new email from my uncle: Jose Legal vs. Jose Illegal

So, I got another email from my uncle (well, Debi got it and forwarded it to me). Here it is:


You have two families:

Jose Legal and Jose Illegal.

Both families have two parents, two children and live in California.

Jose Legal works in construction, has a social security number and makes $25.00 per hour with taxes deducted.

Jose Illegal also works in construction, has no social security number and gets paid $15.00 per hour cash under the table.

Ready? Now Pay Attention:

Jose Legal:

$25.00 per hour x 40 hours per week = $1,000 per week, or $52,000.00 per year.

Now take 30% away for State and Federal Tax:

Jose Legal now has $36,400.00.

Jose Illegal:

$15.00 per hour x 40 hours per week = $600 per week, or $31,200 per year.

Jose Illegal pays no State or Federal Taxes.

Jose Illegal now has $31,200.00.

The construction company that Jose Legal works for is small and during these hard economic times they can not afford to offer medical and dental coverage for their 3 employees. So Jose Legal pays medical and dental insurance on his own with limited coverage for his family at $600.00 per month or $7,200 per year.

Jose Legal now has $29,200.00

Jose Illegal has full medical and dental coverage through the state and local hospitals at a cost of $0.00 per year.

Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Jose Legal makes too much money and is not eligible for food stamps or welfare.

Jose Legal pays $500 per month for food or $6,000.00 per year.

Jose Legal now has $23,200.00.

Jose Illegal has no documented income and is eligible for food stamps and welfare.

Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00 plus the benefits of the federal government.

Jose Legal pays rent of $1,200 per month or $14,400 per year.

Jose Legal now has $8,800.00.

Jose Illegal receives a $500 per month federal rent subsidy.

He shares a home with another illegal family so they pay nothing in rent.

He still has all his money.

Jose Legal pays $100 per month for auto liability insurance on their two older cars for a total of $1,200 per year.

He now has $7,600.00.

Jose Illegal doesn’t have a drivers license so he can’t get insurance and probably drives anyway.

He doesn’t need insurance cause he doesn’t have anything to lose.

He still has all his money.

If he gets pulled over he gets citation’s for no license and no insurance, but he doesn’t pay them because what are they going to do?

Take away his license?


Jose Legal has to make his $7,600.00 stretch to pay utilities, gasoline, clothing, out of pocket medical expenses, deductibles, co-pays, etc.

Jose Illegal has to make his $31,200 stretch to pay utilities, gasoline and what he sends out of the country to his family in the old country every month.

Jose Legal now works overtime on Saturdays or gets a part time job after work to help make ends meet.

Jose Illegal has his nights and weekends off to enjoy with his family.

Jose Legal and Jose Illegal’s children both attend the same school.

Jose Legal pays for his children’s lunches.

Jose Illegal’s children get a government sponsored lunch…. Free!

Jose Legal and Jose Illegal both enjoy the same police and fire services, but Jose Legal pay’s for them and Jose Illegal does not.






Here’s the response I sent everyone:

Hi Everyone,

I’m sure you don’t want to hear from me on this issue, but, once again, I feel an obligation as a professor who actually studies these kinds of things to offer some accurate information.  If you’d like to continue holding inaccurate beliefs, feel free to delete now.

So, where to start given all of the inaccuracies in this email?  First, the tax rate.  Current tax code would put Jose Legal, making his hypothetical $52,000/year into a 15% federal tax bracket (per this website), which would be $7,800, not $15,600.  And if he lives in the state of Florida, that’s it – no state income tax (Texas too).  But if he lives in California, it’s 7.95%, but we’ll round that to 8%, which is $4,160.  So, at the very most, Jose Legal will pay $11,960 in income tax (assuming he doesn’t itemize or get any deductions for his kids, which he is highly likely to do, substantially reducing his income tax burden).  So, that changes the very first completely bogus hypothetical calculation.  Jose Legal has $40,040.

As for health insurance, under the new health insurance bill, Jose Legal would qualify for a subsidy (he makes less than $88,000/year).  So, at the very most he would pay 10% of his income on health insurance, but more likely would pay about 7% (per this website).  So, Jose Legal gets another break here: rather than $7,200, he’d pay, at most, $3,640.  He’s now at: $36,400.  Jose Illegal, on the other hand, has no medical or dental benefits through the state because: He’s an illegal alien (seethis website).  Jose Illegal and his family, if they need emergency care, will get it in an emergency room and will be billed for it.  But, just like millions of other legal citizens in the U.S. who use the emergency room because they don’t have health insurance, Jose may not pay.  Then the burden falls on local tax payers.  Non-emergency care comes out of Jose Illegal’s pocket, and federal legislation has ruled out any subsidy for him or his kids – period.  Jose Illegal doesn’t get free healthcare, except emergency health care, and that’s only if he doesn’t pay the bill.  So, let’s assume Jose Illegal spends the average amount a family of four would on healthcare in the U.S. every year – about $15,000 (per this website).  His income is now reduced to $16,200.

As for food stamps and welfare… Jose Illegal is NOT ELIGIBLE.  See the Social Security Administration’s own website.  Jose Legal’s kids, on the other hand, are eligible, and he may be too.  So, you can completely reverse this calculation.  New numbers: Jose Illegal has $10,200 left; Jose Legal has $36,400 (assuming the completely ridiculous assumption that food stamps are sufficient to actually feed people, which is not remotely accurate).

As for Section 8 or rental subsidy housing – illegals are, once again, NOT ELIGIBLE (see here, though emergency housing is available for all immigrants regardless of status, for 2 years).  Jose Legal may qualify, but Jose Illegal doesn’t.  Once again, we reverse the calculations: Jose Illegal has -$4,200 (that’s negative); Jose Legal has $36,400.

As for car insurance, this assumes illegals are more likely to break the law, which actually isn’t true.  They are less likely to do so because they don’t want to be deported (see here).  So, we can apply this calculation to both Jose Legal and Jose Illegal: Jose Illegal has -$5,400; Jose Illegal has $35,200.

Hmm…  Turns out, illegal immigrants get screwed, while legal immigrants benefit from the social structure of the U.S. economy.  Illegal Immigrants are NOT ELIGIBLE for: food stamps, welfare, retirement benefits, unemployment benefits, Section 8 housing subsidies, health insurance subsidies, etc.  Illegal immigrants do one thing for the U.S. economy – make it lots of money.  They are underpaid and exploited by those who hire them, translating into huge profits for the employers and meager incomes for the illegals.  Many work in basically slave conditions, which have been highlighted in my local paper (see here).

I’m not sure who wrote the bigoted email below, but they clearly don’t have their facts straight and have a serious, ungrounded prejudice against illegal immigrants.  Illegals help our economy, not hurt it.  If you want to do something to help our economy, work toward a reduction in health care costs ($2.26 trillion in 2007) or military expenditures on the wars in Iraq ($734 billion) or Afghanistan ($284 billion) and a reduction in military spending ($685 billion in 2010).  Or, better yet, how aboutcutting off all the tax breaks for major corporations ($92 billion in 2006)?  Or what about getting rid of our subsidies to corporate farms in the U.S.?  Any one of those would go much further toward helping the economic situation of the U.S. than attacking illegal immigrants!!!

Sorry to bother everyone with another email response, but I feel a moral obligation to provide accurate information.



I should have noted, but didn’t, that the numbers used for illustration purposes in the original email (and copied in mine) are completely bogus.  I stuck with them just to prove a point, but most illegals and legals don’t make that much money.

Update – 7/20/2010.  Apparently people in Utah really don’t like illegals (see this news story for an example).  I got people on the email list all upset over this.  Here’s one of the more coherent responses and my response to his response:

Mr. Cragun,

The figures listed in the original email may not be correct. But then, neither are yours.

Health Insurance–what really happens:

Jose Illegal goes to the emergency room for everything! Since he does not pay– he and his family are provided health care and it is the most expensive type. Tax payers (Joe Legal) pay this cost. (19% of all Identity theft is insurance related? According to this web site: This is also one way that food stamps, welfare, rental subsidy housing are given to illegal immigrants.

You left out schooling which is provided free to their children, while they pay $0 taxes.

Concerning car insurance:

ILLEGAL immigrants don’t break the law more than those here legally?! First they are breaking the law by being here. The website you sent to support this idea talks about violent crime only (another issue). It doesn’t say anything about ID theft etc…By the way, how do you get car insurance without a valid drivers license??? You don’t! Driving without insurance is once again breaking the law. (Only recently have some states even started to allow illegals to drive.) They have accidents but don’t pay, which means those who have insurance pay for it through higher premiums.

To allow illegal immigrants to stay her and drain the system without paying is economically unsustainable. For you to say, ” Illegal immigrants help our economy, not hurt it” is absolutely incorrect. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m reminded of a quote I read recently ” you clearly don’t have your facts straight and have a serious, ungrounded prejudice in favor of illegal immigration”. Quoting liberal or inaccurate websites including your own liberal papers OPINION column, and Wikipedia is less than a genuine attempt to gather unbiased information. As a Assistant Professor that “studies such things”, I would expect a lot better. I can only assume you are aware that you have at least in part mislead those reading this by quoting inaccurate or completely biased sources.

Mexico lost Texas by uncontrolled immigration. We must for various reasons put a stop to illegal immigration. If you ” feel a moral obligation to provide accurate information”, then you first should acquire accurate information.


My response:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for responding.

Not surprisingly, I’m going to disagree with some of your arguments, but I’m also going to agree with others. First, the health care issue. Yes, Jose Illegal is going to go the emergency room and get treatment, the most expensive kind as you note, and is likely not going to pay. But so are about 40 million other CITIZENS of the U.S. who do not have health insurance. This is a health insurance and health care issue, not an immigration issue. Travel to Canada or the UK and have a heart attack and go to the emergency room. Are you going to pay anything for the care you get? Nope. Why? Because they provide universal health care coverage. If we did that (which, Obama’s plan kind of starts to do, and which would really mean higher taxes), this would basically be a non-issue. So, I’m agreeing that they abuse the healthcare system, but so do 40 million American citizens.

Your next point basically suggests that all illegals are identity thieves. I find that argument highly implausible. I won’t defend our government as being particularly competent, but I’m inclined to believe that our government doesn’t just give out free food, rent, etc. to anyone who claims to be a legal citizen (in fact, the Social Security Administration, which administers most of these benefits) does site visits and background checks for free rent and welfare specifically to rule out illegals. So, some may slip through, but I’m guessing most don’t. Ergo, I’m not buying your identity theft argument. Most identity theft is done by computer hackers and moderately well-educated drug addicts, not illegal aliens.

You got the schooling issue wrong. Almost all school districts in the U.S. are funded through real estate taxes, not income taxes. If illegals live somewhere and pay rent, they are indirectly paying real estate taxes (technically it is their landlord who is doing so). And since that is what funds schools, they are, in fact, paying taxes for schooling. Ergo, this argument falls flat.

You’re right that the website I sent about crime rates was violent crime. But that was just the first one I found and it was a direct response to the original email which claimed they were murdering farmers and ranchers. I doubt I can find evidence that they are less likely to commit identity theft, but that’s a different issue from the original argument.

As far as car insurance, here’s the irony here: My wife’s car was hit by an illegal without a license or insurance in 2000. We carried comprehensive coverage for uninsured motorists, so our insurance covered it. And, yes, I was pissed that she was illegal and was flagrantly disregarding the law (this was when we lived in Utah). But I also have a brother who lost his license for a year because a cop thought he was drunk (he had overdosed on anti-depressants), but he drove for a year without his license. Illegals aren’t the only ones who do this!!!! Also, until someone can put together actual numbers as to how much illegals driving in the US cost us every year in higher premiums, I’m not going to see this as a major issue.

Okay, so, do illegals help or hurt the economy? Well, Robert, do you help or hurt the economy? I’m assuming you work (looks like Hill Airforce Base from your email). How does that “help the economy”? Or does it hurt the economy? I’m guessing you’ll say you help the economy by working. And you’d be right. But you also help the economy by spending your money. Both factors play into this. We should also note that the economy is different from the financial situation of our government. Our economy (let’s use the GDP as an indicator of the economy) is helped by consumer spending and increased productivity. You’re doing both of these – spending money and working efficiently. Our government’s finances are better illustrated by our national debt. You only help this when you pay taxes, either sales, real estate, or income taxes as the government uses those revenues to pay its expenses. Now what about illegals? They are working, and very efficiently. They are also spending. So, technically, they are helping our economy. In fact, they may be propping up our economy because they often aren’t counted among workers, but their output is, making it look like productivity is higher than it really is. So, they absolutely help the economy. What about government finances? Well, they pay sales and real estate taxes (indirectly), so they are paying some tax revenue. They may skip out on income taxes, which is a problem, but they do pay two types of taxes. So, illegals help the economy, but may be a slight drain on government expenditures. But that also assumes that their employers don’t pay taxes on the profit generated from their work. If their employers pay taxes on the profits, then they are also indirectly paying income tax. Ergo, I doubt they are actually draining government coffers. But, I invite you to find legitimate evidence that they are. If I’m wrong on this point, I’d like to know it.

In short, illegals are really not a major problem in the U.S. I don’t know why people are so annoyed by them. It seems like prejudice and bigotry to me. Can you honestly point out how illegals are hurting you? I can point out how they hurt my finances (we had to pay the deductible on the car repairs – $500; my wife was fine, by the way), but I still don’t hold that against all illegals. So, why the outrage against them? I don’t get it.



Upgrade to Ubuntu

 1,287 total views

UT highlights my research

My university did a little write up about one of the articles I published recently:

It’s a nice summary of the paper and the picture isn’t half bad either.

 335 total views

I’ve been shot!

I was standing in line at the grocery store Friday night picking up some stuff for Toren’s birthday party.  The woman checking out in front of me was chatting with the employee scanning her purchases – I think they were discussing recipes.  I wasn’t really paying very close attention.  I put all of my groceries on to the conveyor belt and was waiting quietly.  After a few minutes, another family pushed their cart up behind mine.  It was a mother, her daughter, the daughter’s husband, and the grandson.  The grandson looked to be about 5 or 6 and was sitting in the child seat in the cart.  I glanced back at them quickly, then turned back around as it was almost my turn to check out.

As the woman in front of me finished up and the employee started scanning my items, I turned around one more time to see the people behind me.  Little did I realize that I would be staring down the barrel of a fully automatic assault rifle:

toy M16

Yep, the 5 or 6 year-old kid was pointing his toy M16 at me and firing away.  His parents and grandmother were ignoring him, but for some reason the intent look on his face as he filled me full of 5.56 x 45mm (.223 Remington) bullets repeatedly was a little disturbing.  He looked like he was engaged in serious business – destroying the enemy.  Apparently the really white guy with the goatee buying groceries was the enemy.

This prompted an obvious thought in my head: Should a kid be allowed to play with a toy like that?

I had toy weapons growing up – guns, knives, swords, etc.  I also had army men.  By the time I was 7 or 8 I had a BB gun and by about 14 I had a 22 caliber rifle.  I never killed anyone, though I did almost shoot one of my best friend’s eyes out (sorry Tyler; I still feel bad about that BB gun fight).  I also had a paintball gun and played paintball.  I’m not, now, a particularly violent person.  In fact, I’m quite anti-guns.  But I’m not sure letting kids play with guns increases the odds of violent behavior.  Thoughts, anyone?

(Oh, and just so everyone knows, there are no plans to buy Toren any violent toys – no guns, knives, swords, or army men.)

 1,005 total views

my best publication yet!

I don’t typically mention my publications on this blog, but this is one about which I am particularly proud.  I think it is a significant contribution not only to the study of Mormonism but also to theory in the Sociology of Religion as well.  I’m also proud of it because of the amount of time that went into it.  I’m guessing that this article took me close to 1,000 hours to produce (that’s about 41 days).  It started as a class project in graduate school, probably around 2003 or 2004.  It then turned into a series of conference presentations, was submitted to three different journals, all of which rejected it but provided useful feedback.  Eventually I decided that the article needed to aim larger than just Mormons, so I included Adventists and Witnesses and invited Ron Lawson to help me (he’s an expert on Adventists and Witnesses).  Anyway, here’s a link to the article:

The Secular Transition: The Worldwide Growth of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventists

If you’re really geeky and want to read the article but don’t have access to the journal via a university subscription, let me know and I can send you a copy of the article.

 489 total views

PEACE Alternative Break – day 2

Our second day in Southeastern Florida was mostly spent volunteering at Horses for the Handicapped.  We did a variety of things while there, from painting to picking up rocks to grooming horses, but mostly we cleaned up horse feces.  Horses defecate a lot.  I was happy to help, but I’ll be happy if I never have to clean up horse crap ever again.

The day was pretty uneventful until our way home.  The large van I drove down to Fort Lauderdale didn’t get the greatest gas mileage.  On the way home from volunteering we needed to gas up.  So I stopped at a gas station near our hostel to get some gas.  While I was pumping the gas a car pulled up to the pump opposite mine.  In the car were three young, black men.  The driver got out and began filling his car.  Meanwhile, the young man in the passenger seat seemed busy with something, then he threw something out the window onto the ground.

Enter one of Ryan’s major pet peeves: I HATE it when people litter!!!

I periodically see people through garbage out of their car onto the ground.  Whenever I do, my blood boils.  I’m not quite sure why I get so irate, but it really, really bothers me.  As most of the time I see people do this they are in cars and I can’t really pull them over to chew them out, I usually can’t do anything except honk or give them dirty looks (yep, I get that mad).  But this time… Well, the guy was sitting in the car 5 feet from me.  So, I put the pump on automatic and walked over to the car.  Here’s how the conversation played out to the best of my memory:

Ryan: Um, did you drop something?

Guy in car: Excuse me?

Ryan: I thought I saw something fall out the window.  Did you drop something?

Guy in car: Yes, I dropped something.  I threw it out the window.

Ryan:  Oh, you meant to drop it?

Guy in car: Yeah.

Ryan: Oh, okay.  Um, I wasn’t sure if you meant to drop it.

At this point the conversation paused while I considered whether to say what I was thinking.  Perhaps stupidly, I said it…

Ryan: You do realize there is a garbage can about 10 feet away, right?

Guy in car: Are you some sort of ecololo-ecolologist?  (that’s exactly how he said it)

Ryan: Nope.  Just a guy who doesn’t like to see people litter.

Guy in car: Why do you care?

Ryan: I just don’t understand why you’d drop something on the ground when there is a trash can 10 feet away.

Guy in car: I was done with it.

Ryan:  Oh.  Okay.

The driver of his car has now finished filling up the car and now gets in the driver’s seat and starts the car.  As he begins to pull out, the guy with whom I’m sharing this enlightening conversation decides he’s not done.

Guy in car (to the driver): Wait.  I’m going to pick this up.

He opens his door, bends down, and picks up one of the two pieces of trash he dropped on the ground.  He stands up in front of me and continues our conversation:

Guy formerly in car: There.  I picked it up.  (pointing over to more trash near the street)  But I have a question for you.  Why do you care so much about me dropping this when there is trash all over the f*cking place?

Ryan: Because it is littering.

Guy in car: But you’re not going to pick it up, are you?

Ryan: I volunteer picking up trash. (It’s true; part of what we did at Horses and the Handicapped is pick up trash.)

Guy in car: But you’re not going to volunteer to pick up trash right here, are you?

Ryan: I think you’re missing the point…

Guy in car: You’re not, are you?

It’s at this point he draws right up to my face until he’s about 6 inches from me, kind of like this:

This is pretty close to the real deal, except I doubt I was smirking and we were about the same height. This must have been how it looked to the students in the van (props to Quinton Jackson and Forrest Griffin).

He was actually about my height.  I think he thought he was going to be taller than me, so he could intimidate me, but he wasn’t any thicker than I am or any taller, so his attempt at intimidation didn’t work.  But he sure tried:

Guy formerly in car: Are you my f*cking mother?  (feints at me)


Guy formerly in car: Why don’t you mind your own business?!?  (feints again)

Ryan: (probably just staring dumbly at the fact that this guy is getting in my face because I called him on littering)

Guy formerly in car: Why don’t you mind your own business?!?  Why don’t you mind your own business?!?  (feints each time he says this)

Perhaps he thought I would back down or that I would throw a punch, I don’t know.  But when I just stood there and stared at him he eventually gave up his feints at me, turned, walked to the trash can, threw his trash in it, walked back to his car, got in, and drove away.  All the while I just stared.

After he left, I walked back to the van, removed the gas nozzle, and closed everything up.  I then opened the door and looked in to see all the students staring at me in a strange combination of awe and bewilderment.  One of the guys said, “I thought we were going to get in a brawl.  I was about ready to jump out and back you up.”

I laughed and said, “All that over a piece of trash.”

One of the students then said, “Remind me never to litter around you.”

Right.  So, that’s the story.  But I have to admit I’m really, really intrigued by this whole event.  As noted above, littering is one of my pet peeves.  But as a sociologist, I can’t help but wonder why people do it.  Almost every single person I’ve ever seen throw trash on the ground has been young, of a lower socioeconomic status, and black. Here’s where I’m intrigued.  Clearly there is a cultural difference between myself and the individuals who throw trash on the ground.  But I’m not sure which characteristics leads to this behavior.  I’m guessing it’s not a youth thing as I have been anal about littering since I was a kid and there are lots of kids who don’t litter.  I’m guessing this isn’t a racial cultural difference as I don’t ever see higher socioeconomic status blacks litter and I’ve been in predominantly black, middle-class neighborhoods (in Cincinnati) that were basically trash free.  Why it has been mostly blacks I’ve seen this, I don’t know, but it could be due to where I live (in cities where the poorest group tends to black) and the fact that blacks are more likely to be poor.  My best guess is that this is a lower socioeconomic status thing as I’ve seen poor white people litter.  I’ve also been in poorer, predominantly white neighborhoods that have a lot of trash on the street.  So, I’m going to venture a guess here and say that this must be a lower socioeconomic status cultural difference.

This leads me to my question, which I’m really hoping some of my sociology colleagues who read this post will be able to address:  First, am I right that this is a class difference?  Second, what is it about this socioeconomic group that leads them to litter?  I thought the response of the Guy in the car was somewhat telling – “he was done with it.”  Is that the mindset of people who litter?  They give no consideration to: (1) the environment, or (2) to the people who will have to pick up their trash.  Their only thought is: “I’m done with this and don’t want to have it around me anymore, so I’ll just throw it on the ground.”

I happened to catch a science news article a couple days ago after this incident that I thought might help explain it.  Apparently young offenders who think they are likely to die young are more likely to engage in criminal activities, which runs counter to common wisdom.  Perhaps there is a similar disregard for social order among those who litter?  Anyway, I don’t have an answer to this question, but am interested in any thoughts you have.  I’d really like to understand the litterer’s mindset.

Oh, and any thoughts on why the Guy in the car got in my face over this?  I have my suspicions, but I’m open to ideas on this as well.

 520 total views

Hail the Conquering Hero

It’s the weekend before Christmas and I’m trying to get all of my grading done when Debi comes into the office and tells me  that the clothes dryer is no longer working.  It heats up, but it doesn’t turn.  I was on track to have all of my grading  done so I could relax a little bit on Christmas before trying to get everything I have planned for the break complete.  Now this.  The first thought that came to my mind: “How much does a new dryer cost?”  Answer – at a bare minimum if you buy it new, about $300.  On Craigslist in questionable condition – $75.00.   A service call from an appliance repair person – $55.00.  Well, crap!  I didn’t want a new dryer for Christmas and I’m a sociologist, not an engineer.  I can’t fix a dryer!!!!

Enter gender stereotype: I’m the man of the household, I should at least make a token effort to fix this thing.  So, armed with a couple of screwdrivers, I venture into the garage and start unscrewing every screw I can find holding the dryer together.  About an hour later I have loosened one of the side panels sufficiently that I can peek inside the dryer.  I see something that looks loose, so I pull on it and it comes out.  Once I get it out I realize it’s a drive belt and it has snapped.  Aha!  I have found a problem – a broken drive belt.

Enter gender stereotype insecurity: I have discovered something that is wrong with the dryer – a broken drive belt.  But even having done that, I’m not sure I can fix it.

Re-enter gender stereotype: I am ‘the man’ of the household, I should at least make a token effort to try.  So, I start searching on the internet for replacement drive belts for a GE dryer.  I come across this site –  I type in the model of our dryer and voila – up comes a list of replacement parts, including the drive belt – $14.00 ($22.00 with shipping).  Great!  Now I’m really going to have to put some serious effort into this and actually see if I can figure out how to fix a dryer.  But my “male ego” is pretty low at the moment.  Remember, I spent an hour unscrewing every screw I could find and in that time was only able to loosen one side of the dryer enough to peer inside and find a broken belt.  I can order a replacement belt for less than 1/10th the cost of a new dryer, but I have no idea how to put the new belt into place.

So, more time on the internet…  Luckily, on that same site there are some stories by people who have replaced the drive belt on their dryer.  They mention that there are two screws in the door frame that loosen the top of the dryer, allowing you to remove it.  Arghhh!!!  If I had only known that before I started tearing the side panels off (bending one slightly in the process).  I check my dryer.  Sure enough – two screws right where they are supposed to be.  I loosen them and voila – the top of the dryer pops off.  Now I can see the drum, but I can’t get it out.  I read a little more on that same site and someone mentions a couple more screws right inside the top that keep the front panel on.  I check and sure enough, there they are.  I unscrew them and off pops the front panel.  I can now remove the drum and then I see the motor that turns the drum. Crap!  It’s beginning to look like I may seriously have to repair this thing myself.  I know enough now that I can probably do it.  But, just to be sure that the only problem is this broken belt, I come up with an idea…

Enter duct tape: I carefully tape the belt back together then put it on the motor and around the drum.  Hmmm… Problem!  There is too much slack.  When I start the dryer, the motor turns, but the belt is too loose.  I’m doing something wrong!  Back to the internet.  I spend another 30 minutes trying to figure out how the belt is supposed to go on.  I eventually find a diagram that helps me realize that I wasn’t putting the belt on the tension pulley correctly.  I can’t explain it, but it’s very particular and is supposed to look like this (courtesy of this site):

It’s kind of strange how it is supposed to wrap around, but once I see it, it makes sense.  So, with my duct taped belt, I put it on correctly (takes a while), put the front panel back on, and start the dryer.  Everything works for about 30 seconds then the duct tape gives and the belt breaks.  Verdict: The dryer needs a new drive belt; I can put it on correctly; and I have found one online for about $22.00.  I guess I’m going to fix the dryer…

I order the belt and wait.  Just a couple days later the belt arrives (super fast shipping).  Worried that this isn’t going to work and questioning my “manly” abilities, I venture into the garage to see if I hold the solution to our dryer woes.  Twenty minutes later, I have the belt on and start the dryer.  It works!  Another 20 minutes of reassembling the dismantled dryer (I really did remove a lot of screws) and the dryer is good to go.

Hail the Conquering Hero!

What have I accomplished?  Hmmm…. My going rate as a college professor is about $25.00/hour (if I actually worked 40 hours per week; since I work close to 80 I guess I can cut that in half).  I spent close to 4 hours on the dryer.  Cost in my time – $100.  Cost in parts – $22.00.  Total repair cost – $122.  We could have bought a replacement dryer on Craigslist for $75.  A repairman could have replaced the belt in 20 minutes for probably close to $100.  So, did I really save any money?  Well, maybe, since I don’t work 24/7 (more like 16/7), but probably not.

But the real accomplishment is more impressive: I simultaneously boosted my male ego (probably not a good thing) and raised Debi’s future expectations that I can actually repair things (definitely not a good thing).

Hail the conquering hero indeed…

 537 total views

England Trip – Day 7

We were surprised at how many things we had been able to fit in at this point.  If you’ve been reading these posts chronologically, you’ll know that we skipped two attractions for various reasons.  This was our make up day.  We started out with a visit to Abbey Road, the recording studio made famous by The Beatles for their album they recorded here.  There isn’t much to see there, but we stopped by anyway:

Abbey Road studio

From Abbey Road we returned to Westminster Abbey.  Westminster Abbey is a working Church of England Church and the location of British coronation ceremonies (and has been for centuries).  Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take photos inside (though I snuck a couple again).  Our primary interest in visiting the Abbey was to make another pilgrimage of sorts – to the grave of Charles Darwin.  Steve and I are both ardent evolutionists, so we had to pay homage.  In honor of our visit, Steve wore his Project Steve shirt to the Abbey:

Project Steve visits Westminster Abbey

The Abbey is a functioning church, but it’s also kind of creepy.  I really don’t understand the bizarre obsession of people to be buried inside churches.  I don’t really mean to be mean about this, but it almost seems as though the idea is to change the object of veneration from some supernatural entity to those entombed inside the building.  I didn’t actually get creeped out by the fact that I was walking around inside a building that literally has thousands of dead people scattered throughout the walls and floor, but it does seem kind of bizarre to me  (if any readers have any thoughts on this, I’m interested in what you think).  Anyway, access to Westminster Abbey costs a pretty penny as well – about $20.00, but it does include an audio tour that is pretty good.  Easily the most amazing part of the building is the sheer size.  As soon as you walk in and see the soaring ceiling you can’t help but be impressed.  As I couldn’t take pictures here, I stole some from other people who did.  Here’s a shot of the main altar that shows the height of the ceiling:

the main altar

Surrounding the main altar are a number of smaller chapels, most of which are filled with dead people – er, rather, monuments and gravemarkers to dead people that include the dead people inside; so, yeah, dead people.  A number of monarchs of England are buried here, though monarchs post George II are no longer buried here but in some other church.  The architecture, even of the tombs, is pretty remarkable.  The tour takes close to 2 hours if you listen closely to everything.  It winds its way around the church, but also out into several other areas where those who run the church live.  There is also a museum, though quite small, that is part of the tour.  I did snap a picture in the museum as it included a wax model of my famous ancestor, Lord Nelson (who is buried in a different chapel in London):

wax model of Lord Nelson

We knew about two famous people who are buried at the Abbey, Newton and Darwin, but were surprised to also learn that George Frideric Handel is as well, as is Winston Churchhill.  Here’s a picture of Darwin’s grave (stolen from someone else on the internet):

Darwin's grave marker

He is buried close to Newton and several other famed scientists.  Despite the creepiness of the thousands of bodies around the place, it is a site to see – and of course we had to pay homage to Darwin.

From Westminster Abbey we headed back to Trafalgar Square were we had lunch in The Crypt, which is a cafe in the former crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields church.  We then went to the National Portrait Gallery, which is right across the street from The Crypt.  The Portrait Gallery includes paintings of many famous Britons, from the aristocracy to scientists, like Darwin, Huxley, and Newton.  Probably the best part about the gallery for me was the pretty good history given of the aristocracy as you saw their paintings.  I learned a lot about past Kings and Queens as a result.  We didn’t stay too long at the National Portrait Gallery (about 2 hours) as I had arranged to meet one of the conference organizers at the British Library to discuss some research projects.

We met my colleague and talked shop for a while over tea (okay, we didn’t really drink tea, but we called it “tea”).  Afterward we went downstairs to see some of the famous manuscripts and documents the library has, including: 2 of the 4 remaining copies of the Magna Carta, Gutenberg Bibles, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, some samples of Shakespeare’s writing, Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks, original song lyrics by The Beatles on various scraps of paper, and thousands of other famous documents, including a wide variety of religious books and manuscripts.  My colleague, who goes to the British Library at least once a month, didn’t actually know where the room with the collections was and had never seen any of the stuff inside.  So, she accompanied us to see the Magna Carta before she had to run to a different meeting.  Intriguingly, we spent a couple hours checking out all the documents and saw just one or two other people the whole time.  It’s pretty amazing to think that these treasures aren’t widely visited.

After the British Library we headed back to Hammersmith, stopped for dinner at another pub, and called it a night.

 703 total views

England Trip – Day 6

I drug Steve out to do a little more Sociology-related fieldwork during this day in London – we made the obligatory pilgrimage to the burial place of Karl Marx, Toren’s namesake, at Highgate Cemetery.  Unknown to me before we arrived, there are a number of other famous people buried in the cemetery, including: Douglas Adams and George Eliot.  I already knew Herbert Spencer was buried there, so that wasn’t a surprise, but Douglas Adams – awesome!  The only drawbacks to the cemetery: (1) it costs money to get in 3 pounds) and (2) to find out where different people are buried you need a guide, which costs a pound as well.  For any future visitors, I created a map of the famous people buried in Highgate Cemetery using Google maps.  You can see where they are without purchasing the guide.

We took pictures, of course:

Douglas Adams’s tombstone
Steve by Douglas Adams

The cemetery itself is very cool.  It’s basically like a forest as it is mostly left to itself with the exception of the paths, as you can see in this photo:

cool cemetery

The key attraction, of course, is Karl Marx’s monument.  Apparently he was originally buried in a nondescript location, but the surge of visitors as he became more and more famous necessitated moving him to this more accessible location.  He is buried with his daughter and a few additional people.  Here’s the monument:

Toren’s namesake – Karl Marx

Not 30 feet from Marx’s monument is that of another famous early sociologist, Herbert Spencer:

Herbert Spencer’s grave marker

This next photo shows their relative placements:

Marx’s monument is to the right; Herbert Spencer’s is to the left

While it would be overstating the case to say I’m very familiar with George Eliot’s work, I have heard the name (as had Steve). So, we stopped by her grave as well:

gravemarker of George Eliot

As we primarily came to see Marx and Spencer (and saw Douglas Adams as a bonus) we didn’t search down any of the others except Eliot.

From Highgate Cemetery we headed to the British Museum where we literally spent the rest of the day and still didn’t see everything there was to see.  We technically visited every room, but about 1/3 of the museum we simply walked through at turbo speed as there just isn’t enough time in a single day to see everything they have on display there, including the actual Rosetta Stone,a cuneiform tablet recording an ancient flood myth that is believed to be the origin of the flood myth in the Old Testament, dozens of mummies, all sorts of other ancient artifacts, and entire temples.  To illustrate the scope of the museum I took a few pictures.  This first photo is a shot from one end of the very first room of the museum (labeled room 1; out of around 95 rooms):

Room 1 – an amazing museum in its own right

This is just the first room and we spent over an hour here.  The collection is so remarkable in this one room that it could be a museum in its own right.

These next two also illustrate the size of the museum as well.  This one is basically the Parthenon, from Italy.  It’s not the complete Parthenon, of course, or even all that remains of it, but it includes large chunks of it:

the Parthenon room

This last one is a shot of the inner atrium, which kind of serves as a central staging area for the rest of the museum.  I can’t be certain, but it seems as though the museum was originally separate buildings and was eventually covered to make it easier to move between the buildings.  It’s enormous:

the inner atrium of the museum

We stayed until just before closing, then headed to the largest urban shopping mall in Europe, Westfield Mall, to look for presents for Toren (not much luck; the UK is super expensive).  We then had dinner and called it a day.

 454 total views

England Trip – Day 3

This was the day of the conference.  The conference was the inaugural conference of the Non-Religion and Secularity Research Network, an organization primarily made up of scholars interested in the non-religious.  The organizers of the conference were kind enough to invite me to give one of three keynote presentations.  The other two keynote speakers, David Voas and Colin Campbell, are luminaries in the field. I’m not sure how I ended up on the schedule with them, but I consider it quite an honor.

Aside from one question from a reporter who basically suggested I was over-stating my case, my presentation seemed to be well-received.  I’ll spare readers the details (the paper is under review, too, so I can’t really post it here), but my presentation was written up on one of my favorite blogs: Epiphenom.  I met the author of that blog at the conference; he’s a very nice guy.

The conference ran all day and about a dozen of us went out for dinner afterward where I made plans to meet up with one of them during the next few days to talk about collaborating on some research.  After dinner I took a train to London with one of the conference organizers and we talked some more shop.  She then helped me navigate the Tube (the London subway) so I could find my hotel in Hammersmith. Debi’s brother, Steve, who is doing a post-doc in Paris, came over to London to tour around with me for the few days I was going to be there after the conference.  I planned to stay only a few days originally, but when I went to book my flight, the cost of returning Saturday, Sunday, or Monday was equivalent to paying for a hotel and food through Thursday.  So, I opted to stay a few more days, which gave me a chance to not only see London but also to meet up with some of the people who attended the conference as well.

 389 total views