Thursday, March 28, 2013

Religion vs. ACT Scores in America

While I was doing some leisure reading and enjoying Taos, NM over Spring Break, a research question came to mind.  How religious is each state in America?  Along with that, how intelligent is each state on average?  The reason this came to mind is that through my own personal experience, I noticed I was able to break through the boundaries of my thinking back when I was religious and become, in my own opinion, much more intelligent.

Pretty quickly I found some data that Gallup collected on March 27, 2012 regarding how religious individuals felt.  Nationally, about 40% of Americans are very religious, in that they attend church services and believe religion to be a very important part of their lives.  Only 28% of Americans see themselves as moderately religious, where religion isn't that important but they attend services or they may feel it is important but don't attend services often.  The growing number is those Americans who feel they are not religious, as 32% fit into this category [see Gallup poll].

It turns out Mississippi is the most religious state, with Utah and Alabama coming in second and third respectively.  The least religious states in America (which also happen to be the most non-religious states) are Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  Although Mississippi and Alabama are also the top two least non-religious states, there are at least 17 states that have fewer non-religious people than Utah.  I found that interesting.

The average ACT scores of graduating students is hardly a measure of the overall intelligence of a state, but it is one measure.  The ACT website had data on 2012 graduates from all 50 states, including the composite average and averages in Math, English, Reading, and Science.  I've put both the religious and ACT data in an Excel file that you can obtain here.

It turns out Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky have the lowest three average math ACT scores, while Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut have the highest three math ACT scores.

I fit a total of fifteen different simple linear regressions relating my response variable of either Percent of Very Religious (y1), Percent of Moderately Religious (y2), or Percent of Not Religious (y3), to one of five independent variables Composite ACT (x1), English (x2), Math (x3), Reading (x4), and Science (x5).

Here were the t values for the coefficients that go with each independent variable and the coefficient of determination for each regression:

Most likely, you're not a math person, and you're wondering what the hell this is telling you.  This is telling you that the average Math ACT score in a state is a very significant predictor of whether a state is Very Religious or Not Religious.  Here are some graphs that may help you see what is going on. 

The larger the percentage of "Very Religious" people in the state, the lower the average Math ACT score is in that state.

The larger the percentage of "Not Religious" in a state, the larger the average ACT Math score is in that state.  

Please note: this in no way shows or proves causation!  But isn't the correlation interesting?  There are many other variables at play here, no doubt, but nobody can argue that there is not a correlation between how religious a state is and how well they do on their Math ACT.  

This was the most fun I had with statistics since I've been alive. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Changing Tide

The issue of gay marriage has come up again and again over the years.  It reminds me of a steadily rising tide as we near dusk.  The waves have finally shown their white caps.  Now, it is time to grab a surf board and enjoy the glorious ride to its inevitable beautiful conclusion.

What led to this massive wave?  On March 7th, Bill Clinton wrote a piece for the Washington Post calling to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which he signed into law in 1996. On March 15th, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio publicly backed gay marriage after his son came out as being gay. On March 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held hearings on Propostion 8.  Today (March 27th), SCOTUS will question the constitutionality of DOMA.

The Rising Tide (from FiveThirtyEight Blog)
Gay marriage is still not allowed in Missouri.  Since this is the case, academic institutions across the state which are full of forward thinking individuals have had to juggle around this injustice to offer employees in a committed same-sex relationship the same benefits and privileges as other employees that are married.  Truman State University is only now considering these benefits.  A joint resolution to encourage the board to act immediately in extending these benefits to domestic partners has already passed the Student Senate unanimously.  It is on the agenda of the Faculty Senate for tomorrow (March 28th).

Everywhere around me is the topic of gay marriage.  It is unavoidable.  I've already weighed in my opinion with my blog "Who will I vote for?" Since then, I've heard many other arguments against gay marriage.  They have all been discredited in some way or another.  I am closing in on a saturation point of arguments for and against.  Here is how all of them go in my head: 

Someone arguing against gay marriage tries to makes point A or argument B that does not support gay marriage.  I simply point out that point A or argument B is not anywhere in the vicinity of being as important to me as the equal treatment of all human beings, and that I find it appalling that their point A or argument B is MORE important to them than the equal treatment of all human beings.  

Usually at this point, the individual provides some song or dance around the issue of equality for all.  It is quite amusing to me to watch those that oppose gay marriage to dance around this issue.  They try their best to somehow justify their stance while sweeping this equality thing under the carpet.  But here we come, lifting the carpet back up and pointing at what is underneath.  Shame on them. 

If you are one to oppose gay marriage, shame on you for placing yourself on some high horse, where you may look down upon those you don't understand and say, "No, I will not grant you these rights and privileges that I enjoy."  Shame on you for thinking for a second that you have the right to pass judgement.  Shame on you for placing more weight in a definition, then the freedoms of "those other" people.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Taos: Day 5

Surprisingly, I was not sore at all on the morning after my ski trip.  The only discomfort I experienced was the ongoing congestion that refuses to go away.

I woke up Erin when I got hungry because we had plans to eat breakfast at Michael's Kitchen, one of Taos's best restaurants for breakfast.  To continue the New Mexican theme, I ordered Huevos Rancheros with green chilis and hash browns and Erin had the Breakfast Enchilada with green chilis.  She sat in front of a picture window, so it was hard to concentrate on what she was saying with the view behind her. 
The View from my seat at Michael's
Naps and more relaxation were needed in the late morning.  I decided to walk to the Wired ? Cafe around noon for another attempt at getting some grading done.  I enjoyed a Blueberry and Pineapple Smoothie with an apple juice base as I graded two of five pages for both sections of my statistics classes.

Around 4 pm, Erin easily talked me into a hike along the Rio Grande Gorge.  The day was a gorgeous one.  We didn't hike very far, but far enough to sit on a bench dedicated to Keri & Amy (whoever they are) where I got a video of the gorge and the surrounding countryside.
Rio Grande Gorge
The hike got us hungry for ice cream, and the Taos Cow was mooing.  We took a drive over to Arroyo Seco (on the drive from Taos to Taos Ski Valley) where you will find one of the smallest communities that thrives on the traffic to and fro the Ski Valley.  I ordered a double scoop with White Chocolate Pistachio and Pinon Caramel on a waffle cone and Erin had a double scoop with Raspberry and Coffee ice creams on a waffle cone.  We sat outside on the long deck full of tables, chairs, and chili ristras to enjoy our ice cream.  

These are chili ristras (because I know you were wondering)
We took a drive and found a good place to watch the sunset if we wanted to come back a few hours later.  Instead, we stopped at a liquor store called The Old Blinking Stoplight (OBL) to buy the beer that people requested back home and a few extra six-packs just in case.  We also stopped at Smith's for some salsa requests.  Again, we picked up a few others just in case. 

Our dinner choice was the Gorge Bar & Grille which is on the Taos Plaza.  I ordered a margarita "old school" style, in which they do not put that American sweet & sour shit.  It is just tequila, orange liquor, and a half fresh squeezed lime.  Thank you very much!  I had a green chili grilled cheese with a black bean soup and Erin had a club sandwich.  

That was our last hoorah in Taos.  That evening we packed and cleaned the place up for a 5:30 am departure.  We had a great time and look forward to visiting again when her folks are actually down there.  I really like fact that I will have a place to ski and snowboard on a regular basis!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taos: Day 4

At 6:40 Wednesday morning, I got up and dressed, fixed some coffee and a big bowl of cereal, drank a lot of water, and then hit the road for Taos Ski Valley.  I timed it almost perfectly as I arrived around 8 am.  That gave me an hour to rent some boots and skis, buy a lift ticket, rent a locker to put stuff into, and twiddle my thumbs for a few moments before the lift began operating.  I was fourth on the lift!
At the Base of Taos Ski Valley 
 The first time down was much better than my first time down with the snowboard a year and a half ago.  I only fell down a few times getting used to the skis.  I consider that quite an accomplishment.  For the first few runs, I stuck with the green routes (easy ones), and briefly thought that these would be the only ones I would ski for the day.  That idea got thrown out quickly, as I did venture to a few blue routes.  Since 2000 was the last year I had skied, and I like not being covered in bruises, I did not venture any further to the black diamond routes.
At the top of Taos Ski Valley
I had lunch a little after 11 am in the middle of the mountain at a place called Whistlestop.  I ordered a coffee, Powerade, a Clif Bar, and a spinach and mushroom crepe, all of which I downed in one setting.  Eating just got in the way of skiing the way I saw it, so I couldn't eat fast enough.

Although the lifts were open until 4:30, my mind and body were done at 2:30, so I beat the crowd and traffic by leaving a little early.  It was quick and easy retrieving my stuff from my locker and turning my boots and skis back in.

Erin wasn't expecting me back so soon, so that gave me plenty of time to have a big snack, shower, and take a long nap.  Around 5 she was done working (transcribing interviews for dissertation) and we went for a night on the town.

It started at Taos Mesa Brewing Company for appetizers and drinks.  We had some Green Chili Corn Fritters with a Green Chili Cheddar Ale dipping sauce and some chicken taquitos served with their homemade salsa.  I enjoyed a pint of their Superstitious Stout and 13 oz. of Crosseyed, their double IPA.  We listened to a band called The Paragraphs while enjoying our tasty beverages.
Near Sunset at Taos Mesa Brewing Company
For the third time this trip, we returned to Dragonfly Cafe (Erin's favorite restaurant in Taos) for Wednesday evening's Tapas and Wine Flights.  We ordered clams baked with chorizo and tomatoes served with grilled crostini, Brie with Medjool and black dates served with crostini, and an Indian spiced cabbage salad with grilled swordfish and smoked paprika aioli.  Our Italian wine flight consisted of three half pours of Prosecco sparkling wine, Bollini Pinot Grigio, and Fiano di Avellion.  On the table was a basket of apricot bread and Gorgonzola biscuits.
The Wine Flight at Dragonfly
By the end of the dinner and wine flight, I was ready to collapse from exhaustion.  It did not take long for me to pass out back at the house.  Although we have one more day to spend in Taos, it will be hard to top this one.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Taos: Day 3

On Tuesday morning, I woke up shortly after 6am refreshed and curious when the Wired? Cafe was to open.  A quick search revealed that it would open at 8am so with the time to kill I read a few more chapters of The Great Hunt before collecting my materials to work down at the cafe all morning. 

Along the way, I noticed an unusually large number of the small liquor bottles littered all over the side of the road.  It was quite the riddle I could not figure out.

I ordered a large coffee and a bagel with peanut butter, got the wi-fi password and found a comfortable place to sit and grade exams.  Over half way through them, I let Texas Holdem on Facebook distract me, so I was only able to completely finish one of my class's exams.  I have two more to go on some other morning. 

Erin made some southwestern salads for lunch and we watched the 8th episode of Homeland.  For the rest of the early afternoon, I worked on a few Kirksville Multisport board member duties.

Around 3pm, we walked to the Taos Plaza.  We stopped at a few stores to pick up some more hot sauce, salsa, and some pinon incense.  With just a few stops, we had picked up everything we needed so we strolled down to the Alley Cantina. We enjoyed some "Silver Coin" margaritas and some jalapeno poppers there.  It is one of the oldest places in Taos. 

Since the margaritas and appetizer at Alley Cantina were expensive, we decided to hit happy hour up the street at the Taos Ale House.  I had a Marble Stout and Erin ordered two small samples of their wheat and porter.  We played a round of cribbage in which Erin dominated for almost the entire game.  As the game was winding down, and I thought there was no hope, I was dealt 6, 6, 7, 8, and then cut a 6 for a 20 count.  With one more round of play and my first count, I finished ahead and conquered.  I felt really bad and really good at the same time.

It was getting close to dinner time, so we walked to La Cueva and tempted the idea of an appetizer and another beer somewhere else first.  We held course, and La Cueva was named appropriately because it felt as if we were in a tiny little cave.  I ordered the recommended Chicken Mole Enchiladas and Erin had a combination platter with a chicken enchilada with green chili sauce, a veggie taco, and a chili rellano.  Both were good. 

After dinner we enjoyed a long walk home to burn off some of dinner's calories.  Erin began to get me pumped up about skiing the slopes of Taos Ski Valley on Wednesday.  The guy serving us at Taos Ale House suggested that I plan to arrive up there at 8am to get easily parked, get my gear rented, and be ready to go by 9am; when the lifts officially open.  I will heed his advice.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Taos: Day 2

Monday morning in Taos was a sleep in day for Erin, whereas I had to wake up and hydrate myself as I have been suffering from congestion and sore throat.  

Like every morning for the rest of the week, I will begin my day with leisure reading (today I read two chapters in The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, and a few sections of What Hath God Wrought).  I watched the episode of Homeland that Erin watched without me on Sunday since I fell asleep while uploading scores from my class to the grade book.  

We made Rip's Big Bowls for breakfast so we could lounge around most the morning.  For lunch, we visited the Dragonfly Cafe for the second day in a row (previously we enjoyed breakfast there).  Erin was craving a Gyro sandwich that she had there a few years ago when we were here.  I ordered a Veggie Burger that was outstanding.  

We stopped by the Post Office for post card stamps on our way back to the car.  When we got back to the house, we took a picture of the sign I created for my second mock post on Mondays in March.  

I took a long nap, read and wrote some more, and then we watched the third episode of Homeland. On the DVDs, there was only 3 episodes on the first disk, while there is 5 on the first Blu-Ray disk.  This had us out of sync since we had Blu-Ray disk 2 with episodes 6-9. How were we to watch the 4th and 5th episodes?  Since we are on vacation we justified renting them through Amazon Prime.  

Yesterday evening, we enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine that Trish & Joseph offered us in exchange for helping them out with the leaky roof on Sunday.  They were good.  Monday was a very unproductive, money saving, lazy day in Taos.  But hey, we're allowed a few of those when spending 5 days.  


Some of my addictions include peanut butter, Mexican food, pizza, and Doritos.  Whenever I begin consuming any of these, it is very hard if not impossible to stop.  To deal with this, if I decide to consume any of them, I do two things: ration it out in small doses and make it very difficult to get another ration.  

Erin has an addiction of her own that many of you can relate with. The addiction showed through brightly last night as we finished watching the 8th episode of Homeland.  She wanted to keep watching more and I reasoned that it was time for bed (11pm).  I also reasoned that we had watched enough T.V. for the day (since we had watched episodes 3-8).  After all, we had the rest of the week to watch the rest of the season (through episode 12).  What ensued was the closest thing to a temper tantrum as you can get as an adult. 

I only write about this because many of you can completely sympathize with her.  But, many of you also can sympathize with me.  To top that off, many of you are couples with the same issue.  Life is funny. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Taos: Day 1

On Friday afternoon, after giving an exam to my Linear Regression class from 1:30-2:20pm, my Spring Break began.  Erin and I planned on traveling to Taos, New Mexico to vacation for a week in her parents' new house at which they will spend their retirement.  We packed the car and drove to Lawrence, KS (where her parents are currently living) to pick up instructions and the key.

We awoke around 5am on Saturday morning and were driving by 5:30am.  Trish & Joseph (Erin's folks) sent us with coffee, a small load of their own, and a key to their new place.  

The drive went fine until we go to La Junta, CO.  A little outside La Junta, the rain turned into snow and the drive became slow and tedious.  Once, Erin came upon a plow that had stopped to help someone that had slid off the road.  When she passed, she found herself plowing the road with our Subaru Outback.  Although slow going, especially over La Vida pass, we finally arrived a few hours behind schedule.

After unpacking and admiring their new home (and our vacation home for the week), we drove back north to the Taos Mesa Brewing Company.  Erin had a sampler of their beers (Superstitious stout, Kolsch 45, Lunch Pale Ale, Hopper IPA) and the Green Chili Cheeseburger while I had a pint of the Hopper and the Green Chili Black Bean Burger.  I suggested we get a growler of Hopper to take back to the house and watch the rest of Game of Thrones season 2.  We only had 2 episodes left.  

After the first pint and just one episode I felt pretty miserable.  Although I very rarely get sick, I had started feeling a sore throat and congestion before leaving for Taos.  It was really catching up with me.  The altitude (6000 feet higher than Kirksville) and the climate (very dry) difference probably wasn't helping much either.  I powered through the last episode without a beer and then went to bed.  Although it wasn't the best of night's sleeps, I felt pretty good Saturday morning.  For a small period of time Saturday we had to move our clocks back an hour since we changed time zones.  But then Sunday we could move them back forward again with daylight savings.  

On Sunday morning, I got up and got comfortable in the house.  I made some coffee, continued to drink plenty of water (dealing with altitude), and read and relaxed most the morning until Erin got up.  We drove down to the Taos Plaza and walked the remaining distance to Dragonfly Cafe for more coffee and brunch.  I ordered a Green Chili Stew with eggs over medium floating on top.  Erin ordered a veggie omelet that had several different vegetables inside topped with a pesto sauce.  We shared a lot of our breakfasts with each other because they were so good.  

Just outside Dragonfly Cafe

We walked back to the Plaza after brunch and stopped by Seconds Eco Store, one of Erin's favorite shops in Taos, and picked up a few items there.  We went back home afterwards for reading and naps.

While doing a little leisure reading and looking up a few things on the internet, I heard a stream of water hit the ground very close to where I was sitting at the dining room table.  That was when I looked up to notice a leak in the roof.  I hurriedly put a trash can under the stream and had Erin call her folks.  I found a ladder and a snow shovel, so I got up on the roof and shoveled off the snow.  Using Erin's IPad, I took pictures of the place on the roof at which I felt was the source of the leak.  Erin's folks were thankful enough for our service they said to open another bottle of their wine on them.  I was just glad we were here!

Down from the roof, Erin was hungry for a snack.  We went to Eske's Brew Pub for a Green Chili Beer and some chips, salsa, and guacamole.  There may have also been a small tasting of their Millennium IPA.  While still at Eske's, I made a phone call to the Video Casa to see if they had the first disk to season 1 of Homeland.  They did, so we went to rent it.  (The disk we got from Netflix was faulty).

Down the street from the house was Albertson's where we picked up some groceries for the week.  I found a few extras to add to the cart, one of which was a 6-pack of New Mexico Brewing Company's Black IPA.

We dropped off the groceries off at the house and then went to the Taos Ale House.  Erin ordered a S.W. Pale Ale and I had a Porter.  We found a cribbage board and a deck of cards so we played a few rounds of cribbage while we enjoyed our beverages.  We had to get some Happy Camper IPA for the second game.

It began to get dark and close to dinner time, so we closed our tab and headed to Taos Pizza Out Back.  It was a long wait, but it was worth it.  The pizza was very good.  I ordered a slice of the Southwest and Erin ordered a slice of The Taos.  And yes, one slice was enough of a meal.  Of course, we couldn't have that slice of pizza without having a pint of Monks' Ale and Torpedo!

Back at the house, we enjoyed a nice relaxing evening watching the first couple episodes of Homeland.  We can't wait to see what the rest of the week has to offer.