Losing My Religion

An article details a report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, www.pewforum.org, that estimated that 44 percent of U.S. adults had left their childhood religious affiliation. An interesting quote from the article: "This shows a sort of religion a la carte and how pervasive it is," said D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion. "In some ways, it's an indictment of organized Christianity. It suggests there's a big open door for newcomers, but a wide back door where people are leaving." The new survey revealed that one in six Americans who belong to their childhood faith are "reverts" -- people who left the faith, only to return later. Roughly two-thirds of those raised Catholic or Protestant who now claim no religious affiliation say they have changed faiths at least twice. Thirty-two percent of unaffiliated ex-Protestants said they've changed three times or more. Age is another factor. Most people who left their childhood faith did so before turning 24, and a majority joined their current religion before 36. The ranks of those unaffiliated with any religion are growing not so much because of a lack of religious belief but because of disenchantment with religious leaders and institutions. I was raised a Mormon-Jew. You read that right, it's not a typo. I left the Mormon religion when I was 20 after I wasn't allowed to serve God on a mission to teach the Mormon gospel. I drifted for a while, trying other affiliations to no avail. (If you want a good laugh, go to a Pentecostal church. Watch the white people become overwhelmed with the spirit. It's hilarious. Or you could rock out with the church band.) I became disenchanted with organized religion. The wife grew up Catholic and drifted away in adulthood. Now that Shock Jr. is on the way, I want to help develop my children spiritually, so we've found an Episcopal Church that we have been attending the last few months. Episcopal is "Catholic light" so it's not to far removed from what the wife grew up with. For me, it's tolerable but I'm still disenchanted.

My Tax Dollars at Work

A critical piece of the Obama Administration's Financial Stability Plan is the Making Home Affordable program, a plan to stabilize our housing market and help millions of Americans reduce their monthly mortgage payments to more affordable levels. Having looked at refinancing our mortgage a few months ago, but not finding the right deal, I was interested to see if we could benefit from this program. It’s designed to help homeowners get more favorable loan terms in scenarios where their home has lost value. That is the scenario we're in. A lot of lenders won’t refinance a loan if the value of your home is less than the loan amount, it’s simply a matter of math; this program looks to help alleviate some of that. There are two parts to the program. The first is Home Affordable Refinancing, which helps borrowers refinance a loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It’s designed for people who are current on their mortgages and are unable to refinance because the value of their home has fallen by too much. The second part of the program is Home Affordable Modification, which assists in the modification of a loan, rather than a refinance. It’s designed for people who are “struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments.” We're eligible for the refinance program. I called my lender a couple of weeks ago and requested an evaluation of my situation. They called me back today, and after spending about an hour on the phone, I had myself a new 30 year fixed rate mortgage that is only about $20 more a month than my current mortgage payment. It's an upgrade from my 5/1 ARM. I'm only in year two of the 5/1 ARM, but I wanted to take advantage of the program and lock in a low interest rate for 30 years. An opportunity like this doesn't come along everyday. I'm usually not happy with the decisions of the government, but I will make an exception this time. Thank you President Obama. I'll give you a man hug next time we hang out.


The Big Lebowski LEGO minifigs

Originally uploaded by Shmails
Jonathan Gilbert (Shmails) has created custom minifigs of the characters from The Big Lebowski. Way to go Donny! Check out all of Jonathan's cool movie and sports themed LEGO minifigures and MOCs.



The blog was getting a little scruffy. It was grooming time. I've removed some gadgets, rearranged some gadgets and renamed some gadgets. Refreshing!


Online Sociability Fatigue

They've finally put a name on it. Online sociability fatigue is when people who are in constant contact through social networks, e.g. Twitter and Facebook, but who feel conflicted about it and need a break. The numbers are small-7%-the number of Americans the Pew Internet & American Life Project classifies as "ambivalent networkers". OSF is not just being felt by those people who have lived a good portion of their life without the internet. It's being felt by some of the very young people who've helped drive the growth of social networking.

I'm conflicted about OSF. On one hand I'm happy this is a page four headline in the newspaper and that the issue has finally been brought up. On the other hand, now that it has been identified, more people might admit to having OSF and it will become another "health" condition and pharmaceutical companies will start making pills to treat it or psychologists will start treating people for it. Seriously I don't even know how people have time to stay in constant online contact with their "friends". I don't think people need to know that much about my life. I don't particularly want them to know. Studies have shown that our brains crave networking, both online and off-line, but differentiate between the quality of the interactions. A good conversation with a good friend is much more life-affirming than a quick stream-of-consciousness, abbreviated, emoticon filled message in a tweet that anyone can read. How valuable is that?


Car Free - One Year Later

Today is the one year anniversary of living car free. On April 5, 2008 I sold my beautiful Nissan 350Z roadster, a.k.a. "Tawny", and never looked back. I've been commuting on public transit ever since. I leave the house at 7:30am, I walk 3/4 of a mile to the bus stop and catch the 7:45 bus. That bus takes me to the Vienna Metro subway station. I then ride the subway about 20 minutes to the Rosslyn station which is a couple of blocks from my office building. I get to work about 9am everyday. In the year I've been riding public transit, I've only been late to work a few times. My job lets me work from home on Wednesdays, so I'm only commuting four days a week.

Every once in a while I think about Tawny and how much I miss her. I have a picture of her on my desk at work. Before I sold her I was only driving her about 15 miles a week, so I wasn't getting any value out of the relationship. It was for the best. With Shock Jr. on the way and the wife planning on becoming a stay at home mom, the money we save selling my car makes life easier in the long run. Jennifer has Ruby, her Xterra that she drives to work and school. After Shock Jr. is born, she'll be driving to school only.

At the time I sold Tawny, gas was around $4 a gallon. Gas is cheaper now but the recession is in full bloom and the decision to go car free makes me look really smart. It makes as good economic sense now as it did a year ago, even without the family getting bigger.

I'm still a car enthusiast. We talk often about what car I'll get next. But I don't know when that will be. I'd like to think we could live with one car until Shock Jr. starts driving. That's a pipe dream but not impossible. Ask me in 17 years.