almost full control of who is in my virtual social circle.
Compare this with social ties of previous generations which were necessarily more geographically bound. In them people were "stuck" with the others in the group, regardless of similarity or liking.

Being able to choose one's friends and acquaintances from such a large pool as the blogosphere certainly makes social ties easier, but lost in it is the moral skills developed by having to make functional relationships with difficult people as well as the joyful opportunity to discover differences found in people we're put together with, apart from our choosing.

How else might this changing form of communication change our social ties?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hypercorrections: Self-presentation meets grammar

I've stumbled across a most interesting Wikipedia article, on hypercorrections.

Hypercorrections are word usages that many informed users of a language consider incorrect, but that the speaker or writer uses through misunderstanding of prescriptive rules, often combined with a desire to seem formal or educated.

A good example, incorrectly using the word "octopi" as the plural for "octopus".

In simple terms, incorrectly using big words to look smart. Yet another way that self-presentation permeates all aspects of our lives.