Weekly Meanderings, 24 September 2016

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 3.20.39 PMA wonderful week in Finland — Helsinki and the most of the time at the new seminary in Tampere — comes to a close, but with a life of memories. We are praying today for Simo and Helena.

Ah Chicago and bike-friendliness:

When it come to cycling, the second city is now the first, according to a leading bike publication.

Bicycling magazine is set to announce Monday that Chicago is now the best bike city in the United States, unseating New York City. This is good news for Rahm Emanuel, who had pledged when he became mayor to make Chicago the most bike-friendly place in the country.

Chicago came in at No. 2 in 2014 in the biennial ranking, after New York. Chicago has been climbing steadily, from 10th place in 2010 to fifth place in 2012.

Magazine editor-in-chief Bill Strickland said Chicago grabbed the top spot because it has emphasized building infrastructure that separates cyclists from motorists.

“Awareness of infrastructure, through separated bike lanes, is the next thing that needs to happen to really change cycling and what it means to live in an urban area,” Strickland told the Tribune.

He also praised Chicago for expanding its Divvy bike share program into less affluent areas of the city. The city also started the Divvy for Everyone program, which subsidizes bike-share memberships for low-income residents. Divvy has more than 34,000 members, and rides are up 16 percent this year, said Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey.

San Francisco was ranked second-best bike city, followed by Portland, Ore.; New York City; and Seattle. Minneapolis; Austin, Texas; Cambridge, Mass.; Washington, D.C.; and Boulder, Colo., rounded out the top 10.

Megan Verlee:

Two years ago, PawHser Moo’s mother started pushing her and her sisters to join a group called Growing Colorado Kids. As Moo recalls, at first, she was far from thrilled by the idea.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, no! I have to wake up early!’ ” says Moo — a pretty typical reaction for a 14 year old. Wake up early on Saturdays just to catch a van up to rural Adams County, about a half-hour drive from Denver, only to spend hours outside gardening? It was hardly her first choice for her weekends.

“I wanted to use my phone on Saturday and relax,” says Moo. “But it’s more worth it, spending time here.”

For refugee families arriving in Colorado, like Moo’s, the transition to life in America can be overwhelming. And most have to do it on a shoestring budget. Growing Colorado Kids is there to ease the transition. The nonprofit group helps refugee kids feed their families while also nourishing the kids’ development.

Micro-home as art form, and ten strategies:

A tiny scrap of land might not catch your eye.

But to Japanese architect Yasuhiro Yamashita of Atelier Tekuto, there’s nothing more beautiful.
A veteran designer of kyosho jutaku — or micro homes — Yamashita has built more than 300 houses, each uniquely shaped and packed full of personality.
All starkly different, the only thing these homes have in common is their size — Yamashita’s projects start at just 182 square feet.
Demand for small homes in Japan results partly from land scarcity, property prices and taxes, as well as the impending danger posed by the country’s regular earthquakes and typhoons.
But some residents simply prefer a smaller home, seeking a minimalist lifestyle.
“In Japan, there’s a saying (‘tatte hanjo nete ichijo’) that you don’t need more than half a tatami mat to stand and a full mat to sleep,” says Yamashita. “The idea comes from Zen — and a belief that we don’t need more than the fundamentals.”
Of course, the beauty of a well-designed micro home is that it doesn’t appear ‘fundamental’ at all.

Babies with big heads are more likely to be clever and have successful futures, a study has shown.

Research carried out by UK Biobank has strongly linked higher intelligence with large head circumferences and brain volume.

Half a million Brits are being monitored by the charity to discover the connection between their genes, their physical and mental health and their path through life.

The latest evidence is the first finding to emerge from the study that aims to break down the relationship between brain function and DNA.

Researchers in a paper published by the Molecular Psychiatry journal said: ‘Highly significant associations were observed between the cognitive test scores in the UK Biobank sample and many polygenic profile scores, including . . . intracranial volume, infant head circumference and childhood cognitive ability.’

Professor Ian Deary, of Edinburgh University, who is leading the research, said gene variants were also strongly associated with intelligence, according to The Times.

The new evidence is so accurate that experts claim it could even predict how likely it was that a baby would go to university based on their DNA.

How far tolerance? Douglas Quan:

A United Church of Canada minister who is a self-professed atheist and has been the subject of an unprecedented probe into her theological beliefs is one step closer to being removed from the pulpit.

Sub-executive members of the church’s Toronto Conference announced Thursday they have asked the church’s general council, the most senior governance body, to hold a formal hearing to decide whether Rev. Gretta Vosper, who does not believe in God or the Bible, should be placed on the disciplinary “Discontinued Service List.”

“Some will be disappointed and angry that this action has been taken, believing that the United Church may be turning its back on a history of openness and inclusivity,” it said in a statement.

“Others have been frustrated that the United Church has allowed someone to be a minister in a Christian church while disavowing the major aspects of the Christian faith. There is no unanimity in the church about what to do.”

From Newser:

(NEWSER) — The most tireless and passionate proponent of saving the Galapagos tortoise from extinction is ancient, lecherous, and not particularly attractive, but those attributes are apparently a big hit with the ladies. Gentle reader, meet Diego, the lusty 100-plus-year-old tortoise who has helped bring his kind back from the brink of extinction—by having copious amounts of sex with any female in sight, reports the AFP. “He’s a very sexually active male reproducer,” says Washington Tapia, an actual tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park. “He’s contributing enormously to repopulating the island.” How enormously? Diego is babydaddy to an estimated 800 offspring, or to better put it, a genetic test four years ago showed “that he was the father of nearly 40% of the offspring released into the wild on Espanola,” the tortoises’ native island.

Diego is a globe-trotting charmer, taking his name from the San Diego Zoo, where Tapia says he was taken “sometime between 1900 and 1959 by a scientific expedition.” He was returned to the Galapagos Islands in 1976 to get down to work in a captive breeding program, as his kind had at one point dwindled to two males and 12 females on Espanola. Diego, it turns out, takes his job seriously. “Tough work, but some tortoise has to do it,” the AFP snarks, while the Houston Chronicle runs through a primer on tortoise mating that includes the tidbit that “female giant tortoises are silent while the males make a sound similar to that of a cow’s ‘moo.'” Today, at least 2,000 tortoises have been released into the wild. “It’s a population that’s in pretty good shape, and growing, which is the most important,” Tapia says. (More on the Galapagos tortoises’ fight back from the brink here.)

The irony of the ESV … toward the end.

Tom Holland, on why he can’t embrace the Greeks and Romans but instead Christianity:

“We preach Christ crucified,” St Paul declared, “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” He was right. Nothing could have run more counter to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive. Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the Crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.

Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.

HT: LH

Alex Kotlowitz, on solving murders as the avenue to diminishing murders:

This failure to find and charge perpetrators could be contributing indirectly to violence. A case is considered cleared when someone has been identified and charged, or if the suspect dies before charges have been filed. Chicago’s homicide-clearance rate is less than half the national average of sixty-four per cent. Thomas Hargrove, a former newspaper reporter who now runs the Murder Accountability Project, an organization that examines murder-clearance rates, said that there is a clear correlation between catching criminals and the murder rate itself. In cities where the clearance rate is better than average, the murder rate is 9.6 per hundred thousand. Among cities where the clearance rate is lower than average, the murder rate is nearly twice that. “If you allow murders to go unsolved, it all goes to hell,” he said. In 2015, Chicago’s murder rate was 17.8 per hundred thousand.

The Chicago Police Department blames the low clearance rate principally on the lack of coöperation from witnesses. At a press conference announcing the arrests in Aldridge’s murder, the police superintendent Eddie Johnson drew attention to this belief when he said, “You know why we captured them right away? Because the community helped us with it.”

While it’s true that many people in the city’s mostly poor African-American neighborhoods are reluctant to coöperate with the police, the reasons are complicated. In reporting a book about the city’s violence, I’ve come to believe the so-called no-snitch culture is misunderstood. Most victims and witnesses stay quiet because they’re afraid of retaliation by friends of the shooter, not because of some unwritten code of the streets. One woman I interviewed has a job supporting victims who have been asked to testify in criminal cases, and yet when her teen-age son was shot five times she urged him not to work with the police. She worried that he’d be shot again if he did. “Sometimes,” she told me, “I go home feeling guilty” for urging victims to testify.

HT: LNMM

Seniors living in cars:

Marge Giaimo makes her way to a picnic table under the shadow of an oak tree. Santa Barbara’s trees, like its oceans and mountains, are one thing she says she never tires of here. After losing her senior housing three years ago, this table is where she does her painting these days.

“I feel very fortunate to have my car,” Giaimo says. “It’s a little cramped, but it’s softer than cement.”

Of all her once-valued possessions, today her 20-year-old, gold Oldsmobile is her most important one. It is her home, and she keeps it as neat as a pin.

“And then this is where I sleep,” she says. “I have the three pillows and I have sponges under there or foam to sleep on.”

In the wealthy coastal city of Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles, the demand for senior housing is so great the wait list is now closed. After all, California’s senior population is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next decade.

For the seniors left out in the cold, their only option is living in their cars.

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