The Hot Seat

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. - Winston Churchill

Monday, December 24, 2007

Good Tidings! (for...many...)

Yeah Yeah make jokes. It's my bloggy and I'll post when I want to.

In any case I've always frown upon pessimism especially from my Christians and Adventist co-religionists.

I often think the criticism of evangelical Christianity is overblown but one criticism hits home quite nicely.

A apocalyptic viewpoint in the world can sap one's passion for civic engagement.

Some call this being so heavenly minded that one is no earthly good.

Well, booyah! (That's the safety word, ifn' you hear it again, send help)

Both violent crime and property crime have declined dramatically since 1973. New York City will probably notch up less than 500 murders this year, the lowest since the early 1960s (the figure for 1990 was 2,262). Teenagers are cleaning up their act. Teenage drug use has fallen by 23% overall since the 1990s, and by 50% for LSD and ecstasy. Teens are drinking less, smoking less, having sex less and dropping out of school less. The birth rate for 15-19-year-olds has fallen by 35% since 1991. At 10%, the high-school drop-out rate is at a 30-year low.

Welfare reform is working. The welfare caseload has dropped by 60% since 1994. A series of social evils—overall poverty, child poverty, child hunger—have all decreased. Employment figures for single mothers have surged. The number of abortions fell from over 1.6m in 1990 to fewer than 1.3m this year. The divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970. Education scores are up.

Things are not all hunky-dory. The violent crime rate has ticked upward in the past couple of years. Illegitimacy is at an all-time high. But this is a very different world from the 1970s, when America's leading cultural indicators all started to point towards Gomorrah. American civil society, aided by sensible social policies, is gradually repairing the damage of the past few decades.


From an Economist article.

That is to say people can make a difference and on a large scale no less.


...what's our excuse now?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Breaking News: We are All Talentless Hacks

I've always said that pretty much anyone can succeed at any academic subject. That there aren't "math people" just people who learned how to do math.

As a tutor it was generally assumed this is because that my job. Slather on the cheap comforting platitudes you nerd! :P

It's time for another turnea "I-told-you-so"

Courtesy of the Freakonomics blog: (cool book, read it).

Their work, compiled in the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.

Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't "good" at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.


Sweet validation...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Book Recomendation

As you might have guessed, my breakdown of the "war over culture" as opposed to the "culture war" will be a gradual affair.

In the mean time, I'll plug an excellent book I read recently.

But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle
Is one of those books you hope everyone gets to read because it will save hours of frustration when discussing the nature and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

It is an entirely unflinching look and the personalities, plans, and divisions on both sides of the struggle told from the vantage point of the "Johannesburg of America". As a local is was an bonus to here about the history neighborhoods and buildings that I've walked and lived in.

The specific scope also brings the occasionally esoteric dialog on Civil Rights into a more earthy and ultimately more interesting paradigm.

It's really a book about the people whose names we all know and we get to her everyone's story as it pertains to the issue.

Fred Shuttlesworth
Bull Connor
Art Hanes
Albert Boutwell
Martin Luther King Jr.
Ralph Abernathy

We've heard their names (except maybe Art and Albert, they were the mayors... both of them... at the same time...that's discussed too) , but if you want to know a little better what they actually did and who they were, find this book in your local library or even better buy it. it is extensively researched and impeccably sourced and it could take time to root around in the background if you so choose.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Culture Wars- Post One

It has taken a number of things to bring us to this point.

The rail and the airplane eased travel for persons of all economic classes.

The decline in racism and colonialism gave people around the world hope for ruling their own destiny.

The gentrification of the "first-world" and corresponding needs for labor and retirement support.

All have played their part in forcing the confrontation which, I believe will form one the the primary issues of domestic policy for the entire first world.

I speak of the so called culture wars: conflicts played out in the United States by concerns over Blacks and Hispanics and in Europe by Muslims of varying ethnic backgrounds.

All are based on an old misunderstanding which we are just now beginning to unravel.

Many have been led to believe that nations are founded on and inseparable from their cultures.

This is a tragic error in reasoning.

Nations are primarily a function of geography though historical conflicts also play a part. By nature they are political constructs formed when a group seeks to exercise control over a region.

Often, in a particular region a culture will spring up and indeed cultures are often tied to the land.

But a land may be host to many different cultures, often in the same nation and no contradiction is inherent in this.

The recognition of a multicultural nation disturbs many. Too often the politics of nationhood gets tangled in ethnicity when a majority group seeks to claim dominion over an entire nation despite the presence of minorities.

The Han Chinese are a good example. China was once (and in some ways still is) an ethnically diverse territory.

The Yao. The Manchus. The Uighur. The Zhuang. Dozens of different peoples populated this corner of the world. However during imperial time the Han Chinese did what ethnic groups often did until the age of colonialism finally died.

Expansion and Assimilation once went hand in hand.

Today expansion is dying. The United Nations charter was first and foremost a rebuke of expansionism and empire building.

Assimilation, another holdover from that more primitive time continues to pose a threat to liberty.

The west has a choice to make now as to what is more important, our values or the ethnic nature of our countries...
more later.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Swiss Minaret Ban

We often fail to consider the importance of Western philosophy to our daily lives. For those of us that live in countries where we are free to say, do, and vote as we please it forms the essential fabric of our daily lives. Human rights are the single greatest achievement of Western thought, but implementing is a hard battle that is far from over.

The chief enemies have been power struggles and intolerance. Both are well represented in this latest story.

Members of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, currently the largest party in the Swiss parliament, have launched a campaign to have the building of minarets banned.

They claim the minaret is not necessary for worship, but is rather a symbol of Islamic law, and as such incompatible with Switzerland's legal system.


Now this is a clear violation of the Freedom of Religion as described in the European Convention on Human Rights, but after France got away with its headscarf ban, and it the crossfire caught yarmulkes and turbans as well it stands to reason that the neutered court in Strasbourg may actually let this continue.

I for one am rather tired of seeing xenophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry destroy our most important values, all so a few politicians can score brownie points.

Some feel we should simply wink at this is the face of greater atrocities occurring in the Islamic world, but no amount of wrongdoing on their part will excuse trashing our own civilization.

I'll be back with more on some of the route causes of this type of behavior.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Once more from the Top

I know it will be hard to drag my old readers back after such a period of absence...

So I think I'll use this time for a bit if shameless self-promotion while no one's around to see.

Celebrating a sweet sixteen finish in the 2007 Honda All-Star Campus Challenge is my school Oakwood College.

Honda bought out an add in USA today with shots of all the players.

I'm the pretty one. (Mr. Turner if your judgment on the matter varies).

USA Today Ad (PDF)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm up! I'm up!

Wowzers, were have I been? (The question on everyone's mind).

Well after promising to take it easier this semester I promptly turned around to drown myself i(very rewarding labor).

I've have been so busy I can't really get it across to you just yet as my dazed little brain is still a little confused (help me out here, what month is it?).

That's not the half of it. That guy, you know the one who says "It's better to have loved and lost" etc. etc.

Sooo not getting a Christmas card...

I learned that the radio airwaves are a publicly owned torture device made to repeat a certain girl's name over and over in songs until certain drivers become distracted.

That distracted drivers may drive 80 mph in a seventy zone in Cullman.

That the Highway Patrol thinks very little of these driving habits.

That one who has never received a ticket for anything before has a tendency to get nervous forget a law enforcement official has simply gone to his vehicle to write a ticket and drive away.

That this results in another ticket.

That I really need to get a summer job fast.

That young relations are likely to engage in tossing rocks.

That when they are doing this within arm range of your car trouble is bound to occur.

That I can get a rear windshield replaced for $235 and odd cents.

That I really should looking for that job.

That my computer decides to break at the most annoying times.

That my little sister's computer will have to do.

Life -1 Turnea-0

...on the upside grades look pretty durn good this semester.

Anywhoo, I'm back.