Weekly Meanderings, 27 February 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 6.33.38 PM“Mr. President, I’m Clark!”


For 3-year-old Clark Reynolds, Thursday began like most others.

Morning preparations gave way to hours at school and then a visit to his mother’s office to change into a suit and tie. Clark’s mother, Nichole Francis Reynolds, is a former congressional staffer who now works in the private sector. Friends had secured an invitation for Francis Reynolds and her son to the White House’s Black History Month celebration, the final gathering of its kind while the first black president remains in office. But Francis Reynolds had told Clark only that he had earned a special treat. He is, after all, only 3.

What Clark does know is the president’s name, his face when he sees Obama on TV and the sound of President Obama’s voice when it comes through the satellite radio in his dad’s car. Then, there’s Clark’s favorite book, the one that he almost always picks when it’s reading time. Clark has been through the “The White House Pop-Up Book” by Chuck Fischer so many times that, almost as soon as Clark and his mother walked onto the White House grounds Thursday, Clark knew where they were.

He was excited. And once inside, he was in open awe. This, as Clark put it, is where the president lives. He met Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Someone snapped a photo of Clark and the first lady. Somehow, Clark made his way to the front of the a rope line as President Obama worked his way across the room. Then, Obama noticed Clark, too, touched Clark’s cheek and bent down to exchange words while he straightened Clark’s tie.

Mr. President, I’m 106!”

From Fusion 8:

Her boisterous laugh warms the nearly empty sanctuary. She is flanked by three young black journalists who are wrapping up an interview for a TV station that airs out of Columbia, South Carolina.

It’s Dr. Betty Deas Clark’s fourth week as the first female pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, affectionately referred to as “Mother Emanuel.” The pew she grips while chatting with the young men belongs to the same set inhabited by the nine churchgoers massacred last June by 21-year-old Dylann Roof, a white supremacist.

“Hold on,” she tells me before we start the interview. Clark wants to switch up her attire. “I have an African outfit in the car,” she says with a beaming smile as she hastily exits the room.

Among the nine slain in last year’s attack was Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator. The church’s interim pastor, Norvel Goff, has been accused of mishandling church funds and not giving support to AME’s grieving congregants, according to the Post and Courier. (Goff has vigorously denied the allegations.) Clark has been hired to replace Goff and to fill the hole of the beloved Pinckney.

She returns to the sanctuary donning a lightweight coat with little figures of dancing people on it.

We take a seat in the middle pew, first row.

Moving and sad story about Debi Thomas.

The story of Rafi — HT: JS.

A word can matter, with Shana Lebowitz:

The way you speak not only affects how others perceive you; it also has the potential to shape your behavior.

Swapping one word for another could make all the difference in how you approach your goals.

That’s according to Bernard Roth, a professor of engineering at Stanford and the academic director of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, the d.school.

In his new book, “The Achievement Habit,” Roth suggests several linguistic tweaks that can make you more successful.

A confirmation of the anthropic principle?

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers, three with Swedish Institutions and one from the U.S. has created a computer model of the known universe and in using it to estimate the number of likely other exoplanets able to hold life, has found that there might be fewer Earth-like planets than has been thought. In their paper they have uploaded to the preprint server, arXiv (soon to be published in The Astrophysical Journal), the team describes how they went about creating their model and what it showed.

The team took a in creating their model, first inputting data that described as much as is known about the early universe—then next adding data about known exoplanets and also information describing the laws of physics and the way they would work on the elements that made up the universe, and how they would grow or change over approximately 13.8 billion years. They then took a virtual census and found the model had “created” approximately 700 million trillion exoplanets—but, to the surprise of the researchers, the vast majority of them were far older than planet Earth.

If correct, the models suggest that Earth is much more unique than other models have been showing in the past few years. This is because it is assumed that if life began on other planets far earlier than on Earth, because it would be much older, it should have matured beyond what we have here on Earth to the point that it would be not only noticeable to us, but likely dominant. But because we have not seen any sign of other life, it appears likely that none is there, or is close enough to spot, which suggests that Earth actually is much more unique than other recent models have been suggesting. The model also suggested that most exoplanets likely exist in galaxies that are a lot bigger than the Milky Way, and orbit stars that are quite different from our sun. To date, space scientists have identified approximately 2,000 exoplanets, clearly a very small proportion of the total amount if the new model is to be viewed as accurate.

Funeral rites, with Carl Trueman:

‘Celebrations of life’ and funeral liturgies which choose ‘My Way’ or ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ are interesting phenomena because they reflect the metaphysical superficiality of this present age and our childish inability to face up to the seriousness of death even when it is staring us in the face. They also represent the perfect paradox of an age built on so many fundamental contradictions. If the life was worth anything, then its end must represent a painful and permanent void for those left behind. Such a thing can surely not be celebrated with any honesty? And if the life was worthless or meaningless and ended without leaving a painful void in the lives of others, is it really worth celebrating at all?

Rites surrounding the dead demonstrate how seriously we take life. For a hedonistic society like ours whose primary purpose is personal pleasure and whose first priority is entertainment, death is a rather confusing, if somewhat unavoidable, embarrassment. ‘Celebrations of life’ are one of the results, both pitiful and incoherent. And that such things now even occur in Christian circles shows just how worldly we have become.

Julie Zauzmer:

Kennedy and Quincy, highly trained horses who have served in the Army’s Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, have finished their tours of duty. And both are up for adoption, free to a good home.

They have served in a role almost unique in the U.S. military, that of the caisson horse.

Caisson horses pull coffins to burials at Arlington, bringing former officers and service members killed in action in America’s wars to their grave sites with haunting uniformity and precision.

The choreographed procession, led by a riderless horse, is one of the most solemn and stylized rituals in the nation.

Moriah Balingit:

The children puffed out their chests and mimicked drama teacher Melissa Richardson, rehearsing their big, booming “rhino voices.”

“Giant steps, giant steps, big and bold!” the kindergartners yelled in unison in a classroom at Westlawn Elementary in Fairfax County.

In groups, the children were then cast as animals and bugs: Big, stomping rhinos; delicate lady bugs skittering across the tile; leaping kangaroos and tiny frogs. All made their way to the classroom’s imaginary “water hole,” formed with blue tape.

This giggly play session actually was a serious math lesson about big and small and non-standard measurements. Dreamed up by Richardson and kindergarten teacher Carol Hunt, it aims to get the children to think of animal steps as units of measurement, using them to mark how many it takes each animal to get from a starting line to the target.

Teachers call such melding of art and traditional subjects “art integration,” and it’s a new and increasingly popular way of bringing the arts into the classroom. Instead of art as a stand-alone subject, teachers are using dance, drama and the visual arts to teach a variety of academic subjects in a more engaging way.

 Gabriella Boston:

Your fitness routine is in full swing two months into the year: You’re eating right and you’re exercising, but you’re not yet seeing the results you want.

What’s missing? It might be sleep.

So say an increasing number of studies that show sleep deprivation causing such negative outcomes as an increase in overuse injuries, weight gain, a decrease in muscle mass and a reduction in testosterone (which has a whole host of other negative effects, including low sex drive, depression and bone loss).

“You can have two people who are doing the exact same workout and eating the same good nutrition, but one is seeing huge progress and the other isn’t. A lot of the time, good sleep is the difference,” says Mansur Mendizabal, a personal trainer and kettlebell instructor in the District.

“Sleep is the only time the body is fully recovering and rebuilding,” he says.

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