Friday, April 30, 2010

10 most influential changes since WWII

I have been reading and enjoying Robert Samuelson's 1995 book The Good Life and Its Discontents. In one section, he lists what he thinks are the 10 most important changes in the 50 years between 1945 and 1995. He lists:
1) Television
2) Jet travel
3) Air-conditioning
4) Long-distance phone service
5) Interstate highways
6) Washing machines and dryers
7) Antibiotics
8) Social security and private pensions
9) Health insurance
10) The Pill

Samuelson wrote this before the internet really took off, but still, it's an intriguing list. It's hard to imagine life without any one of these. It makes me wonder what the 2000-2050 list will look like.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What is the American Dream?

I've seen a number of statements defining the American Dream, some sincere, some cynical.  So, I was interested when I came across a summary of what appears to be the original statement of it, by historian James Truslow Adams.

According to him, it is the "Dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.... It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each women shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and to be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position"

Basically, he envisioned it as a pure meritocracy, not just obtaining material abundance.  Hm-m-m-m-m.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fact: I have a new teaching philosophy

Last week I was watching a rerun of The Office, one of my favorite shows, and Dwight Schrute made a statement (to Jim) that epitomizes the approach that some faculty seem to take with their students, so, I think that I will adopt it as my teaching philosophy.

"Fact, I am older, I am wiser. Do not mess with me."

What do you think? Maybe I should put it on the syllabus?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A problem with sentimentality (vid)

An organization wanted to honor orphan children. They inflated a bunch of ballons, launched them, with each representing a child. Well... bad things happened.

Cynicism is safer...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

UConn sidewalk in snow storm (pic)

There was a snowstorm during finals week, and here some students are goofing around in it.  It was a great scene, but I'm not sure that I captured it that well.  Overall the picture may be too light.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quotation about publishing

I was watching an old episode of the Addams family with Floyd. (We watch it on our Roku, which we are big fans of).

In this episode, Morticia becomes an author, and she gives this quotation that may be words for me to live by:

"All work and no play gets books done"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bono on the Gospel

"To some people the church is their ticket to respectability, a certain bourgeois point of view, a safety net for when they go to bed. My idea of Christianity is no safety net, a scathing attack on bourgeois values, and a risk to respectability."

Bono, 2002

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UConn dorms at night (pic)

This is after a snowstorm in December, and it was Christmas break, so there were no students around and the snow was still undisturbed.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Breaching experiments

For my intro sociology class, I assigned the students a breaking experiment project where there were to break social norms and then analyze the reactions.  The projects did some of the standard things, like play music too loud or stare at people. Two, though, were really clever.

One student would ride the elevator when other people were on it, start to get off at his floor, and then, standing in the elevator doorway, start texting. He would then wait to see what would happen. This really confused the other elevator riders, who, after a minute or so would ask if he was getting off.

Another student would hug people, somewhat randomly, and he continue holding the person as long as they let him. After about two seconds, most people either pushed him away or squirmed away themselves. But... one women said, "oh, this is nice," which startled the student.

The students actually did a really good job of drawing more general analytic principles from how people responded.

Ah... they joys of teaching sociology.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Would your church censor this photograph?

Reading Chuck Warnock's blog, I came across a post about this interesting situation. A church in Texas invited local artists to submit representations of the Stations of the Cross. A 10-year-old boy, who studies photography with his father, was given the commission for station #7... Jesus falls for the second time.

Here is his entry, and the church decided not to display it. (The model is the photographer's younger brother). The photographer wanted to convey the innocence of Christ.

What do you think of it?

(Personally, I love it.  It gives a fresh interpretation).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Squirrel tracks in snow (pic)

This caught my eye, walking around the UConn campus one night in December.  There's a bird feeder at the back of the picture.  I don't know that I have the tones right, but I do like the symmetry. 

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Source of Greatest Evil... Governments that oppress religion?

I came across this chart in Moore and Simon (2000-It's Getting Better All the Time). It lists the number of civilians killed by governments, excluding wars:

Soviet Union (total 20th century): 62 million
Communist China: 35 million
Stalin's purges (1930-38): 20-60 million
Germany (total 20th century): 21 million
The Holocaust: 6 million
Cambodia (1975-9): 1-2 million

Based on this track record, governments that suppress religion don't inspire a lot of confidence.