Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A thought about Christians and sex before marriage.

I wonder if the view commonly promoted by Christians - that there is a lot more sex before marriage than there used to be - is due to people getting married later than in previous generations? Rather than being entirely the result of the permissive sixties it would seem that house prices and the need to have both partners working is the reason people delay marriage to their late 20's or early 30's.

In the days when people got married at 18 or 19 it was more possible to control those urges for the short period of time, but delaying for 10 years or so is a much harder proposition.

If the church wants to discourage sex before marriage then they need to encourage early marriage and endorse social policies, like increased social housing, that make this possible. I would guess that evangelicals would rather continue to condemn sexual activity than have to endorse progressive political agendas, or would they?

Logik TV with fault - picture breaking up even with strong signal

I came across an unusual fault with a Freeview digital TV over the holidays that I thought I would post the solution to in case anybody else comes across this. The set was a wall mounted Logik (Currys own brand)  L22LDVB21 22 inch with built in DVD player. Occasionally the picture would pixelate and break up as if the signal was dropping out, yet it was in a very strong signal area and the signal strength was very good. I checked the antenna connections and the plug to the back of the set and the wall socket were correctly in place. When I touched the edge of the set there was a static discharge and the picture came back perfectly. After a while the picture broke up again and after touching the side it came back.

It appears that the set is lacking an earth. The power comes from a 12v power supply pugged into the wall so there is no direct mains earth. I think the TV distribution amplifier may have the "earth" side of the aerial cable sitting above earth. Either way there is an insufficient earth, probably made worse by having the set wall mounted. I am going to try earthing the earth side of the wall TV aerial socket to a radiator, assuming that's a better earth, and see what happens.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do evangelicals choose their religious faith based on their pre-existing extrinsic values?

I went to a conference last week on values and climate change behaviour at which the main speaker was Professor Tim Kasser of Knox College, Illinois. Professor Kasser is a social psychologist who works on values and how they affect people’s outward behaviour. Part of this is the classification of values as either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic values are those of wanting to help others, helping the community or empowering others. Extrinsic values are about power, acquiring money or having status.  During the presentation Professor Kasser used the Schwartz Values Circumplex to show how people tend to be orientated towards either intrinsic or extrinsic values. Intrinsic people tend to be more satisfied, have lower levels of anxiety & depression and greater empathy towards others  than extrinsic people. Extrinsic people tend to be less satisfied and look for the approval of others, acquiring more of things in order to appear more successful. Extrinsic people are self interested and likely to engage with others mostly when this will benefit themselves in some way.

One point he made was that when peoples extrinsic values get activated this suppresses their intrinsic ones. The example given was that people in the UK are exposed to around 1600 advertising messages per day which activates their consumer needs and subsequently suppresses their need for community and empathy. People with extrinsic values associate with others of like minds and exhibit social dominance orientation, believing that their group is superior to all others.

The presentation left me feeling a bit uncomfortable as the model put forward looks so similar to the differences between evangelical and liberal Christians. Could it be that evangelical fundamentalists, with their overriding interest in personal salvation and concern with personal wealth are just exhibiting extrinsic values? If this is the case then the rise in evangelicalism, particularly Pentecostalism (the biggest movement of the urban poor in history) would appear to be caused by, or supported by, the rise in consumerism. If this is true then this rise can only continue.

I have always thought that people are attracted to the form of Christianity that best fits their personality. For example, I have known a number of charismatic churches where all the men worked in sales, but I had not thought about a link with values until I got involved in values in behaviour change, particularly values and frames. Could it be that people’s choice of religious faith is determined by their pre-existing values?

Here is the Schwartz Circumplex. The self-enhancement side relates to extrinsic values and the self-transcendance to intrinsic values.

Click on image for larger version

Post Script
This may go a good way to explaining why evangelicalism is synonymous with the conservative political position. The two come from the same value set. It may also explain why conspiracy theorists are so similar to fundamentalist Christians. Both come from the same values base.

Implications for Evangelism
Evangelical Christians already use marketing techniques to attract new converts. For example, targetting young adults - in particular students - because this tends to be the point that people's beliefs about the world are becoming more solidified. If I put my marketing hat on and apply these values models to evangelism the obvious lesson is that Christians should look for converts amongst those who already hold similar values. This includes people with an interest in achievement, power, conformity and tradition. In other words - those with right wing tendencies. This would not be conversion in the true sense (turning radically from one thing to another), but simply recruitment of the like minded.

Update 13th March 2013
Here is a related article from the independent brought to my attention by Bob Johnston:
God's bankers: How evangelical Christianity is taking a hold of the City of London’s financial institutions.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to convert DIVX or any video format to MP4 for iPad

There are a couple of players for playing DIVX files on the iPad, but this does not get the files into iTunes for synchronisation so I went looking for a simple way of converting the files. After a bit of research I found a free programme called Any Video Converter.

  1. Download and install Any Video Converter from here (being careful not to allow the install of toolbars and other ad related programming unless you really want it).
  2. Follow the simpe on screen instructions to convert your video file to MP4 (Mpeg4) format. 
  3. Select "Customised MP4 Movie". The only setting you need to change is the frame size which should be set to "original". 
  4. Convert the file (this could take an hour or more for a very big file).
  5. Open iTunes.
  6. Add the converted file to your library (you may want to go to file > library > organise library to copy your file into your iTunes folder).
  7. Plug in your iPad to synchronise it.
  8. When its recognised click on it in the left hand menu in iTunes and go to the Movies tab. Make sure your new video is ticked to synchronise and apply the changes. It will be copied to your iPad.
  9. When its all synchronised unplug the iPad go to movies and your video should be listed.
This is not as complicated as it sounds. Just follow the steps and it will work fine.

By the way, if you want to save a YouTube video onto your iPad download it to your computer in MP4 format at and then add it to your iTunes library as above. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to make cheaper international phone calls from the UK

Yesterday I had to make a phone call to Switzerland. As Switzerland is not in the EU I knew it would be expensive, but I was not prepared for what I found when I looked up the prices. My land line provider (Virgin Media) wanted 60p per minute and my mobile provider (T-Mobile) wanted 70p per minute. This would have meant spending around £25 on the call so started thinking about alternatives.

I used to make lots of calls from the UK to the US and Canada and used an alternative carrier (Onetel) for this. Then I had a phone line from Sky and calls to the USA and some other countries were free. I didn't have time to sign up for another service, but I had an hour or so to do some research. I found a company called Planet Numbers who route via an 0844 number and claim 1p per minute. I had doubts about this as 0844 numbers normally terminate at 3 or 4p per minute so checked their number in the very complicated virgin media call pricing charts and found it would actually be about 7p per minute. Given the time constraints I still used them and the call cost me around £2. Quality was fine and it saved me over £20!

This got me thinking so I did some further research and it turns out that there are lots of companies providing this kind of service. runs a search engine for finding and comparing the cheapest providers:

International Call Checker

If you select "quick and easy" it only lists the ones that don't require signing up in advance. Ideal for the odd call, but if you make a lot of overseas calls then the services you have to sign up for are even cheaper.

(This is an independent review. I receive nothing for linking to these services).