Weekly Meanderings, 6 February 2016

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 6.14.14 PMGrandma and grandpa, mom and dad — read to ’em:

(CNN)When parents read to their children the difference shows in children’s behavior and academic performance. And according to a new study, the difference also shows in their brain activity.

Researchers looked at children ages 3 to 5 who underwent brain scans called functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI) while listening to a pre-recorded story. The parents answered questions about how much they read to, and communicated with, their children.

The researchers saw that, when the young children were being told a story, a number of regions in the left part of the brain became active. These are the areas involved in understanding the meaning of words and concepts and also in memory. These same brain regions have been found to be active when older children listen to stories or read.

This study shows that the development of this area starts at a very young age, said Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, program director of the Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Horowitz-Kraus is one of the authors of the study, which was led by Dr. John S. Hutton, pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It was published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Even more interesting, according to Horowitz-Kraus, is how the brain activity in this region was higher among the children whose parents reported creating a more literacy-friendly home. “The more you read to your child the more you help the neurons in this region to grow and connect in a way that will benefit the child in the future in reading,” she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents start reading out loud to their children from the time they are born.

The researchers looked at a number of measures to gauge whether homes were literacy-friendly, including how often children were read to and whether they had access to books and the variety of books. The research team is now looking at which of these aspects contributed the most to stimulating children’s brain activity, Horowitz-Kraus said.

Here comes “Jesus de Greatest“!

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Move over, “Christ the Redeemer.” A new giant statue of Jesus is about to be unveiled in a Nigerian village.

Dubbed “Jesus de Greatest,” the new statue was commissioned by a Nigerian businessman. It is due to be unveiled on New Year’s Day outside St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Abajah village, in southeastern Imo state.

Obinna Onuoha, a devout Catholic, hired a Chinese company to carve the statue of a barefoot Jesus, arms outstretched, from white marble.

It will stand 28 feet tall, which makes it a good deal shorter than the famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue towering over Rio de Janeiro at 98 feet in height, not including its pedestal.

Both are dwarfed by the tallest statue of Jesus in the world, the 118-foot-tall”Christ the King” in western Poland.

Benjamin Shalva, and your wild child:

At the beginning of my second year at the synagogue, I publicized a series of once-a-month Friday night services accompanied by guitar. Attendance jumped from a dozen to one hundred and fifty. At our first gathering, I began with a few warm, rich chords on the guitar and then launched into a classic tune familiar to all. Yet, despite our crowd, despite my earnest strumming, the adult voices remained inaudible. The kids, meanwhile, sang happily on their own.

What a contrast—the adult’s cool stiffness and the children’s joyful noise. With just a little encouragement, the children had stepped onto the path of song. They had let go. The adults, on the other hand, had responded to this same invitation by tightening their throats, battening down their emotional hatches and sitting silently.

Song introduces us again and again to our inhibitions. Unlike small children, who’ve logged so few hours on earth, who’ve yet to construct personal parameters for shame, we adults can have a hard time letting go. Maybe we’ll raise our voices only in the shower, or at a concert when we imagine no one can hear. Give us enough drinks so we just don’t give a damn how we sound and, sure, we’ll grab the mic at the karaoke bar. The rest of the time, wanting to appear cool and collected, most of us tighten our throats.

Why? Why would a simple little song inhibit us? What do we fear might happen if we open our mouths and let go?

A lot might happen. A no-holds-barred ballad contorts the face. Where else, save in the dentist’s chair and the lover’s bed, would we open our mouths so wide? On the path of song, we might sweat. Or pant. Or bounce in our seats.

As the song builds, as we arch our backs in ecstasy, we may feel a lot like we’re out in the open making love. We are. Our song is a lover’s song. Our ecstasy begins deep in our belly. If we spend a great deal of energy putting ourselves together, clothes and hair, pressed and coiffured, personae carefully cultivated, the intimacy of song will feel threatening. We’re losing our cool, expectorating, vibrating, out of control.

And if we travel far enough on the path of song, we risk triggering something truly transformational. Our own preschooler will emerge. The child in us will leap out and go wild. We do not act like children when we sing. We becomechildren when we sing. We sing like we’re fresh from the womb, new to this earth, releasing with raw, uncultivated abandon. Wild like a child.

Loneliness — Amy Ellis Nutt:

It torments the young and terrorizes the old. It carved “caverns” in Emily Dickinson’s soul and left William Blake “bereaved of light.”

Loneliness, long a bane of humanity, is increasingly seen today as a serious public health hazard. Scientists who have identified significant links between loneliness and illness are pursuing the precise biological mechanisms that make it such a menace, digging down to the molecular level and finding that social isolation changes the human genome in profound, long-lasting ways.

Not only that, but the potential for damage caused by these genetic changes appears comparable to the injuries to health from smoking and, even worse, from diabetes and obesity. The scientists’ conclusion: Loneliness can be a lethal risk. And the United States — which so prizes individuality — is doing far too little to alleviate it.

“In public health, we talk all the time about obesity and smoking and have all these interventions, but not about people who are lonely and socially isolated,” said Kerstin Gerst Emerson, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Gerontology. “There are really tangible, terrible outcomes. Lonely people are dying, they’re less healthy, and they are costing our society more.”

The One-Wheel — cool, but not cheap.

Aaron Gleeman on David Price:

Red Sox left-hander David Price, who grew up in Tennessee and starred at Vanderbilt before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Rays in 2007, has donated $300,000 to build a baseball field for special-needs children in the city where he grew up playing baseball.

Here’s more from the Nashville Tennessean:

Price said he first participated with a Miracle Field league on Saturday mornings in Tampa and enjoyed seeing how excited the children and their parents were and “how much it makes their week.”

“One day of a couple of hours of baseball doesn’t raise a lot of eyebrows for myself or a lot of other people, but for these kids it’s something they look forward to every day of the week leading up till Saturday,” Price said. “Just to be a part of that and help put one here in our hometown is very special.”

The Miracle Field will include lights, scoreboard, covered bleachers and dugouts, a concession building, bathrooms with showers and a “boundless playground” with a rubberized surface that children with and without disabilities can share, according to an event video.

When Tim Mackie hits 50 he can do this.

Great guy, Matto:

They honor him before every game. On the way to the State Farm Center court.

It is a simple gesture. A photo of the late Matt Heldman hangs in the Illinois locker room. Just before the Illinois players leave their “office,” they touch the picture.

It takes an instant. But it means so much to Matt’s family, friends, teammates and coaches.

“It’s like, ‘Give me inspiration, Kid,’ ” Matt’s mom Linda said.

What does Linda Heldman want the current Illini to know about her son?

“He was an all-around good person,” she said. “He had a kind and compassionate soul. If you were walking down the street and there was a homeless man, he would reach in his pocket and give money to him. Just a calm, wonderful young man.

Emma Seppälä:

We believe that the opposite of focus— daydreaming, goofing off, spacing out— is to be avoided. Worse yet, having problems focusing is seen as an obstacle to overcome and even as pathological. Self- help books and productivity bloggers strive to keep us on task with advice and hacks.

When we fail to come up with the results we were hoping for, we wonder whether we just aren’t working or concentrating hard enough. We’ve come to consider focus and being on as “good,” and idleness— especially if it goes on for too long— as “bad” and unproductive. We feel guilty if we spend too much time doing nothing.

But in thinking this way, we make a fundamental mistake.

Truly successful people don’t come up with great ideas through focus alone. They are successful because they make time to not concentrate and to engage in a broad array of activities like playing golf. As a consequence, they think inventively and are profoundly creative: they develop innovative solutions to problems and connect dots in brilliant ways. Dwight Eisenhower logged more hours on the golf course than any other U.S. president yet is also regarded as one of the best presidents this country has ever had.

In a time and age when everyone is over-scheduled and over-focused, creativity is more and more prized— it’s the key to your effectiveness and success, in life and in business. It can also be a never- ending source of joy and happiness.

Congratulations to Pablo!

Since the 1980s, the Italian town of Ostana had not seen the birth of a single baby.

But last week, a dream came true, as the mayor of the small town said. A baby was born. The first in 28 years.

According to La Stampa, the town has only 85 inhabitants, including newborn Pablo. Its population has continuously fallen —a fate shared by many other Italian towns and villages.

“The real decline started in 1975, with 17 babies between 1976 and 1987, when the last boy was born — until little Pablo,” Mayor Giacomo Lombardo wasquoted as saying. A party will be held to celebrate what he hopes will be the start of a reversal of that trend.

But the population decline will be hard to stop, no matter what ideas Lombardo comes up with. Younger Italians in particular say there are few attractive job prospects in rural areas. Many have moved to cities, leaving their hometowns to the elderly. Ostana, which is in northern Italy, has only one shop, a bar and two restaurants, according to the Italian news site the Local.

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