Saturday, January 8, 2022

2022: Books I’ve read

 My goal for this year is to read 20 “fun” books (any not required for my job!). I will update this list as the year progresses, and hope you find some ideas for books you’d like to read.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow (D. Kahneman). Finished 1/8/22. Daniel won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics and waxes autobiographical in this explanation of his research career. The central idea is that our two “selves” (automatic, stereotyping System 1 and fatigable, more logical System 2) interact to guide our reactions to and conceptions of the world. System 1 dominates most of the time, but System 2 can be trained to work more consistently to allow true critical thinking.

2. Babywise (R. Bucknam and G. Ezzo). Finished 1/9/22, probably reading a second time this year. The parent-directed feeding approach described is a middle ground between on-demand and scheduled infant feeding. Retrospective studies referenced indicate equal or better weight gain outcomes and nighttime sleep of at least 7 hours by 6-8 weeks of age. Some typos near the end but otherwise an easy, informational read.

3. I Love Jesus, but I Want to Die (S. Robinson). Finished 1/11/22, worth a second read and a spot in my office. Sarah deals with chronic and recurrent depression and anxiety, and offers this book as a "walk alongside" people, especially fellow Christians, who may feel guilt and shame that faith alone does not heal them. Chapters are autobiographical, with comprehensive resource recommendations throughout as well as in an appendix.

4. Mother and Baby Care in Pictures (L. Zabriskie, 1941). Finished 1/12/22, a fun picture-based book. My mother gifted me this book last year after receiving it from her mother-in-law. It’s interesting to see how recommendations and customs for prenatal care through toilet training have changed over the years.

5. What Does This Mean: Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Post-Modern World (J. W. Voelz). Finished 2/2/22, a decent reference text but not one for a second round of pleasure reading! My husband and I are attending an apologetics class at our church, and this Lutheran text describes how sound interpretation, the foundation of sound doctrine that can be defended, has been done, spanning the postmodern era but incorporating older sources as well.

6. Mama Bear Apologetics (edited by H. M. Ferrer). Finished 2/7/22, a great introduction to worldview apologetics for the Christian, focused on mothers/mother figures. I will read this again in the future as needed. Worldviews include rationalism, progressive Christianity, feminism, and Marxism. The text acknowledges the strengths of each worldview while walking the reader through the “chew and spit” discernment process.

7. The Peter Principle (L. J. Peter & R. Hull). Finished 2/11/22, a satirical inspection of promotion-to-incompetence, the effects thereof, and strategies to avoid this otherwise inescapable phenomenon. My husband and I have had supervisors of varying competence through our careers so far, and my decision to read this book was inspired by one in particular.

8. Grasping God's Word (J. S. Duvall & J. D. Hays). Finished 3/9/22 after my baby was born. This unexpected good find of a college-level textbook was accessible at a trained lay level as an introduction to exegesis of the Scriptures. I intend to reference it, share it, and use it in education and study.

9. Someone to Walk With: a Woman's Guide to Christian Mentoring (D. Paape). Finished 3/17/22, a practical guide to mentoring intergenerationally within a Christian institutional context. Using many biblical narratives including John’s account of the Samaritan woman at the well, Darcy brings the reader along in conversation about aspects of mentor relationships.

10. Single Case Experimental Designs: Strategies for Studying Behavior Change (D. H. Barlow, M. K. Nock, M. Hersen). Finished 3/26/22, an older edition of a classic textbook on experimental methods using one case at a time as opposed to groups in a randomized controlled trial design. This text expands on the basics that I already knew from teaching evidence-based practice courses and taking PhD-level statistics.

11. Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew about the Bible (M. F. Bird). Finished 3/30/22, a surprisingly dense and engaging read by comedic theologian, priest, and seminary professor. Because I enjoy providing theological content, here is the summary (cited from the back cover and appendix)!

  • How the Bible was put together
  • What "inspiration" means
  • How the Bible is true
  • Why the Bible needs to be rooted in history
  • Why literal interpretation is not always the best interpretation
  • How the Bible gives us knowledge, faith, love, and hope
  • How Jesus Christ is the center of the Bible
Appendix of key Old Testament scriptures with which to preach the Gospel:
  • Psalm 118:22-26
  • Leviticus 19:18
  • Psalm 110:1, 4
  • Daniel 7:13
  • Psalm 2:7
12. Teach Students How to Learn (S. Y. McGuire). Finished 4/3/22, a simple yet effectively profound take on learning strategies for the college and graduate classroom. McGuire combines metacognition, motivation, and Bloom’s taxonomy in a way that can be presented in a single classroom lecture and, once applied, can increase test grades by 1-2 letter grades.

13. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (N. T. Wright). Finished 4/6/22, a lay-level exploration of one aspect of Wright's theology that is explored at a higher level in his ongoing 5-volume project. I find it easier to understand Wright when I listen to him rather than read his work, which is apparently typical for many would-be readers.

14. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What we can Do (C. M. Steele). Finished 4/14/22, a popular-level summary of the results and implications of Dr. Steele's research career related to why minority groups underperform in academia and other societal endeavors. Stereotype threat is a major factor impacting physiology and cognition, effectively making any person in a stereotyped group dual-task unless the threat is reduced by (1) emphasis on learning, (2) mentorship style communicating confident high standards and belief in one's ability to meet them, and (3) information emphasizing the aspects of a challenging experience that are common to all regardless of group status.

15. Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.) (E. M. Rogers). Finished 4/14/22 (sort of), Rogers' classic text provides detailed examples and explanation of the concept of an innovation adoption curve. The total number of adopters of an innovation, over time, forms a slanted S shape, and the breakdown of how many adopters are in each category (early, middle, late, nonadopters) forms a skewed bell curve. I read this because a PhD colleague focused her dissertation on innovation in nursing.

16. To Be a Christian: an Anglican Catechism (ACNA, 2020). Finished 4/21/22, this official catechism of the Anglican Church in North America is a document both of us are reading as we investigate the teachings of this denomination

17. Family Cycles (W. L. Carter). Finished 5/2/22, this popular-level text by a marriage and family therapist discusses reasons and practical solutions for generational problems in communication among family members, specifically parents and children.

18. The Heritage of Anglican Theology (J. I. Packer). Finished 5/15/22, this posthumously published historical survey traces the history of Anglicanism in an easy-to-understand way. My husband will be reading this book once he finishes the 4 or 5 he's working through, as we learn more about the ACNA.

19. Anglicanism: a Reformed Catholic Tradition (G. Bray). Finished 5/30/22, this short explanation of the Anglican statement of faith (the 39 Articles) traces the rationale for each article through the history of the Anglican Church.

20. The Empowered Wife: Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting your Husband's Time, Attention, and Affection (L. Doyle). Finished 6/4/22 (goal MET for this year!), this self-help book on relationships is surprisingly helpful and reasonably evidence-based, aimed at wives. Mrs. Midwest recommended the book on her blog. The "secrets" are to
  • focus on self-care (what makes you, the wife, happy in the moment)
  • restore or increased verbalized respect for your husband (even if you disagree!) and his autonomy
  • give up controlling your husband (again, because he is his own person)
  • receive gifts - simply say "Thank you!" and leave it at that
  • learn vulnerability with your husband
  • refocus on expressing gratitude for the little and big things

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

2021: Books I've Read

Due to a lot of life changes, I'm not posting as much on here any more. However, I'm going to at least try to give some useful book recommendations based on what I've read in a given year, starting with this one.

Books I've read and would read again:

  • A. W. Tozer trilogy: The Knowledge of the Holy, God's Pursuit of Man, and The Pursuit of God
  • Spiritual Warrior's Prayer Guide
  • Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum
  • Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
  • Women of the Word
  • Welcome Home (M. Smith)
  • Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity Without Getting Complicated
  • Applied Thematic Analysis (Guest & MacQueen)
  • Life Together (D. Bonhoeffer)
  • Book of Concord: Reader's Edition
  • The Courage to Teach
  • Fault Lines (V. Baucham)
  • Clinical Practice to Academia
  • What's the Use of Lectures?
  • Happiest Baby on the Block
  • Designing Clinical Research
  • Writing your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day
  • 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology
  • Grit (A. Duckworth)
  • When Children Became People (O. M. Bakke)
  • Advent for Everyone: Luke (N. T. Wright)
  • Experimenting with Babies

Books I've read just to say I've read them:

  • Taking our Cities for God
  • FEW Devotions for Health
  • How Qualitative Data Analysis Happens
  • Made for Friendship
  • Start with Why (Sinek)
  • Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing
  • The Science of Self-Learning
  • How to Teach Anything
  • Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets (H. Freeman, 1974)
  • Ultralearning
  • The Word Becoming Flesh (H. D. Hummel)
  • Finding God’s Peace in Trials (E. George)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

You know, those quiet conservative thinkers might actually be right

I am not one to come down strongly on one side of an issue before amassing a fair amount of evidence, at least on social media. Long-time readers also know that I am a somewhat snarky individual. Therefore, on the recent developments of public opinion on George Floyd's untimely death, I present a commentary on various links and videos.

Was the police pursuit of Floyd justified?

  • One conservative commentator says that it was, but that the restraint technique was not.
  • Floyd did have an extensive criminal record; per one attorney's social media post, he was likely under the influence of psychotropic drugs at the time, and the MPD was trained to use the specific technique Derek Chauvin employed with such individuals.
What about systemic racism?
  • Racial inequality in housing and finance has been an issue in various places for decades. However, mayors of a certain political persuasion have been either unable or unwilling to solve that inequality, given up to 125 years.
  • Racism may or may not be a part of who we are as a country.
  • Systemic racism may not actually exist as we are told. Focus on facts, not on emotions. Beyond that, actually, focus on values.
  • White-on-Black violence is comparatively and absolutely quite low compared to the ignored other categories of interracial violence (Black-on-White and Hispanic-on-White). (Check out also the Bureau of Justice Statistics' NCVS 2018, Table 14).
  • White privilege is not something to focus on, as it actually disadvantages those who claim it. Don't apologize for it, either.
What about the protests and police response?

  • Things are not as they seem, in this case of force that was not excessive, combined with deliberate antagonism of the officers.
  • Black officers have been killed, but it is not in line with certain agendas to acknowledge that.
  • Police, as a whole, likely do not have systemic racism.
What about Black Lives Matter?
  • Unborn Black lives do not matter, apparently. Killing the unborn should matter.
  • Black gun deaths in Chicago don't matter unless they're caused directly by law enforcement.
  • BLM as a movement does not care about free speech, and therefore, not about ending racism either because free speech is a prerequisite to informed, courageous discussion of issues.
How do we respond as thinking Christians?
  • Don't dilute the gospel. Don't prematurely side one way or the other - the world's actions are not in line with the whole counsel of Scripture.
  • But, if you are going to side on a political position, weigh very carefully which side faces facts more, which side prefers to escalate versus discuss an issue, and who thinks about consequences.
  • Also, don't listen to the media as a preferred factual source. Hasty generalizations are one logical fallacy that diminish their credibility.
  • Drop the color mindset.
  • Realize that each of us is as bad a sinner as the one who died and the one who lived.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Post-Christian Mind

I have lately enjoyed reading H. Blamires' book of the same title (2001, Regent College Publishing). Quotations are as hard-hitting today as when it was published.

3: "[The] distinction between the Christian mind and the post-Christian mind is analogous to the distinction between civilization and the jungle, between order and anarchy."

5: "In the nineteenth century the threat to Christianity in the West was in some respects a clear-cut one. The development of scientific thinking encouraged an assumption that gradually a full understanding of the origin of the world and its inhabitants would be reached.This understanding would be such that past reliance on so-called 'revealed' truth. . . would be rendered unnecessary."

7-8: Around 1960, "the taste for reasoning faded. . . . Absolutes were non-existent. . . . It has led the clergy to an emphasis on the immediate which is neglectful of history and tradition."

Terms the book calls out as being misused in popular culture:

  • Rights
    • No specific right attaches to any personal trait (whether left-handedness, female sex, or homosexuality).
    • Individual rights can be better termed 'entitlements.'
    • Holding a right maintains the need for moral imperative and responsibility.
    • The term 'duty' should be resurrected and the use of 'responsibility' lessened.
  • Family
    • Where does a norm become a variant?
    • The post-Christian mind pursues "omni-inclusiveness . . . as somehow virtuous" (19).
    • Increased housing prices in response to a greater proportion of two-income households is an imperfection in the economic system.
    • Regarding the modern feminist movement against full-time homemaking, "one woman's liberation may be another woman's slavery" (25, to a boss rather than one's own home).
    • Because emphasis is laid on the abnormal or unusual, this battle in morals has been lost by abdication.
    • 31: "And when the heart is touched, the head ought not to be seduced into temporarily accepting patterns of sexual relationship that are destructive of family life."
  • Marriage and divorce
    • 37: In the post-Christian mind, "erotic love . . . is a god. It has its own authority."
    • 39: "If we take everything into account, is it better to be over-severe about adultery or to treat it too lightly?"
    • 41: In media writing about divorce, "the post-Christian mind allows a degree of selectivity in recording facts about the lot of children in such circumstances. The post-Christian mind is deceptively evasive. It dare not face facts."
  • Morality under attack
    • 46: "The post-Christian mind cannot do 'wrong'. He or she can only act ill-advisedly. . . . The implicit downgrading of free will is significant."
    • 48: "In what civilizations was the basis of morality established by majority vote? . . . Nazi Germany . . . Muslim countries that [execute] adulterers."
    • 49: In the post-Christian mind, "responsibility must be shifted from the shoulders of human beings."
    • 50: "What is peculiar about the current post-Christian climate of thinking is that the mature age groups seem frightened of handing on to the young the values that they themselves inherited--and benefited from." It is also more qualitative than quantitative in thinking patterns. Therefore, "the tyranny of the average holds the post-Christian mind in its grip" (54).
  • Values
    • Do they change based on how we behave? Or is it our ability to live up to values that changes? No value is strictly private, because morality is always public.
    • 60: "Our [Christian} belief in the resurrection of Chris is not an interesting personal preference on a par with our fondness for colourful ties or detective novels."
  • Novelty
    • The modern belief in inevitable progress has the untrue logical extension that the new is always better than the old.
    • A deeper question to this: how should the Church relate to the world?
    • 69: "Chop away everything that makes it different and the thing can be gradually destroyed. . . . This is the way of abdication from cultural responsibility. It is the betrayal of the young we should be educating."
  • Discrimination
    • Popular culture does not use this term in a neutral way (as its denotation prescribes).
    • 79: "Christian men and women are taught to be grateful for God's creation of the world and its inhabitants. The desire to improve on the Creator's work is silly as well as arrogant. Accepting the pattern of the human family is generally a matter of joy as well as of obedience."
  • Bodily beauty
    • 86: Regarding indecent advertisements and media, "we have lost the distinction between the public and the private."
  • First principles
    • 93: "The post-Christian mind has divested itself of moral absolutes."
    • 94-95: "We can turn the question [of why we believe in a good God while the world has evil] back on the questioner. 'How can you expect the world to be other than in a mess when the good God and his laws are ignored?' . . . There can scarcely be specifically 'Christian' solutions to problems produced by anti-Christian behaviour."
    • 97: "[The] post-Christian mind has become obsessed with sometimes specious 'obligations' which arise only because fundamental obligations have been ignored."
  • Democracy
    • While democracy does protect against injustice and tyranny, it does not follow from equal representation that everyone's opinions must be equally valid.
    • 102: "So Christians do not get enthusiastic about democracy because all men and women are blessed with good judgment. Christians get enthusiastic about democracy because they know that all men and women are subject to temptation and corruption."
    • 103: "There can be no education without submission to disciplines." Children, while creative, do not know best!
    • The post-Christian mind has no concept of sin.
  • Freedom
    • Couples enter freely into marriage; therefore, it is not a prison.
    • Likewise, boundaries and constraints actually enable freedom within them (while the individual is protected by the boundaries).
    • 114: "The post-Christian mind is quite prepared to inherit the traditions of Christian practice while emptying those practices of Christian content."
    • 116: "'Freedom of thought,' as now accepted, is in effect an ultimate commitment to non-thought."
  • Freedom of expression
    • In the popular mindset, it is worse to allow minority-damaging material than actually offensive material. Due to this shift, and poor judgment and logic, "words about defending the freedom of the media are not only misguided but themselves offensive" (118).
    • 121: "[The post-Christian mind's] external obsession with sex is perhaps the product of minds unequipped to grapple with the inner reality of its driving power."
    • Modern "art" is often offensive. Censorship operates on both the one whose expression is censored, and the intended audience.
  • Economic freedom
    • Economic reform never quite works, regardless of the system, because conduct cannot be truly separated from humans' motivations.
    • Advertising and insurance are forms of taxation without representation as well as abetters of criminal activity, because criminals get stolen goods for free, and advertising cost is included in the cost of the goods sold, without the consumer's choice.
  • Back-to-nature movements
    • Civilization and nature are falsely contrasted. It is more proper to distinguish between the urban and the mechanical.
  • Charity and compassion
    • 146-7: "[Our] welfare systems have presupposed a moral climate that post-Christian thinking has destroyed. . . . men and women are trying to be God."
  • Denigration of Christianity
    • Post-Christian writers and speakers call virtue vice, and vice versa.
    • False comparisons also denigrate Christianity in the public eye.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Just Plain Data Analysis

My reading notes from the book of this title by Gary M. Klass (2nd ed., 2012 Rowman and Littlefield Publishers), because many of us need practical data analysis skills regardless of our position.

1. Measuring Political, Social, and Economic Conditions
  • When presented with data, how do we respond? Do we cry "opinion"? Do we analyze our motives and presuppositions, and those of the ones interpreting the data?
  • Be aware of reliable sources of statistics such as The National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • To interpret social indicators, one needs to understand the survey questions used, and what standards were used to determine counts. What is the numerator? The denominator? The form of comparison (cross-sectional, cross-time, or cross-demographic)? Why was each chosen?
  • Measurement validity relates to an indicator's context and how the numerator and denominator were determined. That is, we look at how well a measure assesses an underlying idea.
  • Measurement reliability, the repeatability of a measurement whose value is relatively constant, is affected by sampling error (random? Large enough?), response rate, and reasons for response or non-response.
2. Measuring Racial and Ethnic Inequality
  • Shift the discussion away from personal motives toward evidence of data/numbers.
  • The U.S. uniquely classifies citizens by race and asks about both race and ethnicity. Most data comes through the Current Population Survey (also for education) and the Annual Social and Economic Supplement, of non-institutionalized individuals. However, net family wealth is rarely reported (varies among families with the same income).
  • Most health data are in the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Crime data mainly come from the Uniform Crime Reporting program (FBI) and National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS, subjective)
3. Statistical Fallacies, Paradoxes, and Threats to Validity
  • Some fallacies in daily conversations and media:
    • Ad hominem - something is false because its author has unacceptable character or motives
    • Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - because something occurred after something else, it was caused by that temporally prior thing
    • Appeals to authority - the majority is always right
    • Appeals to loyalty - we should support others doing things for us
    • Slippery slope
    • Straw man
    • Begging the question
    • Red herring
    • Hasty generalization
  • Statistical fallacies to be aware of:
    • Cherry picking - choosing evidence that supports one's claim (compounded by opposition bias, i.e. people accept data that agrees with their position)
    • History - ignoring the potential for other past events to have influenced results
    • Reverse causation - an unclear cause-effect relationship that could go either way
    • Self-selection - remember that comparison groups might not be equivalent to start
    • Sample mortality - disproportionate dropout in one group versus another group
    • Maturation - potential for change due to simple participant aging
    • Simpson's paradox - subgroup differences disappear when the whole sample is looked at
    • Regression fallacy - participants gravitate toward the mediocre middle naturally (especially when extreme scores are selected at the outset)
    • Instrumentation/measurement reliability - can one trust the tools?
    • Ecological fallacy - making conclusions about individuals based on a geographical group's data
    • External validity - do randomized experiments apply to real-world situations?
4. Examining a Relationship: New York City Crime Rates
  • Case: Rudy Giuliani claimed responsibility for a major reduction in crime rates in NYC. However, this claim can be weakened by several fallacies:
    • Regression artifact: he may have been elected when crime was high. Evidence does not support.
    • Maturation and long-term processes: a general national effect might have been taking place at the same time, including an aging population
    • Historical events: actions of his predecessors
    • Instrumentation: possibility of manipulation of statistics (or changing definitions) of crime. Likely - a police hiring binge took place years before he took office.
    • Other causes: could have included semi-related policy changes, decades before
  • Conclusion (p. 59): "In cities across America in the 1990s, mayors touted their success in fighting crime in their reelection campaigns. For most, it was dumb luck; they just happened to be in office at the right time. As for Giuliani, the evidence presented here offers no final proof that the mayor's policies reduced crime, but most of the counterarguments, with the exception of Nevin's lead paint hypothesis, do not hold up."
5. Tabulating the Data and Writing about the Numbers
  • Two kinds of people read research: those who focus on the text over the tables/charts, and those who focus on the tables/charts while skimming the text. Both should complement each other.
  • General writing principles:
    • Meaningful measures/comparisons
      • Rates and ratios compare between groups and over time
      • If measuring over time, select an appropriately long time frame (e.g., 5 years)
      • Clearly differentiate whether you are referring to net, percentage, and percentage point change
    • Unambiguous data presentation
      • Organize by rows and columns with precise headers
      • Define both numerator and denominator when applicable (rates/ratios) and always the count, divisor, and comparison
      • Vary the amount of detail by the intended audience
      • Labels should be brief while complete
      • Cite sources precisely in footnotes to allow fact-checking
    • Efficient communication of key ideas about the data
      • Organize rows and columns to present similar types of data in any one table
      • Sort data by high-low numbers, not alphabetically
      • For large numbers, use 2-3 significant digits and 1 decimal place at the most. "There is no need for any correlation coefficient, R-Square, standardized regression coefficient, or even a measure of statistical significance to be displayed with more than two decimal places" (p. 73).
      • When writing in-text about numbers, round them even more than in a table
      • If using ordered categories in multiple tables, keep the same order
      • Use as neutral a table title as possible
      • Highlight critical numbers in tables for comparisons
  • If you have a paragraph with 5 or more numbers, use a table! If you want more precision than a chart, use a table! If you use a table, reference it in a text! Get to the point in your writing.
6. The Graphical Display of Data
  • "Good information design is clear thinking made visible, while bad design is stupidity in action" (p. 79, quoting Edward Tufte, Visual Explanations)
  • Avoid the problems of both hiding information and distracting the reader
    • D. Huff, How to Lie with Statistics
    • E. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
  • Rules:
    • Self-explanatory charts
    • Precisely and concisely defined data
    • Meaningful, interesting numerical comparisons
    • Efficient presentation of numerical information (no 3-D effects)
    • Organized, sorted data by most to least meaningful variables
    • Show data unclouded by design and scale
    • Be scrupulously honest
    • Use the most appropriate type of chart for whatever data
    • Be consistent across chart formatting
  • Chart parts (never 3-D):
    • Title - neutral definition
    • Axis titles/labels - vertical text for y axis
    • Axis scale - limit to 5 increments
    • Data labels - may make y axis labels and gridlines unneeded
    • Legends - for charts with multiple data series; label the trendline
    • Gridlines - minimize ink
    • Sources - use complete citations
  • Pie charts:
    • Avoid them - only for data summing to a relevant 100%
    • Avoid legends and cross-chart comparisons
    • Prefer pie charts over doughnut, cone, pyramid, radar, and cylinder
  • Bar charts:
    • Minimize ink, color, and shading
    • Sort data by most important variable; left-right time
    • Place legends in the plot area
    • Avoid scaling distortions
    • If 8-10 or more categories, use rotated charts
  • Time series/line charts:
    • Make lines distinct and directly labeled
    • Avoid for unordered categorical data; time goes left-right on x axis
  • Stacked charts:
    • Use only for meaningfully ordered data series; each stack must be a meaningful addition
    • Place the most meaningful data on the bottom of the stack
  • Scatterplots:
    • Use 2 fully defined, interval-level variables
    • Title should state both variables and units of analysis
    • If an independent variable exists, place it on the x axis
    • Adjust axis scale to maximize area for data points; prefer labels to dots
  • Boxplots:
    • Shows median and 4 data quartiles for interval-level variables
    • Use to compare one variable's distribution across multiple groups or time points
    • Can compare one case with many other cases
7. Voting and Elections
  • Are American voters really disengaged (indicating an association with bad government all around)? A better explanation is voter fatigue due to number of voting opportunities and number of offices; other citizen participation opportunities also exist (e.g., contacting officials).
  • How to measure voter turnout? Is it the number of people who went to the polls, or the number of valid votes for the highest office? Do we measure the voting-age population, or the voting eligible population?
  • Election day registration has potential to increase turnout while reducing fraud and costs, but only in non-presidential elections.
8. Measuring Educational Achievement
  • Unique features of American education (which make comparison of scores and achievements statistically difficult internationally) include high localization, self-selection bias, and inclusion of students with disabilities in the same classrooms.
  • "A general finding of much of the research on educational achievement is that school resources, measured by factors such as the amount of money spent per pupil, teacher salaries, and class size, have little effect on what students learn" (p. 139). However, family resources are much more of a determining factor.
  • Are standardized tests valid, culturally biased, or predictive of academic achievement? Conclusions depend on the closeness to the test's intended use. No Child Left Behind has been subject to severe reliability and validity issues, as well as cherry-picking misinterpretation.
9. Measuring Poverty and Inequality
  • "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts." (p. 157, quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan)
  • Poverty is defined relatively, measured differently in developing vs developed nations. In the U.S., the Consumer Price Index is periodically adjusted, based on a not-necessarily-representative hypothetical family of four.
  • Statistics require thought to interpret.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A tale of two kitties, and a rant long in coming

Once, there were two cats that migrated with their owner across state lines so their owner could be closer to a friend. The male cat was Merlin, the female, Maybelle. Over several years, they had grown up as siblings, with typical rivalries and distinct personalities. After the move, they had the opportunity to meet their owner's friend in person after hearing her voice and seeing her face numerous times over video calls.

Merlin's post-move personality was as unusual as Maybelle's. Normally a cuddly and noisy feline (a former stray), he was initially reserved toward the friend, content to sit a few yards away and survey the situation with disinterested glances. Over time, he used cat-seduction to try to win her over, to no avail. Several days after that, he decided to misbehave repeatedly to see what she would do. She offered him treats for good behavior, and deferred correction of the misbehavior to his owner. Thereafter, he alternated between standoffishness (with annoyed tail-thumping) and trying to boop her nose. Maybelle, on the other hand, made an exception to her normally reserved personality to eagerly get as close to the friend as she could, starting from day one and progressing rapidly to cuddling after a week. Whenever she saw the friend, she could hardly contain excited mewing and rolling on the floor.

What does this story have to do with the rant? It is one of the things holding me together during the COVID-19 social and political situation in the United States. I am a second-line health care provider for patients who have recovered from the respiratory infection. Working in a nursing home in a hard-hit county, worshiping online recently, limiting social interaction, appreciating the explosion of telehealth in general, enduring severe caseload fluctuations and endless facility policy changes, observing extremely poor and belated infection control practices, and battling anxiety manifesting itself as chest and back pain, I have seen many frustrating things that demand at least a bullet-pointed outlet.

  • Claiming to think for themselves and base opinions on substantiated evidence, many still prioritize their political affiliation over their reasoning abilities. I do not have the energy or the time to point out blatant logical fallacies and statistical misuses.
  • Criticism of those in power has likewise superseded the civic duty of supporting the success of the one steering the ship on which we are passengers.
  • Given a current lack of evidence to support prolonged immunity to certain infections, why is there more focus in the media on a vaccine rather than a set of treatments?
  • Why was there no widespread prior action taken to reform health care systems - flattening leadership pay scales, keeping clinicians in leadership, having leadership walk in clinicians' shoes, and caring for the providers so that they can better care for patients without burning out?
  • Why are state governors setting unrealistic criteria for state re-opening plans? Death and loss of quality of life due to other causes (as well as shutdown-related effects) is ignored. Additionally, education's return to in-person services is unnecessarily delayed.
  • Government officials and ordinary citizens have decided and accepted that physical health is the main focus of societal action. Where is the preservation of civil liberty and our other inalienable rights of life and the pursuit of happiness? Where is the evidence, conversely, that a heavy-handed government is actually better for people?
  • Why have so many governors and other officials decided that corporate worship and Communion are not essential services? Self-reflectively, have we as Christians lived lately as if our piety were truly essential to our own lives?
  • While there is room in the political middle, where is our voice? Where is the appreciation for, or even tolerance of, the nuance we bring? There are false dichotomies drawn
    • between right and left
    • between human health and economic recovery
    • between herd immunity (pending evidence) and infection prevention
    • between common sense and policed policy

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Every One His Witness sermon series

Christians are called to witness to their faith - the important thing being that Jesus Christ is the object of such faith. To that end, Concordia Publishing House put forth a workbook with video series called Every One His Witness (2017). The cyclical approach to fulfilling Christ's command to witness as we are going about our daily lives is abbreviated LASSIE: Listen, Ask, Seek, Share, Invite, Encourage. Recently, my church completed a sermon series on this approach.

Every One His Witness: Listen (James 1:19-21) (LISTEN)

  • We are all witnesses to Jesus' Word and work; this is our task and mission. Do we delight to talk about our faith in Him to others? It is my job to share - but the Spirit's job to bring others to faith.
  • Ephesians 2:10 - God placed people already around you to evangelize.
  • Listen 1st. Say nothing at first (you have 2 ears and 1 mouth). Learn about the other. Your goals are to first listen, then understand, and then respond without prior agenda. Be fully present, without defense or attack - "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger."
  • The most vital listening is to receive the Word meekly, deeply, salvifically, like Mary. Focus on Jesus, then others, then yourself. Climb down; be a servant; lift others.
"And I will make you . . ." (Matthew 4:19) (ASK)
  • "Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
  • Four truths:
    • God will gift those whom He calls. All of us have spiritual gifts, to be used as faith's fruit. Some are gifted evangelists, but all do the work of evangelists. God gave us the command, the tools, and the message: Turn to Jesus.
    • God invites each of us to use our gifts.
    • God enables us to be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit gives the words.
    • ASK - toward the head (mind), heart (emotions), and/or hands (practical side).
Every One His Witness: Seek (Luke 19:1-10)
  • Zaccheus got a high enough vantage point to see Jesus. He sought Him - but Jesus called and sought him by name! "He received Him joyfully." Why, then, do we complain - "how could He love that person?"
  • You were lost, too. The only-powerful Holy Spirit called you to Jesus. Trust now that He will speak through you - seek opportunities and connections (their needs) to do so. Use prudent silence and care for others.
  • Discern the need for connection to the head, heart, hands, or combination of the three.
  • Share the blessings of tithing - lead by example, be wise and joyful.
Every One His Witness: Share (Isaiah 55:10-11, 1 Peter 3:14b-16, Luke 8:26-39)
  • A true, un-shared testimony is useless to others. To witness is to share.
  • Questions and answers:
    • What should I share? The Gospel, God's deeds meaningful for you (Gospel text).
    • How should I share? Gently and respectfully, winsomely, clothing the truth by walking the middle road between brashness and "niceness" (Epistle text). Spend time listening first. Be patient to gain rapport. Love does not mean affirming someone in his or her error, but does mean challenging, toward repentance, toward God.
    • How can I be confident? Remember that my power to share rests in the invisible, trustworthy God: His Word (Old Testament text).
Every One His Witness: Invite (John 1)
  • Receiving an invite makes one feel honored, cared for, and desired.
  • Philip simply invited Nathanael to evaluate Jesus' claims for himself.
  • Remove obstacles - pick up your invitee, go to the same service, talk him or her through the service, be friendly and sincere.
Every One His Witness: Encourage (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • God sees man in his hopeless darkness: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah needed encouragement to keep on living. God was with him. (In a later turnaround, he got to be in the light of Christ on the mount of Transfiguration, celebrated today!)
  • We need to give encouragement: our job isn't done once we share the Gospel. Jesus says: "Go and make disciples" - ongoing hearers and doers and breathers of Christ. Keep the conversation and LASSIE cycle going. Have a solid prayer life, because prayer and encouragement are linked.
  • We need to receive encouragement because we feel alone: "I have to . . ." But every one is His witness alongside us! Plant and water; He is with you. God gives the growth. His Spirit is upon us, transforming our weakness.
+Soli Deo Gloria+

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Five books worth rereading

I was recently inspired by a friend to write about five books I had recently completed from my non-school, non-work reading list. Some of them are profession-related, but I hope to apply them to my work setting(s) very soon. The reading list is in no particular order, and only the "keepers" are written about - the others are "gifters" to family or friends. If you want formal book reviews, use Google!

(1) Karp, H., Fuller, C., & Sirias, D. (2002). Bridging the Boomer-Xer gap: Creating authentic teams for high performance at work. Nicholas Brealy Publishing.

Dr. Fuller taught an elective course I completed as part of Ph.D. training, and she offered me a copy of the book as the course was ending. While not many copies are available any more, I recommend locating one if your interest and/or time are spent in an intergenerational workplace. The research methodology undergirding the book remains sound, as we progress out of a Boomer-dominated and into a Millennial-dominated workforce. As the Millennial child of Boomer parents, I found myself on the line between Boomer and Xer values. The how-to charts at the back are thorough enough for application to one's own workplace as a mid-level manager.

(2) DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work: New insights for improving schools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

I am a current clinician transitioning into an educator role, so I was intrigued at stumbling across this one at Goodwill. Although the style ends up being repetitious after the first third or so, the core principles of professional learning communities (PLCs) are well supported. Teachers benefit as much as students do from participating in a PLC, since by the shared goals and values there is mutual support for situated professional development, rigorous and meaningful student assessment techniques, and the feeling that no one is teaching in isolation.

(3) Probst, M., & Skjaerven, L. H. (Eds.). (2018). Physiotherapy in mental health and psychiatry: A scientific and clinical based approach. Elsevier.

Technically, I purchased this to be more aware of my competition, but in reading through it section by short section, I found it highly enjoyable for its own sake. For years, I have been immersed in mental and behavioral health settings for clinical practice, and was sad at the lack of resources for physical therapists both in initial and ongoing professional training for mental illnesses besides dementias. The editors draw together physical therapists and mental health professionals from much of Europe and surrounding areas to summarize research related to PT involvement in assessment and treatment of persons with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, conversion disorder, and others.

(4) Danielson, C., & McGreal, T. L. (2000). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

This one I picked up from a shelf of free (ex-faculty-office) books. It offers a three-track system, which I will be interested to see if it is applied outside the primary and secondary education systems, to provide teachers and administrators with useful, formative feedback as well as summative evaluation. Formative feedback is process-related and meant to help teachers grow professionally while feeling truly supported with potential for more and more success.

(5) Schultz, S. J. (1960). The Old Testament speaks. S. J. Schultz.

Another one from the free bookshelf, this text is a well-researched, readable companion to the Old Testament, especially for those who struggle (many Christians and other biblically literate individuals) to see how the events and themes fit together at the chapter, book, and canon level. I was mildly disappointed at the waffling stance Schultz took on several historical issues, but his approach made sense when viewed in context of the entire book - many events, while confirmed by archaeological finds, are still difficult to date with certainty because the text is not always chronological in order and style.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day!

Once in a century, math geeks around the world approximate pi more precisely:

3/14/15 at 9:26:53


Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Be Patient"

Today's sermon text was James 5:7-11.

Patience means abiding, enduring, or bearing through suffering or trial. One who is patient is said to have a long fuse or, in Biblical terms, a long nose. See Romans 5:1-8 for the benefits of patience to a Christian. Other reasons to have patience in this life are:
  • God is first patient with us (by the whole span of events from the Fall to the coming of Christ) - see Galatians 4:4-5, Psalm 90:4, and 2 Peter 3:8.
  • We can't rush God - but should instead savor and maximize life
  • At Jesus' second coming (looking at the scope of eternity), we will no longer need patience
1 Thessalonians 5:14 urges us to keep busy doing God's work while waiting. Work hard and be patient. The opposite quality, impatience, destroys the promised harvest of righteousness. All will come clear in the end. His grace is sufficient - live like you believe it, and become an example to the world in the process.

Soli Deo gloria!