Weekly Meanderings

Kris took this beauty of the Sydney Opera house at sunset:

Brad Brisco’s opening to a post on what he has learned in being a foster/resource family: “This week marks the end of the first year of being a foster/resource family. After an extended time of reflecting on the concept of hospitality and recognizing the insanity of maintaining a “home office” that was never used, (and the constant prodding of my wife Mischele) our family decided to convert our office back to a bedroom to be in a better position to welcome others into our home. In the past twelve months we have had over 40 different kids come through our home. It has been a wild, crazy, fulfilling, maturing, and at times disturbing and heart-wrenching journey. But, it has also been a time of much learning and reflection. Here are just a few things I have learned, or have been reminded of in a fresh way, in the past year …”

Karen’s got some good reflections here: “The thing about rocking chairs is that they force you to be still, to think, to reflect, and to engage with others in a more quiet, thoughtful way. Whether it’s a simple wave and nod at the neighbor, or lively after-dinner discourse. I have never witnessed a conversation turn ugly between people sitting in rocking chairs. I’ve heard them debate politics and religion and child-rearing. I’ve heard them talk about celebrities, preachers, and celebrity preachers while tipping back in their rockers. But I have never heard somebody outright insult another person while sitting in a rocker.  Nearly every conversation I’ve heard while leaning in a rocker entailed a lot of laughter. Social media is the place where all generations gather now. There are some wonderful things about that, not the least of which is the opportunity to interact with people from a wide-variety of neighborhoods. Many of you have become dear friends to me through social media.” Then she moves to this: “A large contingency of the online community is infected with a flesh-eating bacteria. I’ve sat by, horrified, as people I admire have come under attack, people who have been a great source of encouragement and community to me. Kind, thoughtful, gracious people who have been gutted by this viral flesh-eating bacteria.”

God have mercy, Lynne Hybels’ post about rape in Congo: “Impunity. This is a word we hear often in Congo (DRC). I can’t access Google for a dictionary definition, but what it means here is that men can rape women with no fear of consequences. Here, there is no rule of law. There is only the rule of the gun, the rule of the powerful, the rule of male dominance.  Before we arrived, the Ten for Congo team did research, read books, and studied reports on rape as a weapon of war. But we missed something. Yes, rape is a weapon of war in the Congo. Rebel militia fighters do hide in the forest, ready to attack vulnerable women. They do know that if they rape enough women they can destroy the social fabric of an entire community.  But we’ve discovered something worse than rape as a weapon of war. What’s worse is an underlying culture of rape. A culture in which rape has become normalized. Accepted. Okay. This is a patriarchal society taken to the tragic extreme. From the time they are born, boys are taught that being a man means they must have dominion over women. Rapists are congratulated on being “man enough” to “take a woman.”  Even churches reinforced this perspective when they preached a perverted message of female submission. Women were to submit, period. There was no mention of the fact that men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church—even to the point of giving his life for his beloved. No mention of the concept of mutual submission.”

Craig Cottongim: “I don’t like to suffer. Yet today at age 44, with a Bachelor’s degree and two Masters degrees, I’m once again working construction. I’ve gone from a cozy office with comfy leather chairs and oak bookshelves to doing backbreaking work while fighting freezing rain, snow, and now a scalding hot summer. Daily, I’m completely exposed to the bitterest of elements while doing work that wears your body down. Construction is grueling work when you’re in your 20’s; it’s excruciatingly hard on your body working concrete on your 40’s. Most of us like to get a good education, find a good job, and then enjoy a nice standard of living. We all like to move forward, not backwards. Surprisingly, I’m happier than I’ve been in years, and by the way, I feel I’ve moved forward. It would be counterproductive to attempt an exhaustive account of all I’ve learned, but I want to share some of what I’ve learned by becoming a tentmaker. After 17 years of “fulltime” preaching in established mainline churches, I’m now involved in an exciting new plant. But. The cost of planting a church has placed me back in the workplace as well. You might think I would have become bitter, even resentful from having to do manual labor after all these years. But still, like I said, I’m happier than I’ve been in years!”

Great story about Tony Jones’ mom and dad and Cavonte.

Public profanity? Fined. “At a town meeting, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity. Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks. “I’m really happy about it,” Mimi Duphily, a store owner and former town selectwoman, said after the vote. “I’m sure there’s going to be some fallout, but I think what we did was necessary.” Duphily, who runs an auto parts store, is among the downtown merchants who wanted to take a stand against the kind of swearing that can make customers uncomfortable. “They’ll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language. It’s just so inappropriate,” she said.”

Genuine, not genuine, maybe genuine.

Meanderings in the News

When it comes to social technology, women are the new first adopters: “It turns out women are our new lead adopters. When you look at internet usage, it turns out women in Western countries use the internet 17 percent more every month than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to be using the mobile phones they own, they spend more time talking on them, they spend more time using location-based services. But they also spend more time sending text messages. Women are the fastest growing and largest users on Skype, and that’s mostly younger women. Women are the fastest category and biggest users on every social networking site with the exception of LinkedIn. Women are the vast majority owners of all internet enabled devices–readers, healthcare devices, GPS–that whole bundle of technology is mostly owned by women.”

Charles P. Pierce is steeping hot mad at David Brooks.

Grief and children: “Roughly 5,000 children have lost a parent, and more than 5,200 have lost a sibling, according to estimates.  The youngest will grow up only knowing their lost loved one through stories told by family and friends; the older ones will try to come to terms with their loss while coming of age, navigating that awkward period between childhood and adulthood. For Jordan and other first-timers at grief camp, such a loss has forever altered a time in their lives when they should be looking forward to the possibilities rather than looking back at what could have been. Every year, the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivorsbrings together hundreds of children of fallen service members to attend the Good Grief Camp. The camp coincides with TAPS’National Military Survivor Seminar for spouses and parents.” CofE and scaremongering?

Timothy Williams: “The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago, the Pentagon said Friday.”

Jonah Lehrer and mental bias: “And here’s the upsetting punch line: intelligence seems to make things worse. The scientists gave the students four measures of “cognitive sophistication.” As they report in the paper, all four of the measures showed positive correlations, “indicating that more cognitively sophisticated participants showed larger bias blind spots.” This trend held for many of the specific biases, indicating that smarter people (at least as measured by S.A.T. scores) and those more likely to engage in deliberation were slightly more vulnerable to common mental mistakes. Education also isn’t a savior; as Kahneman and Shane Frederick first noted many years ago, more than fifty per cent of students at Harvard, Princeton, and M.I.T. gave the incorrect answer to the bat-and-ball question. What explains this result? One provocative hypothesis is that the bias blind spot arises because of a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves. When considering the irrational choices of a stranger, for instance, we are forced to rely on behavioral information; we see their biases from the outside, which allows us to glimpse their systematic thinking errors. However, when assessing our own bad choices, we tend to engage in elaborate introspection. We scrutinize our motivations and search for relevant reasons; we lament our mistakes to therapists and ruminate on the beliefs that led us astray. The problem with this introspective approach is that the driving forces behind biases—the root causes of our irrationality—are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence. In fact, introspection can actually compound the error, blinding us to those primal processes responsible for many of our everyday failings. We spin eloquent stories, but these stories miss the point. The more we attempt to know ourselves, the less we actually understand.

Adrian Owen and the mind in the vegetative state.

This is theology: “Ariely points out that we are driven by morality much more than standard economic models allow. But I was struck by what you might call the Good Person Construct and the moral calculus it implies. For the past several centuries, most Westerners would have identified themselves fundamentally as Depraved Sinners. In this construct, sin is something you fight like a recurring cancer — part of a daily battle against evil. But these days, people are more likely to believe in their essential goodness. People who live by the Good Person Construct try to balance their virtuous self-image with their selfish desires. They try to manage the moral plusses and minuses and keep their overall record in positive territory. In this construct, moral life is more like dieting: I give myself permission to have a few cookies because I had salads for lunch and dinner. I give myself permission to cheat a little because, when I look at my overall life, I see that I’m still a good person. The Good Person isn’t shooting for perfection any more than most dieters are following their diet 100 percent. It’s enough to be workably suboptimal, a tolerant, harmless sinner and a generally good guy.”

Developing a healthy heart: “Ready for some exciting health news? “Ninety-nine percent of heart disease is preventable by changing your diet and lifestyle,” said Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and author of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. What’s more, scientists are discovering that we don’t have to ban all fat and salt to stay healthy. Instead, you just need to cut back on saturated fat (which comes from meat and whole-fat dairy) and trans fats (found in partially hydrogenated oils in fried and many processed foods). These types of fat seem to increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, which lines arteries with plaque and can cause a heart attack or stroke.”

Ellen Ruppel Shell: “The study concludes that, over time, reducing animal fat intake decreased blood cholesterol levels, and that a high fat low carbohydrate diet increased blood cholesterol levels. On average, Swedes who switched from a lower fat diet to a higher fat/lower carbohydrate diet saw their blood cholesterol creep up — despite an increased use of cholesterol lowering medication.”

Meanderings in Sports

Dan Kane, Andrew Carter: “A summer class at UNC-Chapel Hill that lacked any instruction was enrolled exclusively with football players – and it landed on the school calendar just days before the semester started, university records show. The records show that in the summer of 2011, 19 students enrolled in AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina, 18 of them players on the football team, the other a former player. They also show that academic advisers assigned to athletes helped the players enroll in the class, which is the subject of a criminal investigation. The advisers also knew that there would be no instruction.”

The guy shoots a 55!

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  • Scot, if you’re interested in finding out more about heart disease, I’d suggest these articles from Dr Chris Kresser – http://chriskresser.com/heartdisease

    This is his introduction to the articles –

    For the last half century, the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the notion that high cholesterol is a primary risk factor for coronary heart disease, and that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease. These hypotheses are widely accepted as fact by many physicians and the general public alike, despite the overwhelming body of evidence that suggests otherwise.

    In the following articles, I review over fifty years of research demonstrating that:

    High cholesterol is not the primary cause of heart disease.
    Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease.
    Consumption of so-called “heart healthy” vegetable oils is linked to heart disease, cancer and many other conditions.
    Statin drugs don’t reduce the risk of death for most people, and have dangerous side effects and complications.
    I also discuss the latest theories on what causes heart disease and a truly “heart healthy” approach to diet and lifestyle that is supported by both modern science and centuries of traditional wisdom.

    Hope you find something helpful in here.


  • Glad you posted the excerpt of Lynne Hybel’s comments regarding the Congo. She makes a good point regarding “the culture of rape” and and what this does to the culture of a nation. What are the long term implications here? Very, very sad.

  • Diane

    Thanks for the Charles Pierce piece on David Brooks–it made my morning.

  • RJS

    Great stuff as usual. Especially the posts by Brad, Lynne, Karen, Craig …

    With respect to Karen’s post, I comment only rarely on other blogs, and only on those where I trust the moderation to keep conversation reasonable. I don’t think the answer is to abandon public writing and conversation, but it is certainly true that anonymity online is a problem and creates a harshness we would do well to avoid. The value added by public online conversation, though, is important and can be a powerful tool.

    I had seen the bit by Jonas Lehrer earlier this week, but want to see the actual article before commenting. I think he may be misinterpreting or over-interpreting some of it.

  • holly

    Interesting article on returning to manual labor after an academic and ministerial life. My husband spent 17 years as pastor, before we moved “back home” to care for elderly parents and finish raising our children. He now works as a warehouse manager – ordering parts, keeping things orderly, driving a fork-lift….and he LOVES it. I think this is the first time (out of 23 years of marriage) that I’ve seen him happy in a job. 🙂

    Second – fining profanity? It’s about time. I hope more cities take note and follow precedence. This isn’t about casual, conversational profanity nor the loss of freedom of speech – this is about groups of teens/young adults who make the public parks places you can’t take your small children or elderly parents. They are loud, profane, rude, and abusive with their words. Their “freedom” to be loud, angry bullies with their words infringes on the freedoms of others to have a peaceful evening at the park.

  • Amos Paul


    You *support* empowring the police force to fine $20 for profanity as they see fit? That’s insane. Give more power to the executive, and it can and will be abused. If someone is *already* causing a public nuisance on public grounds, the police should *already* be able to evict them on noise level considerations. But if their noise level isn’t too loud and their speech not attacking/hurting anybody… then allowing the police power here is no less than allowing the police to fine people for ‘casual conversation’ as the town supposedly claimed it wasn’t doing.

    It’s a massive, ridiculous infringement. If that town wants to help it’s teens, what about starting a fundraiser to build a community center or reach out to them through relationships/resources rather than fining them and, in turn, allowing the police another rights infringing power to be used at the abuse of the town in general?