Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I Write to You From Australia in the New Year!

The Gruntled Center will take its annual Christmas vacation for the rest of the year.

I hope you enjoy your Christmas week, however you spend it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If You Are Reading This, Your Odds of Lasting Marriage Are Better Than Even has a divorce calculator that lets you calculate the odds of your marriage ending in divorce. The basic finding is that college graduates who did not marry very young have good odds of their marriages lasting. Different generations have different odds, which are built in to the calculator.

Based on old general data on who reads blogs, and anecdotal but very current information on who reads this blog, I would say confidently that the Gruntled Center audience is in the good end of the distribution of lasting marriages. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but your odds are good. So relax and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thinking About a World Without Newspapers

The Gruntleds are heavy news consumers. We listen to National Professors Radio -- I mean, National Public Radio -- each morning. A normal evening in our house has everyone on a laptop reading some kind of news, with cable news in the background, leading into fake news on TV. We have among us dozens of news and semi-news blogs on RSS feed. Mrs. G. has the BBC website as her homepage (I, of course, have Centre College :-) ). Many a blog starts with the New York or or And we subscribe to two daily newspapers, which I read religiously. If news were cut off, we would be in big trouble.

But if newspapers disappeared, our life would barely change.

It is clear that newspapers are in big trouble everywhere. Recently I read some speculation that one consequence of the current recession might be to decimate newspapers as an industry, shrinking down to the very big and the very local.

On the whole I can see more benefits than costs to converting news delivery to electronic forms. They are easier to search, quote, save, and link together.

My only concern is that there is not enough money in online news to support reporters, especially local reporters. Local news may become entirely a part-time "mom job" carried by stringers. We already have the example of the California paper that is written entirely by part-timers in India, reworking public sources. National news may become a subset of cable news. I dearly hope that subscription models of national news sources might work, but I can't think of any right now that I feel a need to subscribe to. Television is profitable because it includes ads in the one information stream it offers at a time, but television is a very bad medium for news.

We do need news, and that means news that pays. We don't need newspapers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Coffee House Test of a Crunchy Suburb

David Brooks introduces the useful concept of the "crunchy suburb" in On Paradise Road. This is an inner suburb of a big city. It has more of the people he called "bobos" (bourgeois bohemians) in an earlier book. Among suburbs, it is likely to have more professionals, better schools, and more sophisticated consumer goods.

We are in Mt. Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb where my sister is hosting Christmas this year. It meets these criteria. Mt. Lebanon has, I think, been more corporate and Republican in the past, but is shifting in the professional and Democratic direction that many good-schools inner suburbs are.

Danville, KY, is too much of a small town to have such nuances among the various sections of town. The coffee houses are in the middle of town and serve everyone from all the neighborhoods and "suburbs." We needed to come to a larger city to see a crunchy suburb in action.

We are sitting in a coffee house in Mt. Lebanon. It filled up just after school drop-off. Mrs. G. suggested that this is a measure of a crunchy suburb. The first necessity of a weekday morning is to get the kids to school. The second necessity is espresso.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rick Warren is a Centrist Choice

Rick Warren is a leading voice in the next generation of evangelical Protestants engaging the world. I thought it was a great idea that Warren was the one Barack Obama and John McCain went to together to reach an evangelical audience that might not pay attention to worldly politics at all. Warren could have taken the enormous success of the Saddleback Church and A Purpose-Driven Life and rested on it. Instead, he, his wife, and his church have reached out into addressing the problems of the worst-off people in the whole world. This is a great thing for evangelicalism.

As to his rejection of homosexual practice (not homosexual people), that is what Southern Baptists do, that is how they read the Bible, that is the official position of the denomination. And so do most evangelicals, who make up thirty to forty percent of Americans. Rejecting a third of the electorate out of hand always gets liberals and Democrats in trouble.

President-elect Obama wants to bridge the gap and reduce the polarization in the nation. That is what he has said all along. That is part of what we elected him for. Choosing Rick Warren, with whom he does not agree on all worldly issues but does agree on the crucial question of who is the president's savior, is a good step in bringing all Americans together.