Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I turned to Christianity in early high school, and it meant so me that there was someone willing to put Christian thought to rock music, and to do it so well. Though other Christian rockers followed him, he was the original. He had a unique voice, and he was willing to address a wide range of issues. Here's a nice description of his song topics from the Wikipedia entry about him:
"His songs were wide-ranging, addressing such matters as politics (The Great American Novel), free love (Pardon Me), the passive commercialism of war–time journalists (I Am The Six O'Clock News), witchcraft and the occult (Forget Your Hexagram), alienation (Lonely by Myself), religious hypocrisy (Right Here In America) and many topics largely outside of the scope of his contemporaries."
It's hard to believe now that so many Christians thought that rock & Christianity shouldn't mix, but it was certainly an issue. Larry Norman's response, in song, is as true today as it was then:
Why should the devil have all the good music?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
You can read the report here, and do your own analysis of the data here.
Monday, February 25, 2008
(Note: If you don't feel like reading this whole post--make sure to scroll down and watch the video.)
There are countless social movements in society, and they want you to pay attention.
In a social movement, a group of ordinary people come together to advance a social cause, and there are countless movements in society. In the early twentieth century, women activists banded together to promote women's suffrage —the right to vote. In the 1960s, the civil rights movement promoted justice for African-Americans. The anti-nuclear movement protests the development of nuclear energy. Mothers against Drunk Drivers advocate tougher laws against drunk driving.
A common goal of most social movements, whatever their focus, is to get the public’s attention. Sociologists understand this via resource mobilization theory-- how being in the public’s eye helps movements accomplish their goals. It brings in workers for the cause, it helps collect money, and it might result in changed laws. In fact, more than a few social movements have as their explicit goal raising public awareness about their cause. For example, the National Children's Cancer Society (NCCS—a worthy cause if ever there was one) explicitly states the importance of raising public awareness. They write:
“Take action against a disease that has been ignored for too long. Raising awareness in your community about childhood cancer and the survivorship issues surrounding it is critical to our mutual mission. Awareness can inform and change minds. It can change public policy and raise more funds for crucial patient services. Awareness of the programs of the N.C.C.S. can give hope to families facing the chaos of a diagnosis of childhood cancer.”
As a result, social movements work hard at having distinctive approaches. The movement for breast cancer awareness has the ubiquitous pink ribbons. Not to be outdone, other movements have adopted their own ribbon colors. For example, white ribbons are for lung cancer and violence against women. Yellow ribbons are for deployed soldiers and suicide awareness. Blue ribbons are for child abuse and Hurricane Katrina. Purple is for lupus and showing religious tolerance. Green is for environmental awareness and Lyme disease. Puzzle-piece ribbons are for autism. Ribbons with the words “publish me” are for untenured faculty--okay, I made up that last one.
(As an aside, some have criticized ribbons and wristbands as “slacktivism”—doing things that make us feel good about helping others without actually spending any of our time or money in doing so).
In addition to distributing ribbons, social movements do lots of other things. They can hold demonstrations. The million-man march in 1995 brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to Washington D.C. to promote unity and political participation among black men. They also get celebrity endorsements. For example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) regularly features actors and actresses in their commercials, sometimes taking off their clothes (a time-honored method of getting attention). Sometimes they just advertise on television and in print, similar to a business seeking customers.
There’s a problem, however—there is only so much public attention to go around, and there are a lot more movements wanting attention than there is attention to give. As such, movements compete with each other for the public’s attention. In this sense, groups like the National Children’s Cancer Society are fighting against not only the disease but also against other disease-related groups. If, for example, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation does a particularly good job of raising awareness, then there may be less to give the NCCS.
This puts social movements in a bind. On one hand, they are probably sympathetic to the causes behind their competing social movements. I suspect that members of the NCCS are also against juvenile diabetes. On the other hand, these other groups are their competitors, taking resources from them.
It’s in this context that we can understand the following commercial. Pandarescue.org is group dedicated to saving
wild pandas and their habitat. It’s a small group—I’ve never heard of them before this commercial, and so I imagine that they struggled with how to get their message out. They came up with this commercial that explicitly recognizes the resource mobilization model described above. As implied in this commercial, the problem for panda bears is not just deforestation and poaching, but also the public support for whales. Yes, Greenpeace and others portray whales as beautiful, noble creatures, but this video shows the shocking truth! (My guess is that baby harp seals and cute little kittens are also harmful for pandas. Hopefully future commercials will get at that as well).
Well, what did you think? In a way, I appreciate its honesty because I imagine that a lot of social movements think that they are more important than other movements. Still, it is so, so tacky. It certainly does exemplify the social mobilization theory of social movements.
Originally published on everydaysociologyblog.com.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
In winter, things are pretty drab unless it snows. It snowed yesterday, so I was out this morning taking pictures. I needed to keep track of the time because I had a meeting in mid-morning. Not having a watch, I ended up carting around my clock radio (that runs on batteries when unplugged). I'm thinking it might be time to get a watch.
In the last few weeks, I've had people contact me about research I did in graduate school, including my dissertation. Let's see, with this inquiry about my dissertation, that makes two of us who have read it. (I'm still not convinced that my committee did-or should have for that matter).
Gus had a sleepover last night with his high school friends. He was the heavy sleeper of the bunch--got two hours. He went to be today at 4 in the afternoon.
Here's a video of my brother hang gliding at Big Sur. As Marlin soars over the beautiful Pacific, Jim shovels his Connecticut driveway again.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
This makes me the ideal fan for UConn women's basketball. Cheering for them is like watching a nature documentary about seals and cheering for the sharks. It's like cheering for riot police that brutally crush a peaceful strike. It's like cheering for the hammer against the nail.
They not only win, they usually win by a lot. Here's the recap of last night's game--they were up 60-22 at halftime. They also play a remarkably unselfish, well-executed offense and tenacious defense.
You know, I was a little upset that Marquette broke 20.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
But... I think that we've figured out a good way to handle our tax withholdings and, by extension, our tax refund.
I claim few exemptions, so the state withholds more money for taxes than it needs to. As a result, we get a nice tax refund each year. I know that conventional wisdom says not to do this because why give the government the interest? Well, savings accounts pay so little interest these days, that i don't know if that's helpful.
I like doing it this way for two reasons. 1) It keeps pressure on us during the year to live with what I am paid each month, and our spending would increase if I brought home more. 2) We spend the tax refund differently, and I think better, than we would the same money paid out with each paycheck. We're more likely to pay off debt or make a well-thought out purchase with the lump sum of the refund as opposed to getting the money each paycheck.
If nothing else, the refund gets me into the tax accounts office early in the tax season.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Me: Hey, haven't seen you for awhile. You doing okay?
Friend: I'm in New Jersey.
Me: I'll take that as a "no."
Michael Kruse is doing his social indicators series for 2007. As always highly interesting and informative. He is posting all all sorts of economic and social measures of well-being, and he gets data from the best sources.
In praise of faint praise... I ran into a student from last semester, and we talked for awhile. He's graduating this semester, and at the end of our conversation, he enthused: "Of all the classes I have had here at UConn, yours was one of the better ones." So, of the 40 classes that he took, mine was solidly in the top 20. Could be worse.
Drek has posted an interesting and informative series on atheism... part autobiographical, part philosophical. It starts here.
Friday, February 15, 2008
This story illustrates the somewhat cynical mantra of all job seekers that it’s not what you know but who you know. Sociologists call this phenomenon the strength of weak ties.
A “weak” social tie, in every day language, is an acquaintanceship—someone with whom you are familiar with but not too close. In contrast, a “strong” tie would be a good friend or close family member, someone with whom you interact a lot. An “absent” tie would be someone who you know but don’t really have any kind of relationship with.
In a famous sociological study, Mark Granovetter interviewed several hundred business people and asked them how they got their jobs. Seventeen percent reported learning about their jobs from a close friend (strong tie), 28% reported learning about it from someone they barely knew (absent tie), and a full 56% of the respondents reported learning about it from an acquaintance (weak tie).
It’s a bit of a paradox: Why are acquaintances, people we sort of know, more important in the job search process than our close friends and family? Our strong ties, after all, care about us more and would be much more willing to help us.
The answer, according to Granovetter, is that weak ties are a unique social resource: they connect us with a wider set of social networks than do social ties. Your acquaintances each have their own strong ties—family and friends to whom they are very close to. Through your acquaintances, you gain access to their strong ties—and to the social networks to which they belong. All social networks offer various resources, such as information about job opportunities, and so by connecting with a greater number of social networks, via weak social ties, you gain access to more possible employment opportunities.
Strong ties, in contrast, connect us with fewer social networks. Your best friend in the world would probably do anything for you, but chances are that the two of you know many of the same people. As such, it’s not that your close friends and family don’t want to help you in a job search; it’s just that they have less to offer because you probably already know about most of the contacts that they would offer. You already share many of the same networks with them. So, there’s a trade-off. Strong ties are more willing and available to offer help, but weak ties typically have more resources to offer.
In this context, it’s interesting to think about the many social ties created by the Internet. About a year ago, I started blogging, and through that I have had contact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people with similar personal and research interests as mine. Likewise, most college students have Facebook accounts in order to keep track of their friends and make friends with their friends’ friends (got that?). As a result of this on-line networking, this generation may have more casual social ties than any before.
The question, then, becomes the nature of these online ties. Granovetter studied fairly conventional acquaintances—people you see in person at places like the work place or social gatherings. Online acquaintances are different. If I met some of the people I know from online, I don’t think that I would even recognize them. Yes, we’ve exchanged many comments on our blogs, and I know a fair amount of information about them, how they think, what they do, but I’ve never met them in person.
Would these on-line ties be as useful in a job search? The answer is… I don’t know. The focus of these on-line relationships is social networking, getting to know each other pretty much for the sake of getting to know each other. The interactions with these people tend to be more social—what you’re doing, what interests you share in common. I’m not sure how often instrumental concerns come up. In everyday conversation, it’s easy to drop in the information that you’re looking for a job, but it might fit in more awkwardly in online interactions.
Perhaps more importantly, though, is that the social networks and resources offered by online connections are often too distant to be of much value. For example, one of the people I interact with online lives in Kenya. Now, he may know of great job opportunities for me, and be very willing to help, but unless I’m willing to relocate to Africa they don’t do me much good. This maybe why in-person acquaintances remain so will remain so important—by virtue of meeting them face-to-face, you occupy the same physical location, at least briefly. Chances are, therefore, that the social resources they have to offer would also be close and thus of greater value.
So, do you want to get a job? Make sure to let your acquaintances know since they may be very helpful. You’re online connections might be as well, but probably not as much.
Originally posted on everydaysociologyblog.com .
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Some researchers assigned married couples to three experimental conditions: 1) not having a date night, 2) having a date night but going to their usual places, and 3) having a date night and going to new places/ new activities. They found that the only the couples in the third condition experienced a bump in marital satisfaction. They interpret these findings as indicating that novel activities have a beneficial biochemical effect.
A couple of thoughts:
- wouldn't it be a drag to sign up for a study about increasing marital satisfaction, and then be in the control group? "Here's a six-pack, why don't you see if anything good is on TV tonight"
- I'm a little bummed that #2 doesn't help much--familiar haunts are familiar because we go there a lot because we like it.
Oh well, maybe I should take my wife to the accountant with me for V-day tonight--that would be novel!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I tried the "nothing says loving like a tax refund" argument, but she didn't buy it.
Now the only question is whether I should take flowers to the accountant.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Roderick Hart and colleagues (Review of Religious Research) read 648 religion sections in Time Magazine, and they did a content analysis--looking for common themes in these sections. They found three major themes:
1) Religion is a conflict-ridden enterprise. About 80% of the articles emphasized religious conflict, especially with-in denomination conflict.
2) Denominational stereotypes and geographical biases affect media coverage. The stories emphasize religion especially in the northeastern United States. Christians are depicted as conflict-ridden far more than Jews. Catholics and Jews are depicted as more active than Protestants.
3) Media portrayal of religion differs from demographic and social facts. There were twice as many stories about Catholics and Jews than they are represented in the United States populace. There were seven times as many stories about Episcopalians. Baptists, on the other hand, receive only 1/6th of the stories they would deserve based on their population size.
The authors conclude that Time Magazine covers religion just as it would sports, show business, or politics. It seeks out the "exciting" story, as filtered through its reporters own experiences and perceptions.
If this study were done today (and maybe it has been replicated), what do you think it would find? What are media biases about religion--especially evangelicals?
Monday, February 11, 2008
A funny thing happens in our kitchen sink. Sometimes it doesn’t have any dirty dishes in it (okay, not that often, but it does happen). When the sink is empty, my family and I usually put our dishes straight into the dishwasher. At other times, however, there are dirty dishes sitting in the sink. When this happens, we all put any additional dishes straight into the sink, not even considering the extra several seconds it takes to put them into the dishwasher. Why in the world am I writing about my kitchen sink? It turns out that what happens with the sink is a reasonable analogy for one of the more important crime-prevention theories: the theory of broken windows.
The theory of broken windows originated from a 1982 article by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in The Atlantic Monthly. They started with the idea that some broken windows in a building invite more broken windows. In their words:
“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.”
“Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars."
According to Wilson and Kelling, the same holds true for neighborhoods and crime. Just as broken windows invite rocks, and dirty sinks get more dishes, so too certain characteristics of neighborhoods attract and promote crime. A neighborhood that is riddled with vandalism, litter, abandoned buildings and cars signals that no one is taking care of the neighborhood. A neighborhood that has lots of petty crime, such as public drunkenness, pickpockets, traffic violations, this signals that crime is accepted. In both cases the neighborhood is sending out a signal that crime is tolerated if not outright accepted. This encourages crime among residents of the neighborhood and it attracts criminals from other neighborhoods as well.
The importance of this theory is its implications for crime prevention. The way to cut down on crime in a given location, according to the broken window theory, is to change its physical and social characteristics. This can be done by repairing buildings, sidewalks, and roads, and fixing anything that makes a neighborhood look run down. It also means enforcing the law for even the smallest infractions. Police should ticket and/or arrest people for things as small as jaywalking, illegal panhandling, and public disorder. The logic is that by cracking down on small problems, the police are preventing more serious crimes.
The best known application of broken windows theory occurred in New York City, and depending on who you talk to, it was a smashing success in preventing crime, an irrelevant policy, or an invasion of individuals’ rights.
In 1993, Rudy Guiliani—a current presidential candidate—was elected mayor of New York City based on his “get tough on crime” platform. He hired William Bratton as the police chief. Bratton, who was heavily influenced by George Kelling, applied the principles of broken windows theory. Bratton initiated a program of zero-tolerance in which the NYPD cracked down on all sorts of minor infractions, including subway fare dodging, public drinking urinating in public, and even the squeegee men—people who would wipe the windows of stopped cars and demand payment. A friend of mine who lived in New York City at that time even saw police telling people they could not sit on milk crates on the sidewalk-- apparently that was against the law as well.
Almost immediately rates of both petty and serious crimes dropped substantially. In the first year alone, murders were down 19% and car thefts fell by 15%, and crime continued to drop ever year for the following ten years.
So, was this application of broken windows an unqualified success? Some critics say no.
In the same time period, crime dropped significantly in other major cities around the country, cities that had not adopted broken windows policy. (See figure below). Crime dropped nationwide in the 1990s, and various reasons have been given for this overall crime drop. The crack epidemic of the 1980s was subsiding, and there were fewer people in the 15 to 25 year age group, which accounts for so much crime. As such, the declines seen in New York City did not result from new police policies but rather they would have happened anyway.
(The light blue line represents crime in Newark, NJ, purple Los Angles, red New York, and black the U.S. as a whole)
Other critics argue that regardless of the effectiveness of broken windows, it was too costly in terms of individual rights. They claim that the police, emboldened by the mandate to enforce even the smallest of laws, frequently crossed over into harassment of individuals, especially racial minorities and the poor. The application of broken windows, with its zeal for reducing crime, produced unacceptable police behavior.
Nonetheless, the results in New York City were sufficiently interesting that various police departments around the country have adopted principles of broken windows theory. In fact, William Bratton is now the police chief of Los Angeles.
P.S., this post shows that sociologists cover everything of social importance, including the kitchen sink.
Originally published in everydaysociologyblog.com.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Some of the relevant passages:
"How did being with the PirahÃ£ change your thinking?
They lived so well without religion and they were so happy. Also they didn't believe what I was saying because I didn't have evidence for it, and that made me think. They would try so hard to understand what I was saying, but it was obviously utterly irrelevant to them. I began to think: what am I doing here, giving them these 2000-year-old concepts when everything of value I can think of to communicate to them they already have?"
What interested me about the article is that he's been approached by a Hollywood producer to make a movie about his life. I think that says a lot about what is "newsworthy" about Christians. Everet is now a professor in linguistics, and I'm guessing that if he had lived the exact same life--without deconverting, no one would find it interesting.
Airplanes and Christians are two things that the media seem to cover only when they fall.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
After reading my post this week about silver shopping coins, my friend David Weakliem gave me a handful of them. After all this time, blogging has finally paid off!
Cute saying of the week. Floyd had lost his winter coat (something he's pretty good at), and he was making the case for us needing to buy him a new one. After explaining how he's looked everywhere, he concluded "and it's no where to be found." Really cute from a 7-year-old.
Jeremy Freese's thoughts about why graduate students publish in the best journals more than faculty (something I've wondered about...).
It's gray and snowy today. When are the politicians going to deliver on their promised global warming? I say if it doesn't warm up soon, Al Gore should lose his Nobel Prize!
Friday, February 08, 2008
The pumped-up proselytizer—he looks more like a white rapper than an evangelist—sports a tough Jersey accent and a swagger that would make Tony Soprano proud. He screams, taunts and humiliates half-filled rooms at spiritual retreats across the country, hoping to "motivate" teens into accepting Jesus into their lives. Though his ministry, called Hard as Nails, is aimed at Catholic teens, he sounds like an evangelical. His tactics include drill-sergeant-like assaults: "If you sin, you better have the courage to bash Jesus' face in!" Fatica screams at one cherubic girl, pushing her to the verge of tears. "Have you sinned in the last 24 hours? Have ya?! HAVE YA?!" Fatica wants his disciples to feel the pain that Christ suffered for their sins.
At first I was pretty turned off by this approach, and maybe I still am. But... it does highlight which styles of religious self-presentation that we're more comfortable with. The gospel with gentle rationality seems to play best. Is a different approach, as described here, appropriate? Helpful? I'm not sure.
Thanks Matt P for the link!
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
She was sweeping her front path, looking down when I approached her house. I literally was trying to walk down the street quietly so that she wouldn't hear me so that I could just get to the office, shut the door, and get some work done. Well... I wasn't good enough (or maybe she's too good), because just when I thought I was in the clear, she called my name. I went back, smiled (but was groaning inside), and asked how she was.
Turns out she's been collecting silver coins from a local grocery store, and she wanted to give them to me. (They're used for discounts on bulk items--things she doesn't need). So she handed me a dozen silver coins and sent me on my way. I love these silver coins--use them whenever I get them.
I'm sure there's a larger moral lesson here. Right now I'm feeling thankful for the coins and embarrassed that I was trying to sneak by a widow in need.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Here's a remarkable story from a Kenyan colleague of his that illustrates some interesting dynamics of the situation in Kenya:
I would like to briefly share with you my own personal experience during these troubling times in Kenya. Just before Christmas, I traveled in the company of my wife and two children to visit my mother who lives in our home in Lugari, Western Kenya. This is the place I was born and brought up.
During this visit, I could sense the high political and tribal tensions and feared that it could explode if things went wrong during the elections. Lugari is largely inhabited by the Luhya community and are immediate neighbors to the Kalenjin in the close by North Rift Valley Region. Even though I am ethnically Kikuyu, I grew up in this neighborhood, speaking Luhya and Kalenjin-only learning the Kikuyu language at university!
Only a day after the elePublish Postction results were announced, I learnt that my mother's home was looted and burnt. This action was largely because she is Kikuyu. Last week, we moved our mother back to her 'rebuilt' home. Her neighbors pooled together resources and rebuilt her main house. My siblings and I have sent in non-food item and neighbors have been giving her food.Then, last week I learnt of the most amazing thing. When the raiders attacked my mother's home, they took away all her cows, sheep and assorted household items. Late last week they returned them all! At 77 years, my mother is now overwhelmed by the kindness of the people she has lived with for 42 years. On a phone call to her this morning she told me that she wants to live the rest of her life with them and express her gratitude to this community where love and sacrifice for each others sake has always been the way of life.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
I was also sick last week, with a pretty good cold. How in the world do people with real, long-term sicknesses manage? A simple cold stopped me, well, cold. When people can overcome real maladies--that's remarkable.
On the brighter side, we as a family have discovered (or rediscovered) the game Risk. We've played two games and both times my youngest son has crushed everyone. Apparently world domination is one of his gifts. His new nickname--Floyd the Hun.
Ben Byerly, a frequent commenter on this blog, has started his own blog. He is a seminary student in Nairobi, and has some very interesting insights into the situation there. Check it out.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Now, I tend to be skeptical of these kinds of tests. Maybe I've had too many personality tests come back negative...
But, it was free to me, so I gave it a try. My top strength was what they termed learner. Here is a description of it:
You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the "getting there."
Now, I don't know about that process is important than outcome part of this, but the rest resonates with me. When I pick up something new, I love learning about it, and that might be why I like picking up new things.
This fits with blogging, because blogging gives me an outlet to discuss and get feedback on what I'm learning, plus learn from others.
It's got me thinking...