Friday, January 30, 2009
It's remarkable how much variation there for many of the presidents. Some of them had high highs and low lows.
Also, most of them ended lower than they started. Only Clinton ended higher than he started--with the impeachment and all. Go figure. Clinton also started with rather low ratings.
Obama has approval ratings at 69%, last I read, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep them this high.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
This being America, there is a class action suit being filed against both Applebee's and WW. The legal announcement makes the following pitch:
"If you or a loved one has suffered ill health or damages in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation."
I think that I'll stuff a pillow under my shirt and have my wife roll me into the courtroom in a wheelchair, and I'll sob: "I was fine until that Tilipia".
Life imitating art
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This weeks entry: "recession belly". We're apparently all so upset about the financial crisis that we're eating too much bad food, getting fat (fatter), and ruining our health. (Read in a newspaper recently, not worth digging up to cite.)
Wow, just thinking about that makes me, well, stressed.
Not to worry, though, for when things get better we'll celebrate the economic recovery by eating more!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
'Driscoll disdains the prohibitions of traditional evangelical Christianity. Taboos on alcohol, smoking, swearing and violent movies have done much to shape American Protestant culture — a culture that he has called the domain of “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists.” '
One of my very first posts on this blog regarded Driscoll, and I don't think that I have much to add, but it's interesting to see him get all this attention.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Here's a clip from an article about him:
"As a 15-year-old, Tebow preached to 10,000 high school students in the Philippines. "It gives me a sense of purpose of how to handle things knowing that football is not the most important thing," he said. "People always ask me, 'How do you handle the pressure, and how do you handle this or that?' Being places where I've been with people who are there trying to fight for their next meal, I think that's pressure, not trying to win a football game.""
A lot of athletes talk about their religious faith, but I haven't heard of too many coming from the mission field. Does this mean that football scouts are now scouring missionary outposts for future players?
BTW, some time it would be funny for a player to put a really obscure verse under his eyes... just a thought.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Well, Gus got up to get something to drink, and Floyd sat down on the computer and added a coda to the e-mail. He wrote, and I quote: "I am a butt face". It was the perfect prank--absolutely embarrassing, and maybe even worse to have to explain that your cute little brother pranked you.
The only hitch in this otherwise brilliant plan--Floyd, having never used e-mail, did not know how to send the message, so he was hitting various buttons on the screen when Gus came back in. Gus read the message, screamed, and ripped the keyboard out of Floyd's hands. Gus was rather panic stricken at what almost happened.
I can only surmise that Floyd gets his sense of humor from his mother.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I particularly enjoyed the "probably." When I first read it, I was pleased that he was intellectually honest enough to write "probably", but, alas, that wasn't the case. Instead, he wanted it dropped, but "the British advertising authority said should be thrown in to keep the ad from being potentially misleading, on the grounds that no one can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist." When religion meets bureaucracy.
Two things that make this interesting. One, it shows atheists acting more like a religion. This would seem to fit nicely under the heading of proselytizing. I wonder if this will have an unintended consequence, for one of the common critiques of Christians is that we proselytize. Will these kinds of efforts weaken this critique.
Two, the message implies that religious people worry and enjoy their lives less. I'm not sure if this is the case. I'm sure that surveys have asked about these two things, as well as religion, so it would be interesting to find out how their levels vary by religious affiliation. Hopefully one of you will know of such data, otherwise I'll try to dig some up in the next few weeks.
Monday, January 19, 2009
"I regret to inform you that the appeal of your dismissal has been denied."
So, not only did I do something worthy of firing, but I'm so forgetful that I had forgotten that I was fired.
Turns out that I was being cc'ed on another matter, but I tell you, there's nothing like thinking you've been fired to wake you up on a Monday morning.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
A dead cat bounce. It refers to a brief increase after a rapid decrease, but the decrease is expected to continue. (In the election coverage, someone referred to a rise in McCain's poll numbers as a dead cat bounce.) This expression both describes a pattern we might not have noticed otherwise, and it's anti-cat, both of which are a plus for me.
Here's my usage: I hope that my losing weight now reflects a true lifestyle change, but I worry that it's just a dead cat bounce on my way to obesity.
How about you? Any good uses of this expression?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Then we tried some other games, and lo and behold, we came to one that I beat him handily at. He and I were both surprised, and then I figured out why I did well--it's a game similar to the old missile command video game, which I used to play a lot.
After that, Floyd was a bit discouraged, and so he suggested we play a different game. He described it as laser hockey, but with one look I knew I'd do just fine--it was simply an updated version of pong. Sweet...finally some benefit for living in the 1970s.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
One kid was quite prosocial—he was polite, listened to my wife and me when we gave the kids instructions, and overall he was “nice.” The other kid, though, was a bit of a scamp. He wasn’t mean-spirited, but he used rather rough language (at least for a kindergartner), and he would periodically act out by being too rough with my son and the other boy.
Fast forward ten years, and the nice boy is one of my son’s best friends. We see him on a regular basis, and he remains a really good kid. The other kid got kicked out of school a couple of times, and we’ve lost track of him. The last I heard from my son, he was in some sort of legal trouble. Hopefully, though, he’ll be able to straighten things out and make a good life for himself.
This story echoes an observation made by Lee Robins, a psychologist who studies crime. She noted that all antisocial adults were antisocial as children; however, not all antisocial children grow up to be antisocial adults. This observation provided important insight for theories of crime. It holds that very few “good” kids get involved in crime and other forms of antisocial behavior as adults. Once prosocial, always prosocial. In contrast, some “bad” kids grow up to be antisocial, criminal adults, but others do not. In statistical language, being antisocial as a child is a necessary, but not sufficient, predictor that a child will be antisocial as an adult.
My son’s friends support this observation. The nice, well-behaved kindergartener remains so now that he’s a high school kid. This illustrates the stability of prosocial behavior. The kid who got into trouble, however, seems to have continued to do so, but we’re hoping that he’ll work things out. This illustrates antisocial behavior continuing into adulthood, but, according to Robins’ observation, there is hope for change.
Rob Sampson and John Laub used this observation to anchor their age-graded, life-course theory of crime. They developed this theory using some of the most fascinating data ever studied by criminologists. In the 1940s, Sheldon and Eleanor Gluck conducted a longitudinal study of troubled boys in Boston. These boys were in their early teens and had already been in trouble with the law and put into reform school. The Glucks collected extensive records about the boys and studied them through adolescence. The study was put aside until Sampson and Laub found their data boxed up in the basement of the Harvard Library.
Sampson and Laub reconstructed the data and followed-up with the original respondents, who were then around 60 years old. Sampson and Laub found out that some of the troubled boys ended up in trouble with the law for the rest of their lives, while others lived very conventional lives and had no legal problems. This variation fit with Robins’ observation, and it lead Sampson and Laub to ask why some of the troubled kids turned out well and others didn’t.
Their answer used principles of life-course development. Specifically, they found that the troubled kids who got straightened out experienced some sort of turning point—an event or life circumstance that pulled them out of their criminal lifestyle and into a more conventional pattern of behavior. Such turning points included military service, employment, and marriage. Military service provided structure and discipline for the reform school boys. Employment and marriage provided stability and the need to walk the straight-and-narrow if they wanted to keep their jobs and marriage.
What’s important about this theory is that it brings together social influences on crime, such as family and employment, with psychological predispositions. This social psychological approach to crime adds some of the best features of strictly psychological and sociological approaches, for it acknowledges personal differences in criminal propensity, but it also makes a place for society to overrule, or at least counteract, these propensities. This gives some hope that the troubled kid who came over to our house that one day will find the right job or partnership to turn his life around.
Originally published on everydaysociologyblog.com
Monday, January 12, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Here's a sin that I don't know if I've ever heard preached on, but I sure practice it a lot: Schadenfreude, which means delighting in others' misfortunes.
I started thinking about it when I read the following letter to Dear Abby. I was so happy at what this man did. Now, whether he should have done so is another question, I'm wondering about my delighted response at the suffering of another.
DEAR ABBY: A few weeks ago, I returned home after mowing the lawn at my mother's place and parked my truck behind my house. I left the lawn mower and a 5-gallon can of gas in the bed of my truck and went into the house for a drink of water. When I returned, the gas can was missing.
I bought another can, filled it with gas and added 2 pounds of sugar. Again, I parked my truck in the same spot with the gas can visible. An hour later, it too had disappeared.
A short while later, I noticed a neighbor's son and his friends pushing his car up the street. They said they had “engine problems.” My wife thinks what I did was wrong and that I should offer to pay for this lad's engine repairs. What do you think?
– “A-Gassed” in Illinois
What do you think? Is schadenfreude something Christians should/ do think about?
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 09, 2009
Quoting from a Christianity Today interview with Smith:
"Such sociological accounts are valid as far as they go," Smith writes. "They often can illuminate the social processes influencing the extent and shape of religious practices. But in the end, such sociological accounts possess limited abilities to explain the persistence over millennia and into the modern world of religion generally and—for my purposes here—Christianity in particular."
What sociologists sometimes miss, Smith writes, is that there's something in Christianity itself that may explain its persistence.
"[T]he belief content of the Christian faith gives rise to certain practices and experiences—particularly emotional ones—that many people find highly engaging, compelling, persuasive, and convincing," he says. "[T]he very internal logic of doing Christianity persistently produces events, interactions, and feelings in and among people compelling enough to keep the tradition flourishing despite many countervailing forces."
What's interesting about this approach is that it fits with both skeptics and believers' views of the faith. A skeptic says Christianity is a crutch, the believer says it's beneficial--both are giving a similar reason for the staying power of Christianity.
This approach reminds me of CS Lewis' writing on the rewards of Christianity.
"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Needless to say, because Smith 1) didn't not emphasize traditional sociological concepts and 2) spoke positively (gasp!) about Christianity, a number of sociologists have written critiques of this essay (making for an interesting read in the latest issue of Sociology of Religion). Forgive my cynicism, but I wonder if the reaction to the article would have been much more positive had it been about paganism or some other non-mainstream religion.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
One of the better known criminological theories of recent decades is Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) low self-control theory. This theory holds that children develop levels of self-control by about ages seven or eight, and these levels remain relatively stable the rest of their lives. Children with low levels of self-control end up being more prone to crime, and their criminal propensity continues into later life.
Low self-control manifests in a variety of ways. People with low self-control are unable to delay gratification, for they are focused on the present. They want it now! As a result, low self-control people act impulsively—without much thought and based on what they are feeling at the moment. This makes them risk takers; if we don’t consider the consequences of our actions, we’re willing to try lots more behaviors—even if they are potentially damaging to us. Finally, low self-control people are focused on themselves rather than others, making them insensitive to other people. Empathy isn’t a big deal for them.
It’s easy to see how low self-control would lead to criminal behavior. Crime usually involves a desire for immediate gratification, like taking what you want. It can also be impulsive, happening on the spur of the moment without any planning. Given the possible negative consequences of crime, it involves taking risks. It also often creates victims, so criminal behavior can require indifference toward other peoples’ well-being.
Where does low self-control come from? According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, it’s the product of ineffective parenting. This happens in families where there is weak attachment between parent and child and in families where parents fail to recognize and correct their children’s wrong behavior.
Recently, a story came out of Australia about a seven-year-old boy that we could probably crown the king (or maybe prince) of low self-control. This boy, and his family, lives near the Alice Springs Reptile Center, located in the outback of Australia. Early one morning, this boy snuck into the Reptile Center and started killing animals. He bludgeoned some of the smaller lizards to death, and climbed over fence to feed others to an eleven-foot-long salt water crocodile. By the time he finished, the boy had killed thirteen animals worth $5,500.
Here’s a video of the event from the zoo’s security cameras:
This behavior fits perfectly with low self-control theory. The kid was only seven-years-old, suggesting that this type of behavior starts very early. He acted without any sense of consequence for his behavior; in fact, security cameras showed him smiling as he killed the animals. He clearly showed no sense of empathy for the animals or the zoo keepers, and he took a lot of risks. Not only did he sneak past the security system, but he also climbed a fence to get a closer look at the crocodile, in the process endangering himself.
The boy’s behavior also suggests that his parents are particularly ineffective. Most parents would not enable their child disappear for such an extended period without realizing it. Also, it turns out that several years earlier, this boy’s brother had vandalized the zoo as well (though somewhat less dramatically). This suggests that his parents were not able to appropriately deter this behavior. In suggesting a more appropriate parenting style, the center director said that “In my day he'd [the boy] get a big boot up the arse.”
According to low self-control theory, this boy would be expected to continue such low self-control behavior into adolescence then into adulthood, and he would move on from harming animals to harming people. Hopefully he won’t be feeding people to crocodiles, but self-control theory would predict a lengthy criminal record for him eventually.
As a side note, while Gottfredson and Hirschi, both sociologists, popularized this approach to criminal behavior, psychologists have been studying developing similar theories for many years before self-control theory. Impulsivity, immediate gratification, risk-taking are well-established concepts in psychological accounts of crime and deviance.
Surprisingly, Gottfredson and Hirschi did not review this literature. As such, their “discovery” of low self-control is a lot like Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. Certainly he was the first European to find the Americas (except for maybe the Vikings), but there was already plenty of people here when he arrived. Likewise, Gottfredson and Hirschi didn’t invent a self-control explanation for crime, but they certainly introduced it to a broader audience. Because of them, we have a better understanding of why boys feed lizards to crocodiles in Australia.
Originally posted on everydaysociologyblog.com
Monday, January 05, 2009
Father God, I am clay in your hands,
Help me to stay that way through all life's demands,
'Cause they chip and they nag and they pull at me,
And every little thing I make up my mind to be,
Like I'm gonna be a daddy whose in the mix,
And I'm gonna be a husband who stays legit,
And I pray that I'm an artist who rises above,
The road that is wide and filled with self love,
Everything that I see draws me,
Though it's only in You that I can truly see that its a feast for the eyes- a low blow to purpose.
And I'm a little kid at a three ring circus.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
"As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."
The remainder of the article