Weekly Meanderings, 12 March 2016

Valerie Hobbs reviewing Ruth Tucker’s new book:

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is a difficult read, and it is an essential read for every Christian who is grounded in these issues. Whatever conclusions one reaches about Tucker’s egalitarian theology of marriage, her story and her questions urge us to strive for greater understanding of Scripture, remembering the people at the heart of the issues about which we debate endlessly. As we work out our faith with fear and trembling, using God’s Word, Tucker encourages us to do so in love. Her book will devastate. It will encourage. It will humble. It will shake what so desperately needs shaking. It will send us back to the Bible.

The ugly food movement:

Giant watermelons ripen on the field but they won’t make it to market – too big to fit in the fridge. The same fate befalls curvy cucumbers and tomatoes that exceed the width of a burger bun.

Too big, too small, a slightly off color, an unusual shape – in the U.S., the future of such “ugly food” is grim: it rots in the field, gets eaten by livestock or is simply tossed in the trash or compost.

While European supermarkets have adopted the ugly foods movement by selling produce with superficial blemishes, most major American chains have refused to embrace the runner-ups in the fruit and veg beauty pageants – until now.

Whole Foods Market says it will sell the “ugly” produce that would otherwise go to waste at a handful of its Northern California stores beginning in late April. The pilot project, in collaboration with Imperfect Produce, an Emeryville, Calif.-based startup, marks one of the first forays by a national grocery chain into the movement to cut food waste.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 7.20.43 AMExplaining last year’s home run surge in MLB:

While no single factor provides a clear cut answer for the home run surge, the best explanation may be a perfect storm. Combine the increases due to park effects, warmer temperatures, a generational rookie class, better informed hitters who are swinging harder than ever and the paring down of the game’s elder demographic to its best power hitters and it’s reasonable to believe that combination could produce the 723-homer spike in 2015.

But perhaps there is one more cause. The biggest culprit might be expectations.

After a nosedive in the home run department in 2014, we would expect some sort of progression back to “normal” levels in 2015. In the nine seasons since the end of the steroid era in 2006 to 2014, major leaguers have averaged 4,801 home runs per season. In other words, if 2014 hadn’t been such an abysmal year for home runs and was instead an average year for long balls, the 2015 uptick would have been just 108, a mere blip we’d hardly notice.

Though it may not satisfy conspiracy theorists, a simple progression back to the post-PED era mean, combined with the variety of other factors above might just be the best theory to explain the single biggest home run spike since steroids swept through clubhouses in the 1990s.

Julie Zauzmer:

“Dear Carlos,” Pope Francis wrote. “I was pleased to receive your recent letter.”

A pope who has a penchant for surprising personal gestures has done it again — this time by personally replying to an 18-year-old imprisoned in Southern California for involuntary manslaughter in connection with a gang-related killing.

In a year that Francis has declared the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the pope told the prisoner, Carlos Adrian Vazquez Jr., that the “Holy Door to Mercy” is open to him and his fellow convicts.

And on Friday, which begins the third annual Catholic day of prayer called “24 Hours for the Lord,” the Vatican announced a new app that lets anyone seek mercy right from their iPhone.

Hotel shifts toward millennials:

The hospitality landscape has been a-changin’ since the turn-of-the-21st-century citizens came of travel age. Hotel developers have started to replace some of the fustier features, such as mini-bars and room service, with more modern ones, such as nightstands with USB ports and lobby lounges. High on the millennials’ wish list: free WiFi, plentiful outlets, community spaces, and locally sourced food and beverages.

For example, Holiday Inn Express recently installed community tables in some of its Great Rooms, a denlike space off the lobby. Now, guests can commune and charge their devices. Hilton’s new Canopy brand highlights the neighborhood culture with evening tastings and a welcome gift (think globally, act locally), supplies loaner bikes (a la bike-sharing programs) and offers mobile check-in (queuing up is so Y2K). And at Marriott’s Moxy Hotels, guests can unlock their doors using their smartphones. (For those with flip phones, there’s a vacancy at HoJo.)

Aaron Katz, president and chief executive of Washington-based Modus Hotels, has kept millennials in mind when planning the Pod D.C., the company’s newest property in the District. (Modus is licensing the Pod name from BD Hotels, which has two Pods in New York and two more on the way.) He says he hopes that the 245-room hotel, scheduled to open in Chinatown in mid-October, will captivate the Me, My Selfie and I Generation. But his target audience also includes those who came before (Gen X, baby boomers) and will one day follow (Gen TBD).

Multi billionaire Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, wears flea market clothing. (Might explain David Fitch, at Northern Seminary.)

With a net worth of more than $40 billion, Ingvar Kamprad, founder of the furniture chain Ikea, is among the richest people in the world.

He is also, it appears, among its most frugal.

This week, the eccentric billionaire — No. 9 in last year’s Bloomberg Billionaire’s List — revealed in a documentary broadcast this week on Swedish television that he buys his clothes at flea markets to save money, according to Agence France Presse.

“I don’t think I’m wearing anything that wasn’t bought at a flea market,” he told Swedish channel TV4, according to business daily Dagens Industri which previewed the film. “It means that I want to set a good example.”…

Among the reasons for his ranking, the website writes, is that he “reportedly drives a 20-year-old Volvo, recycles tea bags, and steals salt and pepper packets from restaurants.”

“His home is furnished with IKEA furniture he assembled personally, he uses public transportation, and his modest home would look at home in any suburban neighborhood,” Listserve adds.

In the documentary, AFP reported, Kamprad attributed his spending habits to his birthplace.

“It’s in the nature of Smaland to be thrifty,” he said, referring to Sweden’s southern agricultural region where he grew up.

Pregnant and exercising, by Kelyn Soong:

Not long ago, women were advised not to exercise while pregnant. Conventional wisdom in the early 1980s dictated that pregnancy was an occasion to relax, for women to be as sedentary as possible and to eat as much as they wanted, according to Dr. Raul Artal. And he would know.

Artal was tasked by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to write the first guidelines for exercise and pregnancy in 1982, and much has changed since then. Recent studies led by Artal, a professor and chair emeritus at Saint Louis University’s Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Women’s Health, have revealed that physical activity during pregnancy is not only allowed, but also beneficial to mothers.

It’s a development that still has its skeptics but one that has been given a boost by elite female athletes like professional runner Sarah Brown, who gave birth last Friday after training throughout her pregnancy and is now set to compete at the Olympic Trials in July.

“Initially, we approached the guidelines with much caution,” Artal said. “Over the years, it progressed to where we said, ‘It’s okay to exercise in pregnancy.’ It was not until this past year that we said, ‘It’s also okay to engage in vigorous, intensive exercise, provided there are no complications of pregnancy.’”

Brown, 29, was not planning on getting pregnant. Well, at least not yet. An Olympic hopeful, the Warrenton, Va. resident and former All-Met Athlete of the Year in outdoor track was on pace for the best season of her career by early summer last year.

One is not enough:

More and more, parents are protesting school policies that allow teachers and administrators to withhold recess to punish student misbehavior. Common infractions include tardiness, acting out in class and failure to complete homework—everyday childhood behaviors that result in numerous children having to go without recess on any given day.

A Texas school started giving children four recess breaks a day, and teachers and parents say the results have been wonderful.

Recess is a lot more than just a free break for kids to play after lunch period. That free, unstructured play time allows kids to exercise and helps them focus better when they are in class. Now a school in Texas says it took a risk by giving students four recess periods a day, but the risk has paid off beautifully.

Academic freedom under discussion:

Joanna Williams, a senior lecturer of higher education at the University of Kent in Britain, education editor at Spiked, and author of a new book called Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity: Confronting the Fear of Knowledge, said she drew the distinction between teaching and expressing opinions (which in turn has implications for professional fitness).

“Academic freedom means she can — just like every other citizen — express opinions, no matter how offensive or blatantly ridiculous,” Williams said of Karega. But in a teaching situation, she said, “academics have a responsibility to teach content grounded in scholarship, evidence and research.”

That content may later be proven wrong, she said, and colleagues have a responsibility to challenge teaching content that is “ridiculous and very obviously untrue.”

Stanley Fish, the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law at Florida International University and author of Versions of Academic Freedom: From Professionalism to Revolution, said Karega can say whatever she wants on social media or even in her scholarship, even if it’s patently false and relates directly to her subject area — as long as she doesn’t attempt to present it in class as a fundamental truth (and there’s a sound pedagogical reason for presenting it at all). Fish said that the Steven Salaita case at the University of Illinois, for example, should have hinged entirely on Salaita’s teaching record — not uninterrogated fears about what his controversial, anti-Israel tweets might mean about his ability to teach.

“Are you trying to inform your students about the various views or perspectives that are out there or are you trying to enlist your students in some kind of political agenda?” Fish asked. “It’s very simple, and if you keep those other questions out of it, a lot of confusion can be avoided.”

Gotta love Jedi the dog, by Sarah Kaplan:

It was the middle of the night. The lights were off, the house was still, the six members of the Nuttall family were sound asleep. The machinery that monitors the blood sugar levels of 7-year-old Luke Nuttall, who suffers from dangerous Type 1 diabetes, was utterly quiet.

But Jedi, Luke’s diabetes-sniffing dog, was not.

The black Labrador retriever jumped on and off the bed Luke shared with his parents, thumping onto the mattress in an attempt to wake the slumbering adults. When that didn’t work, he lay on top of Dorrie Nuttall, startling her out of sleep.

She clambered out of bed and examined her son’s continuous glucose monitor, but its reading was normal. Still, the dog was unrelenting. He bowed again and again, repeating the signal he’d been trained to send if he sensed that Luke’s blood sugar had gotten too low.

“Then I knew he meant business,” Nuttall wrote in a Facebook post describing the incident. “The sleepy fog started to wear off and I began to think clearer. I suddenly was fully awake and I knew there was an issue.”

She pricked her son’s finger and got a blood sugar level that was almost half as high as the one on the monitor — much too low, and falling fast.

Nuttall quickly gave her son a glucose tablet and warily monitored the tense tableau: attentive dog, sleeping boy, a frightening number on a screen.

Then she took a photo.

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