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Christmas Celebration and Sadness

Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration of the Savior’s birth.  For many, however, it can be a time of depression and sadness.  My wife likes to go to Festival of Trees every year to view the decorations, and even donated a tree last year.  Money raised from the festival goes to Primary Children’s Hospital to support families in need.  I wouldn’t choose to go, but I go because my wife likes to go.  You will see trees dedicated to the Miami Dolphins, Star Wars, Legos, BYU, Utah, and many other themes people enjoy.  Of course, I enjoy these kinds of trees. Continue Reading »


What Explains Trump support in Utah?

MaryAnn gave some excellent analysis in wondering if LDS population was a good predictor of Trump support in Utah.  It turns out that she was right–LDS population by county was statistically insignificant in the analysis.  The best predictors of a Trump supporter were % Registered Republicans, and % Rural.

This is going to be very math-y explanation, so I’ll try to explain this best I can.  The following analysis was done using Excel and SPSS using MaryAnn’s data set given in the previous post.  Last Lemming posted a few correlation coefficients comparing Rural vs Mormon.  A correlation coefficient tells you how well correlated the 2 variables are with each other.  Looking at scatterplots and overall correlation coefficients, you can see that both Rural and Republican scatterplots have a much steeper line that % LDS.  Typically in my statistics classes, I tell people that a correlation coefficient between 0.3 and .7 is a moderate correlation.  All 3 pairs of variables show moderate correlations as shown below. Continue Reading »


Mental Illness – Part 2

Back in 2010, I asked for advice on how to handle a mentally ill man that I was home teacher of.  I called him Ted back then and will continue to use that pseudonym.  Let me quote from that post because to be frank, he scared the hell out of me.

So, I dropped by again today to meet Ted.  He didn’t invite me in, but we talked on the cold porch for about a half hour.  I soon realized as I talked to Ted that he was mentally ill.  He confirmed my suspicions when he told me that he heard voices, had anger issues, and suffered from depression.  I asked if he lived there with his mom, and he confirmed that he did.  He explained that he could afford to live in the apartment by himself, but her social security check made it easier to make ends meet.  He said that when the time comes for his mother to die, he might go live in a mental health facility.  He mentioned that he made a living on disability checks–he had been declared mentally disabled due to depression.

In the half hour I talked to Ted, he told a series of strange, but probably true stories about his life.  He had been married once, but left an unfaithful wife.  In response, he got drunk at a bar, and was angry enough to fire a gun.  It was unclear to me if he was merely firing the weapon at someone or not, but he was arrested and spent time in the LA County jail, where he was physically assaulted by inmates (I’ll spare some gruesome details.)  This is what caused his “anger issues.”  He also mentioned that he was surprised that a mentally ill person could get a gun in California, and then proceeded to fear that Pres Obama was going to take away his gun.  (If anyone needs a gun taken away, it is this man.)

Continue Reading »


Can the Nation Heal?

In 2015, a Vox article noted that it is now socially acceptable to discriminate based on political affiliation.  Some excerpts:

“Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate

The experiment was simple. Working with Dartmouth College political scientist Sean Westwood, Iyengar asked about 1,000 people to decide between the résumés of two high school seniors who were competing for a scholarship.

The resumes could differ in three ways: First, the senior could have either a 3.5 or 4.0 GPA; second, the senior could have been the president of the Young Democrats or Young Republicans club; third, the senior could have a stereotypically African-American name and have been president of the African-American Student Association or could have a stereotypically European-American name.

The point of the project was to see how political and cues affected a nonpolitical task — and to compare the effect with race. The results were startling. Continue Reading »


A Different Take on the Samaritan Story

I want to subtitle this post:

Defending the Priest and the Levite.

Not long ago, we had a lesson in priesthood on the Good Samaritan.  This is one of my favorite parables, but the lesson quickly devolved into the traditional platitudes.  People began to point fingers at the “hypocritical” priest and the Levite walking past the injured and robbed man “on the other side.”  I decided to speak up and noted that there could be good reasons why the priest and Levite failed to stop and help.  It was probably a bad neighborhood, known for robberies, and the Levite and priest might have been concerned about their own safety.  After all, this man has just been robbed; maybe they also feared being robbed.  We might want to cut the priest and Levite some slack.  Would you help and stop a gang member in a bad neighborhood in Compton?  I’d probably just get out of there.  (I remember a black woman on my mission in Georgia told me she got a speeding ticket because she wanted to get through a county that had a strong KKK presence.)  And if this was a bad neighborhood, I think it further explains the priest and Levite’s possibly prudent actions; if it was a bad neighborhood, it further illustrates how wonderful the Samaritan was for risking his own safety to help an injured man.   Continue Reading »


BYU, LGBT & the Big12

College Football has undergone some seismic shifts in the past few years.  The BYU-Utah rivalry took a big hit when the Pac-10 Conference decided to take Utah (from the Mountain West Conference) and Colorado (from the Big Twelve Conference), changing its name from the Pac-10 to the Pac-12 Conference.  Other conferences have expanded by raiding other conferences.  The Big Ten (with eleven teams) added Nebraska (from the Big 12), Maryland (from the ACC), and Rutgers (from the Big East), leading other teams to shift conferences.  (The Big 10 now has 14 teams but kept the name Big 10.)  The SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 (breaking up the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry.)  The Big East then lost powers Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami to the ACC.  This left the Big 12 and Big East Conferences scrambling.  The Big East lost other teams as well, and it is no longer a major player in NCAA football.  The Big 12 (now with just 10 teams) added Texas Christian University and West Virginia in 2010 and is seen as the most likely conference to be picked off by the other 4 major conferences (ACC, SEC, Pac-12, and Big 10.  Together with the Big 12 conference, members of these leagues are now called “Power 5 schools.”)  Texas and Oklahoma were invited by the Pac-10 back in 2010 (when Colorado left), and according to Oklahoma president David Boren were within 30 minutes of joining the Pac-10 Conference when they changed their mind and decided to remain in the Big 12. Continue Reading »

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Utah: Is McMullin Fulfilling the White Horse Prophecy

poll-mcmullinUtah is leading the way for republicans who can’t stand Donald Trump AND Hillary Clinton.  A recent Deseret News poll showed Trump, Clinton, and relative unknown Evan McMullin in a statistical tie!  This poll took the statisticians at FiveThirtyEight.com by surprise, and they promised “We’re going to be adding McMullin to our model in Utah — give us a day or two on that. But in the meantime, we could also really use another poll or two of Utah to confirm or contradict this result.”  They also posted an article describing McMullin’s longshot to win the White House.  (Incidentally, a new Monmouth University poll put Trump ahead of Clinton 34-25% with McMullin coming in at 20%.)

Many have asked what’s up with Utah, a solidly republican state.  Jake Tapper of CNN asked “When did Mormons leaders became stronger in Jesus Christ than Christian leaders?” and an Evangelical explains why! (skip ahead to the 3:00 mark if you want to hear the question and answer.) Continue Reading »