Weekly Meanderings

Like these koalas, we are looking back over the year while moving forward.

I didn’t think I’d have enough links for a Weekly Meanderings today, but thanks to Kris and Lukas we cobbled together some. Grab your cup of coffee and enjoy this last edition of Weekly Meanderings for 2011. By the way, this is the 294th edition of Weekly Meanderings … getting close to six years of them.

This is funny… which one is the best for you? We like the Smoltz zaniness.

I have to admit, this one surprised me: book prices, by decade:


1951: $34.37 The Caine Mutiny
1981: $30.26 Franny and Zooey
1971: $72.34 Wheels
1981: $33.60 An Indecent Obsession
1991: $41.44 Scarlett
2001: $31.92 Desecration
2011: $28.99 Kill Alex Cross


1951: $30.45 The Sea Around Us
1961: $30.19 Making of the American President 1960/The Enemy Within
1971: $83.79 Eleanor and Franklin
1981: $27.25 A Light In The Attic
1991: $41.53 Under Fire
2001: $31.87 No Spin Zone
2011: $35.00 Steve Jobs

The picture to the right is of Starlings in Rome!

Good for Braylon! “At 22 college campuses across the country, there are 79 students who may not otherwise be there if not for the generosity of Braylon Edwards. As a Cleveland Browns rookie in 2005, Edwards announced he’d give $10,000 in scholarships to 100 area eighth-graders if they could graduate high school with over a 2.5 GPA and 15 hours community service. Of the 100 who were afforded the opportunity, 79 met the criteria and have begun their first year of college. Many are attending Ohio universities, but the schools represented spread across the country and include Harvard, Cornell and Johns Hopkins.”


Meanderings in the News

Corruption and adoption: “Adoption searchers — specialized independent researchers working in a unique field that few outside the community of adoptive parents even know exists — track down the birth families of children adopted from other counties. In Ethiopia, searching has arisen in response to a dramatic boom in international adoptions from the country in recent years. In 2010, Ethiopia accounted for nearly a quarter of all international adoptions to the U.S. The number of Ethiopian children adopted into foreign families in the U.S., Canada, and Europe has risen from just a few hundred several years ago to several thousand last year. The increase has been so rapid — and, for some, so lucrative — that some locals have said adoption was “becoming the new export industry for our country.”  That increase has also brought stories of corruption, child trafficking, and fraud. Parents began to publicize the stories their adopted children told them when they learned English: that they had parents and families at home, who sometimes thought they were going to the U.S. to receive an education and then return. Media investigations have found evidence that adoption agencies had recruited children from intact families. Ethiopia’s government found that some children’s paperwork had been doctored to list children who had been relinquished by living parents as orphans instead, which allowed the agencies to avoid lengthy court vetting procedures.” Very, very sad. “…But, in the past several years, it’s become increasingly difficult to find a searcher in Ethiopia. Tasked with determining whether an adopted child is a “manufactured orphan,” searchers have faced intense intimidation in Ethiopia as its adoption system boomed and then came under international scrutiny. It took months to find adoptive families willing to share the name or contact information for searchers they had used. The first several times I emailed or called Samuel, he responded with trepidation, confirming with me repeatedly that I was not associated with any adoption agencies working in Ethiopia and that I wouldn’t pass on his name or information to any agencies.”

The old regression toward the mean and athletes of athletes. “Kobe Bryant is an exceptional professional basketball player. His father was a  “journeyman”. Similarly,  Barry Bonds and  Ken Griffey Jr. both surpassed their fathers as baseball players. Both of  Archie Manning’s sons are superior quarterbacks in relation to their father. This is not entirely surprising. Though there is a correlation between parent and offspring in their traits, that correlation is imperfect.”

Portland’s mini-libraries — what a great idea. “The libraries serve multiple purposes, depending upon the vibe of the neighborhood. In some, users quietly drop by without a glance in either direction. Other neighborhoods use the boxes as virtual water coolers, where residents gather for a dose of gossip along with their reading. In neighborhoods like Opdyke’s, they’re a socioeconomic equalizer — books are accessible to those with six-figure salaries, as well as the homeless who frequently walk past Opdyke’s home.”

How do you read?

Michelle Nunn: “The Occupy Wall Street movement is largely fueled by a relatively small set of young people who view the protests as a fight for their future. The vast majority, however, are getting up and going to work every day — or wishing they could. These individuals are part of a less dramatic but, perhaps, equally powerful movement of Millennials shaping the future of business. As consumers, employees and entrepreneurs, Millennials are shifting the norms of corporate America’s conduct, ethical imperatives and purpose. In his book, “The Way We’ll Be,” pollster John Zogby documents how these “First Globals” are more conscientious consumers than their predecessors, demanding greater honesty and accountability from businesses.”

Hayley Tsukayama: “The thrill of getting a work-issued mobile phone is often quickly eclipsed by its constant reminders that you’ve still — always — got work to do. But some companies are trying to help its employees keep their home and work lives separate, and this week Volkswagen joined in. The automaker has agreed to stop sending employee e-mails to its BlackBerry servers outside of some German workers’ shifts, with a 30-minute buffer on either side, the BBC reported Friday. Employees can still make calls on their devices (and the rules aren’t in place for senior management), but now have a reprieve from off-hours beeps and buzzes.”

Peter Osnos: “This has been a tumultuous year for the book business, a time of profound change in the way books are distributed and read. It is no exaggeration to say that the widespread acceptance of digital devices and a simultaneous contraction of shelf-space in stores qualify as a historic shift. The demise of Borders, the country’s second-largest book chain as recently as a year ago, was largely offset by the sale of millions of e-readers and electronic books on a vast scale in a market now dominated by Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Google. In May, Amazon announced that it was selling more e-books than print books. On “Black Friday,” November 25, Amazon said it had sold four times as many Kindles in a single day as it did in 2010. At this rate, it seems increasingly likely that e-books will match printed books in the next few years, and eventually overtake them.”

Humans and purchasing things for less than intelligent reasons: “THESE are thrilling days for behavioural research. Every week seems to yield a new discovery about how bad people are at making decisions. Humans, it turns out, are impressionable, emotional and irrational. We buy things we don’t need, often at arbitrary prices and for silly reasons. Studies show that when a store plays soothing music, shoppers will linger for longer and often spend more. If customers are in a good mood, they are more susceptible to persuasion. We believe price tends to indicate the value of things, not the other way around. And many people will squander valuable time to get something free.”

Michael Adams: “This month sees the release of From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages, a new collection edited by English professor Michael AdamsThe timing would seem to be perfect: Invented languages have received a wave of attention lately, most notably in The New York Times. As fans of invented languages ourselveswe asked Adams to teach us how these constructed languages can get us into the holiday spirit. Some of the most famous invented languages belong to Tolkien’s Elves, Star Trek’s Klingons,Avatar’s Na’vi, and the rabbits in Richard Adams’Watership Down. They tend to hail from fantasy, and both the languages and their native worlds are more than a little exotic. During the holiday season, though, we should focus not on what divides us, but on what Klingons, Elves, talking rabbits, and we humans have in common. It’s reassuring that our languages—natural and invented—share some holiday-appropriate vocabulary, so here are five words or phrases that prove, in spite of our differences, that the holiday spirit is universal. If we can imagine Klingons, Elves, rabbits, Na’vi, and the Whos down in Whoville clasping hands and joining together in a rousing chorus of “Fahoo fores, dahoo dores,” there may be some holiday hope for the rest of us.”

Meanderings in Sports

Walter Iooss: “The truth is, I see photos everywhere. I look at someone sitting next to me at lunch, and instantly I’m putting up a background in my mind. That’s just churning all the time. If the beauty’s there, I want to take a picture of it. I could be anywhere. I take hundreds of iPhone photos, and I compose those too, as much as I can. What I really am is lucky to be doing what I do. People play the lottery for the same reason I do my job. They’re hoping some magical moment comes along and they win $10 million. I’ve been winning my whole career: The phone rings and, “You’re going to Bora Bora.” Last year, “You’re going to Fiji” and “You’re going to the Maldives.” Or “You’re shooting Tiger” or “You’re shooting Michael.” I live for these things. I love these jobs. You never know when it’s going to happen, so there’s always an element of surprise.”

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  • Joe Canner

    The subject of invented languages is fascinating, and I’m in awe of those who can fabricate languages (and the necessary grammar and pronunciation rules) from scratch. I would not, however, including Whoville language in this list. The “Welcome Christmas” song from the movie is the only example of the language, it was meant to sound like Classical Latin, and there are no translation or grammar rules.

    (Sorry, this comment is probably not in the spirit of the original post. 🙂 )

  • TSG

    Razid Khan is squarely into causation when he studies “regression toward the mean and athletes of athletes”. Please factor in Jonah Lehrer’s piece called “Trials and Errors: Why Science is Failing Us” in Wired Magazine on December 16, 2011. The title is provocative for obvious attraction purposes, but the point of the article must be considered. Our reliance on statistical correlations has strict constraints. We pretend that causality can be figured out by new knowledge, and hardly acknowledge there is mystery involved.

  • Susan N.

    Hau ‘oli makaluki hau!

    Ernest Dichter and American consumerism — yikes! Talk about a clever mind being used for evil purposes; namely, exploitation of human weakness and baser instincts for the benefit of death-dealing powers and principalities. I can’t help it, but this reminds me of Rupert Murdoch’s enterprise.

    Some interesting and informative links on e-reader / e-book technology. I met a woman this week who received a Nook for Christmas. We discussed the pros and cons of hard copy vs. e-reader, and she showed me what she had learned thus far about her Nook contraption. I’m warming up to the idea of it 🙂 Paperless/more environmentally-friendly? Compact and mobile. Adjustable print size. All pros in my estimation of the Nook!

    The Little Free Library — What a wonderful idea! I’m inspired by the story of how well this has worked out. I wonder if anyone has thought about that for our community?

    My teen daughter campaigned for and won a trip to the public library a few days ago. I picked up several good reads for the Christmas break: ‘Holy the Firm’ (Annie Dillard), ‘Letter to My Daughter’ (Maya Angelou), ‘Revelation for Everyone (N.T. Wright), ‘Between Heaven and Mirth’ (James Martin, SJ) — to name a few. My life would be lacking in much joy if I couldn’t read and didn’t have books. Of the first two (short) books, which I have finished, I loved Maya Angelou’s book. She writes with her whole heart and soul; I love her for that…

  • Susan N.

    Joe (#1) – H5N1 is in the news again:


    So, I’m thinking that aside from the caution being exercised in disseminating the research findings, I really hope that the lab and scientists involved are operating with a high level of security. Leaks, and hacks, and espionage…oh my!

  • Paul

    Just want to say Thank You for your blog. I read it every day and find the posts informative and very helpful personally.
    Paul J

  • Regarding the adoption: Having just brought our son home from Ethiopia (through the Canadian system), we have spent years exploring these issues. As frustrating and drawn out as the Canadian process has been, we have at least had a MUCH higher level of confidence in the integrity of the process. With respect, the US system of international adoption is one of the most dysfunctional and needs massive reform.

  • RJS

    Congratulations Jamie.

  • The story about Braylon Edwards reminds me of The Office episode where Michael Scott had promised a class of freshmen that he would pay their way to college if they graduated, only of course to back out. It is one of the most painfully funny episodes to watch! He says something like, “Of all the promises I have broken, this was by far the most generous.”

    Glad to see someone keep such a generous promise!