NSA is monitoring online games

Apparently terrorists, military operatives, and spies in real life also like to pretend that they are terrorists, military operatives, and spies.  So the National Security Administration (NSA) and the British equivalent (GCHQ) have been monitoring online games and spying on gamers. [Read more…]

Working on Sunday

Daniel A. Siedell relates the Sabbath, the Gospel, and Vocation:

Amazon has just announced that the United States Postal Service will now be making deliveries for the retail giant on Sundays. This has spawned much hand-wringing in the media about the “excesses of consumer demand” and our “desire for instant gratification.”

And so it seems that Sunday is, if not sacred, at least a society-wide symbol of the so-called “work-life” balance that needs to be protected. Sunday is a day to cultivate “me time”—time with family, friends, and hobbies. Because we play just as hard as we work, we go after Sundays like we attack the other six days. The result: this “day of rest” can easily become just as hectic for us as a workday! We scramble to get in our relaxation and hobbies, and now, wait by the door to receive that book, those lawn darts, or that board game from Amazon; all of this in an effort to help us relax.

Our attempts to relax are stressing us out. [Read more…]

What the NSA can do with cell phone data

He knows when you’ve been sleeping.  He knows when you’re away.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good.  So be  good for goodness sake.  Apparently, Santa Clause works for the NSA.  He also knows who you associate with.  And where you are.

This story from the Washington Post (after the jump) tells how the National Security Administration uses massive data from cell phones to not only track suspected terrorists but to identify other suspected terrorists based on the numbers they frequently call.  They can also use cell phone data to determine where these people are at any given time!  (Combine that with drone technology. . . .)

The information about what the NSA is capable of doing with cell phone data is fascinating.  You can see how it is a potent anti-terrorism tool.  But imagine how a government could use this technology to trace, say, a dissident political network. [Read more…]

Signs of being divorce-proof

Here are five bits of social science research that would indicate a person is unlikely to get a divorce.  The post completely leaves out more important factors, such as not believing in divorce and the role of Christian faith.  Still, the list of factors, while on the shallow side, is interesting and amusing.  (But please, don’t read them after the jump if you are going to beat your spouse over the head with them!) [Read more…]

Churches, sects, denominations, and non-denominations

Sociologist of religion Peter Berger (an ELCA Lutheran) discusses the phenomenon of the Sunday Assembly, which we blogged about yesterday.  He said the fact that atheists too are gathering together following the pattern of religious activities demonstrates the almost universal human need to worship (or the equivalent) and to join together with others who hold common religious or philosophical convictions.

In the course of his discussion, he draws on older sociologists who distinguish between different kinds of religious institutions:  a church (which a person is born into) and a sect (which a person chooses to join).  Such a distinction, it seems to me, grows out of the European state church.  American religion, according to Dr. Berger, has added the concept of the denomination, which a person may be born into or choose freely to join.  Dr. Berger further says that denominations of one sort or another–in the sense of “a community of value, religious or otherwise,” have become inevitable in America, extending even to atheists.

After the jump, read his argument and some questions I have about “non-denominational” churches.  [Read more…]

The worst obligatory sex scene of the year

One of the banes of contemporary literature, in my opinion, is the obligatory sex scene, in which the aesthetic pleasure of fiction is interrupted with a blow-by-blow description of its characters’ sexual experience.  Setting aside the moral issues of a work aspiring to pornography, these scenes are almost always very badly written, even when attempted by an otherwise accomplished author.

So Britain’s Literary Review gives an annual “Bad Sex Award” for the worst sex scene in a novel with literary pretensions.  (Ordinary trashy novels are not considered.)  Previous winners have included John Updike, Norman Mailer, and Tom Wolfe.  The purpose of the prize is  to ”draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”

This year’s winner is so overwrought, so opaque, so non-erotic, that I don’t think it will offend anyone.  I think I can quote the passage after the jump without violating the G-rated standards of this blog. [Read more…]