Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guns to church?

Well, this would be one way to make sure that sermons don't go on too long...

A story posted on BBC:

"A pastor in the US state of Kentucky has told his flock to bring handguns to church in what he says is an effort to promote safe gun ownership."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Red and yellow leaves (pic)

A picture from fall last year. I think that I've posted it before, but this is processed somewhat differently.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Too much stats...

Okay, I like statistics as much (and probably a lot more) than the next person, but this might be too much. Sometimes, perhaps especially in sports, statistics seem to based on supply rather than demand. In other words, we get them because the writer has them, not because anyone would be interested. Consider this snippet from somewhere on about why last night's game was "historic."

"Jacoby Ellsbury's Tuesday night was a historic occasion. Only twice since divisional play began has a Red Sox player hit two triples in a 4-hit performance."

Forgive me for not being overwhelmed....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sifting and winnowing

This is a well-known plaque at the University of Wisconsin. It speaks for itself:

Friday, June 19, 2009


Here's an interesting article about blogging, and they very large number of inactive blogs. I post this story just so that this wouldn't be one of them. :-)

"According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door....

Not all fallow blogs die from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, homework and swim practice, or perhaps even housework and parenting. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter and Facebook. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some smidgen of personal privacy."

Thanks David!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to create a best-selling book title

Here's a NYT article about the trend in publishing to give book's titles that are spin-offs of previous best sellers. So, Freakonomics has spawned Obamanomics, Womenomics, and various other -nomic titles. Other examples of knock-off titles are based on Prozac Nation and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Not wanting to be left behind, I think that I'll write a sure-fire best seller. How about this:

The Rise and Fall of American Christianity: The Story of a Freakonation by a Rogue Sociologist.

Any other ideas?

Thanks David!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The usefulness of social construction

Sometimes it's handy being a sociologist. Not as in fixing plumbing or repairing the car handy, but still useful. I have a flash drive (i.e., thumb drive) that I use to take info back and forth between the computers in the house. (One isn't on the web). Well, it kept on disappearing only to be found in family members' purses, backpacks, rooms, and wherever else. So, I needed a way of keeping track of it that would say to others: Don't take.

This is social construction... what could I use to construct that the flash drive isn't something to be taken away. After thinking about it for awhile, I came upon the perfect solution: I've tied it to one of the coffee cups that I sometimes use. There is a norm to leave other peoples' coffee cups alone, and it's not too heavy to carry around.

Haven't lost the flash drive since.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Birdhouse in fall (pic)

I was going through some photos from last October, and I came across this one that I had forgotten about.... Yes, the colors were just about that vivid!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stereotypes of conservative Christians as all political conservatives

I just finished reading Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout's book The Truth about Conservative Christians. In it, they discuss the diversity of conservative Christians as well as stereotypes about them. (BTW, neither author is one). Below is a informative summary statement about the politics of conservative Christians, and it highlights how powerful (and inaccurate) stereotypes are about religous people:

"The additional vote of Conservative Protestants for Republican candidates, over and above that of Mainline American Protestants, is meager--about seven percentile points. Despite the depiction of Conservative Protestants by the media, by frightened liberals, and by the conservative leadership as if they were a massive and disciplined religio-political voting block, they are not. Indeed, we have argued, this image is a stereotype based on overgeneralization and prejudice. It is also a dangerous image because it marginalizes a major segment of American society because of inadequate information, bad information, and often no information at all. There may be alink between Conservative Christian religious convictions and political behavior but it is modest, even by social science standards." P. 69

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Funny student evaluation

This last semester I taught social research methods, and though the class went okay, it often felt forced. I felt that I had to work hard all semester to engage the students.

While--we got our student evaluations back, and a student made this funny comment: "Try not to be so upbeat on super dull stuff." I'm not sure if this is a compliment (that I was upbeat) or a slam (that the material was super dull).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why to get married young

Here's an interesting article by top-drawer sociologist Mark Regnerus on marrying young. He's identified a social trend in which getting married young is seen as a bad thing, and he makes the case that it's actually a good idea. I suppose this makes it a form of deviance...

An excerpt from the article:

"In my research on young adults' romantic relationships, many women report feeling peer pressure to avoid giving serious thought to marriage until they're at least in their late 20s. If you're seeking a mate in college, you're considered a pariah, someone after her "MRS degree." Actively considering marriage when you're 20 or 21 seems so sappy, so unsexy, so anachronistic. Those who do fear to admit it -- it's that scandalous."

Monday, June 08, 2009

Robert Putnam's latest on religion

Here's an article about Robert Putnam's forthcoming book: American Grace:

"Against the expectations of hard-core secularists, Putnam asserts, "religious Americans are nicer, happier, and better citizens." They are more generous with their time and money, not only in giving to religious causes but to secular ones. They join more voluntary associations, attend more public meetings, even let people cut in line in front of them more readily. Religious Americans are three to four times more socially engaged than the unaffiliated. Ned Flanders is a better neighbor."

There are, of course, a variety of causal issues regarding *why* this is the case, but it still makes for an interesting finding. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Thank you Jay!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The apple fell far from the tree

Managing money is not my forte... I'm pretty happy spending whatever I have. As a parent, however, I want my kids to be more adept in this (as well as all areas). I think that I'm okay with 8-year-old Floyd.

Recently I borrowed $10 from him, to be paid back the next day. When he gave it to me, however, he said that I had to pay him for it. (He meant interest, but I don't know if anyone has told him about interest). I said sure, how about 50 cents--5% for an overnight loan. No, this little loanshark said $1 or nothing. While feigning outrage, I was pleased that he's thinking about money.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Do you live in a Lutheran community?

I recently finished reading "The American Church in Crisis" by David Olson. He presents a lot of data about church attendance rates across the country, and he presents this memorable line about where Lutherans are located:

"The farther a state is from the Minnesota-Dakota border, the lower the percentage of Lutherans."

Sure enough, judging from the map he presents, that's true. So, just take out your atlas, and you'll know something about the religious composition of your community.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

National Congregation Study full report

Mark Chaves, of Duke University, just came out with the full report from the important National Congregation Study.

Here's its summary of findings (taken from the report itself):


What Are Our Most Important Observations? This report highlights some of the National Congregations Study’s most important findings, including:
• Most congregations are small but most people are in large congregations.
• Worship services are becoming more informal.
• Congregational leaders are still overwhelmingly male.
• Predominantly white congregations are more ethnically diverse.
• Congregations embrace technology.
• Congregations and clergy are getting older.
• Congregations’ position in the social class structure remains unchanged.
• Congregations’ involvement in social service activities remains unchanged.
• Only a small minority of congregations describe themselves as theologically “liberal,” even within the Protestant mainline.
• Congregations are more tolerant and inclusive than we might expect them to be, even when it comes to hot-button issues.
• There has been no significant increase in congregational confl ict since 1998.
• Congregations’ involvement in political activities is largely unchanged since 1998.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

When monks go funny

I enjoyed reading this article in the New York Times about a group of monks in Wisconsin and their printing toner cartridge business.

I was struck by how they used their money. The business had 80% overhead, 10% went to the monks, and 10% went to charity.

Also... one of the monks in the story would frequently wear this shirt:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The cultural divide between Evangelicals and their critics

I recently read Christian Smith's wonderful book: Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. In it, he tells of going to an Ivy League conference and having two telling conversations back-to-back.

The first was with a leader of an Evangelical para-church ministry, who told Smith how his group has been excluded from his campus' ministry association. He felt that the ministers of the other religious groups just didn't like his conservative brand of Evangelical Christianity.

The second conversation was with an Ivy League professor. I'll quote this text directly, so that you don't think that I am embellishing it at all. "Evangelicals, she argued, have tremendous power in society at large ("Just look at Newt Gingrich!" she exclaimed), are promoting creationism in the curricula of most public schools, and are seeking to marginalize if not eradicate those with whom they disagree. ("First it will be the homosexuals, next it will be the Jews"). Furthermore, she claimed, evangelicals leverage their broad social influence on campuses in order to pressure confused college students into converting to their religion. To create a level playing field, she declared, evangelicals must be restricted, disempowered." P. 4

Well, at least someone with such a bigoted, small-minded view isn't allow to teach at a major university. Oops...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Christians and PZC committees

Here's a story about a couple in San Diego who were busted for having a 15-person Bible Study in their house. Why? It's against local zoning laws. Now, I see this as overzealous zoning enforcement rather than any sort of religious persecution, but it did remind me of something a friend told me.

He's a pastor currently planting a new church. He says that in the early days, Christians faced lions, but now they face Planning and Zoning Committees... and he's not sure which is worse. At least with the lions it doesn't take that long.